One Pipe At A Time, Little Goals.

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It’s Time

Writers block…erggg. normally I post early on Wednesdays and sometimes I even write my blog earlier in the week but it escaped me this week. With the end of the school year and the beginning of summer I have lost all routine.  I have all the time in the world but struggle to schedule that time.

I remember when I was in college and tried to budget my time.  It was odd how in the fall when I played volleyball and had little time but I did so much better at getting my work done.  I knew I had to get on my projects early because games, travel and practices consumed a lot of my time.  I learned quickly to review my syllabi weeks in advance to prepare myself for how big assignments fit into my volleyball schedule.

Second semester was an entirely different senrio for me.  Compared to my first semester I seemed to be loaded in free time. Without my sense of urgency I increased my natural tendency to procrastinate. I stopped looking ahead and started filling my time with “fun stuff”. Before long I was playing catch up finishing each year worse than the beginning. Too many times my summers imitate my college second semesters.

So, a week in to my summer break and my goal of spending Tuesdays and Thursdays in my studio has already failed.  I did get in a Thursday but not the last Tuesday.  I have an art show I would like to enter next week and my pipes drawing is not half finished. Next week I am teaching at an enrichment program until noon so maybe that is my new “second semester”. I guess I need to fool myself.  Head games are not my strength but I really need to look ahead and plan better.

Here is my accountability attempt. Thursday I will put in 3 hours.  At the end of that I will schedule my next time in regard to how far I get and where I need to be by next Friday when my drawing has to be at the competition. Next post I will have photos of my pipes drawing. This is now a commitment.

Do As I Do And As I Say

Today is one of those mixed emotion days.  I wake up to the first day of my summer break. I can’t put my finger on it but I am not bouncing around the house in celebration. This is my 26th time experiencing the end of a school year and I still struggle with the abrupt change in routine. Please don’t take this as a complaint. I would not mock those of you who do not have the gift of a long break from work. I have taught so long I don’t remember what it was like to go to “work” in June and July. I do know what it is like to work long hours in an effort to encourage and motivate students. I do know what it is like to speak to parents only to have a conversation loaded in apathy toward their child.  I do know frustrated passion for lives of these youth that is at times crippling.  I do know what it is like to be blamed for, well, every short coming of the national youth culture.  I see a large number of students that have one goal; to graduate, nothing more. And there is a surprising amount of them that don’t think past today. They don’t plan and they don’t dream. They don’t have a life plan at all. It is a defeated community.

I know most of my readers are from this very community but so am I. Our children need to see us dream. They need to see us live. They need to see our struggles and experience our successes. They need to be a part of the family and not outside looking in like some reality series. Families are too busy going and doing instead of being together and letting the whole family unit dream together. My students have no clue about their parents lives. Without a connection emotionally they can only model what they see so, in most cases, they see parents too busy too communicate. They see both parents begrudgingly going to work and they feel it is because of them that Mom or Dad has to work. That they have no stake in the family at all. They don’t know it is really because people want more stuff. They want more money. Or it is because parents didn’t dream, they, too, just wanted to graduate. They had to settle for a pay check instead of a path to a dream.

I guess my mixed emotions this morning come from the thoughts of the end of a school year that was full of kids without a path. So many know no purpose. They have no direction. Kinda of like the zombie craze, they just meander through life. Sorry this blog is not very uplifting today. It is more of a plea. If you have children talk to them! Spend time with each child one on one. Even if you have to do what they like to do. Be involved not spectating. They think their role as parents ends by being there as they sit in the stands or as part of the crowd. I see a culture that likes to go places but in large groups not just as a family unit.

How do we battle this cultural apathy?  One parent and one kid at a time. Talk to others about dreaming and help them plan a path to living their dreams. Set goals with them and be a part of those goals. And don’t stop dreaming yourself. Each week is not to be lived just to get through it. I am guilty of a lot of those weeks myself and find that is when my family was the most disconnected. If you don’t have children or you have an empty nest be an example to the kids around you. Remember when grandparents talked about “the good ole days”? All it takes is some conversation and a little of your time.

