Because I Do

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“I’m extremely frustrated.”  It’s a short sentence that says a lot.  I’ve been pursuing a few job leads that haven’t amounted to anything yet and the jobs I am working on have seemed to become just a little more difficult.  Except, it’s not me that said that sentence.

Little Guy is making the rounds as a new three year old (always hold up 3 fingers when you tell people you are three because. . . then they will get it).  He’s exploring and explaining every single thing that’s around him and it’s all really amazing  (and often a very amusing process) to be a part of.  And of course, every once in a while, a toddler will get extremely frustrated.  I’m just surprised that he could tell me that.

I asked him how he knew those words and he replied, “Because I do.”

How do you know that song?  “Because I do.”
How did you remember where the coffee aisle is?  “Because I do.”
How did you know how to change the oil in the car? . . . . well. . . we’ll get there. . .

There’s an endless feed of information coming across his world view, and I’m pretty sure he’s taking it all in and saving for later.  If you press him a bit, you can get it out of him.  “We sing that song in school”, or “This is where we got coffee last time.”  But it doesn’t matter how he knows those things, it matters that he knows them.

Sometimes I can get away with that during the day too.  At Studio m Architecture + Design, I’m constantly reviewing projects for code, aesthetic, & overall thoroughness.  How do I know how much clearance is needed in and around an ADA restroom?  Because I do.  I don’t expect clients to “get into it” with me and start questioning why I know that or what events lead up to today so that I can solve the problem without looking in a code book (although I would be more than happy to do that).  I make decisions because I’m a professional and I have years of experience and lots of opinions about how things should be.

We put our trust in people who “know things” every day.  You get on the train in the morning and the people operating it know what they’re doing.  Why?  Because they do.  I think.  Well, there’s obviously a system in place that will make sure that the right people are there so that I don’t have to worry about it. . . right?  Probably?  I mean, you know, the National. . . Train. . . Drivers. . . Association. . . NTDA, right?  I know I have a few expensive pieces of paper in the drawer that represent people who are basically saying, “Yeah, he does.  He knows things.”

So, somewhere along the way, we stop taking someone’s word for it (and that’s a good thing).  How do you know that that block tower is going to stand?  “Because I do.”  Hey, you’re right!  Good job.

How do you know that I can take this wall away and my building won’t fall down?  Well . . . . . It’ll work, but we’re going to have to consult a Structural Engineer and once we have his calculations, I’ll design everything according to his recommendations (he’s licensed too).  Once we have everything coordinated, we’ll size the final structural members that will replace the wall.  All of the drawings will, of course, be signed and sealed and additional drawings will be included to detail how exactly everything will look when we’re finished.  Don’t believe me?  No worries.  The drawings are then sent to the local jurisdiction for review and permitting. . . although some of those people use 3rd party specialized review services to ensure proper review of the design.  THEN, you can get your wall removed. . . well. . . by someone who is licensed to do it, and after he’s finished, we’ll all go back and make sure it’s right.

So, my advice to Little Guy?  Keep reading.  Keep learning.  I’ll take your word for it most of the time, but when you start to “know” things like that you can land in the pool by jumping off the roof. . . . don’t be surprised if I start questioning your knowledge.  It’s nothing personal.  I just know that you might need a little help along the way. . . because I do.

 

Architecture/Design Products:

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The Frank Lloyd Wright Trust has a store with lots of Wright inspired products.  I’m coming full circle back to FLW.  Every college architecture student gets flooded with “falling water” related material because he’s basically the only Architect that most people have ever heard of.  But there’s a reason for that.

The Prairie House Blocks are really nice and capture the long, horizontal lines that define the style.  These look a little smaller than typical blocks, so check to make sure they’re not too small.  This is one of those toys that could be for the budding designer. . . . or maybe for dad. . . .

Check out:
http://www.shopwright.org/product/blocks-prairie-house/blocks
http://www.flwright.org/

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It’s still here!

