Pratfalls of Parenting

Pratfalls of ParentingPratfalls of Parenting is a podcast hosted by my friend Levi Weinhagen. It focuses on the creative process and how it is affected by being a parent. As I have newly joined the parental ranks, Levi invited me on the show.

My episode of Pratfalls of Parenting speaks a lot about adoption, race, and creativity. If one or all of those topics interest you, then you’d be a fool to pass up giving the show a listen.

If none of those topics interest you, you’re reading the wrong blog. Get outta here.

Privilege of Indifference

For the majority of my life, I have been a rather timid individual who gets a stomach ache and the feeling of buzzing static in my brain when things get heated. Arguments and even civilized but strong discussions made me want to shut down completely and leave the area. In fact, they still make me want to do that.

It’s a privileged life when you can shy away from conflict and claim disinterest as a defense. My privilege of indifference spanned from bigger items like politics and social issues to smaller things like avoiding the Neighborhood Night Out or ignoring internet conversations where people were passionate about one thing or another.

That being said, in an ironic fashion, willful ignorance is the one item that got me to speak up. Thinking skeptically was a first step, as I was a very gullible child. Knowing where I stood on a topic, and that I had data and research to back it up, helped. But aside from one-sided fun making of items like homeopathy and psychics, I couldn’t hold my own in any sort of debate or argument without feeling that hot fuzz in my brain again and wanting desperately to hide.

I have a very logical mind, but I’m finding more and more that my real strength is in the heart. As sick as yelling makes me feel, others being treated poorly makes me even sicker. People are people, and everyone should be treated equally. Gay marriage should be legal. Women should be able to walk down the street without being treated like a pieces of meat. I felt I could retweet and even make my own pointed broadcasts on these topics. Treating people with the respect and dignity that you’d want yourself felt obvious, and it was maddening that people wanted to repress others.

And then, my entire world opened up further than I knew was possible.

If you don’t know or haven’t guessed by now, I’m a white guy. If I take a walk around my neighborhood or watch TV, I can be assured that most people I see will look like me. This is the way things have always been, and something I’ve never realized before. It’s something you don’t see until it’s pointed out to you. That’s a bubble of ignorance and comfort. That’s benefiting from privilege without knowing you had it. It feels like I woke out of the Matrix. It feels so obvious that I’ve been in a pod all this time. How could I not know I was in a pod? Why did I get so annoyed and introverted when someone tried to shake my pod?

My wife and I have just been through the process of adoption, and we now have the most wonderful baby girl in the world. Adoption is emotionally challenging for everyone involved. Birth parents, adoptive parents, and the children themselves. Our little girl will grow up with a lot of questions, which we will answer, and a lot of emotions surrounding how she came to be our daughter, which we will talk about. I want so much to make everything in the world easy and perfect for her.

And, if you haven’t guessed this by now, my daughter is a different race from my wife and me. Our neighborhood is not filled with faces that look like hers. TV is filled with people who look like her parents. Books. Cartoons. Advertisements. On top of adoption, there will be the emotionally charged topic of race that we will be very open with our daughter about. I want so much to make everything in the world easy and perfect for her.

So here I am, the white guy, thinking I’m doing great with my issues of the heart. Suddenly my daughter comes along and everything changes. I seek out news and issues relating to her culture. I want to be informed. I want to join in. I want to make a difference. I want to learn about and fight against the systematic and deeply ingrained racism of our society.

I want other people to be better than me. I want all the white people out there to realize their discomfort on issues of race is a reason to open their minds, shut their mouths, and listen to those with a different perspective. That static in your brain needs to wake you up instead of shut you down. Be better than me. Learn about white privilege and the current and constant state of racism before it becomes imperative. Learn because it’s the right thing to do, not because you have to.

I had the privilege to be ignorant. I could shy away topics that became too tough or uncomfortable. But for so many, they can never turn the conversation off. They are targeted, followed, profiled, demeaned, slandered, and even murdered. They can’t run and hide. They live with it every day, and they shouldn’t have to.

I am changing my attitude from one of privileged indifference to privileged vigilance. I can’t change the fact that I’m born into a society that treats me one way and others another, and it’s useless to try and feel bad about that. Guilt doesn’t get anyone anywhere. But I can certainly use the way I’m treated to the advantage of others, and try to get others in their bubbles to open their eyes.

I will raise my voice. I will not shy away from the tough discussions on race. I will point out the casual racism that permeates conversations online and in life. I will make the world a more just place for my daughter. As a society, we need a lot of support and understanding to make a huge change. Equality matters.

As linked in Dan Zanes’ wonderful article on being a less racist white dude, take a look at Unpacking the Invisible Backpack. There is a list in that article that will make you really realize what privilege is, if you don’t already know.

Be better than me. Open your eyes before you have to wake up. Let’s get to work.

