Day 84 – Thankful for the Organized Chaos that is a Cub Scout Project

Day 84 – Thankful for the Organized Chaos that is a Cub Scout Project

Only now in this dark hour do I realize the folly of my ways… ¬†ūüôā


Tonight’s cub scout meeting was focused on building boxes to store their cards and other assorted treasures in. ¬†Over the past month or so the boys, my dad, and I have been prepping for this project, the culmination of that work was absolutely awesome! ¬†(and maybe a little tiring…) ¬†All the boys seemed to have fun and it was cool seeing the creative spark fire for some of them as they created something with their hands.


Of course it didn’t go as smooth as possible or completely as planned. ¬†There were surprise issues that came up (like not realizing just how many drill bits the boys could strip out in a short period of time), mistakes that had to be worked around (lids being just a tad bit too long or bottoms being a little too big), and learning how to use the lever action of the screws to tighten up a corner. ¬†Other things went very smooth, fit like a glove, and worked better than expected. ¬†There were moments of boredom, frustration, elation, excitement and creativity.

There were a ton of learning opportunities.  Some were mechanical (how to push hard enough to not strip a screw and how to back a screw out) and some were more mental and emotional (take a few deep breaths when frustrated, remember to go slow and steady).

While I got kind of frustrated at a couple of times I only had to take a deep breath and remember why I was doing this. ¬†I did this to provide life skills, learning, and, most importantly, happiness for the boys. ¬†Getting frustrated wouldn’t help, but staying calm, having fun, helping the boys see that it’s okay to make a mistake, and helping them see the fun and challenge to troubleshooting was exactly what I wanted them to see. ¬†As that thought went through my head I smiled and enjoyed the moment.

The boys may have had a lot of fun and got a pretty cool homemade box, but I think I got the best part of the deal.  Seeing them learn, grow, and have fun was incredibly rewarding.  I am thankful to have shared in the chaos of the night with them!



Day 83 – Thankful for Reminders to Be Appreciative

Today has been pretty awesome.  Many wins at work, lots of little victories and reasons to celebrate, and so much to be thankful for.

There were great meetings with teammates, reminders of how we have the opportunity to help many people, and seeing new opportunities.  A random phone call helped push me closer to to the path of a dream and an interestingly timed email did the same.  Talking with a teammate led to long term development ideas.   Solutions to problems were discovered Рsome before the problem even arose.  The drive home included a call with my dad that left me laughing.  While making supper there was a great call with my mom and was able to share ideas, memories, and joke around with her.  After supper there was a phone call for the boys to sing Happy Birthday to a grandma who I could tell was smiling huge when they sang.  When Becky got home I got the big hug and kiss that I look forward to every night and was able to give her a hard time, chill, and snuggle on the couch.  The boys were introduced to Festivus by watching the Seinfeld episode with us.  All in all it was a pretty awesome day, the type that leave me struggling, in a very good way, to write my blog post.

That said, there was one moment that put everything into perspective and reminded me that I need to appreciate both my awesome day and not so awesome days. ¬†One of my teammates and her family had a really awesome¬†day! ¬†Here’s the text she sent me tonight:

Doctor just called and let me know that all of my mom’s results came back and there absolutely no cancer! ¬†I’m so relieved.

Reminders of the fragility of life are one of the ways that God reminds us to appreciate every moment we are blessed to have.  My favorite versions of this phenomena are when the reminder is good news like this Рa reminder of appreciation AND great news all rolled into one.



Day 82 – Thankful for the First of the Three Family Christmas Weekends

There are some benefits to having a larger than traditional family, you get to celebrate more times than normal.  This weekend was the first of three straight family Christmas weekends Рcelebrating with Dad and Nancy, and my brother Nick, his wife Jennifer, and their two awesome girls, Sela and Lauren.  We beat the worst of the weather out on Friday and had an excellent weekend in Green Bay.

First things first, I am pretty sure I could go the next month or so without eating, Jenn kept us incredibly well fed. ¬†Her cooking was AWESOME!!! ¬† Every meal tasted ridiculously awesome, there were times that I went back for thirds. ¬†As Dominic put it, “she should quit her job and be on TV on cooking shows!” ¬†The desserts were fantastic as well, Nancy had a great selection of cookies and Jenn made quite possibly one of the most perfect lemon bars I’ve ever had in my life. ¬†Outstanding!

