Some Days My Home Feels Made Of Straw

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

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

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

A kindred spirit I met at the Benjamin Moore store

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

Interesting point of view, I have this point of view

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

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

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

Make a habit of correcting your point of view when needed

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

To living in perfect harmony…

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…

A Healthy Heart HOME

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

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

  • Physically
  • Emotionally

A physically healthy heart

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

Here are some simple facts of heart disease to ponder:

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

CeCe Hampton loving life

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

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

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

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

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

An emotionally healthy heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lailuma Miller in the great outdoors

Lailuma Miller in the great outdoors

To loving life and having a happy, healthy heart…

The Power of Color

The beauty of color

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

Ever wonder why certain colors become the latest trend?  For instance, the trendy colors as I write are gray and yellow.  Just look closely at the backgrounds of magazine covers, the words on magazine covers, the wall colors on top-rated TV shows, commercials, movie-set décor, clothing worn by models, actresses and actors- the list goes on… right now those in the know use the color gray accented with varying tinges of yellow.  Just pay attention to a Sprint commercial on TV next time you see one.  Everything you see is gray and yellow.

Why these colors?  Why now?

The psychology of color

The use of color is a form of non-verbal communication.  It communicates meaning.  Consider these examples of the psychological power of color:

  • The impact of color is direct.
  • The impact of color is instantaneous.
  • The impact of color is emotional.
  • The impact of color can alter moods and behavior.
  • The impact of color often determines the choices you make.
  • The impact of color is much like the impact of smell- it stirs up memories.

Back to gray and yellow

So, I cannot help but try to psychoanalyze why these two colors are the latest trend.  Consider what they symbolize:

  • Gray symbolizes security, stability and conservatism.  It is a balanced and neutral color that doesn’t evoke strong emotion.  A great example of this is the traditional gray suit for men- practical and timeless.
  • Yellow symbolizes joy, happiness and optimism.  It is the color of sunshine so it makes you feel warmth.  A great example of this is radio talk show host and Oprah B.F.F., Gayle King.  She has decorated her home in yellow and look at how we listeners of her show perceive her as upbeat and full of life!

Put the two colors of gray and yellow together and what do you get?  Perhaps you get a combined feeling of optimistic conservatism and stability?  Is this an indication of our economy and the government wanting us to feel secure, stabile, happy and conservative?  Makes you wonder…

Golden mushroom

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

Remember when the trendy colors were chocolate brown and blue?  (This went on way too long if you ask me!)  Now, I don’t know for sure but I was told from reliable sources in my industry that the chocolate brown craze was because of Starbucks coffee.  Can you imagine?  If this is true, isn’t the power of persuasion (and marketing) fascinating?  Did we all go out and buy more coffee from Starbucks?  Were chocolate brown and blue truly our favorite colors to decorate our homes with or were we caught up in thinking we liked them?   I can tell you I really, really tired of doing chocolate brown and blue in home after home.  I wanted extraordinary, not ordinary.  See what I mean?  Don’t you want to be extraordinary?  More you?  Unique?  True to your essence?

Think about it.  Really begin to understand what color speaks to you the most and then ask yourself why this particular color or colors do.   And while you do, I will give you a short lesson on other colors, the feelings they evoke and what they have come to symbolize.

The colors of the rainbow

Red ~ Passion, Energy, Excitement, Impulsiveness

Pink ~ Love, Beauty, Healing, Passion

Green ~ Health, Well-being, Prosperity, Nature

Purple ~ Royalty, Richness, Power, Ambition

Orange ~ Encouragement, Stimulation, Courage, Strength

Blue ~ Patience, Tranquility, Wisdom, Youth

Dainty yellow flower

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

I have to mention these colors as well although they are not colors of the rainbow:

White (Absence of color) ~ Purity, Truth, Peace, Spiritual strength

Black ~ Power, Sophistication, Depth, Formality

In an earlier blog post, Color Your World I talk about the importance of being true to yourself through the colors you use in your homespace. So, what color(s) do you use?  Why?  Do you honor yourself by using the color(s) that accurately match who you are?

Manipulating your energy with color

Advertisers, retailers and corporate America all take advantage of the subliminal manipulations color can achieve in us humans.  Think about the colors you usually see in hospitals, doctor’s offices and other health care providers.  The color palette used is most often soft blues, greens and grays. Colors to soothe, calm and center you.  No coincidence there!  By using these colors throughout these buildings, moods and behaviors are altered.

Power of color

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

This holds true for your personal homespace as well.  Just as important as using colors that are true to your essence is understanding that infusing other colors in subtle ways in your homespace can actually help balance you.

So why not start allowing color to influence your homespace and balance the energy?   A little bit goes a long way.  It won’t infringe on your décor scheme either.  Just be sensitive to adding color in simple ways such as with throw pillows, accessories and artwork.

Is your personality a tad on the high-strung side?  If so, add small touches of calming colors such as soft blues and greens in your homespace.   (Do the same for your wardrobe, too!)

Are you meek and mild and want to project more gumption?  Infuse bold colors such as red and orange in both your homespace and clothing choices.  It is amazing what a pair of red boots or a bold tie does to a simple black ensemble.

I read somewhere once about the impact of color on men and women.  I wish I could remember where it was but I do remember being fascinated by the psychologist’s theory that perhaps women live longer than men because women routinely wear more colors to brighten their appearance, which in turn brightens their moods.  Ever since then I have become an advocate of my David wearing really, really colorful ties with his suits each day!  I’ve gotta do everything I can to keep the man around for a long time!  And, I obsess over the news anchors on the TV each morning critiquing their ties and paying attention to their choices.  George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America sure wears some great ones!

What color choices say about you

Color of passion

Photo credit: Krisitn Vining Photography

I would love to hear from you about what colors you use in your homespace and why.  Undoubtedly, unless you are following the latest trends, there is a reason you use the colors you do.  Do these colors match your personality?  How?

Also, just for fun I will follow up this post with a few  more posts on specific colors expressed in homes of friends and family.  I love knowing people that live and breathe their true essence through their homespace décor and I want to share their stories.  Once I tell you a little about the personalities of these people and their color schemes, you will begin to understand how harmoniously they fit each other.  Take Lisa, aka “The Purple Lady”.  What a hoot.  She’s a woman totally in touch with her inner self!

Be on the lookout for these upcoming posts.  I think you’ll enjoy getting a glimpse into other people’s lives.  And, you never know, you might decide a color change is in order for you!  If so, I say go for it!  Life is short so color it in style.  Your style, of course!

Think color…