Rebooting your life

These boots are made for walking

In the land of computer support, when all else fails, you reboot and see if that fixes the problem. As you spend more and more time doing support, you get to the reboot step sooner. Pretty soon you begin all troubleshooting by starting with a reboot.

My troubleshooting skills are a little rusty, but they are coming back. (I did boost the Wi-Fi signal to a TV in a little sitting room at the far end of my house with this handy little gadget. Ha! I still have it.)

So the reboot is in process. It’s taking a while, like those old Macs and PCs that I used to support. But I see now it’s the right thing to try. My reboot started back in August when I read this article in the New York Times. It featured engineering professor Barbara Oakley, who is one of the co-teachers of the most popular online learning course of all time, Learning How to Learn.

It was one of those right things at the right time. Intrigued, I signed up. Coursera allows a free audit of classes so you can try before you buy. I checked Professor Oakley’s book, A Mind For Numbers, out of the library and I threw myself into my second online class and my first MOOC (massively open online course). I was blown away by the experience and what I learned. In the course of the next month, I started rewiring my brain. I changed my approach from “I can’t do that” to “I can’t do that yet.” 

I’ve also learned a lot about MOOCs by enrolling in them and it’s been eyeopening. I have turned into an online learning evangelist. Who knew? I think everyone should go to college, but what if you already have more degrees than you know what to do with? What if life or work makes a traditional classroom experience impossible? Or what if online learning is the way for you? I have three classes under my belt and I am enrolled in three more and I have learned a lot. I keep having these ah-ha moments to the point that I think there’s no end to the ah-ha moments.

In addition to throwing myself into learning the content of the courses, I find myself wanting to understand what works and what doesn’t in the world of online learning. I wanted to know why Learning How to Learn is so popular and to dissect why I found it to be so effective. (Professor Oakley also takes learners behind the scenes of the LHTL course in her book Mindshift and the companion online course of the same name.) I am particularly impressed that she “just did it” and learned whatever she needed to in order to make it happen. She used Google to figure out what video equipment to buy and how to setup and use the equipment and she used all her spare time to learn video editing. I am inspired by her grit and determination and have asked myself more than once, “What can I accomplish if I do the same?”

Reboot Virtual Book Club
I started this online reading list for anyone who wants to reboot their life. I think it will grow based on my ever-growing “To Read” Google Doc that is rivaled only by my “Classes to take” Google Doc. I have a lot to learn.

How about you? Who are your virtual mentors? Let me know in the comments or send me an email.

Who’s excited?

Thanks, Randy

The view out my plane window

Last night, I was on a plane.

The takeoff was really rough. I am not afraid to fly, but I don’t like being bounced around either.
It had been a long hard day and I was way past tired.

I struck up a conversation with the person next to me towards the end of the flight. I have made changes in my life that are inconvenient and expensive and probably misunderstood.

I decided to live the advice that I like to give: don’t postpone joy.

I can be extremely decisive. That doesn’t mean I don’t overanalyze after the fact. That’s what I did the entire two-hour and 45-minute flight. I admitted this to the total stranger beside me and he told me an amazing story about his near-death experience in a job that wasn’t worth dying for. And he told me it would be okay. That it’s possible to start over.

The landing was smooth. And I realized I could put the past behind me.

Thanks, Randy. You were the messenger I needed.

The third option

I am not linear and I am not a black and white thinker. I have always loved the idea of the third option. In a world of binary choices, the third option always gives me hope that anything can be resolved, that we can find a place to understand — even appreciate — one another.

So, I got excited when I read There are three sides to every argument by William Ury. Ury is the co-founder of Harvard’s Program on Negotiation. The third side is a place of perspective — Ury calls it the balcony. It’s a place to go and remind ourselves what’s really important and what’s really at stake.

Things shift during flight

Fasten seatbelt sign

P. Scott Lebert: An appreciation

 

I met Scott when he and my sister were first dating. The first thing I learned about Scott is that he loved to fly and he wanted to be a pilot for a major airline. He had a day job in project management, but the airport was his second home. It was a long road to becoming captain; there were lots of charters and flying cargo planes. But I never doubted his resolve. Scott was a well-trained pilot and most recently he used that training as a check airman, ensuring the readiness of other pilots.

On his Facebook page, Scott’s message is to help others realize their dreams of flying. Scott made his dream come true and he was working to help others realize their dreams.

Last year Scott spent a lot of time helping me buy a new modem and router for my home network. If you have seen their setup, you know it looks a bit like it’s ready for takeoff. He never hesitated to help and he was unfailingly generous. He always, always picked up the tab. He also taught us to bring chocolates for the flight crew whenever we fly, a simple act of kindness and appreciation that will connect us to Scott every time that we fly.

Scott loved his family. It’s sometimes hard to see in the day to day how much someone loves you, but when my husband Robert and I spent time with Scott he talked about flying and family. He loved Stacey and Paul, his parents Flo and Paul, his extended family and of course, Theresa. He cared about his friends and coworkers. He worried about you and he wanted you all to be well and happy. He loved you all so very much.

We are all connected. John Donne said, “No man is an island, entire of itself: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.” Sometimes we forget that until a link of the chain is lost and we move closer together again and reconnect the chain. We hold tight to the loves we have and those we have lost.

