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October Journal
10.30.03 The Best Season

For as long as I can remember, autumn has been my favorite time of year. I love it. I love the leaves, the chilly air. I love the rain storms that slick up the black streets of New England in the dark. This really is the best.

People are bringing in apples they picked at the orchards around here. There's cider. We have a great place around the corner that makes a killer cider donut, too. Fresh and rolled in cinnamon sugar, it is to die for.

We're going to carve pumpkins tonight, and then I'll roast up the seeds with lots of salt. We'll put candles in our Jack O' Lanterns and marvel at our efforts.  Last year, my Dad won the carving contest at work. We had a ball.

We'll even get to see a few kids dressed up, I'm sure. The neighbor boy will get to wear his bleeding mask, the one that requires him to pump the "blood" quickly to get the effect. He's been sneaking it on to "scare" me for weeks.

I hope you're enjoying this time.


10.29.03 Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

I'm reading the book INTO THE CLASSROOM, which is a teacher's guide for understanding how the Outward Bound program works. It's really exciting reading, especially because it's helping me in two different ways. It's helping me understand my personal goals, and it's giving me ideas for how to perform my work challenges.

What I've read so far (and this book had the best preface and introduction I've ever read) tells me that the Outward Bound model assumes that people work best in small groups to solve problems. They work best when it is assumed that they have SOME pre-existing skills and knowledge, even if it's not the exact match of the task before them. I love that. It fits very well with what I'm trying to accomplish.

The challenge now becomes how I'll find ways to enhance my own critical thinking skills. I'm hoping that gets further explained in the book. I'll be paying attention, that's for sure.

At work, it gives me ideas on how best to model our new project approach. I was feeling a bit without reference, though still excited about the prospect. But now, I feel like I've got a sense of where this could go. Outward Bound is all about bringing empowerment to individuals and small teams. That's what I work with all day. So, it's really going to prove interesting to try and map some of my new learning to my job experience.

And something else. It gave Katrina an idea to hand back to me that suggests I might consider putting together a program similar to Outward Bound for school kids, to teach them about self-esteem, and to help build them up. I think that's fascinating. It would really match up a lot of my interests and abilities very well. I'll be researching it a lot more, that's for sure.


10.28.03 Fortune

I have been very fortunate lately, and I want to recognize that a moment. At home, I have a partner who works with me on the things I find important. I have a daughter who is healthy, bright, and challenging. I have a family of diverse and interesting people who live near enough to visit, and who support us greatly.

At work, I've been fortunate enough to work with great minds, with people who have inspired me to grow above and beyond my current levels to even greater potential. I have worked for some wonderful bosses, and have served several talented individuals in my current role. I also have been blessed with learning opportunities from diverse sources, inside and outside the company.

I am healthy, and getting better every day. I am living in comfort, have food and adequate shelter. I enjoy my days, and I appreciate the day to day life I lead.

I have plans for the future, but I wanted to recognize where I am today and say, "Hey. This is all right."


10.27.03 Rolling Forward

It's amazing how my skull works. Once I get a basic template that makes sense for what I want to do, things all fall into place. At work, this is really the case. I feel really connected to my efforts again. Gone is all the trepidation. I have a model, and I am using it to move forward.

This is all related to last week's posts about rapid response and the like. I'm now working on training myself to be effective in a multitude of settings and terrains, be they work-related or not. I'm building a catalog of skills and abilities that I can call upon for both strategic and tactical understanding of those situations that influence my life.

It's my way of dealing with uncertainty. It's my method for wrapping my head around things that make me uncomfortable. I'm thankful. I'm learning a lot about myself through these efforts.


10.23.03 First Snow

I have promised never to complain about cold weather in New England. I am in love with this weather, so it's not a difficult promise. Is it okay to gripe about New England drivers?

I'm just teasing. I had a rough commute this morning, but then, who doesn't? It makes me realize that maybe I'm *not* interested in extending it even further, even if that does mean getting a decent sized house on a good piece of land. Maybe I just will have to make do a little while longer before a good house is viable. What can I say?

