Day 1,392 – Thankful for Mental Calisthenics, Intentional Breathing, and Re-Reading a Modern Classic

Nothing quite like doing some mental calisthenics early in the work morning on Monday is there? This morning my brain was twisted, turned, stretched, and exercised hard. Just when I thought I was grasping a new concept the Tilt-a-Whirl hit the hill and went spinning again. It was wild!

So here’s the deal. As we had this conversation one of my mentors explained that what he was about to say next might break my brain. About half a year ago that’s totally what would have happened. There would have been the stretching sound like Wile E. Coyote’s rocket hitting the rubber band at full speed. Instead of the comical site of the antihero flying backwards there would have been an instantaneous explosion, not too dissimilar to the sound of his Acme dynamite exploding. That would have been my brain. Stretch, stretch, stretch, BANG!!!

Between COVID and a handful of other life lessons beforehand my brain was already starting to work on its plasticity. There’s still a very long way to go, but today it had just enough give to look at the world a little differently. I’m in that quasi “I’ve got it, but I don’t totally grasp how to utilize it” mindset. Regardless, I’m so thankful for the mental calisthenics this morning, the workout will help my Brian keep growing.

So much to learn constantly in life isn’t there? One of my old coaches used to say when we weren’t comfortable we were learning and growing. Seems like there’s been a lot of that lately! The more I can help my brain stretch and grow the more prepared I’ll be for whatever lay ahead.

Something else that really helped today was intentional breathing. I know, it’s something we all do all day until we finally stop, but I mean the breathing when we’re actually focused on our breathing. The slow and intentional drawing in of breath. Taking our time, feeling our lungs completely expand, hold, completely release, and then hold again before repeating. Is there anything quite so calming in any situation in life? Interesting, it’s something we almost always have the ability to do, but it’s rare how often I practice this form of relaxation.

Why this pic today? Two reasons. It’s one of my happy places, one of the places I go when I close my eyes and focus on my breath. The figure sitting on a rock staring out into the ocean was an unintentional inclusion but really made this pic the beauty it is.

Today I used it on a few occasions and it was borderline mind blowing. Funny how even a few minutes of closing my eyes and focusing on my breath can calm and quiet my mind so quickly. With that level of serenity I’m able to jump back int what I was doing with an increased focus I didn’t possess beforehand. I’m so grateful for learning and utilizing this practice, now to remember to use it more often.

Last, Becky and I watched the movie The Circle last night. What an excellent (and entertaining / horrifying) reminder of the dangers of connectivity. I couldn’t help myself and picked up Digital Minimalism again. What an awesome book focused on being intentional with our usage of the gifts technology provides us. Funny how after reading only a small portion my screen time outside of computer work has been reduced already today. How awesome is that – it gives me the one resource I can’t create more of… time.

Thanks!!!

Day 1,391 – Thankful for Yesterday’s Disjointedness Leading to Today’s Smoothness

What a difference a day can make! Like I wrote twenty four hours ago, I felt like everything was just a little off yesterday. Not bad, just a little disjointed or off kilter. Today has gone back to a very chill state of flow even though there were some hiccups and changes throughout.

So what was the difference? Why was today so much more smooth?

One of the biggest game changers today was starting the morning off in nature doing physical activity and then spending even more time in nature doing physical activity in the afternoon. I’ve read much research on the impacts of being outdoors and on exercise on positivity and joy. When taken together I am pretty sure there’s an argument I could make that the impact triples or quadruples instead of simply doubling up. Our quiet bike ride this morning was so peaceful and allowed me time to get my head screwed on straight. Our hike this afternoon reminded me to stay in that right perspective. Physical activity and the outdoors? Yes please!!! Quick side note, I’m going to keep an eye on my down days and the amount of activity and outdoors time to see if there’s a stronger correlation than I thought.

Simplicity also had a huge impact. Most of what I did wasn’t crazy or super complex. It was very simple. For clarity, simple doesn’t mean non-productive, it was actually quite the opposite. I focused on taking each task one step at a time and took the simple first steps. There was also significantly less electronic time than in the past few days which also helped.

Flexibility and an open mind set was another helpful part of the day. When something changed I went with it. Gavin forgot his glasses and I have to drive to camp? No worries for this dude, just an unexpected 40 minutes of additional audiobook time. Screwed up when starting to cook supper? No biggie, we’ll eat supper a little before 4pm instead of after 5pm. The line for ice cream at The Pearl was ridiculously long? Thank you drive through at Culvers! Nothing quite went as planned, but instead of seeing it as a problem I saw it as a part of the terrain to work around. Kind of like our hike. The trail wasn’t smooth, some spots were closed. You don’t get frustrated, you just find a way to stay upright and moving forward.

