Tag Archives: creativity

Painting at Work

In 2013, I wrote a blog post about exploring the artist in me—an artistic challenge that was inspired by my admiration for a painting that hung on the wall where I work. I was so fond of this particular piece of artwork that I decided to try to paint it myself. In that post I wrote:

My first attempt at creating art grew from an appreciation for a painting I passed daily at work on my way to the cafeteria. I was drawn to a modern painting of a couple of buildings. Maybe this was a resurfacing of my adolescent love for architecture. I admired the interesting colors and the straight lines and I thought, “I could do that” and I am going to try. I knew aspiring artists often developed their skills painting other artist’s paintings. But I knew I couldn’t sit in the hall at work all day attempting to paint this painting. So I took a digital photo of it and took it home. You can even see a reflection of me in the glass.

I took that photo in 2004 so the refection you see of me in the glass (in front of the red building) is a much younger version of me. In that 2013 blog post, I went on to describe how I painted my version since I was not a trained artist:

I decided to make my version of the painting the same size as the original so I could judge how well I achieved my goal. I printed out my photo and began to measure the dimensions of each of the features. Knowing that I needed to accurately translate the building’s dimensions from an 8 X 10 photo to a 16 X 24 canvas, I pulled out my calculator and determined the proportions necessary to “blow up” the scale. Using a ruler, I drew all the straight lines on a piece of paper to allow for any necessary corrections and then once I had the 16 X 24 drawing on paper, I redrew it on the canvas.

 I knew with my hand skill limitations and my desire for precise straight lines that I was not going to be able to paint straight lines either. So I used blue painter’s tape to block off a section at a time for painting. I didn’t even try blending colors; I just used the paint right out of the tube. While this can be a slow, tedious process, taping and painting and repeating, it allowed me to achieve my goal. And I thought a fairly true rendition of a real piece of art.

This is my finished painting that, thanks to my wife’s encouragement, we hung on our wall at home. I loved my rendering of the original painting and was very proud that I had been able to recreate it. It has hung in several different locations in our home for the past 13 years.

If you are a regular follower of my blog post, you know that I will be retiring later this year—as a result of the 2016 announced closing of my work site. While this will mean huge changes for me and my family since I have worked at the same location for almost 35 years, interestingly one aspect will remain the same.

With my work site closing, it was determined that certain assets would not be relocated out of state to where our operations were being consolidated with an existing company site. As a result, employees were encouraged to take home the plants located throughout our facility. I found this nice one to take home.

In the fall of 2016, I learned through the grapevine that employees would also be allowed to take home certain furniture and fixtures that would not be moved to the new site. And included in this allowance was some of the corporate art that had graced our walls for all the years of operation.

Some of the art work; in particular original oil paintings of our company founder and of one of our iconic corporate brands, will hopefully find new homes in local museums. When I inquired about the painting I had admired for so many years on my way to the cafeteria, I was told I could have it. Now almost a year later, that painting has now moved to our home.

With the two paintings side by side, I could easily see that while I had intended to reproduce it in the same size, I had far under-estimated the original’s size. In fact, once I got it home and held it up in several different places in the house, it was too big for the space being much larger than I even remembered. With its ultimate location uncertain, I temporarily leaned it up against our dining room table until we could figure it out, at least until my 2-year old granddaughter pulled it over onto herself with a resultant loud crashing sound. Other than being frightened by the sudden noise, my granddaughter was unhurt and when I picked up the framed painting, I was glad to see that it too was undamaged. Finding a place to hang the painting then moved up in priority.

With a two story entry hall, this wall space offered the scale such a large painting needed.

And so it now hangs.

I don’t recall when my company first purchased this particular piece of art so I cannot say for certain how many years I have walked past it on my way to lunch. Now in its new home, every time I stride through our entry hall, I will walk past this long-admired painting. I do not know if it will always remind me of work, only time will tell. But whether or not it does, it will still serve as a reminder of when I actually began to explore my creative side by rendering a likeness of it by my own hand, a pleasurable artistic activity I plan to spend more time enjoying once I do actually retire.

