Thankful for a Beautiful Winter Run in the Spring and Making Maple Syrup

Day 2,028

This morning Becky and I went for our long training run for the week. When Becky picked our half marathon it was in the hopes of being able to get some nice trail runs in with some nice Spring weather. As we all know now, that hasn’t really been the case. Due to Mother Nature’s insistence on extending Winter we’ve had neither trail runs (too wet & muddy) nor nice weather (unless you really enjoy 20+ mph winds and temperatures below 20).

The run this morning started off ridiculously frigid as we ran directly into the stiff wind as the snow pelted us in the face. I, as the big dumb animal I sometimes am known to be, opted for shorts in this 20 degree weather which felt like 9 including wind chill. Not my brightest move. The first couple of miles were pretty rough.

Becky had the idea to take a gravel side road through the woods to cut down on the wind. We were immediately significantly warmer due to the woods breaking up the gusts of wind. The road we were on went alongside the Jump River intermittently and gave us some spectacular scenery. There were several turkeys, ducks, pheasants, and a pair of turkey vultures joining us occasionally. At one point Becky and I had a couple of horses in a field joining us from their side of the fence. Everything was so peaceful and chill, it was exactly why I enjoy getting into the woods. I was realizing how the “marathon monks” are really onto the right idea with the running meditations. My favorite part of the scenery was a specific bend in the Jump River. The woods opened up and the river was on full display with a high embankment on the other side making it feel a lot like being up in the UP of Michigan (which we’re really not that far from). It was awesome!

Yes, the weather and conditions were less than ideal. That said, as is the case with anything in life, it is up to each of us to choose where we put our focus and the lens through which we view the world around us. I chose to focus on the beauty of the outdoors, the time in the woods, and the appreciation of doing something out in the wild with Becky. Totally one of my favorite activities in the world.

After we got back and showered up I had an opportunity to help my in laws make maple syrup. They were kind enough to save about 50 gallons of sap to boil down specifically with us. The timing hasn’t worked out in the past for us to help and participate in this activity in the past, I was so pumped to help out this time around!

The entire process was incredible to experience. The time and energy it took to boil out all the water out of the sap to go from 50 gallons of sap to just over a gallon of syrup was wild! Throughout we took out samples, tested the sugar content, and kept the sap boiling. In addition to the fun of observing the process I got a ton of bonus time with my father in law, always something I appreciate. Having the opportunity to shoot the bull with him was awesome, he had me smiling and laughing the entire time. I can’t begin to put into words how much I appreciate my father in law, he’s amazing in so many ways!

Being able to say I helped to make syrup still has me smiling. Each time I gobble up some maple syrup I’ll be sure to remember all the work that goes into making it and will be even more grateful for everyone who made it for us.

Thanks!!!

Thankful for Remembering Lightbulb Moments Aren’t Created In an Instant or Alone

Day 2,025

Been an excellent day for a wide variety of reasons stretching from getting to know teammates better, learning new tricks, seeing the boys excel in school, having unexpected downtime, making progress in the areas that matter most, seeing incredible potential, and a profound sense of calm. As per the norm, throw in a handful of moments which remind me of the value of purpose. Wild. Even as I type all this my brain can’t quite realize this was all in only one day. Wowza!

Earlier in the day we had our monthly Think Day in Winona – that time when we pause reality for four hours to focus on working “on” the business rather than merely “in” it. Many insights, new ideas, and potential solutions throughout that thinking time together.

At one point I had one of those “Eureka” moments and had an excellent idea. For the briefest of seconds there was a tremendous sense of pride as my ego gave itself a quick pat on the back for the genius is so obviously thought it was in that moment… and then reality kicked in. This wasn’t a struck by insight moments in which I caught lightning in a bottle, nothing could be further from the truth.

