What It Means To Be Home

It’s been about six weeks since I’ve been home in Montana. It’s good to be home, in spite of the fact I’m far far away from my dear one. Being here I feel more grounded and solid than I have for a while but at the same time movement and action feels closer to me. I’m more capable of getting what I need.
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I’m a substitute

I’ve been working in the East Helena public schools. Ilgaz and I worked out there last year with our special Galloping Hand after school program. This year I’m on staff in the after school program working three days a week. Two days as an arts instructor and one day as a STEM instructor for kindergartners. (STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering and math.) Apart from getting to brainstorm new projects every week for, as my sister calls them, little-year-olds I’ve been working as a substitute teacher.

The East Helena Public School system is remarkable. It’s three schools, pre-K to first grade at Eastgate, 2-6 at Radley, and the East Valley Middle School. It’s small enough that as a sub I’m a known quantity. I have gotten to know at least a few kids at every school and school staff are on-it and care about the kids. When I subbed for a few months in Helena schools last year I was always in a new school and so always felt a little lost. The best days subbing are days when I know the room.

I’m an office assistant

Apart from that work I’ve been making an effort to learn about the business my parents have run for the past 19 years. There’s a lot about the real estate business that I know already from having to wait around the office, poking around or from going on countless weekend house tours just for the fun of it, getting quizzed by my dad about this and that, working to ball park the value of a place.

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I’m a home remodeler

Then there’s the work on my apartment. I’m trying to pull it together for Ilgaz’s arrival in December. So far checked off the list:
* Refinished wood floors
* New vinyl in the kitchen and bath
* Paint in the bathroom, bedrooms, doors and trim
* New pedestal sink ($20 ReStore)
* Refinished heater covers
* New chimney liner

That plus a hundred little details I distract myself with like scrubbing old door knobs of paint and fixing rattling windows and installing new light fixtures that match the era of the house that I’ve gotten for a song at the ReStore, a second hand shop for building materials.

I was thinking this morning about working on a house. It’s never really finished. The list of little things to be done, here and there is endless. That’s why people call them money pits. But my attitude is that, like a life, a house is never really finished until the day you move out.

I’m a candy man

Alongside all this I’ve got a new and goofy project. My dad and I went in on a cotton candy maker from the old Ton’s of Fun. A defunct batting cages, go carts, laser tag place in Helena.

That’s right. I’ve got a cotton candy maker. Just take a moment and let that sink in. I now have my own professional cotton candy machine and it’s glorious.

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I remember lingering at the cotton candy stand at the carnival one year, standing on a wooden box, peering into the window at the blurred spinning head of a cotton candy machine, asking all kinds of questions to the severely bored and sugar armed young woman pouring pink sugar into the spinner. A beat. Then like magic cotton candy started to appear on the rim of the big bowl, the lady started to roll it around a paper cone.

“How does that work?”
“It melts it.”
“Is it hot when it comes out?”
“I don’t know.”
“Can I touch it?”
“No.”
“Why?”
“Look, just buy some if you want it.”

Well, now that I have my own cotton candy maker I have learned that it’s not hot when it comes out. Warm, but not hot. I also learned there is a very good reason not to reach your hand in the bowl, not unless you want to get your hand instantly cocooned in sugar webs. Even so it’s not that bad. So long as there’s a sink near by I don’t think anybody should mind having a sugar mit.

I’m active.

Working on cutting down debt, building up a base again and anticipating Ilgaz getting here in December all feels pretty darn good. Keeping busy and all the while leaving room for the kind of fun stuff I don’t think I will ever be able to give up is good for me.

Doppelgänger Ilgaz

Do you know Jenny Slate? She’s a comic and an actress, was on SNL for a while and made the movie Obvious Child and an internet thing I’ve never seen before called Marcelle the Shell with Shoes On. She also looks like Ilgaz.

In this interview from Conan she mentions that her Great Grandfather is Turkish. I bet he’s from Sivas, that where Ilgaz’ family is from.

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Moving Home in 2016

People used to move to another country once in a generation if at all. It’s never fun to move. Never easy. And moving overseas is even worse. The tight baggage limits on airplanes make me dream for the days of steamer trunks and make me hate things that are essential but take up too much space. Like winter coats.

But I’ll do what it takes to sort and give and trash and squeeze what’s left into as small a space as possible.

It’s kind of stupid to take anything with me at all. I’ll be moving back to Montana where I already have an attic full of stuff waiting for me since I moved out of my place 5 or so years ago. An apartment’s worth of stuff waiting up there for me, baking in the summers and freezing in the winters. Soon enough I’ll be sorting through it all again seeing how I probably didn’t need to sweat about fitting three sweaters into my luggage when there are four waiting for me at home.

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What’s up in the attic?

  • Books, three shelves worth
  • Some dresser from Common Market
  • I think a table, Sara and Chris gave me
  • A couch? Don’t know
  • Kitchen stuff? I think my juicer is at my parent’s house
  • My old desk I got from a crazy person when I turned 13? I think so, but maybe not.
  • Raccoon skin. For sure.

Ilgaz and I were talking about what kind of things I have in that attic and what we might need when she joins me in Montana in December.

I think I’ll need a couch for instance. But I don’t want to have to think about buying a couch. First of all I don’t really need a couch. Maslow never mentions sofas in his hierarchy of needs. (Food, shelter, belonging, pull out couch bed, self actualization.) Plus most couches look terrible. In catalog photos most are flabby leather monsters surrounded by fake plants or huge ‘L’ shaped sectionals that look too heavy to move.

