Woodland Critter Christmas

After having such a great time with the haunted house, my friends and I decided that we wanted to keep the Halloween spirit  alive going into Christmas!

We thought it would be a great idea to build the Woodland Christmas Critters from South Park Season Eight, Episode Fourteen.

We used leftover wood and paint from the haunted house. And dumpster dived a few extra pieces of plywood.

The first thing we build was the manger. It took about two hours. Later we added a roof and some walls.

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To make the critters I printed them at work on my blueprint printer. It was pretty easy.

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We cut them out, traced them on to the wood, and used a jig saw to cut them out. We then painted them all white. When the paint dried we used a blade to cut the detail lines throw the paper onto the wood so we knew where to paint.

My buddy Ted and I did all the construction and almost all of the critter cutting. But we had a painting party where a bunch of people came to help paint. It was truly an international project. We had a representative from Japan, Iran, Norway, and even a friend from the distant land of New Jersey.

I was able to barrow some paint. But I also purchased some cheap messed up colors from Home Depot. I spent $16 on paint. We are super proud of the deer because we mixed paints together to make all the colors.

I am really enjoying the time that I spend working on projects and problem-solving anything that comes up. These projects are making me happy and giving me something positive to think about.

We put the critters out in the front yard, but it was missing something. So we made a Santa too!

And here is the final product in the front yard:

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What I Learned From Making a Haunted House

Halloween 2016

A few weeks before Halloween I was having dinner with my friend Arron. Arron works at a center for developmentally disabled young adults. He teaches them about plants and maintains the center’s nursery.

Arron was telling me that he was building a haunted house for their Halloween party the Friday before Halloween; which fell on a Monday this year. For obvious reasons he wouldn’t have anyone jumping at people, but he was going to be working with them to design and build creepy decorations.

A few years ago, Arron and I had some mutual friends. It’s actually how we met. And for Halloween, three years in a row, we would set stuff up around there house, hide and scare people. We were all poor, some of us dead broke, we did that for free.

But Arron’s new project excited me. I said, “Hey man you should bring all that decoration over to my dad’s house on Halloween. He gets like 100 trick-or-treaters.” And, that’s how the idea was born.

I hit up another friend of ours who helped out at our friends house two years ago, Ted. “Hey man we’re gonna build a haunted house. You in?” Ted and I showed up at my dad’s house and walked around the front yard brainstorming ideas.

Where would people scare? What we build? How would we build it? What path will they take? It was exhilarating to be bouncing ideas back and forth getting more and more excited.

We decided we would use pallets and cardboard to build our structure. We went dumpster diving and found a ton of really great wood other than the pallets we took. We also hit up Costco for large pallet-sized pieces of cardboard used to separate the products. They let you take it. We filled three shopping carts worth.

Arron was able to borrow a bunch of pipes and joints that used to be used to build a carport structure at his work. This would be our main hallway. We made the roof out of cardboard that we painted random ridiculous things on. I painted a ghost and a vagina.

We also needed to build a giant wall on the front of the yard to close in the area. We decided to make the base of the wall from pallets then put some tall thin strips of wood we rescued from a dumpster. On the tall pieces of wood we stapled the cardboard to them.

On the inside we wanted the wall to look like the kind of wall you would see in a abandoned house where you might find used heroin needs. I think we hit the mark of what we wanted to do exactly. Ted, my other buddy Neil, and I painted whatever popped into our minds and then we would paint over each others paint.

On the outside, street side, of the wall, we had bigger plans!

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Arron came over Sunday night before Halloween to set up all the decorations from his work. He was actually able to use them at another neighborhood event too. It’s fantastic that they were used four times.

We hung sheets from the tunnel structure to make it closed in. The sheets had been painted by consumers at Arron’s work! Then Arron, who is a wizard at design [check out his Instagram] started to create the interior environment.

Ted and I finished setting up pallets and walls in the yard area to make it more maze-like. We were concerned that the exit was a wide opening people could see in. Then they would be able to see where we were hiding. We ended up making a doorway with a caution-tape door. One of the crowds favorite pieces.

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On Halloween we had about 300 people come through. We put up signs at big nearby intersections to bring more people in. Everyone loved it! We had people screaming, people crying, people laughing, one girl in dropped to the floor in the fetal position. Out front people were constantly posing for pictures with our wall.

We even got in some of the pictures with them.

So that’s the story of the haunted house.  But when I was thinking about the entire experience of creating this project I realized that I learned a surprising amount. I’m totally putting this on my resume. Here’s what I learned:

  1. If you believe in something you will find a way to get it done
    My friends and I truly believe in making Halloween great again. That is why we spent so much of our free time working on this project. Every time we hit any little snag we would just push through and keep moving forward.
  2. You don’t need money to create
    One thing I wish I could have explained to everyone that came through was that the entire haunted house was built for free. (I think I spent $16 on burlap, but then I actually found some in our backyard! We only used about a quarter of what I bought and I gave the rest to Arron for him to create art with).

