And on to the Job Hunt…

At this point, some of you definitely have to be wondering if I’ll ever get back to the point where I can focus this place onto the writing aspect of my life.

And the answer is…God I hope so.

But, now that I’m nearing that point in which graduation is (hopefully) here (I actually just received notice that I have officially been approved for graduation, so I guess I should finally stop fretty about all of that), there’s a whole other new thing I have to focus on…the job hunt.

I don’t want to make too big of a deal of this, as job hunting is boring as heck, but seeing as I spend a lot of time here telling you folks about all the things that are keeping me from getting back into a healthy writing routine, today I offer you the absolutely new item of looking for jobs. And getting ready to look for jobs.

I’ve always been pretty bad at this process. Like, I’ll start all excitedly by getting my resume ready and start hunting out all the cool places I’d love to work for, places that are doing amazing things, places that can make me feel as though I might actually be doing something with my career, as opposed to taking a job at yet another place which seems much more interested in filling hiring quotas than they are actually aware of the needs in their businesses. That’s not to say that I haven’t had the opportunity to do some really cool things in those positions. I’ve had countless times where I’ve been put in a place where they had no clue of what to do with me, and in, mostly an act of boredom, I’ve ended up starting a process which has created entirely new teams. And that’s fun.

But, I think this time, I’d really like to find some place that already has something of a goal for me. That’s not to say I don’t want to be on a new team, because I like being able to develop a team into something amazing. In fact, I’ve found that I tend to be far more useful in developing new teams than I am in getting involved in existing teams, because it can sometimes be difficult to have those existing teams actually bring you into the things that are happening, and you spend far too much time twiddling your thumbs waiting for things to happen than you actually do anything.

But to have a goal would be nice. Like, even if it’s something like, “We want to figure out what our customers would like us to be doing better, but don’t want to talk to them, we just want to look at the data and see if we can determine it.” I like those kinds of problems. The problems that don’t seem like they have an answer, but then I get to go out there and find it.

One of my proudest moments as an employee was when I was given a task that they told me was absolutely impossible and that they expected me to fail, but they wanted me to mull it over for a bit and see what I could do. They even created an entirely new position around the idea of me working through this problem and having to spend some time on it for at least a year. I had the answer in a week, including a tool that would help them implement the answer, and it was lean and amazing and really caused a drastic impact on the business. Well, it would have, if they hadn’t already lost interest in the issue by the time a week later I rolled out my amazing tool.

Because business is kinda fickle. But I like being the guy who can see those issues and come up with solutions, and develop those solutions. It’s what I’ve built my non-writing career on, and it’s what I know that this degree makes me that much more suited for, even if most of the schooling I went through to get the degree just pushed me through the things I already was doing in my day to day.

So, that’s where I’m at right now, somewhat excitedly getting the things together, looking at the businesses I’d like to be a part of, and slowly getting myself out there.

Before the absolute drudgery of applying for my 100th job and still not hearing anything back because so many of these places end up on hiring freezes before they can actually get anyone at their desks.

But I’m hopeful.

For now at least.

Escapism Meets its Extreme

I have a weird, dirty, little secret to share with all of you. I’ve actually found time over the past few days to do a little bit of writing. Writing fiction even…

It’s a little something I like to call Vacation Fan-Fiction.

I’ve mentioned on here how I’ve been struggling a bit with the lack of sun in Wisconsin over the past few weeks. Tack onto that the fact that I absolutely love to travel and I haven’t gotten out of Wisconsin since last July (I *might* have made it to Minnesota once or twice, I guess) and, well, I’ve been finding myself in a really weird place, mentally speaking. A place where I have been daydreaming about traveling and sunshine and trying to find a place in the calendar to make that all happen right now. It has been taking over all of my thoughts of late. I can’t stop thinking about travel. It’s honestly moved beyond distracting to becoming simply overwhelming.

However, the truth of the matter is, it’s just not in the cards at the moment.

But, I had a spare moment or two yesterday, and I decided to simply write out a little story about me and the family going on a vacation, and, well, it’s actually the most I’ve smiled while writing in a long time. It wasn’t all peaches and cream in my little story. There was bickering and testiness. It was a fairly good representation of how our travels tend to go, with these periods of intense happiness and extreme grumpiness due to exhaustion.

