Unplugged my table saw for the last time


My wife and I have been working on cleaning up our living space and removing things we no longer need or use. We’ve been talking about it for a while now, but after watching the Marie Kondo Netflix series, it got us moving. Well, that and the disastrous economic situation awaiting Alaska over the next few months. Better to sell things now than wait until everyone is broke.

Anyhow, I had been planning on hitting the workshop slightly later in the spring, but someone already offered to buy the table saw. So, I need to get it ready to go. I also needed to get in there to make space for another shitty task planned for the weekend. As you might imagine, this required more than just shuffling things to the side. I actually had to start going through things and organizing them. You know the process, “This goes here, this is trash, what the hell is this for? etc…” No problem.

Then, I actually got to the saw and unplugged it. It was a totally flippant move. I didn’t think about it, wasn’t really thinking about it, just going about my business getting things together. I set the plug on the table top, as one does, next to the push-block I used to use. It’s yellow and narrow and can be used as a square plus it fits really neatly right in a slot on my fence. It hit me. I won’t ever be using this saw again. Maybe never make another stick of furniture again.

I had no idea getting rid of that saw was going to feel so much. When Stacy and I talked about getting rid of the tools, which was my decision, by the way, I said if I wanted to do it again, I could start over with better tools and purpose. Looking at my little push-block sitting in its usual spot made me realize that’s total bullshit. The minute I unplugged that saw I was done. For good. I was not prepared for that realization, and I am not happy about it.  I mean, I legitimately teared up and had to step away for (it’s why I’m here instead of finishing the job.)

I used to spend hours behind it getting covered in saw-dust as it ground through all manner of projects. When I was feeling stressed, I would get out there and work on shit and it always involved that saw. It was my work-top, my work-horse, and my thinking table. When I stood out there, wearing my ear-protection and goggles, all the ills of the world just melted away. It was like meditation for me. The only thing that mattered was not fucking up whatever was in front of me, to include my fingers.

Marie Kondo tells people to keep the things that bring them joy. It sounds like great advice, but like so much sappy shit on TV or online, it’s just a fucking platitude that’s been dressed up with different words to seem new and fresh. I don’t want to get rid of that saw, I really, really don’t. I’d much rather be out there making things and taking the edge off, but it’s not possible anymore. Life has gotten too busy for things like that, and I don’t see it getting better. This isn’t just about me wanting to spend more time writing, or even about my wife working more. There’s a lot more here that I could bitch about for hours, so I’ll leave it at this. I’m pretty upset by this, and tomorrow is going to be a lot worse for totally different, identical, reasons. In any case, this is a decision I’ve already made for a lot of good reasons, so the tools are going, and a pretty important bit of me is going with them.




Well, here we are, we made it… [Twenty years later]


I wasn’t sure I was going to write this post out of fear it would sound petulant or petty, but I’m going to give it a go largely because – milestone.

I graduated high-school twenty years ago this year and while I don’t remember the valedictorian speech, I’m sure it included the phrase: well here we are, we made it. And so now here we are, twenty years later. This weekend is the carefully planned and coordinated reunion. It’s more than one event, actually, and I’m not going to any of it. I’m not busy and the events are just ten minutes away. Nevertheless, I’m not going. The thing is, a lot of classmates aren’t going to make it, some because they are too far, some because of scheduling conflicts, and others yet who had such a terrible time that they’d literally rather be in prison. I’m actually none of these. In all, I’d say my high-school experience wasn’t as awful as it could have been. Sure, it wasn’t great, but who the hell had a ‘great’ high-school experience? Virtually everyone didn’t.

The thing is, twenty years is a long damn time. I’m further from my date of graduation than my graduation was from my birth. On one hand, wouldn’t this be a great time for a reunion? On the other, most of the folks planning on attending were basically strangers to me in high school. Yes, I know their names and recognize their faces, but aside from that, we didn’t know each other then and we don’t now. I’m not saying that any of them aren’t worth knowing, just that I don’t. Plus, outside of high-school stuff, I’ve got no context here. I don’t even remember high-school that well. It would be the equivalent of walking into a brew-pub and striking up conversations with random folks. That CAN be fun, but it’s not my favorite thing to do. Largely because you can’t slink off into the digital ether if you stick your foot in your mouth as you can with social media, where I will absolutely tell strangers shit I wouldn’t tell anyone else.

