The Unexamined Life..Of Your Coffee Table

I love to explore, I like to plan a whole day in a new place, it gives me a new perspective to return home with. Traveling has been an influence on everything in my home. Experiences bring my imagination to life and I love to daydream about all the possibilities.

I try to make the best of what I have to work with, in part out of care for our environment but also because every object has potential!

So in cultivating my blog over the years I’ve been exploring avenues that I enjoy. Some of the most exciting experiences I’ve had in my life I’ve been completely terrified of. Example: every single place we traveled in California had to be on the side of a mountain, and I am not a fan of heights. Am I glad I did them, yes. Was it terrifying, also yes! College, scary, did that too. Living with other people I didn’t know, scary, did that. Running for a town political role, suuuper scary but also exciting! Buying a home, scary, but extremely rewarding!

So what I’ve been doing lately has been designing a business. Im terrified. I really don’t like change. I have a pretty cushy job, and a pretty easy life. What business do I have trying to mix that up? Well the goal has been to step out of my comfort zone, to give the world a chance to understand what it is I want to give back to it and to try to live my best life!

So here it goes…

Background: I grew up an only child. Which requires me to answer the question, how did you like being an only child? I’ll be honest, it was fine. I pretty much had my imagination to entertain me, instead of another human. I think it also made me look closer at myself (critically) and also the relationship I had with other people. My fatal flaw is people -pleasing. While my parents were older from start, I had to grow up relatively quickly, with a few challenges. Mom had mental health issues, Dad had some workaholic issues. Everyone has issues, but it made my story, and shaped a lot of my strengths.

Neither parent really cared about our living space outside of whether it was clean(it was very dysfunctional). So I found myself making my bed, fluffing my stuffed animals and putting my own decorative towels in the bathroom for when guests came over. Right… I know, people pleaser. They didn’t see the value of a well designed home space. They did have some taste (sort of) Dad was kind of hippy, which now in the era of mid century modern times has found its way back in vogue (go Dad). Mom was more artist, mixed with Greek iconography. So my house was a shmorgusboard if hippy, Jesus and artwork. Not the most cute assembly of furniture pairing. Lots of random paint splatters, brushes and equipment… but it was home.

What I found myself doing in my younger years was constantly reorganizing my own space. My room was like my safe place. The family didn’t always get along, and life wasn’t always roses and sunshine. I tried to stay positive, keep my own space in order and looking as good as I could have it with the resources I had. I remember the feeling of seeing the redesigned space. It was like a breath of fresh air. The odd thing was remembering where everything was placed in the new arrangement. It was necessary to use what I had to work with because asking for something deemed “unnecessary” was more aggravating than making the best of it. In a lot of ways this allowed me to utilize the things I had creatively. I credit the rents with giving me a hard time enough that I had no choice but to make my own designs.

So here I am adulting and trying to find my purpose, and recycle, and drink enough water, and meet my personal goals, you know, be responsible (eye rolling emoji). What I’ve found is that I really want to help people live in the space they feel the most at home. Some people see the value in simplicity while others want their Pinterest dreams to come true. I’ve just found a happy balance of function and artsy, with unique hand made peices. What I’ve always wanted is my space to feel comfortable to anyone who enters. After years of trial and error I think I’ve achieved my design goals.

What is so counter intuitive to so many of my friends and family is making their space work for their family while still meeting their asthetic goals. I’ve always loved Martha Stewart, and I’m a huge fan of HGTV. The difference between my inspirations is that I try to incorporate personal experiences into spaces.

So many designers make your kitchen look like a home and garden magazine but fail to reflect the people who live there. One thing I love is holding the mirror up and saying you are, where you live. Your space is part of your health. Your wellness is directly related to your environment, and for me, I find clarity in order, and reorganization.

Part of the journey I am on in life is bringing my life experiences into my living space, as a reflection of who I am, where I’ve been and what I love.

I have so many photographs of my better half, Joe and I. I have pictures of our cat. I have my mothers artwork, our grandparents wedding photographs, friends, family, trips we’ve been on etc. Our kitchen has been completely redone (by us), and is now pig themed, subtly. before

(Two different times of year so bare with the decor in these pictures)

Our chandelier is restored from basically a dumpster to full beauty (Joe deemed it to be trash).

