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Monday, October 31, 2011

Running Hot & Cold

On Saturday I purchased the seagrass rug I found on craigslist. Funny thing is, it is more rope than seagrass, but I am loving it. The texture is amazing.

The new rug goes a long way in helping me tie together the rustic Pottery Barn look I am hoping to achieve with some modern elements thrown in. I am still on a quest to find just the right artwork, however, the fun of pulling it together on a very tight budget is that each find becomes a treasure. I must say that making something out of nothing has been my life's work! 

When visiting my niece last week, I got the idea to bring nature indoors as she did. I think the red leaves are gorgeous in this turquoise vase and go with my rust and blue theme. Thank you, Ailis!

We had a beautiful time visiting Virginia and West Virginia last week and it is a good thing we went when we did. They got something like three inches of snow on Saturday and this Southern girl has not driven in snow in many years!

What a difference a week can make. It was chilly when we visited Friday and Saturday but so warm on Sunday before we left we had to change back into short-sleeved shirts. Mother nature is certainly being fickle, or maybe she is just going through the change like this middle-aged blogger.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Believing in the Desert

I am in this place where the horizon is just plain empty and I find I have to trust God each day to fill my hope tank. I have experienced first hand the scripture, “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” (Prov. 29:18)

As mere mortals, we literally cannot survive without hope. Hope that God cares about us, has a plan for us, and hears our voice in times of distress, anxiety, and pain. It is in times such as these, when God is silent and we have a ceiling full of unanswered prayers, that we learn to trust in God’s providence. I know I am. Knowing and trusting in a providential God means that I haven’t missed the boat, I haven’t screwed up to the point of no return, and that there is a purpose for my life. He may be silent, but He is there and listening to my every word.

I don’t know about you, but whenever I heard the word “providence,” it was just a fuzzy Christian word that contained no personal meaning. However, I have come to understand this past year what God’s providence truly means to a believer. And this knowledge of God's providence gives me a deep peace and assurance that all is well in spite of my feelings. I am beginning to see what my natural, unregenerated spiritual eyes cannot. It means that on those days when my hope is lost and I can barely get out of bed to face another day of disappointment or drudgery, my God is still in charge and still on His throne. Foremost, it means that how this all turns out isn’t really all up to me. "Those who hope in me will not be disappointed.” (Isa. 49:23)

What a relief to know that God doesn’t need me to accomplish His purposes. “But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations.” (Psalm 33:11) There is someone in authority over me who has control of the reigns. In an age where independence and personal accomplishment is lauded, this may not be welcome news for everyone. As a Type A personality myself, I have pushed open many a locked door, determined to make my own way in my own strength. Trust me, it didn’t end well. However, if God says his purpose stands forever and His word tells me He has a plan for me, I can let go and just rest.

God wants us to go His way, not because He is some power-mongering, controlling God, but because His ways are superior to those of mere man. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord.” (Isa. 55:8) Going our own way always ends up at a dead end. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” (Prov. 14:12)

We have an enemy who we are not equipped to fight in our own strength, in our own, “flesh and blood.” This enemy wants to kill, steal, and destroy us. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph. 6:12)

There is a secret to successfully surviving this life and it is not depending upon our own strength, abilities, talents, financial status, education, or might. God will light our path in this life ahead of us and protect us from our enemy behind when we surrender to Him and acknowledge that He alone is the master of our life. “Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.” (Isa. 58:8) I don’t know about you, but the knowledge of knowing that God “has my back,” gives me great assurance.