Twenty years since graduation, however, is a milestone. When the talk of a reunion came up I did think about it. Spent a lot of time thinking about it, actually. Not so much about going, mind, rather I thought about me twenty years ago and the folks that I spent time with. I’m not sure any of them are going to make it at all, which would be the only port in that storm of nostalgic conversation from which I’d be pretty much left out. With the benefit of hind-sight, I realized that graduating wasn’t even the most memorable thing to happen to me that year. Hell, high-school, middle-school – all that, is less time than I’ve spent working my current job.

While this is a milestone year for myself and all of my classmates, I can’t help but look at it and just sort of shrug and hope everyone has a genuinely good time. And with that, I’ll leave you what I think about when I hear 1997.


Getting Laid-off (again)


These are layoff notices. Receiving two of these for a two-income family is a bad day. A really bad day. Today, we have two incomes. On July 1, we will have 0 incomes and no benefits. Over the past year, two of the key phrases heard have been “more jobs” and “drain the swamp.” Well. This is what that policy looks like folks. In Alaska, that has translated into firing many thousands of people and eliminating the option for even collecting unemployment insurance. The real bottom dwellers in our political system are the politicians who only act in the interest of people who give them money. In all other countries of the world, this would be considered bribery or graft. In our country we all pretend it’s ‘free speech’ and then try to go about our business as if it’s not going on at all. As the state moves to lay off some 20,000 people, the politicians will continue to be paid, and no-doubt, be receiving money from their well-heeled benefactors to keep them going.

To digress from the political rant a bit, and make this into something more positive, I posted something like this almost exactly two years ago. In response to the layoff threat two years ago, I went and got a new job. A job that would free me from the threat, a job that would offer me opportunities for advancement, and an opportunity that might make me more marketable in the broader economy.

That new job was generally most of the things I hoped it would be though to be honest, it was no less subject to layoffs than where I’d left. While there, I realized that there is no longer such a thing as a ‘stable job’. The best you can hope for is a marketable skill set and a local economy good enough to shop that around. That said, the job I got turned out to be what I describe as a hostile environment. Based on things I learned at ADF&G, I tried to be inclusive. Things go better when you involve your team and other folks who’s support you will need to proceed. I attempted this and for the first year or so received mostly responses of “well, it’s complicated, good luck”, and (quite literally), “I hope your project fails.” That last one stung the most, even though I tried to roll past it with good nature.

That hostile environment is one of the reasons I left. You can either be an agent of change or shrug and let them carry on. When my old job at ADF&G opened up and the possibility to return came to me, I was in a meeting being told about all of the things I wasn’t doing right at the new place. To be clear, the purpose of this meeting was to explain that I didn’t have the resources and might not make the deadlines set in spite of every attempt to get there. With this option in hand, I spent a few nights thinking very, very hard about what it meant. And yes, it did mean possible layoffs, but that’s going to be true across the board with the Trump administration gutting government – no job is safe. I concluded that, for the benefit of my family life, I needed to leave the job even with layoffs a distinct possibility. So. I left. There were other options, some lucrative, some very risky, but they were there, once I really started putting myself out there.

What that short-lived foray out of ADFG did give me, however, was a sense of optimism and life satisfaction with my old position that I desperately needed. Just six months back and I am a genuinely happier person with a seriously adjusted attitude for optimism. Even though both myself and my wife are going, as likely as not, to be out of work and out of health benefits without even the prospect to collect unemployment, I feel more optimistic about what comes after. There are no plans for me to bail from where I am, and I’m not even looking. Not because I’m not worried, but because I really like my job and want to hang on to it and because even if I’m asked not to come back in the end, I know there are options out there. If this extends into a month or longer and we default on our mortgage or wrack up tens of thousands of dollars in surprise medical bills or perhaps just lose a car or two for failing to make the bills, I know I can find ways to start digging us out. We probably won’t be living in a cardboard box.

The truth of the matter is that, I genuinely believe that the politicians engineering this shutdown really do want to inflict damage on state employees and, indeed, the state economy as a whole. If we’re in a shambles and desperate for work, we will sacrifice freedom, income, health, education, property, and environment to feed our family. They know this. So too do the politicians in Washington. If you make us hungry, we will beg. That said, I’m also confident that we’ll pull through this mess. Perhaps poorer, perhaps without the land we’ve worked so damn hard to get and keep, or even some of the nice things we’ve gown accustomed to, like the ability to afford reliable transportation and the certainty of our next meal. What I do know – what I believe – is in spite of the concerted political attack on families by our politicians, we’ll figure it out, even if we have to move to Canada.