Thursday, March 31, 2016

90. Walking in the rain

For some strange reason I enjoy walking in the rain. Today I walked from the Minneapolis Central Library to the Basilica. I’m not sure how long it was, but it was a good 25 minute walk. It was cool today, but not annoyingly cold. My jacket kept me warm enough. Though my shoes weren’t quite up to the task. I wasn’t miserable though. I had a podcast in my ears and it felt good to get some fresh air.

I think I enjoy walking in the rain because it allows me to focus and grounds me back in the reality of things. I could have taken the bus down the street or waited it out, but I had been in the office for most of the day and I just wanted to get outside. I thought about calling it quits at points and just waiting for the bus. I just kept on moving though.

I think about the movie Midnight in Paris. The main character, played by Owen Wilson, enjoys walking in the rain. His fiance, played by Rachel McAdams, does not. She questions why anyone would want to wander around in the rain. It’s wet, miserable, and pointless. I see myself Wilson’s character. I’m a bit of a daydreamer and an optimist. I like to do things for the experience of it.

I’m a wanderer. I like to meander around places just for the sake of it. I’ll take the long way on foot. When I lived in Boston, I was known to just walk places because i was too impatient for the bus or the T. I would contend that that’s a good way to get to know a city. I couldn’t give driving directions, but I could tell people how to get to all the major places on foot.

Maybe it’s also the romantic in me that thinks there is something noble about walking in the rain. It’s cool. It’s mysterious. It looks good on an album cover photograph. That’s not always the case. Sometimes the water soaks through your shoes and clings to your socks. That’s happened to me the past couple days and I haven’t enjoyed it. It’s not fun. But I made it to my destination today. My feet are now warm and dry.

To go back to the original question, why would anyone willingly walk in the rain? Well, I think it’s good to expose yourself to the elements from time to time. Most of us can go through life in climate controlled buildings and most times we can just turn away from things we don’t like. We go from house to car to office to car to home. It’s easy to avoid the rain most times. I believe it’s good to be out in the rain and just face it. It reminds you that sunny days don’t last forever. It reminds you to be prepared with rain coats and boots. And most of all, it reminds you that one of the toughest things in life is to smile when it’s raining out.

89. Online friends

I always wondered what my grandparents thought of social media. They either died before it came into fashion, or they just never really got into it. I don’t blame them. There’s a learning curve and kind of a sense of, “Why does this even matter?" I don’t blame them. I crap on social media a lot and it gets on my nerves on a daily basis, but I’m still using it, so Zuck, Jack, and others must be doing something right.

For all it’s foibles, I do like social media for one thing: meeting and sustaining friendships that I would not have otherwise put the effort into. I’m sure most of my grandparent’s friends were from the neighborhood, and they kept in touch with card games and letters. I understand that. And when you saw someone from a few hundred miles away, it was a big deal. (Not that it isn’t now.)

And while I do those things to keep in touch with my friends who are close, I’m also able to get to know people in ways that wouldn’t have been possible a generation ago. For example, a Facebook friend of mine, who I’ve never met in person and talked to the phone on only once, has a celebrity crush on Justin Truedeux (?), the hunky Canadian prime minister. I knew this due to her posts ending up on my newsfeed. I saw a magazine cover with him on it. I took a photo of it with my phone and posted it on her Facebook wall. (When you break down steps on social media to basic level, they do sound kind of stupid.) I don’t know her immediate reaction, but she “liked” it (or I think even “loved” it.) I guess if I was a closer friend with her, or if I enjoyed the medium, I would send her a Snapchat.

That still kind of baffles me that one can know someones likes and dislikes, whom I’ve never met.

And I can benefit in other ways as well. As I peaked on Twitter yesterday, I saw that a guy who works for MPR as a blogger was giving away his Timberwolves tickets. He’s a season ticket holder and couldn’t get rid of them for that night. So, I got them for free. (There’s a whole different backstory to this which involves the Timberwolves crappy seat policy, which has basically collapsed the resale market, but that’s for another blog post.) I just tweeted at him, saying that I could take the tickets, and a few minutes later, they were on my app. That process in of itself is kind of crazy.

These were really great seats. Let’s just say they weren’t the kind my dad would pay to spend money one. My friend was baffled by the fact that I got free tickets from someone who I had never met, but only knew from Minnesota Public Radio.

While the internet sometimes feels like a giant digital tire fire, filled with rage and angst, and devoid of any real forms of happiness other than videos of puppies, it still provides me with one thing I do enjoy: getting to know people… and free tickets. Seriously though, as weird as it sounds when I write it, I am thankful for being able to stay in contact and get to know people I would have not otherwise connected with.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

88. Liking things, not liking things

I used to think I liked pretty anything: food, places, books, items. (Not including politics or politicians here.) The one exception to that was fried eggs. I’m not sure when the exact moment I started not liking them was, but the thought of them has always made me gag. I don’t know whether it was the smell or the texture, but they just have never appealed to me. (I’ve lightened up on scrambled eggs and egg bakes. I don’t mind them as much, but they need lots of veggies, cheese, hot sauce, and meat in them.)

However, I feel more able to express things about what I like and what I don’t like. Maybe I always felt like I was letting someone down or disappointing them by not liking something.

