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A Year of Upside Down

So this is the somewhat cheesy but seemingly mandatory reflection on the year that was. Hey 2011, you got me good. Nice one.

It was a year of upside down in many ways for me. A few, I’ll share. Most, I won’t. You’ll just have to trust me.

The Big Job. To start things off right, I took a real job after pledging I’d never do that again. It was a compelling recruitment, and seemed like an interesting idea at the time. One of those that would later cause Grandma to ask why I always try to do the impossible stuff. A question I’m not sure I can answer. I went from my two years of staying home at night with my family and doing meaningful work that got me jacked up every day to 70+ hours a week of hard, grinding, over my head kind of work. I worked harder and gave more of myself to that project than I ever knew I could. And we opened the shiny new Maroney Commons in August–a super green conference and training center, hotel, restaurant and bar on Main Street in a tiny rural town. Meant to be a beacon of hope and possibility for rural communities and a training ground for people intent on turning their own small towns around, it’s far fetched, too expensive, and amazing. You can watch the grand opening here if you want to, including some tears from me. It’s over an hour long, so skip to the good parts (especially Linda Parry at the end of the event).

I must have accomplished something important, since I am now able to add “communist” and “fascist” to the list of adjectives associated with my name in South Dakota publications over the years. (My favorite is still “that rat from over east.”)

The short of what happened after that is: one day along the way, on the day after Halloween, the other leaders of the organization and I parted ways. I’ll leave the other details out, and just say that I still believe from deep in my heart in the true mission of the Rural Learning Center. It’s an organization and a place that have my handprints as part of its being, along with so many others. I wish I could have seen it through. And so many awesome things are cracking open since it ended for me. I cannot explain my gratitude in the humbling experience of so many friends pouring out support, encouragement and love in the wake of November 1. More to come on the present and future of my work in another post.

Blessings. Some things that turned upside down were really wonderful. I’m so proud of my wife for becoming a full time Mommy this past Summer. It means budgets are tighter and our house is a thousand times happier. And by full time I mean caring for kids, husband and house (and Grandparents) while starting two home businesses. Jaimie has taken to selling fun stuff, so check out Just Jewelry and take the Body by Vi Challenge. Start today; Jaim is one hot mamma thanks at least in part to this stuff.

Those four little monsters running around our house at high decibel levels are major blessings too. They remind me of it every day. Even when I want to say bad words or throw things. I’m still training to be an amazing Dad, and I think I got out of the blocks pretty slow. But I feel a major kick coming in the stretch run of raising our girls. I can’t begin to describe their amazingness. They become the source of every emotion in a colorful spectrum, and that’s just on Tuesdays. I love them to the moon. And back.

It’s upside down how old they are getting, which means how old I am getting. I guess that’s what we’re supposed to do, get old. And we’ve hit one major milestone in becoming old parents–Hope had her first nighttime, longer than 15 minutes, real babysitting gig at our house in the last few hours of 2011 (yes, we ended an 8 year retirement from going out on New Years Eve). As Braveheart and thousands of Dave Ramsey disciples have yelled, “Freeeedoooommmmm!”

A Tiny Smattering of 2011 Poems. I don’t know why I share these sometimes. But I do. A peek through the window at how I talk to god.

poems:


(inspired by the Black Keys, and bourbon)

sun where there is none
moving stillness under night
everlasting light

 
Walk About

I walk, with slow wonder.
A sacred prayer of movement in silence.
Quiet the mind and body to awaken.

I walk, not to see or find
or take. No summit or destination.
No seeking, only opening. 

I walk to listen. To tune
this instrument of self. To melt
into oneness with even
the mosquitos.  

I walk to be awake. To lose
communication, and be in communion.
I walk alone, and with all humanity and life.
 
 
Lenses

Clarity of focus,
but always in the way.
A smudge, a spec, a reflection
distorts the clear view of reality.
Helpful perspective,
and so nice to take them off.

