Day 1,341 – Thankful for a Peace in the Present and Adding to the Vacation Playlist

My inner voice was largely quiet this morning on our bike ride. You know the voice. It’s the one that often interrupts your ability to stay in the moment. When it speaks it pulls you from the present into another place. Often this voice leads us to worry about what if’s and reminds us of stress. This voice kept it’s mouth shut for much of our bike ride today.

Many miles had passed in peace. The weather was perfect. The sun was bright and the temperature was great. We spent time talking while pedaling, we spent time in silence and thought. Everything was dang near perfect. There was an epic moment in which Becky interrupted the silence with a completely out of the blue “I love you.” The flowers were bright purple, the rest of the plants were bright green, and sky was a perfect blue. Imagine the perfect weather for a bike ride and that’s what we were blessed to experience.

Out of nowhere my brain went to thoughts of what is happening around the US. All of the anger and frustration. So much happening in the world all around us. Meanwhile we found quiet and peace in the present. When that inner voice spoke up and pointed out everything else going on it just got me thinking about a couple of things. Would everyone be better off with some time in nature enjoying perfect weather with loved ones? What if everyone took time to appreciate living in the moment and being thankful for all the beauty around them? Would many of the frustrations of all of us be overwhelmed by the beauty of life? For clarity, I’m not saying this would fix things already done, rather, would we all view each other from a very different view point of peace and love when we have calm, gratitude, presence, and love in our hearts.

Regardless, it left me with such a strange feeling of realizing that there was so much going on in the world around me and yet there was so much beauty, calm, and love in the present I was engrossed in. Which to focus my attention on? This is my choice, my decision… I chose the present and am thankful for every single moment of it.

Usually we bike in quiet and enjoy the sounds of nature and our own voices. Today I was in musical mood and had Pandora playing quietly in the background. There was a song I’d never heard before that caught my attention. The lyrics hit close to home and I immediately took a screenshot so as not to lose the song.

Coastline by Hollow Coves hit me in a way that caught me off guard. The lyrics of the song were perfect in so many ways for so many reasons. I quickly added it to my “Epic Vacation” playlist as it fits so beautifully well. Check it out here: Some of the lyrics that caught my attention include the following:

And there’s a place that I’ve dreamed of
Where I can free my mind
I hear the sounds of the season
And lose all sense of time

I’m moving far away
To a sunny place
Where it’s just you and me
Feels like we’re in a dream
You know what I mean

The summer air by the seaside
The way it fills our lungs
The fire burns in the night sky
This life will keep us young, yeah
Keep us young

And we will sleep by the ocean
Our hearts will move with time
And we will wake in the morning
To see the sun paint the sky

I’m moving far away
To a sunny place
Where it’s just you and me
Feels like we’re in a dream
You know what I mean

I’m always thankful for another beautiful song to add to the Vacation Playlist.


Day 1,340 – Thankful for COVID-19 Family Traditions, Take Out Meals

Gavin has been cracking me up throughout the COVID-19 challenge. He reminds often that he’s going to save the face mask his Grandma Mary made for him to show his grandkids one day so they can understand what he lived through. Cracks me up every time I hear him say it!

In order to keep some semblance of normalcy we’ve added a relatively new family tradition. I guess we’ve actually added a small handful of them now that I think about it. Family walks after work. Some sort of outdoor physical endurance activity each Saturday. Some type of pastry for one breakfast of the weekend. Bringing the girls to “home church” each week.

Tonight we stained the deck after work. As soon as we wrapped up Becky and I drove downtown. This weekend is Gavin’s turn to choose which of our favorite local restaurants we’re getting take out from. His choice was definitely a family favorite, Buzzard Billy’s. It was delicious!!!

Sure, we’re staying socially distant. But that doesn’t mean we can’t create ways to have some normal life experiences with an added twist. Interestingly enough, it’s turned into an awesome new family tradition. Heck, we might even keep this one going long after everything is back to normal!

Huge bonus kudos to Lovechild, David Reay’s, Qdoba, Buffalo Wild Wings, Big Al’s and Buzzard Billy’s for continuing to make delicious food. It’s not the same, but it’s still the same. Thanks for finding a way to stay open and safe!


Day 1,339 – Thankful for Two Quotes From Viktor Frankl and a Lesson from The Book of Joy

I was going to take the the lighthearted approach today and blog about haircuts and an empty propane tank. There is enough deep and heavy stuff in the world this evening. Big hugs, positive thoughts and prayers for ALL who are impacted by all that has happened and is happening in the Twin Cities.

Earlier today I started reading Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. I do not possess a vocabulary strong enough to adequately state what a profound impact I’ve already felt from his story of survival. I’m only halfway through and I’m already planning on re-reading it and taking notes throughout once I’ve completed this first reading.

