Back in the Saddle

517066753_760An entire year?! Seriously?! Seems impossible. But alas, it’s true. It will be a year ago Memorial Day since my last post. So, I decided it high time to push this to the top of my priority list, push the ignition switch and see if the engine would still crank. I sat down, sharpened my focus, placed my fingers on the keyboard and waited for the words to start pouring out ever so eloquently … And waited … And waited. Words were not coming. In their place, the dreaded white-washed wall appeared before my mind’s eye signaling creativity had left the building—writer’s block. The rust on the ol’ motor seemed a little thicker than I had anticipated, so I spent the next few hours avoiding and coming back to the keyboard, waiting for the storm to pass. Finally, I realized I just had to start typing something, anything! Whether mindless dribble or just complete crap, the only way to get back up and running was to start moving.

As my fingers started typing and the thoughts started flowing, I debated about whether to even acknowledge the fact that I completely disappeared from the blogosphere for the last year.
A) Do I want to admit to such an early falling off the wagon?
B) Did anyone even notice?
C) Does anyone really care?
The answer to all of these is probably a resounding “no”. At the same time, though, I felt weird just reappearing as if nothing had happened, like a crazy ex that left you at the alter then shows up at your door the next Thursday wondering why you didn’t show up for date night.

So, here I am, back from outer space. Sorry I left for so long. It wasn’t you, it was me. I had two little kids to raise, a business to get off the ground and just not enough time in the day for everything. But, the baby is now past the big one-year mark, so he can actually move around on his own and play on his own and sleep on his own. Well, actually, he’s in the separation anxiety, clingy phase so “on his own” is not entirely accurate. And, since he turned one, he has decided to wake up anywhere between 2 and 4 AM everyday, stand up in his crib and scream, so the last one is completely false. Regardless, he is still far more independent than his infant-self, and his sister, now two, is very head-strong and independent. This leads to these moments when they are both in another room together and things get really, really quiet … too quiet. Just as that fear creeps in that they have somehow ripped open the sofa cushions and are eating all the stuffing like cotton candy, we silently race to the doorway to sneak a peek and discover that they are just fine. Not only are they fine, but they are actually playing together! It’s quite an amazing site, though still rare like Bigfoot or Nessie, and it means a little more time for mom and dad. Just a little. But a little is all I need to get back in the saddle.

I’ll be posting again extremely soon, like maybe even tomorrow (yeah right). Definitely next week. I’ve been working on some cool daddy design projects which I’m anxious to share, along with the usual parental musings and random observations. It’s good to be back … (Cue Steven Tyler).

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Peace in the Valley

As I sit here on our back porch this beautiful Memorial Day morning—birds singing, shards of sunlight breaking through the trees, a gentle breeze stirring the languid, humid air, I am reminded of the much less idyllic ways many others are spending their mornings: defending their convoy after coming under attack, checking for roadside bombs, flying into hostile territory and hoping not to come under fire, or just passing time alone in their bunks.

I spent much of the last decade doing work for the National Guard, primarily as Design Director for GX Magazine, dedicating a great deal of time to supporting, celebrating and honoring all those amazing men and women who put themselves on the line each and every day. I have learned how dedicated and selfless these Soldiers can be, and how much we take for granted their sacrifice and service everyday. But that’s okay, because that’s part of the point. They go out and do what they do in far off corners of the globe, so we can be free to enjoy our lives here at home without thinking about it.

SLAM! Alex suddenly runs over and shuts the laptop I’m writing this post from, completely shattering my train of thought and losing the last 5 minutes of work. Just as I’m about to blow my top, I remember how lucky I am to just be with her and share this morning together, while so many families find themselves at opposite ends of the globe. So many families who have paid the ultimate sacrifice, so many children who won’t see their dad again, so many fathers who have to raise their kids alone because mommy didn’t come home. Those who are making, or have made, that incredible, immeasurable sacrifice so the rest of us can sit peacefully on our back porches, breathe in the fresh morning air and watch our kids laugh and play, and, yes, even interrupt our not-so important work to remind us to enjoy this time together.

To all the men and women of all our Armed Forces and their families, past and present, I offer a humble thank you.

iShots 1: Alex at Sunset

Now that I finally broke down, sold my soul and joined the ranks of the iPhone Army, I am a victim/beneficiary of the power of the crazy little device that I can no longer live without. Congratulations Apple! You have successfully infiltrated my world, sucked me in and brainwashed me into forgetting my life prior to cradling your shiny, magical obelisk in my hand. How did I ever survive without a Reminders app? Seriously.

