Category: Daily Life

Extreme Sports, Attempted

I’m not sure what I was thinking. I suspect my improved leg strength gave me a false sense of skill. Regardless of how it started, I found myself panting heavily, staring down at a series of steep drop-offs and surrounded by cliffs. How did I get myself in this predicament? Too late to back out, nothing to do but take a deep breath and 3..2..1… go.

Let’s rewind to the beginning. I am an average skier. A rockstar on the intermediate groomers, more tentative on the steeper stuff, a disaster in the crud and moguls. My problem is that I really, really like the idea of skiing in the trees. Off-piste as the Europeans would say. I just can’t figure out how to get good at it. I watch others flow through the trees and smoothly navigate big bumps and obstacles. Me on the other hand on the same terrain – a series of awkward hop turns, sliding, skidding, often ending up in a snow covered, contorted upside-down position.

This year I vowed to master the off-piste. To be one of those guys flowing through the trees. I started out with vastly improved strength, due to the time I’ve spent in the gym. That new-found strength has given me the confidence to ski hard, all day. I’ve been fortunate to be able to ski every 2-3 days, which has certainly improved my form. I started making small forays into the trees and seeking out ungroomed snow. As my skill improved, I started eying a valley known as an “experts only” area. One of the groomed runs borders the area and I kept flirting with the edge and eying the trees and chutes in the valley.

A few days ago, we had a big powder dump. I got to the resort early and did a few warm-up laps on the groomed runs. Finally, I skied down the run bordering the off-piste area and stopped at the edge. I spent quite a bit of time looking down and going over in my head what could go wrong if I dropped in. Eventually I told myself that I’d never know If I didn’t try.

Down I went. And it was awesome! While I don’t know if I was actually flowing through the trees, I handled it without any problems. I spent the rest of the day dropping in and playing in this new playground. I had a blast. The next day I skied with friends who stick to the groomers. I spent that whole day diving in and out of trees bordering the runs, seeking out all the crud and powder remnants I could find. My confidence was through the roof!

Yesterday we had another overnight snow. I hit the slopes and warmed up with a few runs. I was going to drop in where I spent the other day, then thought to myself why not drop in from the very top? With my newfound confidence, I rode the lift up and traversed around to the entrance of the expert area. There were ominous signs posted indicating this was an area for experts only and ski patrol was limited. I paused for a moment, but my excitement over my new skills won out. I went through the gates.

Things went bad from the beginning. The “trail” was a very narrow, slick, twisting route full of bumps and awkward off-camber turns. My speed was increasing, but I had no way to slow down as the trail was too narrow to turn or even snowplow. I was now flying along, borderline out of control, and definitely did not want to slide off the edge. Up ahead I spotted a wider spot in the trail and did a hard slide to bleed off speed. Unfortunately, immediately around the corner the trail turned steeply uphill and I no longer had the momentum to make it up. I came to an awkward stop on the edge. Fuck.

Now I was stuck. No way to get my skis off and hike anywhere. My only choice was down. I was looking down a narrow chute with trees at the bottom and unknown terrain below that. It took a while to get my breathing under control. I will say, committing to that first jump turn was one of the harder things I’ve done. I made my way down the chute. Jump turn. Slide, slide, jump. Over and over.

Finally, I reached the trees. This was a little easier, but there were steep cliffs everywhere and I couldn’t always tell if the edges I was skiing up to were vertical or navigable. I kept traversing across the slope, dropping down in places my skill allowed me to make turns. Eventually I made it to the wide open part of the bowl and terrain I could handle. I was drenched with sweat and my thighs were quivering.

I turned around and looked back up at what I had come down. I realized I’d come down a double black diamond called Chinook Chute. Probably one of the hardest areas in the resort. Wow. I couldn’t believe I’d done that. I started feeling pretty proud of myself. It was ugly and more sliding and slipping than actual skiing. It certainly won’t make any Warren Miller ski film highlights, but I did it and managed to not crash.

If you told me at the beginning of this season I’d be going down that, I wouldn’t have believed you. Trust me, I’m in no hurry to go back up there. It really is above my skill level. But… I’m not that far off.