The Black Keys – Everlasting Light Official Music Video

Football. By the way, all you Tebow worshipers out there (yes you Josh): there really is no need to remind me how upside down a year it was to be a Minnesota Vikings fan, ok?

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Posted by on January 11, 2012 in activism, business, etc., Family, poetry, rural, writing

 

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First Day

photo by chrisinplymouth on Flickr.

This was my first day as President at the Rural Learning Center. I was late, thanks to our friend Winter, and once I got there it was a skeleton crew (yay for snow days!). The past month has been the speediest ever for me (hence a full month between bartblog noise, besides, I gained an iPad addiction). Despite all the anticipation (here’s some front page buzz from Mitchell and Madison) and sleepless nights getting to today, it was really quite an ordinary day. And that feels really refreshing. There is a ton of work to be done, gigantic shoes to be filled, and plenty of magic to be made. And it feels like it will work out somehow.

Thanks to my family and friends for all the love. Let’s rock and roll.

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2011 in Work

 

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Re-Rural

Maroney Rural Learning Center

Well, that was fun. Jumping out there as a full time consultant, I mean. It’s been great helping several non-profits, companies and communities to think and talk things through. I made enough money to get by, learned some valuable insight, made some new friends, and got a lot of good hiking in. (I also often didn’t shower or put on a clean shirt until lunch time.)

Now I’m back in the land of the employed. This week I went back to work at the Rural Learning Center in Howard, SD, where I’ll become President in February (here’s a blast from the past). Ultimately I’ll be responsible for running a team dedicated to helping rural communities reimagine and thrive, along with operating a green hotel, restaurant and conference/training center being built in Howard. And we’ll also be managing the South Dakota chapter of American Institute of Architects, and a few other related non-profits. It’s the biggest job I’ve ever had, and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I’m as nervous as I am excited. Thank the universe I’m re-joining an awesome and smart team I can rely on.

On the outside, Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2010 in rural, Work

 

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Telling the recession to stick it

What at first brought a sense of quiet panic has turned out, like most things we think will suck, to be a fun opportunity. The Sioux Falls Green Project, where I’ve been the Executive Director for just over a year now, is scaling back from one full time staff to none. We’re shifting things to be run by volunteers and contractors. The Green Project will still be inspiring and educating the community to build that sustainable future, it’ll just be doing it without full time staff. I’ve been playing it pretty cool, but the paper put it out there over the weekend.

So I’m being “phased out.” Well, not exactly of course, but it would be true to say I’ve been unemployed officially now for about six weeks. It’s just that I decided not to participate in this recession. In fact, I’ve been busier than ever and doing just fine.

I’ve been running a company called Ignite Workshop since summer 2004, in one way or another. My company helps groups of people who are shaping their communities–I help them get started, or re-ignite the fire, and I sometimes actually take on management and leadership of the organization for a while. Sometimes over the past few years, the method that made the most sense was to actually become an employee. That’s been the case for a while with the Green Project, and with the Rural Learning Center before that. For both organizations, I spent part of my time as a consultant, and part as an employee embedded in the everyday work.

So my point here is not to tell you about Ignite Workshop, or about being unemployed. It’s just a late night reminder that we’re all in this together. And, if you want to pout about it, go ahead. But if you want to get out there and do something about it, go do it. It will never be cheaper to start a business, and if you can make a go of it now, you’ll be in great shape to kill it when things bounce back. Yes, it will bounce back. Will you be ready?

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2010 in money, Work

 

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Crazy

I’ve been super crazy busy the past month. Even more than usual. Working two jobs is as tough as I expected. I’m loving it, mostly. But I’m putting in a lot more night and weekend hours than my girls would like. I’m even getting some help (one pic above shows Hope helping me stuff and label some envelopes yesterday morning, the other shows the cool office space downtown Sioux Falls that a new friend is lettgin me share with her a couple days a week).

