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…

Spring ~ The Season For Strawberries

As I’ve written in earlier posts this spring, I love this season and all that it brings.  Trees with new leaves, grass greening up and flowers popping out of the ground are all part of what makes me feel “twitterpated” for sure.

One of my favorite things about spring is that the Strawberry fields begin to bloom and by late April and May beautiful red berries are ready to be picked.  Throughout the years my children were growing up, I took them strawberry picking every year that I could.  Dressed in our grungiest clothes and shoes (besides strawberry stains being a hassle, the fields are notoriously muddy) we would make an outing to pick strawberries.  Once home I would make jam from much of what we picked and of course, we’d eat them for days popping them into our mouths, mixed with other fruits for breakfast or as the crowning glory for dessert.

Heading to the fields

Heading to the fields

Something comes over me when I arrive at a farm to pick strawberries.  I’m giddy, excited and oddly nervous – clearly full of mixed emotions.  I’m giddy with knowing the sheer fun I’ll have, but the excitement about getting to pick mixes with worry that too many people will show up and “crowd” my space in this wonderful task.  You see, I like to imagine myself in the fields as if I’m Laura Ingalls on the prairie; picking berries so that Ma can make dessert for dinner.  Or that Mary and I (Laura’s sister) can take some of our own delicious strawberries in our baskets and go sit under the tree by the banks of Plum Creek and just laze the day away eating till our tummies and hearts are full.  (By the way, somehow Melissa Gilbert’s exposed Tattoos on DWTS just ruin my Laura image!)  I’m much this same way at Christmas Tree Farms, Pumpkin Patches and other “Pick your own Farms”.  So what I have to do is chatter inside my head to myself to remember to just enjoy the moment and not worry about how many strawberries I can take home.  After all, I can always go again!

At work picking strawberries

At work

This year I’ve already been strawberry picking and I have to say, it’s the best time amongst the strawberry plants I’ve ever had.  Why?  This year I got to go with my granddaughter, Ansley (God’s Littlest Angel).  Oh and we did let her mom, Sammi go, too by the way.  I happened to be in Charlotte working and so we set aside this particular morning for the simple pleasure of picking strawberries.  Now Ansley’s only seventeen months old so, we had no idea what to expect of her in the fields – especially since we opted NOT to take the stroller. But Good Golly Miss Molly, the child is a reincarnation of Laura Ingalls.  She knew Just. What. To. Do.  Totally serious about the work, she picked and picked – OK, she also ate and ate.  Sammi figured she ate at least 30 juicy strawberries.  But, she was precious to watch.  Ever so gently she would pick the berry and then plop it into the basket.  Each berry she put in the basket brought a smile to her face as if she was saying, “Ta Da, I did it just right.”   So, this wonderful excursion to the strawberry fields this year got me to thinking…

The time is Ripe

Having had such a wonderful time with both Sammi and God’s Littlest Angel, I knew it was a moment in the big picture of my life that I would always treasure.  I was reminded of a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.

“The time is always ripe to do the right thing.”

Sure, the strawberries were ripe, but what was really ripe was the moment.  It was the right time to take the time to do the right thing – which was to spend time with my loved ones and especially not worry or obsess over who else drove up to the parking lot of the farm to pick strawberries, too.

And then it hit me.  The time really is always ripe to do the right thing.  We don’t have to wait.  For me, this means making the most of every single moment of every single day to do what is right in that moment.  Powerful words by a powerful man that I need to live by.  Think about it yourself and really digest the truth of this statement.  Yep, the time is always ripe to do the right thing.  We just have to do it.  Oh, and while writing this post I happened upon another wonderful quote, so perfect for this message about spending time with my granddaughter,

“Children are God’s Apostles, sent forth, day by day, to preach of love, hope and peace.“
James Russell Lowell

It’s true.  No matter what’s going on in the great big world, to a child it becomes condensed very simply to the moment and they are guided by a desire to love and yep, live in perfect harmony with those around them.  Hmmmmm…

Ansley eating a strawberry

Yum!

