Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Transition Time: Summer to Fall (School)

It's been a great summer. When I transitioned from Industry to Education 17 years ago, I underestimated the wonder of Summer Vacations!

After decades of two and three weeks of vacation a year, I now enjoy Christmas, Spring, and Summer vacations. Summer vacation (10 weeks) is almost over. I go back to work next week. And that's good too. I enjoy what I do for work. I enjoy the people I work: colleagues, students, staff, parents. They're good people, united in service of youth. What we do matters, and I'm grateful to play a part.

This summer has been good, especially in contrast to last summer, a summer of support as my wife endured the early stages of her breast cancer journey: surgery, chemo, radiation, and rehab. We purchased a two-month parking pass at the local hospital where most of her treatments and doctor visits took place. The outcomes were good, but we didn't "vacate" much. I took a day-trip to the Los Angeles Space Museum with one of my daughters and her children. It was a great day, and the only real outing of that summer. Whew.

This summer's highlights include cooking, tennis, reading, and relaxing in the local mountains for two weeks.

My wife and I signed up for HelloFresh, and we cooked dinners together three nights a week all summer. We even took the meals with us when we time-shared up in Lake Arrowhead in late July. Some of the best meals I've ever eaten, and it turns out that my wife and I work well together in the kitchen. Good fun. Good eats. Good learning experience. I've become a better cook as a result!

I went into the summer with an experiment in mind: a ten week retirement. I'd read several books just before summer vacation, including the Four Hour Work Week, by Tim Ferris. I'd also read several books on retirement. Most people find it difficult to fill the days, weeks, and months of leisure know as retirement. I thought I'd give it some practice. Tim Ferris encourages younger people to attempt to forge a lifestyle where they can enjoy mini-retirements throughout their lives, not just when they reach retirement age. Retiring is more uncertain for many, especially younger people in an age of fewer pension plans, etc. But as that time approaches for me, I've been working on getting Younger Next Year (read the book, took the advice). I also listened to Tim Ferris and tried on the summer as if it were an mini-retirement. I joined OLLI at CSUF, and organization for life-long learners housed locally at Cal State Fullerton. I envisioned myself getting more involved than I did, but what I did get involved in was tennis! I rediscovered how much I enjoy playing the game, especially with people who balance competition, fun, and camaraderie! Playing doubles tennis with 60, 70, and 80 year-olds was a blast, and a challenge. Two hours, twice a week was a stamina building endeavor. I was inspired to go out and practice some, get some online coaching, and just generally work to recover and expand my tennis skills. It was so much fun.

I read a lot this summer too. Mostly non-fiction. I even expanded my life experience by buying an Amazon Echo and subscribing to audible. I now have technology in place to read to me while I play digital solitaire. Some fun! Right now I'm reading Reality is Broken, a book about enhancing real life with some lessons learned from virtual life -- game life. It's an interesting read that includes a lot of information on the world of gamers and gaming.

I love to travel, and this summer, with Leslie's slightly improved energy levels, we were able to schedule and enjoy two weeks in the local mountains at Lake Arrowhead Chalets. We've been there before, but never just the two of us. That was fun and set the stage for a trip three weeks later with the Haan Clan, my daughter and her family. The eight of us had a blast. We hiked, I ran, and we played. I read the biography of Hope Solo, and watched the US vs Japan game from 1999. Awesome. (Earlier in the summer, I watched a number of the Women's World Cup matches. Good fun, especially as the Women's Team USA was victorious. So happy for the team!

And that was my summer. Last school year was great. This summer was great. And I expect the new school year will be great too! Why? Because "wherever you go, there you are." Life happens. It can be drudgery or a dance. I choose to work at making it a dance. That's energizing, exciting, and fun. I don't need frenetic, adrenaline pumping, over-the-top fun, but I do enjoy a good mix of productivity and play... whether I'm on vacation or working. It turns out, that productivity and play is a good mix whether I'm doing a mini-retirement or a school year of work. So much depends on attitude and adjusting to the music.

I've enjoyed my summer, and I'm looking forward to the challenges (and fun) that the coming school year will bring. I am reminded of what my grandfather Evans taught me: "Happiness is not a destination, but a way of travel."

