“I don’t understand how a woman can leave the house without fixing herself up a little - if only out of politeness. And then, you never know, maybe that’s the day she has a date with destiny. And it’s best to be as pretty as possible for destiny.” - Coco Chanel


Gustav Did It

I really tried. I simply do not need to blog when in this state of mind but it ain't happening. When I get this out of whack, words just flow.

For starters, Gustav is to blame. Then Ike. Then going to Europe really messed me up. Came home to work backed up and my boys came in the next day, one evacuating, the other because we were all home together for the first time in months. Less than a week later I went to staff retreat for 3 days. While gone, Tay calls to tell me she is painting her former room which was the guest room/storage. (2 closets and an armoire in the room made for a good place to stash stuff.)

Gustav was supposed to get us, but we barely got a gust. I did as was suggested and cleared my yard. I love outdoor dining, etc. so MULTIPLE things had to be secured. I have a pile of iron furniture, yard art, bottles from bottletrees, cushions, etc. still under my carport. Please believe me when I say there has not been a single day to deal with it. Everytime I drive up, I cringe.

Simply put, I'm out of kelter. Like whacked out of kelter. The carport being piled was the descent into white trash living. I left for Europe with Ike out there somewhere. I returned with evacuees arriving less than 12 hours later and me hung over with extreme jetlag. I then had houseguests for a week and had to leave again for retreat. Then the call asking me where she should put all of my "stuff" out of those closets in her room. Tay is absolutely not to blame. Life is. But now along with the piles on my carport, I have many piles elsewhere. The closets and armoire in that room contained design junk for weddings, all my pictures, my table linens (and I could easily "cloth" the White House) artwork not being used, floral, games, vases...you get the picture. Tay kindly stacked the floral junk, artwork, etc. in my room, all linens in the foyer, the games on the breakfast table, moved the armoire to the middle of the media room till I can decide where to put it, quilts and blankets in sunroom, etc.

It's all still sitting there. I simply don't have the energy nor the time to deal with it all. And energy it's going to take. I have to figure out where it's going. By most standards I am a packrat, alibeit an organized one. I use the stuff for church functions and events. It's my work, and I simply have to have it.

Since my nest emptied a few months back (thrilled that Tay is back home though), I've become accustomed to the fact that the only messes made were by me. Things have stayed pretty much in place. Do you believe me when I say that my carport and these intrepid piles are making me crazy as a sprayed roach???

To top it off, there was a lovely little gift bag hanging on my back door knob this evening. It was from my bosom friend Fran who just returned from France. I was mortified knowing she walked under the carport that looks like a redneck is collecting iron to sell for scrap. I must admit that when things are running in this vein, I digress. I think I know how the reformed feel when they have fallen off the wagon. Once I fall, it's hard to stop. I literally put 2 bags of garbage at foot of my steps with thoughts of "What are 2 bags gonna hurt? The rest of the carport is in a heap!" Fran had to step around garbage to deliver my oh so precious gift, a fountain pen. I'm fully convinced I'll never redeem myself.

Have I mentioned what the inside of my car looks like when I'm doing the "white trash redneck" living? Saints preserve us, I'm simply too mortified to share.

Tonight, in the dark I might add, I put the bags in cans and took them to the road. I put the bottles back on my front bottletree. I replaced a burned bulb in my landscape lighting. I picked up pinecones from the yard and drive. I cleaned out my car (those few words encompassed a whole lot). I shall start replacing outdoor furniture to it's rightful place tomorrow. Then Saturday I will deal with the inside piles. I feel better just having stated my intentions.

I am now on the road to recovery.


$50 Worth of Free Advice for Reading This Blog

"I hope you don't mind me asking. I'm just so confused! I have no idea where to start and if you'd just answer me this ONE question, it will help me soooo much." Whether at a funeral, in the elevator, or my favorite hangout Dirt Cheap, I'm accosted. I say that lightly because I truly don't mind. It's an honor to be thought highly of. I smile and begin guessing which question will come first. "I'm redoing my...bedroom...living room...kitchen...(you fill in the blank) and I just don't know where to begin!" This is all said with a pleading look of pained anguish.

This is for those who have design questions, and have no idea who to ask. I always suggest starting with something you absolutely love. It can be a throw pillow, a piece of artwork, grandmother's desk, even a rug. A place to start is all it takes to build a room. From the one item you can't live without, there are clues of where to begin. If it's a piece of furniture, study the style, a pillow, choose colors from it. Just start with one item and run.

