Ten Things To Remember About Your Home

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

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

My Top Ten

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

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

And one more thing…

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

The twins with Mom

The twins with Mom

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…

A Healthy Heart HOME

My mission with LIPH has always been and will always be to help others create peace and harmony in their homes.  My tag line, Everything begins in the home is a simple message that clearly expresses my view that everything in life absolutely, positively begins in the home.

Because this month is American Heart Month and also the month we celebrate love, this post is about your heart, your most personal HOME.  A healthy heart is crucial to a healthy body much as your homespace needs a strong foundation in order to support the structure you dwell in.  And, a heart needs to be healthy in two important ways:

  • Physically
  • Emotionally

A physically healthy heart

I’m not a doctor so I won’t even begin to try and preach specifics about physical heart health.  Just know I have had up close and personal experience with family and friends that have experienced heart problems or worse – heart attacks.

Here are some simple facts of heart disease to ponder:

  • Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) is the leading cause of all deaths in the U.S. each year.
  • One-third of those that suffer a heart attack do not survive it.
  • In the U.S., someone has a heart attack every 34 seconds.
  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death in American women.
CeCe Hampton loving life

CeCe Hampton loving life

Speaking of women, my dear friend CeCe Hampton is a survivor of a heart attack herself.  I admire her greatly as she has chosen to be a spokesperson for the fight against Coronary Heart Disease.  CeCe’s heart attack came at the ripe old age of 31.  I spoke with her the other day about this and asked her what her message would be for other women on heart disease. This is was she said,

“Women need to listen to their bodies and look for any warning signs that something is askew.  We women will take our husbands or our children to the doctor right away but for some reason most of us ignore our own health and put it off for another day.”

CeCe told me that when she felt unusual pain in her chest, she practiced what she now preaches.  She listened to her body, went to the doctor and now is alive to tell her story.  By the way, if you want to hear more of her story go to:

http://www.goredforwomen.org/inspiring_stories.aspx

Thanks CeCe for allowing me to share with others an up close and personal experience of yours!  You go girl and while you’re at it – continue to follow your bliss!

An emotionally healthy heart

This is the part of heart health that truly fascinates me.  As I said earlier, I’m not a doctor, but it just makes sense to me that our hearts are affected by our emotions.  I believe that our bodies work from the inside out.  By that I mean that first we feel the emotion, then we physically respond to it.  For several years in my own life, stress wrecked havoc on my body.  All the chronic stress my body was under made war on my body like pollutants to destroy me physically.  I had to pay the Piper for all the trauma-drama in a myriad of ways that I still deal with today.  I believe that there is such a strong connection between the heart, mind and body that it is imprudent to separate them from a cause and effect scenario.  Each affects the other in my view.  And, there is plenty of compelling data to support this.  For example in the book, The Heart Speaks cardiologist, Dr. Mimi Guarneri “speaks” to this very subject.  She says that loneliness, grief, sadness, bitterness, hurt and anger can greatly impact a healthy heart.   Dr. Guarneri says people truly can have so much emotional damage to their heart that they die of “a broken heart”.  I believe it.

So, imagine if starting today each of us took a better look inside our hearts and posed the question, “How emotionally healthy are you dear heart of mine?”  Today, I would be able to honestly answer, “Pretty darn healthy dear friend.”  When I asked myself this same question a few short years ago the answer was just the opposite.  I knew I needed to reduce the stress in my life in order to be more emotionally heart healthy so I began to make some hefty changes in my life. By making these changes, I have made my heart emotionally strong.  Here are some of the ways I have done it:

  • By choosing to meditate.
  • By choosing to spend time in Nature as often as possible.
  • By choosing to focus on positive memories.
  • By choosing to add humor to my daily life.
  • By choosing to smile more.
  • By choosing to be positive.
  • By choosing to live in the moment.
  • By choosing silence.
  • By choosing to use the word “love” as a verb.

The operative word here is “choosing”.  After all, everything we do is a choice.  Nothing is going to change unless you choose to make changes.  It’s that simple.

Here’s the challenge ~ begin today to actively work on making your heart healthier both physically and emotionally.  Start with baby steps if you need to.  Baby steps progress into bigger steps for sure.  Remember, the choice is yours.

