Author Archives: Eric Larson

About Eric Larson

Eric Larson, founder of Men, Alive! Coaching is a life coach who works with individual men and groups of men committed to becoming the best men they can be - in their relationships, careers and in their lives. He earned is Professional Coach Certification in Integral Coaching from New Ventures West in San Francisco. He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

D.I.Why?

To the chagrin and occasional rage of my dear and darling wife, I’m not the do-it-yourself type.

Now, when I write that, you have to understand, I don’t just mean that I cannot be found fiddling weekends away in the garage, making cabinets or crocheting. I mean I don’t fix leaky faucets. I don’t clean gutters. I don’t install shelving. It is only in certain apocalyptic crises when my wrists can be seen twisting a screwdriver. I mow the lawn only under threat of divorce.

Andi is handy – or, at least, she’s becoming so. Indeed, it was part of what excited her so much about getting into this house in the first place.

So, what is my excuse for being such a sorry householder?

Sins of the father, of course.

My dad – the son of a lifelong tinkerer/electrician/master gardener hires out for everything (apart from yard work and snow shoveling – different story). Growing up, our house was paraded through by different characters, all with the same distinguishing suffix: “Guy.” There was the Gutter Guy and the Water Softener Guy and the Roof Guy and Tree Guys of various sorts – some to inspect them, some to cut them down. There were Rodent Guys and Carpet Guys and Garage Door Opener Guys. You name it, dad found a guy out there who could deal with it.

And when they were gone, he’d turn to me and say “Son, why make a perfectly good problem worse by trying to fix it?”

Odd logic, I suppose, but it stuck.

The thing is, at this stage in our life and journey, Andi and I can’t really afford a lot of “guys.” We have Bob, the moustached handyman, and he does a little bit of everything with enough skill to keep the house from falling apart, but even he’s going to prove too spendy if we are to keep up with the little day to day things that come up, or fall down. So, it makes sense for us to be using these years in a comfortably, mostly functioning home, to hone the skills we’ll need later on down the road.

But, as Andi and I had occasion to discuss this weekend, when we found ourselves overnight at Dream Acres – one of the original inspirations for The Story Farm – if I don’t take some kind of interest in the general upkeep of our house in the city, our future plans seem a bit far-fetched.

Those future plans, for those new to The Story Farm or whose memory has lapsed in these months of our relative web-silence, includes buying land, building or remodeling a house, a barn and outbuildings (or cabins), running a small-scale veggie farm to sustain ourselves and our visitors, and hosting events. This amounts to a perpetual and long list of to-dos that, as yet, I have little or no experience to-doing. So, there’s a problem, here, which Andi tearfully reminded me of this weekend.

Honestly, it broke my heart to see the disappointment on Andi’s face as she tried to explain through tears that she’s been “coming to terms” with what my un-handiness means for our future plans.

I tried explaining that I really want to be handy, that I have vivid fantasies filled with 2×4’s and joists (don’t know what that means) and clouds of sawdust following me everywhere; but it felt and sounded a little hollow. It’s a sorry state for an Integral Coach to be in, I know. And yet, and yet.

A few minutes after we got back to Minneapolis on Saturday afternoon – resolved to fight this battle against myself — I fought a comical battle with the long ladder that our neighbor, Steve, lent us for the weekend. I won, eventually, and was able to lean the ladder against the house at what seemed like a sensible angle, climb it, and earn myself that time-honored title of Gutter Guy.

Story farm, here we come!

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The Doubting Farmer

I once said to a friend of mine, with the crystal clarity that hits you sometimes in the middle of winter when you are 15 and laying in the center of an ice rink, staring at the sky: “If you don’t do anything, nothing happens.”

It sounds to me now like some kind of mystical aphorism, but it was really just a plain-as-day observation I happened to be making in that moment about that moment. Of course, as any mystic worth his weight in aphoristic simplicity will tell you, there really is no difference. Simplicity is mystical.

I mention it here on the Story Farm page, because, well, I’ve not been doing anything lately – Story Farm related, anyway – and, gee whiz, nothing has been happening. Sure, we had the penultimate East Bay Soup and Bread Thing last Sunday. Sure, Andi and I made mention of the Story Farm on a walk in Berkeley’s Cesar Chavez Park last Saturday (walks seem to be where the Story Farm comes alive most).  But, ‘taint like it was, way back when, in those heady days of our Wisconsin mini-moon, the hour it was first conceived, when we made beautiful, long and detailed lists of what we’d need to make it come alive.

