Create vs. Copy

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I am in a weird spot lately.  I have random stress and anxiety when I pass Postal Service trucks or see old coworkers in public.  I chauffeur, cook for and chase a two year old dictator around what feels like all the time while I wonder how I got here.

Sounds like a perfect time to be reading a book on business and leadership, right?

Ken Wytsma’s new book, Create vs Copy is small and a quick read like a lot of leadership books I have seen and/ or read in the past.  Within the first hour of reading I didn’t feel like I was the target audience, because… well I don’t want to change.  And it seemed like he called my life out a couple times in his description “parent of a diapered child” as someone who wasn’t prepared to take the steps needed.  Add that to the stress of complicated taxes pausing my life and lack of work I agreed that I didn’t have time to create right now.  Then he expounds and says that when you feel the worst or least ready you are at the best place to be creative.  And if you are overwhelmed and that thought scares you, Wytsma points out that creativity will actually create space for rest.

Come on!  Seriously, I fell asleep reading it 4 nights in a row because I didn’t know how to not be tired while seated.  If creativity is a muscle that grows while being worked or atrophies when not, I figured it would be any use trying to build it up with the limited time I had to sit and create.

kenw_4But then, I got past the introduction and into the theology and practicality of creating and it started to make me desire more.  Ken shows the theology of creating through God’s own process.

“Just as God has saved us, is saving us, and will ultimately perfect our salvation, He has created the world, is still actively creating it through and with us, and will ultimately perfect His creation in eternity.”

We are created by a creator that is still through us.

For us to further the kingdom and dare I say create a fulfilling life we need to think outside the box.  We need some divergent thinking.  We need to use imagination— and if struggling to— to put down the wifi device and watch cartoons with our kids and their imaginary friends.  This leads to innovation which leads to the change we are often desiring.  If we don’t we will never change.

Creation isn’t about just art or technology, either.  It is about solving problems we have or the world has.

Practically for me, I need to be creative while starting our little urban farm.  We don’t have a budget for it so I am using a lot of reclaimed items that are not necessarily made for holding compost or water or plants.  There has been a lot of failure, which is part of creating.  I have built and deconstructed a fenced enclosure 5 times now.  But I needed to innovate and attempt what I imagined would work.

On a larger scale, Create vs Copy made me think of the homeless issues in Portland.  How my city isn’t like Salt Lake City or Hawaii or even Seattle.  We have less resources than some others and more opportunities to change than others.  It is going to take a new approach specifically built for Portland.  Divergent thinking is required to figure out how to house and care for some of the 5000 people that are sleeping in a temporary space tonight.  I will write more on that later and some of my imaginative ideas that just might work.

In the meantime I think I will read over Create vs. Copy again and see if I can learn a little more about leadership while I have the time.  And actually look at some of the group questions and further reading at Kenwystma.com. And maybe figure out how to transition better.

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Filed under Freewrite, Junior, Reviews

Two

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Monday was Junior’s second birthday.   It wasn’t a shock.  We knew it was coming.  Actually we kind of picked his birthday because he put his foot down inside the beautiful Hannah so scheduled his escape birth.  But that feels like one of the few things I have known lately would happen.

Life feels pretty out of my control right now.  I am dealing with not working and figuring how if I want to be working and how and where or what.  Which are thoughts that can only be had late at night because during the day I am in charge of an increasingly unpredictable two year old.  I am once again his fulltime day care after a month off to find a new career failed.  But enough about me.

I love hanging out with him and teaching him and playing with him.  But Jeez.

He is a little ball of tantrums and giggles and spitting and kisses and words mispronounced and commands for “more crackers”.  Which in this climate I feel needs to be clarified.  He is asking for food and loves kids and adults of all races.

He turned two with a chesty cough and a horrible history of actually sleeping.  People have told me to enjoy these years because he will be a teenager soon, but I am looking forward to the days he will sleep in his own room for hours on end.  And I’m not worried about him getting into trouble because…well we have plans that involve him only talking to others about Star Wars, figure skating and global warming…oh and his mom.  We figure if you mix Comic Book Guy with a mom obsessed Al Gore, he will spend a lot of time in his room trying to build his own smart phone because he isn’t allowed one until his 36th birthday by his parents and not getting into trouble.  (The figure skating has to do with him training my mariachi band).

He is a bad sleeper.  But a great player.  He likes towers of blocks and knocking yours over.  He likes drawing chickens and fish and “roars” –which could be bears, dinosaurs, tigers or lions— and painting while naked in water (aka bath time).  He likes outside air and dirt. And digging. And tools. And Eat.  He likes to eat what he likes.  So fruit, peanut butter, and most carbs—pasta, bread, pancakes, waffles, crackers, bunnies.  He likes fried rice, Asian noodles, spring rolls, burritos…so carbs and beans/peanuts.