This stroke of insight and genius was the result of MANY hours of life lessons, training, learning, thinking, and the like. When I really dissect the genesis of the idea I could see the different influences of books and articles I’ve read as recently as earlier in the day and as far back as a couple of decades. Conversations with clients, teammates, mentors, friends, family, and strangers all planted the seeds of the idea. Stories shared by others each left their own individual impacts. The focus on our values, the intensity of my preoccupation with purpose, and even some huge takeaways from a training in London, Ontario about 20 years ago all played into this idea. This wasn’t a spur of the moment, flip the switch, A-Ha moment… it was the culmination of a tremendously large number of hours spent honing a craft and knowledge.

As I was then complimenting my work ethic, drive, and wisdom, I realized something. This wasn’t even my idea! Honestly, it was an idea from a teammate which was generated by another teammate which was the result of a different idea from a conversation about an entirely different topic. This wasn’t “Mike’s Incredible Genius,” rather, this was the work of so many teammates, mentors, coaches, associates, clients, and the like. This was their idea, their genius all put together and on display.

By the time I’d realized this I was chuckling to myself, I swear I could even hear Dad loving call me one of my favorite nicknames in moments like this… “dumbass,” a la Red Foreman from That 70’s Show. 100% in a loving way, and 100% well deserved.

A stroke of genius which seems so obvious the moment it is uttered that we kind of stop and wonder how we all missed it. Not a lightning strike of insight – rather, the result of many, many, many hours of hard work, learning, and sharing of ideas between an incredibly large network of wonderful people, without any single one of which the idea may have never came to fruition. I just happened to have the opportunity to help connect the dots, I was the one who found the last puzzle piece laying on the floor after all but that piece was put together.

Those magical “Lightbulb Moments” are usually the result of so many hours of learning by so many people. I am thankful for that reminder today.

Not gonna lie, it felt good to put the last piece of the puzzle in place, but it feels even better to stand back and look at what we all created together. That’s success.

Thanks!!!

Thankful for Feeling the Positive Results of Training and ANOTHER Bison Sighting

Day 2,022

Last week’s 9 mile training run was brutal. Nothing felt right, it was all off, and it was one of the less pleasant runs I’ve had in a very long time. Regardless, I did it. Today I was able to reap the benefits of it.

Our training run today was on a paved trail in Ankeny, Iowa. After a couple of miles the trail was completely out of town and we were running in between farm fields with only the occasional little bit of brush and some barbed wire fences. The way out we had the winds at our back, on the way in we were running into a 20+ mph headwind. The sun was out and the temperature was in the mid forties, pretty much ideal.

In continuing a weird streak this was the second time when I happened to run past the very much unexpected bison! How wild is that???

One of the best parts of this run was how great I felt before, during, and after the run. Everything clicked throughout the ten miles. Even now I’ve only got a little bit of stiffness in one ankle, the rest of me feels fantastic. If I was pressed to I know I could take off on a 5k right now, very different than last weekend’s ordeal.

I am so grateful for seeing the positive impact of training today. All runs, even especially the difficult ones, strengthen me up for the next. Each longer and longer run beats my body up just enough to break it a little so that it heals itself stronger for the next one. I could 100% feel that positive impact today.

Quick note to my future self who may be reading this sometime later… What a wonderful reminder of how we all grow through difficulty and adversity. True growth occurs during periods of challenge.

Thanks!!!

Thankful for a Perfectly Surreal Winter Running Experience

Day 2,020

I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks! Rather than stay out and bark at the moon with some cohorts I chose to be in bed before 10pm. This move allowed me to get up and moving a little before 5:30am this morning.

Even though I was out of town for work I still wanted to knock out my Friday morning run, especially knowing that there was a lot of car time in my future. I got up, knocked the rust off my joints, and got ready to head out for my run.

As luck would have it there was what appeared to be a nice little trail only a couple of blocks from my hotel. Off I went into the snow, ice, and stiff wind with my headlamp on and my headphones playing an album from one of my new favorite bands that I’d never listened to before.

