Seek to fulfill your purpose each day

Last week in my mussar study group, we discussed the soul-trait of “moderation,” neither too much nor too little of any one action or thing.  Interestingly, the next trait we’ll be studying is “responsibility,” which is taken to mean “bearing the burden of the other.” Unlike in our society today, Jewish law commands each person to be responsible for every other.  If the stranger you come upon has no shoes, it is your responsibility to somehow find some for him.

My own grandparents live this trait with each other every day.  They lovingly argue for the ability to take care of the dishes after each meal so that the other doesn’t do it.  “No, no, you have worked hard today, I will do the dishes.” “But you made the meal! Surely you deserve to sit and rest while I do the dishes.” You can probably guess already that they usually end up doing the dishes side by side.

Yesterday was “Mitzvah Day” in our congregation, that time when we come together to do many service projects for the community.  I organized a group of donors and volunteers to collect items for and assemble “Welcome Kits” for refugees new to Houston.  And when doing any type of service, I always bring my daughter with me.   This time, after helping to place the cloths, cleaning sprays, and sponges in the “Cleaning Kit” and the towels, etc in the “Bathroom Kit,” SG asked me who is getting these things and why.  After I explained to her that many people have had to leave their home countries because they were not free and they have come to Houston to start over with nothing, she and I talked about what that must feel like… walking into an apartment with nothing and having many people donate things on your behalf even though they don’t know you personally.

This is responsibility at its essence.  It is that sense of obligation to take care of one another, whether or not we have too little or too much ourselves.  Imagine the sense of security and love we would feel all the time if we knew we would always be cared for.  Since that is usually NOT the case, and we are strangers while living amongst each other, we have to work to overcome the separation.  Not only is it hard to ask for what we need, it can be even more difficult to give it.

Mussar teaches that beyond any sense of personal ego-strengthening satisfaction we may get for helping someone, it is a sign of spiritual elevation when we take care of others around us.  Why? Because doing so reflects humility in ourselves and a sensitivity to others.

To make it personal, what about taking on too much responsibility? This can cause stress! There must be a balance between taking personal responsibility and sharing the load.  This past week, I thought long and hard, made pro/con lists, and finally came to the decision that I do not need to be the Sisterhood president right now.  My energy and hours are obviously finite.  I must, right now, focus on doing some of the work, but not all of the work! For the most part, I feel very good about this decision.

Sometimes on our walk home from school, I will ask SG to help me pull in the trash cans for our elderly next-door neighbor.  She has stopped asking me “why” we do this since our neighbor could easily do it herself.  Now we try to be really quiet in the hopes of pleasantly surprising her and she asks me why we can’t leave a note telling her who her helpers are.  I ask her why it matters.

So my questions about this trait:

To what extent can we have too much of a sense of responsibility? What if we want to provide for everyone and donate to every cause, to our own detriment? Obviously if we don’t care for ourselves, we won’t be able to care for others.

How could we work toward changing our society into being truly responsible for one another? That might entail more family-friendly government policies and care, people going out of their way to help one another, etc.


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House redo: closet, laundry, and art room

Our hallway closet was a MESS! It is where we were keeping old electronics, giftwrap, paper plates and serveware, gifts, puzzles and games, travel gear, and some memorabilia.  First I took everything out.  That armoire went elsewhere.   Next, I created categories and put items into the right bin: gifts, specific holidays, extension cords, etc.

Here’s the result of that process – much better.  The left side is all bins. The top is all games and gifts. 

Our awesome handyman built us 2 shelves with a pagboard back.  I keep tools there and underneath are hurricane supplies like batteries, nonperishable food, paper goods, etc.  Now that we have our garage back I can probably move some of this out there.  So now I can walk in to the closet and all is well.Below is our laundry room.  It’s the same except for livening it up with a bold color choice.  I only just hung those pictures today… for this post. So thank you!

