Some Days My Home Feels Made Of Straw

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

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

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

A kindred spirit I met at the Benjamin Moore store

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

Interesting point of view, I have this point of view

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

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

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

Make a habit of correcting your point of view when needed

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

To living in perfect harmony…

A Better Home

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

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

Maurice’s gift gave someone a better home

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

A better home for Chris

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

Strive for the best home right here and now

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

To being home…

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

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

Can You Hear Me Now?

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

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

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

Double rainbow

My Sign

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

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

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

Truly Alive In My HOME

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To being alive…

Willingness…To Do What?

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

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

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

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

Your word for 2013 is: WILLINGNESS

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roadside Flares

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

I’m paying it forward

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

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

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

Just be willing…

How Will You Be Remembered?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To love and actively spreading it …

Conscious Living

Somewhere along the road of life I realized the deep, deep connection our homes we live in have to our being HOMES.  LIPH began as a way for me to write and speak to others about this connection of Home to our HOMES.  As a decorator I know first hand the beauty that we can create in our homes and furthermore, I clearly get the importance of making our space reflect our individual uniqueness.

B&A Interiors website

Our new website!

Recently my company launched a new look for our website.  By the way, a great big shout out to my fab team of designers that made it happen, Sean Kalooky and John Baxter of Big Sushi.  You guys truly created a look on the site that reflects our personal “branding” of our company.  (Check us out at www.bainteriors.com.)

Anyway, my point to this is that now that our new website has launched I feel I’m further on the road to fulfilling my dream of using stories of people, places and things that I’ve connected with to communicate to others the beauty of life- both in our spatial homes and our being HOMES.  I blog on the B&A website about our spatial homes specific to design and decor work.  LIPH incorporates HOME in all its interpretations – our spatial home, our being HOME and our Earth home.  I feel blessed to be able to share with others ways to live in peace and harmony through what I write, what I speak and what I design and decorate.  Honestly, I’ve had some really unusual experiences and chance encounters (some would make great story line for Lifetime TV) that have taught me valuable lessons of life.  In fact, if my son-in-law has told me once, he’s told me a gazillion times that I am a magnet for encounters out of the norm!  I believe that in sharing these encounters as stories in a way that blends Home and HOME, you can learn from these experiences as well.  I hope so anyway!

Part of my message in both my writing and my design work is what I refer to as “Conscious Living”.  I absolutely positively believe that in both spaces (Home and HOME) it is vital to your essence that you live consciously.  Living consciously allows you to live in perfect harmony – with yourself, with others, with mankind and yep, with our Earth home.

What do I mean to live consciously? I love vocabulary so let me start with a definition.

Conscious: Fully aware of or sensitive to something

Clearly, it’s important to have consciousness – of whatever the experience or situation.  Being conscious means you are feeling, understanding and honoring the situation- yep, you’re fully alive!  And, I believe that in order to live in perfect harmony we must live consciously in both homes.  But, it’s a clear choice to do so.  How to do it?

Conscious Living in your Home

Here’s a way to live consciously in your Home

Here’s a way to live consciously in your Home

Living consciously within your spatial home is fairly simple.  It just takes desire, determination and dedication.  Examples of ways to achieve this range from caring about the Earth and how you incorporate this into how you live in your home, how you act in your home and how you decorate your home.  Here’s my top ten ways to achieve conscious living in your home:

  1. Make your home a “No Shoe Zone” to shoes worn outside.
  2. “Go Green” every way that you can.
  3. Bring Fresh Air into your home regularly.
  4. Reduce Noise Pollution.
  5. Reduce Waste.
  6. Buy locally grown and locally raised foods.
  7. Plant a garden each year and better yet, make it organic.
  8. Reduce Conspicuous Consumption.
  9. Reduce Clutter.
  10. Decorate your home as a unique expression of yourself.

Conscious Living in your HOME

Living consciously within yourself, your being HOME is vital to your essence in ways that greatly affect everything in your life.

