Derek Johnson Muses

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Tag Archives: Change

Sprung

Faker

Faker

So I got my wish: winter ended. The snow melted, and the dead grass started to show itself. Now comes the laundry list of choirs: pulling grass out of the rocks, acquiring seeds, mowing. And oh yes, I still have cook, clean, and do everything else.

Monday, I bought seeds for my garden. I have thirteen packs of seeds, and ground that still needs to be tilled up. I have a rain barrel to set up and other boring tasks to do. It got up to 80 degrees in Seward and it’s still March.

Drip. Drip. Drip.

Future Once Happened Here

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A tragedy has befallen Seward. Something terrible has happened in our fair city, so irreversibly terrible I won’t recover.

Dollar General has built a stand-alone store south of town and vacated their storefront downtown. That location had a Ben Franklin store in it until I was in high school, and right after it closed the Dollar General came in. And now, the General Store of Seward sits alone.

Ok, I’m being over-dramatic. Dollar General would not have built a stand-alone store if it wasn’t able to provide more products and better products. But that location has had a store inside it all off my life. And now it sits alone, who knows for how long. Maybe it will become office space, but that is going to take a lot of work.

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Since I moved, I’ve walked a lot to that store to pick up the occasional Gatorade or toiletry. I can still go to Sun Mart (sorry Mike) to pick up some of that stuff, but I’ll miss that store. That small, cramped, rolling floor store, with the cheap Husker gear in the window and the seasonal items by the counter. I hope they still bring out the Halloween candy in August at the new location.

End of the Season

It’s that time of year again. The end. The last time I go to certain fields before they are harvested.

Almost in

Almost in

The time our family visits Lake Michigan.

Shoreline

Shoreline

And the time of year my writer’s block gets as bad as it ever does. My focus is divided, and the last thing I want to do is plop down at my computer during the middle of football season and waste my energy on a post that no more than 30 people will read by this Christmas.

But here I am.

I sweated and toiled all summer. I gardened and froze and pickled until the life flowed out of me. I mowed, in essence, three lawns. Now, I’m picking apples from a neighbor’s tree. (If you live near Seward or Lincoln, you’re welcome to have some.) All the while, I’ve kept up an active travel schedule that’s left me feeling like I have nothing left to give. And, with all this running around, I’ve felt that I haven’t needed to share it with anyone. Which has lead me to the question, do I need to consider doing something else with my time, maybe even a major life change? d

In my adult life, my actions indicate that I want my daily routines to change as little as possible. Yes, I run through different causes and jobs, but the basic routine of kitchen work/writing/household choirs, all of that has stayed the same. I try not to cling to things (hey, people tear it up and move all the time), but homeostasis gives me a lot of peace. A lot. Maybe even too much.

One more trip, and I won’t be making the long circle through Iowa and Illinois. Eventually, there won’t be apples to pick, and the garden will be winterized. After that, who know what I’ll do.

Close and Personal

Close and Personal

The Great August

Streets

Streets

Starting this month, August has identified itself to me as my favorite month. This surprised me, because other than college football teams, I don’t have a lot of favorite anythings. I don’t have a favorite food, even though I love to eat. There’s just good and the best flavors ever.

Maybe it’s because it’s the time of year when our production in the field is “out of the woods” so to speak, or it’s the blend of colors in the evening sky. The calm before the storm of football season broods in the air. We see too much gray the rest of the year, and August gives us the best colors of the years. Kids are going back to school, and you reflect on what they’ll become. Who knows. All I know is I like August.

Close Lined

Close Lined

 

 

thirtysomething

The day I turned twenty was my junior year of college. It was a Tuesday, and Tuesdays that fall were my busiest days for classes. I only had time to rest and reflect around 10 P.M., after Vespers, and I remember my friends giving me a card I wish I could still find.  

Style...

Style…

Yesterday was my thirtieth birthday. I got up early and went to men’s morning Bible study for the first time in a while, and had one of my favorite lunches, biscuits and gravy and eggs. I caught up on rest and reading and made pork in the crock pot for dinner.  I had a New Glarus Beer (a Wisconsin brew I’ve brought back each of the last two years), and sat down to write this while I watched the baseball playoffs and Big Red Wrap-Up.

On my birthday, I love to take a long, contemplative walk, this year Branched Oak Lake. The wind blew hard, and in the end, I spent less time contemplating and more time reading. Reading was my present to myself, and I need to fill this brain of mine. I need to find that one book I can sit down and get addicted to.