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Wake up!

“I have a blog”.  I keep it updated and current, and once in a while I let it slip for a bit of time – like maybe 17 months give or take a few days.  A few comments from friends over the past week have pointed me back here.  “Don’t you have a dad blog?”, “What ever happened to those ‘articles’ you used to write?”, and “I guess you don’t blog anymore, huh?”

So, I came back to take a look, dusted the cobwebs off a few posts, read some of my ‘articles’, and I quickly realized that I missed it!  Why did I ever abandon Design-a-Dad?!  I need to get back on this!  I’m going to post something right. . . . (phone rings – detailed, hour long contractor question & answer seeking ensues. . . . ).  Oh yeah.

I can’t complain. . . or at least I shouldn’t.  My ‘one man show’, Studio m Architecture + Design, is doing well.  At any given time (including right now) I have several things in the design stages and construction phase that I should be working on.  When that’s not happening, Little Guy is patiently waiting (or at least. . . waiting) to do lots of fun stuff with me, and is smart enough to say things like “you can work later” to lay the groundwork for a little guilt that I’m “on the ‘puter”.

So, that’s it:  I’m busy.  That’s my excuse for not posting.  Welcome to parenthood, right?  “You didn’t come to the Halloween party last week” (I was trick or treating).  “We need to grab a drink tomorrow night” (I was driving to a client meeting an hour away).  “Come on, Dad, let’s play ‘Paw Patrol'” (OK!).  As much as I love my job, and I love my Son. . . I am tuning into the fact that I need some little outlets here and there.  I’m not talking about going on a week long self realization retreat in the desert. . . but maybe a little break now and then to do some of the things that I like to do.

And here we go . . you have to take a first step, and that’s what this post is all about.  Next up is the James Bond movie. . . and yes, I do want to grab that drink!  Hopefully I can maintain a little time for me.  We shall see (Now back to reviewing bids for our new home build in the Spring. . . . .I’m fulfilling the role of G.C.  How much time could that require????).

Architecture/Design Products:

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This book was featured by the American Institute of Architects recently and, although I have not purchased it yet, I think it’s going to be a hit with Little Guy.  Let’s face it though, it may be a little intricate for a 3 year old (unless it’s appropriate to color everything one color in a circular pattern).  I see something like this and I think of cool things I can do with it.  It could be interesting to give him a page every 6 months and have him color it.  Over time, I would have a progressive timeline of his coloring abilities. . . all on an architectural based graphic which might be cool in a series of frames for the office.

Check out Fantastic Cities.

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Designing A Dad

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What do you say when you see a horse for the first time?  “Hi.”

I have the great fortune to be able to experience my second Father’s Day.  The past year has brought so many monumental changes to my life.  I’ve finally stopped messing around and got my Architecture license, I’ve started my own practice, and every day has brought us a few steps closer to breaking ground on our new home.  I have a few ongoing and new design projects and am so fortunate that Studio m Architecture + Design is a success so far.

All of that is great.

Amid all of this planning for the future and looking forward and preparing for what is next, the most successful aspect of the past year is the shift in my thinking about my time with my son.  Before I started working on my own, my time with Little Guy, as it is with most fathers, was limited to nights and weekends.  Maybe, if I was lucky enough, he would wake up before I left the house, but even then it was just a quick good bye without him even realizing what was going on.  This is the norm.  This is how it is.

Unless you change it.

I Realize that I am one of the lucky ones.  I know that I am one of the few who gets to dictate their own schedule.  We can’t all own our own business and adjust our lives as necessary.  It just wouldn’t work that way.  I’m not suggesting that everyone else is doing it wrong.  There is sacrifice too.  There are more and more nights that I am awake at 2 o’clock in the morning getting work done, paying bills, drafting contracts and a thousand other things that I can’t get done during the day.  It’s a trade off.  It’s balance.

