This one seems pretty obvious doesn’t it? No tricks up my sleeve or crazy deep thoughts on this one, just the straightforward gratitude of having a bonus day.
It’s funny how much more productive we can be with a full day off. When I think about it of course I have the overwhelming majority of the day to myself on a work day, but the time doesn’t quite flow the same way before and afterwards. The off time isn’t quite as productive as when I have the full day off to focus.
Having a bonus day attached to the weekend is something I’m always thankful for. It’s a full extra day, and it often feels like two or more days depending on what I’m focused on.
This weekend that meant I had extra time to spend on the over with the family, to go for a long bike ride, to head to church, to work on the last few parts of the deck, to teach Gavin how to change a doorknob. All of those things AND then add an extra day! How awesome is that?
Today most of the day was spent driving, but even then I’m thankful for doing it in a three day weekend. I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish nearly half of what I wanted to while also enjoying more than my fair share of relaxing time had this been the normal two day weekend.
The quote from a handful of days ago was “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” Maybe it should be this instead: “Gratitude leads to abundance. Abundance leads to giving. Giving leads to joy.” Thoughts?
Tonight was the first night I was able to head back to our regular church in a few months. It had opened a few weeks ago, but due to schedules and timing I wasn’t able to join the family for mass until today.
There was so much that was different – masks, sanitizer, being ushered to seats, sitting far away from others, no singing, and some more subtle changes. I still remember Father Mark telling us way back in the day how we need to sit closer together and slide to the middle of the pews instead of hugging the aisles – what a change today was!
While the changes were many the rest was exactly the same. It was a place to stop and think, to reflect, to pray, and to be thankful. Sitting in the pew listening to the start of church left my eyes watering a bit as it felt so right in spite fo being so different. I had the words of Father Dodge from a sermon a couple of weeks ago in my head talking about fear distracting us from God. There were changes all around, but the focus wasn’t on them, it was on the “why” we were all together in the building. It felt like home.
Throughout the service I kept thinking about all that I am grateful for. Seeing the guy who looks like and reminds me of Dad. Mary Ellen playing piano with her passionate gusto. Father Dodge cracking a joke or two while simultaneously making sure everything goes as planned. Hearing other people say the Lord’s Prayer and the Nicene Creed. Taking time to kneel and look up to the statue of Jesus. Being there with my family.
My mind also wandered to so many things outside of the four wall of church itself. My family and I are healthy. We live in a free society. We are able to meet at church. The time we’ve spent as a family together. The opportunity to find beauty in a challenge. The ability to find ways to be joyful and love others even during difficult situations.
As my mind wandered on these thoughts I was drawn more and more to the concept that’s been on my mind much of this week. Gratitude leads to an abundance mindset. When we take time to be thankful for all the blessings in our lives – even the challenges – we have the opportunity to choose our attitude and find a way to be thankful for even the most difficult times.
When we consciously choose gratitude we start to see everything around us as it should be, a blessing. We’re fortunate to still be alive. We’re fortunate to be going through this challenge. We’re fortunate to be able to have the ability to choose gratitude. We’re fortunate to have existed.
When we see everything as a blessing we see only opportunity. Some blessings may be very easy to see, others may take some time. Regardless, we know that with the right mindset even the most difficult of challenges will ultimately make us stronger and we can learn from them. Hence, there are only positive opportunities. There is only abundance.
Earlier this week I quoted Yoda: “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” This quote is spot on, but it points in a direction opposite of where I prefer to focus.
Try this one on for size: “Gratitude leads to abundance. Abundance leads to giving. Giving leads to joy.”
I almost started to change it because I started to think out love for others should be listed in that thought process. After thinking about it, that is very much what is at the core of all of it. Love is another example of something to be thankful for, find abundance of, and to ultimately give. Thoughts?
Sometimes writing in the morning just seems to fit the day. One of the parts of blogging about gratitude daily is that it causes me to spend much of my day with a different level of awareness, rather a hypersensitivity, of all the blessings around me. When I wait until the end of the day I’ve had the opportunity to review almost the entire day and have more material to work with.