To grandchildren, the best dessert in life…

Using The Color Green In Home Decor

It’s springtime so open your front door or simply gaze out the window and what color do you see?  Unless you look up, chances are you’re seeing the color Green – Nature’s very own!  Yep, springtime is the perfect season to witness Nature’s predominant color in its entire splendor.  And with all the feel good vibes that come with the green of spring, it’s no wonder that the color Green itself has positive emotional impact.

Green:

A secondary color on the color spectrum, Green is a blend of the primary colors of Yellow and Blue.  Green symbolizes Health, Well-being, Prosperity and Life.  Green is the color most favored by people in the helping and healing fields.

The psychology of Green

As I wrote in my post, The Power Of Color, the use of color is a form of non-verbal communication.  The color choices you make in your space greatly impact it and as I discussed in the post, colors not only symbolize certain feelings, they have the power to evoke certain feelings as well.

Studies have shown that Green has its own effects on us.  For example, using green creates a calming and soothing atmosphere.  Here are some other effects Green has on us:

  • Helps to alleviate Depression
  • Reduces Anxiety
  • Reduces Fear
  • Nurtures us
  • Fills us with a sense of balance and harmony

It’s no wonder that many hospitals and medical establishments use Green as the color of choice for walls and fabrics!

Several people I know infuse shades of green in their own homespaces.  Oddly enough they are all in the medical field!  My childhood friend, Julie has soft sage walls in her dining room and splashes of green throughout her entire homespace.  A dedicated nurse and a person full of compassion for others, I’m not the least bit surprised that she loves Green.  Then there’s my dear friend Jolie.  She uses the color Green in her homespace and her office is furnished with beautiful green sofas and club chairs.  Immediately upon walking into her office you feel a sense of peace and calm – important for anyone that seeks out her medical expertise.  Last but not less, one of my niece’s, Jackie uses green in her home décor as well.  And yep, she’s also in the medical field- she’s a speech pathologist and in her personal life she’s always smiling, always upbeat and one that couldn’t hurt a fly!

So knowing that these three wonderfully caring individuals are drawn to the color Green gives me pause to consider the question of the chicken and the egg – you know, which came first?  Did a childhood love of green subconsciously draw each of them into career paths of helping and healing or vice versa?  Now, stay on the path of connecting the color Green with how we act and react and that flat brings out the wanna be psychologist in me and makes me say…

Go green in your space

Infuse the color Green in your homespace.  After all, if green can have positive effects on us, for heavens sake, we all should consciously incorporate it into our decor.  There are a myriad of ways you can do this without going over the top or ignoring the color palette that truly speaks to you such as incorporating it into throw pillows and accessories, but the easiest and for me the absolute best way to add the color Green to your space is with living plants.  Bringing green into your homespace in such a natural way by far changes the energy of your space – not to mention the health of your space (as discussed in a post, Top Twelve Best Indoor Plants For Purifying The Air).

Live green in your space

In recent years it has become the politically correct thing to go green by physically caring more for our environment in ways such as reducing water usage, reducing electrical usage, reducing gas consumption and of course, by recycling all that we can.  Our planet and humanity just cannot keep handling all our excesses, uses and abuses.  Every day the news gives us more ideas of how to physically care more for our environment.  But as a decorator and a homespace coach, what I call a “psychologist of the home”, I cannot stress enough the importance of psychologically caring more for our environment, what I call “living green”.  By going green in our home décor, we live green by reducing anxiety, feeling calmer, more peaceful and relaxed.  By going green we live green and can more easily live in perfect harmony within ourselves as well as with greater mankind.

Living green connects us to Nature

Richard Louv, author of the book, Last Child in the Woods and his most recent book, The Nature Principle, has some very compelling thoughts on the importance of nature in our lives.  He calls Nature the best tonic we can find and says,

“The more high-tech we become, the more nature we need.”

I emphatically agree with Mr. Louv and have learned this for myself.  There’s no better medicine for me than to get outdoors and connect with Nature.  That’s why I also know firsthand the importance of bringing nature indoors as much as possible and so I highly recommend that everyone do this.  By infusing shades of green in our décor theme, we subconsciously connect to Nature.  It’s just that simple.

