Day 1,485 – Thankful for a Gift of Remembrance to Myself and a Day Which Has Shaped My Life

Pause and think back to October 20, 2017. What were you doing that day? What was one of your highlights? What was the weather like? Was it an early winter or an unseasonably warm autumn day?

I am fortunate and blessed to remember parts of that day with complete clarity. I can still sense the sun on face, feel the breeze on my skin, and smell the fresh leaves on the ground. I remember the sensation of a hug from above as I was showered with falling yellow leaves. I still hold on tightly to the message that hit me so deeply that day.

One of the ongoing benefits of blogging each day hit me last night and has stuck with me through today. In taking time to write each day I’ve accidentally started a record of some of my favorite moments from the past five years. Little details that would have possibly remained buried in my brain are brought back to the surface much more often than they usually would have been. I am so deeply grateful for this wonderful gift I’m giving myself!

What’s also stuck with me is that since I wrote this post three years ago I’ve visited this same place often. Sometimes it’s a quick yet reverent drive through on my way in to the office. Other times I walk through and take my time reading old headstones. A couple of weeks ago I caught a picture of the sunrise, and just this past Monday I spent time taking it all in.

Each time I am there or think of that place my mind goes to the same thought… Memento Mori… Latin for “Remember you will die.” …and I feel more alive than I did moments before.

As I wrote about three years ago (https://thankful4forty.com/2017/10/20/day-388-thankful-for-memento-mori/) this is far from a dark or depressing thought. Remembering that life is finite, that our time here will end, and that this physical form is only temporary are amongst the most precious gifts we’ve been given. In remembering that one day we will die we are reminded to live each day to its fullest. Another way of looking at it is put wonderfully in a song lyric:

I don’t want a never ending life, I just want to be alive while I’m here.

The Strumbellas

The experience I had on that day three years ago was one of the building blocks of my foundation of my view of life. Only a handful of months prior I lost Dad. Within a month of this day I would be picking up Meditations by Marcus Aurelius in the San Francisco airport while the boys and I were headed to New Zealand. In many ways October 20, 2017 was one of the most meaningful days of my life.

Tonight I’m thankful for the gift I’m giving myself of remembrance, and I’m just as grateful for a day that helped shaped me into who I should be.

Thanks!!!

Day 1,484 – Thankful for More Adventures In Habit Stacking

Habit stacking? Yes, habit stacking. A while back I wrote about being thankful for habit stacking – the practice of intentionally using one habit to create another desired habit. When used correctly it’s a wonderful way to change behavior for the better. On the flip side, it’s also how negative habits can build more and more negative habits over time.

Today I’m thankful for my latest intentional habit stacking adventure. When I get into a TV series I really get into it. So much so that I could consume the entire series in a very short period of time. Spending that much time watching TV does not align with my purpose or the goals I would like to accomplish in life. As such I need to keep that habit minimized, but I still like different series to help round out life experience and provide entertainment.

What I needed to do was take something that comes very easy (watching TV) and combine it with something that I would normally have to push myself to do. For a while I was sleeping in on Tuesday and Thursday mornings instead of getting up to get an early sweat going. I wanted to get back into the habit of early morning exercise on those two days, specifically biking on my indoor bike trainer.

The habits I’m now stacking are watching TV while I ride my bike on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. I’ve just finished up watching World’s Toughest Race and this morning moved on to the documentary of the the New Zealand All Blacks 2017 season (no spoilers please, I’m already fighting the urge to hop on Google and find all the results!). The weather is too crappy to bike outside but I still like getting my miles in. There are TV shows I want to watch, but I don’t want to take time away from other activities to watch them. Put the two together for 60-75 minutes on Tuesday and Thursday mornings and we’ve got a wonderful habit stack!

Thanks!!!

Day 1,483 – Thankful for Seven Years of Growth and a Tradition of Pausing to Appreciate the Passing of Time

2020 threw us a curveball we weren’t expecting and hadn’t really thought about… school pictures. Seeing as there hasn’t been any in person school for the boys there also haven’t been the requisite school photos. Through a fund raising silent auction Becky won a photography session with a local photographer to get a new family photo. Seeing as we were already there we were also able to get pictures of the boys. What an awesome change of pace to have pictures that weren’t a 25% chance to include a smile of some sort, let alone one that actually looked like a real smile!

