It is spring at the Hideaway and this crazy woman has gotten the bright idea to enter into the world of gardening. Do I know how to garden? Absolutely not. Not in the slightest. I literally have no clue what I’m doing. BUT I have drawn this cute little garden map to make it look like I know what I’m doing. That’s the key to life: look like you know what you’re doing. “What’s the worst that could happen” you ask? Everything dies. The chances of that happening are probably higher than I’m willing to admit to myself, so let’s not dwell on the negative!
Now, the picture above is a sketch including all future projects we would like to tackle, but right now let’s focus on the current project in the picture below. This is the front corner of our house that is really in need of some curb appeal (we don’t have a curb, but it sounds better than “ditch appeal”). My dad, who used to run his own landscaping and stump grinding company, helped us design the bed’s outer edge. The gentle curves, rather than sharp corners, makes for easier mowing.
We would like to add a small wooden deck, some flowers, a few bushes, and THIS BAD BOY! Check that out. That is a Japanese Maple. It’s a beautiful plant that is somehow a tiny tree and a giant bonsai at the same time. It’s also expensive so this will be our yard’s crown jewel.
Here is a sneak peek of our house before the plant murder and total gutting process. Although most of these plants were healthy, they were not what I wanted for our house. Keep in check next week for our Hideaway’s transformation part 1!
I’ve noticed that we haven’t really been doing a very good job of posting articles that fulfill the Life aspect of our Art. Stories. Life. mantra. The blog has already undergone many changes since we started in February. I’m sure many more changes will occur in the future. We will do our best to include more insight into who we are personally, beyond our art and stories. With that in mind, let us know if there is anything in particular you would like to know about either of us.
For starters, today is my (Justin) birthday! We will be having a Harry Potter themed birthday/Halloween party. If you are interested, pictures will find their way onto our social media accounts. To honor these past 27 years, I’ve decided to share with you all 27 lessons I have learned. Some of them I’m still working on implementing in my daily life. I hope you can find truth and inspiration in these life lessons.
1. Never Loan A Book You Can’t Live Without
This applies to anything and everything really. But I certainly learned the lesson the hard way with some books that I had to repurchase. When we bought the Hideaway last year, I was finally able to put all of my Star Wars books onto one shelf. The collection is not complete, but I’m still rather fond of it. Always be mindful that when you loan something out, you may not get it back for a long time, if at all.
2. Responsibilities Come First
It’s all too easy to get swept up by the things we love, which will feature pretty heavily throughout this list, but it is important to always make sure that your responsibilities are taken care first. Bills come before trips to the game/card store and even the bookstore. Now I am craving a trip to our local used bookstore.
3. Dream Big
This lesson continues from the previous quote. The quote comes from a respected former coworker and it means a lot to me. It is so very important to have dreams. No matter what they are. And while you’re already dreaming, why settle for small wishes? Dream big. I can’t wait to finish some stories and publish them for everyone to read. Whatever your dreams are, don’t let go of them. Chase them to the ends of the Earth and beyond.
4. Talk To Strangers
This one flies in the face of everyone’s advice while you were growing up. Be cautious, of course, because there are some sickos out there. But, think about it. All of your friends and coworkers, hell even most of your family members were strangers at some point. Talking to strangers is how you make new friends and connections. For the creative types, this is a necessary evil. And it’s terrifying. We have to put our creations and ultimately ourselves out there for as many people as possible. Starting this blog was a huge step for my wife and me. The road ahead is long, but there are plenty of strangers out there that we have yet to meet.
5. Life Is About Art
Art is really just how we strive to share who we are with others. It certainly is not easy, but it would be boring if it was. Write, draw, paint, dance, sing. Whatever art means to you, you owe it to yourself to express it and to share in it with the community. If you have yet to find your artistic release, surround yourself with other peoples’ creations. Don’t get hung up comparing yours to theirs (more on that later), just enjoy it and learn whatever lessons from it you can.
6. Don’t Grocery Shop Hungry
This one is very important for me. The obvious reason is that you are more likely to spend way more than you intended to when you went in in the first place. You start to ignore that shopping list and start eyeballing everything you want to shove in your face. But on another note, I am a very unpleasant person when I get hungry. Hanger is a very serious problem.
7. Life Is Too Short To Read A Bad Book
There are so many books in this world; it is beyond impossible to enjoy them all. That thought alone is utterly depressing on the surface. However, that means you have a plethora of choices available to you. If you’re reading a book that was recommended to you but you just can’t seem to enjoy, then it is time to put it down and find another book. Apologize to the friend if need be, but they will understand, or at least deal with it in their own way.