Yeah, yesterday “felt” weird. Today went really well because of yesterday. I had time to reflect on why yesterday was a bit off and had some pretty good ideas. Today I was able to implement them and others and the result was a success. I am even more thankful for the disjointedness of yesterday, it helped create a much better today.

Thanks!!!

Day 1,390 – Thankful for Air Conditioning, Yoga In the Rain, Gavin the Sous-Chef, and a Disjointed Day

Okay, I’ve gotta be 100% honest. My first gratitude today goes out to whoever created air conditioning. Wowza! It got to be quite the hot one today! Just letting the dogs out a little bit ago I felt like I ran into a wall when I went outside. The thickness in the air is incredible! Being able to sit inside and enjoy much cooler temps and less humid air is fantastic and something I’m very thankful for.

Becky and I had yoga outside this morning. When we were driving to the park we watched the dark clouds slowly move towards us across the horizon. We got set up in the park with the rest of the class and were about 5 minutes in when we saw the first flash of lightning. Another 10 minutes later and there was a flash much brighter that was followed by a very loud clap fo thunder. At that point class ended early and we all headed out. In the shortened version of yoga I was really impressed by how cool it was to do yoga outside with a storm rolling in. Normally I close my eyes when I’m in class on my back. This morning I kept my eyes open and it was a very relaxing experience to take in all that was around us. Sure, it was cut off early, but it was well worth it.

I had an awesome sous-chef helping me out with dinner tonight after church. Gavin jumped in to help me make chicken fajita quesadillas for the family. We did the chicken and fajita vegetables on the grill and then turned them into quesadillas in the oven (next time we’ll do the whole operation on the grill for added smoky flavor). Whatever I needed help with he jumped right in. There were a few times we did things together for him to learn them. Other times I let him make the call on how we would do something. All in all it was a lot of fun spending time cooking with him. I’m grateful for that extra time for the two of us to create things together.

Today’s been an interesting day. From start to finish it’s felt kind of disjointed. Not in a bad way or anything but it’s been one of those days when it seems like several days kinda fit into one. I don’t know that I ever really got into a state of flow that continued from one activity to another. Yoga to start the morning. A trip to print some stuff for Scouts next only to be unsuccessful due to a lightning strike. Out on the boat for a few hours and then back home. Run to the grocery store quick for a couple of items for supper. Shower up and start prepping supper. Head to church. Come home and cook supper. Get stuff done around the house. Play a couple of games with the boys. Now I’m blogging on the couch and everyone else is in bed. It’s felt very stop and go all day long.

Most days seems to have a very different feel. They transition more smoothly from one thing to another. Maybe it’s more structured, maybe the pace is faster, maybe there’s less going on. Whatever the case – those days seem to be taken for granted. Days like today when it seems a little out of harmony remind me to be thankful for the 90+% of other days that flow. Again, not a bad day or anything, just one that didn’t quite fit together. It was almost like I took pieces from four different puzzles and jammed them all together into one. As I think about it I’m also wondering what may have been different in my mindset to view the day that way. There’s probably something about the way I was looking at today that caused it to feel a little off. Regardless, it made me thankful for the smooth days.

Bed time for this guy! I’m thankful to be heading to a nice cool bedroom to lay down and get some sleep.

Thanks!!!

Day 1,389 – Thankful for Comet Chasing and Learning Vicariously Through the News

I’ve got to start off with something that was a very minimal amount of time in my day but was a moment we’ll remember as a family forever. Comet NEOWISE was supposed to be visible with naked eye for us tonight. The way 2020 has gone I figured it’d be cool to see it as it was probably going to hit Earth 😉 Becky had the awesome idea of staying up late (for us anything past 8:30 is way late) and then heading somewhere to see if we could catch a glimpse of it.

We drove out to Nelson Park and were quickly able to see it a ways below the Big Dipper. How crazy to see something that is 70 million miles away and is only about 5km big in the sky lit up like that? Nothing like seeing something so wild in nature like that on a size and scale that is difficult to comprehend to help us see just how small each of us as individuals are. To share that moment of awe with my family was pretty special and something I’m very grateful for.

Comet Neowise soars in the horizon of the early morning sky in this view from the near the grand view lookout at the Colorado National Monument west of Grand Junction, Colo., Thursday, July 9, 2020. The newly discovered comet is streaking past Earth, providing a celestial nighttime show after buzzing the sun and expanding its tail. (Conrad Earnest via AP)

Earlier today there was an interesting new article in The Wall Street Journal talking about American Airlines. Their CEO made the decision to increase the number of flights dramatically. The theory is that they will gain market share when everyone is willing to fly again. The risk is that they start burning through cash rapidly and run out before everyone starts booking flights again.

