Being-wealthy things that I don’t yet take for granted

I need a suit. When I lost weight last year, I donated all of my jackets, slacks, etc., and never bought anything new because I so rarely need to wear those kind of clothes. But now I have two weddings in the next 6 months and I need something appropriate to wear.

Even though I could afford to spend more, I don’t want to spend much on a suit because I wear it so rarely and I also have no desire to wear a suit on a day-to-day basis anymore.

After a bit of research, I decided to go with the Bar III suit from Macy’s. Cheap and decent, and I could get it tailored so it fits me perfectly. A well-tailored cheap suit will always look better than an ill-fitting expensive suit.

I measured myself, and I used Macy’s TruFit tool to figure out what size I should wear. But when the pants got here, I discovered they were 2-3 inches too small!

Here’s the part where I feel crazy wealthy: I just ordered three more pairs of pants in different sizes so I can find the one that fits best.

I’ll return the ones that I don’t want for a full refund, so I’m still only out the cost of a single pair of pants (and because Macy’s has a ridiculous sale on, they’re only $40!). But just being able to order these now and get refunds later… that’s some financial privilege right there.

When I was a freshman in college, I spent some of my student loan money to buy a nice suit. I think it cost me $300, was made of gaberdine wool, and I wore it primarily for Model United Nations competitions. Weddings, funerals, work interviews, and eventually multiple times a week for work. I wore that suit for years until it fell apart.

Getting a new suit was out of reach for me financially for a long time. Now I could afford one, but don’t really need one… still, I’m grateful that I have the option of ordering online (because the Bar III isn’t actually carried in our local store for some reason), trying things on, and returning them.

And maybe someday I’ll go to my tailor and have him make me a custom suit. It’s actually not that expensive–$300, the same as I paid for that wool suit from Men’s Wearhouse back in 2003–but it takes months and I currently only have two pairs of jeans and I should probably get more of the things I wear everyday first. I only recently reached the milestone of having more than two pairs of socks that I like to wear. Jeans are next on my list.

(And I’m tired of my jeans dying after a year, so I’m thinking about saving up for raw denim.)

Subject: What actions are you taking to address the crisis of concentration camps on American soil to detain legal immigrants?

Email to Senator Roy Blunt, Senator Joshua Hawley, and Representative Billy Long on August 5, 2019

I do not believe that the way we have treated asylum seekers, legal immigrants, or people crossing our southern border is moral or representative of American values.

What’s more, I do not think it is in compliance with the spirit of our immigration laws, nor is it compliant with our actual asylum laws.

What actions are you taking to resolve this injustice? What is your plan and timeline to both address the root cause of the immigration challenges and to close the concentration camps and restore humanity and grace to how we work with immigrants?

Thank you for your time,

Matthew Stublefield
Springfield, Missouri

On Wed, Aug 7, 2019 at 8:22 AM Senator Roy Blunt <donotreply@blunt.senate.gov> wrote:

Dear Matthew:

Thank you for taking time to share your thoughts on the humanitarian crisis at the southern border.  

As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I voted in favor of an emergency funding bill to strengthen security and address the humanitarian crisis at the border.  Thousands of unaccompanied children have come across the border and have been referred to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The emergency funding bill signed into law by the President on July 1, 2019, provides $2.88 billion in funding for HHS to provide care and shelter for unaccompanied minors.

Again, thank you for contacting me.  I look forward to continuing our conversation on Facebook (www.facebook.com/SenatorBlunt) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/RoyBlunt) about the important issues facing Missouri and the country.  I also encourage you to visit my website (blunt.senate.gov) to learn more about where I stand on the issues and sign-up for my e-newsletter.

Sincere regards,

Roy Blunt
United States Senator

On Wed, Aug 21, 2019 at 11:27 AM Representative Billy Long <MO07BLIMA@mail.house.gov> wrote:

Dear Mr. Stublefield,

Thank you for contacting me regarding the crisis at our southern border. I am glad to have the benefit of your views on this issue.

As you may know, our country has a serious immigration problem. Lack of funding has caused conditions at detention facilities to deteriorate while our lax interpretation of immigration law is causing thousands of migrants to swarm our border. The simple fact of the matter is that federal law enforcement agencies like Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) do not have the money or resources to stop migrants from crossing the border and to care for migrants who are caught crossing illegally.

