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London Times

And so our time in London is done. In a short few days, we visited the birth place of Elizabeth I (Greenwich) and her death place (Richmond). The palaces are long gone but the cities are amazing. We visited the Richmond Green (including the Ted Lasso pub) and toured Kew Gardens. We experienced various pubs (Stage Door, Queens Head, Princes Head, Coach and Horses). We ate amazing food (Thames Eatery, Brasserie Zedel, Arch Duke, The Ivy, Colbert, and St James Cafe). We ran into friends from home. We walked and walked and walked (averaged about 10 miles per day). We observed a city prepared to celebrate Elizabeth II. It is her platinum jubilee 70 years on the throne.

London remains an amazing vibrant city but it has changed. In the future, I will write more about how London has changed since pandemic and Brexit. For now, we travel outside of London to visit dear friends we have not seen since before the pandemic.

“Happiness is a good flow of life.” – Zeno

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An Elizabethan Theme

Recently, I visited London. London is a place I dearly love. A place where I feel comfortable. A place with so many opportunities to wander and ponder. I have not been in London since January 2020. Much has changed as both the pandemic and Brexit occurred. But mostly, London remains the vibrant cultural hub of activity.

As we arrived, the city was preparing to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee for Queen Elizabeth II. Elizabeth II is the longest-serving British monarch having served for 70 years. Most people in the United Kingdom have lived under one monarch. It will be interesting to see how history tells the story of this Elizabethan era. While the presence and celebration of Elizabeth II is everywhere in Central London, we chose to explore on the outskirts of Central London.

On day 1, we took the Thames Clipper from Embankment to Greenwich. I highly recommend this mode of transportation. Though more expensive, it is a unique way to see the city. Tip: Be sure to arrive early and get a window seat. Greenwich is famous for its Royal Observatory where one can stand on the prime meridian line. You can tour the Cutty Sark , the last remaining tea clipper. The University of Greenwich is there on the grounds of the Old Royal Naval College. You can walk through the amazing parks and get great views of London and Canary Wharf. Lots of dogs and kids running around. While in Greenwich, visiting the Greenwich Market is a must just to seen the eclectic mix of arts, crafts, and food. Speaking of food, if you want to eat, there are plenty of options so come here hungry!

Little known to many is the presence of a now (mostly) gone palace. The Palace of Placentia. Henry VIII was born here as were his two daughters Mary and Elizabeth. Elizabeth is reported to have spent much time here growing up. There is a tree on the grounds which she reportedly played under as a child and remains of the tree can still be seen! So much history is present. The palace was (mostly) torn down by Charles II in hopes to rebuild something bigger and better but it never happened. Read more about it here. I highly recommend a trip to Greenwich.

On day 2, we headed to Richmond. We used the train though the underground will take you there too. This trip was inspired by watching Ted Lasso. Though we had been to Richmond before, we had not explored it through the Ted Lasso lens. We arrived mid-morning on a Sunday and all was quiet. We stumbled upon a nice restaurant for breakfast. We wandered toward Richmond Green to locate the Princes Head Pub featured in the show. We also found where Ted lives but we we didn’t find the source of his biscuits! The park was quiet and most things were still closed. We decided to walk along the Thames Path to and around the Old Deer Park and up the Thames Path to Royal Botanical Gardens a.k.a. Kew Gardens (Total walk was about 2.5 miles. It’s flat and easy.)

If you have never been to Kew Gardens and you are interested in plants, flowers, trees, and bees, this is a must go place. It is stunningly beautiful and diverse. See what is there! Plants from all over the world. Each plant is marked and many have a description. Whether you are just learning about plants or are already an expert, there is something here for you.

After a couple of hours (which isn’t enough) we strolled back to Richmond, shopped a bit and ate at the Prince’s Head. Though there are only a few original structures left, Richmond was once the site a great palace. Richmond Palace was a favorite of Queen Elizabeth I. She died here in 1603.

So in the span of two days, we visited the birth and death places of Elizabeth I. All this was done as the country prepared to celebrate Elizabeth II.

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Homecomings

My father was born in Aberdeen, South Dakota. He grew up in Aberdeen shaped by the Great Depression and World War II. My grandparents lived in Aberdeen for most (if not all) of their 50+ years of marriage. Both my grandparents and several relatives are buried in Aberdeen. Growing up, I visited Aberdeen a few times a year to visit my grandparents. When I think of Aberdeen, I think of family.

So why do I talk of Aberdeen? Is it because I want my readers to know about the third largest city in South Dakota? Not really but be curious and click the link above to learn more. Is it because I am feeling sentimental about life and reflecting upon all that is good? Perhaps. Is it because next week I will be in Scotland near Aberdeen, Scotland? No, but I will be in Scotland next week and will blog about it.

So why Aberdeen? Why now? Bear with the story for moment. About 18 months ago, I made the decision to transition out of higher education. As I researched career transition option, I considered many industries where I could utilize my skills. For many reasons, I focused much of my attention toward the trust industry. The trust industry has a strong presence on South Dakota due to favorable laws.

With that, I am extremely excited to announce that I have a accepted a position with Dacotah Bank in Sioux Falls as Trust and Wealth Advisor. So how does this tie into Aberdeen? Dacotah Bank was founded in Aberdeen. So, in many ways, this job is a homecoming for my family.

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Transitions

At the top of this post, is a picture of a place that was a sanctuary during the pandemic. It is approximately a 2-mile walk from my home. I would come here and look at the flowers, the gazebo, and the trees. I would ponder life and meditate. Today, I came here to do the same. I wanted to teach a class here but never did.

A little over a week ago, I gave my last lecture. Today will be my last class session. In lieu of a final exam, we will watch student-made videos and say goodbye.

This will be one of many transitions that will take place in the coming days. Seniors will be graduating from the institution I have loved for the past 16 years. Most will move into jobs and careers while others will matriculate to graduate school. Those not graduating will transition out of the dorms to home or other summer living arrangements. Many will transition from school to summer work and/or internships. And finally, many students and colleagues will transition out of Augustana into another phase of life (retirement, another school, work).

For me, I will continue my life change. I am moving out of academia back into the private sector (decisions will be made tomorrow). Next week, I will move back into our remodeled home. I will travel to see friends and places not seen for a couple of years (and a few new ones). My wife will transition to one year older and I will follow if a few weeks.

Today, I am pondering all of those transitions and wishing my students and colleagues the best. I hope we can remain connected but I understand that often life takes us in different directions.

I’m not attending any of the graduation festivities this weekend and my office is clean. When I leave Augustana today, it will be the last time as faculty. In the past, I often wondered how I would feel on this day. Joy? Sadness? Relief? Excitement? Mixed emotions? As I sit here on the bench looking at the gazebo, I have the answer. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude. Harris out.

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The Last Lecture

Today I will give my final lecture at Augustana. After 16 years, it is time to move on. I am not the same person who began teaching 16 years ago nor is Augustana the same institution it was 16 years ago. This is neither good nor bad. Change happens.

In recent weeks, I have thought a lot about my final semester and my final days as a professor. Last night I watched much of Randy Pausch’s last lecture.  (I watched the entire short version (here is the short version) At a minimum, you should watch the short version (10 minutes). If you are curious, you would watch the long version (approximately 85 minutes).

In class today, I will talk about intellectual property and criminal law. I will talk about the value of brand and ideas. It won’t be perfect but there were a few stories. I hope the students learn. I have always hoped they learned.

Yet I don’t want my last lecture to be about Cody the Cow. I wanted my last words at Augie to be more. Though I wasn’t asked to give the last lecture, I prepared one anyway.  I might even record it and put it up. I give this last lecture to and for my students, my colleagues, and anyone else who cares to listen. My title is “Believe, Be Curious, and Let It Be.

So please imagine I was delivering this lecture to all of my students in person.

Thank you for coming to my last lecture. I hope you enjoy it and take something away from it. To my students, you have taught me more than you will ever know. You have taught me patience, humility, clarity, compassion, and gratitude. You have taught me to ask questions before jumping to conclusions. You taught to me think the best of people. I have not been perfect and made mistakes. I have tried to hold you accountable while showing compassion.

I hope that I have taught you something in our time together. Mostly, I hope I taught you to believe.  Believe in yourself. Believe in others. Believe in your dreams. Believe you can be better and do more. I know life is tiring and you will need to rest. Rest if you must but don’t stop believing. If you could just believe in yourself as much as I believe in you – Oh, the places you will go and the things you will do. You have no idea what you are capable of achieving unless you believe.

Think about it for a moment. If I can graduate from law school, pass the bar exam, argue a case before the South Dakota Supreme Court two years after law school graduation, become a college professor, lose 60 pounds in 4 months, and walk at least 10,000 steps every day for over two years, you can do anything.

