Ahh… there it is, the first break in the action today. Sitting on the couch right now is the first time I’ve really had to take a deep breath and relax. Even my car rides to and from Winona were full of focused thought. The day has been very productive and I’ve made more progress than I’ve lost. Some frustrations, more wins, and a lot of ground covered.
At one point in my day I was reminded of a story of Thich Nhat Hanh, also known as the calmest human alive. Each day he spends an hour drinking his cup of tea. He smells it. He feels the warmth of the mug in his hands. He slowly sips it and takes time and care to focus on the taste. For an entire hour he focuses on drinking his tea. This is the process he uses for calming his mind and focusing only on the present. In pausing to intentionally enjoy his tea he sets his focus to the moment at hand. No stress. No worries about the past nor the future. Only the cup of tea in his hands.
As nonstop as my day has been it has been lived wildly. I’ve been mired in the past. I’ve drown in the future. I’ve been in one conversation and yet mentally preparing for another. My mind has been racing all day long in many directions. I’m exhausted.
Then I sit down to write my blog. Everything else clears. My mind is focused only on this task at hand. It doesn’t last an hour, but for the moments I write my mind is focused on the here and now, on my gratitude. This is my time to pause, to breathe, and to focus only on the sensation of thankfulness.
Today I am thankful for my daily cup of tea, writing my blog.
Tonight was the first round of regional playoffs for Dominic’s soccer team. They turned in their best performance of the season so far with a 9-1 dismantling of their opponent. Courtesy of the win they will now travel to outside Madison for their next game on Thursday. As always it was a blast watching his team and him play.
Less than a few minutes after the conclusion we were off to his band concert. He and a few teammates had to skip their post game wrap up in order to high tail it to the middle school for their band concert. In a very short period of time he had switched from one uniform to the next! The high school band put on a on impressive pep / marching band display. Again, it was a blast watching him play with his band.
After the concert we all rallied at the house and talked about the game, the concert, and what was next. I really appreciate and enjoy those moments of all of us together spending time as a family doing nothing but talking with each other.
Now I’m exhausted and ready for bed. The alarm will go off sooner than I’d like, but I’m okay with it. The daily double of Dominic was well worth being tired for.
What a day it has been! This is about the first time I’ve had to sit down, relax, and think today. For sure, it’s been a great day, busy and full of many wonderful moments. Now as I pause and reflect there are three specific gratitudes that really stick out… all along one common theme.
Our run early this morning was the first one of the year to be just below 40 degrees. Running in my usual shorts and t-shirt felt truly refreshing, and I say that without an ounce of sarcasm. The temperature was almost exactly my favorite running temp. At one point I felt like I could run forever. Cool enough to cool my muscles and not drip with sweat, but not so cold that I was uncomfortable in the least. When we hit our turnaround point we both paused for a moment and looked up to the stars and watched for satellites and falling stars for a moment. The steam from my breath, the starlight above, the cool air in my lungs, and the quiet stillness of the fresh new day in the woods reminded me of…
My drive to work in Winona runs along one of the most scenic drives in America, running up Highway 61 along the bluffs straddling the Mississippi River. The sun started to slowly rise above the horizon in deep reddish orange hues. The air was just cool enough and the river just warm enough create specters of fog rising from the water. While I drove my eyes wandered to the quiet shores of the river, the small little bays of tall grass and plants in the water, the embankments which would provide perfect habitat for muskrat, and the beauty which lie behind it all and my mind drifted back to…
When I got home Becky shared her experience of the funeral for a wonderful neighbor of ours. She and Gavin had gone to support our neighbor and one of his grandsons, Gavin’s classmate and friend. They both shared how eerily familiar it was to Dad’s funeral a handful of years ago. Our neighbor was an incredible human who always showed kindness and love. He helped others all the time in many ways. Every time we’d see him he’d smile and wave. I just saw him a couple of weekends ago and his smile brought a smile to both my face and my heart. John was an awesome person who brought much joy, strength, and love into the worlds of all he knew. As Becky shared the stories from John’s family and pastor at the funeral I kept thinking about…
…spending time with Dad in the fall. A morning like this reminded me of so many we’d spent in a canoe long before sunrise under the starlight in cool air. We’d wake up so early and load up into the truck. The drive was usually a quiet and dreamlike trip to the lakes. Unload the canoe quietly, slip into the water silently, paddle slowly but purposefully, and occasionally look up at the stars in awe. We’d go from trap to trap to check our success, sometimes in silence, sometimes joking, and other times engaged in serious conversation. I was about Gavin’s age now, give or take a year, and this was some of my private time with Dad. In moments like this I learned to appreciate time in nature, the peace which can only be found before sunset in the wilderness, and company of a loved one in which no words need be spoken to share appreciation of all the beauty around us. The smell of the fall is everywhere around us, the falling oak leaves, the pine, and the lakes. The specters of fog slowly rise from the water and start to dissipate into nothingness as the sun slowly rises.
