IOU, Steve Proffitt

I’ve been putting off writing this for a while, and the increased cognitive load and knock-on delays are forcing my hand. I can either write it, or forget it altogether, and I think it’s too important to future-me so here we go.

Back of the program for Steve’s funeral

One evening, during my second semester of college, I was walking west to east on the north side of campus. For those of you who are familiar with MSU, you can imagine me passing by Hammons Hall for the Performing Arts and thinking about the nights I had played there in the symphony, and approaching Scholars Hall where someone I cared about deeply lived… but she was in the process of ending our friendship and I was feeling lonely and sad. On that night, I had no one to call or spend time with, no one to commiserate with me, and I prayed to God.

Please God, I need some Christian friends. I need a community. I’m desperate, Lord.

And then I decided that I needed a cup of coffee. I could turn around and head downtown to the Mudhouse, but I recalled that there was a coffee shop just east of campus that I had never visited. I’d pop in there and get something, then continue my walk of angst.

I crossed National Ave., climbed the three stairs to the porch of The Potter’s House, and approached the counter, which back then was left of the door but parallel to it so you faced the back of the shop when ordering. I placed an order, perused the corkboard to the right of the register filled with advertisements for roommates and barbers and whatnot, and then accepted my sugary frappe thing while handing over my credit card.

“Oh, sorry, we’re cash only. No cards,” said the person behind the register, or something to that effect. But I already had my drink, and I was suddenly overwhelmed by shame. I probably blushed, and I stammered out that I could run across the street and get some cash from the ATM. Here I was, screwing everything up again, just like I had been all year.

“Nah, don’t worry about it,” said Steve. “We’ll just write you an IOU. What’s your name?”

My brain shut down about then. “An IOU? What do you mean?”

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I wish I had switched from Carbonite sooner

I was happy with Crashplan back in the day, and when they sold/switched me to Carbonite, I didn’t particularly mind. I’ve had two successful restores after hard drives died… the first was stressful but everything went fine, which was a huge relief. When I fried my drives a few weeks ago (remember kids, don’t use cables from an old PSU with a new PSU…), I was confident my data would be restored without any trouble.

What I didn’t know was that Carbonite is now throttling transfer speeds. I have ~650gb and it took almost 3 weeks to restore. I started looking for an alternative a week ago, and when the restore finished last night, I killed Carbonite and installed Backblaze.

My upload speed isn’t that fast, but it’s 10x faster than Carbonite’s throttled download speed. About 90gb uploaded overnight, and I’m optimistic that Backblaze will be done in a few days.

I also really like how much more secure Backblaze is. I’ve encrypted my backup, and setup 2FA with no fallback to SMS.

The timing is perfect because my Carbonite subscription renews in 9 days. As soon as I can confirm that Backblaze has my data, I can cancel Carbonite.

Investing in myself costs more than I’m currently willing to spend

I don’t think I’ll ever start wearing suits again, but I respect this piece and want to share it with you. It is powerful and good.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I wear lately. I’ve been thinking a lot about my health and investing in myself. Maybe it’s worth it.

I know what you’re thinking. “Of course it’s worth it!” But that’s the effect of trauma at a young age. And I suspect many of you are wired the same way: we always think other people are worth it, but we’re not sure if we are, ourselves, worth much of anything.

But maybe I am. Maybe. April bought me a new shirt recently and I wore it on Saturday, one of the only shirts I’ve had in the last 6 years that wasn’t a free t-shirt from a work conference or something similar. I liked how it looked and how it made me feel. I now have 3 non-t-shirts that I like to wear. I have 1 pair of jeans that is in decent shape. That’s my wardrobe right now.

I have, of late, been reflecting on being valued, feeling valued, and the source of my value. As a “good Christian,” I know that this ought to come from God. But where I look to for feeling valued, it’s not God, and I’m not getting it, so I often feel down. Nice clothes won’t make me feel valued either. They won’t make other people respond to me, or talk to me, like I really want them to. And even if they did, my brain would probably find some other reason to doubt.

But there’s something about putting your body into a different position, a different posture, and the effect that has on your brain and heart. Maybe it’s worth trying. Maybe.

