During the height of the pandemic, it was vogue to mention going on "stupid little walks" for our mental health.
I am a few weeks deep into my sabbatical, the second of my career. With the first one, I made the mistake of entering into it with ✨ambitions✨. Books were going to be written. Songs composed. Mountains climbed.
None of that happened. [^1]
When I had my sabbatical in 2019, it was after nine years of professional ministry, including a year as an interim pastor. My brother had died the year before. I was actively looking for a job (and being told no at every turn) and was routinely disappointed by the MAGA-flavored Christian nationalism taking hold in northwest Iowa. I was exhausted. Thinking I could accomplish anything was a mistake.
This time around, while I don't have nearly the level of exhaustion as I did before, I intentionally came to my sabbatical with very few plans or ambitions. My main goals were to enjoy the summer off with my children, get to our public pool as many times as possible, and maybe cross off a few books I've had in my reading pile for too long.
But, something I'm realizing about myself (yes, self-discovery is still possible at 36) is that I get into a funk without having any projects in my to-do list app. Projects, of course, beyond the normal routines of childcare, home care, pet care, pen care, cuticle care, and so on. Anyway, like our pandemic stupid little walks for our stupid mental health, I need stupid little projects for my stupid need to feel productive.
So here are my “stupid little walks.”
Cataloging All My Books
For the past six years or so, our main-level library, consisting of three bookshelves, has been in rainbow-color order. It was pretty and surprisingly easy to navigate. Emily and I are both bibliophiles and could identify most of our books by color. But I was tired of it, and also had the itch to catalog all of our books in an app because, hey, what the hell. So, shelf by shelf, I scanned ISBN codes, organized everything by category, and now have a database of all of our books.
I still have my office library to do, but one step at a time, okay?
Linking All My Notes
Over the years, I’ve preached hundreds of sermons; taken notes on hundreds of books, classes, conferences, and seminars; and written an extraordinary amount of papers, articles, and blogs. One of my biggest sticking points in writing and teaching is this feeling of “Haven’t I read something on this before?” “Haven’t I written or preached on this passage before?” And then needing to go spelunking through somewhat organized folders on my computer, hoping I can find it, assuming I named or tagged the Word/Pages/PowerPoint/Keynote/PDF/txt file helpfully (Hint: I probably didn’t).
Enter Obsidian. Obsidian is an app that allows you to link your files together based off of tags and something called bi-directional linking. It’s admittedly nerdy stuff, but immensely powerful, and helps me remember all the stuff that I’ve learned and discovered over the years.
However, it does take a decent amount of work to actually get all those files tagged together. So, little by little, when I find myself in front of my laptop wondering what to do that’s not just infinity scrolling, I’ll link some files together.
Here’s an example of all my Bible notes.
Photo Books and Home Videos
Of course, it’s great to have amazing cameras in our pockets and bags at all times with essentially unlimited storage. But too often, we take those photos and never see them again. So, I’ve been slowly sorting through our library of 33,000 photos and videos, tagging our favorites, and then printing books for each year. I did 2022 as a family Christmas present last year. I’m almost done with 2021 and am putting together 2023 as the year goes along.
An even more time-consuming project is gathering all the videos we take, and then editing them together into 15- to 20-minute compilations. But it’s been so rewarding seeing how much the kids have grown, even from a year or two ago.
Launching an LLC
I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit. In second and third grade, I sold miniature hockey sets (handcrafted from black crayons and popsicle sticks) and elaborate multi-stage paper airplanes. I mowed yards in high school and converted old people's 35mm slides to digital files.
Even since I’ve had a “real job,” I would still do the occasional tech job for people and small businesses—network infrastructure or website design. Even now, premarital counseling and weddings are an alternative source of income. I even made $0.50 blogging on Medium once or twice.
I know I can run all this as a “sole proprietor” on my taxes. But I’d thought it be fun to go through the process of registering an LLC. So I did. I am now the sole member of Parrott Ink LLC. I even have a business banking account for that sweet, sweet blogging money.
︎[^1]: Okay, I did do the Grouse Grind in Vancouver, 2,624 ft