Tuesday, November 17, 2015

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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Teacher Must Always Remain a Student: When a person you mentor goes off the rails



I would not be where I am today had it not been for several very important mentors at different points in my life. Having benefited from the tutelage of these key figures, I have earned the privilege to teach and mentor scores of people over the years. Regardless of the industry or position, I am always on the hunt for the next “me”.  My heart accelerates when I find a fresh new prospect or trainee with fire in their chest and a passion for success. My heart sank when I recently learned that one of my most promising young mentees was in hot water resulting from some serious lapses in judgment.
The course of my life was irreversibly changed by my first mentor, JW, a man of enormous physical stature with the business savvy to match. He drilled into me the key fundamentals of punctuality, consistency, relentless determination and maintaining an impeccable storefront. Lisa C. brought out the swagger in me, encouraging me to always be true to my personal brand and never (and I mean NEVER) discount my fee. A common thread with these and other important figures in my life has been the personal investment they each made in me. Their coaching encompassed a broad range of subjects that extended well beyond the specifics of the job or the company for which we worked.
I recognized the value of the special attention I garnered from these mentors; they were all at the top of their game and at the height of their field. I was honored that they recognized something in me worth developing and I was keen to seize upon this. One of my mentors was fond of saying "Well Mike, not everyone is a Mike". They saw in me the potential to duplicate their success where no one else had. It was my goal to take what they would teach me and take it a step further.
On those rare occasions when I've met a person who is already motivated and feels a genuine drive to excel,  I feel a swell of energy rise within me. I experience, again, that same wonder and excitement that I felt as a young man when I was hungry to learn from an expert who I could convince to peel back the curtain and reveal their secrets. For my woo-woo friends, mentoring someone provides a sense that you are repaying the universe for the kind generosity shared by your mentors with you. For others, it is a chance to live vicariously through your pupil that experience of discovery in order to expand your understanding with the hope that both of you will build upon what you've learned and collectively take that experience to a whole new level.
It is not at all common to find someone in whom you can light a spark. And, still less common, is someone with whom you can trust the full width and breadth of your experience. Before I will fully invest my time and energy (much less the entirety of my understanding of a subject), I must be confident that my recipient has a well-calibrated moral compass and will use this knowledge for good works. A bond built upon trust will take time to develop and nurture. As you build this relationship, you become closer with this person and develop a personal stake in their success.
One of my mentees was recently discovered to have violated some pretty serious rules of conduct. The findings of an exhaustive investigation called into question his honesty and integrity. I was reminded in that moment that our relationship is not unlike that which I have with my son. After the initial disappointment subsided, I realized this was a golden opportunity. Part of the mentoring process is to be a guide throughout the entire journey. It is not enough to point somebody in a direction, kick them in the ass and then hope that they get to their destination. A true mentor will be there to assist their trainee as they navigate for themselves the new terrain. 
This experience has been a true awakening for me and brings me full-circle back to something JW once said to me long, long ago: "The teacher must always remain a student". 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Meeting old friends for the first time: Making "real" friends on Facebook


I have always been skeptical of the ubiquity of Social Media (especially Facebook) and its tendency to supplant the need for real, human interaction. This weekend radically and irreversibly shifted my view of how Social Media can impact our real, physical lives.

Over the last several months, Birdy has encouraged me to reach out to friends from the past with whom I had lost contact. I have found great comfort in reconnecting with friends I have not seen or heard from in as many as twenty years. In finding and rekindling these old friendships, I have filled in many gaps in my memory and rediscovered lost parts of who I was, who I am. Since beginning this process, I have had the distinct pleasure of introducing Birdy to four of the people from my teenage years that played a major role in forming the man I have become.    

This weekend, Birdy and I flew down to California and, among other activities, had occasion to meet my new/old friend Pete. He had popped up on Facebook a few months ago because we had fifteen or so friends in common. His name and his face were somewhat familiar, but I couldn’t place him. What the heck, I sent him a friend request. Within a few minutes he accepted and sent me a message:




This went back and forth for about half an hour and we still could not piece it together. We did, however, begin to make a connection. As we shared the details of where life had taken us in the two decades since the time we didn’t remember going to high school (Leigh High School in San Jose, CA) together, the seeds of a new friendship began taking root. We cheered for each other's successes and shared the lament from our tales of woe.

Herein lies what had been my chief complaint with Social Media: I am not actually “friends” with the vast majority of people who are my friends on Facebook. Many were friends in high school and we got along just fine, but we are all grown up and our lives have gone in a million different directions. We've lost touch and we now share a pseudo-friendship through each others' social media highlight reel. 

This was the first time in which I had added a friend on Facebook from high school with whom I exchanged direct messages and had a “real” conversation...and he was not even my friend to begin with. And yet, since beginning this correspondence, I have found someone with whom I share a great many interests AND get along with AND find interesting. 

As it happened, Birdy and I were travelling to California this weekend and had the privilege to meet again, for the first time, my friend Pete. Seeing him in person did nothing to refresh my memory to recall any event, circumstance, class, dance, assembly or party that we attended together. He and I went to the same middle school and high school during the same years and were friends with dozens of people in common and neither of us could remember the other. But from the minute we sat down for a drink, it felt like we had been friends the whole time.  