Two quotes from the first half of the book really struck me. As the news of what ‘s happening in the Twin Cities they hit home even more. Please take your time as you read them. Also remember that these come from someone who survived unthinkable tragedy in the holocaust.

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Both of these quotes brought a lesson to mind when I thought of the Twin Cities. This lesson was from the Dalai Lama and Bishop Desmond Tutu in their book, The Book of Joy. In a nutshell the concept is that in any difficult situation we should all pause and ask ourselves:

“What can I learn from this?”

Quite honestly, when I heard of the death of George Floyd I felt much anger. I immediately wanted to judge and determine who was at fault and why. My feelings were the same as I heard of the riots and looting. In no time I worked myself into a fervor of anger, frustration, and judgment.

The events of the past few days are out of my control. If I get angry, frustrated, and start judging people I don’t know for situations I don’t know I am choosing the path I do not want to live. If I choose to take a deep breath, offer positive thoughts and prayers, be open and listening, and find a way to help others as a result of this I am living into the me I should be.

Long story short, I should choose the way of love and peace. If I choose the path of anger and hatred I am not living my purpose and am now a part of the problem.

So how will I walk the way of love and peace? I will start by saying prayers for all who’ve been impacted. ALL. No exceptions. I will pray for their healing. I will pray they choose the way of love and peace as well. I will stay open minded and remember that what’s done is done. Anger to heal anger is not the answer. I will do my best to remember to not judge. Most importantly, I will not allow my heart to choose anger and hate.


Day 1,338 – Thankful for a Day When Everything Grinds

You know what? I’m going to share a picture of myself that I will probably regret at some point. Or, as Gavin says, “it’s something I can show my grandkids when I tell them about how we survived during the COVID times.” Why on earth would I share this? I can’t think of a better representation of my day.

Yes, this was early this morning. I figured I should capture this moment of magnificence for Becky to swoon over. Tomorrow night I get my first haircut of the 2nd quarter of 2020. I’m pretty sure she’s going to tackle me as I leave for the haircut. She’ll beg and plead for me to keep my hair growing. A modern day anti-Delilah. Becky, allow me to apologize in advance for the extreme heartache you’re about to feel tomorrow.

So yeah, where was I? That’s right… how in the world am I finding a way to be thankful for a day encapsulated in the incredibly charming and professional picture above? Because sometimes these types of days just happen. Not every day is perfect. Most days don’t go exactly as planned.

From the moment Dominic and I locked ourselves out of my office to the calls I wasn’t expecting to take to the project I was working on that took way longer than expected to the seemingly unending interruptions the day just never quite got into gear. Everything just seemed to grind.

I keep thinking about when Becky and I took a detour through an almost unexplored part of Death Valley (aptly named) in a rental car right before I realized I’d been stricken with food poisoning from a greasy cheap breakfast and before I ‘d realized that I hadn’t told anyone where we were going for the day so no one would find our bodies except the insane eyed, way to happy to help dude with crazy eyes who was going in the wrong direction and I’m pretty sure was featured on a crossover episode of Cops and Unsolved Mysteries. Yup, you read that all correctly. One of the shocks got too much grit pounded in on the sand/gravel-ish road. Each minor bump we hit caused the grit to rub on the shock. After enough bumps the friction heated the shock to the point that the black plastic housing started to melt off like candle wax. How did we handle it? After the flat tire we turned around and headed back as fast as we could. This only increased the friction which increased the heat which increased the melting which increased the panic which only incited the food poisoning. What a happy vacation memory, huh? 😉

There were times today when I felt like I was driving that rental car again. The difference was that this time around I didn’t panic. I took a deep breath. I paused and took time to clean out the excess grit. I got back in and drove again until I hit another obstacle. Start, stop, pause, breathe. Funny how much less I felt the stress that way.

To be clear, was there stress? Big time. Did I allow myself to get stressed out? A little, but more often than not I was able to calm myself and quiet my brain to work through one thing at a time.

So again, you might be asking, “why is he thankful for a day when everything grinds?” Because I not only survived it, I saw tangible progress I’ve made over the past few years. Not only did I make it, but I even caught myself relishing the thought of “what next?” Today I had an awesome opportunity to exercise and grow my stoicism practice. I certainly wouldn’t give myself a perfect score, but I definitely got a solid B, maybe even a B+. Many times in the past I would have totally failed. The fact that I’m feeling sane enough to pause and reflect on the day instead of trying to bury it shows me that I’m making progress.

Today everything seemed to grind… except me. I’m thankful for a day like this to remind me to find the upside, to show myself progress, and to learn and grow from the experiences the day provided.