For example, I don’t really like cake and ice cream. I don’t mind them separate, but something about the two coming together just doesn’t do it for me. It’s too sweet and I don’t like the moistness of the cake added to by the ice cream. It just turns into a cold, cavity-inducing mess that gives me a headache. (I can still get behind pie and ice cream.) I would back down before when I was questioned about this, “How can you not like cake and ice cream?”, but now I (sometimes loudly) espouse my displeasure with cake and ice cream.

This is the same with movies. I’m not a critic and I don’t think my opinion matters all that much, but I’ve accepted my tastes. For example, I really didn’t care for Django Unchained. Most of my friends give me the same look and say, “You didn’t like Django Unchained?” Yes. Maybe it was because my stomach wasn’t in the mood for violence that day (or that I don’t care for that much violence), but it just didn’t do it for me.

I also don’t enjoy running with people. Contrary to the belief that working out with someone makes you more likely to go outside, I actually prefer to be by myself and I also can motivate myself pretty well. (Not to brag, but I workout at least five times a week.) That’s one thing that I like about myself. I’m a pretty good self-motivator.

I think that goes with what jobs I do as well. When I’d tell people that I worked for a brewery, most people comment on how awesome that would be. It wasn’t bad. The free beer perks were nice, but I don’t do well under lots of pressure. I think that goes back to my need to please everyone. (It’s a blessing and a curse.) And when lines get backed up, there’s bound to be things you miss or people getting upset. Handling money also makes me nervous at times. I’m always worried that I’ll give out the wrong amount of money.

Also, I would not be a good ref for youth sports. In fact, I think that would literally be the last job I’d like to do. Too many crabby parents. Too many late nights. No thanks. I saw way too many parents yell at officials last year.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

87. Todays

My new schedule. This is probably going to be pretty boring, so I wouldn’t be offended if you skipped this blog post.

I’m adjusting to a new schedule since moving to my new place. It’s a little bit of work, but overall, I’m getting used to it. I’ve been getting up at about 6:50. Luckily, I just bought a new coffee pot that has an automatic timer, so I don’t have to worry about an unfilled coffee pot. That’s some good motivation to get out of bed.

I didn’t really drink that much coffee prior to leaving the house in Wyoming. I might have half a cup, but not much more than that. Now I’ve got at least three cups in me before leaving for work. That’s bit of adjustment in many areas. (If you know what I mean.)

I no longer have to drive 15 minutes to get to the Forest Lake bus station. Now I just have to walk five minutes outside of my door. The bus picks up on my street and it’s incredibly convenient. I used to settle in with a podcast or a newspaper during my hour-long ride in, but now I don’t even do that. I’ll occasionally listen to something, but sometimes I just enjoy the scenery coming into the west side of the city. I really like seeing the Basilica flanked by the rising sun. It’s a welcoming site on my way into work.

My workday is pretty similar to what it was before, but now I get in at about 8:25 instead of 8:10. So I usually head straight into the office instead of taking a lap around the skyway. I do now have a standing desk, so there’s that. I’ve felt better about my day and anytime I feel like falling asleep I’ll put the desk back into standing position. I like that it keeps me awake.

The day still ends at about 4:30. I head to a different spot to catch the bus. I don’t like it as much because it doesn’t have one of those electronic signs that shows how long before the next bus comes. But I usually don’t have to wait long. I get on at about 4:45 and back on my block at about 5:05. This has caused somewhat of a problem. I used to take a nap on the bus ride home because it would take about an hour. Now I can’t fall asleep because I’d probably miss my stop. The past few days I have set a timer for a 20 minute catnap when I walk in the door before I head out for a run. (This is one thing I really enjoy about being a bachelor. I can fall asleep anytime I want to.)

I don’t have internet at my house, so I’m not on Netflix. And I’m cooking for myself again, so the dishes have been a little bit more improvised. (Quinoa and black beans, anyone?) I’ve been running a lot of errands, mainly to Home Depot and Trader Joe’s. I’ve been trying to balance out the projects with relaxation time. I think it’s been working out so far.

We’ll see how things keep going.

86. Things that make you happy

o continue my thoughts from yesterday. I wondered about this question (mainly wondering how to correctly grammatically phrase it), are you who you thought you’d be  twenty years ago? Are you the person you’ve wanted to become? My messed up tenses aside, I think I’m doing all right.

On a few past birthdays I’ve tried to write down where I’d see myself in 5, 10, 15 years. I don’t recall this specifics, but I think I don’t think I’m doing exactly what I wanted to. I thought I’d be working in D.C. for some environmental lobbying firm, but that didn’t happen.

I guess there is a difference between who you are and who you thought you would become. Am I happy with who I am? Yes, yes I am. Am I doing everything that I ever wanted to and all of my dreams are fulfilled? No, not by a long shot.

Right now, I’m sitting here in a sparsely furnished apartment that has one couch, two chairs, a donated table, and no spoons. (I’ve been using forks to eat my yogurt.) My table is half covered with the New York Times from this past Sunday. One pile of papers is topped with a radio that is tuned to 91.1, Minnesota’s MPR station.

