Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Dukes Get Crafty

With the recent move of several Dukes to a home in another part of the valley we have had an eye towards decorating. Even though I do not number among those that have sought out new lodging (I have a pretty sweet gig in my current location) I got caught up in the frenzied desire to furnish a living space with awesome stuff. The only space I currently have to decorate is my man cave, which is already pretty darn full of furniture. That being the case I did not join my fellow Dukes in going on a shopping spree to IKEA (watch out for the Minotaur in the bedding section). I did however join in with the fun part of picking things to hang on my walls. In this post we are going to share a few of our adventures in decorating.

Zac's Struggle for Dominance Over a Lowly Puzzle

For nearly a decade and a half now I have had this sweet Star Wars poster-sized puzzle. It has sat in a box in my room and I have often had the thought that I should really put it together again and frame it. For years I put it off because as you may well know I am lazy and doing things just isn't my style. That being said I made the perfectly logical decision at one in the morning that now was the time to seize life and finish my puzzle. I picked a movie on Netflix (The Producers) and my cat and I got started.
No it's cool. I didn't want to look at the lid anyways.
One musical and two TV episodes later and I was done (no thanks to the cat). Every piece had been glued on the cardboard backing and it was magnificent. As I gazed through bleary eyes at my masterpiece I noticed that something was wrong. In a flash I felt like my night had been wasted and that I should give up on all future dreams because there was no point. I knew that just as soon as I began to love something it would betray me just like this puzzle had. I guess I should have taken the advice from Wizard People Dear Reader and been wary. What was wrong you might be asking. Well look upon the finished product and weep with me.

Let me give you a closer look.

Curse you puzzle and your missing piece! I know you did this just to spite me for all those years of neglect! You should just be happy that I didn't throw you out like I did my Goosebumps puzzles. I was distraught. I had come so far and I just wanted the project to be complete. I searched high and low for the piece, but to no avail .I decided that I would finish this puzzle come hell or high water (doubtful in either case). I managed to find several options using the wonder of Google on my phone. First I found that I could buy  the exact same puzzle of Ebay for about 20 dollars, or I could send the surrounding pieces and a picture of the box lid to a company in England and they would manufacture a piece for me for about the same price.

I am not usually a frugal one so what transpired in my head was quite interesting. I found out that I have a limit on what frivolous purchases I will make. My limit is apparently 20 dollars for one puzzle piece. I just couldn't do it. I figured that if once piece was worth 20 dollars that the whole puzzle would cost $6000 and there was no way I valued this puzzle that highly (don't look deeply into my logic I was really tired at the time). It was at about that point that I decided to give Big Puzzle the bird (I told you I was making no sense) and make my own replacement piece. Lucky for me I don't have a ton to do at work so I took measurements of exactly the size and shape I needed and I got drawing.

First rough sketch

I may have forgotten to mention that the piece I was replacing was the one with C-3PO's face. This was also an incredibly frustrating fact. It would have been way too easy if the missing piece were just a lowly border piece that knew its place and was really easy to recreate, but no I had to draw the robot face. After I had finished drawing I busted out my colored pencil set and went to town. In the end I am proud of my achievement in finally managing to not buy something in an effort to take the easy way out, and in my opinion the finished product looks pretty darn good.

Is it me or does Luke look like He-Man?

Ricky fears his idle hands

If there is one thing that you could say we did more than anything else that would be watch things. We watch a ton of movies, TV shows and the occasional raccoon fight. Add up all the time we spend watching things and you will see it is a huge chunk of our lives. Ricky saw this and he could not take it any longer. He had to take action against this time-sucking beast. He felt that if he spent so much time in repose he needed to be doing something with his hands and he picked the manliest thing he could think of. He took up counter cross stitching.

Look at how manly he is in the face of danger.

Now I can sense that some of you are picturing a sweet old lady making a pillow that says "Love at Home" or some such nonsense. I can assure you that this is not the case. He is neither old nor sweet(debatable), and his labor results in a more entertaining variety of images and phrases. In lieu of spending my words trying to describe the wonders he creates, I am instead going to take you on a tour of his work.

The first one I am going to show you currently sits in his front entryway and I think it is perfect for showing his balance of thuggery and love of pretty things.

Indubitably good chum
 This next one will be a favorite of any Firefly or Joss Whedon fans out there(me).

You leave Jayne alone!

As with any art form the message given in the art often shows you an insight into the artist himself.

