The Just Say Nope To Taupe Project

Twelve years ago we had our house built.  Today we both agree that the floor plan is great for us.  It’s a transitional style home, so we have rooms that are traditional and we have rooms that are contemporary.  The rooms are juxtaposed in such a way as to create an interesting, non-cookie cutter feel to the house which adds a fun energy to the place.

But I never really liked how the inside of this house looked.  We worked with the builder’s interior designer and I’m not sure that she knew what she was doing.  She gave us pinky beige and taupe walls– with dark cherry cabinets, creamy tile, yellowish bathroom counters– and shiny brass knobs and door handles everywhere.  I trusted her, but either she put the wrong neutrals together because she was stupid.  Or she put the wrong neutrals together because she was malicious.  [We refused to go with her first design plan for our house: purple walls, leopard print, shiny brass with beveled glass light fixtures, and black counters.  Really.  Not kidding.]

So for eight years we lived with what we paid for.  I tried to correct a few of the rooms but ended up with a so-so look in each space.  It bummed me that things never looked right and Zen-Den, who has a good eye for decorating, was too busy at work to focus on how to fix things here at home.

Then four years ago, in what I can only describe as a burst of peri-menopausal bravado, I announced that: “If I’m going through the change, so is the house.”  Zen-Den, bless his heart, said: “okay.”  And with that, we set out on what has come to be known as The Just Say Nope To Taupe Project.

Since then it’s been almost non-stop change.  We’ve kept the furniture and accessories that we both liked– and sold, Goodwilled, or St. Vincent de Pauled the rest.  [A few antiques still need to be sold to a dealer.]  We’ve painted or had someone else paint almost all the walls and ceilings and trim in the whole house.  [One room to go.]  The kitchen has been entirely remodeled and the master bathroom has been refreshed.  And now we’re to the point where we’re slowly removing the old wall-to-wall carpet and putting wood floors downstairs/new carpeting upstairs.

While I did have a pretty good idea of how much money it was going to cost to redo everything, I didn’t have any idea of how much clutter this project was going to generate.  At some point in the last four years every room in our home has undergone some sort of change– which has created various degrees of chaos caused by stuff shifting back and forth between rooms and the basement.  Zen-Den has taken this process in stride.  Me, perhaps, not so much.

I’m glad that we decided to do this whole house overhaul instead of moving, but I won’t lie and say that it’s been a fun project.  It’s been very anxiety inducing for me, an English major turned self-taught interior designer, to make all these color and style choices.  Obviously, improving a house while property values are dropping across the country is a bit of a worry, too.  I doubt that we’ll ever get our money back from The Just Say Nope To Taupe Project.  But I don’t know that I really care about that.

What I do care about is the fact that we have a home with a cohesive color scheme, comfortable furniture, and a sense of our quirky personalities— three things that were lacking previously.  We’re relaxed when we’re at home now.  It’s our house fixed up the way we like it.  And we both feel like we belong here– finally.

Apparently I Belong In Canada

“How do you define a better life?”

An intriguing question, yes?

One that I’d never put much thought to until I found the Create Your Better Life Index, a simple interactive tool, which helped me focus on what is important to me and how to prioritize it.  Using this tool I realized that for me the topics that make life better are: community, education, safety, housing, jobs, health.  I place much less emphasis on: environment, governance, work-life balance.

By evaluating my preferences, the Create Your Better Life Index told me that I belong in Canada.  Or Australia.  Or New Zealand.

Okay, I can see that.

I also learned that I absolutely don’t belong in Chile.  Or Mexico.  Or Turkey.

Well, no big surprise there.  

And as for the USA?  It turns out that it is my 11th perfect country to live in on earth.  It follows seven northern European countries.

Hmmm.  Didn’t see that one coming.  

While I take the results of all online tools with a grain of salt, this one made me smile and reflect upon the fact that we are who we are– no matter where we live on the earth.  Geography exerts its influence, but temperament trumps it more times than not.

N’est-ce pas?

[Added 06.06.11 – Check out this article from MSNBC: “US doesn’t make cut for happiest nations list” – More info re: top 10 happiest countries.]

Talking Dirt

We live on a wooded ravine lot that slopes down to a creek.  And we have a swale on our property.

While sitting on our deck or in our screened-in porch we look directly into the woods behind us.  It is beautiful to see the trees year round.  It is less beautiful to look down into the ravine below and see the soil erosion that is causing our backyard to disappear.

So today I meet with a land planner to discuss his idea about what we’re going to do about our back yard… that is gradually slipping away into the creek… leaving the pillars that support our deck perilously close to the edge of the swale… that allows rainwater to naturally flow into the creek.

This is going to be an expensive mess to fix.  I just know it.

In Which We Learn A Bit More About The Beans

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I took the Right Brain vs Left Brain Creativity Test.  It was straightforward.  No right or wrong answers.  A fun kind of test.

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It said that I am 52% Right Brain and 48% Left Brain.  My most dominant Right Brain characteristics are Fantasy-oriented & Intuitive.  My most dominant Left Brain characteristics are Verbal & Linear.

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Does this mean that I’m well-balanced?  Or does this mean that I’m equally mediocre on each side of my brain– not being able to excel in one direction or the other?

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Being more Right Brain than Left Brain means that I am a creative thinker who visualizes the “whole” picture first, uses what appears to be illogical and meandering thought processes, yet finds an innovative solution to the problems at hand.

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Yep, that’s me.

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Zen-Den took the test.  He is 56% Left Brain and 44% Right Brain.  His most dominant Left Brain characteristic is Verbal– just like me.  His second most dominant Right Brain characteristic is Fantasy-oriented– just like me.