Get a notebook that has pockets along with the paper. A binder is good because you can add the clear pocket type sheets. Tear pages that speak to you from magazines. Get at least 10 pictures of rooms that you love. There will be a recurring theme. It may be a light colored sofa, or dark hardwood floors. The recurring "thing" is what you love. In this book, carry an index card with your paint color attached. If you have the rug, collect multiple paint chips in the main colors, lay them on the rug, choose the closest 3 or 4 and staple those to an index card. You will always have your rug with you. Keep a sliver of your drapery or bedding fabric with you. Not only will this book be invaluable now, in years to come you will smile at your handiwork. Don't forget measurements of any and everything in the room. Those will be needed at the oddest of times and having them at your fingertips is priceless.

inspiring room books

Never Too Many Books via {this is glamorous}

Think outside the box. Paint your ceiling a darker shade or even the color of the sky. Buy an old chandelier and spray paint it. (Spray paint has a high sticking and drying agent. Spray it!) Replace dresser knobs with crystal ones. Have a chair(s) recovered. Always have something seasonal visible. "Too many books" are not words in my vocabulary. Candles, need I say more? Ok. Enough.

Your home is a reflection of you. Make sure you smile and feel happy when you walk in. This will be conveyed to your guests. (That's another blog.=)

Ahhhh, a well dressed home-don't you just love life?


Even A Mullet Requires Etiquette

It's simply NOT asking too much. I do not expect the world to quote Peggy Posts Etiquette verbatim. I just want people to have good manners, especially at the table. And good manners require a modicom of knowledge on proper etiquette.

In every person's life there comes a time when table manners will be needed. I don't care if your father sports a mullet or you were born a governor's child, table etiquette will be required. Etiquette, being nothing more than good manners, is something everyone should know the rules on. I hate using the words "rules" but for lack of better word, there you have it.

I sat down recently with a group of whom all should know the basics of dining etiquette. I was amazed at how many did not even place their cloth napkin in their lap. The issue here is not so much those who don't know what to do. The problem comes in when others at the table are aware of the proper ways of doing things. I'm not suggesting a bunch of stuffy people not enjoying themselves. I am suggesting knowing the basics for that time in life when it's required. I can hear the soothsayers now. But they are wrong. A job interview, an awards banquet, meeting the new in-laws, dinner after the baby christening, whatever the case, the day will come.

The rules are simple. (Please allow me to list some basics.)

1. Place your napkin in your lap upon being seated.
2. When asked to pass the salt, always pass both salt and pepper.
3. When eating soup, dip the soup away from you so as to not appear you are shoveling.
4. If you leave the table at any point during the meal, place your napkin in your seat. When you are finished, place it on your plate.
5. If something is not to your liking, just don't eat it. The rest of the table does not want to hear your diatribe on what's awful.
6. If you get a bite of something unsavory or possibly gristle, use your napkin to remove it from your mouth. Continue use of napkin with it folded containing the offensive item.
7. Do not lay dirty silverware back on the table. Place it on your plate.
8. When in doubt, watch for cues from others. Always start with outer utensils. For instance, salad fork is usually farthest out, salad usually first course.

Parents are absolutely responsible for their children's manners at the table. No, not perfection at each meal, each day. Just exposure to a degree of fine dining. A retired, very wise principal at the local elementary school rewarded students who received good citizenship. She invited them to her offices for lunch. The tables were set with tablecloths and cloth napkins and classical music was piped in. The children were so impressed with Ms. Gayle's "fancy" lunch and repeatedly raved.

I highly suggest that each child headed into their teens should own a copy of Tiffany's Table Manners for Teens . The book gives illustrations each young child understands and finds humorous. Set a proper table for celebrations such as birthdays or holidays and gently coax them. It's very easy to whisper "Don't forget your napkin goes in your lap." Each and every young person, boys and girls alike should have full knowledge of a properly set table. You will be doing your child a huge favor.

I love a casual, comfortable meal as much as the next person. In most settings, proper table etiquette is not at the forefront. It's just when I get in a setting that they are of utmost importance that the lack of is obvious. I am not supporting stiff, formal dining in any fashion (though there is a place for that in some worlds). I only want good manners at the table.

Sit down. Put your napkin in your lap. Smile. Bon Appetit.




I enjoy adventure and firsts are usually exciting. Today my first was disconcerting and deeply sad. I attended a double funeral, that of father and son. On a happy mission last Saturday, they were en route to pick up a bicycle for a birthday celebration of granddaughter/daughter respectively. A tragic accident claimed the lives of both.

How does the human psyche cope with such loss? How does a mother continue on with the celebration of birth when consumed with grief? The happy mission now holds untold grief and sorrow. I wonder if the child will ever want a bicycle again. I hope the great joys I experienced as a child on a bike can still be had by this little girl.

