Some Days My Home Feels Made Of Straw

As I child I remember hearing the story about the “Three Little Pigs” many times.  What I took from it was the obvious – the smart person builds their home with bricks so that nothing will blow it down and for me that meant the elements of nature such as wind and terrible storms.  Much later as an adult I realized that the real meaning of the story is to fortify our “being” homes in a way that nothing can destroy our psyches.  At least that’s my take on it.  And certainly we are given ample ways to fortify with everything from our faith to self-help guru’s we listen to and watch on TV to courses on self-esteem, yada, yada, yada.  Still, I think many of us have days (and many perhaps weeks or months) of times when we feel we could crumble easily – just like the little pig who’s house was made of straw.  The wolf barely blew and down went his house.  I found myself in a home made of straw the day after my last blog post A Better Home was published.

For those of you that aren’t familiar with the blogging world and all the details, there are two ways you can read my blog.  One is to stumble upon it on the Internet.  The other is to subscribe to it so that you can get an email alert for each new post.  I get all the analytics on who subscribes and even by the way, who actually reads my posts.  It’s thrilling to say the least to get new subscribers.  It’s also thrilling to view my analytics each day a post comes out to see who clicked on the email link and took the time to read my words.  It is NOT so thrilling when a reader unsubscribes…

I admit that my blog has a lot of touchie-feelie stuff going on. My blog is certainly personal and the words I write flow directly from my heart.  In fact, each time I sit down to write I say abundant prayers and meditations that my words will reach others in the way I hope they will and that those that read my words will somehow benefit from them.  So anytime someone takes the time to unsubscribe, umm, well, it makes my psyche (ego) crumble like a house made of straw.  Especially when the person that unsubscribes isn’t someone you figured ever would.

A kindred spirit I met at the Benjamin Moore store

About a year ago I was in a Benjamin Moore store working on colors for a client.  A woman was in there at the same time trying to decide on a new color for her home office. Of course, I had to offer my two cents opinion.  Excited to get my thoughts, she ran outside to get a panel of her window treatments to show me so that I could give her a better opinion.  One thing led to another and we began to talk about my blog.  She told me she was a writer herself and that her new blog was coming out soon.  We talked for a good 30 minutes and we both left agreeing to read each other’s blogs and to even try and get together the next time I was planning to be in Charlotte.  We felt there was no coincidence that we met each other and laughed about being kindred spirits.  So, I subscribed to her new blog when I was invited to and she subscribed to mine.  Ever since, we have been reading each other’s posts.  After A Better Home came out, I saw on my analytics that she read the post.  But, later that day I saw that she unsubscribed to my blog.  What happened to being kindred spirits?!?  My ego was crushed and truly, a mere puff of wind could have knocked me down.  Yep, my home felt made of straw.  Days later I realized it was a matter of point of view.

Interesting point of view, I have this point of view

I spent days dwelling on this loss I felt when she unsubscribed to my blog.  I think it was particularly crushing to my psyche (ego) because just in the last few months I have been practicing willingness as I expressed in my post, Willingness.  For sure my posts have been more about what lays on my heart.  I’ve been putting myself out there in a way that I hoped would touch others and encourage them to be more themselves.  At the same time, I began speaking more about my spiritual side.  With my spirituality being more inclusive of all creeds than exclusive to a specific creed, maybe I pushed her away.  She writes a Christian blog so did I offend her? Regardless of why she unsubscribed I soon realized I needed to get over the hurt that I had magnified in my head.  This hurt had made me feel insecure in who I was and what I was exposing about myself.  Worse, I took the quantum leap of assuming because she unsubscribed that meant I was a failure.   So I practiced a healing exercise my dear friend and colleague, Jannette Semenic taught me to do.  I call it the “Interesting point of view” game because each time I do it by the end of the exercise I am smiling and laughing at the change that comes over me.  I hope you’ll try it yourself whenever you feel ready to crumble or feel your house is made of straw.  Here’s how to do it:

  • Know the belief you want to use in the exercise.  For example, mine would be the belief that I am a failure as a writer because someone unsubscribed to my blog.
  • Out loud say these words:  “Interesting point of view, I have this point of view that ___________________________.” (Insert in the blank your personal belief.)
  • Repeat these same words again.
  • Repeat these same words again for the third time.

What happens to you when you do this?  Do you begin to see that whatever the belief is that you have about yourself is really nothing more than your own point of view and that you have CHOSEN to have that point of view?  Can you feel a shift in your belief about yourself?

Make a habit of correcting your point of view when needed

Our point of view on anything and everything is our own choice.  My hope is that in sharing this story of myself with you that you will look inside yourself and see if and where you have any parts of your “being” home that need fortifying and if your point of view needs correcting.  If so, I think that means you’re human.  I also hope that in sharing this healing exercise with you, you have a new tool to use whenever you do need strengthening.  Please let me know if you try this and of course, if it works.  After all, we are all on this road of life together and we need to lend each other a helping hand whenever we can to make our world a better home to live in.

