Growth

 

Cultivating a healthy life

With so much distracting us from our health conscious lifestyles these days, it is easy to let our wellbeing go by the wayside. We are realizing that our basic needs are dramatically different than they were a year ago. It is challenging to even step back enough from our day-to-day lives to make basic choices. Many of us are just mindlessly surviving. Leaving the house for work requires a game plan that includes masks for the entire family, hand sanitizer and a healthy dose of patience and courage. Even so, we are still able to process all that is happening and solve life’s challenges in positive ways. Given the changing needs of individuals, families and communities in the time of a pandemic, how do we define the new normal? How do we place our health, wellbeing and healing first? We should probably start with a definition of a healthy lifestyle and then make a plan to build on that lifestyle through our daily focus and habits. Cultivating an inspired, healthy life is where I start.

Health and Wellbeing

Knowing that we need and want to take care of ourselves, how do we sift through the noise, and rediscover healthy practices that support and nurture our mind, body and soul? The key is to re-establish the former places in our daily lives where growth used to happen. Plant seeds daily that grow our passions and support our best selves, leaving the frustrations of our new normal behind. Establish where the good stuff lives. Narrow our mindset to the favorable and inspirational and limit the aggravating. For me, it is taking time for what makes me feel whole. Creating art, practicing yoga, journaling, getting outside, and spending time with friends and family is where I concentrate my efforts. Pick your areas, and nurture more of that! Don’t know how? Aren’t sure where to start? How do you make a conscious effort to cultivate an inspired life? Read more for some great suggestions from me, and a few of my favorite bloggers.

Healthy Lifestyles

In recent years, we have begun to understand more and more about why a concentrated effort to support health and healing are synonymous with a happy life. Even when faced with the most difficult struggles, we must strive to maintain a positive and productive attitude. Yet where does the focus, determination, motivation and courage come from to make healthy choices? How do we learn to draw on that deep place in our souls that provides these avenues toward growth?

For me, it continues to be a combination of creative endeavors, journaling, practicing yoga and mindfulness and nurturing a genuine attempt at a growth mindset. In her book Mindset, psychologist Carol Dwerk describes “people with a growth mindset feel their skills and intelligence can be improved with effort and persistence. They embrace challenges, persist through obstacles, learn from criticism and seek out inspiration in others’ success.”

Healthy Mindset

According to many experts, this sort of healthy lifestyle is only achieved through a conscious effort at maintaining that healthy mindset. When we do so, we give ourselves the best chance to survive the journey we are on and thrive in the aftermath. What daily habits can we practice that support a healthier mindset and quit sabotaging ourselves? In 5 Daily Habits for a Healthy Mindset, and also in 5 Key Elements of a Healthy Mindset, Catherine Beard suggests on her blog, The Blissful Mind that journaling, goal setting, scheduling, checking in, and limiting social media time are great places to begin. Cultivating an inspired life means focusing on the positives but also letting go of what no longer serves us. By making room for healthy habits and letting go of unhealthy patterns that aren’t necessarily good for our wellbeing, we begin to hone in on what we need – a healthier mindset.

Survival or growth?

Many of us start our days in survival mode. By placing a greater focus on individual wellness, instead of simple survival, we begin to see beyond our struggles and make a healthier mindset a possibility. Growth, however, can only be achieved after our basic needs have been met and we are able to examine the next level of needs. Nurturing mindfulness, exercising our bodies – maybe in new or adjusted ways, and cultivating a place of understanding, kindness and grace for ourselves (and the world) is growth. Practicing yoga and participating in new physical exercise in general are great places to start – even online! Eating a healthy diet and getting enough rest is important too. But we also need to wrestle the challenging thoughts, feelings and musings to see progress. Nothing wrong with that therapy session or 10 minutes of meditation to get us back on track. Nurturing ourselves with activities that inspire us to grow, instead of beating us down is a choice. At the end of each week, we need to have experienced more inspiration and passion to balance all the chaos.

