Wellness Begins In The Home

For years I habitually dreamed of redecorating my home at 2831 Giverny Drive and by the way, I’m talking about even long after I moved on to another place.  Some dreams were about putting up new window treatments, others about rearranging furniture in the different rooms and still others focused on redoing the landscaping in my yard.  My dreams, teeming with brilliant colors and detail on occasion had to do with smells in my house and actual events like entertaining – all with a new décor as the backdrop of course.  These dreams came almost every single night and invariably left me fraught with anxiety upon waking each morning.  You see, night after night these dreams reminded me each morning that my house was out of kilter.  Why you wonder?  It’s because these dreams began soon after my marriage split up and believe you me they plagued me for years.  What I was “working” on in my dream state was clearly symbolic of the work I was doing on my interior self.  Feverishly each night as I slept I was trying to work through a renovation of my house in order to get back on track and feel balanced and well.  Funny thing though – a dear friend and counselor I know, Joyce Hennessy and I have had conversations about having dreams about houses.  She said that she has had many clients going through traumatic events such as divorce that have recurring dreams of cleaning their houses over and over again.  (Symbolic for cleaning up the mess or messes in life.)  But, my nightly dreams of redecorating were new to her.  Which obviously means that the “redecorating” in my dreams had other meaning- like maybe my home décor needed changing for other psychological reasons?!?

I am happy to say that for the last two or three years I have been free of these dreams.  I no longer have a single itty-bitty dream of 2831 Giverny Drive and hallelujah, what a blessing.  But, I had a conversation the other day with someone that brought all this back to me.  One of our projects for B&A Interiors was recently selected for a magazine article and so the writer interviewed me about my design philosophy.  I found myself explaining the principles of what I call “Psychology of the Home” and how important it is to create space for yourself that is not only peaceful and beautiful but is also the outward expression of who you are.  After I got off the phone it hit me like a ton of bricks.  That’s really what I was doing in my dreams.  In my dreams I was desperately trying to tell my psyche that my house didn’t match who I was and that it needed to become the true outward expression of myself.

Mind you, within a few days of becoming separated I began to change things in my house.  For example, as I mentioned in an earlier post, Our Homes Must Express Our True Essence, I had the landscapers remove a huge River Birch that was overtaking the front of my house completely obscuring the view outside.  Simply removing that tree changed the look of my house and said, “Hello world, here I am”.  Talk about liberating!  But for the most part it took a few years for me to fully express myself in my sanctuary and feel balanced through and through.  Along the way, I began to understand part of what I was doing in my clients’ homes.  I realized I was harmonizing their space with their personalities much like I did my own house.  Really, really cool!

Which takes me back to my interview with the writer of the magazine article.  I gave her some of the back-story of my clients, Katie and Seth, two young and very busy professionals who had a desire to create a beautiful space to live in that reflected who they are.  While talking to her I told her how happy they are now with their newly rehabbed uptown condo and that they can’t wait to come home to it every night after work.

Living Beautifully + Living Peacefully = Living Well

I happen to believe there are no coincidences in life.  This means that the dreams that plagued me for years were meant to teach me something about myself.  And, to take it a step further, I believe that the wisdom I gleaned from the dreams was to be shared with others in their own personal spaces.  That’s why I came up with the model I call “Homespace Coaching”.  Think of it as a formula for successful wellness.  Living beautifully (through choosing décor to fit your unique personality) plus living peacefully (through simple changes in how you live in your space) equals living well.

I live an incredibly blissful life.  I am well and whole.  I believe that my road to wellness truly began when I realized that everything begins in the home.  Sure, all the other things I do for myself like exercise, meditating and prayer enhance my life.  But the truth is, feeling alive and complete in my house created a home for me to thrive in and be well.

Through my dreams during a very painful and traumatic time in my life I was given a gift.  I was given the gift of awareness of the need to create for myself space that honors my true essence.  And now I am paying it forward by sharing this awareness with others.

Do yourself a favor – make sure you house is a home that gives you beauty and peace.  It’s the best wellness plan out there.

To wellness…

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…

Design From An Architect’s View

I spent some time the other day with an Architect that I greatly admire.  We quickly got into a philosophical discussion on Design.  Interested to pick his brain to gain some knowledge of how he views Home Design (his design work is stellar by the way), I asked him an opening question and prepared myself to sit back and listen.

