6 Essential Lifestyle Tips From A Freelance Digital Creative Stay-At-Home Dad

The only thing in America worse than being gay is being a stay-at-home dad.
Now, I know I will get some arguments on that point, but the gays have no idea what it’s like to have people judge you because they think you aren’t fulfilling your gender role the way God intended.

No idea.

I have been a stay-at-home dad for over a year now. It wasn’t something I ever wanted to do or ever saw myself doing, and I was resistant until the bitter end. But it made sense. My wife loves her job and the company she works for. She makes better money than I’ve ever made, and my ‘career’ has comprised of a long string of low-wage, dead-end, service industry jobs, most of which I enjoyed, some of which I tolerated, none of which I was passionate about.

A few years ago, before the whole stay-at-home dad thing, I started doing freelance graphic design and simple website setup, mostly for local small businesses. I still remember the thrill of being handed my first check for a job. A hundred dollars. It was for setting up a website on Tumblr for a cafe I used to deliver bagels to. It was also the first time I ever made money working for myself. Ah, I thought, I have opened the floodgates on this whole freelance money making machine.

In the year since I’ve gone SAHD, I have also been a part-time graphic designer and creative sidekick, part-time creator of a web magazine, and recently, part-time aspiring novelist. Despite trying to do so much, somehow I still manage to waste hour upon irretrievable hour of precious workable time.

One of the curses of the digital age, as we all know, is the ease with which we can waste whole days in this internet machine. After five minutes of Facebooking, my son starts crying and I think, why is he crying? I just put him down for his nap. But I keep forgetting, or choosing not to remember, how this internet machine warps time and really an hour and a half just passed in those five Facebook minutes.

The point of all this seemingly pointless drivel is that I’ve learned a few things. Specifically, I have learned as many as six things. Six things about how to, a.) be more productive, healthy, and happy when you’re working from home, and, b.) make the most of stay sane while being a stay-at-home dad.

Write down 3 things each night

This is the first essential practice in being more productive. I think Tim Ferriss and Leo Babauta both recommend this. If you don’t know who they are, then you’ve no manner of experience with this internet machine at all. If you click enough links, you will eventually get to the blogs of both Tim and Leo, because their blogs exist at the absolute center of the internet, a fact that has been proven many times, and needs not be proven again here.

At the end of each day, whether it’s the end of your work day or before you go to bed, write down the 3 most important things you want to get done the next day. The 3 things, besides keeping your kid(s) alive, that will most further you on your path to imminent legendariness.

It helps if you use Post-it notes because you won’t have room to write down very much. If you write down more than 3 things you’ll only frustrate yourself when you don’t get them all done, unless they are very small things, like ‘pee standing up today’ (unless you are a woman, in which case pee standing up should count as at least one of your main to-dos).

Keep a separate to-do list with everything on it. If you think of other things you need to get done, write them down on your master list, not on your 3-things list.

The benefit of this is, when you get started in the morning, or whenever it is you are able to get started, you won’t waste any time or mental energy thinking about what you need to do for the day. It’s already there, waiting for you. It’s amazing how much better this makes your life. It is the main reason to which I attribute my wealth, fame, and many accomplishments.

Take 2 walks each day

Your brain needs breaks and your body needs exercise. Going for a walk outside is one of the best ways I’ve found to build a little of both into your day, and get that much needed Fresh Air everyone is always going on about.

I don’t know about other kids, but mine loves being outside. There have been times where taking him outside was the only thing that calmed him down. Even now, if he’s fussy, I can usually strap him in the stroller and get him out the door, and he settles right down, just taking in all the Fresh Air and Natural Beauty of our suburban town.

Troy The Mystical Mormon says you can tell the babies who are outside a lot and the ones who aren’t. He says the outside ones are more aware and alert. So if you want your kid to be as nice and well-behaved as a Mormon child, take him or her outside a lot.

There are times when it’s just too hot, cold, or rainy outside to go for a walk, which I refer to as the McDonald’s Frappe At The Mall days. This past summer, when it was too hot inside or outside, I would take the boy on Mc.F.A.T. Mall days all the time, so we’d have somewhere to walk and not get heat stroke. (If you are a compulsive shopper, I do not recommend this tactic.)

That would never work now, because he doesn’t really sleep anywhere but his Pack ‘N Play in the closet, so I will probably see how long it takes him to drink a large Frappe by himself, then buy him four or five to keep him busy while I try to get some work done.