Travel on dear friends. Enjoy the dance!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

New Year: 2015 -- A Road Less Bendy?

It's been a long eight and a half months since I've posted to my blog. That's about long enough to create a baby! Or a new life. I'm beyond the new baby stage, but not beyond the new life stage.
My wife and I at a recent backyard wedding: with grandsons!

The winding roads of the last eight months are over: diagnosis, surgery, results, planning, chemotherapy, and radiation. These are the some of the winding roads that my wife's diagnosis of breast cancer has sent us on. And now? The road seems to be straightening out.

There are fewer doctor visits, with fewer unknowns. My wife's surgery and other treatments seem to have been successful. She is now doing rehab including Physical and Occupational Therapy in a program called STAR: Survivorship Training and Rehabilitation. She's on the road to recovery, and perhaps... overall improvements in health. Me too.

We traveled the cancer road together, a day at a time. The end of last school year and the summer encompassed the major difficulties: surgery, recovery, and chemotherapy. The new school year brought radiation and now, rehabilitation. Whew.

Life is a journey, that's how I look at it. Recently, I've read three John Green novels, An Abundance of Katherines, The Fault in Our Stars, and then Looking for Alaska. It's adolescent fiction, and An Abundance of Katherines was reccomended to me by my oldest daughter. I enjoyed the books. Some of the themes touched close to home, including a question posed in Looking for Alaska:

“It's not life or death, the labyrinth. Suffering. Doing wrong and having wrong things happen to you. That's the problem. Bolivar was talking about the pain, not about the living or dying. How do you get out of the labyrinth of suffering?”

Well, lucky for me, a decade or so ago, I read a book: Don't Waste Your Sorrows. Yes, life has it's difficulties. It can be seen as a labyrinth of suffering. Or, it can be seen as a journey. Job put it this way, "As sure as the sparks fly upward, so man is born for trouble." 

I've had my troubles, and I'm sure you have too. My guess is that you and I are still having some troubles: that's life, or at least part of it. Under the "About Me" tab on my blog I wrote, I've "... had lots of experiences in life. None of them define me, but they have all refined me."

My troubles, my shared troubles over the past eight months, have continued to refine me. I'm still a work in progress. I'm on a journey. That journey is called life. And I'm trying to be a life-long learner. Troubles, suffering if you will, have been a part of that journey, providing a backdrop of challenges and difficulties that require choices. Hard choices. 

John Wooden put it this way: 

There is a choice you have to make,
In everything you do.
So keep in mind that in the end,
The choice you make, makes you.

I like that. Life is about making choices. Choices that make you: for better or worse. 

That's what I've been doing, making choices. Stepping forward. Sometimes stumbling forward. Sometimes taking a time for a nap, or a cry, or a blog post, but Aggressively Muddling On! 

A quote I discovered this year was "An optimist is someone who looks forward to the scenery on a detour." 

Some might think of this last eight months as a detour. It was and it wasn't. It may have been a series of winding roads, but the road led somewhere. It lead to here. (And there was plenty of good scenery along the way.) 

The facility where my wife goes for rehab has a gym. I joined it. They have exercise classes. I'm going to some. In fact, they have something called a Run Club. I've signed up for that. It starts in an hour. 

My journey seems to be transitioning out of the bends into a straight-away, or at least, A Road Less Bendy. Whew. I'm ready for that. 

I don't know where you are on your journey, but this from a fellow traveler, Keep going! Don't quit! It will be worth it all!   (Stumble forward! Or at least fall forward.) Here's hoping our roads are a lot less bendy for a while. 

Enjoy the journey. Savor the scenery!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Not Wasting Today's Grace on Tomorrow's What-if?

I was taking a bike ride last week with my dog, Heidi -- the German shepherd, in tow. I was a bit blue? depressed? sad? mournful? I couldn't quite find the word, but it wasn't normal.
The promise of spring!

Then the thought struck me, What if this is the new normal?

Several weeks prior, my wife found a lump in her left breast. Doctor's visits and diagnostic procedures kept getting progressively worse... but not terrible. The pre-op biopsy confirmed breast cancer: Stage 1a. A subsequent MRI showed that the tumor was slightly larger, upping the diagnosis to 2a. (A week later, post-surgery results indicated a more likely Stage 2b (over 2 cm with lymph node involvement) That's where we are at right now.

