Friday, July 25, 2014

Creating a Home I Love

Follow your inner voice to create a home you love.
~ Maggie Reyes

Summer vacation? Ha! While it's true that I have had, for the most part, a break from my teaching routine, I have been keeping myself very busy.

I moved into my current home in the fall of 2001. It was shiny new at the time but has been well used during the thirteen years I have spent in it. My three children grew into adults here. We have raised numerous pets here. I teach piano lessons here; every week, forty students and various family members walk in and out the front door. It's all been good, but it has taken its toll.

I may not be able to live at the beach but my dream has long been to paint the walls of my house in the bright colors I love. I started three years ago, when I painted my piano studio purple. This spring, my ex-fiance surprised me by having my kitchen, dining room, living room and hallways, and master bathroom painted in other colors I had chosen: sky blue, coral, yellow, and flamingo pink. I am forever grateful to him for that. This summer, I finished the project.

I covered the dull brown walls in my studio waiting room with the color of the outside of a lime; I painted the adjoining bathroom the color of the inside of the lime. I painted my bedroom the pale pink of the inside of a conch shell. And I painted the third bedroom a lovely shade of aqua; it is now my craft room. Here are a few pictures showing that process.
BEFORE 1. Boxes and bins filled with whatnot.
BEFORE 2. More boxes and bins filled with whatnot. 
All the boxes and bins sorted, organized and stowed in the closet.
The painting begins. It took two coats to cover the dark green with the aqua.
AFTER 1. A cheerful beading nook.
AFTER 2. A happy sewing corner.
After almost fifty-five years of life on this planet, I finally have a room of my own where I can sew, bead and scrapbook to my heart's content. A couple of days ago, I sat in this sunny space and created something beautiful.

Yep. It was a dream come true.

Since then, I have had new vinyl plank flooring installed in my kitchen, foyers and master bathroom, and tomorrow I am looking forward to the delivery of a new refrigerator to replace my twenty-year old leaking side-by side and a new range with a double oven to replace the builder-grade range that came with my house. I will post more pictures later. In the meantime, I have a couple of questions for you.

What is it that your heart desires? What can you do to make your dreams come true?

For me - at least this summer - all I needed was a few gallons of paint and a lot of elbow grease. I'm glad I stopped waiting for the perfect time.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Six Months

Someday you're gonna look back on this moment of your life as such a sweet time of grieving. You'll see that you were in mourning and your heart was broken, but your life was changing...
~ Elizabeth Gilbert

When I pulled out my journal Wednesday morning, I noticed the date on the first entry - February 3, 2014. It gave me pause to realize that little composition notebook chronicled the bulk of my relationship with my ex, from a few days before we became engaged through the demise of the relationship and beyond. I spent a few moments pondering that, allowed my mind to wander back through everything that has happened since I broke up with my previous fiance' and - well, I didn't like what I saw. This is what I wrote afterwards.

I refuse to allow history to repeat itself again. For the next six months, at least, I hereby declare a moratorium on dating. I'm going to spruce up the house, practice the piano, finish my novels in progress, start another one. I'm going to eat and drink healthy and exercise regularly and lose the rest of the twenty pounds I have been carrying around since menopause had its way with me. I'm going to put together a family cookbook and stitch memory quilts and hit the beach as often as I can. Then, after Christmas, I will open my heart up again - not with expectation, but to possibility - while continuing to do the things I love to do and spend time with the people I cherish.

Then I set my journal aside, made a pot of coffee, and checked in on Facebook. To my delight, one of the first things I saw was a post from Elizabeth Gilbert, in which she re-posted an essay from last year "about how important it is for women to learn how to be lonely." Liz had had met a young woman who had just broken up with her boyfriend of four years because he didn't treat her right and become concerned when the woman proclaimed, "I gotta go out there right now and get myself somebody BETTER." This was Liz's response.

