Soule Family Christmas Letter 2015

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,
 
It has been a busy year for us. Has the pace of life-changing events slowed since our retirement from Navy active duty in 2011? Not really between between caring for Ralph’s parents, significant life milestones, moving two households to Albuquerque, trips, and volunteer massage therapy. As we compose this, we are in transition between Albuquerque and Norfolk so we have elected to put our Christmas letter on our website. We are just too busy to do all the printing and envelope-stuffing.
 
Pictures are here.
 
Ralph’s father Lyle was hospitalized for four days in July with congestive heart failure. He was stabilized very quickly and is fully recovered. The episode convinced Ralph that he should take a much more active role in his father’s medical care so now he goes to all his medical appointments to help him communicate with the doctors and follow through with medications and behavior recommendations, particularly exercise. Lyle is still very diligent about following doctors’ recommendations, but has trouble hearing what they say, which is where Ralph and his meticulous record-keeping comes in.
 
Ralph successfully defended his dissertation, “The Learning Experience of Tough Cases,” 11 December. He is now a Doctor of Education (Ed.D. and not Ph.D.) in Human and Organizational Learning. Ralph had a large (silent) cheering section that included Pamela in the room as four George Washington University professors asked questions about the research and Ralph’s findings. The dissertation defense was a year to the day from Ralph’s proposal defense, which gave Ralph permission to actually collect the data for his study. Data collection was January to March at a location that cannot be disclosed to protect the anonymity of the organization. Data collection involved observations of tough cases and interviews of participants before and after the cases to understand the learning experience of tough cases. More details on the dissertation topic are available in the Ralph Soule blog on this site. Ralph averaged more than 25 hours per week after March analyzing the data he collected to distill themes, interpretations, and conclusions to enable description of what actually happens in tough cases and what it is like for participants.
 
We began moving to Albuquerque 17 December. The reason for the move is to get Ralph’s father Lyle (88) and mother Joan (81) closer to Ralph’s oldest brother Hugh. We are moving there too to make sure his parents get settled, have doctors, and to share their care with his brother and wife. This means Ralph is leaving his job with the Navy.
 
Ralph took his father to Albuquerque 10-23 November to set up doctors and find them an apartment with a wonderful view of the Sandia mountains (the dominant geological feature of the area). Most of the planning and detailed preparations for the two moves had to be held in check until after Ralph had a clear path for his dissertation defense, which made November and early December very hectic. Ralph drove his parents to Albuquerque in four long days. Pamela supervised the packing up of his parents’ belongings and will fly to Albuquerque 23 December. We return to Norfolk 6 Jan to pack up our belongings for shipment to Albuquerque.
While not exactly relishing the opportunity to touch every single thing we own prior to putting it into boxes, the process does give you many opportunities for reflection. Where did we get all this stuff? I haven’t used this in three years so why do I want to move it (just in case!)? 
Pamela, why is your head stuck in the oven (a favorite of Ralph’s)? Why are the oven racks in the bathtub? We are not far enough along yet to experience the joy of finding things under furniture or behind dressers that we have not seen in years.
 
We took only one trip this year before October because Ralph foreswore all elective travel to concentrate on his dissertation data collection, analysis, and writing. That trip was in April to Atlanta for just one day to visit our friends Todd and Alida Bray when they drove from the San Francisco bay area to Atlanta for a conference. Atlanta is one of the few cities it is easy to travel to from Norfolk via direct flights. We spent from lunch until dinner just talking and catching up on the decades that have missed since Pam saw Alida last.
 
Ralph’s older brother Rob and his wife Pam visited for two weeks in April and May. Pam stayed with us and Rob stayed with Joan and Lyle. We really enjoyed seeing them again and taking them to our favorite local haunts. Our friends from high school, Mike and Jeanelle Willbee, visited for a few days in October on their way to their son’s wedding in Atlanta. We them to Yorktown and Williamsburg.
 
Following completion of Ralph’s dissertation draft in October, we took a short trip to Reykjavik, Iceland via Boston. Because of domestic airline engine trouble and a storm front that disrupted our arrival for our Boston-Reykjavik connection, we detoured a day in Boston in the Haymarket-Old North Church area. Our four days and three nights in Iceland were wonderful, giving us the opportunity to experience volcanic rocks as far as the eye can see, waterfalls large and enormous, glaciers, icebergs, and geysirs (Icelandic spelling). Best of all, the sky was clear the last night, so we got to see the northern lights for about 30 minutes as the colors flowed and changed in the night sky. We stayed at a small hotel next to a lake outside the city.
 
Ralph was invited to participate in a podcast on organizational science called Talking About Organizations.Ralph and three doctoral students from the University of Warwick business school discuss influential works in organizational science. It is available for download from the website or iTunes.
 
For post-dissertation activities based in Albuquerque (at least to start), Ralph has several irons in the fire. He would like to do research in patient safety with hospitals, do more research on tough cases, and possibly do consulting and research in Europe for a few years. Having his parents in Albuquerque will facilitate these ambitions because we can share caregiving of his parents with Ralph’s brother and his wife.
 
Pam found her pace and rhythm for her massage practice. She stopped volunteering with the local senior services oversight committee to volunteer her massage therapy service for a hospice company. Her work with both organizations has contributed greatly to her experience in working with the elderly, ill, and those in hospice. She’s delighted to be able to pull years of training together to provide the service that she strives for. She will look for work in Albuquerque.
 
Beau continues to progress to greater independence in small steps. He moved from just a few miles away to almost 20 miles away in Chesapeake, VA. He is not working yet, but we have hopes that will be in the future. He qualifies for disability employment services, but the state of Virginia has more applicants than funding.
Our older son Bryan is married and still living in the Jacksonville, FL. His wife’s name is Jessie.
Our plans for the first six months of 2016 are to help Joan and Lyle get acclimated to Albuquerque, travel in February and March, attend conferences separately in April, attend conferences together in May, June, and then see what other opportunities present themselves. Ralph is interested in trying to do more research and possibly get it published. Pamela is interested in finding more opportunities for senior massage and palliative care.
 
Best wishes to all our friends and family for a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!