Think Outside the Big Box

I have joined two local yard sale groups on Facebook.  It has not taken me long to regret doing so.  

The groups are not just to advertise your stuff, but you can also request items or look for services.  It’s very common to see postings of pictures where someone is seeking something like a really cool crocheted hat that will make an infant look like the cutest lumberjack you’ve ever seen.  Another post is requesting a seven layer Minnie Mouse birthday cake with all kinds of intricate details that look too pretty to eat.  Then comes the magic part of the post that makes my blood boil… CHEAP.

If you proceed to read comments with these posts, it gets even more frustrating.  When someone throws out a price, I can almost guarantee you will see one of the following:

1. I can go to Wal-Mart and get it 300% cheaper…

2. I can go to Hobby Lobby and make it myself…

3. Well, I saw this on Pinterest and…. (Just stop there.  There’s no arguing with these people…)

If the hat mentioned above costs more than $3, you will be accused of ripping people off.  And that cake better not be more than the price of a box mix and a can of icing on Kroger’s shelves!

The cheap goods delivered by big box retail stores will never be able to be beat by individuals with talent making one-off items in their spare bedroom.  (I have never figured out what the model looks like to determine they can pay someone a small amount to manufacture, transport to dock, load on a boat, transport across the ocean, unload at a dock, transport to a warehouse, transport to a store, have someone put in on a shelf, pay rent for the store, run giant sales and take coupons… and still make money?)

I’ll be honest… I never really realized what goes into individuals creating art and putting it out there for sale until my wife started doing quilting and other sewing projects.  When it came time to put together pricing for items, it wasn’t something where we priced it like a yard sale where you are trying to liquidate your life’s accumulations.  There are a lot of factors to consider.

1. Someone has to get the materials.  This takes gas, shipping costs, TIME to pick the right material.

2. Oh yeah, I skipped the whole creative process.  Yeah, you may have got an idea from a blog, or from Pinterest, but you still have to figure out how you can create a product with a quality result.  Often times, I see Cass modifying a pattern or method because she sees a better way.

3. Time to design, time to assemble, time to mess up and fix.  (I think anyone could figure out how to make something… one of my favorite things to watch is what do you do when something goes wrong or you make a mistake.  How do you fix it?  That is where the skill comes in and really differentiates someone in the craft from someone who can “whip something together.”)

4. It’s really a business model.  You are putting in initial funding to produce something.  You would like to make a certain amount of money.  You know there is a market value that you cannot exceed if you expect to make any money.  Are your talents good enough to meet the constraints your pricing puts on your potential profit?  (In other words- if it takes you 2 hours to make a hair bow and you want to make $10/hour, you aren’t going to sell many hair bows for $20…  so how good do you need to get to really make what you want to make?)

You shouldn’t feel bad about wanting to make some money.  I do not believe you should count on making any less than minimum wage.  In fact, I don’t think you should count on making less than $10/hr.  If you are a legitimate craft person, you possess talent well beyond the general population.  You should be paid like it.

What bugs me more than people who don’t understand all the stuff above?  People who bow to the pressure or don’t know any better and say, “Yeah, I’ll make that hat for $2.50.” Or, “I’ll make that cake for $10.”  You can’t even buy a thing of yarn for $2.50!  Go to the store, buy the stuff to make a box cake, go home and turn your oven on and tell me you haven’t spent darn near $10!  

I will say that I have learned quilting is a totally different animal.  You could spend hundreds of dollars easily on a custom quilt.  (Trust me.  I have proof in my own house for things that will never be sold.)  But once again, the fact that you can go to Bed, Bath, and Beyond and get a whole sheet and comforter set for $125 and then use a 20% off coupon makes people think you are getting rich off of them by doing one project.

People should not feel bad about making money on their hobbies.  There is nothing wrong with getting a new pair of shoes, a new outfit, saving money, paying your electric bill, buying your kid diapers…  Remember that next time you see a posting or go to a craft show and immediately look offended because not everything in the world can be sold in a Dollar General store.