But it worked.

I mean, I still want to travel as soon as I possibly can, and I still keep looking to see how far I have to drive to be able to find some legitimate sunshine, but, I feel better. Not quite, but almost as though I had actually managed to get out of Wisconsin briefly.

And that’s pretty great.

I’m now starting to understand why people enjoy escapism literature so much.

I’m also starting to wonder if there’s a market out there for bespoke vacation escapism stories…

“GAY!” said Adam.

Florida’s been under heavy fire lately for a recent piece of legislation referred to as the Don’t Say Gay bill, which basically comes down to keeping any form of reference to anything outside of the ‘mythical norm’ from being discussed in classrooms up until 3rd grade. This means anything that falls under the queer banner is simply not allowed subject matter in the classroom. Whether rainbows are included in this is still up for discussion.

At the same time, my home town of Eau Claire has been under fire for teachers not talking about queer lifestyles. In this case, the schools had told the teachers to not out a child’s ‘atypical’ gender or sexual preferences to their family members. And in this case, the message from those attacking the situation is actually the opposite. They are expecting the teachers to discuss things outside of the ‘mythical norm’, only this time with the parents.

In my head, I like to laugh about how these two things seem to be so far separated from each other, while being basically the same thing. In one case, we simply want to brush under the rug that any sort of queer anything could possibly exist, where on the other side, there’s a discussion about how teachers should be required to let parents know that these things exist as soon as they are aware.

But, even more so, these two are the same thing because they are, obviously, more than a little anti-queer. And more than a little too focused on the idea that there is a standardized ‘normal’ for everyone to adhere to.

So, in Florida, teachers aren’t supposed to even mention the idea of homosexuality to kids, something which is legal across the country. I would assume this would also include not allowing for gay married teachers to talk about their significant others as their husband or wife, correct? Or even if they’re simply dating someone of the same gender? I’m curious how that works if they are transgendered. Will they be required to designate themselves as the gender they most appear to be regardless of the gender they identify with?

While I don’t believe we typically teach much for sexual education to kids younger than 10, the very idea that we would actively shelter these children from the very concept that there is anything outside of man and woman and heterosexual couples is ridiculous. The concept that a teacher could be in trouble under this bill for simply referencing a non-mythical norm person is terrifying. And, the very fact that this bill needs to exist is really a showcase of how far people are willing to go to show their hatred of anything outside of what they consider the norm. Like, is there really that big of an issue in these schools in Florida where 6 year-olds are coming home and making their parents blush with information about the queer community, or is the issue more about not wanting these kids to even be aware that queer people exist. If it’s the latter, well, I think we simply need to look at the history of the Civil Rights movement in America to know what that looks like.

And then here in Eau Claire, we’ve got what, in a lot of ways, is the opposite situation, where people are up in arms because of the idea that teachers wouldn’t tell them if they learn that their kid is queer. Now, I’ll admit, if my kid is queer and I don’t know about it, I’m going to feel like a pretty damned terrible parent. I’d want to know. Because I don’t like the idea that my kid feels like they need to hide a part of themselves from me. But if they don’t feel comfortable telling me about this part of themselves, that’s on me. It’s definitely not on the teacher to cover for the fact that my relationship with my child doesn’t work that way.

And the primary reason a kid wouldn’t feel comfortable opening up about themselves about such things with their parents is because their parents aren’t going to accept that part of them. So, in the situation that a kid is queer, and the teacher tells the parents before the kid is ready to reveal that to them, what are the possible outcomes? Sure, there’s a possibility that the parents will be accepting and loving and everything will work out like roses. The parents may not have earned that level of intimacy with their child, but in this hypothetical example, they do have the opportunity to redeem themselves.

But what’s the more likely outcome? That the parents aren’t going to accept them for who they are. Because, let’s be honest here, the parents who believe they have a right to know this information believe that because they believe that their child is headed down a dangerous path. That their child’s course needs to be corrected.

Which means that the real discussion under fire in both of these cases isn’t what we’re seeing on the surface. No, it’s quite obviously an attack on being queer. It’s the belief that our children need to be ‘protected’ from the queer community.