And finally, the art room.  I bought drawer units and a desk top from IKEA to have another space where I can work.  I like looking out to the front yard there.  

So that’s all the inside changes… let’s move on to outside!

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House Redo: Master Bathroom

Once again, months of work can all be summed up in a 5-minute blog post.  Amazing.

I hate to even mention this, but this room all started because of a toilet.  The one we had caused constant problems, so we looked for a new one and settled on a professional grade one by Toto.

Next issue, our beautiful bowl sinks were a pain to actually use.  I had to get on my tippy toes to brush my teeth or wash my face.  We had our handyman check out the situation.

He recommended this drop in sink, which would still sit 1.5 inches atop the granite, so I decided to do that because it was a simple change.  It was only after he began cutting into the granite that Mr. B caught up with me and said he strongly preferred under-mount sinks.  Since we’re going to all this trouble, why do it halfway?

So… we chose these rectangular sinks but since the granite was cut into already, we had to replace it.  

Honestly, we never liked what we chose 6 years ago so it was good to select something lighter.  The choices were many…

We went with White Galaxy.

Next, I decided to use a mosaic tile backsplash instead of the granite.  That caused about 5 trips to a Floor & Decor store 25 minutes away.We chose this one:

Here you can see it with our new faucets too. It seems to pull out the silver tones as well as the white granite and the brown cabinets.

We painted the bathroom walls Sherwin Williams Oyster Bay, the same color as the bedroom, for a continuous flow.

Next project: I wanted to replace the mirrors but decided to first try to paint them with gilding wax.  I used “Pebeo Gilding Wax Silver.” I had originally purchased it to try to change the entryway console’s handles from gold to silver.

It was kind of goopy and a long process, but I like how it turned out very much.

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House Redo: Master Bedroom

The master bedroom was not on our list of rooms to transform. Since I got this new ceiling fan in the living room, though, I really wanted one in the bedroom.  I had a brown one with not-so-great lighting, so we put this one up in its place.

Then, when we were at Crate & Barrel purchasing our sofa, we really liked this duvet cover they had, so we replaced the white one we had that was full of stains with a tan/lt. green one.

When we were walking through the house showing someone all the updates, she mentioned that it might be fun to move our dresser into the living room and paint it a fun color.  We didn’t really want to break up the set, so we decided to paint them in place. However, the more we thought about it, the more we decided that ours was very heavy-looking and it’d been 16 years since we got it, so why not try something new? We had already given the armoire to our handyman for his beach rental house since it was taking up closet space.  More on that in a moment.

The master bedroom, as I am sure everyone agrees, is very important as far as setting the mood for a restful night and for intimacy with a spouse (or yourself).  We loved the idea of creating a lighter look that felt more like a retreat space.

A huge change was covering our back wall with this grasscloth wallpaper from AllModern. I got the idea from Brother v Brother on HGTV.

It’s called “Zen Myoki Grasscloth 24’x36″ Stripe Wallpaper” by Brewster Home Fashions.

Here’s our installer Victor putting it up.  He later returned to do the guest bathroom as well.

New wall; old furniture and lamps …These people came to pick up the furniture and take it to a family that was very excited to have it.

I gave away my hand-painted mirror as well.

This is the king bed I decided to purchase from AllModern.  It’s the Carnegie Upholstered Bed by Dwell Studio in Regal Antique White. It was relatively simple to put together. I do wish I’d gotten gray because it blends into the wall behind it.  I may drape a blanket over it or something. 

We also added these glass purple lamps (the others went on the entryway console table).  They are by Elk Lighting and called “Radiant Orchid Blown Glass Table Lamp.”

The turquoise end tables were just for fun.  We don’t have much that we keep in there besides a pad and pen, chargers, and maybe a book or two.  They are the Kingstown Home Cristoff End Tables in Marine Green from Wayfair.  They did not come with the kitty.

