Bittersweet Blueberry Muffins

Like most Sunday mornings I awoke at 6:30 to start making Blueberry Muffins. Maybe it is the coffee, or the quiet of the house, or the playlist I listen to, but I always find myself thinking about life as I get out the eggs, pour the milk, and get the muffin mix ready for the cupcake pans. I wish I could say that this post will be positive, but today the muffins were bittersweet.

As you know we have blueberry muffins every Sunday morning. We have added chocolate chips muffins (after trying out a few different kinds), scrambled eggs, and sausage or bacon to our breakfast routine. Time has forced some changes on our family.

So, let me take you back a few days. One evening my oldest son asked if I remembered this song:

This was a favorite song when he was younger. His younger brother was in the living room at the time and all three of us sang along. It was a reminder of a time when life was simpler. But now, as teenage boys, they have already learned some hard lessons about life. They have had their hearts broken, they have had their trust broken by adults. And sadly, through different avenues, they have learned that hard work alone doesn’t pay off. (That is for another blog.) Yet, for a few minutes we were back in time, riding in the minivan, singing along to Kids Place Live.

Jump to this morning…

As I was making breakfast my youngest daughter appears in the living room, ready to play My Little Pony. She scampers over to the kitchen, eyes wide, smile wider, a few My Little Ponies in her hand. She asks if I am making muffins. I answer yes. She replies, “I love muffins.” Then returns to the living room to play.

As I mix the batter for the chocolate chip muffins I consider how life changes for us. No matter how much I want to be Holden and keep my children from falling off the cliff in the middle of a rye field, I know that I am helpless to do that. Even our tradition of blueberry muffins has changed because our family has.

But I smile, too, as I place the pans into the oven. Blueberry next to chocolate chip. The heart of our tradition is still there. And that won’t change, no matter how much time passes.

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Decisions in Seconds

I am still amped-up. Less than 30 minutes ago I was almost in a serious accident.

This is a diagram of downtown Hastings, which has a number of one way streets. Second street is a one way street (west to east) downtown. I had to drop off some mail at the post office this morning. I was heading south on Colorado, which is one way also. There is a light at the intersection of Second and Colorado, but it only faces the traffic flow of the one way streets. I was half a block away from the intersection when the light turned green. My lane has a green arrow (Colorado turns into two-way traffic after the light) and I slow down a little to make the turn. The roads are still snow packed from the snow storm on Sunday. That’s when I notice the headlights of a beer truck coming the wrong way on Second street, right where I am supposed to turn.

I wish I could tell you everything slowed down in my mind and I handled the situation like a hero. It didn’t. I remember everything now. But at that moment everything seemed to move into hyper drive.

I could see the truck’s left turn signal blinking on the hood of the truck. I remember thinking in my head, “What is he doing?” because he doesn’t seem to be stopping. There is no traffic light for him because he is traveling the wrong way on the Second street.

Decisions. Choices. Sometimes we see the results of our decisions immediately. Sometimes the effects of our decisions manifest themselves later; maybe a minute, a day, a year, or sometimes never. Making a decision can be a heavy responsibility… in fact every decision we make actually creates the life we live. And most of the time our decisions affects other people’s’ lives. I don’t know when the driver of the truck decided to drive down the wrong way. I don’t know why he chose to do it. Maybe he didn’t want to navigate the extra turns it takes to get through all the one way streets downtown, so he decided to take a short cut. What I do know is that his decisions and my decisions (to drop of the mail and drive down a certain street) was about to meet at the intersection of Second and Colorado.

I decide not to slam on the brakes to try to stop. The intersection was snow packed and helped me in this case. I was able to drift into the right lane on Second street. Missing the truck who also decided not to stop and turned left onto Colorado to drive away. I came to a stop to watch his taillights disappear at the corner of a building.

Decisions. Choices. Some of them seem more important than others. But in reality, every one of them matters. Everyone of them makes an impact in our lives. Makes an impact on other people’s’ lives. This morning I am glad that the driver’s choices and mine did not collide, literally.