From Left to Right: Pete, Birdy and Myko at Lefty O'doul's in SF

So, the fact that Facebook was responsible for bringing together, again, two people who were otherwise perfect strangers has made me re-estimate the power and the value of Social Media. I should mention that Birdy and I met on Tinder...lol 


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Are you one of the five people you would want to spend the most time with?

Don't be surprised when you become the people you get your advice from. You have to seek out the people whom you admire and whose success you would like to emulate. In this same vein, are you someone that people would want to emulate?
As I pick myself back up and begin the journey back to a purposeful life, I am rediscovering the value of mentors and surrounding myself with successful people with whom I can relate. The Jim Rohn Quote really resonates "You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with". 

I imagine a party of six hikers climbing a mountain. Each of us comes from a different place and carries something unique in our pack. Each of us will be called upon at some point to give the rest of the group a hand up. Each of us will share something of what we brought. Our common goal is to use our unique talents and resources to help the whole group get to the top of the mountain. 

Who are the five people you spend the most time with?

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Work Wise - Adventures in Ambidexterity

Last week, I told you about my experiment with a Stand-up workstation. I've found that standing up while working has really changed my perspective. If nothing else, at least I'm not falling asleep at my desk...

Along these same lines, I'm always looking for ways to break up the monotony of the work day in corporate America. One of the ways I do this is by regularly switching the hands that control my mouse and dial the phone. I use my mouse for several hours each day and I dial between 125 and 200 calls daily.

I am naturally right hand dominant and it feels most comfortable using my right hand to dial a phone and guide the mouse at my computer. However, I have found that I can be much more efficient by using one hand to control the mouse and the other to dial the telephone. An interesting way for me to continually liven things up (and keep myself on my toes) is to periodically swap my phone and my mouse to opposite sides of my desk. On January 2nd of this year, I moved my phone to the left side and the mouse to the right. Friday of last week, I reversed them. I love doing this as it forces me to be present in the moment and concentrate on what I am doing.

I began doing this a few years ago after reading an article suggesting that you may potentially improve brain function by using your non-dominant hand to perform common, every day tasks. Several studies claim that new neural pathways are created when a "righty" goes "southpaw" a few studies argued that this change to your routine unlocks the creative potential of the right side of your brain.

I've always looked for ways to be artistic in everything I do (especially the banal, robotic routines of daily life). The notion that you could stimulate creativity or tap into your artistic right-brain more easily by simply using your left hand to move your mouse or dial the phone was incredibly appealing to me. 

My takeaway from this experiment is that it resembles the placebo effect: I find myself being more creative and artistic in my approach because I have the expectation that I am activating another part of my brain this way. If I am more creative or more artistic as the result of dialing the phone with my left hand, then it is irrelevant if science can prove that there is a correlation. 

Click here for a great article that goes into greater depth and explores some of the science and research that's been done on the topic.

What has been your experience? I'd love to hear from somebody who has tried this experiment. Or, maybe you're inspired to try it… Let us know how it goes.

Monday, August 3, 2015

August 30-Day-Challenge

Even though I'm still a little disappointed in myself for not completing the entire July challenge - no wait, scratch that - even though I'm disappointed in not completing EITHER of the July challenges, I'm happy that we've identified a challenge for August AND already done some really tedious and hard work to get it underway. Since our original plan for June was to begin cleaning out the future pub shed, but we were diverted into repairing the damage from the flood, we are back to our original June plan here in August.

Lucky for us the first day of the month was on a Saturday. And not just any Saturday, a Saturday that we were going to be home! (OK, not for the whole day - I had to work in the morning on the San Juan's and then we attended one of Big Lil's soccer games.) So as not to alter any positive cosmic mojo of this favorable coincidence, even though it was sweltering - at least by my standards - we got right to it when we got home.

First things first we needed to get all the stuff out of the future pub shed. The problem? Where to put it all. We moved all of my bins of party supplies, and holiday decorations, and canning jars, and random junk I can't seem to get rid of to the back porch where I could start going through it all. No sense in continuing to store things I don't want anymore, even if it would be easier for now. I sent my old business partner Brie'n a text to see if she wanted all of our old wedding planning paraphernalia. She agreed to go through it and keep what she wanted so I set that stuff aside for a trip on another day. The bins also needed a good washing. Years of being in a garage that is not airtight had done a number on a few of them. Needless to say there were many spiders, beetles and other varmits that are now homeless. We got a few more pieces of OSB for the attic to make room for better organization and easier access, as well as a more equalized weight distribution across the trusses.

We devised a plan to clear a lot of the stuff out of the well house. I chatted with the Wasbund about bringing over a few loads of stuff that has been sitting out there collecting dust (and mouse skeletons). Since he was cool with that we packed up the M4 and the Pilot with as much as they would carry. After one trip with both vehicles, another fill on the truck and additional trip over to drop it off, we decided we were done with that particular task for the moment. We had successfully moved enough stuff to make room for some of Myko's tools, some metal storage cabinets that had been in the future pub shed and the paint for the house.