Late last week Becky picked up the finished product. When I went into the office this morning I was able to complete an annual tradition that makes me smile each year. I don’t replace the old picture with the new one, rather, I add the new one to the top of the stack of old pictures from the past seven years. Last year I even had to remove a piece of the cardboard backing to make more room!

When I add the new picture it gives me a chance to hop in a time machine and see just how much the boys have grown and changed throughout the past handful of years. My mind is still blown with how much they’ve grown, even though deep down I know the years are flying by. Taking time to pause and soak in seven years of change in a minute really reminds me to slow down and appreciate each day with the boys a little more than I would have otherwise. I can’t help but smile as my heart fills with the joy of seeing the kind human beings they are continuing to grow into.

Thanks!!!

Day 1,482 – Thankful for a Relaxing and Rejuvenating Weekend

On the drive home from grocery shopping I just couldn’t stop yawning. For some reason my body was telling me it was time to head off to bed. The funny thing is that I don’t feel overly sleepy or anything. After doing a couple of things around the house I quickly realized what it was. I feel totally relaxed and rejuvenated!

That weird signal my body was sending me was that it was totally chill, so chill that I could lay down and go to sleep. This weekend has been busy, but it’s been filled with productive activity along with fun activity like watching Gavin play a couple of soccer games while Dominic refereed the same couple of games. It’s been a sweet combination of productivity, home time, relaxing in between activity, and getting things done. Throw in a weekend that’s already provided almost 20 hours of sleep and I’m feeling more relaxed and rejuvenated than I have in a very long time.

What I’m most grateful for today is the deep state of relaxation and rejuvenation this weekend has provided. The past 48-ish hours have provided exactly what I hope to have each weekend. I’m excited and giddy to get back to work tomorrow as I can feel my energy tanks have been completely topped off. Heck, I might even get another 9 hours of sleep tonight just for good measure!

Something that I’ll certainly be thinking about over the next few days is what led this weekend to feel this way. Yes, there have been pockets of relaxation, but we’ve been largely in motion the entire time. It’s not like I’ve just been laying on the couch all weekend or something. Somehow I think I happened to luck into a crazy sweet balance of work, rest, sleep, activity, and choice of actions to take. I’m not sure how exactly I pulled it off, but I’m definitely going to try to emulate this in the future.

Thanks!!!

Day 1,481 – Thankful for a Bonus Run, a Productive Saturday, and One of My Favorite Pictures

Last night I was in bed and asleep a little before 9:30pm. I finally woke up and got moving at 7:30am. Ten full and restful hours of sleep were exactly what the doctor ordered!

Becky asked if I wanted to go for a run with her and at first I declined. Then I grunted and realized that the right answer was yes, even if I didn’t necessarily feel like it in that exact moment. From past experience I’ve found that I have yet to regret getting some extra exercise in. Never. Not once. No matter how much I didn’t feel like it at first by the time I’m done I’m so much better than I was and am always thankful for it.

Next thing I knew my tired self was out the door running. Within a short period of time I was already feeling much better and more awake. That bonus run got my mind and body warmed up and moving better than a couple of cups of coffee would have. For clarity, I still had multiple cups of coffee afterwards.

The energy from the bonus run kept me going all day long. From taking stuff off the boat and putting it into storage to running an errand to hanging several pictures to cleaning up my workshop it’s been a go go go kind of day. I’m thankful for the time at home. I’m even more grateful for the feeling of extreme productivity throughout the day. Sure, there hasn’t been much time to sit back and chill, but I truly love productive days like this. Knocking so many things off the to do list gives me a greater sense of inner calm.

As I was hanging up our new family pictures I took down an old one that is one of my favorites. When we went on our first trip to Australia we spent some time hanging out near Sawtell. We’d later bring the boys back to spend a couple of days there as it was such a peaceful and scenic spot. From atop the headlands it felt like we could see forever across the ocean.