A coworker of mine in a very similar circumstance financially just got a mortgage on a place a million miles away. It's a decent deal, because the house sounds beautiful, and his land sounds excellent. I just don't know about the 1 to 1.5 hour commute. I think I'll see how HE does with it over this winter, and then maybe consider it.

I'm feeling well today, but not exceptionally motivated. I think it's because the kid kept me awake for 2 hours last night. I'm glad that's few and far between.


10.22.03 Rapid Response Unit

The way things are going, I'm finding that I have to learn how to be a rapid response unit. At work, this means just being willing to let go of how things were going and re-invent. At home, this means trying to find some ways to help out while we continue to work through life as we know it. I'm excited about the work, even though it's stressful and demanding.

My library record is crazy. I've taken out so many books in the last many weeks, all of them seemingly different and in opposite directions. I've had books by rabbis and marines, outdoorsmen and business executives. And they're all for the same purpose, even though it's not immediately obvious.

I'm trying to learn the skills and abilities required to be completely useful in unknown territory. I want to learn how to react when dropped into a new situation and that includes orienting to my new surroundings, assessing what needs to happen, and then responding. I need to know that I can handle whatever situations (professional and personal) I will run across.

It's been challenging, but framing it this way is helping me in my efforts.  


10.21.03 Saplings in a Wind Storm

There are two ways one can face a strong and hasty change: one can be like an old strong tree, with years of experience and surety built into its strong trunk and its firm branches, or one can be like a sapling, with a flexibility and fluidity to its motions, and a stronger ability to replenish after its losses. Of course, if the storm gets too powerful, the old tree might break. The sapling? It will stand a better chance of surviving and growing stronger through the process.

I recently assessed myself and came up feeling more like the old sturdy tree and less like the sapling. This turns out to be the wrong answer for the wind storm I was facing, and so, as I am so wont to do, I set about finding my way to the path where I could react more like a sapling. I looked at my abilities, at the territory around me (the Wind Storm, in this case), and I brought to bear those assets of mine that would best help me weather the storm and come out stronger.

Now that I've made this course correction, I believe that things will flow better. I feel that by changing the way I look at the situation, I've found a new way to work with it instead of against it. This, of course, is the secret to my longevity at all tasks where I have been successful.

So, on to being a sapling.


10.20.03 Get Together

I was recently invited to a get-together by a guy I attended Jr. High and the first year of High school with. I'm so excited. Not only was the invitation worded wonderfully, but it was amazing to think about these people that I haven't seen in almost 20 years.

Of all the places I've ever lived, Pittsfield, Maine was the place where people made me feel the most welcome. I had more friends in this little town than I've ever had, before or after. It was just a little town in Maine. There isn't anything really immediately exceptional about the town. And yet, it resides in my mind as the pinnacle of small town New England.

This will be the first time I've attended anything even vaguely resembling a reunion, in any town. I certainly never bothered with my high school reunions, as I didn't really get along with about 94% of the school. I've met individual people from back in the day, but never on the scale that this little gathering will offer. It's a chance to think about things, and about the way I will go.

Reunions are reckonings. You cannot attend without first taking the measure of yourself. Everything that happens after that is all dependent on the makeup of the individual. Will you be catty, and go there hoping to brag about your big success? Will you be sizing up how well the others have kept their bodies? Or will you be genuine and just glad to reconnect with good people, and learn their stories? Will you be grateful to be included in an event that will mark the passing of time in your life?

I believe my view of myself is this: I've done okay with my life. I have a beautiful wife, a passable daughter (joking!), a good career where I do something that seems to make a difference. I'm not in any kind of great shape physically, but I'm also not very hung up on this fact. I'm grateful for the life I've led, and I've no regrets of the sort that affect my life day-to-day.

I look forward to seeing people. Most of the names, I remembered, but I couldn't put them to a face. Gary and Rob are easy to remember, as they were friends that I hung out with a lot. Most of the other guys were peripheral, but still very fun to be with. I just thought of it-- are you inviting any girls from school? Maybe I remember some of them. Who knows?