Early this morning I walked five miles at the park.  I was overwhelmed with the panoramic view of green around me.  With many of the trees in varying degrees of sprouting new leaves, the shades of green seemed endless.  I felt like Julie Andrew’s character, Maria in The Sound of Music as I realized my arms began stretching out to encompass the beauty surrounding me.  No, I can’t sing, but I sure come alive surrounded in green!

To living green…

Spring-Cleaning Your Way To A “No Clutter Zone”

A few months ago I wrote a post, Clutter In Your Space Clutters Your Mind.  My intention was to alert you to the importance of having what I call a “No Clutter Zone” in your homespace.  It is intriguing to psychoanalyze why we have clutter in our homes, particularly when it appears in very specific areas.

And as I wrote in my recent spring post, Spring: A Season Of New Beginnings, spring is a wonderful time of year for new beginnings both in the structural home you live in and in the personal HOME that is uniquely you.  The tradition of spring-cleaning is one great way to refresh and renew your space while also decluttering it of all the things keeping your space from being truly beautiful.  So with that in mind, I am reprinting parts of my original post on clutter.

Reasons for clutter

I think the reasons people have clutter in their homes are usually for one of the following:

  • Lack of proper storage space
  • Life changes such as a move, a new baby or anything that throws life out of whack
  • Poor time/life management skills
  • Psychological issues such as depression, family dysfunction, low self-esteem, poor personal boundaries and even attention deficit disorder

I call the first three of these reasons “temporary clutter”.  In other words, all three are easy to fix with a little effort and determination.  Still, clutter is clutter, which can be unsettling to your mind.  My recommendation to you if your homespace is cluttered for any of these reasons is to find simple solutions for them.  Your stress will decrease, your feel good vibes will increase and your space will become truly beautiful!  I guarantee it.

Now, the fourth reason – that’s a tough one.  It takes a lot of work to rid your homespace of clutter if there are psychological components to it.  Mind you, I’m not talking about the extreme of hoarding here.  That’s a whole other ball of wax.  I’m talking about routine clutter that detracts and distracts from your sanctuary – the place you call HOME.

The psychology of clutter

Here’s a list of some of the spaces in your home where clutter accumulates and what the clutter there might symbolize:

Kitchen – Difficulty with emotional nourishment for yourself or others

Main Living Space – Feelings of isolation

Hallways – Obstacles in your life

Bedroom – Distancing from partner and/or intimacy with others

Bathroom – Low self-esteem

Closets – Hidden Issues

Basement – Ignored Issues

Garage – Confusion about direction in your life

Exterior and yard – Low self-worth and a sense of giving up

Anyone find the symbolism of clutter in these spaces thought provoking?  I certainly do.

After the first printing of my post on clutter, it was fun to hear from readers and friends about the state of their own homes and what they planned to do about it.  One dear friend, Jolie even decided to tackle her office and do some necessary decluttering there after reading my post.  She told me that it felt wonderful to remove over seven boxes of files and paperwork and send it all to the shredder.  Imagine- she discarded seven boxes of paperwork just cluttering up her space!  As all things go, it propelled her to continue the decluttering in other areas of her space as well.  That domino thing you know…

Every homespace should reflect the best of those that dwell within it.  So, if spaces within your home suffer from constant clutter, look inside (both your inner self and your home) and get to work.  Honor yourself this spring with actively participating in decluttering your space.  It will put you on the road to a whole new you.

To a no clutter zone…

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…

My Materialistic Holiday Gift Wish List For You

First let me say that I really don’t enjoy the commercial side of Christmas.  I never have and I never will.  For me, the holiday is more about the smells and feelings the season evokes than what I want for myself and what I want to give others.  Spending time with family and friends and opening cards that come in the mail from people I may not hear from but once a year make for a perfect holiday season.  Oh, snow helps!