As a bachelor, I am pretty ok with this. No, it’s not how I want to live my life for the rest of my time here, but I’m ok with it. I don’t need much to be happy. I like that about myself. I like to think about the time I lived in Boston when i was between roommates. I really didn’t have anything in the way of furnishing. I bought some dishes and kitchen utensils at Goodwill. I had a folding vinyl card table that I got from a coworker (that I carried from Cambridge to Allston on the T). I also had three different folding chairs that I also bought at goodwill, and a radio (actually, the same radio I have now.) It’s actually not that different than it is now.

Maybe I’d always thought I’d be a person who’d be happier with more stuff. That’s not really the case. I get anxious when I try to purchase a book at the bookstore because I worry that I’m spending too much money or that I won’t read it. Half of the time I’d rather get a book from the library anyway. I don’t quite buy cd’s anymore. (Who does, really?) Clothes shopping is another one of those times when I worry that I’m spending too much. I question whether I should get cheaper or more expensive tickets at a sporting event. I question whether I’m getting a good deal or not. (On a side note, the Timberwolves dumb new ticket policy is why I haven’t gone to go see more games this season. But that’s a rant for another post.)

I guess I like that it takes very little to make me happy. I’m happy with some friends, some drinks, and maybe a few books around the house

Monday, March 28, 2016

85. I was so much older then.

Are you who you thought you were going to be 10? 15? 20 years ago? I thought about that today. It was either a song or a podcast that inspired this line of thought. I’ve touched on what jobs and styles I thought I’d be doing at different points in my life, but I’ve never really thought about what type of person. To engage in a little bit of self-reflection here,  here are a few different parts of who I think I am and if I ever thought I’d be there.

A writer- The thought of writing for fun and profit didn’t really take hold until about 2012, when I started writing for a few different websites. I’d say the idea first germinated after I took a Creative Writing course my senior year of college. I remember enjoying my writing classes in high school, but I never thought I would make a career out of it. (Or that it’d be the thing I go to when I need to destress or saying something.  My creative writing course was probably one of the most influential courses I took. People look at me funny when I say that I was an environmental studies major.

Physically Active- I have a complicated relationship with most athletic activities. I don’t enjoy team sports all that much anymore. I feel like people just turn into big babies and complain about reffing or cheating or a bad call or something. That tires me out. I used to play soccer, basketball, and football. I enjoyed them, but I really don’t enjoy the team sports now. In fact, I don’t even enjoy races all that much. I use my time running or biking or doing yoga as a way to disconnect. I would say I’m a pretty active runner and I like improving my time, but in the end, I don’t really care about competition. I just like being outside, getting exercise, and the rush of endorphins that come afterwards.

Politically active- This one hasn’t changed much. I wrote my first letter to the editor when I was in seventh grade. I scolded people for not showing up to vote in the primaries, where your vote probably matters more than in the general election. I’ve stayed pretty active, still occasionally writing letters and being active. This evening I stayed on the phone with a gentleman from a survey company (that was definitely right-leaning) just so I could have my opinions heard. College was probably my peak of political activity, but I’m looking forward to being a delegate at my Senate District Convention once again.

Nice guy- “Nice guy” is such a cliche these days. I’d like to think that I’m a nice person, but I also like to think that I’ve grown into it and accepted it. Maybe a kind person is a more accurate description. I think I’ve always had that mentality in the back of my mind, but I’ve secretly wished I was a rule breaker or badass or something. No, that’s not me.

This is an interesting reflection, will probably continue on another post.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

84. Good Friday Services

The last few days have been pretty good to just sit back and reflect. I’d never been to the Tenebre Good Friday prayer service at the Basilica. I thought about going to the afternoon service at 3 p.m., but I decided not to. I walked around downtown a little bit before meeting my parents and some of their friends prior to heading into Mass.

I’ll admit, I was a little restless. I didn’t get my usual post-work run and my dad was really pushing for getting into church about an hour early. I usually don’t mind just sitting around in the quiet a few minutes before Mass, but my mind wanders after about 10 minutes.

My dad wasn’t to far off. There were about 50 people inside the church before we got in. We waited, but it finally got started. It was just about standing-room-only.

Now for those of you not familiar with Catholic Mass, it gets kind of repetitive. We have a standing operating procedure: stand, sit, kneel, stand, kneel, sit, etc. This was a little bit different. There was no Holy Eucharist because it had been removed from the church already.

This service involved the story of the passion broken into short chunks, which were mixed in with beautiful songs, and other interactive (sounds weird to say, but yes) parts.

There was a large wooden crossed passed back over the congregation. It went right over me. It felt good to touch it and help pass it along. This is why I’ve come to appreciate Easter more. You feel parts of the service more. The washing of the feet, anointing of the hands, veneration of the cross. While the Christmas liturgy is beautiful in its own right, it’s not the same as Easter.

There was a wonderful arrangement of a poem that was found by the Allies during WWII in Germany. It had something to do with faith. I’m upset that I can’t find it. While many church-related things feel like they took place a few thousand years ago, it’s reaffirming to relate these feelings to things that happened not so long ago.