So, basically, these discussions boil down to the idea of protecting our children from something outside of what we consider the norm. Something that we, as a nation, have declared legal. Something that the majority of Americans realize is just people being who they are. Something that absolutely doesn’t hurt anyone and therefore doesn’t require anyone to be protected from.

The message that I get from all of this is that these people who fall outside of our definition of normal are somehow dangerous.

This is not acceptable.

And this is also the exact reason that your kid isn’t telling you their secrets about their own self-identification. Because they don’t feel loved and accepted as the very person they are. They don’t feel protected.

They feel like an outcast in their very own families.

So, if they can find a teacher who makes them feel comfortable enough for them to want to confide in them, we absolutely cannot take that away. We can’t take away a place where they are able to feel safe and open with who they are. A place where they actually feel protected.

Our prejudice against people who are in any way different seems to know no boundary. And I’m getting really darn tired about it. Queer people have existed for as long as written history, and only in one case in those history books do we have any sort of example where that might have caused a supernatural being to unleash its wrath. And, if you read the story, those folks were a lot more rapey than gay. Interestingly enough, our stigma against rapists doesn’t appear to be nearly as grand as our stigma against queers, although one of those groups performs actual damage while the other just wants to exist.

In truth, there are so many of these things that, if you want to bring religion into it, we should be far more vocal about than being queer. Religious texts talk at length about sexual assault, about divorce, and even about how we shouldn’t judge others, whereas homosexuality is almost an afterthought crammed into a couple of corners. We’ve seen this type of reaction in the past. Racism was backed by religion for ages. Why do we pick and choose simply being different as the one that we need to demonize? Whether it’s the color of one’s skin, who we choose to love, or simply which gender roles we identify most with, these are not reasons to attack. And that’s what this all is. It’s an attack. We’re not protecting our children, we’re attacking those we see as different than us. If anyone needs protecting, it’s those people. The people whose way of life we are trying to destroy. The people we want to hide under the rug. The people we simply don’t think should exist.

And that’s just not cool.

How I’m Like Superman

For those of you unaware, Superman gets his amazing powers of superhuman strength and everything else from the Earth’s yellow sun.

As it turns out, I, too, am similarly powered by the sun. Or, perhaps it’s more accurate to say, I find myself particularly unpowered with a lack of sun.

In other words, I struggle with a little thing folks in the know like to call Seasonal Affective Disorder.

And it comes directly from a lack of the sun in my life, which means, like Superman, if I’m left away from the sun for too long, I find myself incapable of functioning at my normal incredible levels. And so it is that every year by about February or March, I find myself in a particularly strong case of the SADs, and find it that much more difficult to do anything at all.

Which happens to be going on right now.

I’m in a funk. A funk where I simply feel unable to do any of the things that I normally actually enjoy doing. I can’t even go outside, because even a glimpse of the dreary gray days we have going on right now can send me spiraling even deeper into my ineffective state.

I’ve always considered Superman my favorite superhero. This outsider who spent his younger years feeling different, feeling like he didn’t belong, being made to feel that he was less than by his peers, still loved his fellow man enough to dedicate his life to making theirs better. Even from a young age, I’ve identified with this. However, ever since I became aware of how strongly the sun impacts my emotional mood and therefore my physical activity, I’ve found that maybe I’m not all that far different from the Man of Steel at all.

I am pretty strong after all.

Of course, I don’t have those baby blues of his, or his towering height…or his abdominal muscles, or…

Okay, so maybe we really just share the sun thing and the want for people to have better lives, but still, I like Superman, and that’s really what matters here, right?

And so, because of my current bout with the SAD, this is one of the many reasons I managed to actually miss a day last week. And that also happens to make me a little sad…

When Things Got Quiet

I don’t know if anyone noticed at all, but last Friday marks the first time this space has been devoid of new material since I started things back up again last July. It felt weird. Because that was the result of over a week of avoiding the space here, due to how far in advance I write out these posts. And due to a number of different things, some of which I’ll discuss in future posts, I found myself in a place where I simply wasn’t putting in the time here.

And, for the few of you who use this space as your way to waste time over your lunch breaks, I apologize. I’m going to try to get things back up and running here, I have a number of posts that are currently in draft mode, but life has simply put me in a place where I haven’t had the time I’ve wanted to be able to dedicate to this space, and I’ve been trying to come to terms with needing to determine what to do to make this space better than it has been.

