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…

Simple Ways To “Ground” Yourself In Your Home

As an “armchair psychologist of the home” I believe that everything begins in the home – so much so that my design philosophy grew from this belief and so I approach each and every decorating job with this key premise.  No matter what we do or where we go in life, I believe how we act, react and interact in the outside world takes root from how we live in our homes.  To put it simply, how we live in our homes should “ground” us, giving us the foundation to make us emotionally and mentally stable to go out into the world.  This means your homespace is vital to your essence.

I have always been a lover of Nature.  Hiking, biking, camping, kayaking, horseback riding, spending time at the beach, boating, white water rafting or gardening – no matter what the venue, my most favorite times have been spent outdoors.  For me being outdoors was a pleasurable experience.  Only after some trauma-drama infiltrated my life several years ago did I understand the healing powers of Nature.  Nature is flat-out the best tonic out there.  Period.  With this revelation I consciously decided to bring nature into my home in every way that I could knowing that if it worked for me outdoors by golly, it would work indoors, too.

This newfound revelation also became an integral component to my design philosophy and ever since, I have incorporated elements of Nature into all my jobs albeit often in really subtle ways that are only picked up on subconscious levels.  This allows for “grounding” to occur.  I also share with my clients’ ways to infuse Nature in their homes themselves (after I leave their nests) and on a larger scale to audiences such as the readers of my blog as in my post, Two Colors Every Homespace Needs.

Think of bringing Nature into your homespace as being part of getting back to the basics of what the earth has given us, literally.  Call it “grass roots” decorating.  Or call it simplifying your décor.  Heck, you can even look at it as a version of what is called “earthing”, a fascinating concept of connecting with the earth in order to become more balanced.  Ironically, just the other day Susan Weems Muehl, LIPH’s Nature Photographer emailed me a bevy of new nature images (thank you dear friend) and also mentioned that she was practicing the concepts of earthing.  No doubt about it, Susan and I are birds of a feather flocking together!  Both of us absolutely positively get the importance of nature and the earth’s connection to our bodies.  (With all due respect, “earthing” is more about physically being grounded; I am merely relating it to your home and how to bring Nature into your space.  To learn more about “earthing,” read the book, Earthing-The most important health discovery ever? Or go to www.earthing.com as well. )  Whatever you choose to call bringing Nature indoors, just do it.  Here are some simple, sure fire ways:

  • Decorate your home with found things in nature
  • Open up the windows and let fresh air into your home
  • Decorate with live plants, wildflowers and aromatic herbs
  • Pay attention to the seasons and honor them in your décor
  • When building, purchasing or moving into a new home, choose a home that offers you plenty of natural light (sunshine is healing)

Like many of us, I have times I’m in a real funk. I was in one recently for more days than I’d care to admit to.  Focusing too much attention on issues I had no control over and magnifying issues tenfold in my mind had gotten the better of me and quite frankly, I didn’t even find myself good company.  It’s a darn good thing my David had been traveling during this funk or he would have been rolling his eyes at me constantly, ignoring me or worst yet, pulling out his gorgeous silver hair over my attitude.  While in my funk my niece, Marli called me to chat and just my tone of voice when I answered her call made her aware that something was amiss.  I ended up telling her about my seemingly endless days of funk and she listened attentively.  Then she disrupted my pity party by saying, “Aunt Jamie, do what you always say to do.  Go to the woods.  Go to Nature.  Let it restore you.”  Whoa, was she preaching to me what I always preach?  Yep, she sure was.  And guess what?  I took her up on it.  I got off the phone and headed to the woods.  I simply needed an extra large dose of Nature’s medicine – more than my usual daily amount!  I walked and I walked, breathing in all the wonderful smells of Nature as I viewed the changing fall scenery.  So long funk. So long pity pot.  Nature restoreth my soul and I returned home more in tune with the earth.  I filled my lungs with the scent of fresh lavender on the counter.  I enjoyed watering all my plants.  I paid attention to the breeze coming through my opened windows and reveled in the sounds of nature I could hear coming into my home.  Later, as I readied for bed, I felt free of much of my recent anxiety and internally thanked Marli for her advice.