Old Friends

It wrecked me when Willow died 4 months ago. In the midst of my grief, I realized that she was my closest friend and her passing did more than wound my heart. It also forced me to confront some issues related to friendship that I had been avoiding. In this context, by friendship I mean both the general concept as well as the specific relationships I used to have with a few people.

Before Simon was born (so think 2017), I began wrestling with issues related to friendship. April had an ectopic pregnancy that was pretty scary and, while I was picking up some things to take back to her at the hospital, I realized that I didn’t know who to call. There was no one in Springfield who I felt close enough to.

After that, I redoubled my efforts to make friends. I started going to a church small group. I joined a tabletop gaming group. I invited people over to our house to hang out. I made concerted efforts to become friends with 5 different people and couples.

None of it really took. I talked with my counselor about it and how I decided to give up trying to make friends because it hurt too much when they didn’t reciprocate. There was no real dislike expressed towards me in any of these attempts, it’s just that people have full lives and social circles and there wasn’t room for me, or we didn’t click, or whatever.

The message I felt though, which I recognize now was a lie, was that I wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t worth being friends with. That I was bad.

That was hard and disappointing, but I could ignore it and move on because I had a dog. Until I didn’t.

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Christian Contractualism and What We Owe to Each Other

Early this year, I began down a winding path of professional development that has influenced my ethics and changed how I think about my place in the world. I began with learning about design thinking, systems thinking, and cybernetic strategy development, which led me to deep reflections on how we work together, what makes teams great, and ethics. Most recently, I read the book What We Owe to Each Other by T.M. Scanlon.

A couple of weeks ago, I experienced what I think was a nudge of the Holy Spirit that kicked off a chain of logic and an expansion of my worldview. Scanlon’s book doesn’t really have a firm conclusion of, “Therefore, we ought to do X, Y, and Z.” The book gives us lots of pieces and ideas, but Scanlon isn’t prescriptive. My Sunday morning rumination led me to a potential conclusion, though I’m still considering it.

In this post, I’ll briefly define contractualism, share the logic chain, and then the potential outcomes of my thinking.

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How Solar Power Works in Springfield, Missouri and Why You Should Invest In A Solar Array

Earlier this year, I decided to look into solar power. There is a 26% federal tax credit this year for solar, and it had been about 4 years since I had last looked into getting solar for our house. Back in 2017, it was a bit more expensive and a bit less efficient, but the tax credit combined with some improvements in the technology made it an absolute no-brainer to add a solar array to our house.

In this post, I’ll talk about the financial reasons for getting solar this year, and then I’ll cover how solar works with City Utilities (CU) in Springfield.

Important note the first: solar only makes sense if you own your home and plan to live in it for a long time. Without those two things being true, you won’t get a sufficient ROI for them to make sense at this time in Springfield.

Important note the second: for serious, if you do decide to get solar, let me know so I can refer you to Simple Solar and we’ll get some nice rewards.

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Outdoor Improvements

Back in 2017, I began dreaming about making some improvements to our back yard. Sections of our fence had blown over twice during thunderstorms, and while I had done my best to prop them back up and nail everything together, I really wanted to just replace it. The untreated lumber combined with too-long nails that stuck through every inch was all just terrible.

But the single quote I got for a new fence told me that I couldn’t afford it yet. Then, in 2018, Simon came along and we also needed to invest more into what I call “foundational” improvements. Foundational work is invisible but essential and included things like insulating our ducts, adding a vapor barrier to the crawl space, etc.

The summer of 2019, we learned that Simon (and probably all kids) loved to be outside. He wanted to play outside all the time. And while Simon wasn’t bothered by the desert wasteland that was our yard on summer afternoons, April and I were generally miserable out there. We wanted him to play outside a lot, but we didn’t actually want to be outside, which was a problem. So I took my dreams and started sketching out some ideas and doing a lot of research.

Uncertain how to fund everything that I wanted to do, I asked people on Reddit for advice during the summer of 2020. Simon was about to turn 2 years old and was now properly running around, and April increasingly wanted a patio roof so she could go out the back door when it was raining and not get wet. I also really liked the idea of being able to grill in the rain.