Use a timer

This is a lesson I’ve been trying to put into practice recently, but have had a hard time remembering to do. For example, right now I am writing this without a timer running.

I can’t remember where I first learned about it, but this is called the Pomodoro Technique. I’m sure there’s more to it than this—I haven’t read the book so I don’t know—but basically you set a timer for 25 minutes, do as much work as you can on whatever one thing you want to focus on, then take a 5 or 10 minute break, then start again.

I’ve been playing a little loose with those rules and doing 30 minutes of work followed by sometimes a 5 minute break to go pee standing up, and other times a 20 or 30 minute break to stare at clouds, but the principle still works. You’re forced to take a break, evaluate your progress, and come back to your work with a slightly fresher focus.

Nancy The Starbucks Manager (who does not know about my secret McDonald’s frappe addiction) says she does this when she’s trying to clean around the house to help her focus on getting one thing done at a time instead of getting lots of things partially done.

I use e.ggtimer.com, which is super simple and does the job just fine for free. Also, the same guys behind e.ggtimer have created a site called steep.it for timing your tea steeping, with a handy little chart listing quick links for different types of tea.

Go on adventures

This dovetails with the Take walks lesson above. If your life is all about work and productivity now, while you’re still a nobody, then chances are it will continue to be no matter how much stuff you accomplish, how much money you make, or how famous you become. My opinion is try to live the schedule you want now, no matter your current situation.

I’ve taken Asher to a lot of the national and state parks in our area. We’ve strollered most of the Battle Road Trail in Lincoln and Concord, where the very first battles of the American Revolution took place.

We have strollered along trails through marshes where people set up giant cameras and take pictures of birds and butterflies and various marshlife.

We’ve gone, along with Wendy, the wife and the mom of our little tricycle family, to Acadia National Park in Maine, where we stayed for three nights and drove and walked around and ate fantastic food and took lots of photos (but did not see a moose).

The hardest part of these adventures for me is that I have been cursed with a small bladder and always try to stay close to a public bathroom. I will admit to having urinated on a state park once or thrice, but that is just part of the adventure, and another reason why stay-at-home dads make more sense than stay-at-home moms.

Some of you probably have kids who have never slept in the car, or don’t live close to so many interesting public places, or don’t have an all-terrain stroller, but I believe if you are creative, and have enough desire, you can find a way to go on your own micro adventures. (Bonus tip: taking a small child to a bar does not count as an adventure.)

Plan ahead

As a freelance digital creative, planning ahead is muy difficult, at least for me. But hard as it is, I know that I do more of what I care about and less of what I don’t when I plan ahead, and it helps me focus on longer-term goals and projects.

A few different non-consecutive years now, I’ve done a year-end review, as inspired and advocated by Chris Guillebeau, which is actually more about planning the year ahead then it is about looking back on the year just past.

I have noticed a difference in the quality and significance of the things I get done in those years when I have planned ahead.

The main difficulty for me when I do plan ahead is, of course, sticking to the plan. And not that I think you have to stick to a plan—in fact, part of the fun of having a plan is deviating from it. But when you’re talking about chunks of time as big as years, it’s hard to stay focused in June on what you decided on doing in January.

I plan to have some kind of short list on the wall near my workspace to remind me what my main goals are for the year, to keep me pointed in the right direction. I get distracted so easily.

Oh look, all six seasons of Star Wars: The Clone Wars are on Netflix. Gotta go.

6 Essential Lifestyle Tips From A Freelance Digital Creative Stay-At-Home Dad

My Best Hours

An interview with Heather Ebert, a writer who dropped out of the corporate world and took the plunge into a freelance digital life.

Heather Ebert is a freelance copywriter and editor, an insightful blogger—mostly on the topics of creativity and writing, and the founder and editor of a non-profit called Redemption Stories. She’s also a very prolific tweeter. Heather is based in Nashville, and, as you’ll read, she’s planning to spend the spring in Paris. Here’s my recent (and long-overdue) interview with her (using my patented Lazy-Interviewer’s-Five-Question-Formula®).

Heather Ebert

When did you decide to make writing and editing your career?

The desire to live and work as a freelancer dates back to 2004, but I didn’t have the maturity or credentials to do it successfully at the time. Almost five years ago I joined a small tribe of women who encouraged each other toward creative awakening, and by spring of 2010 I was emboldened to plan big changes. I wanted autonomy over my best hours so that I could tend to an intensifying writing impulse.