So, hold each other close.  Don’t wait to say I love you. Don’t postpone joy. Dream big and fly high. It’s always good to observe the fasten seat belt sign and open the overhead bins carefully. Everything shifts during flight, sometimes even our belief in what is possible.

John Gillespie Magee, a WWII pilot wrote the sonnet High Flight to describe the unbelievable freedom and beauty of flight.

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air. . . .

Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or ever eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

Scott, we have told endless stories about you. We marveled at the head of hair that you used to have, we talked about the little things that made you, you—and made you special to us. You will be missed.

Southwest's Maryland plane [Photo by Robert Haight]

Mementos

I have a lot of mementos. They date back to the day I was born, including a copy of the Washington Post AND Scientific American! I have boxes full of cards, letters and other mementos. We are trying to get them down to a more reasonable amount, so we sorted through boxes that we have been moving around for 20 years or so. I looked at every card and every letter. The ones that really moved me were the letters from my Grand Pop. He was my mother’s father. A large and imposing man, an ex-military guy turned security guard who lived in Florida while we were freezing in the Chicago suburbs.

When I was in elementary school, I apparently wrote a lot of letters to him, starting when I was 5 years old. Yes, I wrote letters when I was 5. I wrote a lot of letters as a kid, including some that were quite long if I am to believe the responses from my aunts, grandparents and friends.

What must he have thought of this little girl, half a country away writing him letters? I am sure that they were mundane and a little perplexing given the 50 or so years separating us. He probably thought: who is this kid? What could we have possibly had in common? But he told me about his job and how he was feeling. His letters were so sweet and kind. It’s only from a great distance through time and space that I realize what a gift they were and are.

In the latest round of memento sorting, I found a card from a childhood friend sent when I graduated from high school. I didn’t realize that our letters spanned almost a decade. So I looked her up on Facebook and reconnected. <3

Rock the flip flops

Driving home on Saturday, the battery light came on in the car. And then all the indicator lights came on. And then the speedometer died. And then it was if we had a blackout in the car.

We stalled out on the frontage road not too far from home. We were trying to make it to a parking lot and didn’t quite make it. So we got out and pushed but we were pushing a big car up hill and couldn’t quite do it. Then a young couple stopped and offered help. They had a young daughter, 4 years old maybe? She really wanted to help but her parents made her stay safely in the parking lot. After rolling back to align the car, the four of us pushed it into the lot. Our pint- sized Samaritan kept asking, “Now can I help?” And finally she got the green light. And she leaned in and pushed.  I looked down and noticed she was wearing silver glitter flip flops. Superhero? Probably.

Thanks to our Good Sams and Earl the best tow truck driver ever, we made it home safely.

We watched YouTube videos to learn how to change an alternator. Deciding that we didn’t want to lay on the ground and pull out an alternator, we found a local mechanic who specializes in Toyotas. And he helped us get it there. In the snow. No small thing when your car won’t start.

Shake it off

I stepped on the scale for the first time in the New Year.

Mother trucker.

Robert stepped on the scale and came out of the bathroom with a grim look. He pulled out his 2016 Sucked shirt. Still appropriate.

We have to shake it off. And we will.

Nothing sexy about filing

Some people have the kind of lives that don’t require records. I have come to accept that I don’t have that life, so I need a strategy for dealing with all of the files, paper and electronic.

I have adopted a few strategies over the past 15 years or so that work most of the time. As long as I stick stuff in the folders. 🙂 When I need to find something, date seems the most reliable method and I can recall with good accuracy when something transpired.

For email, I use a month-year filing system. I have 12 folders per year, one for each month and I file 99% of emails by date.*

*For work, I have a few other folders: freelancers, orders/receipts and a folder for emails from my boss. I used to keep a “To read” folder, but now I read things straightaway and post them to Slack for the good of the team and for future reference.

For paper, I use monthly folders, too. One of the advantages of this method is at the end of every year, the files can go in a box and at the end of seven years, I can shred the contents of the box.

I create a new set of folders every year. I have a similar set at work.

For paper files, I do have additional folders for:

  • Important papers
  • Each of my dogs and cat
  • Health insurance information
  • Portfolio samples
  • Each car
  • Each house
  • Tax information and receipts for the current tax year

I have some other folders, too, but jury’s out on whether they are actually helpful.

Read more:

From Consumer Reports: http://www.consumerreports.org/taxes/how-long-to-keep-tax-documents/

From Real Simple: http://www.realsimple.com/home-organizing/5-steps-to-simpler-record-keeping

From FEMA: Safeguarding valuable papers

Ready to organize those files?

The socks of Sisyphus

Sisyphus socks by BlueQ

I love a little Greek mythology now and then, don’t you?

So my guy is Sisyphus. On more than one occasion, I have felt like my work is Sisyphean, or laborious and futile. I roll the boulder up the hill and  it rolls back down, hits me, and I need to start again. The new me is trying to think of these tasks not as a punishment but more of challenge. One that I can repeat à la Groundhog Day until one magical day I wake up and it’s not Groundhog Day anymore. In the GD scenario, it’s all about putting in effort and not worrying about the result. I can live with that.

But back to Sisyphus, my good friend Jane gifted me socks that rock, literally and figuratively, created by the magical people at Blue Q. Yes, I have Sisyphus socks. So perfect.

So if you see me smiling in a meeting, you’ll know why.