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!