And, the way my mind works, this absence of peak energy for the project absolutely, positively has to mean something – more precisely, something baaaaad.

Like:

The Story Farm was a bad idea to start with.

It wasn’t meant to be.

It was never really going to happen anyway.

But does it mean any of this? Objectively, no. Of course not. That’s absurd. But, then, why does the mind, my mind, have to go there so suddenly, so certainly, so strongly? Why does it have to be so grandiose, so fatalistic? The answer, I suppose, is buried somewhere deep in my psyche – in the causes and conditions of my life – and I’m not at all convinced that if some kind of direct cause for such thinking could be revealed, that it would automatically prevent me from having doubts.

So what is the appropriate response to such doubt? Do I have to chant each morning that the existence of the Story Farm is fated or inevitable? Do I have to protect myself with the view that things like this fail more often than they succeed? Do I just have to lighten up, let go and let whatever happens happen. None of these approach satisfies. The first is pollyannaism. The second, cynicism. The third, irresponsibility.

Realism works best, I think: The Story Farm might one day come into existence. It also might never come into existence. Furthermore, I could probably guess what sorts of things I might do to increase the likelihood of its coming into existence and what things I might do to decrease the likelihood of its coming into existence. Maintaining the blog would fall on the list of things to do. Not maintaining the blog, on the other hand …

Loving the Story Farm, loving that idea, that original vision, doesn’t mean that I should be in love with it all the time. Loving, after all, is what you decide to do after the natural state of being in love has worn off. In other words, if I just waited around for the feeling of being in love with the Story Farm, or any idea, to befall me, I would be in trouble. I have to put energy into The Story Farm if I want it to generate energy for me.

I mean: If I had a brilliant plan for a garden and, in my enthusiasm, planted the thing, I wouldn’t really have the luxury to debate whether or not it was a good idea. I’d be too busy tending to the thing, giving it what it needed and protecting it from what threatened it.

This idea that I’ve been walking around with – the passive philosophizing farmer – isn’t really cutting it anymore.

And so I sat down to write this post. Now, let’s see if something happens.

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Contest: Who’s the Next Story Farmer?

For those of you hankering to join us at the Story Farm, here’s a way to become a member for free.

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Just before Andi and I left San Francisco for Somewhere in the Middle, we discovered in the mailbox another envelope addressed to The Story Farmers  – oh, how those things please us. Inside there was a check to cover two – count ’em, two – Story Farm memberships. One for the sender, who I shall not name here; and the other was to be a gift to someone for whom the fifteen bucks would be just a bit out of reach.

Shocking thought it may seem, in our tenure as Story Farmers we’ve not yet had throngs of well-intended but financially strapped storytellers pounding at the door for free membership. Nonetheless, we love the pay-it-forward sentiment of our newest member and have decided to offer the free membership to a person whose financial resources are currently limited but whose creative resources are abundant.

Here’s the game: In the comment section here, list your 1-3 sentence excuse for not yet joining the Story Farm. It doesn’t have to be true. It doesn’t have to be false. Do it by Wednesday, January 6, and we’ll pick the coolest/funniest/weirdest and send that person a free seed packet and membership. Thanks!

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A Story Farmer Reflects

I’m trying to assemble this  story called “The Contents of My Father’s Garage” to tell on November 17th here in Berkeley. I’ve been up at 5:30 each morning for the past two weeks, scribbling and sipping coffee before Andi gets up. It’s been hard, frustrating – the scribbling, not the sipping. All the old demons that doing creative work seems to summon for me have, of course, been summoned and begun their work on me. They never fail to show up. And what endless chatterboxes these little bastards are – their foul language would doubtless disturb even the most caustic sailor.

And.

Andi and I have been turning over in our brains this idea for Hotdish: A Pretty Good Potluck and Storytelling Event. And that’s required energy. And my dad’s not well, and that’s taken a particular type of toll. And money is tight. And work is great, though it take a lot of time and focused attention. And I’ve got this volunteer gig that’s proving to be its own part-time job. And Andi’s not always thrilled about that. And I’m learning how to be married. And we’re plotting our escape back to the Twin Cities, which is exciting but exhausting. Lots of ifs are still rolling off our tongues.

