Category Archives: DIY

What A Life!

What a beautiful morning. Despite the rain and lightning moving in, I went outside and started hanging more painted tiles on my fence project. This week, I painted 20+ more tiles and a couple of dozen wood samples to attach to my out-of-control art project out there. It was sublime feeling the wind howl through the vertical slats of the fence boards and the light rainfall across my face and neck. I woke up with a reservoir of energy and enthusiasm. Nature repaid me with its light caresses as I stood there in the dark, loaded with washers, screws, and tiles leaning against the old boards. I know I looked foolish, standing there with no shirt on, smiling. The temperature dropped 10-15 while I was out there feeling the storm front coalesce above me.

I missed a couple of phone calls last night. I called my sister back around 4 a.m. She, of course, didn’t answer. I hope she’s fixing her hair. I know that such an endeavor will take her literal hours. Lord help all the people who don’t have their do-not-disturb turned on. Everyone lives a different life and schedule. I wake up with the same enthusiasm at 2 a.m. that I have at 4 p.m.

I thought about my cousin Jimmy’s son Noah. Jimmy died nine years ago, which seems like a lifetime ago. Noah is graduating as valedictorian of his high school class. I can’t help but imagine how proud Jimmy would be – and that Noah is going to college. Jimmy would want his son to be happy much more than he’d worry about finishing college. As someone who died in his early forties, Jimmy would be right to do so. So many plans, so many assumptions about the seemingly endless days ahead to love, laugh, and do the things that are within our grasp. It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen Noah. He’s grown unimaginably and has the youthful looks of someone who reminds me of a young Matthew McConaughey. I hope he keeps that handsomeness. Otherwise, he’ll grow into a jowly-cheeked Englishman like his grandfather, my Uncle Buck.

In the graduation picture, Noah is the one on the right. (ha!) The woman on the left is Alissa, my cousin Jimmy’s widow. They were married about a month before he died. I could write endlessly about the complexities of that, and of lives forcibly derailed by an unexpected circumstance. It’s a lesson I know too well. I’ll limit myself to saying that if you want something, grab that sh!t while you can. Tomorrow is never promised and plans for the future are all predicated on the false belief that there is always time and that youth is our protector. The other picture is from 2004 when Noah was a beautiful little baby. Jimmy and I had such fun watching Noah’s mind react to shenanigans. He smiled a LOT.

I included a picture of Noah’s mom from the first time I met her at my trailer in Johnson, in the part of my life I refer to as ‘the before.’ It didn’t work out with her and Jimmy. They had chemistry. Jimmy had many demons that would have made it almost impossible for her to make him happy. It’s no disrespect to Jimmy’s memory to share that truth. The Terry side of the family unfortunately is prone to shattering opportunities by succumbing to vices. Jimmy, like the rest of us, could sabotage the best things.

As the rain started, I looked up to the apartments. One of my neighbors had covered the railings with sheets. I went and pulled them down and took them to the dungeon/laundry room and stuffed them in the dryer and turned it on. When the neighbors exit and see that their sheets are missing, I’m going to say, “The Fayetteville police just issued another warning to advise everyone that the Infamous Sheet Bandit is up to hooliganism again. I saw him take the sheets.” I might as well use my act of consideration as justification for a little verbal pranking. I’ll let them think their sheets are missing for a couple of minutes before letting them know what I did. After the wife goes back inside to tell her family about the Infamous Sheet Bandit. It’s Fayetteville and such a miscreant may be indeed running loose on these streets.

I took a picture of my right hand a couple of days ago. Ribald interpretations aside (I’m left-handed, by the way), putting almost a thousand screws into boards in the last couple of weeks using only hand tools has given me an artists’ scar, one of tough callouses in the palm of my hand.

I rescued a really old tiny rocking chair from the hospital dumpster a couple of weeks ago. I don’t have the skills to make it beautiful. But I do have the enthusiasm to fix it and paint it and give it new life for a child I know. I so badly want to paint it a beautiful rich color. We have enough unadorned and practical things in life.

Though it’s not done, I also added another picture of my dead tree project. I put one living branch on it, as well as three bright songbirds. Since I’m a fan of sentimental metaphors, I like to think it symbolizes that even dead trees provide beauty, comfort, and the possibility of adaptation to whatever comes next.

Love, X

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Dead Tree Project Nest

I added a dozen more limbs to my dead tree project.

I thought about making a fake bird nest to perch inside it. I didn’t want to buy an artificial one.

Today, I made a quick getaway at work to walk down to the creek. I’m lucky to be so close to such a place of serenity.

On the Appleby bridge above Scull creek, I found a perfectly-preserved nest in the road. That it hadn’t been damaged by traffic was a surprise. I took it inside with me and brought it home.