Once you learn what is good for you, you settle for nothing less. And you can't learn what is good for you until you spend some time getting to know yourself. So six months, I made that girl promise. At LEAST six months alone, I made her swear. We shook on it. And it was sort of comic - here I was, a perfect stranger, and she was agreeing to my demand that she commit to celibacy for half a year...AT LEAST half a year. But that's, I believe, what even she knew she needed. To be lonely until it didn't scare her anymore. Until she wasn't just throwing herself at the next warm body that came along, out of panic and fear of her own being. 

Click HERE to read the entire essay. Liz's words are so much more powerful than my own. But I found it serendipitous that she had come to the same conclusion I did - validating my thinking in a comforting and relieving sort of way. 

And so I begin six-months of life-changing aloneness. May I come out better on the other side.

Friday, June 27, 2014

A Pop-Musical Tonic

The day after my break-up, a colleague who lives in a faraway place shared a link with me. He referred to it is a "pop-musical tonic' - his girlfriend's favorite song - and sent his best wishes along with it.

I clicked on the link, broke into an ear-to-ear grin, and listened to the song at least a dozen times back to back. Now Ingrid Michaelson is my new favorite artist - I bought the entire album - and I will forever think of this as the quintessential break-up song.

All you need is love? Sometimes all you need is a song.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

I'm Moving On

You must make a decision that you are going to move on. It won't happen automatically. You will have to rise up and say, ‘I don’t care how hard this is, I don’t care how disappointed I am, I’m not going to let this get the best of me. I’m moving on with my life.
― Joel Osteen

Last night it didn't matter how long my happiness list was or how much I repeated the Ho'oponopono; I found myself in a funk that I just couldn't talk my way out of. It was a long, tearful, tossing-and-turning kind of night. Then I woke up early, groggy and disoriented, but I dragged myself out of bed, made a pot of coffee, and spent a long time staring at the Vision Board I created last weekend.

I'm still not sure what it all means but I'm not going to figure it out by hiding in my bedroom. So as much as I wanted to crawl back under the covers and spend another day in bed with a book, I made myself push through my feelings of sadness and lethargy and get some stuff done.

It was a healthy decision, and I had the best day I've had since - well, you know. I wrote morning pages and got all my fall paperwork ready to email to my returning piano students. I did some online shopping and picked out a new table, chairs and overhead lamp for the kitchen and went ahead and ordered a duvet cover and pillow shams for my bedroom and bathroom coordinates for the upstairs bathroom. I went to Home Depot and made arrangements for their installers to come out tomorrow and give me a quote on new flooring for the kitchen. Meanwhile, my son, aka RockStar, and I made some serious headway with the decluttering and deep cleaning, and enjoyed home grilled steaks, fresh cooked green beans, and juicy cantaloupe for dinner.

Now, to keep this positive momentum going!

I'm not going to let this get the best of me. I'm moving on with my life.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

50 Things That Make Me Happy

Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better take things as they come along with patience and equanimity.
- ­Carl Jung

I just finished my first read-through of a wonderful book, The Right to Write by Julia Cameron. Filled with anecdotes from her own personal life and follow-up exercises for the reader, this is a book that I intend to keep by my bedside and refer to often.

I don't believe in coincidences so I wasn't surprised to turn to the chapter on Happiness the day after my break-up last week. In the writing prompt at the end of the chapter, Julia suggests creating a list of fifty things that make you happy.

Happiness is not only a mood. It is a decision. Writing our list of fifty happinesses causes us to see how simple some forms of joy are, how we can make ourselves happy in simple ways, Julia says. Happiness lists are also an effective deterrent for situational depression. When the blues set in, the simple act of listing joys can help elicit some.

Heart aching, tears flowing, the last thing I felt like doing last Wednesday was creating a list of fifty things that make me happy. But I did it anyway. And you know what? It helped.

