Truly Alive In My HOME

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To being alive…

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

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…

The Energy Within

The energy within our homes is comprised from many different sources.  An old home may have the energy of previous owners still lingering or a new home may have the builder’s energy or a very mixed energy from so many people going through it. When I speak of energy, it’s not the electricity provided by the power company but rather the feeling and vibration of a space, object or person.

Have you ever entered a room after an argument just took place there?  Even though the conflict is over, the charged, negative vibration remains.  Or, have you ever gone house hunting and for some reason, couldn’t put your finger on why the house just didn’t feel right or felt so welcoming?  Our homes are not only a reflection of us but of the other people who have entered or reside there.  Even a short visit by an angry person can affect the energy of a home or office.

The energy of conflict, anger, judgment, victim or other low levels can linger long after the event or person is gone.  It is important to clear and shift the energy in your home in order to create a space that reflects your vibration. This energy or vibration can be shifted through intention and action.

Rituals do the job

Practicing regular rituals to cleanse and elevate the energy of your home sets the intention of how you want your home to feel.  How does your home feel to you now?  By first building an awareness of the current energy, you will become sensitive to when a shift occurs.

Visioning how you want your home to feel to you when you enter is a good way to begin to build a home with the energetic vibration that reflects you.  Do you want to feel like you’ve entered a sanctuary?  A place of fun and high energy?  Joy? Tradition?

Native American Smudging Ritual

One common ritual to clear space involves smudging.  This is a Native American practice in which sage or cedar is burned to cleanse the energy.  You will need a sage smudge stick, a glass bowl or shell, and a feather if you wish.  Place a piece of sage in the bowl and light it.  It will begin to smoke and smolder.  Walking through your home, gently move the smoke in a circular motion with the feather or your hand.  You may choose to speak your intentions for your home out loud or in your mind.  Playing music that sets the tone for your intention is also a great addition to a smudging ritual.  Smudging accessories can be purchased online or at many book, botanical and new age stores. For a more detailed description of how to smudge your home, check out http://www.wehug.com/smudge-sage-ceremony.html

Quiet Space creates good vibes

Earth energy

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

Another energy shifter I recommend to clients is to set aside a space where you meditate, pray or simply seek solitude.  This space can be a corner of a room or really anywhere that you can close the door and be quiet. Some people like to have an altar or focal point for their meditation or prayers.

Altars can be anything with meaning to you.  It may contain articles reflecting your spiritual beliefs, crystals, items from nature, candles, memory tokens or ancestral relics. Perhaps the décor changes with the seasons.   Ultimately the purpose of this space is to remind you of who you are and provide you with a private place to reflect, give gratitude, find peace and go inward.  It can also provide a focal point for meditation or prayer.

Other energy elevators include playing music, burning candles or incense, bringing nature inside with flowers, water, rocks and crystals, removing clutter and old belongings which no longer serve you and having colors and décor that reflect your spirit.

Boundaries protect Home energy

Learning to protect your home is also a good idea. Having good boundaries about whom and what is allowed in your sacred space is essential to maintaining a positive flow of energy.

One client used a very powerful energy shifting ritual prescribed by Sonia Choquette in her book “Trust Your Vibes.”  She was going through a difficult divorce and her future ex-husband kept entering her home unannounced and for no reason.  She used a ceremony called Green Fire to shift the energy.  It involves taking a large cooking pot and lining it with foil.  Place it in the main room or center of your home on more foil or a tile to protect your floor.  Pour Epsom salts into the pot and enough rubbing alcohol to cover the Epsom salts.  It doesn’t take much to get a really hot fire going so start small.  Think about the intention you have for your home.  (In the case of my client, she wanted the home to be hers and her ex to stop entering it without her consent.)  Light the mixture with a match.  You may want to stay near the fire until it burns out, saying affirmations for your intention out loud.  My client’s worked so well that the next time her ex came into the house he actually asked her “what the —- she had done to the house. “  It was the last time he came in without her permission.  This ceremony is a cleansing one for your home’s energy.  Holding good intentions for your space is positive.  In this example, the home’s new energy was so abrasive to her ex’s energy he was uncomfortable.

There is no wrong way to clear your home.  As long as your intentions for the space are clear, that is what will be conveyed.  Action is a powerful addition to intention because it gives intention form.  By holding both high energetic intentions and using ceremonies and rituals, your space will take on a beautiful vibration unique to you.

Honor your space…

Adapting Your Homespace For Living With Chronic Illness

I was first diagnosed with a chronic illness at the ripe old age of twenty.  In many ways, it came as a relief.  I now had an explanation for all these problems and a course of action.  But, at the same time it labeled me.

I have Fibromyalgia.  Not only had I never heard of it, I could hardly even pronounce it.  This came coupled with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and a host of other issues later down the road.