It is now time for me to get on my dreams. The pipe drawing and bass guitar have not been touched in weeks. I want my own children to see me as a person who dreams but seeks to follow those by making plans and setting goals. I need them to see an example of how to recover when your dreams take a set back or your goals are compromised like when my goal to run a triathlon in April was change due to the illness and death of my Dad.  I am now entering the Hokie Half Marathon in September.  I need them to see an example of how to live instead of how to just earn a pay check. And I need them to see that even now I continue to live. Maybe if you share completely yourself with your kids it will encourage you to dream as well.

To Live The Impossible Dream

Ahhh, to dream the impossible dream.  If it is impossible then wouldn’t it be a fantasy? Are dreams and goals the same thing? How are successes measured? I know a lot of this is just splitting hairs but something to consider.

I recently watched “Percy Jackson, The Lightning Thief”.  When Percy and his companions ventured into the Underworld, Hades told them it was the land of lost hopes and dreams that never come true. Dante could have made that a level of Hell.  To live an entire life without attaining your hopes and dreams would be a form of Hell.  I know all dreams are not achieved but I do feel we all have to believe we can live them.  Otherwise, wouldn’t they be fantasies?

I have the dream thing down pat.  just ask snt of my previous teachers. I was the kid staring out the window with a glazed over expression. My mind clearly somewhere else. I am also decent at setting goals even though I tend to set them too high or too many at one time.  The one that I always struggled with was the word success.  It was always such a bad word because I could never get a handle on its definition.

Success is defined on google as, “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose”.  It is also defined as, “the attainment on popularity or profit”.  I had a distorted view of the word success.  When I left home to attend college I was going to make something of myself.  I had escaped.  I was going to get that degree and didn’t need anyone or anything.  It was my ticket to a big pay check, a classy job and proof of my success. As I blogged about in “I Believe In Me”.  I worked hard to make others proud so when I did graduate it was actually a little of a let down.  No big fanfare, no one was bowing and no job offers.  I went to a few interviews with no luck.  I was forced to take a minimum wage job working night shift in a convenience store.  It was difficult.  I barely made rent and had no money left over.  My bedroom consisted of a 4″ foam mattress, a lamp and a cardboard nightstand. This was not my idea of success.  I couldn’t tell my family that I was barely eating.  I was embarrassed that I had left home to make something of myself and here I was with my big degree making less money than everyone else.  Things continued to get worse.  I wrecked my car and lost my apartment.  I became even more stubborn, refusing to go home as, what I saw, a failure.  Next, I moved into a relatives house and worked as a waitress at a pizza place.  Most of my belongings packed in boxes in my car.  Another month went by and I had given up on a career.  I was done.

The phone call I dreaded.  I called my Dad.  “Can I come home?”  I was tired, lonely and defeated.  He was surprised that I even asked and quickly answered, “yes, of course you can.”  I tell you this whole story to illustrate this point.  All my mental suffering was at my own hands.  Not because I fought for months to keep my independence.  It was not because of my failure to begin my career.  It was not because anyone else was disappointed in me.  It was all because of my distorted view of success.  I thought it was a big pay check.  I thought it was a flashy job.  I thought it was a powerful position.  Turns out success is none of these.  Success is found in your character, in your work ethic, in your legacy.  It all cannot be summed up in a career.  It is what you are defined by as a person.

Matthew 16:26,  “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?  Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”

Neigh Saying

It seemed like it took weeks to finally get to Saturday.  I was so excited to have a day at home. It was a lazy morning and I enjoyed every minute of it. However, there were things that had to be done, things that were neglected like my yucky house.  I spent the morning trying to knock out the things I hated doing the most first.  I had only scratched the surface with my new guitar project, figuratively and literally.  It sat in my studio all alone.  I even went to look at it once as a reminder that it was waiting for me to finish.  I quickened my pace, even more eager.  Then it happened.  I had to leave my home to take my son to an event.  Noooooo!  The distraction I was afraid of.  I knew once I went out in public my social skills would kick in and my Saturday would evaporate.

