Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Bathroom Reveal: Tackling the Ugliest Room in the House.

Do you have one room in your house that just doesn't have anything going for it? For me, it was an upstairs bathroom that hasn't gotten much use since the kids left home. Well, except for the cat. His litter box is kept in the bathtub. 

When the kids moved out I painted this room white and haven't really bothered with it otherwise for five years. 

But you know how it is. Whenever you walk by your problem room you have that nagging feeling you could do something, anything to improve it.  It can especially be a problem if it's a room no one sees but you.  The cat wasn't complaining.

I decided I wanted to tackle it but then spent several months trying to figure out what to do and finding the time to do it. I finally decided that since no one else really sees it I would do something fun and playful using bright colors. The color palette in the rest of the house is fairly muted and since you can't see this room from anywhere else I decided to do something super whimsical.

All the products needed to complete this project are available locally at Me and Mrs. Jones. 

I love blue and white but don't have a good place for that bold choice in the rest of the house so I knew I wanted to go with that combo. I chose the Mediterranean Tile Set stencil from Royal Design Studio. I used Jolie's Gentleman's Blue and Palace White for the pattern.

Stencils are fun but I like taking them one step further to achieve more of a trompe l'oeil effect. I used Jolie's Swedish Grey to paint in grout lines and dealt with the angled ceiling by painting faux broken plaster. Had I chosen a stencil that had an all-over pattern I would have done the ceiling. 

This also gave the benefit of breaking up the pattern and giving the eye a break from all the business in such a small space. Plus, remember, whimsical and over the top was my goal.

Since I wanted to break up the pattern I thought a plain white shower curtain with blue tassels would be perfect but when I put it up it looked so...blah.

I was happier with it when I stenciled a simplified pattern on it.

This little side piece that I use for storage and where the cat's food dish is to keep the beagle from getting in it was given a little perk up with new knobs that mimic the tile. Bonus: they were free!

I'm loving having this hidden little happy room tucked away by itself.

This is our forever home so I don't have to worry about judgemental house hunters coming through with their negative comments.

This is the second use for that brick stencil. If you missed the cottage floor then read, How To Stencil a Concrete Floor.

I used to really like the way the exposed plumbing looked under the sink but then the pipe was replaced with plastic.

I painted it with Modern Masters Warm Silver as a temporary fix while I try to decide if I want to skirt the sink or not. At any rate, it's an improvement.

Next, what to hang on the walls? I could have easily left it bare but nope!

The artwork I chose was a postcard I purchased in the Bahamas last summer just for this spot and a charmingly bright and whimsical print by Debi Vincent.  My desire to use one of her pieces was a big component in using such bright colors for this room. 

Remember trends will change. Doing what you want in the place you call home is always a good choice and will let you be creative while saving money by not changing when your current decor goes out of style.

Happy decorating, y'all!

Monday, February 10, 2020

My 2020 One New Thing Is...

Every year around this time people start to ask me about my one new thing for the new year. Every year for the past 25 years or so I have taught myself to do one new thing. Read a list of all of them here. Not to become an expert or take a course, but just a deep dive into some useful skill.

This is the year to write a book. 

Notice I said, "write a book." Not get published, or make the New York Times Bestseller list, get an agent or a book deal or go on a book tour, That's because just saying that I'm going to write a book is terrifying enough.

 Saying you are going to write a book leads to a bazillion questions, none of which even need to be asked at all until the actual work is done. Sometimes we don't do something because we are thinking too far ahead. Thinking of writing a book leads to wondering about how should it be formatted? Could it get published? Should it be an ebook? How do you find a literary agent? What if I wrote a bestseller? What would it be like to be on the Today Show? How do you put a wardrobe together for a book tour? 

You see what I mean.

This is part of why we don't start. We jump too far ahead.

I'm actually telling people that this year's goal is to write a terrible book. And in my mind I'm thinking "Just write a crappy first draft."  I mean surely I can get that done!

The other thing I considered was an open mic night at a comedy club. I have wanted to do that since I was 10 years old. I remember seeing Buddy Hacket on The Dinah Shore Show (google it, kids) and taking notes about how to be funny.

What kind of weird kid is taking notes while watching daytime talk shows? 

I'm guessing it will be the thing for 2021. But dang it! Morse Code is still on my list. What if I'm taken captive and need to blink out a message to the media?

The year is still new! What are your plans for 2020?

Friday, January 31, 2020

Fresh Start Field Guide: 31 Simple Steps for Improving Simply

Sometimes I get weary of the current terminology of success. Do we need to crush our goals, attack the new year, kill Monday? At the beginning of a new year and a new decade, we all hope to be our best selves but some of us don't need or want the aggressive style of success promoted in business magazines or under #bossbabes on Instagram.