One of the most unique parts of the service was when a Rabbi from Temple Israel addressed the congregation. She was a wonderful speaker (and she also received a standing ovation, one of the only times I’ve seen that happened in church.) She told the story of how her Grandmother was rescued from the Nazis by taking sanctuary in a convent. That was a powerful image. It was a refreshing call for religious dialogue in this time of hyper-fear towards people of other faiths.

As the service went on, a set of candles near the altar were being gradually extinguished. They andd one left after the last reading was done. After the final prayer, they walked it out of the church in total darkness. A tympani was pounded on and the congregation was asked to hit the pews to make noises. It was to symbolize the earthquake after Jesus died. I got shivers down my back.

The candle was then walked back. A single light was lit above the altar. And then thousands of rose petals were dropped. It was magnificent, simple, and peaceful. Catholics don’t always go for show during their services, but this was a wonderful end to the evening. I saw a few with tears in their eyes.

Faith is hard. Sitting in church for hours can be annoying, but there are those little times when your heart opens and it all feels wonderful.

83. Connecting

I try not to be irked by things. I try to go through life and let people do their own thing. I figure that as long as you’re not hurting other people, you're doing ok by me. (In most cases.)

However, one thing that really bothers me is people on their phones, in church. That’s one thing I like about going to church. It gives me the freedom from the device for about an hour. It’s respite from the emails and text messages. It also frees me from the temptation to check my Facebook every five minutes. I’ve come to really enjoy letting it go and getting away.

Even right now I have my phone immediately to the right of me and I check it every few minutes or so to see if something has happened. Most of the time nothing does.  

That’s actually why I enjoy walking places as well. It clears my head and allows me to be in one place, and not pulled in a hundred directions, which I am prone to have happen to myself. Today I walked to Home Depot, which is about a mile away. The whole trip took me about an hour. While I was walking, at least 10 people passed me, but they were running.

It seems to me that people have to have an excuse to be outside. They need to either do yard work or exercise. You can’t just be walking around. I think that’s one of the things I really loved about Boston. I walked around places because I had to. It was either that or wait nervously while wondering if your bus or the T was ever going to come.

I’ll admit, most of the time that I am walking, I am usually listening to something. But there are also times where I need to just throw my phone in my bag and wander around for a while. Sometimes I need my mind just to be in front of me, and that’s difficult to have happen in our connected world.

Which brings me back to church. I’ve been hearing a lot about “mindfulness” lately. That’s not a bad thing. It’s good to focus on yourself and your own thing for a while, but, as with most good ideas, the commercialization of it tends to get in the way of it’s original mission. I’m not going to say, “Oh, well church was the original place for mindfulness” because I believe everyone finds the spirit in their own way.

What I am going to say is that the answer to centering yourself is usually closer than you think. Putting your phone away for a while is a good thing.

There was a Tenebre service at the Basilica on Friday night. (Tenebre roughly means darkness.) It was a peaceful service which I really enjoyed. As I’ve said before, I used to hate the Tridium masses because they took up so much time, but now I’ve come to appreciate them because it gives me more time away. And it’s always good to use the extra time to be away from your phone.

Friday, March 25, 2016

82. Why I like mornings

Boy do I really like automatic coffee makers. They make my life a heckuva a lot easier. I bought one from Target for about 20 bucks last week and I’m beginning to make good use of it. I’ve set the clock for about 6:30 and I’m waking up around 7 a.m. It’s kind of suprising that I’ve adjusted to this. I’m just trying to write before going to work instead of after.

I really like slow mornings. There are times I thought I could work out or do something big before heading to work, but I know that’s not going to happen. I like just taking things slow and enjoying my coffee as I wake up. More people should do that. The destruction of breakfast is happening. People don’t eat breakfast anymore (especially breakfast cereal.) Everyone “has no time” in the morning. And lots of times people are just flying out of bed and throwing whatever sustenance within arms reach into a bag before they head out the door. I don’t think that’s healthy.

Before getting this place, I’d rush out the door about 30 minutes after waking up in order to catch the bus. I sometimes didn’t mind the long bus drive because I could listen to podcasts or read, but I didn’t really write on the bus.

I think I’m one of the few people I know who has always been a morning person. I used to get up at about 7 a.m. in elementary school. I’d take the dog out for a walk and then I’d read the newspaper and eat breakfast before heading to school. I had a friend who sometimes watched TV before heading to school. I didn’t understand that. I still don’t really enjoy having the TV on before I’ve had my coffee. (Sorry, Today Show watchers.)

I think I also like mornings because I know that a significant number of people around me are not quite “going” yet. They’re probably still sleeping or not really enjoying themselves. It’s torture to get up and get out of bed.

On the opposite side of this, I’m not really an evening person. I go to bed between 10:30 and 11 p.m. This had been significantly altered the past two years when I was working for newspapers and I was on the clock till at least 11 p.m. most nights. I didn’t enjoy that because all I wanted to do when I got home was drink a beer and eat a grilled cheese sandwich (or a box of triscuits.) At least I can be productive when I wake up early. Also, I don’t feel overly terrible when I drink six cups of coffee, as opposed to six beers. (Well, I do make a number of trips to the bathroom, but that’s nothing compared to a hangover.)

