Subscribe!

Enter your email address to subscribe to The Iron Buzz and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 35 other subscribers

Archives
Categories

ice cream homemade ice cream home made ice cream cub scouts scouts boy scouts scouting activity cooking recipeA while back, I was stumped for ideas on how to entertain my cub scouts for an hour. It was hot and awful outside, so running was out. We had already launched water rockets, so that was out. And we couldn’t cook, because it was hot and awful. Then, as I was digging through my supplies in the garage, I found our ice cream ball. The Patient Wife and I got it as a wedding gift and had used it several times at the apartment, but I had forgotten about it in the move to our new house. This was going to be awesome.

First, I found a simple recipe for ice cream. You’ll need the following supplies:

1 quart of Cream
1 tablespoon vanilla
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
Ten pounds of ice
1 cup of Rock Salt

Start by asking the kids if they know what ice cream is. Every kid should say yes, but some will have difficulty articulating what ice cream IS. Is it candy? Is it a vegetable? Is it pie?  The kids will always tell you what it ISN’T, but few will be able to tell you what it IS.

At this point, hand each child a cup. Explain to them that ice cream is a TREAT, and isn’t something that should be eaten all the time. With that base covered, explain that it’s frozen cream. Ask if they know what cream is. Put a little bit of cream in each of their cups. Tell them that it’s the most important part of the ice cream. Let them drink it and watch their faces. It’s priceless. You can almost feel their disappointment.

Anyway, move on to the next ingredient. Vanilla. Again, put a little bit in each of their cups. Explain to them that vanilla comes from a long bean, and let them try it. Then let them try a little cream mixed with vanilla. Most will agree that it tastes better.

Now comes the sugar. Let them taste the sugar, mix a little bit of all three together and let them try it. By this point, they should show some recognition of the flavors. Most will claim that they recognize the flavor as vanilla ice cream and they’ll be PUMPED.

Mix all your ingredients together and put them in the ice cream ball. Fill the other side of the ball with a cup of salt and as much ice as it will hold and seal it up.

With this kind of ice cream ball, you need to be REALLY careful. Don’t throw it. Seriously. Don’t be stupid. It’ll break. Roll the ball. For 15-30 minutes.

Remember when I said don’t be stupid? Don’t be stupid. Those kids won’t sit still for 30 minutes. Will they?

Start by sitting in a circle. Roll the ball to a kid and name an animal that starts with A. The kid you roll the ball to has to name an animal that starts with B. Then he rolls the ball to another kid who has to name an animal that starts with C. Get it?  Good. Then change it. Go through the alphabet once and then change to vegetables. Then fruit. Then instruments. Then get up and make all the kids run around while you shake the hell out of the ball yourself for a few minutes.

By the grace of God, my kids lasted a full 25 minutes before we went outside to play tag while I shook the ball for another five minutes, but when I was done, we had the ice cream you see above, and El Chris, Cubmaster Extraordinaire, saved the day.

mickey mouse conducting band conductor music 1812When I was young, I had terrible insomnia. One cure, my mother discovered, was Garrison Keillor on my tape player. I would listen to him and his classic Prairie Home Companion bits on my sweet JVC boombox and fall asleep to that velvet baritone.

Well, when I was ten, I got a CD player for Christmas that changed how I saw music. I was given several CDs full of Aaron Copland, Vivaldi, Tchaikovski, and Miles Davis. I was in love. Who KNEW Music could be this enchanting? Since I didn’t have many friends and didn’t do a whole lot outside of Boy Scouts, I spent a lot of time dialing into every local BBS that I could find. Since MP3 hadn’t made it big yet (it was 1996) I had to play music on my CD player. Over and over, I played Applachian Spring. Dvorak’s New World. Vivaldi’s bassoon concertos. Dukas, Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Saint-Saëns, I couldn’t get enough.