Life is short. Life is unfair. Life can cause blows we never recover from. Tell those around you of your love for them. And tell those who are not so close. Take time today to let someone know they mean the world to you. Explain that your world is a brighter, happier, more fulfilled because they are in it, that you simply can't imagine life without them.

Add the names Nona, Stacey, and Laney to your prayers. Strength from a higher power will be required over the course of the coming days.

And pray that Laney can be a happy little girl on her bicycle.

Oh So Happy Fall


I'm having my first cup of hot chocolate this fall. Oh how delicious it feels outside this morning. A nip is in the air and it causes me to take a deep breath as if I'd swam the length of an Olympic pool on the bottom. I'll be able to wear my fabulous boots before too long. And that really makes my guts smile.

Being in the deep South, I'm sure to get a snicker or two from some of you. No, we don't have intense winters, but please allow us to enjoy just this "touch" of fall if you would. It will be back scorching in a few days, but for now, I'm going to twirl, breathe deeply, and think of my dear friend June who adores this time of year.

The above photos are of my son and his oh so lovely lady, Jen. The pictures were taken last year in Indiana where Fall takes my breath away. Oh to have those leaves in my southern yard. I'm headed out to make sure my pumpkins I purchased yesterday are positioned just right on my front porch. Pick up one, two, even three. Two or more out front and definitely one at the back door will cause many a smile.

Happy Fall my dear friends.


Assumptions Beget Ignorance

I'm assuming I'd never thought about it, and all the while me professing to be the world traveler. How did I miss this? Surely I've seen articles on this indescribable land. Did I ignore them, have I just been blissfully ignorant or is this amazing place a well kept secret? I get Conde Nast Traveler. I read travel blogs. Anything link related to foreign travel is sure to be clicked and quickly. Above you see my sisters and I in Bitche, France, just over the German border. No, I didn't spell it incorrectly.=)

I have just returned from a most surprising journey, a journey to Germany. A land of villages where the tallest thing is the church spire and cutting edge modern all rolled into one. My mind constantly reeled with the knowledge that my children would adore Mannheim.
The "water tower", which is a gross understatement for something so beautiful, sits in the center of this thriving city. It dates back several hundred years. You stand in front of the gorgeous architecture of this building and street/cable/subway cars glide by. A massive round fountain with some 30 plus heavy geysers shooting into the air is surrounded by bold colors in the perfectly landscaped beds. Across the street, never has a Starbucks drawn me in so acutely. It was solid glass in the fashion of a greenhouse. The sidewalks are covered with tables, big umbrellas and all have candles on them past dusk. I crack myself up when I want to type "it's all very European feeling" when my tail was sitting in Europe! Mannheim boasts all the grandest shoppes we Americans tend to flock to along with incredible furniture stores chock full of modern pieces we rarely see. My "culture vulture" was in overdrive. The train station was all steel beams and glass while on the street just outside were three story limestone buildings that were some 300 years old.
I am impressed with how seamlessly they have married the old and the new.

A driving tour of the Black Forest was breathtaking. Can you say vista after vista? I have so many stinking pictures of hills, church spires, vineyards and castles that it's absolutely insane. I finally said "No more pictures of hills or spires." Every curve was a another view. And we hadn't even gotten to the Rhein River. We drove for half a day beside the river through village after village. There are large barges, not like on the Mississippi, that are for hire. Gleaming white with a personal chef, they are the river's version of a yacht. I have designs on a cruise on that very river in my lifetime.

To say Germany is beautiful is sadly understated. I plan to live in France one day. Switzerland is surreal. I love touring Italy. But I have to say that my days tooling around the countryside of Germany now places it as the most beautiful place I've been. For lack of better wording, it was the most quaint and homey. No wonder the country housing the largest numbers of American citizens living outside the U.S. is Germany.

(View a ridiculous amount of pics at www.myspace.com/twylabournswanner )

Address Change Notification

william street medium

Moving into my new home a couple years ago brought intense joy. I bought a "Katrina" house, as the ravaged ones were often referred to, and had such fun remodeling, redoing, redesigning, etc. The same joy is coursing through me this very morning. Yet another hurricane, Ike, has benefitted me. (Please take my words lightly. I in no way wish harm to those that were in his path.) My eldest son Tyler evacuated home and it's been sheer joy. Hence the new face of my old blog. His brain never ceases to amaze me. I describe what I wanted, he came through brilliantly.

I've had this blog spot for years and migrated to myspace some time ago. I've had many requests to read my blogs by those without access to them. I feel as if I deserve a spot on the HGTV show "Old House, New House". Tyler worked his magic and I now have a silly grin each time I look at the header on my blog. My plans are to not write "short stories" as Tay calls them. I hope to post more often, and just not in such length. I feel sure I'll have trouble resisting and will have to ever so often tell "the rest of the story".