In my experience I struggle to look at myself, my team, and my industry from a true third party perspective. I try to view the world from outside of these paradigms, but it is very difficult to take the emotion and passion out of it 100%. Situations like this with American Airlines offer interesting test cases to bend my brain around. Throughout the day and across several conversations I found myself bringing up this story and finding ways to learn from it.

I appreciate the gusto and passion of the CEO to push forward. There’s something to be said about taking action instead of standing back waiting for the dust to settle. He’s making a bold bet in an effort to drive his business forward. In many ways he’s focused on future growth.

I fear that he is oblivious to the market change around him. It seems he’s trying to fight a new battle using old strategy. I’m reminded of someone gripping on too tightly to something obsolete in hopes it will work again. This story reminds me of the times when I’ve bet more than I’ve had to lose, the times when I’ve rushed into action for the sake of action, and the times when I’ve let passion get the best of me.

So many take aways I can pull from this. Are any of the correct or wrong? Maybe, but we’ll never quite know for sure. What I truly appreciate about this is the opportunity to learn vicariously. Where I struggle to remove my personal perspective from a challenge I find it much easier to do the same for something I am not at all related to. As I pull each component apart I can find little nuggets of wisdom to save for the future. Whether this bet by American Airlines works or not (I’d bet on the latter) I’ve found ways to learn and improve my thought processes as a result.

Thanks!!!

Day 1,388 – Thankful for Reminders of Summer Days In the Grove

I am a little surprised at how nostalgic I’ve been for my summers as a kid. Specifically, the times when I would hang out with my grandparents and cousins in Union Grove. Over the past couple of months I’ve had many reminders of those times. Some reminders were very direct (seeing all of my family in Union Grove) and others were much more indirect. However the memories wash over me I can’t help but smile and remember how much fun those times were.

So what hit me today? First off were the two t-shirts I saw people wearing in the grocery store. He-Man on one, Voltron on the other. What a blast from the past! Those were some of the action figures we’d play with and the cartoons we’d watch at my cousins’ house. Seeing both of them had me chuckling and thinking back to the good old days when we’d all lay out on the living room floor staring at the TV and watch Sven and the team defend the universe from evil. So many fun memories!

Our walk today was dang near perfect summer weather. At times there was a beautiful smell of freshly cut grass. There was a house with an incredible flower bed with a mind glowingly awesome aroma. There was just a touch of humidity, just enough to feel like summer without feeling oppressive. For whatever reason it felt like the exact weather every memory I have of nights in Union Grove felt during the summer. It was a perfect balance of all of the elements that made each of those night feel amazing. Was the weather always perfect like that? Of course not, but in my memories that’s how it remains.

I wish I could find the exact patio string lights Grandma and Grandpa had… These are close but not quite.

Ahh… Some of my all time favorite summer memories. For whatever reason they really have been hitting me hard in a great way this summer. I am so thankful for that opportunity to spend time with extended family for a couple of weeks each summer. The memories and joy will last my entire lifetime.

Thanks!!!

Day 1,387 – Thankful for Personal Stock Photos

When I put together a presentation I often pause and smile when I need to add a photo. Sure, I occasionally use a photo from online, but my favorite photos to use are my own. Now I have another reason to tap into my photos; Zoom & Teams video backgrounds. In those moments I’m thankful for my personal stock photos.

Over the past couple of days I’ve had to go to my personal well a handful of times for various reasons. Each time I need to find a photo I end up with a huge smile on my face. By the time I put the pic into the presentation I am usually smiling even bigger.

When I have the first spark of inspiration of what I want the photo to represent my mind races across all the photos I’ve taken. I basically flip through my mental rolodex to find a few potential pics. As I’m doing this I inevitably spend time looking at other old pics and am flooded with awesome memories.

Crazy how much Dominic has grown in 5 years! While Dominic and I were taking this picture Becky and Gavin were watching a rattlesnake slither under a rock.

By the time I find the pic there’s usually a 50% chance that it wasn’t quite what I was looking for. When that happens I roll through all those memories again to see what I can find. In doing so I sometimes have to change the idea of the photo a bit. Sometimes I need to take a deeper look at other pictures to see which ones may have the right details that I missed the first time. Regardless, I end up focusing more on the picture and see it in a new way. Once I finally find the right one I’ve probably looked very closely at a minimum of half a dozen others.

