February 21, 2016
Many people may not be familiar with the nature of a sabbatical leave for a college professor. Basically, it is an opportunity for a professor to undertake a major project that either would be too time consuming to complete while performing their routine duties or to gain skills/expertise that one cannot learn in a quick and easy way. It is also considered an opportunity for a professor to refresh their career and, indeed, their motivation by allowing them to focus their scholarly interests (thus immersing and exercising their mind as it pertains to their chosen field of study) without the interruption of teaching and committee assignments. In other words, it affords a professor the opportunity to do what they would really like to do for a semester, or two if they can afford it, as opposed to doing what they are required to do.
However, it’s not as if they don’t have to do anything – it is not a vacation! When I first took a sabbatical, after 12 years at Lansing Community College, I studied the psychological and spiritual factors involved in martial arts training for people with physical disabilities. Despite having my 2nd hip replacement in six months immediately preceding my sabbatical, I managed do quite a lot. I published both a peer-reviewed article and a book, I earned two black-belts in martial arts for people with disabilities (The American Cane System and Defense-Ability), I earned certification in the C.R.I.T.I.C.A.L. Approach™ to Teaching Martial Arts to People with Physical Challenges. I visited schools/programs teaching martial arts for the disabled in Maine, Ontario (Canada), North Carolina, Nevada, and Illinois, and I created a business that got involved in teaching martial arts for the disabled (which became mostly volunteer work).
The work I did on my first sabbatical was intended to provide material for my personality courses (and also Introductory Psychology), as well as providing for my own continuing professional development (a valid aspect of a sabbatical). This has worked out well. Since then, however, I have also started teaching Positive Psychology, which brings us to this project. I have not been able to find a really good positive psychology textbook, and that makes it difficult to justify the price of the available textbooks.
I have become a staunch advocate of open educational resources (OERs). Some years ago I wrote a personality textbook, and eventually started giving it to our students at Lansing Community College (LCC) for free. Recently I made that textbook available on the OER website OpenStax CNX. After giving the matter serious consideration, and since I was once again eligible to take a sabbatical, I decided to propose a sabbatical leave to develop a teaching manual for my students in positive psychology (and also for anyone, anywhere, via OER websites).
As noted above, part of a sabbatical can be the continuing personal/professional development of the professor. So I have envisioned this project as a combination of two parts: a personal journal and an academic resource for teaching positive psychology. The personal journal will focus on my ongoing efforts to incorporate positive psychology into my own life (life is a journey).
So, where are we?
Last semester I submitted my proposal for a sabbatical leave, and it reportedly received the highest score from the committee. I met with the committee member assigned to oversee the project, addressed some concerns and questions they had, and it has now been forwarded to the board of trustees for official approval. I’m not aware of any sabbatical application ever being turned down once it went on the board, so it should be good to go.
If not, you’ll never see this!
February 22, 2016
The nice thing about a journal is that there are no rules. I didn’t finish my introductory thoughts last night, so I can pick them up today.
My sabbatical won’t begin until the end of August, six months from now. However, I need to get serious about working hard on preparing for the first thing I’ll be doing on my sabbatical. The World Master Jiu-Jitsu IBJJF Championship will be held on August 25-27 in Las Vegas. I will not be defending my 2015 purple belt championship, because I am currently a candidate for promotion to brown belt. There are, however, some challenges.
The biggest challenge is knowing everything that our instructor wants us to know. It’s a lot. The second challenge, perhaps equally difficult for me, is that he wants us to be in great shape. At 57 years old, with two artificial hips, I’m not as athletic as I was when I was young. Late last year I hurt my knee, took a break, and gained some weight. Now I can’t seem to lose it. I hate to diet, but it looks like I’m going to have to. I weight about 215 pounds right now, and I need to be down around 200 to feel really good.
When I began Brazilian Jiu Jitsu I weighed about 235. I set a goal of losing 50 pounds. I did it for one day. I made it down to 185 to compete at medium-heavyweight in the World Masters two years ago. The very next day I was 10 pounds heavier – lots of bacon after the tournament! I spent quite a while hovering around 200 and felt good. So now the pressure is on to lose the weight in order to get my promotion to brown belt.
I have everything else covered nicely. I do know a lot (though there is so much more to remember), I routinely help the other students (especially white belts), I sometimes teach the kids class, I’ve competed a lot (with one age-group world championship to my credit), and I show up to class more than any other student at our school.
* * *
Since my sabbatical doesn’t start for a while, I may not continue this journal for now. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t. I am working on finishing another book before sabbatical, but then again I’ll most likely make a few entries pertaining to BJJ. After all, BJJ is what helps to keep me healthy and work off stress. So it is an aspect of my own efforts to maintain a positive perspective on life. Thus, it is part of my personal positive psychology.
April 8, 2016
OK, it has been over a month, and some interesting things have happened. I was promoted to brown belt in BJJ, and I’ve signed up for the IBJJF tournament in Boston in a week and a half. There is another brown belt my age, but he’s a little smaller. At this point, I’m not sure if I’ll have to drop down to a younger age group or if I want to try to cut weight to get down to his size (which I really should do anyway). If I’m lucky, he’ll move up to my weight. If he’s at all worried about making weight, then that would make his life a lot easier. I’ve met a few of the guys in Boston before, but I don’t know him.
There was also a call for proposals for a grant to develop z-degrees, or zero-cost degrees in terms of textbooks. The director of our OER initiatives decided to apply for the grant, and she needed two faculty advocates (one full-time, and one part-time). I was selected, and agreed, to be the full-time faculty advocate for the grant, and I was able to convince some of my colleagues to agree that our degree in psychology should be one of the z-degrees (with two transfer degrees being the others).
The grant application was just submitted, so it will be a while before we know anything. There was some question whether or not I would be able to start on the grant during the fall semester, since I will be on sabbatical (if, indeed, the board approves my sabbatical). However, as I see it, since my sabbatical is about developing OER materials for positive psychology, I can’t imagine any rational person would have a problem with me being on campus occasionally to work on an OER grant. I plan to incorporate some of the OER grant work into my sabbatical. So… Now I just need both the sabbatical and the grant to be approved.
By the way, I was just elected to the Academic Senate here at LCC. Big man on campus…
April 21, 2016
Good news… Bad news…
Today I received word that my sabbatical application has officially been approved! So this project is a go. It doesn’t really start until the beginning of the fall semester, in late August, but I hope to get a lot of preliminary work done over the summer. That way the fall will be as productive as possible, without being too pressured.
I am also in a great deal of pain. My left hip hurts bad, and I’ve had to use my cane for the first time in a year or two. This past Saturday I competed in my first BJJ tournament as a brown belt (at the spring IBJJF Boston tournament). I did fairly well, all things considered. I scored first, and I had the only submission attempt. However, I was unable to finish him, and he gamely fought back. He wore me down, thanks to getting the advantage on me during a scramble in which my artificial hips let me down (I’m just not quick), and eventually he won a close fight on points.
But I had done well! That’s what matters most. So I came home full of motivation, and looking forward to keeping my weight down and tightening up my jiu jitsu game.
The day after I got home the weather was beautiful, so I headed to the state park for a hike/run. I can’t actually run, because of my hips, but I hike the flat and uphill sections, and run the downhill sections. It often causes mild pain, but I can deal with that. This time, however, the pain was excruciating, and persistent. It has been several days now, and it still hurts bad. I hardly worked out on Tuesday, mostly just helping to teach jiu jitsu. Tonight may be the same. My hip feels better, but not great. We’ll just see how it goes after class starts. I’m just about to head to the gym now, so…
May 17, 2016
LCC held it’s annual graduation two days ago, bringing to an end the formal academic year. Technically, we do still have the summer session, and I am teaching two online classes this summer. However, given the flexibility of teaching online, I am sort of on sabbatical starting now. I hope to get a fair amount of work done over the summer, so that the fall semester (when I’m officially on sabbatical) will be fairly easy. More importantly, that will provide me with more time in the fall to polish what has been written and to incorporate any changes and/or additions to the current plan.
I spent a little time just now setting up the overall structure of this project, i.e., the sections of the book. Although I will write things up in the general structure of a traditional book, which I’m familiar with, I will also endeavor to keep things fairly modular (i.e., in discreet units). This will provide me with flexibility when it comes to making the OER available in potentially different formats later on.
There have also been some interesting things happening lately. It snowed before graduation. That’s right, it snowed in mid-May, something not very common in southern Michigan this time of year. April sure, but not once May rolls around!
During our professional activity days at the end of the year, I was supposed to be a member of a discussion panel on OERs. The presentation was going to be given by Regina Gong, our librarian in charge of the overall OER directive here at LCC. The day after the professional days I was going to do the same thing up north at Central Michigan University for the MI Academic Librarians Association Annual Meeting. However, Regina’s mother was very ill, and Regina left the country to be with her mother. So, one of the adjunct faculty (who was also supposed to be on both discussion panels) and I gave the presentation at LCC. This was easy, as I knew many of the people in the room personally.
However, I did not know anyone in the librarian’s association, and our adjunct faculty member didn’t come to CMU. So there I was, joining up with a librarian and two of her colleagues to help give a talk using someone else’s PowerPoint slides, and being the sole member from our school on the panel. Overall I think it went really well. Better, actually, than the talk at our own school. Some of the colleagues I knew were (are) very negative, and they made that clear at the presentation. I’m not sure why they bothered to come.
The librarians, however, were entirely positive and supportive, despite some realistic concerns about problems we run into dealing with, guess who, those annoying naysayers!
Well, not much more to say, and it’s about time to head to today’s Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class.
June 1, 2016
John has been home for a week, but tomorrow he leaves for Ithaca, NY. He’ll be conducting research this summer, and taking a summer class at the same time. I spend too much time worrying about how I’ll be able to help him get through his 4 years at such an expensive school, but he earned the right to be there. In addition, he has done very well. He made the Dean’s List his first year, and at the end of his second year he won the undergraduate research poster award for his work in astronomy. So, I’ll just keep doing everything I can to make sure he is able to fulfill this wonderful opportunity.
I registered for the NY IBJJF tournament in mid-July, so the time is now to get serious about training again. I’ll most likely have to drop down a couple of age groups to have some competition, but if that’s the case I should do it. It’s the practice competing that helps.
I already have one competitor in both my current weight class and the weight class I hope to be well-prepared for by the end of August when the World Masters tournament in Las Vegas rolls around. I am currently registered at super-heavyweight, but I plan to compete at heavyweight. At the moment I weigh 209 lbs., and I need to be 203 to compete as a heavyweight, which is where I feel my best overall. Six pounds is easy, and I should lose more than that just by training hard for the competition.
I would really like to get down to 185 again. I made it there for the Master Worlds two years ago, but it was very difficult to do it. It was a big deal, because it marked having lost 50 lbs. since my hip replacement surgeries. But, I was only there for one day, and it was sooooooo easy to gain a lot of the weight back. I should have worked to stay there, so maybe this time I’ll get back down there and try to stay put. Not for August, at least I don’t think so, but maybe before this sabbatical comes to an end.
Technically my sabbatical doesn’t start until the fall semester, and I do have two classes to teach this summer. However, they are online classes, so my time is flexible. The classes don’t start for another five days, and they are all set up and ready to go. What I have been working on, sabbatical-wise, is setting up the outline of the OERs I’ll be writing. So far it’s pretty slow going, but I think that has a lot to do with the fact that I’m not officially on sabbatical yet. So no hurry…
The plan is to get a lot of the structure set up, and identify the resources I’ll need, and pull together materials I already have, so that I can be most productive this fall. And, hopefully, maybe a little creative as well. I have some interesting ideas, but I’m not yet sure how fruitful they’ll be. However, I have enough experience teaching and writing that I have a good sense of how fruitful something can be… once I get the original idea. That’s the trick, getting the idea itself. Then you can run with it, and if all goes well, have some fun with it.
June 10, 2016
I’m going through a strange time right now. I’m broke, but I have a pile of cash at home. I miss my son, and I’m so proud of what he’s doing. My body hurts, and I won’t give up the reason it hurts. Sound strange? Let’s take a closer look.
I have a lot of debt from a terrible divorce settlement in which I put the kids first and my ex-wife used that to take every vicious advantage she could. So, looking ahead to my sabbatical this fall, and knowing I would need some extra money, I’ve been saving up while I was making a little extra money (which will not be the case in the fall). So yeah, I’m paying my bills, but money is tight. And the money I’ve saved will not be touched until I need it for my sabbatical trips.
When I had to sell my house after my ex cut of the child support payments, I moved into a 2-bedroom apartment. When my younger son asked what would happen to his bedroom, I told him about my choice to get a 2-bedroom apartment so he would still have his own room when he came home. He thanked me, and in addition to breaks during the school year at Cornell University, he had his room last summer after his first year ended. It is now the summer after his second year at Cornell, but he is not home. They asked him to stay at Cornell for the summer to continue working on the research project his is involved with. It’s awesome, and I couldn’t be more proud. But not counting his time in the dorms, it is now the first time he has moved out. So now it really feels like I live alone – and I will quite likely live alone for the rest of my life.
I’ve been trying to pick up my BJJ training again, as in working harder and competing harder. It’s tough on an old, disabled body. However, it has also been good for my weight, my blood pressure, my strength, etc. So I’ll keep working hard, especially now that it’s summer. I’m the oldest guy who trains at our gym, but not the only one who’s disabled. We have another disabled student, who is thinking about competing again in a month. Now he’s expressing some doubts about being ready, but we’ll all see what we can do about helping him get ready!
So, yeah, life is somewhat strange right now, but that’s OK. I’m comfortable with why things are the way they are, I understand how we’ve all gotten here, and sometimes that’s just the way life happens.
My online summer classes just started, I was on campus a couple of days ago participating in a meeting to enhance the partnership between LCC and Wayne St. University (where I went to graduate school), and I’ll be having lunch next week with the provost to discuss morale on campus (with special attention to student veterans, but also regarding faculty collegiality), so I’m as busy as I can be. But it’s all good, because the classes are online, so I have flexibility in my schedule.
And… I’m slowly, steadily getting the outline of this project regarding the positive psychology manual/book in place. Life is, generally speaking, good business right now.
July 7, 2016
OK, I haven’t checked in for a while, and some interesting things have been happening. I just graded the only set of papers I’ll be getting this summer, so it’s nice to have that behind me. And it was announced this week that we (Lansing Community College) are one of the new institutional partners with OpenStax. They will help us to increase the use of OERs on our campus, and then we will become more of an example for other schools making their way toward greater use of OERs. Remember, this project is an OER project, so I am very committed to this goal.
Indeed, I wrote a letter in support of our OER Project Manager as she applied for this partnership, and I am now listed as the #2 person for the project (i.e., it has been added to my curriculum vitae).