To living in perfect harmony…

A Better Home

I flew home last night from Charlotte, NC. There have been less than a hand full of times I’ve ever needed to be home so badly. You see I’ve been gone all but about four days since early February. Not only did I miss two snowfalls we had in Chicago during that time but also, I missed home. It’s that simple. As much as I’ve said in other posts that home is where the heart is and though my heart traveled with me, I’ve been away from all the comforts my personal home brings me – coffee in the wee hours each morning with my David while we play Scrabble on our IPads, solitary walks in nature, my own home-cooked meals, my dog and my writing (hard to do when traveling) to name a few. Most of all I’ve missed my quiet time with David. He is absolutely positively the love of my life. As is our tradition when I return home from traveling, last night we went to our fave restaurant just a stone’s throw away from our house. Vincitori’s Italian – quaint and ever so yummy, it is my comfort place to go to when I get home. The restaurant was packed so we ate at the bar. Let me tell you, I was giddy with happiness. I kept patting David’s leg, rubbing his back and smiling at him while thinking in my head, there’s no place like home. Hallelujah, I felt finally home. Truly, home never felt better than this. And that my friends made me realize that being away from home for so long and dealing with all that went on these last few weeks gave me a new appreciation for home which in turn gave me a better home to return to.

Two other people I know have recently been gifted a better home to live in. One I learned about through a chance encounter one of the hair stylists at the salon I go to had with a new client. The other I know personally. Both of these people are now living in better homes. I know they are blessed and I know their families are as well. Let me explain…

Maurice’s gift gave someone a better home

No matter where I go I tend to be a “Chatty Cathy” and have tons of unusual stories to tell. Even at the salon I go to many of the stylists there know me and know this about me so the last time I was there getting highlights one of the stylists came over to talk. In no time she told me about the odd encounter she had the day before. A walk-in client had come in and so she cut her hair. They began a casual conversation and before long they started talking about where they both went to high school. When the stylist said where she went the woman in the chair said, “I didn’t go there but the mother of the boy that gave me his kidney did.” That remark led to more connecting the dots until oddly enough the hair stylist realized the boy she was talking about was Maurice, a 16-year-old boy that had lived with his mother above her condo years ago in Chicago. You see some guys that wanted his jacket gunned down Maurice in cold blood in front of their building on a day Maurice was excited about going to a concert that evening with his mother, the hair stylist and her son. He later died at the hospital from the gunshot wound. His mother decided to donate all his organs that could be donated. Now all these years later a woman that was a recipient of Maurice’s kidney was sitting in her chair. Talk about synchronicity! What a gift both these women received. The hair stylist got to see what Maurice had done for someone and the woman; well Maurice gave her a better home to live in while here on earth.

A better home for Chris

Chris Brami is my daughter-in-law Kathleen’s father. Well, actually he was her father as he recently passed away. He was diagnosed a few years ago with Alzheimer’s – what my own mother has so I understand it in an up close and personal way. But for a man so young, it was heart wrenching to have happen. He was in the prime of life if you ask me. Chris’s condition rapidly progressed the last few months and just this February while I was visiting he passed away. Kathleen, her mother (Susan) and her sister (Meredith) dealt with some pretty horrific stuff while he spiraled down. Finally towards the end it was apparent to them all that he needed to go home to a better place. I’ll never forget the last days of his life as I was staying with Kathleen and my son. The morning he passed will be etched in my mind forever. I awoke and walked out of my bedroom. As early as it was Kathleen and Ben were dressed and leaving. She had just gotten the call from her mother that he had passed. Kathleen said to me, “We said our goodbyes last night and left him in private. We knew he was ready to go to a better place. We gave him the space to do it and he did it in his own way. He went home to a better place.”

Strive for the best home right here and now

I think everything we experience, every person we meet can teach us valuable lessons. I remember the day the hair stylist told me her story I asked her what she learned from it all. She said, “Well, I learned the importance of donating organs. Maurice’s kidney saved someone’s life and really, donating is a simple thing to do.” And I’ll never forget the peace that came for everyone knowing Chris had gone on to a better home. Maurice’s story and Chris’s family consciously letting him go to a better place have given me much to ponder. Add to that the weeks upon weeks I have been gone from my own home and believe you me, I feel more connected to home than ever before. How about you? Is your home all you want it to be? Can you think of ways to make it better? If so, why not start now to make a change? After all, home should offer us the best sanctuary for our souls that is possible.

To being home…

Chris Brami, July 22,1955 ~ February 7,2013

Chris Brami, July 22,1955 ~ February 7,2013

Can You Hear Me Now?

About a year ago, I was considering a significant change in my professional world. I teach in a public high school and had been approached by a private, religiously affiliated school in my area to consider teaching there. To say that I was torn is an understatement. I was blessed to be working in a school often referred to as the “best kept secret” in our county because of its small size and close-knit community with a big heart. However, in case you’re not involved in education or have missed the headlines, public education is a mess right now. For teachers, the demands keep on piling up and the funds keep on getting cut in a climate defined by teaching to tests with very little accountability placed on students. The private school seemed to be an easy fix to those problems. More importantly though, the prospect of being able to express my spirituality freely in the process of mentoring youth was quite tempting. Still, I was content where I was, no need to fix what wasn’t broken. As I struggled with whether to entertain the idea of a switch, I prayed over and over again to God, asking for a sign of what I should do.

He gave it to me. As I drove to school the morning after my first incessant series of requests to Him, I saw a rainbow. Not just any rainbow, a rainbow right over the school I currently teach at. I would like to say I recognized the sign and listened right away, but I can be rather, well, slow at times. A good friend whom I taught with had just been diagnosed with cancer and she lived right by the school, so when someone pointed out that God had sent her a rainbow, I quickly dismissed the notion that God could be speaking to ME through that rainbow.