I believe that we all must singly as well as collectively connect or reconnect with Nature in order to truly be balanced and healthy. Infusing elements of the natural world in your home helps to accomplish this and is the single best way to ground yourself.  Remember to bring Nature indoors.  It might seem simple but simple’s good right?  And it might be a small step compared to the “barefoot steps” of earthing but by doing this you will give yourself gifts of healing that only Nature can provide.

To Nature…

Ten Things To Remember About Your Home

For more than a year now I’ve been blogging about the importance of home.  And, throughout my articles I have written about home in terms of décor, color and design as well as how to truly live well in your home.  I’m grateful for all the readers that have supported me by taking the time to read my posts but my guess is that not everyone reads each and every post.  (Ya think?!?)  With that in mind, as another year begins in my world of blogging and because today is my birthday and I can do what I want to, I thought I would give you a quick list of my top ten beliefs about home that I think each and every person that dwells in some form of shelter should know.

I’ll make it simple and concise and leave it up to you dear readers to digest each of my top ten things to remember about home and interpret them for yourselves how best they fit your way of life.

My Top Ten

  1. When you decorate your home you decorate your life.
  2. Your home is an outward expression of yourself.
  3. A beautiful home impacts your mood and behavior.
  4. Elements of Nature radiate calming energy when used in your home.
  5. Much like the Russian Nesting Dolls (Matryoshka), your home should be beautiful layer after layer beginning with the streetscape.
  6. The décor of your home should be designed with a sense of “studied indifference” with things arranged in a way as if by mere happenstance.
  7. A beautiful home is not the result of material consumerism.
  8. Creating peace and harmony in your home will create harmony within.
  9. Living Beautifully + Living Peacefully = Living Well.
  10. Everything begins in the home.

My birthday wish today is that each of you have or aspire to have a home filled with peace and harmony!

And one more thing…

Here’s a very special shout-out to my dear twin brother, Craig Balzer.  What tremendous joy I have in my life to have been so blessed to share life with you.  It’s been a wonderful ride with you ~ from childhood having two cakes on the dining table for our birthday (year after year yours was all chocolate and mine was white with chocolate frosting) to spending Beach Week together with our friends when we graduated from high school to sharing the breakfast table each morning during our college years in our townhouse at VA. Tech (and on occasion watching you literally fall asleep with a spoon of cereal in mid-air from being up all night in the Architectural building) to watching our children grow up together and to now at the awesome age of 56 realize how truly alike we are (as I wrote in my post, Design From An Architect’s View).   Without a shadow of a doubt we have a wonderful bond between us.  Happy birthday, I love you!

The twins with Mom

The twins with Mom

A Nursery With Room To Grow

Little Miss Blake

Little Miss Blake

I love everything about Home Decor and love to create unique environments.  In particular, I love to design and decorate nurseries and children’s’ rooms.  Not only are they fun, but they’re also a space that most of my clients are willing to “let go in” and let me be really, really creative.  I’ve done my share of nurseries and children’s rooms over the years in my career.  From baby boys to baby girls, “tweens” and teens – I’ve had fun with every single one regardless of the style or theme being incorporated into the design.  But I must say, nothing beats getting to be involved in someone I love’s room – like my first grandchild’s! My daughter, Sammi was expecting in December of 2010 so together we planned the nursery.  Even my daughter-in-law, Kathleen had input into it.  Team effort for sure!