Jimmy consciously living his life

Jimmy consciously living his life

The best way to consciously live in your being HOME is to honor who you are and live your life accordingly.  One way to do this is to choose a career that expresses who you are.  My son Jimmy, a lover of the outdoors and in particular, fly-fishing has done just that.  His work mirrors his passion for the outdoors!  Another way to live consciously is to respect who and what you are and freely express it.  Be yourself!  As I’ve mentioned in many of my posts, I learned this for myself after a chance encounter on a plane in 2006.  Believe me, that encounter was a defining moment in my life.  It brought me the clarity I needed to live consciously- yep, absolutely positively fully alive embracing who I am on every level.  I will forever be grateful for the experience!

Living consciously in one home affects the other homes in your life.   It’s kind of like that domino thing you know. Your spatial home, your being HOME, your earth home – they are all intricately connected to each other and so the transition from one to the next must be smooth for proper balance to be obtained in your life and quite frankly, the lives of all you come in contact with.

Take the opportunity today to evaluate your life and ask yourself how consciously you are living.  Whatever you determine, I do know that there is more bliss for yourself and those around you if you are living it fully alive!  So, just do it ~ in your home and your HOME!

To conscious living…

What’s In Your Attic?

Capital One Credit Card Company’s tag line, “What’s in your wallet?” leads you to think that their credit card is an important item for you to carry in your wallet.  After all, each item most of us have in our wallets is there for a reason.  We choose what we have in our wallets down to which photos we have in them, which receipts we hold onto, what identifications cards we have in them and yes, which credit cards we carry in them.  Many of us are even organized enough to know how much money we carry in our wallets and even make sure the dollar bills are neatly arranged in sequential order.

The same should go for our attic spaces.  Important items we want to save, protect and store should be what’s in our attics and yet; very often this space becomes the dumping ground for our junk.

I’ll never forget my David’s close encounter of the worst kind the last time he was in our attic.  It was almost exactly three years ago.  We had known for months that we would be moving from Charlotte, NC to “The Windy City” and so I had made a schedule of things we needed to get done before we moved.  Now understand I mean this with the utmost love and affection for my David but, “Harry Homemaker” he’s not.  Not even remotely.  So of course he put off and put off and put off his chore of cleaning the attic. (By the way, he opted to choose this chore!)  So, finally the weekend before the movers were to arrive, he decided to tackle the attic- cleaning, decluttering and organizing it.  Needless to say, with so little time to get the job done, most of the junk came to Chicago in the moving van.  But, the reason I’m telling this story is because of what happened when we moved.  You see the attic was a filthy mess (due to years of neglect) when David finally broke down and went up there to tackle it.  Dust, dirt, grime, bat droppings – you name it, it was there.  So, a few days later on the road trip to Chicago he started feeling funny.  Well, he got worse and worse and so literally upon hitting Naperville I took him to the emergency room.  Shock of all shocks, he was admitted for double pneumonia.  What a wonderful welcome to our new digs that was!  After several days in the hospital, we put two and two together and realized what probably triggered the pneumonia was the nasty air and surroundings of the attic.  So, moral of the story- clean and declutter your attic.  Clean it of dust, dirt and cobwebs.  Keep only what you really want to save and take the rest of your unneeded stuff to Habitat Restore, Consignment Shops or other charities for someone else to use and enjoy.  And remember, a clean attic creates a healthy environment for you!

Attics in our HOMES

In our being HOMES we have attics much like the ones in our physical dwellings.  And many of us ignore these attics much like we ignore our physical attics.  We fill these invisible attics of our hearts, minds and souls with boxes of junk that we don’t want to deal with and we let these boxes sit there year after year gathering more dust, dirt and grime – all the while continuing to create a horribly unhealthy environment for us.  Boxes of hurt.  Boxes of anger.  Boxes of humiliation.  Boxes of jealousy.  Boxes of fear.  Boxes of regret.  And so on and so on…

I take my job as a Decorator and a Homespace Coach very seriously.  Part of what I do is share with my clients ways that they can better live in their space in order to live harmoniously within themselves.  So, I can tell you absolutely, positively that cleaning up the attic is an important chore to tackle- and I mean this both figuratively and literally. Cleaning up spaces like the attic make both your physical space and your mental space healthier.