My question was this:  “How do you approach designing a home for someone?”  Over an hour later after he finished talking I realized this man had given me more than a wealth of knowledge – he had given me a chance to deeply connect with him in a way that I wasn’t expecting.  But, hold that thought while I tell you what he said in answer to my question…

I’ve known this man for many, many years and have followed his work as often as I’ve been able to.  I know he excels in several areas of Architecture – Church Design and Residential Home Design being two examples.  He’s even designed a Women’s Prison, which I find utterly fascinating having a degree in Criminal Justice myself.  I thought I knew this man’s philosophy and I knew his mantra, “Design with Dignity”.  But, as I sat there and listened to him it got harder and harder for me to sit and only listen.  Everything he said absolutely positively mirrored my own design philosophy.  Caught up in an avalanche of emotions with goose bumps erupting up and down my arms and bubbles of laughter wanting to burst forth from my mouth, I found myself impatiently waiting for my turn to talk.  Word for word, everything this man said echoed my own design philosophy and I wanted to shout out, “Yes, this is exactly how I approach decorating a home.”

So similar are our styles in our professions and who knew until now?  For example, he told me that he never takes notes in the initial meetings with new clients.  Ditto.  We both keep everything in our heads.  And, I understood completely what he meant when he said,

“I listen intently to the client and quickly begin to understand better than the client what he/she is asking for.  I leave the meeting with all my notes stored carefully in my head and then go to my drawing board to put onto paper what I see in my head.  I give them what they don’t even know to ask for.”

Ditto again.

Then he continued, “My design tells a story.  The story is about the person or persons the space is being designed for.  In telling the story, the design becomes sensual so that every sense comes alive in the space.”

Now  – as a storyteller myself, I got it.  And ditto again.  When I design and decorate the interior spaces for a client, I, too tell a story about how and what makes this person tick.  That’s why I never want any two spaces to look alike.  As humans we are much like snowflakes – no two are the same so no two spaces should be the same.  Uniqueness – that’s where the beauty is and yep, that’s where the story is!

This man’s next words were more personal as he started telling me about the home he is designing for himself and his wife.  He readily admitted to me the agony of doing this, as working for someone else is so much easier.  It dawned on him that he needed to approach the project seeing the two of them as “the clients” and so late one night (while his wife was away) he wrote the story of their life together to begin conceptualizing the design.  He of course, is an Architect.  She is a Master Gardener.  Hence, he titled the story, “An Architect and a Gardner”.  I asked him if later he would email me the notes he wrote to tell their story.  He sent them to me a few days later with a quick note telling me that more than a story, his notes were a poem with phrases weaving together the parts of both of them that would be blended into the design plan.  He also sent me a sketch – the original sketch he drew to visually show what his words described.

If I wasn’t already blown away from my conversation with this man, I certainly was after I read his words and reviewed his sketch he emailed me.  What a beautiful story I saw in his words – the absolute spot on understanding he had of how to marry their two chosen careers into the design of their home honoring both of them in such an awesome way.  Poetic phrases to describe who they are, I hope you enjoy reading a portion of his poem yourself…

An Architect and a Gardener

A Life Together

A Transition In Life Together – A New Home

Sharing The Desire To Live Inside-Live Outside

   A House To Live Inside/A Garden To Live Outside

 

The Site… Offering Wonderful Vistas & Views

                   Springs, Creeks, Rivers, Lakes

 

The Residence

                A Continuation of Pathways/Entry

               A Sense Of “Arrival”

              A “Parkway” Setting

             A Transition From “Manmade” To “Handmade”

             A Transition From The “Required” To The “Desired”

            An Active Place Offering A “Canvas” For Continued

            Architectural Stories And Gardening – Always

          “Works-in-Progress”

 

An Architect and his twin

I have to tell you something about the conversation I had with this man. You see I shared my mother’s womb with him.  Yep, he’s my fraternal twin brother.  I’ve known him since the beginning of time – literally.  And yet, this unexpected philosophical discussion changed my entire relationship with him.  What started out as a question of how he worked turned into a defining moment in both our lives.  There we sat, the two of us middle aged and soon turning fifty-six and for the first time we both understood how deeply alike and connected we are.  How awesome life is!