To go back to that crazy pic of me from this morning. Yes, this is a perfect example of the day. But if you look, I’m smiling through it all.

Huge bonus thank you to all of the people who brought an extra smile to my face today. Much of what helped today was knowing I am surrounded by so many friends, loved ones, and awesome people I haven’t the opportunity to befriend yet.


Day 1,337 – Thankful for Experiencing the Storm Front Up Close & Personal

We went for our family walk after supper. The air grew more and more charged as we walked. The pressure was building. To our southwest a massive storm cloud was heading our way. The humidity seemed to rise with almost every step. It was awesome!

This was a storm front we saw a few years back when we were out west.

By the time we got home the storm front had continued to close in on us. I had plenty of time to get a few things done outside. One of our neighbors came out to get his mail and we had a great socially distant conversation. It seemed like the storm front continued it’s slow march across the sky, one step closer to us with each word we spoke. When the seething clouds were just about overhead we both headed back to our homes.

Dominic was outside with me by now and we both opted to stand outside while the storm bore down on us. We stood in the driveway with our eyes wide with awe as the first blast of wind, real storm front wind, came ripping through. The tree in the north east corner of our neighbor’s yard seemed to explode in a flurry of helicopters that were on a kamikaze mission towards our heads. Gust after gust buffeted us. We were both smiling, laughing, and awestruck.

Gavin popped outside by us to take in the view. The trees swayed further than they seemed able to, but there was no cracking sound. More helicopters flew around our heads and faces while our gaze shifted from the aerial bombardment to the roiling clouds to the bending trees. After a while the rain finally let loose and we took this as our cue to exit.

There is so much in life to be thankful for. Sometimes these perfect moments get overlooked as we rush from one event to the next or are focused on something different. Tonight we captured that moment. We savored that moment. We were 100% present in the moment. We were thankful for that moment. The power and beauty of nature are awesome.


Day 1,336 – Thankful for River Life and Re-reading On Writing by Stephen King

We packed up lunches, beverages, and snacks and headed out to our pontoon. This was the first time of getting out on the beach this year. The weather started cloudy and then quickly brightened right up (just like my skin from the little sunburn I got!).

The boys ran around, splashed in the water, and went right back to the same shenanigans they had on the water last year. Becky and I likewise returned to our beach normal – relaxing and reading.

Dominic took the steering wheel and took us on a ride after we’d left our personal sandbar. I was pumped about having someone else drive so I could chill.

There have been many changes over the past few months. In jumping back to river life today everything felt exactly normal. Our normal river routine was totally untouched by anything even remotely COVID-19 related. Heck, I even only checked my cellphone once and that was only to make sure Mother Nature wasn’t going to throw us a surprise. Nothing quite like time to completely chill with the family doing something we love – especially when it brings back feelings of normalcy.

When our team decided to read Grit I started to remember the power of a deep dive into a great book. With that in mind I decided that my river life buddy for the day would be Stephen King. Okay, maybe not Stephen King himself, but the next best thing… his book On Writing.

This time I skipped the personal life story at the beginning. I went straight for what I was looking for. He lays out his toolbox for all writers and then walks through how he crafts a story. I’ve been stalled on writing and his words reminded me of how to jump back in. The lessons he quickly taught on grammar sunk right in. When I re-read this blog post I’ll see just how well his training stuck.

Quite often I reach for the new book. The one that just came out. The flashy one that others are talking about. I consume it quickly, but not always completely. Books like this remind me to go back for a second helping and take more time to enjoy it.


Day 1,335 – Thankful for a Successful “Sleepover Night” and Reminders of New Zealand

I still love this one from the trip out to New Zealand – great one to fit the mood of last night.

Social distancing has made it pretty much impossible for the boys to have a sleepover with their friends. I figured they could still have one even while social distancing.

Instead of inviting friends it was the three of us (Becky joined us for a little while early on). We proceeded to do all of the things they would normally do on a sleepover including having chips and soda, playing video games, staying up late, watching a movie, and sleeping on the couches. It was AWESOME!!! So much fun and laughs were had while we just chilled and felt almost normal. Not only did they get a little extra fun, I got extra time with my boys which I always appreciate.

Another added benefit of the night was a little strange until I started putting my blog together mentally. I didn’t take any pictures of us last night so I thought back to one of my favorites, the one of the three of us on our way to New Zealand a few years ago. When I opened the photo album online I couldn’t help myself and started going through some of the pictures from that trip. I know I was just talking about it a few days ago, but I was again amazed at just how much we did in our short time there… and how much more there is for us to explore there in the future. Those bonus reminders of New Zealand brought back many great memories, a huge smile, and a little heartache for one of my three “homes”(La Crosse, Hilo, and New Zealand).