So, don’t put off cleaning your attic for another day.  Face the chore and do it knowing how good you will feel once you have completed the task.  We all have boxes in our attics we choose to ignore.  But, I can promise you the clean up is well worth it.  For if you put off and keep putting off, it might make you sick.  Deal with the boxes in your attic that need to be removed, even if you tackle them one at a time.  The freedom you will get from it is indescribable.  And let me tell you, when you clean up your attic it allows for more space inside for beautiful things to reside there.  I know this first hand as I’ve done the cleaning of my own invisible attic!  I have Missy (not her real name) to thank for forcing me to clean up my attic. Thank you Missy, you helped me tackle the boxes in my attic I was choosing to ignore.  My prayer for you is that one-day you will find the courage to tackle your own.  You will free yourself and honey, money can’t buy freedom like that!

To cleaning the attic…

Words To Live By

The school year is coming to an end and graduations come with it.  Graduations from high school and college are milestones that are normally celebrated with words from either a guest speaker, the class Valedictorian or both.  And perhaps it’s because graduations have historically taken place in late May and early June that June is known as the traditional month for weddings.  I guess in years past (many years it seems like) girls finished school and immediately got married which meant June brides.  Whatever the case may be wedding ceremonies follow similar traditions as commencement exercises do and usually have a sermon (or homily) for the couple to give them words to live by in this new chapter of life they are embarking on.  Funny thing, the words spoken at life cycle events such as graduations and weddings have meaning for all those listening – not just the bride and groom or the graduate.  Just last May my niece got married and her grandfather was the officiating minister.  Reverend McAden’s words for Britney and Tim touched me so much that I used them in my blog post, The Sacredness of Home.   I believe that his words laid a great foundation for Britney and Tim and would for any young couple beginning a life together.  If you haven’t read this post, I encourage you to read it and absorb his words.  He truly speaks to what a home is made of.

This June I have a niece and a nephew graduating from high school.  And, I have a wonderful couple B&A Interiors is working with in rehabbing their new home in Uptown Charlotte planning to get married.  Don’t ask me why, but they are rehabbing, moving and getting married all at the same time.  In fact, they just moved into their new digs this past weekend and are getting married on June 9th.  Talk about stress!  Anyway, I came upon a message this morning in a blog that I read that really stayed with me.  Honestly, I cannot think of more fitting words to say to my niece, my nephew and my clients than those I read this morning.  They are such simple words from a powerful woman, Mother Teresa.  I truly believe that if Ciara, Carl, Katie and Seth grasp these words and choose to live by them, their lives will be wonderfully rich.  And if every one of us would also grasp these words and choose to live by them, well heck – we’d be a world absolutely, positively living in perfect harmony. So for Ciara, Carl, Katie, Seth and all of you out there, here are some powerfully simple words to live by…

 

People are often unreasonable, irrational and self-centered.
Forgive them anyway.

 

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.

 

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.
Succeed anyway.

 

If you are honest and sincere, people may deceive you.
Be honest and sincere anyway.

 

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.
Create anyway.

 

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.
Be happy anyway.

 

The good you do today will often be forgotten.
Do good anyway.

 

Give the best you have and it will never be enough.
Give your best anyway.

 

In the final analysis, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway.


To living with intention…

 

Look for upcoming posts on the rehab of Katie and Seth’s home.  What an incredible transformation!

