Learning the rhythm of relaxation…

It was an unseasonably cool day today. I know I have a long way to go with the California heat (and truly, I’ve enjoyed the warmth of it) but it’s also nice to have an incredibly cool day with the windows open wide.

We are excitedly anticipating a big group of family coming to see us at the end of the month. But of course that means projects and to do lists. Admittedly, I love to have looming projects ahead. I love the challenge of overcoming and conquering the unknown.

But I am learning more and more the value of stopping. Sitting for a few minutes. No, not just sitting but sitting and unwinding the Monkey Brain of mental activity even when physical activity has momentarily stopped.

“Destroy the idea that you have to be constantly working or grinding in order to be successful. Embrace the concept that rest, recovery, reflection are essential parts of the progress towards a successful and happy life.” – Zach Galifianakis

We DVR’d and watched the CNN show, Chasing Life, last night. Dr. Sanjay Gupta travelled to Norway – in the midst of their three month period of 24/7 darkness – to find out where they find their happiness (consistently ranked the Happiest Nation in the World.)

It was fascinating to hear their stories. Stories thick with personal challenge and empathy for others. Kindergarten classes held in the forest with little play supervision. Can you imagine a U.S. classroom teacher allowing their students to climb high trees?! It made me cringe to watch. And yet the students developed such a strong sense of independence and self-confidence. Not to mention how they helped each other through the process of play.

Dr. Gupta interviewed a ski-survivor. After a horrific ordeal in frozen water…heart stopping for several minutes…she was now alive and participating in all sorts of sports. When asked if she was back 100% her reply floored me:

“I’m not 100% but I am 100% of what I need.”

Do I have 100% of what I need? It is a worthwhile question to hold close for awhile.

As so many others in the world, I have felt such a heavy loss with the sudden death of author, Rachel Held Evans. And just like others, she represents such a moment of hope for me. I was at a crossroads when I found her blog. Having been brought up in a strongly conservative christian church, I was feeling at odds with what I understood God to be and how He was represented within the Church as a whole.

Rachel merged the contradictions for me. She led me through the difficult process of letting go of human church expectations and pointed me more fully to the face of my Heavenly Father. To compassion and forgiveness. To acceptance of all humans as possessing equal value in the eyes of God. I was challenged to look at the periphery of life and notice those that were being left out of the public conversation.

I have been simultaneously grieving her 37-year-old-wife-mother-of-two-young-babies presence in the world while also feeling challenged. When such a strong human advocate leaves a void, how is it best filled?

And with any tragedy, it shook my priorities. I spend more mental space than I care to admit on what my next Instagram picture will be. It suddenly seemed so meaningless. I mean, let me be clear: being on Instagram is not meaningless. Finding inspiration is never unnecessary. Nor sharing inspiration. But the amount of mental space it takes up in my mind is silly.

Everyone knows blogging is dead. Yes. I realize that’s a commonly accepted thought. In my heart of hearts I think it might experience an uprise as people tire of quick and easy and return to a deeper delve into thought and ideas.

I am not good at vulnerability. While I don’t believe in divulging everything to everyone, I would like to go back to a time that I was more open and honest with my blog readers. A braver time. I think there are areas in my life that might be similar to others. Things we tend to brush under the carpet and smile relentlessly.

Wouldn’t it be easier if we tried to work through some of that together? There is a place for frivolity and fiction in life. It’s good to sit back and relax. It’s necessary. But I’ve spent too much time in the realm of easy lately. Self-examination has fallen by the wayside; too wide of a pendulum swing.

Iron sharpens iron we are told. I need your input and advice. I value it. I need to re-learn to do life in partnership with others.

Drawing from Dr. Gupta’s discoveries: Challenges give us confidence and self-worth. It stimulates creativity. Spending time in nature, exercising, developing deeper empathy for others – all foundations of happiness.

I’m up for the challenge. How about you?? We need to take care of each other.