The growth mindset provides this important healing direction for our struggling minds, our tired bodies and our challenged souls. When we look beyond simple survival, not asking more of ourselves, but asking ourselves, “what do I need?,” then progress is easier and more productive. Soon survival gives way to growth in the most natural sense.

Growth Mindset

Having a growth mindset (the belief that you are in control of your own ability, and can learn and improve) has long been considered to be one of the keys to success in life. One of my favorite bloggers, Maria Popova with Brainpickings, shared in her post, Fixed vs. Growth that a fixed mindset honors hard work, effort, and persistence as important, but a growth mindset also adds an underlying belief that you are in control of your own destiny and responsible for your own health and happiness. That is the game changer! Taking responsibility for ourselves goes beyond accountability, it takes our very humanity into consideration. A growth mindset calls on us to be open to grace, cultivate new ideas and nurture an attitude that supports lifelong learning. This form of growth honors what we have already accomplished and supports the next stage of our development as a human being.

When you get up tomorrow, look in the mirror and ask yourself what you want out of life. Pour that cup of coffee, even if it’s “to-go”, and ask yourself “what do I need from life today?” Take a breath before yoga class or that HIIT workout and honor that muse within. Don’t settle for less, the status quo, or the usual. The idea that our current set of circumstances is forever just isn’t true. No matter how hard it is to believe, even in these challenging times, things can and will change. No matter how hard it gets, don’t allow yourself to give up or give in. There is always more. But you have to be open to the possibilities to get past survival to grow.

Cheers!

Cindi

Spread the Love

National Yoga Month!

Spread the love during the National Yoga Month celebration of the practice of yoga and its healing properties during the month of September. And wow, do we ever need it! The challenges in our lives and communities may seem never-ending and overwhelming right now. What better time to delve deeper into your current practice or begin one of you haven’t taken the plunge? But honestly, if you follow my blog, you may already be asking what National Yoga Month and the visual arts have in common? My answer: both inspire, connect and speak to our minds, bodies and souls. Yoga and Visual Art are both a huge part of my RAD Fresh Creative Journey and RAD Fresh Yoga Journey. National Yoga Month is just another opportunity to share inspiration with all of you. My yoga story is probably a lot like yours and not at all unusual, but its connection to the visual arts is one I think you will connect with too. 

Most of us begin the journey of a yoga practice somewhat by accident. There is a class at your gym —may as well try it. A friend suggested you try it with her —so you go. Your doctor suggested it for your back issues—sure, why not. It looked like fun. A family member said you needed to learn to relax. And so on and so on. However the magic of discovering yoga does not lie only in beginning or enjoying the physical practice (although that is awesome as well).

Just like in the book by Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic “creativity lies in the relationship between a human being and the mysteries of inspiration.” I believe that place in the heart, the place where the mind and the soul come together to form a bond that leads us to a personal place of grace is where I grow most in yoga. It will take more than one call, one studio or one teacher to hook you. But if you keep practicing, you can find your magic too!

Spread the Love

History

I have been practicing yoga for well over 23 years now. The first few years were mostly about the physical benefits. I was lucky that my gym, The Women’s Club in Missoula, Montana offered yoga classes as part of their membership. The teachers were awesome, offering multiple levels of classes from Gentle Yoga to Advanced classes. During my first year of practicing, I began to realize that I wanted to know more about the entire practice of yoga —mind, body and soul.

The yoga journey has a beginning, but no end.

After my mom and I attended a yoga retreat with my favorite teacher from the club, I was inspired to grow my practice as I began to feel more deeply connected to myself. It was the beginning of my understanding that the practice of yoga, and the practice of creating art is connected for me. Just like two sides of a coin. One the shiny side of the other. Over time, the two became an integral part of my blog as well. 

Off the mat

The practice of yoga has helped me feel more confident off the mat as well. My growing yoga practice has helped me connect more honestly to myself and my art. Off the mat, I have learned to deal more calmly with personal and professional challenges. I have made lasting connections to my yoga community. Nurturing connections through yoga and art, I have found them to be forever intertwined in my work and personal growth. Yoga is more than a workout of course, it is a lifestyle. Over the years, I have developed a home practice to bridge the gaps between classes and my own schedule. The benefits of being able to “take it with me” when I traveled or to practice on my own when studio classes weren’t available was a given. 