Those familiar with me know I love entertaining. You are so welcomed to visit me here at my new address, and often. This is your "address change notification". www.thebottletree.blogspot.com is my new home.

Let me get you something to drink. I have grapes frozen to float in some juice. Sit for a spell.

The First Timer In Ballroom Dancing 101

(penned August 19, 2008)
Thursday evening the first pangs began. I fought it off, busying myself with work and family. I felt the twinges again early yesterday upon learning of my friends passing. Then the message was “Learn To Dance In The Rain” and I fought off the cloud. I told Rev. G. R. Travis at the close of service that I was going to plagiarize him and he laughed. I was awed by each story he relayed. He explained that life can’t be all sunshine or we’d have no leaves on the trees, no buds nor fruit bearing. Life would be all desert and wasteland. It has to storm, things have to get wet for growth. “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain” was the quote he took his subject from. His story about much revered President Ronald Reagan stuck with me. As a young man he dropped out of college and took a job with a construction company. The first day of work, it stormed so badly, all employees were dismissed before the day even got started. His girlfriend who was starting college that same day asked him to go hang out with her at the school since he was rained out. He made contact with a Coach who convinced him to start classes that very day. It’s said that President Reagan always wondered what twists and turns his life would have taken had he begun construction work instead of college classes. The storm was the deciding factor in the path his life took. Rainbows only come after the storm. While typing this very moment, even though I heard him clearly yesterday, I’m tempted to type yada-yada-yada. But I will resist.

Today has been a storm. A text message early in the day caused stress. I desperately tried to continue my friendship with the mailman, though he brought news I simply did not need. I ate a biscuit and gravy for breakfast, something I have avoided for some time now. I stopped at a clients to pick up a box and when the sweet gentleman loading it for me opened the back door of my vehicle, out tumbled the glass top to my favorite drink dispenser. Yes, it crashed and splintered into many pieces. At that point, I really wanted to ask the big man above why He’d let that get broken! After all, I was hauling the thing after using it for a church function.

I have to attend a wake this evening, then the funeral tomorrow and my heart has a large counter weight on it, as if it were attached to a crane. Memories of crushing grief in recent years feel fresh and new. The loss of my uncle, father, then aunt to the same dreaded disease haunts me. I dread looking into the eyes of my friend who tomorrow buries her Mother. An even deeper dread consumes me when I think of putting on an encouraging face. I, the one never at a loss for words, feel speechless. I lost both grandparents in the last year, and my friend also lost her grandmother recently. My friends Mother was pure sunshine. Being an only child, she will experience loneliness I can’t fathom. I had siblings during my time of loss. Yet another fact to lift my spirits. How do we as humans cope with such deep seated loss? How do we as friends express our yearning to make things easier for them all the while knowing it’s a rugged personal path she must walk?

I have purposely reflected over my life for the last couple hours. I’m blessed beyond measure. Yet, no matter how many times I say it, no matter my thought processes on the good, a dark cloud shadows me.

It’s time to dress for the wake. I’ll wear a favorite black ensemble, even put on the red patent heels for my psyche. But sometimes, you just have to bear it. No amount of cajoling, soaking in a bubble bath, pinning a big flower in my hair, sipping from a crystal stem, perusing a new hardcover on design, not even airline tickets to Sydney in my hand will cure this ill. (I’d sure like to try the airline ticket thing just to confirm it wasn’t a cure though.)

I’ve made a decision. I shall dance. I am going to twirl, pick up my feet, and make ballerina motions with my arms. I’m sure I’ll look like a first timer in Ballroom Dancing 101. Picking up my feet will be painful, but must be done. My movements will be disjointed and clearly not smooth. It will be obvious that it’s not something I want to do nor an enjoyment for this moment in time. It won’t be beautiful or right when I initially begin. The water on my face may not be all moisture from the storm, but at least I will be dancing.

I’m going to learn to dance in the rain.

The Nest Is Empty And I’m A Raving Lunatic

(penned August 9, 2008)
Disclaimer: I write this with full knowledge that one or more of my children will read it. Be aware that I will temper my words and tiptoe carefully through the tulips so as to not offend. Sometimes the truth hurts yourself more than others. None of the following words are meant to harm.

