Friday, March 29, 2013

A Month of Writing

I started writing daily blog posts in March after joining the NaBloPoMo on BlogHer. When I learned about it, I quickly signed up and then proceeded to work and think harder than any mom to a toddler should have so readily agreed to. The theme for March was Risk and each day had a different writing prompt related to risk and choices.
I was happily surprised by the memories and thoughts that these prompts brought up. Questions such as "Name a time when a risk you took paid off,"  and "What is the greatest reward that can come from risk?" inspired me to write, A Stone, a Leaf, a Circus Tent and If You're Lucky. The NaBloPoMo questions helped me, forced me really, to put words to so many thoughts that are keeping me awake at night as we are getting ready to move yet again.

 
When BlogHer asked on March 8, "Do you always look before you leap", my response, If I Looked, I Might Never Leap, speaks to me now as I go back and read the reluctantly matter of fact way I reflected on having to leave my family and friends very soon.

My decision to post photos of myself , my family, my house, and to post my thoughts and stories each day was not easy to make but it has been such a great experience reaching out into the days of the other bloggers who participated. What seemed like a diary at first, very quickly became more when the first comment appeared on my blog and when I got my first follower. I love writing and to have people respond to something that I wrote was enough to keep me coming back each day to write more. For that reason it was worth every hour of sleep that I lost trying to get posts written and published. I only worked on the blog during naptime or after my son went to bed each night but found myself thinking about writing a lot of the time. I worried that my focus might become too much on writing about what I should just be enjoying every minute of.



The new NaBloPoMo theme for April is Fresh. It's almost too fitting for someone like me, about to write a brand new chapter in our military move storybook but I know that as hard as I tried, I couldn't post every day in April. March may have had some sick days and mini vacations but April will bring the moving truck to my door and really that says it all for me. The new risk that I'm taking after thinking and posting about risk all month is to not post every day. The risk that I have to take now is to post three or four times a week instead of seven and still be a writer that people want to read. So although I want to continue to post and hope to write in a way that speaks to people, instead of worrying about getting the posts published on time or about followers, I'll be focused a little more on the fact that I'd follow these two anywhere.



Thanks for the inspiration, BlogHer!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Happy Wednesday

Happy Wednesday everyone!

Very excited that Kim from one of my favorite blogs, Savvy Southern Style is featuring our Red, Black and White Kids' bathroom makeover on her site today!


Kim hosts a weekly blog party called Wow Us Wednesdays and I love linking up to it and viewing all of the other amazing creations, tutorials, and home tours.




Click here to check out Kim's Wow Us Wednesdays party and grab some inspiration for your next project! I'm heading there now to look for ideas for Easter table settings since I found out today WE are hosting dinner here. See you there!

Flowerkill

There are a lot of flowers in my house right now. I've gone a little overboard in an attempt to entice spring to arrive and melt the snow in my yard. You've heard of overkill. Well my friends, now let me introduce you to flowerkill. 


Today's writing prompt for the March NaBloPoMo on BlogHer was to discuss this famous Anais Nin quote: "And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."

 

These words bring to mind the memory of a life ending too soon and the desperation that went along with leaving the world unfulfilled. We all know someone that died too young or someone that lived a long life filled with the regret of missed opportunities. To witness someone I loved in a hospital trying to cling to useless hope that they might have a second chance at life or even a few more hours to see the faces of loved ones is the most painful memory I have.

It is this memory that makes me strive to avoid having to feel that same pain at the end of my own life. I have a wonderful family and I'm blessed beyond what I ever thought possible. I can say that my life has been fulfilling if it were to end tomorrow and I want to keep living it as if it could.




But what about those who don't feel the same? Many feel stuck in jobs they hate, trapped in unhealthy relationships, or feel bound by outside forces keeping them from reaching for what they truly want, no matter what the risk. They stay tightly closed in these places and endure the grief that comes along with missing out on a happy existence rather than risk making a change.
The exact minute in their life that will be the last chance they have to break out of these situations is not evident and therefore passes many by. If only it was kept in mind that every choice we make has a number and is being subtracted from the total we are going to get.


It might not be possible to live a life that ends with no regrets but I believe it is closer within reach than we know.

The saddest thing I've ever seen and hope ever will is the sorrow felt by an ending life that never bloomed.