Here is my list.
  1. Spending time with my son.
  2. Walking in the neighborhood.
  3. Playing the piano.
  4. Red wine.
  5. Dark chocolate.
  6. Dandelions.
  7. Lying in the sun.
  8. Cruising.
  9. The beach.
  10. Cutting up old magazines.
  11. Handmade soap.
  12. Herbs in pots.
  13. Chocolate chip cookies.
  14. Girls Chase Boys by Ingrid Michaelson.
  15. Scented candles.
  16. Cooking Thanksgiving dinner.
  17. Baking bread.
  18. Popcorn.
  19. Lavender.
  20. Cinnamon.
  21. Words With Friends.
  22. Writing morning pages.
  23. Posting to my blog.
  24. Playing with make-up.
  25. Knitting.
  26. Reading.
  27. Gardenias.
  28. Making soup.
  29. Bright colors.
  30. Glitter.
  31. Getting a surprise in the mail.
  32. Cupcakes with sprinkles.
  33. Cute shoes.
  34. Day trips.
  35. Making jewelry.
  36. Getting organized.
  37. Writing thank-you notes.
  38. Studying French.
  39. Photography.
  40. Decorating my house.
  41. Watching movies.
  42. Breakfast at Waffle House.
  43. Sushi.
  44. Seashells.
  45. Making strawberry jam.
  46. Wrapping Christmas presents.
  47. Trying new restaurants.
  48. Dining al fresco.
  49. Fresh produce.
  50. My dog Karma.
Real life is persistent in its capacity to bring happiness, Julia concludes. It is difficult, even on the most miserable of days, not to grudgingly notice something that speaks of an enjoyable world. 

Replace the sad thoughts with happy ones? I can do that. And that reminds me: I think it's time to dust off my Happiness Jar and start filling it up again.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


In my post yesterday, I alluded to the thought rut that has stalked me since the night my fiance and I said "I don't." I don't think it is any coincidence that the next day I received an email from a good friend with a link to an article on Ho'oponopono, a healing practice developed by the shamans of Hawaii. Based on the premise that we are fully responsible for every everything, both positive and negative, that happens in our lives, this practice is simple and doesn't conflict with other belief systems or religions. Essentially a prayer, the Ho'oponopono consists of four basic statements:

  1. I love you.
  2. I'm sorry.
  3. Please forgive me.
  4. Thank you.
This practice is serving me well. Now, every time the rewind button in my brain switches to Play, bringing to my knees with sorrow and regret, I silently repeat those four statements, over and over, until the negative thinking stops and my equilibrium returns. I don't know why it works, only that it does. Moving forward, as the memories of this broken relationship begin to fade and my thoughts get stuck in other painful places, I will continue to practice Ho'oponopono. There is nothing to lose and everything to gain. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Over So Soon

A broken engagement is 100% better than a broken marriage.
~ Unknown

I might as well just cut to the chase: My engagement is off.

And since the break-up last Tuesday night, I have been playing the tape of our six months together over and over in my head, trying to pinpoint exactly what went wrong and what we might have done differently to get our happily-ever-after ending. I think it is fair to say that we both had issues at various times but chose to move forward regardless; in the end, there just wasn't enough glue to bind the relationship permanently.

As much as I loved wearing that beautiful diamond engagement ring, Tuesday night it became blatantly obvious that there was no point in keeping it on my finger any longer.

But I would be lying if I said this has been easy. Wednesday I did nothing besides cry, sleep and cry some more. Thankfully, my friends and family have been totally supportive, and I have basked in their words of comfort and love. To speed the healing process, I have indulged in some retail therapy, two girls' nights out, and a pedicure, and have planned not one but two mini-vacations in July. Things could definitely be worse.

Gradually, my mood has shifted from one of mourning to one of celebration. What if he and I had ignored the issues and gone through with a wedding, only for our incompatibilities to become rifts resulting in a divorce? So much better to figure it out now, right? That is a cause for happiness, not sorrow. So I am grateful for all that I learned from the experience, and ready to move on the next chapter of my life. I have big plans and lots to look forward to in the days, weeks and months ahead, and look forward to sharing everything with you here.