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Before and After

“The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” – Maya Angelou

“The important stuff will still be important by the time you get to it. The unimportant will have made its insignificance obvious (or simply disappear). Then, with stillness rather than needless urgency or exhaustion, you will be able to sit down and give what deserves consideration your full attention.” – Ryan Holiday, Stillness is the Key

In “before” we prepare, we do the work, we walk the path step by step that gets to “after.” Sometimes it feels like we are stuck in before, circling, lost and then suddenly, after arrives and the work pays off.

I’ve been planning for a first-floor remodel for a few months. Clearing clutter, organizing. Choosing the paint, then painting. Looking at several floor options, then deciding. Moving an entire first floor into my garage. All with help of course. And today is day one of three to get new floors installed – luxury vinyl plank flooring – much better with dogs. Good-bye 15 year-old laminate, linoleum and carpet and hello new floors in 22 easy steps. I haven’t taken a vacation in a long while so this is my “big” trip, creating a new cool space at home, little did I know how much time we’d all be staying at home.

And during this time, especially during this time, it’s good to plan and prepare for the future, even though we are stuck in the murkiness of now, in our before. We are all going to get to our after when before finishes its job, even though we don’t understand why, how or when. Keep planning, do the work, hold tight to trust and faith, savoring the long overdue stillness. After is coming and our before will carry us forward fully prepared for it.

The Passage of Time

“How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before its June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?” – Dr. Seuss

Stay at home orders, 24/7 news, a lot of time with those in our household, keeping energetic kids busy inside as well as becoming their school teacher, working remote, uncertainty of what will happen with COVID-19 and a new vocabulary of what’s essential and nonessential have shifted our daily reality. As we adjust to our “new normal,” we have an invitation to create something of this open space and time.

While we may feel stuck, the sands of time continue to flow through the hourglass. We all have the same 24 hours in a day and 7 days in the week. Just a few weeks ago, we lamented our busy schedules and now we lament too much time on our hands. Time remains the same so what needs to change is our perception of time and what we will each decide to do with it.

When caught in the heaviness of moments through the day, imagine four weeks from today. What will you be able to say that you created with this time? How will you be different? Did you learn anything new? Did you foster gratitude? Did you build deeper and stronger relationships? Did you finally listen to that still small voice inside calling you back to yourself?

Here are some encouraging quotes on time that may help you think differently about the potential of this very unusual time.

“Time has been transformed, and we have changed; it has advanced and set us in motion; it has unveiled its face, inspiring us with bewilderment and exhilaration.” – Khalil Gibran

“We must use time creatively.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

“So during those first moments of the day, which are yours and yours alone, you can circumvent these boundaries and concentrate fully on spiritual matters. And this gives you the opportunity to plan the time management of the entire day.” – Menachem Mendel Schneerson

“The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.” – Albert Einstein

“The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of 60 minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.” – C. S. Lewis

“Time stays long enough for anyone who will use it.” – Leonardo da Vinci

“Time will pass and seasons will come and go.” – Roy Bean

“Time = Life, Therefore, waste your time and waste of your life, or master your time and master your life.” – Alan Lakein

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” – J. R. R. Tolkien

“Let the refining and improving of your own life keep you so busy that you have little time to criticize others.” – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

“There are two kinds of worries – those you can do something about and those you can’t. Don’t spend any time on the latter.” – Duke Ellington

“Time does not change us. It just unfolds us.” – Max Frisch

“At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, not winning one more verdict or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a friend, a child, or a parent.” – Barbara Bush

“Day, n. A period of twenty-four hours, mostly misspent.” – Ambrose Bierce

“Don’t let the fear of the time it will take to accomplish something stand in the way of your doing it. The time will pass anyway; we might just as well put that passing time to the best possible use.” – Earl Nightingale

“Work is hard. Distractions are plentiful. And time is short.” – Adam Hochschild

“Any action is often better than no action, especially if you have been stuck in an unhappy situation for a long time. If it is a mistake, at least you learn something, in which case it’s no longer a mistake. If you remain stuck, you learn nothing.” – Eckhart Tolle

“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” – Marie Curie

“Do the one thing you think you cannot do. Fail at it. Try again. Do better the second time. The only people who never tumble are those who never mount the high wire. This is your moment. Own it.” – Oprah Winfrey

“Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.” – William Penn

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” – Steve Jobs

“Each moment is perfect and heaven-sent, in that each moment holds the seeds for growth.” – Suzan-Lori Parks

 

Hues, Shades, Tints

“The soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts.” – Marcus Aurelius

An important part of getting through is making plans for the other side. This weekend, I picked up paint swatches to start looking at color options for the first floor of my house. While we have no idea what April will bring, I intend on planning for new things, new projects, for the promise found in new.

