We all have set backs

Set backs can have a big impact on our lives and I have definitely been through mine.  In August, I broke my right foot while training for the Pier to Peak half marathon.  One thing I’ve learned about myself over the years, is that I have a habit of pushing myself beyond my limit, going “all out”, which can have its good and bad consequences.  Those around me often say, “don’t over do it, Rich”.  When I set my mind to do something, I  just go for it.  But set backs can have a subtle, or sometimes loud, way of reminding us it’s time to slow down.

During my goal of training for Pier to Peak, I woke up at 4:00am following a long 26 hours of traveling home from Europe. I was excited to get back to my training and started a nine-mile run up Mountain Drive with a new pair of Nikes on. It was still dark and I was so focused on starting my run, that I missed the eroded edge of asphalt. I went down hard, not even 100 feet into my run. 

On the way down, I immediately heard a crack, as I rolled over the top of my foot. Willing myself to get back up and run it out, I convinced myself I’d be fine.  Step one, two, and down I went again, sharp pain increased.  I sat for a few minutes and tried again and again, but of course the pain made me immobile. My next thought was that I would go home, ice the foot, rest, and try again tomorrow, but halfway through my drive, I finally surrendered to the pain, and decided the ER was calling my name.  

Xray confirmed that I broke my foot and it would be wearing a fancy black boot for eight weeks.  Sadly I had to forfeit my first attempt at Pier to Peak and wait another twelve weeks before joining my morning workout at Fat Club.  Message received loud and clear…It’s was my time to slow down. 

My son wants to work with me

My three year old, Oliver,  asks me every morning, “Daddy, where are you going today?”, and more often than not, I tell him I’m going to work.  His answer is always the same, “I go with you?”, to which I typically say, “Sorry buddy, not today”. His quick response is, “but I want to

”.  And I say, “I want you to come too, but I don’t know how much I would get done if you did”.  Like a knife to my heart, he walks away disappointed.

Oliver’s best attribute is his smile. After a disastrous two months, I believe we can all do more smiling right now, so I’m sharing this story to hopefully get you to do just that.  My wife and I made plans for a lunch date last week, Oliver included.  When they arrived at the office, Oliver smiled at all my co-workers, jumped right in my lap, and finally had his “day at work”.  He typed on my keyboard, worked with the mouse, talked to the receptionist on the phone, and had his share of snacks in the break-room.  But the best part of it all was he was confident and loved every minute.  It reminded me of a past mentor of mine, John-Roger, who would always advise me to, “Go where the fun is”.  Like smiling, we could all use a little more fun in the new year, and I am no exception.  So to sustain the joy Oliver spread throughout my office, before leaving work, I ordered three new toy Nerf guns for my boys and the game is on when I get home.  Spread joy where you can today!

Not the stereotypical male

For those of you that know me well, you know I’m not one for watching sports. Not the stereotypical male, I suppose. As a spectator I find my attention drifts. However, in my youth I enjoyed playing a number of sports – soccer, basketball, baseball, football, and even hockey. I grew up on the East Coast so ice hockey was much more common. Also, after graduating college, I lived in Breckenridge, CO, where my love for hockey really developed and I played on an actual pond. For me the joy of sports is always in the play, the competition, and the camaraderie. I have to be in the game.

This time of year always brings back my longing to play hockey again. I can almost smell the ice rink and feel the itch to play. But, during my time on the ice, I endured two knee injuries which required surgeries, one at 27 and the other at 38. The last time I played was the night I blew out my left knee. My first shift out, the puck went close to the opposite blue line and I chased it down with one opponent on my heels. I was going as fast as I could and stopped sideways into the boards. Unfortunately my opponent made his best effort to keep up, but didn’t know how to stop as quick as I could. He plowed into me forcing my knee to buckle. I knew instantly that my days of playing hockey were over. Both my ACL and MCL had to be replaced and it was time to donate all my gear. 

I do dream to get in the game again. There is a league here in Santa Barbara for older guys like me. But it’s not worth the risk of going though that long recovery again. So instead I force myself to be the spectator and remind myself that sports can still be enjoyable watching from the sidelines.

Like my Father

CIMI camp

In fourth grade my class at the Washington Waldorf School went on a week-long trip to a river in West Virginia. My Father was asked to be a chaperone and I was delighted to share the trip with him. It was October and unseasonably hot, and I remember that on the drive home we each had sack lunches with three chocolate chip cookies. My Father, not being one for sugar or following social protocols, announced to a van of eleven 4th graders that whomever could tell the dirtiest joke would get my Father’s three cookies. As you can imagine, all ten kids, not including myself, jumped to the occasion, and in a quick 24 hours my dear Father was sadly prohibited from participating in future school events.

To my surprise, 33 years later, I was asked to chaperone my son Wesley’s 6th grade class trip to CIMI and cabin with eight boys. Wesley, like myself, was ”super stoked” that I would experience the camp stories he would return home with. I feel blessed to have witnessed him kayak, snorkel, do science labs, perform skits, and mingle with his eleven-year-old peers.

Apparently, like my Father, I left quite an amusing impression on the kids I chaperoned! In reading their sweet hand-written thank you letters, it was clear I have a reputation of being rather strict and rigid. Many of their letters talked about getting them up too early and being the first group at breakfast, and that I made them do pushups if anyone was late. And one boy I’m particularly partial to, wrote that he felt really connected with me, but that perhaps I needed to loosen up a bit, maybe tell a few funny jokes now and then like Grandpa does.

The Power of Vulnerability


Never had I imagined I would participate in a Triathlon, but on August 27th, I literally took the plunge.  Even on the night before the big day, I went through a mental debate telling myself I should back out, that I had not properly trained, that the recent Great White shark sightings were a huge safety issue, plus as a Father of three, why would I take the risk?  Yes, my mind was really working me over with fear, but I recently read about the power of vulnerability by author Brene Brown, “when we dare to drop the armor that protects us from feeling vulnerable, we open ourselves to the experiences that bring purpose and meaning to our lives. Vulnerability is the birthplace of joy, belonging, creativity, authenticity…and is our most accurate measure of courage.”  So there I was at the Santa Barbara Triathlon, all alone, feeling extremely vulnerable, yet I finished in 55.07 min. I know that’s not a winning time, but I was still proud for stepping up to the challenge.

Reflecting back on this experience, I found that the Triathlon lacked that feeling of purpose and joy Brene speaks about.  I wanted to feel that camaraderie and connection I’ve grown to appreciate while working-out as a group in my morning Fat Club (see July letter for reference).  The sense of belonging to a team brings reward for me, far superior to a Triathlon metal.  A good reminder that next year I won’t brave the Triathlon alone, because everything, including walking through our fears, is more joyful when done with friends.