I haven’t been pursuing photography much since Isabella was born. I shot a bunch of weddings this year, but now that Isabella is getting a little older, Amy has been doing everything-photography on her own while I watch Isabella. This works out because we keep the business going, and we keep Amy sane by getting her out of the house doing something she loves, and something that helps to support our household. And it’s working great, we’ve been busier than ever. But it does leave me longing to do something.

My interests are widely spread, and I really enjoy experimenting with different outlets for creativity. Last fall, my buddy Aaron invited me to take part in a weekly get together we’ve title Woodworking Wednesday. My first project, pretty much my first serious project ever, was a rocking horse for Isabella’s first Christmas. It turned out great, waaay better than I thought it would, and I learned a lot. And it’s made to last, hopefully a very long time.

To test it out, I gave it a ride a time or two…

I also think I was bitten by the woodworking bug. So much so that I think about woodworking projects all the time, and have created a few things that I’m pretty proud of.

The project I started directly after the rocking horse was a chair for Isabella. It was a little complicated, and I lacked the tools to complete it properly so I scraped that idea.

I then started on something else, something I thought was a little ambitious, but not anything I thought that I couldn’t complete – a dining table! I wanted something that I could gather family and friends around and comfortably have a feast. We had a pub style, square table, … you could get 6 people at it, but not comfortably. We needed an upgrade.

The DIY photographer in me said “Go cheap – build it”. The tinkerer in me seconded the motion, and the developing craftsman in me stepped forward and assumed responsibility. So I built what is now our dining table! Below are some photos of the process and the end result (all photos taken with iPhone).

I used 4×4’s for the base of the table – planed and sanded.

I used 2 x 8’s for the top, glued them together and sanded the bejesus out of them for levelness, simply because I was afraid if I started planing, I’d never stop. This required a bit of work because I didn’t have a jointer or thicknesser, but luckily, the table top was pretty flat to start with.

I used Minwax Dark Walnut Stain. It really made the grain pop.

For me, and probably most people, the staining/finishing of the piece is really where the pay off is. I finished the table with a bunch of coats of Shellac. While there are a lot of better options for finishing, I chose Shellac for one reason – it’s food safe – and Isabella still eats at least half of each meal from the table. So, while Shellac isn’t quite as strong as some other options (there is a ring from a cup of hot tea on there already and water can stain it if left there too long) it is easy to refinish when the time comes.

“Dad, your table is great, but that pumpkin is scary!! AHHHH!!”

So, this is the new Haby Family Dining Table. It fits the space, is over 7 feet long, and can easily sit 8 (more if the wine flows and people get comfy) and was done on a pretty low budget. Sure, it’s made of Spruce, construction wood if we’re being frank, but I made it and it’s the place where our family likes to gather most. Isabella has placed some teeth marks on the edge of it, so now it has history! Meaningful history. Down the road, when I make a better table out of better materials, I’ll use the wood with her teeth marks to make a shelf or something. 🙂

But the process of making a table like this was awesome. I learned a lot. I know the mistakes I made, and once you go through a process, you realize that what you just completed, … well, it really wasn’t that difficult!

Also, notice the wine rack on the wall behind Isabella? I thought that would be a nice touch in the room. Once I get started at something it’s hard to stop…. thankfully. Because as it turns out, working with wood is a bit of fun.

Here’s a few iPhone photos of the wine rack. It’s design is based on the Riddling Racks used to make champagne.

So, since my daughter was born, my brain has switched to everything Isabella. I’m already worried about what type of education she’s going to receive, her relationship with food, what type of personality she’s going to have and how I can help to influence her to be a good person, and I’m always thinking about what she’s going to be when she grows up.

I have some issues with the model for our school system in North America (and maybe it’s the same throughout the world – I don’t know). I’m not an expert on the subject, so I’m not going to drone on about what I think is wrong and how to fix the problems with how we educate our kids (cause I don’t know), but I am concerned about the state of the arts and the lack of encouragement to be creative and imaginative. In this country (Canada), I have seen a constant decline in funding for classes in the arts, and it makes me sad.

It’s great to focus on sciences and math, and preparing kids for a future of fast paced, technological changes – absolutely, our world has changed greatly from when I was a little kid, and will continue to, and our kids need to have certain skills to keep up – however, I feel that it’s a real shame that creativity isn’t fostered more.

Creativity will always make a difference. From businesses looking for that competitive edge to increasing the quality of life in a society. As we march off into the future, creativity will be behind the most successful economies and societies. I believe that.

I can’t find the link at this point in time (as I read the following statement some months ago), but a survey of the top companies as listed by Forbes, found that the top characteristic sought after in a potential employee (in high level positions) was creativity. Why then, is creativity not encouraged more in our schools? In our society? Is it because it’s so closely associated with imagination? Is imagination a bad word? If you are imaginative, does it mean you’re immature or you don’t want to grow up? If this is how you think, then you’re an asshole.

Of course creativity and imagination are strongly connected with the entertainment industry, but it’s also responsible for major breakthroughs in healthcare and the sciences, and countless major innovations.

All I know is this: I’m going to do all I can at home to encourage Isabella’s imagination and creativity, and I’ll keep my fingers crossed in the hopes that things start changing in regards to how she learns when she’s not at home.