“Raising teenagers is like nailing Jello to a tree.” I read that years ago and have been quick to quote it anytime involved in conversation concerning rearing the aliens residing in your home aged 14 to 19 years of age. I’m not sure if it was just my naiveness, or if it’s a blanket thing for all parents, but I fully considered myself exempt from not understanding my children. I went through a painful divorce just as my oldest was hitting his teens. And I handled it badly emotionally which directly affected my children. I simply had no idea how adversely. Were I offered 3 wishes by a genie, my first would be to turn back the hands of time. No, not to change the divorce, but how I handled it with and in front of my children. I saw no further than the end of my nose for a length of time. I turned inward assuming that for a “short time” things would take care of themselves. When your pain is intense and you are severely wounded, it’s hard to focus on others. It took all I had to survive day to day. I am in no way justifying myself, I was wrong. Herein lies the casualties of divorce, the children. I will take flak for admitting that I would still divorce even in hindsight from 10 years. But I would do my darnedest to make the transition easier for my children.

I was determined to expose my 3 to the world outside the usual boundaries. Single motherhood is rough, period. I taught them independence that most don’t learn till later. They learned to wash clothes, cook and take care of themselves while I strived to provide. We went to student jazz concerts at the local university. We experienced fine dining and celebrated birthdays in high fashion. We trained to Atlanta and relied fully on public transportation. (They loved the subway/metro/bus systems.) We spent Christmas week in New York City. And another Christmas week in Washington, D.C. We saw Phantom of the Opera and any musical that came near. On our yearly forays, we visited a museum of each of their choice. We spent a week at the beach. We stayed in a friend’s apartment in the French Quarter in New Orleans, cooked and dined outside in the courtyard. I encouraged creativity and uniqueness. On our trips, each one got to pick a place or something they wanted to do. We usually found out of the way music stores, vintage clothing stores, even skate parks. All done on a budget.

What I was so proud of doing has now bitten me in the proverbial butt. I live alone for the first time in 25 years. My oldest took a job in Houston last January. The middle child, my daughter went off to school year before last. My youngest who graduated in May now shares an apartment with his sister who recently moved back to town. My house is quiet and I have learned to desperately love Izzy, my black cat. What I thought was so modern of me, the exposure to the world at large, has given my children the confidence to jump nest, all without my permission.

When an additional heart is confined within your body for 9 months, you birth this being with untold fanfare, you teach this child to not get to close to cliff edge, you clothe, feed, and reveal to them the ropes of life, how in the heck are you supposed to stop? I held their hands when they took their first steps. I spooned untold bites into their little mouths. I taught them to zip and button. I wiped their mouths after vomiting. I bought her first pair of high heels. I doctored skinned knees. I flew to the hospital for stitches. I complimented their talents. I encouraged individuality. When and where does the completely natural urge to “mother” stop? Why is it now viewed with disdain by the very ones you practiced it on? I WILL question my heavenly Father on this upon arrival to the pearly gates. It is absolutely not natural to not have a say in all things concerning ones who went through your birth canal.

I don’t desire to run their lives. I have always wanted them to be effective and successful. I don’t want them all living in my house. But I do want to understand how to stop this desperate yearning for my children to be at my beck and call. Or to at least know they are safe and sound and are making good decisions. The very thing society drills into you that is unforgivable is all of a sudden the thing you are not only forced, but expected to do. You’re admonished to protect your children, and a popular ad campaign often asked “it’s midnight, do you know where your children are?”. Now, instantaneously, I’m not supposed to ask. I’m now told by friends and family, ”Just let go. Cut the apron strings. Let them grow up!”. To which my mind replies, that’s a load of............freaking manure.

So I’m now relearning what society has deemed politically correct, the opposite of what society demanded just days ago. And it’s still a load of freaking manure. I’m not calling as often. I’m not questioning as not much seems to be my business anymore. I’m practicing not being so needy. I no longer demand.

My only hope is that I have proved my love, that what I have done has been right, and that now they will repeatedly venture home on their own.

I’ll continue opening cans of cat food and pray that Izzy sticks around.=)

Elvis Had The Right Idea

(penned July 29,2008)
I really wish we all weren’t so vocal. Or judgmental. And yes, I am also preaching to myself...and the choir. How many times have you had your head lopped off for an innocent statement? Or lopped someone else’s head off for their words? Or loudly voiced what you considered to be an “opinion” when in all reality it was sheer judgment?

Though this blog has negative connotations, it must be said.

I remember taking a long slug on a Diet Coke, gasping for breath, and saying “Dear Lord, that Diet Coke is SO good.” The person next to me indignantly replied, “I HATE Diet Coke!” Was that necessary? We are quick to voice an opinion on things we abhor. Being an extrovert, I tend to give excessive information on any given subject., I’m well aware too much, too often is my habit. If a city I’ve visited is mentioned, I’m thrilled to tell you where I dined, landmarks I saw, and details on my hotel. On the flip side, I am often asked for guidance. It amazes me how quickly someone else pipes in, “That city stinks!” or “That is THE worst place to eat.” Restaurants elicit the boldest comments. People surely voice opinions when concerning food.