    The haunted house was built for free! We borrowed lights, fog machines, and got all the building supplies out of the dumpster. People were impressed with our work even before they knew that.

    I just wish that could have been explained to them so that they think about what they could build for free if they wanted.

  3. Time spent working with friends is not working
    When i first told my dad we were commandeering his front yard for a haunted house he said, “that’s gonna be a lot of work.” And maybe it was. But, I don’t know. Because every time I went dumpster diving with Ted, was building with Arron, or painting with Neil I was having fun! I was working on a project with my friends. We were building off of each other creativity. We built something together that not one of us could have done alone.
  4. The path to happiness is doing what you love
    I felt so happy while working on this project. Every time we had an idea and then completed it I was thrilled. I was working on something that I wanted to do and it made me very happy.

    Maybe we can’t always do this in our jobs but that’s no excuse not to create something or do something you enjoy after work. We all work and we did this nights and weekends.

  5. You can accomplish more by working together
    I mentioned earlier my excitement that came from us brainstorming together. A lot of our ideas were collective. One person would say one thing then another person would be say we could do that if we did it like this. That’s how things got accomplished.
    When building the metal carport structure, Arron and I just started putting pieces together. We had a problem though because we need crossbeam structural support to hold up cardboard. Ted came up with the idea to use a hole saw to drill into wood and make it the size of the pipe then connect the pipe to that. Genius!
  6. The only way to fail is to not start
    Sometimes you just need to dive into something and figure it out as you go.
    For example, with the caution tape door. I had an idea of how to attach it on side and so I just started. While, Ted was holding up the other side he asked, “How are you going to attach this end?” “I don’t know yet, but we’ll figure it out.” And we did.
    I think that if I waited to start working until I had it figured out it either would have taken a lot longer or maybe it would have never happened at all.

 

P.S.

I just want to add that when it came time to clean up the haunted house we recycled all the cardboard, we sent the wood to be turned into mulch, and even random scraps of plastic were recycled at local facility that has a collection place for “mixed plastics.”

I believe it’s important to try our hardest to reduce waste regardless of what we are doing. But you can clearly see that it did not hinder our fun!

Use Earth911.com to find recycle collection for any item near you.

Other People’s Lives

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“Other people’s lives seem more interesting ‘cuz they ain’t mine” ~ Modest Mouse Other People’s Lives (1999) 

 

It’s so hard for me not to compare my life with my friends, my colleagues, acquaintances, or even social media personalities.

I have friends that seem to be just moving with the flow easily. Always taking some next step with their life. Or maybe they are just partying and having a good time. Regardless of what they are doing I’m always comparing myself.

What I am doing?

I see my friends moving to a beautiful area in Northern California. One to go back to school, studying what she love, the other her husband following the one he loves.

Should I move there? Should I have followed my passion in school? Maybe I’ll go back.

I see my friend busting his ass hustling to get in at a good firm to become a financial advisor.

Should I be looking for a corporate job? Am i falling behind in the career world?

I see some of my friends working in the service industry making “good money” and partying a lot.

That looks fun! Should I just relax and do that?

I see my friends from exchange on Facebook posting pictures from their travels.

Damn I need to get back out in the world!!

– –  –

The next thing I know I have all these conflicting desires in my head. Each one pressing on unique emotional stressors. There isn’t any type of guilt that hasn’t been twisted to hurt me.

But why?

Why are other people’s lives causing me so much stress in my own?

I’ve concluded it’s because of a few reasons. The most important being I really don’t know what I am doing or what I want out of life. When I see other people doing what seems like what is right for them, I see their happiness, and then I wonder. If I did that, would I be happy?

 

My Solution:

Create a list of the things I want. What are the things that make me happy? What do I want out of life?

The things that I want are what is most important in my life. The things that I want are the things that will make me the most happy. I have to honest with myself about what I want from life. Then go out them! Don’t worry about what others are doing. Just do me. As long as I can do the things that make me happy, I will be happy.

But, be cautious. Drugs, alcohol, and partying are fun! But it might not be your life goal. It might be what you want right now. But, not what you want for forever. It’s about balancing. Working towards your future while having fun in the present.

The best thing I can do is create an environment, more importantly a mental state, that allows me to see the fun in the process. Self-improvement is a process. It’s not always fun, but if I can learn to love the process I think I will be okay.

How I Got Happy

This post is about how I realized I was following a path in my life that was making me extremely unhappy. I was leaving in a constant state of high-stress. I was depressed, angry, and always on edge. Thoughts of self-harm were not uncommon.

