Thursday, September 7, 2017

51 Years of Learning

On last year's birthday - the big five zero - my dad asked me what I had learned in my 50 years. Here's a link to that post: 50 Years

So this year, Dad asked the same question: What have I learned in my 51 years?

Last year's list is still applicable, and I've added two more important ideas. And by important, I mean important to me. Here's the current list:

1. Be genuine
2. Express gratitude
3. Be kind
4. Do good things
5. Be humble

When I gave the list my mom asked, "What about being content?" It was a fair question; I wrote a book about being content. And I think that if I can do these five things, contentment will be much easier to choose. It seems like a natural outcome of focusing on the five important ideas.

I started to write explanations of each idea, but I've decided that explaining each idea would complicate them. They speak for themselves. I'll let you interpret them and decide if these ideas might be important in your life.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Annual Goals

Years ago I decided I didn't like new year's resolutions. They're just too easy to break - for me anyway. Instead, I make goals for the next year. It might only be a semantic difference, but goals work better.

This year's goals include two walking goals:
1. Walk 100 miles every month
2. Walk 1200 miles for the year.

I've accomplished #1 every month this year: 7 for 7!
I have also already walked 1200 miles this year, as of yesterday. That feels like a really big accomplishment. It has required consistency, commitment and a willingness to walk even on the days when my body is saying, "Not today!"

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Blessing of Having Wonderful Friends

I have friends.

I have friends whom I've known for most of my life, and friends I've only known for a short time.
I have friends whom I see often, and friends whom I rarely see. With some of those rarely-seen friends, when we do get together we pick up right where we left off. Despite lack of regular contact, I know our friendship is solid.

And I have friends who spoil me.

I have some friends who go out of town periodically. When they're gone, I check on their house. It's a simple task for me, doesn't require much time or energy, and I'm happy to do it. And when these friends get home, they spoil me: they take me to a movie, out to lunch, dinner at their house, homemade ice cream. I suspect they feel like they owe me something, even though I've told them they don't. But it's their way of saying thank you. And it would be selfish of me to reject their expression of gratitude. There should be more gratitude in the world and these friends express it wonderfully.

And they are not the only friends I have who are generous with their gratitude.

First, a little back story:
For those who might not know, I used to be a golf pro - a teaching pro at a local golf course. I was a pretty good player. At my best I was about a 3 handicap. I once shot 64 (8 under par) in a tournament. That's pretty good golf - and it seems like a lifetime ago.

Now, I don't play often. My rheumatoid arthritis has affected golf like it affects all the other parts of my life. Last year I played one round. This year I've played three times. The last 18 hole round exhausted me; it took me a week to recover from that and I think my hands are still trying to recover.

Because of the RA, my hands and wrists are weak and don't have much range of motion. My shoulders don't work like they used to. Everything takes more energy and hurts more than it used to. Even so, I'm still able to scrape it around the golf course. Instead of a 3 handicap, I'm more like an 18 handicap. I can play bogey golf, which isn't bad for someone who plays a few times a year.

Part of my limitation now is my equipment. I still have the irons I used when I was a pro. They have stiff steel shafts, which are great for someone who can swing hard. I can't swing hard anymore so these clubs just don't fit my game. But because I only play infrequently, it makes no sense to buy a different set of clubs, or to have my clubs reshafted. That's just too much expense. So I make do with what I have. However, using those clubs intended for a good strong player takes a toll on my hands and wrists.

After that last round of golf I had decided that I might not be able to play 18 holes anymore. That much golf at one time is just too much. I think I'll have to be a nine hole player.

I was at the driving range the other day, talking with a friend about equipment. I mentioned my clubs and the steel shafts, saying I could benefit from lightweight graphite shafts, and a softer flex, but that I just can't justify spending the money. He told me he sometimes runs across good clubs for sale; would I mind if he kept an eye out for a set of clubs for me.

Sure. If he found some I'd be interested in seeing them.