What I get in return for my efforts is that I learn to be the dad that my son wants.  With the amount of time we get to spend together, I see firsthand what works.  What makes him laugh?  What makes him upset?  How can I be the best dad I can be?  Easy.  Know my son.  Not just play with him or feed him or drive him around. . . . but actually KNOW him.  The time I get to spend with him is time that he gets to let me know who he wants me to be (even if sometimes I have to be the guy who lays down the law too).  He gets to teach me while I’m teaching him.

Do the worlds collide?  Absolutely – if you want to look at it that way.  Last week I sent out a design presentation on a potential job that I am looking at.  Of course, the next day I spent the majority of my 9 to 5 with my son, so when the developer called, I had an 18 month old running circles around me while I sat on the floor spinning to keep up.  Option one:  voicemail.  Option two: stick Little Guy somewhere safe and hope he only screams a little bit until I get off the phone.  The unfortunate decision here is ‘who am I putting first?’  If I let the call go to voicemail, it’s obviously saying that my son comes first and work can wait.  If I tie my son to a chair so I can take a call without interruption, it’s because this job is important to me and I need to remain ‘professional’ during work hours.  I want both. . . so Option three was to answer the call and let my client know that today is a day with my son, but that I didn’t want to miss his call.  He’s cool with it, my son doesn’t feel abandoned, and I get to keep my life in balance.  Everyone who I work with knows that I am, at any given time, potentially with my son.  That’s why they have emails sent at 2 AM waiting for them when they get to work.  This is time that I won’t get back if I let it go.

The past year has taught me to continuously pursue this balance.  It’s not easy at times.  There are still meetings that need to exist without a child in sight.  There are still times when the phone just needs to be turned off.  Although I very much look forward to what tomorrow brings, I try my hardest to stay in today.  Enjoy the Now.  Live in the moment when I am with my son as much as I can.  Hopefully he will learn to recognize how important the time together really is.

 

Happy Father’s Day to all of the dads out there!  No matter how you’re doing it, make sure to enjoy the minutes. . . because they do run out.

 

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Parts & Pieces

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Exploded Eames Lounge Chair – Henry Ford Museum, Dearborn, MI

At times, it looks as if a toy factory exploded in the living room.  If you’re the one on the receiving end of a Little Guy hand-off, walking into the chaos can be overwhelming and kind of confusing.  How is it possible that this is the result of a 17 month old ‘playing’?  Surely the haphazard, strewn about array of blocks… and cars… and foam tubes… and books… and cereal… must have been the result of some sort of toddler dance party.

But when you’re there for the process and you witness how the end result comes to be, it’s actually quite interesting – and not quite as random as it sometimes seems.

I’ve experienced this same feeling throughout my career as an Architect.  Numerous times, I’ve been handed a job for one reason or another, that was started by someone else.  Dive in. Get up to speed.  And away you go.  Often, whether expressed out loud or not, after a bit of orientation I start to wonder “What the hell were they thinking?”  How did things get to this point?  Where’s the reason?  The cause and effect?  Is this just a series of random shapes and spaces or did someone actually have a methodology behind what I am looking at?  But when you’re there for it from the beginning, it makes a little more sense.  There’s reason.  There’s process.

The other day I watched my son push a pirate ship out of the sun room, thru the dining room and into the living room.  He had preloaded it with two pirates and a polar bear (I blame climate change).  This should have had the simple result of a pirate ship ending up in the living room.  However, along the way he encountered a cup of snacks and dropped anchor to enjoy.  The snack was good – enough to share with a few mateys – so a few were dropped onto the deck boards of the ship before setting sail again.  A few clicks later, a bucket was used as a platform for the pirates to stand on, then used as a helmet for my son – who then decided that he needed a spoon to go with the bucket – which was next to the plastic fruit and vegetables so he grabbed an orange (have to keep the pirates scurvy free) and put it on the ship too.  He pulled the ship across the floor and all of the above cargo was strewn about within a matter of seconds.  The pirates made it safely to the couch.  The polar bear was lost at sea.  All of this happened in about 90 seconds.  It doesn’t sound like that big of a deal, but by my estimation, he’s awake for approximately 38,000 seconds a day. . . .