Growing up in a household of six kids, the gift rule was to ask Santa for three gifts each.  I have no idea why three was the chosen number.  Rarely though did I actually get the things on my list.  I can remember asking for an Easy Bake Oven that Santa didn’t bring.  I’m 55 years young with way too much gray hair (OK, so I color it) but, by golly I am dying to make brownies in an Easy Bake Oven.  You can bet Ansley, aka “God’s Littlest Angel” (my granddaughter) will get one from me in a few years – whether she wants to or not, we are going to bake brownies together!  Do they make organic mixes for the Easy Bake Oven?   In the early 1960’s when most girls were getting as their first Barbie, the puffy-haired blonde, I got the redhead.  Go figure.  Or the year white Go-Go boots were the rage- I got boots yes, but they weren’t the ones that were the ones to have.  I can still remember going back to school after the holiday and of course, Jenny Terry sat at her desk, legs crossed, wearing her brand new to die for white Go-Go boots.  She also got to have long hair.  It flipped ever so perfectly on the ends just at her shoulders, too. I, on the other hand had a pixie cut.  Or the year signet rings were the gift to get for Christmas.  Yep, sterling silver signet rings.  I got a gold one instead – in an unusual style and unusual font.  Jenny Terry got the real thing…

Now don’t get me wrong- I haven’t had to spend years in therapy getting over Christmases past. What I think actually happened was I learned to be unique and not follow the trends.  And, I will say my mother made the most wonderful clothes for our Barbies’ that no store bought Barbie outfit could compete with.   By the way, I still have my Barbie, the case and most of the clothes my mother made.  What love and care she took making those clothes.  Not to mention the time!

Looking back on all those years I am thankful that I didn’t get what every other girl my age was getting.  In other words, I like to think the gifts I got were not ordinary but extraordinary.  Not part of commercialism but, standing for creativity instead.

As a young mother I kept to the rule of three gifts for each of my kids.   I also tried to give extraordinary and not ordinary.  But, I guess you would have to ask my kids what they thought of their gifts.  Now that’s a story for another day, right?  Or maybe a therapy session?

With all that said, the holiday season does in fact promote materialistic gift giving.  Therefore, in the spirit of giving I have three things that IF I could buy them for you I would.  And, IF you asked me suggestions of what to give to someone else, these three things would be my suggestions.  Here they are:

A Nebulizer ~ Absolutely, positively the smell of your home is the most important thing to be aware of.  Using a nebulizer with 100% organic essential oils will send wonderful aromas through your space and at the same time, the oils will actually alter and affect the energy of your space.  Read my recent post, “Aromatherapy In Your Home” to learn more.

Wyndmere nebulizer

My nebulizer

Cast Iron Cookware ~ What better way to cook?  What better way to be environmentally friendly at the same time?  Start with an iron skillet and add other cast iron cookware at other gift giving/receiving times of the year.  Read my recent post, “A Cast Iron Skillet – The Only Must Have For Your Kitchen” to learn more about cooking with cast iron.

A well-seasoned iron skillet

A well-seasoned iron skillet

A Living Plant ~  Nothing like literally going green!  Your homespace (and airspace) will thank you for bringing nature inside.  A plant, a terrarium or even a teacup fairy garden will create a healthy environment for you and add immeasurably to your décor.  Read Becky Balzer’s recent post, “Top Twelve Best Indoor Plants For Purifying The Air” and Jennie Stockslager’s post, “The Magic Of Fairy Gardening” as guides to what to buy.

