Three day weekends might be about one of my favorite things in the world. Having a bonus day at home is kind of like taking just over a week for a vacation. It usually takes a day or two to relax and settle in on vacation and then sometimes my brain starts looking ahead a couple of days before the vacation is over. By going just over a week my brain has almost a full week to totally chill. A three day weekend is very similar, the one bonus day just brings a deeper state of chill.
Imagine my surprise when I found out we had an extension to the long weekend, well kind of. Gavin’s soccer practice was cancelled due to weather. Due to Dominic’s bike injury he took the night off from workmen out to rest up and heal. This meant we had zero agenda for the night. Coming hot off a long weekend it felt like I’d gotten a bonus night off!
In that bonus time I spent time talking on the phone with family. Becky and I went for a walk in the very light rain. We busted out a family game of the card game Golf. Now we’re all chilling by either reading or writing to wrap up the night before bed. Heck, I’ll be in bed before 8:30!
A long weekend is great, but a bonus night is pretty amazing too! I’m so grateful for pauses from real life like this that seem to pop up out of the blue.
First off, you may read this as a political post. Please note that the intent is far from that. Rather, when thinking on all I’ve seen, read, and heard over the past four plus years it is more a list of lessons I’ve learned through my observations of a bully. It would be easy to pound my chest and shout my political and ideological beliefs for all to hear (though none would most likely listen). In taking what I’ve learned through my journey of gratitude I would rather reflect on how I can live a better life from these experiences.
I also know that in writing this some may get frustrated with me, disagree with me, make judgements about me, and so on. I understand; unfortunately I understand all too well. I’ve often made the mistake of judging others off of something so simple as a yard sign. Part of what I’m writing about today is my reminder to myself of just how wrong that practice is and an ongoing reminder to myself that if I am to close the gap between who I am and who I am called to be I must continue to work on eliminating this thought process from my life.
The definition of a bully per Merriam-Webster is:
a blustering, browbeating person especially: one who is habitually cruel, insulting, or threatening to others who are weaker, smaller, or in some way vulnerable
Again, it would be easy to judge and condemn a bully, wouldn’t it? From the outside we can see their cruelty and the impact their hatred and disdain for others has on the people impacted by them. It would be so easy to have hatred for them and wish them ill will, but wouldn’t that reduce us to their level? So how should we handle a bully?
Hurting others is never right and cannot be allowed or accepted. That must be addressed. Taking action to help others must happen to correct the situation.
In my humble opinion, the first thing to be done is a pause to reflect on ourselves and our own actions and intentions. How often have we battled anger with anger, hate with hate, and fear with fear? How does this fair? Never well. What best can quell anger, hate, and fear is calm, love, and hope. Before finding a way to take action against the bully we must first pause and find our inner calm within the storm, find a way to love our fellow human – even a bully, and hope for a better future. If we react like the bully are we not but a bully ourselves, a bully with different intent? Does that make us better than the one we hope to change?
Personally, I’ve struggled with this as I have seen President Trump as a bully. Through my eyes he fits the very definition shared above. Sadly, I haven’t taken the action to do what I described in the previous paragraph. Instead I’ve displayed those same bullying traits towards him. Part of the reason I’m writing this blog today is to help myself get my brain back into the right space.
One of the best ways I’ve learned to clear my head and find calm, love, and hope is to take time to learn from the actions of someone; especially through those I severely dislike. This is especially beneficial with someone I despise as I can’t help but find ways in which I’ve done the same. It hurts to find that commonality between my actions and those of someone I dislike, but it also helps remind me to hope for a better future. If I can find a way to change and grow so can the other person.
So what have learned while examining the actions of the bully and then looking at my own life through that same lens? This list is not all inclusive but hits home and reminds me of the gap I need to close in my own life.
Name calling is easy, never the right decision, and causes flare ups of unnecessary emotion. How often in my life have I labeled someone to minimize the issue, laugh something off, or demean the person? Has this ever proven effective? No, not in any meaningful way. If I truly treat others with dignity, respect, and love the actions of name calling, labelling, and judging have no useful purpose and make me no better than a bully. When have I used this tactic? Usually when I don’t have a solid logical argument or can’t find (or won’t be bothered to find) a better way to explain my thoughts and when my emotions gets the best of me and I lose my sense of calm.
Treating some as better than others is not the right way. There is no one sex, race, religion, sexuality, social class, economic class, or any other possible differences that makes any one human being more significant, valuable, or important than any other. When have I treated one group as superior to another? How often have I unintentionally acted in a way that showed a difference? What biases do I hold that I can change and learn from? How can I better stay open minded to the sacredness of each human being? Each human life is important and equal, how can I better treat them that way?