If you’re looking for a moral to my story (since there usually is), there’s actually two for you.  First, let your home tell your story and let it creatively express your uniqueness in both the structural design as well as the interior design.  Second, take the time to really listen and take the time to really talk to the people around you that you care about.  Deeper connections are always ready for the taking.  I know.

To you Craig…

Please take the time to visit our new website for B&A Interiors by going to www.bainteriors.com. We just launched a new look and I hope you’ll like it!  And now that it has launched, I’m back on track writing again for LIPH.  I thank each and every one of you that takes the time to read the words that pour from my heart on LIPH.  Please keep reading and sharing your comments.  

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!

A Nursery With Room To Grow

Little Miss Blake

Little Miss Blake

I love everything about Home Decor and love to create unique environments.  In particular, I love to design and decorate nurseries and children’s’ rooms.  Not only are they fun, but they’re also a space that most of my clients are willing to “let go in” and let me be really, really creative.  I’ve done my share of nurseries and children’s rooms over the years in my career.  From baby boys to baby girls, “tweens” and teens – I’ve had fun with every single one regardless of the style or theme being incorporated into the design.  But I must say, nothing beats getting to be involved in someone I love’s room – like my first grandchild’s! My daughter, Sammi was expecting in December of 2010 so together we planned the nursery.  Even my daughter-in-law, Kathleen had input into it.  Team effort for sure!

We had several goals in mind for the design of the nursery that incorporated key parts of my personal design philosophy.  They were to:

  • Create a unique environment
  • Use colors and elements of Nature
  • Plan it so that the décor would transition and provide a space for Ansley to grow in
Magnolia Blossoms as wall art

Magnolia Blossoms as wall art

I don’t believe any two spaces should look alike which is why I say I like to create unique environments.  Ever one to say “Ignore the trends”, I prefer to design space with real personal touches.  That’s what really, really makes the space unique.  We accomplished this by decorating with things such as some of the Vintage collections both Sammi and Brent had as children (like their silver baby pieces and Sammi’s music boxes) to a framed “Onesie” Sammi’s gal pal, Blair Kernodle Scheepers gave her that was hand-stitched in South Africa where she lives.  Having this “Onesie” as wall art in Ansley’s nursery not only connects Sammi and Blair on a daily basis, but it is a piece that Ansley will always have to historically mark her infant days as well.  (She actually wore the “Onesie” and when she outgrew it, we had it framed.)  Seriously, I hope to one day see this piece in Ansley’s own home!

The Frog Prince

The Frog Prince

Using colors and elements from Nature is important to us and we are mindful of this in every space we work in.  So, the walls were painted Green (the color of Nature as I discussed in my posts, Using The Color Green In Home Décor and Two Colors Every Homespace Needs) and we created a wall of flowers as art for the space by using plates shaped like magnolia blossoms with hand-painted stems.  A shadowbox of hand-cut butterflies on the wall near her crib also connects the nursery to nature.  Finally, we added “The Frog Prince” sitting on the ledge of the door so that Ansley could connect with the natural world in a wonderfully whimsical way.

Sammi and I both are practical decorators and so creating a space that could transition to her “big girl” room easily was important to us.  Of course, every nursery needs a crib.  But, everything else in the room can transition to any age.  For example, the “changing table” is actually a dresser.  Simply remove the changing pad and it becomes a dresser for a big girl to put her clothes in.  And, my fave part of the room is the hand-painted initials on the wall.  The look of the initials is fabulous and really anchors the space, but once the crib is gone, voila – the initials become the “headboard” for Ansley’s big girl bed.

As a changing table

As a changing table

As a dresser

As a dresser

A view of the hand-painted Initials

A view of the hand-painted Initials

Ansley is nearing the ripe old age of eighteen months now.  I love nothing more than to sit on her nursery floor and have her bring books to me to read to her or to play peek-a-boo as she hides behind her crib.  I have no doubt that she is blossoming within her nursery nest.  And, I have no doubt she will continue to as she grows up still enjoying the décor of her space.  After all, her nest gives her plenty of room in which to grow!