The Creative Struggle Against Inevitability

Art Appreciation II

Art Appreciation II from Dustin Gaffke

There is art in each creative mind that will never come out of another. A weird mix of genes and chemicals make each mind unique. There are jokes, books, movies, sculptures, paintings, plays, music, comics, architecture, designs, and so much more in each individual. And when an individual is gone, so are all the possibilities locked inside them. There will never be someone who can do the same creative work ever again. The books never written. The laughter never created. The joy never spread.

The important things left in the world are not paperwork from a desk job or the timely fashion in which a lawn is mowed. These tasks can be done by most anybody. There is nothing special about them. And if a lawn mower passes away, then there is an equally good lawn mower that can take their place.

Art is special. That isn’t to say the majority of art will stand the test of time. Leaving a piece of work that will last for generations into the future is an absurd and gargantuan goal. However, that isn’t a reason to sit on ones hands. If anything, it’s a reason to do what you can while you can.

Aww nuts, I’m going to change literary perspectives now. Get out there and leave everything you have out in the world! Fulfill yourself with the amazing things you can do. There great ideas locked in you and there is a limited amount of time to get them out.

That doesn’t mean that you should stress about the end. All things must end. But don’t fool yourself into thinking there will be time later to do the things you want to do now. Keep creating as only you can. While this “unique snowflake” feel good attitude has ruined many a school child, no one else can do what you are capable of. That guy standing over there can’t write the short story about the child that is his own parents. That gal sitting over there isn’t going to make a stranger cry with complex combinations of colors on canvas.

Everything you are is locked in you. It takes the constant work of a lifetime to leave it this world. There will be nothing quite as fulfilling as being who you can be while you can.

Interesting or Amazing

Florentijn Hofman: Rubber Duck: Hong Kong 2013 / Crazyisgood Art Installation / SML.20130508.6D.05448“Interesting” isn’t good enough. An utterance of “huh” doesn’t come close to a “wow.” This is why creation is paralyzing and thrilling at the same time. There are a lot of “good enough” ideas out there that come along fairly easily. The challenge is to push past the desire to settle and waste time on something that is okay and wait for the truly inspirational ideas to hit.

At times it may feel like nothing is happening. Periods of lukewarm ideas can lead to self doubt. Maybe the spark of creation was lost or never existed. That’s the price of being picky and working to make the best. The valleys are low and filled with shadows and stomach acid.

Working on a plain is worse than the valleys. Okay ideas may pass, but the dizzying euphoric highs of an amazing idea crush the mediocrity of time wasted doing projects that don’t matter or inspire. A clear and obstruction free horizon are not a goal to work at. It’s the undiscovered peaks of the mind’s mountains that matter. The ideas that nobody else has discovered. Fresh footprints in the snow of untouched country.

Creative works should inspire and challenge. They shouldn’t settle for “interesting.” “Interesting” is how people describe scalloped potatoes with pinch of cumin added. It’s the “nice” used to describe a wallflower.

Don’t create with the goal of production. Always create with the intention to amaze. Otherwise nobody will care enough to remember. There is no point in making something forgettable. There is every reason to make something to astound.

A Talking Cat!?!: The Movie: The Tumblr

I’ve created a Tumblr account for the movie A Talking Cat!?! Why? Because it’s the most amazingly terrible movie I’ve ever seen and I’m in love with it.

The A Talking Cat!?! Tumblr page is for dissection and humorous commentary on the best cinematic experience of 2013. So, throw that on my ever growing pile of websites. But, man, there is so much to say about this movie!

Oh, A Talking Cat!?! is also streaming on Netflix. Throw some of your time at it. You won’t be sorry. Or, you might be very sorry.

Bruised Ribs, As An Excuse

Several months ago I fell through the floor/ceiling. Well, halfway through. I had torn up the hardwood floor and subfloor of my dining room because cats don’t care what their ruin. Removing everything was a long and dirty process, but the process was coming to an end. Everything was up and I was ready to start laying down the new plywood subfloor. And then, my foot slips off a beam and through the drywall ceiling in the basement. I bruise/crack my ribs (Who knows? It doesn’t matter. The treatment is the same. Let’s go with the less dramatic version of events.) on the beam, which keeps me from falling onto the elliptical machine in the basement. I assume the elliptical machine would have impaled my brain or something, so we’ll call me lucky.

There isn’t much you can do for bruised ribs aside from rest. Most anything you do hurts them in one way or another. So positioning the plywood into place was out of the question. Finishing the subfloor was put on hold.

I was feeling better about 4 months ago. I didn’t bother finishing the subfloor until last night. The excuse of the bruised ribs rolled itself into a ball and continued down the hill to sitting in bed and watching TV. I had to put off finishing the floor, which led to me believe I could continue putting off finishing the floor.

How did I get out of this rut? By writing a blog post yesterday about the plateau of laziness. You see, these blog entries aren’t for you, they’re for me. If they help you out, great! I’m sure you can relate to certain things. But my jump back into the observation of my barriers helped me finish that stupid subfloor.

And it felt great. Now for the floor floor. It’ll happen. I think.