So, do us all a favor and set your goals high and work towards them every day. Believe you can do it and go for it. I believe you can do it.  Do you?

Next, I want you to be curious. Ever spent any time with a 6-year-old? Many six-year-olds are curious. They are constantly asking questions. They want to learn for the sake of learning. They aren’t angling for a grade, a job, a promotion, a raise, or fame. They just want to know!

As an undergraduate student, I was not very curious. Like many of you, I took classes to check a box as a requirement for graduation. I simply wanted to pass the class and move on. I didn’t give much thought to why the class was required or how it could help me in life. Just give me my C and move on because Cs get degrees!

I wish I would have taken the time to think about things and be curious. Ask questions. Look for solutions to the hard problems. Listen to others. What you can learn by just listening. Read books for fun. Travel frequently and to new places. Explore where you live. Find Walt Disney’s signature on the Augie campus and tell others to do the same.

Please spend part of each day growing your mind and learning something new. Read an article in a newspaper, magazine, or website. Read a chapter in a book.  Listen to a podcast or take a MOOC. Talk to an “expert.”  Ask questions. Explore nature.

Change and innovation happen through curiosity (along with hard work, luck, and failure). Innovation happens when a curious person asks, “Is there a better way to build a mousetrap?”, “Do we need a mousetrap?”, or “Perhaps mice are beneficial and shouldn’t be trapped?” Questions are powerful. Curiosity is powerful. You are powerful. Use your power for good.

Finally, accept things for what they are. One of my favorite Beatles songs is “Let It Be.” The melody is simple yet wonderful. The lyrics provide one of life’s best lessons. 

Here is a verse – And in my hour of darkness, She is standing right in front of me, Speaking words of wisdom, Let it be.

In life, there are challenges.  There are moments, days, weeks, and months that do not go your way. This is part of life. Most of this will not be within your control. But roll with the punches. Get knocked down 7 times and get up 8. Keep moving forward.

There is very little in life you can control. You can control what you eat, drink, and wear (with some limitations). Mostly, you can control your thoughts and reactions.  Beyond that, it is out of your control. So, whatever happens, don’t label it good or bad – just let it be.

To those that have been a part of this journey over the last 16+ years, from the bottom of my heart thank you. You have all given me more than I could have imagined. While I am sad that I am leaving, I am so excited about my next chapter. Life is an adventure and a journey. Enjoy the ride. 

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Gratitude

I try to live each day in gratitude. Some days are more challenging than others. Finding something to be grateful for improves my mood and attitude. When grateful, I am a better husband, father, friend, and person. Gratitude provides balance is in an uncertain world.

As many of you know, I like to take pictures. I first began taking pictures when I was younger (4th grade). I particularly enjoy taking pictures at athletic events. This was inspired by reading Sports Illustrated. I was always fascinated by the pictures of athletes in action.

About six years ago, I began taking pictures of my youngest son. I did this primarily for me – to calm my nerves while he played. Then I began taking pictures of his teammates and other players I knew. I would share these pictures with the players and their parents. Most seemed very appreciative. While it took hours to process the photographs, the gratitude that I felt in sharing it with others was worth of work.

I eventually branched out and began taking pictures of student-athletes at the University where I teach. I would share these pictures on social media and with the players. I didn’t do this to receive praise. Rather, I enjoyed taking the pictures and I enjoyed giving to the students. Student-athlete work so hard and get so little attention. (Note: My University is a Division II University not a top tier D1).

Last night, I was invited to attend the spirit squad season ending showcase event at my university. (I would’ve gone even if nobody had asked because several members of the spirit squad are students of mine and deserve faculty support.) It was a wonderful and fun event full of dance, cheer, and happiness. And of course, I brought my camera and took over 1000 pictures. I’m still processing them but some are posted on my Instagram and Facebook page. I’ll work on some more tonight.

Midway through the event, I was asked to come down to the floor. While they were initial hopes that I would become “a flyer” it was not to be. Rather, I was called to be recognized by the squad for my support of them. The certificate of appreciation states gratitude for my “continuous support, your genuine excitement and appreciation of our skills and talents and for capturing those moments on film.” There were other kind words spoken and the spirit squad cheered for me. What an honor.

So today, it’s easy to find my gratitude. I’m grateful for the spirit squad at my university and my students. I often forget how busy their lives are. I often forget how hard they have to work outside of the classroom. And many of these students receive very little recognition or support. I hope that my taking pictures and sharing helps them feel recognized, supported, and appreciated.

Take time today to be grateful for one thing and share your gratitude with others.

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Look in the box

Warning – This post has little relationship to the purpose of this blog. As many may know, we are doing some remodeling in our home. This has required us to temporarily move out to another location. Because we have lived in the same house for nearly 18 years, moving out has been quite a task. We have accumulated a massive amount of stuff, junk, trinkets, Knick-knacks, and memories while in this home.

Preparing for the remodel has required us make decisions about the “stuff.” Yesterday, as we were finishing cleaning out the house, my wife asked me to “take care” of a box on a shelf in our closet. I gave her a quizzical look and said “Are you sure that’s my box?” After a couple of eye rolls and sighs, she informed me it was my box. She also let me know that that box has been bothering her for years. For once, I said nothing back.

I approached this with excitement. A potential adventure if you will. For nearly 18 years, I had no idea this was “my” box. What was I going to find in “my” box? It was like opening an 18 year old time capsule!

With the help of chair, I carefully lifted the box off the top shelf in a closet. It was covered in layers of dust. No doubt this box had been the shelf for 18 years. I carefully lowed the box to the floor because it could have delicate treasure. Perhaps something from our wedding. Or maybe romantic cards we had sent to each other when dating.

Then I open the lid to reveal the treasure. First, I found a shower curtain I purchased at Grand Hotel. We went there won our honeymoon and have returned many times since. The picture above is from the first time our family went there together. I highly recommend you go.

Back to “my” treasure trove box. After carefully removing the shower curtain, my eyes couldn’t believe what I saw. The box, which was a bankers box, was full of ….. bank statements. All of bank statements predated my marriage. The statements were in banded together by year in chronological order. The most recent bank statement noted was from March 2001.

This was all that was in the box. A shower curtain and bank statements from my “Independent Jason” days. Clearly, this was worth the wait.

Yet, as I have thought about it, something can be learned. Perhaps there is something you have been keeping that you need to let go. Is there a box on your shelf? Take some time today to unpack the old box and get rid of the stuff you don’t need.

PS – When I told my wife what was in the box, I started with the bank statements – another eye roll was seen. Then I mentioned the shower curtain. My wife wants the shower curtain form the apartment. Sorry, it was in “my” box.

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Remembering Jessica

It’s been almost 20 years since I last saw her. We met a handful of times. Yet, I will never forget Jessica. Some people impact your life in ways you can’t imagine.

Early in my career, I volunteered for Junior Achievement. I was assigned a first-grade classroom at one of the most economically challenged schools in my community. I met five times with the class to deliver the required curriculum which included discussion of community, family, and education. I was asked to give the students a small gift at the end of the class. After much thought, I decided to give the students a $10 gift card to Barnes and Noble. At the time, I had no idea that most of the students had never owned a book or knew Barnes and Noble existed.

The teacher would arrange for a “field trip” to Barnes and Noble so students could pick out their books. Like most kids, they loved the idea of a field trip. On a couple of occasions, I met the class and helped the students pick out their books. To see their joy and excitement was amazing. Many struggled with their decisions. I told them they could band together with several picking a book in a series and promising to trade the books as they read them. In the end, we all posed for a picture. The students would depart and our paths would never cross again.

One of those pictures is part of this post. I have circled one of the students. Her name was Jessica. With every visit to her classroom, she greeted me with a beaming smile and A LOT of questions. Questions about what I did for a living. Where was my office? Was I married? Did I have kids? What were my kids like? Did I want to see her latest art project? A couple of times her teacher reminded Jessica that I was there for all the students to learn. And when I would leave the class all of the students would say goodbye and give me a hug. Jessica wanted to be the last one.

I never saw Jessica again after that day at Barnes and Noble. She did write a thank you note for her book. Yet, a year later she was in the news. I only knew her by her first name. When I went back to the same classroom with the same teacher, she pulled me aside and told me the news. Jessica had been murdered. She would be 26 if still alive. I think of Jessica often. I think of her curiosity. I wonder what could have been. I had no idea that this precocious, curious, and kinds child would be a part of me forever. I post this today because today is the anniversary of her death.

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Spring and hope

In season one of the hit series Ted Lasso, the main character gives a locker room talk about hope. My take away is hope sustains us and gives us reason to move forward. Hope gives us reason to believe that things are possible.