A week and two more rainbows directly over the school later, I still didn’t get it. I struggled through my decision on my own, deciding to stay put after countless hours of back and forth, pros and cons, worries, guilt and strife. As soon as I made the decision, though, I felt this immediate sense of peace and finally acknowledged that maybe just maybe, God really had been trying to speak to me all along. I simply wasn’t listening. I can just picture Him sitting back and chuckling at me, like what I do when my Little Miss Independent 3-yr-old insists on doing something “all by herself”. I find it slightly comical to witness the irony of her kicking and crying, “I can’t do it,” because she can’t accomplish a task on her own, but boy do those cries escalate to wails if I offer assistance. “No! I do it my own!!!” Yes, I feel sure that I know exactly how He felt watching me stumble through that week. Fine, do it yourself. But it would be so much easier if you would just let me help a little. If only you would LISTEN!

Double rainbow

My Sign

Since that time I have seen countless rainbows. Honestly, I am sure that I have seen more rainbows in the past year than in all of my previous 35 years combined. Is it just because I’m paying attention? Maybe, but I believe it’s much more than that. Rainbows aside, this has been one of the most difficult years of my life but also one of tremendous spiritual growth. I refuse to believe that it’s all coincidence. You see, I’ve not only seen regular rainbows, but a couple of double rainbows and even a triple rainbow! The first double rainbow I had ever seen appeared on my husband’s birthday in June! I saw rainbows on my brother-in-law’s birthday (March), my son’s birthday (November), and most recently my oldest nephew’s birthday in December. I also saw one over my sister and brother-in-law’s house as we went to visit them just after their son’s birthday (August).  I have seen so many rainbows that I stopped snapping pictures of them months ago!

Looking back at the cumulative sum of these rainbows is astounding, but I have to admit that it took me months along the way to really truly accept that there might be a message in them for ME. Confirmation came to me in the most unlikely way. My family and I belong to a small church full of true believers who ooze faith and love. Through a series of events that only God could orchestrate, our pastors reconnected with some distant relatives of theirs who are also involved in ministry. They were invited to come to our church one Sunday in August, and after the service they stuck around to pray with people on a personal level. My husband and I introduced ourselves to them only by name, yet as we began, they prayed over us for things that no stranger possibly could have ever known. I will never forget the moment when the wife leaned in to me and said “God wants you to know that it’s Him. He’s been talking to you and you want to believe that it’s Him but you doubt. Don’t doubt, because that feeling that you have that it’s really Him is right. It is.” WHOA!

Are you like me? Are you ignoring a voice that’s whispering to you? Are signs being laid out that you’re missing? Is your soul crying out but being muted by the chaos of the world around you? Is God speaking to you but being drowned out by all the other noises?

Truly Alive In My HOME

My recent post, Willingness… To Do What?, was about how I am choosing to be “willing” this year.  Willing to do what?  Well, many things actually.  My list of big things I am “willing” to do include to practice more patience, be more focused and a super biggy – finish my book.  Heck I’m even willing to cuss less when playing Spades on my IPad (my imaginary partner, Megan really makes D.U.M.B. moves over and over!)  Most importantly, I am willing to be me in all the areas of my life, no longer afraid to completely expose myself.

As a young girl I “felt” there was something I was supposed to do.  Perhaps many of you knew as kids or teenagers what your vocation in life would be.  I had no clue, only that there was something.  At the same time while growing up, I was a good Catholic.  I used my Rosary, went to Confession and Communion regularly and devoutly prayed daily.  It must have been weird because I’ll never forget one time I overheard my mother telling my grandmother (my dear Nana) that she was afraid I might become a Nun.  In my child’s mind I deduced that I was too religious.  Well, I’m here to tell you my mother worried for naught – I love physical intimacy way too much to be celibate (sorry kids but it’s the truth)!  Through the years I did stay for want of a better word “religious”.  In college I joined Campus Crusade.  As a married adult I was always active in church.  But for all the years and the various stages of my life my faith participation was in mainstream ways that kept me “safe”.  Even my “then” husband kept me in check.  To this day I can still remember him parking at church with our three kids in the back seat each Sunday.  More often than not after turning off the car engine he would turn and look at me.  He would then gently pat my leg and say, “ Now baby, you know you learn a lot more when you listen so please don’t speak up in Sunday school.”  Not speaking up kept me safe from potential criticism (at home and everywhere else) so I would stifle myself, certain that he was lovingly telling me I was too opinionated, particularly when it came to my faith.  Call it poor self-esteem if you want but I somehow saw my devoutness as a negative and wished I could be looser and more fun.  (Silly me!)

Understand that I’m not looking for sympathy here.  I don’t for a second blame either one of them for making me feel like whom I really was needed some toning down.  I’m the one who chose to take their words and let them affect me in a negative way to the point that I kept my deeply spiritual nature at bay.

Beginning at the age of 40 serious trauma-drama began to creep into my life over and over again.  Each new challenge strengthened my faith only I still kept my spirituality somewhat to myself.  So, I guess I had to get a huge roadside flare to get my attention.  That flare came on December 6, 2006 in the form of a woman from my past suddenly there to expose stuff.  To this day I am grateful for her and the far-reaching tentacles of consequences her talk with me created.  Many things in my life changed at that point and I truly, truly began to open up and express my spiritual side.  I started a Blog.  However, even with my Blog I was gingerly showing my true self trying to be ever so subtle with expressing my views.

