Hope Springs Eternal

As I mentioned in my recent post, Spring: A Season For New Beginnings, springtime is a season that fills us with a sense of renewal.  I believe it also fills us with a sense of hope – for some there’s hope for glorious weather, productive gardening and the end of the school year.  I love all these hopeful possibilities that come with the feeling of spring as well.  However, my biggest hope this year is that the season will spring forth in me the eternal desire to spread peace.

Peace Pilgrim, Hawaii 1980

Peace Pilgrim. Photo credit Benick at en.wikipedia.

In my blog post, Love In Your HOME, I discussed how I was using the word “Love” as a verb for the month of February and so I was actively participating in the giving of affection to others.  As part of the exercise I put a “Love Quote” on LIPH’s Facebook Fanpage each day to visually cue others to actively participate in spreading love.  While researching enough Love Quotes to last me the 29 days of February, I happened upon a woman that called herself “Peace Pilgrim”.  Intrigued with her, I began to research everything I could about her that was available on the web.  Over a month later, I still think of her every day – she was that inspiring.  This woman, Mildred Lisette Norman began a walk for peace on January 1, 1953.  She walked for 28 years throughout the United States.  One of her quotes that really hit home with me was,

“In order for the world to become peaceful, people must first become peaceful.” 

I get that loud and clear.  In order for peace to reign we must first have peace within ourselves.  And Hallelujah, I know absolutely, positively I have it after my own long and arduous walk down the road to reclaiming my essence after a chance encounter in 2006.  Now like never before, I’m ready to spread the word and the hope for Peace.

With that said, I can’t even begin to commit to the life she chose in 1953.  I couldn’t leave my David.  I would have to beg him to travel with me in a Gypsy Wagon of goods that are on my “must have” list like my Ipod, my Ipad, my scented candles, my lotions and potions, my blow dryer, my dental floss, my tweezers and most importantly, my Maybelline mascara.  Then there’s my Chocolate Lab, Moe, my kids and grandkids and of course, God’s Littlest Angel – Ansley.  Gosh, I’d need an entire caravan!  Peace Pilgrim carried nothing, needed nothing and wanted nothing.  Nothing at all.  All she had and all she needed was what she was wearing.  She walked until someone offered her food and/or shelter speaking to whoever would listen about peace.  Wow is all I can say whenever I think of her quest, her commitment and her hope for peace that continued until her untimely death in 1981.

Although I don’t have the gumption to do what she did, her message of hope for peace has resonated with me in a way that stays with me every single day.  I even find myself constantly listening to a song by The Rascals popular in the late 1960’s called, A Ray of Hope.  Working out every day at the gym I listen to it over and over and over allowing the words to fill my body, my heart and my soul to the point that my body pulses with the desire to shout out the words I’m listening to.  Doesn’t everyone need to hear them?!?

“I know a lot of people who think like me

That this world can be a place that’s filled with harmony

First there’s a lot of things we’ve got to rearrange

Put an end to hate and lies

So peace can come and truth shall reign”  A Ray of Hope

Adding to all this, several weeks ago I had a “religion” discussion with my daughter-in-law, Kathleen.  Besides working fulltime she has gone back to school at night.  (You go girl!)  One of the courses she’s taking is a World Religion class taught by a Methodist Minister.  One of her assignments was to take an online test (Belief-O-Matic on beliefnet.com).  She took the test and scored exactly where she thought she would.  Her husband, (my son) Ben also took the test.  He scored in a “religion” I had never heard of that once I researched did accurately fit his belief system.  So  – curiosity got the better of me and I took the test.  Good golly Miss Molly- I scored totally differently that I though I would.  What the heck’s Jainism I wondered?  I had to look it up…

After looking it up and reflecting on it and discussing it with Kathleen, I realized it did fit me well as I really do love all creatures great and small and I abhor violence.  Then my stepson, Danny and his wife visited a couple of weeks later.  Both Orthodox Jews, I told them about the test and so they took it themselves.  They both scored just where they expected to. Interestingly enough, all of us that have taken the test have scored differently and this just proves my point about living in perfect harmony.  We can all choose to live peacefully.  And, regardless of our religious persuasions, we can all do our part in making the world a better place where people can live in peace and harmony as a collective humanity.  That’s why for me I strive for inclusivity rather than exclusivity – I believe there’s room for all of us so long as we agree to get along.

“We’ll pray for a day when all men are free

And people can live like they’re meant to be

Meanwhile it’s up to you and me

Start working together towards this dream”  A Ray of Hope

My mission, my calling and my hope might be tiny compared to what others like Peace Pilgrim have done.  But, it doesn’t matter.  All that matters is that I understand the need to live peacefully – within myself and with each and every person I encounter.  After all, just like the song, “Let there be Peace on Earth” it just flat needs to begin with me…

To Peace and the hope that it springs eternal…

Please take the time to check out Peace Pilgrim by going to www.peacepilgrim.org.  Give peace a chance ~ within you and to all those you encounter.

Finding HOME On The Yellow Brick Road

There’s a quote I am reminded of whenever I think of my daughter, Sammi.  I can’t remember where I heard it but it goes like this, “God doesn’t make mistakes”.  For sure he made no mistake in honoring me with only one daughter – no way could I have handled more than one of her!  Girls in general are way too much work if you ask me and yet, after all these years I know I simply got the best of the best.

This daughter of mine turns 30 today.  In honor of such an auspicious occasion, I want to tell you a little about her.  As I wrote in my post, A House Becomes A Home When…, Sammi began a life-long love for the movie, The Wizard of Oz at the wee age of two.  Every single morning the first thing she would ask to do was to go to the basement and watch “Ya Ha Ha” as that’s what she called the movie.  Thumb in her mouth and snuggled with her silk night-night blanket around her that my mother made her; she would sit mesmerized through the entire movie.  Honestly, I felt guilty allowing her to watch this every single morning sure it was a sign of being a bad mother or something, but it was as much a part of her as anything I’ve ever seen in someone.  Looking back on those precious times I marvel at the synchronicity of this movie coming into her life at such a young age.  It’s as if Sammi intuitively knew as a wee little one that there were life lessons to learn from this movie that would carry her along her own yellow brick road.  And, indeed it’s true.