Anyhow, it's exciting. Kat's even fairly psyched about it. She's been very encouraging. But then, she always is.


10.16.03 Weight Loss

It's been really funny noting how people react to the results of my fitness and nutrition efforts. I've had a lot of reactions in the last few days. Here's a sampling:

One woman seeing me as I passed through the cafeteria squinted up her eyes, looked me up and down, and then asked me if I'd shaved something, or grew something back. I said that I hadn't, and then mentioned maybe it was the fact I was wearing beige cords instead of black combat pants. She said no. I didn't tell her, but it was fun seeing her try to determine what changed.

Another woman at the microwaves looked at me, double-taked, and then said, "You've really lost some weight." I said, "Yes, I have. Thanks." And she, being a graceful type with social situations, left it at that.

A guy I work with stopped what he was saying and then just looked me up and down. He narrowed his eyes (like the other woman above) and then said, "You've lost weight!" It was almost an accusation.

I'm happy that people notice. It would be bullshit to say otherwise. It's not the reason I'm doing all this work. I'm losing weight because I'm worth it, because my body will really appreciate the changes, and because I have lots of goals that have a prerequisite of excellent health.

The funny thing is, this is only 26 pounds. I have 74 to go. Imagine what THAT will be like.

It's been a lot of work, but I'm happy for days like this.


10.14.03 Good Weekend

We had a great weekend, in that we got a little more sleep, and we got a chance to repair from the vacation. Yesterday, Columbus Day, was great. We went out and about, hung out in another state park, and then drove around some coastal towns like Ipswich. Violette had a ball in the park, and we took all kinds of pictures. Those are all up on violette's site under "Falling in Love."

We saw SCHOOL OF ROCK with Jack Black, which neither of us really enjoyed. It could've been about  1.4 hours shorter and still had the same impact, as there were really only a few funny moments loosely connected with tenuous plot efforts. Save your 9 bucks. Can you believe it costs 9 bucks to go to a movie, not counting food?

My parents are good people. No doubt! It was nice of them to endure Violette's new and weird sleeping patterns.

I'm all out of sorts this morning. We got up really late, probably related to all the recent stress, and because of that, we couldn't work out this morning. I didn't get to do any of my typical ritual. To that end, I'm really tired and weird-feeling.

And, I'm going to leave this a short one. Good day.


10.09.03 Purpose

Imagine for a moment a man working to better himself in several ways. He is pushing hard against his own boundaries. He is strengthening his resolve as a person in general. He is building his self-esteem. He is training his body, losing his excess weight, and getting into good cardiovascular shape to boot.

But why?

Because it's good? That's not a good enough answer. What I'm saying is that I feel slightly devoid of purpose. It doesn't help that I read books about Navy Seals who train for the purpose of being the best at their job. It doesn't help that I have all kinds of strange aspirations to learn things, but no real unified or solid reason to train in any of the fields I'm choosing.

Skills I have:

Organization. Planning/forecasting. Risk assessment/mitigation. Team building. Teaching corporate students. Communications- verbal, written, visual. Nutrition. Fitness. Writing - fiction, business. Art- cartoons, greeting cards. Cooking.

Skills I think I want:

Basic car repair/maintenance. Carpentry. Home building. Formal school-level teaching. Advanced fitness. Survival- wilderness, urban. Gardening- vegetables, fruits, nut trees. Livestock maintenance - chickens. Canning. Forestry. Nature awareness.

The goals I have before me are fairly simple:

Pay off my debts. >>> Move to a piece of land in the country (hopefully by a lake or ocean). >>> Build a final house. >>> Live as close to self-sustainably without a corporate job. >>> Write.

But what do I want to DO with my time, except for those tasks? Are those enough? Am I fulfilling my requirements on this planet by doing the above? The only other one I think of adding to the list of goals is teaching, and that's just because I have a knack for it, and I think it'd be fun to teach high school age kids.

What do you think the purpose of your life is? How'd you come to this decision? What are you doing to reach those goals?