Yesterday, while spending too much time on social media, I found a picture of the “first bloom” of our state flower. The picture is above.

The picture triggered a flood of thoughts and emotions. Instantly, I was transported to my hometown. I was reminded of the joy that spring flowers bring. The beauty of the lavender, yellow and green tones against the brown pine needles are stunning. It has been many years since I have seen this bloom. I would love to see it again.

The picture reminded me of the hope that spring brings. Winter in South Dakota can be harsh. It often teases you by warming up for brief periods in February and March only to get cold and snowing again. There is very little color present. But slowly, The colors begin to emerge. And with the reemergence of color comes hope.

Finally, I was reminded of my mother. When I was a young child I would go outside of our house to pick several of these flowers and make a spring bouquet for my mother. She always acted like it was the best gift she had ever received. The flowers would quickly die and wither. I would pick another bouquet. (I note it is illegal to pick the state flower on public property).

So on this first day of April when many play jokes on each other, take time to be hopeful because spring is here and new opportunities occur.

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Persist and Stay in the game

It’s that time of year when many Americans turn their attention to college basketball. The NCAA has done an amazing job in promoting and branding the March Madness tournament (AND FINALLY ALLOWING WOMEN TO USE THE BRAND). There will be millions of brackets filled out and busted (Kentucky, Iowa).

I write this short post to remind people to stay in the game. Don’t quit. If you focus on the result you want, it will become your reality.

Last night, the Creighton University mens basketball team was down by 9 points with 2:29 left in the game. The team chipped away and tied the game at regulation to send the game into overtime. Down by two in overtime with 2:42 left, one of Creighton’s best player suffered an injury and left the game. Seconds later, another key player fouled out. Through persistence, belief, and teamwork, Creighton won the game 72-69.

This reminds me to persist and stay in the game. I will never achieve my goals if I stop trying. Each day I do something to move towards my goals. Persist. If I have a set back, I make adjustments and always keep moving towards my goals. Persist. Have a great weekend. Watch some basketball and move towards your goals.

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St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland. He is often credited with driving the snakes out of Ireland and bringing Christianity to Ireland. Note: According to at least one article, there weren’t any snakes in Ireland – so his act may not be all that impressive. Nonetheless, today, March 17, is the day the Irish (and many who claim to be Irish, wish they were Irish, know an Irish person, or hope someday to go to Ireland) celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. While it was originally a religious feast, it has become secular celebration founded by Irish immigrants in America. Simply put, it’s a big deal and it is a big party.

People all over American celebrate this day. There are parades, green beer, green rivers, and lots of fun. My mom was 1/2 Irish and raised Catholic. She loved St. Patrick’s Day and she loved a big party.

Do you know why we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day today? Why March 17? Was he born on this day? No. Is this the day he introduced Christianity to Ireland? No. Is this the day he drove the snakes out? No. We celebrate this day because it is believed he died on March 17, 461.

I’m not a huge fan of this day. It is a day I will never forget. I was headed out to work when the phone rang (this was back in the days when people had landlines). My wife answered the phone. She quickly made eye contact, mumbled some words into the phone, and held up her hand indicating I needed to stop. Being the ever obedient husband, I stopped. A blank look came over her face. I asked who was on the phone. She said, “It was the nursing home. She said your mom isn’t doing well and you should get there soon.”

My mother had been in the nursing home for a couple of weeks. She was recovering from surgery to repair a broken hip. Additionally, she had Parkinson’s Disease. She was no longer the smiling and engeretic person she once was. For 13 years, Parkinson’s Disease had ravaged her body and her mind. We knew the end was near.

I drove quickly to the nursing home. When I walked into her room, I immediately noticed what she was wearing. She wore a very bright multicolored sweater. If you knew my mother, this sweater matched her personality perfectly. My mom had picked the sweater to wear. It was the perfect sweater for her to wear to big party. I think she knew.

Also in the room was a nurse. The nurse said my mom was having problems breathing. My mom was laying in her bed. I sat down next to her. I held her hand and let her know I was there. And then, it happened. All the stress and tension that Parkinson’s Disease had put in her body went away. My mom’s Parkinson’s mask disappeared. She was so peaceful and relaxed. I had not seen her that way in years. I felt a warm rush of calm serentiy fill the room. But then it hit me, my mother had passed away. She was gone and just like St. Patrick, it was March 17.

I kept the sweater and found it again the other day. It reminded me of what a bright star my mom was. It is pictured in this post. So as you celebrate your Irish heritage today, raise a glass to honor my mother, raise a glass to honor your mother, and raise a glass to honor St. Patrick.

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Gratitude and Identity

This will be a short post. Today I am feeling extremely grateful. As background, many of you know I have been a professor at a university for the last 15+ years. A perk of the job is free admission to most of the sports and cultural events. For the past 15 years, I have attended most of the home basketball games. In the early years, I took my sons with me. It was a wonderful father-son experience. In the later years, I went alone. My children grew up and became busy with other things. To watch this program grow from mediocre to excellent (Division II National Champions 2016), has been an incredible experience. It has been fun to get to know the coaches, the players and the fans.

Over the last few days, this program has hosted the regional NCAA basketball tournament. The team won its first two games to advance to the regional final (Sweet 16). Last night the team played on its homecourt with a chance to advance to the Elite 8. It was an amazing game between two excellent teams. The arena was full, people were cheering, pep bands were playing and spirit squads were dancing, cheering and stunting. “My” team did not win. It is not the result I desired. For seven seniors, their college basketball careers end.

But here is the thing, even though it wasn’t the end result I wanted, I am so happy today. I am grateful for the journey. I am grateful for this season and all the previous ones. I am grateful for each of the coaches and players I have interacted with over the years. I am grateful for the experience of the last four days. To see the players, the coaches, the spirit squad, the students, the band, and the fans come together for a couple of hours was wonderful. It is something I have not felt since before the pandemic. So today, I am grateful for all that is the Augustana Basketball program. I am grateful for all who make it fantastic. While it is no longer my identity, it is a major part of who I am. What are you are you grateful for today?

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Reunions and Identity

I would be remiss if I let today finish without a mention of the significance of this date. On this day, in 2019, my mother and I met for the first time. It’s an interesting story that you can read about here (Argus Leader) or here (Augustana Mirror).

My identity changed in ways I never knew it could. I added to my family three years ago. Love multiplies it doesn’t divide. Have a great day.

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Who are you? (Part II)

In recent posts, I discussed identity. Identity is how you view yourself as a person. While identity is how YOU view yourself, we often have identities that others created for us. Further, our identities can conflict.

I did a three-step exercise with myself recently and found it helpful. I brainstormed as many of my identities as I could in two minutes. I utilized “I am” statements to list my identities. Example: “I am a father”, “I am a husband”, “I am a son”, “I am a brother”, and “I am a professor” I tried to cover the various aspects of my life including family, personal, professional, and health. After this step, I got a better picture of my own identity.

The next step provides meaning, importance, and priority to each identity listed in step one. If I am a husband, what does that mean? How important is this identity to me (extremely, somewhat, very little)? Finally, I rank each identity in order of importance and priority. This step takes a bit longer than two minutes. It requires you to dig deep. What does it mean to be a husband or a father? Where does this identity rank compared to being a professor or volunteer?

The third step is to determine if the definition and/or identity is something I wanted to keep, modify, or remove. Of the three steps, I struggled with this the most. It required me to examine long-held identities. In the end, I discovered identities that weren’t my own.

In diving into my various identities, I recognized that many of my identities came from other people. Put another way, most of MY identity was not MY identity. My identity evolved from what others believed I should be. My identity as a husband came largely from what I had observed from my father and what society expects of husbands. Similarly, much of my identity had its roots in how and where I was raised. This isn’t necessarily bad but it allowed me to modify some of my identities to meet who I really want to be.

Perhaps the most revealing part of the exercise concerned my professional identity as a professor. I became a professor, in part, to be a better father and husband. I wanted a career that allowed me to have a flexible schedule which allowed me to spend more time with family. The family was more important work. Yet, over time, my identity as a professor became more intertwined with my employer. Further, being a professor became more important and took up more of my life. Where initially the identity was a vehicle to be a better father and husband, it ended up actually harming the other identities. Had I recognized this sooner, I could have changed course sooner and avoided the unintended consequences.

This leads me to my final point for this post. Identity can be changed. In fact, identity should be changed. The world is changing all the time. James Clear provides a three-step process to jump-start an identity change and creation of identity-based habits. First, name the goal you and/or identity you want to achieve. Second, in one sentence describe the type of person who would achieve your goal. Third, list five very small steps you can take to become this person. Do each step for a week before moving to the next step. After five weeks, you will be closer to the new identity than before.

Do something today that makes you better tomorrow. Grow each day.