We had several goals in mind for the design of the nursery that incorporated key parts of my personal design philosophy.  They were to:

  • Create a unique environment
  • Use colors and elements of Nature
  • Plan it so that the décor would transition and provide a space for Ansley to grow in
Magnolia Blossoms as wall art

Magnolia Blossoms as wall art

I don’t believe any two spaces should look alike which is why I say I like to create unique environments.  Ever one to say “Ignore the trends”, I prefer to design space with real personal touches.  That’s what really, really makes the space unique.  We accomplished this by decorating with things such as some of the Vintage collections both Sammi and Brent had as children (like their silver baby pieces and Sammi’s music boxes) to a framed “Onesie” Sammi’s gal pal, Blair Kernodle Scheepers gave her that was hand-stitched in South Africa where she lives.  Having this “Onesie” as wall art in Ansley’s nursery not only connects Sammi and Blair on a daily basis, but it is a piece that Ansley will always have to historically mark her infant days as well.  (She actually wore the “Onesie” and when she outgrew it, we had it framed.)  Seriously, I hope to one day see this piece in Ansley’s own home!

The Frog Prince

The Frog Prince

Using colors and elements from Nature is important to us and we are mindful of this in every space we work in.  So, the walls were painted Green (the color of Nature as I discussed in my posts, Using The Color Green In Home Décor and Two Colors Every Homespace Needs) and we created a wall of flowers as art for the space by using plates shaped like magnolia blossoms with hand-painted stems.  A shadowbox of hand-cut butterflies on the wall near her crib also connects the nursery to nature.  Finally, we added “The Frog Prince” sitting on the ledge of the door so that Ansley could connect with the natural world in a wonderfully whimsical way.

Sammi and I both are practical decorators and so creating a space that could transition to her “big girl” room easily was important to us.  Of course, every nursery needs a crib.  But, everything else in the room can transition to any age.  For example, the “changing table” is actually a dresser.  Simply remove the changing pad and it becomes a dresser for a big girl to put her clothes in.  And, my fave part of the room is the hand-painted initials on the wall.  The look of the initials is fabulous and really anchors the space, but once the crib is gone, voila – the initials become the “headboard” for Ansley’s big girl bed.

As a changing table

As a changing table

As a dresser

As a dresser

A view of the hand-painted Initials

A view of the hand-painted Initials

Ansley is nearing the ripe old age of eighteen months now.  I love nothing more than to sit on her nursery floor and have her bring books to me to read to her or to play peek-a-boo as she hides behind her crib.  I have no doubt that she is blossoming within her nursery nest.  And, I have no doubt she will continue to as she grows up still enjoying the décor of her space.  After all, her nest gives her plenty of room in which to grow!

Design Choices and Credits

Crib: Bratt Décor

Dresser: Furniture Classics, LTD

Lamp on Dresser: Thumprints

Hand-cut Butterflies: Found on Etsy

Crib Skirt Fabric: Bergamo

Stool Fabric: Zimmer+Rohde

Window Treatment Fabric: Bergamo

Custom Crib Skirt and Window Treatments: Laurel Lane Draperies

Rocker Fabric: Kravet

Custom Upholsterer: Privette’s Upholstery

Custom Corner Cabinet: Haefele & Associates

Magnolia Blossom Plates: Global Views

Artistic Painting: CKPaints (www.ckpaints.com)

Modern Artwork: Allposters

Custom Framing of Modern Artwork: Campania Fine Molding

Wall Color: Benjamin Moore 2147-40 “Dill Pickle”

Photography of all Images: Cameron Triggs Photography

 

To blossoming in life…

 

Using The Color Green In Home Decor

It’s springtime so open your front door or simply gaze out the window and what color do you see?  Unless you look up, chances are you’re seeing the color Green – Nature’s very own!  Yep, springtime is the perfect season to witness Nature’s predominant color in its entire splendor.  And with all the feel good vibes that come with the green of spring, it’s no wonder that the color Green itself has positive emotional impact.

Green:

A secondary color on the color spectrum, Green is a blend of the primary colors of Yellow and Blue.  Green symbolizes Health, Well-being, Prosperity and Life.  Green is the color most favored by people in the helping and healing fields.

