Spring: A Season For New Beginnings

There’s a feeling that comes over me when I see the first hints of spring – the daffodils popping up out of the ground, buds on the trees and birds chirping their joyful noise all start something deep within me that feels good.  In fact, I start to feel the giddiness deep within me that I can only say is “a feeling of spring”.  This feeling always reminds me of Friend Owl and Thumper’s conversation in the Walt Disney movie, Bambi as Friend Owl tries to explain the changes that come over everyone in the springtime.  Friend Owl explains to Thumper why everyone is acting differently.  He says, “Nearly everybody gets twitterpated in the springtime.”   I love the word “twitterpated”.  It’s one of those words that really expresses the feeling well – you can feel the good vibes just saying the word.  Yep, I agree with Friend Owl and I know absolutely, positively that I become twitterpated myself – twitterpated with life.  That’s what spring does for me!

Spring-cleaning my house

At the same time I’m feeling twitterpated I turn to my nest and do some spring-cleaning to say goodbye to ole man winter and hello to a new beginning.  Psychologists say that spring-cleaning is good for the psyche.   When we declutter our houses of anything we needed around us to feel warm and cozy through the winter, we give our space a fresh new look that carries with it a fresh new energy.  (To learn more about how clutter affects you read my post, Clutter In Your Space Clutters Your Mind)  I remember well the rituals of spring-cleaning when I was growing up.  Things like changing the bedspreads on the beds to lighter weight coverlets and removing the heavy winter blankets from the beds were springtime chores.  These items would be cleaned and stored in cedar closets until the next winter.  We kids also had to clean out our bedroom closets because back then in the days of covered wagons (or so my own kids say) part of every season was changing our clothes out for the new season.  Away would go all the winter sweaters and coats and out would come the short sleeve shirts and cooler clothing items.  It was fun to make these changes because it gave me a feeling of newness and freshness.  To this day I actively participate in some of these same rituals.

As a decorator that focuses totally on details, I cannot tell you how often I go into homes and realize that they’re what I call “surface cleaned”.  By that I mean that on the surface things look OK, but on a closer inspection it’s another story altogether.  Now, the reason this is a problem is that these unclean spaces and places impact your health in ways you might not be aware of.   You see, accumulated dust and dirt affects the air we breathe as every breath we take contains particles of dust and pollutants around us.  I read recently that researchers believe that indoor air can be as much as ten times more polluted than outdoor air.  Much of this is due to how well sealed our homes and buildings are today as it’s only been in the last one hundred years or so that we have had air-conditioning, central heat, thermal pane windows, weather-stripping and other forms of insulation that keep everything air-tight.  Routine cleaning of these hidden spaces and places becomes necessary for good health.  So, this year while doing your spring-cleaning make sure you add some of these areas to your list to clean as they are culprits for overlooked accumulations of dust and dirt:

  • The top of the fridge
  • Behind the fridge
  • Behind furniture
  • The tops of frames on your walls
  • The tops of doorframes
  • On light bulbs
  • On electrical cords behind furniture
  • Under sofa and chair cushions
  • On closet shelves
  • On air return vents

Spring-cleaning my HOME

Springtime is also a time I do some cleaning of my interior space, my HOME.  For me it’s a time to look inward and reflect on ways to change and grow emotionally and spiritually.  All of us have dust and dirt accumulating in ourselves.  Just as we have dust accumulating in hidden spaces and places of our structural home and on boxes sitting in our attics and basements that we haven’t peeked into for years, we have the same accumulating in our hearts, minds and souls.  So, feeling twitterpated in spring gives me the added push and courage for new beginnings within.  Through the years, particularly since I began rehabbing my HOME after a chance encounter on a plane (read my post, Construction Zone: Rehabbing My HOME for more on this experience) I have found some real specific ways to declutter my HOME that have absolutely, positively worked.  Here are some of them:

  • Spending time in Nature
  • Bringing elements of Nature into my structural home
  • Meditating
  • Exercising regularly
  • Practicing my Faith
  • Surrounding myself with things that lift me up such as aromatic essential oils and candles
  • Listening to soothing/inspirational music
  • Bringing fresh air into my structural home and my personal HOME
  • Choosing to live in peace and harmony
  • Actively paying it forward each day

Review~Refresh~Renew

For me Spring-cleaning can best be summed up as a process of what I call “The Three R’s” – review, refresh and renew.  What a wonderful time of year to review the state of your space, refresh the areas that need refreshing and in doing so allow yourself to be renewed.  That truly makes for a new beginning!

As I’m writing this I have my office windows open and I feel a gentle breeze coming in.  I hear the birds chirping and have even spied two hawks harmoniously soaring in the sky nearby.  Yep, I’m twitterpated for sure and in the next few minutes the wondrous outdoors will entice me to come out and feel the splendor it has to offer me.

To new beginnings…

Favorite Christmas Traditions

For the month of December I purposefully chose not to publish many posts on my Blog.  Quite frankly, I figured most everyone had enough to do preparing for Christmas.  With making lists, checking them twice and doing all the multitude of items on these lists before Christmas, who would have time to squeeze in something I wrote?  (By the way, whatever you were thinking as you read that last sentence keep your comments to yourself- I want to think you have missed my weekly posts!)  Anyway, with all the extra time on my hands not devoted to writing I reminisced about Christmases past.  Well, that got me to thinking and wondering about what other people’s favorite childhood traditions of the season were and what they are today as grown-ups.  So, I promptly sent out an email to all the guest authors on the Blog and posed these questions to them with the intention of sharing their responses on the Blog.  For those that had the time to respond, I want to share their answers with you.  Some even sent me pictures as well.

I have to admit I thought this would be a fun thing to do for the Blog.  But, as with most things that happen, I got so much more than interesting info from each person.  I got a wonderful glimpse into their personal lives that not only told me much more about who they are and what makes them tick but, I also got laughs at visualizing some of what they wrote, much to ponder from some of their thought provoking responses and to sum it up – I got a real sense of peace and joy reading their words.  Read for yourself and I hope your heart is filled with joy and laughter as well.

Susan Muehl

Susan and Jane visit Santa

1954, Jane and Susan visit Santa Claus at Santa Claus Land

My favorite childhood holiday memories and what the season now means to me as an adult seem to have blurred lines!  As a child, I thought it was magic!  It was all about our Christmas traditions.  Before Christmas, our mother would take my twin sister and me to Santa Claus Land in Santa Claus, Indiana.  That’s where we got to speak to Santa about what we’d like for Christmas and ride the rides at the park.  Also before Christmas we would get dressed up and go Christmas shopping in downtown Louisville with our mother and while there, we would view the department store windows decorated for the holidays.  The days leading up to Christmas and the few days after were all about going out to visit friends and family, or they came to see us.  My mother shared cookies and fudge she made.  This is also when we would drive around looking at Christmas lights.  Santa had a surprise he always left at our house ~ he would put a special gift on the beds of my sister and me.  We shared a bedroom so whoever woke up first would wake the other and we’d feel around our beds in the dark for the gift which we could unwrap right then.  Now as an adult many of the same traditions remain.  When my daughter was little, Santa also left her a special gift in her bed each Christmas and it thrilled her as much as it did me when I was young.  We established a new tradition in our family and it was choosing a name from the “giving tree” at a local department store and purchasing gifts for that child.  My daughter enjoyed doing that each year ~ she loved trying to find a little girl who seemed a lot like her based on the gift requests.  Nowadays, I still love to look at Christmas lights ~ the more lights the better!  As a photographer, I’ve enjoyed photographing some of my favorite houses over the years and have a special photo album of “the best of the best” which comes out each Christmas.  Spending time with my family and friends at Christmas time is still important to me.  Everybody seems so much busier these days, but when we can take the time to visit, it’s always special.  I enjoy seeing everyone’s homes decorated for the holidays and sharing mine, as well as sharing fudge (from my mother’s recipe) and cookies I have made.  The Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas morning gift opening with my husband, daughter and son-in-law is a special time each year which I always look forward to.  I have never outgrown the magic of Christmas!

