Sunday, August 28, 2016

I'm a lottery winner -- many times over

As I'm taking stock of things, I'm looking at the gaps between where I am and where I want to be, and what I need to do to get there.  In order to really do this exercise right, I have to be brutally honest with myself.  This means owning my faults, my weaknesses (which, of course, I have -- I lay no claim to perfection), and maybe realizing where along the way I should have zigged when I really zagged.  And, if I'm not careful, I know that I can wind up beating myself up, which can lead to me dragging myself in the gutter for a good wallow in my shortcomings.  I think that's OK once in a while, to do it briefly, but I can get lost there sometimes, and it takes a *lot* of energy to pull myself back out.

But, not going there this time around.

All I have to do is realize how odds-defyingly lucky I am to have the life I have.

The way I look at it, I'm a lottery winner many times over.

I was born in a country with amazing opportunities and freedoms.

I was adopted by a loving family.  Sure, like most people, there's times I wondered "how in the world did I wind up with this bunch?, but never once have I question my family's unconditional support and love.

I have a knack for science and logical thinking.  I've done well as a computer science geek, electrical engineer and lawyer, and doing well in those fields has provided me with great opportunities.

I consider myself a pretty healthy guy.  I know, sounds like the last thing someone who has had stage III colorectal cancer and now poops in a bag hanging off his stomach would say, but I believe this.  The cancer thing was an aberration.  Like being shot by a stray bullet.  I've proved to myself that my body is still highly functional and capable, and as long as I take care of my body and my mind, I should be here a long time.

So, I view where I was born, the family I was adopted by, my technical skills, and my health are all lotteries that I won.  There's plenty of people out there who would love to have the "problems" I have, such as they are.

I feel beyond fortunate and blessed to be in my position.

I just owe it to myself, my friends and family, to live the best life I can.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Comfortably Doug


That's what I've been feeling the past few days despite facing some adversity and seeing signs of upheaval and change ahead.  And I'm pretty happy with that.  Serenity is so much better than stress, worry and anxiety, which is likely how I would be feeling if I was the person I was just a few years ago.

I think it reflects the confidence I have in myself to sit back, take of stock of where I am, decide where I want to be, and put together a plan to get there.  Whether its making small changes to my current daily life or blowing things up completely.  I''m a highly capable person and have faced enough adversity (cancer) and have pulled off enough adventures (mountain climbing, traveling around the world) that I'm sure I can do pull off whatever I need to do to get to where I want to be.

Is my life perfect?  Are there things I see in other's lives that I think to myself, I would like to have?  Sure, I'm only human.  But it's not jealously.  I'm happy others are where they are.  And, really, there's nobody else's life I would want to have.

This journey is mine.  I own it.  And I'm the one who wants to see it through to its end.

(And yes, I've been listened to a bit of Pink Floyd (Pulse) of late)

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Chapter Ending?

I've written before about how, looking back, one can see how their life is broken up into chapters.  For me, the past few chapters  have been Law School, Travels Around the World, Starting Life in Portland, Cancer Diagnosis & Treatment, and most recently, The Drift.  The transition from one chapter to next is sometimes quite clear, such as loading up the moving truck to leave Wisconsin for Oregon, but sometimes it takes time for the delineations to make themselves known.

And other times, a series of events occur that tell you a change is coming.

I thought that The Drift was the short period between me ending and recovering from cancer treatment in the winter of 2010-2011 and landing my current gig as an in-house attorney in the fall of 2012.  The Drift comprised me wanting to give private practice every chance to work out, primarily out of an obligation to my employer after they treated me so well when I was going through my cancer bullshit, but I knew that life was not sustainable and was looking for new opportunities.  And when I found my new gig, I thought that was the start of a new chapter.

But, turns out, I've still been drifting.  Despite my every intent to purchase a home here, I cannot bring myself to pull the trigger.  I just haven't built a live out here.  It's the same way I felt during my five-plus years in Seattle. As much as I love the Pacific Northwest, buying a home here means tying myself to the region, and given the way things are in my personal life, I just feel like I would be tying myself to a region where I have few ties.  My ties are back home.  In Wisconsin.  Where my friends and family are.  And, in looking back, I find the fact that that is the only place I've ever owned a home to be a fact of no small significance.

Anyways, the series of event.  Yes.  Well, I have this sabbatical coming up and I hope to spend some time doing some deep thinking.  The hope is that I have a little clarity on which direction to take in the next few months upon my return.  There are several options I am considering.  So, the timing of this sabbatical is fortuitous.  I had a very difficult spring at work, and I was ready to pull the plug more than a few times.  But, he opportunity for some international work travel and this sabbatical were perks that tipped the balance in favor of sticking it out for another year.

So, with the sabbatical finally just a little over two weeks away, a few other things have happened that may be signaling to me that maybe this is the time to leave Portland (besides the increasingly shitty commute, and the ever-escalating and already ludicrous home prices!).  Basically, without going into the gory details like I originally had planned, I've had a few friendships either end or diminish.  One turned toxic and the other, our interactions have dropped off a bit as they've turned their attention toward a new significant other (we've all seen it happen).  I have a ton of acquaintances around town, but that's not the same as having a few good local friends.

So, a big road trip coming up to clear the head and do some thinking, fewer ties to cut if I were to leave, and a job with amazing potential but that is trending flat-to-downward ... it may indeed make sense to move on.

Again, we shall see.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Miss me?

"Doug, it's been almost a year since you've posted.  What's the deal?  What. Is. Up?"

"What?  A year you say?  It can't have been that long, can it?  Well, I'll be damned.  It *has* been a year.  I guess that's a good thing, right?  I mean, if something terrible had come down the pipe in cancer-land, I would have posted about it.   So, no news is good news?"