I suppose this is the end of my youth or something like that, which to me doesn’t matter. I feel old already, and I don’t have a wife or kids, so I’m untangled in that area of my life. The older I get, the more I contemplate what could have been. I always think of one course I know I should have taken many years ago, but I never did. The results of what that could have been, I don’t dare imagine anymore.

So here’s to a new decade and a new stage in life. I hope I continue to learn, grow, and changed, and most of all serve you better.

Lakeside...

Lakeside…

Age Without Distinction

Earlier this year, I was jarred a bit when I ran into an acquaintance from growing up who was three grades behind me. This person still appeared very young to me even though said person is now twenty-seven. I felt a gap between myself and this person that I don’t feel between myself and the college students at church, because it was a person I knew from growing up.

I am turning thirty in October, but I don’t freak out about my age, or really have any opinion on it. I feel like I should come up with something to write on the subject, such as what the last decade has meant to me, or what being older signifies to me, but honestly, I can’t think of anything. To me, time just passes the way it passes, which thankfully is out of my control.

I’m grateful for my years and have enjoyed my twenties, but I do wish I had a certain significance to become a thirty year-old man. When I’m at church, or hanging out with my gaming friends who are younger than me, it’s as if we are who we are, without distinction. Man, I can be nonobservant.

Perhaps it’s just the loss of family and community that offer clear distinction and roles to people instead of just a “be anything that you want to be” attitude. Maybe if I had married young and had two kids following me around I would feel differently, and I’d certainly have a lot more experience. I haven’t really done a lot in my life, except take the work that was right in front of me, and read and write a lot.

In What to Expect When No One’s Expecting, Jonathan V. Last writes about countries that have “youth bulges” of males (currently a problem in Iran), and how it causes political instability when the young men can’t find wives or work. (In a way, such countries go to war to keep the young men from rebelling against their own government.) I see this first hand in my own life, how being without a wife and children has taken its tool on me. I do blame the world (and feminism) for some of it, but even with those things, I’m still responsible for some of it, certainly for my attitude about it.

Even though I don’t feel it, I know my youth is slipping away. I hope on the day that I wake up and feel old, that I still know what to do to move  forward.

Fade to Grey...

Fade to Grey…

Seward Nooks: Twists and Turns.

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Fairgrounds Border…

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Waiting Game…

Hughes Brothers forms the east border of the fairground on the opposite side of the highway. It must be one of Seward’s biggest employers, but I’ve only known one or two people who have worked for them. In fact, I don’t even know exactly what it is they do there, although I do see a lot of their guys milling around the factory entrance whenever I drive by it on Seward Street.

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Levee Road…

This road leads out of the Fairgrounds and turns into Lincoln Street, rolling along the levee-top without a care in the world, steep slope falling on both sides of the levee. I drive this road worrying about my safety if some teenager or know-it-all with an over-sized pickup comes barreling from the opposing direction, all jazzed up with a case of beer in the front seat.

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Old Folks Home…

Lincoln Street leads out to the Senior Citizens Center, home to potato bake lunches, and other shows for the elderly. (Side note-a couple I knew actually met at a lunch here.) It’s the ideal place to preserve retirement savings, complete with off-color yellow walls, small windows right next to each other, a pop-out from ’50-’60’s mass construction. Of course, the dazzling new building in the background is putting a cramp in the retro-, live frugal style, but anything to attract new business to our spend-lite state.

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Exactly…

In keeping with the neighborhood’s shabby-no-sheek theme, this complex of cheap apartment buildings lies catty corner to southeast from the Senior Center Complex. It was the perfect shade of cracked white until a couple of years ago, when someone had the bright idea to paint the buildings tan. Talk about building yourself out of the neighborhood.Now it looks like a 1980’s-built prison in a desert town, or a filming site for a cheap horror movie. Hope you got a tax write off for that.

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Red Brick Road….

This is Eighth, a brick street that is way too narrow to service the amount of traffic it gets. Even worse than that, it has hills. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been driving down this road, bumpty-bump-bump, hoping that another car doesn’t turn onto the street in front of me. They shouldn’t let people park on either side of this street.

How Much Traveled?

How Much Traveled?

There is a small housing development that is an U-shape of three blocks just off of Hillcrest on Tenth street, which is what should have been done with the Augusta Drive project. This foot bridge crosses a drainage ditch, to a path that leads down to the senior center. It’s a great idea, so at least the people who live on these street don’t have to walk on the busy Hillcrest street, even if there’s just an empty field and no walking trails on the other side.

Many tenants...