8. People Suck. A Person Is Good
This is one of those tough lessons to learn. If you’re like me, you want to see the good in people and give them the benefit of the doubt. On an individual/personal basis, a person is usually good natured. However, if that person has anonymity–rather from being a part of a larger group or hiding behind their internet connection–they, for some reason, become rude and mean spirited. This is why my wife and I have taken to running away from social gatherings and remaining in the safety of our Hideaway. But the point of this lesson is to give the individual the benefit of the doubt whenever possible. Remember #4: Talk to Strangers. They might surprise you.
9. Be Happy With Who You Are
For most, including myself, this will be the most difficult of the 27 lessons. If it isn’t already hard enough to be content with who you are, then you add in the fact that everyone’s personality is fluid. Who you are now isn’t the same as who you were last year or who you will be next year. So that’s where the answer can be found. If there is something about your life or yourself in general that upsets you, take the steps to improve now. A bonus lesson in this one that you’ve surely heard before: a bad day doesn’t mean a bad life. Take the time to find yourself and enjoy who you are.
10. Ask Questions
This is absolutely essential. Question everything. That’s how we learn and grow. If you are unsure about something, find someone with knowledge in that field, hit up the local library, or just log in to your preferred search engine. This leads to another of our lessons.
11. Doubt Everything You Read
While you are searching for the answers to all of life’s questions, keep this lesson in mind. Just because you have found a quick answer to your current question, doesn’t guarantee that it is the correct one. Find multiple sources and fact check as much as possible.
12. Know When To Give Up
This is a really tough one to discuss. I wanted to keep this list on a more uplifting path, but I struggle with maintaining a positive outlook in general. I’ll make this one more anecdotal. I spent over four years getting two degrees and amassing a mountain of student loan debt. Then spent a further three years pursuing job opportunities in that field. One day, I just decided that the path I was on wasn’t right for me. My current path sure has a long way to go, but I am much happier for making the change.
13. Learn To Say No
I can’t speak for everyone reading this, but I certainly get hung up on trying to please everyone. Trust me, that is a very effective way to stretch yourself thin and leave yourself emotionally and physically exhausted. Make sure you leave enough for yourself before seeing to everyone else’s needs.
14. Learn To Say Yes
Once you’ve kicked off those training wheels and learned how to say no, it’s time to remember that it is perfectly okay to still say yes. So really these two lessons should be about learning when to say yes and no. You have to find a balance. Too many yes’s will leave you drained but too many no’s will leave you isolated. Find your happy place somewhere in the middle.
15. Read Every Day
Few things give me inner peace like the pages of a good story can. Read for leisure and for study. For every fictional world that welcomes you to a home away from home, there are historical accounts and manuals to teach you new skills and lessons for whatever hope to attain in life. Read whenever possible, in all of your free time. And when that isn’t enough, set aside time to read. Our site has several bite-sized works of fiction and one day, I’ll have larger stories for you all to read.
16. Set Goals For Yourself
Once you have identified your biggest dream (from #3), then you are already on the right path. It’s important to know that the dream(s) will not happen over night. I’m a career procrastinator so when I set my mind to something, I like to see results within hours. I’m learning that is an impossible mindset for writing first drafts. Whatever your dream(s), set realistic goals for yourself. That way the huge looming threat is broken down into easy to defeat objectives.
17. Never Compare Yourself To Others
Doubt. It’s such an ugly word. You should be looking at other peoples’ creations for inspiration and motivation. You find someone has already written a story like yours? Then it’s time to mix some stuff up. But whatever you do, keep moving forward. There will always be someone that is more successful–however you personally define the word–than you, but that doesn’t mean you should give up. It means you need to get back to work and improve yourself.
18. Don’t Wait For The Perfect Timing
If you are waiting for the perfect moment for everything to make sense and come easy to you, you will be waiting for the rest of your life. Stop waiting. Make now the right time. A few pages of scribbled nonsense can be edited. A blank page can not. Persistence is better than hoping for inspiration. Get started now. Future you will be happy.
19. Always Be Honest
You don’t necessarily have to divulge all of your secrets to any and all strangers you encounter. In fact, it’s good to have your own secrets. But if you must choose between honest and dishonesty, always side with the truth. This will become considerably easier once you get the hang of numbers 13 and 14 on this list. And, above all, always be honest with yourself.