That's not exactly what he meant though. He called me a few days ago asking if I had time to hit a club he found. So we met at the driving range. He hadn't found a club - he had found a set of irons for me: graphite shaft, senior flex (to match my senior swing speed), and he even had oversize grips installed. I thought he was looking for a set of clubs that I would buy, but he bought them for me.

Spoiled again. I've helped him with some things, so he wanted to help me, to express his gratitude. He wanted to find a way to make golf easier for me to play: lighter clubs, softer flex, bigger grips. I'm encouraged that I might still be able to play 18 holes since I'll have clubs that fit my swing. I swing like an old man now so I need to use equipment that matches that swing. I'm not too proud to take advantage of technology.

These two stories have some things in common:
1. I have friends who are so gracious. They humble me with their kindness.
2. While they're thanking me, I feel like I'm getting the better end of the bargain. I should be (and I am) thanking them. That seems like a good way to base a friendship: both sides grateful for the other.

I am so blessed to have the friends that I do - and these are two examples among so many more. I have been blessed beyond measure. I have received more than I deserve and I am so grateful.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The Progress(?) of Life

At the last appointment with my rheumatologist, we discussed the nature of my RA: aggressive, non-responsive, and difficult to treat. The PA, who is really great, is frustrated that they can't find the right combination of meds. I think she's more frustrated than I am. During our talk I told her, "I live with the pain every day, but it could be worse. I'm functioning ."

To be honest, I'm losing confidence that my condition will ever improve. It certainly seems inexorable. The best I can hope for is to remain stable, which just isn't going to happen. On a day-to-day basis, I feel like I'm not getting worse. In the short term, I think I doing pretty well. But when I look long term I can begin to see how much I've deteriorated in the last 6 or 7 years.

When I first moved back to Nampa, and joined the Nampa Rec Center, I walked to the rec center every morning, then exercised, then walked home. While it's true that I'm still exercising on an almost daily basis, there's no way I could add the walk there and back. Despite daily exercise, my physical fitness continues to decline significantly.

One of the activities I really enjoy is golf. In case you're not aware, I was a golf pro for several years, and a fairly good player. I still enjoy being on the course, with my friends, enjoying the weather, and the company, and the creativity of golf. Obviously I can't play like I used to, but I can still play.

Yesterday I played 18 holes with some friends, my second 18 hole round of the year. It wiped me out. I can't begin to tell you how exhausted I was when I got home. Over the last few years I've only played a few rounds a year. I think I've reached the point at which I won't be able to play 18 holes any more. I might have to become a nine hole player only. Playing more than that just requires too much energy.

Or I might have to be a driving range player. I regularly go the range to hit a small bucket of balls. 50 balls takes me about an hour to hit, and is about the same number of shots I would take in 18 holes. Despite my enjoyment of the game, and desire to play, it's clear my physical ability to play golf continues to decline.

Even so, I hope I don't sound defeatist, or defeated. I have a great life.
I enjoy my life despite my medical challenges.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

What have you learned?

Last year for my 50th birthday, my family took me out to Red Robin. During the dinner, Dad asked me, "So what wisdom do you have to share from your 50 years?" I think he was being facetious, but I answered him anyway.

Be kind.
Do good things.
Be humble.

At the time there wasn't much thought involved. In fact Dad even dismissed my ideas. But later he came back and told me they were good words - important ideas. I wondered why those particular ideas escaped my mind. Were they really just off the top of my head? Were they just rambling thoughts? Or was there something more to them?

For the past nine months or so I've been pondering my words.

For a while I thought, "Surely I can come up with something better. I've lived for 50 years. There must be something more important I can come up with, something much more profound." I read the words of other great thinkers and wonder why I didn't come up with something like they said. I even wrote a book about living with less, being content, looking for significance in life.

But I keep coming back to these three ideas. I think this is what life is all about.

Be kind.
Even Jesus said this is important. "Love your neighbor as yourself." When I am kind to those around me, even those who don't deserve my kindness, I think I have a good chance of making the world a better place.