The lesson is that you are capable of way more than you think you are. All it takes is the willpower to try. Yes, you may crash and burn. But if you don’t try, you’ll never know.

My problem is balancing my age, true skill, and good decision making with my new-found ego. I need to remind myself that I’m no longer twenty. At this stage of my life, do I really need to be flirting with cliffs and double black diamond runs? Probably not.

But man, it felt good to accomplish that. Hmm… maybe I could become that guy effortlessly floating through the trees?

Whiteout Conditions

I went skiing the other day with some friends. A typical day, although a bit foggy when we rolled into the parking lot. We pulled on our gear and trudged across the icy parking lot to the lifts. I stretched a bit and tried to loosen up before our first run. As we clicked into our ski bindings, the fog suddenly went from 4/10 visibility to 0/10 visibility. As in, we could barely see the lift ten feet away. No matter, we are hearty soldiers and got on the chairlift anyway.

As the lift climbed the mountain, visibility remained poor. But we held out hope – it’s not uncommon in our area to have the fog/cloud layer dissipate at the summit. Alas, it was not to be. The summit was socked in with thick pea soup fog. We slowly made our way to the first run we could find, just to get down the mountain. Skiing in zero visibility is weird. It’s not uncommon to get a bit of vertigo, as your brain wrestles with slopes and angles without any visual clues.

We stopped about halfway down the run and just looked at each other. One of the guys proclaimed, “This sucks. I’m going to the lodge and getting a beer.” So down we went, carefully picking our way through moguls we couldn’t see. At the bottom, the pessimist headed straight for the lodge. The other optimist and I debated and decided to do one more run before calling it a day. As the chairlift carried us up, the fog started getting thinner and thinner. We looked at each other and laughed – wouldn’t it be funny if the cloud layer burned off and the pessimist missed out?

Sure enough as we neared the top the fog dissipated, and it was nothing but bright blue skies. Beautiful! We headed down a run, whooping the whole way. We stopped several times and texted and called the pessimist, telling him to get back out here. At the bottom we zoomed right back to the chairlift so we could head back up. More texts and voicemails telling our lodge-bound friend to dump the beer and join us. No word from him, so we went back up into the sun and bombed down another run.

Once at the bottom, we ran into the lodge and convinced the pessimist to abandon the beer that had just been delivered and come back out with us. He reluctantly gave up the tasty beverage and trudged outside to put skis on again and make his way with us back to the chairlift. He was quiet on the ride up. And disturbingly, the fog seemed to be thicker than the last two trips up. Visibility dropped the further up the mountain we went. And sure enough, we reached the summit and… whiteout conditions again. Zero visibility. Mr. pessimist just looked at us without saying much. There wasn’t much we could say other than, “honest it was blue ski fifteen minutes ago.” Down we went into the soup.

Back at the bottom, tail between our legs we all went into the lodge for some adult beverages. We spent some time enjoying the warmth of the bar and mostly ignoring the elephant in the room. As everyone was finishing, I looked out the window and it appeared as though the fog was lifting a bit. I got smart this time and used my phone to bring up the live summit webcam. Sure enough, bright blue skies! I excitedly showed the video to my friends and suggested we hurry up and get at least one more run in while the sun was out. I was met with very skeptical looks. I kept pointing to the video – it’s a live look and I see sun! Let’s go!

Skis back on, hop on the chairlift, and back up we go. Do I even need to say what happened?

I have officially been fired as a weather and conditions prognosticator.

P.S. A bad day skiing is still better than being at work. Just saying…

Happy As a Hippo

I really, really like the idea of maintaining a bullet journal. The engineering side of me appreciates how logical and organized it is. To be able to easily see and track tasks, events, and future plans just makes sense to me. I would like to be the type of person who is that organized. Unfortunately, I’m not and I don’t understand why.

A week ago, I said I was going to give it a try again (probably the fourth or fifth attempt). I rewatched the bullet journal video. I got everything set up. Dates and days added, tasks and events entered. The next day I stared at it. The following day I simply stared at it again. It’s now been a week… and I haven’t touched it. I literally don’t know what to put in it. I really don’t need reminding of the few tasks I entered. Anything critical is already on my electronic calendar so I’ll get a reminder.