From Ricky I seem to sense a lot of love and warmth.
 All the great artists have had some struggles with either critics or crazed fans. This also holds true for Ricky. After a short time one of the hottest commodities in the confines of our group were these wonders put together by Ricky. Many people wanted them, but with a limited supply almost no one was able to get one (I think there are only two, possibly three that are not in his own home). That didn't sit well with one of our friends and she demanded that the next one be dedicated to her (She didn't demand and it didn't really bother her, but hyperbole and deception are central to my writing). All I can say is be careful of what you wish for...
Hey wait a second...those don't look like Oreos.

I am sure that all of you out there have been dazzled by the things that he has immortalized in thread. As you can tell from this article our lives have become quite crafty and we love it that way. With the formation of the Vanguard and the introduction of a one Josh Allred to the group I am sure that this trend will continue to grow and develop.  Where the muses will take us next is anybody's guess, but you can be sure of one thing. We will have fun doing it and if you don't like it I only have one thing to say and that is...

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Season of Change

I am not sure what to make of this post. Pretty much all of my ramblings up to this point have been strictly humor, without the thought of giving information that might be helpful to someone in any measurable way. Don’t get me wrong I love ranting about movies and things I hate, but I felt that this post was needed. To be honest it is probably mainly for me, but if it gives anyone out there some help then I guess that is a bonus.

With New Years, and the resolutions we made, fading fast in the review mirror of life I see that while we often make goals to change we never think about the best way to act on them. So here I give you five steps on how you can effect change in your life.

1.       Identify the issue

This step is the foundation for everything you will be working on later, and as we all know a firm foundation key to see any type of structural success. You never want to see a building come down due to shoddy workmanship (unless the building had it coming) and you also don’t want to see any of your goals suffer the same fate (I doubt they have it coming).

Either these were poorly built, or the local frost giants decided they wanted to play with dominoes.

  If you don’t know what you want to change, nothing will change. It is like going into a movie 20 minutes late and hoping that at some point they will recap what is happening because you are afraid the bewildered look on your face will stick for good. It is like going to the grocery store without a list of what you need and just throwing anything in the cart. You will end up walking the aisles for hours, eyes wide with terror at the thought of returning home without what you need. Days later you will still be confused and frustrated as to why you have 13 boxes of pop tarts and a barrel of couscous when all you really needed was a loaf of bread. I guess all I am trying to say is, that not knowing what to change is bad news
 Another key is to make sure you have done your part to uncover the true issue. If you start working on something that is not the true issue you will find yourself back at this step a ways down the road. I find that for me the easiest way to figure out the problem is to write things down in lists of what I feel like I should be doing and what I want to do about it. It is quite interesting to see what comes up when you are just sketching out ideas. Often the thing I want to change just glares up at me from the paper or screen, but in a good way like a JJ Abrams film (don’t judge, I like his work). That may not be the best way for you. It could be that you need to have interaction with others and bounce ideas off of them to help find what you need. It might be as simple as spending some time in quiet contemplation. I am not here to tell you the best way; rather I am sharing what has worked for me.

Choosing your own adventure often begins here.

 I am not the only one I know that is a fan of the technique of jotting things down. Recently my good friend Ricky sent me email with an attachment called “guidelines for life”. He had listed out the things he felt needed to change. He then took those things and made a comprehensive list of them and also paired them with some of the possible solutions. It was quite the list that while it was all encompassing it could seem daunting for certain people.  So find what works for you and go for it since the next big step is…

2.       Deciding to Act

For change to happen you have to truly decide to make it so. According to the laws of Physics a body at rest stays at rest and a body in motion stays in motion. Depending on what our goal is we need to find a way to jump start ourselves into action or find some way to stop.

This message brought to you by Newton.

A way to stop is to find an anchor, something that will be firm enough to stop you in a tempest of self-doubt. Often that can be a simple thing like the support of a friend.  Generally speaking being a friend means you like someone (I think that is the actual definition) and that you are willing to help them in what they need (fine, here is the actual definition. A person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard). The only issue is that friends are not mind readers and can’t help anchor you if they don’t know that that is what they are supposed to do. So in order for your friends to support you, they need to know that is what they are supposed to be doing. So you will be required to open your mouth.

 An example of this is once again my friend Ricky. At times he can be crass in his choice of words and it is something he wishes to change. When we were hanging out in a small group he told us of his wish to change and his desire for our help in the matter. If he hadn't spoken up I would not have known this and would not have been able to remind him to not use certain words by flicking him rather viciously. He hates being flicked and I love doing it so I was more than willing to help him in his quest.

Another anchor we have is the support of our family. In most cases our family loves us and they want what is best for us, so they are great candidates for helping people change. Also if nothing else we always have the support of God in our attempts to better ourselves. He is always there and is a staunch ally who will never give up on us no matter how lost we think the cause.

