Prone to work: Motivation month

Motivation monthI’ve written before how I love all things goals/lists/motivation. I’m a sucker for New Year’s resolutions, to-do lists, motivational blog posts, etc. This morning, I was lamenting how many of my goals and ambitions weren’t anywhere near where I had hoped they would be by this time of year. Then I realized that the year isn’t yet over (obviously), and I can still work toward some solid next steps in many of the areas that need some attention.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve also got a few items on your original list of goals that may not be quite where you wanted for one reason or another. Personally, I had a bit of a disruption this year with a cross country move that shifted a few of my projects and put others on hold (read more about that here, here and here).

The good news is that we’ve still got a month to go! While we can’t create more hours in the day, we CAN be intentional about the time we have left. And the fact that the last month of the year is often one of the busiest is no excuse. Just think of how great it will feel to begin 2015 on a high note after finishing this year strong!

So, admitting that I CAN’T accomplish EVERYTHING I’d like to in the next month, here, in no particular order, are the things I’m hustling on:

  • Do something physical once a day. I ran this morning for the first time in WEEKS. The move and drastic weather changes got me out of sync, but I’m back on the horse after signing up for the half marathon in Nashville in April (any other hustlers running that one?). For me, it’s always more helpful to have something external to aim for and schedule around.
  • Do something professional once per day. I transitioned to a part-time, remote role once I moved to Denver from Florida in late September. I’ve been diligent about sending out job applications, updating my resume, and networking with professional contacts, and I want to continue making this job hunt a priority. Shameless plug: check out my profile and professional experience on LinkedIn if you know anyone who’s hiring 😉
  • Get the side project up and running. Before making the move this fall, I had an idea for a writing project that I wanted to tackle after I got here. While I’ve made some strides, it’s certainly not launched, but 31 days is more than enough time to stay diligent and see this idea through.

While these are the “big” things, there’s plenty more on my agenda that I’m looking forward to: freelance project deadlines, Christmas activities, travel, editing projects, Christmas shopping, etc., and I’m excited about the month ahead.

But what about you? Taking a look at your “original” list of goals, whether that’s for the year or the season or whatever, what are you going to focus on–realistically–for the next 31 days? How will you finish 2014 strong?

Comment below, and I’ll check in with you around the middle of the month to see how things are going!

Prone to share: Getting to know you

There’s so much I still have to learn about this blogging thing (like staying consistent with content delivery, for starters!). Until my friend, Karin, tagged me last week, I didn’t even know what a “blog hop” was. I’m sure it has some noble origins, but for me, it was a much-needed prompt to write. It’s a pretty simple concept: answer four questions about your self. So here we go…

  1. What am I writing or working on? Funny you should ask! I’m actually working on one of the biggest “projects” of my life, but I’m not quite ready to spill the beans here on the interwebs. When I am, you can bet I’ll be writing about it…
  2. How does my work differ from others in this genre? See, this question is proof that the person who started this little Blog Hop charade likely meant it for real bloggers, as opposed to random people with questionable grammar and no particular genre. Truth is, I don’t even know what my genre is (though I do know that my color season is “autumn”). I like to think that I provide commentary on life, which is why you should all be thankful that I rarely blog at airports. Those places are like the Super Bowl of people-watching.
  3. Why do I write what I do? Hmmm. Methinks an honest answer of this question would require that I actually write on some minimal frequency. I write about events around me that make me think. I write about conversations. I write about things that have impacted me because I sometimes have a hunch they might impact others, as well.
  4. How does my writing process work? In this particular case, I didn’t have a choice. Though I have schedules and outlines and plans a’plenty, those rarely materialize like I intend them to. Sometimes I mull over a blog post for a few days, maybe even bouncing the idea off someone. Other times, the shame of inactivity drives me to the keyboard and I plow through a string of somewhat coherent thoughts. Then there are the rare occasions that I go all Hemingway, down a fifth of Jack Daniels and let the chips fall where they may! (Totally joking on this last one, mostly.)
In case you haven’t met her, you should hop on over to Karin’s blog. I met her through a mutual friend at work (who has YET to finish her Blog Hop assignment), and our collective adventures have included a day trip up to St. Augustine and a hangry stroll around Disney’s Boardwalk.
And for the next Blog Hop victims, let me introduce you to
Tag, you’re it.

