Category Archives: Uncategorized

God Bless Less Stress

So this year’s Thanksgiving weekend has come and gone. It was quiet in our house. For the first time ever, I think, it was just my wife and me having dinner together. And you know, it wasn’t all bad.

As fun as the big family holiday dinners are, they can include a lot of stress. There’s a house to clean up. Food to make. Places to go. And things always take twice as long as what you plan.

None of that happened this year. Our turkey breast, stuffing, and sides all came out fine, with no deadlines to worry about. I had time to give loaves of pumpkin bread to some neighbors and friends. I even got a run in! And a large family Zoom meeting that evening meant we got to catch up with each other and show off our various cats, who, frankly, were not amused.

Less mess, and far less stress!

I enjoyed the low stress level. Call me a party pooper, but I wouldn’t mind overmuch if we turned the holiday frenzy level down low from now on. Not that I want some kind of health crisis to make it necessary. In fact, why not call it a health benefit? Blood pressures down all over the country, and time to interact with our close ones without everyone running around with tons of stuff to do.

It looks like Christmas will be handled the same way. My wife’s family big get-together in Texas last year was memorable and a lot of fun. But at the end, my sister-in-law (our host) said, “I’m not doing this again.” True for this year anyway.

Xmas 2019 – Four generations of family.

And despite the immediacy of the current situation, there will come a day when this is all in the fast-receding past. What will life look like then? No idea. But I hope that things don’t go back entirely the way they were before. In this country, at least, I think being busy has been associated with being productive. Me included? Guilty as charged. No more. I’ve found I can be very productive at a lower level of activity. I’d like to keep that going forward.

Hope you all had a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

Catch That Sunrise

My feet flew as I barreled down the singletrack, trying to keep an eye on the runners ahead while dodging rocks and roots and stepping on slippery leaves. I’d never run this trail before, it was still a bit dark, and I was fully focused on trying not to become a casualty.

Finally we reached the bottom and emerged onto a paved path for a short segment. The lead runners stopped to let the rest of us catch up.

“Did you all catch the sunrise?” one of them asked us.

It was 7 a.m. in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and I was at the U.S. Trail Running Conference. This event includes a morning trail run before sessions begin. And thus a bunch of us, including a couple of pro trail runners, had set off into the woods in dim dawn light.

We agreed we’d all run together. Well, “together” is a subjective word. Before long I was alone, between the pros and the less ambitious who wanted to take it easier. It was either slow way down or try to keep the leaders in sight. I chose the latter and succeeded, mostly. It was all downhill for the first part, and I was way out of my comfort zone.

Catch the sunrise? Hell, it had been all I could do just to stay vertical. I’d had zero opportunity to catch what was happening around me. From that point we went uphill, so things were harder physically but easier mentally, and I had time to appreciate the beautiful woods we were running through. Which is one main reason why I run trails.

Another trail run, same conference. Had more time to enjoy it this time.

More than any other activity I do, trail running forces me to be in the moment. In addition to studying the trail terrain and trying not to get lost, I need to be body aware. How are my legs feeling? Am I breathing evenly, or too fast? Do I need water, or salt, or fuel?

When the mind strays is when bad things happen. Most of my falls on a trail have happened on level ground when I’ve zoned out a little. This includes last January’s snowshoe 5K, when I successfully navigated the singletrack’s hairpin turns and quick elevation changes, only to face plant twice on the wide, groomed straightaway a quarter mile from the finish line.

That said, in training runs, and even in a large part of trail races, there is time to look at the beauty around me and remember why I’m out there in the first place. At the Grandmaster Ultra 50 last February, just after I left an aid station the trail led into a valley. But I had to stop before the descent and just gaze at the scene that opened before me, a wide vista consisting of the valley floor, the mountains in the distance, and the myriad of colors everywhere.

Stark but stunning. (Pictured: Chris, who I ran with most of the way.)

I don’t have a photo of it, but one wouldn’t even come close to doing it justice. It was worth the couple of minutes standing there taking it all in. That race in particular I was “in the moment” a lot. Desert running will do that, with the scenery and its demands on the body. I was so grateful to have run that race, and others. They reset my perspective.

Do we focus on being in the moment in our regular lives? It’s so easy to get caught up in the thousand little things we “have to” get done that day, or what we have coming up, or reliving what happened the day or the week before. It can clutter up our minds so much we forget to feel alive. And while every moment is a gift, it’s a fleeting gift. It’s here, and it’s gone. So don’t forget to use it.

And take the opportunity to catch the sunrise now and then.

… and yet she continues to smile on the outside.

This is a guest post from my sister Jennifer. I’m reposting it from Facebook because it deserves to be. This is more than a “cute or poignant moment” – this speaks to her entire life loving horses and helping others discover the joys of riding. She is one of the strongest people I know!

