How to make the world better…

Be good to people.

Put good out there. Into motion.

If you have a chance to help, help.

If a smile or compliment will make someone’s day a little better, give it.

If you have a shoulder to lend to someone in tears or an ear to someone unheard, do so.

If your silence is more helpful than anything you might say, remain so.

Do this as much as possible.

Good scales. It has exponential power. Those who receive good are more likely to do good for others.

Every little bit of good makes the whole world better because there will be that much more good in it.

An Ode to Lawless

The first time we visited Lawless Distilling Company was in 2016. It was my birthday, but I was hardly in a celebratory mood. I had received some really bad family news just a couple of days before and it was still weighing very heavily on me. My dear wife was trying to give me the best time she could under the circumstances so she found this recently opened, speakeasy-esqe, cocktail room to take me to in an effort to cheer me up.

We saddled up on some stools at the end of the bar. The bartender on duty at the time, Adam, came over, welcomed us, and started us off with a shot of their signature “Pink Gin”. We sipped on it as we looked at the menu, yet remained deep in solemn conversation over the matters at hand. Honestly, even making a choice in that state of mind seemed an insurmountable task.

Adam sauntered over to take our order but could tell something was off. “You guys seem like the whole world is crushing down on you,” he said.

I quickly explained what was going on. I mean, if you can’t tell your troubles to the bartender…

Adam listened with compassion, took the menus out of our hands, and told us to just sit back and relax and let him take care of us. From that moment on, he took us on a cocktail journey I’ll never forget. Every single thing he made was amazing and each different from the next — yet all of it working together like a concerto of mixology. Treating us to expert hospitality with a delicate grace. Checking in on us and delivering new things at exactly the right time.

When we knew we’d reached our limit, we said so and requested the bill.

“Nope. Not tonight. This one’s on me… You’ll be back.”

We tried to pay anyway and he’d have none of it. We left him a healthy tip and come back we certainly did.

And, the thing is that our experience with Adam was not a fluke. Every single time we walked into Lawless after that we somehow were always treated like VIPs no matter if he was there or not. The hospitality experienced, especially if you were sitting at the bar, was like nowhere I’ve ever been.

We rarely visited more than every other month or so. Yet, we were always treated like regulars by everyone and thus formed genuine relationships with many of the folks working there. Adam, of course, but also Jeff and Dustin and Marco and Ethan and Olivia and too many others to list.

When they left Lawless for other bars, restaurants, and lounges, we followed them and patronized any of the new places they went. For example, we’ve followed Adam from Lawless to Alma to Martina to Mara. Dustin to Can Can Wonderland. Marco to Colita. Ethan to Stilheart.

Even though we were nobody, they treated everybody as if they were somebody. That’s the best service one could ask for and we were happy to go anywhere they were to experience it.

The last couple of times we’ve gone to Lawless, the vibe was a bit different. It had become very popular, which was good for them, but the service seemed very transactional. We no longer felt like somebody when we walked in. We felt like we could be anybody. Perhaps that was a sign of an experience coming to an end and therefore thier closing does not come as a huge shock.

It’ll be missed for sure. But in many ways I’ve already mourned it’s passing and continue to hold the memory of the good times we’ve had there with special reverence.

My wife also wrote a goodbye post to Lawless.

