While white knuckling the steering wheel as I slowly drove to Winona this morning I was fortunate to witness something I think I’ve only seen a few times in my life… a snowstorm that included lightning and thunder!
Nope, this picture isn’t from today, but it was about as close as I could get. Due to the condition of the roads there was zero chance of me pulling over to get a picture. If you didn’t see it, you’ll just have to imagine it and see it in your mind’s eye like I’m doing now.
The skies were super dark, the clouds heavy and steely gray while not letting much light in. Due to the sunrise there was a little of a yellowish red tint that made the entire hue of the earth a little of a glowing brown even in the darkish light. On my right the Mississippi looked like a river of dark iron churning like the ocean on a rough day. The wind was blowing the trees incessantly and many of the trees seemed to be bending further than they should.
As I did my best to keep my eyes forward and on the road I saw a quick bright flash to the north. It took a moment for my mind to register what had just happened. Once I realized it and then saw it again a smile pulled across my face. Thunder and lightning in a snowstorm! How crazy is that? The rest of my drive I watched flash after flash, some much closer than I’d expected. It was so beautiful with the snow in the background as everything seemed a little more crisp, clear and bright against the white canvas.
Trust me, by now I’ve pretty much tired of the gloomy, sloppy, gross weather. With that said, I am still catching myself looking back at that awesome drive this morning and smiling all along. One of my favorite parts of a vacation is seeing unique natural phenomena, how cool is it that I didn’t even have to veer off my normal course to see this today?
What a ride today has been! I’ve been up to summits, down into valleys, and a little bit of everything in between. There was even some time I spent scrambling through the field of scree that was tax preparation. In each of the spots, whether top or bottom, I paused to take in the view around me and find beauty in it.
When I was on top I was immediately joyful and took time to breathe in the successes. I focused on all the hard work it had taken to get to that point, all the challenges it took to get there, and the painful and frustrating moments that combined with the fun moments to create the success. In focusing on the struggles leading to success I found deeper peace. Those moments were when I was frustrated and wanted to quit. Moments in which I just wanted it to be easier and to work out the way I desired, without the painful portions. By surviving in , thriving in, and learning from and through those difficult times I was able to build the strength needed to get to the successful moments today. The difficulties were the fuel that raised me to the summit that I was so enjoying. In taking time to appreciate the difficulties along the way to success I found great joy today. It made the taste of success even sweeter.
Today wasn’t all about being on the summit though. There were a few steep descents deep into the valleys. When confronted with difficult news I paused and occasionally found myself feeling bad for myself, feeling bad for others, and being very frustrated. As I caught myself thinking this way I paused and thought about the times I’ve been to the summit… not just today, but throughout life. In thinking about those peaks I remembered the valleys I’d endured to reach the top. When standing on top of those mountain tops I felt so strong and successful – specifically because I knew I’d faced incredibly steep and difficult climbs to get there. It was the surviving of those treacherous times that made those victories feel so good. I savored those memories of past struggles and pains and then took a fresh look at the valley I stood in. Where there were once steep rock walls I saw challenges that would make the future success greater. I could live in fear of pain and challenge, lay on my back, and look up at something I’d always long for but never reach. Instead I chose to tackle the valley walls head on. By climbing them, pushing myself, and willing myself up the cliffs I will grow stronger than before… and reaching the peak of the mountain will be even more meaningful. I took in the challenges, appreciated them for what they are, and then made forward progress to trek to the top.
How interesting that while on top I remembered the bottoms as they made the top feel more worthwhile, yet while on the bottom I remembered the tops as they reminded me that I’ve been through trials in the past. It’s not always taking the easy call and enjoying the top while on top or wallowing in the bottom while on the bottom… it’s the focusing on what has made us stronger and on where we can draw strength. It’s always a choice we each have. Today I didn’t choose perfectly, not by a long shot, but when I remembered to tell myself to slow down and think I was more often than not on the right path.
What an amazing way to take a break from reality and enjoy time with friends! The whole point of our long weekend was to hangout with friends, eat incredible food, and have a wonderful time. We checked every single one of those boxes and then some!
From early Saturday through now we’ve either been traveling, walking, eating, hanging out, or sleeping. There’ve been so many memories made that I am still amazed that they were all made in just over three days.
Normal everyday life is great and I appreciate it greatly, I’m even excited to dive back into it in a crazy kind of way 🤪! While that may be the case there’s something magical about hitting the pause button and doing something completely outside the realm of ordinary. This weekend was exactly that, an awesome long weekend getaway.
