Tuesday, July 23, 2019

one year

We're just gonna keep going. I might be shipping trash, but I'm shipping it just in case it's worthwhile. It's what a blog is for. Starter quotes from this post. Let's go.

If you had only one significant project to work on this year, what would it be? 

Obtaining a Technical Desk Job (side note: I know I just wrote about just how poorly this went earlier in the year. Bear with me and say nothing about it for the moment. Cheers.)

+ Remaining Employed at a Technical Desk Job and Being as Human as Possible

Bootstrapping 36-week curricula (90 90-minute classes // 180 freakin’ 45 min classes we could learn the world with that): algebra I&II, computer science, engineering.
     → where are the state standards for what each grade is supposed to learn?
     → surprise: here

Getting an education degree (no one said, if you had the funding for your major project. You have one major project. What is it?)

Figuring out how to be a Huntsville Marie Kondo without losing my sweet mind. Is it possible? → Most likely. The more important question: would it be worth my time?

For what it's worth, this also:

If you have a 10-year plan for how to get somewhere, why can't you do it in six months?

Version: If you have a project to do in a year, why can't you do it in six weeks?

Most of the things above could be done in six weeks or less. Drawing up curricula. Getting interviews and a job. The year-long part is to get the value of sticking with it. Could I teach that curriculum? Could I get faithful students for a Marie Kondo method in Huntsville? Could I stick with a job for (more than a day) a whole year?

The education degree would take longer because it's literally asking to play by someone else's rules to open some doors. The more interesting thing after that would be, can I develop a quality education degree that could be completed in six weeks. Would I want to? Not sure. I would have to get the degree to know if the length of completion is important to the value. I would guess not, for everything besides student teaching.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

obedience x grace

This is still happening, and I am here for it. The post with the starter quotes can be found here. An intellectual and relational play in several parts.

The new dream isn’t about obedience, it’s about vision and engagement.
 - Seth Godin, Linchpin 
// New covenant.

Seth talks a lot about how the new system won’t reward blind obedience. We have automated machines for blind obedience. Anyone can learn to do your job if you only do what you’re told.

So he talks trash about obedience. He says, screw the system. But which system? He trashes the system where a person is a cog in a machine without humanity or grace. He does not say, stick it to the man whenever possible. In fact, he says - live with more grace. Live with more passion for making things better.

Not being obedient is not about doing less work - it’s about doing more than they’ve asked for. And doing it better, before they even know to ask for it.

Okay. So that and the gospel.

The book of Romans is a mess. People make all sorts of sense out of it, but you sit down and read it without any guidance and your head will be spinning. You know why it’s a mess? I have a theory.

Because we are trying so damn hard to be good, and we are failing, and God gives us grace and still wants us to try hard. And after grace, how hard is hard enough?

The new dream isn’t about obedience. It’s about vision and engagement.

From the book of Ezekiel: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”

Linchpins and Christians are called not to disobedience, but to more than obedience. Linchpins are going to make a ruckus, but not by screwing everyone over. They do it by giving generously of their humanity and initiative to solve hard problems. Christians make a ruckus, not by breaking the law for the heck of it, but by living the greater will of God through his Spirit alive within them. They live generously and outrageously with an extreme gratitude for grace.

There’s not a much better vision or engagement than the one that comes from God himself imprinting his Spirit and will on your heart and mind. We are moved to more than obedience.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

not the outfit your wear but the attitude you wear it with

It is happening. Visit this post to see where I'm pulling the starter quotes from.  An intellectual yet relational play in several parts.

Your personality and attitude are more important than the actual work product you create, because indispensable work is work that is connected to others.
- Seth Godin, Linchpin

I also heard this, in a different form, from the volunteer coordinator at an after school program for project kids in my city. She said, “I don’t actually care if these kids know how to do algebra. It would be nice, for sure - but what I really want is for them to have a relationship with you.”

That terrified me. I was there for a tour and an introduction, as I was interested in tutoring, so I kept smiling. And it was the last week of the school year, so I haven’t been back yet. But, school starts in something like three weeks (I cannot believe how early these people start school around here), and maybe this is something I should think about.

Why does that terrify me? My lizard brain is afraid. Building relationships with people who are not like me is new and strange and kicks the anxiety (fear of things that probably won’t happen) into extreme storytelling mode. Do the stories have any good details of things that might reasonably happen? Nope. Just the general feeling of dread and fear that should not come with making friends with tiny children who are growing up a little different than I did.