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The importance of stories

This picture is of my mom and her dad.  There is no date on the picture, but she looks about 2 or 3 years old. Even at this age, her smile lit up a room. I never met her dad. He died before I was born. Yet from the stories my mom told and this picture, it is clear the two had a special bond.

Today is my mom’s birthday. She would have turned 90 years old. It has been 17 years since I celebrated a birthday with my mom. I wish she could see how great her grandkids have turned out.

I think about my mom every day. Around her birthday, I think about her a lot. March is the month in which she was born and died. There are so many stories I could tell about my mom.  Like the time I fell out of the car and she kept on driving – she hated it when I told that story. Or how sometimes when she and my dad would argue, she would begin to cry and through the tears say “Well, Shit!” and the argument was over. Or how about time she kept sneaking chocolates to my youngest son when she was in the hospital for the last time.

On her last birthday, I could tell mom was tired. Life and Parkinson’s disease had taken a toll on her mind and body. She was no longer the active vibrant woman of my youth. Yet, there was an occasional twinkle of mischief in her eyes. She wanted to say things but her body and mind wouldn’t let her. But through it all, she smiled when we sang happy birthday. She ate her cake and tolerated the grandchildren running around the room. This is how I remember her last birthday.

Mitch Albom wrote, “Sharing tales of those we’ve lost is how we keep from really losing them.” In this post, I shared a couple of stories about my mom. So today, take a moment and share a story about someone you love. If you have a story about my mom, send it to me, I would love to hear it. If your parents or grandparents are still living, call or visit them. Let them tell you a story that you can carry with you forever.

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Who are you?

Recently, I have taken a deeper dive to learn more about the concept of identity. I ponder my own identity and how it drives my actions.  To be honest, prior to last year, I didn’t think much about identity.

Simply, identity is how you view yourself as a person. Previously, I discussed the importance of focus, facts, and questions to become healthier. Each of these is intertwined with the concept of your identity. Do you view yourself as healthy? Fit? Smart? Good?

What you focus on, you become. Want to change who you are, change your focus. Don’t believe me?  Do you have a minute? For the next fifteen seconds look at everything around you that is brown. Be sure you look closely at EVERYTHING that is brown.  After you have done that, close your eyes and in the next 30 seconds identify everything around you that is green. How did you do? If you are like most, you missed much of the green. This happened because your focus was on the brown. After you opened your eyes, you probably saw a lot of green. You are who you say and believe you are – so focus on who want to be.

In a previous post, I mentioned the power of identity-based habits.  Prior to creating identity-based habits, you must have a clear identity to build the habits around. I will share personal stories about my identity. Additionally, I will share how failure to understand my identity, created challenges. 


A couple of things to consider before next time and an exercise. First, you choose your own identity. Second, your identity directs many of the outcomes in your life. Third, and this is the best part, you can change your identity and therefore many of the outcomes in your life.

Want to start now? First, decide what you want to be. When I looked at that picture in November 2020, I decided I didn’t want to be that person anymore. I wanted to be healthier. I want to be a person who lost weight. I wanted to be better. The second step is to take action on that decision. After you decide, take one action that moves you toward being the person you wish to become.

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Increments and Stacking

Previously, I discussed big dreams and small changes. This approach works well for me. For example, a few weeks ago, I chose a word that to govern my year. It is a word that drives me every day. At the beginning of each day, I ask how will I live this word. At the end of each day, I ask how did I live this word. Some days I journal about it but most I do not. It is a small word that will lead to big achievements.

The word I chose is “growth.” By “growth”, I mean each day I must do something that expands and enlarges my human experience. This broad definition provides an easy path to success. Small daily victories turn into big changes. Growth includes many things. It includes the expansion of your knowledge about a topic or yourself. It includes trying a new food or recipe. It includes meeting new friends, reconnecting with old friends, or developing network opportunities. Perhaps it means running faster or farther than the previous day or week. Hopefully, these examples give you an idea of the limitless possibilities.

One thing I have done to embody this term is to make a minor change in my daily schedule. I already notice a big difference. What was the change? I changed when I exercise. In the past, I have exercised in the morning but usually after doing several things. For the past few years, I have regularly started my day up around 6 am. I still start my day at 6 AM. But now rather than drinking coffee, puttering around, and thinking about the day ahead, I spend the first 30 minutes on the treadmill (mostly walking but occasionally a slow jog). This small act makes a big difference in the flow of my day. While it was challenging at first, I now crave getting up and starting my day this way. I am excited to spend the first 30 minutes in physical exercise. After 30 minutes, I am halfway to my daily goal of 10,000 steps. Further, my head is clear and my energy is high.

In addition, while on the treadmill, I read. Most of the time I read on my iPad. I read the news, a book, or magazine articles. Occasionally, I clean out one of my email inboxes. If conditions permit me to walk outside, I listen to podcasts or audiobooks. Some call this multitasking. I call it stacking or temptation bundling. Temptation bundling is the combining of two activities into one. In true temptation bundling, you combine one activity that you should be doing but procrastinate on with another activity that you enjoy.

Read more about it here or in Katy Milkmans’s book How to Change: The Science of Getting from Where you Are to Want to Be.

In the past, I have enjoyed reading but not enjoyed exercise. But I also get a bit impatient and anxious while reading. However, over time I have learned to enjoy both. Other experts call this stacking. Further, I do not feel as I am wasting time or being inefficient. I don’t feel as rushed in my life. After the activity, I have grown physically (improved my health) and intellectually (improved my mind). All this because I decided to make a small change which has resulted in a big change.

One final thing, when I started my weight-loss journey, I did a similar thing. I started early in the morning, drank coffee, and read articles on NOOM prior to doing anything else in the day. I found it set my focus for the day.

What small action can you take today that will change your life in a big way?

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Weekend Thoughts

At the beginning of the year, I purchased two daily calendars: “Golf Tip-A-Day” and “YOU are a BADASS” One calendar provides inspiration, motivation, and guidance in life. The other calendar provides guidance for golf which is a hobby of mine in the summer.

Today, the comments appeared to intersect. One said “If it’s something you want to do, don’t wait until you’re less busy or richer or ‘ready’ or twenty pounds lighter. Start right now. You’ll never be this young again.”  The tile of the other is “Thinking of making a swing change?”  It advises that “If you are thinking of changing your swing, you should first make sure that you are doing the right thing.”  It goes on to caution that “[o]ften, change is difficult to accept as it may feel awkward and uncomfortable.” 

At first glance, the two appear to conflict with one saying act now and the other don’t act until you’re sure. Yet, a deeper analysis shows they complement each other. There is good advice in each. Here is my take. First, determine where you need to make a change and make the decision to change. Second, investigate the most effective way for you with the help of experts and/or people who made a similar change. Third, act and implement the change. Finally, understand that change is uncomfortable. Have a great weekend.

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What questions are you asking?

One of my good friends is a philosopher. He doesn’t wear tweed, smoke a pipe, or work at Harvard. He is curious and inquisitive about many topics. Most conversations with him involve many questions. Often, he answers questions with a question. While this can be annoying, it forces one to think deeper. The questioning requires you to ask better questions.

If the answers are within, asking good questions yields good answers. Likewise, asking poor questions yields poor answers. For instance, if I ask “Why can’t I lose weight?” Neither the answer nor the question empower one to lose weight. But what if you ask “Why do I want lose weight?” My answer is to be healthy and happy. What if I ask another question? “Why do I want to be healthy and happy?” What if I kept asking questions based on my answers. When I did this, I ended with a powerful why and it lead me to how.

The better the question the better the answer. The more questions you ask, the better you get and asking questions. But I’m going to warn you, this process is challenging. It is frustrating. It’s easy to give up. However, if you keep at it, you will find the answers.

Further, if you can combine questions with identity-based habits, you are on your way to achieving what you want. Identity-based habits are discussed more fully by James Clear in his book Atomic Habits. You can learn more here.

“Improvements are only temporary until they become part of who you are. The goal is not to read a book, the goal is to become a reader. The goal is not to run a marathon, the goal is to become a runner. The goal is not to learn an instrument, the goal is to become a musician.” –

-Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear

Start today by asking better questions. What kind of person do you wish to become and why do you want to become that person? Once you answer those questions, spend the rest of the day living like the person you want to become.

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The Answers are Within

I’ve told this story to close friends but not it distributed widely. It’s possible, only close friends will read this post and that’s okay.

I am not an overly religious person person and not a fan of organized religion. However, I am spiritual and do believe we each have a purpose in this life. Further, I believe there is something after this life which I hope is better.

Over 25 years ago, my father suddenly and unexpectedly passed away. Though his health had been failing for years, his death was shock. No matter the circumstances, you are never ready to lose a family member.