The psychology of Green

As I wrote in my post, The Power Of Color, the use of color is a form of non-verbal communication.  The color choices you make in your space greatly impact it and as I discussed in the post, colors not only symbolize certain feelings, they have the power to evoke certain feelings as well.

Studies have shown that Green has its own effects on us.  For example, using green creates a calming and soothing atmosphere.  Here are some other effects Green has on us:

  • Helps to alleviate Depression
  • Reduces Anxiety
  • Reduces Fear
  • Nurtures us
  • Fills us with a sense of balance and harmony

It’s no wonder that many hospitals and medical establishments use Green as the color of choice for walls and fabrics!

Several people I know infuse shades of green in their own homespaces.  Oddly enough they are all in the medical field!  My childhood friend, Julie has soft sage walls in her dining room and splashes of green throughout her entire homespace.  A dedicated nurse and a person full of compassion for others, I’m not the least bit surprised that she loves Green.  Then there’s my dear friend Jolie.  She uses the color Green in her homespace and her office is furnished with beautiful green sofas and club chairs.  Immediately upon walking into her office you feel a sense of peace and calm – important for anyone that seeks out her medical expertise.  Last but not less, one of my niece’s, Jackie uses green in her home décor as well.  And yep, she’s also in the medical field- she’s a speech pathologist and in her personal life she’s always smiling, always upbeat and one that couldn’t hurt a fly!

So knowing that these three wonderfully caring individuals are drawn to the color Green gives me pause to consider the question of the chicken and the egg – you know, which came first?  Did a childhood love of green subconsciously draw each of them into career paths of helping and healing or vice versa?  Now, stay on the path of connecting the color Green with how we act and react and that flat brings out the wanna be psychologist in me and makes me say…

Go green in your space

Infuse the color Green in your homespace.  After all, if green can have positive effects on us, for heavens sake, we all should consciously incorporate it into our decor.  There are a myriad of ways you can do this without going over the top or ignoring the color palette that truly speaks to you such as incorporating it into throw pillows and accessories, but the easiest and for me the absolute best way to add the color Green to your space is with living plants.  Bringing green into your homespace in such a natural way by far changes the energy of your space – not to mention the health of your space (as discussed in a post, Top Twelve Best Indoor Plants For Purifying The Air).

Live green in your space

In recent years it has become the politically correct thing to go green by physically caring more for our environment in ways such as reducing water usage, reducing electrical usage, reducing gas consumption and of course, by recycling all that we can.  Our planet and humanity just cannot keep handling all our excesses, uses and abuses.  Every day the news gives us more ideas of how to physically care more for our environment.  But as a decorator and a homespace coach, what I call a “psychologist of the home”, I cannot stress enough the importance of psychologically caring more for our environment, what I call “living green”.  By going green in our home décor, we live green by reducing anxiety, feeling calmer, more peaceful and relaxed.  By going green we live green and can more easily live in perfect harmony within ourselves as well as with greater mankind.

Living green connects us to Nature

Richard Louv, author of the book, Last Child in the Woods and his most recent book, The Nature Principle, has some very compelling thoughts on the importance of nature in our lives.  He calls Nature the best tonic we can find and says,

“The more high-tech we become, the more nature we need.”

I emphatically agree with Mr. Louv and have learned this for myself.  There’s no better medicine for me than to get outdoors and connect with Nature.  That’s why I also know firsthand the importance of bringing nature indoors as much as possible and so I highly recommend that everyone do this.  By infusing shades of green in our décor theme, we subconsciously connect to Nature.  It’s just that simple.

Early this morning I walked five miles at the park.  I was overwhelmed with the panoramic view of green around me.  With many of the trees in varying degrees of sprouting new leaves, the shades of green seemed endless.  I felt like Julie Andrew’s character, Maria in The Sound of Music as I realized my arms began stretching out to encompass the beauty surrounding me.  No, I can’t sing, but I sure come alive surrounded in green!