10.08.03 An Overall Review

I have been hard at work on myself since July 7th of this year. Every day has been spent doing intensive searching of my inner self, my motives, my problems, my deficiencies, and yes, my strengths. I have worked hard on correcting some problems in myself that I wasn't aware I had. Now, I'll take a moment and look at how things are going.

The first and biggest discovery I made was that everything that needed fixing all fell back on the topic of self esteem. I read this book, and it helped me see what I was doing. The moment I started working on my self-esteem, every other issue I had improved. It became clear that I'd found the root of my problems.

With my self-esteem issues, I'd turned my relationship to every other person in the world into a system used for rating myself. I looked for approval from people outside of myself. I considered my self-worth based on the people around me. I also found the even deeper root of what I wanted to avoid more than anything else: the sense of disappointing someone else. I wanted to please EVERYONE. If you follow that through, it's obvious that one can't do that. If you strive to make every single person you know happy, alive or dead, you will fail, because what makes one person happy doesn't make another happy. See how this can get really tricky?

I stopped it. I still want my wife and daughter and family to be happy, but I don't see it as my personal responsibility to make others happy. I understand that I can influence their moods, but that ultimately, it's their mood, and they have the final say on how it goes. This applies to all parts of my life.

By removing the sense that I needed to please everyone, I found myself looking at what I wanted to do to please myself. I wanted to know what *I* thought was a good thing. This was difficult, because I'd been so used to living within the frame-work of pleasing others for so long that my view of "self" was very distorted. I had even more work to do.

I had to look at my persona, the person I presented as the sum of all my interests and desires, and I had to determine whether I really wanted all the pieces of me that were there. Turned out I didn't. There were parts of my lifestyle choices that related only to my sense of pleasing others and not wanting to disappoint.  With some of those eliminated, I found that I had gaps in what I used to do with my life and my time. It required even more work.

One issue I had to deal with was my weight. I used to think that my overeating wasn't a big deal because I wasn't hurting anyone. Well, that's because I didn't count myself as "anyone." I am. I'm the first and foremost important person in my universe. Without a well-honed, sharpened saw, it takes twice as long to do the job. I'm no good to myself, my family, or anyone if I don't do the maintenance to keep me together. The weight had to come off. So, I started a fitness regimen. And know what? More work!

One thing that my realizations in the beginning of July brought up was that we'd jettisonned our plans after having a baby. There *was* a plan to go live in the woods, build a house ourselves, and live a self-sustaining lifestyle without the need for a corporate job. For a host of reasons, we threw those plans out the window. However, with some of my efforts of rethinking myself, the plans are now back on the table. Modified, but still alive and well.

Part of changing a life so drastically can often times be a change in the company one keeps. This was definitely the case in my life over the last several months. I have spent a lot more time with myself, and with my wife. I've met some new friends on the journey, and tried to stay connected to a few. For a while there, it was a full blackout, but now, occasionally, I'm feeling motivated to communicate with a few friends here and there. Even that requires more work.

It turns out that I'm not really good at making friends with guys. I've been fairly good at making friends with women, but for some reason, doing the same with guys usually is an effort. I'm working on that now. But I'm still not clear on what the issue is. See? More work.

So, I'm doing well. I'm working hard on myself. There are really rough times. There are times when all my new efforts seem to fall away and there's a really soft spot exposed. At those times, I get stung down to the gut. But for the most part, I'm on the right road, and feeling good.

A lot of the support Kat's given me during this time has helped. It's hard to change so many things, grow so fast, and work so radically without the support of your partner, and Kat is nothing but supportive of my efforts. I'm thankful for that.

I hope you're all doing well.


10.07.03 Using a Compass

One of the things I find hardest in life is to stay focused on the path I've chosen to follow. For one thing, it's really easy to get distracted. It's part of being human. As a human, we need two things above all else: to feel pleasure and to avoid pain. We do this as best as we can. When things we want run counter to those two, it becomes a matter of asserting your focus and your will. I find that making a "compass" to follow gives me some help in this regard.