For some of us the issue might be the fact that we are omitting to do things in our life. This can be any number of things from not going to the gym or not going to school or studying when we should. It could also be not taking the time to prepare meals or even taking the time to be with loved ones. Getting ourselves up and about when it comes to these omitted acts can be quite an onerous task. We are often comfortable where we are and don’t feel the need to change. This is just our general malaise trying to keep you complacent.
Turns out there is an image for everything.

It seems like the most important step in either case is that if you feel something needs to change you need to decide to act. There can be no hope of change if the main party hasn't truly decided that they want to change. So remember you need to want to change for anything to happen. It can’t even be a wishy-washy type of want either like “yeah I would like a taco, but only if it were already in my mouth”. It has to be a fully vested want. You have to desire this change in your heart.  Once you have that desire you are ready to take that first step down the road of change.

 I would recommend possibly making a list of one or two things that you want to change and make a plan of everything that this change would entail. Once you have this list in hand it is time to look at those things and...

3.       Act as if you were

Okay so at this point you have figured out what you want to change and you have decided to act. Another step to tackle your goal lies in the phrase “Act as if you were”. This principle was taught to me by my mission president. It seems so simple yet it blew my mind with how effective it could be.

 I will give you a few examples of what this step could look like. If you want to be better at cleaning the house just act as if you were. In the beginning you will think to yourself “What would a very tidy person do in this situation?” Once you thought about what they would do, you would do it yourself. After a while of acting like you think they would it becomes a part of you and is a habit. Or if you want to be more patient, just take the same steps and think what a patient person would do in that spot. It can be really frustrating to begin with since many people suck, but over time you find that you have a greater capability to be patient with others (I think this is one I need to work on). 

 Another thing that seems to be a part of this is if you are the one helping someone change you need to act as if they were as well. If you treat them as if they have changed it will give them greater confidence that they will be able to finish what they started. This part also works great in a work environment. If you have people under you and you want them to be better you need to treat them as if they were that person already. It is remarkable in the way it boosts their motivation.

At this point we have identified the issue, decided to act and have taken up the mantra to act as if you were. Now you need to remember that..

4. You don't need to be afraid of setbacks and relapses

I know that was a longer header title than normal and that it doesn't fit with proper header etiquette, but I live life on the edge so deal with it. Back to the topic of discussion. I find that this section is probably the most important for maintaining changes. When you are trying to change something in your life setbacks are impossible to avoid. They will happen and what we do after they happen is what will decide our fate. If we see that we had a setback, it is normal to feel a little despair and to think about giving up on change. DON'T GIVE IN! Just don't.

Let us imagine that your goal is to eat healthier. It is a worthy goal, but one day you are just innocently going along and BAM!! You find that you have no time to make a meal so you swing by McDonald's and grab a Big Mac.  Don't let that get you down or before you know it you will be double fisting ice cream and pizza sandwiches while tears slowly roll down your face and onto your stained sweats.

Puppies don't judge

Even though we know that relapses happen that doesn't mean we can't limit them and shape them a bit. With the example above we know that part of the problem is that your body will crave some of the things you are no longer eating. If you just try and use willpower to avoid eating a cookie ever again your face will probably explode. So instead of avoiding it forever you need to plan for it in your meals. Maybe you will have one cheat meal a week or maybe you will have an Oreo with one meal a day. With other goals it might be avoiding the things that tempt you. I don't know what will work best for you. I just know that for each goal there is a way to minimize the effect and scope that setbacks have.

Okay, some puppies do judge.
 5. Monitor and Maintain

Good for you if you have made it this far. It means that you have identified a problem, you have decided to act and act as if you were, you also are aware of the setbacks that will come. Now we come to the last step, monitoring your progress. If you see that things are changing that will be a great perk and will add extra motivation to improve even more, or if you aren't seeing any improvement that might be a sign that it is time to try a new approach to solving the issue. Not every attempt is going to be a success, but that shouldn't be a deterrent.  Just remember that even if it didn't work the fact you tried is a good step.

I like to think of this step as the repeat step on the shampoo bottle. After you have made it through all the stages it is time to repeat. As you move along the path of change you will find that at times you need to tweak your goals. It could be that you have completed what you were aiming for so now you are going to tackle something else. It could also mean that as you move along the path that you will find that you wish to reach a slightly different destination. to get there just take the aforementioned steps and go through them again.

I know that it seems like changing is hard, and you would be right. It is hard to change, but not impossible and the rewards make it all worthwhile. It is my hope that we will all be able to find our goals and to make them reality, even if it is just to make that Chewbacca puppy stop judging you.