New Chapter

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Now we are back. Back from the woods. Back from the mountain. Back from the small town.

We have arrived in the big city. the flatlands, the urban surroundings, the crazy.

For a while during the summer I thought of this as the pause button. I thought of it as the boring part. The summer is the excitement, the productive part of the year,  and the winter is the lull, the bleak months of bread lines and struggle. I viewed the return to here as the inconvenient return to reality and drudgery.

That’s not how life works.

There is no pause, there are no breaks and inconvenient stops. Sure, there are seasons in life. There are periods of calm, times of chaos, bleak days and happy days. But life ticks on.

This is not a season for sitting on my haunches and being miserable. Instead, I need to see this as an opportunity to grow. I have the time and the energy to invest in so much right now, it would be foolish to let my anxiety get the best of me.

It hasn’t been three days back and we already have met a few setbacks. I need a functioning truck to make money. She needs a vehicle to get to Virginia to make money. One’s got shot brakes and the other is still full of unpacked junk. We have a lot of emotional baggage about this house. There aren’t a lot of good memories here, and walking in the door to find it still cluttered with all the trinkets and accumulated crap from all the years is a drain on the mind and spirit.

Not to mention the adjustment to the time zone difference. Two hours makes a surprising difference.

In spite of that I have been able to accomplish many things so far. I have unpacked boxes, bundled up laundry, cleaned up the mile thick layer of dust on several surfaces, mowed the front yard and start tackling the back, cleaned the fridge of six months of scary, unburied the kitchen counters, diagnosed a brake issue, and hung out with friends.

Tackling this is no easy feat.

Taking credit and feeling proud of my accomplishments is not something which comes naturally for me. I tend to downplay or just outright deny my successes. This is something I am working on. There is nothing inherently wrong with looking at something I have completed and saying “I did this well.” It is not arrogance to take pride in legitimate accomplishments, only in made up ones.

This is a new chapter in our adventure. I intend to make it a good one.

 

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Music and Art Monday, June 11th 2018: Evolution

Sometimes I am a bit hard on myself. OK, much of the time I am a bit hard on myself. This goes for all things performance related. Life is performance based. We all strive to perform the best we can, at whatever we do, and sometimes we tend to beat ourselves up if our performance does not match our expectations.

Some things are easier to compare than others. If we are lifting weights we can see progress from lighter weight to heavier weight. If we are running we can watch our mile times shrink. Other things aren’t so tangible. Some things are so gradual that we hardly notice the change at all.

Painting is one such thing. Skill growth is so gradual that you won’t see changes over a short span of time. But if you look back you will see drastic differences.

Nicole, Acrylic on Paper, 2016
Nicole, Oil on Canvas, 2018

Or you may see no difference at all..

After the Bath, Acrylic on Paper, 2014. My first painting.
The Room, Acrylic on Paper, 2017

Sometimes you just have a change of perspective.

Fine Cigars, Acrylic on Paper, 2016
Fine Cigars Revisit, Acrylic on Paper, 2017

Sometimes your details get sharper.

Selfie, Acrylic on Paper, January 2014
Selfie, Acrylic on Paper, June 2014

Frequently you change the way you see yourself.

Self Portrait, Acrylic on Paper, 2014
Self Imposed, Acrylic on Paper, 2016

The evolution of our abilities isn’t always linear or perfect. We ebb and flow in our talents. Sometimes we meet our own expectations, sometimes we fall short. But we should always keep going…

Tripping the Life Craptastic

I was going to publish another “Making Money” post today, but it was taxing my brain just to get the words out. At this moment I don’t really care about it. Sure, I can be passionate about it. But right now, no. Right now I want to break the first rule of blogging and write something personal. I want to give you some report for how well I am doing on my new year’s resolutions.

I don’t want to write something trivial or trite. I don’t care much if I entertain you or inform you. I’m not going to lie or put up a facade and pretend I have all of life together. I’m not going to tell you how life suddenly got better when I gave my life to Jesus.

Life is hard, ya’ll. Life is ugly. Relationships are tough, you have days where you send your spouse out the door with a curse instead of a kiss. People break up. People break apart. People dump on you and demand from you. You get stretched thin enough they can see through you.

Stretched thin. But I still have my sense of humor…

I said I was going to focus this year. It’s not even a month in and I find myself weekly cycling up and down. Mondays are great, Tuesdays slide a bit but I still come out upright, Wednesday is a hit or miss, by Thursday the kitchen is gone, Friday I let the kids have the house, Saturday I try to reclaim some ground, unsuccessfully. By Sunday everyone is a grumbling pile of anger and boredom, just ripe and ready for the complete upheaval of the routine known as church.

Now church is good, don’t misunderstand me. It’s just not a day of rest for a couple with five kids. There is no day of rest for anyone with children. I don’t believe they exist. While church is not a restful experience (as anyone who has had to haul two snarling children out by the arms at the same time can attest) it does spark hope and a desire to be better that week. It is the driving force behind the good Monday.