Only a couple of days ago my friend James turned me on to The Rural Alberta Advantage and I’ve been working my way through all of their albums. The next one up was Mended with Gold – I’d highly recommend giving it a listen.

The music was beyond perfect for the winter run. I’m struggling to put into words the reasons why it fit so well. The best I can come up with is that it was just perfect. I know, great work in being descriptive Kreiling, right? The sound, the tempo, the lyrics, the emotion in the voice… everything fit the cold, bitter, windy, snowy, and icy run in the pre-dawn lighting. Hmm… the music was raw in almost a primal way, the way the run felt.

As if that wasn’t already enough to create an epic running experience I crested a hill, turned a little corner, and saw this…

Yessir, those are buffalo! Bison Bison if you will. The trail skirted the little zoo and wildlife park in Marshfield, WI. Unbeknownst to me this meant I had an opportunity to get relatively up close and personal with one of my favorite animals. The hairy giants added to the surrealness of the run. It was only the bison and I out and about as there were no roads, houses, or people nearby.

Just before I encountered the bison the song Runners In the Night, a wonderfully perfect soundtrack for that exact moment.

I had to pause and just take it all in. The entire event was so surreal on so many levels. The profoundness of the presence I experienced in that moment is indescribable. It was a perfectly surreal winter running experience. Beautiful in so many levels, my heart still swell with joy as I think about it.

Thanks!!!

Day 1,992 – Thankful for Swapping Two Words to Swap My Attitude and Opportunities to Practice Stillness

Yesterday morning I was on an enlightening webinar featuring Dr. Cindra Kamphoff. While there were many notes taken there was one line which stuck in my brain. “Things don’t happen TO you, they happen FOR you.” Let that one sink in for a moment… “Things don’t happen TO you, they happen FOR you.”

With one little phrase the key to reframing our mindset can be changed. The key is to consider how whatever is happening can be used as an opportunity to learn. In many ways it’s a twist on one of my favorite questions, “What can I learn from this?”

Today I had more than a couple of opportunities to practice this. They presented themselves as mild annoyances. Someone driving 20 mph below the speed limit on the interstate a couple of miles from my exit with a line of over a dozen cars behind it. Someone parking in the second to last spot in the lot and parking about six inches over the line and into the last remaining spot. As I type this I know how lame both of those sound and it’s pretty disappointing to admit I was frustrated by both of those moments. I was stuck in the mindset of thinking about how each of those things had happened TO me.

As I was slowly calming my brain down and working back into a good headspace in yoga I could feel the stress fade away. I focused on my breathing and the stretching and all was good in the world. At the end of our practice we moved into final rest, a few moments of complete quiet and stillness, one of my favorite parts of the practice. Complete stillness…

…until someone coughed. Then a sneeze. Then some heavy breathing. The sound of a water bottle being moved. Someone nearby moving a little to adjust themselves. Distracting sound followed by distracting sound, one after another, after another.

As I lay on my back with my eyes closed and a towel over them I almost started to laugh. I could hear Dad’s voice in my head, “how’s the stillness now Mikey?” as he laughed along with me. Each time there was another noise I could feel my body starting to convulse as I fought back deep belly laughter.

While I was not in a deep state of calm and there was noise all around me I chose the right mindset. This was all happening FOR me. What an opportunity to remember how important it is to choose the right mindset, to choose growth over frustration.

One of my favorite quotes from Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations was going through my head as I started to laugh quietly during yoga.

“Choose not to be harmed – and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed – and you haven’t been.”

Today I am grateful for the opportunity to practice swapping two words to swap an attitude and opportunities to choose stillness.

Thanks!!!

Day 1,988 – Thankful for Another Gift Within a Gift at Yoga

Another Monday night yoga practice, another moment of profound insight nestled in the deeply calm state of presence.

The two biggest reasons I love hitting yoga are the physical workout as well as the focused presence. Put those two components together and I’m always grateful for taking the time to get all namaste.