This crisis is not “manufactured” as many of my Democratic colleagues have been telling you for years. This is a real crisis that needs real policy solutions. I support bolstering protection of our southern border through the construction of a barrier and an extensive increase in federal law enforcement personnel. I also believe that we need properly fund ICE, CBP, and other related agencies so that they have the resources and manpower to care for and process the overwhelming number of illegal immigrant detainees. Finally, I support making the many incentives that these migrants have to come here, such as sanctuary cities, illegal. Unlawful non-citizens are a burden on the taxpayers and should not be entitled to the benefits of law-abiding American citizens.

My colleagues and I are working hard to make securing our borders and ending the illegal immigration crisis a reality. To solve this crisis, we will need real bipartisan policy solutions that will secure our border and stymie illegal border crossings. Unfortunately, no such solution has been proposed at this time.Hearing the views of all Missourians gives me the opportunity to better understand how important issues could impact the people of the Seventh District and the future interests of the nation.

For additional information regarding current legislation, my representation of the Seventh District, and to sign up to receive my monthly newsletter, I invite you to visit my website at http://long.house.gov

Sincerely,

Billy Long
Member of Congress

On Fri, Sep 6, 2019 at 4:25 PM Office of U.S. Senator Josh Hawley <SenatorHawley@hawley.senate.gov> wrote:

Dear Mr. Stublefield,

Thank you for contacting me regarding the immigration detention centers at our southern border. I appreciate the time and effort you took to share your perspective with me on this important issue. Your input helps me stay informed on the issues most important to Missourians.

As you may know, President Trump recently requested an allocation of $4.5 billion from Congress in order to respond to the humanitarian and security crisis at the southern border. The $4.5 billion allotment would be used to address the most critical problems created by the border crisis, including the ability to provide higher standards of child care. $3.3 billion would be allocated for humanitarian assistance, which would include funds to increase shelter capacity, to feed and care for migrants and children in custody, and for transportation. $1.1 billion would go to border operations, which includes operations combatting human smuggling and trafficking. I have supported this critical funding request as it equips us with the tools we need to effectively deal with the immediate needs at our border. But simply increasing funding is not enough.

I recently visited the border at McAllen, Texas to see firsthand the crisis we are facing. In doing so, the need for us to act promptly to reform our immigration system became even more clear. The state of Missouri does not share a border with Mexico, but in this present crisis we are a border state. We are a border state because of the drugs that are pouring across the border and flooding into the towns and streets and homes of the people of Missouri. We are a border state because of the families whose lives are destroyed by drugs and crime. We are a border state because of the human smuggling that is becoming an epidemic across the border. If you want to learn more about my experiences at the border, click here. After that experience, I know that we must act to ensure not only the safety of our American families and communities, but the safety of immigrant families at our border as well. As your U.S. Senator, I will continue to monitor this situation closely with your perspectives in mind.

As always, I truly appreciate hearing your concerns. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future on other issues important to you and your community. It is a privilege to be your voice in Congress. If you would like to get regular updates on my work in the Senate, please visit my website at http://www.hawley.senate.gov or follow me on social media at @SenHawleyPress.

Sincerely,

Josh Hawley
United States Senator

Overcome Complexity with Optimism

My job is increasingly complex. I’m leading a team of 8 people and we have a bunch of different plates spinning all the time. There are regular and frequent shifts in priority, and this means we sometimes have less capacity than we would like to get everything done that we want to do.

On Friday, a project was approved which means we can move towards a goal that I’ve had for almost two and a half years. But some other situations mean that we’ll have to sacrifice some other goals. Not completely–we’ll still be doing the work we have been–but we’ll need to go a bit slower so we can balance everything.

While thinking through how I can make this all work practically (what do we do less of? how do we deliver what we need to deliver, and what’s the highest priority work?), I found comfort in the awesomeness of my team. They’re so great that I know we can make this work.

Complexity is stressful, but as I focused on the optimistic thoughts of, “We can do this!” I found that I was a lot less stressed. And very quickly, what had at first seemed to be a complex challenge soon seemed more simple and achievable.

