Crafting A Life

In this second installment of the Inspire Not Imitate series, I’m introducing you to a woman who lives on the other side of the world from me, yet she has built a life that, from the select images she shares, has inspired me in so many different ways.

Her photography is breathtaking, but it is her subject matter that touched me so deeply. I have decided to use my Visceral Goosebump Nostalgia Test, VGNT for short, as the method of determining what is a passing fancy and what is fundamentally a part of who I am.

Understanding VGNT

Through the years I have discovered different physical reactions to things that I love, and continue to love for years to come. First, the Visceral Reaction – VR – this happens when I see something that produces a certain feeling in my gut. I can’t describe it, it isn’t butterflies or the heart in the stomach feeling. It is quite literally a gut reaction. I just know it when it happens. And through the years it consistently occurs in the following situations…

  • Walking through an antique mall and I encounter a booth that is adorned in all shades of off white, tan, gray, and brown. The products don’t matter as much as the feeling that comes from the collection; however the collection is generally old textiles, wooden items such a boxes, bowls, stools, chairs and tables, even books, jewelry and china…the main factor is the absolute lack of bright colors and extraordinary texture found in layering such items.
  • Hiking in the woods or a forest, especially in the fall or late winter before the new growth begins to appear.
  • Old furniture that has endured many lives and transformations, but still stands ready to be used and loved once again.
  • Dark, cozy spaces that invite one to rest and have a conversation, or to be alone in the corner with a book, or even better, a spindle and wool or yarn and a crochet hook.
  • Big windows to see the world outside.
  • All things authentically natural, worn, used, rusted, and old. I’m not much for mass manufactured things that just look old.
  • Chickens – I want chickens.
  • Trees in the winter…barren yet with the promise of new life. They are some of God’s finest sculptures.
  • Trees that have fallen and are returning to the earth.
  • Rocks and twigs there is no rational explanation, but I must have them around me.
  • Handmade. I will take something made by hand over mass produced any day. I love the human imperfections found in these humble items.

All these things evoke a sense of coziness, comfort and safety that speaks to the very core of who I am. They also represent what I value. There is so much in this world I could do without…these are not among those.

Then there is the Goosebump Reaction – GbR – this is simple. When I see something that causes goosebumps to rise up on my arms, I know that it is special. Not everything that elicits a GbR is worthy of becoming a permanent part of my life, but it deserves a second glance. This is generally for individual items rather than an overall environment. Colors, artwork, collectible items, dishes, even some furniture pieces, can fall in this category. The thing with the GbR is that it often depends on outside influences. Pantone has a color of the year every year so I find myself having a GbR to the color of the year. It might come to be a VR, but only time will tell. Furniture is the biggest mistake that can be made if only the GbR is applied to the purchase. GbRs come and go and are fun. A passing fancy that might one day become a permanent resident.

And finally there is the NR. The Nostalgia Reaction obviously occurs when a fond memory or a comfortable feeling is created when seeing something that was a part of my youth. This is where my fondness for mid century modern furniture comes into play. I love to look at it as it reminds me of my childhood. It does not generally produce a VR, so it is not where I would make a large investment. The fun thing with NR is that small items, used seasonally to decorate, are perfect things to enjoy a little nostalgic whimsy.

With all this in mind, I introduce you to Ainslee of My Suburban Farm (@mysuburbanfarm). Thank you so much for allowing me to use your photos and story.

My Suburban Farm

This was the image I most vividly remember. I had been following her for a while when I saw this. Her photos caused a VR from the moment I discovered Ainslee’s Instagram feed. I was so moved I sent her a private message gushing about her lifestyle. From there I am sure I scrolled back looking at everything. I may have to ask her for permission to print this and hang it in my studio one day. It opened a door into my heart that will never close. I did not list pitchers and such in my list of VR items, but I adore them and love to collect them. Especially old white ones. As a crocheter the idea of crafting my own hooks from tree branches never crossed my mind, and yet, here before my eyes someone was doing just that. It seems they sell out as fast as she puts them up on her website. Now, she is not a crochet hook carver for a living, but she is generous enough to sell them when she can. Is she living this life in some fabulous country location? No, she’s doing it in suburban Melbourne, Australia.