Becky Balzer’s Terrarium creation

Becky Balzer’s Terrarium creation

So, there you have it.  My materialistic holiday gift wish list for you.  If you are still out there shopping, throw in one or heck, all three of these items for yourself or someone on your list.  And, while you are out there in the hustle-bustle of the holiday season, hum the tune from the old Coke commercial, circa 1971 called, “I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing (In Perfect Harmony)” and think about living in perfect harmony.  It was actually this song that somehow came to my mind while walking in nature one day and  inspired me to create “Living in Perfect Harmony”.  Back in December of 2006 a chance encounter on an airplane woke me up to the realization that life is all about spreading kindness and caring while at the same time accepting the past.  From that chance encounter I decided that for the rest of my life I wanted to strive to live in perfect harmony with not just myself but all of humanity as well.  And guess what, everything begins in the home.  How we live in our homes, what we surround ourselves with in our homes, how we treat others and ourselves in our homes – all this sets the stage for what we do in the outside world.   So if I  can, I will teach the world, one person at a time to live in perfect harmony.  And as the words from another song ,”Let There Be Peace On Earth” play in my head right now, I do wish for peace on Earth.  Let it begin with me.

To living in perfect harmony…

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is just around the corner.  Then, on the heels of Thanksgiving starts the busiest season of the year – the Christmas season.  For me, both holidays signal a time of not just fun and family gatherings but a time of giving to those not as fortunate as I am.

Glorious fall leaves

Photo Credit: Sammi Blake

Everyone has traditions for the holidays.  My family and I certainly had our own while I was growing up.  Most of my Thanksgivings were spent in Roanoke, VA with extended family.  Two of my aunts, Aunt Mary Ann and Aunt Becky were members of a Woman’s Club that always served a Thanksgiving dinner to the less fortunate the night before Thanksgiving Day.  In many ways, this set the tone for the entire Thanksgiving weekend.

This tradition of serving food to the less fortunate left an indelible impression on me.  I can see that it helped to shape me and instill in me the value system I have today.  It is my heart’s desire to carry on a tradition such as this with my daughter Ansley who is a week away from her first birthday.  From the time she was just a little bump in my belly I have thought about how I wanted to teach her the important things in life.  Reverence to God and the Earth as well as Stewardship to others are some of the core values to name a few.

Ansley was due to be born last Christmas Eve.   Funny, growing up and as a young adult thinking about having my own children, the only month I thought I would never want to have a child was in December.  God has his own timing I guess!  Once I knew her due date was Christmas Eve, I knew I was being given an angel.  So what if it would be in the month I had always said I would avoid having a baby in!  Not that I really thought she would come on her due date.  And, guess what?  She didn’t.  Ansley came a month early.  She was born on Thanksgiving Day.

I don’t want to relive the details of why Ansley came early.  Suffice it to say I don’t remember much of that day and didn’t get to see, touch or hold my daughter until a couple of days later.  The first time I “viewed” my new daughter was on a camera.  No celebratory Thanksgiving meal for me and as for my family- well, Ben and Kathleen brought it into the family waiting room and everyone except me ate there.  I couldn’t even get out of the hospital bed.  I have to say though that looking back I realize this last year has flown by like the speed of light.  And although that particular Thanksgiving was not the most traditional Thanksgiving, I can now say it was not only the most memorable, but also the most special Thanksgiving I have ever had.  I have a healthy, happy and yes – beautiful little daughter that is thriving.  For this I give thanks.

Beautiful fall day

Photo Credit: Sammi Blake

I also give thanks for having the opportunity to help my stepchildren learn the importance of stewardship.  Recently, my stepson, Austin had a food drive at his school.  It actually lasted the entire month of October.  While doing my normal weekly grocery shopping I bought items for the food drive.  I got enough food to fill a grocery bag for almost every day of the food drive.  At first Austin didn’t understand why in the world I would have bought so much- I took this as a teaching moment to explain about giving to the less fortunate.  I talked to him about how blessed we are and that we get to pretty much eat whatever we want at our meal times.  I told him that many kids throughout the world and even right here in our own city don’t sit down to regular meals.  I explained to him how important it is to help others in need.  Since that conversation there have been several times when Austin has talked about people in need and the other day he even reminded me about how he got so much Halloween candy while Trick-or-Treating.  He asked me if he could share his candy with the less fortunate.  I explained to him that it was important to provide nourishing food to those that need it.  To say that his desire to give even his precious candy to others touched me would not even cover the emotions I felt during this conversation with him!  Austin’s heart is in the right place.  For this I give thanks.