I won’t bore you with too many details, but suffice it to say that Sammi has faced many challenges in her thirty years.  From an early age she had health issues.  I should’ve know from the start she would be this way- right after arriving into the world she stubbornly refused to breathe on her own and so she was swept away to an incubator that did the work for her even before I could hold her.  Each time the nurses would try to take her out of the incubator she would make it clear she just flat wasn’t ready!  Her growing up years were full of constant trips to doctors with unexplained aches and pains, fevers and other symptoms that quite frankly worried me that the doctors saw signs of Munchausen by Proxy.  Yearly visits to specialists at Chapel Hill in NC put her through painful testing and as she got older much of it was truly embarrassing for a young girl.  I cannot emphasize enough the heartache I felt for my daughter to endure this endless testing, poking and prodding year after year only to be followed with other issues that further complicated her life.  Then, on top of it all Sammi was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome at the ripe old age of nineteen.   Though a blessing to finally connect the dots of some of her ailments she had experienced through the years, the diagnosis brought with it tremendous life changes for her.

Dorothy, The Scarecrow, The Tin Man and The Cowardly Lion

Sammi, loving her red shoes

Sammi, loving her red shoes

Part of Sammi’s diagnosis with Fibromyalgia included an eight-week hospital program for learning to live with chronic pain.  And part of that program included counseling for the families to learn more about this condition I could hardly pronounce.  I’m so glad I attended these sessions as I learned firsthand from the experts all about the complexities a condition like this presents for not just the patient but for the family as well.  For example, I learned that because Fibromyalgia involves tremendous pain on a daily basis, depression is a real problem.  Knowing there is no cure for it or why it occurs adds to the depressiveness of it all, too.  Even worse, there are no visible signs of the condition so people tend to discount it unfairly.  Her team of doctors told me that Sammi was by far the worst case they had ever had in the program.  Wonder of wonders, at the end of the eight-week program, she was rated the highest in improvement.  Absolutely, positively I know why she did so well – The Wizard of Oz.  Faced with all these medical challenges, Sammi brought forth from her stored long-term memory the lessons she learned from Dorothy, The Scarecrow, The Lion and The Tin Man.   Like Dorothy, Sammi traveled The Yellow Brick Road to find her way home.  Like The Scarecrow, Sammi realized she had the ability to use her brain to think through and make personal choices of what she would do with the rest of her life in spite of her medical issues.  Like The Tin Man, she realized she had a beautiful heart to love herself enough to handle not just these medical issues, but also the other challenges of life that would come further down the road.  And finally, like The Cowardly Lion, Sammi realized that she had the courage and unwavering faith in herself to persevere through it all.

There’s no place like HOME

Sammi

Photo Credit: Kristin Vining Photography

The Wizard of Oz is a story of finding home and is a story we can all learn from.  I am deeply grateful that my darling daughter was enamored with this movie as a child to the extent that she was able to pull from it all that she needed when she took her own walk down The Yellow Brick Road during her troubling time.  Through the movie’s life lessons so well portrayed by the characters, she learned a valuable truth – HOME is within us so we need not look any further.  All we have to do is realize it and open our hearts, minds and souls to the wonder.

Sammi, like all of us continues to have challenges.  She has had numerous surgeries and twice has been in life-threatening health situations.  Even when giving birth to “God’s Littlest Angel” she became gravely ill.  Months later Sammi told me that through that first night she consciously willed herself to stay alive for her precious baby.  I have no doubt that the lessons she learned from The Wizard of Oz echoed through her sub-conscious that night and gave her the skills she needed to make it.  Yep, with each new challenge she pulls from within and in doing so she broadcasts to the world that there’s no place like HOME.  Happy birthday dear daughter and please know, God sure was right to send you to me.  I marvel at your wisdom, your heart and your courage.

To knowing all roads lead HOME…

Spring: A Season For New Beginnings

There’s a feeling that comes over me when I see the first hints of spring – the daffodils popping up out of the ground, buds on the trees and birds chirping their joyful noise all start something deep within me that feels good.  In fact, I start to feel the giddiness deep within me that I can only say is “a feeling of spring”.  This feeling always reminds me of Friend Owl and Thumper’s conversation in the Walt Disney movie, Bambi as Friend Owl tries to explain the changes that come over everyone in the springtime.  Friend Owl explains to Thumper why everyone is acting differently.  He says, “Nearly everybody gets twitterpated in the springtime.”   I love the word “twitterpated”.  It’s one of those words that really expresses the feeling well – you can feel the good vibes just saying the word.  Yep, I agree with Friend Owl and I know absolutely, positively that I become twitterpated myself – twitterpated with life.  That’s what spring does for me!

Spring-cleaning my house

At the same time I’m feeling twitterpated I turn to my nest and do some spring-cleaning to say goodbye to ole man winter and hello to a new beginning.  Psychologists say that spring-cleaning is good for the psyche.   When we declutter our houses of anything we needed around us to feel warm and cozy through the winter, we give our space a fresh new look that carries with it a fresh new energy.  (To learn more about how clutter affects you read my post, Clutter In Your Space Clutters Your Mind)  I remember well the rituals of spring-cleaning when I was growing up.  Things like changing the bedspreads on the beds to lighter weight coverlets and removing the heavy winter blankets from the beds were springtime chores.  These items would be cleaned and stored in cedar closets until the next winter.  We kids also had to clean out our bedroom closets because back then in the days of covered wagons (or so my own kids say) part of every season was changing our clothes out for the new season.  Away would go all the winter sweaters and coats and out would come the short sleeve shirts and cooler clothing items.  It was fun to make these changes because it gave me a feeling of newness and freshness.  To this day I actively participate in some of these same rituals.