I knew why there was a spoon under the dining room table, why there was a smashed piece of cereal next to fake food on the floor, why a lone polar bear sat on the carpet waiting to be picked back up, and why there was a pirate ship in a bucket on the couch.  It might not make sense if you walked into it, but there was some reasoning and a process that created it.

Studio m Architecture + Design is fortunate enough to have a good, steady stream of work for the past few months – and some good conversations in the works for the future.  I’ve never felt so sure of what I was doing in my career than I have since I started my own practice, and I think it has a lot to do with being here from the beginning.  I’ve made the decisions, watched the finances, set up the structure of the company, and the projects are mine.  I start them and I finish them and the process, the reasoning, and the path that I take with each client makes sense to me because I’m the one who gets to decide what happens.  It’s very reassuring since it seems to be working too.  There are piles of parts and pieces strewn about my workspace – a stack of professional liability research and invoices, in progress marketing material, a box of receipts, and scattered sketches and notes about a few different projects.  Good luck trying to make sense of it if you were to sit in my chair. . . but I have a process. . . .

 

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Free Architectural Services!

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Waiting to surprise – Photo by Two Sticks Studios

Today, Little Guy fell down in the living room.  It was a minor fall.  Nothing worth crying about – in fact, not a tear was shed.  But he looked over to me to see what my reaction would be – which was nothing.  Everything seemed to be ok, so he got up, walked three steps, and then glanced over to me and fell down saying “ut ohhhhh, da da”.  Still no reaction. . . still no tears.  The third time he “fell down”, I asked him if he was ok and the universe exploded, the heavens collapsed, and immediate medical attention was needed (in the form of a comforting hug and a pat on the back).  Now that he had my attention, he took full advantage.

Interesting title to this post.  To clarify, I am not offering free Architectural services, only using a few words to get some attention.  False advertising?  Smoke & mirrors?  The words “free architectural services” of course imply that there may be services. . . Architecturally based. . . that may have no cost.  This is true, I suppose, in that my firm, Studio m Architecture + Design, will meet with you for an initial job meeting (at no cost) to determine if we want to work together, but after that, we’ll go into a contract for an agreed upon fee.  Look how fast that attention grabber dissolved.

“Act now”.  “Limited time only”.  “Order in the next 10 minutes. . . . “.  “ut ohhhhh, da da”.  “The diet that could be killing you”.  “10 things your toddler is going to do and almost kill himself”.  I get product recalls sent to my inbox.  Non-organic food is going to turn everyone into a mutant.  Exercise to stay healthy.  Too much exercise will hurt you.  That water has too much oxygen in it.  Stay out of the sun.  Close the blinds.  Hide the kids.  Make everything out of Nerf. . . . . . . . .

Everybody settle down.  Pause.  Breathe deep.  Now resume.

It’s interesting seeing my son learn a little manipulation.  It’s actually pretty humorous and reassures me that he is developing.  I could sit there all day with him and keep picking him back up.  Let him run into my arms for comfort again and again.  In some ways I start to question whether I am coddling him or not, but for now, it’s just a fun game as he learns to test his world.  He’ll move past it and start working us in another way; walking away and giggling after his reward of a hug.  I start to realize that our world is filled with these tests.  Little attention grabbers here and there.  As an Architect, I’ve worked with a lot of contractors.  “We’ve got a big problem here”, I’m greeted with on the phone one day.  “Hello, <contractor>.  How are you this morning?”  The “problem” turned out to be solved with a job site visit, a quick sketch on the new drywall, and actually a price reduction to the client because our new resolution was actually more efficient than the original design.  Big problems.  Major issues.  I’ve seen people get caught in the whirlwind and join the panic and bring a few others into the chaos on the way.  Pause.  Breathe deep. . . . . now resume.