The Christmas season was another important season of stewardship I was taught growing up.  I can remember at least one year adopting a less fortunate family and giving gifts to them instead of getting many gifts for the three of us kids.  Doing this in your own family might seem a bit extreme.  You might even think your kids would rebel.  I challenge you to try it – the outcome might surprise you.  I can remember only feeling good about getting less and giving more.  For this I give thanks.

I myself need to do more for others.  I do know though that doing one small thing can always lead to another.  I challenge anyone reading this to start a tradition of stewardship with your own children and keep it going through the entire year and then, through their entire lives.  Teaching them stewardship is giving them a gift that keeps giving.

I give thanks for so much.  I truly am blessed in more ways that I can begin to count.  May you be as blessed.

To giving thanks.  Oh, and Happy Birthday my precious daughter…

Ansley

Photo Credit: Sammi Blake

Our children are our future.  We need to teach them to reach out and help others in need.  Start planting the seeds of caring in your own family when your children are young.  Instilling the value of stewardship never begins too soon.

Adventures In The Great Outdoors – Fall Style

Ever since I can remember, I have loved the outdoors.  Fall was no exception.  I used to beg my parents to go on weekend picnics in the fall.  True, partly I liked the “Live It To Beaver” image I thought a family function like this would bring but mostly I wanted to enjoy outdoor family fun.  Jumping in the leaves that we had to rake on the weekends was fun as well.  I can remember as a teenager dating (yes, we went on dates, we didn’t “talk” as the term is used today) and some of the best dates included riding or walking through the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia.  Everyone visited Mabry Mill – it was a sure sign of fall and traditionally everyone went there to view the leaves.

Brynn singing in the rain

Brynn singing in the rain

I have to say my fondest memories; my best times are always when I am outdoors.  And, it was just in the last few years that I fully grasped the healing power of nature.  Sorry readers if I repeat myself in my posts but I have an important point to make.  As I wrote in my posts, Let Nature Restoreth Your Soul (And Your Home) and A Breath Of Fresh Air, nature is a powerful elixir.  It restores you in ways nothing else can.

No wonder that intuitively my whole life I was drawn to nature.  No wonder I felt the importance of teaching a love for the outdoors to my children.  Now, I hope to teach others through my writing and speaking of how important it is to connect or reconnect with nature.  I passionately believe that as part of humanity we must both singly and collectively connect with nature.  We must spend time in nature and then bring it indoors.

Recently I stumbled on a book by Richard Louv.  He wrote a book called, “Last Child in the Woods”.  He also coined the term, “nature deficit disorder”.  Take the time to read his book or certainly take the time to understand what he means by this term.  It is very thought provoking.  I for one absolutely, positively get where he is coming from.  We are seriously becoming a humanity of what I call participants in “man”ufactured fun.  We play indoor games, watch TV indoors, and exercise indoors.  If we spend time outdoors it is still in “man”ufactured ways more often than not.  We play tennis, soccer, go to football games and so on and so forth.  Vacations tend to be in places like Disney World.  Beach vacations are often spent shopping and putting our children in day camps while we play golf and tennis instead of lazing the day away together fishing, swimming, crabbing and walking the sandy beaches looking for shells.  If we do go exotic, we tend to go to tropical resort areas.  If you ask me, these places are just another man-made, “man”ufactured replica of another resort simply plopped down on a different island or locale.  What happened to real woods?  What happened to real lakes, ponds and streams?  What happened to real adventure that only nature can provide for us?

Don’t get me wrong.  I do believe that there is a time and place for everything.  But, as technology (and corporate greed) has grown our distance from nature has grown.  This is not something to be proud of for it is from nature we came and to nature we will return.  Why act unnatural and spend life away from it?

Enjoy nature-made fall fun

The season of fall is a spectacular time of year.  The air is crisp and the colors that burst forth from the changing of the leaves are simply glorious.  Every single day rain or shine is an opportunity to step outside and feel fall.  Weekends can (and should) be spent walking, hiking, biking, apple picking, canoeing or just sitting on a park bench or a fallen tree trunk breathing in the fresh air.

