Saturday, January 29, 2011

Longevity vs. Variety

I noticed recently that one of my coworkers has been in his job for 30 years. My father and father-in-law both retired from teaching after 30 to 35 years in the classroom - each was even in the same school for their entire career.

I can't even fathom it.

I've not been around long enough to have worked for 30 years anywhere but in the last 20 years I have worked for 7 different agencies/companies - not counting contract work or position changes with those employers. I don't feel like I've switched around a lot; each move has been logical, due to change in location, education or family circumstances. And I don't know that I would have wanted to do any of those jobs for 30 years, except maybe the work I have done at my son's school.

I like the new challenges that have come with my career variety. I like the new skills I've learned and the new relationships I've built.

For me, variety beats longevity. 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Nostalgia - The Big Foot game

[Found this picture online - my thanks to whomever took it and posted it - it is not mine]

I have no idea what prompted this, but the other day I remembered a game I had as a kid - The Big Foot Game.

Players had flat tokens that moved around a board. There was also a 4" plastic Big Foot. When Big Foot moved around the board, he stomped on any player tokens in his path, discharging a white chip on the token. If the chip had a footprint on it, that token was out of the game.

My friends and I thought this was the most hilarious game ever! If we had it today, I can just imagine the giggling that would ensue when my son and his friends would play. I don't know what happened to mine, but I would love to play it again....

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Celebration Candle

I have been working my way through Life Is a Verb over the last month or two. I've found several little "nuggets" in it and I am only a few chapters in. I found a poem and a quote to use on Christmas gifts for my Sunday School class. I found some exercises and questions that I have been thinking through.

Even better, though, was the suggestion that even small, every day things should be celebrated. The author stocks up on birthday candles and uses those in the food of the moment to celebrate anything and everything.

I wasn't interested in the birthday candle part, but the celebration part really clicked for me. My son loves to light a candle at dinner, so I used that as a starting point and bought a large white pillar candle. Then I pulled out a Pampered Chef Trifle Bowl I had bought (on special) and then put in a cabinet because I didn't know what I wanted to do with it. Then we picked out clear and blue "marbles" to fill in around the candle. Voila!

We have since used it to acknowledge a raise, several good test grades, holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, and just surviving a particularly difficult day of work and life. The Celebration Candle has become a central component of our family dinner. We enjoy celebrating one another with one another.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Project Life 2011

    Crafty blogs have been buzzing for weeks about Project Life 2011. You can see a video about it here. This sort of thing appeals to my organizational nature and also to the type of scrapbooker I have become.

When my son was born, I scrapbooked everything. If I took a picture of it, it got glued to a piece of paper and put in a book. It was fun, it was creative, and it was exhausting. I couldn't keep it up. So I stopped.

Then I took some classes at Big Picture Classes and I realized that I could record stories and feelings as they occurred or as I was inspired. I could also leave pictures out or not even print them. It was liberating. 

When I saw Becky Higgins explain this kit in the video I posted above, I thought this was a perfect method of scrapbooking for those who don't have time or the inclination to scrapbook but who want their pictures - and maybe their stories - in a book where they could be enjoyed. 

Simple. Coordinated. Lovely.

Amazon is sold out of the kits right now - I don't even know what they cost. But they are supposed to be back in stock "soon" - maybe by the end of the month. Check them out if you are looking for something like this in your life!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

New Year Tradition

Last year I posted here about a tradition in our house. It started in December of 2007. I had just finished a year long scrapbooking class with Heidi Swapp at Big Picture Scrapbooking. The class was called A Year to Remember and we did pages and projects and a journal to help us zero in on the here and now. I loved it. At the end of the year I wanted to create something to help us celebrate all the fun things we did as a family, so I made a collage poster at Snapfish.

We are now on our fourth poster. Here is 2010:

This poster - 20x30 inches - is a great conversation piece in our entry way. People love to look at all the pictures and ask about the events represented in it. It is also a great "memory book." When we put one poster away, we always pull out the old ones and remember all the fun we have had together as a family.

