We went for our family walk after supper. The air grew more and more charged as we walked. The pressure was building. To our southwest a massive storm cloud was heading our way. The humidity seemed to rise with almost every step. It was awesome!
By the time we got home the storm front had continued to close in on us. I had plenty of time to get a few things done outside. One of our neighbors came out to get his mail and we had a great socially distant conversation. It seemed like the storm front continued it’s slow march across the sky, one step closer to us with each word we spoke. When the seething clouds were just about overhead we both headed back to our homes.
Dominic was outside with me by now and we both opted to stand outside while the storm bore down on us. We stood in the driveway with our eyes wide with awe as the first blast of wind, real storm front wind, came ripping through. The tree in the north east corner of our neighbor’s yard seemed to explode in a flurry of helicopters that were on a kamikaze mission towards our heads. Gust after gust buffeted us. We were both smiling, laughing, and awestruck.
Gavin popped outside by us to take in the view. The trees swayed further than they seemed able to, but there was no cracking sound. More helicopters flew around our heads and faces while our gaze shifted from the aerial bombardment to the roiling clouds to the bending trees. After a while the rain finally let loose and we took this as our cue to exit.
There is so much in life to be thankful for. Sometimes these perfect moments get overlooked as we rush from one event to the next or are focused on something different. Tonight we captured that moment. We savored that moment. We were 100% present in the moment. We were thankful for that moment. The power and beauty of nature are awesome.
We packed up lunches, beverages, and snacks and headed out to our pontoon. This was the first time of getting out on the beach this year. The weather started cloudy and then quickly brightened right up (just like my skin from the little sunburn I got!).
The boys ran around, splashed in the water, and went right back to the same shenanigans they had on the water last year. Becky and I likewise returned to our beach normal – relaxing and reading.
Dominic took the steering wheel and took us on a ride after we’d left our personal sandbar. I was pumped about having someone else drive so I could chill.
There have been many changes over the past few months. In jumping back to river life today everything felt exactly normal. Our normal river routine was totally untouched by anything even remotely COVID-19 related. Heck, I even only checked my cellphone once and that was only to make sure Mother Nature wasn’t going to throw us a surprise. Nothing quite like time to completely chill with the family doing something we love – especially when it brings back feelings of normalcy.
When our team decided to read Grit I started to remember the power of a deep dive into a great book. With that in mind I decided that my river life buddy for the day would be Stephen King. Okay, maybe not Stephen King himself, but the next best thing… his book On Writing.
This time I skipped the personal life story at the beginning. I went straight for what I was looking for. He lays out his toolbox for all writers and then walks through how he crafts a story. I’ve been stalled on writing and his words reminded me of how to jump back in. The lessons he quickly taught on grammar sunk right in. When I re-read this blog post I’ll see just how well his training stuck.
Quite often I reach for the new book. The one that just came out. The flashy one that others are talking about. I consume it quickly, but not always completely. Books like this remind me to go back for a second helping and take more time to enjoy it.
Social distancing has made it pretty much impossible for the boys to have a sleepover with their friends. I figured they could still have one even while social distancing.
Instead of inviting friends it was the three of us (Becky joined us for a little while early on). We proceeded to do all of the things they would normally do on a sleepover including having chips and soda, playing video games, staying up late, watching a movie, and sleeping on the couches. It was AWESOME!!! So much fun and laughs were had while we just chilled and felt almost normal. Not only did they get a little extra fun, I got extra time with my boys which I always appreciate.
Another added benefit of the night was a little strange until I started putting my blog together mentally. I didn’t take any pictures of us last night so I thought back to one of my favorites, the one of the three of us on our way to New Zealand a few years ago. When I opened the photo album online I couldn’t help myself and started going through some of the pictures from that trip. I know I was just talking about it a few days ago, but I was again amazed at just how much we did in our short time there… and how much more there is for us to explore there in the future. Those bonus reminders of New Zealand brought back many great memories, a huge smile, and a little heartache for one of my three “homes”(La Crosse, Hilo, and New Zealand).
There has been much I’ve been grateful for today. I got everything almost everything done that I wanted to accomplish throughout the weekend already. I had time in the workshop with Gavin and time cooking with Dominic. At one point the boys were outside playing very well with each other and I enjoyed hearing them laugh. Earlier in the day I had a couple of the folks I follow on LinkedIn post some great thought provoking questions that got my brain rolling. While doing woodwork today almost everything went perfectly. Steve and Kathy dropped off more ramps for us for cooking. The sliders I made for supper turned out pretty tasty. So many moments of fun and smiles, time with family, time to create with my hands and brain, and time to just think.
As awesome as all that was there was something that took the cake this morning…
I woke up to Becky all bright eyed and bushy tailed telling me that the sun was out and it didn’t look like it was going to rain for a while. Last night I stayed up later than I normal and all I wanted was to rest my head on the pillow and close my eyes again. The smile she had on her face and the excitement in her voice helped me see that getting up and moving was definitely the right idea. So I did.
Next thing I knew our short bike ride to the grocery stored turned into an almost 20 mile spontaneous bike ride date. We let the boys sleep in and they didn’t even know we were gone. It was like a crazy combination of a date, our normal yoga Saturday mornings, and our morning run. Time with just the two of us, no real agenda, outside, enjoying the fresh air, and getting a little exercise? Yup, that’s totally a slice of heaven in my opinion.
