Thursday, October 11, 2012

Referbished: The Dresser That Wouldn't Die

Nesting is a real thing.  With four weeks left until the arrival of my first baby boy, I have been anxiously engaged in preparing my house for his arrival.  Part of this has included reorganizing ALL THE THINGS and fixing up his room, which would be called "the nursery" if you were someone other than me.  Random craft projects have been abundant around my house lately, mostly to distract me from essential to-do's like cleaning and organizing, but slowly I'm beginning to prioritize those less desirable tasks and things are starting to come together.  My procrastination of the last month has started to really catch up with me, though. 

One of the more fun projects that I tackled lately is refurbishing an old dresser of mine into a changing table/dresser for the boy.  When I first moved to Washington DC, I didn't own anything that couldn't fit inside my Honda Accord, so I found all my furniture on the side of the road, including this hideous dresser.  Yes, its that awkward moment when you see a neighbor in your complex/neighborhood put an ugly, broken down piece of furniture on the curb for the garbage man because its not worth the effort to even post it on Freecyle, and you sneak out of your house at just the right streets-appear-to-be-vacant moment, grab that awful discarded piece of junk and whisk it into your house before anyone sees you picking through your neighbor's trash.  SCORE!

I spray painted it white when I first got it, fully intending to paint it some cool, funky color, but never got around to it.  So, these 5 years later, instead of putting it back on the curb for some other cheapskate, I decided to be even cheaper and just give the ol' thing a facelift.

 I removed the 3 drawers on the left, intending to transform that space into cubbies.  One of the drawers on that side was broken anyway.

 Unfortunately, the tops of those small drawers on the top row (except the one on the far right) are broken, leaving a 1/2 inch gap.  After I sanded them down, it bothered me less, but it isn't ideal.
 Using an electric palm sander, I sanded the crap out of the whole thing. 

 I removed all of the knobs from the drawers and used their screws to secure them to this piece of cardboard to make them easy to paint with no mess. 
 After I sanded the front of all the drawers until they were butter smooth, I painted them.
I used some old masonite panels I had unsuccessfully used as canvases in my college oil painting class to create the floor and sides of the cubbies.  I painted them before I installed them, but ended up putting on another coat when I painted the entire dresser.

I used 3/4 of a quart of satin latex paint (paint/primer in one), and covered the entire dresser in two coats.  The color didn't turn out quite like I expected from the sample, but it grew on me. 

We're getting ready to welcome this little guy into our family, one task at a time.  Now, if we could only decide on a name!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Faith and Pianos

"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."  ~Hebrews 11:1

Faith is one of my favorite topics to study.  About 4 years ago, I felt prompted to study and learn more about the principle of faith, and how to "make it work" in my life.  I read a lot, prayed a lot, and began to understand better what faith actually is. Applying a true understanding of faith to my daily thoughts and actions changed my life.

Oftentimes, we use the words "faith" and "belief/believe" interchangeably, but they are not the same thing.  To have faith in someone or something is different from believing in that person or thing.  To have faith in God is different than just believing he exists.  Belief doesn't accomplish anything--it is a mindset, an opinion or conviction, that can influence your actions, but it is not requisite for belief to have anything to do with behavior.  

Faith, on the other hand, has everything to do with action/behavior.  The most valuable insights I have read are found in the Bible Dictionary and Joseph Smith's Lectures on Faith.  The Bible Dictionary says:

              "Faith is to hope for things which are not seen, but which are true (Heb. 11:1; Alma 32:21),    and must be centered in Jesus Christ in order to produce salvation. To have faith is to have confidence in something or someone. The Lord has revealed himself and his perfect character, possessing in their fulness all the attributes of love, knowledge, justice, mercy, unchangeableness, power, and every other needful thing, so as to enable the mind of man to place confidence in him without reservation." (bold added)

All of us want a lot of things.  My entire life, I have always wanted to play the piano.  When I was young, my grandmother taught me how to play the accordion, which I mostly enjoyed despite the ready comparison at the time to a certain Coke-bottle-glasses-wearing, suspender-strutting, nerd-next-door from the Friday night line-up of primetime family television.  Accordion wasn't as cool as guitar, so when the same grandmother bought a guitar for my brother, I waited until his attention to the instrument waned and took it up myself.  I've been playing guitar for over 15 years, and my life has been blessed in incalculable ways from my love of the guitar.
The desire to play piano always persisted.  I've never had access to a piano of my own, which I always equated to being impoverished or deprived in some way.  Like I wasn't "high class" enough to have a piano, fueling some deep seeded insecurity.  When I got married and moved into our townhouse with my husband, I immediately designated a little nook by the stairs as the place where our piano would live.  I wanted that piano--I wanted to prove to myself that I could own a piano, and I would learn to play it, and play it well.