Community

Built-in friends come with the yoga community. We meet truly inspiring people who are supportive and understanding and legitimately interested in each other as human beings. You can also take your friends with you to yoga and grow within those friendships that already exist. No matter where you are, there are yoga classes to be experienced – even online. You don’t have to know a soul to attend. There is also a universal language of yoga, and I don’t just mean Sanskrit. I mean that when you take your seat, and chant OM with those around you, a sense of unity happens. The room becomes a welcoming place, quietly supporting and holding you in its warmth and grace. The support of fellow yogis and your teacher can become a springboard for more.

For me, yoga began to grow as part of my creative endeavors, inspiring me, helping me to connect with my imagination. For you, it might provide connections for parenting clubs, dinner parties or further education in common interests. The possibilities are endless! So go out there and build a community through your yoga class. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. 

A more purposeful practice

I have written on this blog many times about yoga. As I expand my own knowledge and practice within yoga, I am beginning to recognize a broader purpose for myself and my blog. By expanding my knowledge and yoga practices through the RAD Fresh Yoga Journey I am growing a following and a deeper understanding of the entire experience. I continue to practice at a local studio, Montana Om, with my friends and our teacher Bonnie Kiser.

paddle board yoga on the water with friends

She has encouraged all of us to reach for more; get out of our comfort zones, and some to even prepare to substitute teach classes. Recently, I was asked to teach SUP yoga! I did and it was so much fun! It was nice to know that my paddle board obsession and my 20+ years of yoga worked together to form an opportunity. Who knew all those years ago that SUP yoga would be a thing?

There’s always more

To gain a sense of “more,” I dedicate myself to a home practice, including journaling. Because I spend lots of hours researching articles and references for the yoga journaling prompts, reading yoga articles has become a favorite online pastime. I am enjoying this process immensely as I expand my yoga knowledge and writing experiences. Adding to my knowledge through additional online class offerings has been fun and easy too. Even if you think that online classes aren’t up your alley – give them a try. Yoga teachers have gotten onboard with the online process and it is SO much better now than ever before. 

I guide the yoga journaling practice through weekly prompts. Although still in its infancy, the process is beginning to give me an expanded sense of the possibilities of a more well-rounded practice for myself and others. Researching, journaling and connecting my actual practice to learning and growing within yoga has led me to a range of new experiences and possibilities. I really think that yoga journaling is just the beginning of the next chapter of my yoga journey. Although MORE isn’t always better, MORE is always available. My yoga teacher laughingly reminds us all the time that there is always more. Through her, I have learned that yoga has an eternal flame that is forever growing and changing, morphing into what we need personally. We just have to be open to grace to find it.

National Yoga Month

The benefits of yoga 

As we roll into Fall, and we spend more time inside again, I will be adding a lot MORE to my yoga practice and you can too! Try applying what you learn on the mat more consciously to your daily lives. I hope you will consider joining me for yoga journaling to continue to grow your yoga practice in new and inspiring ways. Maybe with a little extra training, reading and researching new opportunities, you can discover MORE too. Check out the health benefits of yoga here in this pdf or read more about the general physical benefits.  There are many ways to celebrate National Yoga Month (or begin yoga) if you haven’t already gotten started. Check out a class in studio or online, read up on the benefits of yoga to your mind, body and soul, or join me for a guided yoga journaling practice to round out your practice.

We are only a third of the way through the month, and so I know you have lots of yoga practices still to be enjoyed. In the meantime, check out the links above and consider inspiring yourself to a happier, healthier, more mindful life through yoga and journaling!

Namaste,

Cindi

R and R and R?