We went and yes, it was a wonderful social engagement.  I was surprised by my ability to stay on a good schedule and return home in a timely manner.  This was probably due to my son not being the social butterfly that I am.  I returned home with time still left in my day.  I was focused. I was ready.  It was time.

I set up the guitar and began to sand.  I was shocked at the layers of this particular one.  I had already used a blow torch to burn the clear coating and most of the paint off.  (Side note:  Sometimes adequate ventilation is still not enough, nausea is a good indicator that a mask should be used as well.)  It was after the paint was nearly sanded off that I realized it had a layer of what appeared to be Masonite.  I would not stop until I had bare wood.  No mater how long it took.  One hour later I was there.  Finally.  I took off my mask, and wiped my glasses to take a more careful look at it.  Awesome beginning.  Then I looked around my garage.  What a mess!  I had completely coated everything, including my dog, with dust.  It was so thick it changed the color of my sons bike and my husbands old car.  What had I done.  I had successfully created another Saturday cleaning project.

I was so focused, so narrowed in my purpose I didn’t see all that was going on around me. Once I got started it was like I had on blinders.  Just like the horses I used to watch on Little House On The Prairie.  I looked up why some horses wore blinders.  I never really gave it a lot of thought before but, evidently horses are considered animals of prey.  That is why their eyes are on the sides of their heads.  So they can see nearly all the way around their body.  Their only blinds spots are right in front of their nose and behind their tail.  Without blinders, young, shy horses can become frightened by the wagon they are pulling and they are used on race horses so that they only focus forward, the finish line.  However, a horse with blinders must be led.  It will not go or turn on its own where it cannot already see.  Some people feel that the use of blinders is cruel and inhumane.  I will not debate this since I lack any substantial knowledge on the subject.  In Russia, they do not use them at all.  Horses there learn not to be shy and become more focused over time.

Why did I just give you a short history lesson about horse blinders?  Well, since you asked.  I had my blinders on Saturday.  All day they kept me working toward my goal.  Not too bad a plan but when I got to that goal they limited me.  They caused me to create another task that will take away more of my precious time.

Do we become dependent on things such as blinders?  Maybe people or excuses?  Becoming shy and limited by a harness.  Sure, being focused during the day will help you get to your goal but be careful.  When you have blinders on, you will not go where you cannot see.  You will not see where you do not go.  And you will easily be led to places you shouldn’t be.

Cue the choir it’s the big reveal!

Ahh! Can you hear the choir holding out that long note and see a yellow light slowly getting brighter as if the sun were dawning in super fast speed?  It is the big reveal day!

It all started about five years ago when I bought a guitar that was greatly abused. The finish was dotted from BB shots and the wiring had come unsoldered.  To those of you who know something about guitars it was a Lyons by Washburn and had tribal art on it.

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I decided I would reclaim it, so to speak.  After removing the neck, all the hardware and electronics it was time to find out what was under the paint.  I read and Googled and read some more.  I then choose a process of removing the finish I had never heard of before, blow torching.  It was so much fun!  Just like popcorn flying everywhere and in no time at all the finish had popped off down to bare wood.

I really do not want to bore you with all the details but I do want to hit the highlights.  Yes, they are brutal but if you look closely they have a beautiful quality about them.  Not only do most plants that have thorns produce brightly colored flowers but the vines themselves have wonderful details.  I drew the design and outlined it with a hobby knife. I have always had an appreciation for thorns.  After lots of tedious hours of sanding and carving this is what I ended up with before finishing.

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I finally made my decision on finishing it off by torching it and using a satin poly. A friend of mine recommended a Seymore Duncan pickup and set it up for me. This is the final result.