I snapped regularly.

I would yell at people and treat people like shit. But, it wasn’t me.

It felt like I was watching someone else take over my body to use it to spread negative words and actions. I ended up hurting a lot of people during this period of my life.

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Fortunately, for me I got out of this slump. And, when I did it was like coming down from a trip. The stressed mindset just disappeared and I was able to reevaluate the past year or so of my life from a new perspective.

I was able to do this reevaluation essentially by myself. I view depression and stress entirely differently than I did before I experienced it (or before I knew I was experiencing).

I want to share what I did in hopes that it may help someone else change their mental status.

 

  1. Turn off TV
    This is about reducing the negative inputs in your life.Watching TV doesn’t make me happy. It numbs me. Then it dumbs me. The shows aren’t for me anymore. I am passed that stage in my life.

    The TV is designed to make you unhappy. I consider it mind altering substance. I would categorize it as a depressant. The more you use the more you need it to be “happy.“ Before you know it you’re watching dumber and dumber shows.

    For me it wasn’t hard to stop watching TV because I grew  up on movies more than I did TV. But, I gave up watching movies as well. I’m sure most people reading this don’t watch TV, they have Netflix. In my opinion, Netflix is just a higher quality version of the TV-drug.

    For other people it may be hard to quit TV because when something becomes a constant habit in your life it’s not easily given up. People use it to eat, as background noise, or simply to “relax.”

    My suggestion is to use music for background noise instead.  Or try to fall asleep reading. If you aren’t a reader it takes some time getting used to it. I know the transition was hard for me. But stick with it. Like anything else it gets easier the more you do it and you get better at it.

     

  2. Go For a Walk/Hike
    Just get out of the house. The easiest way to do this is to just go for a walk.I was lucky I live right across the street from a large open space area. In the middle of the night I would go out there to be alone with my thoughts. I would just walk and keep walking.

    Sometimes I would go out and walk for three hours a night for many nights in a row. That might seem like a lot, but when I was at my worst it was either that or suicide. Three hours doesn’t seem like much when it gives you your life back.

    You don’t have to go for that long. 30 minutes is plenty long. Maybe there is a park nearby you can walk to and then around. Maybe you can just walk around some city blocks in your neighborhood.

    For me the point wasn’t walking. It was to have nothing else to do but sort my thoughts. The walking just kept me going. Kept me on track.

    I prefer to be alone when hiking. Obviously I am going to recommend what I prefer. This is again the steps that I took to get happy.

  3. New Friends
    I wasn’t myself. I was a depressed, angry, asshole version of myself. I had lost some friends because of this. And the friends I had growing up were always busy at different times.I knew it wasn’t their fault we couldn’t hang out. So I decided to get more friends. More friends means more people to ask to hang out. More variable availability.

    I like to travel so I used the Couchsurfing app to find local events in my city. Luckily, there was a weekly one. I decided to go. I put myself out there.

    Now I have friends who I hang with regularly that I met through this event. We’ve gone to music festivals, hiking, lots of concerts, and just hung out bar hopping.

    It felt a lot scarier going in than it was coming out. I was scared. But relaxed after a few introductions. Everyone at these sorts of events is there because they want to meet people. Go to events where people want to meet people.

     

  4. New Music
    All the music I was listening to at the time reminded me of times, people, and events from when I was over stressed and depressed. I couldn’t have that anymore.I went out in search of new music and I have an entire catalog of music that I am currently in love with. All of which I found only in the last few months.

    I love the new music because it doesn’t remind me of anything.

     

  5. Meditate
    Everything I was reading about how to get happy mentioned the meditating and journaling (the next topic).Since they were both consistently recommended from a variety a different sources (from self-help to how to excel in business).

    I have been using the Calm app to teach me how to mediate.

     

  6. Journal
    In the intro I talked about how I felt like I was coming down from a trip of some sort. It’s like for the past year my mind had been working in an entirely different way. I was realizing that now.Luckily I had started to journal, although inconsistently. I was able to go back and reread how I was thinking and how I was feeling.

    The odd thing for me with this was when I reread what I had wrote somewhere inside me the depressed angry me knew that wasn’t who I was. I was writing about how I was being a complete jerk. I was writing about how I needed help. I was writing that I didn’t know what was going on with me.

    Later, when I figured out that I had been over-stressed, it all made sense. It’s not too little too late though! I feel, in general happier than I have felt in no time that I can remember.

     

  7. Go Barefoot (optional)
    This one is recommended as optional. I just really like nature so going barefoot helped me be more in touch with nature. It made me feel grounded in my world while it was literally turning upside down.

 

 

What did you do to realize that you weren’t happy? And, what did you do to fix it? I would love to know. Leave a comment.