There are so many ways to R and R. Rest and Relaxation is code for “anything but work…” But I like to add another “R” – Relax, Recreate and Recover. For some, R & R means getting away from the everyday – work, family obligations. For some this means enjoying much needed peace and quiet. Maybe turn on some good music; curl up with a book; drink a glass of wine or a cup of tea. Depending on the situation and timing, that sounds perfect to me too. But for all of us, R & R should also be about the outdoors –  a kayak trip down the river, snowshoeing, paddle boarding, hiking, or any other active outdoor activity could also be the ticket. No matter your take on the perfect R & R, consider the importance of it in your life right now. Ask some questions and then make a plan to get outside for some relaxation, recreation, and recovery from life’s challenges.

How do you discover what the best RRR activities are for you? How do you make them therapeutic instead of just more you have to do? Adding to the stress and busyness of our lives is not the goal of RRR. The purpose is to come home refreshed, ready to face tomorrow a little more relaxed, if not a little more tired and dirty. Here are some things I like to do and some people (and doggies) I like to do them with. What are your favorite RRR activities?

 

 

 

 

Time to get outside

Right now, most of us are finding that outdoor activities are safer, easier to manage, and more fun than time at home. We have all spent a lot of time at home the last few months, so getting out and about feels like a respite well earned. Living in Montana in the summer usually means spending lots of time outdoors with family and friends. Sunshine, warm evenings, and cool nights equal time spent hiking, camping or doing fun things in or on the water. Most of us don’t even wait for the weekend to recreate. These long summer days mean there is lots of daylight available even before or after work. Here are some suggestions from Outside Mag online if you are looking for suggestions. But as you can see by the pics, my friends and family enjoy the outdoors all winter long as well.

These activities can be done inexpensively if you just remember to think outside the box a bit. Go with activities close to home, seasonal, that don’t take a lot of gear. Day hikes, a swim in the river or lake, camping close by are all cheap and readily available to everyone. In the city, you may have to take a short drive, or stay over. But getting outside can fit into ANY budget with a little imagination. You don’t have to get on a plane to enjoy a little RRR. Consider switching an indoor activity, like your yoga practice outside.

Stepping up and out

I don’t know about you, but I have always loved the outdoors. I grew up in a home where we hiked, camped, canoed, swam or fished in the river. We recreated our way through every summer. There was just my sister and I growing up first in the Midwest and then later moving to Montana. My parents made sure we were either outside with them, the neighborhood kids, our cousins, or other family. As we grew older, I guess we also chose friends, and eventually boyfriends that liked to “do” things outside. You could say we were “outdoorsy”. But it was also a time to forget our problems and the complications of being in a family. None of us are perfect. Humans are messy. Just a little time outside can cure a host of concerns and change our perspective for the better. We discover more about a person when we hike with them, but also more about ourselves.

Time recreating was like that for me. I found that if things were challenging at home, I looked forward to outdoor activities to relax, forget my problems and recover from anything too challenging or difficult in my life. Welcome distractions were how I saw outdoor activities. Over the years, I realize I nurtured that when I had my own family. It helped us to bond, but also to escape a little from the world. Recovery felt good. Outside time began to mean being healthier physically and mentally. Those activities helped us to grow into a happy, healthy family. So when the complications of life came knocking, we had a place to go for respite, recovery and recalculation. More than once, RRR saved my soul, my body, my heart from life’s entanglements. I see the same need in my children. Doing something outdoors is their go-to. It makes me so happy to know I had a small part in that.

Family time

As we get older, we all seem to do more reminiscing about the past. As we age, there is a lot more that has already happened in our lives than there is ahead. Plus we learn not to wish away time or look forward to things too far in the future. Early on, as kids, we established friendships based on “doing” things together. Usually these activities involved things our friends also liked to do. As we established our adult lives, the process continued to work. Add children? Continue to grow the process. We would hook up with other friends and family that liked the same activities and share the time together. We went skiing in the winter, hiking in the summer, spent time on the lake water-skiing or jet-skiing. Almost always with family or a few close friends, including all the kids and their friends. The RRR grew to be a necessary part of life. Not just a pastime, but a necessity.