Every morning it seems like he has mastered a new word in his sleep.  Partially because he practices them while waking up, but also because he is pronouncing more and more daily.  He loves to do the motions for the wheels on the bus aka BUSSS…which can be used by parental units to stop tantrums or him to get undivided attention.  His favorite toy is often the broom or vacuum because he has to help with everything.  He cooks, he bakes, he cleans, he does laundry, he loves his momma and he isn’t getting a phone until he is 39.

He is my 2 year old son who is amazing and fun but so time consuming in the best way possible.

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Da Pressed

NOTE: The following has been written and deleted at least a hundred times in various forms and continues to build.  It is real talk about where I am today that I feel needs to be shared.  One for some people close to me to understand. Two for some people to not feel alone potentially. 

Recently I was talking to new friends and telling stories of my past. Those stories led me to think of more as I laid in bed attempting to sleep that night and they overtook my thinking. Lately my thinking has a lot to do with working and careers and decisions in my past that have led me to being a 36 year old unable to find work.  Someone who can put out 30+ resumes and contact multiple staffing agencies and still have only one (failed) interview in a month.

When I was 19 I was a horrible employee.  Actually for the first few years of working I didn’t want responsibility and didn’t think of any job as a career.  But when I was 19 I was horrible.  Twice in a year I called in sick for a day of work and didn’t respond for weeks after.  Both were manual labor positions and both were not fun
(no excuse).  The first was in Fairbanks at a library on campus and I went six weeks before running into a former coworker and him telling me they needed help.  So I went back for a couple weeks until the semester was over and the project I was hired for finished.  The second was worse.  I worked for a temp agency in Atlanta and was placed at a machine shop.  The owner was a complete racist, as were the employees and in response to my lack of effort (most likely) I never was really trained.  I had a lot of little injuries, damaged multiple machines and often just ended up doing custodial work for minimum wage.  So one day I called out.

I watched TV a lot.  I made a massive batch of pancakes and ate those alone for a few days.  I moved the exercise bike into the living room so I could ride it while I watched TV.  I pulled out the sleeper sofa mattress so I could lay down while watching TV.  I went days without showering.  Using the same cup and plate for days.  I didn’t open the drapes or go outside and could only fall asleep if there was background noise so lost track of day and night.

I often say I was a bad employee for this.  But the other night as I remembered this I realized I wasn’t just a bad employee.

I was horribly depressed.

Last year, I quit three jobs…well four if you include putting Junior back into daycare to find a job.   I quit them for various reasons but none the less I made the choice to leave all of them.  The last made the biggest impact on me though because it was toxic.  I was constantly being told I wasn’t good enough and wasn’t following the rules, but then being told in code to cut corners to make my time.  EVERYONE there was depressed and beaten down.  It was not an okay place for a guy that can easily slide into that mindset.

I look back on the last year or so and have a million what ifs.  What if I didn’t get an implanted tooth but just another root canal?  What if I didn’t lose two months’ salary gambling?  What if I didn’t have to work delivering papers for a dollar an hour take home? What if our car wasn’t stolen allowing us to pay off the debt of one credit card? What if I didn’t quit a job with amazing benefits and pay but mundane work and problematic coworkers?  What if I didn’t quit a high pay hard working toxic job for another 3 months?  What if I didn’t get strep throat? What if we went to a doctor instead of the ER?  What if my counselor didn’t leave our session notes in public for an acquaintance to find and crush my trust in the one person I was willing to share all stories and feelings with?

What if I wasn’t depressed? Again? For another winter? For another year?

The answer to all is of course, WHO KNOWS?

Because the what ifs could go further back to meeting the beautiful Hannah, to moving and staying in Portland, to quitting college multiple times, to being rejected by most kids in high school, to moving to the south…and possibly even further back to the babysitter throwing and breaking my Snoopy hair brush in the bathtub (my first memory?).

All of these things have made me who I am.  And apparently today who I am is a slightly depressed 36 year old who failed to find another real job so is pulling his son from daycare again to stay at home dad with him.  Who is married to an amazing woman who has no concept of my career struggles because she loves her work and loves being able to provide for her family.  Who has time to work on his homestead and maybe get some odd jobs to pay for the luxuries he desires.

And that should be nothing to be depressed about, right?

