Behind Every Picture is a Story

It’s been a while since I posted here. I could provide a list of excuses but that is all they are. Today, I want to talk about pictures, the stories they tell, and the stories behind them.

I have always loved taking pictures. From my first Kodak Instamtic to my present Nikon Z6, I have loved to capture moments. I don’t like to stage the moments (which is why I abhor portrait photography). I refused to spend money on a “good” camera for many years because it was just a hobby. Then one year I asked my wife to buy me a camera for Christmas – which she did!

I started by taking pictures of the birds in our backyard. When the snow melted, I took pictures of my son playing tennis.

Any parent who has watched his/her child compete in sports understands how nerve-racking this can be. I found it calmed my nerves. It allowed me to enjoy watching my son and his friends play without excessive nervousness. So I kept doing it.

Taking pictures of my son playing tennis evolved into taking pictures of my son, his team, and his friends. Eventually, I started taking pictures at Augustana sporting events. Sharing the pictures with the student-athletes and coaches. (I have taken pictures at all sports except golf (I tried but got the time wrong), track, and cross-country (maybe someday).

(still my favorite picture)

Truth is, I am not very good but I occasionally get lucky. I have no formal training. For every picture that turns out, there are ten failures. I have spent countless hours going through the pictures and deleting them. Nobody sees that side of the hobby.

I try to capture moments – like this.

And action like this.

Behind every picture is a story. The picture at the top of this post has a great story. I will think of the story every time I look at it. It’s not a great-quality picture BUT it captured a moment. The picture is of legendary Augustana basketball coach Dave Krauth. Since 1989, he has been the Head Women’s Basketball coach at Augustana University. Thirty-two seasons with only one season below .500. He coached his last game this week. A heartbreaking one-point loss in the NCAA Tournament.

I took this picture a couple of weeks ago. It was taken during the pregame of his final coaching win. I was wandering around the arena during warmups. As Coach Krauth was heading into the locker room, a fan named Scottie (if have been to Augie games you know who this is) began thanking Coach Krauth for his service and wishing him good luck in the game. It was a special conversation. As the conversation started, my camera was off and the lens cap was on. I noticed the smile on Coach Krauth’s face. It was genuine, kind, and rare in the arena. Quickly, I turned my camera on, removed the lens cap, and tried to capture the moment.

My autofocus didn’t fully focus and my framing was off. Yet, I mostly captured this moment. This picture will always be special to me because I know the story behind the picture. And now you know the rest of the story.

Day 29 Gratitude Challenge

It is late November in the upper plains. This means cooler (cold) weather and shorter days. It also means snow. This morning I woke up to snow on the ground. While I am grateful for the beauty and moisture of the snowfall, this is not the focus of the post today.

Today I am thinking about my parents. I am thinking about the decisions and sacrifices they made to provide me with the opportunities I had. Not all are as fortunate as I am. The older I get, the more I realize this.

My parents made sure my basic needs were met. I never had to worry if there would be enough food or if we would have a home. I have always had an abundance of clothes (even if my parents would t buy the new Nike and instead purchased the Keds knockoff!😜)

After years of parenting through the Great Recession and the pandemic, I realize how challenging it must have been for my parents. Were they perfect? No. Did they make mistakes? Probably. However, they did the best they could with the tools they were given. In my opinion, they did a damn great old job. My faults and flaws are of my own making, not theirs. Unfortunately, my parents have passed and I can’t personally thank them for all they did. Perhaps you can take some time to think about your parents today. Think about the sacrifices they made for you. Did they attend your performances, concerts, recitals, games, and/or conferences? If so, they gave up something to be there. If your parents are still living, give them a call or write a letter. Let them know about the good things they did for you.

And one final thing, nothing screams “I love you” more than 70s fashion. The wide white belt and a turtleneck. Enjoy the picture.

Day 24 Gratitude Challenge

Today is Thanksgiving. Many have the day off from work. Many will gather with friends and family to overeat, watch football, and tell stories. What a fantastic tradition to gather In gratitude with those you care about.

Today I am reminded of past Thanksgivings. Growing up we shared Thanksgiving with close family friends. I have many great memories from those gatherings. In more recent years, our family gathers at a local club for amazing food and disappointing football (my youngest is a Detroit Lions fan). We gather again with a larger group (three generations) in a couple of days.

Today, rather than blog to start the day, my faithful companion took me for a walk. During the walk, I took time to think about all the things I am grateful for. I am grateful for my family and friends. I am grateful for my health and the health of those I care about. I am grateful for my home. I am grate for the opportunities I have. I am grateful for my job, my coworkers, customers, and organization. I am grateful for so much more than listed here but this is a start.

Todays’s challenge is to make a list. Make it a long list. What are you grateful for? Include everything whether big or small.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving. Thanks for reading.

Day 21 Gratitude Challenge

“Showing gratitude is one of the simplest yet most powerful things humans can do for each other.”

— Randy Pausch

Today the challenge is simple. Show gratitude towards others. Be conscious of saying thank you to others. Keep track of how many times you say it today. Pay attention to how people respond to your gratitude.

Also, be gentle with Viking fans. They might be a little sensitive today.

Day 14- Gratitude Challenge

The other day someone asked me if writing this blog daily was difficult. I asked the person for clarification. “Don’t you run out of gratitude ideas?” My response was, “Absolutely not. In fact, it is the opposite. I only have 30 days and there is so much to be grateful for and ways to express it.”