Rant over…  Thanks for listening.  Go support your local crafts people.

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13 Things I Learned Coaching Youth Baseball

Last night wrapped up my first season coaching youth baseball.  I immediately started reflecting on the season and all the memories created during that two month period.  My addiction to Buzzfeed lists prompted me to create my own list of things I learned this season.

1. The kids are coachable- when I showed up for the first practice with 5 and 6 year olds, I had no clue what I was going to get. I made my own list of milestone goals to check off as we progressed through the season.  I must say I was very impressed with some of the things we actually accomplished.  I was going to focus on getting the out at first base, but it became evident that the kids would grasp getting the outs at other bases very quickly.  Through the season we were able to get outs at every base. There were a few occasions we even got three outs before the other lineup batted through. Most of the milestones were defensive because the kids could hit from the beginning and knew where to run.  I just realized I didn’t have any players take off for third base after hitting the ball!

2. A good bench coach is essential- this is an understatement. Handling the batting order, changing catchers gear, and making sure the kids aren’t taking each other out with bats at the same time… Who wants to sign up for this next year?

2A. Assistant coaches- can’t forget these either. Helping position the kids and provide more individualized instruction in the field and on the bases made my life much easier and gave the kids the level of attention that I couldn’t provide all by myself.

Kids and Coaches- a great team.

Kids and Coaches- a great team.

3. Baseball gear takes up a ton of room in the trunk.

4. When you’re thirsty, you can’t yell “Time”- this actually happened last night. The ball was hit through the 3-4 hole and the little girl in the outfield got the ball and walked in to the dirt. I told her to call time and she whispered / croaked, “I can’t. I’m so thirsty.”  We did this at least five times and then she threw the ball back to the pitcher.  It was really hard not to laugh.

5. It’s hard to pitch to little kids- Seriously, their strike zones are about the size of a phone book.  Also, it is hard to mentally grasp the point of being the pitcher to place the ball where they can hit it.  It’s kind of anti-pitching.

6. There no crying in baseball- this might be the best line of all time when it comes to youth baseball. It’s kind of hard trying to encourage the kids to be tough when they just took a grounder off of the face, but I don’t want them to be scared of the next grounder that comes charging at them like a rhino.  Another area this applies to is getting called out.  Our hitters didn’t get called out very much this season, but the second to last game of the season I had two cry because they got out.  I had to explain to them that they did a good job hitting the ball, but the defense made a better play and got the out.  That’s baseball.  That’s life.  Go out next time and do your best again.

7. You can never give too many low-five’s.

8. Helmet pats won’t give the kids a concussion- trust me, I asked a Dr.

9. Two Way Commitment- (To preface this comment- baseball takes place in the midst of a million other family activities and I completely understand why kids can’t be there when there are family plans.  No big deal.)  One thing happened yesterday that really struck me with the realization that the kids will respond with the same amount of commitment I believe I give them as a coach.  One boy was on a family trip to Holiday World. A 90-degree day with a water park to play in and he wanted to get home to play ball because he didn’t want to miss it.  I know he has that discipline instilled in him at home that makes him want to follow through with commitments, but if I came across as not caring if the kids were there or not, it would be awfully easy to float along in the lazy river for another hour or so.

10. Mental Exhaustion- it was surprising how after the games I felt kind of brain dead.  It never hit me until I sat down in the car to go home.  Making sure the kids were prepared, knew what to do on defense, hoped they were having FUN

11. Watching the kids build friendships (parents too)- this age group is great because it’s not all about competition. Some of these kids will go to school together in August, some will play winter sports together, some will even go down the street to hang out with new friends.  They all have a sort of bond now. It’s been really fun to watch.

