Friday, December 30, 2011

It's Who you Know

My mom used to always threaten me by saying, "you always need to be on our best behavior because you never know whose watching you". Or, at least I always took it as a threat until I recently had the revelation that it meant something a bit different. It wasn't the empty promise of having ninja assassin mothers on patrol waiting to catch me doing something terrible so that they could use their motherly network to tattle on me, but rather a wish. A wish that I would realize the impact we have on other people, whether we know it or not, to make a difference in their life.

Several months ago, I was introduced to this guy named Kristian who had just started his own visual production company (photo & video). Like me, he was a dad to two little ones that dreamt of starting his own business and help folks put their products (no matter what they were) in the best light. Unlike me, he jumped in both feet first and just did it (I owe Nike some royalties for that one). We stayed loosely connected, or rather, he persistently checked in with me to see how my improv aspirations were coming, how my wood chucking was, well... chucking, how my Food Truck ideas were actualizing. And, what he really did was set a great example for me. Nothing was going to happen unless I did it. Again, unless I did it. No one else was going to do it for me. They were only going to encourage me in hopes that I took the plunge. So I did, ever so cautiously but whole-heartedly, nonetheless.

This hapless meeting culminated with a photo shoot a few weeks ago. Kristian brought all of his Deep River Productions gear to the Phillips Phamily Estate to capture the final stages of a farmhouse table I was completing for delivery. He didn't have to, he wasn't asked to, he just did it (dammit, more Nike money). The point of my useless rambling this blog post is to say that here's a chance meeting, one of thousands that has turned into something much bigger. It's not always what you know, but who you know as well as how you endeavor to exist within that connection, that matters.

Take a moment to visit Deep River Productions, LLC: HERE

Keep on chuckin'!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Being awesome is hard work.

Having the best intentions is one thing; staying true to them is another. By the grace of God I recently started a new business (a side-project really, for now...) and with it, was committed to starting a blog. Yes, the one you are reading now. You know the one... a whopping 6 posts to date. How gloriously underwhelming of me, you say?

Yes, I agree.

Again, I had good intentions. Like many families these days, the economy his taking its toll on mine. And, we work really REALLY hard to make ends meet. Little does the economy know, my wife is from Jersey and was raised on Trans Ams & Springsteen. The first time I drove up to visit her in NJ, I was pulled over because my Bon Jovi sticker was expired... fuhgedaboudit.

So, we're committed (like any good family) to do whatever we can to improve the lives of our kids. I revel in getting the kids up and packing lunches in the morning, getting our daughter to the bus on time and our son to day care. Then it's off to work from 8am-6pm, sitting on the board for Win-Win Resolutions, back home and dinner in the oven (my wife works two three jobs and often we have opposite schedules). In all this whirlwind called "our life", why not start a small company that builds custom furniture out of wooden pallets?! But man do I love it! I get to be outside, with the kids, music playing, power tools roaring, chaos and mayhem and toasted cheese sandwiches, whoo!

Now, I just need a coach of some sort. Someone to point out the warning signs and successes so I don't miss either. Someone to encourage me to step into the abyss of entrepreneurship and offer a reassuring, "good luck" on the way out. Maybe it's not just one person, maybe it's many. Maybe it's Chuck Norris!

In all the ups and downs, there is a least one intention that I am committed too; a hearty laugh with others EVERY chance I get. That, and instilling in my children that, no matter how old you get or what situation you're in, "poop" is ALWAYS a funny word.

I'll get better at posting more pictures of projects soon. In the meantime, here is a before and after of 100+ year old barn wood. ALl I did was sand it, apply a wood conditioner and a clear Poly. It's truly amazing what can happen when someone take the time to brush the dust off...

Here's to life!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Been a long time since I rock & rolled...