Using fear as a driver to motivation is not right. This thinking usually focuses on limited and fixed opportunities, keeping an open mind and abundance thinking lead to better outcomes. How have I moved others to action through fear? What would have been different had I focused on helping to find new opportunities for better outcomes instead of focusing on limited opportunities? Had I led with visions of hope and opportunity how would the outcomes have improved?
Treating everyone the same is not the same as fostering equality. Some people need significantly more help than others which means that not everyone should be treated the same. What do I mean by this? If someone has been oppressed, beaten down, or held back in some way they need additional help and resources to help them get back up on their feet. This is a core tenant of so many religions and philosophies – we must help others who need help. What this means is that to treat everyone equally means some people need more help than others. When have I gotten frustrated that someone has gotten more than me? How have I reacted when I felt something wasn’t “fair”? How can I better respond to help others who need more than I do? When someone feels someone else got more than they did how can I help them understand that this is right? If someone or groups of someone have been oppressed for so long how can I remind myself that they need more to bring them back up which means that others will not necessarily receive the same? This is a difficult one to remember, but easier when I think of my lessons in Scouts… “to help other people at all times…”
These are amongst the lessons that come to mind over the past four years. I’ve got so far to go to close that gap between who I am and who I am called to be. As difficult as it may be to swallow at times I am grateful for the lessons I’ve learned from a bully over the past four years. Yes, it would have been great to have learned lessons from a wise, decent, open minded, and loving leader of our nation over these past four year, but that was not what we’ve had. Full disclosure, I am certain we will most likely not have that in the next four years regardless of the results in November. What I will have is the opportunity to learn more lessons from someone to help me live a life closer to that which I feel is right.
Oh yeah, I did maybe mention something else I was thankful for in the title. Yes, I am incredibly grateful for the 22nd amendment today as well. Regardless of who wins the election in November I know I will only have to learn from them for approximately eight years in total. I can survive anything for eight years, and so will our nation.
LOL – today I was going to write about a handful of different things. There was a wide variety of gratitudes throughout the day. From simple things like beautiful sunrises and walks after eating. There were slightly deeper thoughts like the joy of creating something for others. At times I started going way deep on a few other issues such as equality and doing right for others. So many different directions I could have gone.
Yet what am I out thankful for today?
A safe and healthy family. A wonderful day with those I love. Time together, time alone, time with family. What more could I ask for?
Simple, complex, surface, and deep all at the same time.
Today’s been a pretty chill Saturday at home; exactly what the doctor ordered. Nothing like the first day of a long weekend setting the tone for the rest of the weekend.
Biking to yoga and back got the blood flowing. Some physical activity to kick off the day helped set the productive tone that continued through most of the day.
Back at home I tagged in on cleaning the living room. Funny how something that seems like work can be oddly relaxing when done in with the right mindset. Spending time moving furniture and cleaning under it was oddly calming and rewarding.
After lunch we pulled out Settlers of Catan and busted out a family battle. I’m always thankful for the time we spend around the kitchen table playing games and hanging out as a family.
Up I went to the workshop I went afterwards. I had an hour or so before heading to church so I took advantage of the time. There were a couple of projects I was working on that have been gathering dust over the past couple of months so I dove back in. I was surprised at how much progress I was able to make in a short period of time. By the time I had to head down it felt like I’d had more like a few hours by myself up there.
After church we hit the grocery store and knocked out almost the last of what I wanted to accomplish for the day. When we got home I had the idea to pre-make the egg bake for breakfast / brunch tomorrow before I finally settled in to type.
Now that I’m on the couch I’m feeling a great sense of accomplishment, a deep state of relaxation, and am ready for a day of relaxing on the river tomorrow… ahhh… what a great start to the long weekend!
Tonight’s blog post is pretty simple. The past week and change has been very full and busy. All good, there’s just a lot going on in life at present. In one of our team wrap up calls this afternoon we all shared what we were most excited for this upcoming long weekend. While others shared fun activities like camping and kayaking my answer was pretty basic… chillin’.
After work was done I ran to the grocery store to pick up some hornet spray to help Dominic complete his self-set goal of eliminating the three hornets nests at our house. I helped him out, put a few things away, and then it was go time…
I grabbed this beauty that came in the mail today, plopped myself on the couch, brought the dogs up to snuggle with me, and I proceeded to chill and read.
In just a few short pages I was hooked in an awesome story focused on gratitude. I’m sure there’ll be a separate blog post about it in the future after I’ve finished reading it – just a hunch.