Many tenants…

When I was growing up, I was in this place many times when it was the Evangelical Free Church, for youth group and various homeschool functions. Since then, E-Free has moved to a big box location that used to be Wal-Mart, and two Lutheran churches have occupied this space. It never made sense to me why E-Free left after all the money they had to put into two additions, but I guess they are happy in their new location, and the old location is still used.

Once in high school, I nearly ended up in the ditch right there in the spot by the fire hydrant. I was seventeen and had not yet learned how to scrape my windshield when it snowed.

Put her up...

Put her up…

Wish they would have put that hope in when I was in high school. (More Seward Stories…)

Knocking Compulsion

I have personal flaws. I overestimate my physical strength. I’m too modest to ask for help. I’m not as driven as I should be. I take things too personally. I’m not great at details or planning. And I can be prone to compulsive behavior, which is why I ended up binge-watching Breaking Bad. A few weeks and twenty-something dark episodes later, I was on the verge of stashing my kindle at the office because I was on pins and needles.

My Netflix subscription was just sitting there since I finished the new episodes of Arrested Development. I’ve kept the subscription rather than get actual cable installed, even though I didn’t have a lot of shows to catch up on. But eventually, I watched an episode of Breaking Bad, speeding through slow parts at first. BB substituted for 24 in my need for serial TV, each episode and even each season picking up where the prior episode or season leaves off. 

I got off-center when I got into this manner. I quit listening to my string of Issues, Etc. podcasts and my sports radio. And BB‘s worldview didn’t exactly help my mindset, either. Thankfully, the Netflix app quit working on my Kindle, slowing my intake.

Binge-watching on Netflix is so easy, and done without so much as a second thought. No commercials, no waiting for next week episodes. I have a pile of podcasts I haven’t even listened to, and yet, days melt away while I get through another six episodes. No wonder I can’t think of anything to write. How much more American productivity can Netflix and video streaming services eat?

Am I this ungrateful for what God has given me? Forgive me, oh Lord.

Eau Claire, Wisconsin...Has nothing to do with this post, but it looks nice.

Eau Claire, Wisconsin…Has nothing to do with this post, but it looks nice.

August Daze and Winds of Change

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Seward Square…

The turning of the calendar to August marked the three month anniversary of my move into my new home. Three months is a season, so a new chapter has been written and something has changed in my head. I can’t wait to find out what that is.

Walking around my new neighborhood is different because of the heat and the trails don’t feel as wide open. Instead, I walk down to the square and sit read or just watch for people. I’m surprised more people aren’t around the square in the evening, but I suppose if there were more people there, I wouldn’t feel like sitting there and reading.

I always enjoy seeing children and young people hanging out and playing around the square, or on the street outside my house. I wonder if the teenagers are dying to get out of this cracker-jack town like I was when I was their age. (Hope their plans for that go better than mine did.) Sitting out there watching the kids from a bench I wonder to myself if I would have been better off leaving this place.

I had grand plans for leaving this place in high school. I didn’t talk about them with most people but simply went on thinking that I would find a new place to call home, because I knew in my heart this wasn’t my home. I still don’t feel like Seward is my home, even if all visual evidence speaks to the contrary.

Even recently, I still feel inside that God is calling me to leave Seward. I’ve seen evidence to that in the last year, but no path has come together, and given my history, I feel I shouldn’t leave this town without certain things in place. But God is still telling me that He has plans for me elsewhere in this world. Maybe I’m just coming up with this stuff as a way to blame my problems on circumstances. Even if I leave this town, I’m still the same person with the same problems, and I can’t expect everything to magically change. But maybe if I don’t expect everything to change, I will make the most of a move…, oh forget it, I’m reasoning this all out.

Road Downtown...

Road Downtown…

Writing has not come as easily this summer. Maybe I have not been putting as many good things into my head, maybe I need more meaningful interactions and clear some things off my schedule. I do spend more time into editing, to see that the hours invested writing projects don’t go to waste. but I can see things in my past that I left unresolved. At the time, it was the easiest thing in the world not to do anything about certain things, but they have caught up to me now. It’s time to take action.

Writing Road Notes

Open Road West of Flint

Out There…

Last year, my main method of writing while I traveled was to type notes on my iPod touch during lunches and driving breaks, but this year I haven’t done that as much, for two reason. One, as I have gone back through old posts, I have found that this writing style leaves me with an incoherent narrative, a problem similar to the problem of tweeting-thoughts are broken into too many pieces. If I sit down the day I get back from a trip, I can write a more focused, direct first draft while it’s still fresh.

Two, I just feel more hurried when I’m away from home. I have a house now and wanting to spend time there, given what I’m paying for it and how much I have to do to maintain it. Either way, whenever I’m on the road, I think more and more about how long it will be until I’m back, although Tom staying at my place now relieves my nerves.