One of the days we were there our group split up a little bit and one person kind of went off on his own. Becky and I followed Martin up the trail up the headlands. Along the way I thought we’d already seen the coolest part of the hike, one of the many poisonous snakes in Australia. Little did I know that when we go to the top of the headland we’d have such a gorgeous view. It was up there that I took this picture.

Beautiful, right? Blue sky with some clouds. Perfect sandy beach with rocks jutting out. Wave after wave slowly rising up the beach.

It wasn’t until much later that I realized I’d accidentally caught Bill in the picture. Take a look on the furtherest back rock structure. There he is, sitting on the rock, looking out to the ocean, hand on his chin, deep in thought. How crazy that I happened to catch him in the shot, especially in the spot on the photo he’s in.

His presence in the picture is what makes this one of my favorite pictures I’ve ever taken. One of the reasons I love this so much is of course due to the scenery itself and the memories it brings back. The addition of Bill in the picture really puts my mind into the right perspective. Look at how huge and vast the world is all around him, then notice how small and almost insignificant he is sitting there. The disparity in size reminds me to remember how small I am and how great the world is. In an instant I’m humbled, put in my place, and reminded of how small I am in the big picture of things. Looking at this photo brings me so much serenity and I’m grateful I took it.

Thanks!!!

Day 1,480 – Thankful for Actively Seeking Stillness

How do I know I need to drink more water? I’m thirsty.

How do I know when I need to eat? I’m hungry.

How do I know when I need to sleep? I’m tired.

There are many ways I know when my body needs something. It’s programmed right into my DNA through 300,000+ years of evolution. These warning signals are great and they work as tripwires to help me live a relatively healthy life.

Some other things are a little more difficult for me. There aren’t the direct and clear alarm bells like hunger, thirst, and sleepiness. Rather, there are a jumble of signals all together that need to be pieced together in order to translate and put meaning to.

This morning I woke up exhausted. Last night I ate supper after 8pm. I had a drink because it sounded good and I wanted to take the edge off. I laid in bed staring at the ceiling as my thoughts raced. I felt a decline in motivation by the end of the day. I didn’t have my normal conversations with the boys because I felt exhausted. I didn’t feel like I spent any time with Becky. I didn’t sleep well and woke up several times. This morning on our run I was tired and just wanted to go back to sleep.

Thirst, hunger, & sleepiness are so much easier to figure out. What did my jumble of symptoms mean? So many different things that could come from many different causes. But when I stand back and looked at them as a whole, they meant one thing… I needed some stillness.

Instead of hopping in the shower right after our run I instead changed into a dry sweatshirt, set an alarm, laid flat on my back in bed, and covered my eyes and head with two pillows. I focused on my breathing. I chose to feel the beating of my heart slow. I thought about nothing besides the blackness behind my eyelids. I was never close to sleep, I was awake the entire time. When a thought raced in I did my best to quietly shoo it aside, I’d deal with it later. I instead laid with my mind quieted, my soul at peace, and simply existed in the serenity of stillness.

Fifteen minutes later I feel so much more refreshed, at peace, motivated, and rested. Yet again I’m amazed at the power of true stillness to bring peace to my soul.

Yes, this was the view of happiness and peace this morning 😁

Thanks!!!

Day 1,479 – Thankful for Excellent Family Games & River City Hobbies and Jimmy Jams

One of the things I love about our family is our shared passion for playing board, dice, and card games. When we have an extra half hour there’s almost always a game going on in one room or another. Personally, I enjoy the wonderful combination of spending time with my family while playing a game that involves mental agility and strategy. Sure, I lose often, but who cares? It’s a blast spending time in a state of play.

We recently picked up a couple of new games at River City Hobbies in La Crosse. HUGE kudos to River City Hobbies as we had no clue what type of games we were interested in. We talked with the person working there, shared the types of games we enjoy playing and what we were hoping for. The next thing we knew he was taking us on a tour of about half a dozen games that were all along the lines of what we wanted. It was great having advice like that, I was amazed at all the options. Quite honestly, I probably wouldn’t have picked the ones that we did without their help. We went with the first two that came to mind for him and have been enjoying them ever since!