Do I believe that these kids having good relationships with adult humans will help them more than them knowing algebra or grammar? I am connected to knowing that relationships are more important than head knowledge.

I was great at head knowledge. I was a straight A student until college. I loved following all the rules in school, writing the perfect essays, acing the math tests. Delightful. But what made me crash and burn in college? Not having a great human support system.

I guess this is my pep talk. I am planning to return to the program when school starts. I hope that I will be up for more than algebra. 

Where could you be building relationships if you quit worrying so much about the productivity?

Friday, July 19, 2019

linchpin prompts

Below I've got some quotes, mostly from Seth's Linchpin, which I want to write more about, here or elsewhere. The first line is from Tim Ferriss' new book. Some lines are just me thinking out loud. I'm only kind of sorry they aren't labeled. Let me know if you have thoughts. -a

If you have a 10-year-plan of how to get somewhere, why can't you do it in six months?

All of this is something you can choose. Self-made, not born.

Linchpin: human, connected, mature. Passionate, energized, yet unbiased and not angst. Flexible and resilient. All of these are choices.


Your personality and attitude are more important than the actual work product that you create, because indispensable work is work that is connected to others.

The new dream isn't about obedience, it's about vision and engagement. // New covenant.

Stop asking what's in it for you and start giving gifts that change people. // Gospel.

Obedience vs freedom, responsibility, respect, motivation, connection, awareness. // Marriage. Also the new covenant.

Where do you put the fear (the fear about stuff that you shouldn't be afraid of; read: anxiety)? The linchpin feels the fear, acknowledges it, then proceeds. I can't tell you how to do this this; I think the answer is different for everyone. But it is essential. Compare: where do athletes put the tired?

Optimism is the most important human trait because it allows us to evolve our ideas, to improve our situation, and to hope for a better tomorrow. // Everything always works out for me. // In reference to Christianity and also Lewis' discussion of the evolution of the Tao in Abolition of Man.

When an artist stops work before his art is received, his work is unfulfilled. // And Jesus. And not received by everyone - just received.

Lizard brain : genius :: flesh : spirit. // One part of your brain worries about survival and anger and lust. The rest of creates civilization.

If you only had one significant project to work on this year, what would it be?

Who is your boss? What is your work for? Whom are you trying to please? If your agenda is set by someone else and it doesn't lead you where you want to go, why is it your agenda? // On defense work: are you willing and able to look like you're going in an opposite direction in order t ogt he capital to fund your "real job"?

I could do _______ if only... Fill in the blank and get to work.

If you had a chance to remake your life with a wish, what would you wish for?


Hard work is hard. No shit. We will have to do it. We do not have to hate doing it.

Finding security in mediocrity is an exhausting process. You can only work so many hours, fret only so much. It wears you out.

You have brilliance in you, your contribution is valuable, and the art you create is precious. 


It's possible that no one ever pushed you to be brave enough to go this far out on a limb. Consider yourself pushed.

There's really no map. Don't you hate that? I love that there's no map.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

linchpin where you are

I have a crush on Seth Godin's intellect, and on Hanif Abdurraqib's way with words. I'm walking steadily through Dallas Willard's Divine Conspiracy like it's a colorful ball pit with occasional buckets of gold. And John O'Donohue whispers sweet blessings across the years and the water to sing my soul to the surface of myself, if only for a moment.

That's my way of saying that I'm reading four books at once, and they are all beautiful works.

I'm reading Seth's Linchpin, and I love it but I'm not sure what to do about it. I love the idea of being a linchpin, but in practice I really like following good rules. I love the security of being told what to do and following it religiously. I consider myself something of a linchpin at my current job as a barista, because I follow rules so well and remember All The Things about what ingredients go in what and how to charge for odd items. But what would it look like to be a true linchpin at that job? Not just obedience, but art - motivation - connection - awareness - passion?

Little things I might already do. I enjoy working with my coworkers. I enjoy making good coffee and quality food. On occasion I might show up early or stay late or pick up a shift because I like my people. But after a certain bit - the options for art and motivation and connection scare the jeebies out of me.

What would it look like to really look at the system I'm working in and say, "I think this would be better"? And be willing to do the work to make it better? That's the hard part, let's be honest. Building new systems within a framework that has existed, functional but also defunct, for years and years, is hard work.

