Day 1,200 – Thankful for 100 Hammer Blows

What cliche have you heard that made sense but didn’t really sink in until long after hearing it?

You’ve probably heard the cliche of the stone cutter. When they hit the stone with the hammer the first time nothing visible happens. After the second blow of the hammer there is still no change. This process repeats one hundred times and there is seemingly no change. When the hammer strikes the stone for the one hundred and first time it break apart perfectly. It was a stroke exactly like the rest yet the result was tremendously different.

In my own life I too often celebrate and focus on the 101st hammer blow. I think about it, research it, and develop theories on how to make all the strikes of the hammer the same as that one definitive stroke.

When I do this I’m prone to missing something and making a mistake. I’m jumping to the flashy, shiny, and action filled activity; the most recent activity. I’m forgetting the entire journey it took to get to the end.

Often I’m not celebrating the earlier strokes. Instead of seeing them each as equal progress to a goal I see them as ordinary and redundant. I feel like I am toiling as opposed to working with passion. If only I remembered to appreciate each exactly the same as necessary progress towards a goal my mindset would be more easily changed to joy.

Today I’ve been focusing on remembering to appreciate the first one hundred hammer blows. In taking time to be thankful for the opportunity to make progress towards an incredibly long term goal I’ve already found more joy. Each swing if the hammer brings me closer to my goal and I appreciate each of them even if there isn’t a perceived progress. The journey wouldn’t be complete without each and every one of the first one hundred, they slowly shape me I to who I am supposed to be.

Thanks!!!

Day 1,199 – Thankful for Another Nugget of Wisdom From Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

Are there books you go back to often? Maybe it’s the story, maybe it’s a a specific character, or maybe it’s the lesson learned. For some reason you are compelled to go back to it often. Which book is it for you?

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius seems to have its own gravitational pull. When I have a moment to choose a book to read next it can quietly sneak into my mind and not let go. When traveling for work or fun I can’t help but pack it in my backpack. When I’m lost in thought I’ll occasionally have one of the lines pop into my head.

After finishing up my last book on my early morning drive today Meditations just seemed right. In a crazy way this and the last book (New Seeds of Contemplation) seemed to be a perfect match for each other. They almost seem to line up in surprising ways.

When reading Meditations today there was one section in particular that stuck in my head and has been rolling around in the back of my mind all day:

It’s unfortunate that this has happened.

No. It’s fortunate that this has happened and I’ve remained unharmed by it – not shattered by the present or frightened of the future. It could have happened to anyone. But not everyone could have remained unharmed by it. Why treat the one as a misfortune rather than the other as fortunate? …does what’s happened keep you from acting with justice, generosity, self-control, sanity, prudence, honesty, humility, straightforwardness, and all the other qualities that allow a person’s nature to fulfill itself?

So remember this principle when something threatens to cause you pain: the thing itself was no misfortune at all; to endure it and prevail is great good fortune.

What a great bit of knowledge to keep in mind as I face difficulties. Stay calm, view the challenge accordingly, do what is right, and be thankful for the opportunity to learn and grow.

Thanks!!!

Day 1,198 – Thankful for Running Hand in Hand with Mother Nature; a Lesson in Acceptance

Mother Nature and I have had many talks over the years. Almost all of them seem to be pretty one sided with me doing the talking. I often find myself negotiating, pleading, whining, fighting, and ignoring her. When I don’t get what I want out of her I get frustrated. Often I act out of spite and do my best to stick it to her.

Imagine my initial thoughts when I saw this when I woke up in the morning (this pic was from when I got back to the ouse after running):

Yup, lots of “come on’s,” “really’s,” and even a “watch this.” I initially decided I was going to run just to spite Mother Nature. Somehow in my moronic and egotistical brain I thought I’d found myself in a zero sum game with her. I was going to show her who was boss.

Then I had a moment of clarity and started laughing at myself. A couple of thoughts form the book I’m reading popped into my head and I realized I was looking at this all wrong. I went to work resetting the script in my head.

Mother Nature isn’t against me. She just is. The weather will be what the weather will be. Me “fighting” it won’t prove anything other than that I can be very egotistical and stubborn. Instead, I decided I was going to run with Mother Nature. I wasn’t even going to just run with her, I was going to take her hand in mine and run along with her.

Instead of a mindset of opposition I viewed it as us working together. It was a goofy thought, but I considered how she was helping to train me for future cold runs. When I got a little chilly the wind would almost die down. When I needed a little bit of a push I got a nice little tailwind. We ran together like old friends and I smiled like a damn fool the entire time (behind two layers of face masks). It was rather enjoyable.