Prone to create: When the mood strikes

Occasionally, I’ll get a burst of creativity where I’m compelled to produce something: painting, cooking, attempting to plant something, etc. I call it a “burst” because it’s definitely not the norm for me. I default to more of an analytical/left brain dominance, though this isn’t always the case.

When the mood strikes, I know I’m either going to bust my budget on craft supplies, lose out on sleep, or both. The abject proliferation of Pinterest has not helped matters. Yes, I’m a straight guy who does not mind using and perusing Pinterest or admitting to doing so. I’m actually quite good at it–you’ll love my pin boards.

I had two projects in mind a few months ago when I succumbed to one of these phases. When I could no longer ignore the weekly Michael’s coupons or the incessant pinning, I set off for Goodwill in search of raw materials.

Goodwill findsI was thrilled to find a dated though not-completely-hideous print that would work great for both ideas.

First, I wanted to create a magnetic chalkboard for my office. Curiously, this room is the one that has had the most “work” done on it, but it’s likely the place I spend the least amount of my time. (See previous projects here and here.)

orange chalkboardI removed the canvas from the frame and painted it an appropriate shade of orange, since there are hideous versions of this glorious color that would make the project all wrong (e.g. U. of Tennessee and Texas Longhorns). I attached some sheet metal to some thin plywood backing, painted it with chalkboard spray paint, put it all together and hung it on the wall, but not before applying some finishing touches of encouragement to go along with my race bibs.

St. Augustine quoteOnce that was completed, I set out to use the canvas/artwork, now that the frame was gone. I had a quote in mind that I wanted to use, so I bought some scrapbook letters, drew out some grid lines, and arranged the letters into words for the quote. I applied some white spray paint, waited (impatiently) for the paint to dry, then removed the letters, revealing the quote through the original art.

(In case the quote is hard to read in the photo, it says “If these are the beauties afforded to sinful men, what does God have in store for those who love him?” -St. Augustine)

I put this second piece downstairs, and I absolutely love it. I’ve always appreciated good quotes and Bible verses, but I like them the best where I can actually see them regularly–on a wall, in a journal, etc.

So there you have it: a few of my latest creative endeavors. What have you been creating lately? Is creativity more of the exception or the rule for you? What projects have you been particularly proud of recently? What’s coming up on your “creativity agenda”? Let’s hear it in the comments.

Prone to restore: A “new” antique fan

I have a bit of a “vintage” thing going on in the room that some would label an “office” at my house. Since I moved in four years ago, I’ve always wanted one of those antique-style, oscillating fans. But because this was only a decoration, I couldn’t justify the hefty price tag of many new fans that were designed to look old (think Restoration Hardware).

I knew exactly the look I was aiming for, since I can be rather particular about things. Some would call it picky, but that carries such a negative connotation; I prefer to think of it as having specific standards. And the fan I had in mind happen to be in a room in the education building of the church where I grew up.

My parents still belong to the church, and I go back to visit as much as I can. So I was very curious when they asked if I could come help clean out the room that they’re currently using as a Sunday School space for their young adult Bible study class. The room that they’re currently in had the fan I was willing to fight over.

I can’t count how many times I’ve been in this room in this building over the last 29ish years. There have been plenty of children’s classes, youth events and lessons that have been in this room. And in those years, there have been countless coats of paint and configurations of chairs. The building itself dates back until at least the 1950s, if not earlier, and the fan was likely original to the room.

I was thrilled a few weeks ago when my dad called and said they had taken down the fan. I don’t even remember the last time I saw it functioning, but it sat on the wall unmoved for decades. You can imagine how much grit had built up over that time. I drove home to help with the last few items in the room and gleefully picked up the fan from my parents house. Before we could put it in my car, we gave it a hefty rinse from the water hose outside. This barely scratched the surface of the dust that had collected.