12. The never-ending, jam packed schedule- looking at the schedule at the beginning of the season, I didn’t think there was any way I would have the attention of the kids for three games a week and practices…  I can’t believe how fast those weeks went by.  (I’m not going to lie though, it is kind of a relief on the calendar.)  It wasn’t even an hour after the game ended last night I told Cass that I’m really going to miss the kids.

13. White pants? Really?- a special shoutout goes to all those who had to attempt to keep baseball pants white all season. Your job may have been tougher than mine.

I am going to be so much more prepared going into the season next year.  I really can’t wait.  These kids and this season will definitely hold a special place with me.

**Bonus Item- It was really cool being able to give my boy a hug and a medal.  When he’s on the field, he’s another kid on the team, but afterwards- he’s mine.

It was pretty cool to share this moment with my boy.

It was pretty cool to share this moment with my boy.

Kids Jeopardy!: Four Year Old Edition

We have a semi-ritual of watching Jeopardy! Grady thinks it’s funny that we know so many answers. He also thinks it’s funny to repeat the answer from the previous question on the current question. Most of the time, it sounds more like he is playing Mad Libs.

The category tonight was Three Syllable Words. The clue was something about …appears with intestinal and means “courage”… I answered with “fortitude,” which was correct.

Grady looks up at me really serious and says, “I know that that is!” I smiled and asked him what it meant. I had no clue what he would say. (I love these times.) He says, “Fourta-two. You know… It’s a number.”

He never fails to deliver.

What has been a “fourta-two” moment for your kids?

His first tattoo…

The boy asked for a pen and paper so he could draw a picture. He sat on the stairs drawing quietly. You know, the kind of quiet where you wonder if you should check on things? After a while of him and his sister playing and screaming at levels that require OSHA approved hearing protection, I was perfectly content to bask in silence.

He went upstairs and I heard this:

The Boy:I drew a picture. It’s Jesus on the cross.

Mommy:Oh yeah? Let me see… Oh! You drew it on your arm?

The Boy:Yeah!

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He was so proud of his artwork. I love his imagination and the fact that he thinks about Jesus and how he died for us. Hopefully, next time his artwork will be in his notebook. In the meantime, it’s nothing a little soap and water can’t fix.

“Tools” of the Internet

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, your favorite news source: all great tools of the internet.

Users of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, your favorite news source forums: some of the great “tools” of the internet.

Social media has enabled people to express their feelings in multiple forms at any given time.  While it is fun, it is actually something that takes some responsibility- and not everyone can handle it.  This is coming from a person that admits to forgetting to insert a filter sometimes.  I am sure I have said something that came across as rude or not nearly as humorous as it sounded in my head.  I’m no troll though.  I don’t look to put a disapproving stamp on every story I see out there.

I love baseball.  I follow the MLB feed on Instagram.  Sometimes it is tough to follow the feed because the comments are just absolutely ridiculous.  I know, I know- just don’t read them.  It’s hard to pass over giant F-bombs and unnecessary barbs being traded from people who are not even talking about the picture! (Don’t get me started on the people who feel the need to comment “First like” and “First comment” though…)  Seriously- say there is a picture of the Orioles beautiful field- Camden Yards.  Inevitably, the comments will take off between the Giants / Dodgers fans telling each other what they can kiss with the occasional “Yankees suck” thrown in.

This might be considered a guilty pleasure… but, take a look at any news story posted on the internet and start reading forum comments.  If it doesn’t frighten you for the future of America, I don’t know what will.  Race-baiting, nothing-good-to-say, pure hatred is pretty much all you find.  If you click more than one article on the same site, I bet you will start seeing the same usernames appear over and over.  And then when someone disagrees with the multi-poster, you can almost bet it will turn to “your mom” jokes.  Comments might as well be called “Troll Talk.”

He's probably thinking of a good "Your Mom" joke.

He’s probably thinking of a good “Your Mom” joke.

All that being said, I love the internet.  I love social media.  I love opinions and discussion.  Use the tools of the internet- don’t be one.