I sought my job at the coffee shop for one and half reasons: the first, that I could wear jeans to work every day. The second half that I loved coffee and wanted to learn how to create latte art. I loved the idea of working in a small coffee shop because employees there are allowed to retain their humanity (don't talk to me about rude customers who upset this idea - they exist but in small number). Some of the regulars know my name and my story, and I love that.

Do I love it enough to make it better without being told? Or am I going to move on to the next place where I can follow the rules and get a gold star?

Monday, April 1, 2019

having it all figured out

On the third-to-last-day of 2018, I made a list of things I was Looking Forward To in 2019. And since I graduated in December, one of the things I put on this list was “Getting to work on dream jobs - aka I graduated so Here We Go.”

It’s April 1. I am not employed.

Since May 2018, I had been working at my favorite coffee shop as a barista. I have loved the coffee shop - I love my coworkers, I love pulling espresso shots and steaming milk, I love the methodical, therapeutic work of preparing food - slicing tomatoes and mixing waffle batter. I love our regular customers, and chatting with the guy who delivers the milk on Tuesdays and Fridays. I love stopping by even when I’m not scheduled to have a latte, catch the news, and feel a little known when people ask how my cats are doing.

Despite this love, I was pretty sure being a barista was not my dream job. I was also pretty sure electrical engineering (where my degree is) was not my dream job. I am mildly convinced my dream job is teaching algebra to high school students, but I did not get a degree for that (a different story). I figured that I would get a job using my engineering degree, and it would be a harmless way to make money and work on something challenging while I thought about how to become gainfully employed elsewhere.

In January, I applied for a position with a large defense contractor. I had an interview. I did paperwork. I wrote a vision statement for myself about why I was seeking the job and why I would keep it for two years, to develop personal grit and a gold star on my fledgling resume. I got a generous offer, and I accepted it, and I did more paperwork.

I showed up for the first day and did all the first-day things: I had a picture taken for a badge, and sat and waited while the badge was printed. I made small talk with the other new hires. I got a computer, and sat and waited for the tech guy to set up said computer. I sat at a desk and read pages and pages about the technical system I would be working with. I called the company help desk to get my email address changed from my maiden name (which they had from an internship two years ago) to my married name.

At the end of the day, I nodded to my fellow new-hire with whom I shared a cubicle, picked up my bag and my coat, and walked out to the parking lot. Like a working adult. I got in my car, and took a deep breath.

And I started crying.*

Why was I crying? The job was perfect for a newly minted electrical engineer. It involved challenging technical work in an important industry, with an excellent paycheck to boot. An excellent paycheck. Connections. Technical conferences. Every other Friday off. Benefits. A community of like-minded high achievers. An excellent paycheck. A harmless gateway to bigger and better.

But I knew, more or less exactly, why I was crying. Two years ago, I took an internship with a different company, but in the same building, on an extraordinarily similar project.

I hated it.

Defense contractors do good work. I’m thankful for them and the support they provide to our military and their contribution to our national safety.

I hated being in a cubicle without a window for 9 hours a day. I didn’t like the work. There’s no better way to say that. I thought taking on a full time job would be enough to shift in commitment to just do it, but I hated it enough that -

I emailed my manager that night and told him I wouldn’t be coming back the next day. I did the “it’s not you, it’s me,” via email to a large, successful corporation. On day one.**

I cried a lot the next day, too. But I didn’t have any regret - about the quitting, if not the taking the job in the first place. And the next week, the first thing I wrote in my planner was, “You don’t have to have it all figured out this week,” and I flipped to the next week and gracefully wrote, “You don’t have to have it all figured out this week either.”

That one day was February 25. And it’s April 1, which I guess is only a month later, but surprise, I don’t have it figured out yet. I’m doing a little baking on the side at my little coffee shop. I’m reading (a lot). I’m working on a day-to-day creative project. I’m so so grateful for a husband who is going to work. I’m daydreaming and brainstorming and hoping and praying.

Because it turns out that I don’t have a dream job just yet. But it’s okay. You don’t have to have it all figured out this week.

*Sobbing. As a note, driving while sobbing feels extraordinarily dangerous. I want to say that being so emotional keeps one alert, but that’s driving while angry. Driving while vigorously and hopelessly upset means that you can hardly see past your tears and you can’t hear past your wordless cries, and you really aren’t sure how fast you’re going. At the end of the trip, you may be endlessly thankful you know the way home from anywhere in your hometown without thinking.

