Jun 25, 2013

Happiness is Edible

Ansha Kotyk (author of Gangsterland) thinks I can learn to cook. She's even given me distinct directions on cooking rice. I haven't even attempted it, which is a shame. I live with two incredible cooks. My dad is also a fantastic kitchen master.

[Insert statement about lacking the cooking gene].

I posted a few months ago about needing to overcome my fear of the kitchen. This is what lead Ansha to tell me about rice; I said I eat a lot of stir fry. In fact, I eat a lot! Ansha said, "I think there's a lot to be said if you can make your own food... any craving you have... wabam, on the plate."

I know what she's saying, but for me, it's not so much "wabam." It's much slower and more painful. There is never a "voila" when I am in the kitchen. Or if there is, it's because I cut up a bell pepper.

Today, I was thinking about all the food photos I post on Instagram and Facebook. I realized it's pretty depressing that I have not made any of it or at least very little of it. I remember my friend Thom asking me once about how I could make such gorgeous food. I laughed (and cried on the inside) about that notion.

But, what would a blog post be without an internal call to action? I'm gonna cook, dammit. What? I dunno. I suppose I should honor Ansha and start with stir fry.

Another summer challenge I've given myself is to go on at least one picnic a week. I have had four thus far, but have not made my own food for any of them. These picnics are the perfect opportunity to make some easy-breezy food.

If food makes me so happy, then I'd better learn to create my own happiness. (Head-nod from Soc)

Until then, here are some photos of inspiration:

I think I am a foodie.

Jun 17, 2013

The Perks of Being an Outcast, Part II

Where did we leave off? I think I was about 21 when I left behind a group of friends who had helped shape the fundamental way I think of myself.


So, as an outcast, it's never been more evident than in my own family. I am the brother who did not kill himself. I am the-only-son-left who may or may not pass on the nearly extinct  family name--a last name that's been quite the bane to my patience. I was the first kid to graduate high school even though I'm the fourth in the birth line. I'm recently the first to have a college degree. While these are obviously things to celebrate, I feel this strange shame over having accomplished something my four siblings did not. It's like, what did I do differently to deserve it?

I feel the exact same way about the last example I'll give about how I am an outcast. I have friends who live with their parents. I have friends who live in shitty apartments because they revel in their independence. But then there's me, the twenty-seven year old who lives in his best friend's parents house. On paper, it sounds absurd, not that it's any of your business. But, in the same way Michael Orr grew into a fine young man, I have been privileged to grow into my talents, and work on accepting them.

And so it was a week ago, at midnight, that I laid down in the middle of the field-sized backyard and waited for a star to shoot across the sky. I was in the mood to make a wish. After about thirty minutes of twinkles and blinks, I gave up on looking for a streak. But, since I was already out there, I decided to stay a little longer. I had a lot on my mind, as usual. I had guys and feelings to think about. I had this fall to think about. I had big, life-altering decisions that needed attention.

It was then, as I realized I had spent the last hour as a mosquito buffet because I am too au naturel for my own good and skipped the bug spray, that I had already made all the wishes I'd needed--AND that they had come true. I once wished to feel at home. I never did growing up. I felt more at home after being kicked out by my mom for coming out, than I did prior. I never really felt at home in my own skin either.

Lying in that field, the one I see almost every single day because it's where I park my car and where the dogs take a shit, I felt more at home than I ever have before. And even right now I feel at home. It's not the field that makes me feel at home. It's not the , it was this home into which I was graciously welcomed, that inspired me to become the person I am today.

This farm that has been in the same family since 1876, drew me out of the mind-sludge brainwashing that the suburbs of Holland had allowed me to experience--part of that dumbing myself down bit.

If I had not been an outcast, this farm would never have been available to me. I never would have become this bizarre little man who is revered by the current caretakers of the farm. I wouldn't have been humble enough to accept their invitation to this wonderland.

My friends and colleagues tell me they drive by this place and remark at how lovely of a house it looks. If only they knew its powers. My friends say they lament not being invited to Hogwarts. Fuck Hogwarts. The Radtke-Fisher Farm is where the real magic is.

I mean, look at how I went from a shadow of a person who felt as pinnable as Pan's shadow, to this flesh and bone writer of bizarre blog posts.