All that changed when I received the email from Lori.  Lori’s word for me, “WILLINGNESS” reinforced the voice I had been hearing in my head for several months telling me to put myself out there once and for all.  I call it coming out of the closet because to me, I am choosing to tell the truth about myself much like others do when they have something important to say about themselves that they are afraid to share but can’t hold in any longer.  So here’s what I’m willing to say…

I am a deeply spiritual human being. I believe that my body is a vessel for my Soul.  I believe that this vessel should be as free of negative things like anger, hostility, jealousy and fear as possible to honor my Soul.  I believe that my Soul is more important than my Ego.  I passionately believe in God, the Universe and yes, even Angels.  I believe in goodness and want to be an active participant in spreading it.  Though I view myself as a simple Soul, I am an “Old Soul” with a deep understanding of things.  I believe that I have a purpose in life that is meant to be for the greater good of mankind.  I believe that I am a healer and have the gift of healing with my words.  I also believe I have the ability to heal through creating beauty spatially and when I work in people’s homes as a Decorator I feel the energy and know where it needs to be balanced.  I have no desire to attach myself to any specific denomination or creed, as I believe my purpose is to include rather than exclude.  While I will not hold tight to religious rules and regulations, I spend much of my time in prayer and would put on my Bucket List a chance to go on a pilgrimage journey.  (By the way I have no real clue what I mean by that – just that my heart and Soul yearn for it.)  I believe that our world is a changing and people like me want to show a better way through love and care.  I believe that Peace is attainable.  I believe that Love is attainable.  I believe that Harmony is attainable.  It is all a matter of choice.  Most of all my spirituality is part of every moment of every day and at the end of each day my hope is that it has shown in all my actions and yes, reactions to my life’s journey that day – including what I write on my Blog.

I read something the other day that really spoke to me.  “Many of us are struggling to stay true to what we know is the right way for us to be.”  That’s how I was for over 56 years.  I struggled with who I am because I thought I was weird.  No longer.  The rest of the time I have here on this earth I’ll be truly alive in my Home, my vessel for my Soul.  I’m finally free to be me.  Oh and after all these years I’ve figured out what I’m supposed to do as my vocation in life – encourage and promote Peace, Love and Harmony.

To being alive…

Willingness…To Do What?

I got an email from my dear friend, Lori Saylor Milan the other day. We’ve known each other for many years and although she lives in Portland, Oregon and I’m in Chicagoland we have a bond that’s tight. You see we met at a very traumatic time in both of our lives through a Bible Study back around 1996. Since then when we talk or write to each other it’s as if we can both feel the deep connection and by the way, we both know it is a connection made by God and the Universe. No doubt about it.

Anyway, months can go by in between our emails to each other so when she wrote to me the other day it was wonderful to hear from her. Little did she know the incredible inspiration her words were for me. Here’s what she wrote:

“I wanted to tell you Happy New Year and also to see if you are doing all right. I had not seen your blog for a while. I hope David is doing good. I know you have lots of coals in the fire and just might be plain ole busy but I do hope that is all that is going on.

I started a new tradition several years ago. It involves having friends and family pick an angel card from a deck when we meet at Christmas or New Years. I have all my co-workers, children, siblings and friends take one. The angel cards have words on them. During the year each person is supposed to remember their word and meditate and think about it on and off. Look all around you for the meaning. I drew a card for you.

Your word for 2013 is: WILLINGNESS

I’ve reread this email several times that she sent on January 16th. Each and every dang time goose bumps erupt on my arms; tears form in my eyes and incredible warmth heats up my heart. Lori picked the perfect card for me. And just because I am obsessed with defining words, here’s the definition of Willingness:

Willingness: of or relating to the will or power of choosing

What an awesome word for me to have for the year. And, it couldn’t have been timelier. You see, I haven’t been able to write for a good while now. Yeah sure, I’ve been super busy with work. But truth be told, since September my life has been inundated with really tough stuff. I’m talking gut wrenching, heavy stuff – or maybe I’m just too sensitive. (N.O.T.) If I’ve heard it once I’ve heard it a gazillion times that my life is crazier than a Lifetime movie or daytime Soap. And these last several months have had some doozie sagas!

Hence, the desire to write was gone. Kaput. Besides loss of desire I was afraid. Afraid? Yep. Afraid to accidentally (or worse, on purpose) say something that had to do with one of the several trauma-dramas going on around me. Too risky for sure. Funny thing though – even though I wasn’t writing, my mind was going, going, going. Thoughts, ideas and words were whirling and twirling through my mind all day long. All of it needed to go on paper- well, actually onto my computer. And all the while this nagging voice in my head kept saying, “Write what you are led to write and NOT what you think you should write.” Interesting.

Timing is everything. Lori’s word inspired me to be willing. Willing to open myself up once more, willing to be risky, willing to put myself out there without fear of loosing readers with the direction my posts will take, and willing to share my stories with others NOT to inform but to inspire. Inspire what you say? Peace. Love. Harmony.

So here I am writing again. Lori’s word willed me to get back to my computer. Joy, oh joy! I forgot how much I love it! There is some kind of deep pleasure I get in writing. In fact, for me it’s much like doing a puzzle – it is cathartic and calming all at the same time and I simply loose myself in it. And most importantly, at the risk of being bold, I know that I’m a good storyteller. I believe God and the Universe gifted me in this way. Which leads me back to that nagging voice in my head. But more on that in my next post…

Roadside Flares

Somewhere recently I read something about messages we all receive. The author called them “roadside flares to get our attention”. Thank you Lori for your email message. For sure it was a roadside flare for me. It got my attention. It inspired me to willingly throw caution to the wind and do what I love to do and what I believe God and the Universe had in mind for me all along. Besides that I have also discovered multitudes of ways the word “willingness” can be used in my daily walk. I will forever be indebted to you my dear friend!