As a decorator that focuses totally on details, I cannot tell you how often I go into homes and realize that they’re what I call “surface cleaned”.  By that I mean that on the surface things look OK, but on a closer inspection it’s another story altogether.  Now, the reason this is a problem is that these unclean spaces and places impact your health in ways you might not be aware of.   You see, accumulated dust and dirt affects the air we breathe as every breath we take contains particles of dust and pollutants around us.  I read recently that researchers believe that indoor air can be as much as ten times more polluted than outdoor air.  Much of this is due to how well sealed our homes and buildings are today as it’s only been in the last one hundred years or so that we have had air-conditioning, central heat, thermal pane windows, weather-stripping and other forms of insulation that keep everything air-tight.  Routine cleaning of these hidden spaces and places becomes necessary for good health.  So, this year while doing your spring-cleaning make sure you add some of these areas to your list to clean as they are culprits for overlooked accumulations of dust and dirt:

  • The top of the fridge
  • Behind the fridge
  • Behind furniture
  • The tops of frames on your walls
  • The tops of doorframes
  • On light bulbs
  • On electrical cords behind furniture
  • Under sofa and chair cushions
  • On closet shelves
  • On air return vents

Spring-cleaning my HOME

Springtime is also a time I do some cleaning of my interior space, my HOME.  For me it’s a time to look inward and reflect on ways to change and grow emotionally and spiritually.  All of us have dust and dirt accumulating in ourselves.  Just as we have dust accumulating in hidden spaces and places of our structural home and on boxes sitting in our attics and basements that we haven’t peeked into for years, we have the same accumulating in our hearts, minds and souls.  So, feeling twitterpated in spring gives me the added push and courage for new beginnings within.  Through the years, particularly since I began rehabbing my HOME after a chance encounter on a plane (read my post, Construction Zone: Rehabbing My HOME for more on this experience) I have found some real specific ways to declutter my HOME that have absolutely, positively worked.  Here are some of them:

  • Spending time in Nature
  • Bringing elements of Nature into my structural home
  • Meditating
  • Exercising regularly
  • Practicing my Faith
  • Surrounding myself with things that lift me up such as aromatic essential oils and candles
  • Listening to soothing/inspirational music
  • Bringing fresh air into my structural home and my personal HOME
  • Choosing to live in peace and harmony
  • Actively paying it forward each day

Review~Refresh~Renew

For me Spring-cleaning can best be summed up as a process of what I call “The Three R’s” – review, refresh and renew.  What a wonderful time of year to review the state of your space, refresh the areas that need refreshing and in doing so allow yourself to be renewed.  That truly makes for a new beginning!

As I’m writing this I have my office windows open and I feel a gentle breeze coming in.  I hear the birds chirping and have even spied two hawks harmoniously soaring in the sky nearby.  Yep, I’m twitterpated for sure and in the next few minutes the wondrous outdoors will entice me to come out and feel the splendor it has to offer me.

To new beginnings…

IF You … Then You Know You Made A Decorating Blunder

In my recent post, Five Common Blunders In Home Decor, I listed my all-time top five that I have encountered through the years.  I do admit that I have an eye for unusual details. Couple that with a good memory and I tell you, I can remember decorating blunders from years past even as a child.

For any of you that haven’t read my post on blunders, let me educate you as to what a blunder is.

Blunder: To make a mistake through stupidity, ignorance or carelessness.

So clearly, to make a blunder is an innocent mistake which means if it’s pointed out to you well then heck, you can fix it and voila, the blunder is gone.  At least that’s what should happen!

Now, I’m not much for comedy.  I’m pretty simple so most of it goes over my head.  Give me a good episode of Persons of Interest or Alcatraz and I’m a happy camper.  There is one comedian however that I totally get – Jeff Foxworthy.  Maybe it’s because I’m a southerner and so I understand his redneck jokes.  Or maybe his unique style of posing each joke as a hypothesis makes it clearer for it.  Or maybe its because I am a redneck!  Whatever the case may be, his style of one-liners has spilled over into my own personal life and for years I have obsessively used this same “If…Then” one-liner game to describe personality types and characteristics I encounter myself.  For example, I once wanted to list the qualities of a Narcissist so I played the Jeff Foxworthy game in my head saying things like, “If your husband thinks he’s the only good guy in the universe, then you know he’s a Narcissist”.  Or here’s another one.  “If your boss thinks God has given him a unique gift no one else understands, then you know he’s a Narcissist”.  See what I mean?  Or in trying to define a Drama Queen I’d say, “If she constantly overreacts to the itsy-bitsiest little thing, then you know she’s a Drama Queen”.  I’m telling you, this “If…Then” game can become a habit.  I play it in my head All.The.Time.  It’s quite entertaining.

So back to decorating and blunders.  As I wrote in Five Common Blunders In Home Décor, I’ve seen it all.  Most of the blunders I’ve encountered are easy ones to correct but some are real doozies.  Doozies put you on the road to Tackyville and if you make too many of these blunders, your home registers on my “Tacky Interiors Registry”.  OK, I’m kidding here.  I don’t have a Registry – yet.   But, just like my head game of “If…Then”, I also over and over again in my head design and decorate what I call “Tacky Interiors”.  I even have on my Bucket List of things to do before I expire teaching a Decorating 101 Course.  The first project I will assign the class will be to design a “Tacky Interiors Home” – fabrics, furniture, accessories, storyboard and all.  Talk about fun!  Oh and just so you know – Tacky for me means decorating blunders that create such an unpleasant distraction that the overall look becomes a real eyesore.  (Remember the Griswolds?  Yep, their house would be on my Registry!)

