I was on the road early this morning on my way to up to Eau Claire for work. It’s been a little while since I’d last been up there in person. With the weeks between I found myself enjoying the ride up there. In the car I found quiet time without the radio on, time to think and relax. Seeing the beautiful scenery on the way was great and I was quickly reminded why I take the route I do. Only 4 or 5 months ago I would typically not find myself grateful for the “opportunity” to make the drive. Perspective truly is everything, isn’t it?
Tonight we took Dominic to Stand Up Paddle Board yoga for the first time. What an awesome experience that was! The two of us were chasing each other around on the boards and lightheartedly attempting to knock each other off. I may have taught him the trick of knocking someone’s anchor off the board without them realizing it 😉 Before the yoga even started we were both giggling away and enjoying the time together.
During class we continued to harass each other in our “yoga” voices. I would occasionally splash water on him while he was turned away. He’d make some huge waves while I was in a balance posture. It was so much fun. While it wasn’t the traditional yoga experience it was definitely a father and son experience I appreciate greatly. Sharing something we love with him was great, spending time with him was amazing. I’m so glad he was open minded to attending with us!
One other quick note of gratitude. In final rest while laying flat on my back I couldn’t help but keep my eyes open. Above me was about one of the most beautiful cloudy skies I’ve ever witnessed. The clouds were perfect whips in the air. In one spot they almost swirled into a spiraling shape. It was about as iconic of a Wisconsin summer sky as I could ever dream up.
Throughout COVID we’ve seen a lot of time together as a family. Bike rides, hiking, traveling, walking, playing games, eating, chilling, and so on. It’s been great to have so much time together as an entire family.
Today was a little different in a cool kind of way. I had one on one time with each family member when it was just the two of us. Becky and I had fun on our run this morning and even found a way to make grocery shopping fun. I ran Gavin to Scout Camp for Merit Badge Day and had a great conversation with him. Dominic and I ran a couple of errands in Onalaska with just the two of us. I had time alone with each person.
And that’s what I’m so thankful for today. Family time together in a big group is great and gives us a chance to bond as a family. Family time together alone allows us time to strengthen the individual bonds between each of us. Strengthening those bonds makes the bonds of our entire family even stronger. Today had a beautiful balance of time alone and together.
Today’s been a wild one. I’ve been very excited and upbeat. I’ve been very frustrated. I’ve had great new ideas I’ve implemented. I’ve crashed and burned on a couple of ideas. I’ve made tremendous progress… and run right into unforeseen obstacles. I’ve seen things head the right direction. I’ve seen things slipping away. I’ve had time alone to think. I’ve had very active and productive time. I’ve wasted time. I’ve been physically active at times. I’ve stayed in bed when I should have been riding my bike. I’ve lived.
In writing my blog tonight there were a handful of various directions I could take this. Some positive things that I’m thankful for. Some negative things that I’ve been able to learn from for which I am thankful. As I sit on the couch with my laptop upon my thighs my mind wanders back and forth across the landscape of today. Hills, valleys, mountains, canyons, plains, oceans and islands. I survey the view and do my best to catalog everything I see. What can I learn from? What can I do better? Where have I made progress? What new directions lay ahead? Why was this the path today? So many thoughts and answers cross my brain.
It is a grind to write like this each day. There are some days when it comes so easy, yet I’m left wondering what I’ve left out and what else I should’ve written. Some days are difficult as the gears don’t quite seem to line up. My thoughts are disjointed and don’t quite connect. My writing skills just don’t seem to do justice for my topic. Sometimes I force a topic and it doesn’t feel right. Sometimes I write only once and rush to get it done to move on and don’t take time to appreciate the process. Those days are tough as I know I’m only cheating myself by treating this precious gift, this process, as a box to be checked rather than the beautiful gift to myself it is meant to be.
What I realized was how thankful I am for this process. The simple act of sitting down and writing. In a sea of life it is an island of solitude. Not so much a deserted island to hope to be rescued from, rather a little solo sightseeing adventure. Get off the ship, paddle ashore, hike around, appreciate the experience, and then paddle back to the ship. In this 15-45 minute stretch I’m focused on living more intently towards the life I want to live. I have the opportunity to pause and reflect, learn, adjust the sails, change course slightly, and then move on to the next day. In writing about gratitude each day I give myself the gift of solitude, reflection, learning, and joy. There is no goal, no completion, no end in sight, only the path.