I’m paying it forward

Lori honored me with taking the time to choose a word for me. It means a lot to all of us to know someone wants to give us a gift of his or her time in a way such as this. So I’m paying it forward. Dear readers, consider the word “willingness”. How does it speak to you? What could you be willing to do in 2013?

  • Right a wrong?
  • Resolve a conflict?
  • Spend quantity and quality time with your family?
  • Loose a few pounds?
  • Go green?
  • Get back to that hobby you love?
  • Play more?
  • Join a club?
  • Do charity work?
  • Pray more?
  • Stretch yourself?
  • Start each morning with a smile?
  • Sleep more?
  • Laugh more?
  • Feel free to be you?

Have fun with this word and heck, take the time to pay it forward to someone else. And, write to me if you feel led to and let me know what you choose to do with this word!

Just be willing…

Lighting ~ An Important Element In Home Decor

Just recently my daughter, Sammi and I began a large project with new clients.  The space is a beautiful high-rise condo overlooking Uptown Charlotte.  Each room has an expanse of windows that are the length of the room.  The view from these windows is spectacular to say the least.  In fact, if you’re a football fan, you can see the Carolina Panthers’ Stadium as well as the gorgeous cityscape.

Because I’m all about natural light filtering into interior spaces, I love these windows for more than just the incredible view.  With all the light that can come in on a daily basis, I know the psychological benefits my clients will derive from this.  But aside from the natural light that comes into the condo, Sammi and I have a blank canvas to work with for other lighting choices.  In fact, the entire space is a blank canvas for us, as we’ll be completely furnishing the new digs for our clients.  Talk about fun!

A few days ago we sat down with the couple and discussed lighting options.  I found myself explaining to them my philosophy about lighting and why lighting was a crucial element in home décor.  While talking to them I told them a story about a client we had several years ago – a pro football player.  We furnished his new home from top to bottom and of course we also paid much attention to the lighting detail in his home.  After our work was complete, he had a house-warming party.  Much to my amusement, when he hosted this first big party in his home he called me early the morning of and asked me to come over an hour before the party (we were attending the party) to turn on all the lights for the party.  Clearly, he was still learning about all the lighting options we had created for him but at the same time, he understood the important WOW! Factor the lighting would make for his guests and so he wanted to make sure the mood was set when his guests began to arrive.  I watched our two clients listen to this story and chuckle over it and yet; it was clear they, too were beginning to understand the importance of proper lighting in their own new home.

After leaving this meeting with our new clients I realized a simple lesson on lighting would be a great Blog post.  So I hope you garner new insight on the impact lighting has in your own personal space.  You see lighting plays a key role in creating beauty in your space.  As an “armchair psychologist of the home” I believe that Living Beautifully = Living Well.  Lighting, like every other choice you make in your home décor ultimately has psychological affects on you and anyone that spends time in your home.  So, for the best feel good vibes you can get from your lighting, illuminate in layers.

Three “must have” layers of Lighting in your home

There are three layers of lighting you should use in your home lighting décor.   When combined together they create a mood for your space.  They are:

  • Task Lighting
  • Ambient Lighting
  • Interest Lighting

Task Lighting – This type of lighting is what I call “general lighting” as it is the lighting that is used to identify spaces and allow for the rooms to be lit for safety, etc.  This type of lighting is usually the overhead lighting in each room be it a chandelier in the center of the room, can lights spaced evenly on the ceiling of the room or a ceiling fan with an attached light.

Ambient Lighting – This type of lighting is what I call the “personalized lighting” as it is the lighting that is specifically chosen by the homeowners to be a part of the décor.  This lighting can make or break the feel good vibes of your space and should be carefully planned out.  Table lamps, floor lamps and wall sconces are all forms of ambient lighting.

Interest Lighting – This type of lighting is what I call “surprise lighting” as it’s the lighting that goes the extra mile to create atmosphere thereby adding to the warm fuzzies you get from being in the space.  Picture lights, accent floor lights and yes, undermount cabinet lighting are all forms of interest lighting.  (You may think undermount cabinet lighting is task lighting but it is so much more than that. It allows for added impact.)

All three of these forms of lighting should be part of your design plan for your home décor.  Each of these layers creates a focal point of some kind in your space, regardless of its location in the room.  Remember this and be cognizant of the impact each of these layers of lighting has on your space, particularly with how they combine for an overall affect.  Also, be aware of what I call “the brightness factor” of lighting and understand that increasing OR decreasing the brightness of each form of lighting changes the space.  For that reason in every home I work in, I make sure every single light can have flexible brightness.  I drive my electricians crazy at times when doing ceiling and wall lighting because I require dimmer switches on E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G.  I even put dimmers on undermount cabinet lighting in kitchens and bar areas.  (Believe you me, when entertaining in your home or wanting to have simple low lighting on in the evening, undermount cabinet lighting in the kitchen sets the mood for relaxation!)

