Fighting the Loser Syndrome Wednesday, Apr 27 2011 

Shortly after my job ended last fall, the work group got together for lunch one weekend. Everyone else in the group had found new jobs and so they were excited to talk about their new workplaces. I felt like a loser because I didn’t have anything lined up so I didn’t have much to add to the conversations. Walking home, I reminded myself that there would be some great opportunity for me too at some future date. of  later I began computer classes to learn how to design online seminars. I also did some writing and refinishing of furniture as posted previously. Learning new skills and getting some contract work have helped my self-esteem. In fact, I like running into my peers because I can talk about these new things.

But now, seven months later, the ugly head of loserdom is rearing its head again. There’s been some activity of interviews lately. I’ve been able to talk about my new skills and share my strengths. But nothing has cracked open yet. I fight off the loser thought by challenging myself to think creatively. How else can I get appreciation for my talents? What would it be like if I went into an interview and gave preposterous answers to the questions? What are three new activities I can try in my job search?

I also think about a comment a dear friend of mine who recently passed away made once when we were talking about our job searches. She thought employers would be competing to hire me because of my experience. She told me how she admired my adaptability and flexibility when challenges came up, and how something always seemed to work out for me. I smile when I think of that conversation.

I’ve been calling this period a sabbatical rather than a layoff. For I have been taking the time to think about what’s next. I realized that I needed a skills update and have been gaining knowledge in MS Office and curriculum design tools. I’ve designed some workshops that address some of the deeper issues of unemployment. I’ve made time for creative expression that can also be an income producer. And now I’m starting to internally challenge the job search advice I and my fellow career counselors espouse on a daily basis. We’re in a great economic upheaval, I’m following the advice I give to people; yet there’s something begging to be uncovered. Maybe this loser thought in my head is really a muse speaking truths I haven’t recognized yet.

Reflections on unemployment Monday, Apr 25 2011 

It’s been 7 months since my job ended, and some days I am optimistic and some days I am afraid. When I taught job-search workshops there would be people who would say I’ll take any job. They didn’t necessarily mean it once we probed a little further, but I wondered what drives us to say things like that. While walking around Lake Harriet today, it hit me. People say they’ll take any job because deep down inside there is the human need to contribute to society. My best days are the ones in which I have something productive to do. My workshop attendees felt better when they were actively participating in society. That’s why those of us in the career counseling field recommend volunteering or working part-time in something that interests the client or gives new skills.

There’s only so many household projects that a person can do. After that all of us search for something to fill that need to contribute to the larger world. We might walk our neighborhoods picking up trash and recyclables that were previously hidden under winter’s cover. We might check on a neighbor who lives alone to offer companionship or help with household needs. Whatever the case, I recommend finding an activity that gives personal meaning, not just a source of busy work.

I wish positive energy toward my fellow job seekers.

Dresser Rehab 2 Monday, Oct 11 2010 

is it weird that I love scraping paint? I guess it’s that sense of completion again. Wow, got that paint peeled off and am now in sanding mode. I discovered that a dental tool is great for loosening up paint in tiny crevices. But it’s sharp on both ends so be careful! The small holes poked in my hand are testimony for taking care! My husband thinks I should refinish the wood but now that I’ve gotten down to the bare wood, I see it isn’t that pretty. The sides look like cheap wood compared to the face pieces so I don’t feel guilty about putting on a fresh coat of paint. Maybe this dresser looked beautiful when it was brand-new but now it definitely needs a facelift. Tomorrow it’s back to scraping in the turned parts and then more sanding.

dresser rehab! Friday, Oct 8 2010 

I saw an old dresser sitting on a sidewalk so I convinced my husband to help me get it in the Honda. When I saw its seashell-like design I knew I had to rescue it from the landfill or even someone else!

Today I scraped paint from all of the drawers- wow I love those get strippers! I’ll leave the body for a couple days because I need to find a new top. I’m guessing the big chunk out of the top was the reason it landed on the sidewalk but we have the tools to cut and rout a new piece of wood.

Projects like this get me excited because they have concrete results. Whereas in my career counseling work, I don’t always know if I actually made an impact on someone unless they tell me so. With a furniture rehab I can see right away if I made a difference. And now that I’m laid off and looking for a new job, workign on a project gives me a nice break from the job search. Scraping paint is a mindless activity that lets my brain process ideas on where I can focus my job search.

This weekend I want to pick up some paint chips and investigate silver leaf. I’m thinking a soft gray paint would look nice with silver leaf in the shell-like design and surrounding curves. And some glass knobs could add sparkle! I did start looking at Hunt and Gather for some vintage glass knobs but couldn’t find any. That just gives me an excuse for future visits.

But now a walk to the library where I will look for some design books that might inspire a different finishing option. Gray and silver would be beautiful but maybe something else will catch my eye. I’m always open to creative options…

Penzey’s Spices crate bookcase project Thursday, Oct 7 2010 

Years ago my husband gave me a Penzey’s Spices French Kitchen crate as a Christmas gift. He thought I wanted the spices but it was the crate that really peaked my interest. I was envisioing the empty crate being turned into a miniature French kitchen. Last year I did get started on that conversion but ended up buying an actual miniature roombox kit to make the kitchen. Fast forward to this summer when I signed up for a bookbinding class at MCAD (Minneapolis College of Art and Design). I taught myself how to make books in 1/12th scale- now I wanted to learn some new techniques and see if I could scale those down too. Over three weeks I made a lot of books and realized they needed a home of their own. This past weekend I turned that spice crate into a bookcase by adding a shelf from leftover plywood and edging left over from another project.

If you’d like to make your own crate bookcase, it’s very easy.

1. Find a sturdy crate. Unfortunately Penzey’s doesn’t sell empty crates but you could find similar ones in thrift stores, wine stores or other places.