To living green…

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…

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…

Simple And Natural Holiday Décor

Ever since I can remember the Christmas season was a wonderful time for decorating.  As a child, I can remember watching my mother decorate and then as I got older I enjoyed helping.  Our yard was the source for most of our holiday decorating.  We had a huge Magnolia tree in our backyard that my mother and I used to clip beautiful branches from.  We also had numerous pine trees (we had six planted in the front yard alone – one for each of us siblings) and Holly bushes laden with red berries.  With all of these items collected, we would spend hours decorating the fireplace mantle, the front doors and the dining room table.  I loved all these found things from our yard and I also enjoyed the collecting and decorating we did with them.  But, I viewed this part of  holiday decorating as a quick, simple and inexpensive plan – after all we only needed to step outside to collect natural elements for free!  Once I had my own home I realized that the most beautiful holiday decorating comes from natural and found things.  You sure can’t smell artificial greenery!

Carrying on the tradition

So, throughout the years my home has traditionally been decorated with much of the same things that I grew up with.   Greenery comes either from the yard, leftover trimmings from the tree or from the woods.

When my children were young we used to love to sit in the evenings together watching Christmas specials and movies like “Miracle on 34th Street” while we strung popcorn to use as garland on the tree.  Talk about memory making – a slow, relaxed evening stringing popcorn as a family can’t be beat!  And, who cares how much popcorn you eat along the way!

Year after year my three children traditionally hunted (yes, Sammi did, too) during Turkey and Deer Season.   No holiday season was complete without them returning home with mistletoe they had shot down from the trees for me to hang.  It was a wonderful holiday tradition they enjoyed.  What memories we all have of them bringing the mistletoe home to me and then hanging it in the foyer as a symbol of love in our home.

As you can see, using elements of nature in my holiday décor is important to me.  This makes my home beautiful in a non-commercial way!  And, I love the smells, the freshness and the feelings natural decorating gives to my homespace.  Why not incorporate some natural decorating in your own home this year?

Ways to go natural

Here are some simple suggestions that you can use either decorating alone or making it a family affair for building memories and traditions:

  • Use fresh greenery from outdoors to grace your front door, staircase, mantle, dining table or coffee table.
  • Gather found things in nature like dried pods, dried wildflowers, dried hydrangeas, pinecones and twigs to artfully arrange in baskets or as part of your garlands and centerpieces.
  • String popcorn and cranberries and use as garland to hang on the Christmas tree or as part of your fireplace garland.
  • Decorate lanterns with nuts or cranberries nestled around a large candle.
  • Surround a grouping of candles with fresh greenery with red berries or other found treasures of nature artfully arranged throughout the greenery.  A grouping of candles looks beautiful on a console table, mantle, coffee table or any other space you can safely allow candles to be placed.
  • Make a centerpiece for an occasional table with a small log.  Cut the log in two.  (Plan to use the cut side on the table with the uncut side facing up.) Using a circular saw cut three holes in the uncut side of the log and place small candles or votives in the holes.  Nestle the log on a bed of fresh greenery.
  • Artfully stud oranges with cloves and place in a wooden bowl as a centerpiece for your kitchen table, coffee table or hearth.
  • Hang Mistletoe in doorways or from your foyer chandelier.

Whatever style home you live in, whatever décor you enjoy- you can incorporate nature in your holiday decorating.  Go outside today and pick from nature’s bounty wonderful things to grace your home with.  And while you are there, breathe in the glorious fresh air!

Happy decorating…

Be sure to check out Living in Perfect Harmony’s Facebook Fanpage each day of December from Dec. 1- 24 for daily decorating tips and helpful hints for the holiday.  Enjoy the season!

The Magic of Fairy Gardening

Fairy garden in yard

Yard garden

If you asked me about Fairy Gardening just a couple of months ago, I’m sure I would have responded, “Fairy what?!” Even my husband and his family, who for over fifty years have owned and operated Stockslager’s Greenhouse and Garden Center just west of Dayton, OH, would have looked at you with quizzical stares.