Minute Details of Lighting – Do’s and Don’ts

Pay attention to the minute details of your lighting.   Here are some simple do’s and don’ts:

  • Do use three way bulbs for your table lamps and dimmers for all other lighting.
  • Do dust regularly ALL your lampshades and ceiling fans. (Obvious dust on ceiling fans is the worst of the worst.)
  • Do hide all the electrical cords of your lighting as best and as safely as you can.  (Visible cords take away from the beauty of your lighting.)
  • Don’t use lampshades that are the wrong size or style for your lamps.
  • Don’t leave the plastic protective wrappers on your lampshades.

I’m looking forward to all the ways the lighting for this new project will “brighten” the space and create real beauty within.  I also look forward to the  “ah-ha” moment our clients will have when they see the impact that these three layers of lighting creates!  Most importantly, I look forward to how the lighting will make them feel, as I know their lighting is an important part of the décor that Sammi and I are intentionally adding to their space for living beautifully in order to live well.  And for you, my hope is that the lighting in your space brings beauty and wellness to you and yours as well!

To lighting up life…

Simple Ways To “Ground” Yourself In Your Home

As an “armchair psychologist of the home” I believe that everything begins in the home – so much so that my design philosophy grew from this belief and so I approach each and every decorating job with this key premise.  No matter what we do or where we go in life, I believe how we act, react and interact in the outside world takes root from how we live in our homes.  To put it simply, how we live in our homes should “ground” us, giving us the foundation to make us emotionally and mentally stable to go out into the world.  This means your homespace is vital to your essence.

I have always been a lover of Nature.  Hiking, biking, camping, kayaking, horseback riding, spending time at the beach, boating, white water rafting or gardening – no matter what the venue, my most favorite times have been spent outdoors.  For me being outdoors was a pleasurable experience.  Only after some trauma-drama infiltrated my life several years ago did I understand the healing powers of Nature.  Nature is flat-out the best tonic out there.  Period.  With this revelation I consciously decided to bring nature into my home in every way that I could knowing that if it worked for me outdoors by golly, it would work indoors, too.

This newfound revelation also became an integral component to my design philosophy and ever since, I have incorporated elements of Nature into all my jobs albeit often in really subtle ways that are only picked up on subconscious levels.  This allows for “grounding” to occur.  I also share with my clients’ ways to infuse Nature in their homes themselves (after I leave their nests) and on a larger scale to audiences such as the readers of my blog as in my post, Two Colors Every Homespace Needs.

Think of bringing Nature into your homespace as being part of getting back to the basics of what the earth has given us, literally.  Call it “grass roots” decorating.  Or call it simplifying your décor.  Heck, you can even look at it as a version of what is called “earthing”, a fascinating concept of connecting with the earth in order to become more balanced.  Ironically, just the other day Susan Weems Muehl, LIPH’s Nature Photographer emailed me a bevy of new nature images (thank you dear friend) and also mentioned that she was practicing the concepts of earthing.  No doubt about it, Susan and I are birds of a feather flocking together!  Both of us absolutely positively get the importance of nature and the earth’s connection to our bodies.  (With all due respect, “earthing” is more about physically being grounded; I am merely relating it to your home and how to bring Nature into your space.  To learn more about “earthing,” read the book, Earthing-The most important health discovery ever? Or go to www.earthing.com as well. )  Whatever you choose to call bringing Nature indoors, just do it.  Here are some simple, sure fire ways:

  • Decorate your home with found things in nature
  • Open up the windows and let fresh air into your home
  • Decorate with live plants, wildflowers and aromatic herbs
  • Pay attention to the seasons and honor them in your décor
  • When building, purchasing or moving into a new home, choose a home that offers you plenty of natural light (sunshine is healing)

Like many of us, I have times I’m in a real funk. I was in one recently for more days than I’d care to admit to.  Focusing too much attention on issues I had no control over and magnifying issues tenfold in my mind had gotten the better of me and quite frankly, I didn’t even find myself good company.  It’s a darn good thing my David had been traveling during this funk or he would have been rolling his eyes at me constantly, ignoring me or worst yet, pulling out his gorgeous silver hair over my attitude.  While in my funk my niece, Marli called me to chat and just my tone of voice when I answered her call made her aware that something was amiss.  I ended up telling her about my seemingly endless days of funk and she listened attentively.  Then she disrupted my pity party by saying, “Aunt Jamie, do what you always say to do.  Go to the woods.  Go to Nature.  Let it restore you.”  Whoa, was she preaching to me what I always preach?  Yep, she sure was.  And guess what?  I took her up on it.  I got off the phone and headed to the woods.  I simply needed an extra large dose of Nature’s medicine – more than my usual daily amount!  I walked and I walked, breathing in all the wonderful smells of Nature as I viewed the changing fall scenery.  So long funk. So long pity pot.  Nature restoreth my soul and I returned home more in tune with the earth.  I filled my lungs with the scent of fresh lavender on the counter.  I enjoyed watering all my plants.  I paid attention to the breeze coming through my opened windows and reveled in the sounds of nature I could hear coming into my home.  Later, as I readied for bed, I felt free of much of my recent anxiety and internally thanked Marli for her advice.

I believe that we all must singly as well as collectively connect or reconnect with Nature in order to truly be balanced and healthy. Infusing elements of the natural world in your home helps to accomplish this and is the single best way to ground yourself.  Remember to bring Nature indoors.  It might seem simple but simple’s good right?  And it might be a small step compared to the “barefoot steps” of earthing but by doing this you will give yourself gifts of healing that only Nature can provide.

To Nature…

How Will You Be Remembered?