Chronic illness impacts everything

Every aspect of my life was impacted.  I had to quit my fulltime job because I could no longer do the things my job required of me such as standing on my feet for numerous hours a day.

Mountains and sulfur spring Wyoming

Photo credit: Sammi Blake

I had to deal with friends and family members who did not understand at all.  (Pain is relative and everyone has a different threshold for pain so it is difficult to understand just how much pain someone is or isn’t in.  Besides, I had no outward physical manifestation of my illness for others to see.)  When people began to understand that this was a condition I would live with for the rest of my life, it seemed to almost be something no one wanted to discuss or show concern over.  Pain from a surgery or disability that is visible is easier to talk about.  Who really wants to hear about constant pain that will be around forever?Because of this I often felt alienated from others as if they didn’t care when in actuality they probably just didn’t know what to say or do.

I had to spend a lot of my time resting and recovering when I did any activity such as exercise.  I had to plan my life completely differently.  Things such as traveling were difficult as I knew when I traveled somewhere riding in the car for a long  period of time, it resulted in a subsequent “flare-up”.  Another problem area was sleeping in different beds.  That was really tough as well and often took days to recover from when I returned home.

Changes in my home

After attending an eight-week program in the hospital on managing and living with chronic pain, I made changes in my space that were suggested to me in the program.  Though simple, they actually were big for me as I tend to be somewhat obsessive.  For example, on days when I knew no one would be coming over, I would not make my bed.  It was one less task I had to do.  This may sound silly because making a bed only takes a few minutes, but when you live with a chronic illness you learn to pick and choose what to do each day.

Other changes I made included how I handled every day cleaning.  I had always liked my home to be in perfect order all the time.  I learned to not be so rigid on normal days and save the “perfectly clean” days for when I was having company over.

Huge changes were made in my eating habits as well.  It was recommended to me through my Rheumatologist that I avoid caffeine and white sugar completely.  He also suggested I use organic products and produce as much as possible.  It was amazing the weight that dropped off and more importantly, how tied to food my pain levels were.  In other words, if I “cheated” at times like Thanksgiving and had sweets or foods that contained preservatives, the next week my pain levels would be far more intense.  I am a real example of what food can do to the body- so choose carefully what you put in your mouth!

Everything doesn’t have to be perfect ALL the time

This is a lesson I had to learn.  It really could be a lesson for everyone: Let some things go!

Try it yourself.  I can almost guarantee you will feel good letting one little thing go.  Trade it for doing something that makes you feel comfy!

Almost a decade later

Life continues to change for me.  Married with two wonderful stepchildren and now a beautiful daughter of my own, I have made even more changes in how I live in my home.  The pantry and refrigerator aren’t as well organized.  (OK, the labels no longer face forward equally spaced apart!)  I have too much to do, too many bigger things to be involved in than something as silly as that.  But, my health issues are still a daily challenge so with these added responsibilities I am ever more mindful of ways to counteract my issues.  I have learned even more ways to adapt.

What has evolved with the changes in my life is I make sure I have comfortable relaxation areas in my home.

Here are some examples of how I relax:

  •  Soothing music
  •  Comfy pillows for sleeping and resting
  •  Special spaces designated for quiet
  •  A bubble bath while reading a good book
  •  My comfy, old PJ’s (some of my favorite T Shirts I have had since elementary school)
  •  A comfy bathrobe and slippers

Tips to live by

I have learned through trial and error what helps make me comfortable in my home.  Here are some of the things I have learned to do:

  • Eat organically or as locally grown as possible.
  • Know the importance of sleep and relaxation.
  • Use natural products for cleaning as often as possible to eliminate toxins in the environment.
  • Understand the importance of exercise and stretching. (Remember The Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz needing to be oiled? So do we by moving and stretching!)
  • Prioritize and choose what you do carefully.
  • Let the small things go.
  • Practice calmness.

Absolutely, one of the biggest changes I made in my life when I was first diagnosed with Fibromyalgia was to begin eating organically.  It is certainly more expensive but, my body and I deserve the best I can give it.  Now that I have a daughter of my own, I plan to instill in her all these same habits – particularly, eating healthy. I make all her baby food with organic products and will continue to feed her organically as much as possible.  In future articles I plan to share with you some of my ventures into teaching healthy habits to my daughter.  I hope you identify with my parenting style and enjoy my message!

If I could sum up what I have learned with my illness it would be this

Hot sulfur spring Yellowstone

Photo credit: Sammi Blake

Everyday that I live with this chronic illness, I become more and more aware of the need to be positive.  I have found that it actually takes more energy to think and act negatively than it does to be positive.  Although I still have tough days of wondering why I was given these challenges, I choose to try to overcome them and live in the moment I am given to enjoy.  All of us have obstacles.  All of us have “disabilities”.  It is up to us to rise above them and exhilarate in life.

Enjoy life…