2. Sand and finish the crate with either stain or paint. I left the inside as is to show off the books.

3. Measure inside dimensions for shelf or shelves. Cut shelf/shelves to size with a jigsaw or table saw. Cut braces from blocks of scrap wood to support the shelf unit and glue to bottom of shelf. measure where shelf will sit inside crate, mark with pencil and glue shelving unit in place, checking for level.

4. Add trim to front of shelf- mine is flush with the bottom of the shelf and gives a lip to hold books in place on the upper section. Paint or stain as desired.

5. Attach two sawtooth picture hangers to the back of the crate and then hang in place.

Shelter magazines I love Thursday, Sep 16 2010 

We just got the October This Old House today and I am so excited to enter to win home products! Every month I steal away the issue before my hubby can read it (yeah, the subscription is my gift to him but I always read it first!). We own a 1920’s Tudor duplex so there’s always something of interest in terms of repairing our home or dreaming of a new kitchen after seeing other readers’ makeovers.

Another magazine I have been enjoying is Fresh Home. I have to admit I enjoyed the original format more when Neil was the editor because it was a great mix of DIY power-tool oriented projects and home decor ideas. Now it leans a little too far toward the fluff side but I’ll stick it out to see how it evolves. I do love its articles on color trends only because Fresh Home editors and others are finally seeing what we dove into years ago- deep colors rock! Three years ago I painted my studio the deepest, richest purple I could find and followed suit two years ago with a beautiful deep turquoise in the den. My husband picked that one out which surprised me because he usually avoids showy colors. Now those blues and purples are all over the place so we have an easier time finding items to add to the spaces. I think my favorite part of Fresh Home though are the entertaining ideas. The playlist concept is fun and someday I will make up a playlist for my own party.

After the demise of Domino I didn’t think anything could replace it, but Lonny magazine has made an online splash for former Domino-ites. My only complaint is I forget to look online! Fortunately their Facebook page lets me know when a new issue is available. The click-to-shop feature is a big advantage of the online format. It’s a good thing my current financial situation doesn’t allow for impulse purchases…

And finally, I’ll admit that I’m a new fan of Martha Stewart Living. My sisters and I used to make fun of the whole MS comglomerate but then one Christmas my sister D. sheepishly admitted she wanted a subscription to try it out. She didn’t want anyone to know about it which is hard considering she lives with another one of our sisters! Then I decided to try it out myself since I am such a magazine addict.

So now I have a range of magazines to compare. From each one I get something a little different. The DIYer, the crafter, the luxury lover and the trend-leader sides of me all get their moment in the spotlight when I read my collection of magazines. and that makes me happy.

Designing a New Life part 2 Thursday, Sep 16 2010 

To get myself motivated for new beginnings, I am reading The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp. I admit that it can be challenging to keep up the discipline needed for creative success. When I was young, I wanted to be an artist and I spent time nearly every day drawing or painting- developing my talent. Somewhere along the way I lost that discipline and now find myself very much in need of it. So reading her book helps, as does committing to writing in this blog again because if I want a following, I need to provide content.

My forced vacation is giving me plenty of time to write and look for work. So I’m making a promise to myself to write for at least an hour every day to get that discipline back. Maybe I will break out the pastels and drawing pad as well because my artistic skills are in decline. One idea percolating in my mind is stretching my skills to create an art book. After taking a bookbinding class this summer I feel confident in my ability to produce an original single-copy book. I’ve started the verse part and have some ideas for making the pages shaped like the paper doll chains we used to make as children. Again, I have the time, now I need the discipline.

Designing a New Life Monday, Sep 13 2010 

It’s been some time since I’ve posted. Life slipped away and now life offers the chance to blog again.

My contract job is ending on September 30 and I had hoped to continue working for the State of MN but it seems that plan has a slight hiccup in it. So I’m preparing myself for job search and for exploring new options within that job search. One of those options is doing more writing, thus getting this blog going again. I tell my clients to pursue their dreams yet I haven’t always listened to my own advice. Now while I am using up my vacation leave this month, I have no excuses.

To inspire this new life, I set up my home office in our purple room. I chose the deepest, richest purple they had at Home Depot to show that I am fearless about color. Sitting in this jewel box of a room is comforting. I feel that I can dream some new dreams and design a new direction.

Decorating Day is here! Tuesday, Dec 1 2009 

December 1st- Decorating Day

I started this tradition when I was a singleton, wanting a way to mark the season that was my own and would stay with me throughout my life circumstances. It began with a tabletop tree and ornaments collected during my youth. That little tree cheered me when I came home from work, feeling homesick for my family and friends. Over time, the tradition became more established as I became more established in life. The little tree was replaced by a six-footer which has been replaced by a seven-and-a-half foot pre-lit tree. The ornament collection has grown too as each year I purchase something for the tree. Some ornaments are reminders of places my husband and I have visited, and now I find myself buying German-made ornaments to honor my heritage. The day consists of decorating the tree and the house, playing Christmas music and eating gingerbread cookies and drinking mulled cider. The tradition has also developed an end date of when to take things down. Our decorations stay up until Epiphany, with the taking down being a time of quiet reflection on the season that has passed. Here’s to another joyous Decorating Day!

Thrift Treasures Part 2 Monday, Sep 21 2009 

How about some ideas for re-purposing those items you’ve picked up. Here’s some quick ideas to get you thinking.

A wine rack can hold: magazines, towels, shoes or logs for a fireplace

Linens can be made into: quilts, pillow covers, napkins, book covers, wall hangings, laundry bags

Pedestal tables can be cut down for coffee tables

Picture frames can hold mirrors, become trays or be mounted on a headboard for an interchangeable art or photo display

Sweaters and sweatshirts can become cozy toys for kids

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