Monday, March 28, 2016

Living room update and my latest crush

Hello friends---it feels like it's been forever since I've been here. My parents were visiting for a week and besides doing lots of fun things together my Dad taught me how to use my new miter saw and my (intimidating) new nail gun. As usual, we ended up working together and he basically let me do all the measurements and cutting for the window casing and new baseboards we installed in my living room.
We also did a big plank wall in my Master bedroom which I continued to work on after he left.
And I have to tell you--- I'm soooo excited about all the projects that are now possible with my new miter saw.
Learning how to use these tools is exactly the kind of thing that makes my little heart go pitter patter.  I don't think I mentioned it, but ever since I've started visiting this young, talented DIY blogger
who is fearless about her woodwork--well, actually all her projects-- I've been inspired to face my fears about using tools that can cut my fingers off.
(Ok. see what I mean?--do I have to think about that?)
Although once I got past all my scaredy-cat worries I seriously started to think--hey, if this person can do it, why not me?
Here's a picture of my latest crush--
Mr. Miter Saw-- and my little work station I used when my Dad was here. 
And this is a BEFORE photo of the living room window. Kinda dark... sorry.

I'm using 6 inch baseboards throughout the house.
This window is wrapped in 4 inch and 6 inch pine--and I decided to go with straight cuts for my cottage look.
The most time-consuming part is filling the holes, priming and painting--but it's also exciting to see it all come together. I plan on replacing all the door casings before I install the baseboards. If you remember we had the old baseboards removed when we got our new wood floors, so I've got my work cut out for me. But I really enjoy it.
Here's a photo taken from the entrance ---we now have baseboards throughout this room... woo hoo!!!
In this picture you can see the old wood molding on the ceiling which has been partially removed. I've decided to add planks on the two walls in here. (The third and fourth walls are the fireplace wall and bookcase wall). Although I'm not sure whether I'll go vertical or horizontal yet.
The other big project my Dad and I worked on was my plank wall in my Master bedroom.
I'm challenging myself to a 30 day Master Bedroom Re-do and next time I'll share some of my ideas with you. This is the ONE room that we've done nothing with since we moved in here.
I decided to go the more economical route instead of buying the planks that fit together. And you've probably seen this version everywhere in blogland so I won't bore you with the details. But we did use four sheets of plywood cut into 8 inch widths. I chose to go a little wider than the standard 6 inch.
Here's a photo of the finished wall--before the painting. Boy did I go back and forth on the paint color. You can probably guess what shade I went with.

My parents slept in Michael's bedroom-the official guest room--when they came for their visit. They really like this room because it has it's own bathroom and I always buy new sheets and have fresh flowers ready for them. And I can finally say that my parents have really adapted to our move now---even though it was hard at first.. over time it's working out. We now have these longer--vacation style visits which we all can look forward to.

Before I go I wanted to send out a big thank to those who read my last post. To be honest, I always feel hesitate when I hit the publish button on those kind of posts. I'm aware that some followers are here strictly for my decorating posts--and could care less about my thoughts on other subjects, and so I always expect some negative response that never comes. Thank goodness. But one thing does happen. I'm always blown away by the deep, insightful comments left by friends-- women I've never meant in person-- but whose views and experiences help me realize how similar we all are at our core.

A special thank you to my friend Laura from White Spray Paint Blog who kindly featured my post and who is such a beaming light in the blogging world.  Do you know Laura? Please visit her and tell her I sent you. She'll make you feel so welcome, she's like that.


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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

how this one sentence can change your Life

I was listening to a podcast by one of my favorite Buddhist teachers and afterwards I kept coming back to this one simple line she shared, a quote by Joseph Goldstein.
Even though the talk runs almost an hour I kept focusing on the portion of her topic that had to do with the unpleasant, messy parts of life. The stuff we view as “problems."  And I kept replaying her eye-opening views on how we respond to them.
“How do you react when something difficult arises, a situation that brings up your fear or anger. Maybe something that's happening to your kids?”  She asks me, because at this point it feels like she’s talking directly to me.
She points out my habit of framing things as a problem. And I instantly feel jolted by this idea. I think about my own comfy view of myself as an efficient problem-solver and suddenly I feel exposed; I’m the emperor with no clothes on hiding behind my nice little euphemism.
Because the truth is maybe what I’ve actually become is a really good problem finder.  At times, I'm like that tormented kid from the movie The Sixth Sense, except instead of seeing dead people I have the uncanny ability to see all the bad things that could go wrong in a situation, especially when it comes to my kids.
The thing is---you wouldn't necessarily know this about me at first glance. That's because I've repackaged my worry and attention to details into a prescient talent that's great for managing creative projects and crunching numbers but deep down, I know the truth. I realize this when I’m on my yoga mat and I realize this when I’m meditating. This kind of control is what the Buddhists call suffering.
As I listened to Tara Brach's words, I began to reflect on all the emotional energy I use trying to foresee problems…. trying to prevent problems and fix problems….no wonder I was captivated by Joseph Goldstein’s quote. In fact, I think this little sentence just might change my life:

Do you have a certain vision of how life should be?
Tara Brach explains that if we attach ourselves to a certain vision of how life should be
then when those complicated, unexpected situations arise we will instantly say, “Oh no!  This shouldn’t be happening” and we'll go into “reactive” mode which looks like this: physically we contract, we tense up and mentally we push back on the situation.
But here’s the part that felt new and insightful to me.
If you look closely at these descriptions---you can see how they literally create an experience of smallness—these are reactions that take us into a restricted, ego-centric view of the world that’s clouded by our emotions and our needs. It’s from this limited perspective that we seek to control and resist and do battle with anything that doesn't fit that "ideal" image in our head. What we think should be happening.
Of course this is the opposite of the Buddhist way.
And it’s the opposite of the wise, peaceful, open-hearted life I aspire to live and so I listen intently to Tara Brach describe another way. And I become instantly smitten with her description of our Ocean-ness, that wondrous feeling when our hearts awaken and we’re in touch with the vastness of our Love and our connection to the Universe, our sense of connectedness to God and to each other.
Being in touch with our Ocean-ness may be fleeting for most of us, but our inner wisdom tells us it's the opposite of living small, of being caught inside our ego-driven worlds—where we’re fixated on outcomes and we’re running around trying to control things in order to make life happen in a certain way.

Is there something here that you can relate to? Because I hesitate to continue without stressing this one missing piece.
those old, "automatic" behaviors tell a story
However you relate to this post, it’s important to understand that so many of our behaviors are rooted in our own childhood story. Be compassionate when you think about those behaviors that feel very old and "automatic." Behaviors like these make sense when we slow down and look at our early lives with insight:
  • Your tendency to worry
  • Your role as the caretaker who fixes things,
  • Your need to control
  • Your struggles to let go and trust the process.
When I was writing this post I actually remembered a time when I was kneeling next to a bathtub, worried because my Auntie was crying with her face buried in her knees while she sat in the warm water. I was a little girl and it’s one of those memories that feel magnified---with no other people around—just me and her in that darkened bathroom. Where were my cousins? I wonder even today. I just remember fragments, my Auntie telling my mother what a comfort I was to her, and the heaviness in my chest because I wasn’t sure what to do to make her feel better.
Over months ---as I played with my twin cousins at their house-- I had seen the changes in my beautiful, troubled Auntie. I had watched her body slowly shrink and when I asked her about her new pants I remember she told me that she lost her weight by eating only one bowl of oatmeal a day, a fact that shocked me back then. Boy, I thought, she must really love Neil because she didn't eat like that when she was married to Uncle Brownie.

Even us kids knew about Neil—the married man she loved. I had heard my mom and my grandma talking and I knew it was a bad thing but I had never seen Auntie smile so much. I used to watch her while she stood in front of the mirror that was over her brown dresser. She would be getting ready for work, dressed in her navy and white airline uniform and smacking her lips after she put on her pink lipstick and she looked so glamorous. But that was before. Before something bad happened and I never did know what, but the next thing I remember is feeling so nervous ---like I had a stomach ache except I knew I wasn’t sick –it was because I couldn’t figure out what to do as I sat next to the bathtub. She had called my name , I heard it from the hallway and I had turned the doorknob slowly, unsure about coming inside because well, she was naked in the tub. But that wasn’t so shocking compared to the tears-- I’d never seen Auntie sob so openly, as if I wasn’t even there. In my confusion I looked down at the wet edge of the tub and saw a blue washrag and picked it up. And while she wept I dipped it lightly into the soapy water and moved it to the top of her back. Her black hair was swept up in a loose ball so I could see the line of bumpy bones going down her creamy white back as I wiped her shoulders with the rag.
I have many childhood memories in which I was overly focused on the emotional needs of the adults in my life. Recently I was in a conversation with my 21 year old son talking about my childhood role and it occurred to me that it must be hard for someone who was allowed to be a child in his childhood--- to understand what it would feel like for a child to be parentified, to be put in a situation as a child where you’re running around constantly worried about an adult’s happiness.
I say this without judgment and after having years spent in the therapy field. And the reason I share it here, is to emphasize the need to remain curious and open about your own histories, especially if you’re confused about your present-day behaviors. Maybe as you read along and consider a different way of dealing with life's ups and downs, you might start to think about your own past. Don’t be afraid to look deeper, it’s so liberating to have answers.

 Doing things differently
So let’s talk about doing things differently. 