It is amazing the wide variation of colors that are available. At well-timed reminder of the depth, complexity and gift of color. Hues, shades, tints. The world is filled with color even though it feels a bit muted right now. We are on the cusp of Spring blooming. Be open to the symphony of color all around, especially in these moments.

“Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colors, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

Beautiful Light

“People are like stained – glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.” – Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” – Edith Wharton

I have fond memories of this lamp through decades of seeing it as a center piece at my Aunt Terry’s house. It’s been 26 days since she passed away and the lamp was moved carefully and solemnly to my house today. My eyes keep getting drawn to it and there’s comfort in it.

As I walked by it tonight to turn it off, it reminded me of the beautiful light that we all have within us. It shined the brightest and with little effort when we were young.

With the passage of time, our lights often dim and flicker. Yet, our light always remains within longing to come out to dance and play with abandon. And when we show our beautiful light to the world, it gives the “permission slip” to others to join us on the field trip of joy and gratitude.

No matter where you are on your journey, you have a beautiful light within that remains steady and unwavering. Let it out.

Shine, beautiful light.

Break ‘Em

“You’ll miss the best things if you keep your eyes shut.” – Dr. Suess

“You’ll miss the best things if you keep your eyes shut.” – Dr. Suess

“Oh the things you can find, if you don’t stay behind!” – Dr. Suess

We’ve sold my parent’s house and closing is in three weeks. You can accumulate a lot over a lifetime and forty-one years in a house. Most of the sorting was done when we put the house up for sale to “stage” it and now the final steps to clear it completely and let it go.

Dad passed away over three years ago and Mom has been moving around my brother, sister and my houses and it will remain the same minus her house. Maintaining an extra house has proven to be challenging at best and it’s time to move on. And yes, it’s still hard. I reminded Mom and myself that home is the people you are with and the time together.

That’s the thing with life transitions. We want to hang on to what was while still moving forward. It’s like monkey bars at the playground. When we don’t let go, we have one hand on each bar hanging looking side-ways, swaying in the wind. To really move to the next bar, you need to look forward and let go of the bar behind to grasp the next bar and then the next to get to the other side.

In the midst of moving stuff, I decided to keep Dad’s pool table and it was delivered and reassembled at my house this week. It was one my favorite things to do with Dad and I look forward to using it with my nieces and nephew and their kids to create new memories. As I stood in my basement and racked up the balls, I smiled as I heard Dad softly say in my head “break ‘em.”

We all need time in transition to collect our thoughts, adjust to our new normal and make meaning of loss and change. And then we need to gather the scattered balls together, rack ’em up and break ‘em to start a new game. Grateful for what has been and more than ready for what is to come.

More memories ahead grounded in the memories already made. Eyes wide open.

You Can’t Take It with You

“Have gratitude for the things you’re discarding. By giving gratitude, you’re giving closure to the relationship with that object, and by doing so, it becomes a lot easier to let go.” – Marie Kondo

It’s been on my mind for the past month – clean out the closets and organize my clothes. Two rounds and 3 hours later, done. And it’s freeing. Sifting, sorting, bucketing and giving away clothes to someone who may actually need them. Organized, orderly and findable. Clothes that I will actually wear and can find quickly. Shopping my own closet rather than getting more. We keep adding without counting, taking inventory. And yes, I am parting with the Hawaiian shirt that’s too big, but I am now in search of my next loud shirt that sings, “let’s have fun!”

In addition to some Spring cleaning our physical space, we can also do some decluttering in our minds, assessing what’s already present in this very moment. Eliminate the “I’ll get to that later” piles and put it in its place now or let it go if you don’t need it.

Our clutter and inability to let go has created a $38 billion+ industry in the United States. According to SpareFoot, there are 50,000 facilities, 2.311 billion square feet of “stuff apartments” and enough storage space to fill Hoover Dam with crap, I mean, keepsakes that we can’t let go of.

And that clutter and accumulation is rooted in our mindset of more, more, more. A scarcity in our thoughts where we’ve convinced ourselves that this stuff will create happiness. It’s not working. Stop the pursuit of more and actually get more by counting what already is. Stop accumulating stuff and start accumulating daily joy. The search is over. It’s all within you.

And when our days on this earth are over, you can’t take it with you. And I can guarantee, your relatives will be getting a dumpster for your “keepsakes.” Let it go now and starting living today.

The Purple Truck

I bought this truck in 1997. The dealer told me it was sapphire blue. I bought it sight unseen. And then when I went to pick it up, there she was – purple with teal detailing. A teenager’s truck. I tried to like it and kept it for two years. And then I knew I couldn’t drive it anymore. It bugged me too much.