Mornings are a good thing. I like being productive for an hour or two before I head into work. You don’t only need to be productive at work. I think you also need to be productive in your own life, whether that’s writing, or acting, or just working on stuff at home.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

81. Washing feet

Holy Thursday is a day on the Christian calendar that probably doesn’t make sense to a lot of people. Feet get washed. I didn’t really pay attention to it when I was younger. (In fact, I HATED the Easter weekend masses. You spend about six hours in church over three days.)

But I’ve grown to appreciate the day. I went to the Basilica for Mass tonight. Usually, the priest only washes a few peoples feet, but at the Basilica, everyone is invited to get their feet washed and wash someone else’s feet. 

I know it sounds ridiculous. Why would you purposely touch someone else’s feet? Personally, I’m grossed out by feet. They smell weird. They look weird, and I’d rather just avoid them. 

So why do it? It’s about humbling yourself. And I believe we don’t put enough of a value on humility in our day-to-day lives. You can literally go your whole day without touching someone else, let alone someone else’s feet. You can usually avoid things you don’t like and you can outsource stuff you don’t want to do (even like breaking up with your girlfriend, seriously, look it up.) 

But Holy Thursday is a chance for everyone to be on the same level. It doesn’t matter who you are or how much you believe or how much money you have. There were young and old people up there. Rich and poor, it didn’t matter. I liked that people walked up to the altar barefoot, so you don’t know how much money they spent on shoes. 

First, somebody washes your feet. It’s not too fancy. You just pour some water over the feet and dry them off. It really isn’t about getting feet clean. And then you wash the next person’s feet. And every one of these interactions ends with a hug. Today I washed the feet of a total stranger, and a total stranger washed mine. And I hugged people I didn’t even know. That’s kind of crazy. And the craziest part is, the woman said “thank you” after I finished with her feet. 

80. Fixing

Third night in a row that I’ve spent most of my night under the sink. Drilling something in upside down is difficult.

It’s kind of been nice having a different have schedule. Yesterday, I got home at about 5 p.m., went out for a drink with a friend, did some grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s (!), and then went to Home Depot. I proceeded to tinker with my sink and dishwasher for the next hour before I realized I had to make another trip to Home Depot. (It’s just down the street from me, and, yes, I’ll probably have to make another trip their tonight.)

I didn’t even eat dinner till about 9:30 p.m. last night. I was too focused on trying to get the dishwasher all right. I have slightly-below-average handyman skills, but I’m getting through it. I think it’s more that I don’t have all of the tools and I need to go buy them. Whereas at my park job in Maryland, I could find a lot of stuff, or go get it at the hardware store fairly easily.

I really haven’t had much to do at home since moving back home. My nights mainly involved working out, eating dinner, writing, and watching Netflix. I’m beginning to think that isn’t quite the way everyone’s schedule is.

I’m not a good tinkerer. I’m usually afraid that I’ll break something or I won’t be able to put it back together. I haven’t destroyed anything under my sink just yet, I hope it will stay that way.

It’s probably good that these changes and adjustments in life are coming while I’m still a bachelor with a lot of time on his hands. I would be even more stressed out if I had kids or other schedules to contend with while trying to fix up a place and make it ready.

Also, most of my purchases in the last few months have been basically non-essential: books, snacks, drinks, entertainment. But I bought a drill yesterday! That’s one of those things you think you’ll just borrow from friends, but it feels kind of awesome when you do have one. (Hopefully I’ll get to use it often.) (Sidenote, line of of the night from the guy in the power tools aisle: “I wouldn’t sell you a Black & Decker if you were a 12-year-old girl.”)

Also, more of my work conversations are about house stuff. Whoa boy. It’s getting really exciting here.

It’s fun to learn new things, to tinker, and to figure out stuff that you didn’t know before. I think home ownership will be a good challenge for me. As a low-maintenance guy who doesn’t need much to be happy, I think this will be a good challenge to see if I can keep at least those essential functions of life moving. Things don’t just happen automatically. The lights are kept on because someone is working somewhere and you’re paying your bills.

And the dishwasher will be working again because I’m going to fix the damn thing.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

79. Fixing a dishwasher...

I’m a few nights in to living at a new place. I still don’t have much, just one table, a couch, a bed, one suitcase full of clothes, plastic utensils, and no chairs. It’s a bit of a shake up to living at my parents place where I had basically anything I wanted or needed and I didn’t have to worry about things or how they ran.

While now I do have to worry about how those things run. There’s no maintenance guy who has my back and I can’t blissfully be ignorant of these things. They are my responsibility. One of those things is my dishwasher. It’s got about an inch of standing water in it after it runs through the cycle. It’s something I need to fix. I don’t know how to fix dishwashers.

I spent parts of the day googling “how to fix standing water in dishwashers,” thinking that would guide me to the correct solution to my problem. I learned that it could be the grate or discharge tube. They could have food particles lodged in there, which would back things up.

On a note I got from the city inspector, it said that “Dishwater discharge must be properly connected to drain system, secure drain line to loop up and touch underside of counter top.” I really have no idea what that means.

But I thought I’d tinker around down there to see what was going on. I’m no handyman by any means, but I can make my way around a socket wrench set… that is, if I had one.

