The COVID-19 news is personal now

COVID-19 has officially affected my life, and that of many American ex-pats. Some of you may know about my dad’s health emergency earlier this year. President Trump has banned travel to 🇺🇸 from the EU for 30 days. Now, if a new emergency happens in the next 30 days, I won’t be able to go home to be with family.

While my dad is doing a lot better, he is still waiting for one more surgery and that could happen within that timeframe.

I was not prepared for this to be a thing. Museums, libraries and cinemas here in Poland have also been closed down until the 25th. Fortunately, there seems to be a much more balanced response to the news here. There’s still toilet paper in the shops.

A few of the resources that I’ve found helpful have been:

I’ve been doing some work on my family’s missions website and I have to say, I kind of like the new blocks editor in Wordpress. Also, if you’re so inclined, go check it out.

Nothing like having the real honour and privilege of introducing my eldest to Kraftwerk.

We got back from a trip to Kraków yesterday. Managed to do some painting while we were there.

Fake Suede 002 comes out tomorrow! If you’re interested, sign up here!

a huge LEGO exhibition

Yesterday, we decided that it was worth braving the cold and the rain to make the bus journey to the PGE Narodowy. It’s Poland’s national stadium and for the last couple of months, it has been home to a huge LEGO exhibition. 

A record-setting model of Notre Dame

Some of the events that we’ve tried to go to here in Warsaw have been… well, let’s just say that they were talked  up a bit more than they could really make happen. This event, however, was crazy. I mostly took little videos of the event, but my wife took a bunch of photos.

7m high model of the World Trade Center

This was one of the few things that had something for everyone in our family. My wife is a new convert to the wonders of LEGO while the kids and I have always been obsessed.

St Mark’s Square
The Lion King

a lesson learned from pulling back

I’ve been in the process of pulling back from the public social internet over the last couple of years because, to be completely honest, I’ve found it to be almost universally useless. This isn’t simply something along the lines of what Cal Newport talks about, it’s actually as a result of spending time with people who have no use for it.

During our time in Liverpool, we were living and working in one of the most economically deprived parts of the U.K. and that extends to levels of computer literacy. It’s not uncommon to meet people there who don’t have a computer in their home. The only reason why they would have needed one was to check applications with the Job Centre. A good friend of mine doesn’t even have a mobile phone. He has a landline and an answering machine. If he’s not home, you can’t get ahold of him.

We see so much importance placed on things that are said on the social internet that we confuse it with a public forum. So when people complain about their posts being banned on Facebook or getting kicked off Twitter, they cry about their right to free speech being infringed upon. You see this mostly from a particular side of the political divide. What I think they have forgotten, though, is that Twitter isn’t yours. Facebook isn’t yours. When you sign up for your accounts, you grant them the right to remove your content or your profile for whatever reason they see fit.

And it is perfectly within the rights of the organisation to do that because it’s theirs, not yours. You don’t get to say whatever you want when you visit someone’s house. Facebook and Twitter are other people’s houses. Free speech doesn’t really apply when it isn’t the public domain.

Today, my friend Nate took me out for his favourite pizza. Ham, bananas, curry. It was surprisingly… good.

f r a c t a l

Decided to do a quick sketch for PANCAKE DAY. I’m really pleased with how it turned out!

PANCAKE DAY

The Tools I Use

While listening to the Unmade Podcast, Brady opened with the idea of a podcast about the tools that people use in their work. This isn’t everything that I use, but it’s the bulk of it. I think…

Organising

One of the biggest changes to my way of working is that I finally found a system for keeping an external brain that has stuck. In the past, I tried Evernote and Microsoft OneNote but found both of them lacking a certain… something. It’s possible that it was purely an aesthetic issue before, but enjoying how something looks goes a long way toward helping a person stick with it. To that end, I’ve been using an enjoying Notion(affiliate link) for the last couple of months.

My family has a lot of travel that will be coming up this year and it’s the best way for me to have all of the necessary information organised outside of my brain so that I don’t go completely crazy. If you use my affiliate link, you’ll get $10 credit toward it and I get $5.

Journaling & Art

I’ve been trying to maintain a Bullet Journal practice, mostly because I’ve stopped enjoying apps like Todoist and Reminders.app. I’ve also been trying to use up the notebooks and sketchbooks that I’ve been hoarding.

At the moment, I’m using a Seawhite Artists Travel Journal as both a sketchbook and journal. It’s been a lot of fun, but it’s filling up fast. I started it on New Years Day 2020 and I’ve already filled 85 of the 128 pages.

In about a week or two, I’ll be moving back into a Traveler’s Notebook.

For writing, I use a variety of wood-cased pencils, mechanical pencils and clutch pencils as well as a Kaweco AL Sport (that I won in a giveaway!) and a Lamy Safari. For painting and sketching, I use the aforementioned variety of pencils, a Pentel Brush Pen and The Sketching Tin loaded with the Earthy watercolour set plus the Van Dyke Brown and French Grey from the Neutral set.

