misc

Going Home Again

Home Sweet Home

After six months of house hunting, we picked our winner and are in the midst of closing the deal.

For those that have never purchased a home, house hunting can be a long, grueling process – especially if you’re selling a home at the same time as trying to buy one. Lots of waiting, making pro and con lists, weekends spent wading through strangers’ lives, cleaning up the house to show it. It’s stressful.

And the idea of packing up and moving is never my idea of fun. I moved a lot (no really – a ton) as a kid, so I equate moving with hardship. Staying in one place helps me feel secure.

Relocating does have benefits. We’re moving closer to town, and closer to family. Our work commutes will be shorter. Trips to the grocery store won’t take as long. Living back in the city means we can be more involved in local culture and politics.

As you can see, the new place has great natural light coming in. The yard is nice, and there’s a bit more room. It’s a good house in a good neighborhood, with lots of opportunity to make it our own. And it’s a quick walk to the local park system, ice cream parlor included. As I said: benefits!

The Lawrences are coming back to Jackson.


Make Time For Beauty

Just Because I'm Weak

Good advice in general, but maybe especially these days, from Jon Ward:

A healthy perspective on politics, and life in general, requires time away from politics…

Creating is a big part of making room for beauty. But so is making time for enjoying and appreciating beauty, through art, nature, music, etc.

Losing yourself in something other than politics is good medicine.


Holiday Break

I’m lucky to work in higher education, where the week between Christmas and the new year are seen as an automatic holiday. This year, I took a few extra days before Christmas off, meaning a lot of time at home with the family.

What did we do? Not much. A bit of repair work on my car, some house showings, a couple of sick kids to contend with, and the busy back-and-forth of family holiday time. I was able to dig into a few photo books – Alex Webb’s The Suffering of Light was a nice Christmas gift – and think about my creative work for 2017.

But mostly, it was just what I had hoped for: quiet time, doing quiet things.

Happy New Year.

 


Holiday Habits

Holiday Habits

I have two habits around the holidays.

One: I take the last day I’m at work and clean my office. Dust, vacuum,  straighten up – I’m going to be gone for a few days, so it’s good to get it tidy. This is a great thing to do right before a vacation, too. That way, when you get back, everything’s in ship shape.

Two: I take a break from social media. This year, it will be an even bigger break than I’ve been playing with the past few months.

The holidays, and this first part of winter, are a quiet time. I like quiet music, quiet weather (snow!), quiet nights at home watching movies and basking in the warm glow of Christmas lights. Peace and quiet.

Twitter and Instagram and everything else are noise, so they’re not allowed. Not for a week or two. Instead, I spend time with family and make things and share in the season with friends and family.

This is a good practice during vacations, too. Save all your photo sharing until you’re back home, and have had time to process your time away.

Soon, I bet you’ll look forward to these habits. Time away does us all some good.


Work With Your Hands

Northampton, Massachusetts

In middle school, my shop teacher was a grizzled old guy. Suspenders, beard, calloused hands – a stereotype if there ever was one. He told us to “make sure you keep things steady” while his hands shook. Neat guy.

One day he told us a story about taking a factory job as a younger man. Our teacher, the new employee, had to work 30 days in the plant without taking a day off. If he worked those 30 consecutive days, he got hired on as a full-time employee. If he missed even one day, he would be let go.

Well, he missed a day because he was violently ill. And of course he got let go from his new job. His lesson, if I remember it right, was that the real world was a tough place, and you had to work hard and pay your dues to make it.

I probably knew it earlier than seventh grade, but after hearing my shop teacher’s story, I figured out that maybe I didn’t want a blue collar job. I wanted to make things, yes, always. But not work in manufacturing – as my father had. It’s not that blue collar work was “below me.” I wasn’t “too good” for a factory job. It’s just that shop class never clicked, and hearing my teacher’s story made me worry about the prospects of working at a place like that. My future was going to be spent doing creative things with my mind.

Luckily, today we can “work with our hands” in other ways: digital projects, hobbies, crafting, writing, etc. It doesn’t have to be a full time job. The stakes are much lower.

At my previous job, there were a few college professors that spent their entire days in the abstract, teaching and reading and lecturing. When they got back home, they got their hands busy doing things like woodworking and car repair. I understood that need. It’s why I enjoy fixing things around the house when I can.

As humans, our best tools are our hands, and maybe tinkering tickles some ancient need we have as toolmakers.

It’s one of the reasons why I love making and pouring over physical things like photo books. Holding something physical, making artistic decisions about materials – I create things with my mind, and then get to hold them in my hands.