So now what? Do I just enter stuff in for the sake of it? Maybe if I just keep writing stuff in it every day it’ll become a habit. But why? I’ve somehow managed to live a lot of years without a journal. Is my life really going to be better if I become a journal-person?

I don’t know what it is that I’m trying to solve by continually going back to the idea of the journal. Clearly there’s something I feel I’m lacking or missing out on. All the minimalist and entrepreneur-types on YouTube and Twitter say it’s the path to productivity. Maybe that’s answer – I just don’t feel productive. Perhaps continually trying to journal is a way to force myself to be more productive. But do I really need to be?

I’m reminded of The King of Scuba in the silly movie Along Came Polly. He tells Ruben the story of the hippo. The hippo painted stripes on himself to be like a tiger, but everyone knew he wasn’t a tiger. He put spots on himself to be like the leopard, but everyone knew he wasn’t a leopard. Finally, he looked in the mirror and decided he’d just be a hippopotamus. And then he was happy.

I’m not going to pretend to be something I’m not. Being an uber-organized overachiever is not me. No matter how many times I try to journal, the end result will be the same. I am not a journal person. Never have been, never will be. Relaxed and care-free on the beach like the scuba king is more my personality. This is officially the end of any attempts to be a journal-person.

Ahhh… see, I’m already relieved.

Be like the hippopotamus. Just be happy.

Are You A Driver Or A Passenger?

Seven months ago, I retired. It’s weird to think that “I’m retired”. That’s something old people do. At the time I didn’t really say anything about it, as it just seemed odd. I wrote something vague about leaving healthcare, but I didn’t mention that was the end of the work phase of my life. I will say that I do not miss working. I’ve held a job of some sort every year of my life since I was thirteen. From paper routes to lifeguarding to working in ski shops and a short order cook. I worked my way up in the tech world from writing manuals to phone support to traveling to do on-site deployment and installations. I moved on to software engineering and managing large tech teams. Eventually I got bored and moved to healthcare. So, it’s fair to say I’ve put my time in. And now I’m done.

So what does this have to do with anything? Well, last night some friends we hadn’t seen in a while asked, “are you loving retirement?” And… I really didn’t have an answer.

When Mrs Troutdog and I decided it was time to be done, I had visions of travel and exploring without the constraints of worrying about the 9-5 routine. I had projects I needed to do, and creative stuff I’ve been thinking about. Finally, unlimited time to cook and get my diet and fitness dialed in.

So, did all that happen? Uh, no. Not exactly. I honestly don’t know where the time went or what I’ve been doing. We had a house remodel going on that consumed time and schedules. The weather this year has been weird, making it a little harder to do outside stuff. I did some motorcycle riding, but not as much as I’d thought I’d do. The creative juices faded a bit. I spent a lot of time reading and napping. In a nutshell I blinked, and half a year went by.

Why did that happen? I realized I’ve been a passenger instead of a driver. As an adult, especially in the midst of your working life, it’s easy to become a slave to your calendar. There’s a contractor coming to the house this afternoon; hockey tickets tomorrow; need to grocery shopping; a friend wants to play golf on Wednesday; I need to clean up the garage a bit; laundry; lawn needs mowing; we have to go to that thing with your sister this weekend. And so on, and so on, and so on. It’s life.

But time marches on and eventually you realize all you’re doing is being reactive to the tasks and events on your calendar. You’re being a passenger in life. You’re not driving the calendar – it’s driving you. I get it when you’re mid-career, you’ve got young kids and juggling the soccer mom/dad thing. It’s hard to do anything other than just get through the day-to-day minutia. But I don’t have that excuse. I literally have unlimited time. I can put anything on my calendar I want.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my life. I’m very fortunate to be in the position I’m in. I’m not bored at all. But it’s clear that I’m not really driving my life right now. I’m just drifting along, enjoying whatever pops up any given day. Maybe after a long work career, that’s enough for some folks. But not me. I want more.

