Archive for Gratitude

Spring Cleaning

No more letters from my grandpa, sadly. At least, none that I can find. Starting a project and then procrastinating until you forget about it is timeless, I guess.

Something strange has been going on these last two weeks. I asked my friend Kevin to help me take a look at all the work that needed to be done getting my grandma’s house, and he in turn asked his mom to come, who has a lot of experience cleaning out old houses. For the last two weeks the whole Davis family has helped me pack, move, and clean a house that has not had a deep clean in years. they asked for nothing in return, and between them and me, we’ve probably logged over a hundred hours on that old house.

I mention this because I don’t understand. I’ve always heard about this kind of generosity, but I’ve never actually encountered it before. All these favors and time and they get nothing out of it?

Well that’s not entirely true. I did give them an old chair and a veg-o-matic. But that doesn’t really cut it, I think.

It’s been a formative experience. Instructive, too. You learn how to treat others from how they treat you. nine times out of ten, that leads to folks treating each other like garbage. this is the tenth time, the time a person can draw their ideals from. A shining example that becomes the basis of how I treat people from now on.

Which really just adds on to the list of favors I owe them.

An Old Letter

While I was cleaning out my grandma’s house, I found an old letter from my grandpa, addressed to me. I only have two memories of the man. The first memory was him taking me out to Applebee’s for ice cream. The second was of the day he died, though he wasn’t really there for that one. After reading this letter, I wish I had known him better. It reads:

January 10, 1990

Letters to my unborn grandson

Dear __________ ,

          I don’t know your name because your mother, my daughter, and your father can’t agree on a name for you. I suggested several, but kids never follow a parent’s suggestion. Maybe you ought to make a note of that profundity for future reference, which brings me to the point of these and other letters which are to follow. Anyone who has reached my advanced age wants to insure that his progeny (look it up) doesn’t make the same mistakes that he made, as he at least makes an attempt to allow the possibility that his grandson will have a chance for a better life than he has had. It is not that I had a bad life by any means, but we always want something better for our kids and their kids. Beside that, I think it is a good idea to tell you something of the way your predecessors lived. That way you may better appreciate whatever advantages may come your way. Also, I might not be around when you reach the age of understanding.

          In my short life I have seen an enormous growth of technology. Some of these are talking movies, technicolor, T.V., radar, dirigibles, which I used to see fairly often as a small child in Dallas, jet planes, rockets, nuclear power, and a myriad of wonders in the areas of chemistry, astronomy, physics, biology, medicine, and so on too numerous to mention and most of which I don’t understand anyway.

         I have lived through three major wars and never served in any of them. I was too young for World War II (look it up, it was in all the papers); Korea came along when I was old enough, but three of the armed forces didn’t want guys with flat feet. Incidentally, if you have flat feet, you get them from me. All of the males from my mother’s side have, or had, flat feet. I used to fret about not having been in the service, but I have since come to the conclusion that it was a blessing in disguise. I don’t think that you will ever be called upon to serve, much less actually see combat. Events in the last six months have pretty much excluded the threat of any major conflicts in the United States.

The letter ends there. He probably intended to write more. Whether there are more letters hiding in that old house or not, I don’t know. I hope there are.

-Austin

The Great Winter of Meh

Alright, this has got be one of the crappier winters on record. There’s enough hardship here at GiTH right now to fill two novels and a soap opera.

Some things didn’t pan out last week. Dan and I were going to debut a big thing we were working on, but through no fault of our own it didn’t get done, and some deadlines were missed. Dan was way more bummed out about it than I was, I think due to losing out on a potential payday.

So that big reveal will have to wait some more.

It’s not so much that things are falling apart, it’s that they’ve slowed to a halt. Dan is in a routine he likes, but not one he wants to stay in forever. Clark doesn’t like where he’s at, but likes the person he might be in a year or so. Me, I’m moving forward the only way I know how. Slowly and with more self-doubt than there needs to be.

Not a whole lot of positives in our collective lives right now.

Except that’s not exactly true. We have a lot to be grateful for. Family that loves us, friends that sustain us, and talent that drives us forward.

I forget that sometimes. We all do. It’s especially easy to forget when life comes knocking like it has in the last month. So this is my reminder to me and message to them. It’s tough right now, but this too shall pass. In the mean time, lean on those who love you, and the winter might get a little warmer.

This Was a Triumph

One year ago, Dan doubled down on dreaming big, Austin considered coping mechanisms, and I promised myself a year of hardship.

Today? Dan is declaring the death of his childhood, Austin is watching a loved one fade away, and my year has been overwhelmingly difficult.

Mission accomplished?

I think so.

All cynicism aside, this year has been a massive turning point for the writers of Gold in Them Hills. Dan made huge steps towards publishing his work, Austin helped dozens of kids find a sense of stability, and I completely abandoned my comfort zone on a quest for perspective.

Amid the paralyzing anxiety, forced deadlines, longing for companionship, inability to find my dream job, roller coaster of emotions, and utter confusion, I’ve managed to come out of 2014 with more passion and drive than ever before. Bigger things are coming, and this time I’m going to ride the wave instead of being pummeled by it.

There’s a fire in my heart, and it’s not going anywhere. I have a few announcements in the pipeline for 2015, and I’m sharpening my skills and hitting my knees for the next season of life.

So here’s to 2015. May you all learn from your mistakes, remember the good times, and be brave enough to keep trying when the times are tough.