As I painted tiles this afternoon, I painted the nest a vivid blue, which is rapidly becoming my favorite decorative color. I gave silent thanks to the birds that spent countless hours carefully constructing it. Their loss will become a part of my art project. It fits perfectly with the theme of bringing something dead back to life.

It’s odd that yesterday afternoon I was thinking about what to make a bird’s nest from. And voila, magic, one appeared in a place that it had no reason to be. (“Voila” is actually two words in French, meaning to ‘look there.’ I’m glad I did.)

I am still amazed that things just appear in my life when I’m not looking. There’s hope for me yet.

Don’t be confused by the door in the background. That’s how my pixie/fairy gets into the apartment. It’s not a full-size door.

Love, X

Dead Tree Remix Day

Dead Tree Remix Day

I don’t know if my dead tree project will ever be finished. I continue to add new painted limbs and branches to it. It’s currently standing in my extra room. I rescued the dead base of the tree from the woodpile near where I found the baby shower box a couple of weeks ago. The little branches I’ve added are from some of my favorite spots along the trail and near the hospital, so it’s a well-traveled creation. I love the idea of it in part because it’s something made from discarded and desiccated remains. That I can add an infinite number of pieces to it, all rendered in luminescent color makes me happy.

The day contains the same elements of any other day. It can be a repeat of the familiar. It can also be an anomalous remix, both familiar and strangely new. Like freshly-sliced jalapeños on vanilla bean ice cream.

For fans of both Merle Haggard and Survivor, I ask you to search for “Survivor and Merle Haggard – Eye of the Haggard.” It’s an example of juxtaposing two things that should not work together but somehow do. Musically, it’s a masterful bit of wild production and melody.

In other news, I don’t like to watch baseball. Albert Pujols joined Babe Ruth as a 600 HR hitter and a pitcher. I love it when anything interesting happens in baseball. It joins bowling and golf as two sports that are like watching my hair dry. Yes, all 11 of them.

I’m looking at the new day with the eye of a tiger and the pancreas of a hyena. (That joke might be a little too esoteric.)

Before I leave for work, I will turn off the light in the room with the dead tree project. The colors will fade to the eye until the sun washes through the window and illuminates it.

It will have its day in the sun.

I hope each of you does too.

My cat will jump up to the windowsill multiple times during the day. I added extra-wide sills to all my windows so that both he and the few plants I have can enjoy the second-floor view and light.

It’s what Mondays are made for, though most of us begrudgingly wake up groggy-eyed and unready for the presumptive start of the workweek. If you’re going to spend 20% of your work-life experiencing Mondays, you might as well find a new perspective to enjoy them.

Take the pieces that don’t work and refresh them. Remix and enjoy.

Love, X
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3 a.m. DIY Lights

There’s nothing quite like wiring a DIY light kit using liquor bottles at 3 a.m. On the fly. The cat thinks I’ve lost my mind. The colors are much more vivid than they seem. I’m using my “Don’t Do Meth In Our Bathroom” candle to melt wax to hold the tiny microwire leads in place. It doesn’t smell like meth, though. Not that anyone would notice around here. Half-jokingly, I’d add that meth or marijuana might be the essence of spring, given how both smells seem to compete with the mountains of pollen accumulating everywhere.

The mason jars are regular solar lights I converted into mason jar solar lanterns. They were originally home to some of the best homemade salsa I had in a long time. You can’t see my fence in the background, but I added several more tiles to the mix. I think I have three dozen installed on the fence now, a variety of colors and sizes. Anyone allergic to gaudy color is gonna have a bad time here.

I was accused of not having enough color around here, so I thought I’d repurpose my strings of outdoor lights to make the bottles. I love solar lanterns – but nothing beats the consistency of electricity to power the magic of light in a place that desperately needs more to remind the inhabitants that a place is as good as you make it.

There’s a metaphor for life somewhere in all that.

Love, X
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Art? And Walking…

“Someone” started an art project on the north fence. 🙂 I fixed as much of the fence as I could, using 200+ hex fence screws, by hand, without power tools. Those are painted floor tiles, backed with buffering felt pads to allow for slight movement and expansion. I’m not done yet. Is anything really ever done? It’s been amusing to watch the passersby and neighbors take a double-take as they walk past or drive up. I have 100+ feet to use if I want. Is it art? I don’t know. But it is colorful and a much-needed dose of it for this pale place. Now that it’s spring, I’m adding color everywhere. Including a super-secret project I’ve been doing incrementally. The super-secret project requires a little bit of stealth, as it’s not an authorized art display. But it sticks out like a blazing pair of pants if you look in the right direction.

Last week, I made an effort to wear my FitBit more consistently. I fell short of 160,000 steps Monday-Friday. It’s somewhere around 72 miles. I might have overshot my competition a bit. 🙂 My previous closest rival wouldn’t join my workweek hustles this week. The whole point for me is to challenge myself. But it does work much better if someone is nipping at my heels through the week.