Just Say No To Domestic Violence In Your HOME

By now if you have read many of my Blog posts, you understand that my Blog is about two homes.  The first and more obvious home I write about (especially when I talk my decorator talk) is the physical space you live in that provides you with shelter.  The second home, the one I capitalize, “HOME” is your “being” home – your personal space that is uniquely you containing your heart, mind and most importantly, your soul.  Many of my posts are meant to speak to both homes.  This one does for sure.  Some things, like the topic of this post have absolutely, positively a deep connection to both.

I’ve experienced Domestic Violence.  It’s what I call an “Emotional Cancer” that eats away at your very core and if not properly addressed will cause you to die a slow death from the toll on your heart and soul.  Certainly, this cancer can strike and cause a physical death as well.  Whatever course it takes, it’s a sickness to your HOME.  I hope that those of you that are taking the time to read this (even out of curiosity) really, really let my words envelope you in a way that you will forever more understand that no one, no how, nowhere should accept Domestic Violence.  Period.  Furthermore, after reading this if you or someone you know falls in this category, for heavens sake take action.  Do not stay silent or pretend ignorance.

Just so you know, October is the month designated for “Domestic Violence Awareness”.  For months now I’ve been ruminating in my head a post to write next October, but something keeps nudging me, whispering in my ear, “Write it now”.  And so, I am.  When the voice whispers, I take action!

I’m thinking a combination of things (nudges) propelled me to write this now and not wait until October.  For one thing, a Facebook Friend (and Blog reader), Maggie wrote something on her wall the other day about Domestic Violence.  I shocked myself with commenting back and saying I had experienced it myself.  And lately the news has been full of incidences that the legal experts say are clear cases of Domestic Violence, the current murder trial of Jennifer Hudson’s family for one.

Domestic Violence:  Behavior used by one person in a relationship to control the other.  Partners may be married or not; heterosexual, gay or lesbian; living together, separated or dating.

Facts about Domestic Violence

(Disclaimer:  All these facts are ones I have taken from various articles I have researched over the years and are in my own words and really hit home for me.  The Internet is full of articles, facts, statistics and information far more thorough than this post contains.  I urge everyone to become more educated about this blight on humanity.)

  • Domestic violence has no boundaries and occurs among people of all races, ages, socio-economic classes, religious affiliations, occupations and educational backgrounds.
  • Many abusers learned violent behavior growing up in an abusive family.
  • Domestic Violence is the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44 in the U.S.
  • 1 in 4 women will experience Domestic Violence at some point in their lives.
  • 1 in 12 women and 1 in 45 men have been stalked at some time in their lives.
  • Domestic violence against men, often referred to as “The Hidden Crime”, occurs far more than reported.  There are more than 200 survey-based studies that show that domestic violence is just as likely to strike men as women.
  • Warning signs include (but are not limited to):
    • Name-calling or put-downs
    • Threats of violence
    • Stopping a partner from keeping or getting a job
    • Intimidation
    • Physical Assault
    • Stalking

My Story

I fit in the description of many of the above facts and signs of domestic violence.  First of all, I was in a dating relationship.  My abuser and I never lived in the same household.  After becoming separated and subsequently divorced from my husband of almost twenty years, you can say I was ripe for the picking.  Seriously, I think I had an invisible (yet visible for clever creeps) sign on my forehead that read:  S.U.C.K.E.R.

Devastated to be dumped, feeling lonely, old, ugly, deflated, discarded, unlovable, unlikable and most importantly, incomplete – I was charmed by the first man that was nice to me.  And believe it or not, I had known this man on a very casual basis for several years.  He was kind, compassionate, and attentive and pushed all the right buttons.  Once he had me hook, line and sinker the ugliness began.  Honestly, it shocked me.  If was as if I had entered this place called “Hell” and I felt like I was wrapped up in this vortex and couldn’t figure out how to escape.  I’ll never forget going to the Magistrate’s Office to file a complaint.  I was told by the clerk that I could go upstairs and for $5.00 get a print-out of any arrest record he might have.  Arrest record?  Seriously?  I can still hear the copying machine click, click, click for each new page it printed off and if memory serves me right, there were 15 pages in all.  Paperwork, court appearances and a lot of heartache were the prelude to getting a Restraining Order.  At the time I was told it was the strictest Order ever issued in my county.