I intended to create a happy ending for this post, but it just didn't wrap up the way I thought it would. Really, how can one wrap up a post that has no real ending? "To be continued..." is the normal countenance for such occasions, but I used that up on the last post, for which it was a much more appropriate use than it would be here.

Instead, I'll leave you with this:
My best friend told me I need to stop thinking so broadly and get my head outta the clouds. I need to live in the moment. I need to stop rejecting the idea of a relationship and just be chill with the guys I desire to be with. I need to stop hating my job because in fact I truly love it and the talents I have discovered because of it. I need to be the Jonathon that I am in the following photos. I need to stop being who I am think I am supposed to be, and accept the perks of being an outcast. The perks of being Jonathon.

The aforementioned bff AKA Lifesaver

Jun 12, 2013

The Perks of Being an Outcast, Part I

It amazes me (and somehow I spend much of my life amazed) how many people tell me I have incredible communication skills. I do feel comfortable in most any situation, but I don't usually feel like I belong. In fact, I've spent much of my life feeling like an outcast.

When I was little, I had an prevailing desire to soak up facts from the encyclopedia and wring them out over everyone's head. This garnered me the title "know it all." I don't have an issue with that label, per se, but I have distinct memories of how those around me would confuse my knowing thousands of trivial geographical and statistical facts with me being a smart ass when I would legitimately not understand something they were talking about. This still happens, actually. I find many people expect you to just understand what they're saying even when they do not have the skills to explain. "Well, you knew what I meant!" they say. Oddly enough, this ties in with the "know it all" label--I'll say, "I really don't know what you mean here," but I usually get annoyance in response. This happened when I was younger, especially with my step-mom. I think she thought I was making fun of her for trying to nail down the actual meaning of what she was describing. This reoccurring circumstance led to me "play dumb", which I did for about fifteen years, and still exhibit for the briefest of moments.

It started when my brother killed himself. I was in 8th grade. I went from all A's, to a low-B's, high-C's student. I was finally able to mask my intelligence with real world failures. I vividly remember the relief that overcame me when I missed being bumped into 8th grade Advanced Math by two points. My teacher suggested I retake the placement exam and she'd help me study. I was so nervous that she was talking to me, I just muttered a "No, that's okay," and she went away. When my grades, and performance obviously, dipped in 8th grade, I was so glad no one noticed. My mother was numb, my dad was far away, and my siblings were in their own little worlds covered by storm clouds.

I skated through the last five years of my public education without reward and without intervention. The only thing I excelled at was foreign language.

When I was in my senior year, college seemed so far away--in distance and time. My dad and step-mom had a friend who worked as a translator for the city court. He brought me to Mexican restaurants and grocery stores where I could utilize my years of Spanish language training. I was good. The employees understood me, and even revered me. But it was too much for me. I began to resent that the only thing I was good at was speaking a foreign language--a language that very few of my friends and family gave a shit about. I was even more of an outcast at near fluency in Spanish than I was when I could list the capital city of every state in alphabetical order.

In my final year of my public school education, I no longer gave a shit about my grades. I didn't even care much about my future. I was working at the GAP and it was fun. I could just do that for the rest of my life. What I did care about was who I was, or rather, what I was. I spent much of my time stressing about my sexuality. I had already come out of the closet, by default--which I'll explain another time, but I was still attracted to girls in a way that is still difficult to explain. It took a few years (and thousands of hours of feeling like a guilty schmuck), but I finally decided that I could no longer have sex with girls. If I was gay, I had to be gay. Otherwise...what the fuck was I? Just an outcast.

I embraced my gayness by...I didn't really do anything. I just broke up with Kim, the girl I'd gone out with for a few months. She already knew I was attracted to guys. She was actually excited by that which freaked me out a little bit. If I knew then what I know now, I would have gladly accepted her acceptance of me.

So, I embraced my gayness by shutting out some of the people who had borne witness to the most vulnerable versions of me that ever existed. To this day, I feel like I betrayed Kim and our friends. And by doing so, I felt even more like an outcast.

To be continued...

Jun 10, 2013

The Feels

I've had the feels lately.