Patti Baron Schreiber

Wow!  It’s hard to pick just one favorite holiday memory from my childhood because my family was so steeped in traditions and they all centered on home.  First came the decorating – it was the same decorations every year and they went in the same location but there was such comfort and joy in pulling the little elf out and setting him on the table or seeing the same ornaments nestled in their boxes, waiting to be hung on the tree.  Christmas Eve began with me setting out a plate of homemade cookies and a glass of milk for Santa.  Then came a visit to my Grandma Martha’s house, where all of my Dad’s brothers, sisters (7!), their spouses and children gathered in a very small space with the men drinking Blackberry Brandy and all of us eating Grandma’s homemade bread.  Magically, when we returned home, Santa had arrived!  Piles of presents were under the tree – quickly placed there by Mom before we left for grandma’s house while Dad and I impatiently waited in the car wondering what she could be doing in there.  After the present opening, we were off to Midnight Mass followed by an open house for anyone who wanted to stop by for ham sandwiches, salads and a dessert buffet.

I have continued many of these same traditions with my own children when they were young and now that they are teenagers; it’s fun to see which traditions are important to them.  Decorating and cookie making are at the top of the list.  This year we can hardly wait to make our special frosted cutout cookies, as we didn’t get to eat any of the time and labor intensive treats last year.  After making the dough, cutting them out, baking and decorating them (a two day affair), my oldest child decided her siblings were hogging the cookies so she hid the plastic bin in the oven.  A short time later, flames erupted in the oven, smoke poured from the vents and the plastic had melted all over the oven and the cookies.  I’m still missing the bottom oven rack which is covered in molded plastic but there’s no doubt in my mind the memory of THAT moment will live on in our minds and give us some good laughs in the coming years.

Jennie Stockslager

When I think of Christmas as a child, I keenly remember making gifts (cigar boxes encrusted with elbow macaroni sprayed gold), wrapping gifts (proud that my mom trusted me) and making millions of cookies – all fun, all exciting.  But I remember, too that at some point during my high school years, I was grateful that the fun and excitement were sustained much longer than usual in our home, all because two little brothers, Rich and Bill, were born when I was 11 and 14, respectively.  The tinsel would have lost its shine for the three older siblings- myself, Chuck and Connie – but because we had two little ones in the house, we were swept into their vortex of believing, which was the best gift ever – and not to be repeated until I had children of my own.

As an adult, I can find myself so overwhelmed with the holidays that if I’m not careful, I start to think of all the decorating, buying, wrapping and addressing cards as a “part-time” job.  At times like this, I recognize that I need to get “real”.  “Real” means getting quiet with myself for as little as five minutes – meditating, journaling, listening to Christmas music, sipping on a cup of chai tea, looking at the snow falling on the twinkle-lighted trees in our yard – anything that helps me remember the truth: I don’t “have” to do anything; I “get” to do the things I choose.  This reality brings me back to the present moment; it slows my mind down…and helps me once again see life as a child.  All possibility.  All magic.  All a gift.