While Myko cleaned out the cobwebs, sawdust and other gross stuff out of the wellhouse and started moving stuff over, I started going through my bins. I found stuff for little boys' & girls' birthday parties (think I'm going to give that away), a bunch of Easter baskets (really I should've taken a picture of all of them) and many, many other things I haven't seen in a long time. Some of it I decided to part with. The rest I want to keep. The house is big, and there's a good amount of storage. While I don't want to be labeled a hoarder by any means, I don't see the point in tossing something that I'm wavering on the decision to ditch or not. Might as well keep it and see how I feel the next time I see it. I found a few things that we decided would fit well on the new bookcases.

That more or less filled our weekend with the exception of a haircut for Myko, a couple of Big Lil's soccer games and some lunch. There is still a TON to do but we have made a tremendous amount of progress in only two days. We are feeling much more accomplished already. It's a great feeling.


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Committing too much

There comes a time when you have to admit that you've overdone it; that you've committed to too much. For anyone who is ambitious you will know the feeling. How many of us work, and then commit to our kids to take them somewhere, and commit to the school that we will volunteer, and commit to a community organization that we will help with the food drive/bake sale/bazaar/fair/etc? Learning when to say when is a skill that must be developed. And neither Myko, nor myself, have mastered it yet.

We've had this goal to complete tasks within 30 days. To challenge ourselves to get projects done by establishing a deadline. And, while the experiment hasn't been going on too long, we've been pleased with pushing ourselves and meeting (almost) those goals. Of course, like any goal in life, you have to be willing to concede to life; to modify your own expectations and goals to accommodate the things life puts in front of you. Life (i.e. kids, colds, traffic, work issues, broken appliances, lack of sleep, etc.) can get in the way of your goals. And this month, it did.

Our July 30-Day-Challenge was cut short already by the overrun of the June 30-Day-challenge. In spite of that, we were determined to make a small goal for ourselves for July and get something done in two weeks. In fact, we decided to do TWO things: 1) Complete the pantry repair (which was damaged as a result of the hot water heater busting), and 2) Work out 3 times a week and make a meal plan.

I'm still confident that we can achieve one of them, but I am resigning myself that both are not going to happen. First, for the pantry, I still haven't ordered a second box of flooring for the pantry (we think we have enough but aren't sure). Second, there are simply not enough days left in this month to prep, execute and complete the pantry repair. Both of us have been ultra busy and stressed out at work leaving us little energy to do much in the evening other than the standard necessities (which are no small feat in their own right) - laundry, ironing, cooking, cleaning up the kitchen, getting ready for the upcoming work day.

Our health challenge, on the other hand, is still attainable. Last week we walked or worked out at least 3 times (Myko far surpassed that). Before the 31st we will be able to fit in three more bouts of exercise and I am committing myself to making a meal plan; to scouring Pinterest and any other recommended sites to find healthy, delicious recipes. I've already done some on the fly but I would like to have a written plan so that it is easier to stick to. Removing the age old question, "what are we going to have for dinner?" will help my stress level, will allow me more time to be at home and less stops at the grocery store after work and will keep us from defaulting to something easy that may not be as healthy.

It's extremely difficult to set a goal and not meet it, at least for people like us. But I've got to adjust the focus on what we have been able to achieve - some relaxation, time with our kids, travel, keeping up the regular chores - instead of the one thing we haven't.

I'm excited at the potential for next month. A WHOLE month to work on yet another goal. Now we just have to determine what it will be.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Stand-Up Desk Experiment: 90 Day Report

A year and a half after returning to corporate America and working in a cubicle, I was stir-crazy and ready for a change. I knew that sitting for 8+ hours at my desk, sitting in traffic for another 2 to 4 hours and then going home to sit on the couch for another 3 to 5 hours before going to bed was a recipe for all kinds of health problems. Sure,

I went to the gym 5 days a week and would run or hike on the weekends, but I knew that this would not be enough to mitigate the long term effects of this sedentary lifestyle. 


I had occasion to discuss my concerns about all of that sitting while meeting with an orthopaedic surgeon relating to a shoulder injury I had sustained in October. He raved about the benefits of a "Stand-Up" desk (more precisely, he talked a lot about the negative health consequences from so much sitting at a traditional desk). The benefits of a stand-up/sit-down work station went well beyond just augmenting my physical therapy to rehab my shoulder. He wrote a note to my employer stating that I needed a stand-up/sit-down work station as part of my on-going physical therapy.


The bad news: Insurance doesn't cover the cost of a stand-up desk (prices range from $350 to $5000) and my employer was only willing to re-imburse me $150 of the cost. I was not prepared to drop a couple grand on a new desk without doing some homework.

I decided to start with an Ikea hack (I love re-purposing Ikea swag). I took some measurements and found that I needed something to raise my workstation 18 inches or so in order to achieve the proper ergonomics. I purchased a display cabinet (now discontinued) that was 42" wide by 17" deep by 17" - 19" tall (adjustable legs). [It's important to note that, while the model I purchased is no longer available, there are tons of similar items that come and go from their catalog.] The TV display case fit perfectly atop my existing cubicle workstation.

This closely resembles the item I purchased on clearance for $35.00


I knew that I was not going to be able to stand all day (and, in fact, it is not recommended that you stand 8+ hours each day as this also present certain health concerns). I brought in a tall shop stool I had in my workshop for those times that I would want to take the load off my feet. 