Three Years!


Happy Birthday!

It’s hard for me to believe but on February 9th it will have been three years since I published my first blog post. And since that day, I have been coming to you every Sunday morning with stories and photos, wit and revelations. I started writing this blog to tell some stories to my kids and family. And along the way, I picked up some other followers as well. I hope all of my readers have enjoyed the year.


When I looked back at my Two Year blog post, I was amazed to read that at that time, I only had 18 topics left on my list of blog ideas. Obviously I added to that during the year as I have published 52 more posts since then (for a total of 156!) and still have more topics on that list I haven’t written on yet.


In the past 12 months, I wrote on what I would consider some noteworthy topics. I wrote about how I ended up in the career I have enjoyed for over 30 years. I wrote several posts about my dad for whom I realize I still have not yet fully grieved his loss. I wrote several posts about travel including our annual SIBSAB, which took place in Amsterdam. And I wrote about how my wife and I met and what a treasure she is. And of significant note, not only did we celebrate the one-year anniversary of becoming grandparents, but we also welcomed the birth of two granddaughters.


I am pleased that I have been able to blog weekly for another year. I really thought at one point during the year that I was going to run out of topics to write about. While I still have some stories on that list to tell, I’ve struck 109 of them off the list. But it is often unexpectedly fun when a topic just comes to me out of the blue and I jot it down quickly lengthening my list even as I whittle it down.

So here’s to another year of blogging!


Two Years!

Credit: Thecampfiregrille.com

Credit: Thecampfiregrille.com

Happy Birthday!

It has been two years on February 9th since I published my first blog post. And since that day, I have been coming to you every Sunday morning with stories and photos, wit and revelations. I started writing this blog to tell some stories to my kids and family. And along the way, I picked up some other followers. I hope all of my readers have enjoyed the year.


As I said last year on the one-year birthday of my blog, I set out to tell my story and at the same time learn some things about myself. I especially wanted to write down important memories I had before I lost them. So that in the future, my kids would have a place to go to find the answer to a question they may have about events long ago. I’m fortunate my own parents wrote down their story and gave it to each of us four children. During the year, I’ve also had a chance to share some fresh memories that were worth archiving as well.


In the past 12 months, I wrote on some noteworthy milestones. My wife and I went to Paris in May for the first time and we celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary in December. I wrote about the special relationship my siblings and I share and I went to Disney World for my very first time accompanied by my brother. And of significant note, my wife and I became grandparents for the first time with the birth of our daughter’s first child.


I had some fun along the way and as in my previous year of blogging, learned some things about myself. Hopefully you too have enjoyed these posts.


My list of blog topics has continued to grow but at the same time, I struck some significant topics off my list. As of this writing, I still have 18 more topics to write about, many of which will be multiple posts due to their length.


While I have again come to you every Sunday morning for a second year (104 posts in all), I must admit it sometimes has been quite challenging. At times this past year, I’ve considered cutting back to posting just every other week but for now, I am going to try to continue my weekly posts on Sunday morning (for an explanation of why Sunday morning, click here). But if you don’t find a new post one Sunday morning, please check back the next Sunday because I don’t intend for two weeks to go by without me bringing you some message.


Here’s to another year of blogging!

Phone Chair – Party Line


Phone Chair – Party Line


If this is your first visit to this blog, you might want to read my previous posts on how I planned and made my first miniature phone chair, and the latest update.

Never was I so motivated to finish income taxes. Not necessarily because I wanted to know how much we might owe or if we might get a refund, but because the idea that I came up with as I finished my seventh chair was to return to the inspiration that started me down this path, my sister’s quilt.


Because as it turns out, I needed two more chairs at home.

While I had made one chair for my wife’s phone to relax in, when I came home with my two phones, there was competition for which phone would get the phone chair first.