 

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Snow Steps

I arrived at work just before 7 o’clock. The maintenance crew is sweeping the snow from the parking lot, but the section I usually park in is untouched. It is an unblemished field of white. I feel guilty pulling into, what I hope is, my parking spot. I have no idea if I am between the yellow lines. I know I am close because I recognize the shape of the bush that I park by.

I collect my computer, coffee cup, and my Vikings Tervis cup. The air is cold. It quickly hurts my nostrils. My breath a heavy cloud in front of me. I watch as maintenance zooms around the parking lot in their little tractors, sweeping away the snow. I head to my office, snow lightly crunching under my feet as I traverse across the white stillness. My mind heavy with life and work. On an impulse I turn to take a picture of my steps for my 365 project.

Foot prints in snow.

As I put my phone back into my pocket I think about how I am the first person to walk on this snow this morning. Then how in a few minutes the maintenance guys will clear away my steps. How more cars will settler in their spots for the day, and when I walk back to my car my steps will be gone. If it warms up enough, there will only be slush left on the concrete.

But isn’t that life? Isn’t this a metaphor for every morning of our lives? Each day we are given the opportunity to make our mark on the day. Yes, life, and other people, will impact our day. Our lives are all connected, we can not or should not shy away from that fact. And yes, some days it feels like we have to find our way back to the car by jumping puddles or stomping off slush from our shoes before we go home.

But that is the point. Our lives are worth making those steps each day. Even knowing that the prints may be gone by the end of the day because we know we took them. My hands (or feet) will never be saved in concrete. I know my life is meant to walk in snow, that my prints are only seen by me. And that is OK because I made them, crooked left step and all.

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2018 Word of the Year

Happy New Year!

As we have done for four years, each person in my family has decided on a word for the year. My word is:

Ferris Wheel with the caption, Center Word for 2018

This one is unique in the sense that it encompasses many different parts of my life, yet brings everything to a central point (yes, I know what I just did there).

I am not sure what the next year will bring. I have goals I want to achieve. But this year I am concentrating on my center. I think that this work will have a domino effect on the success of my goals. When I think about my word, obviously, a wheel comes to mind, but it is a true metaphor for what I want to accomplish. It seems like all the action is on the outskirts of a wheel. It is there that you see the movement. The turning. The center seems to not move at all, but without a strong center the wheel can not move. Ever see a wheel when the axle is off center? How it wobbles, how hard it is to control.

A strong center is needed for a wheel to move, to spin, to make progress.

I have goals to meet this year, but I am only going to make it by strengthening the center… What is your word for this year?

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Find Faith in the Battle

The lyric above comes from a song, “Fix My Eyes,” by for King & Country.

 

This is a postcard I have kept from my coaching days at Pawnee City, it is on my cubical wall right above my computer.

On January 20, 2013, David Goggins broke the world record for the most pull-ups in 24 hours, 4,030. But he actually failed twice before he broke the record. In an interview on Impact Theory with Tom Bilyeu, David shares that he did 67,000 pull-ups just in training for the record.

What goal are you pursuing today? Or is that goal on the back burner, always nagging at you but life, job, car payment, or any other reason you want to talk about keeps getting in the way.

You can’t achieve anything unless you’re in the process of achieving it. You can write your goal down, post it on Twitter, even have a Vision Board. But until you put yourself in the middle of actually doing something to achieve that goal, nothing will change.

I know all the hurdles, the fears, the doubts, I fight them, too. But you don’t know your strength, you don’t know your heart, until you fight for that goal. Yes, you will fail. Get knocked down. It will hurt.

Get back up because that simple, powerful motion will reveal more about you than any mirror.

We find more than faith in our battles, we find ourselves.

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Blueberry Muffins: Update

Last night my iPhone alerted me that there was an iOS update. I set my phone to update during the night. This morning as I was preparing to make blueberry muffins my phone alerted me that it did not process the update because the phone was not connected to a power source.

I started to think about that alert message as I got out the mixing bowls, muffin mix and other ingredients for our Sunday breakfast. Could not update because it wasn’t connected to a power source.