In choosing this mindset I learned a lesson in acceptance. Instead of fighting back and trying to dictate my will on something else I should look for more ways to give in to the will of a greater force. Fighting nature is a ridiculous concept, it wins every time. Even if I try to claim a moral victory I in no way had any impact on it and didn’t cause it to change in the least. There isn’t a winner and a loser, there’s just me in nature with one version of me having higher blood pressure and more stress than the other version.

Mother Nature (aka The Big Dude Upstairs, The Universe, God), my bad. Thank you for showing me patience as it only took me 40+ years to learn to that it’s always better to follow Your way instead of trying to shape my own. I’m sure I’ll need to be reminded of this many times before it truly starts to sink in.

Thanks!!!

Day 1,197 – Thankful for Smiling, Planning, Thinking, and Reflecting While Driving

One of the benefits of winter time is the drive to Eau Claire. Yes, it’s a hike and sometimes snow and ice make it a little more difficult, but there’s such beauty as well. Thanks to the timing of my drive I was able to see both the sunrise and sunset and all the colors on the ends. Watching the colors slowly change while reflecting off the snow in the rolling hills is so awesome. I was smiling almost the entire way there and back today.

While it’s an hour and a half drive it’s certainly not wasted time. On my way to the office this morning I never once picked up my phone or turned on my radio. I was able to spend time in thought thinking through and planning my day and actions. Funny how sometimes the best thought time I have isn’t in an office, but on the road. I’m thankful for how much more smooth my days go when I have time to mentally prep and plan on the drive in.

On the way home I took a slightly different path for much of the drive. I still kept the radio off but spent time reflecting on the book I’ve been reading. The book really has my head spinning and has helped me learn a lot about myself. Spending time reflecting and thinking was a great way to let some of the ideas really start to sink in. Having that quiet time alone surrounded by the incredible beauty of God all around me was wonderful and an excellent way to focus my thoughts.

Lots of driving today, but also lots of smiling, planning, thinking, and reflecting. Who says windshield time can’t be productive or joyful?

Thanks!!!

Day 1,196 – Thankful for Waking Up to Becky, Creating Five Minutes of Space to Learn, and a Lesson I Finally Started to Get Several Years Later

Was there a lesson someone tried to share with you that didn’t quite sink in right away? Why didn’t you “get it” right away?

Each day I attempt to write about something I’m thankful for that’s a little different than any of the fifteen hundred plus blogs before it. By the nature of the blog it will continue to get more and more difficult to find something “new” to be thankful for. This also means I often stretch outside my normal stuff to find something a little more unique. To take this a step further, this also means that I often don’t blog about some of the things I’m thankful for every single day.

Today when I woke up to Becky and then went for a run with her while the world slept I couldn’t help but pause and be incredibly thankful for waking up to her each day. My days are better and more joyful with her in my life. I’m so grateful for her presence in my life. She may not be the topic of my blog everyday but she could be.

As is the case with almost all of us there’s never quite enough time for everything I want to accomplish. This leads to trade offs due to my inability (unwillingness?) to perfectly utilize my time. Today I was able to notch out an extra five minutes of thought time in different way… I fired up a podcast while I was in the shower. Even with washing and scrubbing I was still able to listen and focus on the content. The podcast even helped me take action today that I wouldn’t have without listening to it. I might have to do it again tomorrow!

Better late than never, right? In reading The New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton I think I’m finally learning what Father Mark Thought I could learn from this book. Several years ago I jokingly told him he’d hit me between the eyes with a spiritual hammer after a conversation we’d had. In the following conversation he suggested I read this book. I’m once again a nail being driven in by the hammer. Not even halfway through and I’m already getting excited to read it again. So much to think about and take action on. It has taken me years to finally start to learn the lesson Father Mark was trying to teach me and I’m thankful that I’ve finally listened.

Thanks!!!

Day 1,195 – Thankful for a Sermon that Reminded Me to Use the Tools I Have and Time with Gavin!

What a day it’s been! I slept in late (8am is about as late as this dude gets) and still had plenty of time to get ready to head out to church with the family. The sermon was a good one, and throughout it kept tugging my thoughts into a certain direction. There was discussion of Thomas Merton, a monk who studied many Eastern religions and philosophies in addition to Christianity. Father Dodge shared a story of Thomas Merton and as he did a smile crossed my face along with a memory.