By "rock & rolled" I mean, "blogged". What can I say, I've been a little busy. What with waking up the kids, making breakfast, packing lunches, getting to school, going to daycare, getting to work, dreaming up a random Facebook post (priorities, people!), working until 6PM getting the kids home, making dinner and then build furniture from pallets... what can I say? I'm a bit busy.

Dear genie in the lamp (aka, Fat Tire Lager) how do I go about finding the courage to leaving a full-time, bill-paying job so that I can step into a part time roll, play super daddy more often and creating pallet furniture too? That, and two more front teeth is what I want for Christmas. Oh, and a time machine so that I can redo that time I thought it would be a good idea to see Nelson in concert. yikes...

Stay tuned (and be patient) for more posts. This furniture thing is pretty amazing and can only go up from here.

What about you? How do you find the strength to do what needs to be done in order to do what you want  to do? In this economy, I am sure that there are many "common" stories to celebrate. What's yours? Say it loud!

Here's to life,


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Shamless Plug

Behold! The latest edition to the Chucked Wood world; my Fizzy Crate Book Case. I was commissioned  to build two of these for a great lady. I love the idea of the pallet wood bases with the cut-aways used for the forklift tines.

The customer was my first official customer as Chucked Wood. Pretty cool to get a check made out to a company I "birthed". I'm sure this is exactly what birthing kids is like... right? Okay, maybe not exactly the same, but if you remove the epideral, pushing, panting, blood, guts and living breathing thingy. But otherwise, it's got to be the same thing...

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Building a Farmhouse Table. Step 1: find a farm

Here we go with post #4 and already I'm doubting my ability to commit to Blogging. How do you people do this?! I mean with kids and packing lunches and soccer practice and going to work... is this why Meth was invented? Just so folks could stay up for hours on end to do all of the above and then blog about it?

Lately, and more often than I care to admit, my conversations with friends have begun with them saying something to the effect of, "Hey, I saw an old pallet in the dumpster at work and I thought of you." What do you do with a statement like that?! I'm not sure if I should take offense of be flattered; I'll opt for the latter.

I'm currently working on a farmhouse table for someone and got a lead on some really old barn wood. Emphasis on the word "really" and also on "old"... and while we're at it, "barn wood". So I enlisted my brother-in-law and drove out to the old Cooper Family Farm tucked away behind the Guilford College campus. I grew up near here and spent many a Saturday afternoon riding my bike across that campus as a kid with his sights set on a nearby gas station to blow my allowance on candy, soda and Topps baseball cards. Secret: I never even really liked baseball cards, but my friends did, and you know what they say about peer pressure. Good thing my friends didn't like Justin Beiber. But I digress...

When we rolled out of my swagger wagon with two crowbars and a pair of gloves looking like hosts of a ghetto HGTV show, this is what stood before us:
Don't adjust your monitors, the barn is, in fact, leaning heavily to the right. Easy fix, just pull the wood on the left side of the barn, right? Not so lucky:
All gone... But the good news was that I found an easily accessible place to hide the bodies should I ever take up a career in serial killing. Holy night of terror Batman, look at this place! Regardless, we both knuckled up and went into the heart of the barn to pull 14 amazing pieces from the inside non-weight-bearing wall. All the while wondering what it would be like to have this wooden house of horrors come crashing down upon us:
After stripping what we needed to from the Last House On The Left, we loaded up the van with our cache and called it a day. Tune in soon for the fruits of our labor: an amazing (I hope) farmhouse table with real farmhouse wood (blood stains and hatched scars not included).