I’ve been training hard lately, and I have a tournament in New York City in just over a week (it is Thursday today, and it’s next Saturday). I have one opponent in my weight division, but neither one of us will actually be in that weight division! I registered at super-heavyweight, but I am just about down to heavyweight. As I train hard over the next week I’ll be down under the limit for heavyweight.
My opponent is smaller than me, but he moved up to my weight class to have an opponent (there aren’t too many of us older guys). I know my opponent, and we’ve fought a couple of times before. He is a multiple Pan-Am and World Champion, but I very nearly beat him in Boston a couple of years ago. So I know two things: he can beat me, and I can beat him! So it will be an interesting warmup for the Master Worlds a little over a month later. He has been a brown belt quite a bit longer than me, but whatever… It’s on! We’ll see who has the better day.
* * *
Honestly, I’m more excited about the day after the BJJ tournament. I’ll be stopping in Ithaca to visit my son, and to go fishing with a guide on one of the Finger Lakes. This fall my son will be taking a physical education class on fishing, and the guide we’ve hired will be his professor!
I recently bought a new fishing rod/reel combo. I spent a little extra to get one of my favorite brands: Pfleuger. It’s a long, lightweight rod that I had strung with 6 lb. test line. I went out in my kayak and caught some nice bass. I love the action of my new rod. I’ll have to get out again this weekend.
July 19, 2016
This past weekend was an interesting one, to say the least. At the tournament in New York I was pleased with my performance. Since there were only two of us in the age group, we fought each other in both the weight class and in the open division. He won both matches on points, but he never really came close to threatening a submission. On the other hand, once I weathered the early attacks I turned the tide in both matches. I had my chances to submit him, so he was the one who had to start playing defense.
Part of my game is to slow things down and breathe a little once things turn around. However, one of the things that makes him so good is that he aggressively attacks as soon as you let down. So when I wanted to rest, he wanted to attack. So he forced me to turn up the pace and fight hard. My recent conditioning paid off!
So in the end, I had two long, tough, technical, back-and-forth matches against a very good opponent. Oh yeah, he’s had his brown belt for nearly two years; I’ve been a brown belt for a couple of months. So, overall, I’m reasonably pleased with my performance. It was very good for me.
After the tournament I drove up to Ithaca (about 4 hours). My son is staying with a friend for a month, so I got one of the couches. It was not comfortable. They live above a bar. It was noisy. We had to get up at 5 am. Suffice it to say I got very little sleep.
At 6 am we met up with John Gaulke, a fishing guide in the Ithaca area, and headed out onto Cayuga Lake for some lake trout fishing. Wow! We had a great day, catching a total of 22 lake trout. We’re not positive, but I think it was 11 for me and 11 for my son John (maybe it was 12-10, but even then we don’t know who might have had more).
My next tournament is the World Master Jiu-Jitsu IBJJF Championship, in Las Vegas, a little over a month away. I’ve been toying with the idea of going to the Chicago tournament in just under a month, but I just checked the age and weight groups. Screw that! I would have to drop down 4 age groups to get an opponent (20 years younger than me). No thanks. Looks like Vegas it is. Now if only I wasn’t a brand new brown belt. Whatever. I do it for fun and to improve. I try to win, but that’s only a secondary goal.
* * *
Almost forgot something important: we were awarded an institutional partnership with OpenStax to encourage and advance the use of OERs at our school. Technically, the grant went to our OER coordinator Regina Gong, but I am officially the backup person and the “textbook hero” for the grant. So…it’s on the c.v. already. We’ve had our first meeting with OpenStax and the other 10 schools (I think the total is 11) who were awarded one of the partnerships, so it is already underway.
Regina will be unavailable for the next meeting, so I will actually have to do some of the work this summer. But I don’t think there will be anything challenging for me.
Since our last OER grant application was not successful, I was happy for Regina that this one was successful. She has put a lot of effort into our OER efforts at LCC, so she has earned some external kudos. Interestingly, she’s already helped put into place some of what we need to do for the grant, so our success is all but guaranteed. That’s always nice.
August 8, 2016 (8/8/16 or 8 + 8 = 16; I often look for interesting number combinations, just for fun).
It’s time to get serious. Summer classes are behind me, so in a sense my sabbatical has begun. Technically it doesn’t begin until the fall semester begins, but that’s only 2 weeks from today. And…on that first day I’ll be leaving for the World Master IBJJF tournament in Las Vegas. The plan right now is as follows: 3 days of driving, compete on Thursday (according to the current schedule), then head to Great Basin National Park to hike up Wheeler Peak, then drive across central Utah to the northwest corner of Colorado and finally go to Dinosaur National Monument. Then the long drive home.
Since that first week to a week and a half of traveling, I want to coordinate the preliminary work I’ve done on the OER project before then. Not that I don’t have anything else to do. I have to carefully focus my BJJ training over the next two weeks (I’m nursing two minor injuries in my right leg), I have to attend an OpenStax Partnership meeting this week, and an academic senate meeting next week.
Money is always tight for me, but I’ve done a good job of saving up for the sabbatical trips. I have four trips lined up: the trip to Vegas, a 5 day BJJ camp on Lake Winnipesauke in NH two weeks later, the 13th Annual Open Education Conference in Richmond, VA in early November, and then a week and a half at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies in late November. It worked out just right that there were two courses I wanted to take at the Barre Center on consecutive weekends, and I’ll stay during the week in between to use their library for research and writing. I did the same thing seven years ago, and it was very relaxing and productive. The first weekend course is being taught by their resident scholar, who I met briefly on that previous trip, so we’ll become reacquainted. If I then have scholarly questions during my week of writing, it will be quite easy to ask him and talk about whatever questions I may have (which tend to be many).
Coming back to the money issue, I estimated that I need about $3,300 more to cover my remaining costs, and I’ve saved almost $3K. So we’re all good to go. However, I am thinking about one more trip – a trip that won’t cost much at all. I haven’t been backpacking in many years (since my hips got too bad). I’m thinking about a kayaking/camping trip this fall. Just somewhere reasonably close, probably here in MI. Better do a little research on what might be a good state park or national forest here in MI.
August 15, 2016
Interesting morning. In one week I’ll be on the road, headed for Las Vegas and 2016 IBJJF World Master Championships. After that I am first headed for the Great Basin National Park to hike up Wheeler Peak. However, some of the trails in the area are currently closed due to a big forest fire! Hopefully everything will be under control by the time I get there. A fews years ago I was there with my son and a friend of his, and we went for a nice hike, but not up to the top of Wheeler Peak. It would be crazy if this trip didn’t work out either.
This morning I am supposed to make some updates to the proposal for our partnership with OpenStax. It’s really Regina’s responsibility, but she’s still out of town. No problem, I knew about it and agreed to do it, and it’s not much at all – only a few minutes after the meeting we all had last week (all the other colleges involved). However…no internet this morning. Not at home or at the library. The whole town (or more) is out, so it’s probably a Comcast problem, since I think they are the big service provider for the area.
So I’ll work on some writing until, hopefully soon, the internet is available again. I’m working on the section on tribalism in the military and how communities pull together following a disaster. Not the sort of thing you find in a typical positive psychology class, but positive psychology is still developing as a field of study.
August 16, 2016
I just had an interesting honor. The provost had asked me about contributing some guidance/leadership for the Veterans Affairs office by serving on an advisory committee. This has been planned before, and never got off the ground. Nonetheless, I was asked to serve on a committee to review the applications for our veterans’ hall of fame, the awards to be made on Veteran’s Day in November.
So, I just got to read and evaluate this year’s applications. Of course, it’s a dubious honor, since you are expected to judge who gets the award and who does not. Still, I felt it was pretty clear, and I recommended 3 of the 5 applications. Two were quite obvious from my point of view, and the third was of particular interest to me. No details, of course, since I don’t yet know what my colleagues on the committee will think.
August 23, 2016
WHEW! I’m sitting in a hotel in Las Vegas, eating Panda Express and drinking a 24 oz. Modelo Especial (I love that they are using the theme song from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in their new commercials).
Yesterday was the official first day of my sabbatical. I got up at 5 am, threw the last few things in the car, said goodbye to my son John who’s heading back to school, and hit the road about 5:30. By midnight I was driving through Denver, CO, about 1,200 miles from home. I finally took a nap for about 3 hours, and then continued driving all the way to Las Vegas!
I considered numerous changes to my plans, but ended up coming here to Vegas and getting a hotel for two nights. I compete on Thursday, late in the day. Not sure what I’ll do tomorrow, maybe just veg out and spend some time hanging out in the pool. I might also go for a hike out in the desert, but just not sure yet. My weight is better than good, I could make the lighter weight class (hence the big dinner tonight, with some chocolate for dessert later). So, unlike the last two years, I don’t need to trim a pound or two.
On Friday I hope to get to Great Basin National Park, but I’m looking at a nighttime drive and just sleeping in the car. I’m not worried about it (I did it last night), especially since I’ll be out in dark, clear skies, and the stargazing should be awesome. Then it’s on to Dinosaur National Monument, either Saturday or Sunday.
I’ll leave the annoying crap out for now… I’ve promised my kids that I was going to do a better job of practicing what I preach with regard to positive psychology and mindfulness!
Oh yeah, I got a fortune cookie with my Panda Express. The fortune said, “You will obtain your goal if you maintain your course.” Umm…what if your course is unconsciously self-destructive? I am a psychology professor after all, so I do think about such things, and I’ve known plenty of people who are self-destructive (I know one well right now, come to think of it). Good thing I don’t believe in fortunes, so no stress for me.
Oh yeah again, on Sunday morning I saw the new movie Kubo and the Two Strings. Way cool!
August 24, 2016
Interesting. Last night I got a message that my credit card was suspended for suspicious charges. I guess when you get gas in Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, and Nevada, and then check into a hotel in Las Vegas, all within 24 hours, they think that’s strange. Once that was taken care of, it was off to Red Rock Canyon.
My initial plan was to take the scenic drive, and maybe go for a short hike. The hike I chose ended up being longer, higher, and hotter than expected. But it was definitely awesome. Unfortunately the cable to download pictures isn’t in my camera case. Looks like I’ll have to wait until I get home to take a good look at the pictures I took.
My shoulder feels better, but it’s definitely not 100% (or even close). By this time tomorrow the competition will be wrapping up. Can’t come soon enough for me. My training fell apart somewhat, for reasons that don’t need to matter now. All that matters now is to do my best on the mat!
August 26, 2016
Yikes! The last two days were crazy. It’s hard to say what was most interesting and/or awesome.
Yesterday I competed in the BJJ tournament. Like many of my tournaments, I accomplished some good things, and went the distance without being tapped out. However, my opponent was very good, and he stymied my usual counterattacks. Before we competed I ran into some BJJ friends and had a good time catching up.
So I got my bronze medal (old man groups are often small), got some new perspective on how my training should progress, and had a good time. Then I hit the road without bothering to compete in the open division, and things got really interesting.
I decided to drive up to Great Basin National Park overnight, planning to hike up Wheeler Peak (NV) in the morning. I took a couple of naps, but also took some time to stargaze. The center of Nevada is quite dark, and I had forgotten how awesome the Milky Way looks when you can actually see it!
At one point I was cruising along the highway at 70+ mph, and suddenly there was a horse right next to the car. I blew by it so fast I hardly saw it, but the bulk of it freaked me out. I turned around and went back, and sure enough there was a small herd of wild mustangs crossing the road. If I’d hit one of them we could have both died!
There were also hundreds of rabbits crossing the road – all night and the next morning. I tried to miss them, but sadly there were just too many, and they ran right in front of me like they were committing suicide! As it turns out, 3 of the crazy little bunnies became roadkill snacks for scavengers.
The real intensity came on Wheeler Peak, however. I was worried about the altitude and the elevation gain for this hike. I haven’t done anything like it in many years, since long before my hips were replaced. However, I did not anticipate the howling wind!
I made good time up to the tree line, and realized the altitude and elevation gain, as well as the 8 ½ mile length, were not going to be a problem. However, as I hiked up over the shoulder between the tree line and the summit ridge the wind was driving straight along the trail head-on at 30 mph or more.
Between the shoulder and the summit ridge proper there is a rise that has a couple of rock shelters at the top. As I surmounted this rise the wind was steadily increasing to something like 40 or 50 mph. It was so strong I had to lean into it to walk, and strong gusts were blowing my ski poles and my feet to the side as each one was lifted off the ground!
It was likely that the wind on the summit, and the steep ridge leading up to it, was blowing even harder. It was a very difficult decision, but since my artificial hips cause me to be a little slow with my footwork it was too dangerous to continue. I turned back and headed down to the car.
On the way down I met several people, and several times stopped to talk. Two of these conversations were very pleasant, one with a group of guys which included some older guys like me and another with a couple (married, I believe). Naturally they were interested in the conditions higher up on the mountain, but we also chatted about where we were all from, what brought us up the mountain, and so on. It has always impressed me how nice people are when they meet up in nice places. One’s personality is often at its best when you find yourself enjoying the beauty and majesty of such locations in nature.
Then came a drive all the way across Utah, through some very interesting and scenic mountainous terrain. I got a picture of some free range cattle, and actually saw quite a few along one of the highways.
By this point I was fried. A BJJ tournament yesterday, not much sleep last night, and a very tough hike and then long drive today. So now I’m in a hotel in Roosevelt, Utah, and the first thing I did was jump in the hot tub and chill! It felt great.
Tomorrow: I will finally go to the Dinosaur National Monument. I’ve been close before, when going to fly fish below the Flaming Gorge Dam, and then when my son and I drove through so he could see the dam, but I never went down to see the dino fossils. Tomorrow; finally.
August 29, 2016\
Dinosaur National Monument is awesome. It’s amazing that they ever found such a place, but that’s one of the things they like to describe, in part because it’s an example of the logical methodology that underlies much of scientific discovery.
What I really like is that there are some fossils that you can touch, both in the display hall and on the trail nearby. Touching a 149 million year old dinosaur fossil, especially one that’s still stuck in the side of a rock cliff, is way cool. I’m so glad I finally got there after being close to the area a couple of times before (at Flaming Gorge).
Google maps suggested going home through Denver, but I didn’t was to bother with that route again, and the easiest way was to head straight north past Flaming Gorge, but I’ve been up there. So, I decide to head east to Craig, CO and then turn north to pick up Interstate 80 in Wyoming. I was hoping that along WY 179 there would be some pronghorn antelope close enough to get some pictures. Pronghorn antelope are one of my favorite animals. Jackpot, there were dozens, and I got some really good pictures.