The Plateau of Laziness

Lazy CatI’ve never been, but I hear that hitting rock bottom is hard to miss. What’s harder to recognize is the plateau of your own effort. It’s hard to recognize because it feels fine, like a warm bath. You’re doing what you have been for the past several months and things aren’t getting worse. But you’re not growing.

If your work were easy, you might recognize something is off and make a correction. But when your work is in that Goldilocks zone of feeling just right, your efforts can stall out. You become a whale enjoying a day on the beach. And if you will remember, whales do not belong on beaches.

There is nothing wrong with taking a step back and enjoying the work you’ve done and continue to do. If you’re not getting enjoyment from what you do, then what’s the point? But feeling content can be a sign of stagnation. I’m not saying contentment means the death of creativity, but it wouldn’t kill you to take a look inside and see why you’re feeling content.

Hopefully, any self exploration will bring you the answer. If you find the words “good enough,” you might be in trouble. If you find the words “extremely happy with where I’m at,” please share your secrets with the rest of the world.

The recognition of this plateau of laziness should be enough to snap you out of your lull. It’ll feel like your eyes have been closed and you’re suddenly awake. Use the energy that comes with this discovery to push you into great work. Be prepared to recognize when you become contented again, and be ready to break into that cycle sooner. Perhaps, with time and effort, you can practically eliminate the plateau. An expert sailor, navigating around the stagnant air pockets in your brain!

The next magic trick is to marry satisfaction with continued progress. I’ll let you know if I figure that one out.

Where’s Your Taco Stand?

Man who served time for wife's murder starts over with taco stand
An article from The Clinton Herald has been displayed on my fridge for the last few years. The headline states that a “Man who served time for wife’s murder starts over with taco stand.” When I first saw the article, I assumed it was about a wrongly accused man getting his life back on track. Nope! It’s about a man who actually murdered his wife, did his time, and then opened a taco stand with help from his parents.

This article has amused me for years because of what I expected the article to be and how different the real article was. And then the other day, the article took on new meaning for me. I passed the fridge like usual, because it’s the best way to get from my kitchen to my living room, when the article became about productivity instead of changed expectations.

This man murdered his wife, moved on, and started a business. A murderer opened a taco stand. Why is it so hard for me to write a new blog article, make a new podcast, or work on funding video projects when someone who could easily have given up opened a taco stand. My excuses are piddly compared to the adversity this murderer surely faces.

So where is my taco stand? What is stopping me from working hard to achieve my goals? Fear of failure? This man is bouncing back from murder. If we had a conversation, I would say something like “I’m just feeling really beat today and I’d rather watch American Ninja Warrior.” Then he would say “I murdered someone and live with that every day and now I run a taco business.” Then he’d probably say “checkmate” or I’d say “touche,” depending on the levity of the conversation.

I’m not saying the obstacles of laziness or apathy aren’t real. They’re very real and can feel like mountains in the way of progress. But did you murder someone? No? Then you can probably dig up 20 minutes to be productive.

And maybe you did murder someone. That’s a pretty big deal. But you could still open up a taco stand.

Make A Decision

You’ve probably been on the fence about something for far too long. You don’t want to make a commitment one way or the other. You’re trying to keep everyone happy. But you’re making yourself miserable.

If you think you’re not on the fence and you’re feeling miserable, take a harder look. Maybe it’s one of those invisible fences and you’re wearing a shock collar.

Make a decision. It’s going to make you feel great.

NoisePicnic: Creative Podcasts from Creative People

Let’s get back on track, shall we? Creativity! Inspiration! Laziness! Go!

So, surprise surprise, another new website. But, to show off my true laziness, announcing it isn’t even my scoop. The PlopList, a comedy podcast hub, has beaten me to the punch twice. Sure, I gave them the interview and told them about the website in the first place. Just, you know. I’m lazy, so I didn’t write it up myself right here on the website where I write about my projects.

But I did create the project! So there’s something. Anyway, let’s talk about it. Yeah?

NoisePicnic is a Minneapolis based podcast community focused on providing talented Minnesotans with the resources they need to create and publish their own podcasts. There is a staggering wealth of talent here in the Midwest. Podcasts are a great and easy way to share it with the world. I wrote an explication point after that sentence, but deleted it. Sounded too cheerleaderish.

The site was born when Mike Fotis, of improv and storytelling fringe fame, started up his own podcast for Metro Magazine (I wrote “megazine” by accident. The internet didn’t kill magazines. Megazine did!). But Mike didn’t have a place to put his archived podcasts and didn’t have an RSS feed.

So, I says. Why don’t we throw all our podcasts in a pot and invite other people along? And with a little inspiration from Wolf Den and Seth Godin, we were cooking.

Currently, the site has three podcast. All from the two of us. But there are three more podcasts in the works. And hopefully more to come after that!

So, NoisePicnic is in the Twin Cities to help create a podcasting community out of the already massive creative community. Also, you know. It’s also a good place to go if you want to listen to podcasts. That’s kind of the main point of it, right? It’s not just creative people sitting around and patting themselves on the back. That’s the Oscars.