Lindsay Torry

Awaiting His Birth

Awaiting His Birth

Having been given the task of sharing my favorite holiday memory, I’ve spent the last couple of weeks racking my brain, going through them all mentally and changing my mind over and over again about which to share. I mean, there are just SO MANY! However, the answer came to me today as I was watching my children decorate gingerbread houses at my grandparents. My youngest daughter is only two years old, so we are in the really fun stage of exploring every aspect of the holiday season: introducing her to the decorations, lights, music, and that odd, robust old man in the red suit. Today at my grandparents’ house I made a point of showing her one of my favorite Christmas decorations, an antique ceramic nativity set. Now I realize that just about every Christian household has at least one nativity set of some sort, but this one was special. Even as a small child I recognized its delicate beauty, with its soft warm colors and fragile elegance. But the thing that made this nativity unique was the baby Jesus. He wasn’t fixed in the manger like in most modern nativities. No, this baby Jesus didn’t make his presence known until Christmas morning! Every time we went to visit, I would go almost immediately to check his status, anxiously awaiting him in his absence, and always making sure he was there if Christmas had come already. I truly anticipated his arrival! Now, even as an adult, every year I go to admire the nativity and note his absence or presence.

He is born

He is born

Today was no different as I pointed out all of the figures of the set to my daughter. It occurred to me just how very cool this idea is: withholding the baby Jesus from the manger until the morning of his birthday celebration. What a fun way to anticipate his arrival and keep the focus on the true reason for the holiday season! As an adult, each year it has disgusted me a little more how ridiculously commercialized and really off base our society has allowed Christmas to become. It’s more than a little ironic that a season originally about the spirit of giving has become more about getting the best deal and the biggest gifts. Today I was listening to a local radio station that plays all Christmas music during this time of year, and it dawned on me that of the 10 or so songs I had heard, not a single one mentioned Jesus. Sometimes it feels as though he’s been lost in the hustle bustle, that so many people like to take advantage of the decorating, partying, and gift getting, yet don’t ever get to the heart of the matter. Needless to say, after today’s realization I will be searching out a nativity set with a removable baby Jesus for my own home! And I will look forward to sharing in the excitement of Jesus’ arrival year after year with my own children and hopefully, one day, grandchildren!

Sammi Blake

After having thought about this for several weeks, it is still hard to zero in on what my favorite holiday memory is of when I was a child.  And, as an adult thinking back, I realize that my favorite holiday traditions as a child are the same ones I have now.  I still hold near and dear to my heart the traditions I had as a child.  Four of them stick out in my mind though.  I loved baking Christmas cookies, the annual punch-out chocolate Advent calendar, decorating the tree and riding around on Christmas Eve to see the luminaries.

Each year growing up we spent two solid days making and baking cookies.  We made at least eight- dozen.  I remember my mom and I both wearing our aprons.  Every single year my mom would say the same thing to me and I learned to look forward to it.  She would say, “You are the messiest baker I have ever known”.  Once we baked all the cookies we would wrap them up and give them as gifts to our neighbors and friends.

Our yearly Advent calendar took careful planning to figure out the days each of us kids got to pop a chocolate.  As an adult, I still like getting one for my stepchildren to enjoy.

And, oh the Christmas tree!  Every year our Christmas tree was decorated with ornaments we had made ourselves.  The rest of the ornaments were from my mom’s childhood.  It was the most wonderful feeling pulling all the ornaments out of their boxes one by one.  Each one we would stop and talk about.  I can still hear the tingle of the old rusty bell that was my mother’s when she was a child.  Decorating the tree was wonderful and I remember we took such time and care into placing the ornaments on the tree.  Now as an adult, I take the same joy, love and care in decorating our tree.

The luminaries were lit in neighborhoods near where we lived every Christmas Eve.  After church and dinner we used to ride around as a family to see the lights.  We would always turn Christmas music on the radio and we usually drove around in silence so that we could each reflect on the true meaning of Christmas.  I especially loved going up and down the hills, as the brilliance from all the luminaries was truly majestic.

Christmas is a wonderful time of the year and I look forward to all that it brings.