Per my last blog post, I also gave it all to God and asked what part of this complexity is truly mine to manage and what can I lay down. I don’t have a really clear answer on that, but I think recognizing my team’s strength, helping them to also see how great they are, and building their confidence in us working together to do what we need to do… that’s my priority.

Great Power. Greater Responsibility.

Part 1 — Spider-Man

My favorite thing about Spider-Man is that he never gives up. Spider-Man gets knocked down and outright fails more than any other superhero I read, but he continually gets back up and does his best.

Over the last year or so, his go-to line of inspiration has been changing, and it’s really resonating with me. You all probably know the story: when he was a boy, his uncle Ben told him, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

But these days, Spider-Man is regularly taking on challenges that far exceed his power. In the first 2019 comic of the new Spider-Man, Miles’s mom is reading a newspaper article about the concentration camps at our southern border in the USA. Sure, Spider-Man has a lot of power, but what can he do about that?

As the challenges continue to exceed Spider-Man’s power, his inspiration hasn’t weakened. Instead, he acknowledges that his responsibility is greater than his power.

Part 2 — A Sense of Responsibility Rooted in Emotional Trauma

I have been seeing a counselor for a few months to work through something completely (or mostly) unrelated to responsibility. But in our last session, we broached the subject and it touched a nerve, which told me that I needed to work through some things.

That comic with Miles’s mom was stuck in my head during that session, and I was sat there thinking, “I’m not Spider-Man. I don’t have any power. What can I possibly do? Why do I feel responsible for all of this?!”

And the “all of this” in that sentence is a lot. When I was a kid, I tried to defend other kids being bullied (and as a result, I got beat up a lot). I helped people out of jams. I have gotten people jobs, gotten people money, gotten people food. I want people to feel healthy, secure, taken care of… and I feel a sense of responsibility for all of this. Like I have to do it, and if I don’t, I’m failing. What’s more, if it doesn’t work out (if the person doesn’t get the job, or if they’re struggling in some way, or if people aren’t getting healthcare, or kids are in concentration camps, or our representatives are failing to present solutions to gun violence…), then it’s because I’m not doing enough. For every bad thing where I can perceive something that I might be able to do to help, I feel like a failure if I don’t do everything.

Being around people reminds me constantly of things I could be doing to help them or the world at large. And it reminds me that I’m constantly failing.

Part 3 — I Do Not Own My Responsibilities, God Does

That’s what we were actually talking about in counseling: spending time around people. The phrase, “Being around people causes me pain” is true for me. It drains me. I have to recover from being around other people.

And part of the reason for this is the weight of responsibility I feel. I don’t just feel responsible for the moment—it’s not just about making them like me, or making sure I don’t say the wrong things, or making sure they’re having a good time. Those three things seem to weigh on a lot of people, but they’re not that big a deal to me.

In both work and my personal life, I’m typically focused on somewhere 2-5 years from now. The responsibility I’m often feeling is, “This person is really struggling with personal finances. How can I help them without being overbearing in a way that will get them into a better position 5-10 years from now?” Or, “This person is struggling with anxiety. I need to make sure I’m thinking through that from their perspective. What can I say and do to help them on their journey to better mental health? What should I avoid saying and doing?”

When I write it out, it reads as so minor to me, but it’s something that causes me some pain regardless. And I think feeling responsible for the next several years of someone’s life for everyone I come into contact with is the issue. Jesus, how arrogant is that? It’s one of those things that, until you say or write it out, you don’t quite realize what’s going on inside.

At any rate, I prayed about it the following Sunday and God effectively said, “You’re not responsible for these things. I am. And when I ask you to engage with that responsibility, I will give you sufficient power. I don’t ask you to engage with any responsibility without giving you what you need.”

I don’t even “take on” the responsibility. It’s not mine. I’m just doing some work with Him.

I’m ashamed that I said, “I have no power.” I do. I have a lot of power insofar as I’m white and male and privileged, I’m middle-class-wealthy, I own property, and I’m Christian (in an area where that helps get you “in” sometimes). But more importantly, God is with me, and He will not give me anything to do that I can’t handle.