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 I’m guessing that it is the overlap of the same strong dominant characteristics that makes us so compatible.  ‘Cause on the surface we are very different.

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He is described as a critical thinker who uses logic to collect information, sees only parts of the “whole” picture, which he puts together in a step-by-step systematic manner to arrive at the conclusion.

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Yep, that’s the hubster.

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The results of this test were surprisingly accurate.  It confirmed what we knew about ourselves and helped us understand what we didn’t realize about ourselves.  Very interesting.

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If you get a chance to take the test (allow 10 minutes), let me know what you think about your results.  Do they describe you, or not?

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[Please note: the italicized portions of this post represent my summary of the test’s conclusions using mostly their words.  I’m too lazy to punctuate properly today.]

And Then Good Things Began To Happen

I’ve said more on a personal level this week than I usually do in this blog [or anywhere else for that matter].  I’ve been detailed and intense, not my usual light-hearted self.  Talk about going outside your comfort zone.

But you know what?  I’m really glad that I did.

Within 48 hours of publishing– what I will always think of as– my adios posts, I received five messages from friends and family who I haven’t heard from in months, or even years.

Not one of them had read what I said in the blog, but all had suddenly thought of me– not to get something from me or to put me down— but to say “hi!”

On top of that, five people who I don’t know but seem rather pleasant,  just kind of appeared in my corner of the blog-o-sphere/twitterverse to say “hi!”

So here’s what I’ve learned this week: for me it is difficult to put personal relationship stuff out there in the world, but it’s worth the risk.  Life balances.  Out with the negative and insincere.  In with the positive and authentic.

Wonder why it took me so long to figure this out?

Just grateful that I did.

Letting Go, Moving On

Our weather around here has been “off” for almost 10 months now.  First, last summer we had the worst drought ever on record– which lead to an ugly autumn.  Then we had an early winter followed by the wettest spring on record.  I don’t think that I’m overstating it when I say that this weird weather is making people crazy.  They aren’t behaving nicely at all.

And I certainly have felt the brunt of this unhappiness.

I work from home so I don’t have to engage with people on a daily basis if I don’t want to.  I’m naturally observant and I’m very empathetic [as are many introverts, btw].  All of this combined together means that when I do go into the world, I’m more highly attuned to what is going on.  And the negative energy hits me harder than most other people who I know.

In fact, yesterday when I shared the details of some friends’ rude behavior, I was just giving you, my gentle readers, a brief glimpse into what has been going on behind the scenes in my life.  Everywhere I turn among those who one year ago I would have described as friends, I find strangeness and hostility.  Throughout this year I’ve been marginalized, used, put down, and most recently, completely ignored.  Apparently I’m now invisible, too.

I tell Zen-Den about my ridiculous encounters with friends, acquaintances, humanity.  He listens.  And then he tells me that I’m too nice to too many people who don’t care one iota about me.  And that it’s time for me to cut bait.

He’s right, of course.

Sad as it is for me to say, many (most?) of my current friendships have run their courses.  I’ve always been more of a free spirit than anyone else I know.  But there’s more to this disconnection than that.  Being on my own as much as I have been these last few years, I’ve evolved into a more relaxed, open-minded person than when I first met so many of these people.  I’m more liberal now.  I’m more focused on healthy living.  I’m more creative.  And I’m much more concerned with living in the moment– not agonizing over the future– being able to let go of the past.

So that is exactly what I am doing here in this blog post.  I’m making the choice to be good to myself now and in the future.  I’m saying good-bye to the most negative, small-minded group of people I’ve ever known.  And I’m telling the world in no uncertain terms: I deserve better.

Now, I shall go out and make it so.  Care to join me?

Zen And The Art Of Blog Maintenance

~ Like a busy little bee I’ve been tweaking the spectacled bean these last few weeks. After three months of blogging I’ve made some decisions about what I’m going to write about and how I’m going to do it.  And why, of course.

~ I’ve deleted some posts and categories.  I decided that I will write what I want to write about, when I want to write about it– and not at the command of others. Seems obvious, I know, but perhaps I’m just a slow learner when it comes to putting a blog together.

~ I’ve added some tags and reworded some of my category names.  Now they more accurately reflect what I want to share with the world.  Not really very important to you, gentle readers, but this makes a big difference to me.  Keeps me focused.

~ I created a FB fan page for this blog.  I don’t know what I’m going to do with it. Maybe nothing.  But I figured that since one of my rules in life is to “maximize my options,” I’d better do that by creating a free, easy-to-set-up FB page.  [Link in the sidebar to the right.  No obligation to be a fan, btw.]  [Please note: FB fan page deleted 08.11.  No point to it.]

~ When I started this blog I thought that I’d try to have some sort of posting schedule.  I know that it’s easier for my readers when I’m consistent.  But here’s the thing: I didn’t always have something to say on the days of the week that I scheduled myself to post on.  So I’m going to allow myself to be random.  I figure that having something to say every once in a while is more important than saying nothing on a timely schedule.

~ I want to have more photos in this blog.  I’m in the process of organizing our digital photos;  eventually I hope to use many of them in this blog. Plus, I need to start taking more photos.  But right now I feel so overwhelmed by the afore-mentioned mess of photos, that I’m reluctant to take more photos– which will just add to the mess.

~ I’ve been thinking about what I want to do with this blog.  And if I’m honest, I have to say: nothing.  It seems like I should have loftier, more commercial goals for this sweet little bloggy.  Maybe someday I will.  But at the moment the spectacled bean is a hobby that keeps my brain alive, my heart engaged, and allows me to stay in touch with those who care about me and Zen-Den.  And that’s enough for me.