The thing about this dishwasher is that it hasn’t been used much, err… it hadn’t been cleaned much. I unscrewed the footplate (i learned that new word!) and checked out the guts underneath. I thought a rabid rat or some mutant cockroach would attack me. It was full of cobwebs and food crumbs from probably 1998. I tried moving the dishwasher out of its cove, but it wouldn’t move easily. It was kind of stuck in there. So I’d have to put my hand in there to see that everything was connected properly. It was and somehow I survived with my hand.

I then tried unscrewing the filter within the dishwasher, but it was having none of my fooling around. I had to run to my neighbor’s (Joel and Heidi!) place to borrow a ratchet set. Even then after trying for about twenty minutes, the screws weren’t moving around.

A thought came to me in the middle of the process that I might not need to actually be doing any of this at all. When I first hired an inspector, he ran the dishwasher and then we shut it off before we left, not allowing it to complete a full cycle. So it could have theoretically not drained. I ran it again after putting everything back together. I waited on the couch, exhausted. About 90 minutes later it stopped and I checked… nope, there was still water.

I’m definitely not a handyman genius, but I’m learning. I guess you got to start somewhere.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

78. Going Back

I have a hard time going back after I leave places. I like my goodbyes to make definitive ends.  I don’t know why that is, but I think it protects myself against renegade emotions or something like that.

A few weeks ago, I got invited to go speak at the Marshall boys basketball banquet. I was a little hesitant to go back to Marshall, where I had lived for a little over a year. It would be almost a three hour drive. I had just moved into a new place and I had stuff I needed to do and I was tired. I had moved on to a new job and new challenges.

But I couldn’t quite work myself up to say no to the opportunity, so I said yes. I knew I probably wouldn’t get a chance to speak my mind to a bunch of high school students ever again. It’s been a secret dream of mine to give a commencement speech, and I knew this was probably the closest I’d ever come to doing just that.

I accepted the invitation and decided to make the drive in one day. I got in at about 3 p.m. and had to go check in on a few people.

When I drove into town, I noticed that not much had changed other than the bridge of the highway. I’m glad that was finally put in. I stopped in to see my old roommates. Only one was around, but I stopped in for a few minutes. They were doing well. I stopped by the Marshall Independent office. It didn’t seem like much had changed there.

And then I stopped by and saw my adopted family of Marshall, Jim and Mary. I hadn’t caught up with them in a while. I used to go over there at least once a month for dinner and we’d catch up on the latest happening around town.

I got to the high school a few minutes before 6 p.m. The cafeteria was packed with parents, siblings, and players. I remembered some faces and names, but a few had slipped my mind. I was seated at the head table on the very end, right by the guys from the radio. I wanted to say hi to some people, but it felt weird getting up from my seat. After everyone got their food, I was the first go to up.

My speech took a few minutes. I enjoyed it, even though I was a little bit nervous. I don’t think many of the other coaches or radio guys enjoyed speaking in front of large groups of people.

I said hi to a few people afterwards. It was nice to see some of the kids I covered and some of the parents I had gotten to know. Some (jokingly) asked if I was coming back.

I’m still computing what my time in Marshall meant. I knew it would always kind of temporary stop. I’m in a job and a place where I hope to be for a long time.

Well every stop on life’s journey may not be amazing, you gain something from every stop. It’s nice to be reminded of that fact.

Monday, March 21, 2016

77. Tiger Basketball Speech

I'm a little behind on my blog updates. It's been a long couple of days with moving and getting used to a new life schedule. (More sleep! Less time commuting!)

I had the honor of speaking at the Marshall boy's basketball banquet on Sunday. I was originally hesitant to make the drive back to Marshall, but it was nice to appear in town, even if just for a little bit.

As you probably know, Marshal faced Waseca in one of the best high school basketball games in history. Here's what I told the team...

When I got a message a few weeks ago from Weston’s dad asking me to  speak to you guys, I got really excited. I eagerly typed out a speech that I thought would be a coda to an amazing season.

And then Waseca happened. Four overtimes, three buzzer beaters, two exhausted teams, and one excruciating end to a season. I had to start over.

I’m not going to tell you to just brush it off and forget about it. You all worked too hard to let those memories fade away.

I’m not going to tell you to just be happy with what you have. You have every right to shed some tears for the ending of something you love. It’s only human.

I am not going to tell you that everything happens for a reason. That’s the thing we adults say when we actually don’t know what’s going on. The truth is some things random and so bizarre that you’ll never fully understand why it happened.

I am going to tell you to hold on to that game. Embrace it, reflect on it, learn from it.

Everyone has moments where things just seem a little more important. The stakes seem higher. You look around and say, “This is a moment I will remember for the rest of my life.” Sometimes those moment are good, but just as often, they are painful.  And you can’t do anything about it. I am going to tell you that you should prepare yourselves for those times.

Here are some ways to cushion the blow from those harsh, cold realities of life as you move forward.

One. Say thank you. This is the best thing you can do to build a good foundation in your adult life. People will think more highly of you. You will be happier. Say thank you to your coaches, your friends who came to see you play, the players who rebound for you in warmups.