At some point on the drive home it occurred to me that I was starting to get stressed out, specifically because my mind was beginning to refocus on all the stressful things waiting for me back home. What was most interesting was that I also realized how stress-free my trip had been. It really was a good vacation, even though some of the trip was work related (like keeping this journal).
Applying some of my training in mindfulness, I took a few deep breaths, and worked to put the whole situation in perspective. Even though I was heading home, it wouldn’t be long before my trip to New Hampshire for the 5-day BJJ seminar. Of course, I’m a little worried about how my body will hold up to that much training, but I know it’s my trip – i.e., I can do as much or as little as my body can stand. If things hurt, I can just watch and learn, or go swimming or fishing, or whatever the hell I feel like doing.
I also mindfully reminded myself that I’ll be on sabbatical all semester, so I’ve got plenty of time to relax and do things I like, like writing, while dealing with stressful things. So life isn’t all that bad – at least not anything that’s going to break me.
September 1, 2016
So, I’m really on sabbatical now. The semester got into full swing this week, but I’m doing my own thing. I just reorganized things a little, bringing something from the fifth section into a revised version of the second section. Not only do I think it makes more sense, from an academic point of view, but it helps to balance out the amount of material in the two sections, which is valuable from a practical point of view. For example, when the amount of content is balanced, then you can spend the same amount of time on each section (i.e., same number of lectures), and it’s easier to come up with quizzes of the same length.
These are the simple, yet practical matters that you need to think about when preparing educational materials. Of course, you don’t go out of your way to make things all the same, resulting in what might become an awkward presentation of the content. Instead, you just pay some attention to it, and hope it all then falls into place.
* * *
I’m also starting to really think about next week, since they are also sending us the important information we need to get ready for next week. What is next week? The BJJ Globetrotters camp in New Hampshire. Five days of BJJ training from about 10 am to 8 pm. That’s a whole lot of BJJ for a guy like me – 57 years old, with two artificial hips!
Thankfully, the information they just sent us actually warns not to do too much. I was already planning to take that approach, so it’s nice to know they want to us to be careful as well. I will likely go to every class, but I may just sit and watch, or drill technique just a little bit and then quit until the next class. Hopefully it will all go well, but it sure seems like a laid-back fun atmosphere is what they encourage and have experienced in the past.
Still, I’m not much of a group person. I don’t make friends easily, or much at all really, so living in a cabin with about 10 other people and then going to class with a 100 or so people each day, all day, will be an interesting experience for me. I’ve certainly done it before, say, for example, boot camp. So I know I can survive it. But the goal is to have a rewarding and, hopefully, actually fun time. So I hope I’m as relaxed as I was last week out west.
Although, it can be tough to relax when you spend the whole day training to fight, and then do some actual fighting…
September 5, 2016
Wow. The sun has set on Labor Day weekend, and tomorrow morning I leave for the BJJ Globetrotters camp in New Hampshire. It seems like I just got back from my trip to Nevada/Utah/Wyoming.
This should be an interesting week.
September 6, 2016
FML! I’m here at the camp, and I should be in a good mood and ready for tomorrow. NO!
On the drive I very nearly got killed, and I’m not exaggerating. A tractor-trailer driver decided to go ahead and change lanes as I was passing him. I hit the horn, slammed on the breaks, veered off the highway into some gravel – all at 70+ miles an hour. The idiot just changed lanes and never looked back. I still don’t know how I managed to avoid his trailer and keep my car under control in the gravel.
Then, just before getting to the camp, John called with an urgent problem with his financial aid. Of course, here I am in NH, rather than at home near my credit union (which may or may not be helpful). Since most of the people reading this will be college students, you probably know how utterly frustrating it is to deal with financial aid people. I certainly hope LCC is doing a better job than a certain Ivy League school I have to deal with. Those people are, for the most part, rude and useless, often providing information that is simply wrong.
So tomorrow morning I will have to try calling them nonetheless, and see if I am lucky enough to get someone who can actually tell me why they say we owe $2,500, when we are supposed to have a surplus of $4,100 to help pay my son’s rent. It will take all of my mindfulness training, and then some, to remain calm. I am not counting on even getting a straight answer from these clowns.
You’d think they would make it easier for us to go deeper and deeper into debt to pay their outrageous tuition rates. But no, they just keep making it harder and harder.
We are not off to a good start… Maybe some good BJJ will help…
September 7, 2016
It’s a beautiful morning here on Lake Winnipesaukee. The sun shone directly into our cabin and that was all the alarm clock I needed. Now I’m sitting on a bench on the beach doing this writing. It’s about 7:30 am, so I have a few hours before I can call the school my son attends and see what I can learn about that problem. In the meantime…
Well, after lying in bed worrying for quite a while, I finally cleared my mind and actually got a pretty good night’s sleep. I had two interesting dreams, one rather dark and symbolic, and the other simply fun and pleasant. Let’s look at the dark one, especially since it reminded me of an interesting Buddhist story.
I don’t remember the setup of the dream’s situation, but eventually the plane I was flying on started to go down. We scrambled for the parachutes, and I jumped out first. As I was plummeting down toward the ground the plane appeared to be the home I had to sell last year (now as I write this I vaguely remember some of the dream setup involving doing things in the house).
Someone else was following me down, and they had pulled their chute. I hadn’t. I just kept falling, thinking about opening the chute, but doing nothing. As I continued to fall I was staring at myself as if I was looking into a mirror. Finally I hit the ground. It didn’t really hurt, and I wasn’t really injured much. So then I pulled the ripcord. The chute kind of popped open, but did not blossom much since I was already on the ground. Finally, I got up and walked it off.
After I woke up, the part of the dream that really struck me was the intensity of the sensation of staring into my own face in a mirror. Naturally, I took this as symbolic of the need, or desire, to reflect on my own life. It reminded me of a famous story from Buddhism involving a mirror.
…..the clear mirror poems….(Note: decided not to come back to this.)
OK. I doubt I’ll pull my computer out again until after our first sessions of BJJ later today. Perhaps things will be going well by then. If not, I’ll have a challenge to take on. So be it.
* * *
It’s now about quarter to seven in the evening. I’m sitting in a rocking chair on the beach listening to some gentle waves splashing on the shore.
OK, let’s get back to the positive side of life. The financial aid problem was indeed caused by my ex-wife, and apparently my son has talked to her and she resolved the problem. I’ll need to follow up. One more year of college to go, and then the kids can fend for themselves. Ha!
BJJ camp. Wow, totally awesome day. Everybody here is pretty cool, and I’ve made friends with a couple of people. Food is reasonably decent, so that’s nice.
The instruction today was excellent, and I did learn a few new things. I attended two gi classes, one no-gi class, and participated in an open roll (though I only sparred a few times). The no-gi class worked my hips pretty hard, so I decided to skip the wrestling class and evening open roll. Instead I took a shower and I’m here on the beach writing this. Although it won’t be included in this journal, I am also going to write some notes on what we did today, so hopefully I’ll be able to remember a decent amount of it when I get back home (or at least work it out through muscle memory).
It’s a little over an hour until dinner, and I’ve got those notes to write. Then, tomorrow, the long days begin.
September 9, 2016
Wow, two full days of BJJ. It has been awesome! I’ve learned some interesting new technique, I’ve met some nice people, I have worked my hips to the max but not too far. It hasn’t been easy to be careful with my hips, but I’ve done only a little rolling, and judiciously skipped certain classes, and went swimming a few times. But I’ve been eating too much.
Tomorrow is another full day, and then Sunday will be just one class and some open rolling. It looks like the answer to one question is quite simple. Can my hips survive a 5-day BJJ camp? Yes, if I’m careful and limit my activity appropriately.
It was definitely a good choice to take this chance!
September 10, 2016
Another full day of BJJ, including some easy rolling. I rolled with one of my cabin mates, caught him real quick with a couple of moves, and ended teaching some stuff he hadn’t seen. I’ve really felt like a brown belt here at the camp, which is a good feeling.
After one of the classes, in which we worked something that I have had some trouble with, I went up to thank the instructor for one of my “Aha!” moments of the camp. He was grateful, of course, and asked me if I was the one who had asked Chris Haueter about pulling guard. When I said yes, he replied that he had some thoughts for me and wanted to meet during the open mat.
First, we had to take the official camp photos for their website, but then he covered some ideas he had for me. Some of it was what I actually do, but he also had a couple of ideas I had not tried. So I was quite thankful for his suggestions, and I look forward to working on them once I get home.
It’s an absolutely gorgeous day. It was warm and sunny most of the day, so I went swimming after the morning class and some rolling. Now it’s late afternoon, early evening, and it’s overcast and breezy. I decided to go kayaking for a bit, and found some spots I really would have loved to fish. The breeze had some pretty good waves going, so I got seriously soaked on the kayak. I was ready for a little water, so it was no big deal. Lot’s of fun!
Most of us are hanging around waiting for dinner. A few people have left already. Tomorrow is an easy day. There’s only one class, and I don’t intend to take it. Not that I don’t need to work the techniques (spider guard), but I don’t think my hips are up for it, since I have trouble with it to begin with. One of my bunkmates asked if I would be rolling in the morning, so I’ll hit the first open mat, then pack up, and if it’s nice go for one last swim before heading down to my mom’s house in Massachusetts for dinner.
On Monday I plan to have lunch with my son John in Ithaca, and then I’ll head home for Michigan.
September 13, 2016
It has been an eventful few days, mostly positive but also one big nasty punch in the gut. Life is never easy or simple for me. But I’ll ignore the b.s. for the moment, and start with the good stuff.
I was tired and sore, and seriously considered doing nothing the last day of the camp – there wasn’t much to do anyway. There were open mat times, and just one class. Some people had left, some were leaving, but I decided to finish training.
I went to the early open mat, and first I rolled with a very (emphasize very) good brown belt. He tapped a bunch of times. But I didn’t let it get to me, because he was younger, technically excellent, and he’d been a brown belt for a long time (his belt was practically in tatters). He was clearly way overdue for promotion to black belt, and we had a good time talking about technique.
After we stopped, a 24-year old blue belt (w one stripe) called me out. He had made it to every class and open mat (as I would have if I were 24), and he also had the goal of rolling with 30 different people, including all ranks. I don’t know if he still needed to roll w a brown belt, but I was number 29 on his list.
We started slow and easy, testing each other’s positions, and when he went to stand I caught him with a quick sit-up guard sweep that totally surprised him. I then set up a guard pass, and as I passed he went for a baseball choke. I recognized it right away, and brought my hand up to block it. However, he had already stopped going slow and easy. He jammed in the choke, and cranked it tight.
I reacted with a block of desperation, and held it there, but I was stuck. So I relaxed and remember my training. He needed to pull his left arm out and up, so I realized I need to use my right arm to collapse his arm structure. I was blocking the choke primarily with my left arm (which was between his hands), so I reached out and up with my right arm, and came down over his left elbow and broke both the structure and his grips. That caused him to suddenly roll to his side, and I moved directly into mount.
In mount I trapped his arm under my chest, and then realized I was in position to go for a wrap-around. This is a move where you reach behind his elbow with your chest and collapse his arm across his chest. Then you reach around his head/neck, take a Gable grip, and squeeze down with your chest – crushing his shoulder. He tried desperately to fight back, by pushing back with the arm collapsed across his chest. So I raised up into a tripod positon, and put my full body weight on his shoulder. He tapped!
I had been a little nervous going with a young, tough blue belt right after being tapped a bunch of times by another brown belt. But very quickly it became apparent that I was a brown belt going against a blue belt. Sure, sometimes blue belts can beat me, but it isn’t ever easy for them.
I then rolled with one of my cabin mates, once again a blue belt. He had come to the camp with one of his friends, whom I had rolled with and showed a few things. The same happened in this “match.” Technique ruled the day, as it is supposed to.
When the class finally started, I was already pretty tired, and my knee was a little sore for the first time all week (it’s an ongoing minor problem). I decided to sit out the class and just watch, unless there were an odd number of people. Sure enough, I saw a young woman looking around, with apparently no one to pair up with. So we trained together, and it turned out to be a great class.
After class, I asked her if she wanted to roll one time, and she said yes. However, she was a very new white belt, so immediately it was clear she was no competition even for an old man like me. So we would start to roll, and then I would coach her. After also giving her a few tips, based on what happened during our easy roll, the camp was finally done!
I hit the showers, said goodbye to some of the people around the camp, and headed out.
* * *
After a three hour drive I arrived at my mom’s house in Massachusetts for dinner with her, my sister, and my sister’s boyfriend. It was a very nice visit. My sister Missy is the only person in my family I really care to see, other than my mom (and, of course, my kids). She’s an artist and graphic designer (with a Master’s degree), she has done some illustrations for me (and agreed to look for something that would make a good cover for this book!), she served in the U.S. Air Force, and she’s psychologically stable. That latter point cannot be made for very many people in my family.
Eventually I headed for Ithaca, NY, alternating driving and sleeping (in rest stops, not while driving), met my son the next day for lunch. It was a quick lunch, since he has a busy class schedule on Monday, but I’m glad I got to see him. But there was more to it than just a nice lunch.
First, he dropped a bomb. Financial Aid. Parental contributions. Lack of parental contributions. What was he to do? Well, it looks like I’m never going to retire, but I’ll be a father and do whatever I have to do for the good of my son. I joked that I wish I’d had a father who cared about me. Maybe that’s why I’ll do anything I possibly can for my boys.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people talk about the limits of what they would do for their children, and how you need to take care of yourself first (and let the kids take care of themselves). Bullshit! There are no limits to what I would do for my children, as long as it is possible for me to do it, and they will always come first – even ahead of my own best interests. I chose to have children, they are great young men, and it is inconceivable to me that a parent would do anything less than everything possible for their children.
Then he tossed a grenade. He had recently been hit by a car – hit and run! He was fine, but his bike was busted up. It was going to cost him about $100, and he was broke because of buying books and such. I had gotten to camp a night early, and saved the cost of a hotel room (as I had originally planned). So I gave him $100 for his bike. So much for saving that money. Oh well, that’s what I get for being a dad.
Of course, $100 I can handle. Tuition at Cornell, and an apartment for my son in Ithaca, that’s gonna require some loans! They say pride goeth before a fall. I’m proud of being a good father (as best I can), since there has been no history of that in my family in my lifetime. However, in this case, pride goeth before debt.
Perhaps that sums up the modern world. Pride goeth before debt.
And in the midst of all the financial aid and hit and run bike accident discussions, I completely forgot to ask about the new project they want him to work on in the astronomy lab. He did mention, however, that later that afternoon he had his first fishing class with the guide/professor we went lake trout fishing with. So while he was studying fishing, I was driving back to Michigan. I crossed the state line just after sunset, an hour from home.
Oh yeah, on this trip my car’s odometer turned 180,000 miles. When this care hits 200K, I will have driven a million miles in my life!