Choose to have a heart full of all the best in life you can have.  And by the way, just when you think your heart is full of all the best, something new will come along and add to your heart happiness.  Mine did just recently as a matter of fact.  My youngest son, Jimmy (my baby) officially chose the woman he wants to spend the rest of his life with.  She is a wonderful fit for Jimmy.  She loves the outdoors and even loved getting engaged in a tree stand deep in the woods in the cold of December 2011. Welcome to my heart HOME, Lailuma!  My heart swells with joy knowing my son is so deeply happy with you in his life!

Lailuma Miller in the great outdoors

Lailuma Miller in the great outdoors

To loving life and having a happy, healthy heart…

How To Best Display Children’s Artwork In Your Home

Almost everyone that has children also has the dilemma of what to do with all their artwork that they either bring home from school or that they do on their own time at home.   Children are proud of their work and nothing can bring a smile to their faces quicker than a parent proudly displaying their creativity.  To this day I have files in my cabinets of the artwork my children did over the years!  When my kids were young, I felt the need to display their art on the refrigerator so that they knew how proud I was of each new artistic endeavor completed and ready to be displayed for all to see.  Looking back, I remember feeling like my kitchen always looked messy and that at any given time during the day I was straightening, arranging and rearranging the pictures boldly overtaking the front of the fridge.  This might not seem like an issue to some of you, but I was and still am a tad bit on the obsessive side of being a neat freak.  Having the front of my refrigerator crammed with artwork all the time got on my nerves to put it bluntly.  But, I just didn’t see a better way to display their works of art from the heart.

With age comes wisdom or so they say and so clever me, once my children were grown and I wanted to find ways to display their childhood artwork, I finally got smart!  You could say that I also had one of those “if I had known then what I know now” moments for sure.   Instead of on the front and side(s) of the refrigerator, I came up with the idea to display their childhood artwork in other spaces that not only made for Walks down Memory Lane by highlighting years gone by, but also added immensely to my décor.  In fact, I will go a step further and say that this newfound way to display my children’s artwork became an art form in and of itself and piqued the interest of anyone visiting my home – a conversation piece just waiting to happen!  After I met my David and we joined households, our home became forever more a “Brady Bunch” of artwork.  It makes us both happy-sappy to see our children’s early years so beautifully portrayed in our homespace.

Children’s art speaks volumes from what is in their hearts.  I say honor this and display their art in your homespace in ways that make them smile and at the same time that is pleasing to the eye.  Simply choose very specific ways and places to do so.  Here are three of the best ways I have found to achieve this in my own homespace:

  • In the Laundry Room/Mudroom
  • On Bookshelves
  • In the garage

In the Laundry Room/Mudroom

Addison and Austin’s special art

Addison and Austin’s special art

Being a utilitarian space, most of us forget to decorate our laundry rooms and mudrooms. Yet, much of our time is spent in both spaces.  Years back I decided to frame selected pieces of my children’s early art in floating acrylic frames.  This was easy to do myself and very affordable.  You can do this for yourself by going to retailers such as Michael’s or Hobby Lobby.  Simply choose appropriate size frames for your artwork.  (By the way, using this type of frame gives you the flexibility of changing out the artwork over the years as your children age.)  Another way to display children’s art is on a corkboard that you can continue to change and update.  I have a handmade, hand-painted corkboard that traveled with us from Charlotte to Chicago.  In fact, I had the movers literally pack the corkboard exactly as it was so that once I unpacked it I had an instant connection to Charlotte.  You see we have our step-grandchildren’s works of art on it that they have made especially for David and me.  Addison and Austin’s art from the heart is the first thing we see when we enter our home from the garage.  By the way, I cannot wait to add our precious granddaughter, Ansley’s first piece of artwork on it once she draws something for us!  Talk about a love connection…

Gavin and Logan O’Connell’s Artwork on an old door

Gavin and Logan O’Connell’s Artwork on an old door

Here’s another example – one of my fave niece’s, (OK, so all my nieces and nephews- all 20 or so of them – are my faves) Jackie O’Connell has a brilliant way she displays Gavin and Logan’s artwork in the mudroom.  She has an old door hanging on one wall that she puts all their artwork on.  Jackie and Scott’s mudroom is the entry into their home from the garage where the kids put their book bags and shoes each day.  What a wonderful way to start and end the day viewing such personal art from the heart!  Plus, displaying their work this way makes things neat and tidy all around!

On Bookshelves

I am a lover of books so no matter where I live I make sure I have plenty of bookshelves for my books whether they are built-in or freestanding.  For example, when David and I moved to Chicago our home had a wonderfully large bonus room that I turned into a home office.  On one long wall I have placed bookcases from IKEA – inexpensive but classy looking – and mixed in the books I have arranged bits and pieces of our children’s artwork.  What fun to see these pieces of art from the heart each and every day I work at home.  Nothing could be better if you ask me!