When I go back to my personal stock photos I have such a great time rekindling memories of great times, beautiful scenery, and epic trips. Having an excuse to cruise back through those old photos is something I’ll forever be grateful for!

Thanks!!!

Day 1,386 – Thankful for Gavin and the Hornet on His Nose

Day 1,386 – Thankful for Gavin and the Hornet on His Nose

Sometimes I just have to laugh out loud. There’s a phrase that’s rolled through my head on too many occasions to count this year.

“Man plans, God laughs.”

How true is that in 2020? Kind of crazy just how many curveballs we’ve all had thrown our way. Without going into much detail as it gets in the way of the story, let’s just say that there were a couple of sudden curves today.

On our walk today Gavin reminded me of a story from a few years that was pretty much spot on for today. We were out on the river and Gavin and I were eating our lunches while sitting on the pontoon. A giant hornet flew up and landed on Gavin’s head.

As it perched on Gavin’s hair he just looked up with panic. “Relax bud, deep breaths, and don’t be nervous,” was all I could think to say. As I said it I was already seeing myself taking ice out of the cooler to put on the sting on his head. For some reason the hornet opted to take off and fly away…

but Fate is a fickle thing…

and the hornet flew right back towards Gavin. This time the hornet didn’t land on top of his head. The hornet, honest to God, landed right on the tip of Gavin’s nose. His eyes grew huge as he stared crosseyed looking at the hornet crawling on his nose. My nose itches as I think of the way it crawled with its stinger millimeters from the skin of his nose.

In that moment Gavin had a choice to make. Take a swat at it and risk hitting himself in the nose and possibly get stung. Scream loudly and jump which would probably scared the hornet into stinging him (and I’m pretty sure what I would have done). The last option was to breathe deeply, focus on calm, and wait for it to fly away.

Gavin made the right call and stayed completely calm and still. That level of inaction is in no way natural to him, but there, in the highest pressure, he maintained his calm, his mind, and his presence. After a short while (in the moment it felt like several hours) the hornet lost interest and flew away.

Today I did my best impression of Gavin to handle the hornets that landed on my nose. When they appeared I took a deep breath, focused on calm, and found a way to roll with the situation.

All around I can see potential hornets swarming. Occasionally one will land on my head, sometimes even on my nose. If I slow down, keep a steady mind, stay calm, and quickly think through the right solution I can escape without being stung most of the time.

Gavin, thanks for reminding me of an example you lived of staying calm in the face of stress; kinda literally!

Thanks!!!

Day 1,385 – Thankful for Gratitude Through Subtraction and Reading In the Sun

Something I find interesting is how easy it is to take something for granted. I just assume it will always be there when I need it and I kind of forget to be thankful for it. I just assume it will always be there and has always been there… until one day it’s not.

Subtraction can be an inspiring source of gratitude. When something is removed, especially unexpectedly, it causes me to pause and count my blessings for it having been there in the first place. That something we always counted on leaves a big hole that helps me realize just how much I should have appreciated it all the time.

This one subtle concept of appreciation and gratitude through subtraction is so interesting to me as it seems so opposite of what it is trying to accomplish. Shouldn’t I appreciate it more while it is here instead of when it is gone?

The Dalai Lama shared how he focuses his brain on thinking that his favorite vase is already broken so he remembers to appreciate it while he still has it. This is in the same vein, but slightly different. How can I force myself into this way of thinking more regularly to increase my gratitude? Each morning should I think of something important to me and imagine that it were no longer in my life? How would my actions change throughout the day? Would I spend more time focused on how much I am grateful for it? Would my life be enriched through the additional gratitude?

That’s something I’m going to focus on this week. Each morning I’m going to pick one thing that I take for granted as always being there and see how it changes my appreciation and attitude throughout the day. I’ll let you know how it works over the next couple of days. If you have other ideas along these line please let me know.

Full disclosure, do you know what got me thinking about all of this today? A broken washing machine. How funny that lessons in gratitude can be found in something so ordinary and mundane as a broken appliance! I just ned to keep my eyes open.

Earlier in the day I got a text from a teammate. It was addressed to the entire team and said “I suggest you all do this.” Attached was a picture of a book being read in the sunshine.

My teams read a book together and each month we all get together for a Zoom to discuss the most recent chapter. The book we’re currently reading is Mindset by Carolyn Dweck. I hadn’t read this week’s chapter yet. Taking her advice I spent a little time outside reading in the sun today and it was AMAZING!!!

I’ve got my habits, routines, and idiosyncrasies. For some silly reason one of them is that if I’m working I should be in an office (at the office building or in the home office). I hate to admit it, but I’d never even realized I didn’t have to read inside when it was related to my career.