Mornings like this, beautiful fall days, always remind me of some of my most sacred time with Dad. One day when we are are together again we will again paddle our canoe under the stars and soak in the beauty of the wilderness surrounding us. We will joke, we will talk, and we will quietly enjoy each others company. My heart will be beyond full. What I would give for one of those mornings again.
These are the times when I miss Dad most. They are the times when I realize just what a gift he’s given me. They are the times when I remind myself that the hurt I feel from missing him is because of the love he shared. I am so blessed to have created so many memories like this with him. I am grateful for the days like this, these perfect fall days, when I somehow appreciate him most.
Love you dude! Thank you for all those memories for all those fall days, they brought me joy then, they bring me joy now, and they will bring me joy all my days. Love you Dad!
Just like yesterday, let’s start with window screens. After my volunteer time at the soccer fields early this morning I swallows my pride, took a deep breath, and hit the hardware store for the necessary supplies to build a new screen for Dominic’s bedroom window. I took my time, took many deep breaths, and successfully finished the task. Success!!! What a difference from my struggles yesterday. Deep breaths make a big difference.
Gavin’s soccer game today was at our high school field and it was his first opportunity to play on it competitively. Watching him play on the same field Dominic plays on already was awesome. Over the next four years we hope to watch him play often just as Dominic has – so long as his passion for soccer continues.
Yesterday we talked about some things he could do to have a stronger impact on his team and he did very well putting them into practice. Sports in our household are far from being our only lives, but there are some awesome opportunities for us all to learn and grow through them. The way both boys have grown and matured through their soccer seasons has me feeling proud. Not only have they improved, there’ve been many opportunities for me to learn and grow as well. I have been far from an all star and have found more areas for me to work on than I last years. All good, in seeing that weakness I’m able to work on growth. Nothing terrible or anything, just more of gap between where I am and where I should be.
After soccer and the screen was an almost full family hike. Dominic had just gotten home from refereeing four games today and was exhausted so we left him and LuLu behind. The weather was perfectly autumnly (I don’t care if that’s not really a word, it should be 😉) and the smell of fall was almost intoxicating. Such perfect weather to be outside and on the trails in the bluffs.
Supper was followed up with a game of Wingspan. Still one of our all time favorite family games by a wide margin. Wrapping up our weekend as a family was the appropriate ending before heading back into the work week.
LOL – so that I’ve gone on and on I still don’t have a title gratitude for today! Of course, by the time you’re reading this it may be a bit of a surprise as there is already a title. What’s funny is that you already know what it is by now, but I don’t!
Okay, if I tie it all together I would summarize in this fashion… it was a fully satisfying fall Sunday. I got my alone time, I got my family time. I had time seeing my boys grow and I had several opportunities to do the same. I worked through frustration. I spent time outside and active. I played games with family. I got time to put my thoughts into my blog. I had fully satisfying fall Sunday. Not sure I could have scripted it much better.
First things first. I am not grateful for fixing window screens. As I explained to Gavin, if I go to hell my occupation is almost assured that of a replacement screen maker. My new screen is currently residing right next to the old one… in the garbage. Maybe one day I’ll be the bigger person and appreciate the challenge for my blog but today I’m just frustrated. Maybe I’ll get over it tomorrow 😉
While stopped at a stoplight on my way to Menards this afternoon my eyes wandered to the console of our Honda Pilot. Right there, front and center, I saw this:
That one always makes me smile! It was from our trip up Canada. We were hiking above Emerald Lake and it remains one of my favorite hikes ever. So many beautiful views, perfect weather, a wonderful hike together. From the nervousness of hiking up through some serious bear country early in the morning to seeing the shale hills where they have found many fossils to the ptarmigan and her chicks – all of it was incredible.
Having that picture up in our car reminds me of that trip often and I’m thankful for seeing it again today.
I almost feel like I should be pacing the room while I type this. By some magical act of God we’ve got no plans for a Friday night in the fall. In the Winter it’s not very uncommon at all, but during soccer / marching band / hunting season this is very much an oddity, and one I’m grateful for.
We ate supper as a family as Dominic was in between soccer practice and refereeing soccer games. Gavin and I did dishes and played a handful of games together before he jumped online to play some games. Becky’s chilling and reading on the couch. I’m blogging (obviously) from the couch and thinking of heading to bed before too long.