Jimmy Aliff’s self-portrait

Jimmy Aliff’s self-portrait

In the Garage

The Blake Family Laundry Room

The Blake Family Art

I love to decorate all spaces in my home and I recommend to my clients that they do the same thing.  The garage is a great place to display works of art as well as sports pictures of your children through the years.  In the garage I tend to keep to the outdoor theme regardless of what pieces of my children’s art or childhood history I hang.  Whatever you do in this space, make it family-friendly and also make it a wonderful greeting to you as you enter your home and sanctuary away from the daily grind.

Regardless of where you display your children’s precious artwork  ~ true art from the heart ~ give it what it deserves.  Give it a place of recognition.  Furthermore, let it become part of your décor in a way that beckons others to look at it, marvel over it and make them want to head home to make space in their place for their own children’s works of art.

To children and their endless ability to love…

Honoring The Month Of Love In Your Home Décor

When I was growing up and even when my children were young, the only big holiday anyone decorated for was Christmas. Today, most of us decorate for holidays such as Halloween and Easter often weeks ahead of the actual day the holiday falls on. Honoring Valentine’s Day has become one more holiday with which there are ways to decorate your homespace. Retailers have an abundance of accessories you can add to your home decor. Everything from red dishtowels and red coffee mugs to whimsical throw pillows with love quotes on them can be found in the big box stores such as Pottery Barn, Crate and Barrel and Restoration Hardware. For the month of February, love is in the air everywhere you turn in the home decorating industry.

I happen to be a decorator so certainly I like to decorate for any and all of the holidays my David and I observe. However, I also believe in being practical and cost-conscious so here are some ways I suggest decorating and celebrating the month of Love:

  • Find inexpensive things to purchase to help create the theme of love in your homespace for the month of February. Just like any other holiday you decorate for, keep all your “Valentine Theme Décor” in a container for that holiday in an easily accessible place. (HINT: If this is a new décor idea for you, like with all holiday décor, often the best time to purchase Valentine’s Day items is after February 14th then you can be ready for next year!)
  • Make a family picture on Valentine’s Day to commemorate one more year of love in your family. Add to the collection each year and for the month of February display all the past family pictures in a grouping in your homespace. Having everyone wear red for the “Kodak moment” makes it even more festive and fun!
  • Make your own “Love Tree” simply by making heart shaped cards on construction paper then writing different love quotes on each one. Hang them by string on a sturdy plant in your homespace such as a Weeping Fig or a Norfolk Island Palm. This is a fun activity you can get the entire family involved in or you can even invite friends to make a Valentine for your tree. (Remember, plants are a vital part of making a healthy home as discussed in a recent Blog post, Top Twelve Best Indoor Plants For Purifying The Air)
  • Make everyone happy with Homemade Pancakes this month – only use a heart shaped cookie cutter to make heart shaped pancakes. I guarantee you; smiles will be abundant in your household! (For my fave recipe for Pancakes check out my post, Homemade Pancakes – What Could Be Better?)
  • Switch out your decorative candles to red (or even pink) ones, particularly in the more personal spaces such as bathrooms and the master bedroom.
  • Nothing beats fresh flowers for any occasion. For the month of February fill your homespace with the colors of love – red carnations, red roses, etc. with splashes of pinks and whites.
  • Go to your local bakery and pick up a few professionally decorated Valentine’s cookies and display them in a glass cake saver for pure delight. Better still use festive looking doilies for them to sit on to add more interest! (Remember, you can freeze these cookies and display them from year-to-year.)
  • Fill your homespace with the aromatic scents we connect with feelings of love in your nebulizer or with scented candles. For a relaxed, peaceful feeling of love look for oils such as Rose Oil or Rose scented candles. (Oil from the Pink-Red Damascus Rose is one of the best.) For feisty (feelings of love that is) look for spicy scented oils such as Ginger and Cinnamon. Regardless of which scents suit your taste, diffusing essential oils into your homespace definitely enhances the mood of your space. (See my post, Aromatherapy In Your Home.)

HELPFUL HINT:

The most important thing to remember in decorating is my motto “Less is more”.  There is absolutely, positively no quicker or better way to destroy a classy look than to take a theme into overdrive.  So with the color Red being the warmest color on the color wheel (as I discussed in my post, Seeing Red) subtle uses of the color will speak volumes.