September 16, 2016
I had to make another unexpected trip to Ithaca, NY, because my son needed cash to reserve his apartment for his senior year at Cornell (and it was too much for me to simply put it in his bank account here and then take it out via ATM; and it was needed too quickly for a wire transfer). So I did what I had to do, and he got a nice apartment reserved.
Looking back over the last three weeks, I realized just how much traveling I’ve done. I drove over 7,000 miles covering 16 states, from Las Vegas, NV to Lake Winnipesaukee, NH, I competed in a BJJ tournament and participated in a 5-day BJJ training camp, I hiked in the desert and in the mountains, I photographed pronghorn antelope, and finally visited the Dinosaur National Monument. Throw in Sunday dinner with my mom and sister, and lunch with my son in NY, and I’ve been pretty busy.
Now I don’t have any travel plans until November, when I’ll be going to present at the OpedEd Conference in Richmond, VA. Later in November it’s off to the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies in MA for a week and a half. For now, I’ll focus on writing.
Oh yeah, one other thing, a mixture of good and bad. Today was payday, and I paid off the home improvement loan I took out to fix up my house, which I sold last year. That loan was the last tie to the home where we raised our children. It’s nice to pay off the loan, but I still miss the house. I was forced to sell it due to my divorce, although I didn’t really need a house for just myself.
If not for the real estate crash, I would have made enough money to buy a smaller house. As it was, I actually lost money fixing things up to get it sold and get out from under the mortgage. However, I keep reminding myself that many people lost their jobs, lost their homes to foreclosure, and had few prospects for life going forward. So I’m still better off than many people were. That’s something to be thankful for.
September 18, 2016
So now it feels like I’m home for a bit. Yesterday I went to a local BJJ tournament to coach two of our guys who were competing for the first time. It was a rough introduction for them, but that happens to many of us. We all agreed to a plan to increase our conditioning and to lose some weight. Not that I haven’t been doing a lot, and my weight is sitting at 202 pounds, not a bad weight for me. But I’d like to be lighter, since according to the body mass index charts I am 20 pounds overweight.
I saw something amazing this morning. I went for a hike, and a beam of sunlight was shining down and across the trail onto an old, rotten log. There was a swarm of flying ants on the log, and hundreds (perhaps thousands) were taking off and flying toward the sun. So as they flew up and across the trail, following the beam of sunlight, the light was glistening on their wings in the most spectacular way! I’ve never seen anything quite like it.
Another nice thing: I’m not the first person to write in the first person in a textbook. Obviously this journal is in the first person, but I have also started writing the textbook version of this project in the first person. I was reviewing a section in Christopher Peterson’s A Primer in Positive Psychology (2006a) and he relates a story in the first person – since he was sharing a personal example of the topic. So I shall continue to write freely!
September 19, 2016
Lately I’ve had a lot of interesting dreams, some of them really good. But last night I had one that was so long and so weird that I forgot what I was doing – in the dream!
September 23, 2016
I was at the college today, and ran into a philosophy professor who commented on how I should be having fun on my sabbatical (he was on the sabbatical leave committee for quite a few years). Later in the morning I told him about some fun I had just today, between our conversations.
While working on the play/leisure/recreation section, the topic of sophistry came up. I remembered that I had a book on the Basic Teachings of the Great Philosophers (Frost, 1962) that I bought many years ago, I believe at a garage sale. It was something I though a man of letters should have on his shelf, but that is basically where it has sat all this time. But now, I am citing it in this project (not just here, but in the main text as well). Quirky little things like that are what fascinate me about life.
And now, another funny story…
Today is the first day I’m wearing my Dinosaur National Monument t-shirt. When I left the monument I drove through the northwestern corner of Colorado, which took me through the town of Dinosaur, CO. When I was at the BJJ Globetrotters camp in NH, one of the guys in my cabin sent me a Facebook friend request. I noticed that he was from Dinosaur, CO, which happens to be way out in the middle of nowhere. What are the odds?
When I told him that I had been in Dinosaur, CO the week before, he told he is not from that town. Turns out he was an absolute freak about the Jurassic Park movies, so his friends thought it would be funny to say he was from the town of Dinosaur. Not very funny, if you ask me, cuz I was pretty bummed out! It would be cool to be from Dinosaur, CO. It would be one of those quirky little things that fascinate me about life.
Hey, the New England Patriots beat the Houston Texans last night by the embarrassing score of 27-0. I’m a big Pats fan, having grown up in Foxborough, MA. Yes, I actually did grow up there! In the 70s I knew several players on the team, since it was a small town and a few members of the team occasionally came into the Rexall drug store where I worked. If I was just a few years older I would have worked the soda fountain there – I would have been a “soda jerk.” That would be a quirky thing!
Want more? One last quirk for the day. I was almost born in a cab. According to my mother, I was being born as they took her from the cab into the hospital. For some strange reason I wish I had been born in the cab. Quirky…yeah, you get it.
September 26, 2016
Interesting day! After getting some things at Michigan State University’s library I was on campus (at LCC) for some talks on developmental education. I was generally familiar with what they were talking about, since we’ve encountered these issues on the curriculum committee, but there was one new twist. In Tennessee (where the speakers were from) they have begun studying something called the student’s academic mindset. Whether or not a student believes they have the ability to succeed, whether they feel they belong, whether they believe the courses they are taking are valuable, are some of the things that make a significant difference in the student’s success in college.
Helping students to believe in themselves is definitely a positive approach to aiding their education. Of course, if they really aren’t ready for college they need real academic help. New data are suggesting that how most colleges have handled developmental education is not a good approach. Of course, that’s what the K-12 schools are supposed to do. It’s a real shame that students graduate from high school and are not capable of college level reading, writing, and/or math.
Seems to me I had more to say, but now I can’t think of anything else. The presidential debate is on soon (about half an hour). Yikes!
September 29, 2016
Rain, rain, and more rain. And lots of wind, especially overnight. I love weather like this, so I grabbed some books and my computer and headed to the park. I’m in my favorite parking spot uphill a bit from Teeple Lake, one of my favorite fishing spots (I caught a few bass here just yesterday). In between listening to the rain on the roof of the car, I’m working mostly on the section on mindfulness. At this particular moment there are some Canadian geese swimming across Teeple Lake right out in front of me. Quite a pleasant day, actually.
October 3, 2016
Important day – I just came up with the cover image for the book, and then chose the cover template (from CreateSpace.com) to go with it. This is always a difficult task, since there are so many options. I always want it to look good, but not too crazy, and that’s a fine balance sometimes.
So, I came across a picture of my little sister Missy with the dog we had growing up, while he was still a puppy. She has done some illustrations for me before, and when I was in Massachusetts recently she said she would send me some options for the cover. She sent the portfolio she used for her master’s degree, but it was pretty weird stuff. I definitely liked her work, but had to consider whether such images would make sense to my students.
Then it hit me, why not combine them? That set the orientation and approximate size of the primary picture. So I looked through the cover templates for one that was relatively simple and used a picture with the necessary size and orientation. Sure enough, once it was found the task was mostly done. I still have a lot of work to do – basically writing a lot of the book – but now I can see the final product in my mind.
Finishing a book is a great feeling. Of course, this one will never really be done, since I’ll use the comments my students give me to make changes and improvements over time. But that’s what a career is all about.
October 4, 2016
This morning was interesting. I went to a talk by one of the counselors at our college on the challenges faced by veterans returning home and going to college. Not only veterans suffering from PTSD or TBIs face challenges in a typical college classroom. It is a very different environment than the one they lived in while serving in the armed forces. There is a section on this in the academic portion of this book (in Section V).
Sadly, only a half dozen people came to the talk, and I was the only veteran there at the beginning of the talk (one other veteran came in quite late). Not that the talk was for veterans, if anything it’s non-veterans who really needed to be there.
October 5, 2016
Recently the news has been talking about a fascinating new study (a legit research project). Apparently male squirrels live a life of leisure (a topic covered on page 178). They hang out with their buddies, soaking up the sunshine, while the female squirrels care for the nest, tend to the young, and store nuts for the winter.
However, this life of leisure leads to death!
Since the male squirrels are out in the open much more, they are the easier targets for predators like hawks and eagles. This results in the satiation of the predators, leaving the female and young squirrels safe to go about their daily lives. What a fascinating evolutionary development!
* * *
It’s later in the evening, and I’m tired! I ate too much after a tough workout, so my body just crashed. I’ve been doing some conditioning workouts, trying to get in better shape. I put together a set of 13 exercises that I could do in about 15 minutes. I started with two sets, and then worked up to three sets in 45 minutes, and finally four sets in an hour. That was my standard for a while.
Eventually I started doing the four sets in less time, getting below 50 minutes last week. Once last week and this Monday (two days ago) I was able to do the four sets in 48 minutes. Today I hit it hard, and finished all four sets in 45 ½ minutes – almost as fast as I was doing three sets! It wasn’t easy, and I am seriously tired now.
October 6, 2016
Yeah, I slept pretty good last night! However, I don’t remember any dreams. Recently I had a night with really bad dreams, and I spent the next several days wondering why we don’t just have good dreams. All the time we spend sleeping could be wonderful, if it was full of pleasant dreams.
Then I had a night with several great dreams. They were really fun. If only there was a way to control them, and have fun dreams every night, all night. That would be wonderful…
Of course, I would probably still have the occasional dream that others might consider a nightmare. I’ve had some bizarre, intense dreams that fascinate me. They were horrifying at the time, but it’s liking watching a horror movie. We know we aren’t going to “like” it, but we watch anyway. So if I could control my dreams they wouldn’t all be pleasant or fun, but at least it would be my own choice.
October 13, 2016
Wow, it’s been a few crazy days. My son John was home for a long weekend, and I drove him back to Ithaca, NY on Tuesday. We had to pick up a financial aid check to help pay his rent and to pay for some repairs to his car. The repairs were a little more than expected, so I stayed in a cheaper hotel than I expected. It’s been a long time since I was slummin’ it, but that’s how this place felt. But it wasn’t really too bad, and it had cable and wi-fi, and it was quiet.
The next day I picked up my son, we went and got his car, paid for everything, and had lunch. Then I headed back to MI.
On the way home I remembered I had an important meeting today. So, after getting my own oil changed, and a quick trip to Michigan State’s library, I came to campus for the meeting. Then I met with Regina to catch up with some OER developments and planning, and in a few minutes I’m off to BJJ. My shoulder has had four days off, so we’ll see how it feels tonight.
While in NY the thought occurred to me that we should go fishing again in November. I’ll be passing through on my way home from the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies in Massachusetts, and saw that John Gaulke had days available that week. Thought about the cost, things are going OK, so we’re gonna do it! But there’s a lot to be done before then.
I need to get prepared for the OpenEd Conference in November!
Oh yeah, I had a nice time with John on Monday, before we went back to NY. In the morning we went to the range with one of my pistols and did a little targeting shooting. In the afternoon we went fishing. It’s amazing how happy you can be with crappy little panfish when you were worried about getting nothing. Fishing was not good, but at least we caught some. It was nice to spend some time with him. I didn’t see him all weekend, but on Monday his girlfriend had gone back to school and his brother was at work. So he had some time to spend with me.
October 14, 2016
It’s a beautiful day, so I came to the usual park to do some editing and writing. However, it’s quite cold – only in the 40s, and it was in the 30s overnight. Sitting in the sun makes it hard to see the computer screen, but sitting in the shade is just a bit too cold. So, I’ll be leaving soon.
I went for nice hike first, and while I was up on the hill overlooking Teeple Lake I saw a strange brown mass out in the lake (about 30 feet from shore). It looked quite strange, and for a while I couldn’t figure out what it could possibly be. Then it began to move, and then it began to break up. Turns out it was a small herd of deer. Why they were out in the lake I can’t say, but I’m guessing they decided to get some lily pads for breakfast. The lake is quite shallow there, so it was easy for them to walk out to the lily pads and enjoy their morning snack. Oh how I wish I’d had my big telephoto lens with me!
Well, time to go. Although the day is ever so slowly warming up, the wind is picking up quite a bit and it actually feels much colder than when I got here a couple of hours ago. I might go to a movie, and then I’ll do some writing either at home or at the library. That decision can come later.
October 16, 2016
RAIN! I was thinking about going fishing this morning, but looking at the weather report I decided to just go to the park and do some writing in the car. After a little while it started to rain, and it has been pouring on and off for hours. And I do mean pouring. Fishing in my kayak would have been no fun at all.
I do love this kind of weather, on my own terms. So it has been wonderful listening to the rain on the roof of my car. And, I’ve been surprisingly productive. In some ways I haven’t felt productive lately. To be honest, I’ve been enjoying my sabbatical, and not working too hard. It’s strange, when I start to get interested in something I’m studying, I write less. In other words, my focus shifts to learning and thinking (not writing about it).
But this project will be ready for my class next semester, and to satisfy the requirements of my sabbatical. However, it will most definitely not be done. Hopefully, my students will give me some valuable comments on what they think about it next semester (and on into the future). Likewise, I’ll have my own thoughts about it once I’m actually using it to teach classes. So there will be changes and additions and so on going forward.
When I wrote my personality textbook, I had an editor and reviewers. That was good and bad. Obviously, they all helped me to provide a better book. On the other hand, there was a lot of pressure to make it excellent the first time around. And…I had the time to do it. I spent four years working on that book, whereas this sabbatical is just one semester. Not that I don’t expect this book to be good, but I’m reminding myself it doesn’t have to be perfect. It will be improved steadily over time. Unless my students tell me it’s fine, in which case it’s up to me to decide what to improve. History tells me I’ll probably end up busy with some new project!
Yesterday was good and bad at BJJ, and definitely a bit of work. So I decided to get some Thai food for dinner. I always get plenty, so I’ll be having Thai food today, tomorrow, and maybe even on Tuesday. After eating I was pretty full, all that rice does that, so I went for a walk. I was planning to walk over to the old high school track and go around a few times, and maybe sit in the old bleachers and meditate for a while.
However, when I got there, the youth football league was playing games there. Another game was just about to start, so I figured it might be fun to watch. The entrance fee was only $4, so I watched the game. Hartland (where I live) won the game 22-6, so that was cool. A few people I knew were there, but since my kids are in college now it was mostly a different group of younger parents. Still, it was fun, and where else can you go to a football game for only $4? Oh wait, $5, since I did get one can of Mt. Dew. And then it was half price pizza and hot dogs at the end, but I was still pretty stuffed from the Thai food. Hmmm…it’s getting to be lunchtime…
October 17, 2016
What a day! I decided to go fishing today, since we had that big storm yesterday. I started out fishing deep water, drifting across the lake a couple of times in the light breeze coming out of the southwest. I had some nice strikes, but didn’t hook anything. So I headed into some more shallow water and switched to jigheads with paddletail soft baits.