I could post every picture from her feed, I love them all so much, but I will restrain myself and encourage you to visit her yourself. This photo is the grid view of her page. I think you will immediately recognize my VR.

I just simply cannot add anything to this. The photo says it all. I told Ainslee that I could just see myself sitting in that round chair, contentedly crocheting as my chickens stroll in and out. I feel connected to nature and God when I look at these pictures. Everything here is from Him. I love it all.

From Inspiration To Home

This is the photo that truly started my personal decorating revolution. I long for a space that is just mine. I did not choose my home – my husband already owned it when we married – but I want a space that is all mine and this is how I want it to feel. I am still planning on a writing/fiber studio in the backyard.

I loved the feeling of this so much I used it as the inspiration for the colors in my living room. Our home, built in 1983, has a great room with a slightly open kitchen and dining. There is just enough separation of the rooms to make me happy, but it is all open and flows nicely.

This is my entryway which was inspired by the Ainslee’s shed. I have my fiber art pieces as well as family items and the all important mirror for last minute lipstick checks. The vignette on the table changes from time to time, but the wall is set. I love to come home to this.

On the opposite wall is a lawyer’s bookcase filled with some of our NR items. Hanging above is a piece I crocheted using giant alpaca rope type yarn – a gift from my brother – mounted on a piece of driftwood I found on a beach in Maine and carefully packed in my suitcase for the trip to Texas. The framed print on the right, a gift from my mother-in-law and the one of the left, a gift from my granddaughter. This is all about family, love and memories.

These are all inspired by those first images I discovered on My Suburban Farm. Seeing her gorgeous photos helped me cut through all of the other stuff that I thought I loved to discover my true self so that I could express it for myself. And, isn’t that what creating a home should be all about? I think so.

My husband’s wildlife prints, a mounted deer skull, a beloved stick I found and drug home, and off in the corner a collection of rocks and more twigs in a vase. The table was my inlaw’s and I loved it from the moment I first saw it. The last picture is a close up of the wood. The gentlemen’s chair was painted a hideous green and was going to get left for the trash as we cleaned out my father-in-law’s house after he passed. I brought it home and had it stripped and refinished. Such a treasure.

Old suitcases. They make my heart skip a beat. Where have they gone? What have they seen? What stories could they tell? The two on the bottom belonged to my parents. I carried the brown one when I flew across the country and got engaged. The marriage didn’t last, the suitcase endures.

The wear and tear of my absolute favorite table. I’ve since cleaned it somewhat. The things that won’t come off are merely memories of things from the past. I don’t see them as flaws, I see them as character marks. A life well lived shows a few signs of wear and tear. That’s how we know we’ve done it right.

Make It Your Own

However you choose to create a home, I hope you find inspiration in how I finally found authenticity. It is your home and it should reflect you and your lifestyle. Cluttered or minimalist, colorful or not, if it makes you feel content then it is home.

Not sure what I’m writing about tomorrow…but I will be back!

Until then, keep looking up, embrace today, and go find some fun!

My Authentic Home

Good first Monday morning in March to you wherever you are. It is an uncharacteristic day here in southeast Texas. It is bitterly cold. Relatively speaking of course. Low clouds, biting wind and a high temperature that will only reach 43 – 30 degrees colder than our average high temperature in March. So, today will be a socks and long sleeves kind of day. I am enjoying it as long as possible because once summer arrives I’ll have to wait until November to bundle up again. Such is life in the south.

Last week I philosophized about authenticity. Where it comes from (from my Christian point of view) and some steps to peel away the the layers of junk we take upon ourselves from the world around us in order that we can truly listen to God. This week I’m leaving soul searching behind and moving on to how I have figured out my authenticity and applied it to daily life. Like everything else in life, this is still a work in progress.