The corporate job I had back then was so soul-crushing that I was finally willing to give up a healthy paycheck to be free. So, I juggled that full-time job, a live-in job, and freelance projects for nearly a year to get out of debt, and then I let go of the corporate position in April 2011. Not a day goes by that I’m not deeply grateful for the freedom I have to live and work the way I do now.

Why do you do what you do?

Honoring the writing impulse is faithfulness to my true self. What I’ve been doing these last three or four years is what I should have been doing all along. I spent most of my young adulthood reacting to circumstances rather than being proactive about what would be most fulfilling.

Henry David Thoreau said, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”

That sense of desperation finally propelled me past the fear of financial insecurity that had stood in the way. I don’t have a lot of money. I don’t buy many clothes. I drive a beat-up old car. But I feel extremely wealthy because my time is my own.

How do you like to work—what’s an average workday look like for you?

As long as I don’t have anywhere to be, I like to ease into the day. I get up around 8 a.m. (maybe one day I’ll be more of an early bird). I show up to my desk with fresh coffee and first start with a devotional and Scripture reading. Then breakfast, after which I’ll work on either a personal essay or a freelance project, depending on deadlines.

A few times a week I practice yoga midday and then sit back down to work in the afternoon. If I’m having trouble concentrating I’ll work from a favorite coffeehouse. I try to stop by 7 p.m. for dinner and not do anything else work-related after that. An ideal day ends with a block of time to read before bed, a precious part of my routine.

I’m also trying to reestablish weekend boundaries because it’s easy to spread freelance tasks over six or seven days a week. But my mind needs time off, so I schedule personal tasks and leisure activities on Saturday and Sunday to balance out the weekly rhythm.

What advice do you have for people who want to do what you do?

If what you want is to work independently, then I recommend doing whatever it takes to get out of debt and simplify your living expenses. Building up a business or freelance income can take several months or even years, depending on how many clients you’ve secured by the time you set out on your own.

Independent workers are the future of the American economy. By 2020, 40 percent of American workers will be freelancers, independent or temporary, according to a study by Intuit. So, dive in. Come join us.

If you want to be a writer, you don’t necessarily have to quit your day job. Countless writers, even many established novelists, write their blogs, books and essays during their off hours. I quit my day job, but now freelance writing is my “day job.” Personal writing projects are still something I pursue in addition to professional work.

Writing also takes courage. Even if you quit your job and you have all day long to craft and create, actually sitting down to write is a challenging habit to cultivate. There’s always something that feels more urgent than writing. In his book The War of Art, Steven Pressfield calls this repellent force “Resistance.” I encounter it every time I decide to put to paper any swirling thoughts and ideas.

Writing is a bold practice, but a worthy one. Showing up consistently is the most important part of that practice.

Which project are you currently most excited about?

In my professional life, I’m working toward a gradual transition from general copywriting to editing and ghostwriting books of various lengths. My hope is to take on fewer, larger projects instead of juggling lots of smaller ones. Plus, I love the intellectual challenge that authorship poses.

In my personal life, I’m going to live in Paris for three months this spring. I visited Europe last summer, which included a week in the City of Light. The magic and beauty of the city rekindled my sense of wonder. I knew I had to return as soon as possible, so I came home last summer and started packing. All my belongings are in storage until I settle back in Nashville. My creative energy is never as refreshed and vibrant as it is when I travel.

You can learn more about Heather at her website, HeatherEbert.com.

Cover photo by Linh Nguyen.

My Best Hours

The fisherman and the tourist: A parable about more

I watched a documentary on Netflix recently called Park Avenue: Money, Power, & the American Dream. It is a very well made documentary about injustice and greed in the USA. Then I read this story from, among other places, Tim Ferriss’s 4-Hour Workweek, and it reminded me that maybe what Americans need most is to learn contentment.
By Robert Huffstutter - http://www.flickr.com/photos/huffstutterrobertl/6904374162/

An American tourist was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked.

Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The tourist complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The Mexican replied, “Only a little while.”

The tourist then asked, “Why didn’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?”

The Mexican said, “With this I have more than enough to support my family’s needs.”

The tourist then asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life.”

The American interrupted, “I have an MBA from Harvard and I can help you!”

“You should start by fishing longer every day. You can then sell the extra fish you catch. With the extra revenue, you can buy a bigger boat. With the extra money the larger boat will bring, you can buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have an entire fleet of trawlers.”