In no particular order, here’s my list of “If…Then” one-liners that define doozie-decorating blunders.  I hope you enjoy them and let me just say, nobody reading this post needs to worry about ever being on my “Tacky Interiors Registry” so don’t start guessing to whom I’m referring…

  • If you look at the calendar and notice it’s March and the Christmas Decorations are still up, then you know you made a decorating blunder.
  • If your foyer chandelier still has the plastic wrap on the individual shades after a year, then you know you made a decorating blunder.
  • If you have plastic runners overtop of your carpeting, then you know you made a decorating blunder.
  • If it’s the middle of winter and you have last summer’s dead plants still on your front porch, then you know you made a decorating blunder.
  • If you have the garden tags still hanging on your potted plants inside your home or out, then you know you made a decorating blunder.
  • If you have street facing garage windows with no window coverings or blinds on them and you can see the stuff in your garage, then you know you made a decorating blunder.
  • If electrical cords for your lamps or other electronics go from one room to the next for an outlet to plug into, then you know you made a decorating blunder.
  • If the blinds on your windows still have the manufacturer’s tags dangling from each one and you plan to keep the blinds, then you know you made a decorating blunder.
  • If you decorate your gutter downspouts with greenery and lights for Christmas and you aren’t the Griswolds, then you know you made a decorating blunder.
  • If your microwave or toaster oven sits on top of a pile of other household items, then you know you made a decorating blunder.
  • If you have Cannabis Plants decorating your home, then you know you made a decorating blunder.  (And it might get you in trouble!)
  • If your solid wood dining room table is always covered in a table pad, then you know you made a decorating blunder.
  • If the bedskirt on your bed is inches off the floor, then you know you made a decorating blunder.
  • If you have TMI of personal hygiene in public areas of your home, then you know you made a decorating blunder.
  • If you have plastic flowers and ferns planted in your flowerbeds, then you know you made a decorating blunder.

And finally,

  • If you have a pit in your stomach while reading this post, then you made a decorating blunder… somewhere, somehow… and you’re worried!

Enjoy checking out your homespace.  Let me know what you find!

To loving life…

Construction Zone: Rehabbing My HOME

Imagine building a new house.  The foundation, the frame and exterior structure give stability to the interior rooms of the house.  They support what’s on the inside of the house.  But, step inside the house and see the real beauty.  The interior of the house is what the home is really about.  The same goes for us.  The exterior of our bodies is what we physically present to the world.  The real substance though is on the inside.  Each of us has a custom interior.  Who you are on the inside, down to every single detail of your character and personality becomes the HOME you present to others on a daily basis.  Your HOME, much like the physical home you live in should be beautiful through and through.

Many of us get used to living in our HOMES much like we get used to living in our houses, often ignoring things that are in disrepair.  I learned this for myself after a chance encounter on an airplane in 2006.  Well, actually my David experienced the chance encounter.  But, it had to do with my past and of course, he shared the details of the encounter with me.  This chance encounter that could only be described as “God’s Synchronistic Work” forced me to look at myself and see the pieces inside me that needed repairing.  Pieces of me like fear, hurt and anger that had real potential to ruin any beauty in my HOME.

That’s when I started work on rehabbing my HOME with a new custom interior devoid of these pieces that quite frankly, had become junk cluttering me up.  And as you know if you have ever undertaken a construction project, the work takes time, energy and funds.

Time takes time if you know what I mean.  My construction zone has been an ongoing process since 2006.  Though it has indeed taken a lot of time, like any beautiful new space, I absolutely, positively love the emerging custom new me!

Energy expended in doing the work in my construction zone has been incredible.  There have been moments when I thought the work was way too hard.   I have felt exhaustion on every level- physically, emotionally and spiritually.  But somehow, someway I have found the necessary energy for each new stage of construction.

Funds are essential to every custom home project.  I have to tell you – I have had an abundance of funds!  Mind you, I’m not talking cash here.  I’m talking “Love Funds”.  The love to fund my project has been over and above what I could ever have imagined and by now you may have guessed it – the funds came from David.

David, loving life

David, loving life

Speaking of David, today marks ten years since I first met him.  I remember it well and even remember telling him I had no desire to start a relationship with anyone including him.  I also remember well leaving the restaurant after that first meeting and when we walked outside, oddly enough we realized we had parked side-by-side.  Here we are ten years later still side-by-side loving the journey of the rest of our lives together.

Happy Anniversary David and thank you for the unconditional abundance of love you have so freely given me to rehab my HOME.  I will forever be giddy over you!  And I have to say, although you don’t complete me, you darn sure compliment my HOME well!

To love and life…

Artfully Celebrating Family Life In Your Home Décor

As a decorator I have my own design and décor philosophy that includes some critical components to creating a beautiful sanctuary for my clients to live in.   Making what I call “positive impact statements” is part of this philosophy.  As I wrote in a recent post, Positive Impact Statements In Your HOME, one way to make a positive impact statement in your home is to artfully display family photographs.  Without a doubt displaying family photos is one of the things on my list that can take a home from ordinary to extraordinary.  Why you ask?  First of all, displaying your family life in this way is unique in that no one else will have the same pictures.  Everyone can have accessories from Restoration Hardware or Pottery Barn, but your family photos personalize your space.  Second, displaying family photos gives your space comfy, cozy warmth regardless of your décor style, as these personal glimpses of family life are art from the heart.  Finally, displaying family photographs is what I call “decorating with intention”.  In other words, the family pictures are displayed with the specific intention of artfully enhancing your homespace décor.

Like any other form of decorating you do in your homespace, decorating with family photography needs to be well planned and well thought out.  Look through your homespace.  Pay attention to where you are displaying family photographs and ask yourself these important questions:

  • Do some of the frames look outdated or badly worn? Unless you are intentionally using antique or “repurposed” frames for your pieces, be aware that outdated and damaged frames will absolutely, positively take away from your artful arrangement of family photos.
  • Do the frames fit the photographs they hold properly?  Though this question might sound silly, you would be amazed at how often I go into homes and immediately notice that family pictures have been put in frames willy-nilly without really taking the time to carefully select the appropriate frame.  Remember that decorating (even with family photos) is in the details.
  • Are you displaying family photos in too many places and spaces?  If you truly want your family photos to become a part of your décor, choose very specific places and spaces to display them.  Two areas I specifically like are: a focal place such as a hallway wall and a focal space such as a piano, sofa table or bookcase.  Remember however my decorating mantra, “less is more” and steer clear of becoming over zealous with places and spaces you display your family photos.