I know, it’s a bit of an unusual post tonight, but it really fits where my headspace is at. I’m truly thankful for this process of daily gratitude as it helps me close the gap between who I am and who I am called to be.
As I re-read Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport I’m continuing to have those “oh yeah, that’s right!” moments. So many ideas that make a ton of sense in living an intentional life. There is so much digital clutter that can collect in our daily life, this book is focused on how to reduce it… To clean out the digital lint filter so to speak.
What’s also very striking to me is the number of ideas that apply to life outside of our digital selves. The idea of focusing on what is most important and developing relationships IRL (in real life). One of the key points is the power of solitude.
As described in the book solitude is when we are free to think on our own, unencumbered by feedback and input from others. This would mean being alone, enjoying quiet, not reading, not texting, and not even listening to music. Solitude is that time when we have time to think and really let ideas, experiences, and concepts sink in. If we constantly have the faucet of input left wide open our brain doesn’t really have time to process and fully utilize what we’ve taken in.
Today during a breakout session in our Express Leadership Academy online retreat there were a handful of great ideas shared by some great cohorts. My mind was racing as they shared their ideas. When the session wrapped up I made the mistake of checking my email and next thing I knew I was headed in a few other directions. Alarm bells rang in my head and I caught my mistake.
Thinking back to what I learned in the book I tapped out and logged off my computer. I left my phone in my office, set an alarm on my watch, and went outside. I pulled up a chair in the sun, closed my eyes, and thought on the ideas. Talk about a wild experience! Not only did my brain work through many of the ideas and truly process them, but I did it in way less time than I’d expected. Having quiet time to shut everything else in the world out and focus was amazing!
This experience really has my mind thinking tonight. How much more can I accomplish by carving out little chunks of time like this? Definitely an experience that I am grateful for and I’ll remember for quite some time.
While Becky and I floated on the giant mat the boys went to work on a couple of projects on the sandbar. Gavin opted for constructing a giant sandcastle. Dominic decided to make a small channel to re-connect a waterway that’d been cut off due to the low water. By the time I figured I should get up and moving they both had made some excellent progress.
I am usually good at relaxing in short bursts and then need to find something to keep me moving. After floating for a while it was time to be active again. I quickly decided to jump in on Dominic’s channel project as it was something we really haven’t done in a really long time.Dominic had already gotten the channel started so I just jumped in and helped him continue growing the project.
Watching the water move and re-deposit the sand was very intriguing to me. The way that it slowly would fill itself back in with sediment really caught my attention. Before long I was experimenting with the water flow to figure out how to optimize and sustain the flow. I was digging channels, bending the waterways, adding an exterior wall to reduce incoming waves for boat traffic, and adding other natural materials to the walls. Learning in mid-flow and seeing both the immediate and long term impacts to the water was pretty wild.
Eventually the boys and I were all working on our various river engineering projects on this channel as well as another. Gavin was experimenting with how to keep a “lake” in the sandbar full of water using wild celery that had washed on shore. Dominic was chasing minnows and smiling while learning how they evade perceived predators. I was continuing to be amazed at how the water continued to slowly fill the waterway with sediment… until I learn to add stiff materials like rock, wood, and wild celery to the mix.
Talk about a fun mental exercise for no reason other learning and fun. I certainly learned a few new things about fluid dynamics and river engineering that I never would’ve learned without experimenting like this. The boys certainly seemed to pick up some new ideas as well, and all while smiling. I am so thankful for their enjoyment of learning in nature like that!
What a wonderful time out on the river having fun and staying unplugged with the family. I am glad we got out early in the day and had the opportunity to hang out together.
This is one of those posts when I don’t know that it’s my place to get into the details. The overarching theme is sufficient for sharing with the world and is what matters. In some way I hope Dominic stumbles across this post many years from now and spends some time thinking back to what it may be related to.
We got to hear some great compliments on well Dominic helped to lead his troop for camp this past week. The stories shared had our hearts busting with pride and joy. He really found ways to make a positive impact on others. He found ways to lead by example. He put others before himself. He exercised his strong work ethic. He showed patience and compassion. What an amazing bunch of compliments!