“Instead of selling your fish to a middleman, you can negotiate directly with the processing plants and maybe even open your own plant. You can then leave this little village and move to Mexico City, Los Angeles, or even New York City! From there you can direct your huge enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, how long will this all take?”

The tourist replied, “15 to 20 years. 25 at most.”

“But what then?” asked the Mexican.

The tourist laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You would make millions.”

“Millions?…Then what?”

The American said, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play guitar with your amigos.”

~ author unknown

Photo: ‘Ensenada Harbor 1960’ by Robert Huffstutter

The fisherman and the tourist: A parable about more

On writing: Whatever you have to do to get through

Photo: Mike Baird - http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikebaird/3016985275/
I am writing a novel.

Do you know how many times since I was a teenager I have been ‘writing a novel’?

I have four novels ‘in the works’. All 10,000 words or less. Stephen King writes 2,000 words a day. He could have written all four of my novel-starts in two weeks. Two weeks!

That’s okay, though. I don’t need to be fast. I don’t even need to be good. What I need, for my own personal well-being, is just to finish. Something. Anything.

So here’s my new philosophy on writing. One hundred words a day. Just 100 words. I can usually get 100 words down in a half hour or less in the morning after feeding our five month old breakfast.

If you didn’t pick up on it, I’m a slow writer.

Actually, I’m a perfectionist. Which is both a horrible curse and a wonderful blessing. A perfectionist will always be their own worst enemy, but their work, if it’s ever allowed to see the light of day, will be amazing.

Often I go over a hundred words in my writing session, which is like a free bonus. Some days I miss entirely, but I don’t focus on those days. As long as I’m making some kind of progress every week, I feel like I’m on the right track and doing good.

This is good for me. I find I do better working on lots of things in small chunks than focusing all my energy on one big thing.

So how do you keep making progress even when it seems like you’ll never finish? (And how many words a day can you crank out? Don’t be shy.)

Photo: ‘2 of 3 Coast Guard 47′ Motor Lifeboat performs storm exercises in wild surf at Morro Bay’ by Mike Baird

On writing: Whatever you have to do to get through

My own personal space

The term ‘Proxemics’ was first introduced by Edward T. Hall in his book The Hidden Dimension. It is ‘the science of the subjective dimensions that surround each person and the physical distances they try to keep from other people, according to subtle cultural rules’ (Wikipedia). Hall believed not only was it important how we interact with each other daily but also how we organize personal spaces, as well as buildings, houses, cities and towns. ‘Personal space is the region surrounding a person which they regard as psychologically theirs. Most people value their personal space and feel discomfort, anger, or anxiety when their personal space is encroached’ (Wikipedia).
The population of the central area of Tokyo where I live is about nine million people. Personal space is at a premium. We have been trying to buy a house on a postage stamp sized lot for several years. We don’t have wealthy relatives to give us the down payment and the banks aren’t really lending so it isn’t going to happen, but we still like to window shop. Tolstoy’s ‘How Much Land Does a Man Require’ should probably be required reading for anyone purchasing a home or thinking about it, and maybe Throeau’s Walden as well.

I have set my sites on much smaller aspirations, my own personal space.

How much personal space does a man need? A friend stated in a recent email ‘a man needs a creative space’. I find it rare that women fully understand this, the need part I mean, how important this space is to a man’s soul. Does that sound sexist? It is what it is. Maybe all men don’t have this need and maybe some women do but I am going to give you the perspective of a man. Some may call it a ‘man cave’ or ‘mantuary’ (urban dictionary), a study, an atelier, or studio. Just knowing there is a place to go to be away and think clearly can bring great comfort. I like to build my own. It’s cathartic. When I was a kid it was forts, whether they were built in the living room, in a tree or underground in the woods. Now it’s on the porch of a tiny apartment or a corner of my living room. You have to make do with what you have. I don’t need much. A place for my futon, a small table and that’s it.

John Milton in Paradise Lost says, ‘The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.’ Probably the mind is the ultimate in small spaces. Maybe that’s all we can afford sometimes but I’m talking about expanding the space a bit, a little beyond intimate space and traditional personal space, a place where the mind can breathe a bit.

I prefer very small spaces. They can be shaped and sculpted. There is only room for a few items, no clutter. They are easy to clean and they need to be kept that way. This helps with clear thinking.