The first few days were rough: I could go about 30 minutes standing before fatigue set in and I needed to sit down. By Thursday of that first week, I was able to go up to an hour and still focus on my work without thinking about my feet or my back. The discomfort of sitting on the shop chair lent itself to my standing for longer periods (ugh, not as comfy in my office as it is in my workshop). 90 days in and I can easily go full 2 hour periods without complaint.

I am not a doctor so I won't talk about how studies suggest that standing reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes or other metabolic problems. Also, It is not likely that I would ever become obese, so there's no sense in saying that I benefited in this regard. Click here for an article that offers more discussion on these topics. 

I can say, however, that I have cured one major issue that many folks that work shitty desk jobs suffer from: falling asleep at my desk. I find that I am much more present in my work and engaged with my co-workers.   

In the last few weeks, I have begun adding a few wrinkles into my routine by standing on my tippy-toes for 60 seconds at a time or doing squats while I am waiting on hold for a customer. I will also stand with one foot on top of a box for a few minutes or just lift my leg into the tree pose. 


All in all, I am pleased that I followed my doctor's recommendation. I am ready to move forward with investing in a more long term solution. The two options are (1. A desk that raises and lowers or, (2. A stand-up height desk with a drafting chair that raises to the height of the work station. 

I will be going out and testing some of the products that are on the market in the next few weeks and report back my findings. 

I'd love to hear from anyone who has tried or is in the process of converting to a stand-up/sit-down workstation. Leave a comment with your story or any suggestions.

-MyKO

Friday, July 17, 2015

Head's Up: Getting back up after life knocks you down, Part 3

These last several months have afforded me an opportunity to rediscover some of the key elements that make me who I am. Having been in the throes of a divorce after 11 years of marriage and several career changes in quick succession, I found myself rather isolated and forced to examine who I had become.

I knew for sure that where I was did not match what I was capable of. At some point it occurred to me that my worth as a person was not the sum total of all of the bad decisions I had made in life. I also reckoned that my happiness was never again going to be gauged by how much money I made or how many things I could acquire.  

The first step forward was to let go of the disappointment I felt. I had built up so much out of nothing and then lost it all and found myself massively indebted to Uncle Sam. Bankruptcy wasn’t gonna make this type of debt go away. I had to accept that this was a reality and no amount of alcohol, fist fights or skirt chasing was going to make it go away (someday I’ll talk a bit about how traumatic head injuries can cause a person to become violent and uninhibited).

I also had to come to terms with having lost the ability to do work that I had come to love. My job was so many things: marketing, engineering, travelling across the country, working on top of the tallest buildings in big cities and working with my hands. It was challenging, exciting work that called upon all of my skill sets. 
After having lost my company, I was reduced to going to work for a company that was once a competitor of mine (and I used to kick their ass!).  After less than 2 years, I was fired from that job (the first time in my life I had ever been fired).

After losing that job, I went to work as a humble laborer for a construction company digging ditches (literally). Perhaps I sought out that position subconsciously as a form of penance for having fucked up everything else so badly. And why not: I was a drunk misanthrope prone to fits of uncontrolled rage who had exactly zero fuck’s left to give this world.

But the universe had other plans for me. I was quickly promoted twice in a matter of a few months and I began to regain some of my old swagger. I realized that construction superintendent was not going to fulfill me and I went back to an old stand-by…bill collecting (my first real job at 17 years old was at a collection agency). I called a local agency on a Tuesday and I was working by the next Monday.

All of these incremental successes served to bolster my confidence and restore my faith in me. What’s funny is that I had not noticed how effortlessly I have gotten back up and achieved promotion after promotion until I was forced to take stock of my life. It was clear to me that, no matter what I choose to do in my life, I can achieve success if I put my whole heart and intention behind it. My past woes had no bearing on my current circumstance if I decided that it shouldn’t. My boss at the collection agency didn’t give a shit about the scar on my face or the years I spent spiraling out of control. If I showed up to work, on time, with a good attitude, ready and willing to do the work he assigned, my past made no difference to him.

And this has been my mantra of late: I am neither the sum total of all of the bad decisions I have made nor the sum total of all of the successes I have achieved. I cannot, nor should I, ignore all that I have gone through in life. There have been many up’s and down’s as there will be more to come. I have to take what I have learned (good and bad) and apply that to the situation as it stands at this moment. I can only affect change in what is ahead; the past need only be used for reference purposes as it relates to how I view my mistakes/missteps.

I eagerly await the dawn of each new day as it beckons new and exciting opportunities. There’s no telling what may come, but come what  may, I am ready to meet it and follow the path where it leads.

-MyKO 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Head's up; Getting back up after life knocks you down, Part 2

I am excited and terrified by this process of telling my story. On the one hand, there is therapeutic value in finally getting this off my chest. On the other hand, I expose many of my weaknesses/insecurities/shortcomings for the world to see. It’s kinda like pulling down my own pants in front of everyone on the playground before the bully can do it.

There is a tremendous relief in this approach as it allows me to take back all of the power I had yielded to this bully; the shame/fear/disappointment I have felt since the accident has functioned like a bully that threatened to expose me to the world for the failure I had become if I didn’t keep my head down and my mouth shut. I was constantly bullied by the thought that I would never be able to recover from this. By coming out and telling my story (in my words), I am now in control of the narrative. That means I can tell the story as it happened and write the ending I choose.