We built our own bar, we built our headboard, our kitchen island, our entry bench, our master bedroom bench. We redesigned our bathroom fixture. We built custom shelving, we built our ottoman, we’ve upcycled more stuff than we’ve bought. I’m proud of that.

Everything in our home has a story, and it’s about who we are and what we love.

We have made a beautiful space using mostly what we had, and adding our own spin. Our molding may not have perfect lines, although he did a very nice job for a beginner! Our life might not be exactly what you see in a magazine but it has cracks that came with weathering. My favorite part about our home is our life in it. After so many life experiences it’s easy to lose track of where you’ve been. I find a memory around every corner in the lake house that we love.

So I am officially beginning the exciting (and scary as hell) adventure of starting a consulting company for interior decorating, with a focus on life experience, and functional needs. I love to be reminded of all the fun I’ve had. I love my family, and my friends and I make it a point to focus on the positivity both in my life and in my home space. I have helped so many people see positivity and opportunities in their space so they can grow into it or shift into a better arrangement.

As for the coffee table, we turned it into an ottoman.

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How to Break Your Stress Cycle… (and other adulting hazards).

When did you decide this was it? Did you wake up today and decide this is exactly what you meant to do? Well from 7:00am-5:30pm, Monday through Friday I do not. Then, after my day is over, I return to what I meant to do with my time. I know what you’re thinking: You’re Batman?! Sadly, no. I’ve managed to micromanage myself into a clear cycle… one which must be broken!

Here we go!

I go home, and proceed with the rituals established when I started a 9-5… (exercise, make dinner…you see where this is going). If you have kids you already know the struggle. Butthis is not a parental story, this is self imposed insanity! Arguably worse because there is no small child to blame for why I am so burnt out. (Sound familiar, friends?) I digress.

On the weekends I have the luxury of relaxing right?

Absolutely not.

I’m cleaning. I’m prepping. Yes, I’m having a little (carefully scheduled) fun. But all the while thinking: “I need to do something productive so I’m not ‘stressed out’ this week.”

Yes some might say this is anxiety in full form; stressing about feeling stressed. I happen to think it’s a condition that being in the modern workforce instills in us. It’s the fear…

What is the fear?

You’re afraid to be late.

You’re afraid you’ll get fired.

You’re afraid you aren’t meeting the goals.

You are afraid that you might derail your diet or whatever limits you’ve placed on yourself.

You’re afraid of drama in the office, or just nervously watching your back because fake-friend-Terry (not a real person) is going to snap at any moment.

Afraid of your boss.

Afraid of offending someone.

Afraid of growing old.

Afraid of being a disappointment or failing your team.

Just plain old strung out and scared for Monday…. All throughout your weekend… as you fly from errand to errand, carefully making sure to stay within your budget, while you grocery shop with the rest of the working class crowd.

Then FOMO (“fear of missing out”: for the real adults) kicks in, and you realize you spent so much time being afraid you only really have 1 day or maybe mearly hours of your weekend left. Those precious hours of recharging or just being “yourself” are quickly evaporating. Now that you’re really triggered, you’re scrambling to make the most of what is now the end of your Sunday. You realize that you still have to return to your daily “grind”…and the fun sizzles right out…

So why are we hard wired with the fear?

In a book I recently read called Tribes it addresses the fear as a manifestation of a “sheepwalking life”. Basically, if you deviate from your self imposed or office imposed “norms” then you get the fear. The fear is not defined in the book but I thought it was valuable to mention.Throughout this book I find it outlandish and yet romanticized to consider changing up the “status quo”, and forge a not-so-cookie-cutter path. However I don’t know when I’ll have time… (But if you are ready to change or or perhaps already have, the book is compelling and worth a look! Back to my point…)

Insert sadness…

Then sadness and reality is the next stage: It’s Sunday. That Friday-feeling has completely turned into your meal prepping Sunday blues…

How do you make a mark on the world with 2 days off (if your job is insignificant) and when 79% of the total 2 days is spent stressing out about the week ahead?