Writing in the morning is different. There’s a danger in doing so as I may miss something or not pay as much attention with an eye to gratitude. I’m hedging my bet when I write early, what if something really awesome happens afterwards? What if I have some crazy insight I want to save? Hello Mr. Scarcity Mindset, please exit my brain. Of course I could always write a second post for the day, there’s no rule that says I can’t. That’s choosing the right mindset, abundance.
What’s interesting is that when I write in the morning I often make a little extra space for my thoughts to ferment. There’s no pressure, no deadline; self imposed or otherwise. Sometimes when I write at night I have to force it a bit which also doesn’t quite seem right. If you’ve read my blog often you’ve most likely developed an eye for those posts. They’re just not quite the same as the others. When I write in the morning my mind is writing when it feels ready, not because it has to. The thoughts are fresh in my head and are ready to appear right away. Something about that even feels a little more honest at times as there’s zero opportunity to filter the thought. Regardless, it’s liberating and my brain is free to play with thoughts the rest of the day.
One of the things that hit me this morning is how thankful I am to be a morning person. Today was by far the latest I’ve slept in all week (5:55am). Becky and I already got in a bike ride AND a run. Quick side note, this was the first time we ever tried a little bit of the feel of going from a bike ride to transitioning into a run. That was WILD!!! We were all packed up and on our way out to our boat by 9:05. I love having the opportunity to head out and get moving while much of the world sleeps.
What got my brain rolling with gratitude this morning was getting out on the water early this morning. As of this moment we still have our beach to ourselves. There are few boats on the water. It’s totally peaceful. Ahh… chill time. I’m always thankful for that, for opening space to think, read, chill, and spend time with family. Feels amazing!
My work day today was AWESOME!!! I had the opportunity to spend much of the day with an incredible commute and work buddy. Dominic decided he wanted some time out of the house and asked to join me on a road trip to our Eau Claire office and I was glad he did.
The entire hour and a half drive there and hour and a half drive back home was filled with conversation. We shot the bull the whole time we were in the car and covered everything form careers to jokes. Spending time with him explaining what our business does was pretty cool. Having some bonus time in the day with him was even cooler.
Once we got to the office he put on his handyman hat and went to town. Dominic helped move an old desk out of the office and into storage. He proceeded to take apart the outside of a couple of our AC units and cleaned out all the pollen, leaves, and cottonwood. Heck, he even put them back together afterwards, something that would be a solid 50/50 bet at best if I did it 😉 Was he done there? Nope, he proceeded to help me out some other stuff including programming the garage door opener for the office.
We grabbed some lunch on the way home and jumped right back into conversation. At one point my heart was overfilled with joy when he randomly stopped the conversation and thanked me for taking him up with me today. How awesome is that??? Thinking of that puts a huge smile on my face.
I’m so thankful he had the opportunity to get his hands dirty and get some work done for our business. Spending time with him in the car talking with him one on one like that was priceless. I hope he remembers some of these moments as I do, both as a father and son, for the rest of his life. Dominic singlehandedly made it an incredibly rewarding and memorable day for me today.
Thanks Bud! So glad you enjoy spending time with your old man. Love you Dude!!!
Today was our annual Halftime planning session for our Winona team. This event is an opportunity for all of us to hit pause on reality for a handful of hours and spend time in thought looking at what subtle strategy changes could make all the difference in the second half of the year.
Mike (other Mike, not talking about myself in 3rd person) took the lead in planning this year’s event and kicked it off with a very cool activity. We hiked up the bluff on the east side of Winona and got up to the base of Sugar Loaf. Somehow I’d never taken that trail in my 20 years of working in the area. For those who may not know Winona well, Sugar Loaf is the remnant of a quarry on top of the first major bluff in town as you roll in. It is an iconic Winona image that has been featured on many logos in the area.
I’ve been up and down many bluffs in the area, but this one was a little different. There was something about standing next to this rocky outcrop that first caught my eye the very first time I drove through Winona was special. The panoramic view of Winona below was nothing short of breathtaking. The view up and down the Mississippi River Valley was mind-blowing. Seeing the bluffs as far as the eye could see was awesome. In my brief time up there I was reminded of almost all the reasons I am so in love with the driftless region.
