DIY: $1 Valentine’s Day Frame Wreath

I’ve had this old picture frame stuck in the top of my closet for a while ever since the back came unglued and I never put it back together. So with V-day just around the corner, I thought it would make into a nice frame wreath!

First, I started by wrapping the frame with twine.

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I would wrap several strands around the frame, adding a dot of hot glue here and there to hold the twine in place. Eventually, I wound up with this (below) and had no twine left to cover the corners. Sad, sad day. So, I improvised. (You may have noticed that the bottom left is naked on more than just the corner. I’ll explain how I rigged that in just a minute)

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I had a cute, old, summery, doily-looking overshirt that got ruined in the washing machine, (one of the shoulders got stretched severely, making me look uneven) but the fabric was so cute I knew I’d eventually have a purpose for it. I started trimming away and wrapped the corners with it.

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Now it’s time to rig that empty space next to the bottom left corner with my favorite handmade flowers! Take a piece of felt and cut a circle. I used a roll of ribbon for my circle pattern because, let’s be honest, who can cut a good circle freehanded? Take the circle and cut into it, about a centimeter from the edge. Keep cutting around the perimeter until you get to the center and there’s nothing left to cut. You’ll end up with a spiral-like strand of felt. Now take the center of it (the last part your scissors touched) and start rolling it back up, letting the edges overlap each other slightly. Add some glue along the way to keep your flower together.

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You’ll end up with something like this.

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I made three, each a different size, and stuck a pearl in the middle. I arranged them to cover up my empty space. I also stuck in some greenery from a fake plant I had in the house. You can also cut leaves out of felt, ribbon or other fabric you have on hand.

Now it’s time for the centerpiece! I bought these babies in the dollar spot at Target for–you guessed it–$1. That is literally what I spent on this entire wreath–$1! I realize you may not have all of these things already in your house, but hopefully my wreath will inspire you to get creative with what you’ve got!

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I cut the strap off my old shirt for a single, thin ribbon to run horizontally across the middle of the frame. Using hot glue, I attached either side of it to the back of the frame, then slapped a red, glittery, foam heart on to the front of it.

And bam! Festive wreath.

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I’m thinking I’ll add ribbon to the top so that the “B” on my door doesn’t interrupt my wreath feng shui. If you feel like gettin’ crafty and wind up making your own, please share it!

The Cycle

This post is from the heart. Deep, deep down in the heart where I come home upset after spending time with my favorite people because I want to give them the world. It comes from the place where I cried in the middle of Target because one of my favorite little girls was about to get a sparkly pink shirt I knew she’d love.

So before I get in to all of that, I’ll start with this.

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Stop it, y’all. Tell your friends stop it. Sure, she’s paying for her groceries with food stamps and her nails are long and beautiful and hot pink and she’s texting her baby daddy on her iPhone. But you don’t know. You don’t know her struggles and she doesn’t know yours.

Think about your life for a minute. What kind of car do you drive? What’s your living situation like? Can you pay for groceries without having a coronary? Do you have a closet full of wearable clothes? Do you go to school? Did you get a college degree? What’s your job like?

Now think about how you got there.

I realize there are exceptions to every rule, so before you refute what I have to say, read on. I live a comfortable, middle class life because of my parents.  I will forever be indebted to them and I am incredibly thankful that I am their daughter. I have a college degree because I grew up knowing I’d go to college, whatever it took. I never missed a meal and I never missed out on anything really, because money wasn’t a problem. Were we rich? Absolutely not. But I had everything I needed.

And unless I come up with some majorly awesome business idea or some rich, twice-removed relative I didn’t know existed dies and gives me all his money, I will likely remain in this same socioeconomic class.

I grew up middle class; it’s likely I’ll stay that way. The same usually goes for those in poverty. The young woman who wrote this article knows the cycle all too well.

“I make a lot of poor financial decisions. None of them matter, in the long term. I will never not be poor, so what does it matter if I don’t pay a thing and a half this week instead of just one thing? It’s not like the sacrifice will result in improved circumstances…There’s a certain pull to live what bits of life you can while there’s money in your pocket, because no matter how responsible you are you will be broke in three days anyway. When you never have enough money it ceases to have meaning. I imagine having a lot of it is the same thing.”

This part of the article really struck me. I have had the enormous blessing of mentoring a group of siblings in a housing project who have given me more perspective on life than I ever thought possible. This explains why their clothes are tattered and they haven’t had breakfast, but they just got done playing the Wii before they hopped in the car with me. It explains why the youngest was dressed for church in sandals in 40-degree weather and how she explained to us in December that Santa doesn’t come to her house.

I’m not telling you this so you’ll go give your life savings to the poor. I’m telling you this because if you’ve ever echoed the sarcastic complaint on that ecard, it’s utterly important to me that you see the world from another perspective.