Regret, here it comes people…

It is during this point that you decide to sulk. You have to return to real life and yet you feel that you hardly got started. Suddenly the high school math homework nightmares seem like they really could have been the answer. You should have gone to school for something “better”… and the Monday-dread wouldn’t be this bad. Bargaining with yourself is also a stage of grief… (just saying).

So the cycle continues…

How do you break the cycle of adulting stress? I have a couple of simple solutions to get your needs met and live a little!

1. Make a list of happy wants and needs.

Yes I want to clean out my closet. I do not need to do that to function on Monday. Make your list work for you!

Use categories:

  • Things you want to see this weekend: A movie? An art exhibit? A new park in town? Yes the world exists outside of Facebook, you need to get there!
  • Things you want to do for peace of mind: (see above cleaning of the closet.) There is a lot to be said for good living space vibes and fung shui.
  • Goals are always good. They make us feel like we must pay attention to them. If you need to set goals to see a movie, do it!

2. Make time for yourself ALONE, no social media allowed.

  • The latest Facebook rant can wait for 45 minutes. You need time for you.
  • Find a quiet space and just hang out with your fur baby, or read, or be still. Meditation is an idea but something tells me you aren’t there yet.
  • Gather your thoughts. Focus your attention on what your body is telling you. Maybe you need a pedicure, and it’s clear…
  • Give yourself the break you need, don’t harp on the things that aren’t getting done. You don’t NEED to do everything.

3. Try something new.

  • I promise: It’s hard but it’s rewarding. Try a new route to the grocery store. Try a new recipe. Try to step outside your comfort zone and feel uncomfortable. I assure you it’s a step in the right direction. You need this!
  • Change the routine in a way that allows you to get your needs met and gives you new perspective. Maybe you just needed to do your grocery shopping online for once, from the luxury of your couch. So what if it costs $10 for delivery! You deserve a break!

4. Do something you care about, if you don’t know what that is… take the first step.

  • Maybe you always wanted to learn a language. Try it!
  • Maybe you like to paint or draw or some art inspired thing. Do it!
  • Maybe you really want to give back to your local community.
  • Maybe you just want to spend time looking for ideas for a new project.

Burnout is born when we give up our time for things we don’t care about.

We must actively pay attention to what our thoughts and our body and our lives are telling us. I know personally, I’ve been known to overdo it. I have to check myself when I’m feeling overwhelmed and bring it back to home base.

Perspective is how you look at things, but self reflection is how you choose your path. You can conquer the things you think are looming and have a life! You can look at it as a positive or a negative but you still have to show up on Monday…

Remember! You decide how to spend the time you have. Once you find yourself in the cycle, I hope you dance (I mean stop it from spiraling)! If you need an intervention phone a friend, make a plan, but don’t sit idle and suffer through a weekend of the same stressors. You need to recharge and you don’t need to be everything to everyone!

Now get out there and be free to own your freedom!

Love is More Than Plastic

Valentines Day, is a day for all those loves to come forward and be faithful to their loved ones. This day is subjective.  The most subjective of all days. For most people the candy, card, flowers, maybe dinner or a special treat is enough. For some, the lavish excursion to some destination. For others it’s simply a card or a gesture.

For me,  I expect very little. However, I am blessed to have a wonderful love who knows that even though I don’t expect much, that the thought behind the gesture is what is most important.

So rewind to a former love who was the “high school sweetheart” for the purposes of explaining this. He was not a thoughtful guy. He was also on drugs, which probably led to the failings of all gifts, but nevertheless I thank him for the learning lesson.

Expectation and reality are a hard lesson to learn, and luckily between the high school sweetheart and my own father I was lucky because the lesson was this: Get what you want for yourself because you can’t count on anyone else to know better. I’m not cynical enough to think that you shouldn’t count on anyone but know what you are up against, and don’t set yourself up for failure.

So this is the scene, valentines day, a box with flowers in it. The box is almost as good as the pre-vased flowers but it leaves an element of surprise which is nice. So the box is strategically placed on the table, this was one of many failed attempts at gift giving…

As I opened the box to my dismay, there lay 2 dozen long stem carnations…yes the filler flowers.

They were red.

They were ugly.

I was pissed.