Crystal Balzer

Ryleigh and Blake with Buddy Rudolph

Ryleigh and Blake with Buddy Rudolph

The Christmas Season as a child and even now as an adult brings me much joy!  I love the smells, the decorations and even the shopping!  Although now as a mother I must admit- my favorite part is creating memories and traditions for my children.  Some of my favorite Christmas memories from my childhood would have to be spending Christmas Eve with my dad (my parents are divorced so this was a special time) and always opening my stocking last (I have carried this tradition on with my own children, after all, the stocking is the best part with each treasure wrapped- it is amazing what you can stuff inside a stocking).  Now with a family of my own we have added a couple more traditions.  We make reindeer food and spread it across the lawn on Christmas Eve so the reindeer know what house to stop at.  We also have an Elf on the Shelf.  The children named our elf, “Buddy Rudolph”.  He arrives each year on December 1st.  He flies to Santa each night telling him how the kids have behaved and when he returns he hides in a different location.  The children rush around in the morning to see who can find him first.  I also have each child pick a gift and we donate it to the Toys For Tots Program.  It is a joy to watch them choose a gift so carefully, each considering what another child their age would like.  It is my hope that when they grow up they will remember the fun, simple traditions we have as a family and even carry them on in their own.

Making reindeer food

Making reindeer food

Merry Christmas everyone, I hope you have enjoyed these glimpses into Christmas memories and traditions.  Now I wish for all of you the true peace and joy that comes with Christmas.  See you next year!

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…

Let Nature Restoreth Your Soul (And Your Home)

Tree changing colors in autumn

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

My David and I were taking an early morning walk in nature this morning.  The moon was spectacular and the breeze gave a slight chill to the air.  Awwwww, the hint of autumn!

I couldn’t help but be excited.  With my senses alive to this feeling of fall I said to myself, fall is the best season of all.  Then I laughed  because I say this at the beginning of each new season.  The truth is that I love each of the four seasons.  Each one carries with it special meaning, fond memories and a renewed sense of anticipation for things to come.

The first day of fall just happens to be tomorrow.  Let us all welcome the beauty that this season brings us by allowing it to restore our souls.

We can do this in many, many ways.  At the same time, we can bring autumnal feelings into our homes.

Letting nature restore you

I believe that nature has the ability to restore each of us time and again, season after season.  In my post, These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things I quote one of my favorite Psalms from Ecclesiastes, “To everything there is a season.”

Autumn is the time to restore ourselves with feelings of warmth and comfort.  Autumn’s purpose is to ready us for the coming winter.  It gives us the chance to focus inward and prepare for the coming changes winter is sure to bring.

Beautiful tree in autumn

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

With autumn comes a myriad of opportunities to embrace the season.  For many people autumn is all about football.  Others explore the wondrous beauty of the changing leaves by hiking and biking in nature preserves and greenways.  Regardless of the activity, fall is a perfect time to be outdoors.

I have learned the medicinal properties of nature personally.  I call nature the best tonic on the market.  And, it’s free!

When David and I moved to the Chicago area a little over two years ago I found a lot of free time on my hands.  Plus, I didn’t know a soul so I had days to myself to explore.  Who would have guessed that moving to the city would produce so much nature for me to immerse myself in?  I began to walk, hike, bike and even snowshoe (now my favorite hobby for sure) by myself.  Slowly but surely I began to notice a change in my attitude.  (OK, David did first but so what!)  I began to let things go, calm down and relax.  What an amazing transformation!

I even noticed that my music choices I made on my IPod while walking and hiking changed.  For a while I listened daily to all my faves- from the 1950’s to today.  Before long I realized I was only listening to soothing selections that you would normally hear while getting a massage.  Now, more often than not I don’t take my IPod on my walks at all.  The only music I want to hear comes from what nature provides- birds chirping, frogs croaking and the ducks quacking to each other on the water creates an awesome symphony.  Walking in silence brings the music of nature to an incredible volume!

Brilliant red tree in autumn

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

To say that getting back to nature restored me just doesn’t do justice to the truth of it.  Getting back to nature has done so much more.  I am walking, talking proof of its tonic!