 


The Facebook Experiment

The Facebook Experiment

More than two months ago, I became a passive Facebook user. That means checking it only once a week or so, mostly for new messages, and tending to housekeeping. Did I get tagged in any photos? Do I have a blog post or photo to share? Who sent me a friend request? Etc.

Since then, I’ve noticed a funny thing: Facebook is really trying to get me back there every day. So much so that I get random email messages with subject lines like “So-and-so updated his/her status.”

No kidding? Someone I know updated their status? I should check that out!

Or not.

There must be some line of code at FB HQ that says “IF $days without login THEN notify Dave.” So I set up my own mailbox rule to trash those messages as they come in. I don’t see them anymore.

It’s easy to not miss Facebook. All those status updates, all those photos, all that fake outrage and fake news – when you don’t see it, you don’t miss it. And by skipping out on even being on the site, you miss out on not being advertising bait. Just think: no more of those creepy ads showing you something you just looked at on Amazon.

Most of all, it’s quiet outside of Facebook. There’s peace and calm. No drama. I find it addicting – and I’ve taken to cleaning up my Twitter timeline, too, so if I get tired of hearing about something or someone (rhymes with “Dump”), I mute it.

Peace. Quiet. I’m not ready to delete my Facebook profile just yet, but if I can get peace and quiet by avoiding the site, I’ll take it.


Next Great Addiction

Is On My List - Ann Arbor, Michigan

Jason Zook on quitting Facebook at Jason Does Stuff:

But I’ve had one big realization about our relationship, and it’s probably due to my growing older and having more life experience: I don’t enjoy sharing every detail of my life with you anymore. I don’t like the way you make me feel like I have to scream for attention every time I have something to say.

Again, you don’t need a rage quit.

A few months into my experiment, and I feel great. Less Facebook means more of just about everything and anything else.


To Madelyn

A letter to my daughter

Dear Madelyn,

Last week was your first national political election. At just over a year old, you already participated in American democracy, even if it was not directly. And as you joined me in polling booth, I feel like we had high hopes.

I put you to bed last Tuesday night feeling both sad and grateful. Sad, because maybe you wouldn’t grow up having a woman president to look up to, but grateful that you’re growing up in an America that makes it decently safe and secure to live as a woman. You have more privileges than some, but less than others. You probably have more to worry about from non-political threats.

Historically, the good news is American does grow more tolerant as the years pass by. Blacks and Latinos, while still harried and threatened, are in a better situation than when your grandparents were born. Muslims may have more to worry about. The nation still mostly fights for women’s rights. Gay and lesbian and whatever couples can legally marry. Even the furries are gaining respect (maybe).

But I still worry about the environment we’ll leave you, both in terms of nature and politics. I worry about what art and music education will be like when you’re going to school. I worry about how your peers will be treated by people who are white and scared and stupid. I worry about the America you’ll grow up in. It’s survived a lot over these 200+ years, but you never know.

It’s obvious to say it, but your world will look very different than mine does. I hope it’s for the better, and I’m going to try like hell to make it better. I hope that there will be a woman elected president, and that you’ll get to vote for her. I hope I get to vote for her, too.

Maybe we can go vote together again.

Your dad,
Dave


Fear the Future

Election Day

Things I’m nervous about today:

  • The election
  • Should Hillary win, the kind of Congress she’ll get (and work with)
  • Voter intimidation, and disenfranchisement
  • My well pump behaving as normal
  • Climate change
  • The inability to print my baby’s first year photo book because Aperture won’t let you print books anymore

Things I can actually do something about:

  • Voting, including taking the kids with me
  • Watching the election results roll in on TV tonight
  • Flush my well water so it’s safe to drink
  • Vote for candidates who respect education, science, and the findings of scientists
  • Finding another solution to printing a beautiful photo book that I’ve already laid out and captioned

An action-packed day here in America as we elect our local, state, and national leaders for the next two to four years. I vote in a rural township hall, and usually only have a dozen or so people in front of me when I go to vote. This year, I’m taking the kids with me out of child care necessity, but I’m looking forward to exposing the kids to this important national ritual.

If you follow me on Twitter, you can probably guess at my political affiliation. After being nervous about the outcome for weeks now, over the weekend I finally resigned myself to trusting the national body politic to make the wise choice.

Frankly, I’ll just be glad when it’s over. And for all of us, I hope we pay less attention to this stuff until much later in the cycle, for sanity’s sake. It’s not healthy for America to be in campaign mode for 18-plus months. Six months would be plenty.