As so often happens I started to think about life. Maybe it was the early hour of the morning or that I had not had my coffee yet, but that alert message got me thinking on a deep level.

Could not update because it wasn’t connected to a power source.

Isn’t that true for us?

Let me explain.

First, updating or improving ourselves. Whatever we want to improve; our health, attitude, the way we treat people. It is an act of updating. Updating ourselves to a new level. As coaches and teachers, we ask our students and athletes to do that, to become the best version of themselves.

Second, a power source. This is where my thoughts got deep… Because isn’t this the truth? That we can’t truly update ourselves unless we are connected to a power source. What that power source is, is up to the individual. It can be God, Love (as I have blogged about in my Love series), personal standards, goals, or other sources that provide a WHY for our lives.

Be honest, think of the times you tried to change something in your life… why did you succeed? Why did you fail? I bet the difference was because of your power source, your why. As I thought about my own kids, my past students, and athletes, I succeed at helping them be their best when I could articulate for them why it was important or tapped into their power source. Change takes time, it is difficult.

We can try all we want to do things better, but without a power source we will always get the alert that the update could not be completed.

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It’s Time to Run in the Rain

Muddy path between trees.

Like so many other times, life finds a way to reveal a lesson to me through unique events. This time it was my son’s conference cross country meet and a motivational YouTube video. Both of them showed me the importance of running in the rain.

First my oldest son.

Last week he set his personal record (PR) by over a minute at his conference cross country meet.  What was even more impressive is that he did it during a rainy day. Now it wasn’t a downpour when he ran, but it had rained all day, and the course was affected (the title picture is part of the course). My son didn’t complain. He ran. He ran the best time of his career.

A couple of days ago I came across a motivational YouTube video that highlighted speeches by Eddie Pinero (a motivational speaker and founder of the site: Your World Within). One section of the video had Eddie Pinero using the example of getting up early to run but it is raining. He expanded on the importance of getting out of bed and running in the rain, even though no one would blame you for staying in bed. But that doesn’t get you toward your goal.

These two separate moments highlighted for me – and this is a vulnerable statement from me – how I had not been working for my goals like I should. I needed to start running in the rain. And if you are struggling with accomplishing your goals, maybe you need to start running, too. Here’s what running in the rain does for us.

Pride

As a coach I always presented to my athletes the definition of pride as knowing you have done your best.

My oldest son has earned the right to feel proud. He has worked hard and ran his best time in bad conditions at the conference meet. As a coach, that was what I asked of my athletes, to be their best at the most important times. My son did that.

Eddie reinforced this idea in his speech. He expressed how you would be the only one who knew what you went through as you stood on the podium. The crowd saw you win, not knowing how many times you had to run in the rain.

Successful Habits

I love the way Eddie talked about habits. He explained how hard it would be to actually run in the rain the first time. But as you build the habit, the weather becomes a nonfactor. The running (or habit) becomes important, rain or shine.

My son also taught me this. He puts in hundreds of miles in the summer, but he also works on his other interests in the summer and on the weekends. He has created habits that allow him to succeed.

The Strength to Live Your Goals

This is the most important aspect, but also the most complex. So, let me see if I can connect the dots to reveal how running in the rain builds the strength to live an authentic life.

First, Eddie points out that when we focus on the weather, or external forces, we live our lives on a shallow level. We simple react to life. We make excuses and rationalize why our goals or dreams are not achieved.

Now my son has complained about the weather or the course, but I have never heard him make an excuse. He is so mentally strong. Not just with cross country, but with all his activities, and that is part of the strength running in the rain builds. It is not just to endure the weather, it is the strength to focus on what we want to do with our lives. To be able to adapt to external factors, not react. To be able to stay focused on achieving our goals, to live an authentic life.

My son and a motivational video by Eddie Pinero has shown me that it’s time to start running in the rain  – I have dreams and goals I want to achieve. I have been making too many excuses. So I got my shoes sitting by the door and I am thankful for their wake-up call.

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