My current compass looks like this:

*Create *Be Simple *Prepare*
*Do My Best *Support *Maintain*

Here's how I use that compass. I look at goals, dreams, ideas, plans, and any choices before me. I try to make my goals and dreams, my actions and decisions match the compass in some way or another. For instance: I work at the job I have right now because I use it to SUPPORT my family. Another way of using the same compass point. If Kat wants to learn a new skill, anything from Tai Chi to basket weaving, I SUPPORT her choice to do that, because it's what she's choosing.

I use the first three as my front line. I use the second three as what I need to do to keep things rolling. I use the very last one as a catch-all reminder that I must keep myself sustained (physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually) before I'm capable of doing any of the other ones.

I find that using a compass of sorts, a lens through which to view the many things that make up a life is a great focusing tool. For instance, if I want to watch TV, it's not really going to match my compass, is it? You *could* try to argue that it's a sustaining thing, but it sure doesn't match any of the other points, and even the one it might match is fairly tenuous. Eating bad food? Not very sustaining. And let's not even start about how this helps at work. The "Do My Best" one has to be played constantly in my head, because I'm lazy by nature about certain aspects of my job. I love doing the parts of my job that I love, but I'm very resistent to do the parts I don't. I use "Do My Best" as a reminder of why I'm paid to do what I do.

It's great to focus through this compass. It helps me. I adjust the compass points often, removing or changing the guiding points so that I can get an even better clarity. But once I have this tool, I can use it on all the other parts of my life, and that's the beauty of the thing.


10.06.03 Vacationing With Kids, for Dummies

Okay, so I didn't know that things would be *so* different when you bring your 16 month old daughter on vacation to places you think are lovely. Maybe they aren't for everyone, but for me, it was really different.

We traveled up to Bar Harbor last week, to see the mountains, to climb around, to enjoy a cabin by the ocean. A hurricane that hit Nova Scotia also visited at the same time. Ooops. Can you say tons of rain? Fog? Can't go outside with a kid? I knew you could.

The cabin was lovely. It was big enough for the six of us (Kat's relatives visited with us, too). And we had a GREAT time with them there. However, the cabin was not really child proof, and we had to improvise a lot, even considering the fact we brought our own baby gate, outlet covers, etc. There were all these nails sticking out of the walls, part of a "rustic" look (read: unfinished). That was a little tricky. Oh, and Violette learned how to scale kitchen chairs while on this same vacation.

To the plus, it was right on the ocean. Minus? There were all kinds of trees in the way of the view. So, we did get down and see the ocean, but if I owned that land, buddy, I'd chainsaw through a few of those trees and open up that view. To the plus, we got to pick mussels right from the cove and cook them up. Minus? Even though we rinsed them a total of fourteen times, including an overnight stint, they were more gritty than acid rock. Ewww. Good news: red tide was reported three days after we would've eaten the mussels, had they not been so gritty. Success?

We left Bar Harbor a few days early, eating some of the money we paid for the cabin, because Violette just wasn't getting enough stimulation all holed up in there while the rain pounded down. There weren't enough kid-focused things to do in Bar. Instead, we snuck down to Augusta to visit with friends and family.

We didn't get to see everyone we wanted, but we had a great time with the folks we could visit. The hotel where we stayed wasn't all they said they were. Their "heated" pool was nothing exceptional, unless you're fond of 60-something degree temperatures. Um, no. We didn't get much happiness there.

Good points? We had a great time at the Children's Discovery Museum in Augusta. I think Kat and I even liked it more than Violette. There were all kinds of rooms where you could do make believe, including cool things like a real working cash register, one of those vacuum tube mail systems that send paper from one room to another like in old department stores, and a room full of really great percussion instruments. We loved that.

We also got to see some relatives, and some old grammar school friends, and in both places, we really felt welcomed and glad to visit. I missed seeing my Uncle, who had a birthday a few days before, but things were hectic. I hope he understands.

Next time, we'll ask a lot more questions. We'll do a lot of things differently. The one part we agreed we loved was traveling with relatives, especially the ones with kids, and most especially these two and their son. It was a really nice time, and we felt really comfy and happy with them. Sometimes, people's styles are different. We really clicked well.

Anyhow, I hope you're well.