That's basically my lazy way of saying:
I have no idea what I am doing in life right now,
I hate my job,
I hate myself, a little,
I've watched my beloved desk plants wither and then at the last second I give them a shot of water,
I'm drinking quite a bit,
I'm playing heavy and melancholy music,
I'm worried about my lowered sex drive (which may actually be slightly providential given its usual heightened state),
I want new clothes (I don't usually give a shit),
and I feel the need to seek out a remedy for...who I am.

I am in the mindset that I need to cure myself of myself.

Even if none of that makes sense, I feel it. I feel it so comprehensively that I think I am a different person than I was last week.

I have the feels.

I want them to go away. I want to know what I am doing in life. I mean, I know what I am supposed to do. I know a WHOLE LOT of what I am supposed to do.

The most beautiful plant on my desk right now is a fake plant.

I want to be a fake plant

It's clearly time to color in my Disney Princess coloring book.

Another remedy: Go on at least one picnic a week. Today's picnic was spent at First Curve Beach :D

Friday at the Tigers game:

Jun 6, 2013

Is My Mind Part of Me Or All of Me?

No, this post is not about Descartes.

I am cursed with this brilliant mind.

I know. Bear with me.

I can feel ideas bloom inside me, and they feel like watching a time-capture video of spring. I can tell when I have a really good idea because I go into a full-fledged daydream (complete with soundtrack). It's even more vivid than a flashback. And I am not talking about an idea for the premise of the next Great American Novel. I come up with more tangible ideas, which I typed out in a list below, but ended up being to self-conscious to post. Anyway, they are typically for a business or community-type idea.

So, these amazing ideas. Some of them die in my mind like a pile leaves decomposing beneath the tree that used to be their home. But some of these ideas blow away and are vetted by my emotions. The idea goes through this bizarre process where I dream about it, share snippets with my friends seeking a reaction, and then I begin to write and "sketch" about the idea. "Sketching" for me is going to a location I think is perfect, snapping photos, and drawing my idea on Adobe Illustrator. It's usually at this point that I realize my idea is DUMB. And often times, the idea really is dumb.

I tend to be perfectly content with this realization. I begin having issues when I realize I have a good idea. By the way, the filtering process above has let through maybe 5% of my ideas by this point in this non-story story. So, those five percenters become a tumor in my mind that sucks a lot of energy and focus out of my ongoing real life.

More on this later, but right now, I am ambivalent. Do I let the cancer grow and change me, or do I seek a type of meditative chemo that will contain it? I already know I cannot simply remove it with a scalpel.

Okay, fine, this post is totally inspired by Descartes.

May 17, 2013

Succeeding at Failing

Awww. You thought this was going to be a long heartfelt post, didn't you?

No. I just came here today to say hey. I'm actually posting to the blog. See? SEE? I'm trying! Trying is doing. Soon enough the posts will actually have content. Soon enough.

"I can accept failure; everyone fails at something. But I can't accept not trying." --Michael Jordan

May 11, 2013

Ahhhh X 3

Ahhhh! I want to post about NESCBWI13 so bad, but I am too busy!

Ahhhh! I graduated today!

Ahhhh! I am so inspired about writing right now that I am going to BURST if I don't get to it in the next few days. I even cancelled a date so I could have time. :D


May 7, 2013

For Heather

I changed my header to something less stoner looking. That's Sleeping Bear Dunes, btw.

I'll blog about the 2013 NESCBW conference soon. I just have to stop rotating first.

Mar 18, 2013

Turtles, Water, and Other Fears

I talk a lot about fears. They are a prevailing force in my life. Why I give that much power to the moments I feel weakest is beyond me. A few years ago, I proclaimed that I would go on a conquest to abolish my fears. I said that I would hold a turtle in my hand before the end of the year and skydive over Lake Michigan. I thought those experiences and several more would make a great book.

I have not gone on that eradication expedition. There's still time. As I create schemes to challenge myself, I become aware of more fears. The more I meditate, the more accepting I am of those fears. I am in an foreseen cycle that seems to be more effective than my idea of taking on my fears.

Beside meditation, another part of the cycle that has helped in a book by Dr Susan Jeffers titled Feel the Fear ...And Do it Anyway. So far, the biggest thing she's taught me is that fears do not disappear. It's how we handle them that change. And if we do not feel any fear in our life, then we know we're not challenging ourselves.