After a few chapters I fired up a frozen pizza. Next thing I knew I was still sitting on the couch, eating pizza right off the cardboard atop the coffee table, and still reading. Once the pizza was devoured I cleaned up, sat back on the couch, snuggled with the dogs, and started reading all over again.
Once Dominic was done fighting hornets we went out on the deck and I went right back to reading.
Kicking back on the couch, snuggling in with a great book, and tuning out the rest of the world was exactly what I needed tonight. Throw in the fact that the book is all about gratitude and it became even more perfect.
This morning I got up and moving early, jumped on my bike, and headed out for an early morning ride. Riding in the dark while the world is waking up is an excellent way to chill while getting exercise. Sure, there were a few cars, but it was so much more peaceful and quiet than normal. I am thankful for the mornings when I’m disciplined enough to get up and moving while the rest of the world sleeps.
Over lunch I took a quick ride to a quiet little place in Winona that is a little secluded. I quickly ate while I sat in the car. The windows were down, the moon roof was open, and the sun was pouring in. Without hesitation I set the timer on my watch and proceeded to take a quick nap in the sun. A twenty minute snooze later and I was feeling ready to take on the world again!
When I put today in perspective I am thankful for the pockets of solitude I was able to carve out for myself. There was a lot going on today, many moving parts, and I spent time engaging with quite a few people. In the moments with others I was able to focus (and was very thankful for the time one of my teammates called me out when I wasn’t!) it was largely due to the moments of solitude helping to keep me focused. Having space to think really helps me function at the right level.
So today I’m thankful for occasional solitude, calm, and quiet. There’s so much more I can accomplish when I remember to carve out time to be still and enjoy the quiet.
My mind has been racing in a few different directions for today’s post. True to form I’m going to go with the strategy that has helped me hatch many ideas in the past… only write the first part of the title (Day 1,436 – Thankful for…) and then process and work it all out as I type.
There are a few things I’ve really been focused on today. The power of presence in the ability to focus on the beauty of nature really captured my attention. In order to continue practicing yoga without risk of COVID we’ve been going during the week at a local park. We all space out well beyond the six feet and practice while the instructor gives directions a little more loudly than normal.
One of the things I appreciate most about yoga is the focus on the present through focusing on my breath. In doing so I find myself more “in” the present than normal. There’s typically no inner monologue going on or anything, just a focus on the sensations of my body as I move from pose to pose. Tonight there were several things in nature that caught my attention. There were two squirrels running and playing nearby. When we all turned to do a twist in their direction they froze in their tracks and just watched. It was awesome! Throughout practice some nests of flying ants seemed to erupt as the sun hit them just right. A times it looked as is thousands of them were literally pouring out of the ground like fireworks. There were so many I could hear their buzz when relaxing. Yes, bugs can be kind of gross, but there was a very cool feeling to this hatching. Both of the flying ants and the squirrels would have been totally missed had I not been focused on the present.
What if I were more present more often in all of my life? What other beauty would I find that I may otherwise pass by without noticing? Today was a great reminder of the beauty of stillness.
Something else I’m thankful for are friends who give the honest feedback I crave. In working on a project I got in touch with an old friend and asked for their feedback. While most of it was positive they did an excellent job of pointing out potential mistakes and how I could improve the product. It was pretty awesome.
At my core there is something that continues to build. In some ways it’s almost as if there’s about to be a storm. The pressure is building and I am liking where it is all going. Sometimes the best ideas need time to truly ferment and I’m going to give this one all the time it needs to be ready. As I close in on five years of blogging each day I’m starting to see patterns and cycles in my life and my response to the world. Putting these thoughts into a cohesive whole is starting to building my brain and is something I’m looking forward to putting into words. Sometimes when a storm comes it’s best to take shelter. Other times I get giddy with anticipation and sit out on the deck to admire its majesty as it rolls in. I’ll be sitting on the deck for this one.
Nothing like embarrassing the boys by getting that first picture of them before they hop on the bus to start the school year… oh wait… umm… so… Do we take pictures of them online, on the couch, driving through the school parking lot to get their materials, or of their “home office” set ups? Hmm… or maybe we’ll just go with this instead:
In all seriousness, talk about a start to the school year the boys will never forget! Gavin had his first round of online classes starting bright and early at 7:30am. Instead of sitting in a classroom he was on the couch with his iPad on the coffee table. Dominic’s first day consisted of picking up his materials via a socially distanced drive through in the school parking lot. He spent most of the day getting his room set up to be his virtual classroom, complete with standing desk!