After a little while I hooked a medium size pike, and it put up a crazy fight. It didn’t want to give up the lure, and the result was a seriously destroyed jighead. I switched to another lure, and hooked what may have been the biggest largemouth bass I’ve caught at Kent Lake (our local spot for big bass and pike). When I grabbed his jaw and raised him out of the water, he was a beast. I could really feel his weight, and his fat belly. That bass is ready for winter! I wish I’d had a camera with me, but alas, I did not.
Later I went to the gym for some conditioning. I have a set of exercises that I can do in 15 minutes, and I worked my way up to 4 sets in an hour. Then, little by little, I began getting the 4 sets done faster. My record was 46:30, but last week I missed both sessions due to my trip to NY. I hit the workout hard and fast, and was close to setting a new record. I gave it all I had, especially on the last exercise, and checked the time: 46:15!
Good fishing, good workout! Tomorrow I focus on finishing up Section V of the book. I’m close, but still, I think I’ll go for a hike in the morning, and then do some writing.
October 18, 2016
OK, decided to be lazy. I wanted to continue yesterday’s fun, so when I saw how breezy it was this morning I did go for a hike (with my weight vest on). Then the thought occurred to me that it might be nice to go to the shooting range and do a little quick draw practice with my cowboy gun (a Ruger New Vaquero .357 magnum). So now I’m finally getting a little work done. Actually, my son Samuel came over to do some homework here since he has to work a little later this afternoon (his work is close to my apartment).
October 20, 2106
Rain, rain, rain. But not as thunderstormy as last time. Nonetheless, I am at the park again, listening to the rain on the roof of the car as I write. I was talking with someone yesterday about retirement (which seems so far away) and the possibility of living in a van – no real residence at all. On days like today it seems like a real possibility. I could just have a storage bin as an anchor point, where I could keep things like my books and various types of outdoor gear that perhaps I wouldn’t be using seasonally, and some clothes and other personal items. Who knows?
Had a nice breakfast with my son Samuel this morning, and a killer workout at BJJ yesterday with a guy who is working toward his brown belt. Now back to the academic portion of this project…
October 21, 2016
Today I think I’ll try to make an entry that really encompasses what this journal is supposed to be: a reflection on my own pursuit of well-being. I’ve done that from time to time, and I’ve avoided journaling on some bad days, but I want to be sure there are some specifically reflective journals. After all, that’s what I ask my students to do, because reflection is more educationally meaningful than just writing about what’s going on from day to day (though a chronicle of good things is the next best thing).
When most people go on sabbatical, they disappear from the college for the whole semester. I’ve been on campus about once a week, since I live an hour away and LCC is close to Michigan State University’s library. So I’ll drop in to my office on my way to the libraries at LCC and MSU. Inevitably, at least one person asks me if I’m enjoying my sabbatical. The answer is complicated, and difficult to convey to most people.
Yes, my trip to Nevada/Utah/Wyoming was great, and since the timing of it involved the IBJJF Master’s World Championships, I could not have simply gone during the summer and competed in the tournament. In about a month I’ll be spending a week and a half at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies, with two consecutive weekend classes framing the time I’ll be there. Again, this is when the courses are offered, so if not for the sabbatical I could not spend so much time away (even though the courses themselves are actually on the weekends). About seven years ago I did the same thing, and I know it will be both restful and productive.
As for writing the academic portion of this project, it’s a lot of work! A sabbatical is not a vacation, at least not for me. I keep switching back and forth emotionally, feeling good about what I’m doing one day, and feeling like it’s all crap the next day – and I’ll never get it done. There are definitely periods of anxiety. But then I take a deep breath (utilizing mindfulness) and remind myself that my work doesn’t have to be great, it only has to be adequate. I’m not saying that I don’t care about the end result, but I know it will not be done during this sabbatical.
The first thing I’ll do with this project is use it to teach positive psychology next semester. Obviously I’ll hear from my students in class, but then I’ll also read their journals – and I’ll encourage them to comment on these materials. Then I’ll make changes and updates as both I see fit and as my students suggest. So, over time it will get better, especially from the students’ points of view, since their suggestions will be incorporated. One big advantage of doing this as an OER is that changes can be made as often as necessary or convenient – unlike a traditional textbook which must be on the publisher’s two or three year cycle.
Also, experience has taught me that I’ll get the work done, and a few months from now will be able to look at what I’m using in the classroom with pride for a job well done. Nothing is perfect, so the desire/need for changes will be no big deal. Experience has also taught me that most students really appreciate getting a free textbook, and some get a kick out of knowing that their professor wrote the book.
And now, I need to deal with a little of the anxiety and return to working on the academic portion. This would be so easy if all I had to do was write the journal, but the academic portion is what makes me feel like a professional. So, back to the meat of the project. Mmmm…..meat. I think I’ll grill something this weekend, maybe even tonight (it happens to be Friday morning, so the weekend is almost upon us).
October 24, 2016
Well, today proved to be quite a day, definitely a positive psychology sabbatical type of day – at least as far as enjoying life is concerned.
I started out this morning going fishing. The fish weren’t biting, except for a few strikes, but the weather was awesome. When I started out the wind was blowing a steady breeze out of the northeast. By the time I got across the lake the wind shifted to blowing hard out of the northwest. The waves started building, and the paddle across the lake was nuts. I was bouncing from wave crest to wave crest, with waves crashing over the bow, and it was cold this morning. Fortunately I had dressed in anticipation of the conditions.
Then the clouds opened up in one spot, and there was an amazing blue patch with sun shining down through it. This picture looks excellent on my computer as the background. I don’t know why I love stormy/windy weather, but I do, and it’s exciting when the wind and waves make the kayaking a little dangerous. It’s more fun that way.
Midday I picked up the two kimonos I’ve been waiting to get new patches sewed onto. They look great, and I can’t wait to wear each of them in training, and the one gi in competition (the other one is not competition legal). It was a little expensive, but totally worth it. The woman who sewed the patches on seems to really enjoy working on BJJ gis. She told me today that her parents, back home in Vietnam, train kickboxing. So I think it helps her to feel a connection to home.
Then came today’s workout. One week ago I set a new record for my standard conditioning workout with a time of 46:15. Today the gym was pretty chilly, since no one was there. I decided to leave it chilly, since I knew I was going to hit the workout pretty hard. The first set went fast, and then I went right into the second set, and the third. I was sweating, but definitely not overheating. The fourth set was tough, but knowing it would be over soon kept me going. The final time: 39:45! Breakthrough!
Tomorrow morning I’m having breakfast with my son Samuel again, since I have some stuff for him. Things feel better than they have in quite a while.
October 26, 2016
Came to the park once again, and started out with a nice walk. It’s quite chilly, actually, only about 40o F. I got back to the car and started working on the final piece of the section on positive psychology and disability just before it started to rain. The temperature has dropped one degree, and the car is now being pelted with sleet, which is growing in size somewhat, and making quite a racket! Some of the sleet is closer to hail, and it’s bouncing off the hood. Way cool.
Yesterday I finally started putting together my presentation for the Open Education conference in Virginia, and then I sent a note to my co-presenter (who I had talked to last week). I can’t believe it’s next week, and I present in 7 days. That trip won’t be too long, but then I’m only home for one week. Then it’s off to the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies. That’s going to be a long trip: a weekend class, stay for the week to do research and write, and then another weekend class. After that I kill a day doing I’m not yet sure, then I stop in NY to go fishing with my son again. So it will be a 12-13 day trip, the longest of my sabbatical.
I’m really itching to add one more trip to my sabbatical, and I’d like it be something outdoors. Maybe some snowshoe camping in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. But my car sucks when it comes to driving in snow. Hmmm… Just not sure what might be possible.
P.S. I just finished one of the major sections of the academic portion of this project (Section V).
October 30, 2016
Whew! This morning I put the kayak in the water before sunrise. It was weird paddling out on the lake in the dark. It was raining hard the whole time I was out there, and the temperature was falling (though not too cold when I started). In the end, however, I was soaked, chilly, and caught nothing at all. Meanwhile, my son tried a new place in NY, and caught a trout and a land-locked salmon.
After the failed fishing trip, I figured the highlight of my day would be finishing another section of this project. I sort of did it. I’m done with what I planned to do today, but as I finished up I realized there is another portion I was thinking of adding. The easy thing would be – just don’t add it! But I know I will, maybe this week while I’m out of town.
So for the moment I’m sort of done with Section II (and no one would know if I didn’t add anything, but I’d know). Of course, I may add lots of updates over time, but that doesn’t help me for now. Still, with what I’ve done, and what I’ll do over the next two months, accounting for my time on sabbatical is no problem at all. And teaching next semester will be just fine as well.
Yup, back on the road again in a day and a half. It’s time for the OpenEd 2016 conference in Richmond, VA. I’ve put together some slides in a PowerPoint presentation, but they may need a little updating. Everyone says the conference is very casual, and my presentation is basically about my experience getting into OERs, and working with others to do so as well, so I’ll basically just be telling a story. I’ve plenty of time to think about it and practice while driving, and then I can spruce up the slides when I’m there in the hotel.
I had a nice time on Friday morning (two days ago). Regina was talking about OERs at the academic senate meeting, and Jim was talking about the open learning lab, so I attended the meeting between trips to LCC’s and MSU’s libraries. Both Regina and Jim mentioned me during their presentations, so that was cool. It’s nice to get recognition for the things you’re doing for students.
November 2, 2016
So… quite a day at the OpenEd 2016 conference in Richmond, VA. I was really nervous about my presentation, which was this morning. However, it went really well, and my co-presenter Kari did a great job too. I also made a few jokes during the presentation, and got some pretty good laughs.
Then I was able to relax, and there were some really good presentations. One that will go directly into this project was a presentation on inclusion as a design element of open pedagogy. Since Section V includes stigmatized groups, what better topic to include than education designed to be accessible to all students.
At first I wasn’t sure I would go to today’s reception, but decided it was a good idea. It was, and I had the one free drink they provided (my choice was a glass of cabernet sauvignon) and a piece of cake. Afterward I was in no mood for exercising, and decided to keep resting my injured shoulder. The hot tub, however, proved to be a good choice given my hips and having been on my feet much of the day. We’ll see about tomorrow.
I’m a member of the panel for our presentation tomorrow on z-degrees, but that doesn’t require any preparation on my part. All that’s necessary is for me to show up and participate in the discussion as appropriate. Easy as can be.
I just couldn’t decide what I wanted for dinner tonight. Everything is so expensive here, and nothing at the hotel lounge or restaurant looked worth the price (no other places are close by). Tomorrow morning, however, I’ll treat myself to the breakfast buffet. That will be my treat for doing well during the presentation (and getting it done). So just snacks in my hotel, while watching football and occasionally checking game seven of the World Series.
November 3, 2016
Wow! The Chicago Cubs won their first championship in 108 years. The game went into extra innings, and both teams scored in the 10th inning. But the Cubs scored 2, and the Cleveland Indians scored only 1. Such was their fate.
Another good day at the OpenEd 2016 conference. Made some interesting connections and learned a few things. It will be interesting to see what happens in the future with the connections. I may be getting some invitations to talk to psychology faculty at other colleges about adopting and creating OERs.
I also came to the realization that I won’t be doing any academic work here in VA. That’s OK. I’m also not exercising, but I needed the rest anyway. Life goes on.
November 5, 2016
What a gorgeous day! Sunny, cool, and breezy; just about perfect. Yesterday I left the conference at lunchtime, which allowed me to drive across western Virgina and West Virginia in daylight. It was a beautifully sunny day yesterday as well. I had forgotten just how beautiful western Virginia is, especially with the leaves changing color in the fall (I used to live in the D.C. area, and went hiking in the Shenandoah National Park area quite often).
I came home yesterday (about midnight) to make sure I could go to the Michigan Open BJJ tournament today. Originally we had several kids planning to compete, but as it turned out only one did. She had her father to coach her (he is also a brown belt), but I wanted to be there for support and in case I was needed to coach from the other side of the mat. Once, she was over on my side of the mat and her back was to her father. I called her name (Anika), she looked at me, and I indicated how to execute a sweep of her opponent. She executed the sweep perfectly!
In the end, Anika won her first match, but lost the championship 5-4. It was an excellent showing for her first tournament, and she had a lot of family there. It was really nice to see them all enjoying her success, and she enjoying the pride her family obviously had in her (and the love). I just wish more of our school had come, especially some of the other kids, so they could have all enjoyed the camaraderie and sportsmanship. Oh well…
I considered hanging around and watching some of the tournament, but it was so nice out I decided to take off. I actually could have made it to class on time, but I headed to Highland Recreation Area for a long hike with my weight vest on. It would have been more relaxing to hike without it, but I figured a little extra exercise was a good idea. Final analysis: yeah, that was a good decision.
Then I realized it has been ages since I got a gyro at the best gyro place in MI. It’s just about 3 miles farther away from my apartment than the park, but that’s nothing given how much I drive. So I went over to Graceland, which is the name of the party shop (the owner is, obviously, a serious Elvis fan), and ordered the combo like usual: a gyro and a Greek salad. A woman there was buying a couple bottles of Malbec, and the owner highly recommended it. Even though I haven’t been there in quite a while, he remembered that I like Malbec, so I got a bottle too.
Right now, as I write this, I’m out on my balcony enjoying the Malbec and some Havarti cheese. I’m kind of listening to a football game on t.v. inside. It’s so nice to be on my balcony, with Mischief (my son’s cat) going in and out. I had some neighbors who chain smoked constantly, and it reeked so f*cking bad I couldn’t stand to be out there. But they moved out. Hooray! Balcony time in this weather, with a nice Malbec and some good cheese, is totally, f*cking awesome!
* Yeah, I went there again, with the “bad” language. Words are just words, they mean only what you attach to them emotionally. You can be horrendously, viciously cruel without using “bad” words, so I wish uptight people would just get over themselves. By the way, I think most of those people are a fas, or, in the worst cases, a dogo. Don’t know what a fas or a dogo is? No surprise there. I made those words up, so that if I ever get in serious trouble for the language I often use in the classroom I can just switch to those words. Since no one knows what they mean, I can use them with impunity!!! *
Soon I’ll head back inside to watch some football and enjoy my Greek salad and gyro. But there’s no hurry, since it is so very nice out here on the balcony. By the way, my gear is set up for fishing tomorrow morning. Here’s hoping I get some fish this time (and now I’ll sip a bit of wine). Ahhh…. yes, this is a good Malbec. Now for some cheese. Mmmm…. I do love Havarti, and the wine follows it so nicely. A conference, a tournament, a hike, some good food. My life has its challenges, but also its moments!