I continue to be so proud of the young man he has become. It’s interesting seeing him continue to grow into his own personality and focus on what is most important to him. Times like this show us that he’s finding and figurine out his values and living them.
As a parent it was some of the best compliments we could ever ask for. Talk about making my heart sing today!
Dominic, dude, way to truly shine and do right this past week. Your mom and I are so proud of the young man you are and so thankful for how wonderfully you treat others. Keep on this path, keep working hard, and you’ll be able to accomplish anything you put your mind to. Dream it and do it. Love you bud!
Becky had an outstanding idea for our night before we picked up the boys from Scout camp. After an early-ish dinner we headed out to hike the quarry trail on top of the bluffs.
It’s a trail we usually do a few times each year, but typically we do it in the spring or fall. We opted for a side trail that we’d never noticed. There was a field full of wildflowers there was a cool little birch forest. After the trail wound back to the parking lot we went back around on the normal trail. On our way back up we ran into an old friend from yoga and had a wonderful time catching up seeing as we haven’t run into her in a while. We even had some fun joking around at the same rock that we’ve taken many pictures of our boys on.
I am so thankful for the time the two of us had tonight. It was great having time to ourselves to shoot the bull and enjoy nature. We both love this area and spending time outdoors, tonight was one of those moments when I was doing something I love with someone I love who loves doing the same thing. Having quite time in nature chilling with Becky while walking was about as perfect as it gets… Especially when she acts like a big dork sometimes like I’ve been known to do! Watching her ham it up on the rock had me laughing! Another reason we get along so well 😀
After our hiking date we drove up to Camp Deborah to pick the boys up from their week at Scout Camp. Our entire family is incredibly grateful for the Council finding a way to keep camp on while following social distancing guidelines. This was an oasis of relatively normal that our boys definitely needed.
The ride home with them was AWESOME!!! They were talking nonstop about all of the fun they had and their experiences. It was so easy to see that the boys had an excellent time. Hearing about all their fun had Becky and I smiling from ear to ear. There’s not much better in life than knowing my boy had a wonderful time like this. The ride home with them was another moment I’m truly grateful for.
Earlier this evening I went to fire up our grill. Chicken on the grill was going to be supper. Then we ran into a little issue. Turns out propane grills don’t work out so well when the gas tank is empty.
Of course I was frustrated for a moment. This was not what I’d had planned. Very quickly I realized that we’d run out of gas at some point while grilling earlier in the week. There had been just enough gas and residual heat to keep the food cooking until it reached its required temperature. How lucky is that? I’d much rather to run to the store before cooking than get about mid-way through the grilling process and then realize that the gas was out. I also realized that we’ve run out of propane more in the past few months than we have over the past couple of years. The grill is running great, there’s no leaks. What made me pause and smile was the realization that we’ve been grilling more than ever over these past months. We are huge fans of grilling in our house and with the extra time we’ve had we’ve been able to fire up our meals outside more often than normal. In an instant I started thinking back to so many of the meals we’ve made on the grill this year. No longer was I frustrated, I was smiling.
While I drove to the store I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself as I realized yet again how much of an impact perspective is. The same event caused both frustration and chuckles of gratitude. How crazy is that? The only thing that changed to move from one emotion to the other was my perspective. Another great reminder for myself to pause and remember to choose my perspective, especially when I am frustrated.
What an incredible and fulfilling day it has been. Throughout the day my mind has caught itself thinking of so many things I’ve been grateful for. I’m skipping the title of tonight’s post as it seems to shift from one topic to another in my head, I’m going to give it the air it needs to breathe tonight and see where it leads. Quite honestly, that’s probably what I should be blogging about; the nights when I use my blog as a way to let my soul wander a bit as it reflects on portions of the day and my life. Hmm… I might have to save that one for another day.
Becky and I went out to Stand Up Paddle Board yoga tonight. Everything in the world seems to move a little slower and appears a little more clear when practicing yoga, especially on the water. While holding various poses my eyes kept drifting to the beauty of the water around me. There was just enough wind to keep the water from being still and yet not enough to cause any sharp edges to the little waves. It was that perfect point when the water shimmers like quicksilver. The clouds covered most of the sky but not all and let just enough light through to add even more of a mystical quality to the glimmer of the ripples.