I like to pride myself in not getting caught up in too many of these manipulations.  There’s usually a solution or an answer to our problems, but if you’re stressed out and fixated on the negative, you’re going to have a hard time finding the right way to go.  If everything went perfectly, maybe life wouldn’t be as interesting.  There’s a fine line – apparently – between complacency and outright panic.  Sometimes I find I have to lean one way or the other – more so for the other person.  Nobody wants to feel unheard or minimized, and others need to be brought down a bit so that they can actually hear what you’re saying.  I don’t have all the answers and I certainly have my share of overreactions.  All things I need to work on so I can teach Little Guy how to get to tomorrow.

(Amusing side note:  As I’m about to hit “publish” on this post, my son is waking up from his nap and just threw his stuffed Mickey Mouse out of his crib.  He’s now uttering “ut ohhhhh” thru the monitor in an effort to get me to come in. . . . and I can’t wait to get there.)

Oh, also. . . Act now and “like” DesignAdad on Facebook!  Hurry!  Time is running out!!

Top 10 Reasons my Son is amazing

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You will hear it again and again how incredible peoples’ kids are.  They are much more advanced than they should be for their age.  It’s unbelievable that they can already do this one thing that nobody else in the world could do at that age!  And if, like mine, your facebook friends are an ever increasing pool of people who are contributing to the world’s population, you have a front row seat to it all.

There are infinite “cute” pics that fill my screen – lots of the kiddos sitting there chewing on something – a few of them holding something they shouldn’t be – lots of them dressed in clothes that they couldn’t care less about.  Although a picture’s worth a thousand words, maybe sometimes we need to know why you think so.  So, here is why I think that my son actually IS amazing:

1. Mind Control
Little Guy is lucky enough to have been born with the power of mind control.  I didn’t realize it at first.  I thought that maybe we were all just getting to know him better and anticipating his wants and needs.  Not the case.  At 13 months old, he can already direct me to do things he wants me to do without me even thinking about it.  Just the other night – in a comatose state – I rose from my bed, changed his diaper, and returned to my resting position without even realizing what had happened.

2. Eccentric Food Critic
Although he has not developed a British accent yet, Little Guy has already perfected the “don’t bite your tongue” approach to judging food – in both presentation and in taste.  Some reality TV cooking shows have taught us that sometimes, the brutal truth is what the aspiring chef needs to motivate them properly.  In “spot on” impressions of Gordon Ramsay, plates are tossed across the dining area, food is spit out, and frustrated but determined cooks head back into the kitchen in an effort to continuously please.

3. Male model
I cannot complete a shopping trip without a slew of googly-eyed ladies swarming my son.  I’m not kidding.  Babies are cute, for sure, but I believe that Little Guy has been sneaking out at night to watch Jake Gyllenhaal movies while listening to Michael Buble – all the while studying their every move to assist with his own crooning efforts.  We are in trouble. . . .

4. Passion for Life
How do you wake up in the morning?  Do you get up, get excited, and stand up in your bed jumping up and down in anticipation of the day?  Do you laugh and smile when someone opens the bedroom door to take you from your cozy bed?  Can you hardly wait to see what the day will bring?  He does.  Maybe we should too. 

5. Thirst for Knowledge
I’ve never seen anyone become enthralled with a credit card.  Some of them are pretty cool, don’t get me wrong.  I customized mine with some of my photography, but they are still just mundane pieces of plastic – to me.  After swiping my payment method the other day, a little, grasping, flexing hand reached over in a silent ask to inspect the item I was holding.  It was either a credit card or a rare, newly discovered artifact that had only just now been experienced for the first time by humans.  Amazing, indeed.

6. Slight of Hand Magician
Like David Blaine, Little Guy leaves people standing there in awe asking, ‘What just happened?’, or ‘Where did that go?!”  With the quickest movement, something that was just in his hand one second ago is gone.  Divert your eyes for an instant, and he’s across the room.  Amazing, scary, and absolutely keeps you on your toes.  A true entertainer.  Does anyone have a dollar bill or a cell phone I could borrow?  Don’t worry. . . . you’ll get it back. . . .