At the time of his death, I was still in the early stages of my professional career and had recently started a new job. Our complicated and sometimes volatile relationship was improving. But now, with his death, our unresolved issues would remain. Further, I was thrust into a familial role I was not prepared to take. My mother looked to me for guidance. I longed for his wisdom, insight and support.

In the months following his death, I would often dream of spending time with him. In my dreams, we were often doing the things we did when he was living or things I wished we had done. In the dreams, there was no sense that we were living in different worlds as we were both alive.

Approximately six months after he died, I had another dream about my dad. This time it was different. This time it was clear I was living and he was not. The sensation still gives me chills.

The setting for the dream was in the house my parents were living when my father passed. My mom, sister and I were at the house when I stepped to the garage grab a cigarette and smoke (it was a nasty habit I had at the time).

When I entered the garage, my dad was there. I gave him a big hug. I felt a calm and peace that I have not felt since. In the garage, we talked about a lot of things while smoking. It was amazing. Imagine getting a

chance to spend a few more moments with someone you love after they pass.

At the end of our meeting, I asked him if he wanted to come inside and see my mom and sister. He looked at me and said “They aren’t ready to see me yet.” I was disappointed by his answer as I knew my mom and sister missed my dad as much as I did. I still don’t understand this part of the dream.

If the dream ended here, it would have been an amazing experience. But it didn’t end there. As we said our goodbyes, I asked my dad “When you die, do you get the answers to the questions?” My father looked at me inquisitively. “What do you mean?” he asked. I explained that I have always wanted to know the answers to many of the questions. Some serious and some not. What came first – the chicken or the egg? Is there a god? Will the Vikings ever win a Super Bowl? Once he understood what I was asking, my father looked at me and said, “The answers are within you, always”. And then he was gone.

I’ve spent the last 25+ years wrestling with his statement. Perhaps it means nothing and was just a dream. However, what if my dad was spot on? What if, we always have the answers within us? Does this mean that to have more success, you need a better questions?

I’ll end here, if the answers are within, asking better and empowering questions will lead to better and empowering answers.

One last thing, mark down 2026…that’s when the Vikings will win the Super Bowl.

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Are you asking the right questions

A year ago, I had serious momentum on my new healthy lifestyle.  Nearing my original goal, I decided to improve my health even more and set a new goal. Wrote the goal down and looked at it often. The goal was specific. It was achievable and measurable. It was a great goal. In fact, it was so good that I achieved it.

How wonderful and good that I achieved my goal. Unfortunately, achieving the goal was not enough.  I forgot to appropriately celebrate what I had done. I was not fulfilled and wanted more. This is a mistake that I am correcting every day. Remember to celebrate your successes whether big or small. Losing over 60 pounds in four months AND keeping it off is amazing. 

For the past seven months, I have been trying to set and achieve a new goal. There is room for improvement. Again, I wrote down the goal.  The goal is specific, achievable, and measurable.  Alas, I have not achieved the new goal.

Why have I not achieved the goal?  I have spent the last few weeks pondering that question.  Over the next couple of blog posts, I will take some time to discuss the power of questions and the importance of asking good questions. Good questions result in good answers. Likewise, poor questions result in poor answers.

To achieve your goals, you must be able to answer why. I’ve written about this before. In my day job, students seek guidance about going to law school. I always ask them why. Why do you want to go to law school? Why do you want to be a lawyer? What is your outcome? How will it improve your life? I have my students do this because law school can be frustrating and there are days you may want to give up.  On those days, you must be able to answer why AND your answer must be a good answer.

So why haven’t I achieved the new goals? I’ll tell you more about that in the next blog post.  For now, take some time to consider what changes you want to make in your life and why you want to make the changes.  Is your why strong enough?

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Happy New Year

I hope you don’t mind that I took a 10-day hiatus from blogging. Sometimes life gets in the way and sometimes you need a break. Both apply in this case.

In previous posts, I talked about the importance of why and focus. To change your life, you need to have a very strong why. It isn’t enough to want to do something. You must know why.

Why did I want to lose weight? I wanted to lose weight for many reasons. I wanted to be healthier (i.e. reduce health risks), to have more energy and vitality, and to be alive long enough to see my grandchildren graduate from high school and hopefully get married.

So why am I writing about why again? Many already know that my brother had some significant health issues recently. Many know he is a person with a developmental disability and is vulnerable. Last week, he was admitted to the hospital with a diagnosis of “failure to thrive.” This is a fancy way of saying he wasn’t eating enough. The hospital took good care of him and he is no longer failing to thrive. We still don’t know why he stopped eating but he is on the mend.

There were moments in the hospital when it was unclear what the outcome would be. It forced me to ponder mortality. I reflected on his mortality and my own mortality. This process reminded me of and reinforced my why.

So as a reminder to all, if you want to change, get a powerful why. It will help in the moments where you are tempted to give up. This past week, I was reminded why I am trying to live a healthier life. Have a great day and don’t forget to drink enough water!

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Top Books I read in 2021

I spent much of 2021 working on me. It is the first time I made myself a priority. I engaged in learning and goal setting. I tried to move forward every day. I took time every day to learn. I took time to reflect on a regular basis. I’m not the same person I was one year ago.

Here are the best books I read this year (in no particular order)

Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey – This book is a candid open look at his life. McConaughey kept a journal for most of his life. He incorporates the journals to ponder the first 50 years of life. The audio version is narrated by McConaughey and is excellent.

Atomic Habits by James Clear. This is an easy read. Clear supports his book with solid examples. Long story short, he reminds us that Rome was not built in a day and improvement is a series of small constant change.

Keep Sharp by Sanjay Gupta. This book was a little depressing. Gupta argues much of our aging is dictated by our genetics. Yet, Gupta provides solid examples and ideas one can implement to keep sharp for as long as possible.

Chatter by Ethan Kross – I didn’t like this book while I read it. Yet, I can’t stop thinking about it. We all have voices in our head. Kross argues this is normal. He further argues that one can harness the voices and use them to make your life better – or worse.

What were your favorite books of 2021? What did you learn? How did they impact you?

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Top Achievements of 2021

What are my top achievements for 2021? This is a long list but mine it bore you with all the details. Here are my two –

One – I transformed my body and health. AND I maintained it. I AM 45 pounds lighter than this time last year. My weight has been fairly steady for the last 8 months.

Two – I navigated the transition to an empty nester. This was more challenging than anticipated. It impacted all aspects of life. It impacted home because things we quiet. The energy of youth is gone. It impacted professional. Though I love my current career, it’s less fulfilling because of the empty nest syndrome. It impacted my marriage. My wife and I spend more time together – just the two of us. This hasn’t happened since our dating days.

In closing, I wish everyone a very Happy Christmas.

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Personal Lessons of 2021

I continue to reflect on the year that is 2021. I learned and relearned important lessons. Here a just a few things I learned this year:

  1. There is more commality among humans than diversity. Focus on what we have in common.
  2. Do not assume the worst in people. Most people are trying to their best.
  3. Making small changes each day will lead to big changes over time. Example: In Week 1, run (or walk) one mile. In week 2, add 300 feet (approximately the length of a football field). Add 300 more feet each week. After a year, you will run nearly four miles.
  4. Discover, understand, and live your values. This is the hardest of the four listed. It takes time to discover what you value, what that value means to you, and why you value it. It is a greater challenge to live your values.
  5. Read for fun.

Take some time to ponder your own personal lessons of 2021. Consider what you learned and how the lessons impacted your life.

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Favorite People of 2021

In reflecting upon the year that was 2021, I think about the people who impacted my life. Why are these people my favorites? What did I learn about them this year? The list is long and perhaps too long for a blog post. If a picture is worth a thousand words, this blog post is 1000 words long because of these people. My favorites in a picture.

There are others that make my favorite list. Rather than list them here, I will write notes to them over the next few days. Perhaps you can do the same.

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Favorite Moments and Memories of 2021

As 2021 comes to a close, I plan to spend some time reflecting upon the year that was and the year that will be. Likewise, I plan to share some of my thoughts here. I also hope that you take the time to reflect.