It got to the point where I knew every second of each of my favorite songs. I could cue either the string section or the Mormon Tabernacle in The 1812 Overture, I could cue the church bell in Night on the Bald Mountain, and I could tell the French horns they needed to tune in The Sorceror’s Apprentice. I could wave my arms and if I place my speakers in juuuuuuust the right spots, I could turn and bring in each section and almost feel like I had an orchestra in front of me.
I almost did it tonight in Wal-Mart, and if the stock lady with the mustache hadn’t walked into the aisle unexpectedly, I would have started cueing the French horns to do their thing in William Tell.

 

Chapel phlmont philmount philmnt new mexico philmont scout ranch psr boy scouts boy scout camp scout camp

“One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am – a reluctant enthusiast….a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.”
Edward Abbey

Back in 2009, you might remember that I spent the summer at scout camp. It was my final hurrah, my last summer vacation ever. That year was an intense emotional year. Ending an old but toxic romance, starting a new romance (with The Patient Wife!), dropping out of grad school, finding out about my bad heart, and losing my job all within 5 months was pretty brutal. I needed to do something positive to put a note of finality on my education, so I went west for one last time.

In 2003, I tried to work there. “I have two summers of camp staff under my belt,” I thought. “This will be amazing!”

I lasted six weeks. That toxic romance I was involved in? I left because of that. I missed my girlfriend, I missed home, and I missed my friends. My girlfriend at the time convinced me to come home and leave my dream job of being a backpacking guide. In my naïveté, I figured that she was right. It was the dumbest thing I ever did.

In my six year hiatus from camp staff, I spent a week every summer at camp with the Boy Scout troop I grew up in, but it just wasn’t the same. God is present when you’re working with kids, but the magic was different. I needed mountains. I needed a wide open space. I needed strange plants and ponderosa pines and dehydrated food. One song, based on the quote above, got me through those six years.

The day I decided to withdraw from grad school, I knew that I needed camp. I needed it one last time, and I asked for it. And then I got it.

I decided to drive down, and my snobby Volvo (that I bought with a student loan, remember the bad choices talks I missed?) got me from  The Patient Girlfriend’s apartment to New Mexico  on what was the most peaceful drive of my life. It was an amazing time to reflect and to think.

I think the reason I was so excited to go work at camp this one last time was because it was the closest I could get to running from my problems and fears. I was 24 and hadn’t known a year without school since I had been 5. I had no idea what I was going to do with my life. But I knew how to be camp staff. I knew how to run a photo lab (which I would be doing) and I KNEW how to stay in love with the outdoors.

This was the place that made me fall in love with backpacking when I was 14. This was the place that broke me in 2003. When I started expressing my doubt to The Patient Girlfriend, my doubt that this was actually the right place for me, she told me I would be a fool to leave before my contract was up. She sent me and the whole department care packages. she wrote me letters and came to visit. She missed me, but in that time, she made it incredibly clear that I was having the summer of a lifetime and that I would be a FOOL to leave. And she was right.

While I was down there, there was a mountain band who was born and raised at Philmont. They played at one of the backcountry mountain camps, and they wrote this song, which is one of my favorites. I made a movie out of it, with a single photo of what I ultimately found out at camp.

When I feel broken now, and when I feel discouraged by what I do for work, or when I hate my day, or when I feel like I’m not good enough, I will remember that I will get my one sweet victory over those deskbound people with their hearts in a box.

 

Listen to the song, and listen especially close at that final, convicting line.

Magdalene_green_sleeves

 

When I was younger, I used to sing frequently inside my head. We’re talking young, like second-or-third-grade young. I was always very into music, but I had an insecurity with singing stemming from when I was 5 and a classmate found out I could sing, although in a youthful soprano. Well, my classmate and accused me of being a girl and that I was just pretending to be a boy (since all kindergarten boys obviously sing in a rich baritone) and that was the end of my youthful singing.

My sisters, however, had no such insecurities, and would sing (in their best girl voices, I might add) to their hearts’ content.

My older sister was in a select choir, the name of which escapes me, comprised of other kids our age who could carry a tune better than your average youth. They met at a local music store called “The Whole Note” every week and sang, and once in a while they would have a concert.

One day, Older Sister came home and was singing to herself, much to my annoyance, and I noticed that it was a Christmas song. I pushed for information without trying to sound too interested, and found out that in addition to being a Christmas song, it was also a song called “Greensleeves”. The words were

Alas, my love, you do me wrong
To cast me off discourteously…
and so on. I wasn’t sure why, but those words stuck with me.