The time with family was greatly appreciated. ¬†While there were many activities ranging from seeing the new Star Wars movie, shooting paintballs in the basement, and walking through the light display, some of the best moments were as we were all just chilling on the couch shooting the bull. ¬†Nothing crazy, nothing structured, just pure chillaxin’ with family. ¬†I may have stayed up a little too late with Nick and Sela last night as they successfully attempted to get me hooked on a new TV show (Stranger Things), but it was well worth it! ¬†Feeling a little extra tired the next day is well worth the fun we had talking while watching the show.

This weekend had everything that I hope for in a family Christmas, it was a great way to kick off three weekends of family Christmas!


Day 81 – Thankful for Everyone Who Watched Out for Me Yesterday

Normally I wait until later in the day to post.  I also usually write about something that happened that day.  Today I’m going a little off script because I’m very thankful for something that happened several times yesterday and that still has me smiling today.

Yesterday was a great day.  Many thing we’re accomplished, my task list was almost completed, and I felt excellent!  As I rewind through the day there were many times that someone was watching out for me.  It happened a lot, but there are a few highlights that stick out:

  • Someone reminding me to take pride in what I’ve been building over the past few years.
  • Someone helping me notice a little thing that I could do that would be a big thing for someone else.
  • Someone reminding me to keep my long term dreams in mind and find a way to work them into my day.
  • Someone knowing that I enjoy public speaking and training who contacts me to ask about presenting in March.
  • My dad making sure I know what to expect with the roads and making sure we only traveled if it was safe. 
  • Becky supporting me constantly. ūüôā

It’s a great feeling to know that others are watching out for me and trying to help me be successful.  While I didn’t list every single  thing out please know that I appreciated all of those moments yesterday.  They warmed my soul and I’m hoping that at some point I can do the same for each of you.


Day 80 – Thankful for Being a Big Kid Always

The joys of never completely growing up and having an inner 13 year old ready to bust out of his 40 year self are great things…  even though it may mean a welt or two.

Tonight the boys got spring loaded paintball guns as presents from Grandpa Pete and Grandma Nancy at their Aunt Jennifer and Uncle Nick’s house.  Being the cool aunt and uncle they are they decided, against reasonable judgement, to let the boys try them out in the basement.


After shooting at plywood for a while we moved on to aiming for a can.  After a while and a very short conversation, Nick and I went back to being kids and let each other have it.  Giggling and having a blast the whole time we went back in time about 25-30 years and were goofing off like we always did, my dad goading us both on the entire time.  The only difference was that the boys were joining in and having a ton of fun with us.

While I know I need to put the game face on for work sometimes it is so relaxing to unwind and let the big kid out and throw caution and responsibility to the wind.  


Day 79 – Thankful for Another Successful Concert

It feels like deja vu all over again…

Another week, another concert!  Just like last week we were hanging out at a school with many of the same parents again.  Instead of listening to our kids play strings we listened to  our kids sing.  Seriously, about the only things that felt different were the seats (no padding tonight) and which of our boys were sitting next to us while we watched the other.  Just like last week one of our boys was within talking distance of one of the Lyga boys!

All kidding aside, it was a ton of fun between talking with parents and hearing the kids.  There’s something fun about watching the kids all walk up, get on stage and do their thing.  You can really start to see their personalities coming out.  It’s so interesting to see them and think back to when I was a kid and try to figure out which one of Gavin’s friends will be like which of my friends.  Crazy seeing them develop into people.

One of the things I was most greatful for was Gavin’s speaking ability.  While I have to constantly focus on slowing down and watching my pace, Gavers nailed it!  He stayed slow and steady, had obviously memorized and practiced his lines, and had no sense of nervousness in his voice.  It was so cool to watch him do so well.  Throw in him having fun and it was a pretty successful concert.

Back in the day (before kids) I would’ve thought going to a concert like this was crazy and not a good use of time.  Now, as a dad, I can’t imagine not wanting to go.  It’s so much fun on so many levels, I’m glad I went and I’m glad Gavin had a great time.


Day 78 – Thankful for the Moon

Day 78 – Thankful for the Moon

Hey Moon, we’ve got to stop meeting like this.  My wife is going to suspect something is up if we keep seeing each other a couple of times a day!

Another day of work and some driving, another day of a couple of pretty awesome moon experiences.  I’m not sure how I lucked into the timing like this, but two straight work days have been bookended by moonsets and moonrises.  Kind of crazy that my drive times have lined up so well with the rise and fall of the almost full moon.  