Does everything we love to do need to be a side hustle? If you need to explore this idea read The Value of Living a Creative Life Part 1 and Part 2. 

There's more than one definition of success and your version is going to have a lot to do with your personal energy, goals, and priorities. In this series, I'm offering a way to ease into a new year or new season of life with simple activities and quiet ways to contemplate what changes you need to make to live your optimized life your way.

Read Building Your Fresh Start Tool Kit for a helpful list of things to use along the way

Remember, there is no being behind. There is only where you are now. You can do this in any order in any month for a gentle reboot when feeling overwhelmed or out of sorts. 

1. How to do a Year-End Retrospective

2. What if You Don't Know What You Want? 

3. Start Journaling: Tips and Tricks for the Reluctant Writer

4. Setting an Intention for the Day

5. Using a Vision Board to Achieve Clarity

6. Building Your Fresh Start Tool Kit

7. Coping With FOMO

8. Create Before You Consume

9. Breaking Our Addiction to Busy

10. 5 Creativity Boosts to Try This Weekend

11. Empty Something

12. Fill Something

13. Building Your Morning Routine

14. Mastering Your Morning Mindset

15. How to Use Reframing to Control Negative Thoughts

16. Creating a Bedtime Routine

17. Mastering Your Evening Mindset

18. Tips for Coping with January

19. Take 5 Outside

20. Defining Personal Success

21. News Free Day

22. Getting to Know Yourself

23. Anti-Procrastination Day

24. Use Something Up

25. Shop Your Closet

26. Create a Go-To

27. 10 Minute Cleaning Hack

28. Your Vibe Attracts Your Tribe

29. 5 First Steps

30. God is Proud of You

31. Fresh Start Field Guide

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Here's Why God is Proud of You

Several years ago I was going through a very hard time. Maybe you've been there too. When you wonder what the point is of trying so hard. Sitting in a place of darkness wondering if God has forgotten you, or worse abandoned you. I was at a silent Catholic retreat for a weekend because a friend had invited me, and one of the books I'd taken to read was Phillip Yancey's Disappointment With God. I was reading it halfheartedly practically daring God to show me that I wasn't wrong about Him when I read this passage. 

"By focusing myopically on what we want God to do on our behalf, we may miss the significance of what he has already done."

Let that sink in.

On the second day after lunch, I returned to my room. I got out the list of verses the nun leading the retreat had given us. I was familiar with them. "Nothing new here." I thought to myself. Wanting to get the most out of the experience however, I opened the Bible in my room and diligently looked up each one. Nothing much jumped out except that part in Psalm 139 about God marking my travels. Was he marking a map with pins? I have some great travel pics pinned on Pinterest. I haven't been on Pinterest this week. I shuffled my papers to look for "How to Deal with Distractions in Prayer."

 I went on to the next verse. Psalm 139:5, "You rest your hand upon me."

An image of me standing next to my father on a gravel driveway under a hot summer sun, flooded my mind. He rested his hand on top of my head, then on my shoulder. I thought of the thousands of times I had done that to my own children. I began to think about the meaning of that.

Focus on that for a moment. You are standing with your child having a conversation with another adult and you rest your hand on the shoulder of your son, or the head of your daughter. What does that mean? Why do parents do that?

Because you are proud of them.

Could God be proud of me? Somehow that seemed a foreign concept. Perhaps a result of one too many verses of some hymn relating me to a worm when I was a child. I let that thought come around again. Is God proud of me? If he is it certainly cannot be because of anything I've achieved, or for some glowing example, I've been. Maybe he was saying he was proud of me because I try so hard. Where would the grace be in that? But as I thought about that in relation to my own children, I realized that I didn't love them more when they tried really hard. I kept following that line of thought. Why are parents proud of their children when they are so small they haven't accomplished anything yet? We are incredibly proud of babies! Why?

Because they are ours. Because they belong to us.

This is where the tears began to flow.

I could understand that. I could rest in that. So can you. That God is proud of me just because I belong to him. Proud of you because you do. He sees how hard you are struggling. He knows you are hurt and disappointed. He knows you are tired. He knows you are wondering if you are good enough. But he wants you to know he is resting his hand on you, proud father that he is.

See what kind of love the Father has given us that we should be called the children of God, and so we are... 1 John 3:1

And I shall be a father to you and you will be my sons and daughters says the Lord Almighty.  2 Corinthians 6:18

So at the end of January when most people are already disappointed in themselves for not keep ing all the resolutions they made and for breaking more promises to themselves yet again, I say, take heart. If you followed along with this little challenge you have some small wins and easy victories for building on. And if you didn't do anything you're proud of, remember that you don't have to accomplish anything for God to think you are pretty awesome.

Take that with you into the rest of your year. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

5 Steps For Starting Anything

Let's start to wind down our Gentle January with five important first steps to accomplishing anything. Here we go.