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Thirty (30!) years ago, I chose to start my horse riding business. I chose to work hard, very hard, mentally and physically.  I chose a career where the riches are measured in the experiences of others, the fresh outdoors, the rewards of horse ownership. ❤️🐴❤️

Every single dollar made and spent was worked for. I did this all on my own without regular financial support from family or a spouse: no health benefits, no 401k, nothing but the dollars earned by love and sweat and all of my time.

Sick horse(s)? I’m on call and night watch. Short on staff? I’m to cover.  Need feed? I’m the gofer. Round bales need to go to pasture? I’m the tractor driver. Fences to build or repair? I’m on it… all this in between my office duties.

(THANK YOU, Trasa, for being my guardian angel and weekend office warrior!)

My adult life has been about others. Giving all that I can for the good of others. An unselfish lifestyle. I was wonderfully raised to become this way.

This year has been challenging, to say the least. Business is booming! People are discovering riding as an outdoor activity! (imagine that)… My horses are working double time. I’m working all the time. …

A “good problem to have, right?” I hear it, a lot.

If I were renting bicycles, yes.

If my senior herd of horses were younger, yes.

If I were 30 years younger, yes.

But I’m doing my best to care for my horses and take care of my guests.

After 30 years of giving up my time and life for others, carrying this beloved business on my shoulders,  I am finally admitting this one thing:  My horses are tired. I am tired.

And we’re allowed to be!

I’m strong, but I’m exhausted.

 


Jen’s business is Blazing Trails at Pontiac Lake stables. Just in case you want to make her more tired.  😃 😃 😃

Take Care, Jim

Well, the past few weeks have been eventful in the RBT family. Some things have been happy and some very sad, and some big decisions have been made in both the personal and athletic arenas. I promise to share it all here, and boy, there’s plenty to share. But I’m going to begin with a personal subject.

Last week my father-in-law, Jim Hoxie, passed away at the age of 88.

Jim and Sally Hoxie with their family on their 50th anniversary cruise.

We knew it was coming but it happened sooner than we expected, so we were knocked for a bit of a loop for a few days. Now that we’re settling back into routine, it’s time for me to pay a well-deserved tribute to this wonderful man and what he taught me.

I met Jim back in the Dark Ages (1980) when I was a University of Michigan student and dating his daughter. He was a bit intimidating at first, standing six-foot-seven with large hands and a very strong handshake. This was not a guy you wanted to fool around with, and indeed he didn’t suffer fools gladly. But we got along right away, and during the next 37 years I don’t recall a single unpleasant incident.

Jim spent his entire career as an engineer with Chrysler Corporation, where my wife and her sister now work as well. He expressed what have been called Midwestern values: hard work, dedication to family, and treating people straight up and fairly. He passed those values to his children and grandchildren. My daughter wrote on Facebook about how he taught her to be “tough” by, for example, giving no mercy in card games, forcing her to improve until she was good enough to beat him (and everyone else by then, too. I still bear the scars).

But Jim and his wife Sally were (and are) also kind and generous. When we went out to eat, he would always offer to cover the bill, even if it was his own birthday dinner. I had to learn to “beat him to the draw” which once led me to actually throw my credit card at the waiter approaching with the check. He and Sally also loaned us a lot of money so we could buy our house when we were still establishing our financial independence. I like to believe I’ve become more generous as a result of their example.

He was generous with his time as well, particularly enjoying taking the grandchildren to Greenfield Village and playing bridge with us. And if someone needed help moving, as we did when we bought our house, you could count on him being there from start to finish. His dependability resonated with me, as I also try hard to be responsible and dependable, especially when I’m volunteering or providing a service to someone.

This is not to say we agreed on everything. Jim’s outlook was strongly conservative, and I have socially liberal leanings. This resulted in some animated discussions, in which, perhaps, our voices were raised a little. My wife and mother-in-law sometimes worried we’d actually start fighting, but our arguments were never personal. Without fail, at the end of a visit we’d shake hands and he’d say, “Take care.”

When we visited Jim and Sally over the holidays, it was clear he was getting weaker and had at most a few months. But he wasted no time with self-pity, instead staying interested in what his family was doing. He asked me if I was still running and what races I had coming up. And we had one final political discussion regarding the Trump tax cuts and public education.

“I’ve been maybe a little too conservative,” he said with a smile.

“We’ve had our differences of opinion,” I replied, “but it’s never affected our respect and affection for each other.” (Why can’t all political discussions be like this.)

He nodded. “You’ve been a good son-in-law,” he said. It was among the last words he said to me.

May I be as selfless and gracious when it’s my turn.

Goodbye, Jim. And wherever you are, take care.