But that was September. By October 2011, we were in the throes of introducing our customers to an aspect of the greenhouse industry that has barely touched Ohio, but by all accounts is rapidly making its way from the West into the Midwest and on to the East. And, oh, the joy it is creating along the way!

Why Fairy Gardening?

If you asked me, “Why Fairy Gardening?” I would now say it’s because of that very joy! There is a magic, a quality about Fairy Gardening that seems to speak to our “inner child,” asking our imagination to “come out and play.” I can’t help but wonder who amongst us, as a child, did not believe in fairies? Or at least, in the depths of the heart, wanted to believe in the possibility of fairies?

For myself, I vividly remember watching the black-and-white movie version of Peter Pan in my grandparents’ living room, circa 1950’s. Poor Tinkerbell was in the glass jar, slowly dying after drinking the poison Captain Hook had intended for Peter. As Tink’s light was fading, Mary Martin, the pixie-like actress who played Peter, looked directly at the television audience and implored us to save Tinkerbell! All we had to do was say we believed in fairies!  I’m not ashamed to say that I fervently vowed my belief…and consequently basked in relief as I watched Tinkerbell’s life force glow stronger and stronger!

Simple fairy garden

A simple fairy garden

Tinkerbell didn’t die that day, but truthfully, somewhere through the years, the part of me that believed in magic forgot the thrill of my imagination transporting me to worlds unknown, worlds where anything is possible. The nearest  I ever allowed myself to that magical realm was when I looked at life through my children’s eyes when they were young  – or when I immersed myself in the beauty of the ocean or the majesty of the mountains. And then, right before me was Fairy Gardening, combining both nature and the opportunity to feel childlike. I experienced a tug in my heart and a sense of joy that only magic can create. What could be better, I ask myself? Based on the numerous entries I found when I Googled the topic, I believe many others have found the same joy, making Fairy Gardening a new and worthwhile pursuit in the garden center  industry.

Besides the joy inherent in Fairy Gardening, its versatility makes it a good choice for novice as well as accomplished gardeners. The preference to create a Fairy Yard Garden in a delightful outdoor spot allows perennials to spring up amidst whimsical elements of choice, such as mushrooms, cathedral-like lantern, fairy-sized arbor and bench (see picture Yard Garden). Of course, colorful annuals can be added to enhance the charm of this undersized, yet captivating world.

Miniature Fairy Gardens

Fairy garden kit

Fairy garden kit

I have a personal fondness, however, for Miniature Fairy Gardens. Planted in containers (some as small as teacups!), these fanciful worlds can be taken indoors during cold weather, which means that gardening can be enjoyed year round! Visit www.fairygardening.com, and you will find the main line of items we carry in our garden center (see picture FG Kit). Selected by Jeff and Emily Sorenson of Rabbit Shadow Greenhouse in Northern Colorado, the kits and individual items are perfect for all gardeners, especially because Jeff and Emily have developed a diminutive line of “Fairy Flowers.” Each flower tag identifies more than care instructions; the gardener is introduced to the fairy – Zachary, KayKay, and Viola, to mention a few – who purportedly oversee the growth and care of the plant (see picture Tags). Using these flowers and kits, Stockslager’s employees and customers are creating a range of gardens, from elegantly simple to more elaborate (see picture simple). No matter, each and every Fairy Garden is magical because of course, Fairy Dust is included as well!

Fairy garden plant tags

Flower tags for fairy gardening

Mencius, a Chinese, philosopher and follower of Confucius, once said, “A great man is one who does not lose his child’s heart.” Fairy Gardening has allowed the heart of my inner child to once again play in the world of nature. While doing so by no means makes me great, this pastime most definitely makes me grateful. If nothing else, life has taught me it is in gratitude that the seeds of joy have the best chance to grow, and like Tinkerbell, our life force has the opportunity to glow strong.

So why Fairy Gardening, you ask? Because creating a space for magic in our lives is beneficial beyond measure, and quite simply, it makes me smile!

