We love doing stuff all together as a family. Be it a family game night, a family hike, family vacation, or anything of the like we are usually doing it together as a group. Spending time with all four of us is awesome and something I take time to appreciate often as I know it won’t always be the case. As the boys grow up, move out, and start their families I understand that the exact dynamic we have will change to something different. Not better or worse, rather just different. When I keep that mindset it reminds me to appreciate all of our moments together.
Gavin and I have been in Iowa for a soccer tournament since Friday night. Just the two of us hanging out at the hotel, riding in the car, and enjoying soccer. This dynamic is so different than the norm as it is just the two of us. We’ve talked about silly stuff, played games, given each other a hard time, eaten unhealthy, spent time in conversation about life stuff, and just chilled together. It’s been awesome to have so much compact one on one time with him.
I love our family time as a full family, but once in a while there is a different type of fulfillment to be found in these moments as a smaller group. I remember having similar experiences with Dominic at different times including soccer tournaments and Becky and I have definitely had many of those times with just the two of us. In times like this in a smaller group it seems as if we have the unique opportunity to strengthen and deepened our relationships on a different level, and I’m very grateful for the opportunity to do just that.
Gavin’s first couple of games were lots of fun to watch. The scores weren’t in our favor, but they were fun to watch nonetheless. One of the tings that I was impressed by was the continued growth of the entire team and of Gavin. He’s improved so much over the past season, it’s almost like watching a different kid. There’s still a long way to go for him, but if he keeps progressing like this I can’t wait to see where he grows. One of the reasons I am thankful for his growth is that it has largely been through extra practices in the offseason and hard work. So cool for him to see how this pays off!
The weather outside was certainly frightful during game time of his first match. The temperature was something like 46 with 10-12 mph winds… and rain. The MVP of my gear for that game was Becky’s soccer blanket. She received it as a gift a while back from Mom and I borrowed it for this trip. The waterproof and windproof blanket was exactly what I needed to stay warm all game long.
For the past few years I’ve continued to work on practicing Stoicism. Typically this means trying to keep a cool head and focus on logic instead of emotion. I’ve found myself making progress in many areas of my life. Of particular note I found it very helpful to take a deep breath during the second game of the day. Had I watched this a year or two ago I would have lost my cool on more than one occasion. As it was I also saw I have room for improvement as there were still a couple of times I caught myself yelling when I should have taken a deep breath instead.
After the first game Gavin and I grabbed takeout from Zombie Burger, a recommendation from my friend Jeremy. We both had the same burger – one with bacon, fried onion, and grilled cheese sandwiches for the buns. Throw in some tasty cheese fries and a couple of incredible shakes and we had a meal that caused us to skip supper later. So delicious! Never in a million years would I have stumbled upon this place on my own, I am thankful for the recommendation!
Way back when I was a kid my parents would rent movies for my brother and I from the grocery store. There wasn’t a streaming service or downloads to watch, we were kicking it old school… VHS. Yup, I still remember way back in the day when we would even rent a VCR in addition to the VHS tapes. When it was a movie I really liked I would watch it tow, three, or even four plus times. Each time I would watch I’d get even more into the story. I know, pretty wild, but that’s just how my mind operated.
When it comes to reading fiction I often run into the same habit. If it is a story I really enjoy I read it several times. Even though the story doesn’t change I have since the last reading. Reading it anew allows me to visualize the same story with a different perspective and I can appreciate it in different ways.
The reason this is fresh in my mind tonight is one of my all time favorite books, The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. When Gavin was chilling in the car on our ride I fired up the audio of the book. In an instant I was completely enthralled in the incredible story telling. I’ve already read it three times, but I’m still picking up on different subtle nuances while appreciating it in different ways thanks to the changes I’ve had in life since the last reading. Nothing too crazy, but different parts seem to impact me a little differently and in unexpected ways.
There’s such a art to amazing story telling. When someone is a true artist and know how to craft a compelling story the gift they give us is about as beautiful as anything in this world. Tonight I’m thankful for those who can spin a yarn that ties our reality to our biggest dreams, desires, and emotions.
This morning I found out that my Tuesday hiking buddies (the pair of deer from a couple of days ago) must sleep in a little on Thursdays. They were nowhere to be found early in the morning today, those slackers!
Instead of taking the road as I have for the past few times I opted for the trails this time. Now that they were open and there was no lightning I had the perfect opportunity I really get out in the woods alone. The only person I saw was someone walking on the road as I hit the trail.