I’m so thankful for the spontaneous bike ride date with Becky this morning, pretty sure it’s the biggest reason why the rest of the day went so awesomely!
After work today there was a list of things I wanted to get done. Always nice to get a jump start on the weekend by knocking items off the list early. Today there was an added benefit that made the work very enjoyable.
Back when I was a kid I remember helping my parents with chores and other stuff like cutting boughs, stacking logs, simple construction, staining lumber, and many other things along those lines. Many times I wasn’t super thrilled at the idea of having to work, but looking back I learned so much from that experience and I have many great memories of time with my parents while working.
The boys jumped in to help me on each task I took on today. Gavin helped with sanding and staining the boxes we’ve been making. Dominic cleaned the gutters with minimal assistance from Gavin and I. My power washing partner was Dominic. To help replace the garage service door brick molding Gavin was my wingman and helped pull all the nails. They both helped with cleaning up the work sites after.
I had a blast! Having their help was great, but even better was seeing them learn new tasks and spending time with them were the true highlights. It even seemed like they enjoyed the work! I’m blessed to have so much time with them and I’m deeply grateful for the opportunity to spend time working with them like this like I did when I was younger. It’s even better knowing that they might look back fondly on memories from today.
Over the past few weeks I’ve noticed just how often our family talks about our past trips and experiences. Maybe it’s always been like this and I just haven’t noticed, but it seems as if there isn’t a day that goes by without mention of something we experienced as a family while on a trip. Often it’s something related to wildlife, the scenery, or an activity, but it’s also a meal, a conversation, a cultural experience, and so on.
Tonight we spent time planning our backpacking trip to Isle Royale for Scouts next summer. On our Zoom call we talked about some of the specifics of the island and before I knew it I was lost in peaceful memories of our time on our “Fortress of Solitude.” There were so many memorable events and aspects of that place, the one that’s come up a few times recently was the moose who almost walked into us. It was a mind blowing experience that’s forever burned into my brain.
Becky showed me the picture that had rotated in as her laptop’s starting screen. Within milliseconds I knew the place; more importantly, I was mentally whisked away to New Zealand. We went into a couple of different glowworm caves while in Waitomo and the experience is forever etched into my brain and my heart. If you take a couple of minutes to watch the video above I can almost guarantee your jaw will drop at the beauty of these awesome cave dwellers. It was one of the most surreal experiences of my life.
There’s also a deeper and more personal reason that causes this memory to bring so much joy. While we were being slowly pulled by hand in a canoe in the dark and silence I was looking up at the glowing rock ceiling above my head. At one point I kept thinking to myself I wish Dad was here with me on this vacation, he would’ve loved this. In an instant I swear I heard his voice in my head, “I’m here, this is amazing.” I was glad the cave was so dark so no one could see the mist in my eyes. Whenever I see the glowworms I think of their beauty and I think of Dad.
Moose and glowworms… I’m so thankful for these experiences and even more grateful to have shared them with my family. They are excellent reminders for me to continue to live in the moment, experience wonderful things, create awesome memories, and share them with my loved ones for years to come as we continue to experience more.
So here I am again with another added twist to this lesson in purposeful gratitude from Dad. Last night as I blogged I had many thoughts going through my head. My fingers never seem to keep up with my brain and I usually end up missing something I would’ve preferred to include in the original version. When I hopped on LinkedIn this morning I saw something that brought on an instant face palm. MARLENE!!! Slap went my palm as it connected to my forehead… I knew I was forgetting something in my blog last night!
As I was writing about a difficult situation there was an awesome piece of advice I’d picked up from my friend Marlene Chism several years ago. There was a specific phrase that has stuck with me ever since and it served its purpose wonderfully yesterday. “Are you willing?” The phrase reminds us that we all see a beautiful opportunity that we want to reach for (the island) but we also have to want it so bad that we are willing to fight the difficulties (the sharks) along the way. “Are you willing?” is a beautiful way to determine if you are truly ready to pivot and attempt something truly difficult in order to reach your goal. This great advice from Marlene came in especially handy yesterday and helped me bridge the balance of supportive AND demanding.
After I added a quick comment to LinkedIn I chuckled to myself and realized that Dad had done it again, in a way. There are so many times when I hear the advice of others coming out of my mouth or rumbling through my head. In almost each of those moments I can clearly see the face of the person who shared that advice with me. When I thought of Marlene when she shared those words with me I immediately smiled form ear to ear. I had flashbacks to some great phone calls we had when she took extra time to help coach and mentor me. I remembered conversations about losing Dad, writing, and dreaming big. The memories of her road trip to Winona and La Crosse and the drive up the Mississippi River made me smile even larger. So many amazing interactions, advice, guidance, and friendship. I’ve been things of her often and am so thankful for all she’s helped me with in the few short years we’ve known each other.
Taking Dad’s advice in a slightly different direction; what if I took time to be purposefully thankful for the people who shared wonderful ideas and concepts with me? In many ways they are tools they’ve given me and tools we’ve built things with together. What a beautiful way to continue to grow and cultivate my gratitude practice on a daily basis!
Even though he’s been gone for almost three years I’m so thankful for the advice, guidance, and lessons Dad gave in our time together. Finding ways like this to continue to learn form him help keep him alive in me some I’ll forever be grateful for.