A Wall of Family Life

A glimpse of the Balzer-Solganik family life

A glimpse of the Balzer-Solganik family life

My personal favorite way to display family photos is to create what I call a “wall of family life”.  Over the years I have enjoyed creating many of these in the homes of friends and clients. Here are some points to ponder if you embark on your own creation:

  • Consider a theme for your display. My favorite theme is to use all black and white photos with black frames. By keeping to a theme you achieve more than just a way to display family photos.  You also create unique art to accent the beauty of your homespace.
  • Consider arranging the pieces to create a family timeline or story.  By doing this, your display becomes a conversation piece to return to over and over again.  Best of all you can mix and match frames and photo content since the idea is to simply tell the story of your family.  My mother did this in our home growing up and believe me, the frames and the photos were a total hodge-podge.  But it worked!  And with six kids and dozens of grandkids my mother created a look that told a story on the wall of each family as the Balzer Clan grew and grew.  Talk about creating a space for walks down Memory Lane!   Talk about creating a space for interesting conversations!
  • Consider the overall look of your arrangement and what you want to express. Carefully consider what you are trying to achieve with the display.  Be as conscious of the pictures and the frames you choose as you would be when choosing what knick-knacks get placed where in your homespace.  Also, remember your audience that will be seeing your photos and thoughtfully choose which ones you share.  (For example, more intimate family photos such as “pregnant belly shots” make beautiful art in more private areas of your home.)
  • Consider hiring a pro.  If you are planning to display a large collection of family photos I highly recommend that you have your display hung professionally.  The average John or Jane doesn’t have the knowledge to properly hang a large grouping of frames of varying sizes.
  • Consider making a trial run of your display.  I highly recommend this.  Arrange your framed photos on an open space such as the floor so you can visualize what the grouping will look like on the wall.
  • Consider leaving what I call “room to grow” in your collage of photos.  This is particularly important if you have a growing family.

Have fun with this wonderful way to make a positive impact statement in your home.  You, your family and all those that get treated to your display will enjoy celebrating your family life, true art from the heart for years to come!

To celebrating family…

Carroll Family Life with room to grow

Carroll Family Life with room to grow

Positive Impact Statements In Your HOME

No doubt about it, your home makes a statement.  The colors you choose, the accessories and furnishings you choose and the way you arrange your things all say a lot about you to those that enter your home.  If you’re like me, you want people to love being in your home and at the same time love how it looks and how it feels.  And like I tell my clients, you want your home to be memorable.  For example, say you are hosting a party in your home.  When your guests leave and get in their cars you hope that instead of thinking about the conversations they heard or the food they were served or what everyone was wearing they remember all the wondrous things they were treated to in your home décor.  In other words, they leave your home with feel good vibes your homespace puts off.

There are some very simple touches to your home décor that can send out real powerful feel good vibes and at the same time honor your individuality.  I believe these vibes come from what I call “positive impact statements”.

Here’s a list of some ways to make positive impact statements in your homespace:

  • By displaying special collections
  • By using interesting artwork
  • By artfully displaying family photographs
  • By creating focal points in each room
  • By adding bits of the unexpected

Displaying special collections

Most of us collect things.  I love to collect vintage dinnerware.  I also collect Herend Porcelain Figurines.  Both are displayed in my homespace and yet, not overdone.  Instead, I strategically display my collections in specific areas of my space for the greatest impact.  The key to displaying collections is to remember my decorating mantra “less is more”.  Overkill ruins the beauty of collectibles for sure.

Using interesting artwork

Geometric Art in a nursery / Cameron Triggs Photography

Geometric Art in a nursery / Cameron Triggs Photography

The choices of artwork that you use in your homespace are a huge impact statement.  Interesting artwork makes for positive vibes.  So, think through carefully what you choose to put on your walls.  Have fun mixing things up, too!  If you tend to be somewhat traditional, kick it up a notch with some contemporary artwork.  Or if you like modern furnishings, accent your decor with black and white artwork or even landscape pieces of art.  Whatever you choose, mix and match so that you keep it interesting.  I promise you – the look will be great!

Artfully displaying family photographs

The Carroll Family artfully displayed on a hallway wall

Artfully displayed family photos

This type of positive statement is my all-time favorite to use in home décor because I am all about family.  If you ask me, all else in life pales in comparison to the feel good vibes you can get from the family connection.  Find a great space in your home to create a “wall of family life”.  For more on this impact statement look for my upcoming post titled, “Artfully Celebrating Family Life In Home Décor”.

Creating focal points in each room

Nothing makes a positive impact statement more than creating an interesting focal point in the room.  Ways to do this include using an interesting piece of furniture as a statement, using bold pops of color in the room with pillows or other accessories or even using an interesting area rug as the focal point of the room.

Adding bits of the unexpected

Wall art becomes an extra place for creativity/ Cameron Triggs Photography

Wall art becomes an extra place for creativity / Cameron Triggs Photography

Every space can benefit from some fun and whimsy.  I have been known to “hide” bits of whimsy in client’s homes in ways that on first glance get overlooked.  But, boy-oh-boy is it fun to see the surprise on someone’s face when they happen upon the unexpected!  Other times the unexpected can be more obvious such as in this picture of a playroom.  In the room one wall was painted with characters from the book, Alice In Wonderland.  The characters double as a chalkboard, a corkboard and a metallic board as well.  What a great space for budding young artists to be able to create in!

“You”, your HOME’s most powerful impact statement

Finally, I want to say that your homespace is impacted the most by you.  Your attitudes, your feelings and your behaviors can flat out make or break the energy of your space.  Be cognizant of this and strive to thrive in your space by being positive and full of life.  Your space will begin to “feel” your positive energy and others will feel it, too.  When you get right down to it “you” are your “HOME” because it mirrors you.  So, if you want your home to be inviting to others make sure you are giving off positive vibes yourself.

