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One man’s junk is another man’s treasure. That’s one of my many credos—one that goes a long way in explaining why my mind seized upon the necessity of possessing a table and four chairs that had been discarded by some neighbors at the beach. When I saw the set from a distance, I was impressed. Why, I wondered, are they leaving such a cool outdoor combo behind?

When I sauntered nonchalantly across the street for a closer examination, I knew why. The paint was spotty and peeling, and a couple of chair legs were coming apart. And lest I forget, the glass for the table top was missing. Still….

Five minutes later, one of my granddaughters and her grandfather and I were hauling it to my carport. I was confident something could be done. Just about everyone present looked at me with that Whatever expression, thus deepening my determination to salvage the pieces. Salvage is too weak a word. Beautify is more appropriate.

Admittedly, though, I was a little intimated by the cat hair embedded in the chair cushions. And the mildew and numerous stains. And the smell was none too pleasant.

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Remaining confident, I brought the chairs back to Camden, and my husband and I made a return trip to pick up the table.

  • I cleaned the chairs and table with Dawn and a scrub brush and let them dry in the sun.
  • My husband removed the fabric from the cushions and cleaned the underlying layer.
  • I spent the better part of an hour in JoAnn’s deliberating over fabric. This involved sending photos to one of my daughters and asking the opinion of other shoppers.
  • The hubs and his daughter Jenny covered the chair cushions with shell fabric, a selection that an employee at JoAnn’s pronounced “classy.” img_7476
  • I chalk painted the table and decided it was too dull and chalky. Outside furniture needs a bit more gloss—and protection.
  • I hot glued some loose pieces of wicker and chopped others off with a pair of scissors. They were too curled up to cooperate in lying flat.
  • I found some “safe” (not too wild) Rust-Oleum paint called Khaki at Lowe’s, and before the painting was completed, we (95 percent Jayne) used nearly eight cans spraying the five pieces. The last can might have a few squirts left, and I put it away just in case. img_7353
  • I took the table to Baker’s Glass in Camden, and they cut a circular glass top. As a bonus, I met up with a former colleague there and had a wonderful chat.

 

At long last, we stepped back to admire the work. The way I look at it, we invested $34 on paint, $22 on fabric (they were having a sale), and $60 on the glass. The finished product is much, much more appealing than others I’ve spotted with high price tags, and I predict hours and hours of conversation, laughter, food, and maybe even singing shared around that table.

P.S. Instead of using a card table or dragging in a heavy wooden table from another room, I used the updated outdoor set for luncheon seating this week. There was a lot of positive feng shui around that circle. 🙂

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Yesterday  was magnificent. Yes,magnificent. Not just okay or fine or great but absolutely superb. For years, as Christmas vacation grew to a close, I’d often say, “If only I had just one more day, one day of my own to putter, listen to music, hang around the house in sloppy duds, read a book, cook some homemade soup, and watch a little television.  Today I did it, all of the above and a little bit more.

First, I moved all of the Christmas stuff and wow, I liked the minimalist look. Things were bare and basic. My dining and living rooms had what I’ve heard described as the “fullness of nothing,” and it was rather nice. Have you ever been to someone’s home and felt closed in by all the stuff? I have, and I’ve often wondered why they didn’t just take some little something away. Little did I realize that I’ve been guilty of the same thing.

So I continued to putter and rearrange, and although I eventually put many items back in the exact same place, I moved others and put some away. I mean, how many candles does one need on display? How many family pictures are too many? That’s kind of a challenge because since we have a rather large family, we have tons of pictures and like having them out to look at. Some people advise that family photos should be away from public view and back in the bedrooms. I say you should decorate however you wish and that if you want a life size portrait of your grandchild as the focal point in your living room, it’s okay by me.

I’m not a fanatic, but I enjoy order and cleanliness. Mother Ann Lee who founded the United Society of Believers instructed her followers to remember that order was heaven’s first law. “There is no dirt in heaven” she said. I’ve read that the Shakers elevated order to a sacred art, and while I didn’t get that carried away, there’s only a minimal amount of clutter around there today. Too much of it creates confusion and chaos in my psyche, and I can’t even think straight or feel the inner peace I need.