Now mind you, I could give you some really sordid details of all the ugliness.  Suffice it to say I have hidden under my bed afraid to move a muscle when the doorbell has rung, I have come home to find my telephone lines cut, I have found my water hoses ever so perfectly sliced clean away from the spigots,, my boys have been accused of trying to kill this man, my home has been invaded and trashed, co-worker’s lives have been threatened, my car has been damaged, etc.  All of these things and countless more my clever creep knew how to do so I couldn’t prove anything!  Then there was the horrific embarrassment of it all.  The shame.  Oh, and most of all- the gut-wrenching fear.  For safety I learned to shoot a gun and by the way, I abhor the very thought of violence.  I took the classes to get licensed to carry a concealed weapon and slept with a loaded gun by my bed for two years. And believe you me; I knew where to aim my gun – straight for the heart.

For years after things would trigger me and I would cringe in absolute fear – the rev of a motorcycle, an unknown number calling my phone, David calling me one too many times wondering where I was (when I met him I required his Social Security Number) – you name it, somehow I would go back to the fear mode and freak out.  In fact, I later learned that I was experiencing Post-Traumatic Stress over and over and over.  (A therapy known as EMDR -Therapy really helped with the trauma.)

A Victor, not a Victim

All of this was back around 1998, and I have to say I’ve come a long way baby!  On any given day I’m tossing my Mary Tyler Moore Hat in the air while singing, “I am woman hear me roar”.  Then I go to the kitchen and make cookies in my fave apron – a complete woman loving who she is!  I’ve worked hard to heal and I have much to be thankful for.  People like Andy Molatch (now a retired policeman) made me feel safe.  (By the way, check his ministry out on his website, www.wildernessscout.com) I also began group therapy at a Battered Women’s Shelter.  I will forever be indebted to what I learned every Monday night.  I can still remember the one time in a group discussion I felt like each of us was holding in our laps an invisible “How To Abuse” Manual because our stories were so similar.  There we were, a group of about twenty women, some in residence and most like me, coming on our own to meet and talk through our experiences.  In my group I still remember there being an Architect, a Licensed Psychologist, a Graphic Artist, and a Minister’s wife.  Yep, there we all were – a cross-section of America all with the same story and all on the road to recovery.

I call myself a “Victor” and not a “Victim” as it’s the truth and besides, it rings with a positive note.  I chose to get out of the relationship, I chose to love myself and I chose to heal from it.   I learned through this experience (and a few others like the chance encounter on an airplane I’ve written about in several posts such as, Construction Zone: Rehabbing My HOME) that I am a vessel for my Soul and therefore, I honor it in every way that I can.  I also now understand that seeking completion through someone else makes no sense.  I became complete in myself and then, only then could someone “compliment” me.  (My David does a stellar job of complimenting me!)

Remember my post, Houseless Not Homeless?  My dear friend, Kenny was a victim of abuse and thank God, he left.  Victory for Kenny!  I have another friend, John that left a fifteen-year marriage because his wife was abusive.  Victory for John!  Both of these men have shared their stories with me and they are now part of what I share with others whenever I am asked to speak to groups about Domestic Violence, something I feel honored to do.

Everything begins in the home

It’s true; everything really does begin in the home.  How we treat each other and yes, how we allow ourselves to be treated starts right smack dab in the home.  In order for your HOME to be peaceful and harmonious, you have to say no to Domestic Violence.  I did.  Kenny did.  John did.  It’s that simple.

Love yourself.  Love your neighbor.  Love the earth.  Come on people, climb aboard the Love Train.  There’s plenty of room.

To saying no…