"Wait, are you saying you're posting now because you've had a *recurrence*?!?!  You OK?"

"No.  No recurrence.  I'm doing fine.  I've just been .... "


 ... off living life, such as it is.

I came back to post, not because of a recurrence or any health-related issues, but in anticipation of a leave from work coming up in September.  I'm really looking forward to the time off, if only to free up some brain cycles to think about big picture stuff.  You know, the usual things -- where I've been, where I am, where I want to be heading.  Questions that have been looming a little larger of late as I just had a birthday that pushes me out of mid-40s into the late-40s, with 50 staring me in the face.

But those are topics for my trip.

So, it's been a year-ish since my last post.  A year is a lot of time, and a lot can happen in a lot of time, but I can boil it down to three things -- travel, work and surgery.


Yeah, surgery.  Not cancer surgery, but surgery because I had cancer surgery in 2010.  I was all gung-ho with the lifting stuff that I really, really didn't want to miss any time in the gym.  I definitely had the lifting blinders on.  Well, after a fourth blockage requiring hospitalization early this year, and a near-miss on a fifth, I finally had enough and scheduled the damn surgery to remove the abdominal scar tissue that's been causing the blockages.  I had planned on doing a physique show in January, but my heart really wasn't in it, and after a work trip to Ireland (where there was no way I wasn't going to enjoy drinking good food and Guinness) I gave up on the idea of doing a show this year, so the stars aligned to finally take of this.

Quite frankly, work had gotten a little insane too with how hard I was working and how much I was stressing, and the prospect of spending two weeks away from work to recover from surgery was pretty damn attractive.  So, got it done.  Surgery was cake -- was back home within 48 hours -- and in two weeks time, I was ready to get back at it.

And, it's been five months with no blockages, knock on wood.  Getting this surgery was something that needed to be done before I could get do some adventure travel again.  Speaking of which.


I've travelled quite a bit the past 12 months.  Last fall, after I finished the Colondar bios (they turned out well.  I was happy with them, and my charges seemed happy too.  Well, at least they said they were), I addressed some pent up traveling urges and did a mini-tour in the fall to see a bunch of friends and family -- Seattle, Los Angeles, Austin, Phoenix, Denver and Wisconsin.  Even got to Boston for the first time.  Was there for a few weeks and got to drive around Vermont and New Hampshire to see the leaves change.  Missed "peak color" by just a bit, but still, just beautiful.

And, this year, I got my international travel game on a bit.  Travelled to Ireland for work (there's some amazing chefs in Dublin) in January, another work trip to China for two weeks in June, and I recently got back from a personal trip to Europe earlier this month (quick tour Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Dublin and Brussels). 

Great wall

Canal houses in Amsterdam


The Storehouse in Dublin

So that's been fun.

But all of the traveling has been super easy.  Even China.  It's 2016, and traveling to Shanghai and Beijing isn't an exotic as it probably was 30, 20 or even 10 years ago.  Even from a stoma standpoint, things were a piece of cake.  I stayed in nice, modern hotels with bathrooms that are Western as they are in my home in Portland, and there once I got there, I had no concerns about catching a bug through irrigation as the water was just fine.

Not that I'm jonesing for "non-easy" travel.  With me being eligible for a four-week sabbatical at work this fall, I've been giving a lot of thought on where to go.  Give me a week or two off, and I'm usually scheming up some adventure, but with 6-7 weeks off (4 weeks sabbatical plus 2-3 weeks of vacation), I was thinking big.  6-7 weeks is a helluva lot of time off, and what far-flung trip I was going take on my sabbatical changed from week to week, depending on when you talked to me.  One week it was a tour of SE Asia, the next it was touring more of Europe, and ask me again and I'd be thinking about Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego.

But after getting back from Europe and China, my appetite for long haul trips was limited and I didn't want to fund a second big international trip in the same year.  So, I'm going to stay in my back yard and check out a few of the amazing natural wonders we have here in the Western U.S. and Canada.  I'm going to load up the 4Runner and heading to Bellingham, WA, take the Alaska marine ferry to Skagway, take the Alaska-Canada highway to Banff & Jasper.  Then Glacier and the Grand Tetons.  Then Zion.  Then the Grand Canyon.  Drive the car to Vegas, take a flight to the homeland (Wisconsin), to visit friends and family for a week and a half, then fly back to Vegas and drive back to Portland, making to sure take the most remote highways that I can.  I'm doing a lot of driving, and I want to make good time between destination, but the road is as much a part of this trip as the national parks.  I want to put the emphasis on "good" rather than "time" when making "good time".

And then, after 45+ days on the road, it will be back to ...


Work has been tough lately.  Since about last November, I've been busting my ass, with hours approaching those I was working in private practice.  Which means my unhappiness has been approaching that of when I was in private practice.  I've been struggling to stay on top of things and I do not see things changing anytime soon.  Right now,  my job is simply a six day / week job.  I get paid well for what I do, but I'd gladly trade a good chunk of my salary for less work.  Life's short and tomorrow is promised to no-one, so with the heavy work load and me just turning 47, I'll be taking a long, hard look at whether staying in my current position is what I want to do.  In fact, as I look back on my entire professional legal career, the jobs have been so more demanding than what I was doing previously in engineering.  Maybe, in the end, law just isn't a match for me.  I'm good at it, but I think my success is primarily me putting the time into doing my job that I think it needs in order to do the job right.

Anyways, these will be some of things I think about while I'm on road.  Maybe I come back fully charged and work is all good and I hunker down for the long haul with my employer.  Or, maybe I came back knowing that I am through with my job and start charting my exit route.

We shall see.