The concept of starting with this hike was to take a moment to see Winona from a different perspective. When I looked down I didn’t see COVID, social distancing, social issues, or political frustration. Instead there was a beautiful community so blessed to be nestled into one of the most beautiful natural areas of the world. I saw a community of endless opportunities. In a flash I saw just how small I am in the big picture, but how I could be a part of a much bigger whole. My thoughts were focused on community, not individualism.
I wonder how this change in perspective made others feel? Would the community be a better place if everyone took a few minutes to head up on top of the bluff to take in the beauty around them, to see the bigger picture, and to treat the entire community with love? I’m positive that it would be difficult to hold onto a scarcity focused mindset when I see the abundance laid before us in the valley.
Mike, thanks for a thought and spirit provoking start to our Halftime, it is greatly appreciated! Also, happy birthday dude!!! Thank you for sharing your birthday with us!
How’s that for a long title??? LOL – I love when I am going to blog about a couple of relatively simple topics and the title ends up being huge! Heck, I’m going to go a little crazy and go in reverse order even. If this post is already starting off the rails I may as well keep it that way.
When I was a kid and would head down to Union Grove to hang out with my grandparents for a week there were certain activities that were just a given. One of my favorite groups of memories include eating butter pecan ice cream on the deck while listening to the Brewers game. Quite often when I experience even just one of those ingredients I think back to those awesome times with my grandparents. Talk about memories that I’ll treasure forever.
Tonight Becky was going to run to the grocery store quick and asked if I wanted anything. Gavin was going with to pick up ice cream for himself. When those two thoughts collided I immediately thought of Grandma and Grandpa and asked Becky to pick up butter pecan ice cream. We ate it on the deck just because we could. I smiled just like I did so many times with my grandparents before.
Last night I got caught up on the past couple of sermons from our church as I’ve been out of town the past two weekends. One of Father Dodge’s sermons was focused on fear. He shared a very interesting story from CS Lewis in which two devils are talking with each other and one says, “keep them afraid so they don’t think of God.” This was the first time I’d heard the quote and it really hit home. Over the past 24 hours that thought has been fermenting and bubbling in my head. More on that in a minute.
This afternoon our teams got together to review our most recent chapter of Mindset by Carolyn Dweck. The concept was focused a lot on when we are in a growth (abundance) mindset versus a fixed (limited) mindset. In a growth mindset we see limitless opportunity and see failure as learning. With a fixed mindset we see only the path directly in front of us and see failures as proof of our low personal value.
What hit me today is how closely fear is related to a fixed mindset. When I think of the CS Lewis quote it makes me think of how fear shifts us into a fixed mindset if we are not diligent. When we are afraid we tend to hold on very tightly to what we have (see the recent toilet paper shortage as evidence). When we are happy and confident we’re more apt to share and help others.
As these thoughts combined I looked at it from both the mindset of instead of fear hold on to The Big Dude Upstairs and He will provide. If we choose fear we become selfish and live a fixed mindset. Look to the positive and be thankful instead of being afraid. When in a stressful moment / situation choose the way of the optimist and find how you can grow through the situation. If we choose fear instead in that moment we will miss opportunities to grow and hold on to what we already have – in the darkness.
The more and more these two thoughts swirled in my brain the more and more I thought about our current societal challenges. How many of our current challenges have come from fear? How many could be solved with love instead?
And then I caught myself thinking… “Hmm… I’m pretty sure I’ve heard this before.” All night I’ve been trying to recall what quote summarized my thought so clearly. It’s been driving me bonkers because it was so much more clear and concise than my stumbling words.
And then it hit me…
Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
– Master Yoda
And there it is, the little green wise dude hits another home run! For reals, I couldn’t have put it any more perfectly.
Quick bonus, one of my other favorite Yoda quotes:
We are what they grow beyond. That is the true burden of all masters.