Of course I know I’m getting ahead of myself by thinking about a couch. But here I am, thinking about a couch anyway.

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“What about Ikea?” Ilgaz innocently asks.

I had to look it up, but the nearest Ikea to Helena is 460 miles away. (That’s 740 kilometers for the metric among us.) I learned in High School reading Fight Club that I’m supposed to hate Ikea because it makes me the same as everyone else. But there is a utility to Ikea stuff that I appreciate. Good dish racks for instance. Good mixing bowls. Good bedside lamps. Good duvets. It’s not that bad but it’s probably out of the question for furnishing a Montana apartment.

I looked up the 2017 Ikea catalog anyway. Just out of curiosity, and found this article Ikea’s 2017 Catalog Is A Terrifying Glimpse Into The Tiny Apartments Of The Future

It’s a commentary on the new catalog, and the ideal apartments Ikea is presenting. Unlike the faux-sophisticated Scandinavian sameness Fight Club criticized, the new ideal is micro living. Not far from the fold away functionality of the YouTube famous tiny houses, or RV/van life, a gerbil cage or a prison cell.

Moving back to my apartment in Montana represents some security for me. Over time I want to build it up into some place comfortable. And that might mean getting a couch. But seeing tiny Ikea apartments idealized then criticized makes me think the most luxurious thing about my apartment might be the open space. Maybe I don’t need a couch after all.

Everything Is Not Terrible

The feeling that everything is terrible is a familiar one to news followers everywhere. I question my own news consumption from time to time. I tell myself that I want to keep informed, but most of the time my relationship to the news is like my relationship to the TV show Game of Thrones. I like keeping up, guessing what will happen and getting morbidly excited the rare with dark twists.

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I like this article:
How to Stay Happy When the News is Bad. It moves from the classic advice on news overload (stop reading the news) through the optimist viewpoint (the world is better now than ever before) to something more subtle all together.

Stop Reading

“Out of the approximately 10,000 news stories you have read in the last 12 months,” Rolf Dobelli, author of The Art Of Thinking Clearly, “name one that – because you consumed it – allowed you to make a better decision about a serious matter affecting your life, your career or your business. The point is: the consumption of news is irrelevant to you.”

Good point, but the news feels relevant to people who are connected to many places in the world or who have friends living in some of the places that pop up in the headlines. Reading news becomes a way to stay connected to those people, to keep up with their reality, even if it’s in a superficial way, even if it’s not truely relevant. It feels important.

Look on the Bright Side

We know, rationally, that people in every era have always believed that theirs was the worst in history – and that, by many yardsticks, things are better than ever. Yet the conviction that Everything Is Terrible remains. And now it is joined by the conviction that everything is uncertain, too, fuelling an escalating anxiety about the future.

I find myself saying this kind of thing all the time. I’m safe, you’re safe. We’re all better off now than ever before, but still just as worried because there is a baseline of pain and anxiety that every generation feels. If we judge the circumstance as really bad, then, wow, I can’t believe you made it through all that with a smile on your face. Or if we think the circumstance is comfortable (Millennials) we think, stop complaining so much and get to work. But through history everybody has felt about the same.

“Stability isn’t news” is the argument here. Things are OK but shocking things happen pretty regularly somewhere in the world and we’re reading about those things. Simultaneously expanding our personal circle of compassion and feeding into our worry.

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The Solution?

“The answer is that life is really, really good. I am a complex enough being that I can hold in my heart the understanding that we are really, really fucked, and at the same time that life is really, really good. I am full of rage, sorrow, joy, love, hate, despair, happiness, dissatisfaction, and a thousand other feelings. We are really fucked. Life is still really good.”

Ten years ago I was in the doctor’s office getting a check-up before I left for college in New Zealand. Near the end of the visit my doctor asked if I had any questions or if anything was bothering me. I mentioned that my hips would hurt from time to time, a kind of stiff grinding feeling. I was thinking that maybe I would get some treatment, he’d have a closer look, find that there was some inter-muscular-boneitus failure of some kind. He asked me how often I exercised. “Never really,” I said. “Exercise, and it will go away,” he said. The oldest prescription in the book. Right next to eat better, sleep more.

There are no philosophical tricks to being able to beat the news blues. It’s a simple prescription. Something is bothering you? Do something about it. Make some effort, however small, toward building a better world. Volunteer, donate, write a letter to the Editor. Something that will activate you.

Because the news is not Game of Thrones. We have the option to play along and participate and that alone might be the answer to feeling overwhelmed. It might not fix the world or prevent the next Red Wedding but it’s something.

What Shock Looks Like

Watch this video. Tyler comes to help his boss who seems to have stapled his finger to a plank of wood. It’s a prank of course, the finger is fine. But it takes Tyler a very long time to recognise that his boss is OK.

Maybe Tyler is dumb. But I don’t think so. I think Tyler is in shock. So focused on the task of freeing his bosses finger, that all the new information about the situation is filtered out. It’s like that great video about the kids playing basket ball demonstrating selective attention.

We know Tyler is going to be tricked but his boss removes his own finger three times before Tyler really sees what we see. HIs focus lasts for so long. There must be a name for this in the taxonomy of comedy. Focusing on a problem that isn’t a problem. Is there? I don’t know what it is.