While those two are the headliners there’s an awesome added bonus which sometimes appears when my mind is deep in that state of serenity. Occasionally an idea will hatch during the practice. A little nugget of wisdom worth more than one hundred times it’s weight in gold. A magical moment of clarity and understanding which help me understand some better than before.

Tonight that gem was the realization that when learning and attempting something I’ve never done there is no stress about anything else in life. The act of focused and intentional learning create a state in which there is no concern or anxiety about anything outside the task. If I’ve truly set my soul properly there is also no anxiety in what I am learning, there is only the bliss of play. How wild is that? When I find myself stressing or anxious I need only play a little game with myself – what can I learn from this – to transition from anxiety into calm.

That bonus lesson buried within a yoga practice was yet another example of how much can be gained by pausing the busyness of life and intentionally choosing stillness and presence. As Becky pointed out on Friday, the world would be a much better place if everyone paused for a moment to practice yoga. The entire world would quickly become all namaste.

Thanks!!!

Day 1,988 – Thankful for Another Gift Within a Gift at Yoga

Another Monday night yoga practice, another moment of profound insight nestled in the deeply calm state of presence.

The two biggest reasons I love hitting yoga are the physical workout as well as the focused presence. Put those two components together and I’m always grateful for taking the time to get all namaste.

While those two are the headliners there’s an awesome added bonus which sometimes appears when my mind is deep in that state of serenity. Occasionally an idea will hatch during the practice. A little nugget of wisdom worth more than one hundred times it’s weight in gold. A magical moment of clarity and understanding which help me understand some better than before.

Tonight that gem was the realization that when learning and attempting something I’ve never done there is no stress about anything else in life. The act of focused and intentional learning create a state in which there is no concern or anxiety about anything outside the task. If I’ve truly set my soul properly there is also no anxiety in what I am learning, there is only the bliss of play. How wild is that? When I find myself stressing or anxious I need only play a little game with myself – what can I learn from this – to transition from anxiety into calm.

That bonus lesson buried within a yoga practice was yet another example of how much can be gained by pausing the busyness of life and intentionally choosing stillness and presence. As Becky pointed out on Friday, the world would be a much better place if everyone paused for a moment to practice yoga. The entire world would quickly become all namaste.

Thanks!!!

Day 1,985 – Thankful for a Workweek Bookended by Yoga

After getting home from being out of town for work for a handful of days I took Monday off. After our morning run early Monday morning (Becky was working so we stayed with our normal time) I took a little nap and then hit yoga at Root Down for the 8:30am yoga class. After getting home tonight Becky and I loaded up and headed out to Root Down for another awesome yoga session.

Yoga, work, yoga, weekend. Kind of has a nice ring to it! I might have to do this again sometime 🙂

Yoga as a tool to center myself before getting back into the swing of things was exactly what my brain needed. My mind was racing with ideas from the days of training as well as with everything I needed to do in order to catch up. By bending, twisting, sweating, and breathing I was able to calm my neurons down and re-focus on the present moment. A profound state fo chill to create space for me to get to work.

Throughout the week I flew at a crazy pace. The days blew past me quickly as they were each filled with very necessary activity from start to stop. Even with Monday off I cruised well beyond 40 hours worked. My mind was still racing as I questioned whether or not I could wrap up in time for yoga. I knew my brain needed it so I wrapped up with creating my task list which will be waiting for me on Monday early morning when I get back to the office.

Yoga as a path to chilling my crazy busy thought processes was the perfect switch to flip to move me from work mode to weekend mode. It pushed me to wrap up and find the end of the page, put the bookmark in, and then move on to some lighter reading. By bending, twisting, sweating, and breathing I was able to relax, reduce the stress, and focus on moving forward on what I want to accomplish at home. It was exactly what I needed.

Ahh… I’m now showered up, full from an awesome dinner, and wrapping up my day with my blog.

Yoga, work, yoga, weekend. Namaste.

Thanks!!!