Some Things I’ve Learned in 2022

  1. You can’t fight faith with facts.
  2. The world is made up of maps or traps.
  3. Changing where you are does not change where you’ve been.
  4. If you have a problem with them, and them, and them, and them, the problem is probably you.
  5. Failure is the tuition you pay for success.
  6. The main thing that keeps one from learning a new skill or ability is fear of failure.
  7. So many of us are just trying to make the best choices we can in constantly changing conditions with limited and conflicting information in the midst of fear and uncertainty. Most of us are doing our best. It’s not the best that can be done, but it’s the best we can do.
  8. Minimalism is a destination. Enough is a journey. It may lead you to Minimalism but it may not. The only place I expect it to lead is contentment.
  9. Do you know why history repeats? Because humans do.
  10. Task yourself with a huge must-do project that has a deadline far out enough that you can safely procrastinate on it for a day or two. Watch your productivity on every other possible thing go way up to avoid that one.
  11. The less technology involved, the better the tool. The tool with the least moving parts will last the longest. Digital bits are moving parts. Electricity is a moving part.
  12. Not all dependencies are moving parts, but every moving part creates a dependency. Dependencies introduce potential points of failure where none otherwise exist.
  13. A new way I’m thinking about mental health stuff is: “Do my feelings fit?” In other words, is how I’m feeling appropriate for the situation. Am I more sad or happy than I normally should be?
  14. We are never in the middle of nowhere. Every place is somebody’s somewhere.
  15. Once we can divorce profit and passion, only then can we find passion in any profit and truly profit from our passion.
  16. I personally believe, at the core, all faiths arise from the same place and hold the same core values.
  17. One day, I hope not to measure my days in minutes or hours, but in miles walked and pages read.
  18. New skills learned: Table saw safety, repairing rope and sash windows, installing laminate floors and ceramic tile.
  19. Most people will never notice if you use the good stuff when you could have used the cheap stuff. But, people in the know will always notice when you use the cheap stuff when you should have used the good stuff.
  20. Though honesty, even without malice, is not always pleasant, it is kind.

The Return of All Is Calm

Back in 2018, we held the first of what we’d hope would become a new annual holiday tradition, All Is Calm. Being that we do all of our Christmas festivities on Christmas Eve (as is the tradition of my wife’s Norwegian heritage), Christmas Day was largely a day of reset and relaxation for us. Here’s what I wrote about it back then:

My wife and I have settled on the following idea; about mid morning we’ll start up the fire, light some nice smelling candles, lounge around in comfy clothes, put on some quiet music, and read books all day. But we’re going to make a “thing” out of it and invite any of our friends in town who wish to join us to stop on by with a book of their own. We’ll have some drinks and snacks around for people to enjoy as well. All we ask is that you come prepared to keep things library style and enjoy a bit of peace with us this day.

The idea became reality and was a tremendous success. We had friends stop by with books, craft projects, quiet conversation, and just a general spirit of community.

Like I said, we’d hoped to make it an annual tradition… Then a pandemic got in the way.

But now that things are back to some semblance of normal, we’ve decided to start things back up again this year. So, if you’re in the Twin Cities on Christmas Day, stop on by. We’d love to see you.

Profit and Passion

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

-Robert A. Heinlein, Time Enough for Love (via Annie Mueller)

Once we can divorce profit and passion, only then can we find passion in any profit and truly profit from our passion. The idea being that it is not the thing that is the passion, but something deeper. That the thing is simply a clear path to a feeling… A place.

I’ve had a lot of disparate jobs in my life. Bagging groceries, working front desk at a hotel, managing video rental stores, writing customer service letters — the list goes on. A common thread I found in all of my jobs and roles, both past and present , is “helping people”. Every job I’ve had or volunteer opportunity, this is not only the common thread but what “filled me up” about it. And, if I can simply identify the way in which whatever I choose to do helps people, I then can be filled up doing just about anything.

Once I discovered that my real passion wasn’t the various jobs/titles/work I’ve done in my life but, instead, was the common thread that ran through all of them, I found that I didn’t need to do a particular job or a thing to experience the joy of my passion. I found those roles were simply a catalyst and that I could find my passion doing just about any job or thing.

If I were paid to dig ditches, I would discover that the ditch is for a water line to a new house that means someone gets clean water. Once I think it through, I can find my passion in the ditch digging.

My friend, the storyteller Kevin Kling once said to me, “A story is always about two things; What it’s about and what it’s really about.”

I think this is the really behind “pursuing your passion”.

Now I am a Writer, Technical Consultant, Circus Rigger, Home Restorer, and Mental Health Advocate (Not to mention a Husband, Father, Son, and Friend). The title field on my business cards reads, Master Generalist. If you ask me what I do for a living, I’ll answer “I help people. Sometimes, money is involved.”