What-if's are rarely true. I've found that if I can imagine it, it's most likely never going to be that scenario. I read a helpful quote recently: "Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future." -- Physicist Niels Bohr

When dealing with potentially life-threatening diseases, it's easiest to what-if in the negative, worst-case direction, but Leslie has done the opposite too: What if this whole ordeal serves as a gigantic wake-up call to better health, a better perspective, and a new and better future? She's already used it to improve several aspects of her life: mentally, emotionally, and relationship-ly. (Yeah, relationship-ly! It works for me.)

After considering "What-if this is the new normal?" I laughed. What-if I had to live life with a 10% mental/emotional cloud? Oh well.

But what-if's seldom come true. In reality, life eventually moves into a new, unanticipated "normal."

Little bits of color on the path.
My oldest daughter Joanna sat with me during Leslie's operation (lumpectomy and removal of lymph glands). We reminisced some of the daunting circumstances surrounding her mother's bout with pancreatic cancer a decade and a half ago. In the midst of that abnormal normal, we had some good times. We ate a lot of meals together. We went on vacations. She did school and sports. We lived life in what was "normal" for us. Looking back, they were extremely trying times, but most of the time, they just felt normal. Each of us in the family did what we had to do to make things work. And it did.

And it will this time too.

"Each day has enough trouble of its own." "His mercies are new every morning, great is His faithfulness." Those two Bible verses helped me create my game plan. Just do today. Don't waste today's mercies (grace, enablement) on tomorrow's what-if's? Many days, we just made it through the day. Most days, we had some fun along the way. Some days were stormier than others, but we made it through to the end of each day. For most of that five and a half year fight with cancer, we didn't know if we'd win or lose, but we fought, one day at a time. Or one hour at a time when things were tough.

In these current circumstances, life still hasn't settled in to the new normal. Tomorrow we meet with the doctor to discuss the pathology reports that came out of the surgery's biopsies. After that, we'll have a better idea of what the new normal for our next stage of this journey might hold. I anticipate a series of new normals... winding roads ahead? That's my guess. So we'll go slow.

Dramatic lighting when looking up!
But for now... Leslie gave me a new name, "Donald Nightingale Evans Jr." That's my job for today. That's a job that I can do, given today's grace, I can be a care-giver.

I'll do my best not to waste today's grace on tomorrow's what-if's. Tomorrow comes with its own gift of grace to be what I need to be when I need to be it. Right now? I'm off to the drug store! Duty calls!

Stay Calm and Carry On my friends. (And thank you for your thoughts, prayers, and support. No one fights alone. And you've all let me know, we. are. not. alone.)

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Spring 2014: A Bend in the Road

It's been more than a year and a half since my last blog entry, but now I'm back.

So, what's changed? A bend in the road.

Before the Bend
Normal purposeful stress...

Summer before last, I wrote, "It's all a matter of balancing purposeful stress with  intentional rest which leads to positive personal adaptations.That's the plan. What really happens will be the inevitable dance that happens when plan meets life, but that's half the fun. That's what I call Navigating Through Life!" 

For a year and a half it's been a nice dance. It's been fun.

Last school year (2012/13) went well. All the challenges were in a nice range of do-able, with only the amount of stress that keeps things interesting. 

The summer was also excellent. My grand-kids are now near-by, just two blocks away, so we get to be involved with the Haan clan on a regular basis. My daughter and son-in-law are great parents, so their kids are a joy to be around. It was a good mix of fun, helping out, and being entertained. 

This school year (2013/14) has been excellent as well. Changes at work mean that I'm concentrating my efforts on fewer students. The other teachers miss my help with their under-performers, but district policy has focused my efforts. I've enjoyed the changes. My small groups are smaller, and I'm able to teach writing in a more holistic manner (Writer's Workshop). Lots of good things are happening in my classroom.

The Bend
Found this on a six mile walk... processing the news.

So, what changed? What's the bend in the road? Life is easier when the stresses are purposeful, intentional, and minor. Those can be fun, but it's the unplanned bad stuff that sometimes sucks. 

About five or six weeks ago my wife discovered a lump in her left breast. It turns out that what she felt was just a bit of benign, fibrous tissue, but under that lump lurked a small malignant tumor. And the road turned: breast cancer.