I’ve been mulling over and over in my head now for several days how to word what I want to say on the subject of being remembered by others.  In fact, I had hoped to get this post out last week while the experience that prompted my musings was still fresh but it just wasn’t forming enough to put on paper.  So, here I am writing and I realized the publishing date is September 11th.  Coincidence?  Nope.  I don’t think anything is ever coincidental.  September 11th is one heck of a day for remembering others.

If you lived in the United States on September 11th 2001 today’s date is a day you will always remember.  Even if you didn’t live in the U.S. on September 11th back in 2001, you couldn’t help but know the horror we in America were experiencing that day that we still remember today.  Some things you just never forget.

All these years later I feel very certain that every single person that died that day by the hands of terrorists is remembered in some way by the people who’s lives they touched.  Any time someone passes, regardless of the circumstances, those around them reflect back on them.  I know this first hand as my future daughter-in-law’s father passed away unexpectedly a week ago – which by the way is what prompted the thoughts whirling in my head that I’m now writing about.  He got to go the best way possible- while he slept in his bed.  But, for his grieving family and friends, it was w.a.y. too soon to have him leave.  I had not had the pleasure of meeting Lailuma’s father yet.  I was going to meet him on September 15th at a party for Lailuma and my son, Jimmy to celebrate their engagement.  Instead I was getting to know him at a gathering in a funeral home and then later, at a memorial service.  You just flat never know what’s around the corner do you?

The funeral home and the service were filled with family, friends and co-workers.  My nieces, Blaire and Liz and I undoubtedly were the only ones there that had never met him.  I don’t know about Blaire and Liz, but not knowing Lailuma’s dad gave me a unique vantage point from which to observe.  Honestly, I think because I didn’t know him, I watched and listened more intently to get to know him.  After all, I needed something to remember him by.

Funny, I never knew him but I now dang sure have something to remember him for ~ LOVE.  The word “LOVE” was used over and over and over again regardless of the person speaking about him throughout the various events over the weekend.  I talked to family and friends.  I also listened to family and friends speak about him and reminisce over pictures of him.  Several co-workers spoke at the Memorial Service.  Sure, they praised his work ethic, his attitude, his enormous appetite and his physical strength but without exception the remembrances of him they chose to share were about his love of family – his deep from the heart but feel in the gut love for his four daughters that he wore like a uniform every single day.  I listened to each person and at the same time began to question in my head what people would say about me if they were standing at the podium at my memorial service.  What would they find most important to say about me?  And to make me ponder even more, while sitting there I learned my ex-husband and his young daughter were a mere few rows behind me in the church.  Was she thinking about what it would be like to loose her father?  How would she remember him?  What was he thinking about?  Was he wondering how the three children he had with me would remember him once he passed?  Odd isn’t it what enters your mind at times like sitting at a memorial service?

Life cycle events always mark change and give pause for reflection.  Celebrating the life of someone that has passed is no different.  So, my message to you dear friends is to aspire to inspire others with how you love.  Let it be the most important thing you are remembered for – not your brain, your job, your abilities or materialistic accomplishments.  Spread love in every direction and in every way that you possibly can.  Heck, just throw caution to the wind and let it blow from you wild and free.  It is the greatest gift and the greatest teaching you can give to others.  And in my book, it is absolutely positively the most important thing to be remembered for.  What greater honor than to be remembered for how you loved, I mean truly loved others while being part of this world of humanity is there?

As I left the church that day, I knew Phillip Walker Miller, III.  In fact, I knew all I needed to know about him.  I knew him through the eyes of his four daughters and through the eyes of many others.  What an incredible gift he was and continues to be through his giving and spreading love.

To love and actively spreading it …

Fifteen Ways To Practice Sustainable Living In Your Home

Because I believe that everything begins in the home, our respect for the environment begins in the home as well.  We have the power in our own hands and bodies to help even in small, simple ways to protect the Earth.

Recently I was on a mini-vacation trip in Florida.  My David had some work to do there and on the last leg of our trip we stayed in an awesome resort in Orlando called The Gaylord Palms Resort.  We stayed there at the same time last August for the same convention.  While I was there last year I walked the grounds one morning for exercise.  I spotted a few signs sporadically placed on the grounds that made it clear that the water used for the sprinkler system was recycled water and of course, not fit for drinking.  I was thrilled to see that the resort was using recycled water for the massive grounds, took a picture of one of the signs and posted it on my Facebook page (I put it on the LIPH Fanpage, too) giving the resort a great big shout-out with the phrase, “Understanding how to care for the environment” with the image.  Oddly enough exactly one year later literally almost to the day, a Facebook friend from high school made a comment on the picture.  Clearly this guy was looking through all the images on my page for the first time, or so I figured.  Anyway, it was interesting to me that he commented on the picture one year after I took it and just when I was there at the resort again.  Now I have to admit that I thought it was a weird comment.  In fact, much to my chagrin it sat a tad funny in my stomach while I tried to digest the meaning of his words.  I finally responded back to him asking him what he meant with the words he chose – and that my friends started a few more comments.  Here’s a replay of our exchange of comments as well as a copy of the picture he was commenting on:

Sign at Gaylord Palms Resort, August 23, 2011

Sign at Gaylord Palms Resort, August 23, 2011

The caption for the picture:

“Understanding how to care for the environment.”

My high school friend:

“Having a small family is the single most important anything, anyone can do to help the environment”.

My response:

“Are you referring to the Balzer clan?!?”