And thank you, thank you, thank you to my family who gave my little friends the most wonderful Christmas and to my husband who helps me lug the critters to church every week.

It’s OK to Quit

I grew up learning that you never quit anything (unless you have a really, really, really good excuse). But quitting two jobs in my post-college life has turned out to be the best thing I’ve done with my professional life since graduating.

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7 Signs You Should Throw in the Towel:

  1. The thought has crossed your mind more than a few times
  2. You’ve googled reasons why you should leave more than once and you’ve been eyeing the job boards for weeks
  3. Your workplace is not a place of empowerment and you feel unimportant or belittled
  4. You dread going to work more often than you look forward to it
  5. Your work-life balance is out of whack
  6. There’s a lack of personal or team growth
  7. The cons side of your pros and cons list is pretty heavy

I quit my first job as a reporter after working for a newspaper for a year and a half. It was a fantastic experience that brought something new every day, helped me build an expansive local network and laid the groundwork for my later career. But working odd hours, writing stories on the weekends and never knowing when I was going to get off work wasn’t cutting it for me. And 99 percent of journalists will tell you the compensation just isn’t worth it. No, it’s not always all about money, but as former reporter Allyson Bird so eloquently put it, “’I finally came to accept that the vanity of a byline was keeping me in a job that left me physically and emotionally exhausted, yet supremely unsatisfied.’” Supreme dissatisfaction just ain’t worth a $30,000 (give or take [likely take]) salary, no matter how you slice it.

They say, “Do what you love and everything else will fall in to place.” That’s not entirely true. I loved meeting new people and getting paid to do things professionals in any other career couldn’t, like sneak backstage for a Cirque du Soleil performance, hang out with astronauts and explore the lives of everyday people.

But the job that I loved so much was killing my joy, because my joy is more than a career. My joy is my family, my husband, friends, volunteering and time for me.

So I quit. But not without hesitation and not without regret. When I’d get anxious about my upcoming end date, I’d try and make myself feel better with this jewel from C.S. Lewis: “There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”

You’re Not Crazy (your mother had you tested?)

Good ole C.S. wasn’t lying, but he also wasn’t telling the whole truth. It took a while for my “far better things” to come about. I moved on to a second job (which I highly suggest you have in line before quitting) and it was peachy keen for about two weeks until I realized that my boss had no trust in my ability to do my job.

I had a serious conversation with my boss, which made me feel better for the time being, but changed nothing. I sought advice from a handful of trusted professionals, including my former editor, to whom I was super afraid to admit that I sort of wanted my job back. I began searching for jobs several times a day, but I felt like a lunatic having been at the new gig for such a short time. I questioned myself and my decision to quit the first job. I questioned my perception of a healthy work environment. I questioned my education, my future, my past, my talents, my abilities.

And finally, a job posting. A beautiful, beautiful posting for a similar, writing-based position at another organization. A revamped resume, cover letter, and an interview. The waiting, oh the dreaded waiting. Then the phone call, during which I happened to be in the bathroom—oh the horror! I didn’t answer until business was finished, don’t worry. I had a hard time washing my hands I was shaking so badly! (TMI? Whatevs.)

And then the offer that changed my world. Finally, a way to experience all of my joys.

I was nervous to leave the known, albeit miserable, for something unknown. After all, I’d already left one job I really liked, but just wasn’t working for my lifestyle. What if I went to this job and hated it, too? What if I had completely made working life out to be something it wasn’t? Well, a couple months in and I’m doing alright. Pretty great, in fact.

Moral of the story: If you aren’t happy, pinpoint your source(s) of unhappiness and work to make changes that can improve your circumstance. If you’ve done that, given it some time and you’re still miserable, GET OUT. If it’s stealing your joy, it isn’t worth it.

I realize this can become a waiting game. After all, it’s a job with the money that you need to buy toilet paper and keep the lights on. If you feel you need to quit immediately, consider your finances. If you can white-knuckle-grip it until you find something else, that’s likely your better option.

It may take some time, tears and trial and error, but it will come. Don’t you worry, sweet pea.

DIY: Blooming Pallet Cross

When I took down the Christmas tree, the corner of my living room looked so sad. I didn’t want to run out and get a chair or a plant to fill the void, so I decided that the wall near the corner needed a cross on it, and I put Jared to work.

I had him break off boards from some pallets we keep outside for whenever I’m feeling crafty. We were going to use a saw to get them to the desired size, but one broke in the midst of his manly ripping and I liked the look, so he got off easy.

All I did was take the two pieces, one long and one short to make the cross and hot glue them on top of each other. That’s right. No nails, no nothin’.  Then I took some fake flowers I’d bought from Walmart for $2 each, cut the blooms and leaves from the stems and glued them on to cover the intersection of the boards, and VIOLA! A happier, former Christmas tree corner in less than 10 minutes!