Say thank you to your managers, and make sure you go to their softball games.  

Thank Mr. Remme and your teachers for their flexibility when you miss class.

Most of all, thank your parents. While I’m sure they all live for watching you play, I’m sure there were nights in the middle of January when it was 10 below outside and they’d rather be at home. But instead, they drove Windom straight from work.

And make sure you do it right. Don’t text, email, or snapchat your thank yous. Write handwritten notes or say it in person. Learn to make eye contact and have a firm handshake. It will take you far in life.

Two. People will forget what you did, but they’ll always remember how you made them feel. I stole that from somewhere, but it’s probably the best advice I ever gotten in my life. While your game against Waseca will go down as one of the greatest in Marshall High School history, it will slowly seep from the public consciousness. People will forget the score or how many overtimes there were, or they’ll argue how far back that kid was when he hit that shot to win the game. It’s nothing against anybody here, it’s just how time works.

One thing people will remember is how you made them feel. Whether you took time for them when they needed it or when you did just that one little thing to make someone’s day.

One of my favorite things about Marshall athletics were the “Meet the Tigers” nights where you all signed autographs for the kids in the community. I’m sure you all felt like pro athletes when you did that. It’s one of the best feelings in the world. Hold on to that feeling. Don’t ever feel like you are too cool to sign autographs for kids if they ask for one. I guarantee you that you taking time for an autograph or a picture meant just as much or more than anything you did on a court.

Three. Cultivate a sense of joy about your life. It’s so easy to be grim about the world. It’s so to complain about your school work, your job, your life. A surefire way to make yourself miserable is to punch a clock and grind your way through life. Don’t do that. You’ll die of a heart attack at age 55.  
Life is not a marathon. It is not some excruciating slog leading up to some mythical end point, no, life just keeps going.

I changed my life philosophy and I am a lot happier because of it. I used to think life was a race followed by a series of checkpoints, graduation, marriage, job, retirement, etc.

I now believe that life like a pomegranate. You know those purple fruits that are a pain to work through, but once you get to the seeds, they are incredibly delicious. That’s life. It’s tiny speckles of joy that you find throughout your day to day living. It takes some work, but the rewards are worth it.

Find and acknowledge those tiny joys that happen throughout your day. Like when you hit that halfcourt shot in practice or win that game of lightning or you finally land an alley-oop.

I know a state title would have been the sweetest victory imaginable, but if you look back at your season, I know there were those little moments of joy throughout your practices, your games, your time on the bus, or maybe even just sitting on the bench. Those are memories worth holding on to.

Finding the daily joy in your life takes practice, but you have time. One easier way to clarify things is to not compare yourself to others.

Don’t look to other people for your happiness. It’s easy to look at others and think, “If I only had his shoes I’d be happier” or “If I only had his jump shot or his girlfriend” That’s a quick road to being miserable.

The secret is, you already know what makes you happy. Some of you go back in the gym. Some of you read. Some of you play music. Those are all good things. Do more of those things.

And to you seniors: Nick, Jacob, Drew, Xavier and Thomas. These things will hit you a little bit harder as you head on to your next adventure. My one extra piece of advice is to call home every once in awhile next year. Your mothers will appreciate it.  Best wishes for all of you as you set out on your next adventure. You all are exemplary young man who I enjoyed getting to know during my time here.

I don’t think many of you will face a situation again like you did a few weeks ago in St. Peter. If we’re lucky, those gut-wrenching moments in life will only come around once every so often. But one will come around again when you least expect it. To help you get back on your feet, say thank you, make people feel good, cultivate joy, and don’t worry too much.

While you may not be state champions, you are all smart and gifted young men with bright futures ahead of you. And that’s a victory in of itself. Thank you.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

76. A new home

I’ve lived in 10 different places over the last 14 years of my life. Tomorrow I will be moving into a place that I hope to be staying in for quite a while. After years of dorms, roommates, and keeping stuff in boxes because I know I’ll move in 12 months time, I’ve bought a condo. I’m a little nervous because it’ll be the first place (other than the home I grew up in) that I’ll be tied to.

I’ve had lots of places that I’ve called home. I went to boarding school in Land O’ Lakes, Wisconsin (not where they make the butter) when I was 14. That made me view home different. While I missed my parents, I met tons of new people that were as close as family. It was a place I enjoyed spending time in and where I felt comforted so many times.

St. John’s in Collegeville, Minnesota was another great place that I called home. College means so many different things to different people, but that sense of community really stuck with me. I like feeling like I belong in a small tight-knit community. The Benedictine monks on campus were welcoming and made me feel like it was a place where I could grow in numerous ways.

That spiritual aspect of community and welcoming people into your home is something else that means a lot to me. It’s been hard for me to do that the past few years because A) the places I’ve lived haven’t been too conducive to that and B) I haven’t had the time or have been too far away to really take advantage of that. I think sharing a meal or a beverage with people at your home is one of the best things about life. I do enjoy going out, but making your home welcoming for fellowship is awesome as well.