Love your space and love your life…

21 Days To Kick A Habit

It is time to ask yourself:

Is there anything negative in my house I would like to change?  Is there something  I do over and over again like a bad habit that really bugs me?

Is there room for improvement in a particular area of my homespace ?

My guess is you can answer YES to at least one of these questions.

Maybe you procrastinate about taking down holiday decorations  even when another holiday is right around the corner.  Maybe dirty laundry stays piled on the floor.  Maybe those dust bunnies have grown into dust monsters.  Maybe you have never removed the sofa cushions from you sofa for a good vacuuming (this one is gross!).  I have seen all of these bad habits time and again.

I am often amazed at the sense of style people feel it necessary to present to the external world while neglecting the truly important world right inside their homes.  This is in the form of how they wear their hair, how they dress and what type of car they drive.  All the while homes get neglected.

So, do you want to change?

Did you know that scientists believe it takes about 21 days to change a habit?  This is because we naturally resist change.

21 days…

That means change will need intention.  Change will need focus.  Change will need discipline.  Change will need time.

Time takes time.

But you are worth it.  Each time you conquer another bad habit it empowers you to conquer another.  Slowly but surely your homespace shows positive change.

You can do it!

Your homespace deserves it!

One thought…

A beautiful home impacts your mood and behavior.

Conquer those bad habits.

Cheers!

Post-Holiday Confessions From A Decorator

For the entire month of December – in fact, from Thanksgiving on I spent my time on both the Blog and my Facebook Fanpage writing about Christmas Traditions (mine and other guest authors), giving “Helpful Holiday Hints” and showcasing beautiful examples of holiday décor.  Who would ever guess that I, a decorator, a believer in all things magical for Christmas time and one who professes to know and expect décor detail would not decorate, bake, send cards or do anything traditional for the holidays?  (Well, I did do Advent gifts though.) Seriously – even I wonder at this all.  My entire life I have expressed the importance of traditions – particularly holiday traditions.  I even sing the song, “Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!” throughout the year unaware that I am even doing it.  Christmas and all its pageantry means that much to me.

Because of some necessary travel to Charlotte, NC next week and all it entails, travel there for the holidays was just flat not an option.  So, there went being with my kids, grandchildren and God’s Littlest Angel.  That’s one tradition down the tubes.  Decorating for Christmas?  I must confess I decided not to do that either.  I left my entire collection of Nutcrackers, my collection of Santa’s and all my sentimental Christmas tree ornaments in their boxes in the basement.   All I did was put a simple wreath on the front door and a Menorah  (yes, my darling David is Jewish) on the antique side table in our kitchen.

Front door wreath

Our front door décor

Why did I ignore all the trappings of Christmas this year?   Not even listen to any Christmas music either at home or in my car?  Funny thing – in mentally and emotionally preparing for next week I knew I needed to be still.  I needed to be quiet.  I needed no distractions.  So I decided not to indulge in any part of the traditional preparations for Christmas and instead use the time to reflect on the true meaning of the season.

Joy of all joys, I absolutely, positively celebrated Christmas and what it truly means.

I focused on PEACE.  PEACE for myself and PEACE for people everywhere.

Now don’t get me wrong.  The Friday before Christmas Eve I embarked on a very long morning of sitting on my pity pot.  It didn’t help to talk to my sister-in-law, Becky and hear her excitement at this being the first year in a long while that all three of her boys, wives, fiancés and their dogs would be home for the holiday.  Or hearing my sister, Mary Ann shout with glee on the phone that every single Christmas present was wrapped and ready and family was already arriving to start the holiday weekend.  Or hearing that God’s Littlest Angel was walking and here I was in Chicago missing it all.  Or, most of all, that my very own baby, my youngest son, Jimmy had become engaged to a wonderful woman (Lailuma) and I wouldn’t get to celebrate quite yet with them live and in person.  Text pictures of her engagement ring didn’t do the ring justice I’m sure!  Ugh… the pity pot sure got worn out that morning!

Second night of Hanukkah

Second night of Hanukkah

I tired of sitting on the pity pot though.  So, I picked myself up, chilled a bottle of Veuve Cliequot for the evening and did what my heart, mind and body always craves – I went to nature.  While walking in nature I reflected on the real side of things.   The real side was this – I realized that I was thankful to have had the wherewithal to use the entire month of December for total quiet and stillness.  With so much free time on my hands not devoted to the hustle-bustle of Christmas preparations, I gained so much insight.  I want to share with you what I pondered, reflected on and learned over this last holiday season I chose to celebrate without all the glitter.  And in the words of what many hosts say when announcing the winner on TV Shows like X Factor; I list the lessons learned and/or reflected on “in no particular order”:

  • Like Dorothy in The Wizard Of Oz I have found that HOME has been here for me all along.  I don’t have to be “home” in Charlotte with my kids and grandkids to have them at home in my heart.  My heart home is always there ready to embrace them unconditionally wherever I be, wherever they be.
  • I can really focus on the essence of Christmas without all the fluff, commercialism and festivities and wonder of wonders; it is awesome to do this.
  • In loving and living with a Jewish man I can appreciate that mankind benefits most with an attitude of inclusivity and not exclusivity.
  • The true meaning of the Christmas season is PEACE.  No true peace can come without forgiveness of oneself, of others and of humanity as well.
  • As much as I love music and in particular, Christmas music – Silence is Golden for it is in the moments of silence that we hear what we really, truly need to hear.
  • I have learned on a whole new level what it means to live simply.
  • Traditions won’t go away if you choose not to observe them on occasion.
  • Memories never fade.
  • Feeling lonely is a choice.
  • Life is to be lived actively loving oneself, others and all mankind.
  • PEACE requires action.
  • Actions speak louder than words.
  • The truth, ohhhh the sweet, wonderful truth will absolutely, positively set you free.