  1. When I think of 2021, I will always think of what I started in 2020 – My health journey. I lost approximately 40 pounds (in addition to the prior 25 pounds in 2020). I walked at least 10,000 every day. NOTE: Current streak is 659 days with 10,000 steps or more. 10,000 steps is approximately 5 miles. My average daily steps is just under 16,000 step or approximately 7 miles per day. My eating has improved. I feel much better now than I did at the begining of 2021. Though I remain 10-12 pounds away from my revised goal and haven’t fully incorporated a fitness routine beyond walking, I still consider 2021 to be a success.
  2. 2021 is the year my youngest child graduated from high school and all that entails. I enjoyed a spring of “final” events. It culminated in his graduation in late May. I enjoyed his final high school tennis season. I enjoyed his graduation ceremony. I enjoyed his graduation party. I enjoyed going to the graduation parties of his friends. Though it was series of final events, it was also a begining of new stage of life for all of us.
  3. 2021 was the year my wife and I celebrated 20 years of marriage. We celebrated the entire year. It seems foolish to celebrate only one day year! We celebrated by returning to Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. We spent our honeymoon there and have been back many times. Yet, it was the first time we had been back to the island in five years. Without a doubt, this was a highlight of our year.
  4. In July, a visit from my mother was fun. I had not seen her since the start of the pandemic. Near as I can tell, a good time was had by all.
  5. Mini-Trips. This year, my wife and I took a series of mini-trips to Minneapolis and Omaha. These trips allowed us to visit our children, visit old friends and make new friends.

This list is not exhaustive. It includes many of my favorite moments from 2021. My initial list was very short. But as I thought about the past year, I recognized all the great moments that happened this past year. What are your greatest moments of 2021?

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Forgiveness

“Forgiveness does not change the past but it does enlarge the future.” Paul Lewis Boese

I’ve written about the importance of focus and facts. The why and the how are essential to creating and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. In future posts, I will write more on each.

Today, I want to briefly touch on the topic that brings it all together. Forgiveness is essential if you are going to succeed. There are too many distractions, temptations, stressors, and other factors which cause us to lose focus. You will stumble and make mistakes in this journey. You must be able to move on when this happens.

According to one dictionary, forgiveness is “to stop feeling anger about (something) : to forgive someone for (something wrong)” Christian tradition talks about the importance of forgiving others who commit sins. The forgiveness allows you to move past the incident in which you were wronged. Forgiving others is essential to a healthy life.

But this post is not about forgiving others. Others didn’t force you to make unhealthy choices. You make the unhealthy choices. You make mistakes. You must learn to forgive yourself when you make the mistakes. Learn from your mistakes but don’t dwell. Learning to forgive yourself slows you to grow your future and move on.

This time of year is challenging. Between the temptation of Christmas parties and Christmas cookies, weight loss is hard. I remember this time last year. I had made good progress in my weight loss journey. Then came Christmas Eve and Christmas day. I deviated from my meal plan. I ate mostly foods that are not healthy. They tasted good but they weren’t healthy.

After Christmas, I stepped on the scale and was devastated. I had gained 8 pounds in a matter of a couple of days. At that moment, I could have given up and said it wasn’t worth it. Instead, I forgave myself for over indulging. I reminded myself that spending time with people that I love eating good food is a good thing. Further, Christmas only comes once a year (except on the Hallmark channel). Fix the problem and move on.

I recommitted to my journey and began anew. I focused on eating healthy again. I explored why such a significant weight gain occurred in such a short period of time. Most of the weight was retained water. I’ve learned that some foods, particularly prepackaged and restaurant foods, contain a lot of sodium. When I eat this kind of food, I quickly gain a large amount of weight. Also, cheese. Really good cheese.

I continued to drink my daily water, eat natural foods, and control my portions. The result was instant. Within a few days, the weight I had gained over Christmas was gone. And I was back on the path to a healthy life. It set me back a week but that’s okay. What is a week compared to a lifetime.

I had a similar experience a couple weekends ago. My wife and I went out of town to visit our son at college. We ate out, drank beer, and had a wonderful time. Yet, upon my return home I was discouraged when I stepped on the scale. But again, I forgave myself and committed to eating healthy again. Things were back to normal within a couple of days.

As you wind through the Christmas season, take moments to enjoy friends and family. Go ahead and eat that cookie. Just don’t eat three cookies. And, if you do eat three cookies, forgive yourself and move on. Your goal should be excellence not perfection.

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The Tool

Over the past couple of months I have blogged about the mindset I needed to achieve my healthier life. In my opinion, mindset is the most important factor. If your mind is not in the game, you will never win.

I have been asked hundreds of times, “How did you do it?” My short answer is eat less. My body burns calories to keep itself going. I consume calories for my body to burn. If I can consume fewer calories than I burn on a consistent basis, I will lose weight. Unless there is some metabolic issue, it really is that simple.

However, there are challenges in finding the right mix of calories. You need calories that sustain you, satisfy you, and are good for you. You need to balance your physical cravings against your emotional cravings. This is not easy.

When I started this journey, I knew I needed help. I needed a tool. As I indicated in previous posts, I have read mini “diet” books. Those books provided short term but not long-term success. I considered Sanford Profile because it has a local presence. I know several people have had success with Profile. Many seem to have short term not long-term success. One person told me “Profile has worked every time I have used it.” After checking into it, I determined Sanford Profile is a solid program. It is backed by science and supported by health professionals. I did not go with Profile because I felt the upfront and ongoing costs were too high. Further, I did not like the calorie restriction that was recommended as I thought it was too restrictive. Finally, I am not a fan of shake based diets. With the above being said, I would encourage people to look at Profile as it may be a good fit for you.

The program I chose was Noom. I had seen multiple advertisements for it. I researched it by reading several articles and reviews. All of the reviews seemed to check the boxes that I was looking for. First, Noom appears safe and backed by proven scientific methods. Second, Noom provides good results. Third, Noom is a fully supported and integrated app. Fourth, Noom doesn’t require subscription to special supplements or shakes. Fifth, Noom is affordable AND there was a 14 day trial period.

If you are interested in using Noom, you can use this link to sign up. This link will give you 20% off and you get a free trial. If you use this link and become a subscriber, I do receive a benefit. I will use the value of any initial proceeds to pay for this subscription to host this blog. All further proceeds will be donated to Dakotabilities where my brother lives.

Over the next few entries, I will write more about Noom. It is not a “perfect” system. However, it is a very good system and it worked for me. Recently, I resubscribed to Noom to help me lose the last 15 pounds of my new goal.

A couple of things about Noom. First, it is based on psychology and science. There is time spent setting goals and discussing the battles inside your mind. Second, it requires a commitment of 10-20 minutes per day. In addition to daily short readings, you must track your food, water and exercise. For many this can be daunting. Third, the app is very good. Having tried to track in the past, Noom is the easiest app I have used to track food. Most of the food at my local grocery stores are in the Noom database. Finally, a favorite feature of the app is the green, yellow, red food categories. Long story short, you want to eat more green than yellow or red. Further, there are no “prohibited” foods.

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Day 30 of Gratitude Challenge

As so today it ends. 30 days of gratitude. So many things to be grateful for in life. Throughout this challenge, I have tried to focus on at least one thing every day to be grateful for. Though there has been some overlap, there have been 30 unique things. Though initially, I struggled with new ideas, the reality is there is much to be grateful about.

For today, I have saved my best for last. The attached picture is of my greatest gratitude. She is the first thing I think of when I wake up in the morning. She is the last thing I think of before I go to sleep. She is constantly on my mind. She is my most ardent supporter and most vocal critic. She loyal, caring, and compassionate. She has her flaws but they don’t really matter to me.

To be clear, she is the person on the right in this picture. We have been together for over 20 years. Today I am grateful for my best friend and wife.

Today is also “Giving Tuesday” in the United States. This is an opportunity to support charities with gifts. Over the holiday season, I plan to make gifts to several charities and challenge all of you to do the same.

I am giving to Dakotabilities – This is where my brother lives and receives service. My oldest brother also received services here until his passing. It is an excellent organization.

I will give to Lifescape – Lifescape is a similar to Dakotabilities. It provides services to adults and children with disabilities. I have been on the Board of Directors at Lifescape for several years serving the last two years as the chair of the board. Tomorrow, I will chair my final meeting before passing the gavel to someone else.

I will give to The Center for Western Studies – I serve on Board of Trustees for this organization which is focused on “Improving the quality of social and cultural life in the Northern Plains … achieving a better understanding of the region, its heritage and its resources … and stimulating interest in the solution to regional problems through the application of knowledge areas of concern to the Center for Western Studies.”

You may give to any organization you wish but I challenge you to give AND post about it. Not to brag but to encourage others to give. I truly believe that gratitude and giving is contagious.

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Day 29 of Gratitude Challenge

“But there’s a story behind everything. How a picture got on a wall. How a scar got on your face. Sometimes the stories are simple, and sometimes they are hard and heartbreaking. But behind all your stories is always your mother’s story, because hers is where yours begin.” – Mitch Albom

Those that know me, know this topic is a bit more complex for me than others. Though I am unbelievably grateful for my birth mother, this post will focus on my adoptive mother.

The picture above is of my mother long before she ever knew I would be a part of her life. My mother was an amazing woman. While growing up, she was always there for our family. She always put our needs ahead of hers. She did so many things but mostly she made me feel safe and loved. Today, I am grateful for my mother. Take time today to be grateful for your mother. Focus on the good.