Perspective is a beautiful and frustrating thing, isn’t it? To be clear, I mean “perspective” from the definition of having experienced something in life before and being able to apply that experience and memory to a different situation. I’m sure there’s a more appropriate word than perspective, but that’s the one stuck in my head.
Being able to look back with past experience we can see how important challenging times were for the formation of who we have become. Without those difficult times we wouldn’t have grown into the people we are meant to be. Once we have that perspective it should be easy to know the right way to handle a situation. It should be easier to realize the right answer and take action… but… I’ll come back to this in a moment.
When someone else has a challenge in front of them we’re able to see it very differently as we’re not the one in it. We don’t know all the detail, nor do we need to. The theme is quite often similar to one we’ve faced before. Fear. Guilt. Doubt. Disappointment. Loneliness. Envy. Frustration. Maybe, most likely, a combination of several of those. From the outside looking in and with the beauty of perspective we can see that the situation is only temporary. The person can choose to grow through the challenge. This could be an incredible tipping point in their life. We know this because we’ve been in their shoes (to be clear, I know not all challenges are the same, however there are often more commonalities than we each care to admit when we strip the issues down to their core). We’ve been in that spot. We’ve found a way. We’ve persevered. We’ve become closer to who we are called to be specifically because those battles made us stronger. Again, the beauty of perspective is that we know that the person can be successful in taking on their challenge. Why is it so difficult for them to see that? Hmm… that sounds a lot like how the last paragraph ended, doesn’t it?
Perspective is beautiful as it helps us know that we and others can be successful and find a way to turn almost any challenge into a life defining moment that shapes us for the better… if we choose the right mindset.
Perspective is frustrating as it is easy for us to heed from afar, yet so tough to focus on when we’re too close to it. When we’re the one with the challenge we have to fight twice as hard to remember we’ve been successful in difficult times in the past. It’s so easy to focus on when we apply it to others, but we can’t push them to see it, they have to see it for themselves.
Today I’m thankful for this dichotomy of perspective as I’ve seen both sides of it so clearly. If I remember to apply what I’ve learned and experienced in the past I know I can accomplish anything. When I hear someone struggling I can not only attempt to help them see the big picture, but it reminds me to pause and examine my life from a third person perspective. What challenges am I facing? How could I better use my own past experiences to find the right answer or the strength to solve the challenge? What a beautiful opportunity to improve!
I’m feeling pretty exhausted tonight. In a very good way. It’s been 11 days since I was last at work. Thinking back on it now I am kind of in shock. How exactly did we fit that much life into that period of time? Over one thousand miles of driving. Activities of some sort or another with family each and every single day. Finding ways to work some alone time in as well. In many ways it seems like the week and a half off has been more like a month or two! How awesome is that? Bonus time without having to take bonus time!
When I put it all together my head is spinning a bit. Not out of being tired or over exertion or anything, rather trying to figure out how we broke the time space continuum. For reals, when I put it all together I’m not sure how this all worked out so well:
Friday night: Pack up for camping / dollar store challenge
Saturday: Dollar Store Challenge – wilderness survival with the boys and Steve
Sunday: Come home from camping, go out on the boat, pack up to leave on Monday
Monday: Drive up to the UP, spend time on Lake Superior, go for a long walk
Tuesday: Walk the Lake of the Clouds area – 8+ mile hike, go for a walk after supper
Wednesday: Hike the Mirror Lake trail 8+ miles, long family bike ride
Thursday: Drive to waterfalls, go to top of Copper Peak, chill on the beach of Lake Superior
Friday: Long bike ride on way home, drive to Union Grove, have a wonderful time hanging out with family
Saturday: Uncle Frank’s funeral, drive back to La Crosse, family walk, chill for a movie on the couch
Sunday (today): Early AM bike ride with Becky, out on the boat with the boys, read in the sun on the beach, games with the boys, family walk, chill time
Dang, I’m even more exhausted after I read the list again! That said, it’s a wonderful kind of exhausted. I’m not stressed, worried or dreading going back to work, nothing like that. I’ve got that same deep state of chill I’ve had all week long.