A childhood friend, Lisa Atkinson-Cox chimes in (coming to my rescue maybe?):

“LOL! I love 8 Balzers including the one in heaven.”

My high school friend:

“I’m referring to the Homo sapiens clan.”

Later my high school friend added:

“ ‘Understanding how to care for the environment’ means we must understand our ecological impact on this planet.  Adding 1 million humans a year is not consistent with caring for the environment.  Since HS, the human population has ballooned from 3.4 billion to over 7 billion.  This exponential growth is not sustainable.  Doing things like using reclaimed water and recycling at the curb, while nice and I do it too, it is a mere drop in the bucket when each second another human is added to the earth.”

While I enjoyed his pun about the drop in the bucket, I decided not to respond to his last comment.  I’m not a mathematician that’s for sure but I certainly get that my very own family has grown exponentially.  Like the Eveready Bunny that keeps going and going, we Balzers keep growing and growing, so I was a bit offended to be honest!  Besides which, the intent of the picture I posted was to simply applaud a resort for its efforts to conserve water.

All this Facebook exchange came after I had been working on a new blog post on Sustainable Living – and my suggestions on simple ways each of us can “go green” in our own homes.  So, after this happened I knew for sure I had to finish the post- not because I was miffed that my picture turned into a discussion on family size, but because I’m all about the home and everything that happens in it.  (Well, I guess many babies begin in the home but I’m not going there!)

Here’s a list of fifteen very simple and easy ways to do your part in protecting our natural resources:

  1. Turn off your electronics nightly.
  2. Shower more; bathe less as it takes more water to fill a bathtub than it does to shower.
  3. Shorten your shower by a minute or two and you can save hundreds of gallons a month.
  4. Turn off the water while you brush your teeth and save approximately four gallons of water each time.
  5. Soak pots and pans instead of letting the water run while you scrape them clean.
  6. Turn off the water while you shave (you, too David) and save several hundred gallons a month.
  7. Make and use a yard compost to reduce usage of your garbage disposal thereby reducing water usage as well as electricity.
  8. Change your light bulbs to CFL’s as they consume 75% less electricity than the standard bulbs and last up to 10 times longer.
  9. Clean the lint filter on your dryer before every load.
  10. Choose cloth napkins and dish towels over paper napkins and paper towels.
  11. Donate old clothing and household items rather than throwing them away.
  12. Change the filters on your forced air heating and air conditioning regularly.
  13. Support local farmers.
  14. Use reusable bottles for water instead of plastic water bottles.
  15. Recycle, Recycle, Recycle everything possible.

Remember the words that Neil Armstrong spoke after he stepped on the moon about one small step for man being a giant leap for mankind?  I believe that each of us can in our own small step(s) collectively impact our Earth.  Sure, some of us can and will go to more extreme forms of caring for our environment like limiting family size.  But personally, I think we can get more people on the bandwagon of conservation and sustainable living by making it easy.  What do you think?

To caring for our Earth…

UPDATE:

This article was written and sent for publishing before the passing of Neil Armstrong on Saturday, August 25th.  I considered removing the reference to him and decided instead to look at it as a way to honor the man even in this sad time.  I remember vividly my family and I glued to the TV watching him take his first step on the Moon.  What a gift this man was to all humanity!

Ten Things To Remember About Your Home

For more than a year now I’ve been blogging about the importance of home.  And, throughout my articles I have written about home in terms of décor, color and design as well as how to truly live well in your home.  I’m grateful for all the readers that have supported me by taking the time to read my posts but my guess is that not everyone reads each and every post.  (Ya think?!?)  With that in mind, as another year begins in my world of blogging and because today is my birthday and I can do what I want to, I thought I would give you a quick list of my top ten beliefs about home that I think each and every person that dwells in some form of shelter should know.

I’ll make it simple and concise and leave it up to you dear readers to digest each of my top ten things to remember about home and interpret them for yourselves how best they fit your way of life.

My Top Ten

  1. When you decorate your home you decorate your life.
  2. Your home is an outward expression of yourself.
  3. A beautiful home impacts your mood and behavior.
  4. Elements of Nature radiate calming energy when used in your home.
  5. Much like the Russian Nesting Dolls (Matryoshka), your home should be beautiful layer after layer beginning with the streetscape.
  6. The décor of your home should be designed with a sense of “studied indifference” with things arranged in a way as if by mere happenstance.
  7. A beautiful home is not the result of material consumerism.
  8. Creating peace and harmony in your home will create harmony within.
  9. Living Beautifully + Living Peacefully = Living Well.
  10. Everything begins in the home.

My birthday wish today is that each of you have or aspire to have a home filled with peace and harmony!

And one more thing…

Here’s a very special shout-out to my dear twin brother, Craig Balzer.  What tremendous joy I have in my life to have been so blessed to share life with you.  It’s been a wonderful ride with you ~ from childhood having two cakes on the dining table for our birthday (year after year yours was all chocolate and mine was white with chocolate frosting) to spending Beach Week together with our friends when we graduated from high school to sharing the breakfast table each morning during our college years in our townhouse at VA. Tech (and on occasion watching you literally fall asleep with a spoon of cereal in mid-air from being up all night in the Architectural building) to watching our children grow up together and to now at the awesome age of 56 realize how truly alike we are (as I wrote in my post, Design From An Architect’s View).   Without a shadow of a doubt we have a wonderful bond between us.  Happy birthday, I love you!

The twins with Mom

The twins with Mom