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.

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.

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.

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.