1. Don't get overwhelmed by the enormity of the thing you are trying to accomplish, or learn about, or recover from. In the book, the $100 Start-Up, several of the people interviewed said if they had known what all was required to start a business they wouldn't have done it. At the outset sometimes it's best to keep the final goal in mind and not get bogged down in the how-to details. 

2. Stop waiting until you have all the information. This one can be paralyzing because when will that be? Never, that's when. Analyzing things to death is a form of resistance. If you don't know about resistance, read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. You want to have a reasonable amount of information and be able to make informed decisions. But beware information gathering becoming a way of never taking action. You don't need that much action to actually start moving in the right direction.  

 3. Start. Take actions today that will move you toward your goal. Pick up the phone. Send in the form. Shoot that person the email. Drink the water. Buy the running shoes. Throw out the junk food. Start the book or the blog. Open the account. Clean out the junk drawer. Post your art on Instagram. Buy the supplies. Make the thing. 

If you are struggling with creativity read this. 

4. Finish. In Elizabeth Gilbert's latest book, Big Magic she says "Done is better than good" and reminds us that the world doesn't really need one more half-finished manuscript in the bottom of a drawer somewhere. It might be that the thing you need to do has been started and abandoned for some reason. Pick it up again. Dust it off. Finish it. If that's too ambitious for where you are right now, then take actions 1-3 to move in the direction of your finish line. 

5. Stop being so afraid all the time. This is the real thing, isn't it? So much of it comes down to fear. What will people think? What if it doesn't work? What if I fail? What if everyone finds out I'm a fraud? What if I look silly? What if it changes friendships? Or your marriage? And perhaps the scariest thing of all--what if I succeed? What if? What if? What if?


 If we are going to ask that question, let's at least spin it in our favor.

What if it works? What if you find a strong toned body under those extra pounds? What if you find your life's work? Or passion? Or the love of your life? What if you surprise everyone by how fabulous you are? What if you surprise yourself? What if you find out there is power in being vulnerable? What if you become healthier than ever? What if your courage inspires someone else? 

What if?

If fear is a major issue for you then the book, Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway by Susan Jeffers might be helpful.

Want real change in your life that you can keep going over the months and years? These 5 things are necessary whether you are out to improve your health, renew your mind, or deepen your spiritual life. 

And if you want to write the great American novel or take up kickboxing, well, they work for that too.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Build Your Tribe

As we ease ourselves into the new year in this gentlest of Januaries let's talk about our social connections. Having a circle of friends is one of the main ways we can stave off depression and angst while improving our disposition and overall health. 

Much has been written about the harmful effects of social isolation, but today we are focusing on the how and not so much the why. Specifically, how does our behavior influence our friendships or lack of them and how does our social circle influence us. 

Your vibe attracts your tribe. Guess what. You are going to attract the kind of energy and attitudes that you put out. Or as our grandmothers would have said, birds of a feather flock together. Have you ever noticed that the gossips, Debbie downers, and Eyores seem to find each other? Meanwhile, the folks who cheer each other on and raise each other up have also gravitated into a group. 

Very simply, you are likely to draw to you people who are attracted to your words, actions, and attitudes. And it works in the reverse as well. It's said that you are an average of the five people you spend the most time with. 

Think about your friends and let that sink in. 

Our environments are powerful and that includes the people in them. So choose your associations wisely. Is there someone who you notice makes you feel worse after spending time with them? You might want to find ways to limit those interactions. Meanwhile schedule time with people who are uplifting and encouraging. And make sure to foster freindships with people whose qualities you admire. 

Monday, January 27, 2020

10 Minute Cleaning Hack

How many times have you looked around at all that needed to be done, felt overwhelmed, grabbed the remote and headed to Netflix? Sometimes it just seems like we don't have the time or energy to clean up the kitchen or take a walk.

I'm going to let you in on a little secret hack I started using when my kids were young and I still use to trick myself into doing work when I feel like I don't have it in me.

Today we are playing Beat the Clock.

Set your kitchen timer for 10 minutes.

Why not the timer on your phone, you ask? Because we all know that 45 minutes later we'll be looking for properties for sale on Lake Como or watching Australian news bloopers. Picking up your phone is too risky. Kitchen timers only.

Start your timer and run around as fast as you can doing whatever you can see the needs to be done. Did you realize it only takes about 3 minutes to unload the dishwasher? Toss out papers, Swiffer up the dog hair, wipe down the sink, clean the toilet, fill the dog's water bowl, put away anything, not in its place. Hang up your coat, put the shoes you kicked off in the entryway back where they go.

Hurry! When the timer goes off you're done.

Now stop.