I think a collage poster is a great gift idea, even if it is a gift to your own family - a reminder of your seasons together. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

More Internet Inspiration

Sometimes I wonder if my word for 2010 should have been "inspiration" rather than "choice." 

Inspiration is something that I have been thinking about a lot. In the last year, I have done more supply collecting than I have done creating and I don't like that. I think I am more content when I have regular creative outlets. And I am inspired by things I see on the internet where others are being creative.

This is one site I stumbled onto lately - this is a post the blogger did about her sketching process. Then these are pages from her sketchbooks - here, here, and here.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A New Year of Inspiration

One of my facebook friends posted a new event recently - A New Year of Inspiration. [If you are on facebook, you can find the link for this public event here.]

His description says: 

"A friend once inspired me to dance in the rain, now I hope to pass it on.

Last year I went back to school. This year I packed up family and moved to Indonesia to work at a school. What will I do next year? What will you do next year? Take a moment, now that the holiday season has passed and take one small step in the direction of something new and exciting in your life. Then share it on facebook, with this group, on your profi
le, or with just one friend.

How will the world be better off next year, because of who you are and what YOU will DO!? Go back to school, mow the neighbors lawn, get a "crazy" new hair cut, start walking to work, take a trip to a new country, make a new friend at school or work, write a book, or a blog, write an encouraging note on facebook once a week, pray for the president, send care packages to a missionary, write a letter to your congressman, volunteer to read to kids, volunteer to read at the nursing-home, kiss your mom everyday for a month...

Pass it on and share

I am inspired - not sure what I will do with this, but I definitely wanted to "pass it on." This is part of the delightful freshness of a new year! New inspiration - opportunities for change!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

One Word

A couple weeks ago I posted about my "word of the year." The idea comes from Ali Edwards - you can go to her blog here and read about her word for 2011 and words from some of her readers. Here you can see the list of words people have submitted for 2011. My post for 2010 is here.

My word for this year - 2011 - is "choice" or "choose." It came to me in early December.

I was really struggling in a lot of ways with God and where to find God in difficult life circumstances. We had been singing in church that Sunday "God is able," and the only thing I could think was, "But is he willing?" How many people have prayed for solutions to life's difficulties and not seen them go they way they hoped?

I knew (and know) in my head that God is there through those struggles and in the alternate routes that life takes, but I was still stuck with that question and how to relate to God in that mindset.

I spent one afternoon in the pick up line at my son's school flipping through a small book of affirmations I made in April of 2009 - just looking for something. It is full of scriptures, altered to be statements of faith and, well, affirmation. This one - the last in the book - hung with me in the midst of my struggle: "I am surrounded and supported by a great cloud of witnesses so I can throw off everything that hinders me and the sin that entangles me. I choose to run with perseverance the race marked out for me. I fix my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith."  [Hebrews 11: 1&2]

Did you catch it? "I choose to run..." That one word changed everything for me in that moment. I can choose to be stuck or I can choose to keep walking forward, even with all of my questions. I get to choose my attitude. 

Not sure what my "project" will be to cement this word in my day to day life for 2011, but stay tuned. There will be something when inspiration strikes.

[Side note - here is a blog entry from someone else doing a word for the new year. And here is another entry at Ali's site where she posts a recording of someone reading the words - great! And another favorite blogger talks about her word here.]

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

More from the household purge

Here are some of the tools and techniques I used in our recent household re-org.

I got these shelf dividers at Walmart. We use them to help with our kitchen storage. My son had these "display" type items taking up space in toy boxes and they didn't make good use of this tall book shelf. With the dividers, everything fits and he didn't have to give away any of these "treasures."

I am big on boxes or "homes." Everything needs a home. If things don't fit in their home, then maybe we have too many. We use smaller boxes to hold smaller treasures, but the rule is that the boxes need to open and close easily. If not, they are too full. I also have a paper mache treasure box that we use for what I call "junk" - the things that come in treat bags, meal toys, etc. Once the box is full, things have to be thrown out. 