Last week opened my eyes. My view was eternally altered. Have you ever been guilty of judging and simply didn’t realize that was what you were doing? I recall time after time that I was the vocal one. Someone, usually a young person would attend a service after an absence. They didn’t look just like I thought they should. “What in the world? Don’t they know what they look like? They really should be more respectful.”, all “opinions” I freely voiced. Recently, someone absolutely near and dear to me walked into a service. At that point, nothing mattered. I absolutely did not care about attire nor anything else pertaining to outward appearance. My fervent prayer was that everyone would open their arms, show their love and make this person feel wanted and welcomed. I desperately hoped that no one would be as judgmental as I had been, that no noses would be turned up nor any “telling” looks be passed. Just being there, just attending a service where the presence of God could be felt, was more than I could hope for. Nothing trumped them just walking through those doors.

I promised God then and there that I would be careful to temper my opinions and try to never again judge. We must learn to not voice those negative things that swirl in our minds. We must learn kindness, goodness, thoughtfulness, and grace. We must reach out to the very one we think has nothing for us. Or to the one that returns repeatedly. I’ve never forgotten the story of Missionary Nona Freeman. She said she was like a revolving door concerning her walk with God. She was “in” and “out” so many times she lost count. She explaining that she knew it was 20 plus times she got “renewed”. Just how many souls is she responsible for in Africa? Untold numbers. Nary a doubt, the sooth sayers had much to judge. But someone believed in her. That someone gathered around her and prayed with her on that 20 something time she came for a touch. That someone had faith that no matter what, when, where, she would be saved and be something for the kingdom. Calling Nona Freeman “something for the kingdom” is a bit like calling a Rolls Royce a car.
Imprinted on my mind is the service that while going through my divorce, I was stopped in the foyer. Unsolicited advice poured forth with instructions from someone who hadn’t a clue of any details of my circumstances. I struggled to just walk through the door, and being hit head on by a well meaning busybody made it much tougher to come the next time. A dear, departed pastor’s wife who influenced me greatly had a favorite quote. “The only horse that can throw you is the one you ride the hardest.” Let’s ride a gentle horse with our words. Those things you are so adamantly inflexible over, WILL come back to you. Don’t voice your criticisms. Only allow good things to pass your lips.

The people on United Flight 93 made their last phone calls from a plane they knew was going down. I’ve read articles concerning the content of those calls and there were no harsh words, only loving tributes. Family members were told how much they were loved. Those soon to perish explained how precious their time together had been. Only sincere words of love and honor were exchanged.

Elvis had the right idea, when he sang “I did it my way.” Let’s do it our way, but let’s learn to let “our way” be the right way. Let’s determine to do it the kind way. Instead of retorting, “My God, this pie tastes awful!”, push it aside with a much softer “that’s not my favorite” if you must be vocal. When a family is in crisis, let nothing but good be spoken. Avoid voicing “he’ll pay” or “she got what’s coming to her”. If the subject is too hurtful and uncomfortable, offer hugs and send a card of encouragement. A simple “I love you and am praying daily for you” goes a long way. Refrain from giving advice unless prompted.

Here’s your chance to be an American Icon. Go on, do it “your way” Just promise that “your way” is the kind and gentle one.

“It’s 9 o’clock and All Is Wellllll....”

(penned August 6, 2008)
There are days when all goes right. Ever awakened to a bird chirping outside your window? You look out to see if you can get a glimpse of it and there are blooms on the crepe myrtles touching your window. The day simply feels good.

When my alarm goes off, I reach for my cell phone. It doubles as my alarm and calendar, well, triples if you mention it’s also my link to the world, personal and business. I turn off the alarm and immediately roll the clickwheel on my Blackberry to my daily calendar. It was chock full. This day called for my favorite red patent leather pumps. ( I honestly dressed in clothing so the shoes would work.=) I met a friend for breakfast in Hattiesburg. Then it was on to a client’s home for a couple of hours and through a drive-thru to grab lunch. (Admittedly, I’d rather have a sit down lunch, but this day dictated differently.) I stopped to pick up some flooring samples and barely made it on time to my next appointment, a design presentation. And yes, that went well.

Within minutes of pulling into my drive around 4:30, my youngest son stopped by. He offered to work in my yard for awhile. He mowed the lawn while I picked up limbs, pine cones and anything else that didn’t belong. I cleaned out my wall fountain at my back entrance and filled it with fresh water. We stayed outside for a couple hours, sweated down, but accomplished much.