Happy New Year everyone!  May 2012 bring you wisdom.  Oh, and may it also bring you the courage to use it!

Favorite Christmas Traditions

For the month of December I purposefully chose not to publish many posts on my Blog.  Quite frankly, I figured most everyone had enough to do preparing for Christmas.  With making lists, checking them twice and doing all the multitude of items on these lists before Christmas, who would have time to squeeze in something I wrote?  (By the way, whatever you were thinking as you read that last sentence keep your comments to yourself- I want to think you have missed my weekly posts!)  Anyway, with all the extra time on my hands not devoted to writing I reminisced about Christmases past.  Well, that got me to thinking and wondering about what other people’s favorite childhood traditions of the season were and what they are today as grown-ups.  So, I promptly sent out an email to all the guest authors on the Blog and posed these questions to them with the intention of sharing their responses on the Blog.  For those that had the time to respond, I want to share their answers with you.  Some even sent me pictures as well.

I have to admit I thought this would be a fun thing to do for the Blog.  But, as with most things that happen, I got so much more than interesting info from each person.  I got a wonderful glimpse into their personal lives that not only told me much more about who they are and what makes them tick but, I also got laughs at visualizing some of what they wrote, much to ponder from some of their thought provoking responses and to sum it up – I got a real sense of peace and joy reading their words.  Read for yourself and I hope your heart is filled with joy and laughter as well.

Susan Muehl

Susan and Jane visit Santa

1954, Jane and Susan visit Santa Claus at Santa Claus Land

My favorite childhood holiday memories and what the season now means to me as an adult seem to have blurred lines!  As a child, I thought it was magic!  It was all about our Christmas traditions.  Before Christmas, our mother would take my twin sister and me to Santa Claus Land in Santa Claus, Indiana.  That’s where we got to speak to Santa about what we’d like for Christmas and ride the rides at the park.  Also before Christmas we would get dressed up and go Christmas shopping in downtown Louisville with our mother and while there, we would view the department store windows decorated for the holidays.  The days leading up to Christmas and the few days after were all about going out to visit friends and family, or they came to see us.  My mother shared cookies and fudge she made.  This is also when we would drive around looking at Christmas lights.  Santa had a surprise he always left at our house ~ he would put a special gift on the beds of my sister and me.  We shared a bedroom so whoever woke up first would wake the other and we’d feel around our beds in the dark for the gift which we could unwrap right then.  Now as an adult many of the same traditions remain.  When my daughter was little, Santa also left her a special gift in her bed each Christmas and it thrilled her as much as it did me when I was young.  We established a new tradition in our family and it was choosing a name from the “giving tree” at a local department store and purchasing gifts for that child.  My daughter enjoyed doing that each year ~ she loved trying to find a little girl who seemed a lot like her based on the gift requests.  Nowadays, I still love to look at Christmas lights ~ the more lights the better!  As a photographer, I’ve enjoyed photographing some of my favorite houses over the years and have a special photo album of “the best of the best” which comes out each Christmas.  Spending time with my family and friends at Christmas time is still important to me.  Everybody seems so much busier these days, but when we can take the time to visit, it’s always special.  I enjoy seeing everyone’s homes decorated for the holidays and sharing mine, as well as sharing fudge (from my mother’s recipe) and cookies I have made.  The Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas morning gift opening with my husband, daughter and son-in-law is a special time each year which I always look forward to.  I have never outgrown the magic of Christmas!

Patti Baron Schreiber

Wow!  It’s hard to pick just one favorite holiday memory from my childhood because my family was so steeped in traditions and they all centered on home.  First came the decorating – it was the same decorations every year and they went in the same location but there was such comfort and joy in pulling the little elf out and setting him on the table or seeing the same ornaments nestled in their boxes, waiting to be hung on the tree.  Christmas Eve began with me setting out a plate of homemade cookies and a glass of milk for Santa.  Then came a visit to my Grandma Martha’s house, where all of my Dad’s brothers, sisters (7!), their spouses and children gathered in a very small space with the men drinking Blackberry Brandy and all of us eating Grandma’s homemade bread.  Magically, when we returned home, Santa had arrived!  Piles of presents were under the tree – quickly placed there by Mom before we left for grandma’s house while Dad and I impatiently waited in the car wondering what she could be doing in there.  After the present opening, we were off to Midnight Mass followed by an open house for anyone who wanted to stop by for ham sandwiches, salads and a dessert buffet.

I have continued many of these same traditions with my own children when they were young and now that they are teenagers; it’s fun to see which traditions are important to them.  Decorating and cookie making are at the top of the list.  This year we can hardly wait to make our special frosted cutout cookies, as we didn’t get to eat any of the time and labor intensive treats last year.  After making the dough, cutting them out, baking and decorating them (a two day affair), my oldest child decided her siblings were hogging the cookies so she hid the plastic bin in the oven.  A short time later, flames erupted in the oven, smoke poured from the vents and the plastic had melted all over the oven and the cookies.  I’m still missing the bottom oven rack which is covered in molded plastic but there’s no doubt in my mind the memory of THAT moment will live on in our minds and give us some good laughs in the coming years.

Jennie Stockslager

When I think of Christmas as a child, I keenly remember making gifts (cigar boxes encrusted with elbow macaroni sprayed gold), wrapping gifts (proud that my mom trusted me) and making millions of cookies – all fun, all exciting.  But I remember, too that at some point during my high school years, I was grateful that the fun and excitement were sustained much longer than usual in our home, all because two little brothers, Rich and Bill, were born when I was 11 and 14, respectively.  The tinsel would have lost its shine for the three older siblings- myself, Chuck and Connie – but because we had two little ones in the house, we were swept into their vortex of believing, which was the best gift ever – and not to be repeated until I had children of my own.