I’m still working on that, but for now, I just wanted to say I haven’t forgotten you, and I’ll try to get some more content out again very soon.



The Irony of Regret

Over the past few years, my wife and I have made a lot of decisions which weren’t exactly easy ones, which we took purely because they felt like the best ones at the time. Things like buying a farm, or, then turning around and selling the farm. Things like jobs we’ve taken that weren’t exactly the jobs we wanted. And, most recently, things like buying a business.

In a recent conversation with a friend, they noted that my wife and I are really good at embracing change instead of fearing it. While I like this idea of being brave against the fear of change, the reality is not that we aren’t afraid of change, it’s simply that we see a lot of things we want changed in our lives, and are just stubborn enough to face the stresses necessary to get to where we want to be.

In fact, very often, when we make these big changes in our lives, we reach a moment of huge regret. Like, when we bought the farm and immediately felt regret about moving from our comfortable neighborhood in the middle of town, where we had access to all of the amenities of our cozy little downtown area, and friends within walking distance, and bike trails and dining and, well, all those comfortable things we had become accustomed to. But, we had always wanted a farm. We wanted animals, we wanted to work the land, and we wanted our kids to experience a life which respected the food cycle.

While there were regrets, we also loved our time on the farm. So much so that when we decided that our kids weren’t getting what they needed out of the school system there, we struggled with the isolation of being so far away from anyone we knew or any activities, the time spent just getting groceries because of the half hour drive to get to an actual grocery store, and all of the other issues we found in owning a hobby farm, and we sold the farm to move back to town, we again had regrets.

We loved the farm. We loved having the freedom out there to do the things we wanted to do. We had an amazing yard where we could play baseball and ride 4-wheelers and explore our creek and go fishing in our creek and, honestly, even my 4 hours of cutting grass weekly was just a part of this full enjoyment of farm life that I didn’t want to give up. The regret was huge, and our kids still talk about how much they miss the farm. My daughter noted how much my wife was missing the farm and she suggested we get a big canvas print of one of the shots we had taken when we were selling for a birthday present for Mom last year.

And I catch myself staring at it often.

At the same time, immediately after moving back to town, we found ourselves getting all the things we felt were missing during our time at the farm. Our kids were getting the attention they needed in school, making friends, and becoming much more capable of dealing with life. We had access to people and activities again, and life felt, right.

Fast forward to today, a week and a half out from buying a bakery, and my regrets are huge. I’m not going to speak for my wife, but I asked her about regrets about halfway through our first weekend, and she agreed that she had them as well. Not that we don’t want it. In fact, I’ve had some amazingly happy moments in these few days of being a business owner where I’ve been completely ready to quit my day job and just spent my days slinging coffee and packing up baked goods. But, we had found our routine, or had gotten pretty darn close to it, at home, and now, well, the routine is completely busted up. A weekend where we didn’t get to see our kids at all was a bit much. The enormous pile of things that we need to get done just to get the place running smoothly enough so that we don’t have to be running out there every day for these last minute things that crop up feels overwhelming.

But, even if running a bakery hasn’t exactly been my dream, it has been my dream to support my wife’s culinary genius. And I’ve always loved my time in the food service industry, far more than any other industry I’ve worked in. And, there is so much we could do as a part of a community that I honestly can’t stop thinking happily about. I’m excited, and I know my wife is excited as well…but we’re exhausted. Back in the day, the dream was to do this in a way that was completely ours from the start, where we would be immediately dedicating all our time to the process. Now, instead, we’re still working our normal 9-5s, while trying to slowly morph the current business strategy into something that more aligns with our dreams and is far more streamlined to work better. It’s a lot, but the future is incredibly exciting.

So, while we may have regrets, there are no complaints, and we both know that after this first period of adjustment, we can get things into a routine that works for us and the business, and build something that we’re truly proud of.

But for now, it’s still really exciting to see all the people who are excited about what’s already happening in the business, and the people who are excited for what we’re going to do next.

Food vs Books

As of today, I’ve been a business owner for a week.

Well…actually, although that’s true, the reality is that I’ve been a business owner for the past 10 years. But…well, considering how much profit I’ve made off of my books over those 10 years, it has become rather easy to forget that I’ve actually been self-employed for the past decade.