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Day 28 of Gratitude Challenge

First, I would like to say how happy and thankful I am that Michigan beat Ohio State yesterday. I truly don’t measure the value of my life based on a sporting event, but it felt good to cheer them on to victory. Pair it with a Minnesota Vikings win over the Green Packers a week ago – GOOD WEEK.

Yesterday I wrote about my gratitude for pictures. They capture moments and trigger memories. The picture attached to this post is of my father at the helm of his sailboat. What strikes me about this picture is the joy and happiness in his face. Clearly sailing was one of his joys. I wonder what he is thinking about in this picture?

However, this is not the father I remember. My father was a strict perfectionist. He demanded a great deal from us. But he never demanded more from us than he demanded of himself. Growing up with him was very stressful. Unfortunately, some of these traits have passed on to me (I am sorry to my family).

That said, my father gave his all for our family. He loved us deeply and was driven by a need to provide for us. He didn’t always express his love in a positive way. He taught me many lessons and played a major role in shaping me into the person I am today. There is no doubt I am a far better person because of my father. I wish he was still here. I could chose to focus on the negative aspects of my father. Today (and hopefully other days going foward), I choose to focus on the positive impact my father had on my life. I am grateful for my father. The good, the bad and the ugly. Take time to grateful for your father today.

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Day 27 of Gratitude Challenge

There are are only a few days left in the gratitude challenge. Back on Day 4, I asked you to be grateful for happy moments or memories in your life. The last couple of days we focused on family.

Today, I am grateful for pictures. Pictures can capture moments reminding of us memories. The picture with this post captures a funny moment in my life. For whatever reason, we thought it would be a good idea for my sister to curl my hair. The picture was taken by mom with her beloved Polaroid instant camera (this was a big deal in the 70s). Honestly, for a long time I was embarrassed by this picture – perhaps I still should be. But when I saw yesterday, I smiled.

Today, I am grateful for pictures. I am grateful for the moments that pictures capture. Take time today to find a favorite picture (or two). Post the pictures and tell us why you are grateful.

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Day 25 of Gratitude Challenge

Today is Thanksgiving. It is a day where we celebrate the blessings of the last year. I plan to spend the day eating with my family, watching football, and cleaning the house for The Gathering. I’m going to take several moments to be grateful for the gifts of the last year.

Here are a few things I am grateful for, over the last year:

  1. Family
  2. 20 years of marriage
  3. Family
  4. Graduation of youngest son
  5. Visiting oldest son several times
  6. Youngest so goes to college
  7. Improved health
  8. Return to the classroom
  9. Return to the office
  10. 1st shot
  11. 2nd Shot
  12. Booster shot
  13. Ginger – The best mini golden doodle

I am grateful for those who read this blog. What are you grateful for? Today, I challenge you to make a gratitude list and post it.

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Day 23 of the Gratitude Challenge

Short post today – Today, the weather forecast for the upper plains is unseasonably warm with no precipitation. I am grateful for this weather today. My youngest son is driving home from college. Additionally, my students will driving home for Thanksgiving break today. With the great weather forecast, my son and my students should have fewer problems getting home. For that, I am grateful. I also hope to take a walk outside and enjoy the weather.

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Day 22 of the Gratitude Challenge

Everything is better after the Minnesota Vikings defeat the Green Packers. Also, it is Thanksgiving week. For many in the US, this means at least one day off from work, spending time with family and friends, shopping, and overeating. It also means that one can begin to listen to Christmas tunes.

My Thanksgivings as an adult are not the same as those of my youth. Growing up, our family celebrated Thanksgiving with another family (in later years, we added another family). We rotated which family hosted the meal. After the meal, the kids would play games while the adults debated and solved the problems of the world. I really miss those Thanksgivings. I am so grateful for those Thanksgivings.

In recent years, my family and parents in-law have gathered for a Thanksgiving meal often while watching the Detroit Lions play. We will do the same this year. In addition, my wife’s extended family gets together on the Saturday after Thanksgiving for what is known as The Gathering. The Gathering usually consists of three generations brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins. Usually there are about 25-30 people in one place telling stories, eating, and laughing. Though it has been a part of my life for over 20 years, it still feels like a new tradition to me.

This year, we are hosting The Gathering. It is a lot of work to prepare for the event. My wife does an amazing job of coordinating all the details. And so our week will be spent preparing and gathering with family.

This year, I am looking forward to this week. Our youngest child be home for a few days. We will get at least two fantastic meals. We will spend time with family and friends. So today, I am grateful for the week to come. I am also grateful that Vikings defeated the Packers What’s something you look forward to in the future?

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Day 21 of Gratitude Challenge

I read this quote the other day “When in doubt, just say thank you. There is no downside. Are you honestly worried about showing too much gratitude to the people in your life?” It made me think do I say thank you enough? The answer is no. There is little downside to showing too much gratitude

Today, pay attention to how many times you say thank you. Make an effort to say it more often and see what happens to your mood and those around you.

Thank you to those who read this blog. It probably helps me more than it helps others. But I am grateful to be able to share some of my stories.

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Day 20 of the Gratitude Challenge

There is so much I want to say today. Because I keep these Gratitude posts short, I will save many of the ideas for another day.

The picture attached to this post represents so many things. It is 1 of approximately 1200 photos I took at a college volleyball match yesterday. It is 1 of 40 photos I took trying to capture the image you see. It is, perhaps, one of the best photos I’ve taken. We often fail many many times before we succeed. It’s important to enjoy the journey and be grateful for the chances we get.

Yet, this picture is so much more. The facility, the Sanford Pentagon, which hosted this event is absolutely amazing. The event was the first sporting event I’ve been to since before the pandemic that felt like a sporting event. The atmosphere was electric. For these things I am grateful.

But what truly makes the picture special are the people in it. I cannot find adequate word to express my gratitude for this team. So today, I am grateful for many things but mostly I’m grateful for the students and the athletes at my university.

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Day 19 of Gratitude Challenge

It’s been one year since I took the picture. One year of change I never thought would happen. One year of steady improvement.

I began this journey alone and unhappy. I began not knowing where to start. But I made the decision to change. My advice – make the decision about why then work on the how.

Over the last year, I have received so much encouragement and support from family and friends. Thank you it made a difference. I haven’t been perfect but I have improved. And more importantly, I could not have done it without the encouragement. I am grateful for all the kindness.

Today’s challenge is for you to thank a friend and family member. Call, text, email, message, Snap, What’s App or snail mail them. Just thank this person for something they did.

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Day 17 of Gratitude Challenge

Yesterday was an absolutely beautiful day where I live. It was near 70 degrees and mostly sunny. It was amazing weather for November. I was so grateful for the weather that I spent about an hour walking along one of our nature trails. While it meant I had to do some work at home later, it was worth it. I was so grateful for the nice weather and a flexible job that allows me to take a walk. The weather forecast for today is not as warm BUT it looks like it will be sunny.

Today is my grandmother’s birthday. She passed many years ago at the age of 97. When she was born a couple of years before the Wright Brothers historic flight. By the time she passed away, man had been to the moon and back. She lived through two world wars, a depression, the Spanish flu pandemic and basically everything else that happened in the 20th century. She didn’t smoke but she did eat eggs and bacon. She drank in moderation. She never joined a health club. She lived on her own until she was 96. Overall, she had very good health and lived long life.

I have had relatively few health problems in my life. When I look at my family and friends, I recognize how lucky I am. My father had heart issues. My mother had Parkinson Disease. Both my brothers were born with significant physical and mental disabilities. I have had friends die of cancer and other ailments.

So today, take time to be grateful for your health. Even if your health isn’t perfect, be grateful for the health that you have. Be grateful for health care workers and medicine. Thank a health care worker today.

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Day 15 of Gratitude Challenge

I’m told that when he was born he was not expected to live more than 10 years. He defied the odds and lived almost 60 years.

14 months ago he contracted Covid and died 11 days later. In the first few months after his death, I vacillated between anger and sadness. Overtime, I made efforts to focus on gratitude. Gratitude for the memories I have. Gratitude for the lessons he taught me. Gratitude for the love he gave. Gratitude for the years he was alive. Gratitude for all he gave to me.

I’m still sad and occasionally angry. But mostly I am grateful to have had a brother like him. Today is his birthday. I’ll celebrate by taking some time to bee grateful for his life.

Today’s challenge requires you to think about somebody who has passed on and do so with gratitude for all the gifts they left for you.