As an adult, I can find myself so overwhelmed with the holidays that if I’m not careful, I start to think of all the decorating, buying, wrapping and addressing cards as a “part-time” job.  At times like this, I recognize that I need to get “real”.  “Real” means getting quiet with myself for as little as five minutes – meditating, journaling, listening to Christmas music, sipping on a cup of chai tea, looking at the snow falling on the twinkle-lighted trees in our yard – anything that helps me remember the truth: I don’t “have” to do anything; I “get” to do the things I choose.  This reality brings me back to the present moment; it slows my mind down…and helps me once again see life as a child.  All possibility.  All magic.  All a gift.

Lindsay Torry

Awaiting His Birth

Awaiting His Birth

Having been given the task of sharing my favorite holiday memory, I’ve spent the last couple of weeks racking my brain, going through them all mentally and changing my mind over and over again about which to share. I mean, there are just SO MANY! However, the answer came to me today as I was watching my children decorate gingerbread houses at my grandparents. My youngest daughter is only two years old, so we are in the really fun stage of exploring every aspect of the holiday season: introducing her to the decorations, lights, music, and that odd, robust old man in the red suit. Today at my grandparents’ house I made a point of showing her one of my favorite Christmas decorations, an antique ceramic nativity set. Now I realize that just about every Christian household has at least one nativity set of some sort, but this one was special. Even as a small child I recognized its delicate beauty, with its soft warm colors and fragile elegance. But the thing that made this nativity unique was the baby Jesus. He wasn’t fixed in the manger like in most modern nativities. No, this baby Jesus didn’t make his presence known until Christmas morning! Every time we went to visit, I would go almost immediately to check his status, anxiously awaiting him in his absence, and always making sure he was there if Christmas had come already. I truly anticipated his arrival! Now, even as an adult, every year I go to admire the nativity and note his absence or presence.

He is born

He is born

Today was no different as I pointed out all of the figures of the set to my daughter. It occurred to me just how very cool this idea is: withholding the baby Jesus from the manger until the morning of his birthday celebration. What a fun way to anticipate his arrival and keep the focus on the true reason for the holiday season! As an adult, each year it has disgusted me a little more how ridiculously commercialized and really off base our society has allowed Christmas to become. It’s more than a little ironic that a season originally about the spirit of giving has become more about getting the best deal and the biggest gifts. Today I was listening to a local radio station that plays all Christmas music during this time of year, and it dawned on me that of the 10 or so songs I had heard, not a single one mentioned Jesus. Sometimes it feels as though he’s been lost in the hustle bustle, that so many people like to take advantage of the decorating, partying, and gift getting, yet don’t ever get to the heart of the matter. Needless to say, after today’s realization I will be searching out a nativity set with a removable baby Jesus for my own home! And I will look forward to sharing in the excitement of Jesus’ arrival year after year with my own children and hopefully, one day, grandchildren!

Sammi Blake

After having thought about this for several weeks, it is still hard to zero in on what my favorite holiday memory is of when I was a child.  And, as an adult thinking back, I realize that my favorite holiday traditions as a child are the same ones I have now.  I still hold near and dear to my heart the traditions I had as a child.  Four of them stick out in my mind though.  I loved baking Christmas cookies, the annual punch-out chocolate Advent calendar, decorating the tree and riding around on Christmas Eve to see the luminaries.

Each year growing up we spent two solid days making and baking cookies.  We made at least eight- dozen.  I remember my mom and I both wearing our aprons.  Every single year my mom would say the same thing to me and I learned to look forward to it.  She would say, “You are the messiest baker I have ever known”.  Once we baked all the cookies we would wrap them up and give them as gifts to our neighbors and friends.

Our yearly Advent calendar took careful planning to figure out the days each of us kids got to pop a chocolate.  As an adult, I still like getting one for my stepchildren to enjoy.

And, oh the Christmas tree!  Every year our Christmas tree was decorated with ornaments we had made ourselves.  The rest of the ornaments were from my mom’s childhood.  It was the most wonderful feeling pulling all the ornaments out of their boxes one by one.  Each one we would stop and talk about.  I can still hear the tingle of the old rusty bell that was my mother’s when she was a child.  Decorating the tree was wonderful and I remember we took such time and care into placing the ornaments on the tree.  Now as an adult, I take the same joy, love and care in decorating our tree.

The luminaries were lit in neighborhoods near where we lived every Christmas Eve.  After church and dinner we used to ride around as a family to see the lights.  We would always turn Christmas music on the radio and we usually drove around in silence so that we could each reflect on the true meaning of Christmas.  I especially loved going up and down the hills, as the brilliance from all the luminaries was truly majestic.

Christmas is a wonderful time of the year and I look forward to all that it brings.

Crystal Balzer

Ryleigh and Blake with Buddy Rudolph

Ryleigh and Blake with Buddy Rudolph

The Christmas Season as a child and even now as an adult brings me much joy!  I love the smells, the decorations and even the shopping!  Although now as a mother I must admit- my favorite part is creating memories and traditions for my children.  Some of my favorite Christmas memories from my childhood would have to be spending Christmas Eve with my dad (my parents are divorced so this was a special time) and always opening my stocking last (I have carried this tradition on with my own children, after all, the stocking is the best part with each treasure wrapped- it is amazing what you can stuff inside a stocking).  Now with a family of my own we have added a couple more traditions.  We make reindeer food and spread it across the lawn on Christmas Eve so the reindeer know what house to stop at.  We also have an Elf on the Shelf.  The children named our elf, “Buddy Rudolph”.  He arrives each year on December 1st.  He flies to Santa each night telling him how the kids have behaved and when he returns he hides in a different location.  The children rush around in the morning to see who can find him first.  I also have each child pick a gift and we donate it to the Toys For Tots Program.  It is a joy to watch them choose a gift so carefully, each considering what another child their age would like.  It is my hope that when they grow up they will remember the fun, simple traditions we have as a family and even carry them on in their own.

Making reindeer food

Making reindeer food

Merry Christmas everyone, I hope you have enjoyed these glimpses into Christmas memories and traditions.  Now I wish for all of you the true peace and joy that comes with Christmas.  See you next year!