It’s time to climb into the drivers seat and dictate what I want out of my time. Because as the last half-year has demonstrated, time is accelerating at a frightening pace. I can’t control time, but I can control what I do with that time.

How about you? Are you being a driver or a passenger?

Let’s Go To The Numbers

I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again. Somehow this blog turned into nothing but writing about my (lack of) health and fitness. I don’t know how that happened and it wasn’t my intention. But for some reason, 90% of my few followers have some connection to the health/nutrition/fitness industry. I don’t get it. Write about some current event or a political issue, and crickets. Write about how many cookies I ate last week, and I get new followers. I find it bizarre. Anyway, clearly you asked for it, so let’s go into excruciating detail about my numbers.

As part of this years revolution (not resolution), I’ll be tracking my weight daily. I want to see how things fluctuate with food and exercise. I use an impedance scale (this one if interested) which provides a number of stats. First off, yes I know they are not a precise tool. The non-weight numbers tend to fluctuate quite a bit from day to day. But as a way to watch trends over time, I think it’s a fine tool.

A side note on interesting observations… I’ve been using the scale on and off for a number of years. Out of curiosity I went back to when I was at my leanest and most cardio-fit (was doing tons of mountain trail running). At that point my body fat was 17.5% and lean muscle mass was 132 lbs. I wasn’t exactly Viking warrior material – more like Chris Froome cyclist physique.

Fast forward to today. Body fat is, well… an embarrassing 26.8% I know, I know, we’re working on it. But here’s the interesting number. I’ve been lifting weights seriously for about four months now. Muscle mass today is at 147.8 lbs. A 15.8 lb gain in lean muscle mass! Now I don’t think that’s a super accurate number, but it has been steadily increasing over the last few months. Given my age and the back issues I’ve had recently, I’ll take muscle mass and core strength improvements over body fat%.

But we’re all vain creatures (if we’re honest) and I’m tired of struggling to button my jeans, so the body fat number is important. The official weigh in was Jan 2. Here’s what the numbers show:

Jan 2 food/exercise: several eggs + bacon; string cheese, grapes, a few pretzels; tri-tip, salad; a big piece of cake; went downhill skiing for the day.

Jan 3 weight increased .2 lbs, no change in body fat%.

Jan 3 food/exercise: stuffed bell pepper + cheese/sour cream; plate of Chinese food; big handful of chips; another plate of Chinese food; 1 small piece of chocolate; Split and carried wood up a flight of stairs for 40 minutes, went cross country skiing.

Jan 4 weight increased 2.4 lbs and body fat increased .4%

What the hell? So frustrating. Zero alcohol, nothing crazy calorie-wise (well, cake), was pretty active, and I gain 2+ pounds. This is why people get so frustrated dieting.

Here’s my guess – Because I cut out alcohol, I’ve been pounding fluids. Water, coffee, and 3-4 “vitamin waters”. It doesn’t seem like I’ve voided commensurate with overall fluid intake and I’m sure the Chinese food had tons of sodium. My theory is that most of that weight gain is fluid retention. Maybe? Unfortunately, the scale says my water percentage has actually gone down, so I don’t know what to think.

Obviously, the answer is to go back to tracking calories (I use this app) and map that to the scales data and watch the trend. Once I see a clear trend with calories to weight loss, I can create a bunch of known calorie meals and plan for the week. Remember – revolution, not resolution. Systems, not goals.

Sigh… why is this so hard? I want to go back to my twenties and the steady diet of burgers and nachos just to keep weight on.

Resolution Or Revolution?

It’s time for the annual beginning of the year resolutions. I’ve never been a big fan of resolutions. Mostly because I rarely keep them for more than a week. Also, because at my age do I really need to be resolving to eat more tofu to save the planet? No. Tomorrow is not a guarantee. Besides, making resolutions like that are just virtue signaling. Nobody cares.