This morning as I drove to Winona the moon was slowly sinking into the Mississippi River, occasionally hiding behind the bluffs.  As I got closer to Winona I realized that I’d have a couple of minutes before it disappeared.  Smiling, I took a slight detour on my way to the Economic Development Committee meeting and ducked behind Winona Health and was able to watch a particularly stunning moon set for the second day in a row.   

If only the moon looked as big in the picture as it did with my eyes.  The colors of the sky were such a beautiful blend of dark blues, purples, pinks, and a tinge of orange.  Minutes later it was gone, back to normal.

On my drive back tonight the moon had just started to pull free from the horizon and was an unbelievable shade of dark orange.  All I could think was that I wish Linus was there to see the rise of the Great Pumpkin!  In the frigid air I could easily see all the details, the craters, the ridges.  It was so clear that I struggled for a half second to see the rabbit in the moon, one of my favorite short myths of all time.  Knowing the settings wouldn’t work for a picture I just enjoyed it and smiled and thought of the line from Walter Mitty:

Walter Mitty: When are you going to take it? 

Sean O’Connell: Sometimes I don’t. If I like a moment, for me, personally, I don’t like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it. 

Walter: Stay in it? 

Sean: Yeah. Right there. Right here.

Based on the progression of timing I’m pretty sure the streak is about to end.  While I’d love to see the beautiful moon sets and moonrises every day of my life there’s something special about only seeing the great ones sparingly.  I don’t get used to them, I don’t go numb to them.  I take them in and try to stay right there in the moment and appreciate it.


Day 77 – Thankful for Remembering to Breathe

Day 77 – Thankful for Remembering to Breathe

There was a lot going on today.  Between an early morning drive to EC, working on a couple of projects with tight deadlines, an unexpected twist or two, a long drive home and life it was pretty packed.  Down time was almost non-existent, even the drive time was consumed by thinking through different work related challenges and considering best courses of action.

That being said, today I remembered to breathe.

While driving early this morning I happened to notice the huge orange almost full moon sinking into the bluffs.  It looked huge, was a brilliant orange against the dark blue sky.  I considered stopping but decided to keep driving.  As I went further down the road I kicked myself for not stopping, it was beautiful.  I was glad I at least took time to stop thinking, take it in, enjoy it, and breathe.

About an hour later as I went up a steep hill I happened to glance to my right and saw a deep red sliver of the sun starting to rise out from the distant hills.  Not wanting to regret not stopping I pulled over and got these pictures as the sun came up.  While they don’t capture the true deep red color you can certainly imagine what it looked like floating in the sub-zero air.  In between pictures I paused, took it in, enjoyed it, and took time to breathe.

During the work day there were a couple of times that stress popped its head up and threatened to push buttons and fire off an emotional response.  When that happened I took a second to breathe, clear my head, and then think.  It was amazing the difference in my perspective as I started to work on a solution as opposed to getting frustrated.

On the way home the sun turned a gorgeous deep red and started to set just as I got to the same place I stopped earlier in the day.  I took time to look at it, take it in, and breathe.  Considering stopping, I chose to keep driving rather than stop and almost immediately started to kick myself as it dropped below the horizon.

As I neared the halfway point of the drive I was again driving up a hill and looked to my left.  The huge orange moon had started its ascent in the sea stern sky.  The regret of not stopping for the sunset fresh in my mind I immediately pulled over and got out to take a picture.  In between pictures, in the below freezing air, I took time to take it in, enjoy it, and breathe.  It was even more huge and full and orange than it was in the morning.  Seeing it rise over the farm in the valley was awe inspiring.

So then at home, knowing I have work that needs to be done tonight I had a choice to make.  Watch the boys and Becky at their last night of logrolling and see what all the craziness they were enjoying was all about and know I’d be staying up late to get things done, or stay home, get things done and get a good night of sleep.  I took a deep breath, took it in, and decided to enjoy the moment.

So here I am watching the boys and Becky jump in the pool and run on the log.  It was AWESOME!  The boys were just beaming and having tons of fun rolling solo, rolling against each other, rolling while catching balls, and sprinting across the logs.

While Becky didn’t allow me to take pictures I really wish I would have.  Her smile was absolutely huge, like a kid at Christmas.  While she was rolling not only did way better than she said that she did, but her laugh was so loud, spontaneous and contaigious it reminded me of one of the things I love best about her.  When she is truly laughing there isn’t a person within earshot who can’t help but smile and laugh with her.  It’s a squeal of pure happiness and makes me fall in love with her all over again each time I hear it.  Even as I type this and hear her my smile grows wider.