Are you in a place of hopelessness today? Let me assure you that you have not placed your trust and hope in a small God. Tell Him you don't know the answers. You don't know the way out. Just surrender to His providential will and rest in the shadow of His wings.  If you are relying on your own strength, how is that working for you? Deep down you know you don't have all of the answers and that your are just playing a role in a play called life. Stop perpetuating the lie and memorizing your lines. Trust in Him alone. Trust in the one who created you and knows the number of hairs on your head. You won't ever want to hold the reigns again. In fact, God will set you free!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Bachelor

I may be turning into the stereotypical bachelor without the ugly bachelor pad. You know, he doesn't cook, decorate, or wash. BTW ladies, "The Bachelor" isn't real. For the second time in the last few months, I have ladies from my Bible study bringing me meals. I know they are just trying to impress me with their culinary skills so I will marry them.

Tonight it is homemade stuffed green peppers with dessert. I didn't even ask what the dessert was. I was just too grateful. You don't cook much when the nest is empty because it is just too much work, so yeah, I appreciate them. I didn't have the heart to tell Miss Doris that I already ate dinner tonight--cold cereal with almond milk but heck yeah I am going to eat a good lunch tomorrow!

Speaking of ugly bachelor pads, I am still on a quest for finding the perfect rug for my living room. I purchased one that was just a bit off in color and so I am going to give it to mom. I found an 8 x 10 seagrass rug on craigslist today. It is still available (whoo hoo!) and only $30.  I have been playing phone tag all day with the owner but hope to get it this weekend barring any ungodly stains or wear.

The great thing about decorating your entire home in second-hand finds is that it is cheap to edit and experiment. If it doesn't work out, you move on with just a small eye twitch. I really believe that over time I am slowly creating a home filled with things I really love and that make me happy. And this attic nook makes me very, very happy:

If this wood was dark it would drive me insane and make me feel like I was a victim in Flowers in the Attic. This room, however, soothes my senses. I like the wide, light "planks" and cozy nested feeling. I would so want to come home to this haven after a hard day of fighting the wolves in the wild or, you know, work.

Until then, this "bachelor" sure appreciates the ladies!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Thanks for the Memories

I know it is corny, but I was humming John Denver's "Country Roads" as I packed the night before I left on a road trip to see my brother and his family in Virginia. For years, they lived in a little town called High View, West Virginia and, although they no longer live there, it is where my fondest adult memories are.

When my mother purchased property a few miles away, it became my dream to live there, too. My brother and his wife had 12 or more acres smack-dab in God's country right off of this road:

Heck, who wouldn't want to live here? Unless, of course, you are a city slicker. 

I had big dreams of being a stay-at-home mother, baking cookies, fighting off bears and coyotes, and growing my own vegetables. I fondly remember the kids and the then-hubby packing into my little Mitsubishi hatchback and trekking up the mountains to spend the day with the family. 

My brother was raising chickens and, for a girl who grew up in the suburbs, I thought they were just the most amazing creatures God ever made. When we would finally leave at dusk, the glens would be filled with herds of deer. Again, a sight this suburbanite had never seen. It was all just so magical. It not only became my fondest memories, but my children's favorite family times as well, which only goes to show you that Xbox and Barbie cannot compete with Mother Nature. 

Here is a picture of the entrance to "their" road at Powder Mill:

About five miles from my brother's homestead is beautiful Capon Bridge.  I'm sure this place holds more memories for him than I. He would take his son and my nephew fishing on the "crick." It was cold and overcast the day we visited, but nothing could diminish its beauty. I just love this lonely house by the river.

As we winded up, down, and around the country roads, my daughter and I oohed and aahed over the little homesteads nestled in a hill there or a glen there. It was chilly enough to see smoke curling from the chimneys and the decay of this old abandoned place caught my eye. This picture just doesn't do justice to the loneliness this place exuded.

The next day was a field trip with my brother, Jerry, and his wife Jane. She made me pecan coffee and we piled into the rental vehicle and drove through Leesburg, Va. to Chantilly, Va. Leesburg is nothing but old-money horse and wine country.The rolling hills and estates where pure eye candy.  He took me to his favorite Asian market, Lotte's, and the fish market blew my mind.