And obviously all three couldn’t fit.

So to recreate the beach scene from my sister’s quilt, I decided to make a green chair and an orange chair for myself to go with the purple chair I had given my wife. Off to the hobby shop I went with a photo of my sister’s quilt on my phone so I could match the colors as best I could with pre-mixed paint (I use those so I won’t have to try to mix and match the same color each time I need more fresh paint).

Making two more chairs also would allow me to refine my improvements to bring me closer to that perfect chair that I had been trying to make.

The first refinement was to add a piece of wood to my leg subassembly jig that would improve the alignment when gluing the front leg to the back leg.


The added green piece is exactly the width of two pieces of wood, in this case to match the width of the back leg being glued and the back leg template of the jig. So that when I glued the front leg to the back leg, the front leg would be properly aligned to ensure the glued legs would sit flat on a flat surface.


The second refinement was to make a second spacer to go with the spacer I had made previously. The two spacers could then be used when gluing the arm subassembly together.


This would ensure that the space between the two arms was the same in the front and the back of the chair.


While working on these additional chairs, I also came up with a slightly modified layout that left a pretty sizable piece of unused wood leftover for re-cutting those pieces if the knife slipped and I messed up a piece. This extra bit of real estate may come in handy on your first chair.


I cranked out the green chair first…


…and then I started on the orange chair. As I was making these two, I decided to time myself while performing the different activities required. Although I have been known to hole up for hours working on a project, I’ve never actually timed myself. But I thought this would be useful information if I ever wanted to turn this into a commercial operation in retirement.

Building one entire chair from start to finish took a little over 2.5 hours broken down into:

20 min. – Sanding and painting the board (2 coats)

55 min. – Cutting and sanding the edges of 22 chair pieces

50 min. – Painting the edges of the 22 chair pieces

30 min. – Gluing the pieces together to assemble the chair (not counting drying time between gluing each piece)


With both chairs finished, there won’t be any more fighting over a chair to relax in…


…and when all three phones want to go to the beach together…


…they can line up by the water…


… just like in the original quilt that spawned their creation…


…for a real pool “party line.”


Phone Chair – Call Back


It has been a while since I first published a post about building a small miniature chair for your phone to relax in.  So if you missed these posts on how I planned and made my first phone chair, you may want to read those before reading this update.

Once I had completed my first chair, I knew that there was opportunity for improvement in how I had assembled the chair.  Since that time, I have had the opportunity to make additional chairs to give as gifts, these three being the latest.


And while making these chairs, I did in fact come up with nine improvements to the assembly process:

1)   Devising an efficient lay out of the templates on the board to minimize board waste.  This is important if you are making multiple chairs; this lay out requires 16 inches of linear board so with two 24-inch boards, you can make three chairs.


2)   Having a template for the leg sub assembly that allows properly aligned gluing.  This is very helpful in ensuring that all four legs sit flush to a flat surface so there is no chair wobble.


3)   Rather than trying to square up the chair frame before attaching the arms, back and seat pieces, attaching the front cross member and first seat piece to one of the leg sub assemblies.


4)   Then using a temporary spacer (blue piece), gluing the other leg sub assembly using the glue bottle to apply adequate pressure.


5)   Adding additional seat pieces from the front of the chair to the back evenly spacing them with a credit card


allowing a little time for each to dry before adding another


to ensure all of the seat pieces are in true parallel to each other and true perpendicular to the legs.


6)   Having a template for the arms to ensure they are square.  This allows gluing them with a clamp to ensure a strong bond.


7)   Gluing the arms to the tops of the front legs again using the glue bottle to provide enough downward force to ensure a strong bond.


8)   Gluing one back piece in place making sure it is flush against the inside of the bottom leg and inside of the arm.


9)   Repeating that process on the opposite side, and then spacing the three remaining back pieces evenly between the other two for a finished chair.