I discovered that I don’t need a specific career, job, hobby, etc. to be able to “do what I love” or get “paid for my passion”, I could stop chasing it and start realizing that I already have it (or could choose to). Not only have it in one specific thing, but could have it in just about anything.

I’m not OK (and that’s OK).

This has been a hard week for me mental health wise.

One of the ways my mental illness manifests itself is shame. I’ll be walking or driving or sitting or thinking or whatever and suddenly I’ll remember something I did wrong or not enough or something I said that was mean or hurtful or inappropriate or maybe it was something I did that was so or… And maybe it happened just a few moments ago or yesterday or last week but more likely way in the past like last year or maybe ten years or twenty years ago and that’s the trigger. I cringe or curse myself under my breath or, increasingly, out loud to anyone nearby or no one and it feels like I imagine Tourette syndrome must feel because I can’t seem to help or stop just yelling out “No!” or “Damn it!” or “Fuck!” or “Argh!”as the shame wells up and grips me. It may sound crazy because it is, or at least feels that way. The Piggyback Guy has been sitting on me for weeks now.

And lately, it seems, I’ve just been unintentionally adding to that pile of shame. Things I’ve said, done, or even thought or even the now near constant fear and paranoia of what people I care about or even strangers think about me whether accurate or not. I feel deeply shameful almost constantly these days and I keep having fantasies of a freak illness or accident rendering me mute as that would have the dual result of both stopping the involuntary vocalization of my shame but also one of the primary engines of it’s creation.

Trust me, there is nothing anyone can say to hurt me more than what I hear in my own head dozens, perhaps hundreds, of times a day. Who needs enemies when I’ve got me?

So, if you ask me if I’m OK, I am not. I’m not OK. And I need to say that. I need to say that because I’m a mental illness survivor and I believe by being open and honest about not being OK it might help others be open and honest too. I know that the moment I stop letting people know I’m not OK I will be even more not OK. Saying I’m not OK is one step I know I can take to being more OK.

Yes, I’m working on it – I really am. Yes, I’m trying to keep it all together and tell myself nice things and remember (believe) the things I do right and the people that love me despite my numerous faults and the good things I know I do and say. It’s just more difficult these days.

But I’ve lived through days and weeks and months of not being OK and I know that I will continue to do so as long as I focus on trying to be as OK as I am for just one day more. I know where to get help when I need it. I know I’m not alone in this. I know that there are thousands and thousands of people right now who are also not OK. We may be not OK for different reasons or in different ways but that’s OK. We just need to find a way to be a little more OK today. We need to know it’s OK if we don’t. We need to feel OK in being OK as we are.

So, I’m not OK but that’s OK.


When people ask about the work I’m doing on The Hague House Project, they often ask where I learned to do that kind of work and if I always considered myself handy.

The fact is no. In fact, if you would have asked me 15 years ago, I would have said I’m not very handy at all. I grew up mostly living in apartments. My family that did own houses were professional people who hired for any work they needed done. I had no role models doing this kind of work and no idea where to begin myself beyond pulling out a phone book and making some calls.

“So, how did you end up learning how do to that kind of work then?”

In 2011, my wife and I purchased a house for $7200.00. It was vacant for a long time and in need of a lot of work. The thing is, when you buy a house for $7200.00 you can make a lot of mistakes — expensive ones even — and not have to worry too much about it. You can just dive in and try things. A house that cheap removes the greatest barrier the “not handy” people like me have about such things… Fear.

That house taught me a lot. It taught me that if you don’t know how to do something there are a lot a ways to learn. These days, for anything you might not know, there’s probably hundreds of YouTube videos and dozens of books one can check out of the library. You likely have a friend who is handy or, at least, has done that same something before. Maybe a local organization teaches classes on such things. You could even talk to a professional, explain that you’d like to hire them not to do the work, but to teach you. To walk you through the process so you can learn. Even if the extra time such a thing may add to the job increases the cost, the money will be well spent because knowledge is almost always worth the price.

With a lot of trial and error and effort, that house is the one my Dad lives in.