I have to say I have never been ANYWHERE that sells conch.  I haven't a clue, but $3.99 a pound doesn't seem like a bad price to me. Fish head soup, anyone?

The variety of exotic produce and goods was sensory overload and I loved every minute of it. Next, he took me to Wegman's. I am not sure how to describe Wegman's. Maybe foodie went to market? It is artisan bakery, butcher, seafood market, and farmer market rolled into one. Wegman's wouldn't let me take pictures, but I did sneak a few pics from the mezzanine:

I was craving a good sub and Jerry introduced me to the "Danny's Special," a culinary concoction of Italian meats and savory red pickled peppers on soft white bread.There is simply no way you can eat at a sub chain after this.

I purchased some artisan wheat sour dough bread for my nieces' chili feast on Sunday that was a big hit. I also picked up some Virginia wine and some specialty cheeses to try at home.

Having grown up in Maryland, I couldn't pass up the Chesapeake blue crab red. I also tried the "milk cheese" made from sheep's milk. Both were a-maz-ing. I picked up a blue from Italy and some champagne cheddar. Will try this weekend.

Needless to say, my trip to the mountains was filled with family and the bittersweet pang of good memories. As the years roll by, I can appreciate and enjoy my time with my brother as I never have before. I have always loved Jane and considered her my sister and my nieces are just pure cherries on my Sunday, but no one says it better than Jane Austin when it comes to the power of familia bonds:

     Children of the same family, the same blood, with the same first associations and habits,      have some means of enjoyment in their power, which no subsequent connections can supply...  ~Jane Austen, Mansfield Park, 1814 I drink my blue crab red and nibble my cheese, I lift my glass to family, my blood.  Until next time we meet, I love you all!


Friday, October 14, 2011

Navel Gazing

More on that funk I have been experiencing. I’m a bit sheepish to admit, but it started around my birthday last month. It isn’t the specific number or even that I am growing older really. I think it is this prevailing feeling of being stuck. All at once I seem to be absorbing the shock of the many life changes and challenges I am facing.

I have always been a goal-oriented person who kept her eye on the prize. I have been a single parent for the past 15 years and the goal has always been to raise two relatively functioning young adults. They don't smoke crack and neither has robbed a bank. I'm thinking I'm two for two here. The “kids” have moved out and moved in several times, but it is different. I no longer find my purpose in them and I feel set adrift in more ways than one. 

I have worked a job for the past 10 years that does not make use of any of my God-given talents just to pay my bills and complete this goal. Task accomplished. Only now I am in an empty house, working a job I am unfulfilled at, and for the very first time in my adult life, I don’t know what to do next. 

I want to go back to working in publishing because it is what I have always loved, and frankly, I'm good at it. But I have found that, while I was out of this sandbox, I am now expected to have a top secret clearance, a masters degree, and know HTML, CSS, Wordpress, and Java--good luck finding that person for $30,000 a year! Never mind that I have always learned all of my job skills on the fly and then excelled head and shoulders above the rest. I think it has something to do with the underdog equation. When no one else believes in you, you have something to prove.

Having to put my life on the back burner for 10 years has left me in a career I don’t see going anywhere and one I don’t enjoy. Go back to school you say? Having raised the kids on my own meager salary, the money tree is, well, dry. I am in a quandary as to what to do to get out of this quicksand. Should I buy a “new” used vehicle or try to get a loan for school or maybe some technical training? Take a job earning $10 an hour to learn these new skills on the job? I think not. My none-existent significant other is not here to pick up the slack for a year or two or three. What if I get sick? Or, what if I don’t want $50,000 in educational debt hanging over my graying head at night?

Lest you think I am complaining or throwing myself one helluva pity party, I’m not. It’s more of a heart lament. Again, it’s like being 13 and not knowing what you’re going to look like in a few years, how high school will be, and if anyone will ask you to the dance. I don’t think I can get through this unless I speak it through and own how I am feeling now. Please don't take this wrong. I know I am blessed. For all of the hardships I have endured, I have two wonderful young adult children I can take credit for raising, both of who I believe have bright futures and will add to humanity here on earth and in God’s kingdom to come.  I am also still healthy. Yet, I feel stuck. 