**Interestingly, I had done this before, now that I think about it. In 7th grade, my crush asked me out at the lunch table and I guess I nodded, and that night he told all the boys at Boy Scouts - which included my brother, and my dad - and I was so horrified when Dad came home and recited the event that I gave the crush a handwritten note the next day that said, effectively, “jk, nevermind, this was a terrible idea.”

Monday, December 31, 2018

What's Saving My Life 2018 Edition

I'm not sure where this practice got its start, but a few of my favorite bloggers occasionally produce a list of "what's saving my life right now." Items on the list can be anywhere from the deep to the mundane - your new favorite cup of coffee or a particularly touching devotional. I picked up the habit of writing out a short list of life-savers throughout the last bit of 2018 and wanted to share some of them with you! What's saving your life right now?

1. Turning my garage into an art studio

Okay, so we still parked the car in the garage, but the periphery contained a dresser full of art supplies and there was art nailed to the wall for most of the semester. This was my haven for working on my senior capstone this semester, but it also turned into a place for dance parties, podcast listening and soul reflection. Amen.

2. Podcasts

Podcasts fill blank space on car rides, long runs, and household chores. Sometimes I fall out of the mood for them, but most of the time, they are my consistently helpful companions. Several podcasts have been really important to me this year - notably, Emily P Freeman's The Next Right Thing - but a new discovery that has flipped over a corner of my world is The Liturgists. Proceed with caution.

3. She Reads Truth


Recently, we've been in an indefinite season of not going to Sunday church. That can make it hard to engage with the bible on a daily and weekly basis, but I've found the She Reads Truth books extraordinarily helpful for getting into the word every day. This past fall, I worked through the Sermon on the Mount, as well as the book of Hebrews. The books are pretty pricey, so I don't see this being a long-term solution, but for now it works fairly well. The books are well designed, contain all the scripture for each day, and usually include space for reflection and thought-provoking study questions.

4. A physical planner


I don't think it's much of a stretch to say one of the main reasons I made it through my last semester of college is because of my current planner. I'm using a blank notebook that is half bullet-journal and half modeled after Elise Joy's Get To Work Book. I love the format of her planners, but love the freedom of having a blank notebook if I need to adapt to what I've got going on.

5. my mother

Yes, my mother. She was on the lists more than once, actually. I discovered in the last couple of years (okay all of them, all right?) just how much this woman loves me (she is so over hearing it. she is reading this and rolling her eyes) and I've been loving lunch dates, evening hang outs, and other adventures with my momma. Here's a hint: ask your [mother/aunt/grandmother/other encouraging female role model] good questions. This has been a joy to me and also a live saver to hear that I have never been struggling alone.

6. Just one shot of espresso

Most medium espresso based drinks come with two shots of espresso. As it turns out, my body is rather caffeine intolerant and so it can make me anxious and jittery. I've found that just one shot in the same size drink can be the perfect amount to give me the coffee I enjoy without sacrificing a morning or afternoon of mental and physical peace. I've also learned that sometimes, I just don't need coffee. And so we go.

7. Reading


So many good books! I'm excited to keep reading in 2019, but I am also stoked to apply what I've learned from my top books this year to some of real life. My top reads included Deep Work, Chasing Slow, Educated, and Grit. They were so good, and they'll have a real impact on how I see the world and continue into my professional and personal work.

8. Eating seasonally

The fact of the matter is that it is simply easier to convince yourself to cook and eat real meals in the winter if spaghetti squash, pot roast, and tomato soup are on the menu. Hence, we've eaten spaghetti squash every week in the last couple months, and the Caesar salad I am currently munching is one weird exception.

9. Having a Christmas sinking fund

This is just a fancy phrase for saying that every month this year, we put aside a little money for Christmas shopping. So, when November rolled around, paying for Christmas gifts was not one of the things we had to be worried about. Gift giving is one of my favorite things and I know it's a blessing just to be able to give presents, but it's an extra bonus to take the stress out of spending money in the fall since we already have it set aside.

10. Graduating!

It took me a semester longer than I expected and my alma mater is not what I thought it would be, but I am so glad I stuck it out to get the degree. I have yet to have it pay off career-wise (only because it's been 3 weeks and the real job hunt starts in January), but after reading Grit and speaking to relatives and professionals, there's something to be said for completing a personal goal that takes longer than a year.