For this endeavor to be successful, I have to be honest and own up to my part in this story. I must resist the temptation to view history through a soft lens or overly dramatize. But, let’s face it…I have to confess to fits of exaggeration when retelling stories. My intention is to tell my story in such a way that it is lighthearted yet faithful to the truth.  

Telling this story is painful as it awakens sleeping demons that once taunted and tortured me. However, it is necessary to recount these events as it forces me to reconcile what I actually remember against foggy memories, stories that people tell and the scribbled ravings in my journals from those time periods.

I would not be writing this story were it not for an accident that resulted from my carelessness while building a workshop in my back yard several years ago. In classic MyKO fashion, I decided that I didn’t need any help setting the main 4x8 beam that would span the 18 feet of the building…in the driving rain.

I stood the beam up and turned for a split second to pick up my hammer and BWONGGG! The damned thing whacked me right between the eyes and knocked me out. My recollection of what happened after that moment and over the next few years is fragmented.

One of the most troubling aspects of my recovery has been accounting for gaps in my memory. To give you an idea of what this feels like:
Birdy and I decided that we were gonna watch the entire series of Madmen (for anyone who has not seen this show, I strongly recommend you check it out. I was hooked from the first episode. We are now on season 4 and I just can’t get enough).
A few months ago, AMC (the network that was smart enough to pick up this show) decided to replay every single episode from every season back-to-back in advance of the final episode. Birdy had the tremendous foresight to record all of them on the DVR (thank you for the extra storage capacity, DIRECTV!).
Regrettably, there are a few scattered episodes here and there that didn’t get recorded or only got partially recorded.
Because you have been keeping up with the story, you can sorta piece together the missing details when you skip from Season 2, Episode 4 to halfway through Episode 6.

Now, imagine that you wake up October 14 and you can’t clearly remember anything that happened since September 2. There are many such gaps in my memory. Many, if not all, of these gaps were likely the result of severe alcohol poisoning and sleep deprivation which exacerbated my condition.

These last several months have afforded me clarity and I have begun rebuilding my life. I have come to accept that I cannot change the past, real or imagined. I only have control over this moment and what comes after. That has been my focus and..so far, so good.

Stick around…the best parts of the story are yet to come.

-MyKO


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Breakfast is THE most important meal of the day

I've never been much of a breakfast eater. Frankly coffee is the only thing I really want in the morning. But I understand that it's important to eat, especially in the morning, to start your day off right. I also recognize that when I have breakfast I am less hungry throughout the day.

Since we had a big day of work ahead of us on Sunday, and I had just seen the Sunset magazine cover at the grocery store checkstand, we purchased the ingredients for the Parmesan toasts featured in this month's issue. The plan was to wing it of course - I mean I can see what the ingredients are - but I found the recipe on their website just to keep myself in check and make sure I was on the right track.



Like every recipe I try, I just had to augment it a tiny bit and add my own twist. I don't know why I can't leave any recipes alone, but in my opinion it makes it better so, why not?

Here's how I made them (for 2):

Ingredients
4 slices bacon
asparagus spears, ends trimmed
fresh  basil sprig
slices crusty bread such as ciabatta, sliced 1 in. thick
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
large eggs 

1 medium tomato, sliced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1. Cook bacon over medium high heat until desired crispiness. Remove bacon from the pan. Add asparagus and sauté in the bacon grease until tender when pierced, about 5 minutes. Transfer asparagus to a plate. Add basil to pan and swirl around until completely wilted.
2. Put bread slices in pan and toast in bacon grease, turning once 30 seconds in, about 1 minute total. Sprinkle about 2 tbsp. parmesan onto each piece of bread and cook until cheese starts to melt and bread starts to brown slightly, about 2 minutes. Transfer bread to plates.
3. Reduce heat to medium and in the same pan, gently fry both eggs to your liking. Top each piece of bread with 2 prosciutto slices, a slice or two of tomato and half the asparagus. Set an egg on top of each and sprinkle servings with salt and pepper.

If you are interested in the recipe as it was published in Sunset, you can find it here.

We were already devouring them when I thought to take a picture
These were absolutely delicious. I can't wait to make them again. From start to finish they take about 15 minutes. And all of the cooking is in one pan so the mess is relatively small. 

MMMMMmmmmm. I wish I had one on my plate right now....

July 30 Day Challenge (the rest of the month)

The idea of these 30 day challenges came from a media outlet who was challenging its listeners to commit to a 30 day challenge and post on social media along the way. Myko and I talked about it on our way home from the Tri-cities, crossing the pass actually, and decided since we are both goal oriented people we would take something on. In even just 2 months we have accomplished a LOT and there is certainly more to come. There is something motivating about setting a goal and not letting yourself down - because really, who are you letting down when you're talking about a project at your own house or a new weight loss plan, other than you? It does help tremendously for both of us to be on board. Accountability accounts for a lot of the time spent after work, when you're tired and the couch is calling your name. Having someone else to "answer to" helps move the project along.

Our last project was decided and started, and then ultimately changed by circumstance. While we are excited to get started on the pub shed, a flooded house is an emergency that cannot be ignored. In the end, despite missing our deadline, that half of the house looks fantastic. They are two rooms that do not get much use but perhaps their more inviting nature (clean from top to bottom with a few new features) will inspire us to spend more time over there.