There never seemed to be enough time to get in all the fun things, especially working around coaching summer sports or those sports our kids played. But we managed a fair amount of outdoor time in between it all over the years. Unknowingly, without a real plan to do so, we taught our our kids the value of RRR. By setting the example of RRR, we taught them to step away from jobs and responsibilities for some much deserved recreational time. In doing so, we gave then a very important gift: the gift of recovery. Recovery, just like sleep allows us to recharge and get back to the important work of living our lives.

Mini vacation

I am actually one of those lucky people who has almost always liked my job. My careers in education and the arts have provided a constant recharging of my soul. I also like doing projects around the house. What might be deemed “chores” by others, is just an art project to me. When a friend or family member asks if I would like to go along for an outdoor activity, I try to make the effort to go. I used to weigh the pros and cons, trying to talk myself out of going. But as I have gotten older, I have realized that saying yes always brings with it a basketful of memories that brighten my days and make me feel more alive. I borrow the necessary equipment or try to have it on hand so there are no excuses not to go. There is just something about getting outside that allows our mind, body and soul to recover, even if we don’t realize we need it. WE DO!

For that matter, there is nothing wrong with making outdoor activities part of our daily individual activities either. Walking, running, cycling are all easy to do by ourselves. No friends needed. Sometimes the relaxing and recovering parts are easier to enjoy alone. Especially if we begin to use these activities as our daily workout or just as importantly as therapy. Even if it is a quick walk around the neighborhood in a spring rain, a walk in the park in the snow in January, or taking the dog to the dog park in October and enjoying the crisp leaves under your feet, get outside!

Get out there!

Have you ever stopped to question as an adult why you should make time for outdoor activities? Is it simply because these pastimes allow you to be distracted from the boring requirements of life like work, errands or chores? Or do you make time for these activities because you truly enjoy them? Gain something in return? What about those of us that always “say” we are going to go play that round of golf, or get out on the river but never do? Do we not get around to it because we are truly “too busy”, or is it a matter of setting priorities? Could it just be a matter of scheduling so we make time, or is it a form of avoidance, fear or apathy? Do you say yes when that friend asks you to join the float on the river? Or do you make excuses because it is too much trouble? Is there fear? Pressure to go? Pressure at home not to go? There is a lot more to consider than we might think. Consciously considering the “why” behind our choices allows us to choose with more thought, confidence and assurance that we are being true to our own needs.

I encourage you to say YES more often to outside activities, to breathing that open air, to moving that body in the big outdoors. Say more NO’s to sedentary activities like watching tv and gaming. Say YES to friends that ask you to go on outings, but also reach out to them with ideas for outdoor activities. You will gradually find a core group of people that are willing to join you. Remember – it is perfectly alright to take some me-time that is purely alone time too. With others or alone, get outside. Make memories. Relax. Recreate. Recover. Repeat. RRR and R. There is apparently no end to the possibilities…

Cheers to being outside!

Cindi

 

 

 

 

 

 

Those who inspire us…

I could make a very long list of people who inspire me. I am sure that you can to. Some daily, some from afar, and some all my life. If I did make an actual list, it would include of course parents, and siblings, my own children, friends, extended family, colleagues, writers, artists, people still with us, and people already gone, who have graced this world with a presence that will live on in our hearts and minds forever.

The thing is, we never truly feel that we have thanked them properly for this inspiration, and that’s okay. I said “that’s okay!” because it is in the receiving where all the magic happens. It is in the “aha” moment, or the warm and fuzzy feeling, or in the “nuzzling of one’s cheek into beauty” as my artist friend Susie Webber Risho wrote in her poem “Sometimes” from her book, The Enthusiasm of Waxwings.  That inexplicable place where we feel special; one with another human being. A circle of understanding, symbiotic somehow.

This is the beauty of art…

My people

I have spent most of my life in the presence of other artists of all sorts; sculptors, painters, photographers, printmakers, textile artists, harmonica players, and single string guitarists, poets, singers, actors and even a mime. Again, a list would be tiresome to read, but you get the idea.