Next to my family my home is the most important thing in the world to me. Having a home that reflects our life, is pretty and functional is vital to me. So imagine the frustration of trying to decorate a house when you have no idea who you really are and your taste is, well, a little bit of everything? Since an unlimited budget is not possible, I end up getting bored with however I was currently expressing myself.

Home decor mistakes are the worst. Imagine having a most disagreeable guest, sitting in the corner, glaring and mocking you, day in and day out. That is how living with poor furniture choices feel to me. You can cover things up, repaint, move the furniture around, and despite all that lipstick…it is still a pig.

Cottage Style. Beach. Farmhouse. Midcentury Modern. Southwest. You name a decorating trend and I have probably tried it. Don’t even mention color choices! I love color and have difficulty picking a favorite. What day is it? Ok, then I love red. but tomorrow that will change. Once I got off the imitation merry-go-round I was able to stand back and figure out what I really like and want to live with. How did I do that? In a word, Pinterest.

I created boards and collected pictures for every style, color combination and decade I found interesting. This was an amazing way to sort through all of the things I “love” to find out what I really want to live with. There is a saying about decorating, “Buy what you love and it will fit somewhere.” I’m sure that is true for some folks, but for me it just led to mistakes, too much stuff, and frustration. Remember I am prone to chasing after anything new, sparkly, shiny, or different. There is nothing beautiful coming out of that mindset.

Once I had my boards done I could step back and look at each one and ask myself this question: “Can I live with this or do I just like looking at it? Will I love ___________ (fill in color, print, style, etc.) for the rest of my life?” It really helped me weed out the things I love to look at as opposed to the things I really want to own.

The other thing I did was go to Instagram and follow lots of designers and stylists. I know. This is one of the things that has been reported to cause envy and self loathing because my house doesn’t look like theirs. But I had a goal in mind.

For every style I loved when it first came on the horizon – farm style – once I began seeing it everywhere, the uniqueness of it wore off. So did the appeal for the look as a complete way of life. I take bits and pieces of the style but I no longer want barn doors for every room in my house. I don’t want to duplicate I want to create. Who remembers this episode of Friends? If you haven’t seen the whole thing it is season 6 episode 11. Find it on You Tube. It is hysterical.

I know how Phoebe felt! I want authenticity in my home. I want pieces that have a story. I love old things and that is what I want in my home. Tomorrow I will share some of the folks that specifically inspired me and share the photos that helped me define my style.

Until then, keep looking up, embrace today and go find some fun!

Authenticity In Real Life

Armed with some clarity on the who I am (child of God and follower of Jesus Christ), where I come from (created by God), and finally why I am here (nurture and help others), it becomes a little easier to sort through the visual mess in order to find things that are truly me. I no longer feel the need to create a persona, personal style or identity because that was given to me upon conception – when God formed me in my mother’s womb. Oh, certainly life experiences and changing times will influence some of my taste and activities; who I am never changes. God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, and as His creation, so am I.

I’m just an old soul in a modern body.

It is impossible to look at oneself and truly understand how we are viewed by the world. I certainly have one perception of myself and find that it in no way matches up with what others see.

One of the things I have come to learn, is that I am an old soul. From a very young age I felt more comfortable with adults – much older adults – than I did with most kids my age. My circle of friends, while not large, was very close. There were five of us: a Cheryl with a C, Sheryl with an S, 2 Ednas and 1 Kay. Junior high was our time. Four of the five were in band together and Kay became the politician. She was a successful student council member, possibly president, I can’t remember. We all still live in Texas, and how fun would it be to have a junior high school reunion? But, of course, I digress. Back to my old soul.

