Day 511 – Thankful for Making Progress on My Book While Flying

Today was a great reminder for me to let go of the wheel and let the travel gods do what they will.  As Becky was driving me to the airport my phone buzzed with an alert from Delta telling me my flight was cancelled.  The person at the service desk was surprised to see me smiling, she was expecting I was going to be upset.  As I told her, I had taken a deep breath and knew that I had no say in the matter so I might as well choose a smile and figure out a way to get to Orlando.  She helped out a ton and pretty soon I was on the road to Minneapolis.  As luck would have it I made it just on time, my flight started boarding less than five minutes after I got to the gate!  Thank goodness I made it!

While I was flying I had promised myself that I would work on my book.  I wanted to watch a movie, play a game, or just take a nap, but instead I busted out my iPad and keyboard and went to town.


There were distractions galore including turbulence and the family sitting all around me (dad and son on my left, mom and the three youngest on my right, grandma and grandpa in front of me, aunt, uncle, and niece in front and to the right – I’d offered to move but they were set where they were).  Every disruption caused me to pause and second guess switching to something else, but every time I stuck with the book.  It took a few seconds to gather my thoughts and jump back in, but it felt great!

Before I knew it my three hour flight was almost complete I had finished about a chapter and a half – much more than I’d expected to cover today.  After Sunday I should be no more than a chapter away from wrapping up the rough draft, not too shabby!

It was a very productive flight and I’m thankful to have stuck with writing on my flight today, it felt wonderful to make progress!


Day 510 – Thankful for Moments of Brotherhood that Bring Back Memories

Tonight we had some strips of bacon to go along with our roasted red pepper soup and chili & biscuits (I know, a bit of a mishmash, but actually quite deliciously perfect!).  As we metered out how much bacon the boys could have I couldn’t help but smile when my calculations led me to tell the boys they could each have two and one half strips of bacon.  My grinner got wide with anticipation of the upcoming conversation…

Immediately Dominic called for Gavin to come in to cut the one strip in half so Dominic could then choose the one half that was exactly one half of a milligram larger than the other.  Gavin was too slow and Dominic was too hungry so Dominic finally relented and made “the cut.”

Gavin immediately proclaimed that he was choosing the larger half.  Dominic laughed and told him that was actually the smaller half because Dominic’s half was wider.  Gavin made a comment about his piece being thicker.  Then there was a second measurement which resulted in each boy still having the larger half…  though they each seemed to be a little nervous that they got the smaller half.


Watching this all play out I couldn’t help but laugh out loud and think of all the times my brother and I had played this scenario out in our childhood (and sometimes in our adulthood!).  Whether it was a strip of bacon, a rice crispy bar, a slice of pizza, a glass of soda, or a bowl of cereal everything was measured under the tightest scrutiny that would have made a nano particle physicist proud.  We used every possible form of measurement to make sure we were able to get the largest piece.  At some points we resorted to unusual cutting patterns to try to trick the other.  It was an exercise in futility, but it was also awesome and a perfect example of what it meant to be brothers.

As my boys went through the same ritual I smiled from ear to ear thinking about all the ways that this will escalate over the years and all the laughs they will have over those memories as they get older and are able to watch their kids do the same.  Tonight I’m thankful for experiencing one of those moments of brotherhood with my boys, it was awesome for all three of us!


Day 509 – Thankful for a Great Family Movie, Wonder

As we all snuggled in for a family movie night to wrap up a busy weekend we fired up Wonder and it got me right in the feels.  At various times almost everyone in the house teared up, some more than others.


The thing I really liked the most was how the movie didn’t do just the normal “here’s life from the perspective of the main character” rather it looked at the world through the eyes of many of the people involved.  Telling the entire story like this really helped me see the world briefly through each person’s eyes.  In some cases I caught myself feeling like I wasn’t the only one who felt a certain way, while in other cases I realized things I need to work on and remember.  So often I don’t take the time I should to pause and consider what the world looks like from someone else’s perspective, but this movie put that front and center.

