Progress Report: Peace, “Do”, and Happiness

It’s been 100 days since 2014 kicked off, so I thought it was time to dust off the old #oneword2014 resolution and check in on my own progress on the word “do”.  To be honest, I didn’t handle the resolution process with much precision.  I totally forgot to use my SMART goals acronym, not to mention that  I have a habit of making great sweeping statements and not following through on them.  Self-deprecating aside, I’m trying my best to break that habit, and succeeding pretty well with my resolution (unlike my addiction to diet soda).

Progress Report #1:  I know that it’s been 100 days of this year because I am currently almost finished with the #100happydays photo project on Instagram.  Not only that, but I blogged about it on Socialnomics.net, wrote an article for The Jersey Alliance, and presented it to my students as a personal challenge for them to attempt.  I missed just two days, only to immediately post two photos the following day.  #100happydays has actually given me something to be proud of, and it’s helped to put my name out there as a blogger and overall advocate for something positive.  It hasn’t been easy, and one day was particularly painful, but it was all made better with a Brene Brown quote and some self-reflection.  The photo challenge has probably been the most telling action of my entire “do” resolution.  In fact, I’m not stopping. I’m going for a full 365 days of happiness photos.

Progress Report #2: For other measurements related to “do”, I created this website and have written 13 blog posts this year (woot!).  While the blogging has been fulfilling for me personally, I have been struggling with it professionally and debating its future direction.  When I post about professional development, I find myself stretching to make a connection or feel strangely disingenuous. Honestly, I’m just not sure if it’s truly me.  I can’t say if this blog will really move in the direction of student affairs, or move somewhere else – towards DIY, personal development, or more reflections on happiness.  I’ve found that I cannot continue to compare this blog to others.  I should be celebrating other bloggers’ success, all while realizing that I am not the same as them.  I have my own voice, and maybe that voice wants to talk a LOT about The Goonies and cats.  That’s just the way it is.

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Progress Report #3: Lastly, in the spirit of “do” something completely outside my comfort zone, I found peace through service in Biloxi, Mississippi.  I have participated in five Alternative Breaks trips all over the United States, but I have never traveled somewhere completely unfamiliar without a student or fellow staff member that I knew well.  It was terrifying. I tossed and turned on our first night, struggling to find the calm to allow me to sleep.  On our first night of reflection, I cried.  Yes, me, the staff partner – I cried.  I decided to admit my anxiety about traveling alone, eating camp food dinners, and sharing a cabin with strangers. I shared with my students that I, too, am uncomfortable and suffer from self-doubt that nags me, especially when I’m alone.  The results of opening up to my students extended beyond my wildest expectations: I found a group of the 12 most open, engaged, and accepting students that I have ever worked with (we call this trip “magical”) and felt real, true peace through community service efforts.  Not just comfort, but peace, feeling a sense of community that I had not felt in so long.

Laying that all out on the table, I’d say it’s been a pretty good 2014 so far.  I’m excited to see where the next few months take me (Norway! California! Age 28!).  Have you made any progress on resolutions, or had the time to pause to reflect on your progress?  I’d love to hear about it.

The Artful Krista

I’ve been suffering from a disease I like to call blankwallitis.  As a novice DIYer, every single blank wall seems to be taunting me, waiting for a picture, poster, shelf, or piece of art to be hung.  Our guest room/office has been looking a little bare for the past three years that we’ve been living here, so I thought that would be a good space to start.

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I have a lot of art.  This is just a sampling of the Ikea prints I bought on a whim. (How can you beat a price of $10 for five prints?  You can’t.)  I’ve been hoarding postcards, colored paper, fabric, and even customized art for years since we’ve been living here.  While I love the colors and the fact that they’re adorable abstract designs of woodland mammals, none of these small postcards really said “focal point of the room” to me.  So out came the big guns.

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For our wedding, we received an amazing print from a friend that explains our relationship perfectly.  Engineering: where the man tells his wife he loves her by building it out of blocks.  I tried to seek out art that would compliment the engineering print, coupled with this awesome poster that I bought from The Wire Poster Project.   For all my Wire fans out there, you’ll recognize this quote from Omar.  All proceeds from this poster design company go to the Baltimore Urban Debate League, so it’s a really awesome business with a social cause.  Lastly, based on the orange and yellow color scheme, I found a fun New York City print (close to our hearts!) on Etsy from Albie Designs which brought all the colors together.

I still wasn’t convinced that these three pieces meshed well together (Clueless, anyone?). I realized it was time to bring all of my whimsical art purchases together.  After playing around, I came up with this arrangement – and don’t worry, Omar’s wisdom will find its place somewhere.

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I actually cut up a blank, chevron-printed card from the clearance bin at Michaels and framed it to bring all the colors together.  I also couldn’t resist the adorable Ikea bunny print.  When it came time to hang the art above our couch, I cut pieces of paper in the shapes of each frame and hung them, centered over the couch.  Enter Dan’s quip: “This means we can never move the couch.”

