Willingness…To Do What?

I got an email from my dear friend, Lori Saylor Milan the other day. We’ve known each other for many years and although she lives in Portland, Oregon and I’m in Chicagoland we have a bond that’s tight. You see we met at a very traumatic time in both of our lives through a Bible Study back around 1996. Since then when we talk or write to each other it’s as if we can both feel the deep connection and by the way, we both know it is a connection made by God and the Universe. No doubt about it.

Anyway, months can go by in between our emails to each other so when she wrote to me the other day it was wonderful to hear from her. Little did she know the incredible inspiration her words were for me. Here’s what she wrote:

“I wanted to tell you Happy New Year and also to see if you are doing all right. I had not seen your blog for a while. I hope David is doing good. I know you have lots of coals in the fire and just might be plain ole busy but I do hope that is all that is going on.

I started a new tradition several years ago. It involves having friends and family pick an angel card from a deck when we meet at Christmas or New Years. I have all my co-workers, children, siblings and friends take one. The angel cards have words on them. During the year each person is supposed to remember their word and meditate and think about it on and off. Look all around you for the meaning. I drew a card for you.

Your word for 2013 is: WILLINGNESS

I’ve reread this email several times that she sent on January 16th. Each and every dang time goose bumps erupt on my arms; tears form in my eyes and incredible warmth heats up my heart. Lori picked the perfect card for me. And just because I am obsessed with defining words, here’s the definition of Willingness:

Willingness: of or relating to the will or power of choosing

What an awesome word for me to have for the year. And, it couldn’t have been timelier. You see, I haven’t been able to write for a good while now. Yeah sure, I’ve been super busy with work. But truth be told, since September my life has been inundated with really tough stuff. I’m talking gut wrenching, heavy stuff – or maybe I’m just too sensitive. (N.O.T.) If I’ve heard it once I’ve heard it a gazillion times that my life is crazier than a Lifetime movie or daytime Soap. And these last several months have had some doozie sagas!

Hence, the desire to write was gone. Kaput. Besides loss of desire I was afraid. Afraid? Yep. Afraid to accidentally (or worse, on purpose) say something that had to do with one of the several trauma-dramas going on around me. Too risky for sure. Funny thing though – even though I wasn’t writing, my mind was going, going, going. Thoughts, ideas and words were whirling and twirling through my mind all day long. All of it needed to go on paper- well, actually onto my computer. And all the while this nagging voice in my head kept saying, “Write what you are led to write and NOT what you think you should write.” Interesting.

Timing is everything. Lori’s word inspired me to be willing. Willing to open myself up once more, willing to be risky, willing to put myself out there without fear of loosing readers with the direction my posts will take, and willing to share my stories with others NOT to inform but to inspire. Inspire what you say? Peace. Love. Harmony.

So here I am writing again. Lori’s word willed me to get back to my computer. Joy, oh joy! I forgot how much I love it! There is some kind of deep pleasure I get in writing. In fact, for me it’s much like doing a puzzle – it is cathartic and calming all at the same time and I simply loose myself in it. And most importantly, at the risk of being bold, I know that I’m a good storyteller. I believe God and the Universe gifted me in this way. Which leads me back to that nagging voice in my head. But more on that in my next post…

Roadside Flares

Somewhere recently I read something about messages we all receive. The author called them “roadside flares to get our attention”. Thank you Lori for your email message. For sure it was a roadside flare for me. It got my attention. It inspired me to willingly throw caution to the wind and do what I love to do and what I believe God and the Universe had in mind for me all along. Besides that I have also discovered multitudes of ways the word “willingness” can be used in my daily walk. I will forever be indebted to you my dear friend!

I’m paying it forward

Lori honored me with taking the time to choose a word for me. It means a lot to all of us to know someone wants to give us a gift of his or her time in a way such as this. So I’m paying it forward. Dear readers, consider the word “willingness”. How does it speak to you? What could you be willing to do in 2013?

  • Right a wrong?
  • Resolve a conflict?
  • Spend quantity and quality time with your family?
  • Loose a few pounds?
  • Go green?
  • Get back to that hobby you love?
  • Play more?
  • Join a club?
  • Do charity work?
  • Pray more?
  • Stretch yourself?
  • Start each morning with a smile?
  • Sleep more?
  • Laugh more?
  • Feel free to be you?

Have fun with this word and heck, take the time to pay it forward to someone else. And, write to me if you feel led to and let me know what you choose to do with this word!

Just be willing…

Fifteen Ways To Practice Sustainable Living In Your Home

Because I believe that everything begins in the home, our respect for the environment begins in the home as well.  We have the power in our own hands and bodies to help even in small, simple ways to protect the Earth.