That one text helped me see the world through a different set of eyes and try something different. Not only did I get the chapter read but I also felt more refreshed, energized, and ready to take on the rest of the day. Thirty minutes of fresh air and sun was AWESOME!!! I’m so thankful wonderful suggestions from teammates like reading in the sun.

Thanks!!!

Day 1,384 – Thankful for a “Normal” Sunday and Re-Reading Man’s Search for Meaning

Today has totally felt like a pre-COVID Sunday. Outside of a quick run into Kwik Trip and seeing everyone in masks there really was no specter of a world wide pandemic anywhe

We slept in a little – crazy how 8am is sleeping in. My twe

Becky snapped this while I was deep in thought looking at the underside of the I90 bridge. Crazy to think we can build things like that!

Not too long ago I mentioned how much I was appreciating a very slow and methodical re-read of a great book. I’ve been re-reading Man’s Search for Meaning in this manner. With highlighter in hand I’m finding additional thoughts and nuggets of information I either missed or didn’t fully “get” in my first reading.

With all going on around us the world would most likely be a much better place if everyone took time to read this classic. There is so much we can learn from Frankl’s insight.

It’s been an awesome weekend and I’m pumped for another great week ahead. I know it won’t be perfect or my ideal, but I’m going to choose to find reasons to be thankful for each moment, each blessing, each challenge, and each breath. Each breath I take is one in which I have the opportunity to choose my attitude, my action, and my response to the world around me.

Thanks!!!

Day 1,383 – Thankful for a Bike Ride Turned Blog Metaphor and Choosing Life, Positivity, Gratitude, and Joy

Becky had a great idea for us this morning. When we left the house for our bike ride we were both caught a little off guard by the very dark clouds roiling in the west. As luck would have it neither of us happened to look that direction until we were pedaling down our street. I pulled up the weather quick, confirmed what we were seeing, and decided to pedal around the island instead of hitting the trails. We had initially planned on hitting the trails as we both prefer the quiet of the woods, but we rolled with what life was throwing our way.

The first five miles went well and the clouds were moving much more slowly than expected. Balancing that with the flash of lightning in the sky we opted to go a ways further and biked along streets with tall trees. By the time we go to the north end of the island we did a quick U turn and went back to deck that overlooks Lake Onalaska. The storm clouds looming in front of us changed our plans in a frustrating way. In spite of that, they had a spectacular beauty to them. We paused and appreciated the storm, the very thing that had changed our plans. We were thankful to take a moment to breathe in the pre-rain air, to watch the mercurial shimmer of the silvery water, and to be thankful for the moment. It was not where we planned to be but we appreciated the fact that we were there, alive, and together, in that moment.

Off we went heading to the south end of the island. We almost bumped into each other (100% my fault) and we laughed it off. We had great conversation about important and meaningful things as well as nothing at all. We enjoyed the ride.

There was a little drizzle and we had to make a choice. Stay dry and head home or get some extra miles in like we wanted and risk getting wet. We measured the risk and knew the only thing to fear was wet clothes so we opted for more miles. Right about the time we hit the point of no return the skies opened up and dumped on us. We both laughed it off as I told Becky we should have pina coladas tonight as we obviously both liked getting caught in the rain. You’re welcome for the ear worm 😉 We assessed the risk, chose the right option for us, and enjoyed it even when it didn’t go as expected.

By the time we got home the rain had relented but our clothes were still soggy. Regardless of the cold damp shorts I was now wearing I was smiling from ear to ear. It was a wonderful start to our day and it really set the tone for the next twelve hours or so.

Throughout the day it got me thinking and I couldn’t help but see the similarities between this and life, between the ride and living in Covid times. We rolled with the challenges life presented us. We were thankful for the present. We found beauty in the changes we had to make. We found that we always had the ability to choose our attitude. We chose optimism, positivity, and gratitude. We made the decision to find beauty in the challenge. Gratitude… what a difference it makes.

All morning long there’s been another song stuck in my head – Superheroes by The Script.

When you’ve been fighting for it all your life

You’ve been struggling to make things right

That’s how a superhero learns to fly

Every day, every hour, turn the pain into power

The Script, Superheroes

For sure, COVID sucks for many reasons. We can’t change that. What we can do is find ways to grow through this, find reasons to be grateful, and find ways to adapt. COVID can cause challenges, but it is we who choose how we live through this. I choose life. I choose gratitude. I am finding ways to become better/stronger/more joyful/more positive through this challenging time.

What’s your choice? How will you choose to live? What attitude will you choose?

Thanks!!!