Plus, my house is in feng shui order. I’m too lazy to look up an exact definition right now, so you’ll have to settle for mine: the ancient Chinese art of arranging one’s surroundings in such a way that more chi or positive energy is brought into play. Even a little bit of it can bring more harmony, clarity, and feelings of peace into a home. For instance, little things like having books in view reportedly increases insight. Having a mirror in your dining room to expands the abundance. Moving 27 things around a year gets the chi going and enhances our ability to move on with our lives. I worked on the latter yesterday, and it’s amazing what a difference little changes can make.

Sarah ban Breathnach says that when we clean and order our homes, we are somehow cleaning and ordering ourselves. I believe her. Now that my home is in order, I’m ready to tackle my working world. Sumter, here I come.

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I love Camden; really I do. It’s lovely and historic and has lots of tree-lined streets and beautiful parks. These parks are especially beautiful at night, probably because of the combination of trees and lighting. It’s a real treat to motor around town and see all this pretty stuff. We also have railroad tracks, bridges, beautiful old homes, a quaint but dying downtown area, pretty churches, and plenty of charming people. I grew up here under the watchful eye of King Haiglar who stands, bow and arrow in hand, atop the old Moore’s department store building. Still. Still, I didn’t cry when I left for Myrtle Beach in 1972. I did, however, shed a tear or two when I came back in 2002.

I don’t believe in looking back but in relishing the present and looking forward to the future. I’m not Lot’s wife. I’ve “moved on” many times in life and have found that it’s healthier than staying mired in the past, longing for days of yore. People, places, and events live on in my heart and mind, but I’m usually pretty good at letting go when the time comes.

Still, my children all grew up in Myrtle Beach and Conway, and they all have roots and attachments there. One lives and works in the nearby town of Aynor and vows never to live Horry County. Since Amanda’s parents and extended family live in Myrtle Beach, she and Paul visit there for get-togethers including showers, celebrations, and holidays.  In fact, this past spring on one such visit, I met Paul at Target for a bit of browsing around while Amanda was at a baby shower.  We then jumped in the car and continued our shopping at Homegoods for a few minutes until we hugged good-bye in the parking lot. Huh? What kind of reunion is that? It might be fine for my handsome son, but not for his mama. Is that what it comes to? Meeting in restaurants and commercial establishments? Heck, I didn’t even get to see Amanda on that visit at all.

Vowing to change things, DH and I began looking into what, how, and when we could afford to purchase a little bungalow in Myrtle Beach. With the help of the best realtor on the strand, Timna Benson, we located a modest unit on what used to be the old MB Air Force Base and quickly began the process of purchasing it.  By practicing more provident living, I think we can swing it unless the unforeseen occurs.  And Folks, even if it does, having owned it for two months so far has been worth it. Yes, I love it that much..and so do my children and grandchildren who’ve been there. Paul and Amanda live in Atlanta and haven’t been back to the Strand since the purchase in August, but I  hope to see them cross the threshold soon.

Looks like I’ve strayed from my intended topic which was how to decorate on a shoestring budget.For now, I’ll just say that it’s possible (and quite fun) to furnish a home without breaking the bank. Elizabeth, Ann, and I have scoured antique stores in Walterboro, Sumter, and Camden looking for just the right dining table, lamps, and nightstands, and we’ve hit the jackpot on more than one occasion. We bought other affordable pieces (couch, chairs, and bedframes) from Unclaimed Furniture in Myrtle Beach, and I highly recommend that establishment to anyone. Not only are the prices reasonable, but they also deliver free of charge unlike others in the Camden/Lugoff area who shall go unnamed. I will NEVER pay a huge markup for basic furniture again, and I feel a little sick just thinking about the times I’ve done so. Get this. The men from Unclaimed Furniture even set up three beds, and still there was no charge.

Now a brief comment about prettying up the place. We took a few things off the wall of our home in Camden, and I ordered some things from www.allposters.com and took them to the Frame Factory in Myrtle Beach to be framed. These folks are reasonable, and they have great ideas on color and style. Almost every time I’m there, there’s someone from another town or state dropping something off or picking something up. Yes, they’re that good!

Sure didn’t intend to get so long winded about this. The bottom line is that we’ve worked hard to make this dream come true, and I’m looking forward to many joyous occasions spent in that little 1227 square foot home.  The second point I wanted to make is that it’s quite possible to decorate without spending one’s life’s savings, and in these economic times, provident living is more important than ever.