Simple Ways To Infuse Nature In Your Workspace

Most of us have very busy lives.  We go from home – to the office or our chosen place of work – to carpooling our kids – to activities.  Our lives are busy, busy, busy.  We rush, rush, rush through each task we have to check off on our daily “To Do List” ever reaching for the end of the day when we can relax, regroup and recover from the hectic pace to yet fortify ourselves for another day in the rat race of life.  This creates one big vicious cycle of commotion if you ask me.  It is no wonder that we hurry, hurry, hurry wherever we go.  If we stop and smell the roses along the way we get off task.  We are a silly bunch of humanity aren’t we?

My daughter Sammi and “God’s Littlest Angel”, Ansley were visiting us recently.  On Saturday Sammi and I raked leaves while my David cut the grass and Ansley played with her toys on a blanket in the fresh air.  Sammi hadn’t seen David cutting the grass in a long time and mentioned to me that he actually seemed to be enjoying it.  He was slow and methodical.  I told her that he used the time to think about life and mull over anything that popped in his head.  She said, “You mean he isn’t just rushing to get it done?”

This got me to thinking – thinking is something I regularly fixate on doing by the way, as I tend to over think everything. Anyway, I started thinking about how my David enjoys E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G.  He enjoys yard work, housework and work at the office.  I know why, too.  David lives in the moment.

Not many of us have this gift of being able to live in the moment.  Most of us have to learn how to do it.  One absolutely, positively sure-fire way to help you learn to live in the moment is to get back to Nature on a daily basis.  Immersing yourself in nature every single day makes you want to smell the roses if you will.  You see there is healing found in Nature that is restorative and rejuvenating to the body, mind and spirit.  Spending time in nature is soothing, refreshing and inspiring and has the ability to clear our minds, providing a new and positive outlook on life.

Simply by infusing bits of nature in our workspace can give us this same soothing, refreshing and inspiring outlook on our work life.  Basic tools for thriving in the workplace I say.

Whether your workspace is in the form of an office cubicle, the corner office or a large spacious environment like my last office in Charlotte, NC here are some easy ways to bring nature into your space:

  • Bring live plants into your space.  Preferably use ones that are air purifiers such as the ones in Becky Balzer’s recent post, Top Twelve Best Indoor Plants For Purifying The AirFollow Becky’s guidelines for the number of plants per square footage of your space for the best results.  One other simple plant to use is Lucky Bamboo- place it in a unique glass container filled with water and enjoy.
  • View the outdoors as often as possible.  If you are fortunate enough to have a window in your space, position your desk to view the outdoors as often as you can.  If you don’t have ready access to a window, find other ways to look outside throughout the day.  Don’t ever go a full workday without seeing what is going on outside if at all possible.
  • View scenes of nature on your computer.  Make the screen saver on your computer nature friendly with pictures of nature on it.  Change the picture seasonally or even use pictures of your favorite season for inspiration such as a warm beach scene to ward off the cold winter blues.
  • Personalize your space with found things from nature.  This could be as simple as placing interesting rocks found on nature walks on your desk.  Visual cues such as found things from nature instantly connect you with the outdoors.
  • Display family photographs that have background settings in nature.  There is no better combination for feel good vibes than family photographs in outdoor settings.  This combination of family and nature is the ultimate visual cue that can make you feel a sense of deep connection to life without even realizing it.
  • Get a breath of fresh air.  If possible go outside at some time during the workday.  Take a short walk or at least enjoy the outdoors for a few minutes.  Breathe in the fresh air.  Even better, if possible open up the windows in your space to allow fresh air to circulate and revitalize your space.

Take the time to treat your workspace as a place to be honored.  By doing this you will connect more harmoniously with it and allow yourself to thrive each and every day.  All you need to do is make your workspace come alive with nature!  Without realizing it you will begin to feel better and begin to enjoy every moment of your day!

Enjoy your space, enjoy your work and don’t forget to live in the moment…