As we were putting the final shelves on the bookcases we started discussing the next 30 day challenge. The question was do we start a new 30 full day challenge now? Or do an abbreviated challenge and start fresh in August. Since it's easier to track the deadline on a month-to-month basis we decided July's project should be short & sweet. Of course, it's us, so there's no easy challenge involved. We decided to take up 2 challenges for the remaining time this month:

1) Finish the damage the flood caused in the pantry.

2) Focus on our health and wellness

#1: For our house project we have some minor repairs to be completed in the pantry area where the hot water heater sits. The bottom section of the drywall was damaged in there. The repair itself should be pretty minimal. But since we are in there, and are trying to complete some unfinished projects, we are going to install flooring to match the kitchen in the rest of the pantry, add some paint to freshen things up, and reorganize all the stuff kept in there. Since the big freezer used to sit in that space (and ultimately hid the hot water heater failure) it will be finding a new home in the garage. So there will be some new space to be rearranged and utilized in alternative ways.

#2: While Myko is a fitness fanatic - enjoying time in the gym, moving around, doing push-ups - I'm just the opposite. While I enjoy getting out and being active, I tend to have a hard time motivating myself. And for some reason, old age I guess, I've noticed changes in my body where I used to be able to get myself into gear for a bit, eat a little bit better and like an instantaneous result, I would feel and look better. So I've asked Myko to spread his joy of working out and help me along the path to get in better shape. (Especially since we are going to Hawaii in November.) I've asked for some strong encouragement - which will probably lead to me abusing him to some extent with my whining and complaining - to help me keep on the path to feeling better about myself.

We will start by committing to 3 workouts per week and developing a meal plan. Meal plans I can do. I love having the week's meals planned and shopped for. I've found that for most of us it's figuring out what to eat that's the major hurdle in eating healthy and staying away from fast food. And honestly, I'm not much of a sweet fan; if chocolate didn't exist it would be no skin off my back (sacrilege I know) so cutting down or out on those shouldn't be too difficult.

I prefer fresh fruits and veggies. Ultimately if we lived near Pike Place Market I would never have groceries in the house. I'd just make something from whatever fresh stuff I could find at the market. I made this breakfast for us on Sunday morning. (Sorry, it was so good we had eaten half of it before I thought to take a photo.)
If you are interested in the recipe I will have it on it's own post. Breakfast was delicious, by the way. And took less than 15 minutes start to finish.

The workouts will be up to Myko. I will commit to doing whatever he suggests, no matter how much whining and irritation I will be exhibiting. (Look, I know myself too well). Last night at 9pm we went for a walk. I was not irritated about going on a walk, but rather the dogs going berserk and running off. I had packing and other things to do though and this delayed my accomplishing those tasks. I've never been very good at putting myself first. But I'm learning. I bought us jump ropes. It's a start, right?

I'm told there will be a weigh in. UGH. Maybe I can convince him that measurements are more my speed. I don't own a scale anyway. I understand measurable results but really I just want to get back into my old pants :)

Right now I'm on an airplane 10,000 miles in the sky. Drinking my water and eating the salad I packed for myself (did you know you can bring food with you through security?) and a fruit and cheese platter. You should know I packed my running shoes and workout gear. I know that even though I'm out of town the calories still count.

- Birdy


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Another 30-Day challenge is in the books

Today marks the belated completion of our second 30-day challenge. Not only does it feel great to finally see the vision come to life, but it’s nice having the whole house back in order.

The floor looks great and the built-in bookcases are amazing. I can’t wait to begin our scavenger hunt for rare, interesting and discussion inspiring objects from around the world to fill this new space.
 
While we didn’t complete our challenge within the 30 days, the end result was worth the extra time and effort. I never would have imagined that a laminate floor from Lowe’s, a few Ikea bookshelves and some clever engineering would come together so well.

.We can hardly wait to begin the next challenge. Next up…?

-MyKO  

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Head's Up: Getting back up after life knocks you down

So much of the last several years of my life have been lived in a fog of shame resulting from a traumatic accident and the bad decisions that led to the collapse of my business, a failed marriage and the loss of 12 years of work and relationships. This post I am writing today is my first public acknowledgement of what happened and a first "real" step towards healing the wounds and beginning a new chapter of my life.  

I am writing this blog as a way for me to expel all of the negative, self-deprecating thoughts and overcome the fear that has held me from reclaiming my life so that I may live with my head held high again. If this helps people that I have hurt to understand better some of the decisions I made and why I behaved as I did, then that's great. If you are one of those people who feels slighted and you read this and you are still pissed afterwards...Fuck You!

Maybe this will reach folks who have suffered an accident that changed their life and are struggling to come to terms with their new "normal". Perhaps, a family member that is trying to support/comfort/cope with someone in such a condition will find these posts helpful. Heck, even folks dealing with the garden variety set back in their life or find they are stuck in a rut may get some benefit from this. And if neither you nor a family member have been in an accident, your life is tits and you're sailing along just fine, I'd bet you'll still get a laugh when you hear some of my stories!

Welcome to our journey. It may be a bumpy ride, but it is an Inspired Adventure.