That’s it for now. Soon I’ll be packing my laptop and an overnight bag and heading east. Why the laptop? Alas, because I’m mixing business with pleasure and working on my online courses. I’m thinking of that old line that goes something like, “Take what you want, God says, but pay for it.”

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I snapped this picture of the American Society of Buddhist Studies  on my recent trip to New York. One of my brothers likes to harass me about the statue of Buddha that’s sitting atop my grandmother’s secretary. In fact, whenever he comes to visit, he usually turns Buddha around to face the wall. No matter how much I protest, I think Mike thinks I worship idols, but this is completely erroneous. Money, fame, fortune, huge homes, expensive cars, looks, possessions, degrees, movie stars, rock stars, super athletes, etc. are more idolized than my cream colored statue of Buddha.

Although I bought little Buddha for the aesthetic value, I must admit that looking at the statue never fails to conjure up the reasons why I developed an interest in him in the first place. It was through a book. Imagine that. Years ago, I read The Road Less Traveled by Dr. Scott Peck, a book that I still find myself referring to from time to time. It’s what I call a “deep” book, not one you can read once and put aside. The subtitle, “a new psychology of love, traditional values, and spiritual growth” prepares the reader for what’s ahead.

I knew very little about Buddha in 1980, but after reading Peck’s introduction, I did a little research. Here are a few lines from the beginning of The Road:

“Life is difficult.
This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths.* It is a great truth because once we truly see its truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult-once we truly understand and accept it-then life is no longer difficult. …
Most do not fully see this truth that life is difficult. Instead they moan more or less incessantly, noisily or subtly about the enormity of their problems, their burdens, and their difficulties as if life were generally easy, as if life should be easy. …
Life is a series of problems. Do we want to moan about them or solve them?”

*The first of the “Four Noble Truths” which Buddha taught was “Life is suffering.”

I could go on and on and on about this. For today, I’ll just say that I learned more about Buddha and his truths and the eightfold path. One of the many things I learned is that one cause of suffering is desire. If you want to suffer less, desire less. Sometimes I think our greedy materialism, the desire for more and more “stuff,”  leads to suffering. The more we get, the more we want. It’s an endless, never quenchable cycle. It’s as if the worship of “idols” mentioned above is the cause of much suffering. Buddha says, like many of the great teachers, to renounce and enjoy. We say, as Americans, that we want more, more, more.

So I glance at Buddha and remember not to moan or whine. Life is suffering, and while I have problems like everyone else, I’m going to try to solve them instead of whine about them.

P.S.  You wouldn’t believe how lovely the statue looks contrasted with the russet red walls. Stunning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s not to love about a church that offers advice, guidance, and direction in all important areas of life? Throw in some extra lessons on love, encouragement, perseverance, hard work, gratitude, forgiveness, and tolerance, and you have the makings of heaven on Earth. EVERY TIME I go to church for any kind of meeting, I come away uplifted and edified, and this past Sunday was no exception.

I could go on and on about the beautiful musical presentation by four of the young women or the talks about serving others, going the second mile, or following Christ’s example in all we do. However, I’m going to concentrate on one of the presentations in Relief Society. All three speakers were fantastic, but the message about being creative and using one’s unique talents to beautify and improve the world (or at least your surroundings) is the one that really spoke to me.

After considering some definitions of creativity, the speaker asked the class for examples of how they demonstrated it…or what their talents were. At first, everyone was quiet, and then someone spoke up and said she didn’t think she really had any special gift or talent. As the discussion continued, we were reminded that we were each created by a loving Heavenly Father, a divine Creator who surely imbued all of His creations with a special spark of divinity and of uniqueness.

Almost immediately, class members began sharing some of the things they did to improve their corners of the world. The room was abuzz with ideas from gardening to decorating and singing to sewing. I glanced around at my “sisters” and thought about how their laughter, music, sense of color and style, and many other gifts create a better world for everyone, including me. I hesitate to single anyone out because they’re all creative, but I just have to add that I’m in awe of Lulu Belle’s Boutique.

So what’s your gift? Do you add an aura of peace and harmony to your home? Can you make people laugh and enjoy themselves? Can you arrange flowers? Can you frost cakes without getting the crumbs all mixed up in the icing? Can you play a musical instrument? Dance? Can you knit or crochet? Can you “make a home” in which things run smoothly and people feel comfortable?