We've been on a journey new to us, but familiar to many. After about ten diagnostic procedures and doctor's visits, surgery (lumpectomy) happened last Thursday, two days ago. Now, my wife is recovering from the surgery. 

I have a new role: nurse and care-giver. I guess it's just a new part of what it means to be a good husband: become what is needed based on what happens when "plan meets life." 

Bends in the road impede vision. But mostly, they require a change in speed, a change in direction, and a new sense of alertness and flexibility. 

Thanks to family and friends... 
That's where I'm at. Part way through the bend. The road doesn't end, it just bends. So what am I doing? Feeding my faith and starving my fears. Taking it a day at a time. Listening to the travel guides (doctors). And trying my best to be a good travel partner to my wife, whose life is traveling down roads that she and I would never have chosen. (We both lost our first spouses to cancer a decade and a half ago.) 

I'm back to blogging because I have some things to muse over. I'm back because, ultimately, I write to figure out what I think about things. I write because I'm hoping that it helps me navigate these bends in the road. And I write to inform fellow travelers that they aren't alone either. 

I saw a pink bumper sticker not long ago that said, "No one fights alone." This is me, not fighting alone. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Fall 2012: A Retrospective

Well, here it is almost four months since my last post. Time flies when you're having fun. I've been having a lot of fun: one day at a time.

As I reread my last post, I'm elated that my apprehension regarding carrying over good summer habits into fall were misguided. (Or at least unwarranted.)

Credit the fact that my new habits were well instilled by summer's end, or credit my pigheadedness. Either way, my lifestyle has been upgraded to include much better habits of exercise and nutrition.

As August ended, school began. I've begun my fifth year teaching at the elementary level, after having completed 10 years at the 7th/8th grade level. Last year I was involved in completing a Preliminary Administrative Service Credential Program. This year, I'm involved in providing some on-campus support for a new district-provided software program called Illuminate. What I'm mostly involved in at school is being a part of a team that aims to provide a positive educational experience for all students. We make a difference in the lives of our students, and often, in the lives of the families. It's very rewarding work.

I was concerned that work responsibilities would interfere with my running and eating. My work schedule did provide some challenges, but the challenges have been met. I'm still eating five or six meals a day, with a good dose of protein and good fat in each. I'm still limiting my carbs to post-workout meals. I'm still running three or four days a week, including a longer weekend run.

As a result of my lifestyle changes, I've continued to get more fit. The book Younger Next Year has helped me to become younger this year. I've had many comments about my summer transformation into youth. I think it mostly had to do with losing enough overall fat, so that my face thinned out. I also grew my hair out: no longer a buzz. One of the best birthday gifts I got in November was a reading on my scale that put me five pounds under what my driver's license read. One hundred and ninety put me just outside the high end of the healthy range for my age and height. Where I used to have a gut, I now have a waist! Who knew that my goal of running three times a week for 30 minutes would provide such side benefits? I. am. pleasantly. surprised!

I've continued to follow the rules of the Precision Nutrition program, which mostly means I eat well and often. I also get enough sleep. I have a blender at work, and I take a giant salad for lunch each day, with a good slab of meat thrown in (4 to 6 ounces). My main shortcoming has been on my water intake. But if good hydration is my biggest health challenge, then life is good. And it is.

I completed my 10 week running program, and I've begun my next phase: continuing to build endurance without injury. I traded in the annual school pancake breakfast for the school's annual 5K: a Turkey Trot. That was back in early November. I ran a personal best over that distance, and now I've returned to running 3 miles every other day. Because I run various hilly routes, that distance and pace continues to provide the needed stress to trigger positive adaptations: I'm getting fitter. Woo hoo!

All-in-all it's been a great start to the school year. That's how I mark time: Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring. Summer vacation, Thanksgiving vacation, Christmas vacation, and Easter vacation, punctuated with school quarters and on-going responsibilities. A good mix of being productive, being engaged in work and play, plus enjoying family, friends, and projects. Perhaps next I'll write about some Winter goals? (Mostly, I'm hoping to do more of the same! Plus, I'm enjoying the football season on TV.)