Gratitude includes ideas, thoughts, words, and ideas that focus your mind on abundance. While I have a plan for each day, I sometimes alter the plan based on mood, world events, and Vikings football games. I worry that I will leave out important people, ideas, thoughts, and things in this challenge. For instance, today’s post will focus on a very specific group of people for whom I am deeply grateful. This doesn’t mean I am not grateful for others. If you are reading this, I am grateful for your support. Even if you don’t read this, I am grateful for you. If you made someone’s life better today, I am grateful for you. If you play for the Minnesota Vikings, I am grateful for you. Get the point?

But today is about special groups. I have been fortunate to have been a part of many special groups in my life. Today I want to focus on a group that has been a great source of support, joy, and pride over the last few years.

I started going to Augie Volleyball games many years ago when my youngest son was still in elementary school. It was a way to spend time with him and support my students. Over the years, my attendance became more frequent, I became somewhat of a super fan, and rarely missed a home game. I still have no idea what happens. I cannot tell the difference between a 6-2, 5-1, or 10-4 scheme. I don’t understand blocking or defensive schemes. But it is an exciting sport to watch. But I digress..

Four years ago, I agreed to teach a class that included freshman volleyball and soccer players. In my 16 years at Augustana, this was my favorite class. All the students in that class are amazing and have a special place in my heart (I hope they all read that sentence). All are going to do great things in this world.

However, the freshman volleyball players chose to take another class with me. In the class, I hoped to focus on Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos. I loved the students in the class. Notably, the class holds the record for the most pizza fines. However, it was my least favorite class ever for two reasons. First, the class was forced to “pivot” online at the beginning of the pandemic. Second, it was full of unnecessary academic oversight and bureaucracy. But again, I digress.

This gratitude post is about the Augie Volleyball team. They are an amazing group. I am particularly grateful for the six who were a part of the best and worst classes in my academic career. It is no coincidence that I was wearing an Augustana Volleyball hoodie when I made a decision to change my life two years ago. I am appreciative of how hard these players work both on and off the court. They inspire me. Three teammates will graduate this year. One will become a nurse, another is going into marketing, and one will transition into a management or marketing role. I can’t wait to see how they change the world.

Three of the original six will play another season (Covid gave students an extra year if they wanted). Yet, “the group” played their last game on Friday night. It wasn’t the result I hoped for. The night before, the team defeated the number 2 team in the nation in a five set thriller. It was the second time this season they beat a top-five team. When they played at their best, it was magical. Over the years, I have enjoyed all of the players and teams. But as discussed above, this team is special.

The picture attached to this post is serendipitous (or fate). As background, in recent years I have visited one of the first practices for many of the fall sports. When I stopped by volleyball this year, they were taking their team pictures. Both the photographer and the team suggested I pose with many of the players (the freshman were wondering who the heck is this old guy and why is he taking pictures with the team?) This picture is something I will cherish. I am so grateful for this program, the players, and the coaches involved.

The challenge today is to think about a special group of people (not your family). What makes this group special? Why are you grateful for this group? Reach out to all, most, or some of the group and express your gratitude.

Day 11 – Gratitude Challenge

For many, today is a holiday. It is a day off from work. But it is, and should be, so much more. It is Veterans Day.

In 1926, Congress passed the following:

Whereas the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed, and

Whereas it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations; and

Whereas the legislatures of twenty-seven of our States have already declared November 11 to be a legal holiday: Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), that the President of the United States is requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on November 11 and inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.

Millions of people have served our country, including many I care deeply about. My grandfather, father, uncles, cousins, and many others have served. So today, I am grateful for the veterans, living and dead, who served our country honorably.

Day 8 Gratitude Challenge

Yesterday was a success. I paid it forward at a local coffee shop. I didn’t make the impulse buy. I complained less than usual. College basketball is back on. It was a god day.

Today is Election Day. I am grateful the unnecessary mail, television ads, and door knocking will be reduced. While I am grateful for the opportunity to vote, I don’t like the negativity of the election cycle.

Recently, I was decluttering. This is a never ending process in my house. I found a letter written to my dad by a friend when my dad was in the hospital. The letter said “Please take good care of yourself and take it easy. We need a healthy Dr. Harris in South Dakota. I am grateful that you are on the mend.” I remember that illness. My dad almost died. I can only imagine the impact the letter I had on my father.

The challenge today is to put down your devices. Get off social media (after you read this) and take time to write a letter of gratitude to someone that has made a difference in your life. Then mail the letter Delivery by hand, interoffice mail, or carrier pigeon are acceptable methods too. Bonus points if you send more than one.

Not sure who is worthy of a note? Here is a possible list – grandparents, parents, spouse, child, sibling, coworker, mentor, teacher, professor, or candidate for public office (just have a dialogue change if we sent notes thanking candidates rather than throwing beer cans or attacking with hammers).

One final thought, do you want to take this challenge to the next level? Perform two of the previous challenges each day. Imagine how you will feel if you write a note, pay it forward, and do not complain all day. Imagine how others would respond if you did so. Imagine a better world.

Momento Mori

Today is a day of reflection for me. Two years ago, I went to bed unaware my life was about to change. My oldest brother Jeff had tested positive for Covid-19 ten days prior. He was holding his own and showing mild symptoms. Many, myself included, thought he was going to survive. Yet, at around 2am, a police officer notified us that my brother had passed.

My brother was the 200th person in my state to die with Covid. As of this writing, the number of deaths is over 3,000. I don’t wish to argue about the pandemic. Rather, I want to talk about one of the things the pandemic taught me.

The pandemic taught me life is precious. It can be taken in a moment. The pandemic also reminded me that we are all mortal. We will all die. Towards that end, each day is important. It is important to embrace what life gives you each day.

So I close by asking a favor, before you go to bed tonight (and every night), tell those you love how much they mean to you. For if something should happen before you wake, let the final words be ones of love and gratitude.

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 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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