Part 4 — Using The Power I Have

Another thing this forced me to confront is that, yes, an out-sized sense of responsibility causes emotional pain, but wouldn’t the world be a better place if we all felt like Spider-Man? Can I really say that, just because I’m not a superhero who can literally go to Texas and tear down the buildings and fences and provide food and water and medicine to people, then I should do nothing?

God gives me the power I need to engage with the responsibilities to which He invites me. What I’ve been failing to do is pray about those things for which I feel responsible so that He can advise me on what I should be doing. What actions can I take that will be effective without causing self-harm? I think that’s what He wants for me, but I haven’t been seeking Him on it.

It’s not bad to want to help people. But letting that desire lead us into a place of emotional and mental pain isn’t what God wants for us. When our positive desires lead us into a negative state, that’s a twisting of God’s plan, and we have to be wary of it.

I don’t know yet if this realization coupled with praying more frequently will reduce the pain I experience just by being around people. It’s particularly tricky when it comes to work events because that’s where I feel it most acutely (since my job is literally developing strategy for the next several years and putting things into place to make sure we achieve our goals), and I have a work week in London coming up very soon.

But I’ll do the best I can. That’s my responsibility.

“The next steps are pretty easy…”

Hahahahahaha.

So, Attic Work pt. 3 took 6 hours. It also took 3 months for me to find the time to do pt. 3 after pt 2.

I did call the roofing company back in April, but the fellow I spoke with sounded a bit perplexed about what I wanted him to do. He wasn’t confused because it was too difficult, but rather because it’s so easy that he didn’t know why I would pay him to do it.

That prompted me to watch some YouTube videos and decide to do the work myself. I bought the tools I needed… and 2+ months passed because I was busy with travel and family things. Or, on the rare Saturday when I was available, it was raining.

Anyways, I was able to do the remaining work yesterday. This was comprised of:

  1. Crimping duct connectors to fit them into the insulated 4″ ducts I had bought.
  2. Getting everything up into the attic (requisite tools, foil tape, ducts, etc.).
  3. Crawling back to the tight spaces where the fans are.
  4. Taping and clamping the ducts to the fans.
  5. Driving two nails through the roof (from the attic) to mark where I wanted to install the ducts.
  6. Repairing the air return (which had a huge gap in it due to damage I had caused months ago from crawling over it).
  7. Repairing the vent pipe from the hot water heater (which had a huge gap in it due to something a previous contractor had done).
  8. Climbing onto the roof and schlepping all the tools up there.
  9. Cutting back some shingles and then drilling two 4″ holes in the roof where the nails were (a few feet apart).
  10. Reaching down into the attic through what turned out to be a super hot hole in the wood to grab the duct and pull it up.
  11. Cutting some tabs into the duct to nail it down (see a video of what I did on This Old House).
  12. Popping the roof caps into place.
  13. Sealing the roof caps with tri-polymer caulk and doing the same to the shingles.

I thought it’d take around 2 hours. It took 6 and, by the time I got to the roof work, the roof was so hot that it melted the soles off my shoes.

It’s also worth remembering that a chunk of that 6 hours was driving to get things I was missing. For instance, I had bought 6″ duct connectors instead of 4″. And 6″ roof caps when I needed 4″! I don’t know what I was thinking, because the exhaust fans were clearly 4″ and I had 4″ ducts. And I realized all of these things in stages: first to Ace immediately for the connectors, then about 4 hours later to Matthew Epperson’s to borrow a drill with a 4″ hole saw (because the mandril I bought for the hole saw I also bought for this project won’t fit in my stupid drill). And then I cut back the shingles and drilled the first hole, only to realize that I had 6″ roof caps instead of 4″! So I had to go to Home Depot about 5 hours into the project to exchange those. The best laid plans… ah well.

Anyways, the roofer wasn’t wrong. The part of the work that I would have paid him to do took maybe 15-20 minutes. It would have been less with 2 people (one to pass the duct up through the hole in the roof instead of trying to reach down through the 4″ burning hot hole in the wood to feel around and find a duct).

It may rain tomorrow, so we’ll find out then if I did a good enough job sealing everything. If I didn’t, we’ll have a leak in either Simon’s bedroom or the master bedroom, and I’m not going to bother and try to fix it myself. That was miserable yesterday. I’m just going to call the roofing company to come and patch it.

