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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.