Now, I was a weird kid. Not just because I was in a family band called “The Lollipop Licks” (which really made me more of a victim of circumstance than weird), not because I was hopped up on Ritalin, but because when I learned that the word “ass” was a naughty way to say “butt”, the first thing that popped into my head was the first line to that song.

All ass, my love, you do me wrong…..
 


Storefront

When I was in my early twenties, I did stupid crap with credit cards. I tried to buy the affection of my girlfriend as a solution to a painfully unhealthy relationship, I went to an expensive gym, had an expensive cell phone plan (with 1000 texts and UNLIMITED mobile web!) and I ended up racking up a fair amount of debt. I determined that I needed to work full time while I was in school.

At the persistence of my college girlfriend, I put in my time at Nordstrom and I hated every second of it. I started working in the Kidswear Boys department, but dealing with entitled young fellas with WASP parents proved to be a little too taxing for yours truly. I moved on to the At Home department, but let’s face it. I’m more like a nerdy lumberjack than a crystal-and-bedsheets kind of guy. While my boss was pretty cool (Hi, Kristi!) I couldn’t take much more of it. I hated the job. I hated the product. I hated the atmosphere. I had zero fashion sense, kept my hair shaggy and my shirts less than pressed, and most of all, I was terrible at selling stuff I didn’t want. It ate at me. I dreaded the boredom I faced at Nordstrom. But I spent nine months there, not bothering to look for anything else.

After I while, I decided that I would be going to school in Mankato. There was (and still is) no Nordstrom in Mankato, so I went and got a job with Major Unnamed Electronics Retailer.  At first, I loved it. LOVED it. I would volunteer for extra shifts. I enjoyed my co-workers. My supervisors respected me, and I them. They said it wouldn’t be an issue for me to transfer to Mankato, and they were right!

Mankato was a different world. We were a solid sales team. I got a good discount on good electronics. I could pay for my car and my credit card bills! Life was good, for a while. I was rigorously trained as an effective salesman, and one of the managers (we’ll call him Braindead Stains) called me out in front of the staff as an example employee after my first month. Work was going well. Even though I was working full time and attending class as a full time student, I still managed to do ok. Life was stressful, but good.

For a while.

After a while, I was told to promise things to people that weren’t *TECHNICALLY* untrue, but clearly were horrible exaggerations. I was told that was fine and expected of me. “Well, I’m just spinning it differently,” I thought. And that was enough.

Then I was expected to do the same thing with dial-up Internet subscriptions. I was instructed to leave out the fact that there were no local numbers to dial. Unless they ASKED, of course. Major Unnamed Electronics Retailer would NEVER expect us to lie.

After that I was expected to sell computers that were the highest profit. If a computer with a low profit margin (such as those with instant rebates) fit a customer’s needs, and I sold it, we would lose money I would hear about it.

The day everything changed was the day I let slip that I didn’t believe that every person could be convinced to buy something, no matter what. I was no longer a good little worker bee.

Then things started to sloooowly go downhill. My hours slowly declined. Very slowly at first. I was full time so they couldn’t drop much, but they did.

Then one day I got fired. Because I was in my car with a friend before my shift and I quoted the movie Office Space. And I got rehired because Captain Chuck pulled a string.

Then my hours dropped. I counted it as a celebration when I consolidated my credit card debt and could finally afford to work part time, but then that became a weapon. I was given eight hours a week, then four. I had to call my mom in tears because I suddenly couldn’t afford my car or my bills. At 23, that’s HARD.

The store leadership, a clique who was centered around (and hired by) the store manager, was far too cowardly to fire me. Plus, if he exercised his right to fire me as an employee at will, he would have to pay unemployment. So. Passive aggression for the win.

Their way out was finally when I took my trip to Madrid to study abroad. It was okay for every other employee to take the summer off and go home, but not for me.