Throughout this podcast, what I heard Tara Brach emphasize was the importance of our attitude when dealing with difficult situations. She talks about keep an openness about things, and a relaxed, friendly attitude. And we also need to remember two new ideas.
  1. Don’t lock into “This is bad. This shouldn’t be happening."
  2. Remember the magic mantra: “Oh-and-this-too”
The key according to Tara Brach, is not to lock into this is bad, or “this shouldn’t be happening” because the reality is that Life is just being as it is….and she says "we need to realize we can respond intelligently without instantly making others wrong and without creating problems."
Responding with a feeling of openness allows us to re-inhabit the space that's there--the space that exists before we fill it up with fear and anger---and lose contact with our sense of Ocean-ness.
She explains that when you imagine your situation---whether it’s about finances, or a relationship or your job---something that causes you distress and worry, allow yourself to know that yes, it’s unresolved and it’s sticky and yes it’s stressful ….but know that it doesn’t have to be a “problem.” And just deciding that it’s not a problem gives you a little less fixation and a little more space to view your situation.
Instead of tensing up, allow yourself to relax into this idea that Life just is.
There is no ‘right” version or “wrong” version of Life –those versions only exist in our minds and it’s these certain images that cause us to suffer with worry and try to control things but the irony is, when we’re in this kind of "trance," we can’t see the truth.  We can’t see how Life unfolds as a journey, and in this emotional state, it's hard to appreciate that each of us is on our own unique journey that we might not be able to comprehend right now. 
When we let go and see things as they are instead of how we want them to be, we can begin to connect with that feeling of ocean-ness and inner peace.
Yes, we say to ourselves, this (situation) is here ….
Still difficult… still unpleasant, but not a problem.
In fact, what if this (situation) isn't a problem? What then?
Ok, now imagine this. What if your entire approach to worrisome situations began to change and you went around thinking, “oh-and-this-too… it’s just part of life." 
 Doesn’t that just blow your mind? It does mine.
You might even extend this out and scan your life and ask yourself a bolder question. “Who would I be if I didn’t think that anything was a problem?”
And instead of all these "problems" out there, I realized the truth.

It’s just life… happening.

Can you relate to this post?


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Thursday, March 10, 2016

St Patrick's Table for Two

To be perfectly honest we don't do much in the way of celebrating St. Patrick's Day. Which is a bit ironic since the hubby's family name is Fitzpatrick. But once my boys were college-age I always felt ambivalent about this alcohol-crazed holiday, and relieved when it was all over.
Trust me. If you've got boys in college you'll know what I mean. 
But the other day Jim called me from work and surprised me with a "Hey, Happy 2-year-Anniversary!" and I instantly knew what he meant.
 This month--two years ago- we packed our belongings and embarked on our private little adventure, leaving the family home we'd raised our boys in--and our closest friends and family-- and relocated to Southern California. It might not sound so courageous to some of you intrepid souls but for us -- at our age- it felt like a bold thing to do.
In honor of our little milestone, I decided to create a simple, inexpensive St. Patrick's Table-For-Two inspired by this emerald green vase I found in the thrift store.

I added three rolls of ribbon and these bright, sparkly pins I found on the jewelry aisle of Joann's Fabric and Craft store. They were on sale--2 for 1-- for a grand total of $3.99.
I bought a bouquet of grocery store flowers...

When it comes to St. Patrick's Day decorations I'm a Less- is-More kinda gal.

As you can see, I'm just keeping it simple today.

We plan on having a quiet, romantic dinner for this holiday...seems like a good time to count our blessings over some delicious food and wine.

What are your plans for St. Patrick's Day?


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Friday, March 4, 2016

how i transformed a cheap statue into a classic stone sculpture

What do you do when you have caviar taste and a smart-shopper budget?

Let me show you what I did recently.

 First, my inspiration.
These might be my all-time favorite bookshelves ever, I love the classic vibe that was achieved with the understated color scheme and the styling of these shelves.
But finding an authentic marble or alabaster piece that fits into my shelves hasn't happened so far, so I decided to make my own version until I find something better.

This is my cheapo $7.99 "art" piece I bought from TJMaxx

Here's the Before:

The first thing I did was cover it with two coats of Annie Sloan White Chalk Paint.

Then I found some Delta acrylic paints in black and cream around the house and basically began applying several coats of both colors over this piece.

How do you like my fancy art equipment?
A foam brush, a paper plate and a grocery bag to remove most of the paint off my brush before I dabble it on the 'man.'

my new "stone sculpture"
what do you think?

This is what I have on these shelves so far--

And here's the bookshelves on the other side (of the fireplace).

It's the little things we collect that add charm and coziness to our home
 don't you think?

I still haven't stopped collecting the deep, sepia-colored books that I love... just for their beauty. But for now I'm keeping my shelves on the lighter side more like the shelves in this picture:

So how bout you?

What 'little thing' have you been working on lately?


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