Reddit gave me the idea to refinance our house and take cash out of the equity. Thanks to pandemic weirdness, we were able to lower our interest rate at the same time our home value shot up, so we’ll actually pay our house off sooner and we got enough money from our equity to fund about 45% of the work that I wanted to have done. The rest of our Outdoor Improvement projects were funded by covid stimulus checks, holiday gifts, decreasing my 401k contribution for 5 months, credit card churning, and laser-focused re-prioritization using YNAB.

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Commemorating my health

A few years ago, we had a load of mulch brought to our yard by All About Trees. It was around 7-8 cubic yards and I struggled to spread it to the flower beds. I could do 5-8 wheelbarrow loads in a session and I’d be wiped out. Filling the wheelbarrow was hard. Pushing it was hard. Dumping and spreading mulch was hard. I could handle 20-30 minutes at a time and then have to be done doing anything for the rest of the day.

Last month, we had 7 cubic yards of mulch delivered by McMullen and I’ve been shifting a lot of it. Some evenings, I’d do it between 7 and 8 pm and be done, but that was after a long day. On a weekend, I’d shift 20+ barrows in a day and continue being active. On Monday of this week, I:

  • Finished distributing the mulch (around 12 wheelbarrow loads I think).
  • Painted our metal outdoor furniture.
  • Spread grass seed and watered it.
  • (Mostly) finished deep-cleaning our house because we’re moving the cats outside because Isaac is allergic to them.

All told, it was around 7 hours of work after two days of doing a lot of other work. I was hitting my 10,000 steps by 10 or 11 am each day of the long (Memorial Day) weekend.

And then today, I had a stressful morning and decided to take a break to row. I haven’t rowed in weeks because I’ve been so busy with other stuff, and I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to resume the Pete Plan where I left off. But I rowed 7000 meters in 31 minutes with my heart rate in zone 5 for the majority of the time. I rocked it.

My weight has been up since Willow got really sick. Food is my comfort in the midst of stress, and I’m up around 15 lbs. right now and have been for months. I don’t like how I look and I’ve been wearing larger, looser shirts because I’m insecure about the extra couple of inches I have right now. But I think I’m more fit than I’ve ever been. I’ve got stamina and strength that I didn’t have years ago when I weighed more. And I’m cautiously optimistic that I’m pulling out of this period and will be able to start getting my weight and eating back under control again.

When meeting with my counselor last week, she advised that I focus on gratitude and start writing about it. This was in regards to some people we were talking about, but I’ve also been thinking about it in regards to my body. Rather than eat to feel better, maybe I could think about how I’m grateful for my body and what I can do, and focus on how I want to feel physically and what I want to be capable of doing in the future.

This morning was pretty stressful, and I was very tempted to go to the bakery. If it hadn’t been raining, I would have walked there and gotten coffee and a scone. But since it was raining and I didn’t want to go outside, it made me pause and think, and I decided to exercise instead. I need to start doing that more. I hope continuing to try and focus on gratitude will help me make that decision more frequently.

My dog Willow has died

Willow was a good dog. We adopted her from the Humane Society in 2011 at the age of 4. I had been wanting a dog for years, but I was working ridiculous hours at the university and taking night classes. It wouldn’t be fair to have a dog stuck at home when I was on-campus for 10-12 hours a day.

She joined our family the day after I graduated with my BA.

Her name had been Tarheel, and it seemed to me like she hadn’t been well-socialized with other dogs. She was small for a Labrador Retriever, and I suspected she had been kept in a run because, when let loose in our backyard, she would just run back and forth in a straight line.

But she bonded with me immediately. She was my constant companion, rarely even tolerating being in a different room from me. I spent months working with her and other dogs, and she got better and better. She lived to love me and to make me happy, and I never felt like I quite deserved it.

She had two nicknames:

  1. Widdershins, because for the longest time she would spin in circles whenever excited for dinner, or excited about anything else, but would only spin counterclockwise. Willow Widdershins Stublefield.
  2. Triangle-Ears because her ears would perk up whenever she thought food or anything else interesting was available.

She didn’t mind the cats at all. Eventually, they came to tolerate her.

