A Better Home

I flew home last night from Charlotte, NC. There have been less than a hand full of times I’ve ever needed to be home so badly. You see I’ve been gone all but about four days since early February. Not only did I miss two snowfalls we had in Chicago during that time but also, I missed home. It’s that simple. As much as I’ve said in other posts that home is where the heart is and though my heart traveled with me, I’ve been away from all the comforts my personal home brings me – coffee in the wee hours each morning with my David while we play Scrabble on our IPads, solitary walks in nature, my own home-cooked meals, my dog and my writing (hard to do when traveling) to name a few. Most of all I’ve missed my quiet time with David. He is absolutely positively the love of my life. As is our tradition when I return home from traveling, last night we went to our fave restaurant just a stone’s throw away from our house. Vincitori’s Italian – quaint and ever so yummy, it is my comfort place to go to when I get home. The restaurant was packed so we ate at the bar. Let me tell you, I was giddy with happiness. I kept patting David’s leg, rubbing his back and smiling at him while thinking in my head, there’s no place like home. Hallelujah, I felt finally home. Truly, home never felt better than this. And that my friends made me realize that being away from home for so long and dealing with all that went on these last few weeks gave me a new appreciation for home which in turn gave me a better home to return to.

Two other people I know have recently been gifted a better home to live in. One I learned about through a chance encounter one of the hair stylists at the salon I go to had with a new client. The other I know personally. Both of these people are now living in better homes. I know they are blessed and I know their families are as well. Let me explain…

Maurice’s gift gave someone a better home

No matter where I go I tend to be a “Chatty Cathy” and have tons of unusual stories to tell. Even at the salon I go to many of the stylists there know me and know this about me so the last time I was there getting highlights one of the stylists came over to talk. In no time she told me about the odd encounter she had the day before. A walk-in client had come in and so she cut her hair. They began a casual conversation and before long they started talking about where they both went to high school. When the stylist said where she went the woman in the chair said, “I didn’t go there but the mother of the boy that gave me his kidney did.” That remark led to more connecting the dots until oddly enough the hair stylist realized the boy she was talking about was Maurice, a 16-year-old boy that had lived with his mother above her condo years ago in Chicago. You see some guys that wanted his jacket gunned down Maurice in cold blood in front of their building on a day Maurice was excited about going to a concert that evening with his mother, the hair stylist and her son. He later died at the hospital from the gunshot wound. His mother decided to donate all his organs that could be donated. Now all these years later a woman that was a recipient of Maurice’s kidney was sitting in her chair. Talk about synchronicity! What a gift both these women received. The hair stylist got to see what Maurice had done for someone and the woman; well Maurice gave her a better home to live in while here on earth.

A better home for Chris

Chris Brami is my daughter-in-law Kathleen’s father. Well, actually he was her father as he recently passed away. He was diagnosed a few years ago with Alzheimer’s – what my own mother has so I understand it in an up close and personal way. But for a man so young, it was heart wrenching to have happen. He was in the prime of life if you ask me. Chris’s condition rapidly progressed the last few months and just this February while I was visiting he passed away. Kathleen, her mother (Susan) and her sister (Meredith) dealt with some pretty horrific stuff while he spiraled down. Finally towards the end it was apparent to them all that he needed to go home to a better place. I’ll never forget the last days of his life as I was staying with Kathleen and my son. The morning he passed will be etched in my mind forever. I awoke and walked out of my bedroom. As early as it was Kathleen and Ben were dressed and leaving. She had just gotten the call from her mother that he had passed. Kathleen said to me, “We said our goodbyes last night and left him in private. We knew he was ready to go to a better place. We gave him the space to do it and he did it in his own way. He went home to a better place.”

Strive for the best home right here and now

I think everything we experience, every person we meet can teach us valuable lessons. I remember the day the hair stylist told me her story I asked her what she learned from it all. She said, “Well, I learned the importance of donating organs. Maurice’s kidney saved someone’s life and really, donating is a simple thing to do.” And I’ll never forget the peace that came for everyone knowing Chris had gone on to a better home. Maurice’s story and Chris’s family consciously letting him go to a better place have given me much to ponder. Add to that the weeks upon weeks I have been gone from my own home and believe you me, I feel more connected to home than ever before. How about you? Is your home all you want it to be? Can you think of ways to make it better? If so, why not start now to make a change? After all, home should offer us the best sanctuary for our souls that is possible.

