An Introduction

The launch of this blog comes at a time during which I have been reengineering aspects of my business and personal life. I decided I wanted a way to provide my clients, friends, and “inner circle” a glimpse of insight into who I am as a person. Some of you see just one side of me. I’m choosing to write about a variety of topics and thoughts that resonate with me. There is no real theme to the series, hence the name of this blog. Some of the posts you find here first appeared on an earlier edition of the Strommen and Associates website. I’ve reworked them a bit and am reposting them as they also serve to share a bit about me. Perhaps these rambling thoughts will stir you to do some reflecting on your own life.

I eagerly embrace your input and suggestions. Perhaps you can point me to an interesting article or book that may be the seed for a future rambling. Feel free to direct your comments and suggestions to my email: strommen@strommen.com. I will respond to all emails sent my way. My goal in making this blog is to give you a better insight to the personal side of myself and be increasingly meaningful to you.

So, here we go!

 

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The Importance of a Single Starfish

A Trip that Made a Difference to Diadora and ME!

Perhaps you have heard this story before: A boy was walking along the beach after a storm and discovered hundreds of starfish had washed up onto the shore. He began picking them up, one at a time, and throwing them back into the ocean when a man stopped and asked, “Why are you doing that? It will make little difference as there are hundreds of them.” The boy picked up one more starfish, threw it back into the ocean and replied, “It made a difference to that one!” **

Home image 1 Starfish blogI recently returned from Nicaragua where I volunteered for a Habitat for Humanity project. I was overwhelmed with the magnitude of poverty in the small village where we worked.

Prior to our venturing out, we had an orientation led by our Nicaraguan Habitat leader, Aleandra, who reported that there was a need for over 600,000 homes in Nicaragua— either new build or fixing up existing homes in desperate need ofInterior home Starfish blog repair. And we were going to build ONE HOME! At the time I thought, what difference will this make? How do you tackle such an overwhelming need?

When we met the eventual home owner Diadora, her daughter, and grandchildren, I realized that we were making a life-changing impact for this one family. I saw and experienced the deep emotion and gratitude of Diadora and her daughter for what we were doing for them. I got it—and found joy and Diadora family Starfish bloghappiness for what we were doing knowing that their lives and their children’s lives just took a major turn for the better. They had something so very powerful – HOPE and the feeling of knowing that someone CARED.

Every morning before we had breakfast, I got up at 5:30 and spent an hour by myself reflecting on the previous day and I prayed for the day ahead. I prayed that what I was experiencing and the meaningful lessons learned would be brought home with me. These people are no different than those we engage with most every day. Everyone needs to feel there is hope, that someone cares for their future, and that someone “has their back,” maybe not to the degree I experienced in Nicaragua, but the foundation and fundamentals are the same. I prayed that this would be etched on my heart.

During the week, I walked the neighborhood during our breaks to engage with the childrenBob w kids Starfish post who were happy, playful, and full of curiosity about this gringo walking in their neighborhood. We played soccer in the dusty dirt streets. We laughed and communicated as we had fun. We took selfie photos and giggled and smiled as they saw photos of themselves. I was able to arrange to get some reprints to some of the kids as a special statement that they were important.

I alwaBob and Diadora daughterys wondered prior to the trip what impact we would make on the family of the house, but did not comprehend the impact that the people and volunteering would have on me. One afternoon, I walked the entire
neighborhood and was struck with startling and deep emotion. I was humbled with what I was experiencing—being grateful in a way that I had never felt before. I was humbled for my life and how amazed I was at the happiness, gratitude, pride, and care that these families felt and exhibited despite having so little. And I mean so little: no running water, dirt floors, outhouses, outdoor cooking over an open fire—and incomes often less than $100 a month.

I walked away feeling less prideful, and with a deeper caring and concern for those around me. I want to be a more patient, more giving, and open person. I cannot express enough how I hope others will seek out an experience like this as it will deepen the substance of who you are and how you view life around you and the relationships you have.

My trip to Nicaragua as part of a Habitat for Humanity volunteer team and my experiences there can be best summarized by this quote:

Quote for Starfish blog

 

**adapted from The Star Thrower, by Loren Eiseley

Holiday Thank You

I originally wrote this piece in December 2010.

I want to take this opportunity to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday Season. In doing so, I am sharing the attached “YouTube” video as a small Christmas gift of song to all who have been part of my life personally and professionally. I hope you enjoy this, and in the event you have already had the privilege of viewing, this provides a nice uplifting moment in your busy day.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXh7JR9oKVE&feature=youtu.be

On my personal email account, I have two occurring phrases Life is wonderful…..we need to discover and embrace all that it has to offer!” and “In life you have only a few times to show how much you really care. Do not let those opportunities slip by!”

I was reminded of this when I was told last week that a new friend and client had just recently been diagnosed with a serious form of cancer. I was humbled by the news and felt sad, not just for the client and his family who now have to face this new challenge, but with the fact that I have had moments this past year of feeling sorry for myself for struggles and challenges I have been facing . . . things all of us face. I realized that my challenges were minor in scope and inconsequential in nature as I reflected on the greatness of life, health, and the new and old friends I have.

I am reminded that I cannot forget to say “Thank You” to those around me and not to forget that care, compassion, and concern for others is one of the greatest gifts that I can give to others, whether they be friends or clients.