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In a nutshell…

Materials:

  1. Pallet wood
  2. Hot glue gun and glue sticks
  3. Fake flowers
  4. Twine

Instructions:

  1. Take two pallet boards
  2. Saw or break them to your desired size. (If you’re breaking them, you may need more than two, unless you get really lucky and break it the way you want it the first time)
  3. Glue the small piece on top of the longer piece to form a cross
  4. Glue flowers on the front
  5. Cut a piece of twine about 5 inches long and tie it so that you have a loop for hanging. Trim the excess.
  6. Glue the knot of the loop to the back of the cross at the intersection of the wood pieces.
  7. Let it dry and hang her on the wall!

You can stain or paint the wood, too, but I liked the old, worn look for mine. If you decide to make your own, please share your pictures! Happy crafting!

 

Jan. 21 UPDATE: I made two more crosses on MLK Day for gifts for my grandma and mom, who were both born on the same day. Neat, right? Anyway, here they are.

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This time, I did a little extra work. I painted over the wood with a dark stain. I rubbed off the excess and let that dry, then took a white stain and brushed over that a few times, wiping after each stroke for a bit of an old, distressed look. I really like the way they turned out! I think I might have to stain the one on my wall now!

 

Renewal.

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I started this blog two years ago for three reasons: I already write for a living, so why not; I religiously follow the blogs I enjoy (like this one) and I want to bring that joy to others; I think I’ve got a few projects and ideas worth sharing.

What is most important to me? Stressing less, living a fit lifestyle and being happy. OK, great. In trying to tailor each of my posts to one of these three categories when I started this long ago, I realized I was limiting myself and failed in my blog writing after about three weeks.

So with the New Year, I’ve decided to give it another, messier shot. I’m a newlywed, a little sister, an aunt times four. I craft. I lift weights, I drink lots of coffee (but normally not quick enough and I wind up with a cold, undrinkable half-cup.)  Butter may very well be my favorite food. I love African American literature and stories about the underdog. I’ve had three jobs (one of them particularly awful) since graduating less than two years ago. I’m figuring out that being a twenty-something is not all that bad and I’d better appreciate it while it lasts.

We may be halfway through the first month of the New Year, but here are my resolutions nonetheless. If you’ve already failed at yours, who cares? Start over tomorrow. You’re going to fail and it’s going to flat out suck sometimes. Victory is realizing you can start over, and being brave enough to do it.

  1. Jesus Time- Rarely do I ever spend enough time talking to God and reading the Bible. With the cold weather I can’t sit outside in the morning in my favorite chair, so I’ve almost neglected my quiet time altogether. This year I’ve decided to start figuring out a time that works best for me to sit down, relax and talk to my main man, Jesus, and read the answers to life that he’s already laid out for me. I’m figuring out that mornings aren’t the best time with the gym, breakfast and getting ready for work. See, I’ve already failed, and it’s OK.
  2. The Pump- I’ve been a string bean for most of my life, except for that one time I was a freshman in college and ate a McDonald’s 10-pack of nuggets with BBQ sauce, fries and a Big Red several times a week. I’ve got good genes as far as weight is concerned—there’s no denying that. But this year I’m working to transform this string bean physique into lean muscle. No more skinny-fat here. A trip to the gym six days a week makes me much more focused at work and ready for the day. If I can get up at 4:45 a.m. to go work out, so can YOU! Seriously though—you can! If you would have asked if I’d be getting up this early a few months ago, I’d laugh in your face. Stay tuned for workout and diet tips.
  3. Cool It- I’m a pretty high-stress individual. I have a tendency to over-commit (I call it the Superwoman Complex) with volunteer opportunities, assignments at work, out-of-town trips, even dates with friends, until I completely burn myself out. Superwoman Complex aside, I also have a tendency to let the dumbest things spark my short fuse and turn me in to a raging b-word. This is not good for me and especially not good for my husband or others. This year I resolve to cool it—to realize what makes me tic and get a grip on it. If you’ve got a similar issue, I highly suggest reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen  Rubin. I put in to practice several of Gretchen’s resolutions and Jared, my husband, told me he noticed a difference in my attitude and the way I treat him. If that’s not a sign that the book is helpful, I don’t know what is!
  4. Read More- If I can make time to look at Facebook and The Chive 50 times daily, I can surely use that time more wisely. With a bachelor’s degree in English, I feel like I should be well-read. So I’ve kicked off the New Year with Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner and Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Both are fantastic. I’m aiming for two books a month. I’m a busy lady and a slow reader, so I think this will be a manageable goal.
  5. Blog- Hey, lookie here!
  6. Get Crafty- I really enjoy crafting, but typically only get going when it’s time to save money on Christmas gifts. I’ve resolved this year to do more of what makes me happy, and crafting is definitely on that list. Stay tuned for projects. In the meantime, this blog has some fantastic stuff.

What are you determined to do in 2014? What are some tips you use for sticking to your resolutions?