The next day, back at my place, I brought out the mineral spirits and goo-gone in hopes of bringing this old antique fan back to life. After several rounds of scrubbing, the black blades began to shine, though I still have some work to do getting a wayward smudge of red paint off. (As a side note: whoever is responsible for the bright red paint on an otherwise gorgeous black fan should be ashamed of themselves! I kid…sort of.)

antique fan

Now I’ve got the fan perched atop one of my bookshelves, and I couldn’t be happier about my “new” treasure. It’s all the more exciting that I have a personal connection to the place it’s lived all its life–a life far longer than my own. I’m still figuring out how exactly I want to “display” the fan, but I’m sure I’ll settle on the perfect spot soon enough.

office fan

What about you? What old finds do you have around that make you smile? How do you fix up the imperfections? Or do you enjoy the “character” that defects and paint smears bring?

P.S.–I could easily add this to the things I have that have value far beyond their price.

Prone to create: Birthday chair for Natalie

Am I the only one who stresses out about what to get a one-year old?

As one of my best friend’s daughter approached this milestone, I knew I wanted to do something special for her birthday. Perhaps I felt an unusual sense of responsibility on this one because I had told Natalie’s mom and dad that I was going to block off my calendar for the week that Natalie was going to be born. Natalie’s mom and I have been close friends since first grade, and I was in Natalie’s parent’s wedding, so it only seemed appropriate to be around to welcome their first child into the world. Instead, I left for a 10-day trip to the Philippines the day that Natalie was born and received news of her arrival and a picture via text message as I was boarding a plane in Detroit bound for Manila. Clearly I’m not getting any awards for honorary uncle of the year.

I had lost ground that needed to be made up. I’m not a natural gifts person, but I figured “how hard can it be to wow a one-year old?

I knew that Natalie already had plenty of toys and would be getting more to celebrate her birthday, so I didn’t want to go that route. The same went for clothes. Books are always my go-to with kids because there are several books that I still have from when I was younger. They seem like things people hold on to for a while. But I didn’t find any books that I loved, so I kept searching.

It should be noted that all of this contemplation took place the night before Natalie’s birthday party. If it sounds like there were agonizing days and weeks leading up to this gift decision, that certainly wasn’t the case. The truth is that I had been traveling, once again, and didn’t think about it until I was on my way to my hometown for the party.

Dusty-cjaor

Then I began to think through other things I still have from when I was younger, and I noticed a small, unassuming, though significant small chair. The chair is almost 30 years old, and was a gift from my late aunt when I was likely very close to Natalie’s age. She had my name painted on the chair, and when I grew out of sitting in it, I kept it as a chair for toy animals and eventually backpacks and briefcases. I knew I didn’t have time to do something exactly like that, but I figured I could pull off something similar. The challenge would be to personalize a mass market product.

What better place for something like that than IKEA?!

I drove to my trusted IKEA store on a Friday night (evidently because I’m a masochist) and looked through every single child’s chair available. My original plan was to iron Natalie’s name with appliqués onto a small upholstered arm chair, similar to what I’ve seen elsewhere. But no such chair existed, so it was on to Plan B: I found a simple white chair that I knew would fit well in Natalie’s room. Then it was on to Walmart for some paint and brushes. This was getting serious.

IKEA-child-chair

It should be noted that I’m more used to painting rooms than names on chairs. I have a tendency to overestimate my abilities when it comes to executing plans, particularly ones with high visibility like cooking untested new dishes for people and personalizing gifts. Eventually, I’m going to crash and burn and learn my lesson about trying out new things on unsuspecting people, but I press on for now.

Once I got to my parents, I typed Natalie’s name on the computer and printed out several different font options. Once I found one I liked, I drew out a level line on the back of the chair and started painting. After a few coats, this plane white chair had been turned in to a special gift that I was happy with.

natalie-gift-chair

The next morning, I added some books and tied it all with some ribbon and made my way to the party. I’m sure Natalie was more enthralled with her plentiful toys, and I can’t blame her for that. But the real feedback came from the other mom’s who loved the idea. Mirror, mirror, on the wall…

Natalie-reading

In the end, I was very excited about my last-minute gift idea. I feel like it’s something I could easily do for other friends kids (especially since I’m a LONG way from any of my own), but I’m not quite ready to start taking orders yet. I’d love to add some creative elements if I do this again in the future, like sports things for boys, or flowers or My Little Pony for girls. (Is that even still around?)

What are the things you’ve been given in the past, maybe even as a child, that are still significant to you? Do you like choosing gifts for people, or does it stress you out (like me)? What’s been your best last-minute gift idea?