To being home…

Chris Brami, July 22,1955 ~ February 7,2013

Chris Brami, July 22,1955 ~ February 7,2013

A Healthy Heart HOME

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

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

  • Physically
  • Emotionally

A physically healthy heart

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

Here are some simple facts of heart disease to ponder:

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

CeCe Hampton loving life

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

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

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

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

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

An emotionally healthy heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lailuma Miller in the great outdoors

Lailuma Miller in the great outdoors

To loving life and having a happy, healthy heart…

How To Best Display Children’s Artwork In Your Home

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

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

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

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

In the Laundry Room/Mudroom

Addison and Austin’s special art

Addison and Austin’s special art

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

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

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

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

On Bookshelves

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

Jimmy Aliff’s self-portrait

Jimmy Aliff’s self-portrait

In the Garage

The Blake Family Laundry Room

The Blake Family Art

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

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

To children and their endless ability to love…

Love In Your HOME

February is the month of love.  February is also American Heart Month; a designation approved by Congress in 1963.  From all the research I have done on both topics, one has nothing to do with the other.  Yet, both have to do with the heart and are recognized in the same month.  It is the “love” part of February I want to speak to today.

Recently I found myself in a situation whereby Webster’s Dictionary was pulled out, referred to and actually used to define some very simple and common every day words.  I’m talking about words such as “shall” and “all”.  Everyone thinks they know what these words mean, but evidently their meanings are still open for debate and interpretation in some arenas. The word “love” is used all the time and yet, many of us don’t really think about what it means either.

In a recent post I made a statement that I firmly believe to be true about the word “love”. In my post, Cleaning The Mirror, I said, “Love is the most important verb in the English language.”  Now most of us think of the word “love” as a noun.  Here’s the definition found in Webster’s Dictionary for the word “love” used as a verb:

To hold dear; to like or desire actively; to take pleasure in

There’s a reason why in my post, Cleaning The Mirror I referred to the word “love “as a verb.  I personally don’t think most of us participate in it enough.  I know I don’t.  Clearly, verbs are action words.  To use this word as an action word, it requires you to do something.  So, what I want to impress upon you is to use the word “love” this month as a verb.  Actively participate in giving love this month- each and everyday to everyone in your HOME – be it your personal homespace, your workspace or your earthspace – after all, these are all parts that make up your HOME.  Get creative in the ways you go about this.  You will amaze yourself with what you come up with.  Simple acts of love such as bringing your loved one a cup of steaming hot coffee in the morning, reading an extra book to your child even though you are exhausted and ready for quiet time yourself, wrapping your child in a warm towel after a bath, calling a shut-in and saying hello, keeping your thoughts to yourself when someone annoys you, offering to take out the trash, closing the lid on the toilet, turning off the TV to talk to your partner, saying hello to people on the street, bringing cookies to work for your co-workers, complimenting someone you see, calling an old friend you haven’t touched base with in years, resisting the urge to get the last word in, smiling often, giving the waiter or waitress an extra tip, treating someone to an ice cream cone, texting someone that you love them, saying positive things to others, picking up litter, asking someone to go for a walk, etc., etc., etc.  The sky’s the limit on creative ways to actively participate in giving love to others!

Last year I embarked on a yearlong exercise in personal growth.  In early January of 2011 I assigned myself a focus word for each month.  My intention was to carefully study and use that particular word each day of that month in some form.  For the month of February I assigned myself the word  “Affection”.  Obviously I thought it was the perfect word to coincide with both Heart Month and Valentine’s Day.  It was wonderful to actively participate in using this word somehow each day.  But, the most rewarding way for me was when I assigned a person’s name to each day of the month.  I actually wrote each person’s name on my desk calendar and highlighted it with a marker so that I visually saw their name all day long.  Then I wrote a personal letter of affection to each person on that day.  (Hand written and mailed.)  It was like giving out Valentine’s cards and letters each day of the month. Sure, it required a lot of time and effort.  But, it was incredibly powerful for me to do it. I have no idea how or if my letter(s) touched many of the people I wrote to because I asked them not to feel the need to ever respond.  The gift of affection was from me with nothing expected in return.  (By the way I am doing this again this year with a new set of names and a new set of letters and cards to send each day!)  Try this yourself and see what happens.  It might just start a domino chain reaction – kind of like a “Love Train” if you will!

“People all over the world join hands
Start a love train, love train…
Don’t you know that it’s time to get on board…
Please don’t miss the train at the station
‘Cause if you miss it, I feel sorry, sorry for you”

Lyrics by The O’Jays
“Love Train”

To actively loving…

Please check out Living in Perfect Harmony’s Facebook Fanpage each day this month for more on Love.

Red rose

Photo Credit: Kristin Vining Photography

How Music Can Influence Your Space

While taking my daily walk in nature this morning,  the weather changed and what started as a slight mist turned into a gentle rain.  Without realizing it I began singing an old song  in my head by B.J. Thomas, “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head”.

Once I realized what I was doing not only did I chuckle but, I realized how good I felt even while walking in the rain with no umbrella handy.  This upbeat song was making me feel good!

Music has the power to do this.