As with most of us in this modern life, my phone has now become my primary point-and-shoot camera. You can’t get anymore convenient. Since most of us have our phones on or near us 24/7—you see it you shoot it—no more, “There’s a panther in the grocery store! Why don’t I have a friggin’ camera?! That’s the great thing—lots of instant creative inspiration can now be captured that would have otherwise been forgotten. The downside, obviously, has been quality. You’re not gonna get a DSLR into a phone. Period. But, the iPhone does have a pretty decent little camera. It blows my old crappy LG ENV3 out of the water and even puts our 3-year-old Sony Handycam to shame (except for the zoom of course). And, unfortunately, finances at the moment in our household do not dictate a fancy new DSLR. As much as I wish I could chronicle the kids’ coming of age with a beautiful Nikon D7000 or the like, the iPhone is it for now.

So, I decided to do a photo series chronicling Alex and Akin’s summer and see what I can get this little wanna-be camera to do. Here’s the first installment: a few shots of Alex playing in some beautiful late evening light. Hope you enjoy!

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Ring the Alarm

Since writing a blog and taking care of my infant son has proven to be way more difficult than I thought (imagine that), and I haven’t actually posted anything having anything to do with design in a long while (the original point of starting this blog), I wanted to share this little tidbit.

What happens when you cross sleep-deprived parents with a home security system? Nothing good: a terrifying 20 seconds of ear-piercing sirens, pounding hearts, spiked adrenaline and pure chaos. It’ll sure as hell wake you up, though, especially at 6 am. And, if you can sprint to the keypad in time before the cops are called, you then have to try to remember the code and type it in, with sirens blaring and shaky hands. Good times. So, what’s the easiest solution I could think of to remedy this early morning gauntlet run? A fancy little sign placed strategically above the door knob that reminds us to make sure that alarm is off before we even think of turning the knob. I made it a while back after our daughter was born, and it has proven indispensable every single morning since. This is one of those times when being a designer actually helps out in everyday life. Just imagine how many signs I’ll be making when we’re 75!

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Let There Be Light!


What day is it? When did I shower last? Is this a dream? No. No, I decide that I am in fact awake (if only partially) and this is Defcon 5, full-stage, brain-dead, sleepless, caring for a 10-week old. With blurry, bloodshot eyes and sleep-deprived brain, I approach the keyboard and begin typing, trying to articulate some sort of interesting thought and not a bunch of meaningless dribble.

I am now fully surrounded by the Baby Bubble. My house, like an exiled asylum for crazy people who walk around like zombies and speak repetitive nonsense at pitches 10x higher than normal conversational voice, is my world. Rarely do I leave, and if I do, it’s out of absolute, practical necessity for things like diapers and formula, and it’s always a carefully orchestrated, quick strike mission that gets us back before we get caught outside the wire in hostile territory, where hunger can strike and bottles are scarce. I am holed up in this fortress, surrounded by the impenetrable force field of The Bubble, cut off from most of the outside world. My wife is the only adult I see on the regular. Friends text to see if I’m alive. I work when he sleeps, eat when I can, showering is a luxury. My news arrives at 4:00 am via my iPhone, as I scroll thru Flipboard headlines and a little Facebook while I rock the baby back to sleep, i.e. I rock and he fights sleep. Sleep. Ah, glorious sleep. My long forgotten friend. When will you ever return?

But wait. What’s that I see on the horizon? A distant glimmering like a silver coin caught in the sunlight, beckoning, speaking to me, “Hope is here. The end is near.” Bang! Slam! Crash! Bam! Bam! The roofers are wreaking havoc overhead like dragons ripping sheets of rock from the mountain’s face. All of this chaotic cacophony is brutally annoying for nearly 10 hours and keeps Akin awake for most of the day. And, what happens that night? A miracle of miracles—seven hours of sleep! There were a few false-alarm trips to the nursery interspersed, but for the most part the little guy slept thru the nite! The next nite, nearly 6 hours straight! That light is growing brighter and brighter.

Today, I’m like a new person. Wait, how did I get here? With two nights of decent sleep under my belt, it’s like I can actually see straight and form some rational thoughts beyond “what time’s the next feeding?”! I can see the light! And, man does it look nice—warm and peaceful, full of hope and promise. I must proceed with caution, though. Been down this road before, just last year. It could be a trick or a tease or a scientific anomaly. But, man it’s looking good. I think he just might turn that corner, round the bend and head for the light, and we can drift into the promised land …

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My Current Lifesaver

You need to check this out! It’s free and it’s awesome!
Click the graphic below to get started.

If you aren’t familiar, Rockabye Baby is one of the coolest concepts ever. They take rock and pop bands and make lullaby covers of their songs. Some don’t need lullaby versions, like Bob Marley, but some are so crazy, it amazes me they could come up with listenable, mellow compositions of them. I mean who’d ever think to make lullabies out of Sabbath, Zeppelin, The Ramones, Aerosmith?! Seriously? But, yeah, it works. We bought the Zep album last year when our daughter, Alex, was born, and she loved it. Now, in my second week as a stay-at-home, work-from-home dad for our 8 week-old, Akin, I’m up to my eyeballs in challenges. Yesterday, during an endless, inconsolable screaming fit (yeah, one of those that stands your hair on end), I had an epiphany to search for Rockabye Baby on Spotify, and lo and behold, there it was—the promised land!