I'm all about challenges, both physical and introspective. You already know this. But I am constantly wondering what it is it for? Why do I challenge myself? Is it for the outcome or is it for the journey? I posted about jumping off the breakwall last summer in an effort to overcome my fear of water. I am still freaking scared of water, but I better understand its place in my life.

Even as I write this post, I wonder where I go from here. Do I kick it up a notch, or do I continue on this journey of acceptance? I think a combination of the two is the way to go. I need to push myself to finally hold that scary ass turtle in my hand, but I need to journal before and after that experience.

Mar 15, 2013

Do You Eat Spoiled Blackberries?

The fruits of our labor. You know the cliche. Work hard and things happen.

What about the fruits in our life we do not want: weight gain, stress, apathy, bad habits? There are many decayed ends to the means that seem to happen to us. We take ownership of the positive outcomes in our life when we use the above cliche, but we tend to not take ownership of the negative. Why is that? Why can't we simply make the positive changes we believe will improve our lives?

I went through a phase where I thought daily affirmations would create the change I sought. I outsourced my changes. They helped, a lot. But they did not change me. The affirmations did place seeds in my mind that helped me to view the world differently. I began to consider what I did and did not like about myself. I like that I can produce art that seems to surprise and invigorate people. I dislike that I am not a very good listener and I rely too much on recording what people say. The list is endless, but not in an unconquerable way. I like that my writing voice is solid, but I dislike that I do not take my writing craft as seriously as it deserves.

These days, I am not flipping through the affirmation card collection like I used to, but the ideas on those cards surface every now and then. And it's valuable for me to review them every now and then, but to understand that the change exists within myself.

I've improved my listening skills through meditation and little listening challenges I give myself at work and school (via Julian Treasure). I have subtly taken my writing more seriously through classwork, but have done little to live those values outside school.

In my last post, I wrote about my desire to 1. learn to cook and 2. learn to cook well. I have not taken up that challenge to myself in the last week. I think my first step will be to take up my sister on her offer to help. I think I'll also contact some of my foodie friends and see what they have to say.

Enjoy your weekend! And enjoy yourself.


Mar 8, 2013


I am Facebook friends with people from a wide spectrum of philosophies, values, beliefs, habits, preferences, etc. In theory, we all are. On occasion, I narrow in on one of my followers by accident. I like on of their posts, and suddenly there's a flood of their posts that seem as if they're speaking directly to me.

The most recent example of this is a Facebook friend of mine who frequently posts about foraging. I look over the photos and read her words like a ten year old boy with a book on sharks. I envy her for her skills and her life. I sound like a housewife.

In true housewife fashion, I quickly come to wonder what's preventing me from learning the ins and outs of foraging? (Especially considering I live on 80 acres in the countryside of coastal Michigan!) I thought, I should message her and see if she'd be interested in a foraging workshop at the college. That's what I do, I provide myself with ample opportunities to live vicariously. It's really quite satisfying.

That is until I have the realization that I want to be the one giving the foraging workshop to my neighbors and peers. That realization always comes. Today's realization lead me to another realization, as they should. I need to learn how to cook. And cook well. Cooking is, for me, one of the single most scary thing to do.

I once made a faux cheesecake out of a box. Jello brand, methinks. It took me two hours.

Learning to cook healthy, sustainable meals seems to be the skill I have been working toward. I proved to myself several things in the last four years. I can give up alcohol; I did not drink for 13 mos. I can control the amount of meat I eat; I chopped 70% of the meat I used to eat from my diet and learned to like salmon and other meats I'd avoided. I can educate my friends on the benefits of buying local without lecturing them. Clearly, I can prove to myself that I can learn to cook.

But the stakes are higher than they might be for anyone else. I am in this weird place where I am an advocate for smart eating and eating smart. But I still enjoy my bags of Cheddar and Sour Cream Ruffles. I let my pocket win out almost every time. Before a meeting, do I buy veggies from the farm stand down the street or purchase a pop tarts from the vending machine? Well, those s'mores pop tarts are really freaking good. But didn't I once prove that I can conquer my tastes? I did a few times, as evidenced above.