Please share your gifts with us…or perhaps put a friend in the spotlight.

Connie calls it wabi sabi, and I call it feng shui, and although you might not be familiar with these terms, everyone reading this knows what’s meant by the “feel” of a house…or home. In some situations, you get the cold pricklies when you cross the threshold, and in another place, you feel that the atmosphere is charged with hostility and underlying negative energy currents. Other places feel boring, sterile, and devoid of life and laughter. You know what I mean, right?

 

About twenty years ago, I heard an older, wiser woman talk about the importance of one’s bedroom in influencing mood, sleep, and general restfulness (or not). She said that since the décor, including wall color and furnishings, was the last thing a person saw before shutting her eyes and the first things she glimpsed upon opening them the next morning, the sight should be pleasant, beautiful, and calming. Call me dumb, but I’d never thought of this before. Never. And yet it made perfect sense. That weekend I began looking at paint chips and later repainted the room and changed the curtains. That was the beginning of a long term and continuing interest in the power of the environment to affect mood, peace of mind, and energy.

 

About ten years ago, I was introduced to the Chinese concept of feng shui, two words that literally mean wind and water. By applying some of its principles, I learned that a person could easily add more positive energy (chi) into her environment and lessen the effects of negative energy (sha). This made perfect sense to me, especially when you consider that electromagnetic energy flows around and through us and everything else in the universe.

 

I’ll have to concur with my friend Connie in that some of the terms can be a bit overwhelming, but learning and applying some of the basics can be fun, easy, and low cost. Although I’m no expert, I do have a few favorite ideas:

 

  • Color is important, and red is a “fire” color associated with energy. While I don’t want to feel over stimulated and fidgety, having a touch of red or orange in each room is invigorating. 
  • Numbers are important too. Off the top of my head, I recall that the number four is foundational, secure, safe, and stable since it holds the energy pattern of the square. Once we lived in a house in which the kitchen was a little small, and yet we usually ate our meals in there. To free up more space, the kitchen table was usually pushed up against the wall, and my daughter Carrie literally hated that arrangement. Rarely did she walk through the room without commenting on it. Largely to pacify her, I moved the table out a bit and put a chair on each side. The difference that one little move made was amazing! Not only did the room now seem more stable and secure, but also it seemed that chi was freer to move around instead of getting “smushed” up against a wall.
  • Furniture arrangement should be carefully considered as well. Time prohibits me from giving lots of examples, so I’ll just mention one for the bedroom. Never have the foot of a bed aligned with an open door. That’s the “death position,” the spot in which the dearly departed were placed before removing them from the home.
  • Texture and pattern count too. Recently my son remarked that he thought the bedroom that he shares with his bride is a little too feminine. I reminded him that once you get married, there are all sorts of compromises, one being the home décor. While he’s absolutely right in that the furniture and the bedding are of lighter colors (blue, yellow, and white), the living room of the apartment is more masculine in that the furniture is leather. The maps are framed in dark wood. What I’m saying is that the apartment is a good combination of yin and yang.
  • How we use space should also be considered. In the home that we recently moved from, there was a wide hall straight down the middle of the house. In fact, a person standing at the front door could look directly to the back door. Ummm. Not good. Chi could easily come in, but it swished down the hall quickly and was out the door. What did we do? We put a bench at the end of the hall to divert the flow of energy, and most of the time I kept a glass paned door dividing the living room from the hall closed.
  • I’m getting a little carried away here (this stuff is so exciting to consider), but I just have to mention tables before getting back to work (the kind I get paid for). My sweet husband and I bought our cute little oak dining room table at a yard sale, and we both love it. It’s round unless company’s coming, and then we insert the leaf, thus making it a large oval. According to the feng shui experts, round is not good! They say the energy swirls around so quickly that the dining/socializing experience is not as pleasant as it would be with a square or oval table. Well, we LOVE the table, and to calm the swirling chi, we bought four (there’s that stable number again) leather wasabi (great color, great word) with high backs. It’s the coolest room!

More on this later. For now, let’s just say that whatever makes you feel comfortable, supported, secure, and pleasant is what you should incorporate in your home, office, yard, and even car. If you want to know more about the ancient Chinese practice of feng shui, there are beaucoup books on the subject. For now, share some ideas that you have about making your environment more appealing.

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