Christopher T. Miller

Issue 3

published May 15, 2018

Hello, friends.

It has been a pretty amazing three months. In the last ninety days, my family and I have dealt with everything from a major plumbing breakage (raining in the kitchen) to an emergency room visit to my landing a new job. It’s all been very exciting, but alas, for a long while I didn’t get any traveling in. And when I don’t travel, it is hard for me to write The Bindlesack.

However.

It looks as though the major things are behind us now, and I’m pleased to say that my wife and I did get some road under our tires a few weeks ago. We went to Cardinal, Ontario to visit a friend’s farm, and along the way got to hang out in Rochester and Buffalo New York. Additionally, I made it up to Detroit and my best friend and I took a day trip to Youngstown. My tank is full(er) again, and when that happens, the words flow.

Welcome back. It’s good to see you.

Notes

Border crossings are nerve wracking.

Forty-eight hours before leaving for Canada, my wife pointed out that maybe we needed to do something special with our prescriptions. Like take them all in their bottles.

Now, this seemed a little absurd to me for a simple overnight trip. We were barely going to be in Canada for 24 hours, but this triggered my “obey the rules and don’t draw negative attention to yourself” anxiety that I get when dealing with law enforcement. So we researched. And made phone calls, looking for a way around this.

(I’m on a lot of medication. And this was a pain in the ass. So, research.)

All the answers came back: you need to have everything in their original bottles, with just enough for your visit (or they might think you are smuggling drugs).

WIth a deep sigh of frustration, I spent the time to sort everything back into bottles, filling little ziploc bags to leave at home. (Ziploc bags of prescription drugs? Me, a dealer, officer?) After a time everything was sorted and labeled, and we were ready to go.

And when we got to the border, they never asked. Not going out. Not coming in.

Dammit all.

Selah: On Distraction and Transition

I left my job of nine years to move to a new company and a new position. I took some time off between the positions to process the change and to make some decisions of how I wanted my life to be going forward.

There is an old Hebrew word for this: Selah. Pause and consider.

A lot has happened to me in the last nine years. Divorce, single parenthood, a second marriage, one daughter moving out, a second on the way. Money issues, money windfalls, and a new lease on life after paying off many of my debts. Wrestling with the place of the internet and social media in my life. During this time between jobs, I wanted to take time to digest all of this, to make some sense of it, and to mindfully decide how I wanted to move forward.

In my life, I find that the single greatest detriment to feeling good about what I am accomplishing is distraction. This has manifested in a number of ways over the years, but the most common pattern was to feel like I was doing nothing “for me” or “with my life,” getting involved with groups or projects both online and off, time passes and I start feeling overwhelmed, then I shut everything down an cocoon for a while. And then, a few month to a year later, I would repeat the cycle.

I decided I wanted to stop that. What was it going to take? What was I missing?

For a very long time now, I’ve had the desire to shut down all pinging. All the messaging systems, all the social media, all the distractions that I felt kept me from finding my focus. The problem isn’t the internet or social media itself; it’s me. I’m easily distracted. So to find focus, I shut everything down. I removed everything social from my phone except text messaging. I turned off alerts except for phone calls. I only checked my email twice a day, and even then, never on my phone: only on a computer.

Let me tell you, it was lovely. And truth is, I’m not planning on going back.

Quotes

The ultimate value of life depends upon awareness and the power of contemplation rather than upon mere survival. -Aristotle

Politicians are addicted to spending and revenue extraction. As with an addict, there’s little pause for moral or legal contemplation. -David Malpass

Woe to the man who is always busy – hurried in a turmoil of engagements, from occupation to occupation, and with no seasons interposed of recollection, contemplation and repose! Such a man must inevitably be gross and vulgar, and hard and indelicate – the sort of man with whom no generous spirit would desire to hold intercourse. -William Godwin

Marlow, Sort Of

I did a fair bit of traveling between jobs, but Marlow wasn’t one of the place I went. So, for your Marlow news, I bring you the Interesting Items from the Police Blotter from the last couple months.

I’m going to try to get down to Marlow in May. More news after that trip. If there is someplace you want me to visit, drop me a line.

Books

Deep Work by Cal Newport

i’ve read this book four times now, and I keep getting new things out of it.

The core premise of Newport’s work si that one requires focus to do their best work. In order to attain that focus, one must eliminate as much distraction as possible. In this book, he targets many of the sacred items in our offices: email, social media, chat, and even cellphones themselves. He counsels the read to question the value of every distraction, asking that we place a value on our work, and on our relationships with others. He teaches the reader a frame of mind which is a breath of fresh air: what you want achieve is important, and it is okay to act like you value it.

Highly recommended, especially if you struggle with tech distraction, as I do.

Recipe: Sausage and Cabbage

This is one that my wife and I like to make as comfort food. It’s pretty simple. We use the instant pot version below, but we’ve done the oven version as well, and both are delicious.

Ingredients :
– 1 pound of mild/sweet Italian sausage
– 1 stick of butter
– Several cups of shredded cabbage (we buy the bags of shredded cole slaw in the produce section)

Oven version:
In a 9×9 pan, layer a cabbage base, then cut up half a stick of butter into small pats and place them in a grid on the cabbage. Take half a pound of the sausage and flatten it a best you can, place on the butter/cabbage layer. Repeat cabbage and butter layer on top, then the rest of the sausage, then one more layer of cabbage (no butter on the top). Bake at 350 for about an hour.

Instant Pot Version:
Layer in the instant pot as stated in the oven recipe. Cook on the meat/stew setting for 30 minutes. Vent for 15 minutes, then eat.

List of Nine: Names Of My New Bands

Influences

Endnotes

See you next time. Let’s be careful out there.

-Chris