Sunday, July 12, 2015

Taking Inventory


I always say that once we hit July 4th, really the summer is almost over. I think that's because it flies by so quickly and there is always something going on, that we rush rush rush and don't take enough time to appreciate the warmer  weather and sunshine. I must say that I find it difficult sometimes. I am one of those folks that is always on the go and I find that if I do have a few minutes of "down time" I'm finding ways to fill it. There is always a load of laundry that needs to be transferred from the washer to the dryer, work email to check, or a flower bed that needs weeding. But I have resolved this summer to carve time to just sit back and look at the nature around me. It's sometimes difficult but it's a commitment to relish what we have and savor it because after all, the colder weather will be here in a flash and then summer will be a distant memory and something to anticipate all over again.

There are a few things that have helped me reach this new perspective about enjoying the small things and taking time out. I have learned that I don't have to be productive 100% of the time. So in no real order here are some of the factors:

1. I started taking a yoga class and typically attend one time per week. Notice I didn't describe it as "practicing". I'm not there yet but I will say that it's calming and relaxing and has probably helped me to get my head on a little straighter.

2. Related to #1, I found out about Eckhart Tolle and am trying to learn to live in the present rather than always looking at the future. Slowing it down to enjoy what I have. There is nothing quite like living in the now when you are enjoying the outside with sunshine and relaxing.

3. We got a hammock and placed it in the backyard. At first I hated it. I fell out of it twice and couldn't understand how to navigate it to get in. I'm not the most graceful person but I found out it was balance. Balance? Imagine that - it's a consistent theme for success in most aspects of life. I also tried to figure out how a hammock was going to benefit me if I couldn't get my book up there with me but then I discovered that just laying there, either with my eyes closed in the bright sunlight, or just looking up at the trees in the evening, or the stars at night, was a wonderful thing.

Why a post about this? Because it's part of taking inventory, balancing the projects I have accomplished so far this summer with the enjoyment of what I have. A lot of the projects around our home in the summer are really focused on making this an even more comfortable place to enjoy and I think it's a good time to take stock and appreciate it. It's living in the now.

This summer I added some touches to our front garden. While we don't really spend a lot of time in the front yard, I love to drive up to our home and feel that it is a signature for who we are. I have envisioned for quite a while extending our flower bed so that it isn't the traditional strip of earth that runs parralel to a front porch. i wanted something that was more serpentine and organic. So this Spring I manually added a strip that orginated from teh existing flower bed (said strip) and wound its way to the sidewalk. We also decided to create another smaller flower bed in the center of the lawn that would feature a weeping pine tree. We began to process of splitting existing perennials from other patches around our home (and there was a lot to use) and identifying other plants that we wanted to add, hoping to create an oasis that will be renewed each Spring and have color throughout the seasons. I'm no expert on what should be planted but so far I'm happy with it.

Once we put the weeping pine tree in the garden it seemed like it needed a sculpture or small statue to give it more of a sense of tranquility. I looked around for a Thai Buddah for quite a while until I found the perfect one. There are those added touches that make it seem more like ours. A personalization or an imprint that is distinctly ours. I found that Buddahs must be a really "in" thing right now and I also found that they were often very expensive, especially at the run of the mill art fair when it's a poured concrete object. I scoured art fairs, Home Goods, TJ Maxx, garden stores, etc. etc. until I found this one at Off the Rack. Who knew? But what made this Buddah special to me was that it was a little different thatn many I had seen as it is a beautiful tranquil blue and looks slightly aged and weathered. I felt this was a gentle reminder of what I am trying to accomplish. "Accomplish" is really not the right word but I can't really put my finger on how to decribe it. Maybe it's a reminder of what I am striving for. I do know that I am trying to take time out every day to appreciate it all.

Another thing that we have been looking at was the empty space in the peak of the roof right about the front porch. It seemed empty and it needed something. It took us a while to realize that we could relocate one that we already had from our fence in our backyard where I have quite a collection of suns that I have collected over the years (and now I need to get one more as I have an empty space due to this relocation). I think that this sun was the perfect motif to place on the front of our home. The color looks great against the gray blue siding and the rays are bent so that they reach out from where the sun is suspended giving it some depth as it hangs beneath some eaves in a recessed space. Sometimes it's those little things that really add to making a house a home.

We had a big project to work on this summer. As I posted last year, I took our gray front porch floor and painted it a bright orange. Think construction kind of orange. It had originally been a dull gray and I wanted something a little brighter (okay a lot brighter) and it was a nice change. One of those things that truly made this house ours. Alas, within a couple of months the paint on the steps began to bubble and we attributed it to the standing water we get after rains as these steps are not exactly level and lead to some pooling. A small touch up, we thought. But after the harsh winter we discovered that the bubbling was spreading and it was occurring all over the porch, even where it was sheltered under the roof. I reached out to customer service at Behr Paint after they posted on Facebook about porch paint and asked them what we had done wrong. They thought it was actually something defective in our batch of paint and wanted the color formula and offered us replacement paint. When I explained that I was leery to do this again and have similar results they offered to replace it with either stain or Deckover. I never thought for a minute that they would do that for us but I really appreciated it. Now Deckover does not come in the array of colors that you can make with regular paint so I picked from the swatches and chose the Cedar Naturaltone. While it's not bright orange it's a nice shade that was complimentary to what we had going on with our orange.

It was a lot of work to prep for this change. While it seemed the paint was coming off in large blisters and tracking into our house (and the yard, and the grass) there were some areas where it still was firmly adhered to the porch and this required a thorough power washing that spread flakes of the pain to the white porch rails, the house siding and most of our front lawn and driveway. As much as I like bright orange I really didn't enjoy picking it out manually from the flower beds. We also had to scrub the wood with a powerful cleaner to prep it. Then came masking it all and waiting for a stretch of nice dry warm weather which finally arrived over the July 4th weekend. I'm happy with the results. While it's not as orange I will trade that for a material that is going to stay on for years to come (please keep your fingers crossed). To protect the porch in high traffic areas, I did buy an outdoor rug from Target on clearance that I'm hoping will help. I also gave all the rails a new layer of bright white paint to freshen it up.

Last year we added a Faygo crate for a planter on our porch. Nothing says Detroit quite like Faygo and it was a nice piece to add flower and color to our already bright porch. Just yesterday we passed a garage sale and found another crate, reasonably priced, with a different version of the logo. I had to have it. I have a plan to eventually have 7 different crates, one on each step of the porch filled with flowers. Quick tip, I found last year that the dirt seeped through the spaces of the wood slats. This year I lined them with black garbage bags and plan to reuse the dirt next year, just adding a new layer of top soil. Bonus about finding another crate for a planter in July? Flowers are on sale and I filled the new one with impatiens for about 5 dollars. Bad thing about getting a new Faygo planter? When I looked at the photos from last year (to compare my orange porch with this new shade, and to look at the planter last year) I discovered that the existing Faygo planter has faded with exposure to the sun. I'm going to see about adding a clear coat to protect it so we don't lose them all together. Next mission: Looking for an Atlas Pop and a Vernors crate.

So inventory for right now is completed. I just came in from laying on the hammock appreciating what I have and being thankful for a beautiful weekend that included friends and family, good food, new memories and a couple of projects completed. I can go back to work and feel energized that realize that balance is what it's all about.

I won't relax too long. There's a hole in the backyard that needs a little more digging for a pond to work on that oasis. I think the sound of water cascading from a waterfall will be so calming as I lay in that hammock. . .

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