Design Choices and Credits

Crib: Bratt Décor

Dresser: Furniture Classics, LTD

Lamp on Dresser: Thumprints

Hand-cut Butterflies: Found on Etsy

Crib Skirt Fabric: Bergamo

Stool Fabric: Zimmer+Rohde

Window Treatment Fabric: Bergamo

Custom Crib Skirt and Window Treatments: Laurel Lane Draperies

Rocker Fabric: Kravet

Custom Upholsterer: Privette’s Upholstery

Custom Corner Cabinet: Haefele & Associates

Magnolia Blossom Plates: Global Views

Artistic Painting: CKPaints (www.ckpaints.com)

Modern Artwork: Allposters

Custom Framing of Modern Artwork: Campania Fine Molding

Wall Color: Benjamin Moore 2147-40 “Dill Pickle”

Photography of all Images: Cameron Triggs Photography

 

To blossoming in life…

 

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…

Spring ~ The Season For Strawberries

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

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

Heading to the fields

Heading to the fields

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

At work picking strawberries

At work

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

The time is Ripe

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ansley eating a strawberry

Yum!

To grandchildren, the best dessert in life…

Using Visual Cues In Home Décor

Everywhere we turn there are visual cues for us.  Driving along the interstate there are billboards after billboards – especially if you are nearing “South of the Border” in Dillon, South Carolina.  Anyone traveling to the beaches in this area knows what I mean- billboards advertising the retail establishments of “South of the Border” are one after the other, literally. I’ve heard there are about 175 billboards advertising for it.  Then there’s the visual cues on the screen at the movie theatres showing people eating yummy treats from the concession stands to wet your appetites and thirsts and compel you to purchase these things before the movie starts.  Drive-in movies were the big thing when I was growing up and somewhere I heard that within the movies there were even visual cues that were so quick they were seen only on the subliminal level, meant to get us to the concession stand for popcorn and treats without even knowing it.  My family – we brought our own. My mom would pop up a huge grocery bag of popcorn and load the cooler for all of us to enjoy while we sat in the station wagon watching two back-to-back flicks.

Anyway, back to visual cues.  Visual cues are a type of sensory cue that work on both the conscious mind as well as the sub-conscious mind to affect us in some way.  Some visual cues (such as the ones at the movies) are meant to entice on a short-term basis.  Others such as the arrows on elevators are meant to instruct.  (They still don’t properly instruct me!)  Regardless of what the visual cue is for, it’s clear that they affect us.

I’m sure most of you over the years have created visual cues in your homes.  If you have children you have at some point most likely posted “Potty Charts” or “Good Behavior Charts”. I had a doorframe in my house where we kept a penciled measuring chart of each of the kid’s growth progress as they grew.  Each line marked the new height and date.  It was wonderful to look at over the years and reminisce and then really, really hard to leave when we moved on to another space!

But, what I’m talking about is a much subtler form of visual cues and is actually part of your decor.  Meant to be part of the décor, these types of visual cues affect the subconscious level of the mind and make you feel good in ways you don’t realize.  Here are some great ways to decorate with visual cues to bring good vibes into your space:

  • Have an area such as a decorative chalkboard to write daily inspirational messages to yourself, your family and guests.  My daughter-in-law, Kathleen painted the entire wall of her mudroom in chalkboard paint.  She writes her grocery list there, her “to do,” list, Ben’s “honey-do list” and friends can write fun comments on it when they visit.  This wall is like a living history wall of the goings on in the Aliff abode and continuously creates happiness.
  • Display a collection that gives you instantaneous feel good vibes such as a wall of crosses.  Several of my nieces do this in their homes, a tradition passed down from their mother, Patty.  This “wall of crosses” has even spilled over into other family members homes such as my niece, Marli’s home.  What a lovely way to constantly observe one’s faith, reflect on it and feel the calmness wash over you!
  • Find a decorative plaque of a positive quote that speaks personally to you and hang it somewhere in your space that you regularly see.  Or hang a piece of decorative art such as a clock I saw at a lake home recently.  The clock was stuck on 5:00.  Talk about instant smiles and instant relaxation.  (And thirst maybe?!?)
  • Accessorize with decorative pillows that have special meaning to you.  Pillows with whimsical quotes are examples that bring on the smiles.