My Dad was looking for a truck, so he bought it. The purple never phased him. If it did, he never let on. Rather than looking for a truck that he really wanted, he was letting me off the hook of a quick purchase that I regretted.

Now, I love this truck because it reminds me of my Dad’s character. A generous soul who didn’t take grief from anyone and rarely gave out either. Quiet, unassuming and kind. If anyone commented on him driving a purple truck, he never let it phase him. And 21 years later, you can tell that he took care of it.

It’s been over two years since Dad passed away and Mom really doesn’t need two vehicles. We sold it this past weekend to a family member looking for truck. The right side of the garage is now empty, but my heart is filled with memories like the truck story.

Our loved ones are here one minute and then suddenly they’re gone. And yet they remain with us in our hearts, in places, in memories, in others and in our own ways. Even in a purple truck.

Call your parents, give your kids an extra hug, don’t hold grudges, laugh as often as you can. Life is happening right now in the little things. No guarantees beyond today. Cast Light.

Honor Thy Father

“It is not the honor that you take with you, but the heritage you leave behind.” – Branch Rickey

Today marks the two-year anniversary of Dad’s passing. Missing him is a daily occurrence that I don’t expect will ever change. But rather than focusing on what is lost, I am choosing today to focus on all that I am grateful for including what he instilled in me and my family.

A quiet unassuming work ethic, give your best and the outcome will take care of itself;
Love of family and friends, help others and expect nothing in return but the gift of generosity;
Have a sense of humor and don’t take yourself too seriously, the only way to joyfully get through this life;
Finish what you start, be resilient and find your grit;
A deep faith and pursuit of God, not so much through words but in our actions.

So Dad, I miss you every single day and thank you for remaining in all of us as we continue on our journey. And the best way I can honor you is living out what you have instilled in me. Be kind, humble, celebrate the wins, accept the losses gracefully and never underestimate the power of hope and faith. Cast Light.

Adrift

“This world is but a canvas to our imagination.” – Henry David Thoreau

“This world is but a canvas to our imagination.” – Henry David Thoreau

“Childhood means simplicity. Look at the world with the child’s eye – it is very beautiful.” – Kailash Satyarthi

It was a two-plow snow yesterday. As the snow softly and slowly fell into the night, the wind did its work to create beautiful sculptures. This is the kind of snow made for childhood fun. The fort-making type to be sure. It stops and detaches you from the complexities of the day to enter into the playground  and gallery of nature.

Like it was last week, I remember the delight when a snow day was declared. We geared up in polyester snow suits, hats, mittens and moon boots to make our way out to create our own sculptures of snowmen and angels in the fresh frozen fluff. Skating for hours, sliding down dead man’s hill until dark.

A serious snow that keeps you in the house until they plow the streets and that you snow blow the driveway a few times to keep ahead of it. And, of course, right when you are done, the snowplow drives by and creates a two foot barrier of heavy thick snow that triggers the snow blower again.

Adrift for but a while to be transported back to the simplicity and delight of childhood. To that feeling that remains in us and need only be awakened with a beautiful deep snow. A place to return to often even without the snow.

Nature. Art. Play. Joy. Adrift.

Seeds and Roots

“Nourish beginnings, let us nourish beginnings. Not all things are blest, but the seeds of all things are blest. The blessing is in the seed.” – Muriel Rukeyser

A beautiful Sunday drive brought Mom and me through the “old” neighborhood. First past her home on Sixth Street, then to Dad’s house on Earl Street where his parents landed after they immigrated from Poland. We finished the “tour” by the still white house on Ivy where they came together to raise our family. All three are within a few miles or so of each other. Families back then didn’t land too far from home. It was both familiar and distant.

“We come to beginnings only at the end.” – William Throsby Bridges

“We come to beginnings only at the end.” – William Throsby Bridges

Many good memories with neighbors who remain friends still. Beginnings anchored in hard work, struggle, laughter and faith. By today’s standards, the houses are small and yet somehow we made it through with one bathroom, sharing a room with my sister and a small kitchen with no dishwasher. Those were the days with alleys where the neighborhood kids gathered to play boot hockey, ride bike and make forts from piles of snow.

“The journey is my home.” – Muriel Rukeyser

“The journey is my home.” – Muriel Rukeyser

Every now and then, we need to go back to our beginnings to see how far we have come as well as be reminded where we need to return to. Seeds and roots.

“Time moves in one direction, memory in another.” – William Gibson

“Time moves in one direction, memory in another.” – William Gibson

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