The woods in the dark is such a wild place. While I was all by myself I was not even close to being alone.
The first signs of life I saw where some crazy long worms sticking out of holes in the trail. When the beam of my headlight hit them they retracted in an instant. It was wild! There were hundreds of them along the trail.
There was wind rustling the dry leaves. For a little while I thought it was just the wind. After listening for a few seconds I quickly realized it was an assortment of random critters on the forest floor moving at night. Later in the hike I happened to catch a glimpse of one of the noise makers, a big toad.
Other times I’d feel the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I paused, turned, and then saw a set of beady little glowing eyes staring back at me. I wasn’t able to see exactly what it was, but I’m guessing maybe a skunk. Regardless, sometimes I saw eyes and other times I didn’t, but I knew they were there regardless.
There was a robin that I almost stepped on by accident. I’m not sure who was more surprised, me or the robin! We both jumped more than either of us would care to admit.
The hike back down was as the dawn was just starting to crack and I was able to go down without a headlamp. There weren’t nearly as many sounds in the forest, but the birds started singing. So soothing to walk alone in the woods with the birds singing a song like that!
Ahh… alone time in the woods and spending time with nature. Alone but not alone, all at the same time.
Tonight was Dominic’s confirmation. After many years of Sunday school and Wednesday night churches Dominic has reached the end of one segment of his spiritual journey and is now starting another. While I could also go more in depth into the reasons I am thankful for his confirmation itself tonight just really hit me as one of those milestone moments in our lives.
Just eight years ago we got this picture of him hanging out with his Grandpa Pete after his first communion:
and here we are tonight, eight impossibly short years later…
My mind is blown with how much Dominic has grown, matured, and changed in what seems like the blink of an eye. I was so proud of him back then and had no idea how much more proud of him I would become with each passing day.
Milestone moments like Dominic’s confirmation are such special occasions to pause and reflect on the passing of time. So many memories rushing back to my brain. My mind is also blown thinking of how many more milestones we have ahead in which this will become one which is remembered as if it were yesterday in the passing decades.
My workout this morning was a hike up Grandad Bluff with my loaded backpack on. Last Tuesday I did the same and I was amazed at how relaxed I was from the bonus outside time on a weekday. Why not try it again, right?
Just like last Tuesday I was greeted by a couple of furry friends when I got out of the car. They were in the same yard as before and less than eight feet away from me as I walked by with my pack.
As I wound my way up the bluff I left the red light of my headlamp on so I could keep better night vision. While it wasn’t quite bright enough to catch the eye shine of other deer up the bluff I could tell they were there. A rustle of leaves, the pause of movement, and the feel of eyes on me.
On my way back down I heard a noise seemingly only a small handful of feet away. There was a crashing of brush traveling up the hillside. By the time I’d flicked my headlamp’s bright spot light the four deer had already moved to about 15 yards away. When I panned the area with my light all eight eyes were locked right in on me. I chuckled to myself, switched back to the red light and started back down the hill. Yes, I may have even talked to the deer for a little bit 😉
I went to the bluff for exercise and relaxation. My kinda hiking buddies made it all the more memorable and helped it feel like I was further off the beaten path than I really was. Thanks deer!
Earlier today I had an excellent conversation with a mentor talking about how to maximize our teams’ effectiveness. While business is very strong we’re seeing room for improvement in a couple of spots. What’s interesting is that we are at a point in which we can either continue doing what we have, add to what we’re already doing, or pivot in a different direction. The long term answer is to do both, but quite often the addition of something else means that neither are done as well as one would hope. If I was going to hedge my bets on one, which would I choose?
In this unique situation there is a definite pull in one direction due to inertia. It is the way we’ve always gone, a direction we know well, and something we’re very proficient at. This solution has a strong gravity which pulls us towards it.
The other situation is a bit counterintuitive. Pulling it off requires much effort to break free from the gravitational pull of the traditional idea. It is very much an unknown in some ways and it doesn’t quite feel right as I can’t help but be distracted by the normal solution.
So which to choose?
If I would sprint to an answer I’d go with the normal one. The other is intriguing but doesn’t seem as if it would have as much of an impact.