The day after I got whacked in the head with an 18' beam
-MyKO


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

June (and now July) 30 Day Challenge: Part III

Of course two days later IKEA had the bookshelves we drove all the way down for so I picked them up when the store opened. Warning: the packages are HEAVY. Luckily I'm stubborn and a little bit strong so after some jimmy-ing around I got them in the Pilot. Which leads me to another question: why, boys, when you are walking by a woman clearly struggling to pick something up (not only because they were heavy, but also because they are on a cart that moves in all directions), do you not only walk on by, but slow down to watch, and not offer to help? Is our society so afraid of offending someone that common decency has been lost? I'm not a girl that likes to ask for help. And usually I can do whatever it is on my own. But that doesn't mean it isn't nice when someone offers. Let me tell you, "no thank you," but don't just stop and stare.

Ok, I digress....

So I've looked at a million pins on Pinterest about making the Billy bookcases into "built-ins" complete with instructions and tips & tricks. And while I will tell you that I am so pleased with how they look and I can't wait to get to the point I can put things on them, it took plenty of creativity on our part to put them together and fit them around this doorway.


The flimsy backing that comes with the bookcases just didn't seem like they would be adequate to create that real built in look. We found some wainscoting at the hardware store and decided that would give the bookcases an extra detail.

They come pre-primed but we needed to make sure that they would match the IKEA white of the bookshelves. After searching the ol' interwebs low and behold someone else had done something similar and had already found the magic paint formula. We headed to the Sherwin Williams store and showed them a photo on my phone of the label.


We decided to stir in one of those additives that helps remove any brush strokes or roller marks so that it would end up looking more like the finish on the bookcases. When we were in Sherwin Williams we discussed buying a bottle. But there was one at home, so why buy more. Uh yeah, that was a mistake. The stuff at home did not mix in well and ended up leaving tiny grains of the product all over. So, Myko sanded down the wainscoting. And then we had to run all of the gallon of paint through cheesecloth. Ugh.

In addition to the wainscoting for the backing of the bookcases we also decided that we should  re-paint all of the chair rail, the base trim, and all the trim for the bookcases. But first I had to remove all of the nails and caulking from the old pieces that we are going to re-use.

I should mention that all the while we have been working on this project Washington state has had the hottest June in recorded history. Every day has been in the 90's. And if you're from the great Pacific Northwest like I am, that weather is NOT welcome. I mean I love the sun, just not the heat. I know I shouldn't complain but damn it's been hot.

There were several modifications we had to make to the bookcases. While I was removing nails and caulk Myko was busy modifying the cases to work for the space. To attach the backing we shaved down the back of the bookcases.

Once the wainscoting was repainted and cut it was ready to be attached to the bookshelves.



The remaining process of fitting the bookcases around the doorway and determining what other cuts or modifications to make really took a long time. Luckily we are clever and between the two of us we figured out where cuts needed to be made, where to attach the two Gnedby bookcases together and what pieces of crown or trim we would need and their lengths. After making numerous measurements we created a shopping list.

REMEMBER: MEASURE TWICE, CUT ONCE!
Just a little friendly advice......

After all of the cuts were completed we put the bookcases in place.

While I continue to tell myself I'm going to put these posts up the same day that we do the work I am constantly failing myself. So this post is playing catch-up. Most of this work was done over the coarse of a number of weeknights, slaving away after we got home from work.

Now it's getting close. Hopefully I will get another post in here between now and the ultimate reveal. It's always the little stuff that takes forever but really makes the job get done right. And, of course, who would be satisfied with anything done half ass? Certainly not me.


Saturday, July 4, 2015

Storing Paint

In the midst of our latest 30 Day Challenge there was quite a bit of painting to do. The flood in the house necessitated some of it: the touch up around the baseboard and painting the new trim. In my opinion, however, there's no better time than the present to fix up all the rest. I mean, while the house is a mess already, and the room is completely empty, why not touch up all the things that need to be done. No more noticing that nick in the wall where the kids dropped the dining room chair backwards, or the random screw and nail holes that have been left open as decor changed.

The last time this room was painted was in 2007. Of course we had some paint left over. I thought I was being clever by writing on the top of the paint can where that particular paint was used.

But despite my efforts the paint can labels start falling off, the lids got rusty and the labels begin to fade. Myko laughed as I got progressively more irritated trying to pry off the old rusty lid. (Note the fraying of the edges of this paint can lid!)

Years ago I was surfing Pinterest and saw the idea of keeping the remnants of paint in a glass jar. Not only can you see the paint color easily, they are easy to shake to mix and take up much smaller space to store.

While I don't consider myself to be a hoarder, I do save useful things; things that I always pledge to do some project with (i.e. 10,0000 corks.....wtf do I have those for again?!?). As we near completion on the June 30-Day Challenge I have had to open a number of these old paint cans. What an opportunity to finally enact my plan to store my paint in glass containers.

Just so happens I have been stockpiling old Ragu jars. (No, I do not usually make my own spaghetti sauce. Why start from scratch when you can doctor up ol' Ragu with such ease).

I have removed (most) of the label from these jars as we've used them and run them through the dishwasher so they are sanitized. Next step, pour in the paint.

Now, because you are going to throw away the original paint cans (I hope. What else are you going to do with them? Wait, don't tell me, I might start keeping those for some future project too....) you need to devise some way of identifying the paint you have in the jar. While you could easily scribble with a Sharpie marker on the existing lid, if you're going to the effort to organize and make your paint supplies look nice, why not print a label? Not only does it cover up the remaining glue and/or pieces of the label that was difficult to remove, you can add much more information than you could fit on the lid.