One of the most heartwarming visual cues I have seen in a long time is in the home of a family friend, Jennifer.  Jennifer lost her sister a few years ago and has memorialized her love for her with a frame that includes a quote about sisters.  It reads,

“Sisters…

           from childhood memories to grown up dreams”

Cameron Triggs Photography

Cameron Triggs Photography

This visual cue speaks volumes of love and every time I see it I smile and feel gentle chill bumps erupt all over my body – a sure sign from the heavens above if you ask me!

Marli’s wall of crosses

Marli’s wall of crosses

The sky’s the limit on ways to infuse affirming visual cues in your home décor.  After all, each and every one of us can use more positive in our lives.  Our homes are our sanctuaries, meant to vitalize and revitalize us for living in the outside world.  Take every opportunity to create feel good vibes in your space, subtle decorative visual cues being one of them. Your heart, mind, body and soul will thank you and your entire being will blossom from the wonderful surroundings.  I guarantee it!

To loving life…

Best Ever Homemade Chocolate Chip-Oatmeal Cookies

I really do believe that everything begins in the home.  What we like, what we don’t like, how we act and how we live outside our homes first get shaped in how we live in our own space.

Take Chocolate – or the love thereof…

My love affair with it began at a very early age.  My dad was a candyholic.  Weekend Saturday and Sunday nights were the best.  He would take us six kids to the store, buy himself and our mom their favorite candy bars (Clark Bar and Almond Joy) and then he would buy $1.00 worth of penny candy for the six of us.  Back home we would each get our own separate sandwich bag full of candy that we had anxiously watched him divide into six equal piles.  Then as a family we would watch TV – black and white of course!

Before long my dad began to fill the crystal bowl in our living room with Peanut M&M’s.  Well, besides Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Peanut M&M’s are my absolute fave.  Saturday mornings week after week and year after year I awoke first in my household, crept to the candy dish and removed a handful of these scrumptious treats.  Then I would go to the kitchen, pour myself a glass of milk, rush back to bed and blissfully read in silent heaven.  Nothing could be finer than chocolate, a warm, cozy bed and a good book to read!

As an adult in my own space I put in my head that part of making a comfy, cozy home was to have fresh baked goodies on hand.  (Must have been that June Cleaver thing.)  Now I have to admit, I’ve never been able to bake a cake- each and every one falls flat upon leaving the oven.  But, I can make a mean cookie – especially ones with chocolate chips.

So, I cannot tell you how wonderful it was to recently hear on the news how good chocolate is for us.  Too bad all those years ago no one asked me, as I would’ve been able to tell the experts. Chocolate makes me smile and makes my heart full and happy.  To this very day, my morning begins with 2 or 3 pieces of chocolate.  Let me tell you – the feel good vibes come rushing in!  Nirvana for sure!  So, now that it’s a health food, I feel it’s apropos for me to share my recipe for the best Chocolate Chip-Oatmeal Cookies ever.  And, as an added health benefit, I recommend all organic ingredients!

Without further adieu, here’s my recipe tweaked over the years to create heaven on earth:

Chocolate Chip-Oatmeal Cookies

Cookies ready for baking

Ready for baking

2 c. butter
2 c. sugar
2 c. brown sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
4 c. flour
2 c. oatmeal
2 c. oat bran
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
24 oz. chocolate chips

Cream together the butter and sugar.  Next add the eggs and vanilla, mixing well.  Add all the dry ingredients and again, mix well.  Stir in the chocolate chips.  Make into golf ball size shapes and place on an ungreased cookie sheet about 2 in. apart.  Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes.

Cookies ready for eating

Ready to enjoy

Helpful Hints:

  • Use all organic ingredients.
  • Remove cookies from the oven while slightly brown, as they will continue cooking on the cookie sheet while cooling.  (I like a slightly soft middle to my cookies.)
  • These cookies freeze well and you can also freeze the cookie dough for future use.

For an extra treat:

Summertime Barbeques are a fun time to make your own homemade ice cream sandwiches.  Simply take two of these cookies, spread the top of one will softened ice cream and top it off with the other cookie.  Freeze until ready to serve.

To enjoying the chocolate part of life…