Recently I was on a mini-vacation trip in Florida.  My David had some work to do there and on the last leg of our trip we stayed in an awesome resort in Orlando called The Gaylord Palms Resort.  We stayed there at the same time last August for the same convention.  While I was there last year I walked the grounds one morning for exercise.  I spotted a few signs sporadically placed on the grounds that made it clear that the water used for the sprinkler system was recycled water and of course, not fit for drinking.  I was thrilled to see that the resort was using recycled water for the massive grounds, took a picture of one of the signs and posted it on my Facebook page (I put it on the LIPH Fanpage, too) giving the resort a great big shout-out with the phrase, “Understanding how to care for the environment” with the image.  Oddly enough exactly one year later literally almost to the day, a Facebook friend from high school made a comment on the picture.  Clearly this guy was looking through all the images on my page for the first time, or so I figured.  Anyway, it was interesting to me that he commented on the picture one year after I took it and just when I was there at the resort again.  Now I have to admit that I thought it was a weird comment.  In fact, much to my chagrin it sat a tad funny in my stomach while I tried to digest the meaning of his words.  I finally responded back to him asking him what he meant with the words he chose – and that my friends started a few more comments.  Here’s a replay of our exchange of comments as well as a copy of the picture he was commenting on:

Sign at Gaylord Palms Resort, August 23, 2011

Sign at Gaylord Palms Resort, August 23, 2011

The caption for the picture:

“Understanding how to care for the environment.”

My high school friend:

“Having a small family is the single most important anything, anyone can do to help the environment”.

My response:

“Are you referring to the Balzer clan?!?”

A childhood friend, Lisa Atkinson-Cox chimes in (coming to my rescue maybe?):

“LOL! I love 8 Balzers including the one in heaven.”

My high school friend:

“I’m referring to the Homo sapiens clan.”

Later my high school friend added:

“ ‘Understanding how to care for the environment’ means we must understand our ecological impact on this planet.  Adding 1 million humans a year is not consistent with caring for the environment.  Since HS, the human population has ballooned from 3.4 billion to over 7 billion.  This exponential growth is not sustainable.  Doing things like using reclaimed water and recycling at the curb, while nice and I do it too, it is a mere drop in the bucket when each second another human is added to the earth.”

While I enjoyed his pun about the drop in the bucket, I decided not to respond to his last comment.  I’m not a mathematician that’s for sure but I certainly get that my very own family has grown exponentially.  Like the Eveready Bunny that keeps going and going, we Balzers keep growing and growing, so I was a bit offended to be honest!  Besides which, the intent of the picture I posted was to simply applaud a resort for its efforts to conserve water.

All this Facebook exchange came after I had been working on a new blog post on Sustainable Living – and my suggestions on simple ways each of us can “go green” in our own homes.  So, after this happened I knew for sure I had to finish the post- not because I was miffed that my picture turned into a discussion on family size, but because I’m all about the home and everything that happens in it.  (Well, I guess many babies begin in the home but I’m not going there!)

Here’s a list of fifteen very simple and easy ways to do your part in protecting our natural resources:

  1. Turn off your electronics nightly.
  2. Shower more; bathe less as it takes more water to fill a bathtub than it does to shower.
  3. Shorten your shower by a minute or two and you can save hundreds of gallons a month.
  4. Turn off the water while you brush your teeth and save approximately four gallons of water each time.
  5. Soak pots and pans instead of letting the water run while you scrape them clean.
  6. Turn off the water while you shave (you, too David) and save several hundred gallons a month.
  7. Make and use a yard compost to reduce usage of your garbage disposal thereby reducing water usage as well as electricity.
  8. Change your light bulbs to CFL’s as they consume 75% less electricity than the standard bulbs and last up to 10 times longer.
  9. Clean the lint filter on your dryer before every load.
  10. Choose cloth napkins and dish towels over paper napkins and paper towels.
  11. Donate old clothing and household items rather than throwing them away.
  12. Change the filters on your forced air heating and air conditioning regularly.
  13. Support local farmers.
  14. Use reusable bottles for water instead of plastic water bottles.
  15. Recycle, Recycle, Recycle everything possible.

Remember the words that Neil Armstrong spoke after he stepped on the moon about one small step for man being a giant leap for mankind?  I believe that each of us can in our own small step(s) collectively impact our Earth.  Sure, some of us can and will go to more extreme forms of caring for our environment like limiting family size.  But personally, I think we can get more people on the bandwagon of conservation and sustainable living by making it easy.  What do you think?

To caring for our Earth…

UPDATE:

This article was written and sent for publishing before the passing of Neil Armstrong on Saturday, August 25th.  I considered removing the reference to him and decided instead to look at it as a way to honor the man even in this sad time.  I remember vividly my family and I glued to the TV watching him take his first step on the Moon.  What a gift this man was to all humanity!

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…

The Power of Color

The beauty of color

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

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

Why these colors?  Why now?

The psychology of color

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

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

Back to gray and yellow

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

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

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

Golden mushroom

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

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

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

The colors of the rainbow

Red ~ Passion, Energy, Excitement, Impulsiveness

Pink ~ Love, Beauty, Healing, Passion

Green ~ Health, Well-being, Prosperity, Nature

Purple ~ Royalty, Richness, Power, Ambition

Orange ~ Encouragement, Stimulation, Courage, Strength

Blue ~ Patience, Tranquility, Wisdom, Youth

Dainty yellow flower

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

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

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

Black ~ Power, Sophistication, Depth, Formality

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

Manipulating your energy with color

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

Power of color

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

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

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

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

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

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

What color choices say about you

Color of passion

Photo credit: Krisitn Vining Photography

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

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

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

Think color…