Here’s an interesting little note from yesterday: I was in three state capitals: Richmond, VA, then Charleston, WV, and finally Columbus, OH. They were all on the route I drove home from Richmond (where the OpenEd conference was). Curious little fact: Patrick Henry declared “Give me liberty or give me death!” at a church in Richmond. He was actually the first and sixth governor of Virginia. Here’s another weird fact: Virginia is not a state! Neither is Massachusetts, where I grew up. They are both actually commonwealths, along with Pennsylvania and Kentucky (which was once part of Virginia). Commonwealth is an old British term, and there is no legal distinction between a state and a commonwealth. It’s just one of those weird facts you learn if you grow up in one of those commonwealths.
November 7, 2016
Went to the gym to try my usual conditioning workout after a week with very little exercise. In the past week and half I did a little kayaking and hiking, mostly watched what I ate at the conference, took a couple short trips to the hot tub at the hotel in VA… So my expectations were mediocre today: not good or bad. I started OK, moved quickly through the second set, killed it through the third set, and went all out on the fourth! My previous record was just under 40 minutes – today I finished in 38:00!!
It’s amazing that I took nearly 2 minutes of my previous best time! Just crazy! I’ll work out the best I can this week, and then I’ll try to keep up a reasonable amount of exercise while in MA at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies over the next couple of weeks.
However, lots of studying and writing to do as well…
November 8, 2016
Ugh! I voted in the presidential election this morning. Never have I felt that my vote, indeed my right to vote, was so utterly meaningless. Our government, as a reflection of our society, has become so divided and dysfunctional it’s disgraceful. No politician has my interests or well-being in mind. That’s why the political scientists have declared that we are no longer a democracy, but rather an oligarchy. I didn’t spend 9 years in the US Marine Corps to defend and support an oligarchy.
This was the tenth time I was eligible to vote for president. I have voted nine times. I have voted for Republicans, I have voted for Democrats, I once voted for a 3rd party candidate (Ross Perot), and one time I knowingly and intentionally chose not to vote at all (Clinton v. Dole, 1996). I wasn’t entirely sure I’d vote this time, but in the end dragged myself to the polls. Next time? Ever again? Only time will tell. And guess what section of this book I’m working on right now: love! Following this campaign, if that isn’t irony, what is?
So glad I’m going to a Buddhist retreat center next week. Sure I’ll be taking some classes, doing some studying, and getting some writing done, but regular meditation in a peaceful and supportive environment could not come at a better time! Ommmmmmm…..
November 11, 2016
Made it to the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies today. Yesterday, as I was preparing to go, I began to realize just how long the drive would be. Unless I leave crazy early the timing also runs me right into Cleveland rush hour traffic. But I had decided to go to BJJ, and didn’t want to miss it. So I made the crazy decision to leave home after BJJ – and didn’t get on the road until 10 pm.
I drove 100 miles, took a nap, drove another 60 miles and took another short nap, then drove through Cleveland about 2 am, and made my way to a rest stop close to Pennsylvania. There I slept for a couple of hours and woke up at 5 am. That left me with a long but casual drive to Massachusetts.
Normally, students for a weekend class live in the Dharma Hall, in dormitory-like rooms. There are 3 small cabins, but I didn’t expect to get one of them until Sunday night. However, this first class is being taught by Mu Soeng, who is the resident scholar here. So, they gave me the instructor’s cabin (since Mu Soeng lives here on campus). I was able to unpack all my stuff for the whole week.
I will have to pack up and move into the Dharma Hall next Friday, for the second class, but that’s cool. Hopefully, by then I’ll have done all I need to do this week, and I’ll just be taking it easy for the weekend. I’ve had class with Chip Hartranft before, and I know it will be a really good class.
The job I got was washing dishes after dinner tonight and tomorrow, and tomorrow afternoon I ring the big bell outside before the afternoon session. Not a bad gig, and I’ll probably just try for the same deal next week. Might as well do something I’m familiar with.
Our first class with Mu Soeng was about defining the true self, which is something of a koan. As soon as you try to name it, you are talking about a conception – not the true self. As one person after another expressed the conception of what the true self was, I sat there thinking about how each idea was wrong (in that I could counter them easily with the same types of cliché terminology they were using in the first place). So it occurred to me that true self is that which cannot be countered (or cannot be denied).
In other words, when you can’t argue against it, then you’ve identified true self. But it cannot be done with language, and that led into a lengthy discussion about the problems inherent in the use of language, but also the absolute necessity that we use language to communicate. So, you can’t identify true self to another, but perhaps you can know it within yourself. That was my idea, but I didn’t share it with the group. Not in much of a sharing mood.
Mu Soeng gave us some reading for tomorrow’s discussion, so it’s time to take a look at that. I also picked up some very interesting books for my own collection. One is by Mu Soeng (2015), entitled Trust in Mind: The Rebellion of Chinese Zen. It includes some discussion of Tao, so that caught my eye. Another is Confession of a Buddhist Atheist, by Stephen Batchelor (2011). I’ve read some of Batchelor’s work before, and he’s an excellent author and scholar. I consider myself to be a Taoist atheist, so it will be very interesting to read his book. Too bad I’m so busy for now with this current project. Maybe I can fit in a little casual reading if I’m productive otherwise. We’ll see; it won’t be easy.
I suppose it’s only fair that I also mention the third book I bought, since it was a nice hardcover and I’m very interested in the content. It’s Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening by the renowned Joseph Goldstein (2013). Once again, I’ve read some of his other work, and it’s wonderful. So this should be as well.
November 12, 2016
What a strange dream right before my alarm went off. I was arriving at a park, for some hiking or fishing, and went to park my car. The parking space backed up against the thin beach, and the grass overhung the beach a little. As I backed in, the grass underneath my rear wheels began to give way. I braked, and thought I’d better pull forward – but it was too late.
The ground under the rear wheels gave way, and the rear end of my car dropped down. I pressed the brake hard, but the car quickly slid off the lip, right across the little bit of beach, and into the water. The bottom of the pond quickly dropped off as well, and before I knew it the rear end of the car was plunging deep into the water. The front end rose up, and then stopped just as the rear hit the bottom. Only the hood was still out of the water, and then the front end settled down, with the front bumper barely on the beach.
I tried to drive forward, but the wheels couldn’t get any traction on the soft sand. So I slipped out of the car, and floated around in the deep water (which behind the car was deep enough that I couldn’t touch the bottom). I realized I would have to call a tow truck, and then realized my wallet was in my pocket getting soaked.
Then I woke up. I began thinking of multiple interpretations, from “entering the stream” (a Buddhist term, which is a very good thing) to “What the hell have I gotten myself into?” (which could refer to this weekend/week/weekend or this whole OER project or my whole crazy life). Maybe I’ll have additional thoughts later; maybe I’ll share those thoughts.
* * *
It’s can be fascinating, in a strange sort of way, how things work out sometimes. During our morning break, Mu Soeng asked me how the course was going. I told him it was going quite well, and that I had come across a passage in the handout he prepared for the course which reflected very nicely the thoughts I’d had last night about true self. I don’t have a formal reference (since it was in a handout), but here is the passage:
You cannot describe it, you cannot
You cannot admire it, you cannot sense it.
It is your true self, it has nowhere to hide.
When the world is destroyed, it will not be destroyed.
Wumen Huikai (1183-1260)
After looking at this particular passage, Mu Soeng said he had written a book about this idea. He thought I might find the book interesting. The name just happened to be Trust in Mind! OK, now I’m really looking forward to reading it.
* * *
It’s evening now. We finished up for the day with a ½ hour sitting meditation, a 10 minute Jongram, and another ½ hour of sitting. We also started the day with a ½ hour sitting meditation. It’s been a long time since I sat for several meditations in one day, and it went reasonable well. My mind was a bit out of control, but it settled down a few times and the meditations passed more quickly.
Then I went out to look at the moon. It’s one night before our best view of the biggest Supermoon since 1948! I took a few pictures with my camera. It’s only a regular camera, but the moon is so bright a couple of them came out OK. There were thin clouds over the moon, so there was a moonbow. That interfered with the picture in the low light, and I’ll wait until tomorrow to see if I can get a better picture. Either way, I will share at least one picture of the Supermoon.
November 13, 2016
Mu Soeng’s course on True Self wrapped up today with lunch. This morning’s session was mostly question/discussion, and there were some interesting points and some, for me anyway, not so interesting. Some people get caught up in trying to make sure they have the “right” answer or “right” perspective, even after we talked extensively about how poorly language captures the essence of the ideas we are discussing. Oh well, some people.
One very interesting thing Mu Soeng said, yesterday actually, was in reference to a fear among some people who contemplate Buddhism. Buddhism is about letting go, about never clinging to anything. So:
“If I let go of everything I know –
will I be left?”
Mu Soeng, BCBS, 11/13/2016
So what if you are gone? Let go, of everything! I realize it’s not easy for most people to accept that perspective. For me, it’s no big deal. For whatever reason, it seems quite reasonable to me.
Here come the pictures of the Supermoon! I was heading over to the farmhouse to do some research, just as the sun was setting. I saw the Supermoon rising over the big hill to the south of center. Since there was still some daylight, I was able to get much better pictures than later. Once it was dark, the contrast between the Supermoon and black night sky was so extreme that the moon appears as nothing but a bright spot. In the low-level light of sunset, however, you can actually see the texture of the Supermoon with my camera.
November 14, 2016
It’s a good thing I got some nice pictures of the moon last night, since it is slightly overcast tonight. The moon is still visible, but not very clearly.
Today was interesting. Yes, I managed to do some writing, but spent more time discovering new texts. Sometimes I wish my sabbatical was just about me learning/discovering new things. Then I could really focus on the knowledge, rather than the ever-present need to produce this book for class next semester and to satisfy the sabbatical leave committee. The necessary work will get done, and I suppose I have the rest of my life to learn. It’s just that I’m here now, and I’m not sure when I’ll get back. It’s been 7 ½ years since I was last here, so who knows.
I’m rediscovering my sitting practice. Last night I would have guessed I sat for 10-15 minutes, and it turned out to be half an hour. Tonight I would have guessed about the same, and it turned out to be 55 minutes. This is such a peaceful place, and I had such a pleasant walk after lunch, that my mind is clearer than it has been in a long time. And I’m not suggesting that it’s all that clear when I sit to meditate, but it’s a whole lot closer to where it should be than back home. Note to self: be diligent about a sitting meditation practice.
November 17, 2016
Two nights ago I went to the Dharma Hall and sat and walked. Yesterday morning I walked and sat. Last night I sat and walked and then sat again. At the end of my walking meditation two nights ago I bowed to the Buddha statue before taking my leave, and the Buddha statue ever so slightly smiled at me. I’m not just saying this, I saw him smile. It’s certainly possible that if anyone else were there they might not have seen anything out of the ordinary. But I did!
I also had a wonderful conversation with Mu Soeng yesterday. As we were talking about my work, and the difficulty with conveying a worldly view of happiness (from a decidedly Western perspective – as in most of my students) as opposed to a Buddhist view of happiness, Mu Soeng gave me a copy of an article he had recently published on that very challenge. That’s why I came here!
It seems like I’ve done and learned so much, and yet it seems like I’ve written so little. I’ve been relaxing, reading, thinking, meditating, going for walks, all the things that sabbatical should allow for. Nonetheless, I have to have a book ready for next semester. Somehow I’ll get it done, but there is a lot more to do. And I’m not entirely happy with the direction I’ve gone. Yes, it’s the direction I wanted to go, but it’s so different than what’s out there (of course, that was part of my plan).
It’s too late to change now. It will be what it will be, and nothing else. Neti, neti, sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya!
This morning I’m headed straight over to the library. I’ll try for a good long meditation tonight. Or a long hike this afternoon. The weather has been pretty bad; two days ago we had an horrendous storm. Strange, the weather was gorgeous through the Supermoon, and then took a nasty turn. I wonder…
* * *
I drove to Petersham for lunch again, and quite a nice lunch it was. Then, since the sun is finally shining again, I went for a nice walk. Now it’s back to work, since the week is rapidly coming to an end.
* * *
I wasn’t able to meditate well this evening, because for some reason my back was hurting. I sat for a bit, then walked around the room, then sat on a cushion on the floor. Then I decided enough was enough. So instead I went for a little walk outside. It’s so peaceful here. Something that just doesn’t happen at home is that it’s dark and quiet here. Sure there are some essential lights, but it’s easy to avoid them if you want, and the roads are certainly pitch black unless you’re right by somebody’s house.
The night sky was clear, and it was chilly and breezy. I watched the stars for a while, since you can see the Milky Way here. Then I came in for a little dinner and now this writing. It’s amazing how little I eat when I’m in the right situation. Maybe I can take this home and finally lose some weight for real (and save money in the process).
Hard to believe tomorrow is Friday. I haven’t accomplished nearly as much writing as I thought, but I think I’m OK. There is some more I need to do here, so tomorrow will be a little busy. There won’t be much time during the class this weekend, but I’ll take the library books I need to my room or work in the library. Either way, I’ll do what I do, and that will be that. Most likely I’ll be up early.
November 18, 2016
Wow, it’s a few minutes before noon on Friday. I can’t believe this week is just about over. I’m not going to do any more work this afternoon. It’s beautifully sunny outside, and this weekend’s course on how the Buddha taught meditation starts with dinner at 6 p.m. I may go for a walk, I may drive into town and get a snack (something sweet), and there’s no reason I can’t do both. There is one book I want to look at, but just for personal reference. I doubt it will make it’s way into this project (it’s a comparison of Theravada vs. Mahayana thought, so it may be rather esoteric).
This morning I woke up about 1 a.m., and couldn’t sleep.
* * *
OK, took a little break there, went and got lunch, and read the chapter of particular interest in that book. So…
Yeah, woke up at 1 a.m., wide awake! Tried to get back to sleep, finally gave up a little before 2, and went for a walk. It was chilly and breezy, and intermittently the wind howled through the treetops. When I came up to the beginning of the road that heads out toward the main road, a grey ribbon extended through the dark. The sky was crystal clear, and the waning Supermoon was shining bright, lighting up the road. As I began walking along the road, the moon was slightly to my left, and the shadows of the trees were stark upon that moonlit road (shadows like skeletons, since the recent storm pretty much brought down all the remaining leaves). After 45 minutes or so, I went back to bed and slept well.
Instead of meditation this morning I mindfully cleaned up the cabin. I had to check out, since I’ve been in the instructor’s cabin all week, and Chip Hartranft will need it this evening. So I’ll be in one of the dorm rooms in Dharma Hall. Been there before, it’s all good.