I lived in five different places in four years after college. That was tough. While I liked the places I lived in Maryland and Boston, I never felt like I settled into one place. My job was a one-year contract and there was always kind of a time limit with grad school in Boston. I kept my possessions light, most everything fit in one car. And I resisted making big purchases. That was a little tough. I enjoyed my flexible life, but it wasn’t sustainable. At one point, all I had for furniture was a folding card table, three different folding chairs I bought at Goodwill, a frying pan, and a radio. While it was awesome, I don’t think I’ll be doing that again anytime soon.

Marshall was a very nice town and I had good roommates, but I had a shelf life there too. I never expected to be there more than a year or two.

And after living at my parent’s house for the longest period of time in over a decade, here I am getting ready to sign for a mortgage. I have no idea what color I’m going to paint the place. I don’t know how to furnish it, and I don’t know when I’ll host a housewarming party. But I have time, I’ll be there a while.  

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

75. No Bracket for Nick

I didn’t fill out a bracket this year. I have for about the last 20, but I wasn’t feeling it this year. Maybe it’s because I’ve been busy getting stuff rounded up to move into my new place. Maybe it’s because work has felt extra long this week. Or maybe it’s because… I just don’t care. I barely watched any college basketball this year. It’s probably a good sign of something that the first college player I name off the top of my head this year is Rachel Banham.

I suppose I could have easily filled out a bracket. I got invited to participate in one. If my work had organized one, I probably would have done something. I’m a big believer in having a system, even if that system has nothing to do with actual statistics. Pick it by mascots for all I care.

It made me wonder about things we hold on to for too long. I don’t know if I’ve grown out of picking brackets. I’ll probably go back to picking one next year. But it felt like a chore this year. I don’t really care who wins. I don’t know who the Timberwolves are going to draft. I’m not going to have any time to watch the games over this weekend. And the prospect of participating in the online chatter over these games means little to me. I’m also busy with other things.

I’ve started to realize the value of getting away from a screen and shutting down. I’ve made it nearly to the end of Lent without watching Netflix. Yeah, there are a number of series that I would have liked to have watched with my time, but I know they will be there in a week and a half. I can make it.

I’ve been trying to focus on things that will make me happy and hone in on them. Sometimes those things are easy to find: sandwiches, watching soccer, listening to podcasts, running. Sometimes they’re a lot tougher to find. When you’re that restless sort of tired on a Tuesday night and it’s too early to go to bed, yet you feel like you can’t sit still. Those are the times where it’s difficult to find those things that really feed your brain and your curiosity.

I really just want to focus on one thing the next few days: moving into my house. I’ve been looking forward to Friday for the last few months. It’s been a tiring process, but I’m excited that it’s finally here and I feel extremely fortunate that I get to take part in that piece of the American dream.

I’ll admit that I’m not a good decorator. I’m not good at mixing colors or finding the right furniture. Nine times out of 10 I just get what’s cheap and hope it works out. I guess I have to put some effort into the process now.

No, I didn’t fill out a bracket this year. I’ve got other things on my mind. And that’s all right. Things will move forward anyway.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

74. Be Kind

I saw a post on Facebook yesterday that said, “Make America Kind Again.” I thought that hit the tone of things these days. Most people forget that the fifth point of the Boy Scout law is “kind.” I’m guessing that’s probably not the first thing people associate with the Boy Scouts.

There’s a song I’ve been listening to where they sample a song with the chorus, “Don’t you take my kindness for weakness.” (The song is “Kindness for Weakness” by Dilated Peoples.) While I don’t agree with much on the side of John Kasich, I like that his campaign has focused on a platform of taking the “high road.” That is, at least compared to some people.

I just don’t understand the evolutionary advantage of being a jerk. Among the people that I have remembered most in my life, I would not consider any of them jerks. I’m not saying they were all kind all the time, but when it came down to situations where I needed help, they all responded with a listening ear and some empathy.

I think that’s why I’m starting to enjoy women’s sports a little more. I like following the US women’s national soccer team a lot because they all seem like people who want to see the sport grow. I’m sure lots of male athletes do as well, but women, for some reason, have to be positive ambassadors for their sport. You can argue whether that’s a good or a bad thing, and maybe it will change in the future, but for right now I like that they have a welcoming approach to the game. If I had a daughter, I’d definitely want them to play soccer.

I hate hammering on this subject, but it bubbles to the top of my mind almost every day: why are we so angry this campaign season? Why do we have to be so mean? Why can’t we be nice and have constructive conversations where there is vigourous, yet polite and respectful, exchange of ideas?

I guess we could blame a lot of things. The siloing of our media. The rigged, even if improved, state of the economy. The violent culture we live in. It’s a whole lot of things.

I really liked the Lenten message from Father Jim Martin, a Jesuit priest, and the editor of America magazine. It’s a short video with a good message: Be Kind

You can acheieve that in three simple ways: don’t be a jerk, honor the absent, give people the benefit of the doubt. I like to think I’ve got the first one covered, but I will admit that I have my moments where I write people off. Honor the absent is a tough one. I know I’ve talked about people behind their backs.

And giving the people the benefit of the doubt. That’s a tough one. I’m trying to put myself in a mindset that everyone running for president is doing it with the best intentions. Though, I’m not so sure about Trump.

I think an easy way to achieve all of those things would be to stay off the internet.