Gee, I know this all sounds depressing, but let’s get real. It is depressing. Life is unfair, children grow up, death and divorce happen, parents age or die, bad things happen to good people, and no matter what, time marches on. I’m not ready to give up by any stretch of the imagination. God forbid! But with all of the single women out there, I find it disappointing that there is not much written about these devastating life changes I am facing as a single person. 

Let’s face it, there is no blue ribbon prize for the job I did or the sacrifices I made and no husband to rebuild my relationship with now that the nest is empty.  Still, in my heart I know my married sisters are feeling this same sting. So maybe the single part is me indulging just a wee bit in self-pity and navel gazing.

I am in that thankless place where my grown children are not really old enough to appreciate the sacrifices that I made and my parents too old to remember I wasn’t always acting as their parent. It is rather a lonely feeling when you realize for the first time that your mother may be your biggest cheerleader, but she can no longer get off the bench. I miss the woman who soothed my wounded days and wounded soul with her own special salve. 

So I am learning to carry on alone and become the pillar of the community my mother raised me to be. I just have to know and believe that God does see me and that He has not forgotten the loneliness, financial desperation, or the desires of my heart. And though I know He cares, it is tough that on top of all of these bewildering changes, that I am feeling so invisible. I spoke about this in a previous post, but it is such a strange, vaporous state. I have never been someone who enjoyed the spotlight, even for a minute. I think what strikes me the most about this "disappearing" phenomena is that I didn’t know I was always in the limelight until someone hit the switch. I guess it is a little like the saying, “Youth is wasted on the young.”

The movies or books directed to the single women my age who are suffering this same malady either advise them overtly or outright to “reinvent” themselves. And if that fails, travel ladies! You can’t reinvent yourself on a budget. It’s like there is this big media presupposition that all middle-aged, single women have a well hidden bankroll.  

I really am not a whiner. Really. I’m actually pretty tough, but I must say I have been completely ambushed and woefully unprepared for this time in my life. I will bounce back. That is just what I do. And, more than likely, I’ll “reinvent” myself. In the meantime, please don’t send me any travel brochures.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Fickle Lovers

I have not come across much that inspires me lately but I can say with all certainty that it is far more than a decorating funk (more on that later). Hence, the lack of posting. However, when I seen this room, I forgot about myself for a full 60 seconds and inhaled slowly.

I am in love with the calm understated colors of this room. The turquoise mixed with the natural elements of wicker and wood are serene and gorgeous. I particularly like how the designer mixed the old wooden crates with a classic damask chair. Truly, it sets my eclectic nerves acquiver. 

And on that natural note, I am really feeling the wicker on this T-back armchair:

The lobster pillows are a nice touch for this particular room--just too themed for me. Though I loved what was behind door #1, this is my favorite:

I love color, yet I am attracted to these natural, linen-like fabrics and understated designs. Hmm? Mostly though, I am attracted to the mood of this room. IF I was to add color to this room, it would be that beautiful, pale turquoise in the first photo. Still, I wish I knew what I wanted to be when I grow up.

Maybe it is the creative person I am, but I find that as soon as I start to pull a room together, I fall in love with some other style. Obviously, I am a fickle lover! I think it is because I like to try on things and see if they fit, how I feel in them. I have always been a bit like that. I could never iron or lay out my work wardrobe the day before because when I woke up, I wasn't in the "mood" to wear it.

I also find that I have funks. Like the one I am in now. Please share if you, too, find that directing your creative energy is a bit like riding a roller coaster. When the juices are flowing and I can see the vision, I am in 100% and going full steam. It's the living in that place of same ole, same ole waiting on my next creative vision that weighs on my spirit.