Day 1,981 – Thankful for a Subtle Shift Making All the Difference & Realizing Becky Was Right Yet Again

Rather than jumping right back into work after our conference I opted to take the day off. Full disclosure, Gavin has already given me a little bit of a hard time as I was working when he got home from school. It wasn’t a complete day off from work, but it was exactly what I needed.

Several years ago I wrote about appreciating Becky’s advice to cut a vacation a day short to have a one day cushion in between vacation and real life. I was originally not in favor of this approach but I quickly realized how right she was after trying it the first time. Have a day to bounce back really helps me get back into the right headspace before going back to work.

This time I was flying back from a wildly successful and profoundly thought provoking training trip for work. My mind was going a million miles per hour throughout the entire event and into this morning until I paused for yoga. Yoga was pretty much the reset button I needed to start snapping back into real life mode. After the excellent workout I jumped into productive mode and knocked out the larger than expected list of things I wanted to get done. Much of this was non-work related stuff I’d put off for a while. Throughout the morning I was able to get my laundry done, write out a few checks, figure out a plan for an upcoming soccer tournament, pull some tax information together, get supper prepped, complete my Advance Health Directive (which I’d been meaning to do for almost five years), clean up everything I need to have ready for work, and schedule an excursion for our Iceland trip. By the time Becky got home and was ready to take the girls for a walk I’d also had enough time to quickly sift through some email, prep information for tomorrow, and finish a couple of work related tasks. It was quite the productive day!

Had I not followed Becky’s advice I would have rushed back to work today, left everything piled up, and then stressed throughout the week when there wasn’t enough time to complete it all. I would have been a mess all week and by the time the weekend hit I’d have been ready to scream or cry or both. Instead I’m feeling calm, rested, and ready for tomorrow.

Yoga also helped out so much. Nick summed up the entire practice of prepping to go back in a simple instruction while I was flat on my back. We’d just gone through some pretty hard core leg work and I was breathing heavy while heart was pounding as if it were attempting to escape my ribs. Nick told us to tuck our shoulders underneath our backs just a little to open up our airways. I followed his advice and immediately slowed both my breathing and heart rate. One little shift in position made all the difference.

That’s essentially what today was. I made a slight shift, opened up my airways, and that made all the difference.

Thanks!!!

Day 1,980 – Thankful for Shifting Perspectives

On my flight back home today I was fortunate to have a couple of things work out just right.

First off, I got to the Orlando Airport two hours early this morning which was twenty minutes early thanks to my TSA PreCheck. Had I gone through regular security I would have been about an hour late for my flight due to how ridiculously busy the airport was with travelers – and that was at 5:30am!

On my flight to La Crosse I was on the left side of the jet and in the seat right in front of the start of the wing. My vantage point was perfect for watching the world disappear beneath me until it looked like a tiny scale model.

Thanks to the wind direction we flew west until we were almost to the lock and dam in Genoa. We banked to the right and followed the Mississippi River Valley to the north. This is one of my favorite areas nearby in the Driftless, so many beautiful bluffs mixed with wetlands and the river. As we went north we flew near Brownsville, MN, the town we store our boat at in the winter and where we used to keep our boat on the water. As we flew by I was able to trace my typical route from the main road through the town and to Al’s Small Engine and Whitesitt Storage, the home and business location of the best small engine mechanic in this area. Seeing this place I visit several times each year from up in the air was an incredible shift in my normal perspective. The way the undulating hills roll into the valleys was quite the sight.

Looking back I’m kind of kicking myself for not taking a couple of pictures, but then again I am not because I put all of my being into being present in that moment. I was so focused on soaking it all in while in a deep state of child like curiosity and wonder that stopping to snap a quick pic would have most likely ruined the moment. I was where I was supposed to be in that moment and I styled right in it until the wheels touched down.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to see one of my favorite places from a new perspective, can’t wait to drive it again and see it from the “normal” way again with the added perspective from up above.

Thanks!!!