What a day it’s been and it’s not even close to being over! We’re currently on a walking tour so this one is going to be a little short and to the point…
The one big item on the agenda today was a food tour. We enjoyed it so much we turned around and signed up for the corresponding cocktail tour right afterwards. As a contrast to yesterday the history lessons today have been way more light hearted. They’ve been focused on food and booze throughout the history of New Orleans. It’s so much fun spending time hearing stories of days past and learning why things are called what they are and done the way they are today.
Also, we’ve had a blast hanging out with Kris and Justin this trip! I love these times to just chill and hang out with old friends. Usually Justin and I aren’t able to hang out when the girls get together so it’s extra special to get this time with the four of us. Talk about flashbacks to almost 20 years ago!
Wow… when Becky suggested we visit The National WWII History Museum I did not anticipate such an emotional experience. After about four hours my brain is now full.
There were many things that were what I’d classify between “neat” and “cool.” They were items like guns, equipment and uniforms. We saw some “awesome” things too like bombers and fighter planes. Along the way there were some “interesting” facts learned about the war that I’d never known. Neat, cool, awesome, and interesting…
… and then there were the powerful, gut wrenching, sobering, and heartbreaking. Those were the moments when I caught myself getting choked up with emotion. In a couple of spots I just had to walk away or risk full blown tears.
There was the powerful story of Patton having to stop his first visit to a concentration camp due to how difficult it was for him to see. Stories of so many gut wrenching events like the bombings of so many cities including the deaths of so many innocent civilians. The sobering reminders of how Japanese Americans were put into internment camps, causing us to do the very thing we were fighting against.
Of all of the things I saw, read, and heard today there was one simple item that will remain with my soul for eternity. It was so heartbreaking that I will never forget it. This one sheet of paper reminded me of the humanity that was lost in the war. Over 3% of the world’s population was extinguished in this event, and each of the lives lost was an individual like me, Becky, and my family. Between 70 and 85 MILLION voices muted for all history.
The item that brought it all home for me? A slip of faded yellow paper. A telegram. “The Secretary of War desires me to express his deep regret…”. In those and the following lines of text I was reminded that what I had been seeing as just numbers were people. The connection that note made between the astronomical and mind blowing number of deaths to individual lives was heartbreaking in a way I’ve never before experienced. The sheet of paper and the intense feelings it brought with be with me forever.
I am so thankful for this history lesson today. As we walk from it I feel exhausted but so grateful for the experience.
Our first meal in New Orleans has started off with a bang – gumbo!!!
When Becky were here the first time we said we’d come back for the delicious food. Six years later and here we are, diving right into the fantastic eats the city has to offer.
Round one is in the books and I’m thankful for the tasty gumbo!
Yup, there are just some moments that get me right in the feels as a dad… and tonight had a couple of them.
Over the course of the week there’s been a handful of times when I was with Dominic and his friends. Many of them have been in transit from one thing to the next. I’ve had so much fun hearing them goof off, joke around, and give each other a hard time. They routinely have me laughing even in those short car rides.
Tonight was the musical that they were all playing a part in. Dominic, Sam, & Luke we’re backstage and Billy was in one of the lead roles. Not only did they do an incredible job, it was easy to see the huge smiles on their faces as they celebrated on stage together at the end.
As we exited Becky and I saw the group of them hanging out and goofing off with each other as normal. We congratulated them, joked around and then got a pic of the four of them together. It took a while, but we even got one with all four of them smiling!
After a big hug with Dominic we headed out to the car. Becky drove so I pulled up my phone to see if any of the pics had actually turned out. When I saw the picture above there was a little awesome leaking out of my eyes as I was simultaneously ecstatic for the boys and filled with joy remembering those moments with my friends back in the day. There’s something about that picture that shows me that Dominic’s future is pretty amazing with friends like that while it also reminds me of the awesome friends I’m so blessed to have in my life for the past 30+ years.
I paused and soaked in those memories and joy for a moment. Then I sent the pic to my best friends and explained why. At one point a long time ago I told the guys that when I had kids I hope they would be blessed to have an incredible group of friends like i have… and now I clearly see that wish has come true.
Becky!!! Quit cutting onions while you drive, it isn’t safe! 😉
All those feelings of joy and happiness, all from one simple picture. What a blessing.