I am an artist too. There was a time when I couldn’t say that, didn’t believe it, couldn’t own it. My husband used to tell our children to “own the midfield” in soccer. There was a time when I couldn’t do that – own the midfield. It felt scary and lonely there, like I didn’t belong, wasn’t good enough, hadn’t passed the test. What test? You all know what i mean.

You all know the feeling of not being sure if you are good enough for the team. Easier to sit on the bench and watch than try and fail. It is human nature. But while the human part is thinking you aren’t good enough, and is overriding the “nature” part where it is okay just to be who we are and do what we love, we lose out.

I believe times are changing. We are changing. Society is changing. It is not without its grow pains however. Growth being the key word. Realizing that we have more to learn, or relearn, or recalculate, or regurgitate is hard work. But realizing that we only have to answer to our own drummer and will never be like someone else is the gift. “Never-ever” is a gift, an inspiration, an “aha” moment. As long as we live, we do not need to be like anyone else. We only need to be willing to open ourselves to the inspiration around us to be our best selves, our new selves, the ones who have learned and grown and been willing to let inspiration take hold, lift us up and help us fly.

My people do that for me. My family, my friends, my icons. The ones that surround me but also the ones from my past that have helped me to embrace my imperfections, my me-ness, all that supports my creativity and my understanding of myself. My people are everyone and everywhere. No one color, or age or point of view. My people are those who advance my me-ness by inspiring me to be more of who I am and what I am becoming. Everchanging me. The one who is unique. The one who is enough.

Just me

Being inspired to be ourselves is probably meant to come intrinsically; that tiny ember inside of us is supposed to glow with “me-ness”.  But often it doesn’t burn brightly enough, and we need a little boost from a friend or a lover, a role model or a muse. We need someone else to say “you are enough” period so that we can begin to believe the truth in that phrase. Own it. We need to hear it, feel it, know it inside. When that ember burns stronger; we shine brighter and our light becomes evident in a new way to ourselves and others. That is inspiration. That is love. That is support. That is hope. It is all the things humans need to thrive, to be ourselves, to live our best lives as our best selves.

The best medicine

But how do we find and nurture ourselves when the world is spinning, pandemics are raging, unrest and conflict are bearing down on us daily in the news and in our world? How do we protect ourselves from all of it, but not become sad and depressed and even ill because it is overwhelming our psyche? I suggest that the answer resides in those inspirational people around us who inspire us. They are our tonic, our medicine that sustains us. They support us when we need to go on, to fight, to lead, or just be enough. Not head down, mindlessly pushing through. Quite the opposite. Instead informed, inspired, confident and wise.

poem by Susie Risho

Understood in the way that Susie referred to in her poem. (read an overview of her work here) We find that moment, sometimes within ourselves, and sometimes as others have inspired us to find and nurture it. We find it in friends, those that love us and those that challenge us. We find that place in us as it is reflected back to us from others. It is tangible in a surreal sort of way. Something we can grasp sometimes, hold close and be grateful. Something we can depend on within ourselves.

Icons

The list of inspirational folks goes on. Outside of family, we should all have people we admire, whose inspiration has come to our attention via a song, poem, speech or public action that has made us stop and take note. Maybe someone you align with and follow on social media. Maybe a famous writer, public figure, philanthropist, or scholar. Mine are mostly women. Many are artists of the visual, performance, philanthropic, or poetic alliance. Their work inspires me. But also their views. Through them, I am enlightened, informed and reassured that humanity might still be salvageable. That these icons of mine might just spark something special in the rest of us also worthy of note. That we might be inspired to be better humans. I know they inspire me to be more of what I know to be the best of myself. That is all i ask.

If you can’t easily make a list of these kinds of people, make a list of your own values, and see who aligns with those. Spend some time identifying those people out there whose words or actions inspire you. Make them part of your list. This search for those people will help to solidify your own understanding of yourself – your me-ness, your identity and ultimately clarify your own inspiration. I suggest this be an intention of yours. It will be mine this week in the RAD Fresh Creative Journey and the RAD Fresh Yoga Journey. Two places where I hope to inspire others weekly to explore more of themselves.