The road can be such a lonely place at times. Maybe it’s no more lonely than the rest of my life, but I still feel so isolated when I’m out there, passing miles of other truckers and minivans packed with kids on summer vacations. The gas stations, the hotels, and the restaurants are all same, which is a very comforting thing. But as the wear of the temporal adds up, I have to accept the confidence to let certain details melt away and remain on the asphalt, trusting that if that colorful mural on the side of an aging brick building in central Wisconsin is really significant, I’ll remember it when I get home and write it down.  All part of using the judgment of a good writer.

Whenever I would stop at a rest stop in central Michigan to write about how the shops in Small Town X were, I was doing so out of an insecurity of a novice who was sure he’d forget. Not that I’ve mastered the craft, but I’m more confident in letting the narrative form in my mind. Now I’m ready to face the silence of the road between my destination and home.

Reflected...

Reflected…

Introspection: Write Well, Not Just Often

When I started writing this blog, I was overflowing with thoughts. For the first few months, I gutted posts out without forethought, and somehow, managed to put up a post or two a day during the mild winter of 2012 (don’t ask me how). Gradually, I saw how it was self-defeating to push my work into the archives so quickly and pulled back, going closer to a post every two to four days. Since May of 2012, I’ve averaged about 10 to 11 a month, which seems about right.

But through all this, I’ve wondered what my long term goals should be. Yes, I love to write and I’m sharing about topics that I care about, but it’s weighed on me as to how many productive hours to sink into this venture. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about life, it’s that you can stay at the beginner to average level for a long time if you don’t do anything to improve.

That’s why I don’t write about sports or TV as much as I used, only when it comes out easily, and I don’t take the time to polish it as I would a piece about travel that I might republish. But still, the more I write, the more I ask myself: am I getting better at this, or do I make the same mistakes in every post? Can I use what I’m putting up here in a book down the line? Will a publication read this stuff and want to hire me?

Last week, I went back to the travel posts I wrote last summer and pasted all of them into a single word document. It covered twenty single-spaced pages. I have read part of it and have tweaked two pages of it. I’m grateful that I wrote all of this stuff down, and when I reread it, I can flesh out the details and improve the flow. Here’s to making it the best it can be.

Random shot of downtown Lincoln

Random shot of downtown Lincoln

Writing Tips: Every Day Writing

I suppose given how much I blog, I owe it to my readers to share some tips on how to write and how to break out of writer’s block. It said that the best writing advice is, write every single day, and a lot. But what?

The easiest idea I can tell you, dear readers, is to write down everything you did for the last week or twenty-four hours, even if you just make a list of actions and attitudes. Here’s an example I did earlier this week.

(My Road Notes posts also reflect this strategy.)

Last night, I was trying to get my sleep schedule back on track. I came in around 8:30 from mowing the lawn and showered. I then watched Terminator 3, a movie I can’t believe is 10 years old already. I can remember when I saw it in the Rivoli back in 2003, and the film had the biggest greenlit budget at time. It doesn’t feel as dated; actually, the CGI in it seems restrained compared to how much is in current movies. I started the movie at nine when I was eating dinner and finished the movie at 11. I had such a plan-I would skip my afternoon nap, and then I would go bed early and get my sleep schedule back on track. Of course, I still needlessly read on my kindle for thirty minutes or so before I managed to turn my light out at 11:36

Then my alarm went off at midnight. I had accidentally turned it to on when I shut off the radio yesterday. This time around, I set the alarm to 8 to avoid any future upsets. The disturbance in my sleep costs me forty-five minutes.

So this morning, I became conscious for the first time around five, and after fifteen minutes, I got up to start a load of lights. Then I went back to bed, and drifted between sleep and waking for a little while longer. Around seven, I forced myself up and began reading on my kindle.

That’s pretty simple, and it’s mostly actions, but it needs work. Usually, I find you have to write a certain number of actions to get a judgment or an assessment. Take the first paragraph. The judgment or assessment is I was trying to get my sleep schedule back on track in the evening. Under the that mindset, I worked outside, watched TV, and I read. There was a bad habit in that paragraph, namely the tangent I go on with my memories of Terminator 3. That is one thing that I do often in my drafts that I try to get out in my final versions as much as I can, spending too much time talking about a sub-point which has nothing to do with the main article. Usually, when I get to the judgment, I have an idea of what I need to build the post around. All of the rest of the writing needs to be taking out points that don’t support it and refining the ones that do.

Here’s another example of this strategy.

Utensils....

Utensils…

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