Picnic of love

Photo Credit: Kristin Vining Photography

Enjoy loving…

Seeing Red

Using color in your homespace is the number one way to express yourself.  Even purposefully choosing not to use color such as using tones of white in a monochromatic scheme is a choice intended to create a subtle, peaceful energy in your home.  What colors you choose in your décor scheme should be carefully thought out.  After all, your homespace is the most personal outward expression to others of how you live your life.  Using color (or the lack thereof) should bring joy to you.  Even this month’s edition of Veranda magazine’s main story is titled, The Joy Of Color and the words are in hot pink!

As I wrote a few months back in a blog post titled, The Power Of Color, it is important to let the colors you use in your homespace accurately express who and what you are.  No two homes should remotely look the same.  Homes should be as unique as those that dwell within them.  My own daughter-in-law, Kathleen Brami Aliff is the epitome of understanding this.  Her home doesn’t keep up with the trends.  Her home reflects her personality through and through.  Kathleen loves Red.  Kathleen sees Red as a means of expressing who she is.  And so, Kathleen’s love of red flows throughout her entire home whether it is shown in full bloom as a backdrop (as in wall color) or in splashes of it in fabrics and accessories artfully placed in every room.

RED:  The warmest of colors, Red symbolizes passion, energy and excitement.  It is often the color chosen by extreme extroverts for self-expression.

From little girl to grown woman

Loving Pink

Loving Pink

I have been planning to write about Kathleen’s love of Red ever since my early blog posts on color.  In fact, after The Power Of Color, I wrote a post on the color Purple and “The Purple Lady” (aka Lisa Hensley) titled, She Loves The Color Purple.  Like Lisa, Kathleen knows what makes her feel good.  And, like Lisa, I interviewed Kathleen for this article to get a glimpse into her psyche about her love of red.

What I found out was really interesting.  Here I thought I pretty much knew what made my daughter-in-law tick.  Yeah sure, the color Red matches her but, I never knew how or why she “morphed” into this color when in actuality most of her life her color of choice was Pink.

“All the way through high school I was in love with Pink.  I even used to wear Pink.  I wore Pink all the time.  After I met Ben he asked me to quit wearing it so much and so for me, Red seemed a classy, grown-up version of Pink.  Now Red is my statement color.  It is my signature color.  I love shoes and shoes in my view look better in red.”

That’s what Kathleen told me.  Wow, I thought, who knew?  Red was Kathleen’s metamorphosis of Pink – the grown-up version of her.  Very interesting.

So, let me give you the psychological slant on all this.  The color Red speaks to creativity.  It is sexy, powerful and full of energy.  Make no bones about it – Red catches your eye.  Period.

Yep, the color Red matches my daughter-in-law to a tee ~ confident, outgoing, and full of attitude.  Feisty she is and so her love of red absolutely, positively outwardly fits her personality.

Express yourself

Quite naturally then when Kathleen and Ben got married her love of Red influenced their homespace.

The boldness of Red

The boldness of Red

It’s all about details

It’s all about details

“Every room has something red in it.  Whether it is the wall color, a pot or a plant.  Even for Christmas this year one of my gifts to Ben was something red for his “man cave”.  So now even that room will have touches of my love of red in it.”

Red jazzes it up

Red jazzes it up

For someone visiting their home, no doubt Red speaks to you in each room even if in subtle ways.  What I love as a decorator is how well she has pulled it off.  Her homespace is comfy cozy and yet, very unique.

That’s what we all should strive for in our own homes.  Self-expression makes or breaks the true beauty of your space.  If your space does not match who and what you are, the energy of the space will be off.  It’s just that simple.

Everyone should have a decorating mantra that goes like this:

Express yourself.  Just do it.  Express yourself.

Kathleen has and loves to show it!