I refused to put any furniture in that space, even though it was painfully bare.  We put our Christmas tree there, but cleared it after the holidays.  The blank space was a constant reminder of what I wanted, and that I needed to work to get it.  I visualized our piano sitting there.  I imagined Kyle playing it on Sunday mornings.  I saw the framed pictures resting on its solid top, and heard beautiful music coming from its chest and filling our house.  I was "creating it spiritually", before I could see it physically.  I knew that just because I didn't have it right now, didn't mean it wasn't real.  My piano was somewhere out there in the world, I just had to figure out how to get it.

On Craigslist, there is a "free" section, and I checked it several times a week searching for a piano.  Hundreds came and went, in all different states of repair.  I jumped at a few, but was never able to connect and secure my piano.  Months went by.  At times I was discouraged, especially when  a particularly beautiful and healthy piano barely slipped through my grasp because of a miscommunication.  I checked into buying a new piano, but knew that, with a baby on the way, that expense would have to wait.  I was not deterred.  I knew that my desire was good, and the Lord would bless me if I was persistent and faithful.  I prayed to find a piano.  I knew the Lord cared about what I cared about.  I watched and waited.

"And now as I said concerning faithfaith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true."  ~Alma 32:21

Prayers and faith are answered by our loving Heavenly Father every day, whether we recognize His hand in our lives or not.  Oftentimes they are so subtle and incremental that we don't notice He is leading us.  Sometimes they are huge and obvious.  

One day an ad popped up on Craigslist for an old baby grand piano that a man needed to get rid of because he was moving.  It was beautiful!--a far cry from so many free pianos that were no longer functional instruments.  I emailed immediately.  He said he got over 20 emails in the first hour his ad was up.  He responded to me first; he said he didn't know why, but he felt like I should have his piano.  In less than an hour, I made the arrangements to get a truck and a team to move the piano, which was a miracle by itself.  We drove to his house, he was kind and cool, we took the piano apart, loaded it in the truck, and drove it to my house.  We cleaned it meticulously, re-assembled it, and settled it in its little nook by the stairs.  It was a perfect fit.

"Seest thou how works wrought with his faith, and by works was faith made perfect?" ~James 2:21

To have faith is to hope for something, then work for it.  You then receive an assurance that your diligent work will result in the acquisition of the thing you hope for.  There is no reason to doubt.  Faith must not be limited by our expectations of time.  Time is irrelevant.  Time is up to God, whose time is different than ours.  (I am grateful I didn't have to wait too awfully long for my piano.)  I never doubted I would own a piano; nothing was going to stand in between me and the thing I righteously desired.  My faith became knowledge when I saw my beautiful instrument sitting in my living room.  The process had worked.

Bible Dictionary:

"Faith is a principle of action and of power, and by it one can command the elements and/or heal the sick, or influence any number of circumstances when occasion warrants (Jacob 4:4–7). Even more important, by faith one obtains a remission of sins and eventually can stand in the presence of God.  All true faith must be based upon correct knowledge or it cannot produce the desired results. Faith in Jesus Christ is the first principle of the gospel and is more than belief, since true faith always moves its possessor to some kind of physical and mental action; it carries an assurance of the fulfillment of the things hoped for." (bold added)

9/18/2012--6 weeks of piano lessons!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Pregnancy and the Demise of Veganism: An Illustration

I was vegan for two-and-a-half months, from January to mid March 2012.  I LOVED it, I was gung-ho about it and didn't want to quit.  However, circumstances changed...

One innocent morning, I made my usual veggie/fruit juice for breakfast, a large 30 oz shot of vitamins and minerals that made me feel bright and alive each day.  Today was different.  I was uncharacteristically nauseous.  Surely, I was just hungry, the juice would fix it.  The Juice can fix anything!  I drank as much as I could hoping to settle my stomach.  No sauce.  I vomited the whole lot.  Miserable.