After my grandfather died I moved in with my grandmother. Not for her sake. I had to work off some debt and it was a cheap place to live. She lived in a trailer home. People often look down on this choice of abode. They are small-minded. I had my own travel trailer I used to spend weekends in while at University. Thirty five feet long, eight feet wide, shower, toilet, kitchen, sofa, queen sized bed, small yard and a shed. I used to like the sound of the rain on the tin roof. I don’t like the poverty associated with trailer parks and the sometimes sketchy nature of the neighbors but it is affordable and very comfortable housing. My grandmother’s was spacious on the inside. Just enough room, but I needed my own corner and so did my grandfather.

My grandfather had a small shed-like attachment at the back of the trailer. It was primitive, in a good way, and private. The ceiling was very low, not much taller than the metal screen door, so you had to crouch slightly. The shed was about four feet wide by seven feet long. There was an old metal shelf, some old golf clubs (he used to make all sorts of things, like canes out of them), various junk, materials, and other sundries. There were jars of screws, nuts, bolts, and miscellaneous fasteners attached by their tin caps to the rafters. An oversized florescent light hung in the middle of the room. You had to be careful not to hit your head. There was a stone grinder for sharpening tools attached to a small work bench made from scrap wood, various hand tools attached to the walls, and an old handmade wooden tool carrier.

I was working nights at the postal sorting facility, ‘going postal’, which I didn’t need at the time. I was also dating my fiancé long distance from Japan, mostly by phone. There wasn’t much to do since I moved back to the area after having been gone for ten years. At that time in my life I needed something to keep my hands busy. I decided to make the old workshop my space. Family members thought I was nuts. They were right, but who cares. Their version of sanity I could do without.

I bought some old French doors from a drunken neighbor for $30 and replaced the old metal screen door. Then I got to work on the inside. I kept the framing to save money, raised the roof a bit and put a new skin on the roof. Then I lined the floors and walls with scraps of cherry or mahogany veneer I found in the dumpster of an interior design business. Sometimes they had full sheets of veneer plywood. I even put a small fountain in the floor for effect. I built a compartment that went under the trailer for storage. It was only about two feet tall by three feet wide and had a sliding door. It looked about the size of a fireplace. It even had a narrow mantle to put chochkeys on. I hung an old winter kimono that I bought at a yard sale in front of the French doors for privacy and to keep some heat in during winter. I transformed that shed into a workable private space where I could think and just be. I imagined Thoreau would have been proud.

The act of building the space was probably just as cathartic as spending time enjoying the finished product. I remember thinking about the importance of process while building it. It was nice to finish it but even if I never finished it I would have enjoyed the experience. It wasn’t about production for me anymore, artwork I mean, but life as well. I still forget this almost daily. The constant need to accomplish something, to produce a finished product or work, to reach some destination, I believe is a sickness resulting from our place in history as it relates to the Industrial Revolution. It has been driven into our souls by living in this era. What will I do? What am I accomplishing? Sometimes we try to find some cosmic importance in what we create, or something that will contribute to who we are, like we are trying to forge our identity through our work instead of express as much as we already know about ourselves, or just enjoy the moment.

Why do I need a five year plan? Why do I need to be so goal oriented at all? Can’t I have some other orientation that reflects what I really value?

I often feel like I am being molded, branded, and produced like a product. I feel like I have to constantly resist. Peer pressure sucks even when you’re an adult. We have been pressured into accepting certain viewpoints concerning the nature of work and productivity. So much so that we cannot even enjoy the process anymore because we constantly have to measure how far we have come and how much use we are to society based on some sliding scale, or form of measurement.

‘Is the marketplace the measure of our culture? That would mean the death of all thought,’ says Adrian Jacobs, a neurotic composer in the movie Untitled. Maybe that is what I am resisting, the pressure of the marketplace. We are too busy, bored, or distracted to ask ourselves if we even agree with these viewpoints. Someone told us we must be productive members of society and what that exactly means. We believed them and continue to shape our lives around these paradigms. These paradigms have ruined ‘regular work’ and I find my creative works affected as well. They threaten to suck all the joy out of creating. If work and creating is simply about the end product then it’s all meaningless to me.

Building things has taught me to draw meaning through process. Trying to enjoy that moment and be present. Getting caught up in the feel and smell of wood, the sound of power and hand tools, going to the dumpster to pick out the wood, interacting with the neighbors and storekeepers, communing with God and thinking about life – which is easier when my hands are busy (riding on a train or playing or singing music has a similar affect). These are all parts of the process. They are important because they are opportunities for enjoyment if we are not preoccupied with the finished product.