 
 I had to end with another shot of the bunny.
 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

DIY Ikea Barstool Cushions



Some black and white fabric that I had leftover from our kitchen window pelmet boxes got together with some batting and a staple gun and these cushions were born. My Ikea Dalfred barstools are the proud parents ;)


My sweet assistant helped me get to work. Besides the great looking design, these barstools spin in order to raise the seat up or down, making them entertaining for kids to sit on or as shown, steer them like the wheel of a ship. 
 Captain of the USS Dalfred

Because I was fairly sure that no one other than my little assistant will ever turn these stools upside down, my plan to cover them, like most of my plans, was simple. After using this fabric to make our kitchen pelmet boxes, I had enough left for another project so I decided to keep it in the kitchen and use it for cushions. In my basement crafting space the barstool tops were covered with a layer of foam and a layer of batting. I turned them upside down and fastened it right to the wooden seat bottom with a staple gun.

Since the barstool seats are round there was a lot of gathering and after stapling the fabric they looked great upright but it wasn't a clean look underneath. I hot glued extra fabric pieces down to cover the bunching and think it did the trick.  



  


The "before" was nice because they are a fun design the way they are but these cushions give them a bit of a boost. They're much more comfortable to sit on now and they tie the bold print from our windows into the heart of our kitchen.







This was a simple way to add a custom look to these stylish barstools from Ikea. Anyone else give their Ikea barstools a makeover?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

You Know the Saying....

What a difference a year makes?
 
This was the scene in our yard on March 22, 2012
 
 
 
This was the scene in our same yard on March 20, 2012
 

Never mind that he's walking, talking, or that he refuses to keep mittens on. He is bundled up and eating the snow that our yard is covered in.
 
That makes me feel like this
 
 
 
I'm ready for Spring!!



Tuesday, March 19, 2013

DIY Nursery Art


This was a VERY simple and quick project that adds such a nice touch to my son's nursery. We are big fans of red around here (his bathroom is red) and his nursery is beige, red, and white. I happened to have some red ribbon and the polka-dot patterned scrapbook paper on hand.


I find these shadowbox- type frames with doors at TJ Maxx and chose a white one for this project. They typically cost $14.99 but I've found them for even less on clearance. I have found that after a while, decorations for children's rooms all start to look the same to me. It can also be a challenge to find pieces for children's rooms that are bright red. This is a quick and easy way to add a personal touch and a custom look to a nursery.
Just a few snips of the scissors (and hot glue burned fingers) later, I had a cute and unique piece of nursery decor.


 I used hot glue to attach the ribbon border. The shadowboxes are usually sold with stick pins so I used them to attach the polka dot scrapbook paper to the background and then glued the 'N' to the paper. Done! There are a few bumps in the ribbon- it's not perfect, but I love its handmade look and that it doesn't look like mass produced kid art!


  

Like I said, it was a simple project! Let's face it, the simpler my projects are, the lower the chances I'll have to eat in the shower.



Monday, March 18, 2013

Ten Years

Ten years ago today my husband spent his birthday getting ready to invade Iraq. Whenever I think about what that day must have been like for him and for the Marines with him I have to pause. Whatever I was thinking about becomes less significant. Military members and military families may each tell their own unique story of the last ten years but all of these stories have one chapter in common, entitled, "Sacrifice."

Last week a friend shared a link on Facebook to a January article by David Wood. I was shocked, as I'm sure was the author's intent, by its wording, by its inaccuracies, and by its potential to mislead the public about military pay and military life. It has since been edited and wording that previously described funding from the Pentagon as being "lavished" on active duty members and their families was deleted and replaced with the word "spent." In short, the article tried to sensationalize the fact that military pay has increased since September 11th, claimed that all housing costs for military families are provided, and hinted that family programs were expanded unnecessarily. I'm not in a hurry to click back to this article to note which other parts have been rewritten after outraged readers' comments demanded it. Reading something once by an author that didn't bother to confirm numbers or worse, purposefully distorted them to gain readers, was enough. A journalist might, but do members of our military get a second chance to do their job right?

As disturbed as I was reading the article, I was more disappointed by some of the comments people wrote in response. Some were defending the author and his assertion that the military has been overpaid and over incentivized in comparison to civilian employees. The conclusion drawn from such comments is that even after ten years, many people not affiliated with the military don't appreciate the sacrifices that have been made. But then, how could they?