 

A Work in Progress…

I love a good Before and After shot.

Actually, it’s not necessarily a Before and After but more like a Before and During.

When we first moved here, I took a picture of our little backyard. There were three ratty, over-grown rose bushes behind the house and that was it. The previous owners had a hot tub over in that square cement area in the far corner. The hedges were all over-grown and it was hard to tell what was what.

But there was potential.

The biggest eyesore we couldn’t change was the neighbor’s palm tree with all the dead fronds going up it. (Could CSI tell which direction a fire dart came from?! I’m asking for a friend…)

This is after our spring work. We tried pruning the rose bushes in the fall but they were just so overgrown with dead brush, volunteer trees, etc, so we cut them all the way down to the ground. We figured it would be easier to handle them from a new starting place.

We installed a standing flower box, three planters for grasses and palms (and petunias and ivy.) Scott built all of the above. We put up LED string lights over our patio furniture and added a few more pieces.

The rose bushes are coming back to life in a much more manageable way.

We added a small cactus garden (which just about didn’t make it because this is a low area in the yard so all of the buckets and buckets of rain we’ve gotten, all collected here. *head smack* We’ll see how they do this summer but I might move them over closer to our agave on the other end.

We have pink jasmine started in three different areas of the yard so sitting outside is a very sweet treat. In fact, just raising the windows inside makes for the most fragrant breezes blowing through the house.

Long story, short: Haddie has become an outside cat. She escaped one day and then meowed like crazy to be let back out. (Her eyes were opened to new possibilities!) -ha.

You can see one of the jasmine vines in the background below. Unfortunately, we had one hummingbird but we haven’t seen him for months. We weren’t really prepared when we put up this feeder, but I’ll study up on it and maybe we’ll get a few more. The jasmine are supposed to attract them as well.

We still feel so blessed to have been gifted this beautiful agave plant. Agave Maria. She is a lovely shade of blue-gray and matches the house perfectly.

On the side of the house I started a succulent garden in the fall. It seems to be progressing nicely, although the amount of attention I give it is really pretty embarrassing. If it rains for more than a handful of hours, I go out and cover them with boards Scott made for me. Then I uncover them so they’ll get some sun. All winter long I have babied them. I should be committed…

The gutter in the middle of it all is certainly not eye-appealing, but hopefully they’ll eventually grow up over it and cover it up a bit.

There’s about to be a burst of yellow outside our bedroom windows pretty soon. They gave me so many rose bouquets last fall; I’m excited to see what they produce during the summer.

These Mexican lavender bushes were also a purchase not long after we moved in. They were three little bushes that have grown so beautifully. Each time I walk by them and hear the buzz of the bees that saturate their flowers, makes me feel a little sense of pride and contribution to the planet.

This is our current project. I bought 4 mandevilla vines to crawl up and take over this area of the fence. I only have about 2.7 zillion trellis ideas and need to whittle that down quickly because they’re ready to climb! Our neighbors have a rusted shed next door that sticks up in the corner (and a reason we put Scott’s BBQ tent and grill over there.) I’m hoping to build a trellis up above the fence so they can crawl up nicely and cover a lot of the site of the shed.

This side shade garden is part of Summer 2020. I have been THRILLED these hostas and bleeding hearts came up this year (from bulbs) but I decided to not spend a lot of design time over in this area. Next year I want to have Scott build an arbor over the area that leads to this shade garden. But that’s for another summer. (I do – occasionally – try to temper my enthusiasm!)

We have bags of mulch to be laid down, tiki torches to put up (because Scott insisted we bury PVC pipe and cement them in – all I wanted to do was stick them in the ground when we had people over! -ha.)

We’ve trimmed back the hedges a lot, but we have more to do and need to figure out how to best shape the ones we have. I’d like to see a full year of them (and what they do/bloom/etc) before making too drastic of a change. The grass is a whole other area of improvement needed. But that’s another stage – right?