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After a few test runs, we knew this was the right fit.  Just imagining guests staying over, even if we change the couch into a real guest bed, made me giddy.  I just love adding some fun into a room.  The smallest touch can make a big difference.  Just call me the Artful Krista.

Window Shopping

Ever the procrastinator, I’ve had a major DIY project brewing since spring break of 2012.  It all started when I was working on a house with 12 amazing students in Ansted, West Virginia on a service trip for Rutgers University Alternative Breaks.  Aren’t we a good looking group?

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While rebuilding, I came across a diamond in the rough that I had only previously seen on Pinterest: an old window.  If you’re a frequent pinner or DIY aficianado, you know what I’m talking about: repurposing an old window with fabric, colored paper, and photos to turn it into a gorgeous picture frame.  I was determined to take this baby home and turn it into a masterpiece, so I packed it up into our Suburban and brought it back to New Jersey.  Little did I know that this window would sit in my basement, untouched amidst hundreds of other wedding-related projects.

A year later, I finally brought the window out of hiding. I set it up in the garage on a jawhorse and used WD-40 to remove all the residue and dirt from the panes.  This took a lot more elbow grease than I was expecting (meaning: I need to work out more).  The window was already missing a piece of the pane, but I thought it added to the charm and rustic feeling of the project.

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Next, I ordered 8×10 photo prints to place inside each of the four intact panes.  I chose Mpix after reading reviews about their quality and price, but I’m sure that Snapfish or Shutterfly would work too.  Four large prints came out to $12 and I paired them with several 4×6 prints from the wedding to make a collage.

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 Dan and I also had to decide what kind of material we would use for the mats.  Fabric, cardstock, and linen paper were all options that came to mind.  Given that our wedding was nautical-themed, I came up with the idea to use cork as a mat for each photo.  I bought some 8 1/2×11 cork sheets from Michaels for 99 cents each and laid out a few options on the floor.

After unsuccessfully attempting to back the cork with cardboard we had lying around the house, we decided to use foam core ($4 from Michaels, with a 40% off coupon) as the backing behind the cork sheets.  After carefully measuring and re-measuring the space between each pane, we decided to use Elmer’s glue and a roller to adhere the cork sheets to the foam board.

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Next, we laid out the photos to be centered within each pane.  They needed to be centered on each cork sheet, but more importantly, they had to be centered within each pane itself.  So we would lift the frame over the foam core to check that our measurements were correct.  Here’s Dan laying out some of the photos.

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We soon realized that it was nearly impossible to accurately measure each pane separately, and we ended up having to scrap the entire project and start over.  Ahh, the life of a DIYer-in-training.  We carefully unpeeled all of the photos and Dan bought a full sheet of cork from Amazon for about $11.  This time, we only had to measure out the spacing of the photos and just adhered the entire cork sheet to the foam core board. Much better.  The photos were glued down smoothly as well. As for our finished product?  It’s mounted proudly above the fireplace.

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The window frame came in at about $33 for all the materials and photos, not including what we already owned.  Just call me the DIY Queen, with Dan as my loyal blacksmith (I’m only kidding, he did a LOT of the work on this project). The craftstravaganza was definitely worth it as we now have a one-of-a-kind focal point for our living room!

Aw, Here It Goes

Welcome to the first official post in my newest endeavor, my official blog: creatingkrista.com.  This is a big step for me in my journey towards sharing my story, both personally and professionally, with the world.  In honor of this exciting moment, and as a result of many conversations I’ve had in recent weeks, I’d like to share my why.  Why I decided to start this blog.

1.  I love to write.  All other endeavors aside, I am a writer, first and foremost.  From the Happy Birthday Mom book that I wrote in pre-school to my self-published novel MapsurneI have always been a writer.  Writing is a core part of my life that I have been missing greatly since I started college, and blogging is the perfect opportunity to return to my roots.

2.  Staying relevant.  As a higher education and student affairs professional, blogging and social media have become extremely important as I connect to both students and colleagues.  Maintaining an active online presence is key to staying relevant in this field and I have been thoroughly enjoying the experience of sharing my opinions and stories with others.

3.  Blending the personal and the professional.  I’ve said this before in this blog, but I truly believe that my personal and professional interests together make up who I am.  This blog will be primarily a place for me to explore professional development in higher education, but it will not be limited to that.  I intend to continue sharing my DIY projects and have a page dedicated just for that topic: Life, Love, & DIY.

4.  Staying connected.  One of the great things about having such a diverse group of friends is that we have spread ourselves out all over the world.  While social media is great, this blog will be an opportunity for me to share more about what I am up to beyond the brief pleasantries of Facebook and Twitter.

Looking forward to learning and sharing with all of you!  Bonus points if you identified this blog post’s reference to the theme song for the former Nickelodeon show Kenan & Kel.