Law of Increments In Action

I worked more on the horrible back of the apartment simplex. When it started raining, I kept going because it felt luxurious to be cooled by it. I was covered in mud and grime anyway. I have one more section of the 25′-30′ side alley that I can fill. I think it will be big enough to finish the entire stretch in the back. It’s unfathomable that I’m this close to finishing, considering how it looked when I started. The law of increments in action is something that is satisfying. That I did it all with a handsaw astonishes me. I’m certain that the landlords are going to be tired just imagining hauling it all away – assuming they ever do. And if they don’t, I’m scheduling a huge bonfire for May 7th.

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WTF-Time

“Lazy is a bad word. Shall we instead call it selective participation?” – The Internet

Today so far… woke up to laughter. Anytime 2 a.m. involves laughter is an auspicious day. And probably suspicious if I’m involved. There was heartache in the morning for someone I love and I hope she finds peace knowing she gave her presence in a time when it was most needed. I worked a bit, then came home and put wheels on my desk. Insert joke here! I built a wooden planter for sunflowers and installed it along the inside fence at this hideous apartment complex. Put up a shelf for random nonsense (I loathe specific nonsense.), one I repurposed and made from fence board. And then, because I couldn’t stand looking at it, I went outside (because that’s where trees and brush grows!) and cut away all the limbs and brush along the 50′ of the fence next to which I put in the planter. I’ve accumulated 4-5 truckloads of limbs and brush for ‘somebody’ to haul off; otherwise, the neighbors might stage an impromptu bonfire. I also picked up an entire bag of trash that somehow managed to get all over the complex since the last time I cleaned it. My back is still sore from all the previous festivities involved in “The Great Cleaning of 2022.” It’s 10 a.m. and I feel like I’ve accomplished a blizzard of activity. I’m going to go find some more laughter in a little while. My soul needs it. Enthusiasm is at a premium these days and I’m going to cash every bit of it in today.

“If you have to eat two frogs, eat the ugliest one first.” -Brian Tracy

X’s Frog Corollary: “If you have to kiss two people, at least one of them should be a woman.”

Remember that there are three distinct stages in life:

BIRTH

WTF

DEATH

The first two have already happened. Squeeze in as much wtf-time as you can, because it’s flying past with indifferent velocity. Otherwise, you’ll lose your health, your loved ones, or your life – only to look back and vehemently utter the phrase, “WTF happened to all the minutes?”

Love, X

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P.S. I made the picture out of several elements and rendered it.

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Art?

It’s hard learning new tricks. I do everything in the most circuitous way. Using rendering engines is something that I love doing but lack the skill. Sometimes, I get the intended mood exactly right.

The one on the left is me imagined as an old man, half-awake, looking back at my life, listening for someone’s approach. The one on the right is me fighting to express the color that floods me.

Not for everyone; nothing is, though.

Visiting Crystal Bridges reminded me to keep asking, “What is art?”

Love, X

Be The Lamp

When I glimpsed her through the window, I first thought she was a dumpster diver. She looked into the dumpster with a quizzical look on her face. Her right arm poked into the container, unable to reach whatever she saw there. She moved to the opposite side and used the disposal lift weld-on to boost herself shakily up. Her upper body leaned into the container. For a second, I was confident she’d tumble inside. I’ve seen it happen before.

She emerged upright, her right hand holding a strange lamp. It had no lampshade, and I could see that the black cord was cut and frayed. She looked down and wondered how she would hop down from her perch. She grabbed the frayed cord and let the lamp gently go inside the dumpster. She held the edge of the cold dumpster and stepped down, her grip firmly on the cord. She then pulled the lamp out of the container and held it, looking at it.

She turned it in her hands, scrutinizing the metal birds that adorned the column of the lamp. I think she was considering tossing it back inside.

I walked out on the landing, for some inexplicable reason hoping she’d keep the lamp.

She walked back toward the apartment building.

“Hey,” I hollered.

She looked up at me as I gestured to her.

She turned to walk toward me and walked over to the bottom of the stairs.

“That’s a nice lamp!”

“I thought so too. The birds are interesting,” she said, turning it and holding it up for me to see.

“If you’d like, I will re-wire it and paint it any color you’d like. It won’t cost much. Just a little bit of time.”

She smiled, surprised.

“That’s kind of you to offer. Hmmm. Blue. I’d like it to be blue.”

“Blue it is in, then,” I told her. “I can get a wiring set for a few dollars and fix it to look brand new. But, if you’re interested, I can do one better. I can show you how easy it is if you want me to. That way, you can make all the lamps you want to.”

“Oh! Really? That would be awesome!” I could see her imagining that she could do it.

“I’ll get the paint and the wiring assembly. Let me know when you want to give new life to your lamp.”

She smiled. “Deal. Thank you.”

Sometime soon, I will give someone the gift of making her found lamp come to life.

Treasure is where you find it.

Love, X