This was not the first failed gift, a few weeks prior, Christmas, there was another one. This one was by far the worst gift of all.

Thoughtless, and cheap.

The worst part about a bad gift isn’t the gift itself but the fact that it was offered without any consideration or mindfulness. Gift giving is about presenting something the other person will like, because it’s something they like…..

This gift, was pink, it was plastic, and it had dolphins on it. Now, I know what you are thinking and no it’s not a pool float… it was wind chimes.

This ladies and gentlemen had absolutely no relevance to my taste nor did I collect wind chimes nor was I an advocate for dolphins.

So there you have it, I hope you feel better about you half ass gifts from CVS or the roses that died after the first day. At least they weren’t pink plastic dolphin wind chimes. I still have one of the dolphins, and when I see it now I laugh, because it was so stupid, but it taught me something very important, other than not to use drugs.

The wind chimes taught me that a partner in life knows you, they know what means something to you, they know your favorite flowers, and they do things for you that they know you will enjoy out of the simplicity of the love they have for you.

Presently, Joe, the most amazing man there ever was, outdid himself once again.

I walked into the house, candles lit (I love candles), Flower arrangement on the table, (no carnations-he knows the story), a tiny box,and a record player playing a record I bought at a show we went to in New Haven a few months back.  He also made me corned beef and cabbage, and we bought our first kitten.


I mean it doesn’t get better than a kitten…. but let me give you the backstory.

Naturally I cried.

My father passed away 7/11/14 he was a sentimental guy, or a hoarder, but he definitely kept the things that mattered to him. One of the major keepsakes were a box of original vinyl records from the 70s. Everything from Led Zeppelin’s stairway to heaven, to Janice Joplin in the 60s. There were amazing records, but no record player. I bought a record because records are returning, for their amazing sound quality, and general nostalgia. So It was my intention to get a record player. However I never got myself one.

So when I saw it I obviously started crying. That was just the perfect gift. It was not only for my new record but for all the hundreds of records we left at my dad’s house. They were also picked up and presented later with the new record player. So not only did he think about this very thoughtful way to rectify our lack of record player but he took it a step further and brought home the records my father so carefully kept for a rainy day. (Gentlemen take notes)

Corn beef and cabbage has relevance because each year for St. Patty’s day, I’m fasting for lent. During lent I give up meat. To most people that sounds extreme but to the Greek Orthodox that’s just the half of it. Typically, a devote Greek Orthodox person, would give up meat and dairy, and essentially become vegan for 40 days, as a means for repentance, and to honor Christ’s 40 days in the dessert. So I look around every year at those eating their corned beef and cabbage on St. Patty’s day and I cry a little inside because I love it. Hence, the clear gesture of making this very annoying and time consuming meal.

There were no red roses, there were no chocolates, in fact there was not even a card purchased from Hallmark. In fact, he made it. He made the card out of cardboard and glue and he wrote it out. He knew that the act of doing this would mean so much more than a generic hallmark card with the words already decided.

There you have it. Thoughtful and perfect in every way. If I could offer a piece of advice to someone trying to buy someone something… I would tell them. Listen to what they talk about. Really listen.  Think about the things they like to do. Think of where they like to be. Put yourself in their shoes. And for the love of god, do not give them carnations and do not buy them anything of the plastic dolphin nature, and if all else fails, make the card.

Be honest.

I’ve found in working my 8th consecutive Valentines Day in a restaurant that people are only on their best behavior on occasions. They don’t do actively participate in the love they have until they have to. I think that is how people get divorced. Although I’ve never had a marriage I’ve seen many and I took a lot away from the good, the bad and the ugly. The most important part of love is being in it. All the time not just occasionally.

Love and gifts are subjective, but for those endless searches for the perfect gift, ask yourself this, are you doing the search with their heart in mind? If they truth is, if he or she really knows you love them and you really do your best to show them, then even wind chimes will suffice (only if they are relevant). Love is for those of depth and quality not thoughtless and careless expressions.

To be in love I find to be rare, and when I see it, I know, because I have the best and most wonderful love. When I see others in the kind of love I have, it’s like a mirror.

IF you like this post check out another one!

Trading Flowers for Adventure