Red boots

Photo Credit: Kristin Vining Photography

To loving color…

Cleaning The Mirror

January has been an amazing month for me.  As I wrote in a recent post titled, Post-Holiday Confessions From A Decorator, I had some really, really heavy-duty stuff to deal with the first couple of weeks of the month – which is why I chose to use the holidays to be still, to be quiet and to reflect on the real meaning of Christmas.  Last week was my “down time” to review and then renew after all the heavy-duty stuff I had experienced had come and gone.  Little did I know that a simple trip to the movies over the weekend would be the proverbial wake-up call for me to listen up and that another big lesson was coming…

Important messages come to me from the oddest places.   Some of the messages are good and some well, suffice it to say, not so good.  Here’s an example of a good one – I remember when I first began my blog I had numerous articles written and ready yet, I still couldn’t find the words for my opening post that in my view would best explain what I meant by my tag line – Everything begins in the home.  I fretted and fretted for weeks trying to come up with just the right words.  Then I attended my niece, Britney’s wedding and voila, the words were said out loud to me.  Funny- I had been searching for the words in my head – little did I know that I would hear them from someone else.  I remember I felt cold chills come over me when the words started from the lips of Reverend Bob McAden.  A voice in my head said, “Listen up Jamie.  Here are the words you have been searching for”.  I listened and boy oh boy, they certainly were the words I needed.  So, once more thank you Rev. McAden for the words you spoke and then allowed me to share in my blog post, The Sacredness Of Home.  They were (and still are) the perfect words to explain and express the importance of HOME.

Anyway, I had another one of those messages this past Saturday and at the oddest place – the movies!  Here I was thinking I would sit back and be entertained.  Oh no, not this time around – this “not so good” message was meant to teach me I still had work to do on myself.

The Man in the Mirror

The movie, Joyful Noise started out normal enough but something came over me when the Michael Jackson song, Man In The Mirror began to be sung by the incredibly gifted singer-actress, Keke Palmer.  I felt goose bumps begin to erupt, I felt the pulsations in my body of recognition that it was time to focus and I felt the overwhelming knowledge that I was supposed to listen up to every single word…

“I’m starting with the man in the mirror

I’m asking him to change his ways…

If you wanna make the world a better place

Take a look at yourself and then make the change”

Hearing those words brought me a flashback of this past Christmas Eve.  My David and I spent the entire Christmas Eve day in downtown Chicago.  Being home alone we thought that this would be a fun and different way to spend the day so we rode the train into the city and went exploring.  We walked and walked and walked.  It was cold and windy so we both had on heavy coats, scarves, hats and gloves.  While walking down Rush Street a man approached me and asked for my spare change.  Ever the polite southern woman I answered him, “No thank you”.  After all, I was walking briskly in the cold and would have had to take my gloves off to get to my purse to get to my spare change – way too much time and trouble.  Well, I didn’t think another thing about it until about ten minutes later the man was ahead of us on the street talking to another gentleman.  He turned to me and said, “I want you to know I don’t ask people for money all the time.  I just recently lost my job.  You don’t need to be sorry for not giving me yours”.  I was mortified to say the least.  Had I seen my reflection in the mirrored storefronts I passed, I am sure my cheeks would have been red.  But the real shock came two blocks later when we crossed the street and headed in a different direction.  At the intersection David watched the man continue down the street and then stop to talk to a homeless woman.  David watched him take all the money from his pockets and give it to the woman (clearly someone that needed it more than he did) and then walk away. When David told me this, I was stunned and truly humbled.  Here I was busy on my way (on Christmas Eve no less) and I didn’t take the time to give my money to a down and out man on the street when just a few minutes later he gave what he had to someone less fortunate.  It was all I could do to keep walking and not run for the nearest alleyway to privately shed tears of shame and sorrow.  Would I have liked to see myself in a mirror at that moment in time?   Not hardly!

Cleaning my own mirror

So when Keke Palmer sang the words I realized change (actually more change) needed to begin with me.  I needed to look in the mirror, take a look at myself and make a change.  W.O.W.  Here I was comfortably sitting in the movie theatre, “convalescing” from a grueling few weeks of immense stress with the assumption that I had “prevailed” through all the trials and tribulations of the last five years, wanting to relax and enjoy a hit musical-movie.  Yet somehow I was being reminded of Christmas Eve in downtown Chicago in a not so flattering way.  I could visualize the man on Rush Street in total detail.  I even remember the homeless lady- she was wearing a white coat and carrying all her belongings in a grocery cart.

Hearing the words of this song put so much into perspective for me.  The words brought on a myriad of thoughts to ponder and truth be told – many of which might take years to work through.

  • Everyone has their own vantage point from which they view life.
  • The way we present ourselves to the world must always reflect our true selves.
  • Mirrors reflect our true colors not the black and white we perceive.
  • To inspire change in others we must first change ourselves as thoroughly and effectively as we can.
  • Actions speak louder than words.
  • Love is the most important verb in the English language.