Two things have happened: You feel energized and you made some progress. Now you can either sit down and read a book or set your timer again. Knowing there's a ticking clock keeps us focused in a way that an open-ended task does not.

This is a tool for cleaning up your physical space. This is not the time to phone the gas company about your bill or work on your vision board.

We overestimate how long it takes to accomplish the little daily tasks we don't like. Using this trick will show you just how little time some of them take and the payoff for having them done is a feeling of being in control of your surroundings. It's an added bonus that you 're moving as fast as you can.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Create a Go-To

Decision fatigue is a thing. Your brain only has so much decision making power at the start of the day so things you can put on autopilot can help you save some of that energy for more important stuff that comes up. Trying to pull together an outfit when you're running late or whip up a new meal after a tough day at work can be too much. I know for me in the late afternoon or evening it can feel like my brain has shut down while I'm standing in front of the pantry because I didn't have a plan.

Spend some time today choosing things to help you when you don't have the time or bandwith to make new choices. Pull together new outfits and experiment with meals when you have time for it to be fun and you can enjoy being creative. Then you'll have those backups in your hip pocket when you just can't even with all the things.

Have a go-to:

 Outfit: It should be comfortable and you should feel good in it.

Dinner: It should have no more than 5 ingredients that you always have on hand and should take about 30 minutes.

Response: If you are going through a transition or have something about your life that people always ask about like when are you having a baby, what are you going to do with that major, or how is she handling that diagnosis, come up with a standard response for everyone who asks. That way you don't get caught off guard or say something you regret because you were thinking on your feet. 

Elevator pitch: Your quick and dirty answer when someone asks you what you do, what your goals are or what you are creating.

Gift: That one thing from your favorite shop that is always a hit. Bonus points if they gift wrap!

I'll bet you can come up with some other useful ones!

Remember, everything we are doing this month is about making small changes that can make our lives easier, prevent overwhelm, and allow us to ease into the new year without stress.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Shop Your Closet

Today's assignment as we ease into the new year is to create a new outfit from something you already own.

Most of us wear twenty percent of what we own eighty percent of the time. Today go through your clothes and accessories and put together something you haven't paired before.

Do you always wear the same cardigan with the same blouse? Is there anything else it would go with? Is that one skirt really the only thing that jacket would go with? Don't forget to try different jewelry or a scarf!

Mix it up and make something fresh. You don't even have to wear it today! This is just an exercise in using what we already have (see yesterday's post) and getting out of our clothing rut.

You are giving yourself one more option without leaving the house or spending any money.

And of course, feel free to do some gentle purging as you come across things you know you won't wear in the future. Don't take out more things than you could put away in 10 minutes. We aren't trying to create a stressful activity but make one new outfit. 

Friday, January 24, 2020

Use Something Up

We aren't going to get overwhelmed by trying to organize our entire house or vow not to spend any money this year. We are going to do this one simple step today and that's enough. Sometimes there are little things that cause us a small amount of irritation with ourselves. Having a lot of half-used products is one of those things. It also creates extra clutter and in the case of food causes waste because we are probably going to throw out the stale crackers or chips.

How many open bottles of shampoo, conditioner, moisturizers, and lotions are in your bathroom? How many open boxes of crackers or bags of chips are in your pantry? What's your freezer situation?

Do you have DIY products for projects you haven't gotten to?

Let's look at something else. Did you get something for Christmas that you are saving? Do you have good china or crystal collecting dust? Is there anything anywhere in your closet with a tag still on it?

Today use something up. Use up the dregs of the shampoo bottle. If you bought a shampoo you didn't like use it to clean the toilet. Soap is soap. Disappointed in a conditioner? Skip buying shaving cream and use it to shave your legs. Use the fancy bath products you got as a gift. I've had to deal with closing up the homes of 3 female relatives after their deaths and it's a sad thing to see expensive soap and bath powders that are still in the packaging.

If you enjoy going to estate sales you have likely seen just how many beautiful things aren't claimed by family members. So here's the question...

What are you saving it for? The person who gave it to you meant for it to be used. 

Open your freezer today and plan a meal from something that's been in there a while. If the crackers are beyond saving feed them to the birds.

Use the good china tonight for that creative freezer meal you're pulling together. Your kids probably aren't going to want it so if washing up is what's keeping you from using it, got ahead and stick it in the dishwasher. It's unlikely anyone will care. If you have beautiful serving pieces that you know aren't going to be used for food, give them a new life. A platter can hold your jewelry. Put that beautiful covered dish on the mantle and tuck notecards inside.

If you just know you are never going to use a dozen finger bowls, stick a fancy bar of soap inside and tie it up with a ribbon as a gift. Let's use our imaginations as we use things up.

While we're at it let's challenge ourselves not to buy any products that we already own in any form until we use up what we have.

Look at us being resourceful and saving money.