An Unofficial End to Summer

It’s the Labour Day Long weekend, the first weekend in September, and for most of Canada it marks the last weekend before school after summer break. And in my optimistic way I am hoping it means the return to some normalcy as we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. Students from K-12 and many post-secondary institutions are returning in person, businesses are asking people to start coming back into the office, and to mean that all sounds hopeful. With the return of in-person teaching at the University of Toronto I’m packing up with the idea of weekends up here on the horizon (ok, hopefully long weekends!).

For the last five summers, I’ve spent the majority of my time at the lake house (and really for much of the last eighteen months, I’ve lived up here). The lake house community is something of a throw back. We all smile as we walk and drive past one and other. There are fewer text messages and more knocking on your neighbours door to see if they want to have a coffee, go for a walk, or need something at the store. We slow down literally and figuratively to embrace the longer, warmer days that bask us in sunshine and bluebird skies.

While I’m sad for summer to be over, I’m grateful for the opportunities I had. Reconnecting with friends who live abroad through the year but at the lake in the summer. Long days with beautiful sunsets. Birds chirping in the early light to remind you a new day and opportunity are upon you. Reading great books while drinking coffee to start my day as Harper slept beside me and I watched the sun rise a little higher on the horizon. Watching the sun shift from the summer solstice back to its winter solstice pole.

This is just another chapter in the seasons of our life story and the one with colourful autumn leads, long dog walks approaches. Summer reminds me to slow down. To reflect back on the accomplishments of the academic year. To soak up the beauty that is Ontario summers.

As you commute to work on your first day after these summer holidays take a moment to be grateful for the adventure(s) you had. Talk to your kids as you walk to school and thank them for the opportunity you had to spend more time with them before they head back into the classroom.

What I Listened To

The Huberman Lab hosted by Andrew HubermanThe Science and Practice of Perfecting Your Sleep with Dr. Matthew Walker
I might be a sleep fanatic. Long before looking into the science I was obsessed with getting a good sleep. Thankfully I’ve always been a good sleeper but listening to Dr. Matthew Walker was a good reminder to keep up my sleep hygiene. We don’t need to discuss why technology in the bedroom is bad, there is enough evidence to support that claim, but Walker discusses aiming for great not perfect. Suffice to say, one bad night of sleep is not going to wreck you, many bad nights of sleep is detrimental to our health.
If you’re struggling with sleep Walker and Huberman dive deep into a variety of topics from quality and quantity, REM and deep sleep, duration, frequency, alcohol, caffeine, supplements and so much more. If you’re struggling with sleep I have a few recommendations: 1) Listen to this or any other podcast with Dr. Matthew Walker (Walker recently started his own podcast, which I’ll have to check out); 2) start keeping a journal of your nights so you can separate the variables on what helps you sleep and what stops you from sleeping; and 3) get something to track your sleep like an Oura Ring or other smart watch (but, no, not your phone it’s not sophisticated to really track your sleep).

Against the Rules with Michael Lewis (by Pushkin Industries) – Live Interview 5/19/21: Michael Lewis and Geraldine Brooks
I love all of Michael Lewis’ books, although I think The Undoing Project might be my favourite of his books. I also love listing to Lewis speak; something about his voice draws me in to listen deeply and intently. Through the winter I listened to Season 2, which took listeners through coaching in American life. This episode with Geraldine Brooks was different; Brooks interviews Lewis about his latest book, The Premonition, which looks at the COVID-19 pandemic through Lewis’ eyes (I can’t wait to read this).

This conversation left me thinking, now what? Well first, I need to read Lewis’ latest book. Then it’s some more stepping away and thinking about how I want to continue to live but also protect myself from the unknown’s of this virus (and, yes, I’m vaccinated and wear a mask inside or outside when I cannot maintain 6ft/2m distance for a prolonged period of time). And also to be thoughtful about what news or case studies I bring to the students I teach; I think COVID-19 is too sensitive a topic to for the classroom.

What I Read

You are Awesome by Neil Pasricha
I forgot I had this book but when I went to my library I think it immediately stood out after listening to Neil last week on his podcast 3Books. I received it after a virtual Rotman session that featured Neil Pasricha. As ever the man to draw us in, Neil made sure the audience felt heard engaging in the chat, although our microphones were disabled. The book was a summary of many of the things he spoke of that day, supported by great personal stories, some professional ones as well, with the right dose of academia to support the findings. The book centres around nine arrows to live a more enjoyable and resilient life (which I’m not giving away here!).  

It was another quick read, I spread it out over three mornings while looking out over the lake. It reminded me to sit with my feelings, to think about when I’ve failed to be empathetic, and how a little bit why shame hurts so much (But as Brené Brown says, throw shame in a petri dish with empathy and it has no hope to survive – so don’t forget to be empathetic with yourself too!). 

The Art of Rhetoric by Aristotle (translated by Hugh Lawson-Tancred)
Ok, maybe not the best place to start my deep dive into philosophy, but I’ve got ‘beef’ with the word rhetoric (which is wholly unfair to the word because it’s innocent in my battle with it). This short but fascinating read is helping me prepare to present to students argument and proof in engineering design. I do not want to just think of evidence as it relates to engineering, but a host of disciplines to help students make better decisions as it relates to solving opportunities creatively.