Tomorrow is another busy one with yoga, soccer, boating, soccer, and possibly some games with friends to wrap up the night. Sunday sees more soccer and knocking out many of our regular weekend tasks. Tonight is all about the chill.
Tonight I’m grateful for the opportunity to chill at home with zero agenda other than go to bed soon. Ahh…
Over the past couple of days we’ve had parent teacher conferences for both boys. I know they are good kids and all that, but there’s something reassuring when I hear it from their teachers.
I still find it interesting to hear how they are viewed by other teachers, coaches, and adults. From my years with them I know my view of them have become myopic, hearing thoughts from others helps me take a step back and look at the boys from a different perspective. My brain has gotten used to seeing them one way – as my sons. These glimpses remind me that they are so much more than I will most likely ever understand. A very humbling thought to be sure.
Boys – thanks for continuing to do well in school. You’re both growing into the great people you can be, remember to keep working at the areas your teachers pointed out and you’ll be adults before you know it!
“Just you wait Mikey… you think time goes by fast now, just wait until you get older.”
Dad certainly hit the nail on the head! For so many years I was looking ahead to “when the boys are out of the house…”
Throughout the years many have told us, “you’re going to miss it.” I would laugh it off and think they must have been drinking early that day or we’re offering some crazy joke.
Turns out the joke was on me. It is wild to see how quickly the boys have grown and how little time is left in their lives at home with us. Today I had a great parent teacher conference with Dominic’s accounting teacher prior to his National Honor Society induction. Earlier in the day we had a planning session with Gavin’s guidance counselor to start helping him plan for high school next year. Both events quickly reminded me of the upcoming transitions for both of them.
What I’m thankful for today is pausing to remember this, recognize this, and appreciate the time I have with them now. I took extra time talking with Gavin and hanging out before supper. After getting home I spent extra time sitting on the couch with Dominic doing nothing but talking. Today has been that great reminder to stay present and not wish today away for a tomorrow that is not guaranteed. It is easy to get ahead of myself or to get tired running from event to event… but that is where life is at right now and I will appreciate each moment while I’m blessed enough to have it.
Time flies by quickly. Rather than rushing across the river and fighting the current I’m going to lift up my feet, float with the stream, and enjoy the view.
A while back I made mention of an app that has been much more enjoy than I expected it would be. WeCroak has proven to quickly become one of my all time favorites. Several times each day a new quote appears on my screen. As often as possible I pause for a few seconds, read it, and reflect on the line.
Two of the most recent lines have really resonated with me. Since they’ve popped up my mind slowly wanders back to them and traces its fingers slowly across the text.
The thing about working with time, instead of against it, he thought, is that it is not wasted. Even pain counts.
Ursula K. Le Guin
When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.
Charles A. Beard
Our lives, my life, is filled with challenges, setbacks, obstacles, and hurt. I am thankful for each of them. That is when I grow. That is when I know I am truly alive. That is when I find beauty in gratitude. Each of those moments help me truly appreciate joy.
Last night I awoke from a dream and found myself in one of the most profound states of peace I’ve ever felt. The details escape me, but the core concept remains vividly clear.
There were two choices I faced, there were different complications, challenges, and potential outcomes. As I metered out the options my heart was completely quiet and calm. I saw neither option as good nor bad, they both existed purely as options, I had not assigned my emotions to either of them. My soul understood that my decision – regardless of of my choice – would still have the same final destination given as much time as either would need… at some point I would die, regardless of the choice. To be clear, this wasn’t a life or death decision, rather, given a long enough timeline eventually either path would conclude upon my passing. This may sound dark, but it was actually rather soothing in an odd way. There was no need to rush to conclusion as either pathway would get me to the same place.
Ultimately I realized that the proper way to make the decision wasn’t to rely on emotion, fear, nervousness, passion, or greed, rather, it was to live into my true self. By acting as the best possible version of myself, by choosing to live into the decision by my values, by becoming the true nature of who I was created to be, that was the right way to choose my path. Upon that realization my soul was full and satisfied.
Then I awoke. I awoke in a bottomless ocean of peace. My soul was full in ways I can’t find words to describe it truly. Even as I think back to it I find that memory is already starting to pull at the loose threads on the edge of the dream. That said, I can still sense that state of perfect calm and serenity.
My best hypothesis was that in my dream I skirted the edges of enlightenment in ways I’ve never experienced in life. Only in the vacuum of dream was I able to catch a tiny glimpse… but just enough that I will remain hungry the remainder of my days.