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

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…

Aromatherapy In Your Home

Antique recipe book

Mom’s first recipe book

Consider this recipe that I recently found in my mother’s decrepit family recipe book:

Peppermint Oil – To stop vomiting, saturate a cloth in peppermint oil and lay it across the bare stomach.

Amazing isn’t it?  I am guessing this recipe dates back to the early 1900’s  as it is from my great-grandmother, Ma’am Beech’s original recipe book passed down through the family.  It later became part of my mother’s first recipe book as a young woman in the 1940’s.

Pure peppermint oil placed on the stomach to soothe discomfort!  It sure beats all the commercial medicinal treatments by a mile!

Buckeye butterfly on flowers

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

My friend and colleague, Jannette Semenic (well educated in the field of aromatherapy) told me one way she uses peppermint oil.  She said, “I use peppermint oil as a natural breath freshener.  I simply dab a few drops of the oil on my tongue”.  It certainly makes you wonder why we all buy Tic-Tacs and Lifesavers that are full of ingredients we don’t need in our bodies.  Jannette knows that the simplicity of what nature has to offer us is the best tonic for us.

A history of essential oils

Natural oils are derived from flowers, leaves,  the bark of trees, roots and any other part of a plant or tree that has medicinal properties.

From the earliest of times, oils have been used for medicinal purposes.  In fact, as far back as 4500 B.C. there are historical records of the use of essential oils.  Furthermore, the Bible is full of notations about herbs and essential oils.  Considered mankind’s first resource for medicinal purposes,  oils were at one time even more precious than gold.

Essential oils in modern times

Purple wildflowers

Photo credit: David Solganik

Today, essential oils can be found in many of the products we commonly use on a daily basis.  I for one think retailers and corporate America have manipulated us with these products  because in truth they rarely contain much of the essence of the plant from which they originate.  Yet, we spend endless amounts of money on these new products every single day knowing full well they often contain a mere smidgen of nature’s gold.  Amazing.

Here’s an example- one day recently I was really missing my precious little granddaughter, Ansley (you know, God’s Littlest Angel) and so instead of using my normal hand lotion, I used a lotion I have for when she visits.  It is a product for babies.  It is meant as a calming lotion for bedtime and has the words lavender and vanilla on the front of the bottle.  Not to discount this product but, in reading the list of ingredients there is no mention of what percentage of oils this product contains.  So, how much calming from the lavender and vanilla is really going on?  Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?  Why not simply put a dish of fresh lavender in the baby’s room?  Or diffuse through the air a mixture of distilled water and organic lavender oil prior to bedtime?

Using essential oils in a form such as a diffuser is one form of Aromatherapy.

Aromatherapy is the practice of using natural oils to enhance both physical and psychological well-being.  As I said in a recent post, The Smell Test, the number one crucial ingredient required to make your homespace beautiful is a wonderful smell.  Seriously, the nose knows and the brain remembers.

Soothing the energy of your space with fragrance

Busy bee

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

Smells can transport you to other times in your life.   How many times do you smell something and immediately connect it to a memory of something?  My friend, Jannette and I were talking about this.  She told me how she always remembers going to her grandmother’s home and seeing fresh orange peel hanging in the kitchen.  To this day she uses essential oils such as tangerine to transport her back in time to being with her grandmother.  Talk about creating warm fuzzies!

For years as a young mother I had a special pot I used to keep fresh cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg in on the stove.  I would keep the pot of spices (in water) on a low simmer so that the wonderful aromas of these spices would fill the air. This was my first use of aromatherapy to create beauty in my home.

Wyndmere Ultrasonic Nebulizer

My Wyndmere Nebulizer

Now, I use a nebulizer for diffusing essential oils into the air.  After having tried several, I have settled on one that works best for me.  It is manufactured by a company called Wyndmere and can be bought in stores or online.  Every single day I use it in my home office to bring fragrance and medicinal therapy to the air.  All essential oils have specific benefits to them.  My choices of which oils I use each day are for whichever benefit I am aiming for.  (You can bet if I am working late in the evening at my desk I have a mixture of lavender and lime in the nebulizer filling the air to prepare me for a restful night!)

Essential oils can do wonders for our homes and our bodies.  Absolutely, positively I believe they have medicinal benefits.  Look for future posts about specific oils such as Lavender, Lemon, Sandalwood, Lime, Frankincense and my favorite, Fragonia by Wisdom of the Earth.  In these posts I will give you an explanation of their uses and benefits.  I hope you enjoy learning about them and decide to infuse your home with oils yourself.  I cannot stress enough the restorative powers nature has for us in essential oils.

Go for the gold

Using essential oils is one way to honor yourself and your homespace.  Simply by infusing oils in the air you can manipulate the energy around you.  You can change negativity, lower stress and restore harmony.

Nature's wondrous scents

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

Also, by using oils that evoke good memories attached to them, you continue to create an atmosphere of good feelings.  In this busy, busy world we live in we want our homes to create a sanctuary of calm for us to surround ourselves with.  Pleasing fragrances are certainly one way to help.

Using essential oils to beautify your home is also being kind to the earth.  Keeping things as pure and simple as possible is living with global consciousness in my book.  I believe that as part of humanity we must both singly and collectively connect with nature.  Using 100% natural oils in your home is one step in this direction.

Yep, essential oils are liquid gold – for many, many reasons.   Beautify your home with the aroma of nature.

Go for the gold…

“Always remember, there is nothing better for your home than a breath of fresh air.  Occasionally open your windows and let nature inside!”