I finally quit. I gave them two years and two months. When I quit, I was beaten. I was dead. I had been told to lie for money. I had been berated. I had been told that being the best in the company wasn’t good enough. For two years, I had been told that I wasn’t good enough, and I was dumb enough to believe it.

Someone told me that no matter how menial the job, I should try to learn something from it. No matter what. From Nordstrom, I learned that I can’t and shouldn’t sell something I don’t like.

From Major Unnamed Electronics Retailer, I learned that no job is worth my ethics. No job is worth my word. NO job is worth my soul. I will NEVER allow myself to be compromised like that again.

Maggie

I used to hate when people would read me poetry. In fact, I used to just hate poetry. I hated everything about it. I thought it was something reserved for that one kid with all the feelings so he could write about them in an AABBCC rhyme structure in his notebook. Poetry was stupid.

Turns out, I just hated when people read poetry. I still do. Please don’t read me poetry unless you know what you’re doing. How do you do that? I’ll tell you!

One of my favorite classes in college was Spanish Poetry. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I kept the book. I LOVED it. That class made poetry ok again. One day, my professor had a student read the poem. You could watch her head bounce in rhythm with each of the lines of the poem. I got dizzy watching and I got dizzy listening to her. He stopped her, mid-sentence, and told her to read it without pausing at the end of each line. He told her to quit making it rhyme. The difference was drastic.

Flash forward to a year later, my cat Maggie, pictured in her final days above, died. She was never very bright (she used to bite the TV power cord and yelp when she’d get shocked, then she would put her paws in candle flames) but she was very loved. She was also 18, and I suspect she lost her joie de vivre when we got our golden retriever. Once she figured out that our dog would be staying with us forever, she was done. She was also 18.

When I heard of her death, I was inspired to look up what I thought was an old story I had heard on Garrison Keillor’s album “Songs of the Cat” when I was a child. I was SHOCKED to learn that it was a poem, given how beautifully he read it. When you listen to him read, the rhyme is present, but quite subtle. It’s beautiful. It’s masterful. And it changed poetry for me forever.

Here it is, with little fanfare. The poem that changed poetry for me forever.

In Memory of Our Cat, Ralph

by Garrison Keillor

When we got home, it was almost dark.
Our neighbor waited on the walk.
“I’m sorry, I have bad news,” he said.
“Your cat, the gray-black one, is dead.
I found him by the garage an hour ago.”
“Thank you,” I said, “for letting us know.”
We dug a hole in the flower bed
With lilac bushes overhead,
Where this cat loved to lie in spring
And roll in dirt and eat the green
Delicious first spring bud,
And laid him down and covered him up,
Wrapped in a piece of tablecloth,
Our good old cat laid in the earth.
We quickly turned and went inside
The empty house and sat and cried
Softly in the dark some tears
For that familiar voice, that fur,
That soft weight missing from our laps,
That we had loved too well perhaps
And mourned from weakness of the heart.
A childish weakness, to regard
An animal whose life is brief
With such affection and such grief.
If such is weakness, so it be.
This modest elegy
Is only meant to note the death
Of one cat so we won’t forget
His face, his name, his gift
Of cat affection while he lived,
The sweet shy nature
Of this graceful creature,
The simple pleasure of himself,
The memory of our cat, Ralph.

Logo for Mori no Ike

I like words. I’ve always liked words. When I was in high school, my gift for words and language was nurtured, and as loudly as I complained about high school, I’m forever grateful for that. I was the first student at my high school who took three of the four languages offered, and the only reason I didn’t take German was because I would have had to start it after everyone else was a quarter ahead of me.

My senior year, I began studying Japanese. I was already damn near fluent in Spanish by that point and had skipped a year of French, and Japanese was a new challenge. Plus, there were girls in Japanese class. In fact, I met The Patient Wife because of Japanese class, but that’s a post for another day.

During about the first week, Sensei told us about a Japanese camp that we could go to, and I was SOLD. I would be there. There would be camp. And there would be food. And there would be girls. And there would be coffee. And there would be GIRLS. Japanese camp was going to be AWESOME.

Camp was indeed awesome. Nobody there had ever been to scout camp with the likes of ME before, so I brought some scout camp to Japanese camp. We sang songs. We hooted and hollered. We made Sensei go crazy. Mission. Accomplished.