The business my wife and I took over last week has already more than doubled the number in gross sales I’ve made for all time in my books. Which, you know, is exciting and all that, but also, a little disappointing.

I guess people just like food more than books…Or maybe it’s that it truly is that much easier to market food. For the past 10 years, I’ve worked on trying to figure out how to convince people to read my books, whereas with food, it turns out that if you can just put up some pretty pictures, people will come in droves. Sure, there’s a lot of work that goes into all of that, and it’s not like this business didn’t already have a customer base in place, and there’s also the concept that food is a quick hitter, whereas books take a heckuva lot longer time investment to enjoy.

Of course, my books are about a quarter of the cost of our average customer’s bill over the course of our first weekend, so that also causes me to think that there may be something I’m missing in this whole concept of how to market books.

All the same, I’ve found that while I was busting my ass to try to help keep this bakery running this weekend and am still exhausted from it, I also need to do far less to convince people to come in. It helps that we have an amazing staff of people who are working tirelessly to give our customers the best experience possible. And so, when I say all that needs to happen is to put up some pretty pictures of food to get people to come in, the reality is that there were a lot of (wo)man hours that went into getting those items made and pretty enough for the pictures in the first place. And then the front of house staff had to work tirelessly and quickly to get all those hundreds of customers through the door while managing to keep them happy, all while I simply sat in the back trying to wash dishes as quickly as possible.

In other words, while I like to pretend I had something to do with the success of our first opening weekend, the reality is that this business already had all of the primary keys for success. Here’s hoping we can just give them those few extra things that might make getting to success that much easier.

And, you know, my wife…who keeps working harder and harder to try to get the place there.

So, maybe, the real issue here is that these people are working hard to make success happen for their food, while I slowly write and barely market my books. Perhaps the real issue here is that they’re simply putting in the work?

Of course, there’s not much better than a ham and bechamel croissant, even as someone who absolutely loves to read.

That One Time I Parented

With life being as busy as it has been lately, I’ve felt like more of a bad parent than I usually feel. Like, I’m not a terrible parent. I don’t beat my kids, I try to show them I love them and all that jazz, and really try to keep from emotionally scarring them for life. But…I’m also not always the most attentive parent. At least not of late.

So, this past weekend, when it was determined that I wasn’t needed at the bakery, possibly because of the fact that we really can’t handle having our two boys running around trying to kill each other while the business is open, I found myself feeling energetic enough to try to do something with them. And after a battle of what to have for breakfast and what to do with our day, it was determined that we would use all of my leftover computer parts to build them a new computer. Well, what was actually determined is that I would talk them through building a computer.

And we did. These two kids who have been struggling with their attention spans and ability to follow directions ever since the world shut down two years ago, worked hard to put this computer together, and outside of a few things in which I took over just because we were running low on time before we had to move on to other activities, they really did almost everything themselves. And we plugged the thing in and it booted up the first time. And they were really darn proud of themselves.

Of course, their patience dwindled heavily when they realized that we still needed to set up the computer’s software, and since we installed an old hard drive (which we might have to replace quickly), everything moved at a snail’s pace. But, the important part here is that we had a moment where the three of us, all before my daughter even woke up for the day, had a pleasant morning of dusting computer parts and piecing them all together to create a new machine. And even if they aren’t proud of their work that day, I sure as heck am.

And…I even managed to feel like a good parent for a bit. Or at least an okay one…

Plumbing, Why Did it Have to Be Plumbing?

I like to consider myself a pretty handy guy. In fact, just a few weeks ago, the dryer absolutely stopped working and I was able to take the whole thing apart, figure out the issue, order a couple of new parts, and within a week had the thing back up and running, with less than an hour of my own time invested in the event. We had a dishwasher fail on us a number of years ago, and while I was pretty confident on what was wrong, we decided to call someone out, because it was new and we didn’t want to have to deal with fixing something so new. The guy came out, spent far more time asking me what I thought was wrong with it. I finally sent him away, ordered the part I expected was the issue, took the whole thing apart, replaced the part, and the thing worked like a charm for as long as we had the house (I would expect it still works, but can’t verify that at the moment).