But every few years I do try to set goals. Take last year. I was bored leading up to the new year and binge watched a bunch of minimalist and productivity YouTube videos. I went on a two-day productivity frenzy getting ready for the new year. I re-re-re-started a bullet journal. I put schedules and workout plans together. I mapped out all the motorcycle and camping trips I wanted to do. I even put a 2022 Goals page together with tracking metrics that I was going to use to measure progress.

I had a lot of fitness goals, some fly-fishing things I wanted to do, motorcycle camping trips, and a bunch of river rafting day trips I planned on doing. You can see that my goals are not terribly intellectual, spiritual, or altruistic. I never claimed to be the sharpest crayon in the box. Anyway, so how many did I accomplish? Zero. Zip. None. Nadda. Whoo hoo! Underachievers of the world, unite!

Interestingly, I’d completely forgotten I’d even set those goals. I stumbled upon them yesterday while I was looking for something else. Clearly, they weren’t terribly memorable or important to me if I didn’t even remember them. It made me think about what I wanted out of this current new year. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that there wasn’t any single thing I could come up with. I literally couldn’t come up with a single, burning desire that I wanted to accomplish this year. Not one thing. My god, how uninteresting and shallow of a person does that make me?

Have I turned into one of those boring country rubes with no life desires other than to sit on the porch and watch the traffic go by? Don’t get me wrong, there are things I want to do – ride the motorcycle, get back to making YouTube content, lose weight, work on the house, etc… but I don’t have a driving passion to make them happen. If they happen, great. If not, oh well.

After writing and re-reading that last paragraph, I don’t like what it says about my state of mind. My god, that’s a recipe for complacency and a ticket straight to sitting on the couch, watching ESPN reruns and eating bon-bons. So now what?

I thought about writing down goals again, but I’d just be making stuff up and would be ignoring them in a few weeks as per usual. I really thought about this for some time, and then accidentally stumbled upon one of the definitions of “revolution”.

a forcible overthrow of a social order, in favor of a new system

It reminded me of something cartoonist and writer Scott Adams says, “for success, create systems instead of goals”. For example, wanting to lose ten pounds is a goal. Learning to eat right is a system that substitutes knowledge for willpower.

So that’s it. It’s time for a Revolution. We’re throwing out my old social order and creating a new one. The plan for 2023 is to create systems instead of goals. Routines that make it easier to succeed at the day-to-day. Routines that lead to better habits around health. Routines that make it more likely to plan trips, house tasks, and creative projects. The more I think about it, the more I like it.

The problem with many revolutions is that once you’ve fired up the population and stormed the gates, you hit a “now what?” moment. Do I go throw everything out of the pantry? Mount a huge chalkboard for meal planning in the kitchen? Start blocking out days on the calendar to force myself to plan things? Re-re-re-re-start the bullet journal?

Hmmm… Analysis paralysis. Ok, maybe I don’t know what this is going to look like yet, but I promise change is happening. Stay tuned.

Viva la revoluciĆ³n!

I Got Scammed

As a registered Contrarian, I tend to be suspicious of everything until I verify it myself. I don’t click on links in emails. I have yet to supply my banking information to a Nigerian prince to share the sum of $3,001,287 dollars US. I don’t believe anything politicians tell me. I don’t use public Wi-Fi. In short, I’m not a very trusting person. And yet, I managed to fall for a scam. The worst part? I went in knowing they were trying to sell me something.

Let me explain. We own a timeshare in Mexico. We bought it thirteen years ago. It’s a long story as to how we ended up with a timeshare, but all-in-all we’ve enjoyed it. Every single time we go, we get the hardcore push to attend a “members update”. There is no update. It’s a play to upsell more points or status level to you. We went a few times to get the free drink tickets they bribe you with, but generally I refuse to attend.

I don’t remember how I got talked into going this time, but somehow I found myself in the hotel lobby with Mrs. Troutdog and the couple who came to Mexico with us. Things did not go well straight out of the gate. The “coordinator” insisted we had to listen to the presentation separately from the other couple. We said no. She insisted. We said no. Off the coordinator went to discuss with someone in another room. She came back and said they’d make a special exception this time. Next, they wanted a credit card from each of us to “verify ID”. We all said no. She insisted. We all said no. She insisted. We all said no. Finally, she reluctantly agreed and took us to meet our sales guys.

