Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Knots and Wormholes: Why I Like Working with Imperfect Wood

My wife's grandfather spent his entire life in Fonda, Iowa, which is a lot smaller than it sounds (and it sounds pretty small). He and his brother had a portable sawmill, and when a storm would pass through the area, they would go around milling up wood. He had an incredible supply of black walnut in his basement, and often, when my wife and I would visit, I would spend time just looking at the lumber. What can I say... I'm a wood junkie.

He passed away several years ago, and none of his sons were into woodworking. So one summer, my father-in-law loaded up his boat with hundreds of board feet of black walnut and drove it out to Arizona (you may be asking why he loaded up his boat. Many of the boards are twelve feet long or longer, and the center of a boat is the best way to transport that much lumber of that length).

As we were unloading the walnut from the boat and stacking it up in my workshop, I noticed that quite a few of the boards had knots, rough edges, and wormholes. The knots and the edges are something that I'm used to working with, but the

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Making Money with a Side Hustle

It seems like everybody these days has a side hustle. Makeup or oils, cookies or cleaning products. Most people have something that they do to make money on the side.

My first side hustle was in 7th grade. I went to school one day with some Little Debbie Nutty Bars in my lunch. Somebody offered me a dollar for one of them (sucker!). I took that dollar, bought another box of Nutty Bars, and sold all six packs for a dollar each. My awesome little 12-year-old self had netted a $6 profit in one day, and the entrepreneur in me was born. Over the next several months, I amassed an empire the likes of which Connolly Junior High had never seen. Soda, candy, Little Debbies, and treats were provided by yours truly. I shopped sales, established a clientele, and eventually had to carry two bags to school: one for my school supplies, and one for my store.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

My Secret for Finishing Compost

Like any other grownup, I have many chores that I do on a regular basis. Dishes, laundry, yard work, bills, etc. The cyclical list goes on and on. As a parent, I often do these things automatically without thinking about having my kids help.


This past weekend, when I had to rotate my compost and chip it up, it was not automatic that I asked my kids to help out. In fact, it was only on a whim that I asked when my wife was heading out with my middle daughter. And I was somewhat surprised that both my oldest daughter and my son enthusiastically agreed to help out.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Eight Tips and Tricks for Holiday Exterior Illumination

When my wife and I bought our first house, I was so excited to decorate the outside for Christmas. In reality, my lights probably didn't amount to much, but I was proud of my little house and the decorations we had. That first year, I bedazzled the house with about 750 lights. In my mind, I blinded my neighbors and caused the nuclear power station to flip the switch to the backup generator a la Christmas Vacation.

In the years following, I have shopped after-Christmas sales and added to my stockpile of decorations. Now, with 12,000 lights illuminating my house, it has gotten to the point that I need to begin putting lights up at the end of October in order to have the job completed by Thanksgiving Day--the day of the big reveal.

Over the past 20 years, I've not only accumulated a lot of tiny lights, but also learned a few things that I can share with you. So here are the Renaissance Dad Tips and Tricks for Holiday Exterior Illumination.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Thanksgiving Tree: Helping Kids (and Parents) Learn Gratitude

Fall is a wonderful time in Arizona. The temperature finally shifts from surface-of-the-sun to absolutely perfect. We are able to open our windows and go outside. And while most of the country is raking up leaves and preparing for snow, we are getting ready to enjoy our sunshine for the next six months.

But, just like the rest of the country, as we move into November, we get ready to celebrate Thanksgiving. As parents, we look for ways to teach our children thankfulness. Enter our Thanksgiving Tree.

Every year, we crumble up brown packing paper in the shape of a tree and cut out dozens of paper leaves. Each evening, before dinner, each member of the family takes a leaf and writes down something that we are thankful for. The one rule is that whatever it is cannot be repeated. We get things like, "I am thankful for family" (sweet), to, "Vitamins" (weird), to, "Quesadillas" (who's not?). But as we move through the season, and the tree gets more and more leaves, our kids are learning to be grateful for all of the things that they have.

And I've come to realize that my gratitude increases. On the bad days at work, I am still thankful for my job. When breakfast is a half-warm piece of toast because I didn't have time to let it actually toast, I'm thankful that I have something to eat. When I get cut off by another driver on my way to work, I am thankful that I have a car, and thankful that my horn works (yeah, I'm still learning). The fact of the matter is that the Thanksgiving Tree is just as much for me as it is for all of us. So whether it is leaf shaped papers taped to a crumpled paper trunk, a notebook with a list, or a stack of index cards, I encourage you to practice gratitude for the next couple of weeks.

Oh, and by the way. Happy Thanksgiving!

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