I hope you all had a good fall, and I hope that  the winter finds you navigating your journey with a good mix of on-going improvement and good fun!

Happy Thanksgiving!

(Sorry, no pictures. I'm away from my camera and my store of pictures.)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Summer 2012: A Retrospect

CSUF: Arboretum/trail
Looking over my posts since last May, I can see that I've been on a trek towards improved fitness. I've done it a little at a time, and I'm enjoying the journey.

My weight has gone down 11 pounds this summer. I broke the 200 pound barrier. My Calorie King app predicts I'll hit my 187 goal by December. Wouldn't that be nice? (In '08 I once got down to 190, but 187? Haven't seen that since I don't know when. Decades maybe.)

I've got a 10 week plan for running developed that should carry me through October.

I've got a nutrition plan that should be sustainable through the school year. I've upgraded my eating habits.

CSUF: Same plant, up close.
Last summer I did a major decluttering program (FlyLady.com) that has made my home much more pleasant to live in.

This summer I did a major decluttering program that has made my body much more pleasant to live in.

Along the way, I've done a few household projects, done a bit of vacationing, done a lot of BBQing, and done a fair amount of watching grandkids.

All in all? It's been a great summer: a pleasant mix of relaxation, restoration, and being positively engaged in life. I've read some books, run some miles,  watched some TV, and even done a bit of professional development.
CSUF: Up close... same plant.

So now what? The 2012/13 school year begins tomorrow. Summer projects will turn into Fall projects. My projects are all part of my life-time Process Of On-Going Improvement (POOGI); a POOGI that includes being Younger Next Year, which includes training for the endurance event called life. It's all a matter of balancing  purposeful stress with  intentional rest which leads to positive personal adaptations.

That's the plan. What really happens will be the inevitable dance that happens when plan meets life, but that's half the fun. That's what I call Navigating Through Life!

CSUF: Floral eye candy.
Enjoy the voyage!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Nutrition: The backbone of body recomposition?

Bike path at CSUF
The last month has found me enjoying my summer vacation. The weeks have been well balanced with rest, relaxation, interacting with grandkids (and their parents), exercise, and a lot of BBQing.

My running has continued and improved. My last two jogs were of the two mile variety, and I maintained a slow jog through out. One of my goals is to run one half an hour, three days a week. My walk/jog/runs are becoming much more jogging, and a lot less walking. Yeah! (Progress -- slow but sure.)

Two weeks ago I had a nice run, but during the post-run stretch, I overdid it and strained my back! C'mon! I took it easy for a few days, and I'm back (95%). I learned one stretch not to do! (The one I made up!)

Ball field: CSUF -- from right field
The last few days my wife and I have been helping the Haan's with some child care while Joanna, my oldest daughter, was in Montana visiting my youngest daughter, Danielle (her sister). In addition to watching kids and running, I've been learning about how to improve my nutrition in order to cut fat and gain muscle (aka body recomposition).

Since Februrary, I've accomplished some body recomposition as the result of my new habit of running. I've added muscle, especially to my legs. In addition, I'm losing fat. My total weight is down about 8 or 9 pounds, which means I've probably lost at least 10 pounds of fat and gained a couple of pounds of muscle.

Increasing my understanding of nutritional complements my recomposition efforts. I found an online resource in Dr. Barardi and his team at at Precision Nutrition (Pn). Their website provides a wealth of information, while at the same time, they keep it simple.

Softball field: CSUF
My mantra for 2012, "I am in charge of my habits, I let it be easy," fits in well with Pn's philosophy. They emphasize small, but important, incremental changes in habits. It has been said that form follows function, and a lot of what we are physically, is a result of the functions of our lifestyle: sedentary or active, ignorant or informed. Pn tries to help improve our compliance -- habitually doing what you know you should. They do it in baby steps, one new habit at a time.

Some of my best mentors in life have been authors. I think I've found a new mentor over at Precision Nutrition: I call him -- The Doctor. (Perhaps he'll help me enjoy new fitness adventures, a little at a time?)

I'm fine-tuning my eating (and drinking) habits based on what I'm learning. "Slow but sure wins the race, " especially when attempting to change long standing habits of diet and exercise. "Behold the turtle. He makes progress only when he sticks his neck out!" Turtle on! (That's what I'm doing.)