Chair #2 unavailable for photo, having relocated to CA

Chair #2 unavailable for photo, having relocated to CA

At this point, my miniature chair factory had cranked out six chairs, none of them perfect but each of them unique.


Some of these ideas I unfortunately didn’t realize until after I had finished the sixth chair so before I closed down my factory and retooled for cranking out my next job—the dreaded income taxes—I wanted to try these ideas out on one more chair.  As it turned out, until I identified other potential gift recipients, I just needed one more chair.  I had recently gotten a work cell phone and so I needed a second chair for this second phone to lounge in while I worked.


A rare March snow day actually gave me extra time from work to crank this latest chair out, here featured with my first chair…


…and less than a week later, sunny days by the pool had returned…


…and my two cell phones jumped at the chance to relax and recharge by the pool.


After building a total of seven chairs, I must admit that none are perfect.  This is a tough statement for someone who is a perfectionist and prides himself on making things as perfect as possible.  But just as none are perfect, I realize that each is unique and I can recognize the little imperfections that sets each one apart from its sibling chairs.  So rather than cranking out replicate copies of mass-produced, identical chairs, my little factory has created a small family of chairs, all recognizable as coming from the same manufacturer, but no two alike.  And this thought actually gives me one more idea to try out in the future once my tax job is over and I can retro-fit my factory floor for making more chairs.

One Year


Happy Birthday!  It has been one year to the day since I first published my blog post.  I must say it was my daughter and my wife—both who blog—that served as the inspiration for me to start this blog.  And since that day, I have been coming to you every Sunday morning with stories and photos, wit and revelations.  I started writing this blog to tell some stories to my kids and family.  And along the way, I picked up some other followers.  I hope all of my readers have enjoyed the year.

So why Sunday morning?


Well it is in honor of my Dad. He was a Presbyterian minister and for over 40 years, he brought his message to his church members on Sunday mornings.  My Dad touched many lives during his lifetime, not just in his Sunday morning sermons but in the many things he did to serve his church, a life for which I am most proud (A Glimpse of My Dad).  So I thought I would try to bring my messages to you in the same tradition, every Sunday morning.


I set out to tell my story and at the same time learn some things about myself.  I especially wanted to write down important memories I had before I lost them.  So that in the future, my kids would have a place to go to find the answer to a question they may have about events long ago.  I’m fortunate my own parents wrote down their story and gave it to each of us.  During the year, I’ve also had a chance to share some fresh memories that were worth saving as well.


On more than one occasion I’ve mentioned that I am a scientist so I know the English scholars out there may find my writing grammatically lacking.  I have had the wonderful assistance of my wife, an excellent proofreader so whatever errors remain undetected, I must take full responsibility for those.  Hopefully these remaining errors have not diminished your reading of these posts.

As I mentioned in my very first blog post, my hope was that you, my reader would learn some things about yourself also.  So often, it is in reading someone else’s words that we make a discovery—sometimes an important one—about ourselves.    And while I know none of my writing will ever win a literary award, if it has touched your life in some way, or helped you to learn something about yourself, then that is award enough for me, an award I know my dad received many times during his lifetime.

While I have come to you every Sunday morning for a year, I must admit it sometimes has been challenging.  Going forward, I may miss a Sunday every once and a while, but not because I am playing hooky, it’s just my other life’s responsibilities may preclude me from achieving my weekly goal.  But if you don’t find a new post one Sunday morning, check back the next Sunday because I don’t intend for two weeks to go by without my bringing you some message.

Here’s to another year of blogging!



Fall is an exciting time of year to think of cooler weather, football, holidays or back to school.  Something much more mundane to think about is buying a calendar for the approaching New Year.  If you use one of those business daily flip calendars like I do, you too would have recently gotten a friendly reminder to repurchase a new one when you flipped the calendar date only to find an order form.  And since 365 days (or 366 days for Leap Year) are not divisible by 7, you have to buy a new calendar every year since the days and the dates are never the same year to year.  Could this have been a long ago plot by the calendar industry to force us to buy a new calendar each year and not the fact that our calendar happens to coincide—approximately—with the Earth’s orbit around the sun every 365. 242199 mean solar days?  We recently found out what the Mayans failed to realize by not planning far enough ahead.  The world didn’t end on December 21, 2012; we simply bought a 2013 calendar—although I’m sure some of you might have held off until December 22 to buy yours just to be safe.