I have fond memories of junior high school. I don’t remember caring or agonizing over what other kids thought of me. I probably did, but I don’t recall worrying about looking or acting like someone else. I wanted to be liked and accepted, but I didn’t try to change to fit in. At the end of sixth grade, as we all prepared for the big world of junior high, we got to pick electives. Without hesitation, I chose band. The shape of my mouth determined that I would play the flute. My mom told me she didn’t mind paying for the flute but I had to follow through and play it. And play it I did. For the first time I discovered the rewards of devoting myself to an activity to the point of excellence. For three years I was first or second chair flute in the band, and also did quite well in local junior high flute competitions.

I had my tribe – one Edna also played the flute, the other played saxophone and Cheryl played the oboe and the bassoon. To this day the bassoon is one of my favorite woodwind instruments. The band was also where I met my first boyfriend.

Add band to the fact that I had fabulous hair, wasn’t skinny nor fat, was in the Junior Honor Society – I had the world by the tail. I was Alice (Being Alice).

Signs? What signs? Did I miss a sign?

So how did I go from junior high rock star to confused adult? Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around – confused teenager then confident adult? Oh yeah, I don’t do anything like everyone else. Or do I?

I have come to learn that no one has everything figured out; some folks are better at faking it and still others are blessed with figuring some of it out early in life. We are all on individual paths for our unique purpose. In all honesty I never thought very deeply about all of this cosmic stuff for most of my life. But when I did…Katy, bar the door! My propensity for overthinking escaped like fiery breath from a dragon’s mouth.

Thanks to the book series God Winks, I became like a blind hog in a meat market. Everything around me was a God wink. I was chasing so many things that I thought I was supposed to do. Notice all the “I“s in the previous sentence. That’s a sure indicator of a problem. At this time I was living in a “kink in the hose” phase so there wasn’t a lot of God flowing my direction. I was chasing after things that I thought were messages from God. News alert – you won’t recognize God’s subtle messages unless you are close enough to Him to really see and hear. The big whack upside the head kind of messages are the ones generally reserved for when we are really obstinate.

I took a wrong turn at Albuquerque.

Quoting from one of my favorite characters in the world, Bugs Bunny, I thought I had taken a wrong turn in what I was doing. Seems doing was not the problem. That is not where I took the wrong turn.

I remained dry. I had allowed the conduit to my purpose and power to be virtually cut off.

I can look back in hindsight and see that even during the dry periods God used my purpose to accomplish His plans. I didn’t realize He was doing it. I couldn’t see it because I was cut off; therefore, I did not reap any of the blessings of being lined up with God’s purpose, but it didn’t stop Him from working through me.

Isolated from my power source I was on my own. I felt lost, and that is the most frightening place of all. In a world that is filled with so much that is wrong, sick, and just pure evil, I had let go of my life line.

Have you ever felt that alone? It is terrifying, and so very lonely. The good news is that God is not like people. He will not chastise you for not doing something sooner, he is just happy you came to Him at all. That is the unconditional love of the One who created you.

The scenic route is the only way to go.

I am finally discovering that “the who” I am is still the same person. I’m still that nurturing grandma with a crochet hook in her hand. And though I have beat myself up for the wrong turns I thought I had made in life, I now see that I was on God’s scenic highway. No matter the path, God used my “who” to care and help others.

Have you discovered your “who” yet? Don’t stress about it, but pay attention. Be mindful of the things that move you in ways you are unable to explain. Write them down. Keep track of the things and people you are drawn to. Write it down.Spend time in quiet meditation. Learn what the voices of negativity and fear sound like in your head. Once you know them you can work on eliminating them and replacing them with the truth.

Above all unkink that hose to let God’s love and guidance pour in. Never known God like that? It really isn’t hard. He is waiting. Just ask Him. Then look around your life for the believer He has placed in your midst to help you on your journey.

It is a process, and one I don’t think we are supposed to finish on earth. So, go easy on yourself and enjoy the view.

Next week I am going to share my journey towards authenticity as it relates to social media, home, dress, and interpersonal relationships. It will be a fun week. But until tomorrow….

Keep looking up, embrace today, and go have some fun!