It was made all the more special by watching it with my family.  To be able to have time together seeing the same story was great and I’m sure there will be several times this movie gets referenced…  Auggie: “Why are we whispering?”  Dad: “Because I’m afraid of Mom!”  😉  I’m thankful to have watched this movie together, it was a pretty awesome way to wrap up a crazy busy weekend.


Day 508 – Thankful for a Great Day of Polar Day Camp with Gavin

Day 508 – Thankful for a Great Day of Polar Day Camp with Gavin

While Becky and Dominic had a relaxing day at home together Gavin and I were out at Camp Decorah for Polar Day Camp… and it’s been AWESOME!

This is an annual event that the boys and I have been attending for about 6 or 7 years. It is a combination of the district’s one day event and our pack’s winter camping experience. The camping isn’t necessarily hardcore camping, we stay in a big cabin instead of a tent, but it’s still a lot of fun.

Today’s event has included many fun events including sledding, broomball, ice and human bowling, shooting BB guns, hiking, and some games of Gaga ball. After spending the day outside and the “Winter Olympics” were over we headed back to our cabin so our scouts could finish up their Cast Iron Chef award. This meant that the boys had to make an entire meal for the rest of us. The meal included eggs, bacon, potatoes, & cheese in a Dutch oven as well as chocolate chip monkey bread in another Dutch oven. As I type this the smells of the Dutch ovens cooking smell great! After dinner we’ll goof around, have fun and eventually fall asleep (and sleep like champs!). All in all, it’s been a very active day with lots of fresh air time. Lots of fun!

One of the parts I enjoy the most about days like this is being able to be a big kid and play with the boys. Today I jumped in during broomball, shooting BB guns, and Gaga ball, and it was AWESOME! Throw in some wrestling and whatnot and it’s been a blast. It brings back memories of great times when I was a scout while showing the boys that you’re never too old to have fun.

All that said, I’m most thankful for the time with Gavin. Sure, he’s running around with his friends most of the time, but the moments that the two of us get together have been exactly what I wanted. In broomball we had fun getting into a little tussle as we were on opposite teams. While shooting BB guns we worked together to help him shoot better. After Gaga ball I was able to walk with him for a while and thank him for playing fairly and honestly. Every so often I check in with him to make sure he’s having fun and every time he’s got a huge smile on his face when he says yes. That makes it all worth it!

I love that my boys are both very excited about scouting and I’m so thankful to be able to spend time with them at events like this. Their fun and smiles warm my heart as a dad while making me smile as a past scout. Life is pretty awesome!


Day 507 – Thankful for Our Set of Backpacks from Maggie DeSota for Our Wedding

While packing up our stuff for camping last night I couldn’t help but smile as Gavin brought up our backpacks. They’re a great pair of Jansport packs that always seem to have just enough room for everything and the perfect number of pockets to keep everything separated. Even after almost 16 years and much use all of the zippers still work great! The way it balances weight on my back always feels just about right. All that said, they’re not what I appreciate the most about them.

The thing about these bags that had me smiling as I packed were the memories I had of where these backpacks came from and who gave them to us.

When Becky and I were opening our wedding gifts almost 16 years ago we got to these two beauties! Inside were many, many small camping supplies that were all individually wrapped. From first aid to containers to supplies it was a camper’s dream! The packs themselves were amazing, the additional treasures were the icing on the cake! At the time we didn’t have enough cash to get all of these things, it was so awesome to get all of this – especially with our upcoming honeymoon to Glacier National Park!

Even better than the gift was the person that it came from, my second mom, Maggie DeSota. Every single time one of these backpacks are used I can see Maggie’s smiling face in my mind and it puts a huge grin on my face and warmth in my heart. She helped to create many incredible memories for my friends and I in our teens and I’m so thankful for all that she’s done for all of us over the years. These backpacks aren’t the same as spending time with her, but they’re about the next best thing and always bring me great joy.

As we packed our bags last night I just smiled and thought back to so many happy memories with Maggie and her kindness… just as I have every time either the boys, Becky, or I use those packs. They’ve been on countless family, camping and scouting adventures, and I’m thankful for them and the memories they bring from each and every use.


