Category Archives: The Jesus Way

New Beginnings

Five years ago today my life changed drastically.   That old life is now unrecognizable.   I was horribly hung over after passing out at 7 pm the night before on the couch of a house made empty by roommates out of state with their families.  I was still drunk that morning probably.  I was literally sick to my stomach.  I had been eating grease while I picked up items for this big event.  I was exhausted and stressed out.  I was confused about the future and lonely as I looked at another Christmas alone.

I walked into a gym that was empty besides a couple tables for the worship bands to eat some dinner in one of the corners.  It needed to be set up to feed 300 people the next day, but also made nice as not to continue to feel stale and cold.  In my head we were throwing a party.  In reality, we were providing a needed meal in a warm building were half the people didn’t care what it looked like and the other half would judge me.

There were a few people milling around, and it turns out that the small attendance made people leave.  A father and couple teenagers started setting up tables with me.  A single woman started helping us.  After about 20 minutes the tables were set up and the family left.  The single woman and I spent about 3 hours working to make the tables not stale and to add Christmas lights and brightness to the massive gym, to make it small.  We also spent about 3 hours talking.  How we didn’t like traveling at Christmas.  How we didn’t have living fathers.  How our families were far away from Portland but actually close together.  Our jobs and hobbies.  How we liked being in Portland now.  Where we had been and where we wanted to go.

It was longer than planned so I offered to drive her home.  Something I had done literally hundreds of times before as my dad made me a protector of women to an often negative extent.  When I dropped her off, something was different than those times before though.  There was an awkward moment.

The awkward moments continued the next day as we saw each other and chatted a little as I ran around being in charge of chaos of a community Christmas dinner that comingled housed with unhoused friends.  By the end of the meal, I was wiped and had plans to sit in front of my computer and finish binge watching something I am sure.  But there was another awkward moment when she wrote out and handed me her phone number and an address to come hang out with her friend’s family.

Somehow I knew I needed to go. Even though I only met her less than 24 hours before I figured I should make an appearance.  So I did.  I grabbed a couple 22s from my cases of beer and went to a house, that apparently generally didn’t drink, and where I barely knew one person.  I awkwardly walked around saying hi and got another plate of Christmas dinner since I didn’t eat at the first.  And went and planted myself near this girl that intrigued me.  She played games with her friends and we made small talk about what we had planned for the week and how much time free she had.

I left after about an hour because I needed quiet not craziness and couldn’t fake it anymore.  I wished her well, told her Merry Christmas and said thanks to the random family that just set up a couple without knowing it.

That night there were quite a few texts from my dark, cold, quiet basement bedroom.  By the end of them, I had a real date with a real girl.

Within a week, I would start spending everyday with that single lady. Within a month we were pretty sure we weren’t going to be single long. Within 8 months we were wed and in a tiny apartment.  In 2 years we were no longer drinking much or going out to eat but just sitting around with each other.  In 3 years we had a child, a house and a family car.

Now it has been five years since I drank or partied like I did the day before I met the beautiful Hannah.  And tomorrow it will be five years since the best Christmas ever.

And I wouldn’t switch back to that old life for anything.

 

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Filed under Adulthood, Freewrite, Junior, Marriage, The Jesus Way, Three O Clock People

Offended

In the past couple weeks I have changed some rhythms.  I started reading books and magazines instead of playing games to waste time and stew on my own thoughts.  And I have avoided a lot of things on Facebooks because I get offended with in about 6-8 posts.  I get offended because someone is defending their beliefs against current political events…again.  Because there is another video of indigenous Americans being abused by the police like Americas.  Because someone posted about White people being bad to the other.

Then I want to defend myself.  I know how to play cards.  Or I wouldn’t even get into a military vehicle and use a water cannon against someone defending their land.  Or I haven’t been silent in the face of the way our President-Elect campaigned.  Or I don’t believe I will be fine while the other is oppressed.  And honestly I don’t know how to defend myself when confronted like this.  I do want to tell people I didn’t vote Trump so they will continue to be my friend…mostly just online.