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I hope to have a video of it being played next post.  As well as the beginning of my next project.

Not that I want to over think this process but when I began with this project this guitar had all the signs of a rough life.  If had skulls and beat up marks and didn’t even play.  It was a long process but with lots of loving care it has become a beautiful work of art.  It progressed quickly at first and then sat wrapped gently in a soft towel, protected, unfinished and unknown.  With it finally out and finished I want to proudly show it off.

Let God give you that re-purposing.  It may take a long time but do not be content with being protected and set aside.  Step out of your comfort zone and BE so He can proudly show you off.

Call Me Jack

With so many demands of my time lately and my decision last week to prioritize I am confronted with what actually has to go.  In an effort to protect my yearly goals, anything that does not fall in those goals are on the chopping block.

First thing is, I must say no to things so that I can preserve my family and art time.  It is very hard for me because I am a people pleaser.  I have to remind myself that people who ask favors are my friends or family and can handle it if I don’t have time right now to help them.  In all actuality it is offensive to them for me to think I need to do these favors to please them.  I am doing them a favor by saying no and allowing them to be a friend, that’s what I am telling myself anyway.

The next obstacle brings me to the title of my blog.  There is a saying that goes something like, “jack of all trades and master of none.”  This takes me back to the no fear blog I wrote, “You Make Me Brave”.  Since I feel like I can do anything I have a lengthy to do list of things that need to be fixed or made.  My time can be leached away all in the name of saving money on a repair bill.  I put it to action this week when instead of working on my husband’s chainsaw I found a repairman.  We mostly heat with wood  so this was very important.  If I had not done that and fallen into my previous state of stubborn mentality I will do it all, I would not be finishing my project.

If you have been following my blog I have been teasing you about this project I started about 4 years ago.  I had not worked on it for several years but have been hard at it since the new year and blogging began.  I will be putting some finishing touches on it tonight and only have one thing holding me back.  I am patiently waiting on a part to arrive and can’t wait to finally reveal the product to you next week.

Detour

Have you ever went on vacation and had a lists of stops you wanted to make?  Maybe you had a plan of hitting little Mom n Pop stores along the way or seeing the World’s Largest Stalactite Organ.  Everything had to be on schedule or you would not get to your last destination on time before it closed.  You are cruising along and making great time but when you top the hill, you see brake lights.  For miles ahead looks like an airplane runway.  Slowly you creep and you begin to realize the 20th Century Wax Museum closes in 1 hour.  Then, there it is; detour with construction.  Looks like you will have to see the Largest Ball of Yarn on a different day.

This describes my last couple of weeks.  I have a list of goals for each week so I can accomplish my goals for the year.  My 4 year old project, working toward the art fellowship in November, triathlon training, just to name a few are all on my 2015 to do list.  And of course swimming lessons.  under normal circumstances these are achievable but this year is proving to be abnormal.  I have hit a detour.

It is time to resort to prioritizing.  I just have to take one step at a time.  The 4 year old project is nearly complete.  I pulled out a blow torch and burnished the exterior and started the final coats of poly.  After a frustrating week I have sense of accomplishment.  I am within in 1 to 2 weeks of finishing and I can smell it. That’s not the poly fumes talking.

The triathlon training will just have to be hit or miss for now as well as the other stuff.  It will be okay if I have to delay some of my plans.  The big goal is my destination…the fellowship.  If I continue to avoid time waisters and push on I can do it.  I do have to travel through the detour on my journey. I am still travelling forward.

“Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragements, and impossibilities: It is this, that in all things distinguishes the strong soul from the weak.”

Thomas Carlyle

You Make Me Brave

I saw a post on Facebook one day that posed this question, “if you knew you couldn’t fail, what would you do?”  I thought I was really clever when I typed the word “nothing.”  Thinking, why would it be worth doing if there was not the threat of failure looming over you.  It stuck with me for days; the more I thought about it, the more I felt maybe the opposite was true.