He had friends waiting so I finished up. I absolutely love the smell of freshly cut grass and the look of a clean drive and walk. For years, one of my favorite things about summer is finishing up in the yard, then going out. My kids were not fond of me when I made, no forced them to help in the yard. But my youngest, the one here today, has a bit of my green thumb. He has the same gene I do when it comes to yard work.

I went in, showered, dressed and met another friend for dinner. I even had red meat, which is a treat. I usually avoid it, but allow myself once a month. I returned to a manicured lawn and my landscape lighting made my guts smile. I then began my nightly ritual. I turn on the pair of mercury glass lamps in my front window, the curio in the dining room which houses trinkets from every trip I’ve ever made along with my chandelier, the can lighting in the living room, and dim them all to a perfect glow. I light my “bird of paradise” candle in the kitchen and turn on my ipod hi-fi to the “jazz” genre. With each action, I feel myself relax.

I used to think that people were “set in their ways” when they did repetitive things. I have come to realize, it’s nothing to do with age, it’s wisdom. It’s knowing what makes your guts smile, knowing what actions calm you and what makes “all feel well”. My nest is quite settled, though parts are in an uproar for now. In a previous blog, I expounded on the perils of the empty nest. Here I am months later admitting I like things in their place, and that only happens when the nest is empty. My nest is not empty for now but she’ll be leaving soon and I’ll then crave a few messes here and there.

It’s a bit after 9, my candles are lit and the music is smooth. I have my favorite citrus drink in a beautiful stem with frozen grapes afloat. (A tip: keep your grapes in the freezer. The pulp doesn’t freeze solid but they make exquisite ice. They are also a wonderful cool snack on a hot day. This I learned while lounging at the pool at Caesar’s Palace. LOL.) My yard is fresh and the landscape lights catch my eye each time I pass my picture window. There is a sereneness about things tonight.

In the Disney movie “Robin Hood”, the Sheriff of Nottingham is a character who mans the jail. Every hour on the hour he wails in this extremely drawn out, high pitched voice “It’s 9 o’clock, and all is welllllll...”

There will be days in the future that have no semblance of this calm. Tay will move hours away, yet again, and I’ll wish for my “sheet heater”. The overwhelming urge to sit with Tyler will resurface, and I’ll crave. This Friday school starts and for the first time in some 20 years, the first day of school will not be celebrated with one of my children. Tomorrow is a milestone that had life taken different turns, I’d be celebrating a silver anniversary. Instead, I shall celebrate a blessed, full life and purchase myself something silver.

For now, I will soak up this calm and file it away for a rainy day. I will remember when I said “It’s 9 o’clock and all is welllll.....”

Enrich Your Life

hollywood glamour vanity
(penned June 21, 2008)
I hope to accomplish 2 things in this blog. I want to introduce ways to enrich your life on a literal and spiritual plane. As blessed, excessive Americans, we tend to go through life without being grateful nor giving back, and in the same respect, we don’t treat ourselves as kindly we should.

In the literal sense, I’m always amazed at the way people live. I admit that my “eye” for design is very aware of surroundings when in someone’s personal space. I am an interior designer by trade. I love my work and am extremely good at it. (I can see Tay rolling her eyes and saying “Mother, don’t say that!”.) I have clients ranging from the fabulously wealthy to mobile home owners. And most do not live up to their “enriched life” potential. I am not referring to spending exorbitant amounts of money nor having little. I’m referring to making your space comfortable and a place you love returning to day after day.

Lie down on your bed and look around. Do you have a bedside table in easy reach? Is there a lamp with good reading light? (3 way bulbs are superb, 1 click-mood lighting, 3 clicks-perfect reading.) If needed, are your glasses there? Do you have a coaster with a favorite theme? A notepad and pen for when you awake with an epiphany that you’ll never remember come morning? Or to jot down something you absolutely cannot forget that will wake you with worry? (Write it down and you’ll sleep better.) Is your alarm clock from the 70’s? Is there a frame with those who mean most to you there? I suggest only things that are beautiful or required be placed at your bedside. Make the things your eyes light upon first be your favorites.