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Day 14 of Gratitude Challenge

“Moments of pause are especially powerful when combined with gratitude and feelings of love. I had a medical school professor who struggled with the demands of being a mother, doctor, teacher, researcher, and administrator. Finding time to meditate or go on a retreat was a near impossibility for her, but whenever she washed her hands before seeing a patient, she would let the warm water run over her hands for a few extra seconds and think of something she was grateful for—the opportunity to be a part of the patient’s healing, the health of her family, the joy of teaching a student earlier that morning. She was one of the first people to teach me that the power of gratitude can be delivered in the smallest of moments . . . and those moments have the power”

— Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World by Vivek H Murthy M.D.

My challenge today is find the small moments. Celebrate them and be grateful.

I had a couple of gratitude moments yesterday. I took time to pause and relish in the joy and gratitude. First, I had lunch with my entire family. Because we live in three different states, a brief lunch is so incredibly special. Second, I had dinner with some close friends. We shared old and new stories. I’m so grateful for the power of human connection.

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Day 13 of the Gratitude Challenge

One of the goals of this challenge is to focus on the little things in life that make a difference. I believe that little changes can make a big difference. You don’t need to make one large change to improve your life. Improve a little each day and see what happens.

The photo in this post is from one of my happiest places in the world. It is near where I grew up. Whenever I visit this place, I have a sense of joy and peace. Today, I am grateful for my hometown and where I grew up. I know it wasn’t perfect but it is home. While I miss the Black Hills, I am grateful I was able to grow up in such a nature wonderland. It shaped who I am am and how I view the word. Take time today to think about something you are grateful about from your hometown.

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Day 12 of Gratitude Challenge

Over the past year, I gave special attention to the words that I use. Are the words helping me towards my goal? This time last year, I was sad and angry. I focused on all the bad that was happening around me. Now, I focus on controlling my reaction to a situation. I find the good. I use empowering language. I am so grateful how this shift in language has improved my life.

The challenge today is to focus on the words you use (both internally and externally). Find at least one thing in your life that is good. Take time to be grate for the good things. Ask yourself what is great about today? Given the current weather conditions this could be more difficult today!

I will spend time today thinking about my family and friends. I am extremely grateful for the love and kindness they show me. And a bonus gratitude, it’s date night with my wife. We will enjoy our weekly date.

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Day 11 of Gratitude Challenge

In 1938, the United States made November 11 a legal holiday. It was originally called Armistice Day to honor the end of World War I. It is interesting to note that as World War I was wrapping up, the Spanish Flu pandemic was ramping up. In 1954, Congress changed the name of the holiday to “Veterans Day” to honor ALL who have served in our military.

Today, I proudly and publicly state my gratitude and support for all those who have served. Thank you for your service. Thank you for putting your life on the line so that others can have freedom. Thank you for keeping the world safer. Thank you.

Though I have not served, many close to me have. My father, my father-in-law, my grandfather and several of my uncles have served. Some of my friends have served. Thank you.

Today, thank a veteran. Buy him/ her a coffee or a meal. Reflect on you have because of our veterans.

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Day 10 of Gratitude Challenge

I hope you were able to get outside yesterday. It was another beautiful day. Did you notice the many joys nature provides?

Last night, after thinking about nature and all it’s joys, I took time to listen to some music. I don’t sit and listen to music as often as I like. I pulled up an apple music playlist titled ’80s Movie Essentials. Just glancing at the list of songs immediately transported me to earlier time in my life. First, I listened to “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” by Starship. (Bonus points for those who remember what movie that is from without looking it up!) Then I listened to “Purple Rain” by Prince & the Revolution. If you grew up in the upper Midwest in the ’80s, Prince was everything.

Each song reminded me of different phases of my life (high school and college). I thought about how music and movies permeated so many of my experiences at that age. I thought about friends and acquaintances from that time in my life. Many of these people I have connected with on social media. Some I haven’t seen in years. Sadly, others have passed.

Music is powerful. Good music can permeate and envelop you. Good music triggers emotion. So today, listen to some music and be grateful. If the music reminds you of someone, reach out to that person and let them know you are thinking of them.

If I went to high school or college with you and you are reading this blog, odds are your were in my thoughts last night. I’m grateful you have been a part of this journey we call life.

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Day 9 of Gratitude Challenge

Yesterday was an beautiful fall day where I live. The high temperature was 59 degrees. I did not have an opportunity to enjoy it much. Today the forecast is about 5 degrees cooler and still a very nice day for my area of the world. Yet a look forward indicates that we might get some snow on Friday – which may make the gratitude challenge fun for some!

The challenge for today is simply this. Get outside in and around nature. What do you notice? What is special? See any wildlife? What does fall smell like where you are? How about the colors? Just be grateful for the beauty of nature and how it teases your senses. Have a great day!

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Day 8 of Gratitude Challenge

I recently read How to Change: The Science of Getting From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be by Katy Milkman. The book is an interesting and insightful look into how we can make change happen. Milkman writes “[I]f you want to change your behavior or someone else’s, you’re at a huge advantage if you begin with a blank slate – a fresh start- and no old habits working against you.” Of course, this is easier said than done. She further writes that “[w]e’re more likely to pursue change on dates that feel like new beginnings because these moments help us overcome a common obstacle to goal initiation: the sense that we’ve failed before and will, thus, fail again…This explains why every Monday, I’m sure the week ahead will be more productive than the last.”

I intentionally started this challenge on the FIRST day of the month which conveniently fell on a Monday. A double fresh start.

The pandemic has created more opportunities for fresh starts and provided a chance to focus on what is important. Remember during the height of the pandemic when everybody was wearing mask? You could see no expression. No compassion. No care. No joy. Just eyes hiding behind a mask.

As the pandemic winds downs and we take our masks off, we can see faces again. So today, give smiles and see what happens. Smile at yourself in the mirror. Smile at strangers. Smile at coworkers. Smile on the phone. Smile on Zoom. I bet at least one person smiles back. Be grateful for gift of human expression and emotion. Happy Monday!

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Day 7 Gratitude Challenge

As we wrap up week 1, take time to think about your week. What went well? Did being grateful help? Did being grateful change your mood? As I indicated yesterday, I don’t always feel the mood shift. However, I keep trying because being grateful for all that life offers is better than be ungrateful.

Yesterday, I did take my dog to a local coffee house. She enjoyed the outing and being around people. Additionally, I paid it forward by purchasing coffee for some people and left a tip for the employees. The employees were very grateful. I left before I found out who received the coffee. I hope they enjoyed it. I hope someday they too pay it forward.

Today’s challenge is simple. Take time time today to tell someone you love them. List at least three thing about them that you love. Thank them for all they do. Then do it again.

Outside London

I apologize for the break between posts. I unsuccessfully attempted to dedicate writing time while traveling. Instead, I took a much-needed break from everything. I spent time in the present with my spouse and friends. But as promised, the next couple of posts will be about my travel adventures. Travel is good for the soul.

When last we met, we were leaving London. I noted some differences between pre-pandemic London and post-pandemic London. We traveled from London to Maidenhead via train (as I write this post, it could be more challenging to do this with rail strikes occurring). For a visitor, travel by train in the UK is very easy and very affordable if you buy in advance and travel off peak. I recommend everyone utilize the public transportation options in the UK and Europe.

Upon arrival in Maidenhead, we were reunited with a long-time (40+ years) and very dear friend. We have not seen her or her family since January 2020. It was wonderful to reconnect.

Our friends live in the English countryside near Henley-on-Thames. Henley has an amazing history. George Orwell spent his formative years in Henly and Russell Brand reportedly calls Henley home. However, Henley is most known for its annual rowing regatta which I hope to attend someday. If you are looking for the quintessential English experience, go to Henley. Walk along the Thames, visit the rowing museum, and visit the shops.

This visit to Henley was about visiting friends. They graciously invite us into their home for a few days and show us around the area. What I most enjoy are the walks in the countryside. There are many dedicated public paths and options available. In less than an hour, you can walk along the Thames, through a forest, through a deer park, and to a pub. Since walking is one of the best things you can do for your health, we spent much of our time walking around the countryside.

When not walking around the countryside, we were walking through gardens. People take their gardens very seriously in this part of the world. The climate is very suitable to have a great garden. It doesn’t have the extremes you see in South Dakota. While we were there, the days warmed to around 70 degrees and cooled to the mid-fifties at night. There were few pesky bugs and the air quality was very good. As I wandered through the gardens, I wondered whether one could achieve similar results where I live. So many beautiful flowers and grasses in the gardens. Perhaps that will be a summer project for me.

But the best part of the visit to this area involved time spent with friends conversing about life, food, wine, politics, and business. The discussion were interesting, intellectual, and informative. I am reminded the pandemic reduced the opportunities for these kinds of discussions. It was wonderful to share them again.

After three full days, it was time to move on to new adventures. Next stop – Edinburgh.