Before going into town to pick up lunch, I had another nice conversation with Mu Soeng. I wish I could study with him regularly. Perhaps I’ll try to make it a point to spend some time here next summer, maybe while also updating this project with the comments and suggestions my students make next semester.
The chapter in the book I wanted to read was on the, apparently, mistaken belief that the Theravada ideal is to be an Arhant, whereas the Mahayana ideal is to become a Bodhisattva. Apparently there was never any validity to that distinction, though there are different types of enlightenment possible (though all three exist within both Theravada and Mahayana traditions). The work is rather esoteric, but I’m going to cite it here anyway, for one special reason. If I cite it here, I’ll never lose the citation! I may buy a copy, there are some on Amazon used books, but I’ve spent a lot on books this week already, and I’ll wait to see about spending the money. The book, which is fascinating, is Zen and the Taming of the Bull by Walpola Rahula (1978).
Now I have several hours before this weekend’s class starts (while I’m writing this a couple of staff members are moving things around here in the library classroom to get ready – but I’m over in the corner doing this). It’s so nice outside that a long walk seems appropriate. I don’t know whether I’ll take this computer out again this weekend or not. It depends on whether there is some interesting information that calls for immediate recording, or whether I just decide to soak it all in and write about it later.
* * *
Oops, back already. I remembered something I wanted to write down, and figured why wait. By the way, very nice 3+ mile walk, in only a t-shirt no less. Very nice weather today. Saw some crazy goats being crazy. Too bad goats are totally evil. But these goats were being pretty cute.
Anywho… Yesterday evening I went into the Dharma Hall to meditate. As I entered I glanced at the clock, and I saw the time. It occurred to me that it had been 24 hours since I left there. As I went to sit down, I briefly glanced at the stature of the Buddha, and it occurred to me that it has been 24 centuries, or so, since he began teaching what he had learned.
24 hours, 24 centuries, both my kids are in their 20s, 68 years since the last Supermoon this close, where does the time go? Wow, bizarre! I just noticed that 24 + 24 + 20 = 68! Freaky…!!
November 19, 2016
As last night’s class was about to begin, Chip was setting up his computer (for his notes), and he commented that if the computer crashed to the floor the class would be over. I smiled and said there was no computer, and there was no class to be taken. Chip smiled and said I had received a passing grade. Then he looked at everyone else and said they would be graded as well! We were off to a good start.
This morning I had a short but stunning dream. I was back in the house I used to live in, waiting for the kids to come home from school, when I heard a commotion out back. I walked to the sliding glass door on the deck, looked out, and saw a raging black bear charging toward the door. It was roaring, and its mouth was wide open, showing its terrible teeth.
Realizing the kids should be walking home any minute, I ran to the front door to hurry them inside. I saw a form outside the door and, thinking it was one of the kids, I opened the door. But it was a bear cub! Before I could close the door, the cub burst inside. I slammed the door shut, but now I had the sow’s cub in my house.
I quickly went over to the back door, and the cub came with me, eager to find its mother. I slid the door open slightly, and as I hoped the sow simply watch the cub run out. Instantly I slid the door shut and locked it. Knowing that the sow could easily smash down the door, I sincerely hoped she would just leave with her cub. What happened? I woke up.
* * *
Busy day. Multiple 1 ½ hour sessions of sitting meditation and Yoga, hours of historical/linguistic analysis of sati and the Satiphatthana Sutta, I had to work the recording system during class, wash dishes and pots after dinner, and ring the big bell before afternoon class. Chip Hartranft offers some amazing insight, and teaches a fine Yoga class.
I was planning another evening walk, and took note of how the sky was crystal clear again as I walked over to the Dharma Hall for our evening class. Well, after class it was cloudy and a little misty. The road where I planned to walk was pitch black. Off in the distance I could hear an owl, and he sounded pretty loud. Given the distance he had to be at, and how loud, it must have been one seriously big owl.
When I got back last from my walk last night everyone had gone to their rooms (downstairs), but all the lights were still on. So I turned everything off, and then turned in. Tonight I made sure all the lights were off before my walk, except for one light being used by someone still up reading. I’m going to finish the introduction Mu Soeng’s book Trust in Mind, but I’ll just read here in my room. One more meditation/Yoga session, and one more class. Then it’s off to mother’s house for an early Thanksgiving dinner.
November 24, 2016
Thanksgiving Day - the only holiday I celebrate, not that I celebrate it with anyone usually. This past Sunday, when I was in Foxborough, I had Thanksgiving dinner with my mom, my sister Missy (who made the cover for the print-version of this book), and Missy’s boyfriend Peter. It was a very nice dinner, and my mom actually made a small turkey. That was nice!
Why does Thanksgiving mean so much to me? I had four direct ancestors on the Mayflower. John Tilley and Joan (Hurst) Tilley were my great12-grandparents. Their daughter Elizabeth married John Howland, and they were my great11-grandparents. Amazingly, John Howland fell overboard during a storm. However, he grabbed hold of some rigging, and the crew was able to pull him back on board. Otherwise, I would never have existed – nor would my children.
Normally I go for an early hike on Thanksgiving, but today John said he wanted to go with me (and go to some fishing site). So I went to the gym for an early, easy workout. When John finally got up, it was a little too late to go fishing. When he and his girlfriend took off, I went for a short hike and then came home to watch the Lions’ game and write this (while having some cheese and crackers and a nice Pinot Noir – Thor’s Well). The Lions won the first half, and the winner of this game is in first place. My son Samuel is a big Lions fan; I’m a diehard Patriots fan. I did grow up in Foxborough, and back in the 1970s I knew several players on the team.
Sunday brought an interesting finish to the second class I took at BCBS. As we finished up our morning meditation/Yoga, the snow hit. When I was driving to NY the next day the weather was terrible in the mountains of western MA. That afternoon John and I went fishing in a river in NY, just below a nice waterfall. It was COLD! And the fish just weren’t biting. I had one strike, and John had one on the line for a bit, but we couldn’t land any. We were supposed to go fishing the next day, but due to the weather the guide suggested we should just cancel. Unfortunately, we just couldn’t figure out how to reschedule.
In a few minutes I’ll grill some chicken breasts for dinner, and cook some rolls. Mischief (John’s cat) will be happy. She’ll chow on some chicken. Had chicken a couple of nights ago, with John, Samuel, and Samuel’s girlfriend. We went to Buffalo Wild Wings. I got my favorite: boneless wings with the Caribbean Jerk hot sauce. Today I have some BBQ sauce from the Montgomery Inn in OH. My grandparents lived in Montgomery, so I’ve loved their BBQ sauce for many years.
* * *
Wow. The Lions won on the final play of the game, with a field goal. They have taken sole possession of first place in the NFC North, and now have a real shot at the playoffs this year. But it would be nice if they could win big one of these days. They were the first team to go 10 games with every game decided by 7 or fewer points, and then in game 11 they win by 3 on the final play. Wow.
November 25, 2016
So… there were 3 movies I wanted to see this weekend. I saw Moana yesterday, and it was amazing. Very fun movie! Today John and I went fishing and almost went to see the new pre-Harry Potter movie about amazing beasts, but the timing wasn’t quite right. But then this evening I went to see Bad Santa 2. What a messed up movie, but I laughed out loud. It was pretty much what I expected. So, 2 out of 3 so far, and they were both pretty good (Moana was certainly more fun). Maybe I’ll get to see the other one tomorrow, but then on Sunday I’ll be taking John back to school. Yippee! Another day in the car…
November 29, 2016
Now the pressure is on! The trips planned for my sabbatical are behind me, John is back at Cornell, I went to the libraries at LCC and MSU yesterday, while also dropping in on a seminar at LCC on using blogs/e-portfolios with students in class (related to utilizing open education in addition to merely open textbooks), and picked up an article I needed from my office (our old statistics publication). That leaves one big task before me: the completion (or at least the adequate completion, as it will be) of this positive psychology OER.
In two days it will be December. Technically, my sabbatical ends when the semester ends. That’s about three weeks. However, I can also use the entire holiday break to finish up, and it looks like I’ll need it! Maybe I’ll plan a few days up north for some final reading/editing, snowshoeing, and meditating. It’s been years since I’ve been to the Yoga retreat center I used to go to regularly. Being here in Michigan, it’s much closer than BCBS, and it would just be nice to get up there again.
In the meantime, the writing needs to happen. So much to do…
December 2, 2016
One of the reasons I like helping with the kids’ class in BJJ is that occasionally it provides the opportunity to just be silly. Last night we gathered the kids together to teach the next technique, and for some reason one of the smaller kids stayed about 20 feet away. Then he made a weird noise that sounded somewhat like the howl of a wolf. So I yelled over to him, “Hey, what are you doing? Are you a wolf?” Then I told all the kids to howl like wolves, and I led them in a nice long howl. They were all laughing and smiling as I told them all to return their focus to BJJ.
Of course, there are a few occasions to be silly with the adults as well, but just not as often. We were talking about BJJ after a few of the adults got stripes on their white belts. The highest ranking purple belt (who would have gotten his brown belt with me if he hadn’t been injured for a while), reminded them not to get discouraged by comparing themselves to higher ranked students. He said that when new white belts eventually joined, then they would see just how much they’d learned in comparison to the new students.
Then I said that new white belts were like crack. New white belts to beat up on were great, you need new white belts, you just gotta have new white belts! Everybody was laughing like crazy, and the head coach commented on how sometimes I say the silliest things.
That was when I reminded everyone that at my age, and with a disability, if BJJ isn’t fun then it’s just too difficult for me to keep going. But as long as I can have some fun, then I’ll be able to withstand the challenging training and competing with my younger and able-bodied teammates.
It’s just fun to laugh. Laughing feels good. Don’t’ forget that.
December 3, 2016
What a day. Yesterday I got a message from my BJJ head coach, asking if I would take his place refereeing a tournament today. I’ve judged Taekwondo tournaments, years ago, but wasn’t too sure about BJJ, since it’s so much more complex and, sometimes, fast moving. I agreed to do it, if it was OK with the tournament director. Once it was cleared, off I went early this morning.
There were several things that made this quite challenging. First, this tournament uses rules different than the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation, where I’ve done most of my competitions (and all of my competitions for several years now). Second, as with most tournaments, there was both gi (traditional BJJ) and no-gi (aka, submission wrestling) competition. Third, the gi and no-gi competitions are scored differently, and have a few different rules. Add to that it was my first time refereeing this type of competition, and it was interesting to say the least.
As far as I know, it went really well. Only once was a coach upset, and it was definitely a close call, so I understood his disappointment. But we had a nice talk about it, and he told the tournament director (who he was friends with) that otherwise he had seen me do a great job. So there’s a good chance I’ll end up going back for the March tournament. That’s what the director said was likely, and I know they have trouble getting people to ref.
On the way home I realized I was going right past my favorite Thai restaurant (Bangkok Kitchen, in Farmington, MI). So I picked up some takeout: Gang Garee being my favorite entrée, and it would definitely be a candidate for my last meal, if I had to make such a choice. Then I picked up a very nice bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, which I am enjoying right now while watching a college football game and writing this journal entry. And I paid for my Thai food and the wine with the money I was paid at the tournament. This has been a good day!
December 5, 2016
I was going to get up early and get right to my writing today. However, it snowed last night, so the first thing on today’s agenda became a hike. It was still overcast, chilly, and bleak, but I like hiking in weather like that. For my efforts, the reward was seeing a pine marten run across the trail (with a brief stop to check me out). Recently my son John and I saw a pine marten up close while we were fishing, so that makes two in less than two weeks. Since I’ve only seen one or two in the past (over many years), it seems that the pine marten population must be doing rather well around here. Note: the one I saw with my son may have been a fisher, but today’s was quite a bit smaller, so it was probably a pine marten.
If only I’d had my camera with me, but he didn’t hang around for long, so it would have been tough to get a picture. Later I came across a picture I took from the balcony of my apartment of a great blue heron. It’s nice having a swamp behind the building, since it attracts lots of water fowl.
December 6, 2016
So… Yesterday I was writing about loveless children and lonely adults in the section on love and the capacity to be loved. I would fall into this category, so it was quite interesting to me. There are problems identified by George Vaillant in his work that match my life, but I also have some strengths, particularly play. It has always been fascinating to me as I’ve studied positive psychology, since I fall into both the good and bad categories when looking at the lists of what’s good and what’s bad.
And then last night I had some dreams… In the first dream I remember, I was back at work in security, and we were trying to hunt down someone who had stolen some 300 million dollars in securities. The suspected thief was a guy I used to work with. We went and arrested his parents, planning to hold them as hostages to lure him in. I was quite sure this strategy would fail. Later I had a very disturbing and frustrating dream involving my ex-wife. What a night!
I have a little more work to do on that section, and the larger section in which it’s located, but I’ll be glad to finish it up and leave it behind. Come to think of it, I’ll be glad to finish this project. But there’s a lot more to do. I have mixed feelings about the whole thing. There are parts I like, and parts that I’m not happy with. There’s no doubt I’ll be working on it all through next summer, and by then it should be in good shape.
December 7, 2016
Lots of dreams last night, long and detailed dreams. But I can’t seem to remember them right now… Then again: one involved going skiing…but that’s all I can remember. I do remember waking up after a couple of them and thinking, “I need to remember these and write them down in my journal.” But, like usual, they escape me now.
75th Anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Very meaningful day for all veterans (and their families), but not one to be happy about.
December 8, 2016
It was cold this morning (in the 20s), the wind was blowing, and some light snow was falling! So naturally I went for a hike. I climbed one of the highest hills in the park (perhaps the highest, not sure), and the wind started really blowing. So I turned my back to the wind and did a short standing meditation. It was a wonderful morning. I love the combined sound of dried leaves crunching under my feet while the wind howls through the trees above my head. Add the sight of a whitetail deer running through the woods, adding absolutely nothing to the sounds, and it’s just amazing. Too bad I couldn’t just do this for my whole sabbatical. Ha!
I had lots of intense dreams last night, and once again I can’t remember them. It’s such a weird thing we’ve evolved. Why? Even when we can’t remember our dreams, we often remember that we had them. I have a vague recollection that one or two of them were really interesting dreams, so why can’t I remember them? It’s quite frustrating sometimes. Imagine if we had wonderful dreams every night, and could always remember them the next day. It could add so much to the enjoyment of our lives.
I’m making reasonable progress lately; that’s good. But there’s still a lot to do. If I count the holiday break, I still have about a month. It’ll do.
When I got home my son’s cat, who lives with me while he’s away at Cornell University, wanted to go out on the balcony. She’s a rescue, and we think she may have been a wild cat for a while (or at least spent a lot of time outdoors). So she loves being on the balcony, looking at the birds and critters living in and around the swamp out back.