I fix things rather often. It’s something I feel pretty happy with myself about, especially considering how my granddaddy was renown for his prowess in fixing things, and I feel like I can confidently say I keep that family tradition alive. My dad is also pretty good at fixing what’s broken, so one could say that I’ve got a nice ancestry for keeping things working that don’t want to be working.

But there’s one place in which I simply can’t seem to make things happen, and that’s when it comes to those darn pipes that carry water in and out of my house.

For the past couple of years, since we bought our new house, we’ve had trouble with one particular part of our plumbing, that I’ve been slowly working on fixing, and continually thinking that I might have actually managed to fix on a number of occasions, only for the entire basement to wind up flooded yet again and I end up spending another day not only trying to mop up water, but also trying to figure out how to fix the issue.

Yet, for some reason, I’ve never called a plumber. In my years and years of absolutely hating plumbing work, I’ve never called a plumber. My wife has called on my behalf a number of times, but I simply haven’t been able to take the knock to my own pride and make the phone call myself…until today.

Today is the day where, after another whole day was spent this past weekend trying to unclog this particularly clogged pipe that we’ve been struggling with for years, I finally decided I simply couldn’t do it, and I, yes I myself, actually called the plumber.

In fact, he’s sitting here in my house as we speak, tearing apart my plumbing, and my guess is (and my hope, because I know these guys aren’t exactly cheap) that he’ll be done in an hour with something I have spent countless hours dealing with. And he’ll also probably cost far less than I’ve already spent on tools and cleaning products and items that have been destroyed because of a flooded basement.

In other words, if it weren’t for my own damned pride, I could have had a lot fewer struggles in my life these past two years, and probably even a little more money.

Instead, it has taken me two years, and I’m now, finally, expecting that this whole situation will be dealt with before I even finish my coffee this morning.

Which, I guess, is a little bittersweet.

I mean, I’m super excited about being done with this plumbing situation, but far less excited about the fact that I simply can’t figure out plumbing.

Maybe someday…but honestly, now that I’ve made my first official call to the plumber, I might be far less reticent to do so next time.

That Moment Things Actually Slowed Down

At the time you’re reading this, I’m well past the moment I actually sat back to write this little thing. But, I feel that I need to make you aware of this incredibly weird and special thing that happened suddenly (especially since we’ve now opened the bakery). Something that I know my wife at this exact moment didn’t have happen. However, in the midst of this craziness that has been my life for the past few months, between waiting for final grades, getting ready to buy a business (at the time of this writing, it’s set to happen tomorrow), and just all of the standard life stuff, I actually managed to find myself with a moment to myself. A moment when I didn’t actually know what to do.

And…I don’t know what to do.

When life has been running at full steam for as long as my life has felt as it has, it’s an incredibly weird feeling to sit, staring at your computer, thinking that there’s got to be something you’re forgetting to do.

And I’m totally forgetting something I’m supposed to be doing right now.

But, once I got past that moment, realizing that I had approximately 15 minutes in which I didn’t have anything planned for filling my time, I got somewhat excited about the idea of actually filling that time with writing.

And then I sat back, opened up a Word Document, and sat there with a blank document for the following five minutes. For someone who has been wanting to do nothing but write fiction for the past few years, when given the opportunity to actually just sit and create, I couldn’t. I froze. I thought about all the things that I might still need to complete. And as I worked through them, and realized that I was where I needed to be on all of them, I came to the realization that even if I’m actually at a point where I actually could have a moment to myself, a free second to just do whatever I wanted…I didn’t know what to do with that.

I froze.

And so, because I’m now down to less than 10 minutes of free time, and I wanted to get something out, I thought I’d tell you about this ridiculous moment that I found myself in, where I finally got to that holy grail of having absolutely no requirements for a brief period of time, and still being in that headspace of having all the things to do.

And, to be honest, it’s bittersweet. While I’m excited that I actually made it here for what feels like the first time in forever, I’m a little annoyed with myself for not making good use of it.

I mean, I did come up with something new to write about on this space (in a way its new at least). So, that’s something.

But…the boys are almost done with karate now, so time to get back to driving all the children everywhere before I collapse in an exhausted heap by the time I make it home tonight…

Yay life!

But even more so, yay for actually finding a free minute. Fingers are heavily crossed that this might come again sometime soon. Because I’d really like to get back to some real writing.