Music

Part of my work as a missionary is leading musical worship for the church we are working with in Warsaw. I use a now-10-year-old Crafter acoustic that I’ve forgotten the name of loaded with D’Addario EJ16 strings. I switch between a Kyser capo and a Shubb capo. My guitar picks are probably the most… fancy part of my setup. Scaling for how much most people pay for equipment, they’re also kind of the most expensive part of my setup. I use Purple Plectrums picks, two primary and then a few that they sent me for free with an order. Due to RSI from jobs working in warehouses, factories and kitchens, I have trouble playing for long with a traditional pick. These are a lot more ergonomic and they have the added benefit of being able to say (in a really posh voice), “I only use handcrafted guitar picks.”

I have some recording equipment built specifically for recording on iOS and I kind of wish I had opted to make it more universal.

Reading

There are three kinds of reading that I do.

  1. Entertainment reading
  2. Work reading
  3. Bible reading

The entertainment reading is normally done on my Kindle Paperwhite. Were it not for that device, I would probably barely ever read. I also try to make use of the local library wherever I am living.

Work reading happens on paper because theology books and commentaries feel better on paper. At the moment, my main work reading book is Calvin’s Institutes (the Banner of Truth edition which is more concise than the Battles translation). These books are the ones that make it hardest to move around.

Bible reading happens in three different Bibles. I have a small 2011 NIV that I got while I was in Liverpool. This is where I do my regular reading plan. Bible study happens in the ESV Single-Column Journaling Bible that my wife bought me for our anniversary. Extended reading time (and possibly reading through the whole thing over Lent) happens in my ESV Readers Bible. It’s the single-volume version because, again, big heavy books makes it difficult to move.

I decided to make a Now page because it seemed like fun.

In case you missed it, here’s the archived copy of the first issue of Fake Suede. It’s kind of about wrestling with landscapes and patriotism and how the miners in a tiny city in Arizona may have felt.

Finishing up the very first issue of Fake Suede, my new email newsletter! Writing about feeling pulled between two landscapes. It goes out tomorrow so sign up today!

expat politics

There is a certain amount of freedom that is afforded to people who don’t live where they are from. For the last couple of years I have found myself a part of neither society. I’m an American but I’ve been in a long process of disassociating myself with that particular part of my identity. I wasn’t British when I lived in Liverpool. Even now, living in Poland, I am not Polish. I am here, but I am not of here.

Which leaves me living between cultures. I am guilty of completely ignoring the local news here in Poland. Part of that is because we’re kind of just passing through and part of it is that I barely know enough Polish to figure out what I’m buying at the grocery store.

That aside, what am I to do with the politics of my birth country?

It’s an election year in America and the overwhelming thing that I see is that both sides are having two different conversations. While I have my sympathies with one particular side, it’s clear that neither side is talking about the same thing. There is no defining of terms. There is a refusal to acknowledge anything but the worst example of either argument.

And being on the outside, being an ocean away affords me this privilege to look and see that neither side is worth following. I can see that if I want to stay true to what I believe in, I have no choice but to withhold my vote because there’s nobody there worth supporting.

I have friends who would disagree vehemently, who would say that it’s better to choose the lesser of two evils. And I get it because I am a bit of a pragmatist. I want things to work. The trouble here is that the system is completely broken so until the voting system changes, there’s just no way that I can take part.


For more writing about being an expat and figuring out what home is, be sure to sign up for my bi-weekly newsletter Fake Suede, which launches Friday, 21 February!

I think I’m getting a little bit better at this? One of my favourite things about watercolour is that it doesn’t have to be perfect and it really helps me fight perfectionism. Speaking of which, I’ll probably be exploring perfectionism in an issue of Fake Suede in the coming weeks.

Got another really good gradient. Sunsets here in Poland do not disappoint. They’re no Arizona sunset, but still really nice.

Announcing: Fake Suede

When we moved to Warsaw, I started to wonder what this life is that my family is living now. I don’t live where I’m from and neither does my wife. This is kind of a third place for us.

Fake Suede is a bi-weekly newsletter where I will be writing about what it’s like to live where you don’t expect to be and how to be curious when something as simple as grocery shopping is mentally exhausting. It’s also going to be about raising a big family in cultures where they’re kind of… unusual.

The plan for the moment is to keep the length of the newsletter between 500-750 words. I thought about posting them here to the blog, but somehow it doesn’t feel like it fits here. It feels more like letters written to someone. And so it’s a newsletter.

As readership increases, I will be introducing a paid option but the base newsletter will always be free. When I start to charge, it will be for something on top of the regular newsletter, not for the regular newsletter.

All of that to say, the first one goes out in a couple of weeks. If any of this sounds remotely interesting to you, I hope you’ll join me as I write about this. Oh, and it’s called Fake Suede because my surname is the same as a certain luxury textile used in the automotive industry and on some computer keyboards.

You can subscribe by visiting the sunset below.

The Palomino Golden Bear is better than the 602 in basically every way. ✏️

Sermon and worship prep day.

My eldest daughter is 10 today. She wanted me to make a galette instead of a cake. Thanks to Josh Weissman, the face is now a required step in the pastry process.

Just finished reading the Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy. The guy really knows how to create magic systems. 📚

Finished reading: War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells 📚

Finished reading: Expository Apologetics by Voddie Baucham Jr 📚