So where do I go from here? My dream would be to buy a house with some land and a small barn (that I can one day turn into the helm of a writers' workshop and non-profit). I want to learn to grow food as I learn to cook it. I want to write about it. And write about it s'more. I want to have friends over who know more about food than I do; I'd consume their ideas like a bag of Ruffles. I want to have friends over who don't give a shit about food quality; I love converts.

But this all sounds like a lot of work. And I really like to sit on the couch and watch HGTV as I twirl the strings on my hoodie clicking on Pinterest wishing I wasn't living vicariously through my Facebook friends.

Feb 19, 2013

Failure: Quantified

For Christmas this year, I received a coffee mug from a good friend. It's one of those Quotable Mugs with an adage. It says WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF YOU KNEW YOU COULD NOT FAIL? This particular friend and I have a history of challenging our limits, so it was the perfect gift.

Just this morning, I woke up, looked at the box on my bookshelf, and began wondering. What the hell would I do if I knew I could not fail? I pondered the notion as I peed. I continued thinking as I took a daily dose of Zantac and ibuprofen, and watered my plants. I started to panic after ten minutes when i realized I had no effing idea what I would do if I could not fail.

I went downstairs. I put on a pot of water to boil and ground coffee grains.

A film short played in my mind. I whisked my boyfriend and I off to Mo'orea where we rented a cottage for a year. I wrote and wrote. He played music and ran around the island to get closer to his idea of his physical ideal. We slept in a hammock some nights, and other nights we didn't sleep at all...

Then, the image faded and fear settled in. Why was that my image of defying failure? Why can't I defy failure in my life right now? I tend to get very angry with myself; many of you know this. It's a side effect of the tumor of guilt I've carried around for two and a half decades. And it doesn't help that the version of me seen by those at my school and workplace is of this confident and unstoppable man. I'm really just a little boy scared to death of this big bad world. I'm even afraid of myself. When I start to fear myself, I count my failures. This is like counting cooked rice grains in a lotus bowl; they stick together and to my fingers. It's not the most pleasant experience, but there's something comforting and fascinating about the way the rice feels. I quickly realize I cannot count the failures in my life because I cannot remember all of them - they've rolled away.

So, what would I do if I knew I could not fail? I'd be more vulnerable and open to the world. I'd buy a plane ticket to Paris and a train ticket to Vancouver. I'd go to the places I've wanted to go for years. I've dreamed of spending weeks or months in a secluded spot since I was in high school. Even though I am an extremely extroverted person, I recognize my need to be totally, or close to, alone. I'm not afraid of that idea. Now I'm starting to fear this post makes no sense. FAIL, it could be a four-letter word. Or it could be a motivator. 

Tomorrow, when I wake up, I am going to stare that little box down and accept its challenge.

If you're in Grand Rapids, head to Spirit Dreams in Eastown!

Feb 13, 2013

Same Love

I've been listening to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis's "Same Love" over and over and over and over and over for a few weeks. It's what I did with Frank Ocean once I realized he was singing about his attraction to another guy. I'm mesmerized by the inclusion I suddenly feel in mainstream pop culture. It's hard to believe sometimes.

The last time I remember a rapper mentioning the word 'gay' it was Eminem and I did not want to hear what he had to say. That was ten or so years ago. I think Eminem has changed as much as I have in those ten years. And from this seat, that feels like a lot of change.

Last weekend I attended a conference dedicated to gay college students. It was hosted by Michigan State University (one of the schools I am applying to). The conference was attended by just under two thousand college students, grad assistants, professors, advisors, and administrators from around the country. Most of them were from the Midwest because A) it was in Michigan this year and B) it's called The Midwest Bisexual Lesbian Gay Transgender ally College Conference. I got to meet Ben Cohen and Lz Granderson! Those names may not mean anything to you, but they are important to me because of the stands they take in the fight for gay rights. I also appreciate the two of them because they lead lives of integrity.

So the conference blew my mind. And this post was supposed to be the bowl into which I regurgitated my impressions. That's not happening, and I'm not about to stick a toothbrush down my throat in hopes of inducing some brain vomit.

I'll come back when I'm ready! Enjoy the rest of your week.