The final thing that worked well this time around was a physical boundary. I had decided that all of my son's craft supplies needed to be in one spot, preferably in the kitchen where he can be supervised and where we do most of his crafts anyway. These boxes used to be filled with puzzles and some craft things. I said everything had to fit in the three boxes designated for crafts. That forced him to make choices about what he truly wanted to keep. We did the same thing for toys in his room. They had certain homes and everything he wanted to keep had to fit in those spaces. It worked beautifully!

So pleased with how the project turned out, even if it did consume my entire vacation from work and several other days as well.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

10 Lessons learned from the annual household purge

1. This annual event is easier to pull off in January than December because my primary work space isn't home to a Christmas tree.
2. But doing it in December means making the charitable donation before the end of the year.
3. I am an inspiration collector - I buy fabrics that remind me of dear friends. I buy papers that make me want to create something. I buy new craft materials because I see things made by others and think "I'd love to make that, too!" I buy cross stitch magazines - the expensive ones from England - because they have projects that will look beautiful when they are done or will make great gifts for people I love and they come out more often than the US ones, giving me more inspiration for the year.
4. I can realistically only do one craft at any given time. If I have a love seat full of boxes and bags of craft projects to give away, that means I have let my "collecting" get the best of me.
5. I have enough craft materials in my house at this moment to keep me crafting for years to come. 
6. It is time to stop collecting and start creating.
7. One child isn't very tough on toys which makes them easy to pass on to others
8. My son was my hero during this project. He set a great example with his willingness to pass on some favorite toys he doesn't use to a younger child who would love them.
9. It helped that we started talking about it at least a month before we actually did it so he could warm up to the idea. His room looks fantastic after all of our hard work!

and, my final lesson learned....

10. Legos are an evil thing to try to store! There is no good storage system when Legos are sold as sets to build specific things. I have a small house, so I don't have space to store each creation on a shelf. Legos have to go in boxes, which means they get broken or taken apart to make the lid fit. And no one is willing to just dismantle the lot of them and and start from scratch.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Craft day = "epic fail"

Every year my son and I try to do a craft day to honor my mother who was a very crafty person.

In the past we have had painting days, made gingerbread houses, made pictures with our fingerprints, and just generally made a crafty mess. These days are great fun (in fact, we do them more often than once a year).

This year, we saw this fun cookie kit in the Christmas section at a local store. The cookies were pre-cut in a cute penguin shape and came with four colors of icing. Perfect size for a crafty afternoon.

What we discovered is (a) the frosting was almost impossible to spread, (b) the spaces to decorate were too fussy and small to do well, and (c) the cookies didn't taste very good.

Thankfully, we took this failure in stride, did our best to decorate, showed them to my husband when he got home and then promptly threw them out. Hated that we wasted that money, but we made an effort and learned a lesson - painting day is much cheaper and simpler and we always love it!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Multipurpose book stores

Books are my passion. I read about new books coming out, author interviews, publishing news, etc. And lately things about the publishing industry are focused on what's next - how can publishers keep making money to pay their staff, keep publishing good material, and stay in business? There are a lot of questions floating around about the future of picture books (which I love) and the impact e-books (so far, the jury is out on these for me) will make on the industry as a whole.

Here's one thing I have noticed recently - my local bookstores (from two of the major chains) seem to be looking for ways to make their brick-and-mortar stores serve more purposes than just books. Both have cafes (only one seems to serve non-coffee items for younger patrons), and both sell DVDs and music. Both have also been pushing their toy offerings - games, Lego sets, stuffed animals. 

There was something new at one shop recently though - the craft section.

Craft and activity books have always been a part of the shop offerings, but this display was pretty extensive - there were several more sections. There were fashion design sets, scrapbook kits, and how-to kits for crafts like quilling and knitting. 

Some may find this annoying - watering down the book selections available to kids because so much shelf space is devoted to these other things - but I like it. Granted, I am a crafty person, but I like the idea of letting kids explore their creative sides. My only criticism is that so much of it is girl-y. Some crafts that would appeal to boys would be great, too.

Have you noticed anything new at your usual book-spots?