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Raising kids and not my voice (or at least trying)

Wow! Improv has become such a source of inspiration for me as of late.
Gifts from Improv – here are some “insights” about how I use Improv in my daily parenting … but, I would argue that these gifts are applicable to everything from running a business to writing a story. And, by the way … I am far from the perfect parent and I really struggle to ‘practice what I preach’, but that’s ok.
The Gifts
Just Show Up: Be Present. Be attentive. Don’t anticipate; participate!
… when our kids ‘lose their minds’ and ‘all hell breaks loose’, I SOMETIMES have the presence of mind to ask myself the question, “Who am I being, that causes my ‘minions’ are behaving this way”. Almost always it’s because I (the parent) have disengaged from the kids. The solution, which always works, is to get down to their level … physically and emotionally. Listen to them and let them know they have been heard. The tricky part is being present enough to remember this strategy when emotions are running high.
Let Go: Let go of judging (yourself and others) and allow ideas to grow and evolve. Be surprised by where they end up …
… let’s face it, ‘control’ is an illusion for parents. We can’t manage and control our kids like we think we can. So, embrace your inner control freak, let-it-go and use what you have around you to influence them. Two things spring to mind:
1. Use the SPACE (and everything in it) – When paying attention to the space (eg. living room) it’s easy to conjure up something inviting that draws the kids in and allows them to use their imagination. Dare to be obvious!
2. Be the MIRROR – Our own behavior is mimicked/copied/duplicated by our kids so ‘Be the Change you want to see’ in them. Our own behavior is shaped by those around us and nowhere more than in the home. Have you noticed that the behavior that most frustrates you about your child is the same behavior that you demonstrate everyday! If you haven’t noticed this yet, try being more present and ask yourself ‘Who am I being?’ As a dad, I need to work on calming my reaction to the unexpected/unwanted stuff that arises (particularly when I’m tired) … AND …
… as a parent, the practice of ‘letting go’ reminds me to shed the default ‘parent role’. You know what it’s like … you walk into a shop on auto pilot and you play the role of ‘customer’ and the check-out person plays the ‘serve-the-customer-role’. Well it’s the same at home … parents play the parent and children play the child. It takes presence to let go of that role from time to time. A game I play is to become unpredictable and respond to their offers/requests in a way that catches them off-guard. Respond in a way that one of their friends might respond. It usually ends up with all of us falling about laughing and it can break that horrible ‘parent vs. child’ cycle.
Dare to be Obvious: Be you. Say yes to yourself and your ideas and allow your natural brilliance to emerge …
… as a parent, you improvise all the time! You have to because kids can be very unpredictable. In the moment, a parent has to respond decisively and promptly to situations everyday. This gift reminds us to trust our first idea and our instincts. If we make a mistake, as we learn in the last gift, celebrate it, learn from it and move on. “Don’t take yourself so seriously!”
Accept Offers: Say ‘Yes, and…’. Let others know that they have been heard. ‘Yes, and…’ is about acknowledging and building on the offer …
… practicing the first gift of ‘just showing up’ is critical here! So often, even with my attempts to practice this stuff, I find myself blocking my children’s offers and become the guy who always says ‘No!’ In other words, I’m playing that damn ‘parent role’ again! My kids get sick of hearing ‘No!’ and I’m sure it does their confidence and our relationship no good at all. So for me, ‘Accept Offers’ is a reminder to say ‘Yes!’ more often. Saying ‘Yes!’ ends up satisfying everyone and brings me closer to my kids.
Do Something: Solutions lie in actions – move! Try something. Anything. Follow your instincts …
… in parenting, I link this one closely to ‘Be You. ‘Do something’ reminds me to do something physical. The power of body language is way more effective than the dribble that flows from parent’s mouths! Without fail, what we say gets ignored or misinterpreted … our physical presence in doing something active is so much more effective. Quiet the mouth and move the body!
Make Mistakes: Mistakes are the flip-side to Creativity. Try something new. Acknowledge and celebrate your mistakes …
… this gift goes both ways and comes in many different shapes & sizes:
1. Parents make mistakes -The other day I misread a fight between my kids and sent my daughter to sit in the hallway to “calm down and think about what you’ve done!” It turned out her younger brother deserved what he got and I realized that I had been quite unfair to my daughter (who was a hot mess by now). I sat down next to her and hugged her. I asked her, “Did I make you upset by yelling at you?” Her quick and obvious reply was ‘yes’ to which I responded by admitting my mistake. We then talked about ways she can cope better when her younger brother rips up her puzzle!
2. Children make mistakes, too! – Our response to their mistakes is critical. I have a tendency to ‘over react’ and guess what … they mimic me. The moment a mistake (or failure) happens is a golden opportunity for parents! It’s all about building their confidence and resilience. Confidence doesn’t come from being right and successful … instead it comes from NOT being fearful of getting it wrong (I’m constantly trying to remember this). Celebrate mistakes with them! Help them to see the lighter side of failure and learn from it. Acknowledge when they turn previous failures into successes and remind them that we have to fail over and over in order to succeed.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Got wood?