Is this the way we’d like to have the school year start? Nope, but it’s the hand we’ve been dealt. I’m thankful for how well the schools have responded to be ready for this school year. Both of the boys have a complete class schedule that will keep them busy, focused, and learning throughout much of the day. They have set up social interactions via the virtual classrooms to help the kids connect. Never would I have thought I’d be excited to hear a smiling Gavin say, “So-and-So said we need to stop spamming the chatroom during the break so then even more of us did!” How great to hear him having fun with classmates again? He was so happy to share that some of his friends were in his class with him. I’m sure Dominic will have some similar experiences once his online classes start tomorrow.
Of course I can’t wait for the boys to be back in school IRL (in real life), but that’s not in the cards right now. I’m thankful for the alternative that the school district and teachers have put together in the meantime. I can’t begin to imagine how much their lives have had to change over these past six months! Thank you to all of the teachers who are finding ways to help keep kids learning and growing through this challenge!!!
To everyone involved in the school year starting today – thank you!!! This hasn’t been easy, we’re all learning as we go, but thank you for a very successful start to the school year; as non-traditional as it may be. In helping the kids see how you react and respond to challenges like this you’re helping them learn resilience through positive role modeling. It is different and not easy, but it will help us all grow through adversity.
Way back in the day someone shared their secret recipe to increased learning through reading. Not only did they read voraciously, they had a very specific pattern they followed to maximize the impact that reading had on their life. They would rotate from a biography or autobiography to a nonfiction to a fiction (preferably sci-fi). This rotation of books provided an interesting way to embed the concepts they learned.
Through the biography or autobiography they’d learn how someone lived. What did they do differently in the context of their life and in their time? How did the way they live impact their life?
The nonfiction was pretty straightforward. It’d help them better understand the theory behind a concept or two. The book would help them learn a skill useful to their life.
The fiction – especially sci-fi? That one always threw me for a loop. How in the world would that help? When I looked at where my reading list had been focused before this advice I found it was very focused only on nonfiction and biography. There was a direct correlation to improvement. Fiction felt like more of a diversion, TV without the screen.
Thankfully, I followed the advice and started to work back in some fiction. With a fresh perspective I’m seeing a more clear connection!
First off, fiction allows us to dream fearlessly. The only reality in it is the one in which we construct. The author has the ability to go in literally any direction they choose and are able to adjust things on the fly. How does this specific factor help in learning? It reminds me to dream big and then dream bigger. The possibility thinking in fiction easily transcends the story and can roll into real life if I remember to focus on it.
Next, the best fiction writers create very realistic characters. The best stories are the ones in which you can really believe the character and their actions as they feel so real they must be grounded in personal experiences and on real people. When we find someone reacting the way we would imagine them to react in the situation they story is so much more believable. Through this vision we are able to see how people could or should react in certain circumstances. Our brains are put into positions we haven’t been in during normal life and we start subconsciously thinking through how we would react in the same scenario. Throw in the concepts and ideas we’ve picked up on from the nonfictions and biographies and we can see how our ideal self would react if we followed the advice from the other books.
Over the past few months there’ve been a small handful of fictions that have hit me right between the eyes. Devolution and World War Z by Max Brooks and Spin and Axis by Robert Charles Wilson. When I consider what we’ve learned about human behavior through COVID, growth mindsets, grit, and diversity through real life and books there is a direct correlation between them and the characters in each of those four books. They may be fiction but I’ve found so much I can learn and implement in my personal life from them. Yes, they are totally fiction, but they’ve brought some very interesting ideas to surface!
How could I not be thankful for Becky today? Funny thing is that I’m finding myself more and more thankful for her each day. Whatever life throws our way we’ll continue to figure out a way to keep on smiling, growing, and living.
Going through all of the pictures from the past year pretty much blew my mind. So many memories over the past 366 days!!! What I found especially wild was how much we did in the first six months of her forties – I can’t believe we packed in as much as we did. Even when COVID hit we found a way to continue to pack more adventures in during the last six months.
My life is complete when I have the opportunity to create and share so many memories with her. The times we spend adventuring (on vacation and at home) are always appreciated. Her smile brings me joy in even the toughest of times, her love inspires me to be better than I would be without her, and her grit and determination push me to work harder. Beckys brings out the best in me and my life is so much more full of joy thanks to her!
The pictures I pulled from the past year left me smiling and chuckling. One thing I noticed is that if she could only choose one family member to live with the rest of her life the boys and I would be out of luck the boys. See what I mean when you look through the pics?