So here’s the thing: I took this new job so I would be able to really make a difference in my work AND hang out with my kids. I knew it would take a cople months to get things rolling and set into a groove. I need to calm this storm, and still deliver high performance. It’s the dance I’ve been learning for a while now, and I’ve still on the JV team with it. Any helpful advice out there? Zoey told me on Friday that she’ll love this Christmas forever if I don’t work too much. 😦

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2008 in Family, Work

 

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I [Heart] RLC.

CB030097One thing I love about this blog is that I can just throw shit up here–thoughts and ideas and commentary, real and raw. And, since I’m writing to my family and friends, I don’t filter. Sometimes I forget that my audience isn’t just my family and friends.  I wrote a post this past weekend about taking on an exciting new project in my work. Since putting it up on Friday afternoon, nearly 1500 people have visited bartblog. An average of almost 400 a day. A normal day is somewhere between 80 and 150. What gives? (I have no idea.)

And, sometimes, things don’t spit out right.  A couple of my friends have told me that post the other day sounded like I was saying I’m glad to leave the Rural Learning Center behind. I’m not.

So, just to clear things up: I’ve had nothing but love for the RLC.  I really love my work there. Always have. And the friendrlc-new-logos and colleagues I’ve had a chance to work with are amazing (and much smarter than me). I’m forever grateful for all I’ve learned and shared with them. My boss and co-workers have been totally supportive of my most recent experiment, and have put up with a boatlod of others over the past 3 years. It’s been super swell of them. And I’m not disappearing.

I see now that the word ‘quit’ is strong. I overdramatize my headlines, I guess (and it works, case in point). This has been a super difficult decision for me, and not one I’ve made by weighing pros and cons. It’s been a gut check–a calling that I’m following. Not anything I’m getting away from. I believe this new opportunity was brought to me for a reason (thanks again for being the messenger Nicole).

So here’s the low down, for anyone interested. For the next few months (beginning in December) I’ll be working on the Green Project a few days a week and on RLC projects a couple days a week.  It’s a way for me to jump into the pool but keep my hands on the deck. We’ve all agreed to go with it this way until we don’t. And it’s pretty amazing for both parties to allow me to do that. Sincere thanks for that.

So that’s the scoop. Thanks for reading.

 
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Posted by on November 17, 2008 in Work

 

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I quit my job this week

For real. I resigned from the Rural Learning Center on Monday afternoon. As of Friday, I’m the first Executive Director of a cool new non-profit start-up called Sioux Falls Green Project (though I won’t hit full swing until December). It’ll be a part time gig to start out. My last full-time day at the Rural Learning Center is November 26. I’ll still be helping out with some RLC projects part time, and blogging at ReimagineRural.com.

So, I’ve been really busy pulling all this together, and taking in another Art of Hosting training last week (see some AoH pics here). I forgot my computer while on the road for four days. It was a wonderful thing to forget. Sorry about the little unplanned break on bartblog. Stay tuned…

green

Oh, and I almost forgot. Thank you Nikki. I do owe you a green beer.

UPDATE/ADD ON (11.17.2008):

I wanted to add a little something to this post. This is kind of a scary time to be leaving a meaningful, secure, full-time job with benefits. A job that I like. With people that I love.

It seems the world is falling down all around us right now. Who knows what kind of economy we’ll be living in. I’ve taken plenty of leaps before, and I’ve never done it with fear–always with the confidence that comes from following a call from deep inside. This is no different, except that the constraints and container have changed.  It means I’ve lost a lot of sleep, and can’t seem to meditate as well as normal lately. So I guess that’s fear.

A good friend taught me something about fear recently. She told me how she’s come to recognize fear as a signal. Just like the leaves changing color and falling to the ground is a signal that something is coming. So, not something bad, per se, but something big. This is something big and important enough to risk it.

 
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Posted by on November 14, 2008 in going green, Work

 

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