One of the words of advice from my mentor was to pause and focus on which action moves the dial the most. Which strategy has the ability to make the biggest impact? Over the past week I’ve taken time to analyze the situation and our results and test each solution in a vacuum using our past results. After taking time to pause the whirlwind around me to think I’ve found what appears to be the correct answer. If I am correct, the counterintuitive answer will be over 50% easier to accomplish to yield the same results. It doesn’t quite seem right on the surface but after mapping it all out that is the best leverage point of the two.
Today I’m thankful for taking time to find the point of leverage. Had I rushed into an answer I would have made the wrong call. By pausing to think, research, and analyze we’re able to more quickly head in the right direction.
My brain is heading in about four different directions at once as I focus in on what I am most grateful for today. I’m grateful for a bonus hike with Mom and my family. I’m grateful for an insightful Easter homily. I’m grateful for the story behind Easter. I’m grateful for the joy of aiding the Easter Bunny in hiding eggs and baskets. I’m grateful for creating space to get things done. I’m grateful for keeping my composure when I spill the majority of the marinade for our grilled salad on the grill and deck. I’m grateful for the lists I’ve got growing – dream lists, backpacking checklists, goals for this year, task lists, and so on… I’m grateful for the amazing April weather and the sun. I’m grateful for a safe ride home. I’m grateful for a quiet grocery store. I’m grateful for the moments of unexpected willpower. I’m grateful for trying new things. I’m grateful for random texts from friends. I’m grateful for seeing how quickly the children of friends are growing up. I’m grateful for memories of awesome vacations. I’m grateful for taking time to plan for the week ahead. I’m grateful for going to bed before 9pm. I’m grateful for all of these things and so much more.
So where do I focus today? What I am most grateful for today is the way all of the parts above fit into my day. It’s been wild, busy, fast paced, and full of fun. I’m thankful for having a plan, having goals, having dreams, and staying focused on those dreams. By knowing where I want to go I am better able to live my life into those dreams. I’m grateful for the ongoing focus on what I value most and doing my best to keep pointed in those directions as much as possible. It would have been very easy to just drift today. To sit back, let life happen, take a load off, and chill. Pull up my phone, stare at it without purpose, and be unaware of how quickly time was slipping away behind me. Instead I lived into what was important to me.
Knowing that I have an awesome dream supporter there with me side by side and helping me to live into even bigger dreams than I could have imagined without her makes it even more worthwhile. I’m grateful for the way Becky helps and encourages me to grow into the best version of me I can be.
Boil it all down and it is pretty clear to see… I’m grateful for an ongoing focus on living into my dreams and for the way Becky encourages me to live into even greater dreams.
Wow! What a perfect day of weather? The sun was out, the temperature was perfect, there was a cool breeze in the air. I think if was forced to have one specific day of weather for the rest of my life I’d be pretty ecstatic if this was the weather I had. Perfect for being outside, cool enough to not be overly hot and just hot enough to not be cold.
The plan for the middle of the day was a a perfect way to enjoy the excellent weather. Mom, Becky, the boys, & I all loaded up and drove to Interstate Park for some hiking. For a couple of hours we hiked and enjoyed some beautiful scenery. The rock formations were jaggedly awesome and reminded me of an amalgamation of so many different places we’ve been – from Devil’s Lake to Australia. We hiked up and down some of the rocks, around a lake, and amongst some cool looking natural potholes. What a beautiful park!
Even better than all of that was bonus time with Mom and my family. Sharing old memories, sharing an appreciation for the outdoors, and getting some outside time together. How perfect is that? To have it happen on such a wonderful early April day made it all the better.
The day isn’t even close to over and it’s been an awesome one.
I love the drive up to Mom’s. Much of the drive follows the Mississippi River Valley and provides some spectacular views of the Driftless area.
Most of the time I’m driving. My eyes definitely wander off the road and I get to see some of the views, but most of my focus stays straight ahead. When Becky drives I’m usually focused on something else – like typing a blog.
Today has been a very pleasant change! I’ve got a chauffeur – and it’s not Becky. She’s sitting behind me reading a paper for work. I’m chilling in the passenger seat taking on the views, jotting down my backpacking list, and typing this blog. Having the opportunity to spend much of my time sightseeing has been awesome! There have been more than a few things that I had not really noticed in the past. It’s kind of like getting a tour of the area.
This dude is driving us the entire two plus hours!
Having Dominic drive today has been pretty sweet! Sure, there’s been a little added stress of a different flavor, but it’s well worth not driving. I might get used to this more quickly than I’d expected.