Do good things.
There's a longer saying; I think I may have either plagiarized the saying, or was just inspired by it:

“Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”  ― John Wesley

Be humble.
I hope I can recognize my strengths, but I don't ever want to think too highly of myself. I hope I've never treated people in such a way that makes them think I'm full of myself. I strive to be humble. I guess only my family and friends can tell me if I'm succeeding.

So during my next 50 years, I'll keep looking for wisdom. Maybe these three ideas will have changed when I reach 100 - but for now they are good words for me to live by.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Hablo un poquito de español

I started learning Spanish back in 8th grade - got kicked out of class for making the teacher cry (yes, I'm embarrassed) and gave up learning another language.

When I was working in Wendell as a school counselor I started learning again. We had a high Latino population so I had a lot of people wiling to help me learn the language: students, families, staff. I even spent a month in Mexico in a Spanish immersion program. And I learned a lot in that month. But when I got home, I didn't spend enough time practicing and I lost much of what I had learned.

Now, I'm learning again, using the Pimsleur approach. I listen to 30 minute lessons. There's a narrator, a Spanish speaking man and a Spanish speaking woman. They talk, I repeat. Today I listened to leccion veintisiete (Lesson 27). I'm learning a lot.

Even so, I'm still not confident enough to actually speak Spanish with someone who's first language is Spanish. There are several people at the rec center who have noticed that I'm learning Spanish, and they've offered to talk with en español anytime. I've said a few sentences, but haven't yet a real conversation. Someday I will

I like the challenge of learning a new language, even if it's taking me a long time.
Yo aprendo despacio. The lessons are designed to be listened to every day, one per day. I listen as I'm walking and I listen to each lesson four times. And today's lesson, which has been difficult for me to really get, I've already listened four times and I'll probably review it once or twice tomorrow. I'm hoping that at some point I'll be able to think in Spanish instead of translating back and forth.

Next time you see me, if you know Spanish, speak to me in Spanish. Just be patient with how long it takes me to translate and respond.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Double Rainbow

About two weeks ago I stepped out my front door to find this wonderful view.

No other words for this post - just nature's beauty.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Start My Day with Gratitude

Today I was at the Nampa Rec Center at 5am, when they open. That's way earlier than I normally get there, but I had an appointment and had to fit in my exercise earlier. There's a group of regulars who are at the NRC every morning at 5am. This morning I was the fourth one there. With everybody standing in line, I decided to hold the door. I ended up holding it for about 40 people.

How many times have you started a day with dozens of people saying, "Thank you"? This is probably the first time I have and it was a great way to start the day.

I was able to express kindness and I received gratitude in return.
They were able to receive kindness, and express gratitude.
That sure seems like a win-win situation to me.

I don't know how often I'll do the same thing, but I received a great return for minimal effort.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Edward's Greenhouse

Yesterday a group of photographer friends went to Edward's Greenhouse for a photo field trip. I'm not a flower photographer. It's not that I can't shoot flowers - I just don't enjoy that subject matter. And there are other photographers in the camera clubs who are very talented in that arena. Even so, it's good to push my boundaries, to expand my comfort zone. And a friend assured me there was way more than just flowers there - and he was right.

I found more subjects to shoot than I had time for. I even discovered some fun in shooting flowers. There were textures and shapes and lines and it all just worked together so beautifully. In such a target rich environment, the trouble for me is finding where to start. Directly inside the front door is a room filled with small plants, tchotchkes, etc. I could have spent several hours just in that room alone. Normally when I get to a new place, I start by just walking around for a while, not shooting anything, just trying to take in all that is available. But on this day, I decided to just start shooting, to see what I might find.

For most of the day, I had an extension tube on the lens, giving me the ability to shoot macro. I don't shoot much macro normally, but given an opportunity like this greenhouse presented, how could I not? Plus, I prefer to take photos of details and small scenes. And with a macro lens - now that's pretty small.

I discovered that when shooting plants (and other things) in macro, many things become abstract. I like abstracts. They allow the viewer's mind to wander and wonder. The inevitable question is always: What is it? But with abstracts that a question I never answer.

Edward's Greenhouse Photo Album