So, I challenge you to find ways to give yourself daily doses of the outdoors.  It could be as simple as eating lunch outside while at work, walking your dog, doing your exercising outside (instead of the treadmill) sitting on the porch or taking off to the woods.  A small dose of nature’s elixir will go a long way!

Nature has mental, physical and spiritual benefits just waiting for you!  Give yourself a chance to reap from it all!

Bring the glory of Autumn inside

I have espoused time and again in recent posts such as Two Colors Every Homespace Needs the importance of bringing nature inside.  As I have said before, we humans have distanced ourselves from nature and have created a false reality.  Our homes and offices are full of gadgets and gizmos that have nothing to do with nature.  What a travesty to ourselves!

Loving color

Photo Credit: Susan Muehl

By bringing nature inside we allow ourselves to stay connected to it.  It is that simple.  And, it is simple to do.  My “fall line-up” of posts will give you lots of ways to achieve this.  Look for Becky Balzer’s post on the best indoor plants for the home environment.  Chef Ryan will treat us to his idea of a great tailgating party.  Hector Benetiz will offer you suggestions on outdoor exercises to coincide with the season.  I will be sharing many different ways to infuse nature in your homespace through decorating.  And, that’s just the beginning.  Stay with us and enjoy the season of autumn!

Think color…

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…

Home Is Where the Heart Is

Oddly enough, I have chosen an “electronic platform” to teach the importance of getting back to the basics in our homes.

But, with the frantic pace of invention- for example, the constant introduction of newer and better computers, newer and better TVs, newer and better phones, newer and better electronic games- we continuously move away from the simple beauty that is around us.

Thus, we need to become ever more mindful of infusing nature in our homespace.

Over the lifetime of this blog, I will offer tips, ideas, and plans to help you shift your space to a more nature centered space.  As the months go by, so do the seasons and I will emphasize this in my postings.  The photography for each post will pay homage to these seasons as well and visually give you an idea of the calming aspects nature offers to us.  Each season brings us wonders of it’s own- embrace them!

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

Here’s a quick summary of some of the topics I plan to address.

  • Your home is an extension of yourself.  It reflects aspects of you going back to your earliest memories.
  • Your home can express your spirituality and bring you more in tune with nature.
  • There is a close relationship between our environment and our physical, mental and spiritual health.  (Discussions of Vastu Shastra and Feng Shui)
  • Our homes are the outward manifestation of what we are and feel on the inside.  Creating harmony in your space will create harmony within.
  • A beautiful home impacts your mood and behavior.
  • A beautiful home is not the result of material consumerism.
  • Clutter in your space clutters your mind!
  • Color your world.
  • Shape, texture and placement of things can balance the energy in your home. What works best for you?
  • Don’t give in to following the trends.
  • What about your shoes?
  • See your home through the lens of a camera.
  • Take the smell test.
  • Noise pollution in your home.
  • Music speaks what the soul feels.  How music impacts your homespace.
  • Absolute Do’s and Don’ts.

Product reviews and shout-outs

Along the way I will offer to you guest writers on some of these topics. I will also give product reviews as well as shout -outs to companies and organizations that I have found to embrace the truth of getting back to the basics, honoring our earth and furthering the global shift of consciousness.

Helpful Hannah Tips and Ideas

At times on this blog I will offer what I call my “Helpful Hannah” tips and ideas that you might find interesting to incorporate into your homespace.  These will range from decorating tips to household cleaning tips to spiritual tips- all to create more balance and harmony in your homespace.  I will also provide photographic examples of “before and after” work I have done to show how you can change space to bring on the warm fuzzies I believe to be so important in the homespace.

Pay it forward

My greatest joy will not only be that these words and photographs of nature inspire you but that you share them with others and “pay it forward”.  In life, it is the giving to others what we learn for ourselves that holds the most value. I hope you will agree.

One thought…

The home is truly where the heart is.  Where the heart is you will find peace. Let there be peace on earth. Let it begin with you by living in perfect harmony.

Keep decorating…

Photo credit: Susan Muehl