As I sit here and type and listen to her laughter I just pause…  take it all in…  enjoy it… and breathe…

And that brings me great happiness.


Day 76 – Thankful for Watching My Boys Overcome Their Fears

Last year when I would occasionally watch Gavin at swim lessons I would get super tense and nervous. ¬†I could feel my nervousness and unsureness about swimming kick in and I was tightly coiled, ready to spring as soon as his head went under just a little too long. ¬†Instead of enjoying watching him learn a new skill I was foolishly focused on my own fear. ¬†Tonight I jumped in to watch the last night of swim lessons and I was trying to talk myself into staying chill and relaxed. ¬†Becky kept telling me how much better he has continued to get so I figured I’d take a deep breath and not let my shoulders tense up.

The kid that I watched was not the Gavin that I had watched in the past. ¬†I was used to seeing a kid who would only put his head under when he was heavily bribed. ¬†This kid was incredibly confident, voluntarily put his head under water several times to warm up , and was off to the races. ¬†As he blew past where I was sitting he swam right by, putting his face in the water as he did his swim stroke, and, true to Gavin form, started talking as soon as he saw me! ¬†There was zero fear in that kid’s smile, he knew that he knew what he was doing. ¬†It seemed as if he were reading my mind as he smiled at me and then dove head first to retrieve something from the floor of the pool.

I remember him standing petrified on top of the platform, refusing to jump off unless someone held his hand the entire way down. ¬†He’d even get all the way up and then let fear take over and make the descent of shame down the ladder, each rung probably stinging as much as any failed attempt does. ¬†Imagine my surprise this time when he maneuvered his way to the front of the line, sprinted up the ladder, and had to be held back by the life guard until the coast was clear for him. ¬†Once he had the go ahead there was no hesitation, he just jumped right in and came out smiling. ¬†To say I am proud of him would be an understatement.

As I sit in awe watching how he truly conquered fear’s ass I can’t help but be filled with so many thoughts in my head. ¬†I’m enjoying watching him as opposed to being in tense and nervous. ¬†His getting over a fear has helped ease one of my fears. ¬†The way Gavin has defeated a fear is inspiring to me, what fear do I have that I could conquer the way he has? ¬†It has me feeling humbled, here I am, a forty year old, who still has fears that occasionally get the best of me and keep me from achieving all the dreams that I have, yet here’s an eight year old who isn’t making any excuses, he just kicked fear’s ass and found a fun new hobby. ¬†I’m very happy that Becky and I have kept pushing him in swimming, this was a great example of how grit can lead to unexpected awesomeness and happiness. ¬†Did I mention that my sense of pride is through the roof for him?


Gavin, thanks for inspiring your old man to be a better dad and a better man. ¬†I’ll pick out a fear of mine to beat and have you help me through it… ¬†Which I’m pretty sure is about the same way that Dominic inspired me to do the Tough Mudder a few years back. ¬†Hey Best-est Buddy – thanks for reminding me that walls are there to prove how badly we want something.


Day 75 – Thankful for Pizza Weekend

As I type this the last of the leftover pizza is being consumed for supper.  The boys and I had a mission and it has been completed…  Pizza for EVERY meal over the course of the weekend.  Challenge accepted and successfully completed.  Eight straight meals consisting of pizza.  And it was more awesome than I imagined!

We started with pizza fries and a chicken bacon ranch pizza at Carbone’s.

Then we had “Second Supper,” a Deep Deep Dish bacon pizza with a cheese and pepperoni stuffed crust from Little Caesars.

Breakfast on Saturday was the leftovers from the two suppers.

Lunch was a bacon and lettuce pizza from Pizza Corral.

Supper was one of the boys’ favorites, a buffet of totally random pizzas from Pizza Doctors.

Sunday breakfast was the remnants of Pizza Corral.

We saved the pizza place that started this idea for last, Rocky Rococo’s.  Gavin got some coupons for free breadsticks from Santa last weekend and that started this crazy idea.  It was Super Slices all around (& a bunch of breadsticks).

The last leftovers were taken down for supper tonight.

While I could honestly care less about the pizza, my personal goal was accomplished…  to make a very memorable weekend for the boys.  Mission accomplished!