Mayan Calendar

I for one absolutely love calendars.  For it was about calendars that I wrote my very first blog post when I was invited to be a guest author on my wife’s blog, Mindfulmagpie earlier this year.  And it was this two part series that served as the inspiration for me in February of this year to decide to start my own blog to share other stories.  If you haven’t read these two posts previously (Part 1 & Part 2), I would encourage you to do so now so the continuity of this story can be maintained.  I’ll pause so that you can do that…

Welcome back.

So why now am I writing another post about calendars?  As I said at the beginning of this post, it was that daily flip calendar that got me thinking about next year.  My love for calendars has expanded since those early days I wrote about in those first two blog posts to include four separate calendars, each with its own unique purpose.

In my profession, I have to sign and date sometimes as many as 30 documents on a given day.  And working in a highly regulated industry, if I write the wrong date next to my signature, I have to line through the entire incorrect date, write the correct date, and then initial and date next to the correction.  So that daily flip calendar allows me to get a quick glance at the date so I can write the correct calendar date next to my signature to avoid all of the extra work.


My next calendar is another utilitarian one, an unadorned desktop blotter calendar.  This calendar saves me the time of flipping my daily calendar to a past or future date and gives me an overview of the entire month.  Unfortunately, this calendar is usually covered up with paperwork so it is rare that I can actually use it for its intended purpose.  I can’t even use it to write future reminders as there is no guarantee it will be uncovered on the date of the reminder.


My last two calendars are my really special calendars.  The prior year’s retrospective calendar that I create in iPhoto using photos from each month was the feature of my second blog post on calendars.  My 2014 calendar is coming along very nicely filled with 53 photos through October, thanks to numerous trips my wife and I have taken this year.  This calendar I keep at home hanging on the side of the refrigerator where I get a reminder of last year’s events from that month each morning when I go to get milk for my coffee.


My last calendar is a third calendar I keep at work.  Since my computer sits on a small desk that backs up to my work desk, I need a small calendar that I can glance at to get a quick check on a date while working at the computer—or more commonly, to glance at a beautiful photo to give my mind a quick break from the minutia of details required for my job.  This calendar has to be small because the pinboard behind the desk surface is only about 15 inches high, much too small for most regular sized calendars.  So my needs for this spot are a mini calendar.


Hand-made Calendar

My calendar selections for this spot have varied along with the other calendars I wrote about in my first blog post—from crude hand made ones to professional purchased calendars.


My current 2013 mini calendar, while having peaceful photos of Holland—a country I have visited over 25 times—has one irritating feature.  The first day of the week on this calendar is Monday rather than the usual Sunday utilized on most US calendars.  This might be a feature unique to all European calendars but I can’t tell you how many times this year I have looked at a date only to realize the day and date was not what I expected.  Most purchased calendars have pictures on the back so that you can see what scene is featured each month.  But I have rarely seen one that showed you what the boring date part of the calendar looked like.


So for 2014 I have already purchased a US mini calendar for this spot.  I must have scrolled through over 200 possibilities on Amazon before I settled on this one, a search I performed one day recently during one of my more boring teleconferences.  I thought that seeing a beautiful photo from one of our nation’s national parks each month would give the mental break I often need at work while at the same time providing a month of dates with each week starting on Sunday—a feature I have relied on in years past.


And I can always hope that in 2015, I will discover that elusive Montreat calendar in a mini calendar format that will reside next to my computer to give me that moment of mental respite that will allow me to continue to flog through the details of my work.