The funny thing is that this all happened off an idea Becky had not too long ago. We were supposed to have a couple of other vacations this year but COVID had other plans for us. I’m so glad she talked me into taking a week off to do a mini vacation like this, it was exactly what the doctor ordered.
Time to head off to bed, I’ll take all the sleep I can get tonight (and probably tomorrow night too!).
Today we said goodbye to one of the all time greats, Uncle Frank.
While he wasn’t physically with us last night I’m still sure Uncle Frank was nearby as many of my relatives and I spent time with each other. There were several times when I’d catch a little of Grandma and Grandpa in the smiles and comments of my aunts and cousins as well. Each of those moments brought a little extra joy to my heart.
One of my favorite themes of memories with Mom’s side of the family revolve around time spent around the dining room table. Last night was an extension of so many of those past wonderful times. The huge group of us all hung out around the dining room table and talked, laughed, shared memories, and caught up with each other. That time together was priceless and leaves me excited in anticipation of our next family get together. Thank you so much Aunt Peg & Uncle Tom for opening your home to all of us so we could share that time together!
Over the past week since Uncle Frank passed away I’ve spent time thinking about why I am thankful for my time with him.
As a nephew there are so many incredible moments he created like taking us to a Brewers game way back in the mid-80’s. Those memories are treasures to hold onto tightly. They are those first person direct contact moments in which I’ll always think of his big smile, larger than life positive personality, and his big hugs.
Over the past few weeks I’ve become more and more grateful for something else, the indirect stories and memories of others. There have been so many beautiful stories shared about Uncle Frank by so many people. Stories of the positive impact he made in their lives. Stories of his positive and upbeat attitude. Story after story after story about his selflessness. And if I thought I’d must have heard most of them by now imagine my surprise when his eulogy added more and more layers as well!
The lasting positive impact he made on so many people is awe inspiring. I’m grateful to have heard so many of these stories as they are a wonderful reminder of the legacy we can leave when we live for others first. The legacy he left for all of us continued even after his passing – one of the reading choices he made for the funeral mass today was a great reminder of taking care of others, praying for others, and staying focused on helping others rather than ourselves.
As I’ve had quiet time to reflect over the past week it’s led me to realize there are some things I need to work on. Having Uncle Frank’s legacy to look back on and use as a guidepost is something I’ll be forever grateful for.
The last day of vacation is usually a kind of odd one. Often it’s that time to pack up, head home, and start getting back to reality. It’s a time when the transition to real life starts. So odd, isn’t it? Going from a state of total relaxation back to the stresses of reality. If I answered honestly it mostly likely always my least favorite or least memorable day.
Due to a variety of consequences today was very different from other last days of vacation. Instead of just heading home we decided to enjoy every ounce of family vacation time possible. We slept in a little. We drove a little and then got out on our bikes to explore some beautiful trails. Healthy lunch? Nope, half of it was ice cream – the same lunch we started with on Monday. All in all it had a very different feel than past end of vacation days.
This got my brain flowing in a few different directions this evening.
What if that beautiful feel of vacation was something I experienced daily? What if the end of the vacation transitioned into an insanely rewarding and stress free non-vacation time? Why do I feel the big difference between vacation and reality? How can I choose a reality more similar to vacation? How do I view the world differently during “real life” and why?
For clarity, I’m not saying always being on vacation, rather, how do I choose a life and mindset that transitions from vacation to a reality that doesn’t feel like gears grinding against each other? There’s something I’m missing, a subtle yet key change in perspective that could make a huge impact. More to think on for later.
Separately – yet very possibly very similarly – when I think of my favorite moments of vacation they are so simple in nature. They consist of no devices or electronics, very little equipment or specialized stuff, and are so simplistic in nature. The beauty of the outdoors. Enjoying the slow twist of bubbles in an eddy after a waterfall. Seeing a bright reddish orange toad. The look of being stunned by the beauty of nature on the face of my family. Such very simple things.
Between this time away and our recent camping trip I’m seeing more and more just how little I truly need. Why do I grasp onto the desire to have more? How could I bring that simplicity from vacation into my life more regularly? More purposefully?
Definitely more for me to consider over the next few days while it’s all still fresh in my head.