7. Cold Hard Self Control
There is a quality that James Bond, 007 has that shines when he is held captive.  Despite the evil villain’s best efforts to get him to break, the secret spy can endure hours of uncomfortable situations all while keeping his cool and still managing to deal out witty remarks.  Likewise, my son can push the same button over and over and over again listening to the same sound or quirky song again and again and again.  Sometimes he’ll look me in the eyes and without flinching, just when I think it is over, he pushes it again.

8. Stamina, Tenacity, and Perseverance
Sometimes, despite my best efforts, there is nothing I can do to stop the drive and effort that this kid puts forth.  He wants to go over there and he wants to go over there right now.  Nothing will distract him.  Nothing will divert his attention.  There is one goal and one goal only.  He will also enroll me in helping him get there.  Nothing will stop him and you had better not try.

9. Conditioned, Determined Triathlete
Not exactly “swim, bike, run”, but more like “climb, climb, climb”.  Little Guy will crawl right over you if you’re in the way.  Up the stairs, thru the chairs, over the cushions. . . there’s always a leg being thrown up in an attempt to rise above.  Most of the obstacles are taller than he is – doesn’t matter.  I don’t know how many things per day I attempt to get over that are as high as my shoulders.  He attempts them all.

10. Instant forgiveness
Sit him in the playpen for 2 seconds or take away the deadly weapon that he’s chewing on and you will definitely get an earful from Little Guy.  How COULD you!?  But bygones are bygones, and as long as you are up for it, he’ll gladly hang out and play some more once the worst part of the day is over.  At the end of the day, all is right again.

Building your Baby – Guidelines for Success

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“Build a Baby Kit” – ACME Archives Direct

I’ve heard many business owners refer to their creation as “their baby”, in relation to the amount of time and effort and care that goes into creating and maintaining its existence.  I’m fortunate enough to be nurturing two babies at the moment – my Little Guy and Studio m Architecture + Design.  Both need lots of attention.  Both of them bring me great joy.  Both of them have the potential to bring wonderful things into my life.

I’ve poured over approximately 4.2 billion books, articles, forums, blogs, videos, and legal documents about my babies.  Some of the information is helpful.  Most of it is gibberish.  I’ve distilled some of my new knowledge down into a few points.  You decide what baby they apply to!

1. The first steps are the toughest – hang in there.
You will never be fully prepared ahead of time.  Something will happen that feels like you’ve been thrown off course and maybe aren’t ready.  What were you thinking?!  You’re probably going to mess it up. . . and you believe it.  It’s happening.  Step up.

2. Things may go to s#!t.  It’s what you do next that matters most.
Despite your best efforts, some things are out of your control.  The inevitable will happen and make things more difficult – and that stinks.  Each time, you learn to accommodate and become more efficient.  Deal with what you’ve been given, and try your best to make the change.

3. Make sure to set the tone early so that you have something to live by.
Rules are made to be broken, but if you don’t have them, you won’t have anything to gauge the progress.  Decide what is important to you and stick to it.  It may be the foundation for the future.  You’re allowed to change the rules.

4. Every day will bring something new to deal with.
Prepare all you want, but you have no idea what you’re going to be dealing with tomorrow.  Welcome it.  Learn from it.  You’ll find that you’re slowly building your toolbox to deal with anything that comes along.

5. Don’t underestimate how much time it will consume.
Seriously. . . . . don’t.

6. Expect some negotiations to break down.
Sometimes holding your ground works.  Sometimes it just makes things way worse.  Pick your battles.  The ones you pick, you still might lose.

7. Nobody will care as much as you do.
It’s true.  When you go to sleep at night, you try your best, but sometimes everything ends up in bed with you whether you want it to or not.