I found this video today, and I think you should have a look at it. It’s inspirational, cute, fun, and will probably leave you feeling pretty good. I think that’s a nice feeling to have going into the weekend.

I believe people are hard wired to seek happiness. The difficulty for most people is in finding what it is exactly that makes them truly happy. For some it’s helping other people, for others it’s their family, some are actually lucky enough to be in a job or career that they love and find fulfilling, and it gives them great satisfaction (and money, to boot!). And some people are just happy with whatever comes their way, and they can appreciate the little things (a cup of tea, hearing a song on the radio, seeing the sun peek above the horizon, or taking a walk).

Personally, I believe that most people can make themselves happy by consciously deciding to be happy. That’s something I do, but I’m also optimistic about my life. I experience lots of ups and downs like anyone does, but overall, I know everything will work out in the end. Being happy in this way doesn’t mean being oblivious to reality, it just requires you to accept what you cannot change and to not let those things take away from the joy of everything else.

I’ve been practicing being happy like this for a few years now, but since my daughter came along (one year ago this past Sunday, September 16) it’s become easier. And it’s become easier because she’s taught me that there is wonder in the world. I watch her explore and learn, and it inspires me. It inspires me to not take things for granted, like the texture of an orange and how it tastes, or the way a book feels (or the sound of tearing paper!… which, actually has a very unique and kinda nice sound). She’s constantly exploring and wondering, and I loved how she squished her birthday cake between her fingers… I bet it felt really nice!

So I’ve been trying to consciously experience wonder, with her and on my own, and re-discover myself and my surroundings, to look at things in a new way and not take them for granted. Through this, I’ve come to realize that it’s important to appreciate the people and things around you, to wonder about where a piece of furniture came from, how it was made and who made it. To appreciate a person’s story, and why the things they experience are important to them and how those things have shaped them to be the person they are today. So, for me, when I appreciate things, I find them interesting. When I find something interesting, I feel engaged. When I feel engaged, I feel connected and alive, and I have found that for whatever reason, this makes me happy.

All this isn’t to say that I’m such a happy person. Life can be shitty sometimes, and sometimes I have crappy days and “Why Me” moments. Sometimes I fight with my wife. Sometimes I’m exhausted and can’t find ten minutes to be alone. Sometimes I’m stressed about money and my career path. Sometimes I have a list of things to do that makes me sick to even think about it.

Like you, I sometimes browse the internet and get sick of other people’s happiness and how they portray their life as something sooo wonderful, as if they’re living the life of a celebrity. You might envy them, and then hate them a little bit. But some people’s lives really are wonderful. My life is wonderful. My life is stacked to the roof with good stuff. And it isn’t material things, and it isn’t because I have an incredible career and have everything I’ve ever wanted, because I certainly don’t. It’s because I enjoy the simple things in my life, I have a few hobbies/outlets that give me a lot of joy, and I spend time around people that I like.

Aside from the conscious pursuits of happiness, something I do that keeps me feeling alive and happy is trying to be creative as much as possible. Photography in all it’s forms gives me great joy, whether I’m working on something for myself, taking candid photos of my everyday life, or working for a client. But not just photography. I’ve been interested in a creative life for about as long as I can remember. I didn’t always think that what I wanted to be when I grew up was a creative, but I was the kid who really enjoyed writing essays when we went back to school (“What I Did Last Summer”). This would be my secret, of course, I didn’t want to stand out from the crowd – or get beat up. I would be terrified about having to read it out loud, but when we just had to hand that paper into the teacher, the process of writing was exhilarating! I found writing a paper and having it all come together was pretty great.

For years, I would draw, paint a little, or write something, and then dispose of it as quickly as possible when I was finished. I was super shy and didn’t want attention for something that came from inside of me… unless I was with the boys and that something was a fart.

So for most of my life, I never created anything that anyone would see. It was like a dirty little secret. But now as an adult, I’ve experienced how wonderful it is to create, to use your hands and mind to give life to something that never existed before, or to just express yourself. It’s so beneficial to your own being, to your self esteem and to the people around you. For me, being creative helps me to bring a mood and energy to my everyday life that would not be there otherwise. And I love that. And I love how some of the things I do can make other people really happy. I love our small photography business, Sedna Photography, and hearing about how happy our clients are with our work. It really is a thrill to make other people happy and it’s immensely satisfying.

I’ve been doing some woodworking for almost a year now with a buddy of mine, and that has been an excellent outlet. I’m learning a lot, and I made a rocking horse for Isabella for last Christmas that I’m really happy with, and it’s something that will be around forever, maybe it will even get passed on. And that’s pretty cool. I’m working on a Haby Family Dining Table at present, and it’s been immensely satisfying. Granted, I did have a project that made me want to pull my hair out, but even the worst day creating something, anything, is better than most days when I do nothing.

Even writing this blog and sharing it gives me a bit of a rush and lifts me up a little, ya know? And it isn’t because of the readers (because they are very, very, very few and I suspect half of those stumble here by accident), it’s because today I made something. It’s because today, I used something that I had to create something that wasn’t there before. I made something today. And it felt good.

You should try it, too! Break out those paints you have in the closet, pull the wool and knitting needles out of the basket, get a pen and pad of paper or go for a walk and make some pictures… better yet, print them! Get creative! Get happy! You’ll like it!!