It’s at this point a smarter man would have walked out. I am clearly not a smart man. But at the time I was convinced I was far too smart to believe any of the nonsense they were about to dish out. Off we went to get a tour of the penthouse unit. Our sales guys were straight out of used car sales finishing school. One of them was convinced he was Don Johnson from Miami Vice – he wore a silver suit with ridiculous black Vans sneakers and had his hair slicked back. The other guy spent his time telling us he was a very successful real estate developer and builder and was just here as a favor to his friend the VP of sales. Mmmm, right.

We listened to these two goons babble about real estate prices, the shortage of hotel rooms, and room rates for quite a while. At the time I wasn’t clear on why they were telling us this. Then the heavy came in. He had copies of our original contracts along with a few other documents. I’ll spare you the details, but he basically said due to a loophole in the contract he was obligated to offer us the option to purchase a huge number of points at an unheard-of price. The company would be taking a huge hit, but legally he had to give us the option.

This is a one-time deal. Walk out of the room and it won’t be offered again.

The way he presented the contract loophole was so well done… I thought it was real. It was an opportunity to rent out multiple weeks of rooms and make passive income with virtually no effort on our part. After hearing and seeing the going room rates, this really seemed like a way to make some money. I mean, they had contracts and legal looking documents. It had to be legit.

He left us alone in the room to talk amongst ourselves. We went back and forth, unable to decide if it was real or not. It was a lot of money to buy in and none of us wanted to make a snap decision. He came back and said something that was so off-putting, we got up and walked out. His words were, “I’m leaving in twenty minutes because I have to go buy seven Rolex watches for my team. When I leave, the offer is off the table.” Really? Who says something like that?

We spent the remaining vacation days enjoying fruity drinks at the pool and eating too much excellent food. While I was happy we walked away, I was still 60-ish percent convinced it had been a legitimate offer.

Once home, Mrs. Troutdog found an owners group on Facebook. There it was in black and white. A total scam. Multiple other people had received some variation of the same pitch. I was shocked that a large and fairly reputable company would stoop to something so slimy and blatantly deceitful. Because I honestly didn’t believe a corporation would go to those lengths to scam people out of money, I mostly believed the pitch. Sure, I expected some hard sales attempts to get us to upgrade to a bigger unit or something, but not outright deception.

Shame on me. I’ve lost some Contrarian points over this one. I’m shocked I got pulled in by the story. And sadly, I’m now even more distrustful of other humans. How do people like that look at themselves in the mirror? I guess all you can do is hope the karma bus is waiting around the corner for them.

Meanwhile, it turns out a week of drinking, nachos, and extravagant dinners is not good for your diet. Who knew? I guess I better hit the gym. I may go for run on the treadmill for an hour. Or twenty.

Bro, Do You Even Bidet?

I’ve been out of the country for a week and missed all the election fun. I’m sure you’ve been waiting breathlessly for my brilliant analysis of the shenanigans. This is not that. Instead, we’re going to talk about an extremely important topic – Bidet vs. Toilet.

As I said, while it’s been snowing back at home, I’ve been on a beach for the last week consuming far too many watered-down drinks and eating large volumes of chips and guacamole. Upon arriving and checking into our room I was delighted to discover that the toilet was a fancy electronic bidet. I’ve never had the pleasure of using one and was excited to discover a whole new world. I’ve read several condescending articles from Europeans on what Neanderthals us Americas are for still using dry paper to clean up after doing our business. Actually I think it was just the French, but the point remains. How do you expect to get clean just using dry paper?

Needless to say, I was looking forward to this new experience. The next morning arrived, and I was ready. This contraption was very high end. All electronic with a wall-mounted control pad. Upon lifting the lid, a helpful light illumined the bowl. I sat down and began the process. First observation – the seat was heated! That’s luxury. Except pretty soon my butt was sweating. The seat kept getting hotter and the perspiration was… well, you get the picture. I was a little worried I was going to slide off the seat. I couldn’t find any controls to turn down the heat. No matter, I soldiered on.