She was definitely my dog. She liked everyone, but I was the one she followed and obeyed. For the last 6 and a half years, I have been working from home and she has been my co-worker every day, on the sofa in my office right next to me. For 10 years, she has slept on the floor next to the bed, right beside me.

I was hers and she was mine. But she liked April too.

She generally pretended like our kids didn’t exist. If they were between me and her, she would go right through or over them if we weren’t careful.

She lived 13.5 years. On the way home from the vet, who diagnosed her with kidney disease, I checked online and learned that labs typically live 10-12 years. In dog years, I think that means she was 94.

I think we gave her a good life. I know she made my life better.

I cried so hard at the vet. I knew when we adopted her that this day would come. I’ve been prepared to mourn her since that first day. But it was still hard, so very hard, and I wept on the floor in the vet’s office while holding her.

I’m crying now.

I’m going to be expecting to see her come around a corner in our house for days, maybe weeks. I keep expecting to feel her nudge my hand or put a paw on my leg.

She was such a good dog.

I’ll miss you Willow. I love you. Thank you for being my friend.

My Uncle Dave has died and I have some complex feelings about it

My Uncle Dave lived in Arkansas, and when I was young (starting in 4th or 5th grade, probably… maybe 6th, I don’t recall), we began visiting his family almost every weekend. By junior high, I would also spend a week or two at their house in the summer without my parents there. I spent a lot of time at their home, hiking through their woods, swimming in their pool, eating their food, playing video games with my cousin Neil, teasing and getting teased by my cousin Charelle, and just being a part of their family.

Uncle Dave was an alcoholic and a drug user. I’m pretty sure he was abusive towards Neil. At least, that would explain the anger issues that Neil had that prompted him to try and murder me most weekends when we visited.

I never experienced peer pressure from my schoolmates. Dave was the first to try and make me drink beer, and once when I continued to refuse he just poured his can over my head while cursing and yelling at me.

One summer, my cousin Neil and I accidentally lit a field on fire with some bottle rockets. It was state land, and we were terrified that we would be arrested and our lives were over. Dave called the fire department and covered for us. We didn’t get in trouble at all. Neil bought me a sports drink at the corner shop (which was actually a mile or two away at the end of a dirt road) and we were allies for a day.

After my parents got divorced (I was around 12 years old and in 6th or 7th grade), I never heard again from my dad’s side of the family. I haven’t seen Dave, his (now ex-)wife, or my cousins since before my parents got divorced. I did get Charelle’s phone number so I could invite her to our wedding in 2008 because she was always kind to me, but she had a scheduling conflict and couldn’t be there, and that was the last we spoke.

I don’t entirely know how I feel about Dave dying. It was inevitable, really. My dad said he had a heart attack, but I know he was still abusing drugs so that likely shortened his life.

He wasn’t a bad uncle to me, all things considered. He taught me how to split firewood and how to skin a deer. How to dispose of the guts of deer and turkey. How to fish, how to clean them, and how to smoke salmon and trout. One of our main sources of meat, when I was growing up, was hunting on his land.

I can’t miss him because I haven’t had a relationship with him for almost 25 years at this point. But my inability to fully parse my feelings is what indicates that my feelings are complex. I have so few ties to my childhood and to my past, and one more is gone I suppose. But it has actually been gone for a long time. Really, I can’t be certain how much of a relationship was ever there.

For a few minutes, I considered attending the memorial. I’ve thought a lot over the years about how I would react to seeing my cousin Neil again who inflicted so much torment and pain on me that I nearly committed suicide the night before having to visit my uncle and his family for yet another weekend. At this point, I think I have enough distance and enough of the Holy Spirit that I can extend grace even if I’m still working on full forgiveness. As for my uncle, it’s not like the death of a stranger. I knew him, and he played a large role in my childhood. Not an altogether positive one, but there are worse stories than mine, and so I don’t feel like I can be too upset about it all.

He is gone. He wasn’t all bad. I hope that others will be better, and I know that I will be. Dave is one of my inspirations for fatherhood and for being a good husband because he modeled what one oughtn’t do. I do believe that he loved, but I also know that he was broken and drug-addled.

Goodbye, Uncle Dave.