By the way, it’s amazing how much I’ve learned on sabbatical. A lot of it has made its way into the book, but much of it doesn’t really apply or is too advanced for this book. Some of those things will be useful when actually teaching, since you can talk about more as you see the interest and level of engagement of students who are actually there in class with you. There’s no way to tell what they will find interesting, given my interest in something. Usually, there are those students who are as interested as you, the professor, but there are also those students who just don’t engage. It is what it is, you just can’t please everyone.
December 9, 2016
Out for another hike this morning. As I entered the park, there were three deer on the side of the road. A doe and one young deer were on the left side, and another young deer was on the right side. The young deer on the right wanted to join his family on the other side, by my car worried him. I slowed down enough that he started to cross the road. Then, in the middle of the road, he stopped and stared right at me. I came to a complete stop, since he was right in front of me, and then, for some inexplicable reason, he turned around and ran back to the right side or the road. The doe and her other youngster suddenly turned and stared right at me, like it was my fault that doofus deer ran back the wrong way! They kept their gazes locked on me as I slowly drove past, and then I headed on down to the parking area.
There was still a little snow, and I saw plenty of tracks: coyote, deer, birds, squirrels, and a family of raccoons. I love raccoons, so I wish I had seen that family of them running along the trail together. Then I saw an owl fly by. It’s been a long time since I saw an owl while hiking, since they aren’t usually out in the daytime. Owls are awesome!
Being in something of a critter mood, I figured it might be fun to go see the Magical Beasts movie again. It’s amazing how much I picked up on the 2nd time. I’m glad I went.
More intense dreams last night, and I made a point of remembering one interesting part of one. The dream took place in a number of outdoor locations, and they were connected by trails that had been overgrown with branches and vines. When I went from one spot to another, I had to run fast, which was somewhat challenging with the vines and branches in the way. So the dream involved a lot of intense physical sensation as I crashed along the tangled trails. Still, since I can’t run anymore (due to my artificial hips), dreams in which I run and run with little or no effort are among my favorites.
December 11, 2016
No doubt about it, I am currently enjoying one of my longest and most intense stretches of night after night dreaming in my entire life. We are being dumped on today by a significant snowstorm. I was planning to spend the day in my office, getting a lot of writing done. Since it’s Sunday, it would have been peaceful and quiet there. However, there was no way I was attempting that drive today, since it likely would have meant 2-3 hours in each direction! No thanks, especially since the car I have now is the worst vehicle I’ve ever owned when it comes to driving in snow.
Last night I had a dream that I was with a bunch of other people, strangely enough we were at my mom’s house, and there was a big storm brewing outside. I went out back to look at the clouds, and when I looked up at one particularly black, ominous cloud I saw that is was swirling in a circular motion. As I was about to go back in and warn everyone, a funnel cloud surged downward toward the ground. Suddenly it hit the ground and turned into a fully formed tornado! Mayhem ensued, but we managed to survive.
My son Samuel sent me a text a little while ago, asking about watching one of today’s football games. I know he’ll be watching the Lions at 1 pm, but he doesn’t want to venture out into the snow yet. So we’ll get together and watch one of the later games. Not sure yet where we’re going, maybe here at my apartment. But I’ll need to go get some snacks and stuff first, unless he brings stuff with him. I kind of hope it works out that way, so I don’t have to go out in the snow. But if we decide to go to the local place we often go to (nice thin crust pizza!) that’s fine too. We’ll get better food there, since I don’t really want to grill in a snowstorm, and grilling is the best cooking I do these days (the only real cooking I bother with these days).
December 12, 2016
Another night of crazy dreams, but this time I did something I often think about but never do – I made a note. After the first dream of the night woke me up I sent myself a text message with a quick note about the dream. Another really interesting dream was the only one I could remember this morning, so later in the afternoon I checked the text message:
“I rented apt like John on weird spring break-like Xmas trip”
The dream I did remember was about renting a weird apartment, where they changed the lock on the door and it was entirely inadequate. While fighting with management, I went into my other apartment, which I was aware of being rather strange, since I wouldn’t need two apartments for any reason. Since it was about apartments, there’s no surprise it blocked my recall of the first dream.
So, did the note help? Sorry, no such luck. At best I have the vaguest recollection about renting an apartment like my son’s in Ithaca, NY, from a company like the one he rents from. It will be most interesting if some memory should return at a later time.
I’m about to write the section on courage. Actually, I began the section on courage from a Buddhist perspective when I was at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies. So what I’m about to start is the western perspective on courage. To prepare myself, this afternoon I went to see the movie Hacksaw Ridge. Wow! Almost unbelievable that this is a true story. Since I’ve used movies in class before, usually as the basis for writing papers, there is a good chance I’ll use this one someday. However, it is pretty damn graphic, so it’ll be a tough decision.
Let’s see if I can keep up the dream series tonight. If something is really interesting, I’ll send a text again, just to see if it helps.
December 16, 2016
Sort of finished another section (Section II) today. I say sort of, because I haven’t had a chance to proofread anything. That’s not likely to happen at all, since there is so much more to do and time is rapidly coming to an end. Still plenty of time though, but I’ll have to keep some things short on purpose, just to get them done. Later there’ll be time to update and/or add to whatever has been done.
John was supposed to come home today, but he got home yesterday. He wanted to go out to dinner. I had BJJ, and Samuel worked late, but then we went out to B-Dubs (it was boneless wing night – discount on boneless wings). Sometimes I’ll try different sauces, but last night I just got my favorite: Caribbean Jerk. It’s hot enough, and really tastes good! I finished the leftovers tonight, as planned. Now I’m watching football and enjoying some Frangelico.
I was hoping to spend a day this weekend in my office getting a lot done, but we’re supposed to get hammered with a weekend long snowstorm again. Just like last week. This weather sucks, it’s really messing with my planned schedule for writing – just don’t get as much done at home.
December 20, 2016
Two nights ago I had a snippet of a really good dream, but it was all too brief. Last night I had a dream that was definitely symbolic of working on this book. When I awoke, the thought of making a note occurred to me, but I was too sleepy. It took a bit to remember the dream, but fortunately the memory of the dream was not lost.
I was at some spooky old amusement park, and it was haunted. I decided to ride the rollercoaster, in part to find the ghost or evil spirit, whatever it was, so I could do battle with it. The rollercoaster started out, and then went really slow. It was a terrible ride, so I got off and went looking for the spirit. Some other guys were helping me to look, but all we found were dead ends, as the spirit kept moving off invisibly, always just out of sight and out of reach.
So, how does that relate to this book? It’s been a rollercoaster, good stretches and tough stretches. The end product is illusory, and I wonder if it will ever be done (technically, no, since there will always be updates). Each time I read something new, it sends me down another path, and another, and it keeps on going (hence, the people who are helping me but failing, in a sense).
In an unrelated note, the other day I saw a bald-faced wasp nest hanging from a tree. It had a bunch of snow on it. I thought it would make a good picture, but I didn’t have my camera with me (it was too high up for a good picture with my phone). This morning, on my way to the local library (where I am currently writing this), I took some pictures with my big telephoto lens. It wasn’t as sunny as the other day, but it isn’t sunny very often in Michigan in the winter (seriously, we can go a month or more without much sun in the winter).
Come to think of it, it has been pretty cold. I haven’t been out hiking in this weather, even though the cold is just fine with me. Now is the time to start thinking about ice fishing. I’m pretty sure my gear is together in one place and easily accessible. But, since my son has our SUV now, I need to see if I can fit my ice shanty/sled in my small car. It’s a possibility, since the sled is fairly small, I just haven’t checked yet.
Cool, on my way home from the library it was sunny, so I decided to see if I could get a better picture of the wasp nest. To my amazement there was a woodpecker on the nest. They are among my favorite birds, and I’ve never gotten a good picture of one. Unfortunately the sun was behind the nest, creating a lighting problem. But I got a couple of decent pictures.
December 21, 2016
Good news! Last night my son Samuel called to tell me he has been accepted into a physical therapy doctoral program. He’s not sure if he’ll go to that school, but it’s down to that one and one other (which he hasn’t heard from yet). I couldn’t be more proud!
Bad news? I just checked registration for next semester, and positive psychology is in danger of being canceled. If I’ve done all this work for nothing I will be seriously pissed! OK, I’ll find some way to make some use of it, and my own professional development is important, but that just wouldn’t be the same. There’s still some time, maybe I’ll write the section on hope next. Right… I’m not a big believer in hope, since I believe that taking action is more important than just hoping. But there’s nothing I can do about registration. I’ll just have to wait and see if the number picks up.
December 25, 2016
Technically, my sabbatical is over, since the semester has come to an end and we’re on break. But this book is not done, so there’s quite a bit more to do. At some point I need to wrap it up, since I have to place something online as an OER to satisfy the sabbatical leave committee, and for those students who want a printed version I need to publish something. What I think I’ll do is finish up by the end of the week – the last day of December. So, between now and then, I’ll just make an outline and some notes in the sections that aren’t finished. That will provide my students with something, and give me a little guidance as I eventually finish those sections during next semester and on into next summer.
However, the registration situation sucks! The number in the class dropped by one student; it’s now down to seven. This is not good. Nonetheless, I must force myself to do what’s necessary for the sabbatical, and plan to make good use of the material in the future, and in other classes, if indeed positive psychology is cancelled next semester.
Some interesting things happened in BJJ the last few days. On Thursday I rolled for the first time in a long time with a young guy who comes on an irregular basis. He got his purple belt around the same time I did, but then his erratic schedule held him back. However, he earns his living as a fitness instructor, and is seriously into weight lifting, and he’s about half my age, so physically he’s quite impressive. When we went to roll I’m pretty sure everybody (him, our coach, and me) expected him to crush me.
As we started, I tried to pull guard. He was having none of it, so I worked to at least get half guard. He fought to pass that as well, and defended my attempts to force it, so I switched to turtle guard. He quickly went into the referee’s position, and kept his hand low on my hip, thinking it was safe. But I locked his hand in tight, dropped my inside hip low and under him, and pulled off a nice turtle guard sweep. He quickly tried to replace guard, but I trapped one of his feet and started working to pass his guard. It took a couple of minutes, but eventually I did pass his guard, and at that point we were all pretty surprised.
I had (still have) a chest cold, so I was getting pretty winded, being unable to get a full breath each time due to the cold. My young opponent finally broke free and came up in a neutral position ready to go. So I stopped, shook his hand, and thanked him for the good roll. I know when to quit!
Then yesterday, I woke up feeling exhausted from the cold. I was up for a little while, and then took a nap. I realized it was kinda silly to go to BJJ, but the coach said we would have an open class and I had told one of the white belts that I would go over de la Riva guard with him (since it came up in the regular class and was new to him). So I dragged myself to BJJ, and the coach never showed up. I have a key, so I opened up, got things ready to go (including turning up the heat), and waited to see who would show up.
Three of the white belts came (including the one I promised to work with, and whose son is one of the little kids in the kids’ class), so I taught a class on de la Riva guard and sit-up guard (for those who don’t know, they are very close to one another). We rolled a few times at the end, and despite my cold I was warmed up a bit and managed to use my technique to control all three younger but less experienced students. It turned out to be a nice class.
December 28, 2016
So close to being done with as much as I’ll complete while still actually on sabbatical (though it technically ended with the end of the semester – so it’s really over already). Next week is the start of the new semester, and a break from this project will be necessary as I get the new semester up and going. It seems like forever!
Very, very bad news! I checked registration for the positive psychology class again, and it was down to 7. This morning I checked yet again, and it was down to 6! There is little doubt now that the class will be cancelled. It’s bad enough simply regarding the work I’ve done to prepare this OER for it, but when the class gets cancelled my schedule will be messed up. Most likely they won’t let me pick up another online class. I’ll need something face-to-face on Monday/Wednesday morning or afternoon. Those are popular times, so they are most likely staffed with regulars. I’m not sure what the procedures are these days, or what the options will be. This could seriously suck, but I’ll just have to deal with it.
Unfortunately, it may not be as simple as dealing with it. Suppose, for example, the worst possible thing happens: they assign me a class on Tuesday/Thursday night. That’s when we have BJJ classes, for both kids and adults. So it would interfere with my training (health/fitness) and the fun I have working with the kids (enjoyable stress relief). The first task for next week is quite clear – meet with the department coordinator and figure out what options there are, and hope for the best.
Well, perhaps one or two more entries, but I’m not sure about that. We’ll see how I feel over the next few days, but I must wrap things up by the 31st. Then I’ll start the new semester, and get back to this when I can.
By the way, the writing has been sort of discombobulated lately, as I try to rush things a little. It will be quite interesting when I have the time to actually review and edit this work. I know of some things I want to add and/or modify, and I can only imagine how many others there are. I’ve encountered many citation errors in my research, hopefully I’ve done a better job with my own citations. I’m usually pretty good about details.
December 29, 2016
Dreams and omens!
Last night I started to have two weird dreams, but Mischief jumped up on the bed and woke me up. Maybe I was making some noise that attracted her, but I’m not sure. In the one dream I can remember a bunch of us were in an industrial complex when we saw an electric blue flaming motorcycle roaring in, and a malevolent alien force (perhaps a demon) began calling out a warning. The evil force declared that four people were going to be executed. I was fourth on the list! I began running around, looking for places to hide or weapons to fight with – but then Mischief woke me up.
Then I had another dream. I was driving through a small city, and my car started making a terrible noise, but still driving OK. But my steering went out, and I could barely steer with all my strength. The city began to grow, the buildings got bigger, construction equipment and road damage were all around, and lots of people. I tried to keep driving, but I just couldn’t do it. Finally the car just died.
Now for the omen. One of the big things I did on this sabbatical was the BJJ Globetrotters camp. I had a great time, and would like to go again. But the camp is in September, and we can’t take a week off during the semester, obviously. Well, a couple of days ago they announced the 2017 camp. New place, and new dates! It’s in Maine during the first week of June. June is fine. Even if I teach summer classes, I only teach them online.
The question now is can I afford it, and/or should I afford it? Well, it would be nice to take a vacation next summer, and why not another camp? As I was trying to make my decision, my kids had plans for last night. They went to see the Harlem Globetrotters. BJJ Globetrotters – Harlem Globetrotters – sounds like an omen to me. I’m gonna do it!
That’s it. Although I’ll write just a little more in this OER over the next couple of days, this is the final entry in this journal. I’m glad and excited to end on the positive note of being able to go to another BJJ Globetrotters camp. I was really nervous about doing it once, but now I know that it’ll be no problem doing it a second time – at the age of 58 by then. Gotta get in great shape before I turn 60! The young folks at BJJ are tough, so I’ve got to stay tough myself. Now…I really hope the positive psychology class runs.
Sabbatical is over…