20. Show Compassion
Showing compassion or kindness for someone that has nothing to offer you in return, is the simplest thing you can do to brighten someone’s day. It’s so easy to get caught up in our own lives and push everything else to the side. It isn’t about who has it worse. Life isn’t a competition, we’re all in this together. Whenever possible, offer a hand to someone in need.
21. Life Isn’t Fair
This is one I was told fairly often as a child. I use to grumble and complain that my dad was just being a butt. As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned just how valuable that lesson was to have in the early years of my life. It’s important to learn that life isn’t going to pull any punches. You have to work really hard to achieve the things you want in life. And since life really isn’t fair, there is no real guarantee that all of your hard work will pay off in the end. But you can bet you won’t get what you want without the work.
22. Cherish Alone Time
Rather you are an introvert, like Leslie and me, or an extrovert, you still need alone time from time to time. Being alone with your thoughts is essential to finding who you truly are and learning to be happy with yourself (#9). Separate yourself from the rest of the world and spend the time creating.
23. Cut Cable
This is a must unless your dreams include watching as much television as possible. It’s been over a year without cable for us at the Hideaway. Honestly, the only thing I miss is my daily dose of Jeopardy! And Les and I were once big fans of various sports. We occasionally watch a game or match online still, but you don’t realize how much time television is sucking up until it’s gone. There are plenty of options for streaming–we use Netflix–whatever you can’t live without. Plus, one less deduction in your monthly budget.
24. Tell Stories
This is really just an extension of the earlier comments on various forms of art. Write it, sculpt it, paint it, sing it, or just find someone to talk to. We all have stories to tell, you just need to find your medium. I recommend, whenever possible, getting in on a roleplaying game. Dungeons and Dragons is, of course, one of the best known, but there are hundreds of them. Someone you know plays or has played a roleplaying game. Since Les and I started playing D&D and Fantasy Flight’s Star Wars roleplaying game, I have noticed my creativity has loosened up quite a bit.
25. Learn Something New Everyday
This is one of the lessons that is relatively easy to do without much effort. We naturally learn from our surroundings. Despite that, I recommend putting in the extra effort and seeking out knowledge. Read a book or article on a subject you’ve always been curious about. Start studying a foreign language. Thirst for new knowledge.
26. Never Half-Ass Something
I’m certainly guilty of this. I get caught up in something that I want to do and without even realizing it, I’ve half-assed whatever task I was supposed to be focusing on. We live in a society that glorifies the ability to multitask. But, in reality, multitasking is just a fancy term for half-assing several things at one time. You really need to put in the extra effort to keep your focus on your current task. Once, it is complete, that leaves your full attention for the next project.
27. Always Be Yourself
If you have made it this far through my ramblings, you are an amazing individual. If you skipped through the headlines and happen to be reading this, you’re awesome too. We wanted to start this blog as a way to express ourselves honestly and in hopes of building a following of people that are genuinely interested in our current and future works. We hope that you–whoever you are–are enjoying life to its fullest and in a fashion that allows you to be completely comfortable with who are. Life is so much more enjoyable when you allow yourself the freedom of your own identity.
They may drive us crazy, but our family would be incomplete without them. So this post is about and dedicated to our pets.
Cinna, a tortoiseshell calico, had been brought into the veterinary clinic that Leslie’s family used. Leslie talked her parents into keeping her as an outside cat. Once Leslie and I rented our first place, we took her in. She is the oldest (five years old) of our pets and the only girl. Despite the gender, she is named for the stylist of the Hunger Games series.
The same clinic rescued a high strong Labrador/Bulldog mix. He’s now four years old and has his own yard. His brindle coat often elicits claims of “Oh my goodness, he looks like a tiger!” At nearly 80 lbs., he is quite the big baby. Gunner is our only one that was named by someone else and he listens to it so the name stuck.
Bagheera, obviously named for Kipling’s panther, is a black Persian mix. While bold and reckless, he is neither soft of voice nor cunning. Any touching not around his head generates loud protests and he frequently gets lost in the house. He adamantly hates change. When we moved from our rental to our house, we thought it had driven him insane. Despite his hatred of change, he has become close friends with the following pet.
Our newest addition, a border collie mix (seriously no clue with what), Leslie found in a storm drain on her way home last September. He is named for the Galactic President, Zaphod Beeblebrox, of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Now eight months old and newly neutered, the 25 lb. boy suffers from extreme little man syndrome.