After completing the, ehh, uhm, err, deposit shall we say, it was time for the waterworks. Examining the control panel there were helpful pictographs describing what each button did. I pushed the one that seemed rearward facing. The water was warm and not the worst sensation in the world. I sat there enjoying rinse mode. And sat there. And waited. I couldn’t tell if it was going to shut off by itself or if I had to do it, so I just started hitting buttons. Front wash, power wash, pulsating, rain shower, jet stream… I’m not sure what you’re supposed to do, but I had a regular carwash going on down there.

Finally, I figured it was as good as it was going to get and managed to shut it down. I found a button that looked like wind. Basically, it’s hairdryer mode. So I sat. And sat. And waited. Maybe I’d spent too long in carwash mode, because hairdryer mode just wasn’t really drying out the parts. I gave up and had to do some additional manual drying.

Perhaps I did this wrong. I think maybe you’re supposed to flush before commencing with carwash mode? When I stood up the helpful light came on and highlighted the general mess in the bowl that I didn’t really need to see. I had a little trouble walking because it turns out I’d been sitting there trying to figure out the process for so long that my legs had fallen asleep. And my butt was still sweating. It took a bit to recover and return to normal.

So in the end, what did I think? Perhaps I wasn’t smart enough to figure it out, but I’ll stick to the regular toilet from now on. It seemed like a lot of effort, buttons, and steps to assist with something I’ve been doing all my life. I’m not sure I want a coach or need to watch a YouTube video on how to properly use the toilet. You can’t always teach an old dog new tricks. I’ll stick with what I know.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re disappointed. I’m a modern-day renaissance man. A man of many talents and skills, with superior intellect. You wanted the glowing review of the bidet so you could justify running out and getting one for yourself. I hate to crush your dreams, but I just can’t sign on to camp bidet. I’m sure the sophisticated folks see me as one step above still using a corncob, but it is what it is.

The final irony is that because I had to look up how to spell bidet… I will now have to endure non-stop bidet ads on Facebook and Instagram for the next month.

It’s All About The Training

At the end of the day, we do what we’re trained to do. This applies to everything. When the moment matters, the amygdala portion of the brain takes over and initiates the fight or flight response. The body will fall back to rote muscle memory. If you didn’t train for that scenario, you’ll freeze or do something illogical. Training means exactly that – physically repeating and practicing something. Just reading about a subject and assuming you’ll know what to do is NOT the same thing. This was vividly demonstrated to me last night.

Without opening up a can of worms on a controversial subject, let’s just say that I believe in one’s right to arm themselves to protect hearth and home. I own a number of guns and regularly practice with them (well, before ammo prices skyrocketed). I feel like I am at least minimally proficient and able to handle firearms safely. I am ready to defend myself, my family, and my home should the need arise. All is good, right?

That belief was tested last night. At 2:30 in the morning, Mrs. Troutdog woke me from a sound sleep with the words nobody wants to hear in the middle of the night – “There’s someone standing at the door!”

It was time for my training and preparedness to kick in. So, what did I do? I grabbed a t-shirt and ran to the front door in my underwear. Did I get the gun first? No. Did I even think about the gun? No. Did I grab my phone? No. I looked out the window and had a moment of confusion thinking it was my nephew, who lives in another state, standing on my porch. And then I just yelled, “what do you want?” And then I remember the thought that went through my head… I’d put my t-shirt on backwards. Seriously, that’s what I was thinking about.

When survival mode was needed, I pretty much blanked out on everything. I’ve watched and read a bunch of survival, shooting, and self-defense stuff. In my head I thought I knew exactly how to respond. But because I’d never actually physically practiced or gone through the motions, I had no actual muscle memory to fall back on. I stood there in my underwear contemplating my backwards t-shirt.

Fortunately, it ended up being just a really drunk guy who was at the wrong house. He was so drunk he could barely stand and kept dropping his cell phone. He mumbled sorry and stumbled off into the night. And then I remembered all the things I probably should have done.