My bedside consists of an exquisite lamp, a creamer full of sharpened pencils (I have an ongoing love affair with pencils, mechanical or No. 2’s), notecards for thank you notes (Jackie O sent thank you’s within 24 hours without fail), a sleek alarm/radio that also holds my ipod, a picture of me and my brood in a jeweled frame featuring a peacock, eye drops for contacts, a small stack of books, a favorite smelling candle, a carafe of water with a small drinking glass that serves as the lid, my remote, and a coaster from Italy. Anything else I need is in a basket just under the edge of the bed. All this is within reach. A much loved oil painting with an art light hangs above my bed. (When I remodeled I had a light switch installed beside my bed that turns off my lamps and art light with one flip of the switch. If this is not feasible for you, just put the switches within reach without getting up. We are also slaves to our cell phones. Many of us are now reached by cell so plug yours in at your bedside daily.)

You should be able to lie down for some quiet time before sleeping to read and when you fully relax, flip off the light and snuggle in. I can hear it now. “I don’t have time to read”! We are geniuses at making time for whatever is most important to us. I’m not suggesting hours languishing daily reading romance novels. (Though that is a grand idea at the appropriate time.) I’m suggesting picking up your bible, a self help book, an art book, or a novel, and giving yourself 30 or so minutes of down time. Your book may hit you in the face in 10 minutes as Pastor says his does, or you may make it the full 30 minutes. Just pick up something and read allowing your body time to relax from the day. I’m aware the trend is a lovely flatscreen in your bedroom. Lying while watching TV does not excuse picking up a book. Turn off the TV and enjoy a book. It’s a grand habit to develop. Many designer and marriage counselors forbid TV’s in the bedroom. I’m not totally adverse, just do not get in the habit of falling asleep with it blaring. Always allow relaxation time before going to sleep.

I will be ridiculed by some, but it will be those who lie down tensed up, and get up even more stressed. Happiness is a choice. And we must make choices to enrich our lives. I sit up each morning and slip my feet into cushy pink terry cloth flip-flop style slippers. I turn on my ipod per mood of the day. I choose to smile. Yes, I wake up blue some days. (I’ll admit to that being rare.) But the first thing I see is a favorite pose of my children. And there is a lingering scent of my candle.

No one is going to make you enrich your life. Just choose. Make a nest for yourself and companion if it applies. Use matching lamps if space permits and put your picture on his bedside. He will thank you.=)

On to spiritual things. How do we who have been given much return the much that is required as the bible so eloquently says? Start with learning the names of those with whom you have contact with daily. I’m referring to the girl in your favorite drive-thru. The man who changes the oil in your vehicle. The aunt of your girlfriend from church. The person who cleans your place of employment. The teller at the bank. And call them by name. Just be a friend. We are creatures of habit and you as a human being return to the same places frequently. Be conscious of everyone. If you’ll think back, someone called your name, someone you had no idea knew you. It makes the heart smile. Now, you make someone’s heart smile.

Make a double pot of pasta and take it to the new mother, the elderly who is on a walker, or the one who just had surgery. Bake a cake, split it 4 ways and drop it off the cancer victim or your friend’s aunt who is in the nursing home. Ever asked someone who is housebound if you can pick up anything at Wal-Mart for them? While needing to be kind to ourselves, we must also teach ourselves to be kind to others. It doesn’t come natural to most. My sister buys a $10 gift card each time she buys groceries. She passes these on to those she finds in need. My sister-in-law takes her young daughter to visit a retired lady from her workplace. I try to include those who don’t have family for Sunday lunch. It’s the small things that count.

If you’ve read any of my blogs, you know I’m a proponent of helping Africa. Organize a group, ladies from church, a book club, your Sunday School class, and do something for the good of the world. Ask the group for names of acquaintances with cancer and their care givers and mail cards of encouragement once a month. Raffle a manicure/pedicure and buy mosquito nets for families in malaria ridden countries. Go play with kids in the cancer ward. Pay a young man to cut the widow’s grass. Set up and manage a clothes closet in your church. Go to the nursing home and ask who never gets visitors. Big gestures and small both count. I have found when I include others, when I involve a group, I feel even more fulfilled. People are inherently good. They just need a nudge same as you and I.

I have successfully written my way under conviction. I shall do something today to make this world happier. If you’ve followed my travel blogs, you’re aware I just returned from my first 3rd world country visit. Many have asked how they can help, what they can do to make a difference. I will gladly pass out the names and addresses of the missionaries we visited. They need our love and support. I’m told they can receive a shoebox with no trouble. Boxes any bigger and they have to handsomely pay the government just to pick up the box. How much joy can a shoebox bring to a 6 year old boy, his 2 year old sister, and their parents? I would imagine on a scale of 1-10, that small box if filled with goodies would peg a 10. You may also make a donation to my project with checks made out to Woodlawn Church. Fresh water wells in Africa are my soapbox.=)

Contact me at allyswann@aol.com. Go on. Make your nest comfortable. Enjoy that it makes your own heart smile. Then don’t forget, it’s “required” that we share.