My new website www.strommen.com introduces you to the Strommen Family Foundation, an instrument for giving back to one of my passions, “youth.” I look forward to the future as the Foundation continues to grow and evolve into one of the hallmarks of the firm and our commitment to family and legacy.

Life is wonderful and we need to continue to discover all that it has to offer and embrace the greatness that it provides. As a frequent Caribou Coffee drinker, I reflect on their slogan: Life is Short…Stay Awake for It!” Oh how true that statement is.

So, during this snowy holiday season, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and all the happiness and grandeur that life and family can give to you this season and for seasons to come.

Forgiveness & Grace

This is something I wrote in June 2011 as I reflected on Mother’s Day.

I was reminded on Mother’s Day of two things: There are memories we shouldn’t let fade and we shouldn’t lose the powerful art and gift of writing letters. These past months have reinforced these things as something I believe I have always known, yet never fully appreciated or internalized.

I was recently in New York City and visited the 9/11 exhibit located directly across from Remembering 9-11 Coverwhere the World Trade Center towers once stood. During my visit, I came across this book, Remembering 9/11. The exhibit and the book triggered a flurry of memories of that tragic day. I was moved by the memorials and items at the exhibit that signified the bravery of those that lost their lives. I was touched by the letters from family members and friends who were personally touched by the tragedy. Those letters brought back memories that were closer to my own heart, those of the death of my father who passed away 10 years ago this July.

Not long after this NYC visit, I ran across the letter I had given to my dad three months before he lost his battle with cancer. I had written to him as I reflected on the great memories that I had and I wanted to thank him for who he was and how he had impacted my life.

Strommen Forgivness and Grace Photo- DadI remember, like it was yesterday, the day I was sitting with Dad in my parents’ home in Roseville and he asked if I would speak at his funeral. I was overwhelmed with the honor and at the same time the terror of such a task at a time of such emotional turbulence. How could I say no as this is something that few are granted, to personally be asked before a loved one’s death. The letter I gave my dad became the foundation of my talk at his funeral. As I re-read the letter I found the deep emotions of his loss surface along with the wonderful memories that sometimes fade over time. The letter brought back into clarity these important memories and the power of the written word as it kept my memories and feelings alive in my heart and fresh in my mind.

This was again reinforced on Mother’s Day when I was in Naples visiting Mom. Mother’s Day Sunday, we were having brunch with our pastor, Rev. Steve Wigdahl. He mentioned that he had written his mother a letter, put a stamp on it, and mailed it. Not that a phone call would not suffice, but he thought a letter would be something that she could touch and read time and time again until he saw her again. As Rev. Steve said, this is the great aspect of letters that we have forgotten and lost in this technology-focused world of ours.
Strommen Forgiveness and Grace image- MomThe memories of my trip to NYC, lunch with Rev. Wigdahl, and the time with Mom sitting on the balcony reminiscing about her life with Dad helped me be thankful for my life and the greatness of my memories, both the good ones and those of events I wish had not occurred. I am reminded that I was blessed as a child growing up. I was blessed during the years my own children grew and developed. I remember the wonderful times of our family camping trips and experiences and of being engaged in my children’s activities and their career development as they grew up and matured to become the great young adults they are today.

I treasure these memories and am constantly reminded that these memories cannot be lost or forgotten. We need to remember the wonderful nature of and importance of family. The power and symbolism of Easter is “Forgiveness and Grace.” For those who celebrate the season of Easter, you are blessed. For those who don’t hold that faith tradition, I will hope and pray that you are touched in some way to understand and embrace the powerful words and qualities of Forgiveness and Grace.

I encourage you to sit down and write your parents a letter if they are still living and thank them for all they have done over the years. Write to your children and mail it to them reminding them how important they are to you and how proud you are of them (regardless of their age). As the Caribou Coffee slogan says, “Life is short, stay awake for it!” And as Bob says, “Cherish your memories and write a letter to those you love!”

So Much to Be Thankful For

I originally wrote this piece in the summer of 2010.

In everyone’s life there are turning points and defining events that shape or reshape who we are and how we approach life. The past year, and most specifically the past five months, have been one of those defining periods in my life. The goStrommen Thankful Dock Imageod news is that we can determine how the defining moments in life will affect us. In my case, I see them as an opportunity for growth, reflection, change, and revitalization. Professionally, my website is a public banner statement of this revitalization to embrace life, honor heritage, and be thankful for legacy. I am committed to sharing this revitalization with those around me and using it in my approach to life and business.

One of my favorite vocalists is Josh Groban, a young tenor who calms my soul and revitalizes my emotions. I was given a CD entitled Noel and one of the songs in particular, “Thankful” touched me. Here are some of the lyrics:

“Thankful”
by Josh Groban

Some days we forget
To look around us
Some days we can’t see
The joy that surrounds us
So caught up inside ourselves
We take when we should give.

So for tonight we pray for
What we know can be.
And on this day we hope for
What we still can’t see.
It’s up to us to be the change
And even though we all can still do more
There’s so much to be thankful for.

The other day I was driving downtown along Washington Avenue and saw a middle-age mother and two children walking next to a man in a wheelchair. The man was powering his wheelchair by blowing in a tube and using his chin to steer. At that moment I was reminded that “There is so much to be thankful for!”