The big picture

In the end, inspiration isn’t meant to be a one-and-done kind of thing. It isn’t meant to last forever or be something you must lug around with you and be forever grateful. Instead it is a moment, a glance, a feeling, a rush of emotion, a tingling, a nuzzling, a breath, a whisper. Inspiration, in the big picture sense is that idea of being “open to grace” that I have written about before.

RAD women

We often go looking for more. We think we will find it on the open road, and we might. We expect it to be in the greener grass on the other side of the fence. It might grow there. We search and plan and hope and dream. all in the name of more. All of this searching is admirable, normal human behavior. But the “more” we really need to identify isn’t out there somewhere on the other side of the street or the rainbow. It is inside each of us. The key is to be open to what inspires, to connect with it, identify it, discover it and embrace the possibilities.

Inspiration is born where the door opens and we invite that person or idea, or thought or prayer inside with welcoming arms. It lies in the place of open minds and swelling hearts where our thoughts go beyond the daily grind and into that special place of me-ness. That place where inspiration dwells and life lives a little sweeter because we remain vulnerable and open and yes – inspired.

Cheers to inspiration! May it be your guide today and always. Download How to Lead a More Inspired Life by me at RAD Fresh Creative Journey for lots of links and ideas!

Cindi

 

 

 

Labor of Love

Labor of Love 

 

Have you ever painted your house?

I believe all worthwhile projects are a labor of love. We are painting our 1910 Craftsman house this summer. It had been badly neglected for years before we bought it. Neglected like humans are neglected. To the point of not knowing who she was anymore. Lost in a land of discontent, shame and embarrassment. Many of us have known that feeling. But the good news is that we can choose to recalculate, re-evaluate and reinvent ourselves. I am choosing for her. I think she will be thrilled!

The plan from the moment we bought the house last summer was to paint her this summer. Now that we are close to finishing the project, I am finding I can take a breath and think (and write) about the process. Not unlike human processing, this has been a bit overwhelming and anticipatory. I changed my mind or questioned my choices of color and placement numerous times before, during and after the painting began. Although I knew that I would become impatient as we went along, just like any art project, I kept wavering. Will I like it when it is done? What if it doesn’t go well. What will people think? The usual misgivings that for me at least, always end in some version of satisfactory if not complete assurance that I made the right decisions. Sigh.

It’s about the process

It always seems to be about the process with me. You too? I am often more obsessed with the process than the result. Whether it be a journal entry, a painting, a yoga practice or my garden. I just love getting in there and making a mess. I get nervous as the project transitions, and then at some point completely hate where I am at. But eventually I finish; am thrilled with the results, and realize that I miss the process the most. That leads me to the next project or being willing to do it all over again!

Don’t get me wrong. The final result is satisfying too. Even the planning. Although I am not the most patient person with a long process like painting a house, the bigger picture is important to keep in mind as well. Her (the house’s) renovation and preservation is always on my mind and remains simply a labor of love. I like thinking about the next step and the next and the next. Planning colors. Problem solving how we are going to get to the top of the eaves, where to go to get window screens, what are the best tools for the job. I think obsession is the right term at this point.

Salvage

For those of you who don’t know me well – I save everything. I don’t mean like hoarding. I mean literally I try to save things from dissolving into nothingness. That includes our house, inanimate objects, antiques, plants, clothing, you name it, I am willing (and sometimes able) to salvage it. Human beings are no different to me. I always think that every human has a lighter, kinder, more empathetic side, and I work to bring that out in others around me. I hate waste and I love problem solving. I am happy and willing to take on a “project.”

The littlest cutting from a plant gets put in water or propagated in soil to grow roots. I re-match earrings to a new partner when I lose one. I save and reuse whatever I can. I am a saver, a repurposer – a recycler. I hate to throw things out. And houses are no exception. I love our old house and I want her to shine again

Back to the process of salvaging and saving her. This old house is still charming. She has “good bones” as they say. But even so, she needed some serious prep work before we could even begin to paint. Removing old gutters, scraping, sanding, caulking, replacing sections of rotted siding, the list went on and on. Four full days just to get her ready for paint. And then lots of TLC as we went.