I’m not sure where I am going with all this newfound insight.  I just know that besides carrying small bottles of hand sanitizer with me everywhere I go, I will also carry small bottles of Windex in case I ever lose “clear sight” of the reflection others see of me in my words and actions.  Moving forward I want to “clearly” see my true self in the mirror and at the same time I want to present to my family, my friends, my fellow human beings and my earth home the true reflection of who I am.  And, in each and every moment of each and every day I need to be mindful of the power I have as an individual to inspire change in the world.  Let it begin with me as I clean the mirror.

“And no message could have been any clearer

If you wanna make the world a better place

Take a look at yourself and then make the change”

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…

Simple Ways To Infuse Nature In Your Workspace

Most of us have very busy lives.  We go from home – to the office or our chosen place of work – to carpooling our kids – to activities.  Our lives are busy, busy, busy.  We rush, rush, rush through each task we have to check off on our daily “To Do List” ever reaching for the end of the day when we can relax, regroup and recover from the hectic pace to yet fortify ourselves for another day in the rat race of life.  This creates one big vicious cycle of commotion if you ask me.  It is no wonder that we hurry, hurry, hurry wherever we go.  If we stop and smell the roses along the way we get off task.  We are a silly bunch of humanity aren’t we?

My daughter Sammi and “God’s Littlest Angel”, Ansley were visiting us recently.  On Saturday Sammi and I raked leaves while my David cut the grass and Ansley played with her toys on a blanket in the fresh air.  Sammi hadn’t seen David cutting the grass in a long time and mentioned to me that he actually seemed to be enjoying it.  He was slow and methodical.  I told her that he used the time to think about life and mull over anything that popped in his head.  She said, “You mean he isn’t just rushing to get it done?”

This got me to thinking – thinking is something I regularly fixate on doing by the way, as I tend to over think everything. Anyway, I started thinking about how my David enjoys E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G.  He enjoys yard work, housework and work at the office.  I know why, too.  David lives in the moment.

Not many of us have this gift of being able to live in the moment.  Most of us have to learn how to do it.  One absolutely, positively sure-fire way to help you learn to live in the moment is to get back to Nature on a daily basis.  Immersing yourself in nature every single day makes you want to smell the roses if you will.  You see there is healing found in Nature that is restorative and rejuvenating to the body, mind and spirit.  Spending time in nature is soothing, refreshing and inspiring and has the ability to clear our minds, providing a new and positive outlook on life.

Simply by infusing bits of nature in our workspace can give us this same soothing, refreshing and inspiring outlook on our work life.  Basic tools for thriving in the workplace I say.

Whether your workspace is in the form of an office cubicle, the corner office or a large spacious environment like my last office in Charlotte, NC here are some easy ways to bring nature into your space:

  • Bring live plants into your space.  Preferably use ones that are air purifiers such as the ones in Becky Balzer’s recent post, Top Twelve Best Indoor Plants For Purifying The AirFollow Becky’s guidelines for the number of plants per square footage of your space for the best results.  One other simple plant to use is Lucky Bamboo- place it in a unique glass container filled with water and enjoy.
  • View the outdoors as often as possible.  If you are fortunate enough to have a window in your space, position your desk to view the outdoors as often as you can.  If you don’t have ready access to a window, find other ways to look outside throughout the day.  Don’t ever go a full workday without seeing what is going on outside if at all possible.
  • View scenes of nature on your computer.  Make the screen saver on your computer nature friendly with pictures of nature on it.  Change the picture seasonally or even use pictures of your favorite season for inspiration such as a warm beach scene to ward off the cold winter blues.
  • Personalize your space with found things from nature.  This could be as simple as placing interesting rocks found on nature walks on your desk.  Visual cues such as found things from nature instantly connect you with the outdoors.
  • Display family photographs that have background settings in nature.  There is no better combination for feel good vibes than family photographs in outdoor settings.  This combination of family and nature is the ultimate visual cue that can make you feel a sense of deep connection to life without even realizing it.
  • Get a breath of fresh air.  If possible go outside at some time during the workday.  Take a short walk or at least enjoy the outdoors for a few minutes.  Breathe in the fresh air.  Even better, if possible open up the windows in your space to allow fresh air to circulate and revitalize your space.

Take the time to treat your workspace as a place to be honored.  By doing this you will connect more harmoniously with it and allow yourself to thrive each and every day.  All you need to do is make your workspace come alive with nature!  Without realizing it you will begin to feel better and begin to enjoy every moment of your day!

Enjoy your space, enjoy your work and don’t forget to live in the moment…

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!