I really don’t consider failure when I attempt a project like I am working on now.  Sometimes, maybe I should since I do tend to get over my head but I guess that is a blog for another day. I am a big believer that you can accomplish anything, within reason, and the right amount of effort. Consider this, if you focus on the failure then doesn’t that become what you are trying to accomplish? Let’s say you are carving a sculpture and all you can think about is how just one little slip and off goes an important part. Guess what? You will probably slip. Or you are dieting and all you think about is a yummy chocolate donut. Or if you approach Christianity by focusing on sin instead of love or grace. I think you get what I mean.

I grew up, for a time, expecting the worst. My philosophy then was based on the thought that I could never be disappointed with failure. Instead I would be surprised by success.  How crazy is that?  Why look at life that way?  It’s all because of one simple and very powerful word, FEAR.

It has taken a lot of years and a complete restructuring of my thought processes but I have conquered most of my fears.  I realized that with Christ in me how can I have fear?  What kind of craziness is that?  So the rest of them have to go.

With this I will Face Fears at Fifty in 2015.  It is with this attitude I have started working toward being an independent, professional artist. But there is one other fear in particular that still smothers me at times. The Mack Daddy of all my fears. It is time to get rid of my big fear of the water.  How?  Swimming lessons!  Paid for and set to begin next month so I can’t get cold feet and back out.  I can only go into it focusing on the success and not the failure.  I will be a swimmer in a month!

Enjoy this song.  Oddly it has water in the lyrics.

Now Is The New Later

Expectations of 2015

Expectations of 2015

When things are not done that I ask my kids to do I usually get one of two answers, “I forgot” or “I didn’t have time”.  This usually prompts a short lecture on time management and procrastination.  Don’t put things off until the last minute or until later because you may run out of time.  Simple concept, do it when you think of it so it gets done.

As the week progressed I found myself not in my studio…at all.  Why am I not working on “the project” that I couldn’t tear myself away from earlier.  Yes, I have been busy since I went back to work after a two week holiday break and I have had a couple of evening obligations but did I really have no time to work on it, to even touch or reflect on it.  Could it be that my kids learned from the best?  Yes, I am one of the best “I’ll do it later” people in the world.  Not many can procrastinate like me.

The weekend came and I knew I had to get on that project.  I did not want to write a blog that I had failed to make any progress on my journey.  Saturday came and so I had my usual relaxing morning with the knowledge that I had all day with nothing scheduled to pull me away from working on my project.  After relaxing for three hours I realized lunch wasn’t too far away so I decided to clean the kitchen and hit the studio after I had eaten.  Lunch came and went.  The kitchen wasn’t even close to clean and there I sat.  Pulled in.  Almost in a trance.  Suddenly, the proverbial light bulb went on.  What had robbed me of all my time this week?  The goal bandit.  The great thief of my productivity.  It was the television.  Did I gain any worth while knowledge by watching the television?  No.  Was my life expanded or enriched by those hours in front of the television?  No.  Was anything memorable or a treasured moment made through the experience of watching it.  No.  Did I loose valuable time that could lead to achieving my goals.  Yes.

With this awakening I decided the kitchen could wait.  My project could not.  I left the kitchen half done with chairs left in my den from the unfinished mopping.  I could no longer use the later excuse.  It was time.  I went to the studio, sat down and began.  It wasn’t long until time was lost, but this time it was enriched and memorable, it was productive and another step in my journey.  I was creating, being, and dreaming.  Where is this project going?  Plotting and planning each mark of my blade and rotary tool.  Applying sand paper every now and then.  Still imaging colors and the possibilities.  My mind flew completely free with all the unencumbered choices.  Even when I needed to stop two hours later there are so many decisions to still make.  Loving that every one takes me down a different road to a different finished product.  No one better or worse than the other just different.