Choices

And unlike most people. I can’t just use a color for the body and one for the trim. I have to add detail and accent every dang part so she has personality. Her previous owners had chosen hideous colors years ago and she had been stuck “wearing” it shamefully ever since. The neighbors told us that the old colors were ugly. And asked immediately last year if we were going to paint.  (We expected that question) They had nicknamed the house the “cappuccino cowboy.” I thought the old colors reminded me of Halloween candy corn . All orange and brown and tan and yellow. Horrible colors that didn’t go together for any purpose. Hideous in fact.

Before and After

When you see the “afters” it will make sense. But she needed more than just a spit-shine, she needed a complete make-over. Like those people on the morning shows, where they take them backstage, cut and color their hair, do their makeup, put them in new clothes and they look 10 years younger. It has been a long couple of weeks, but she is about ready for her debut. Someone asked my husband if we were still painting. “What is taking you guys so long?”  He answered. “Do you know how many colors we are using?” and “You know my wife…” I think that is a compliment. Really I do.

 

Color List:

  • Body- light gray
  • Trim – white
  • Windows – black
  • Upper shingles and lower trim – dark gray
  • Screen doors and accent molding – light grass green
  • Main doors and porch accent  – deep Bordeaux wine

There is always more!

Outside we have also salvaged the landscaping. Fixed and recouped the lawn. Trimmed perennials back to tame and separated bulbs to replant. We brought in starts of lilacs, tiger lilies and peonies from the family lake place and gathered rocks from the lake bed over the winter for pathways through the garden and larger ones for accents throughout the beds. We brought in over 5000 lbs total of sand, gravel and river rock to make paths and create water runoff areas under the eaves. We even recreated the lattice under the porch. We rebuilt and reattached flower boxes and added hanging plants and other planters from found objects. All in all, most things, other than exterior paint have been foraged, reused, or repurposed saving so much money! It has taken time of course – most of my husband’s vacation, but we are close to the finish line as I type this.

Inside, over the winter we pulled carpet, painted, removed and replaced lighting that didn’t fit the decor and in general gave the interior a facelift. We uncovered a window that had been paneled over, and completely redid the screened in porch as well.

Icing on the cake

But the outdoor painting project this summer is the icing on the cake. Really thick buttercream frosting kind of icing. She is finally going to be pretty again. A proud old lady with a new haircut, color, mani and pedi. All the things any girl needs in her life, old or young. And I think she might be the most exciting art project I have ever created in my life.

So when you look at the befores and afters, and  even though we still have many more projects to do, remember that this old lady is getting younger every day. Like humans, who get to grow and change and learn no matter how old we are. I believe houses also have a long life; a story to tell; inspiration to lend. Both houses and people need others who love us, respect us and nurture our souls. Those who will share and support us as we age – our village. Those that can see through the age and experience to see the beauty inside.

Village

We have experienced such support by all the people who have literally pulled over to compliment our project while in progress. Even taking care to social distance! As if somehow they already knew we would be successful in our monumental endeavor. People have honked in support, walked or biked past and even stopped to give thanks for what we are doing. Admiring. Encouraging, complimenting and sighing. The support has been downright awesome! What a lovely experience to live in a small town where people have taken the time to care. Today a women stopped to invite me to join the “garden club!” She’s not finished yet. I will add more to the slide show later this week but you get the idea. I think this labor of love was worth every part of the process.

Depth

Process this: the depth and breadth of it all is that we long to be more, do more, and ultimately be our best selves. To do that, we need support. We just need a hand up, a little nudge, some inspiration and a paint brush to get us started. Then one day, when the process has run its course, we have sloughed off our old skin and we are new again. I think she appreciates that we cared enough to see beyond the surface and search for the beauty that still lies within. Process leads to discovering what you knew was there all the time. You just have to jump in and do it!

P.S. Next we are tackling the carriage house!