All my life my eyes have been drawn to waves, ripples, and other surface water patterns. There’s a peace to be found in them, not too different than staring into a campfire at night. Watching the way they move seemingly randomly and yet with a pattern that seems like you can almost see quiets my mind in a very unique way.
The vacations I enjoy most often involve mountains, rocky formations, and so on. Why would they not be amongst the favorites? They’re towering behemoths that dominate the surrounding landscape. What’s interesting though is when I really stop to think about it the areas that are really my “happy places” are where there’s a combination those magnificent rocky structures AND water. The combination of both elements makes all the difference. It could be a waterfall, a glacial lake, a peaceful stream, or an endless ocean, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is just how driven to the water I am.
But I digress. In our yoga class my brain was torn between thinking of the other places I’ve seen waters like this and being in the moment and enjoying the beauty of the water around me. It was so calming once I focused on the present. In that moment I knew I was going to write my blog about being thankful for water, specifically rippling water.
I’ve been kicking around the idea of doing a 30 day “digital declutter.” This is when I would take out all unnecessary electronics out of my life for 30 days in order to determine which ones I truly miss and which ones have become unnecessary habits. To start warming myself up to the idea I’ve largely stayed off my phone for fun today. Becky said I should really break from the “phone fast” in order to check out a post our wonderful friend Kelsey tagged me in. Boy am I glad I did!
The video is a touchingly beautiful reminder to all of us to LIVE while we’re alive and to be thankful for every moment of our lives, even the ones in which we suffer. We only have so much life to live, why would we ever waste it and not appreciate each and every precious second of it? The video left my eyes a little misty and my heart full. It also reminded me of a beautiful story about Dad that I learned the morning of his funeral. For the sake of time and emotion I’ll save that for another day.
What caught my attention was how similar our lives are to the water I was enjoying so much. We are all one people and we all have the ability to have a positive impact on others. When we act with kindness, love, positivity, joy, and gratitude we cause ripples in the lives of others. I was the beneficiary of several many of those ripples today. The positivity, kindness, and joy of others made profound ripples in my life today in many ways. They motivate me to pause and consider if I am creating similar positive ripples. Am I living my life in a way that it will ripple with positivity, love, and gratitude for others? The ripples of others brought me so much joy today. How can I better live my life to move their ripples forward for others, to honor what they’ve given me by giving it to others? This is something my mind will focus on often over the next few days.
Our priest shared a beautiful story a few weeks ago about sharing positivity with others. He told of someone giving water from a tap to someone who was thirsty. To the person offering up the water it was no big deal. To the person dying of thirst it meant life or death. When we live a joyous life we spread ripples of love and joy to others. While sometimes we may think nothing of it we also must keep the mindset that those ripples may sometimes land upon someone who is dying for the feel of love and joy.
To everyone who let their positive, kind, loving ripples wash over me today, thank you from the bottom of my heart. My day was more joyful and full of love thanks to you. Some of the ripples we kind words. Others were laughs, smiles, jokes, or attention. Thank you all so much for filling my day, I will do my best to pass your ripples on to others.
Grilled taco salad with roasted onions, red peppers, and hearts of romaine.
Tomato basil turkey burgers with pistachio pesto.
Not too shabby of eating since the boys have been gone! Becky and I went back to an old cookbook I’d picked up a few years ago for some recipes. The more we cruised through it the more ideas we came up with for future meals. The cookbook has many paleo recipes that work very well with helping to cut back on the gluten / sugar consumed in our house. Do we follow it perfectly? Oh no, I love my cheese way too much to consider giving it up. That said, there are some tasty dishes in this book!
What I’m most thankful for today isn’t the book or the recipes itself, rather the enjoyment we’ve had cooking, eating, and cleaning together. I’m so thankful for this extra time to have more opportunity to cook a meal like this than to slap something together for the sake of having it ready to eat in two minutes before we head out to take someone to soccer and then head home to clean up quick before heading out on the next errand. These past couple of days have been just Becky and I cooking together, but the past weeks have included the boys in many of the meals as well.
We have more time to enjoy making delicious (& often but not always healthy) meals together. We have more time to enjoy eating together as a family. Heck, we’ve even all cleaned together in various combinations and have had fun doing it! I’m so thankful for taking advantage of this opportunity to cook and create together.