I used to co-own a wedding planning business and had these labels around the house. You can find them at Onlinelabels.com. This particular label is intended for a wine bottle sized label, but I just trimmed them down to fit my Ragu jars. I included on the label where I used the paint, the type of paint it was (information on the can) and the color. I went one step beyond and looked up the online paint chip so that I could add the number of the paint color. Valspar paint has an online paint chip menu that is searchable.

Once I had the labels printed, I trimmed them down to fit on the jar where the label had once been. This covered all of the leftover glue and pieces of label I didn't take the time to scrub off. Affixing them was a breeze (although being a perfectionist I'm a little disturbed by the wrinkles that are inevitable when you are placing a sticker over an uneven surface). I'm also tempted to apply a layer of clear contact paper or packing tape over the labels to avoid any staining, discoloration, or other damage to the label (the whole reason why I went this route in the first place).

Since the lids advertise for Ragu, and thus are not in line with the jars new purpose, I had to figure out what I was going to do to cover them up and make them useful. I had a can of chalkboard paint in the garage and decided that I would give them a coat.

The paint went on quick and the coverage was excellent. It was very hot out when I spray painted them so they dried quickly. However, upon trying to write on them with chalk they were easily scratched. I would wait a full day or two before marking them so that the paint can really cure.

I'm not exactly sure what I would write on the lid. Perhaps the last date that I used the paint just so that I would know how long ago the paint was still good.

I'm inspired to continue to store the paint this way. It may be some time before I have all of the paint cans converted in the garage but certainly I will start doing this can by can from here on out.



June 30 Day Challenge: Part II

Sunday morning we took off early to get to IKEA when they opened. We spent a great deal of time daydreaming with Big Lil about the possibilities her room holds, and another chunk of time exploring the possibilities of all of the bookcases IKEA has to offer. 


We finally decided on a lineup that would fit around the doorway most efficiently and with the most style. We decided two wide Billy bookcases and one half size would span the walls nicely and then 2 Gnedby's would make for some extra display area above the Billy's. Off we went to the warehouse......to find they didn't have any in stock!!! Ugh!


By this time we were hungry and cranky. We wasted almost an entire day with these bookcases and came home after driving a 3 hour round trip empty handed and no work done on the challenge. 

Gotta roll with the punches though. There's rarely a project that ever goes without a hitch. I mean, this whole project is because of a hitch in our plans so, oh well. There are more days in the month...

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Life is pretty dag-gone good

These last several months have been a breeze. I am reminded daily of how lucky I am to be alive and what good fortune has come to visit me. Every day I wake up I am thankful for another opportunity to contemplate the mystery that is this life and pursue any/everything that moves me.

I awaken every morning to the smiling face of a darling gal that loves me, pushes me, makes me laugh, keeps me guessing and inspires me to be the very best I can be. And, while I make every effort to be my very best, she accepts my shortcomings and allows me to be whomever I choose to be (warts, bullshit webbed-toes and all). 

In the universe of possibilities, I stand ready and eager to seize each moment. I revel in this inescapable feeling that this is what it feels like when your dreams are coming true. All that we set out to accomplish, we achieve. All that we set our minds to, we bring to life. 

Each moment feels like the beginning of a new adventure...an inspired adventure. This is a helluva ride and I am so glad you could tag along for each step in our journey.

-MyKO  

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Fun and exciting weekend with kids and friends

This weekend found us heading down to Olympia for the Dirty Dash. Birdy loaded up the truck and she and the Big Sho picked me up from work (I gave her kids the nick names Big Li'l and Massa Shogun and the two of them are referred together as the "Big Sho"). We swung by and picked up Abbicus and Paco Sanchez and we were off in search of adventure.

We were going to be a part of the  IBEW Local 77 Renew Committee's team running in the annual mud run called the Dirty Dash. Five of us pitched in and rented a house on Summit Lake. This place was immaculate: fully furnished and exquisitely appointed. Great deck overlooking the lake.

The weather was better than we could have hoped for;sunny, light breeze, clear blue skies and no bugs. The kids were in the water within a few minutes after our arrival. We were joined by our house-mates Ben and Dusty (her real name is Shelby, but I will always know her as Dusty...its a long story...I will tell you all about it in another post some time) Cook just as we had finished unpacking. Matt Reese made it sometime around midnight. Everyone had a blast.

After a night spent tying on a few too many Friday night, we crawled out of bed and made ready for the main event: It was time to get dirty! How better to spend a scorching hot afternoon than to trounce around in pools of mud and drink beer? All in all, we had a really fun time and got to hang out and be a part of the IBEW Local 77 Renew Committee's fun event.

Birdy had the brilliant idea to bring along black trash bags for the car ride back to the lake house after the race. Her idea was to step into the bag and poke holes in the bottom of the bag and stick your feet through. We just needed to get back to the lake house without turning the truck into a mud pit and jump into the lake to wash off. I am pretty sure that half of the lake turned a shade of brown for a few minutes after we all got cleaned up.

We had a blast. The kiddos really bonded. We can't wait for next time we can all get together and make mischief. Can anyone say, Seaside?

-MyKO