But how do we keep that driving force into Tuesday, Wednesday, and beyond? That’s what I want to know. I know many people who manage to stay driven all week. Is it just discipline? Maybe. Is it just a strong will? Maybe. Is it faith? Probably maybe. There is an innumerable amount of reasons people keep on going through all the nasty of life.

I am doing better. I am improving. I am more disciplined, more focused, and I am accomplishing things.  It’s not all bad. It’s also only January. One can’t give up that quickly.

But how do I continue to improve? What does everyone out there do to keep that drive going?

Making Money Like a Millennial: Miscellaneous Tips

Since my next few installments of this series are going to require some research I have decided to put them off until next year. Thankfully for you next year is next month…

For now, here are some miscellaneous tips that I may have missed in my first four:

Unemployment:

In New Mexico, one can make up to 20% of their unemployment in other money before it affects your unemployment. As in, you can make up to $85 driving Uber before they reduce your $425 unemployment check. 

Arizona deducts dollar for dollar. I don’t know about other states, check with your local office for information. 

Uber and Lyft:

Get used to many many smells. Between the food you pick up for deliveries and the potheads who obviously don’t realize how much that stench sticks, you are going to smell many unusual and strong smells. You may want to keep an odor neutralizer around for the lingering ones.

And that one. And that one…

Which brings me to my next point. If you should happen to be able to tell that your passenger is enebriated, drive extra carefully. You wouldn’t want them to create an extra long-lingering smell for you in your back seat. I have heard there is a substantial clean up fee that Uber will charge for this, but who wants the hassle to begin with?

Uber:

It looks like they have finally added a feature like the one Lyft has which allows you to go online from any screen. But I haven’t been able to figure it out. So I would stick to the plan as outlined in my previous post.

Pizza:

Take a pen. Two pens if you can. 

Wear a shirt with two pockets. One is to hold your wad of twenty ones (for change) and one is to put your tips. Pants pockets tend to get a bit more sweaty, particularly if you are running everywhere you go. 

Which you should. Not only is it good exercise, it shaves off precious seconds. 

Keep ten each of quarters, dimes, and nickels. And twenty pennies. This gives you plenty of change to give exact change. And if you dig enough your costumers often get impatient and say “nah, just keep it”. 

Keep it in a coin purse. There is nothing more annoying than dealing with loose change at the metal detector in the courthouse or town hall. Which reminds me… 

This is a deadly weapon… Leave it in your car.

Any sharp objects, including can openers, should be left in your vehicle. A lot of security guards are jerks that won’t hold something for you even if they can watch you walk in, deliver, and walk out. 

Don’t worry too much about non-tippers, eventually you figure out that most non-tippers are balanced out by good tippers. Two good tips can completely erase a non-tip. Besides, getting grumpy just makes you sloppy, and being sloppy is a great way to guarantee non-tips.

I hope these are helpful, keep checking back for more installments. If you haven’t read the rest of the series, please do. 

And if you have any tips or suggestions of your own, feel free to leave them in the comments section below!

Take Your Compliments and Shove ‘Em

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Just an average picture of an average guy.

Compliments, what do we do with them? How constructively do we take criticism? What do we do when faced with cricket chirps at our hard work?

As I mentioned last time, I’m slowly learning to like, indeed, love myself. Part of this process is learning to accept compliments, second is learning to accept criticism without magnifying it out of proportion. Third and probably the most difficult is learning how to properly interpret silence.

A few months back I talked about how my anxiety has robbed me of contentment for many years. It has also given me a large sentiment of cynicism. I don’t trust people when they compliment me. I assume that they can’t really mean it. I’m not that great, am I? I’m certainly not worthy of the love of others.

I am though.

If an infinite and holy God can love me, then certainly other, not-so-holy, created beings can love me too. By virtue of being an image-bearer I am lovable. And I can accept compliments about my person, my actions, and my creations, without cynicism or disbelief. Sometimes, I really do good work. I should accept that, and love it about myself.

Also by virtue of being an image bearer can I accept criticism without believing that I am a worthless piece of rubbish. Yes, I am a sinner, and I am fallible, and nothing I can do is perfect, but that doesn’t make me worthless. By the Grace of God, I am not a piece of garbage. Critique should drive me towards better work, and make me strive after perfection, not run from it.

But what about silence? What about the times when no one seems to notice?

I put in effort, I strove for perfection, I did my best.

*Crickets*

That one is a bit more difficult for me. I think silence drives most creators mad. They want recognition, even bad attention is better than no attention.

I have to tell myself that sometimes silence is merely a sign that I am doing just fine. There is no need for critique, but I am not to the level of deserving a compliment. Average-ness is properly met with silence. And average is perfectly acceptable, if one is progressing smoothly within their level of experience. If I paint an average painting, or write an average prose, or take an average picture, or sing an average song, are they not still acceptable?

If I want accolades I should strive for better than average. I should work on jumping out of my level and into the next. And I shouldn’t take silence as critique.