Scout trying to stall the packing for deployment

A good friend of mine had her first baby the day before our son was born. The day after she brought her new baby home, her husband left on a one year deployment. She was on her own with an infant, missing and worrying about her husband. I find it hard to believe that anyone could claim he was overpaid for the year that he missed seeing his family. What other job would require such sacrifice and be criticized as too generously compensated? There is no reason to compare civilian pay and military pay. To do so is an ignorant disregard for exactly how that military pay was earned in the last ten years and for the many who died earning it.
My "while my husband was deployed" stories might seem like a party (trying to replace a lawnmower blade myself or accidentally toppling a giant Christmas tree on myself as I tried to move it out of the house) when compared to friends that have faced much more. How many civilian jobs result in missing the birth of your child, your child's first day of school, or graduation? I know moms that have had to build go-carts, dads who had to learn how to braid hair, and families that said a tearful goodbye to a loved one that never came back home to them. The money in their bank accounts should be the last thing to cross any minds.
Military members miss moments in life that no one should have to miss and there are many that remember moments they wish they didn't have to. None of them should do so without a grateful public behind them. We may never again see the flag waving, yellow-ribboning kind of support that we saw for military members in 2003 but that shouldn't correlate with increased doubt of their worth.
People not affiliated with the military often comment to military families that they, "don't know how you do it," or "couldn't do it." I've often just shrugged those words off, but maybe they're right, maybe they couldn't.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Red, Black & White Kids' Bathroom

Black White and Red Small Bathroom Makeover

  
When we bought our house there were a few things that were on my "must change" list. The kids' bathroom was near the top of that list. I wanted to change the paint color from the too- close- to- margarine shade of yellow, replace the worn vinyl floor, add board and batten trim, upgrade the oak vanity and top, and change the fixtures. Keeping in mind that we are a military family and whatever I did, another family would end up enjoying (or hating), I compromised a bit to keep the cost from skyrocketing.

It's a tiny space so I wanted to make it bright, fun, and try something that might not work in a larger room. I knew I wanted the walls to be red and loved the look of black and white tiles for the floor. We found black and white vinyl sheet flooring in a diagonal pattern that looks as sharp as tile, cost much less, and requires little more than a damp mop to keep squeaky clean. I'm not sure how I could ever put grouted tile in a kids' bathroom after having it! The wall color is Ralph Lauren Stadium Red. In some light it looks almost maroon and at other times, a bright fire engine red.
  
Kids Bathroom Makeover

I searched for months to find the cross handle faucets that I was after but seemed to cost way too much everywhere I looked. I also shopped around quite a bit before choosing the three light schoolhouse vanity fixture. 



 


A key factor in the DIY process around here is that whatever I dream up, my husband finds a way to create. He used a large sheet of mdf cut into four inch wide pieces and created what I think is an amazing board and batten look and painted it Acadia White by Benjamin Moore. He refinished the oak builder grade vanity in the same smooth white and framed the existing mirror to tie in with the rest of the trim. I can't say enough good things about Acadia White for trim.  It's just a beautiful white that reminds me of cream.

The above photo of the bathroom under construction doesn't come close to showing how unattractive the shade of yellow on the walls was before they were red. It was a stubborn, horrible yellow that didn't want to be covered- even by a dark red paint. Notice in the photo below how the yellow shows through!

The before shot of the oak vanity was taken with my cell phone when we were looking at the house. My hand was probably shaking because the yellow paint was causing me stress. Changing the vanity top and sink out with a black granite top made for such a great contrast with all of the creamy white. We haven't added any hardware to the drawers mainly because I can't make up my mind about bin pulls. I like the sleek look of it the way it is.



I thought about adding some photos of the baby splashing in the tub but since we knew we were going to be showing the house in the near future, I didn't want to hang too many personal photos and instead went with bold black accents on the wall.


Overall, I'm so happy with the way the remodel turned out. It's a unique look and makes a huge impact in such a tiny space. I will miss this little room when we have to leave. Sigh.


Checkerboard Style Vinyl Flooring in Red and White Bathroom Makeover



Saturday, March 16, 2013

There's a Tablecloth on my Window

 
 
I love the difference that curtains make in a room. One of my absolute favorites are the Pottery Barn Fresco Paisley drapes. They seem like they would work well in any room, the colors and the pattern are just beautiful, and I'm sure the quality is fantastic. BUT.... as a military family, it is not possible to buy a house full of new window coverings every time we move.
 