Day 1,334 – Thankful for a Spontaneous Bike Ride Date with Becky

There has been much I’ve been grateful for today. I got everything almost everything done that I wanted to accomplish throughout the weekend already. I had time in the workshop with Gavin and time cooking with Dominic. At one point the boys were outside playing very well with each other and I enjoyed hearing them laugh. Earlier in the day I had a couple of the folks I follow on LinkedIn post some great thought provoking questions that got my brain rolling. While doing woodwork today almost everything went perfectly. Steve and Kathy dropped off more ramps for us for cooking. The sliders I made for supper turned out pretty tasty. So many moments of fun and smiles, time with family, time to create with my hands and brain, and time to just think.

As awesome as all that was there was something that took the cake this morning…

I woke up to Becky all bright eyed and bushy tailed telling me that the sun was out and it didn’t look like it was going to rain for a while. Last night I stayed up later than I normal and all I wanted was to rest my head on the pillow and close my eyes again. The smile she had on her face and the excitement in her voice helped me see that getting up and moving was definitely the right idea. So I did.

Next thing I knew our short bike ride to the grocery stored turned into an almost 20 mile spontaneous bike ride date. We let the boys sleep in and they didn’t even know we were gone. It was like a crazy combination of a date, our normal yoga Saturday mornings, and our morning run. Time with just the two of us, no real agenda, outside, enjoying the fresh air, and getting a little exercise? Yup, that’s totally a slice of heaven in my opinion.

For clarity, no, this was not from today 😉

I’m so thankful for the spontaneous bike ride date with Becky this morning, pretty sure it’s the biggest reason why the rest of the day went so awesomely!


Day 1,333 – Thankful for Woodworking and Home Maintenance with the Boys

After work today there was a list of things I wanted to get done. Always nice to get a jump start on the weekend by knocking items off the list early. Today there was an added benefit that made the work very enjoyable.

Back when I was a kid I remember helping my parents with chores and other stuff like cutting boughs, stacking logs, simple construction, staining lumber, and many other things along those lines. Many times I wasn’t super thrilled at the idea of having to work, but looking back I learned so much from that experience and I have many great memories of time with my parents while working.

The boys jumped in to help me on each task I took on today. Gavin helped with sanding and staining the boxes we’ve been making. Dominic cleaned the gutters with minimal assistance from Gavin and I. My power washing partner was Dominic. To help replace the garage service door brick molding Gavin was my wingman and helped pull all the nails. They both helped with cleaning up the work sites after.

I had a blast! Having their help was great, but even better was seeing them learn new tasks and spending time with them were the true highlights. It even seemed like they enjoyed the work! I’m blessed to have so much time with them and I’m deeply grateful for the opportunity to spend time working with them like this like I did when I was younger. It’s even better knowing that they might look back fondly on memories from today.


Day 1,332 – Thankful for Moose and Glow Worms

Over the past few weeks I’ve noticed just how often our family talks about our past trips and experiences. Maybe it’s always been like this and I just haven’t noticed, but it seems as if there isn’t a day that goes by without mention of something we experienced as a family while on a trip. Often it’s something related to wildlife, the scenery, or an activity, but it’s also a meal, a conversation, a cultural experience, and so on.

Tonight we spent time planning our backpacking trip to Isle Royale for Scouts next summer. On our Zoom call we talked about some of the specifics of the island and before I knew it I was lost in peaceful memories of our time on our “Fortress of Solitude.” There were so many memorable events and aspects of that place, the one that’s come up a few times recently was the moose who almost walked into us. It was a mind blowing experience that’s forever burned into my brain.

Becky showed me the picture that had rotated in as her laptop’s starting screen. Within milliseconds I knew the place; more importantly, I was mentally whisked away to New Zealand. We went into a couple of different glowworm caves while in Waitomo and the experience is forever etched into my brain and my heart. If you take a couple of minutes to watch the video above I can almost guarantee your jaw will drop at the beauty of these awesome cave dwellers. It was one of the most surreal experiences of my life.

There’s also a deeper and more personal reason that causes this memory to bring so much joy. While we were being slowly pulled by hand in a canoe in the dark and silence I was looking up at the glowing rock ceiling above my head. At one point I kept thinking to myself I wish Dad was here with me on this vacation, he would’ve loved this. In an instant I swear I heard his voice in my head, “I’m here, this is amazing.” I was glad the cave was so dark so no one could see the mist in my eyes. Whenever I see the glowworms I think of their beauty and I think of Dad.

Moose and glowworms… I’m so thankful for these experiences and even more grateful to have shared them with my family. They are excellent reminders for me to continue to live in the moment, experience wonderful things, create awesome memories, and share them with my loved ones for years to come as we continue to experience more.