Right now, I have very few people I hang out with.  I have three guys I talk to about everyday life and two are not local.  And all are white.  I have a couple friends of color but we don’t seem to get our schedules to sync up well.  So I share memes and videos with three like-minded, like experienced friends.

I don’t have any one in my inner circle that would vote for Trump.  And yet, I feel a gut punch when I see someone calling out White People for their silence or lack of understanding.  I want to scream how like-minded I am with people of color and how I have rebuked a lot of the white stereotypes intentionally.  How there are words I won’t say even while reading aloud or recounting a movie or rapping along with the radio in the car…alone.

It hit me a couple weeks ago, this is potentially closer to how the other often feels.  How legal immigrants feel while walking past TVs tuned to the nightly news in a store.  How people of color feel when they are passed over for a job for a candidate that was “just a little better” but equally qualified in everything but skin color.  How African Americans feel when another story about a young black man being shot has the commentary of him not obeying the police.  How Asian Americans feel when they are asked where they are from even though they are 4th generation American.

How this feeling of helpless and lack of control in what others can and will do to you is not knew for a lot of people.  Just for a lot of White people.

And I don’t know what to do with that thought.

*I use the term White people to describe the generalized majority of European Americans intentionally.  Just like a lot of people use the term Asian or African or Latin without knowing where some is actually from.

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Filed under Adulthood, Freewrite, Global Community, The Jesus Way, Transparency

Don’t Know

A little over a month ago, a fellow church member sent out a note asking for help with an ESL and Welcome Center she started at her daughter’s school. It was the first time in a long time that I jumped at something. One because they offered childcare. Two because it was among a diverse group of people that wanted to learn English and I know English kinda good enough. And three because they had childcare.  The first time I showed up there was a Spanish speaking man with a great grasp on the language who told me a lot of his story.  I just sat a listened.  He has only come back once, because he is busy, and probably just came those times for fellowship in an otherwise boring day.  That is fine.

A month or so in I am the childcare often. With today at one point six kids under my charge, three of which didn’t speak English and none of which wanted to listen to me…including my own spawn. But I dealt, even though I was really close to not going today… because of Junior not listening anymore.

I went because I truly want my kid to know people of other colors and languages and personalities.  I want him to remember when he is 16 or 26 or 36 that not all people of color are moochers, terrorists, abusers, or untrustworthy.  I want him to remember a friend from when he was this age or 4 or 6 who he had a great time with and liked.  I also want the kids and parents there to see me,  a larger white male smiling and listening to them.  Because I know television dominates a lot of homes and time.  And I know a lot of the coverage on television is negative currently.

I don’t know if it will do any good.  I don’t know if Junior will grow up and move to a town with even less people of color (doubtful).   I don’t know if I will continue to be willing to smile and listen without speaking and groaning.  I don’t know if any of us will be as open as we are now again.

But I also don’t know what else to do to make this world okay.

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Filed under Freewrite, Global Community, Heathen Healers, Junior, The Jesus Way

13th

Watch Now Seriously

 

The beautiful Hannah and I just watched a documentary together….WHAT?  I know it doesn’t happen often but she actually sat down and learned WITH me. But that’s not my point.

My point is that this nation has a history that sucks.  We have institutionally accepted horrible things happening to our own citizens since the beginning of the country and allowed institutionalized slavery to continue to present day.  And since there is an election coming up don’t think I am speaking as if one side started or stopped this.  They are all guilty as #$@#@ and need to be held accountable. Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush Jr., Obama…all have allowed slavery to continue in newer forms. Don’t believe me? Watch The 13th on Netflix.

Are you back? Or never left?