After a while, you learn that most of this stuff just kind of makes sense. Once you take apart a rope and sash window and see how it works, it’s easy to figure out how to put it back together by reversing those steps and then you know how to fix any other rope and sash window you encounter.

If anyone asks, I now can confidently say, “Yeah, I’m pretty handy.”

I’ve come to realize that this approach, removing that barrier of fear and approaching things with the goal of learning, translates to many other things.

When it comes to technology, my knowledge largely comes from my lack of fear over trying new things and pressing buttons just to see what they do. My consulting clients ask me where I learned how fix that thing that they called me in for – even if I may not have encountered their specific issue before. I explain that the main thing is my lack of fear. That I’m willing to just try things to see if I can figure it out. Push buttons just to see what they do. And, in doing so, I can now fix that problem should I ever encounter it again.

I’ve found the more I just get over my fear of trying new things and just dive in, it is more often that I’m successful and learn a new skill. It is rare that I run into something that I can’t find a way to solve.

Perhaps, you’ll find the same thing if you try.

The Unexpected Writing Group

My family went to a friend’s new house for dinner tonight. During the meal, her alarm went off to remind her of a Zoom writing group she participates in usually at that time. She said they normally meet briefly, the moderator posts a writing prompt, then they go off and write for 21 minutes, log back on, and everyone reads what they wrote.

My wife, daughter, and I thought it sounded like a blast. “We’d totally do that with you!“

And, so, we did. The other participants were welcoming and loved our esprit de corps about the whole thing. The prompt (about the end of summer) resulted in such wonderful and diverse contributions. It was so much fun and not at all how we were expecting to spend the evening.

A reminder that sometimes the universe offers up unexpected opportunities. Take them.

Some thoughts on the good stuff…

While working on the Hague House Project today, these thoughts arose as I opened the above can to paint some trim for the powder room.

  • The good stuff usually costs more. Way more. Like “How does anyone get away with charging that?” kind of more. The kind of more that stings just a little bit when you pay it; which, you will have no problem doing because you want the good stuff.
  • If it doesn’t cost more, and doesn’t sting just a little bit, it’s probably not the good stuff.
  • The good stuff usually is a bit harder to work with, because it’s made for professionals.
  • The good stuff will work better and last last far longer than anything else.
  • If it doesn’t work better and last longer, it’s probably not the good stuff.
  • You use the good stuff where it matters most.
  • If using the good stuff does not matter where you are using it, you probably should not be using it.
  • It takes practice, time, and skill to know where using the good stuff matters and where it doesn’t.
  • That said, if you don’t know if it matters or not, use the good stuff. Your pockets will be lighter but you’ll never be wrong.
  • Most people will never notice if you use the good stuff when you could have used the cheap stuff. People in the know will always notice when you use the cheap stuff when you should have used the good stuff.
  • Those who know what the good stuff is will recognize it — the attention to detail and care such a choice reveals. They will appreciate that you did.
  • Those that don’t know what the good stuff is will benefit from the quality and durability just as much as those that do.

The Middle of Somewhere

Who can find a fantastic brewery with great food in the middle nowhere Montana? Bethany can!

I recently posted the photo and caption above to Instragram. My wife posted a similar one with a caption also saying we were in the middle of nowhere.

But that was not the truth.

The truth was we were in Cut Bank, Montana which is historically part of The Blackfeet Nation. Which has been a somewhere long before The United States was an anywhere. Hardly “nowhere”.

And, I think this is important to remember. Because words mean things. The easiest way to erase a people and a place is to do so with language. To say “no one” lives there or that it is in the “middle of nowhere”. Yet, we use such language all the time.

I pledge to be better about this.

Because, to the people that live there, it is not only somewhere — it is the center of the universe. The middle of everywhere. And this is true for every human being in the billions of places we live. Every place is somebody’s somewhere. We need to honor and acknowledge this.

Tonight, I’m resting on the stolen ancestral lands of The Blackfeet Nation. I’m in the middle of somewhere. And, for me, tonight, it is the center of the universe