In a conversation I had with Father Mark many years ago he had suggested that I read The New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton. He referred to it as an excellent resource that I would most likely find very useful. I went out and purchased the ebook and started reading. It was a difficult read and I had my head in the wrong direction. I was seeing it as something I needed to do and consume quickly as opposed to taking time to digest it. Maybe it wasn’t even a difficult read and it was just me getting in the way of myself. Regardless, I only made into the fourth or fifth chapter and set it aside. After church today I hopped online and bought the audio version for myself to start listening to tomorrow.

As I said, the sermon was focused on using the tools we already have at our disposal. In order to get back on track with my eating I was making my lunches for the week and enjoyed some quiet time in the kitchen as Becky and the boys took the girls for a walk. I was considering filling the quiet with something mindless to fill the space. In an instant I heard the voice of Father Mark reading a quote from Blaise Pascal. In a heartbeat I fired up my iphone and started listening to some of the advent season sermons from Father Mark. My mind, heart, and soul were filled as I prepared my lunches and did dishes. I am so thankful for the sermon today, I’ve already taken action on it a couple of times.

Much of the day involved time with Gavin!. Yes, I intended to have both the exclamation point and the period. When he’s in a particularly Gavin-ish mood I refer to him as Gavin! with an exclamation point. He certainly earned it today. At church he was constantly stirring next to me. Along with that he was in a kind of snugglish mood and I’m thankful for that once in a while too. Later in the day he came up to the workshop with me and we started a project together – a wooden Catan board.

After supper we spent time digging through Gavin!’s room with him trying to locate his lost Boy Scout shirt. I just about lost it as each new possible location led me to more and more random stuff (treasures to him, crap to me, we’ll meet in the middle and call it “stuff”). Becky sat back, smiled, and laughed and reminded me of how Gavin! is pretty much a miniature version of me in so many ways. He and I met in the middle and were able to get a lot cleaned up and either recycled or tossed. The shirt is still MIA, I’m sure we’ll go searching again one night this week.

To wrap up the night I had some business stuff to take care of but Gavin! wanted to play a game. We again met in the middle and I walked through what I was working on with him. Once I’d finished a few minutes later we went into the dining room to play the game he wanted to play, tabletop football. For quite some time we were laughing and having fun flicking a paper football across the table and kicking field goals. It was an awesome time.

I’m so thankful for my time with Gavin!, but especially today. Today was one of those days when I sit back and think about how fortunate I am to have such wonderful sons. They truly bring so much additional love and joy into my life each and every single day. Every moment I had with him and the rest of my family today were amazing and I’m thankful for each of them.

Thanks!!!

Day 1,194 – Thankful for the Boys Trying Something(s) New and Hearing “the Rest of the Story”

Today was a day of firsts for Gavin & Dominic. Gavin has his first basketball games today. It was a blast watching him hustle his butt off on the court. He’s got a ways to go to catch up to others who’ve been playing a while, but his hustle and tenacity on defense had me smiling all tournament long. Dominic has his first snowboarding lesson today and thoroughly enjoyed it. Becky said he even fell asleep on the ride home he was so tired!

I’m so thankful the boys are both open to new experiences and activities like this. Watching them try new adventures makes me smile as I think about just how many new adventures they’ll have in life if they’re not afraid of new challenges. As they attempt new things I’m also thankful for their resiliency as the navigate their way through new challenges.

Earlier in the day I was listening to Pandora radio and a band came on talking about the reasons behind one of their songs. The X Ambassadors shared how they wrote their song “Steady” focused on parents being divorced. They said they find it interesting that so many people have misinterpreted the meaning and they’ve even heard of it being played at weddings. I knew the song but I had no idea that was what it was about. When I went back and listened to it again I could totally hear it.

The funny thing is that this was the second time I heard something along those lines in the past few days. After reading The Fellowship of the Ring there was an afterword written by JRR Tolkien talking about how many people had put different meaning and symbolism to his story. The theories included everything from symbolism of the World Wars to industrialism to religion. He laughed and said none of those were even close. He simply wanted to create a great long story. No hidden meanings or agendas, just a story he had within in him that he wanted to tell.

The reason I am thankful for these two stories is that they remind me of a couple of things. What I intend to communicate versus what is understood will often not line up exactly. with this mindset I must be sure to find very clear ways to communicate if I intend for a specific message to be communicated. The second lesson is to remember that there’s always more to the story and I’ll often view a story through my own paradigms. This means I’ll see things differently than they are intended and if I truly want to understand I must ask questions and not just assume. These are two very valuable lessons to remember and live by.

Thanks!!!