The details, the work, aspirations, fame, achievements in the end are really pointless in a cosmic sense. We imagine ourselves more important than we are. It’s vanity that interferes with enjoyment. I think old people understand this better than young people. Ask them what is important. Listen to them tell stories. What do they leave out?

It’s weird to talk about my grandfather’s shed. There is vulnerability in inviting people into this personal space. It’s funny because when two people are in the space, whether physically or through writing about it, it becomes very personal. I guess because building these spaces is not only about the process but privacy too. They are an extension of my natural personal space. Often I need that extra space. They are certainly not about production for me. They are places I can go to escape the guilt of thinking I am lazy based on postindustrial norms about ‘being productive’, and maybe to escape people as well. Didn’t Sartre say ‘hell is other people’? Maybe not always but certainly enough to warrant a little personal space.

My own personal space

Is this thing on – is anybody out there?


Hello?

It’s hard to put a value on something that’s from you but for others when there is no response. It’s like huckin a rock in a pond at night and never hearing a splash. Theoretically, you know the rock got there but you have no closure; no evidence. Between my music, blog-posts, short-stories and online articles, I’ve been puttin out content for years. Over that time, I’ve received accolades only twice. It’s frustrating. It’s awkward and it seems unfair at times.

I was chatting about this with fellow hip-hop junkie, Cas-Uno. He explained his perspective like this: ‘You passed out or sold over two thousand copies of your albums, not including digi-downloads, YouTube views, etc. You have no clue who has your album playing right now and loves it. And that’s because they don’t find you on Twitter or Facebook and let you know. But how many artists or writers do you love? How many of them have you tracked down to personally thank or praise?’ My answer is one. Only one time I remember doing that. So why do I expect that?

Although the praise is fun and inflates the ego, you do not need anyone’s accolades. You do not need any permission to proceed and continue your creativity. It comes from the soul. The soul fuels the person, not the opposite.

Photo: ‘indastage’ by Friutz

Is this thing on – is anybody out there?

A day of rest, part one


I have a complicated relationship with weekends. My wife works in retail and works most Saturdays and often Sundays too. On Saturdays I usually work on creative projects like OCSPLORA, but Sunday is my chosen day of rest, my weekly sabbatical, the day I don’t check email or even open the laptop if I can help it.

A sabbath is a very difficult thing to keep in our modern western society. There’s always something that needs doing and always more to do than time to do it. But it is oh so worth it.

Some of the best Sundays I ever knew were from April to June of 2007 in a little town called Oxford on the south island of New Zealand. We were part of a school there, Wendy and I, and we lived in a five bedroom, two bathroom house with seventeen other people.

On Sunday mornings I would get up early, but not as early as on the weekdays, take a shower, eat breakfast. Then we would walk about thirty steps to the little Anglican church next door and worship with the local Anglican population, all twenty or thirty of them.

Sidenote: If you ever get the chance to go to a little Anglican church in a small country town in New Zealand, you really should do it. If you don’t know what to do or when to stand up or any of that, like we didn’t, don’t worry. They will just be glad you came and treat you like a celebrity.

Everyone who lived in the house with us went to church, but they all went to the Baptist church up the street, which had two services on Sunday morning. Most days, our housemates would all be leaving for the second service at the same time we were getting back from our service, which left us the entire house, empty and quiet and peaceful.

My routine for the rest of the morning was really beautiful, like a work of art, like a perfect musical composition. I would grab a stack of books I was reading, set a pot of water to boil, and check whether anyone had gotten a fire going in the wood stove. I would stoke it up, or get it started, make my cup of tea or hot chocolate and sit by the fire with my feet propped up and read for an hour and a half or so, until everyone else came back. I would try to keep reading straight through to lunch time, but I would usually end up in a conversation with whoever sat down in the circle of chairs around the fire.

After lunch the whole group of us would watch a movie on the projector, or maybe some of us would go for a walk or run or bike ride. Sometimes we would get invited to dinner by one of the families we knew in town. Otherwise we would eat leftovers and sandwiches. After dinner we might play a game of Settlers of Catan or just sit around and talk until we got tired. Then off to bed to start a new week.

Sounds nice, doesn’t it?

A day of rest, part one