When Da-Da Turns Into Daddy

The first time you hear what sounds like a word come out of your baby’s mouth, your eyes get big and you ask- did the baby just say something?

Most likely, the sound you heard was ‘da-da’, which if you are the father, that is pretty cool.  Even though you know they are not consciously calling for you, it is nice to think that.  One-upping Mom is kind of fun too.

Eventually that noise turns out to mean something as the little one walks around the house with the soft ‘da-da’ and the ‘DA-DA where are you?’ when they’re actually looking for you.

Then one day your little girl looks at you and says “Daddy.” And your heart melts. And it melts nearly every time you hear it.  I will let you know when it stops.

She's ready to go.

She’s ready to go.

She's always ready to go...

She’s always ready to go…

Hearing her voice go from little baby sounds to the starting of her little girl voice is pretty cool.  I’m sure she will be just like brother and develop 20 different versions of Daddy that I will hear every day- I love you Daddy, Why Daddy?, Please Daddy?… etc.

I have always heard that little girls wrap their daddy’s around their little fingers, but I never believed it- or I never wanted to believe it.  But, it’s true.  We’re only at the beginning.  Tonight before bed she kept leaning her forehead down for me to give her kisses.  Combine that with her saying Daddy, and well… my heart is still melting.

Cousins.

We’ve all seen the quote that starts out “Cousins are usually the first friends we have as children…” It’s not that way with my cousins on the Naugle side. We grew up most of our lives apart- spread across Indiana, Pennsylvania, and New York. You know what though? Whenever we see each other it is like we have been together our whole lives.

Some are still closer to others than me. It doesn’t bother me though. That’s part of a long distance family. Truth be told, I was actually pretty jealous of them and their relationships with Grandma and Grandad when we were kids. It was only because they were closer though. Once again- that’s part of a long distance family. I know I could call up any of them and they would help me or be there for me on nearly anything. Likewise, I would be there for them. That’s family.

Speaking of being there for family… funny story about when the family came to Bloomington for our wedding. All the guys decided to go out and have an impromptu bachelor party. Nothing too wild. Bloomington is a college town, so it is full of establishments that are conducive to these types of events. We went from door to door trying to get Travis (who was underage at the time) in as our DD. Of course no one let him in. We thought maybe being honest would help since they let all kinds of underage kids in with a fake ID anyway… In the end, he volunteered to go sit in the parking garage and watch movies in JJ’s car. I still owe him to this day. Now, JJ, I don’t owe anything. He introduced me to the Captain. All I remember hearing was coke though. It was awfully loud… It was a short relationship with the Captain- I said both hello and goodbye (literally and figuratively) in one night. The Captain and I have not spoken since. When it was time to go, Travis swooped us up like a bank robbing get away car just in time for us to get lost after a brief stop at Indiana Mortgage. That was almost 7 years ago. We were still talking and laughing about it last week while we were all together.

We were together last week for my Grandad’s funeral. Catching up on each others lives was definitely a good way to deal with sadness. Talking with Travis about what he is working on at his job and sports… Talking about job struggles and what it is like to have a family with JJ… Trying to figure out why the funeral home had nail files by the front door with Dominique… We rode together in the funeral procession. Singing, dancing, and acting silly to another Taylor Swift story of heartbreak. It was actually one of the best memories from the trip, even with the circumstances- because we’re family.

Travis, Me, JJ (he'll tell you James, but he's JJ), and Dominique

Travis, Me, JJ (he’ll tell you James, but he’s JJ), and Dominique

We’ll see Dominique in a few weeks for her annual cheerleading competition in Indy. I don’t know when I will see the others, but I hope it’s not another five years. But when we do see each other, I’m sure it will involve asking me if I’ve seen the Captain lately- of which I will respond with Taylor Swift’s “We are never, ever, getting back together” or talk of ham sammiches. Grandma and Grandad were so proud of us. This generation of Naugles is in good shape.