Friday, October 25, 2013

DIY, Baby!

My career has been two-fold; as a puppeteer and as a stay-at-home dad (and being a stay-at-home parent is a career onto itself; but that's another posting). These two jobs have often intersected, even collided with each other in terms of what I can create for my son (and, let's be honest, for me too). I have made puppets and things out of cardboard ever since I was a kid and now have done it for and with my son.

I have been very blessed and spoiled that I have had this opportunity with my son. Not every parent can. So many parents I know, both, set off to work and don't get to have full family time until the weekend. It's one of the reasons for my book "10 Minute Puppets" (from Workman Publishing) and my new book "BOX!" (from Globe Pequot Press). The puppet book was the idea of my wife (author Susan Elia MacNeal of the how-to-make-your-own-infused-liquers, "Infused" among other books; yeah I'm cross promoting
She said, "You know how to be a puppeteer and you know how to be a dad. Why not combine them to show other people how easy and fun making puppets can be. But," she added, "Don't make it 'crafty.' Make it for people like me. You are not married to Martha Stewart." So now part of my career is showing others that DIY-ing crafts is simple. And cheaper. My new book, "BOX!" is all about how NOT to buy every single toy for a child. YOU CAN make them yourself. Really.

For me I just learned to. Being the child of a single parent who worked two jobs to keep our mouths fed and a roof over our head, I learned early that if you want something done, do it yourself. Cleaning? That was us.  Shopping? Us. Laundry, cooking? Us. Us. Cause you can't pay to have someone do it ALL for you if you only have enough money for yourselves. We did live in an apartment house so we could call the maintenance man to fix the sink. But being a kid I watched him. And asked questions. Then when I was old enough, I tried to fix a leak---and it worked! I felt so proud that I was able to do it myself. Showed off to the rest of the family, too. Then one time here, in our own home, the pipe under our sink burst; completely rotted away. So we did call a plumber for an estimate. I won't print it cause you are already imaging the cost. So I wondered how I could do it. Went online; took pictures and showed them to the guys at our local hardware and they set me up. Done. I did. I. Did. It. AND got my son to help. (And yes the sense of pride got passed down to him; bonus having a lesson taught and a dry kitchen floor.) So I was certainly not raised on a sense of entitlement in our home. (Thanks mom.)

Today, with the internet there are so many sites and resources to help YOU do those jobs around the house. Major chains such as Lowes and Home Depot have courses online and even in the store themselves; workshops to help you do what needs to be done.

And of course there is the hub of how-to, Youtube. You can fix a leaky faucet, install a shelf, even re-do your kitchen or bathroom with SO many people giving video advice on...well.... EVERYTHING. I installed our ceiling fans myself after checking (and cross checking) how to do it. My friend, artist Jon Stucky (@stuckyart and showed me how easy and cheaper is was to paint one of our bathrooms with a couple sample cans you can get at Home Depot. I usually make my son's halloween costumes. One year after saying he wanted to be a vampire (with the cape and make-up standing by), he told everyone, two days before Halloween, "I'm going to be Anakin Skywalker!" Huh!?! Then he said to me, "It's easy dad. WE can make them!" (How do you say "no" to that? To the internet!) A friend figured out not only how to replace his counter top, but do it with a resin and set antique silverware in it (he's good and an over-achiever). And a neighbor of mine is a passionate biker. He and wife and kid all ride. On bikes he made. Yep. HE MADE THEM. Got the parts and put them together, maintains them and they are so much lighter and more durable than anything he could have bought. (Feel that sense of pride again?)

But you are already DIY-ing; cooking! You can't eat take out or go out every night. So you whip up dishes, easy recipes, tried and true meals, even ones that can be frozen and served again. (And if you're not, well go onto that "inter-web" and there is an endless supply of cooking/baking sites and videos.) I learned from my grandmother and I and my wife are passing it down to our son. And all his b-day cakes and parties were home grown. WE just did it.

My son is into fencing, taking it for after school. Explaining to him that the foil is a tool, part of his equipment, and not a toy, he still wants to practice. So I made he and I "foils" from dowel rods and cardboard (with foam safety tips). We practiced in our courtyard, even giving "lessons" to his friends on the proper stance. One little friend came to me and asked, "Where did you buy them?" I told her I made them. "Wow," was her reply. Then I said, "Maybe your dad could make you a pretend sword, too?" Then in a melancholy tone said, "No. He couldn't do that." I told her to bring hi by and I will show both of them how.

So just try. Just try. That's all I'm saying. You will always amaze yourself what YOU
can do.

(Now please excuse me while I go install a chandelier.)

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