Giving Thanks

Thankful

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. — Melody Beattie


Today on Thanksgiving I am thankful for my family: my spouse, my furkids, my parents, my siblings, their spouses, my nieces and nephews, my in-laws, and my many aunts, uncles and cousins. I am very fortunate to be a person who loves their family and to have grown up in an environment that was loving, caring and fun. I enjoy having a shared history with my siblings. Our get-togethers — even when they are infrequent — are filled with laughter and good-natured ribbing. It’s such an incredible gift to be surrounded by so many amazing people and furry creatures. 🙂

I am also thankful for my many friends in (or formerly from) Maryland, Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Kansas, Wisconsin, Nevada and beyond. You are all so amazing and have made my life better in so many ways.

Today I hope you can turn to your family of origin — or the family you created — and take them in your arms and let them know how much they mean to you.

I also try to remember love that is now a memory, even if it’s grief that carries it in the door. One of my friends posted this essay by John Pavlovitz today and it reminded me that love remains as powerful in our memories as it was in life, if we let it.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

These boots are made for walking

Rebooting your life

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?

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.

Fasten seatbelt sign

Things shift during flight

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

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A Northern Nevada Garden

Still dreaming about Reno

I had a website visitor today looking for my Northern Nevada Garden site. I kept the site going for a long time, long after I left Reno, but finally retired it last fall. I loved that garden. I kicked butt in that garden.

I don’t have the website anymore, but I do have photos and a good memory. These are from July 2008. I had an AMAZING crop of squash and tomatoes that year. The garden was so beautiful.

Nevada Garden July 26-27, 2008

If you live in Northern Nevada, I suggest buying a copy of the Sunset Western Garden Book and installing raised beds if you want to grow food crops. I used 1/3 peat, 1/3 pumice and 1/3 potting soil in my raised beds. I heard a story on the radio several years ago that explained that most gardeners in most states will have better results with raised beds. After raised beds in several states, I’m a believer!

This is a photo of the raised beds under construction in March. I used large river rock which I had in abundance in my yard. That’s Brin, my gardening dog. She has supervised gardens in four states (and counting).

This is the same garden in May:

I used wall o’ waters from Gardener’s Supply to get a head start.

This is the garden in June. I had irrigation so I connected drip to the existing system. If I were going to do it again, I would add a new valve for the garden. A lesson I benefited from in my Arizona garden.

And here they are in July.

The huge tomato plant on the left is a white currant tomato. It was an overachiever. SO MANY TOMATOES.

Read up on short season tomato varieties, I think you will be more successful. I bought several from Territorial Seed. Zucchini and summer squash did well for me. If I could do it all over, I would have planted more raspberries. More delicata squash. Later, I learned the amazing staying power of eggplant. I would plant that, too.

Also, buy a composter. I had a Steve’s Earth Engine (double bin). Loved it so much–I composted everything. Never threw away a single leaf and believe me, I had a lot of them.

Happy gardening, Nevadans! Spring is coming!