Today, in 2001, I got back from Japanese camp. Life was good. I had a great time, I made good friends, and it made such an impression on me that I came home, logged into (the now defunct) Teenopendiary.com and wrote about it. The word blog wasn’t even around then, but I wrote anyway. I’m always amazed by how eloquent I thought I was in high school and what I actually wrote. Here’s what I wrote.

Itadakimasu – 11/4/2001

I got dressed this morning in Japan, and now, I sit in my humble abode and miss it. I was at Mori no Ike (Small pond of the forest, literally translated) Japanese camp through Concordia College. What an experience. I left during third hour on Thursday, and sat in a sweltering bus for five and a half hours until we got to bemiji. My counselor, Kanji, liked to teach us swear words. His favorite is fuck. I was amused. There were tons of people (and lots of girls. SKWEE!). All our meals were Kapanese food, and we had chopsticks, which led to some rather awkward eating and many jokes about my sloppy ability to use them. I prefer my fork. I met a lot of wonderful people, and I learned of a wonderful food called “Pockey” (said as “pokey”). It’s chocolaty and voluptuous. Download “Shingo Mama no Oha” by Katori Shingo. It rocks. It’s in Japanese.

My grandfather's marbles from when he was a boy.

My grandfather’s marbles from when he was a boy.

When I was in high school, I would go out of my way to act crazy and loud all the time. I thought that by acting like I lost my marbles meant I was being charmingly eccentric. Turns out I was being an obnoxious turd.

Another amazing ability I had in high school was the power to do nothing and skate by on my amazing ability to learn just enough to pass my tests. In short, I was lazy. I didn’t like to work, I didn’t like to get up in the morning, and I didn’t like to do anything hard. Period.

When I got to college, I became aware that this was a problem, although dimly. I also knew that fixing it would be hard work. And that, my friends, was terrifying.

Grad school was my first jaunt into The Difficult. Grad school was hard. Grad school was also a bad choice,  but for different reasons. It was still hard. And hard was scary.

My first inspiration to start working hard was when I found out about my bad heart. One night, just after one of my terrifying medical appointments, I was sitting in my student apartment. “Well shit,” I thought to myself. ” This is going to be a lot of work.” And as we know, hard is scary.

And it was. I had to watch my salt. I had to watch what I ate. Granted, I didn’t make the healthiest choices, but it was hard work. And hard is scary.

When The Patient Wife suggested we look for a house that might need some work, I was terrified. That sounded hard. And hard is scary.

But then I did it. And it was hard. And THINKING about it was scary. And DOING it was almost FUN. It was satisfying. It was rewarding. And I was hooked.

“Don’t refinish your floors yourself, it’s hard!” Said people on Facebook. But it had to happen, and hard or not, we didn’t have the money to do it any other way. So I did it. And it was hard. And again, thinking about it was scary. But doing it wasn’t scary.

This weekend, The Patient Wife (and her mother) spent a full twenty hours finishing two of the rooms in our house. They painted for ten hours straight for two days, and they’re going at it again. And it was hard. And it was completely worth it.

Today, The Patient Wife called me upstairs to see what she had put on the sewing cabinet of the first truly finished room in our new house. It was my grandfather’s marbles from when he was a boy. They had been carefully taken out of their old, tattered Crystal Sugar bag and transferred to a beautiful mason jar and set up on the shelf where they can look out and see all of our comings and goings.

I no longer go out of my way to act weird and obnoxious. I like to think I’m no longer lazy and that I’m not afraid of some hard work. I feel like I’m finally pulling together. I almost feel like I’ve finally found my marbles.

Unless you’re an idiot, you know that The Patient wife and I just bought our first house. Holy heck, was it a roller coaster.

We found the perfect house and lost it over and over and over again. While it’s not an uncommon occurrence, it’s a draining experience.

We found our perfect house, and a ball got dropped and our offer was placed and accepted but not filed, and we lost the house to a better offer.

Oh HELL no.