The power of music

Music has the power to influence our attitudes and behaviors.  It can make you happy, it can make you sad.  It can give you inspiration and it can keep you stuck.  It can fill you with all kinds of warm fuzzies and it can fill you with anger.  It can affect you and even make shifts in you that you are unaware of.  It’s no coincidence that medical offices, elevators and other places that have the opportunity to heighten stress levels in us use soothing background music.  My own dentist offers you earphones to listen to soothing music while sitting in the dental chair.  Retailers market music for our babies with offerings of CD’s of soothing sounds and lullabies.  All you need do is spend an hour in a baby store and you will see what manufacturers believe every child should hear!

Colors of nature

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

As far back as 1974 in a high school psychology experiment I hypothesized that music had incredible psychological power. I had a great teacher, Mrs. Jackie Wilkerson and she really made  class fun.  During the year she assigned us class projects and I decided to do mine on the influence music has on our eating habits.  My study was based on the hypothesis that if you increase the beat and rhythm of a song, the rate of chewing also increases.  I did my experiment on kids in the school cafeteria.  Now I am the first to admit that the study had to be full of incredible extraneous variables that I didn’t have the wherewithal to include or allow for in my experiment.  Nonetheless, for a high school psychology experiment, the results were conclusive to my hypothesis.  Kids did chew faster during fast tempos and slower during slower tempos.  I call that food for thought!

(By the way, I actually called my old high school teacher the other day to let her know I would be writing this article.  Mind you, I haven’t talked to her since 1974 and wasn’t even sure if she would remember me.  Wow!  Mrs. Wilkerson is now Dr. Wilkerson, a licensed therapist.  What an inspiration to know that her work as a high school psychology teacher led her to go for the gusto and live her passion in such a way!)

In researching data for this post I came upon some interesting findings.  Because I don’t care to have my posts full of statistical data and more about what I have learned  for myself first hand, I choose not to site various and sundry articles that I have gleaned data from. However, feel free to contact me if you want to know where I get some of my information. I will be happy to pass it on to you. With that said, these are some of the interesting tidbits of research findings about music I have read that give pause for consideration:

  • Music can slow down or speed up the heart rate.
  • Music can reduce muscle tension, improve body movement and coordination.
  • Music can regulate stress-related hormones.
  • Music can change our perception of time and space.
  • Music can strengthen our memory.
  • Music can enhance romance and sexuality.
  • Music can aid in digestion.
  • Music can generate a feeling of safety and well-being.
  • Music can enhance an unconscious receptivity to symbolism.

Music speaks what the soul feels (or should)

I absolutely, positively believe in the power of music.  It has certainly affected me through the years and when I look back on specific times in my life I realize that the music I listened to often mirrored what my heart and soul were feeling at the time.  (Or vice versa.)  I suspect it is the same for most people.

Leaves falling in water

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

For example, during the months and months of enduring an extremely painful separation and subsequent divorce I started listening to country music for the first time.  I can remember times when the kids would be at school and I would turn up the volume full blast on soulful ballads and sing my heart and lungs out while I walked through the empty house feeling safe to express my grief.  I never listened to perky music.  Instead I listened to music that was full of angst, sorrow and despair.  I would cocoon myself in songs like this while I grieved the death of a marriage and a family unit.  In hindsight, I believe I should have chosen songs with more positive lyrics instead of ones that kept me glued to my pity pot.

Listening to music with positive messages, an upbeat tempo or simply a soothing instrumental song can change the energy of you and your space.  The only thing is that like the chicken and the egg, I am not sure which comes first.  DO we choose our music based on what our Soul is feeling OR is our Soul affected by the music we choose?  Regardless of the answer to this, we all should consciously choose the music we listen to in order to enhance our true selves!

Allow music to make your heart sing

Leaves among the rocks

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

The fact that I unconsciously began singing, “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head” today while I was out walking in nature doesn’t surprise me.  Through all the trauma-drama in my life I have emerged on the other side full of bliss.  My choices in music mirror that, even the ones in my head.  Sure I still love Reba McEntire and some of the other great country songs.  I just fill my head with the positive ones like one of my all-time favorites by The Dixie Chicks, “Wide Open Spaces”.  To this day that song reminds me of two women I deeply admire – Lori Saylor Milan and Blair Kernodle Scheepers – both of whom went in search of wide open spaces for their souls.  Or, for a quick smile I listen to Jimmy Buffet’s song, “Cheeseburgers In Paradise” as my son, Jimmy and I used to love to dance in the kitchen around the center island to the song while systematically pulling from the fridge all the ingredients in the song.  More often than not though, I enjoy the sounds of silence as I expressed in my post, Let Nature Restoreth Your Soul (And Your Home) in order to hear life around me!

Choose music that can do all kinds of wonderful things for you.  Choose music to positively impact your energy and the energy of your space.  The music you choose is a choice you make.  It is that simple.  Choose music that speaks what your soul feels.

I read somewhere that music IS the heart of a person.  The heart is formed in the home, which again speaks to my firm belief – everything begins in the home.  Honor your home with the best you can give it.

There is music in all of us – we just need to listen…