 
We splurged on some beautiful red sailcloth panels for the nursery but for our master bedroom, I just couldn't bring myself to spend a lot on something that might not work well in our next house. I bookmarked some blogs with great DIY curtain tutorials and was intrigued by the idea of using tablecloths for curtain panels. My only hesitation came from the fact that a lot of tablecloths just look too much like a tablecloth. I didn't want to sacrifice style just to save money. I'd rather leave my windows naked.
 
My second job is shopping so while I was "working" at my local TJ Maxx, I spotted some pretty Ralph Lauren Veranda Paisley tablecloths. The key to what made them work is that they are a really pretty neutral beige and reminded me of the Pottery Barn pair that I love. I bought two 60 X 84 tablecloths for $16.99 each.
 
 
 
 
I really prefer to keep things as simple as humanly possible. To turn my tablecloths into curtains required an iron, some Steam a Seam fabric tape, and some curtain clips, all of which I had on hand already. Magic.
 
Step 1  Iron a 2 inch fold across the top of the panel. Making this fold prior to taping makes the seam easier to get perfect.
 
Step 2  When you are sure the fold is even and straight, lay the fabric tape on the inside, fold over, and iron with steam on a high setting. This should make a sealed seam at the top of the panel.
 
Step 3  Hang with your clips. I said I like to keep things really simple!
 
 
 
I followed this tutorial by House of Hepworths to make fake pleats using my curtain rings. Instead of clipping the ring to the top of the curtain, simply clip the ring to the back of the fabric in a way that produces a pleated look in the front.
Using the 84 inch long tablecloth resulted in curtains that touch the floor but there isn't a lot of room leftover. If you are looking for more floor skimming length at the bottom, I would just go for a larger size tablecloth then cut the length to your taste and make a folded seam on the bottom edge.
 
 
 
I thought about how a white sheet sewn or steam a seamed to the back would add to the thickness of the curtains and might provide more light blocking capability. If I make another pair I will consider it but then again, who am I kidding, I don't sleep very much during daylight hours.
 
Because I had the rings and the fabric tape on hand, this little DIY project cost $35. I have seen some reasonably priced curtain panels for sale with material that does not look or feel nearly as nice as these. The style and function provided by my little window tablecloths could have cost a lot more!
 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Team




My last question for the week on Blogher, "Would you rather start something on your own or as a member of a team?" has me writing about my favorite thing. My family and what the word family has meant to me throughout my life may have changed shape many times but one thing has always been the same. My family is my team and without a team I don't like what I am.
Our life- every move, every happy hello, every sad goodbye, every new job, every new friend, is as it should be because we are a team. I can't imagine starting a new adventure, facing a new challenge or changing my life (our life) without the rest of my team.
The greatest blessing in my life is mine because we are a team.


Thursday, March 14, 2013

You are your best mentor

Yesterday was a really busy day and I was too tired to write a thing but I'm too stubborn to miss a day during a challenge so I put up a photo. When I made a mental list of what made my day tiring, (sick baby, shopping, finishing a craft project, Pilates, cleaning for our house showing) I felt silly because other than the sick baby and the cleaning, it was fun. I can't complain about being tired after a day doing things I enjoy.
I'm  thinking about the question for today's NaBloPoMo post on BlogHer, "Who out there in the world would be the best mentor for your ideas and goals?" but I keep answering myself with "me." Our ideas are one of the best examples of things that make us unique. Trying to find someone that has had a similar idea might just turn your individual idea into a distilled version of what it was- or something totally different. I say just be your own best mentor and look to others for inspiration.
The world will be a boring place if too many successes are born from just following another person's lead.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Ambition Shame

Today BlogHer asks the participants in the March NaBloPoMo, "What is getting in the way of you reaching for your dreams?"
I remember a beautiful early summer day when I was five and convinced that anything I wanted was possible. It was hot enough for me to make up my mind that it was time for swimming. It may well have been 60 degrees but I made the call that it was summer and swimming was what I wanted to do. I went up to my bedroom, put on my wonder woman bathing suit, and like a stage actress, ran into the kitchen yelling, "It's put up the pool time!" I know in the planning stage this seemed like a sure thing. Dad would see me all ready to go and drop everything he was doing to assemble and fill a swimming pool just for me.
Instead, as he worked on something else, my father took a quick look my way and laughed. Just like that, my dreams of swimming went from sweet to a joke. I must have been just crushed enough by the way it turned out that I can still remember it to this day. I'm sure my dad was busy that day and we had a metal sided pool that required quite a bit more to get me swimming than pools today but to me, what I wanted was the most important thing in the world and if that meant he needed to dig a trench, bury the pool sides, find and roll out the liner, attach a filter, and fill the pool with a hose, that is what I expected to happen at that very moment. At five years old I believed that nothing was impossible. I wasn't just wearing wonder woman's suit. I was wonder woman.


