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!


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!


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.


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.


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?


Day 1,382 – Thankful for Hearing Camp Grandpa Stories from the Boys

Camp Grandpa has wrapped up for the 2020 season. Another week of hanging out with cousins at Grandma and Grandpa’s house is in the books. As has been the case each year before it the boys had a total blast!

On the car ride home they were both excited to share all of the details of the fun they had. Learning about all their adventures and hearing the excitement in their voice was priceless. Once we got home we took the dogs for a walk and Gavin went into even more complete detail about all the action. It is so easy to see why it is always one of their favorite weeks of the year and why they are looking forward to the next one the same night the most recent one is complete.

There are so many reasons I am thankful for hearing about their Camp Grandpa adventures. Of course I love hearing that my boys are having fun, that one’s pretty obvious.

I’m also thankful for hearing these stories as I know they are memories they’ll never forget. Eating a crayfish from the river. Marshmallow face burns (Dominic is okay). Grandpa doing flips off the dock. Those memories and so many others are priceless. I’m thankful for hearing they are creating those awesome memories and enjoying those experiences as that’s what life is really all about. At the end of the day stuff comes and goes. Our memories and experiences can never be taken away. They are the true treasures in life.

Why am I so passionate about this? When they kept telling me their stories I kept thinking back to the memories made when I hung out with my grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins each summer. So many awesome experiences and memories.

Listening to Brewers baseball on the radio in a screen porch eating butter pecan ice cream under colorful flower shaped patio lights while going in and out to catch fireflies that would never survive the ride back “up north” and Grandma having to remind me to close the screen door virtually each time I opened it (she’s got to laugh each time Gavin & Dominic don’t close it at home). Staying up all night playing video games. Seeing how quickly I can pound a can of warm diet Dr Pepper over and over again. Watching late night cable karate movies. Making claymation and live action movies. Mini golfing.

So many memories, it seems like a lifetime full in just a short period each summer while I was growing up. Each story they told got my brain thinking back to another great memory. Every time that happened I smiled wider as I realized with hope that they will have that same magic moment when they pick up their kids from spending time with us each summer sometime long down the road.

I am so grateful for this time they have with family to create more of those memories for themselves. Thank you boys for sharing all of your stories of your time up north, they warm my heart!


Day 1,381 – Thankful for Not Wasting a Marble, “Because I Can,” and Musical Fuel

This morning I was tired and went back to bed after Becky woke me up at 4:25am. I laid there for a short while and realized I was wasting my life one moment at a time as long as I stay in bed.

Got up, got dressed, and got on my bike. I attached my Bluetooth speaker to listen to an audiobook but instead opted for some great music. It became evident I was going to need some “pump up” music to get me going. Next thing I knew I was pedaling with the “Imagine Dragons” Pandora station keeping me going.

I didn’t have a plan, a goal, or even a direction. All I wanted to do was go for a ride and get some exercise. And then I saw it. Grandad Bluff. It’s been a while since I last biked up the 500+ foot tall bluff. In that moment I now had a plan.

A little voice in my head asked me why would I want to try it? It’s been too long. You’re not in shape. It’s hot and sticky out. There were a few other weak and halfhearted excuses wrapped up as questions.

“Because I can.” That was my three word answer to myself as I pedaled even more rapidly. The goal was clear, it was attainable, and I was on my way.

The first fifty feet went really well… I had momentum on my side as I started up. Very quickly I seemingly hit a wall and progress was slowed to almost a stop. I decided that I wasn’t going to stop to rest or get off my bike. This gave a combination of a mini adrenaline rush followed by a quick “how the hell am I going to pull this off?” I dropped all the way down in my gears and just focused on each pedal stroke. I continued to move forward and upward.

Whatever It Takes by Imagine Dragons popped up on Pandora and fueled me further up the hill. Talk about lyrics that were spot on! The next song was something from the same vein. Somehow the music gods knew what I needed and they had my back.

By the time I got to the top I was dripping in sweat (combo of hot weather and a very physical workout). I paused to FaceTime Becky to let her know I wasn’t going to be home as early as I’d planned and to show her the view. It was so peaceful chilling up there for a moment. And then I was off and back on my way home.

Today I’m thankful for realizing I was about to waste part of a marble. I realized, in time, that I was about to laze around instead of making something of the moment I had.

I’m also thankful for that voice in my head that seems to often push me forward, especially when I want to do something ridiculous; “Because I can.” That voice has yet to lead me astray.

Hearing the right music at the right time is something I’m also grateful for. I’m continually amazed at the power of music to help me push through the discomfort and fuel me to finish what I set out to do.

And to think, I almost slept through it all this morning. What a waste that would have been.


Day 1,380 – Thankful for Kayak Date Night with Becky and a Glimpse Into the Future

Day 1,380 – Thankful for Kayak Date Night with Becky and a Glimpse Into the Future

Within minutes of wrapping up work for the day Becky and I were out of the house and on our way to our date. She’d had the great idea to rent a couple of kayaks and send some time paddling on the river.

Talk about peaceful! There was just enough wind to keep the sun’s heat down while not making it difficult to paddle. Once we got back in the sloughs it was chill and peaceful. Having quiet time to the two of us like that outside felt incredible.

It was funny that just yesterday I talked about the dogs enjoying the moment and simple things as we were in the same boat today. Totally chill. No agenda. No destination. Just floating, paddling, and taking in the moment. Watching the brightly colored damsel flies. Seeing huge turtles sunning themselves on logs. Soaking in the sunlight. Perfect chillness. Hanging out with Becky doing the things we both enjoy outside.

To make the night even better Becky had already made supper this morning so we didn’t have to cook when we got home. Now it’s time for blogging, then ice cream, and then sleep by 9pm. Sounds like the perfect date night to me!