Here’s what I learneded, there is a line in the 13th amendment, which ended slavery in its previous form, that allows men (people) to be free as long as they are not being a punished for crime.  Which sounds great until people are falsely arrested, forced into a plea bargain and then have a felony on their records FOR LIFE.  This causes them to not be able to vote in many states, not be able to receive government assistance, not rent, not be employed, and even not receive life insurance.  After the US Civil War, prisoners were used to help rebuild a lot of cities and infrastructure destroyed in former slave owning areas.  It was a good deal.  If you needed more “workers” simply round up former slaves for loitering or trespassing, since they no longer had jobs or places to live.  This started what we see today with over 2 million people in the prison industrial complex.  That is people that are under house arrest, on long probation or physically in a facility.   Bogus loitering charges still exist, but often drugs or theft is involved.  We all have heard stories of police planting evidence, (Google has about 1,280,000 results in 0.49 seconds) and of quotas.  It’s like they HAVE to arrest people to keep their jobs, right?

The movie delves deeper into the money side of it. How laws are passed to arrest more people and politicians use code words to scare the public into behaving or make us feel safer when we feel attacked.  We like when we hear people will have to serve 85% of sentences and Mandatory Minimums and 3 Strikes.  But then we start hearing what is actually happening to people who are arrested.  How they are coerced into plea deals, and not allowed to leave because of high bails.  Even 10% of 10k is often still too much for working people or single mothers created by their husband, boyfriend or baby daddy serving life for a third strike, 2/3rd of which might have been false.

I believe police have hard jobs and attempt to do good the majority of the time.  I also think they are trained to identify people of color as guilty and Caucasians as victims.   This has more to do with what I have heard from experienced people than from any article on the interwebs.  People of color being stopped and ticketed for small offences (5 over, broken taillight, out of state tags too long) while I was let go with a warning many times.  Or larger offenses like possession of drugs not being reported for white friends, while people of color were illegally searched to find them.  Therefore I truly believe that lives of crimes and drugs come from circumstances.  To gain power and money to get out of the “rough life”, but then get a felony and keep the cycle going in your family tree.  If you don’t have privilege or opportunity you fight more for it and bend the rules to get there.   I have met too many people on the streets with felonies from 19 or 20 years of age that limit them when 50.  Lesser jobs, lesser apartments, lesser insurances, lesser lives and so falling back into the escape of drugs and then the need to crime.  Yes, crime as a verb.

Instead of helping people break the cycle though it seems like the government is enabling the profiting off of poor, uneducated and disproportionately people of color specifically in the prison complex.  Instead of setting up a safety net that would help most, the system mandates felons can’t live in subsidized housing, penalizes family unity by limiting food and job benefits per address, and caps the limited benefits people can legally get in a tight timeline.  So people numb themselves with illegal drugs and resort to crime to buy food and keep the cycle going.

The major problem that The 13th exposes though is that prisons in this country are for profit, privately run institutions.  Therefore they need “raw materials” to make profits.  Unfortunately this leads to arresting people that can’t defend themselves in court.  Those who have been raised to fear the authority of police and all law enforcement.  Those whose fathers were arrested and served time for the same or similar crimes they will fall into.  If they were public run, I am not saying this wouldn’t happen it.  But I am saying that if they were charitably non-profit they would attempt to be run out of business.

I have more in my head that I’m not sure I have the words to say and realize I am just rambling so will leave you to ponder this quote from the film.

“We (African-Americans) thought, I mean they called the end of slavery “Jubilee”, we thought we were done then.  And then you had a 100 years of Jim Crow, terror and lynching.  Dr. King, these guys come on the scene, Ella Jo Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer, we get the bills passed to vote then they break out the handcuffs, label you felon, you can’t vote or get a job. So we don’t know what the net iteration of this will be, but it will be.  It will be. And we will have to be vigilant.”  Van Jones

Stay woke y’all, especially those in the racial voting majority like me.

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Filed under Adulthood, Junior, Overthinking, Reviews, The Jesus Way

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