Day 506 – Thankful for A Little Time with Each of My Boys After Vacation

Becky and I got home from our trip today and it feels great to be back.  What made it the most special was the extra time I got with each of the boys individually tonight.

I picked up Gavin from Student Council and had fun talking with him on the ride home.  Becky took him to swimming lessons and then it was time for Dominic and I to have some alone time.

With the house to ourselves we busted out a couple of games and gave each other a hard time while catching up on what was new with him at school.  After the games he helped me make supper and it was fun showing him a couple of new tricks in the kitchen.  Just like when we played games we had fun giving each other a hard time and talking.

Once Becky and Gavin got home and supper was ready we ate as a family and enjoyed some time with all four of us.  It felt awesome to feel like normal for the first time in over a week.


After supper Gavin and I started packing for Cub Scout Winter Camp this weekend.  It gave him and I some time together walking through what to bring, how to pack, and how to do things like attach a sleeping bag to backpacks.  At times we drove each other a little nuts but we had fun!


While Gavin and I packed Becky and Dominic had some time to themselves and fired up some cribbage.  The two of them had a couple of games and sounded like they had a lot of fun.

All of us were together briefly as we started watching a little bit of the Olympics.  Then Becky and Gavin headed off to bed and now it’s just Dominic and I sitting on the couches watching the Men’s Super G ski race.  Nothing crazy, just some great chill time together.

I love vacations and traveling, but today I’m so thankful for the bits and pieces of time I got with each of my boys, it felt like home and I’m happy to be back!


Day 505 – Thankful for My Business Partner, Mentor, and Friend – Norm Doty

As we fly back from Belize it’s nice to have time to chill and think. There were so many new memories made and experiences had it feels great to pause and take inventory of them all. It’s been an amazing week and change and there’s one person more than any other to thank for this experience, my mentor, business partner, and friend, Norm Doty. Many years ago Norm had the dream of having a place in Belize. Through those years he’s busted his butt to make that dream a reality. Had he not had that dream and then gritted it out this past week never would have happened.

Since I first met Norm over 18 years ago he’s been helping me dream big. When I interviewed with Norm he completely flipped the script on me. Instead of him asking me questions I was given the homework of preparing a list of questions for me to ask him. As we talked he repeatedly turned the tables yet again and helped me see how a career with Express could to future ownership opportunities. He shared his story, Mark and Sheryl Tasler’s story, and helped me to start writing my story that afternoon in December of 1999. Norm promised that with hard work and sacrifice it would be a possibility for me, and he followed through.

As I grew towards my dream he was there to help guide me and push me. After a couple of years he helped me build a stronger relationship with Mark Tasler which led to our partnership in Winona. After I’d had a chance to settle into that role a little bit he helped me expand my horizons and consider much larger possibilities… Why settle for one office when I could have several? Why only have one office in a territory when we could have three or more? Why only focus on a handful of offices when there could be so many more? Whenever I get close to growing moss he’s right there to keep me moving forward, and I’m so thankful for that additional drive in my life!

In addition to helping me reach for my dream he was there alongside me to coach me on business, sales, and being a professional. The 23 year old version of me was a far cry from who I am today, much of my learned professionalism has come from watching and observing Norm. Another large part of that growth in professionalism has come from clear, honest and direct coaching from him when I’ve needed it.

To be clear, when I mention professionalism I am thinking of everything from how to act in a business meeting to learning how to treat your teams and leaders. Always a fantastic host he’s always doing everything right. Little gifts here and there to help remind you of dreams and to keep pushing us. Little ways to help everyone feel more welcome. Even this week he went out of his way to map out a 4 mile running route for Becky and I that involved no running on major roads! Those times in which I’ve gone out of my way to do a little something for my teammates have typically been inspired by something Norm has done for me.