The Mullins kids loving outdoors

The Mullins kids loving outdoors

For both of my sons, fall signals the start of hunting season.  For my sister, Bee and her husband Dave it is another season to enjoy sailing the Chesapeake Bay.  For the entire Balzer clan, fall is a special time for the annual father-child weekend at Hunt Camp.   My David and I recently spent a Saturday in Wisconsin apple picking.  Not only was it fun but we are also still enjoying the “fruits” of our labor every day with the apples we picked.  And even this afternoon after David, Sammi and Ansley finish napping (Sammi and Ansley are visiting) we plan to rake leaves and let “Little Bits” (Ansley) enjoy her first adventure in playing in the leaves.  Talk about fun…  Talk about memory building…

Life is an adventure

Ryleigh and Blake working outdoors

Ryleigh and Blake working outdoors

Life itself is truly an adventure.  Figuratively, you never know what is on the other side of the next hill you climb or around the next bend in the road.  The same with exploring nature- it is one great adventure itself.  Remember one of my favorite quotes in my post, These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things, “And I took the road less traveled by”?  Take the road less traveled by.  Take to nature.  Forget “man”ufactured fun and take part in “nature-made” fun.

Yep, Nature is one great big adventure just waiting for you.  Fall is a perfect time to explore it!  Get out there and explore!  Head for the parks and preserves.  You will be glad you did!

David enjoying the “fruits” of his labor

David enjoying the “fruits” of his labor

To exploring nature this fall…

Check out a full album of outdoor photos sent to me by family, friends and fans on my Facebook Fanpage, livinginperfectharmony.  Feel Free to share pictures of your adventures in the great outdoors on the fanpage as well.  Enjoy the fall!

Fabulous Outdoor Décor For Fall

I am astounded each year at how much money is spent on Halloween decorations for the outside. Surveys show that Halloween is by far and away the second largest holiday we decorate for. I know I am an old-timer but growing up, the most anyone did was put out a pumpkin that became a jack-o-lantern for Halloween.

Now, it seems that all front doors have at the very least a pumpkin per child in the family.  Don’t get me wrong; I am not opposed to this.  But, what for years and years was a one-night festivity has turned into a full-blown holiday season.  Manufacturers and retailers now provide us with every imaginable way to decorate for Halloween.  Lights, moving figures, spooky music – you name it, you can find it in a store to buy for decorating.

I love Halloween.  I will never forget the Halloween when I looked like I was carrying my own pumpkin because I was a couple of weeks overdue with my first child, Benjamin.  Or the time I was in charge of his sixth grade Halloween party.  I can still see him cringing in embarrassment as I turned the jam box volume up on “The Monster Mash”.  I think I was a tad too enthusiastic for him.  Those were the days…

And I am the first to admit that I do enjoy the varying degrees to which people decorate for the candy holiday.  Just the other weekend while driving to Wisconsin to go apple picking, my David and I laughed hysterically at the massive black spiders we saw on the roller coaster at Six Flags.  I mean they were HUGE even from the interstate!  Traditionally every Christmas season my family and I have driven around at night to see all the different holiday lights and decorations.  Now I find myself doing it during “The Halloween Season”.  See?  I even refer to it as a season without realizing it.

Go natural the day after Halloween

Obviously, the colors of Halloween are also symbolic of autumn.  Why not convert your outdoor décor to simple fall décor the day after Halloween?  Get rid of the spooky.  Get rid of the creepy.  Get rid of anything that has to do specifically with Halloween and think fall.  Let the front entrance of your home honor the season as we approach Thanksgiving.  Let the colors of fall emblazon your home and send a welcoming message to those that enter or merely drive by.

Seasonal Mums

Seasonal Mums

Nothing beats what nature provides for us.  Go natural with your outdoor fall décor.  Fill your planters and urns with seasonal plants such as mums, ornamental cabbages and pansies.  Keep the pumpkins, too- at least the ones you didn’t carve.  Ignore the fact that you are giving the squirrels a feast to nibble on everyday.  Do what I do and enjoy their show!  Add gourds, Indian corn and cornstalks.  Think Pilgrims!