The point of this is not some lecture on home defense. It’s training – for any subject. Unless you physically practice something, the odds of you performing well when needed are slim. Driving in the snow. Reading a map when you think you’re lost. CPR. Deadlifts. Cleans. Heavy club swings. Public speaking. Fighting. Self-defense. You cannot simply watch a YouTube video on any of these things and think you’ll be able to do them when needed.

It was a good lesson for me. As an RN, I’ve spent more time than I can count in stressful scenarios. Traumas, bleeding, codes, CPR. Been there, done that. We practice and have to be re-certified every year on those skills. As a result, in those scenarios I’m pretty calm. It doesn’t mean I’ll aways do the right thing, but I have a better than average chance of keeping the thinking part of the brain going and making better decisions. Because of that, I assumed that I’d behave the same in all emergency situations. Clearly, I was wrong.

So now I have to think about my training. I need to create an actual plan for when something goes bump in the night and practice that plan. And then practice some more. You should do the same for whatever things in life you THINK you know what to do. Until you create that muscle memory, you have no idea what your brain will fall back to. It might be worrying about your t-shirt being backwards as your house burns down around you.

P.S. My dog is fired. I have an 80-pound dog who spends his days barking fiercely at anything that moves. The mailman is his mortal enemy. What did this fierce protector do through this whole scenario? Nothing. He slept. Never got out of bed. He will not be getting any treats today.

A Thirty-Year Story

Thirty years. Three decades. Staring at those words, it’s hard to believe I wrote them. That’s a long time. These days, that’s not a number you hear very often. In reality, this story starts before that. A chance encounter, arranged by a mutual friend. I certainly never would have thought that first meeting would change my life forever.

But clearly the hands of fate directed our paths to cross. And once they did, our separate paths quickly became one. We both knew almost right away that there was only one path for us. Sure, it took a little bit to fully commit to the path. School to finish and careers to get started. It took me a while… I think I was a bit insecure. I found it hard to believe sometimes that you picked me. A dorky ski and surf bum who didn’t have a clear vision of the future. But you did pick me, and always encouraged me to be more.

So, thirty years ago today, we officially started down this journey. We stood before God, family, and friends and said I do. A whirlwind, magical night, and then we jumped on a plane and headed for the Caribbean. I think we slept for 24 hours straight, exhausted from the festivities. And then we woke to a beautiful blue ocean, and wondered, now what?

I don’t think we’ve ever had a clear roadmap for what this journey is supposed to look like. Oh sure, we had vague thoughts about things like we should probably try to buy a house, saving for retirement, and general career ideas. But I don’t think we ever had a concrete plan for many things. We’ve very much gone with whatever way the wind was blowing. I love that about us. We were never afraid to try things. Being the first to leave family behind and move to a different state. Buying houses sight unseen. Adventures. Ski trips. Whitewater rafting. Dogs. Career changes. RV’s and motorcycles, and UTV’s. We’ve always done what feels right in the moment – and it’s always worked out for us.

But behind all that spontaneity – you have been the rock that holds us together. You are the glue that makes everything work. Sure, we talk, plan, and laugh together about crazy ideas of buying a house in the mountains, but you’re the one who actually says – let’s do it. You’re the planner and organizer. You keep the trains running on time. We would not be where we are today if you weren’t always there telling me that you believe in us and we can make whatever crazy idea it is, work.

But it hasn’t just been about buying things and having adventures. Your love and support have made me a far better person than I ever thought I could be. Your constant encouragement to think more of myself, to have confidence, and to attempt things I wouldn’t have done on my own means more than you’ll ever know. You’re exactly the partner in life that I needed, and I pray that I’ve been able to return the same to you.

Who knows where our path leads? I honestly don’t care. Wherever it goes, I’m confident we’ll make the most of whatever fate has in store for us. What I do know is that we are on this path together, always. Our path is a forever path. I don’t think many people are lucky enough to have that. I certainly don’t take it for granted. I am thankful every day that we had that chance encounter thirty-plus years ago. Let’s see where the next thirty years takes us.

I love you more than you’ll ever know. Thank you for being on this journey with me.