Now, I can put him in his bouncy seat next to my office chair, cue a Rockabye album on Spotify and work away in fully focused, fuss-free bliss … for about 20 min. But, hey, every second counts in baby land, right?

I don’t know who the mad geniuses are that concocted the Rockabye Baby idea (Google came up with nothing and their about page is kinda vague), but thank you for trying something crazy and making it work. And, thank you Spotify for having the ENTIRE Rockabye Baby catalog available to stream (well, there are DMB and The Smiths, but sure you’ll add those soon). My ears thank you. My sanity thanks you.

Happy listening.

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The Next Big Thing

Well, it looks like my initial leap into the blogosphere has been more like a splat. It’s been nearly 2 weeks since my first, last and only post, which is like 2 years in blog time. Not that anyone is actually following me yet to notice, but then again there’s nothing to friggin’ follow! “So I liked your first post. What else ya got? Still waiting … and still … oh, ya got nothing? Buh-bye.”

In reality, I do have a good excuse: I have decided to be a stay-at-home dad with our now-7-week-old son, Akin, with last week being Week One, or as I like to call it “The Gauntlet.” Seen/read “The Hunger Games?” Yep, that about sums it up; just the fear factor and survival instinct, not the bloodsport, mind you. Add our one-year-old girl, Alex, into the mix (oh by the way did I mention I’m starting my own company right now too) and I have barely enough time to eat and shower.

Even though I’m sleep deprived and dirty, I’m still determined to give Akin’s room the same TLC I did his sister’s (see Alex’s Tree). I sketched out an idea for it months ago, planning to have it ready for his arrival. Remember he’s now 7 weeks old, so I’m a little behind the eight ball. But, I am going to figure out a way to get it done, and this blog is a key piece of motivation. If I put it out here for all to see then I better follow thru or risk looking like a shmuck. So, here are the plans.

Note: The odd dumpster-looking object is the crib. yeah, yeah, I know.

Primarily typographic, playing off a design/architecture/construction theme, the giant “A” (around 6′ tall) would be a solid fill of paint, minus the last piece on the right, to look almost fully constructed with the other letters outlined architectural-style. If there will actually be two cranes or only one is undecided, as well as the level of detail in them. The walls are already a light, sort-of-Wedgewood blue, so the dark blue “A” will really pop. Oh, and I still haven’t landed on a final font choice, but it will be some sort of heavy, slab serif that says strength and construction.

One big thing I haven’t figured out is an inexpensive way to place a template/stencil of the type on the wall, especially the “A”. The best way I can come up with is to project it, but those art projectors are not cheap. Anyone have any ideas or suggestions?

Hopefully, I’ll be posting pics of the actual project in the coming weeks. In the meantime, I’ll have plenty to share about trying to fly solo (during the day) with my baby boy.

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Alex’s Tree

With a daughter turning one and a baby boy on the way, it was time to do some room shuffling. Feeling like a slacker dad, having never really done anything creative in the nursery where our daughter, Alexandria, spent the last year of her life, I decided it was high time to make amends. Being recently laid off from the job that had consumed every spare bit of my time and creative energy and made me that slacker dad, I had some free time on my hands. So, what better to do than create something cool in our daughter’s new room and find my redemption?!

I had been eyeballing those cool vinyl wall decals for kids’ rooms—the huge ones of trees that cover an entire wall—but they’re just so crazy expensive. I figured I was creative enough to make my own giant tree for a fraction of the price. Well, actually, I just figured if I call myself an artist/designer I should be able to do this thing, right? I had no idea if I could pull this off, but dammit I was going to try my best. I mean, if it turned out to be awful, I could just paint over it. So, I found some reference pictures, sketched my idea on a piece of paper, pitched it to the boss (my wife, Allison) and got approval, bought some paint, drew a rough pencil sketch on the wall and 3 days later, voila!

It’s by no means the most amazing thing ever, quintessential piece of kids’ wall art, but for my first shot at ever painting anything remotely resembling a wall mural, it turned out pretty nicely. I stuck with a very flat, simple style, as much for aesthetic preference as fear of getting in over my head and blowing it. For the next foray into wall art, I’ll probably push it a little more and incorporate some depth and dimension. But, for now, Mama’s happy, Alex is happy and grandparents are impressed. Mission accomplished.

Check out the gallery in the following “Process” post. Hope you enjoy and get inspired to create something!

A

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Alex’s Tree – Process

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