Every Monday morning at 9am Norm and I have a 30 minute phone call to help me focus on my week. I give him a quick update on what I focused on the previous week, share where our offices currently are, and then narrow my focus on the three most important things on my plate each week. While we talk he pulls no punches and challenges me. Norm pushes to make sure I’m heading in the right direction. On those calls he also checks on how I’m doing personally and we shoot the bull. He gives me the opportunity to vent and/or brainstorm when I need it. When something starts to seem off a little bit he calls me on it and helps me see it. Sometimes it’s something that I don’t want to deal with, but regardless of how uncomfortable it is for him to bring it up he always does, and I’m eternally grateful for that quality of his! When these conversations happen he handles them with class, respect and professionalism. How fortunate am I to have a coach and mentor who is that honest and open?

The funny thing is that as I think about what I’ve typed up to this point it seems like I could stop the blog here, call it a day, and you’d see why I’m thankful for Norm. I could, but I’d be missing a few of the things I appreciate the most about Norm. The business stuff is all well and good, but when push comes to shove there are a few reasons I’m thankful for him more than any other.

Once you get to know Norm you quickly see how willing he is to do anything and everything to help others. He’ll go out of his way to help others feel welcome and have comfort. When we talked once he shared a story with me that I’ll never forget. He shared the story of how his dad always opened his house to anyone who needed a safe place. His dad always kept the freezer stocked full of pizzas and whatnot for anyone who needed food. The story of what his pops did to help others out in of itself is amazing and inspiring. What Norm doesn’t know is that in many of my interactions that story he shared with me lives on. I’ve got a long way to go to be on his dad’s level, but between that story and observing Norm living that value I’ve been able to make progress.

Speaking of dads, he’s helped me see that it’s possible to be a very successful business person AND a be an awesome dad. His dedication to his family is second to none. While I’m not sure that it’s my place to share too much about his family let me just say this. Spend ten minutes with Norm and you’ll quickly see how important his family is to him. You hear the passion and love in his voice as he talks about them and with them. You can see the dedication he has to spending time with them. How he balances taking such great of them while running a successful business is a feat that I strive to achieve. Fortunately for me, he shares some of the ways he does it with me. What Becky and the boys don’t always know ifs that many times when I do something for them it’s probably been inspired by something Norm’s already done. I’m so thankful for having a mentor like Norm – both for being a professional and a dad.

When my dad had his stroke there were so many people all around me who were able to help me out. The way Norm helped me out is in a way that I can’t being to thank him enough for… he played the role of my dad. From the first day on he was helping to coach and guide me through. Drawing form the experience of losing his dad he was able to help me stay afloat. All I wanted at that time was for my dad to be there to help to coach and direct me on what to do and how to act. I was a lost little kid and just needed my dad. When Norm called and texted it was like Dad was there with me.

It was also his advice that helped me stay strong for everyone who needed me to to be strong. While I gritted out a smile as long as I could there were the points when the wall started to crack. In those moments I took some of his other advice, went down to my car in the parking lot, cried, screamed, and bawled until all my emotions were spent, put my game face back on, and then went back to being strong. I was able to be strong for others in the way Dad would’ve wanted thanks in part to Norm’s help.

In that most difficult time of my life I knew that Norm was there for me, I knew he loved me and wanted the best for me, and would be there through anything I’d ever need. Also true to our relationship Norm was there for both good and bad, prepping me for everything including how to temper my always optimistic demeanor. Whether a call, text, or email he was always on my radar helping as his own memories came back to him from losing his dad. Looking back I can only imagine how many memories, both good and bad, of losing his father came flooding back to him. While there were hopefully more positive than negative ones I am so thankful he let them all pour out in effort to help me. I can’t even being to state how much he helped fill the gap left by my dad and how much he taught me about being a dad in that roughest time of my life. Similarly, there’s not a way for me to express in words just how thankful I am for all he did for me during that time.

Whew, that turned out to be a little longer than I expected, but in some ways I also feel like it’s not even the tip of the iceberg of all of the reasons I’m thankful for Norm. When I peel it all back I guess it comes down to a few things. Norm’s taught me how to be successful in business and in being a dad. He’s had an impact in life unlike any other. He’s helped me dream big, reach those dreams, and then dream bigger. The cool thing is that I can already see Norm’s legacy living on in me, my teams, and my family… and we’re all better for it!

Thanks for the incredibly positive impact you’ve had on my life, you’re the best! Love you dude!