The other folks simply had more money. We HAD the house, and we lost it because someone screwed up. And we had no more money. Anywhere. We had cashed in our retirement accounts. We had cashed in our change. I sold all my stocks and my old baseball cards. Come Hell or high water, this house would be ours.

Our realtor told me that at this point, I should write a letter and include a photo. I did, and it worked. And everything I wrote was true. Here’s the letter.

Me and The Patient Wife at scout camp last April

My name is Christopher Ferguson, and I’m writing to you for me and for my wife, Courtney. We’ve fallen in love with the home you’re selling, and here is why. Courtney and I married two and a half years ago, and we’ve wanted a house ever since. I have a heart condition, and I’ve always told Courtney that we couldn’t have kids until we at least had a house in case the worst should happen. I won’t leave her and our future children with an apartment,  but I would love to know that she and our children could spend the rest of their days in such a beautiful home. She and I fell in love with your father’s home and would like to spend the rest of our lives in it.

Another reason we fell for your home is because it is quite honestly the best home she and I can buy. I work in the non-profit industry, and there isn’t a lot of profit in the non-profit world.

I work full time for the Operation Courageous
as an advocate for people with disabilities. I work with them in their homes and ensure that they have the skills they need to live independently. While it’s a
rewarding job, there isn’t a lot of money in it, so I also work with low-income kids through the Boy Scouts. Most of my work keeps me in the housing projects and homeless shelters with the kids, but again, it’s incredibly rewarding.

To support my non-profit work, I recently started my own business of roasting and selling coffee. The point of my business is to raise as much money as I can for local youth leadership initiatives, specifically ones that focus on children in gang families and other at-risk kids. One of the things we
looked for in our future home was the potential to build a full-time roasting facility so that Courtney
and I can continue to support these kids who deserve the same chances she and I have gotten.

Currently, my wife is a hair stylist for a salon north of St Paul, but it isn’t the cry of her heart. One of the reasons that I’m working three jobs is so that we can have children and she can stay home and take care of them. Your father’s home is perfect for us and our dreams, but we are unable to offer anything higher. It will take, quite literally, every penny we have. Our mortgage payments will be well within our budget, but nothing higher will be. Your home has everything we need to make a wonderful life for ourselves while being healthy, productive people who are trying to give back.

Please, consider our offer. We may not have the most money, but you can rest assured that this home will be used to not only keep us warm and dry, but it will also be used to improve the lives of local children who never got a chance. It will help us be better people, and help the neighborhood be the best
it can be.

Thank you so much for your time and your consideration.

He read the letter and accepted our offer.

We got to meet him, and we learned that he grew up in this house. His father built many of the things that we love about the house, such as the cedar-lined desk in the craft room and the naval highlights throughout. He gave us a big hug and said he was so glad that his house was going to a good family. I’d say he did well.

work

I work. Hard. And a lot.

I’m blessed with being a Norwegian. We are a practical, hardy people. We work hard. We play hard. Some of them are quiet. I am not.

Remember that good choices/bad choices talk we all had in elementary school? And then in Middle School? And again over and over again in High School? Well, I missed those talks. I majored in Scandinavian Studies and Spanish. While a double major in foreign languages (I speak Norwegian!) is super neat, it doesn’t carry a lot of weight. And education is expensive.

Because of my education choices, along with the bad financial choices I made in college, I’m stuck with a lot of debt. When I dropped out of grad school, I had six months to start making a living before I would have to start paying back my loans. With a little luck, I’d be able to scrape enough together enough to buy a ring to make my girlfriend into The Patient Wife.

I made it all happen, through working overnights at the gas station where I worked in high school, and then managing it. And I hated it. And I did it anyway.

Eventually, the economy caught up with the store I was managing, and the decision was made to close it. I took a 40% pay cut and went back to clerking gas. And a month into my marriage, I was working 7 days a week.

Fast forward to today, and I work four jobs. FOUR. JOBS.

Recently, this has caused some confusion, between my family members, between my coworkers, and even among friends.

“Don’t you roast coffee?”

“I thought you just worked in a camping store.”

So here they are. Here is what I do, day in, day out, all four jobs.