For reals, if you haven’t shopped for games at River City Hobbies or Jimmy Jams in Winona you’re missing out. The store is very clean, has a crazy huge inventory of a large variety of games, and an awesome team ready to help you out. Yes, you might be able to save a buck or two at Amazon, but you’ll never get the advice, help and experience like you would have at either of these two excellent local stores. If you’re looking for Christmas gifts for friends and family be sure to check them out!

The games we went with were Kingdomino and That’s Pretty Clever. Both games were easy to learn and are far from being mastered. The re-playability and ability to try out different strategies have been fantastic for both games. As is the magic of a great game there are multiple strategies to lead to victory and many of them are very balanced. They’ve quickly become family favorites along with many of the others we’ve picked up from River City Hobbies and Jimmy Jams (like Sushi Go and Settlers of Catan).

Spending time thinking, spending time playing, and spending time with family… What an awesome use of time!

Thanks!!!

Day 1,478 – Thankful for Moments of Mini-Enlightenment

There are several specific moments in my life in which I’ve learned much more about myself and the world than in almost the entirety of the rest of my life. They are those little moments of mini-enlightenment when the world seems to freeze, everything connects, and a profound thought sinks in completely. In those instances some specific aspect of thought, life, experience, and/or faith seems to be seen in such vivid colors, like the fog has been lifted and the clouds parted. The thought sinks deep into my brain and becomes a core piece of my being, a new paradigm by which I subtly make changes to my life.

Do you know those moments? I’m sure you do, they are the moments that make us who we are. Some of those moments are long in the making and others seem to be totally serendipitous.

In my life these moments have come in so many different forms and places:

  • A smile at a wedding
  • Walking in an old growth forest in the Pacific Northwest
  • A conversation in a car
  • Walking in a cemetery
  • A comforting embrace
  • Laying on a giant boulder all alone in the sun
  • A random conversation in a coffee shop
  • An unexpected handwritten letter
  • Listening to a great sermon
  • At a funeral
  • While reading a book
  • Flat on my back soaked in sweat surrounded by dozens of other people at the end of yoga

They seem to happen at some of the most random times, sometimes when relaxed and at peace and just as many in moments of extreme stress. Those little moments of mini-enlightenment shape my life in so many ways. When I want to force one to figure something out it doesn’t happen. When I least expect it, there it is.

What I find interesting is how seemingly out of the blue one of those memories come out of nowhere to remind us that they happened. Whether a feel of the weather, a specific breeze, a song, a place, a person, a tool, a picture, an animal in the wild, or any other relatively “normal” thing – there’s something specific that draws the memory to the front of our brain and reminds us of how we’ve become who we are.

There’ve been a couple of reminders of those moments throughout my day and I’ve been thankful for each of them. They remind me of who I am, who I’ve been, and who I should be. Their presence brings joy as they show me how much progress I’ve made while simultaneously showing me how much more of the gap I have to close. Those moments of mini-enlightenment have led me to my present, and I am so grateful for each of them.

Thanks!!!

Day 1,477 – Thankful for Catching the Signals from the Universe, aka the Ability of Daily Stoic to Read My Thoughts

Every so often I get a question from people. Each time I hear it I chuckle and try to figure out how to politely share the 100% honest and truthful answer with laughing too hard as it almost makes reality less believable.

“Do you ever get mad?”

Are you kidding me??? Holy crap, you should see me in my finest of anger riddled tirades, they can be quite the spectacle if I say so myself. Some are loud and explosive, others can be quiet, sharp, and cutting. Mad? Oh yeah, I definitely get mad. Just because I’m smiling often doesn’t mean I’m immune to anger.

This morning was a perfect example. I got some frustrating news in my email inbox. Within seconds I had myself lathered into a mini fit of rage. I couldn’t believe what happened. I was angry at others and I was angry at the system. After a few minutes I was even more furious with myself for letting it happen in the first place. I attempted to move on to other tasks but my frustration kept distracting me from my path. I finally took a step back from my computer, rested my hand on my desk, put my head down, and took a couple of deep breaths to clear my brain.