And. And. And.

And I keep expecting to crack.

And I keep on not cracking.

In fact, I keep on remarking on how good I feel and how supported and how connected. And it’s funny to hear myself use words like that because I know the world would be perfectly content to let me me get away with being harried and crazy and panting every time I stop long enough to play my part in the national one-act play that many of us  participate in every day.

Person One: “How are you?”

Person Two: “Oh! Busy!”

End scene.

In one sense, I suppose it’s true. The hours go by while I’m engaged in activities. It just doesn’t feel true.

It’s an adjustment to remove the dramatic rhetoric from my day-to-day story; and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that there is a subtle sense of loss in it. We are not encouraged to talk about the grief of getting over an addiction. Perhaps it seems like backtracking and scares us. But how comforting it was to get the nod from a fellow human who knew just what like to have their hands and feet and every other limb in different boiling pots? That was nice – that connection. But ultimately, I’m not convinced it was the level at which I wanted to connect with people – busy, busy, busy. It grates on the ears after a while.

So I’m settling into a different way of telling my story or, perhaps just telling my story less. But that opens me up to being silent more often, which I find comforting, and it opens me up to listen to other people’s stories – and being listened to is one way to make other folks feel like their story is not so unusual after all.

Or something.

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A Pig in the Mud Update

Lest I forget about developing our my own craft – a Story Farmer without stories is like a pig pig in bootswithout mud, after all – I am participating in a clowning workshop in San Francisco tomorrow (Saturday), called “To Be a Clown or Not to Be? That’s a Question.” The bit of awkwardness in the verbiage comes, I think, from the fact that Steve Capko, the workshop’s creator is Czech. Anywho, it’s on at the Flying Actor Studio, where I’ve been studying physical theater since last spring (I’m on hiatus at the moment).

The other big news is that I’ve been invited to perform at the Tell it on Tuesday storytelling series in Berkeley on Tuesday, November 17 at the Julia Morgan Center for the Arts. I’m putting together a little ditty called “The Contents of My Father’s Garage.” If you happen to be in town, please mark your calendars. Rest assured, I will announce it again here a bit closer to the date.

Happy Friday, Friends!

–Eric–

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Updates to The Blog

Take a look at the updates – we’re narrowing in on the most perfectest blog ever.

About – We’re working on refining the mission of the Story Farm. It will probably continue to change. But there’s some new copy up there now.

WishList – We’re crossing out those things that we have already received as a way to track things, visually.

Storymap – We’ve added this handy-dandy tool to track the Story Seed packets that get sent out. When folks receive their packets, we’re hoping they’ll post images of the contents, or of what they create. Even a description of what the heck was in the packet would be great.

Join Us – We’re tweaked this section to make it clearer to y’all. And to make sure we aren’t overpromising.

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Cashing In, Elmwood Style

Money TreeJust down from our Kelsey Street treehouse, on College Avenue in the chichi Elmwood neighborhood of Berkeley – “the ave” as our landlady so casually puts it – is Mrs. Dalloway’s, a delightful little store filled literary fiction, garden books and a few odds and ends. Now, neither of the Story Farmers will claim that the store has anything to do with our vision for the Story Farm, but it is a little suspicious – garden/farm, story/fiction. Curious, indeed.

Anyway, during an early afternoon stroll over there today – we had an inkling to pitch our Story Seed packets to Mrs. Dalloway’s as an odd or end they might sell to their clientele. The short of it is this: They’re interested. Three cheers for sharing ideas!

So, we’re working out the details – to print a separate label or directly onto the envelopes? To include 10 items, like the packets we’re sending to Story Farm members, or to limit it to just 5? To charge a dollar, or five or ten? What the hell do we know? Does this mean we have to set ourselves up as some kind of legitimate business? What if we want to go nonprofit, or lowprofit, in the future – will this look bad? A yes, the growing pains of an adolescent idea, folks. Ain’t it beautiful.

Anyway, they said to send them a more formal proposal via email closer to the holidays. So we have to figure out what that means.

You live, you learn. You plant, stuff grows. Whatever. We’re going with the flow.

-Eric

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