One of my decorating mottos is less is more.  A simple natural fall wreath on your front door speaks volumes.  But, add whatever makes you happy.  Just make it unique and inviting.  Remember, the outside of your home is the first impression you give of how you live in your space.  Make sure it reflects whom you are.  As with all things you do in your homespace, honor yourself in this way.

A simple fall decor

A simple fall decor

As I said, I love Halloween.  I remember many years as a kid walking in the dark with my sister, Mary Ann carrying our pillowcases door-to-door for treats.  We walked until we couldn’t hold the heavy pillowcases much longer.  When my kids were young, Halloween signaled “Bat Stew” for dinner and then the night that the dads in the neighborhood took over.  Kids in tow, they walked the neighborhood while we mothers handed out candy and enjoyed the moments of alone time.  And, since 1987, I celebrate every Halloween lovingly remembering my own dad as we buried him Halloween afternoon and then took all the grandkids trick-or-treating that night on October 31, 1987.  My dad loved candy more than anyone I ever knew.  How fitting that he was buried on the candy holiday!

Happy Halloween to all of you and may tonight’s fun fill you with laughter and love.  And, cheers to you Daddy.  I think I’ll eat some Mary Jane’s for you!

Fall on the farm

Fall on the farm

To celebrating fall…

Bring The Glory Of Autumn Inside

Fallen leaves

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

By now if you have been reading many of my posts on this Blog, you know that I place tremendous emphasis on nature.  Almost without exception, each of my posts speaks to not just the beauty of nature but also, the absolute necessity to connect with it.  Time after time I remind anyone that will listen (or read) that as part of humanity we must both singly and collectively connect with nature.

As an Interior Decorator and a Homespace Coach, my goal is to bring nature inside and bring interior spaces alive with all that it has to offer season after season.  In one of my summer posts, Celebrate Summer And Bring It Inside, I gave my “Helpful Hannah” tips on how to do this.  The season of fall offers just as many wonderful ways to bring nature inside.

Bring elements of nature specific to the season inside

Wonders of fall

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

I love all things found in nature.  I would much rather grace my homespace with “found things” than anything I can purchase in a store.  Just recently I put away my collections of seashells and starfish to make the transition for my fall décor.

What I enjoy so much is not just the fun of decorating but, the fun I get out of immersing myself in nature in order to collect fall’s treasures.  Being outdoors in any capacity feeds my soul and getting to bring into my homespace what I find in nature is what I call more toppings on the ice cream sundae of life!

Here are a few of the “found things” that  I have used to add natural beauty to my home:

Sarah, Ellie and Whitt Shrader

Sarah, Ellie and Whitt Shrader

  • Pinecones (placed in fun baskets)
  • Varying colorful leaves (placed on table tops after being pressed)
  • Dried grasses (used in floral arrangements)
  • Acorns and other nuts (placed in a glass bowl for display)
  • Fallen tree bark (hot glued onto candles)

Of course, the obvious things like pumpkins and gourds are also part of my fall décor.  But, instead of purchasing them from the store I have gone right to the source and enjoyed the fall excursion.  Why not do this for yourself or as a family event?  There is nothing like a trip to the pumpkin patch for memory making.  Year after year I enjoyed this with my children.  Hay rides, apple cider and pumpkins make for a wonderful day!

Make autumn come alive

Exploring autumn

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

As with every one of the seasons, the sky is the limit to how you can bring nature inside.  One of my favorite long lasting ways to do this (that can be enjoyed year after year) is to take an annual photograph of you and your family specific to the season outdoors in nature.  Then, every year you can bring the past season’s photo out to enjoy and thereby create a family tradition called “The seasons of life”.  What fun to watch the yearly changes in these family photographs each changing season.  What better way to make autumn come alive year after year?

Get out there and explore.  Hike, bike or simply stroll through the wondrous beauty our earth has to share with us this fall.  Then bring it inside!

Enjoy the color…