– Clark

A Brief Check-In

Life is finally starting to resume after the strange fugue summer, Dan’s wedding, and the new job. I lost my new confidence and found it, and in finding it feel alive again.

I realized (again) I have a voice, and competencies, and a worldview. Even the people that have been at this job for years have things to learn from me.  There are things I need to improve upon, of course. I imagine literally everybody two months into a new job has things they need to improve on. But I’m stepping up more, and people are starting to tell me it shows. More than that, I’m starting to remember the old lessons on valuing myself, and I can feel that sense of congruence returning.

Big things are coming down the tube between Dan and I. Tomorrow I start really digging in my creative heels. I’ll let him break the news (because I know it would break his heart if he didn’t), but I will say some lifelong dreams are about to come true.

With Christmas on the way, and I’m finally in the same town as my family when it happens. On top of that, I have money to spend on them. Hopefully, that will be a trend for the foreseeable future.

With any luck, this is the start of that transition from surviving to thriving that marks an interesting life.

-Austin

Happy Thanksgiving!

Autumn Abstract

A good friend of the Gold in Them Hills crew is staying at Dan’s and my house, so I’m forgoing a long post to simply say Happy Thanksgiving!

We’re so thankful for the friends, mothers, fathers, friends who are mothers, mothers who are friends, and anyone else who has played a part in blessing us so abundantly over the last year. You are truly worth celebrating.

Now go be with your loved ones!

Outta My Shell

PaintedTurtleWeb

I’m starting to get more comfortable with my coworkers, work expectations, and management team. As a result, I’m starting to behave more and more like the silly, stubborn, eccentric Clark I am. Good news: my new friends still like me, and I have a couple coworkers that want to spent time with me outside of work.

I’m elated.

I had been worried that my Western outlook would fare poorly in a big city. Fortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case. My slightly slower, more personal approach to customer service rewarded me with a company-wide shout that was forwarded to many of my company’s managers. My general manager printed the email out and taped it to her door like a proud mom with a finger painting. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it, but I was a bit giddy at the time.

I set the bar high, and now I need to work hard to raise it even higher. It feels great to work hard, and it makes the hundreds of NYC inconveniences seem a bit more bearable. It feels great to finally start coming out of my shell.

Bird’s Eye View

Birds of New York State

As some of you know, I’m quick to get tunnel vision and freeze up when I’m feeling overwhelmed. With a new job, new city, and new friends, the odds of me getting anxious are pretty high.

So as a small exercise, I’m stepping back from the hurricane of new information to look at the last month from a bird’s eye view. Here goes:

 I survived a month in New York City. I have friends, old and new. I found a job within 30 days of landing. I’ve learned a lot of new information, and I’m retaining most of it. I have events to look forward to, and interesting stories to tell. I have a loving family, and people from all over the country that care about me. I sleep at night, paint every day, and go to the gym a few times a week. I’m healthy, hardworking, and energetic.

To many, this may sound like some sort of humblebrag. But seeing these facts written reminds me that I’m capable of adapting and learning in new situations – that I’m never truly stuck. My life can be better than ever- physically, spiritually, and intellectually. I have no reason to feel trapped or hopeless, as I sometimes do when met with hardships.

I hate to be a Polyanna, but from a bird’s eye view, life is pretty darn good.

The Peanut Butter Incident

Like I mentioned earlier, I try not to give out details for confidentiality reasons. So, here’s the HIPAA compliant outline. There was an incident at my place of work from which I gleaned much professional insight. It starts with me being a hard-ass. It ends with peanut butter being thrown at my head.

When I started this job, my supervisor recommended I start off very strict with the children, and then transition to being more lenient once the precedent was set. Good advice. Then one of my coworkers saw me try to put it into practice. He told me “Dude, you’re getting into power struggles with these kids. The other kids see that, and know that they can mess with you.”

So, I learned that there’s a time for being strict and a time for giving them a break.

And then I learned about the peanut butter. It turns out that we try to keep at least a couple jars of the stuff in the building at all times. We don’t deny them food, and kids, as they get older, are hungry all the time. As a compromise, they can request a spoonful of peanut butter at pretty much any time.

The astute reader may already realize that this is a privilege that is easily abused. As a result, I chose to be a hard-ass about this particular rule.

Now, I really wish I could go into details. Needless to say, I didn’t read the situation right, and said no at the wrong time, and got peanut butter thrown at my head. It missed, lucky for me, but it did make a mess.

It’s not important. What’s important is what happened afterward.

The first thing I said (after a few combat breaths) was “You were right. I screwed up.” And all that anger fell away. The kid just wanted someone to hear him/her out, and that string of no’s just built up until it popped, like it would with anyone. And because I admitted I made a mistake, not only did we walk away from this as something we could laugh at, that kid learned a lesson in owning your mistakes that he/she will remember.

The moral is, I’m not perfect. And that’s okay. More than that, because I know that I’m not perfect, it gives me a shot at becoming great at this job. Mental Health is helping other people be more authentic in their lives. We teach people how to be human. And part of that is learning how to be really good humans ourselves.

That day, I learned how to be more human. In so doing, another person learned the same lesson. To me, that’s a victory.

Raison d’être

PaintMo Week 1

To celebrate my first week working at a French café, I painted a few items off the menu.

The new job is challenging, but I’m working hard and meeting lots of new people. It feels great to work again, even if it’s in food service. I knew that I wanted to work as soon as possible, but I hadn’t realized just how much I missed it until I started again. So I’m working, painting, and exploring every day – what a rush!