Two nights ago was yoga. Last night we did a lot of walking. Tonight we were kayaking. I’m so thankful for these moments we have without the boys as they help me see that life will be different but still wonderful once the boys are grown and out of the house. I won’t wish that time away, and it’s much easier knowing we’ll have lots to keep ourselves busy once we’re empty nesters. Glimpses into the future like this really help me stay in the present. I know, it sounds weird, but I think you get what I mean.


Day 1,379 – Thankful for Life Lessons In Joy From Dogs

Our two dogs are getting older and struggle a bit more with the heat and humidity than they used to. They both can easily run 4+ miles when the weather is below 75 and the humidity is next to nothing. Hot stretches like this are tough for them. They want to get outside for their runs and walks but the weather just isn’t good for them.

We waited until it was a little later in the evening and the shadows had stretched across most of the road tonight. The temperature had dropped just enough that we were able to take them for a short walk. Becky still had to bring a water bottle for Skywalker due to the heat. It was almost empty by the time we got back to the house.

There were a couple of life lessons I was reminded of when we walked the girls tonight. Kind of funny how we can learn from so many different sources, isn’t it? Here’s what I picked up on from LuLu and Skywalker tonight:

  • Live life in the present. At no point on the walk did the smiles ever leave their faces. They were happy, enjoying the moment and 100% present on the walk. No stress or nervousness, only joy in the present.
  • Some of simplest things in life are the best. All we did was go for a walk and they were so excited you’d think they found out Christmas came 6 times this month! As soon as they knew what was going on they were bouncing and whining excitedly. Over what? A walk. No destination. No goal. Just simple physical activity outside. That’s it. Simple is amazing.
  • We can learn to do almost anything. Does not having lips that can make an “O” stop Skywalker from drinking out of a water bottle? Nope! She and Becky found a way for her to get the water she needs to cool her down. It’s a little sloppy, but it works.
  • Smile when it’s over because you enjoyed the time you had. Don’t worry about wanting more. Part of what I picked up on tonight was how they were positively glowing when we got home. They didn’t whine of beg for more. They enjoyed what they had, smiled, and seemed very grateful for the experience. Sometimes instead of looking ahead to what’s next I need to pause and remind myself to appreciate what I’ve just had. Savor it for a while before wanting more.

I’m so happy we took the girls for a walk tonight. I’m not sure who got more out of kit, me, them, or all of us. Regardless, I’m grateful for the life lessons in joy I was able to learn from them.


Day 1,378 – Thankful for Remembering to Appreciate Each Every Single Marble I am Given

This past weekend a friend of mine mentioned that they would gladly sacrifice this summer if it helped get us through 2020. I laughed it off, but the more I thought about it I couldn’t help but realize how much I disagree with the comment. For clarity, I don’t blame them in the least for saying it, they put to words something I’ve caught myself thinking once in a while. Over the past few days I’ve had a chance to let it sink in and I’ve realized that when I catch myself thinking that way I’m very much off the path I want to be on.

Have you ever heard of the two containers of marbles some people keep in their closet? They start with one empty container and one filled with the number of marbles equal to number of days of the average lifespan minus the days they’ve already lived. Each day you move one marble from the full container to the empty one. It is a very clear representation of time. Is it perfect? Of course not, but the symbolism is incredibly powerful. That example to tracking time is what caught in my head as I thought of my friend’s comment.

2020 has been a chaotic year to say the least. Where do you even start with all of the ways our lives have been impacted? I’m still waiting for dinosaurs or Sasquatches in the fall followed by aliens in the winter. Just kidding, kinda. 😉 This year hasn’t been an easy one for anyone, has it? Who wouldn’t want to find a way to hit the reset button like on my old Nintendo and start it all over? If I’m not careful I can quickly find myself wishing 2020 away… and that’s the issue.

2020 is happening, period. There is nothing we can do to stop it. We can’t skip ahead, we can’t live our lives for the future. We must live right now in this very moment. Once the world gets back to normal there’s not suddenly going to be a fresh 365 marbles dumped into our containers. As each of these days fade into night that’s 24 less hours we will have on this Earth. Yes, I know it can sound morbid, but it’s something I remind myself often – each moment I life is one moment closer to my death. I must remember to live my life with that in mind and with the gratitude for the present constantly.

We only get so much time, but thank goodness we have the ability to make a choice with how we live it. We can choose to be thankful for being alive. Even in 2020! How fortunate we are to be breathing fresh air? Things may not be as planned, but we’re still alive. We can choose gratitude for all that we have in our lives. We can choose to appreciate the gift of life in each and every moment. We can choose to live a live of love for our fellow human. We can choose to take the seemingly little actions to live into the way we wish the world would be. Regardless of anything going on around us we choose our attitude and our actions – what a gift that is! Each moment we are alive we can make a difference and improve the lives of others.

If I choose to spend my time living for “normal again” or for COVID to be over or for people to treat everyone as they would treat themselves I miss my opportunity to live in the present. I choose to succumb to frustration and a victim mentality versus living a live of gratitude and abundance.

At the end of the day 2020 is going to happen whether I want it to or not. 366 marbles will be gone that I’ll never get back. I’d rather live my life in a way in which I find ways to appreciate each and every single one of those marbles, even if they are cracked and maybe even cut my fingers. They are each beautiful and the opportunity they provide me to live into being the person I am meant to be is totally priceless. Whenever the thought of hitting fast forward on the rest of the year passes my brain I’ll think back to the jar of marbles and remember to appreciate each one of them.

So why this specific picture of Resurrection Bay in Alaska? Dad wanted to go to Alaska, but never made it there while he was alive. This picture reminds me that tomorrow is promised to no one, enjoy each minute we have.