Job I. Operation Courageous

This is my job. This is my life. This is how I provide myself and The Patient Wife with health insurance, safe cars, a new house, and all the craft projects she desires. I’ve worked with Operation Courageous since February 2011 and I haven’t looked back since.

My job is to teach people to live independently. Super easy, right? We all do it. Except most of us have our short term memory intact. And most of us don’t have a brain injury. In fact, a lot of the folks I work with are the people we pretend not to see. Those are the people I work with. Each equally as complex and you and I. Each differently disabled, and each needing help. Some need help to pay their bills. Some need incredible amounts of persuasion to leave the house.

One woman I work with hadn’t left her apartment in 25 years. I wasn’t old enough to WALK the last time she had left her house. Now she’s terrified to leave, and it’s my job to convince her to quit chain smoking and leave her house. And it. Is. HARD.

It involves me being a professional fire extinguisher. A professional friend. A jerk who comes in and tells you what to do. A guy who talks to your landlord when you forgot to pay your rent for three months. But I like it. As difficult as it is, I’m never EVER bored. EVER.

Job II. The Boy Scouts

Above, when I mentioned that my old gas station was closed down? Well, someone found this job for me right when that happened. I still owe her a cupcake, in fact. Even though the job is part time, I worked as many hours as I could and combined with the amazing work of The Patient Wife, we managed to pay the rent and all of our bills. I worked here five days a week and then at the gas station once I was done with the boys. Many of you know that I’m a die-hard scouter. I’ve written a little about camping and how to teach stuff about cameras and rockets to kids, and this job is amazing. Focused entirely on bringing scouting to low-income and at risk kids, this is right up my alley.

Once a week, I head to a transitional housing complex just north of Saint Paul and do Cub Scout stuff with these sweet kids who used to live on the streets. It’s once a week, and there’s just a little bit of planning involved. It’s wonderful. I’m expected to teach the kids things they should know about the outdoors and also be a positive role model for them. I’m expected to encourage them and teach them how to be leaders. It’s amazing, it’s rewarding, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Job III. My Own Coffee Company

You may remember about a year ago when I started my own business. Whenever I’m not working anywhere else, I’m roasting coffee. It’s amazing. It’s delicious. And it’s a significant amount of work. It’s time consuming, but it’s very rewarding. And someday, hopefully someday soon, I’ll be roasting coffee and only roasting coffee. But every day it seems like that goal is getting further and further away.

Job IV. Tradition Creek Outfitters.

This is a part time job at a shop pretty close to where I live. It’s owned by a veteran who helped start one of Minnesota’s newest state parks, and he’s a camp staff alumnus and eagle scout to boot. In fact, everybody who works at the shop is an alumnus of the same camp, so we’re a clever and resourceful bunch. I’m given the freedom I need to perform well, I run their Facebook page and Twitter account, and I get to share my love of the outdoors with everyone who comes in. It’s a low stress job that will help pay for some of the repairs that need to happen at my new house, and I’m good at it.

 

Now, I won’t work four jobs forever, at least I hope. And honestly, working a lot has taught me some important things.

It’s taught me that no matter what you think of yourself, you are not above ANY line of honest, legal work. Did I go to college so that I could work in the same gas station where I worked in high school? No, but I worked there after college anyway. Working an unsatisfying job and paying my own bills was FAR better than begging or living off my parents claiming that “there aren’t any jobs!” True, there weren’t any cushy dream jobs available to me, but that didn’t stop me.

It’s also taught me about time and about enjoying what time I DO have to myself. I remember wasting hours upon hours doing nothing with my Saturdays and feeling like I had missed out on something by the time evening rolled around. Not anymore. No time is squandered anymore, and time with The Patient Wife is even more precious and loved than it was before.

Finally, it gave me something to work for. The point of working as much as I do is to get myself to the point where I don’t HAVE to work this much anymore. The point isn’t to work like this until I die, the point is to work like this while I can. I don’t want to work like this when I’m in my 70’s, I want to work like this now.

I’m hoping to find a single career SOON that will pay me what I make working these four different places. I clearly have the work ethic and the time, now all I need to do is find it.