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Filed under Adulthood, Freewrite, Grieving, Junior, Marriage, Overthinking, The Jesus Way, Transparency

17

Seventeen years ago today I got news that changed the rest of my life. News of a tragic and fatal automobile accident that took my father from me.  Recently it has led me to start rethinking about how to chronicle the 10 years I spent being a 19 year old.  How it took me a long time to deal with the loss and how “dealing with it” often meant just moving on and accepting.  How I ran from responsibility, keep relationships at arm’s length and never admit any internal pain publically.  Rehashing the memories the last few months has led me into some really bad and difficult mental spots.  Occasionally more difficult than the six or so months of bad depression immediately after Dad died.  It probably has a lot to do with how I am repeating his life.

How I am struggling for an occupational identity

How I want to write but struggle to find the time to make it a priority

How projects start small but become massive and time consuming and require a village to implement

How I am staying home with my son instead of working like he did for at least a few years before I was in high school

How I have to wear glasses, have more fake teeth than real, and how my body aches every morning before I am 40

How blue collar work sounds noble to us but leads to more of those morning aches than it is worth

But like him I learning about how simple life can be if you let it.  He was often amazed by things teenage me thought were boring.  How driving for hours on end or sitting in the woods recharges the soul and yet leaves you with nothing still to talk about.  How watching the same movies or shows is often more exciting than finding something new to watch in the limited time to sit you have.  I have also started annoying the beautiful Hannah while I read placards at museums and monuments when she just looks at the pictures and wants to keep moving.  “Because words matter and paint pictures better in our memories” or something like that.

It does make me a little sadder every year to realize that Junior will never have a Grandpa even for just a few years like I did.  That we won’t have multiple generations in a picture on Facebook like friends will.  That he won’t hear Grandpa Jim’s horrible jokes or stories that change slightly every time they are told.

I don’t know why it is harder this year than last to fathom the loss of a Grandpa for my son.  Maybe because he would be able to ask for him now.  And run to him and grab a phone to call like he does his grandmothers and great-papa.  Or because I would be able to watch and learn from him and that is what I am missing.

So instead I have to tell the bad jokes and make myself available to play and laugh with him.  And try to remember Dad’s stories so I can pass them on.

Miss you Dad.

Writer’s note- This time of year depresses me.  I am doing okay—family—and am working through how to figure out life in its newest revelation. Thanks for understanding and letting me still be public with thoughts.

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Filed under Adulthood, Freewrite, Grieving, unfinished thoughts

Creatives

For the last couple years I have been pondering career.  A lot.  I have thrown out the idea many times that 80% of people don’t like the job they have but they are a needed part of making everything work.  This is the similar excuse I used when I wasn’t trying to be artistic or dream while working a dead end office job.

“Someone has to send overpriced and over-marketed products around the country”

It was also this thinking that gave me just a little bit of pride when I started working a blue collar, unionized service job.

But I don’t think I think that anymore.

While walking with Junior to a local South Asian market the other day, I noticed how many people were out and about not working and starting overthinking and making stories for them.  I profiled them by clothing and language.  Some by the language they spoke, but most by the language they used…around a 20 month old, “Come on Trent!”

This happened again when I went to a children friendly café for music time yesterday.  I noticed how many parents were there with just one child…like me.  And how they interacted with said child.  Again I profiled by clothing and language.  This time almost entirely by the words they used.  Some looked exhausted enough to be stay at home parents. They wore hoodies and flannel mostly.  Others might have been au pairs or nannies because they talked about dreams of travel and more kids. And shopped at a mall it seemed.   And a few others were awkwardly wrangling a child on an awkward day away from their office. And had collars on their shirts.

Which has led me to wonder if we in Portland and most other cities have reached a carrying capacity.  We have a lot of stores, shops, restaurants, businesses and homes that all seem to stay filled.  They all seem to have the needed workers and clientele, because if they didn’t have that mix they wouldn’t exist right?  So instead of having to sweep and mop floors, or answer phone calls, or pick up garbage, some people latch hook the Golden Girls for coffee shop art.   Others run the 600th coffee shop in town or third neighborhood bar or newest fine dining establishment.

Which makes me think about the word need.  I see a lot that is needed in the city and world and it doesn’t seem to be getting talked about.  How I thought we needed service people and just appreciated artistic sections of town, now I wonder if they are all just doing these artistic jobs to survive.  If we have created a culture that needs stuff because someone needs jobs at the Container Store (Google George Carlin) or if it really did happen in reverse.  If we create jobs because we have created greed that forces housing and food to be so expensive the blue collar service work can’t survive.  It makes me question whether 80% of people are doing needed jobs, or if we have created a society so consumed with wealth and more money that some need to be unemployed for someone else to have a job at the unemployment office.

I don’t have a conclusion.  Do you?

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Filed under Freewrite, unfinished thoughts