I've recently developed an addiction to wood. I should probably rephrase that so I don't com off sounding like some Viagra junkie... I have developed a fondness for wood working. But, being a Phamily on a tight budget, I'm not one to shop for high quality box-store boards. There is a "zero" under the wood column in our budget. That last part is actually a lie; there is no wood column in our budget.

There is also no furniture line in our budget. But low and behold we needed furniture for our son. I've never been a woodworker, but I did go to art school, once. Something should have stuck... right? Fast forward, I started collecting these huge pallets from a nearby bathtub makeover store and soon thereafter, I'm building custom furniture. Who'd a thunk it?! This could be a legitimate business sitting right under my nose and it's win-win-win:
1. I get to design and create and build
2. It brings in extra money to the bottom line
3. It keeps old pallets out of landfills and fire pits

Here are the latest projects to role out from Chucked Wood:
Potting Bench
Deck Table

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I have a house; let's make it a home.

I'm not sure exactly when I turned into this person. The past few months have been a whirlwind of self-doubt; an oh-woe-is-me-sad-sack-of-a-shell-of-a-guy. Who is this guy?

Not me, that's for sure.I wasn't raised this way. I haven't always been this way. But, somehow... here I am.

Well, there I was; enough is enough is enough. Lennon said that, "life is what happens when you're busy making other plans." Corporate America says "if you fail to plan, then plan to fail", Pink Floyd said... well I don't really know what Pink Floyd said because I never took that specific combination of drugs.

Look, what I know is this; I'm a great person. I'm surrounded by great people. If you're reading this, then you're probably one of them. I'm not great because of how much I bench press, or because of my bank account (both are near zero, by the way) but because I am a part of something great; humanity. life. love. humor. faith in the good. faith in the Good. faith.

Enough is enough is enough. It's time to celebrate the "who" in the world; not worry about the when or the how. Like my stinky shoes remind me; just do it. No one is there to stop you but yourself. stand up and... okay, for Christ's sake.. this is a bit ridiculous. I think my ego is kicking in. Or the PBR.

Here's the skinny. No more hiding behind my own shadow. I'm a guy that enjoys what I need over what I want, a husband that cheers for his wife, a daddy that packs lunches and slays dragons for his kids, a son that is still his parents' child and a brother that still loves to raise hell with his kid sister. Odds are you are too.

This blog is dedicated to the small victories that make us, "us". Like when we we make it to Friday without being late to work once or forgetting something my wife asked me to do. The quiet moments that should be shouted from the mountain tops like learning how to play the intro to an 90's power ballad, knowing your kids can wipe their own backsides or getting everyone to sleep before 9PM without using ether or chloroform. The human element that keeps us pining for the shared experience, like a pint of beer in a neighborhood tavern with a friend talking about who-knows-what-and who-gives-a-rats-ass or the Thanksgiving dinner where you tell the same God-forsaken stories and still laugh just as hard... sometimes even harder because it adds fuel to the fire so that they can be told again next year.

This blog is my pressure valve; the e-version of a padded room where I can shout and praise and share and swear and celebrate and cheer and wish and dream. This blog is... well who knows what it is, or what it will become. But, now my voice has it's own little house... time to make it a home.