Jan 18, 2013


For the last couple years, I've treated my blog as a brand. Heck, I've treated my personality as a brand. This practice added pressure to perform in the writing world. You'd be amazed at how fast treating my writing like a brand killed the creative process and put a block several feet think over my mind. Very few times over the last two years did I break through the wall. Like earthquake survivors trapped in a collapsed high-rise, I sent messages to my creative self in hopes of rescue. In a Republicans-would-be-proud fashion, I picked myself up by my bootstraps, over and over, and have finally rediscovered that dynamic voice that first put me on the map in the kidlit world.

That last sentence contains two lies.

One, I did not pick myself up by my bootstraps. My boots don't even have straps; they're North Face winter hiking books. I picked myself up with the help of hundreds of people, namely professors, coworkers, and writing friends found through this very blog.

I've abandoned members of those groups at various times in the last few years because I felt like I was failing to answer to them. That's because I used those people as a means for accountability. Using another person as a tool for accountability works only if you can ultimately rely upon yourself for accountability. Holding myself accountable for anything is scary as shit. I doubt it's very different for anyone else, but we all wear the pressures of life in a different way. I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve, and there fore those close to the center of my universe know immediately that I have failed, or at least they know that I think I've failed.

Accountability always leads to blame for me. Sometimes the blame comes first, but the two run hand in hand through my life.

Why do I take blame for so many little things in my life, but fail to hold myself accountable for some of the major things?

My friend Alayne treated me to a Viking rune reading a couple weeks ago. I felt particularly in tune with the Scandinavian practice because of my heritage. We used the three rune layout which means the first rune pulled stood for the overall state of things in my life, the second is the challenge I face, and the third is the action required. The spread I received excited me, and I'll paraphrase here. Essentially, I am nearing the end of a tumultuous phase and transitioning into a new, brighter phase. I need to stay aware of where I am as to not get too ahead. And within a year, I will see the dramatic changes I've made. After typing all that, I realize that's a horribly watered-down rendition of the gorgeous language used in the rune book.

Needless to say, I am excited about the changes mentioned. I can see them. I can feel them.

One of those changes is to make this blog mine again. No more branding. Nor more pandering. I need a public journal for my sanity and the benefits of using Jon's Life. outweigh those of starting from scratch. Life is not about starting from scratch. Accountability.

Harvest  <  Movement (reversed)  <  Breakthrough

Jan 11, 2013

Oh. Hello there!

It's a new year! Did you know that? I did, vaguely.

This is not one of those NEW YEAR, NEW ME BS posts - although I do have a resolution: stir the coffee beans in the press right after pouring in the boiling water.

I haven't been writing. I've been busy falling in love and ruling my college campus. Oh, and pinning the hell outta stuff for that one-day-house/wedding/trip to vancouver. I've been listening to new music like a fiend which is amazingly time consuming.

So, let's talk 2013.

I am in the process of applying to schools (and have been for FIVE MONTHS), but I feel like I am not getting anywhere. The main reason is because my scope of schools has changed dramatically since my relationship status has changed. On the surface, it sounds like I am applying to schools so that I can go to the school my boyfriend hopes to go to (undetermined at this point). Well, that's pretty much exactly what it is. And that is really freaking exciting to me.

Truthfully, our #1 pick is an excellent school: UW Madison. It's in the top for Communications and Rhetoric, my two areas of concentration. And the idea of living in Madison is the most alluring one I've entertained in years. You remember me three years ago? I was just then thinking of going to school. And here I am, in a position to transfer from a CC to a kick ass university.

Clearly, I do not have it all figahed out. That is not stressing me in the slightest. That alone is an incredible thing. I am a stresser; you know this. I mean, even the grammar of this post is giving my brain hives, but I do not have time to edit. Ha! I just don't give a shit, really. I have the time.

Earlier, it sounded like I regretted not writing. Well, I do to some extent. I am too good to not write. But is that a valid reason to always be writing? Probably. Am I a lifelong rule breaker? Yes.

In the meantime, I am going to continue on this low-stress track, rock and roll this semester into the history books, and make more time for reading. Oh, and stir those damn coffee beans.

Happy New Year, friends. And happy three years of blogging for me!