And that’s the main thing: learning what California weather is like and where the sun shines (and doesn’t shine) in our yard. It’s the best thing about working in nature. You are on IT’S time schedule. You are forced to exercise patience. But in the end, after all your planning, the surprises come in the most beautiful forms. I’m anxiously waiting to experience them all…

I recently read the book Placemaker: Cultivating Places of Comfort, Beauty and Peace by Christie Purifoy. I have always tried to be a Place Maker. Even when it was a temporary home for a short period of time. Filling a space with your things, your designs, your styles…it shapes how you see the rest of your life. When you feel welcomed and comfortable at home, everything else seems manageable. I’ve lived in small, large, really small, and even hotel spaces. The size of your home doesn’t matter. Nor does it’s age. Settle in and make it home. Your home. Invite others in to share it with you. Do NOT be consumed by comparison. It is the killer of joy. Learn how to manage your reactions to social media accounts that seem to show complete perfection. Pinterest is great for ideas and inspiration, but when you feel the drudging feeling that you’ll never have enough or you can’t compete with this or that – get off. You’re on option overload. Spend time imagining your space in your mind. What do YOU want? What resources do you have? What resources do you have to live within? You do not have to have unlimited talent or money in order to make a place cozy and comfortable. Don’t be led into the lie that buying just.this.one.more.thing will make everything better. (I have it on very good authority that it won’t.) Fill you house with friends and family – that’s the best design feature a home can have.

We are making our mark in California – for as long as we’re here. And we are having a lot of fun doing it. Step by step. Stage by stage. No hurries. And most importantly, taking the time to fully enjoy it. Speaking of which, chicken is on the grill and the rains are coming in again tonight so succulents must be properly put to bed…………. 😉

It’s a girl!

(I think.)

I’ve been watching the growth and birth of this ruffled-leaf Philodendron Selloum (Philodendron bipinnatifidum) leaf since I first saw its tiny presence on March 17. It took 22 days from my first video to my last time-lapsed video this evening.

Baby and Mama are doing fine. She’s registered at Bergdorf Goodman…

Now it’s time to fully open up and enjoy her new grand duchess life. I’m so proud!!!

Fun side note: I set up my iPhone on a pile of books I had nearby. It took a couple of hours to record the final progression out of her protective sheath. About halfway in I looked closer at the pile of books and realized (with the exception of a few good men) it was a bunch of strong-hearted women who were helping in this birthing process. Something they were fully used to doing – birthing and nurturing and working together to get the job done. Go, girls, go!!

It won’t take long now for her to look as strong and dark green as her playmates. Sometimes nature is just SO cool…

Calla Lily Ledbetter

I am probably crazy in the head, but I picked up a calla lily yesterday that called out to me from the plant aisle. I’ve never grown one before.

“Try meeeee”, it said.

So I gathered it up – along with a bunch of clearance plants that I couldn’t let just sit there, unadopted and lonely. I think I’ll name her Ledbetter. This is an equal opportunity plant-loving household, after all.

I’m in the process of repotting them all. Giving them fresh new soil (many were SOAKED) and lots of new home loving.

Dirt under my fingernails? Yes, please!

Happy Presidents’ Day to you! I hope you have the day off and are either enjoying a good white sale splurge and/or are blissfully unaware of Presidents’ Day politics or workplace drama.

To calla lily beauty and federal days off.

“Save me a seat!”