Twenty years later, as a college student, I sat in a meeting room listening to a faculty member go over paperwork with a small group of other students applying for a government affairs internship in the State Assembly. Our group happened to be all female and the professor jokingly made a comment about how he thought "women came to school here for an MRS degree." Instead of encouraging students he was making fun of our ambition and suggesting we give up the charade as we were only in college to marry well. I'm not sure which is more shocking to me in hindsight; the fact that he said that, or the fact that not a single one of us said a word in reply or stood up for ourselves. For the same internship I needed to have an advisor sign paperwork approving my application to the program. He looked at the paper scornfully and asked why I wanted to do it as if it would be a terrible choice. I was taken by surprise by his reaction and made up a story about needing to get the credits. I was ashamed to own my choice, a brilliant choice, to learn something new and to better myself. I was too timid to ask him to give an explanation for his reaction to my choice.
Something happened along the way between five year old me and twenty- five year old me. Why would my kindergarten self have yelled at my advisor,"Because I WANT to!" when he challenged why I wanted the internship but my twenty-five year old self just looked at my feet and sheepishly muttered a phony reply? I am certain that if someone were to make a joke about my ambition now, I would have a lot to say but I don't know just what has changed. If it were clearer to me would I understand what it is exactly that stands between someone and their dream? It has to be more than age.
In my opinion, I fell vicitm to ambition shame. Not to drag my poor dad and the pool story back into this, but how many more people laughed (or worse) at my declarations that I wanted something before I began keeping to myself what I really wanted and instead, started asking for what I thought it was expected of me to want? The last thing I'm trying to say is that my parents weren't supportive. They have three daughters and they encouraged us to succeed in everything from biddy basketball to motherhood. The thing that has stood in my way in the past and what might stand in the way of others is being embarrassed to admit a goal or a dream, to own it.


My First Day of Kindergarten
Sometimes the ambition shame happens when a person doesn't believe they are worthy of the dream or is worried that others don't view them as worthy of the dream. Sometimes it's easier to keep what we want in life from others so that if we don't get it, no one has to know and our failure is private. What stood in the way of me reaching for my dreams and what still stubbornly stands there sometimes is my lack of confidence at my chances of reaching them. You can't teach someone to be confident in their dreams. That confidence can only come from the sweet feeling of working toward and achieving a dream and wanting to feel it again at all costs, even at the risk of public failure.
A friend's six year old daughter recently had an art project at school where she was asked to draw a picture of what she would look like as president. Her drawing was a self portrait as accurate as a child can draw with big bright earrings. When I asked her about the drawing she mentioned the earrings. I love that to a six year old girl, president looks, "exactly like me but with fancy earrings." I hope that from her six year old self to her twenty six year old self she finds ways to fight off the ambition shame that might whisper in her ear that president looks nothing like her at all.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Bringing Spring to the House

 
I spent so much time over the weekend enjoying the warm weather that I was inspired to start spring decorating. I thought I was going to hold off until closer to Easter but the warm sun won me over!
Having a toddler makes decorating things within his reach a challenge. I'm limited to flowers in a tall vase that he can't pull down on himself for the foyer table. I used to use some moss bunnies on the table but they'd be hopping off the second he saw them.
I have also turned to using the top of the hutch in the dining room as there is no way that he can get to it. At Christmas I started decorating the room with touches of red and it is still one of my favorite spaces. The baskets are perfect for Easter time. I found them at a brocante in Switzerland years ago when we lived there so I want to keep them from becoming yet another toy storage bin. 
 

 
The unexpected advantage to using toddler safe areas like this for decorating is that as a family that moves so much, we have less patching to do when we take everything down and move it to the next house. Someday I'll bolt my art to the wall and swear that this is the last wall that will hold it!
Until that day comes, I need light pieces like the one below to not only decorate but to remind me that we have opportunities that we would not have if we weren't a military family.  
 
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