Turns out, I was a few weeks pregnant!  Triumphant use of ecstatic exclamation points!!!  Kyle and I are thrilled.  But, as one could imagine, early pregnancy symptoms put a pretty abrupt end to my vegan goals.  Of course, pregnancy effects every woman in different ways, but after that first expelled juice, I couldn't even think of juice for weeks without feeling queasy.  Food aversions and cravings started immediately for me.  I had incredibly strong feelings of aversion for almost all of the delicious vegan food that had become a steady part of my diet, which was really weird. Think of the last time you had a food craving--for me it usually goes something like this:

This is normal Mel.  Easy going, rolls-with-the-punches kinda gal.  Whilst I was vegan, the internal monologue was a little different, something like: "Pizza would be SO good right now!  But I am determined to make healthier choices so I will look up a delicious veggie-filled recipe online and spend the next hour cooking."  Resolutely goes to work.

However, as soon as pregnancy nausea hit, for those first few weeks of "morning", aka "all day", sickness, it was more like this:

 Chick-Fil-A= a vegan's worst enemy.  Aka, "Cocaine Chicken".

I'm not a fan of "fast food".  I never eat at McDonald's, Burger King, and some of the lower-on-the-totem-pole establishments.  Sometimes I eat at Wendy's, but less and less these days, and when I do I usually get a baked potato and a frosty (cause I friggin love Frosties).  I like Chipotle, but that's hardly typical "fast food".  However, they just built a Chick-Fil-A near my house.  DANGER.

Those first few days of nausea, ALL I could stomach was Chick-Fil-A chicken.  So I gave in, pretty shamelessly.  Truthfully, I am not ashamed of this and do not consider myself a "failure" for "quitting" my vegan diet/goals.  I really have been trying to listen to my body, and eat what I could hold down.  I figured it was more important to get food into my (and the baby's) system, than to operate under such strict restrictions and end up vomiting all the time.  Besides, I hate to vomit more than I love eating vegetables, so there ya go.

Now that I am in my second trimester, most of the symptoms of the first (nausea, aversions/cravings, exhaustion, etc) are starting to abate.  Awesome.  I'm gaining weight at a slow and steady pace (so far), which is good, and I've had a chance to indulge, which is also goooooood.

I fully intend to adopt and resume healthy eating habits, both while pregnant and after this little bundle comes in November.  In the meantime, don't judge to harshly.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Artomatic 2012

Artomatic is a "month-long art festival in the DC area that is "by artists, for everyone." It is absolutely free to the public" ( It is organized by unpaid volunteers, and is the largest (I don't know of any larger) independent, unjuried art show in the country, if not the world.  (If anyone knows of a bigger one, let me know.)

I've been volunteering for Artomatic for the last 2.5 years, getting to know the wonderful community of people who work so hard to pull off this monumental event.  Just to give you an idea of how BIG this art show is, here are some stats: In the last event, in 2009, over 76,000 visitors attended, over 1,000 artists exhibited, over 600 performances were enjoyed, and a 9 story building was full of every variety of art you can think of.

Artomatic 2012 opened last Friday night, with attendance over 3,000 people!  I was there for about 6 hours, taking in art on only 2 floors out of 10!  I'll be back for many more visits over the next 6 weeks, and try to see everything in the building. (over 1,000 artists exhibiting, probably over 10,000 pieces of art).

This is my first time participating as an artist in the event, and I'm very satisfied with how my exhibit space turned out.  Each artist was allowed to chose a space in the emptied DOD (Department of Defense) building.  The building is 11 stories, 2 of which are closed to the artists, and one is reserved for other activities.  I chose a 17 foot space on the 8th floor.  Here is the evolution of my installation:
Here's a map of where you can find my space on the 8th floor, space #377.

The space, raw and office-like.

Ripped off all of the phone wire encasements.



Bob doing my advertising.  How nice of him!

Now for hanging!

Finished space, complete with track lighting, an awesome sign that you can't really see, QR code and business cards.  Near Bob's head is a short artist bio, and the grey patch in the middle of the wall is painted to look like sheets of paper with the lyrics of "Case of You" written on them.
I have a few improvements still to make, which I'll do on some afternoon when no one else is around (I need to add a guest book, etc).  Other than that, I think the space looks pretty great.

During my first 6 hours at the event, I took a lot of pictures of images, techniques, and ideas that were inspiring to me.  I plan to do this on each visit, and will post them as an update to this post as I get them.

If you're in the DC area, visit to get directions, hours, and a calendar of events.  There is NO REASON to not experience this most-amazing of art shows.  I can't really express how incredible and mind-blowing it is.  It is very RICH, very REAL.  You must see it to understand.

Also, I'll be playing a solo/acoustic set as part of the Songwriter's Association of Washington's showcase on Wednesday, June 6th at 7pm!