“We all bring something unique to the table. And when we women sit at it, there is no doubt in my mind that it becomes a more compassionate, caring, and collaborative table. If you are a woman, never doubt that you belong at the table. Never doubt that you bring something to it. And never forget to save a seat for someone else.” – Maria Shriver

Clean(er)

I would venture to bet that the majority of people can’t rid their homes of all toxins immediately and right.this.very.instant. Man, would I love to. Had I only won that last lottery drawing…⠀

It’s hard to make choices for a clean, ethically-centered, toxin-free home. Clean cleaning supplies. Clean beauty products. Slow fashion. Slow living. ⠀

For us, (like many of you) it’s just one step at a time. One less candle; one more essential oil. One less toxic cleaning supply replaced with a more environmentally-friendly brand. With each choice at the point of sale, our home is moving ever-so-slowly toward a healthier space. ⠀

It’s not about chasing fads (and yes, ‘all-natural’ can be a trendy fad for some companies), but it’s about making a healthier choice whenever you can. As Anne Lamott would say – it’s not about dieting, it’s about doing better today than you did yesterday.⠀

I think that’s a perfect motto for just about everything in life, don’t you think? Don’t beat yourself up for what you can’t do. Just take it product by product. And season by season. (Because some seasons are about trying to afford diapers and school supplies and spring soccer. And that’s okay! Taking care of your family is number one. No matter what that looks like for you.)⠀

One of the free things I did recently was detox my Pinterest account. I have been unpinning many of the elaborate, multi-step projects I’ve had pinned on there for years. Instead I’ve been pinning clean products for our home and simple (read: not elaborate) ways to celebrate the holidays as well as the everyday. Detoxing my to do list or my dream lists is one way to add space and time for relationships and (…always…) reading. Hygge, if you will. Pinterest is an enormous resource for just about anything you’re looking for, but it can also be an ever-growing guilt list of things you’re not getting done. I needed to let some of that crap go. I’ve linked to my Pinterest in my profile if you need some jumping off places to declutter your mind and your online Pinterest bulletin board.

What are some ways and products you’re choosing for a healthier home and life? Teach me some of your ways…

A Slow Corner

I recently read an article about creating A Slow Corner in your home. I loved that idea.

This little space was intended to be a dining room, I believe. We recently moved to a little 70s ranch home that we’ve been filling with our things and tweaking what’s here. This space wouldn’t hold our dining table and chairs comfortably so I claimed it for a reading nook. Or better yet, a slow corner.

It’s just off the living room area before you turn to go into the kitchen. The door leads into the laundry room. (I have dreams of putting my Dutch door there someday.)

Longer term, I would like to make some faux wooden beams to wrap around the white ‘pillars’ that are there now. I’d also like to plant morning glories on the fence outside the window to add to the hygge vibe of the room.

This dark green velvet chair is the perfect spot to get lost in a book. Or even my own thoughts.

I found this print of Steve McQueen online. It screamed mid-century to me.

I put our little record player in there along with our ever-growing record collection that spans anywhere from Sinatra’s greatest hits to the Village People to Nat King Cole’s Christmas Favorites. Ha! It’s fun to find new albums wherever we go. The scratchy sounds instantly transport me back to a time before cellphones and a break-neck pace of life. A few of you have asked about my bar cart. I found it in my favorite junk store in Omaha. It was pale yellow (a little rusty) with darkened silver side poles. I taped off the shelves and spray painted the silver a brushed gold. Then I taped them off and spray painted the shelves with a Rustoleum bright white. It was an easy redo that’s made a big impact wherever it lands.

The disco ball lights up in the late afternoon when the setting sun hits it just right through the window. It’s an afternoon delight for sure.

I wanted a bookshelf to run the length of this half wall but didn’t have one that size. So we installed shelves, side by side, in two layers. I’m already running out of space but I’m hoping it will motivate me to NOT buy anymore books until I get these read down a bit more. The books are categorized into history, fiction, non-fiction, faith, memoir/biography, gardening and cookbooks.

The rule I try to adhere to the most in this room is to leave my cellphone somewhere else in the house. This is for slow thinking and slow activities. A time to myself to regroup and just plain ol’ chill.

We all have many responsibilities under the roofs of our homes. What a wonderful concept to create a corner where everything can slow down for a few minutes and reconnection with our true selves can occur.

So. What do you think of this space?