If I am below average I should expect to be corrected; average, an approving silence; above average, resounding praise.

All should be equally acceptable to me.

Love Your Wife: Love Yourself

Simpson Selfie
Sometimes I see myself as a Simpson, apparently…

From stay-at-home moms being called bad moms for wanting an hour to themselves, to husbands and fathers who just want some time away in their “mancaves” being called irresponsible, self-care gets a bad rap.

In blogs and books and sermons, folks are told that they should give up everything and give themselves to everyone else’s needs far above their own. People are beaten to death with the line that true happiness is only found in complete and utter self-denial.

But the Bible implies something very different, especially to husbands, in Ephesians 5:28-30:

In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.

In order for a man to properly love his wife, he must first love himself.

But… This is not the selfish, narcissistic, self serving “love” that many men demonstrate through cruelty, waste, disrespect, slovenliness, and misplaced passions.

The self-love spoken of in these verses is informed by a proper perspective of self. The man who practices this self-love is enlightened by Gods own view of him. This man sees himself as God sees him, frail and sinful, fallen and weak, but loved, saved by grace, imperfect, but being sanctified daily and made more holy. God is pleased to see us as image bearers reflecting His glory back to Him. Instead of wretches clothed in rags He is pleased to see us in the robes of His Son.

A man who loves himself will care for himself, he will take pride in himself. He will understand that his value and loveliness is not in his success, his wealth, his looks, or his health, but simply in his createdness. Only when he understands this will he be able to take care of those things. When he properly loves himself he will be able to properly love those things and care for them.

And when he cares for those things he can care for his wife. Only when he cares for himself will be able to care for her. When he takes care of his health he is able to care for her. When he tends to his wealth he is able to care for her. When he is successful in any number of other areas, he will be able to care for her.

A man who eats too much, sits too long, and invests far too much time in pursuit of wealth and “security” is not a man who is able to care well for his wife. A man who hates himself and takes no pride in the fruits of his labors is most often married to a miserable woman.

Christ cared for Himself, He took time away from the crowds, the disciples, and from healing. He knew enough to rest, because His humanity was frail like ours. By taking the time to care for Himself, Christ was better able to care for His bride, the church.

About a week ago I was forcefully informed that my self-hatred was killing my marriage. My life to some degree has been falling apart because I have been refusing to take pride in my own life and worth, and refusing to care for my responsibilities (because what’s the point?). Even what I learned back in February seemed to be going by the wayside.

I tried to take care of everyone, tried to make everyone else better, but neglected myself.  I shut myself down, never expressing feelings thoughts or emotions. I never had an opinion that didn’t agree with someone else.

I became a nothing. And my wife despised it.

She wants a man who loves himself, who takes charge of himself, who disciplines himself, who prioritizes himself. She wants a man with a voice, opinions, thoughts, challenges to her daily life. not a lump of flesh. Certainly not the weak-willed mumble I was quickly becoming.

I am learning, slowly, to love myself. I’m figuring out how to to do the things I want, to make time for me, to refresh my soul and take care of my body. I’m making sure to take care of my appearance as well, as this is important.

And for the first time in my life I’m learning to take some pride in what I do, instead of loathing the silence from critics or friends, I’m taking it as a sign to improve and keep striving. Eventually I’ll get someone’s attention. At least I’ll know my capabilities.

It’s refreshing and terrifying all at the same time.

Making Money the Millennial Way: Why Not Both?

So…. Uber…. or Lyft?

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This is the best discovery I made yet. Both apps can be run at the same time and with a bit of savvy you can easily make good money with both of them.

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Two apps, one screen.

How to:

Turn on your Lyft Driver Shortcut in your Lyft settings menu. Then open Uber. Go online with Uber, then drag the Lyft Driver Shortcut to the center of the screen to go online with Lyft. Then go back to the Uber map.

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This is what you’ll see, and both apps will be looking for passengers.

When you accept a ping for Uber, make sure you swipe that steering wheel to the center to go offline for Lyft.

It’s not as easy when getting a ping from Lyft. Accept the ping and then navigate back to the Uber app to go offline. This takes a bit of getting used to, but so far I have not had a ping from both at once, so the extra few seconds haven’t been much of an issue.

Drop off your passenger and turn back on whichever app you went off line with. It’s really that simple.

By doing this, I was able to increase my earnings by about 15%, which isn’t a lot, but every bit counts. My phone died last week and I had to borrow a phone and use only Uber this past Friday. A night that would usually net me $50 after gas ended up being a very slow night for less than $30. Running both apps keeps slow nights moving.

There are apps that automate the whole process, but from what I have read in reviews they are too buggy to be worth the price you pay for them. Plus you are already running several apps at once and of your phone is as finicky as mine it may end up costing you a few rides with screen freezes and other delays. So why risk it? It’s simple enough to do it manually and once you get the hang of it probably quicker than automation anyway.

Next up: Old fashioned pizza delivery.