All of this work up in the attic required wearing a respirator mask while working in the heat, and at one point (after the first two hours of non-stop work), I had to come down, sit on the kitchen floor, and just catch my breath. I was soaked through as if I’d been sitting in a bathtub fully-clothed. Summer is not an ideal time for this, but it is what it is.

Anyways, barring a roof leak, the work is done! I also wrapped some insulation around the repaired air return and I’m hoping that this combined with repairing the gap will have a small but noticeable impact in our electricity bill.

Attic work pt. 2

I have finished the hardest part of the attic work. I laid enough floor (2×8 OSB, cut to fit around cross-beams while kneeling in our shallow attic) to get to where the bathroom exhaust fans are. After some fruitless digging through a foot or two of insulation, I crawled out and texted April asking her to turn the fans on.

And then I crawled back in. To reach the master bathroom, it’s tighter than the crawlspace under our house. Once I’m in there, I can’t turn around, I just have to wiggle backward to get out. It’s like spelunking, but infinitely less terrifying. Except that there are electrical wires and I couldn’t turn off the electricity because I needed the damned fan to be on so I could find it.

Once it was on, I realized that I was only about 2.5 feet away from it. The rush of excitement when I cleared enough insulation for the exhaust vent to start blowing insulation was amazing.

Finding the hallway bathroom one was a bit easier–I could at least kneel over there. And it already had a duct, albeit one that is far too short and just goes into the attic. And it was covered in insulation.

But now I’ve found both, so the next steps are pretty easy:

  1. Call the roofing company to schedule a time when they can install the vent hoods. (I could do the work myself, but by paying them to install and seal, it maintains my warranty and they’ll have to handle any leaks that arise.)
  2. On the morning they’re due to arrive, I’ll go back up into the attic with the ducts (which I need to buy) and trace their circumference on the decking where I want them to connect to the hoods.
  3. Drill 8 holes on the circumference line through the decking. For each duct, I’ll leave a drill bit stuck through the decking so it pushes the shingles up and is easy to find from the top side.
  4. The roofer will pull the shingles back and I’ll cut through the roof from above with a jigsaw.
  5. Once the roofer is done installing the vent hoods, I’ll get back into the attic, attach the ducts to the hoods, and tape them.

I also need to get some insulation and seal up a section of our return vent ductwork (heating/cooling).

But all of this will have to wait a month. I leave for the Atlassian Summit conference in Las Vegas tomorrow. I’ll get back on Friday, and then four days later we’re going to Canada to visit Eric and Stephanie.

So close to done. It’ll feel really good to have this project closed out.

Drugs and Medicine

Yesterday morning, I worked in the attic for a couple of hours shifting insulation and putting in a 2′ wide floor. I got about half done.

Then, we went to brunch with Kate, a friend of April’s from college, and her SO Kevin.

I wore Simon for the last half hour of that, then we went home for a break and a change before heading to Wonders of Wildlife where we spent over 3 hours wandering through the aquarium (which was pretty great, and I’ll write a review about it later) and Wildlife Galleries (lots and lots of taxidermied animals, which wasn’t thrilling).

Simon and Matthew at Bass Pro Shops’ Wonders of Wildlife: Wildlife Galleries — 2019-03-30

And eventually, back home to watch some TV and finish a movie on the couch.

Suffice it to say that my back and hips were killing me this morning. Simon’s not super heavy–probably around 15 lbs. now–but getting out of bed was a struggle and I was really stiff and sore.

Not too many years ago, I would have grabbed a handful of ibuprofen and washed them down with coffee. But instead, I grabbed my yoga mat and did 20 minutes of stretching.

It always amazes me how much better I feel after some yoga. I know in advance that it’s going to help, but that doesn’t spur me to do it regularly. Instead, I turn to it when I’m hurting, and after 20-60 minutes, I feel great. Much better than I would have after 5-6 pills.

Medicine isn’t always a drug. Sometimes it’s stretching, and sometimes it’s talking with someone, or it could be going for a walk in nature, or eating a healthy meal. I’m glad that I have added the tool of yoga to my wellness toolbox so I don’t have to rely on pills quite as much.