After I chose my attitude, the right attitude of acceptance, learning, and moving forward without anger I looked back up at my email. There in my inbox was a brand new email from my favorite daily email – The Daily Stoic (which you can check out here or at their main website).

What laid before me were the following words:

Successful, talented people are often frustrated for a simple reason: The world is constantly disappointing them. They expect everyone to be like them, to work as hard as them, to care as much as them, to hold themselves to the same standards as they do…

It went on to remind me that I don’t have the right to get angry. Imposing my anger on the world only makes matters worse. They shared notes from Marcus Aurelius reminding us that it is always better to be controlled and calm. One line that stuck was “If there are brambles in the path, go around. Why get angry? As if the world will notice or care.”

I literally laughed out loud after reading the email. This isn’t the first time that one of the messages has hit so squarely. About every two weeks or so I can’t help but wonder if The Daily Stoic somehow is reading my thoughts and proactively helping me out. Crazy how that works!

Me hiding my anger 😉

Thanks!!!

Day 1,476 – Thankful for a Circular Purple Sticker Unlocking Joy and Serenity and The Gates of Paradise

Day 1,476 – Thankful for a Circular Purple Sticker Unlocking Joy and Serenity and The Gates of Paradise

Today is a classic “Daily Double” version of my blog. There are two completely different things I’m thankful for today. Leaving one of the two out feels wrong, so it’s two for the price of one!

First off, today 75% of the family had the day off from school and work so I decided to follow suit. Instead of working and school we headed off to Devil’s Lake State Park for an afternoon of hiking.

The weather cooperated perfectly, stopping the rain only minutes before we wanted to hike. By the time we wrapped up it was a beautifully sunny blue sky. rain only minutes before we wanted to hike. By the time we wrapped up it was a beautifully sunny blue sky. Almost six miles of peaceful hiking around the lake, up and down the hills and rocks. There were specular vistas of the changing leaves in the valleys below. The leaves in a couple of spots were so vibrantly yellow that it seemed surreal. All in all it was another awesome time as a family in the outdoors.

While the hike was great what I am most thankful for is the little purple sticker on our windshield. Our WI State Parks pass has been our golden ticket to so many beautiful experiences this year. We’ve gotten more use out of that little sticker than we have in possibly all of the past twenty years. That purple sticker has led to the creation of so many outdoor experiences and memories as a family and I am so grateful for all of the parks it opened up to us. I look forward to exploring more and more of WI State Parks over the upcoming months and years.

Last night before I went to bed I read an inspiring story that caused me to pause and re-read it several times before turning of the light. When I woke up this morning it still was running through my head. I was so inspired by it I shared it with Becky. All day long it’s been floating in the back of my thoughts and it’s helped me view the world through a slightly better lens.

A week or so ago I shared a different story and copied and pasted it from offline. This time I’ll do my best to share it in my own words. Enjoy!

Once upon a time there was a soldier walking a path. On the path he encountered a well know wise person, quite possibly the most wise of any who lived at the time.

“Is there really a paradise and a hell?” he asked the wise man.

“What do you do for a living?” asked the wise man in response.

“I am a soldier for the king.”

“You are a soldier? No, you can’t be. You look far too weak. You have the face of a dirty peasant,” said the wise man.

The warrior became so angry he put his hand on the hilt of his sword.

“So you have a sword. You look too weak to use it. It appears to be so dull it could not even cut off my head,” the wise man said.

Hearing enough the warrior’s blood was boiling with rage. He pulled the sword from the sheath and moved to attack the wise man.

The wise man looked at him and said, “Here open the gates of Hell!”

The soldier paused and quickly understood the meaning of the wise man’s comment. He sheathed his sword, kneeled before the wise man, and apologized for his actions.

“Here open the gates of paradise!” said the wise man.

My interpretation of “The Gates of Paradise”

There are so many levels to this story that caught my attention. The difference between anger and humility. The difference between emotional reaction and logical thought. Over the past several months how often have I opened the gates of hell when the gates I should have opened were the gates of paradise? Needless to say, this story will stick with me through the remainder of my life.

Thanks!!!