Notice that big space on the far wall? I looked absolutely everywhere for a bench that was long enough to look ok on that wall.  I finally ended up ordering the Marlowe Daybed in Diva Snow from Crate & Barrel. It had to be made for us and took 3 months.

It is soooo comfy and a great rest or reading spot.

For the dresser, we chose the Mid-Century 6 drawer in white from West Elm.  It came with these bronze knobs and pulls which I didn’t love.

I switched them out for these below. That in itself took many weeks because the screw lengths were off, the hole locations were different, etc.  Finally, I got it right.

For the corner by the window, I had a High Fashion Home armless chair covered in lavender velvet. It’s so nice and I love sitting there! It also doesn’t come with a cat but he likes it too.  The wall mirror is also from West Elm. The acrylic hexagon table (Ballard Designs) is from the living room.  I like it better in here.

Finally, for the lighting here, I ordered the Modern Capiz Shell Floor Lamp, which comes on a large arm, but when it came it was all wrong for the space.  My handyman helped me take off the lamp part and wire it to hang from the ceiling instead.  It’s the first thing I see when I’m coming into the bedroom and I love it.  It’s on a remote switch that I have velcroed behind the mirror.

And now that it’s spring, I changed out the bedspread for a lighter one.  I discovered the brand Comphy at a spa and I love the softness.

Next: onto the master bathroom! Thanks for reading!

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March reading – 5 books

Kind of a whirlwind month, but still I managed to read 5 books.  The Other Einstein was actually borrowed from the library on my kindle and I didn’t finish it before the loan ended (something I rarely let happen!) so I had to wait for a couple weeks to finish it.  That was very hard and I eagerly read the end once I could.

We had our pool plastered (FINALLY!), and we spent the month of March tweaking jets and equipment.  It’s almost finished, though SG has gotten in already and had 2 swim lessons so far. (Pictures coming soon.)  Our handyman has been here installing outside lights, hanging the tv upstairs, and doing lots of garage storage projects.  We completed landscaping in the front yard and planted climbing jasmine along the driveway fence.  We got our storage unit delivered and emptied everything into the new garage or donated it.

I traveled to Charleston for a Sisterhood leadership conference,  had 7 Sisterhood programs/meetings, coordinated a 1600 piece mailing, had to get a cavity filled, went to the Houston rodeo, wrapped up the Girl Scout cookie sales and finances, among a bunch of other tasks.

We also traveled to Florida and then Austin for spring break to see family and friends.  I hope you are doing well out there… let me know what you’ve been up to lately.  🙂
The Other Einstein: A Novel by Marie Benedict

I enjoyed this fictional look into the story of Einstein’s wife, Mileva Maric, who was a physicist as well.  This account rewrites history as if she had developed the theory of relativity herself.  They truly did have a partnership of the mind as well as the heart, but Benedict writes the story as if Albert quickly took all the credit since she did not pass her final exams and she had begun caring for their family.  I loved the scientific discussions they had with each other in their early dating life, as well as the collaborations with friends.  Her story is probably similar to the many educated women who had to abandon their professional lives in favor of house and home.  Very interesting and easily readable in a couple days.  Recommend.

“The trusting part of me that had hardened during the Maschinchen patent omission solidified further, and the spark of hope that Albert and I might rekindle our scientific projects transformed into a flame of anger instead.”

The Cozy Life: Rediscover the Joy of the Simple Things Through the Danish Concept of Hygge by Pia Edberg

Hygge is a Danish idea about creating and enjoying simple, warm, cozy moments and includes a mental state of wellbeing and togetherness.  This book is divided into four sections; what hygge is, hygge foundations, the hygge lifestyle, and how hygge impacts your wellbeing. The goal of creating this is to feel like you’re at “home”—safe, happy, connected, and present.  I liked the music suggestions most of all.  I love the concept.

“I found that there were some common themes that made a situation hygge, such as how it feels, valuing simplicity, slowing down, the atmosphere, the company, how we host, the mindset, generosity, and the importance of authenticity. These all lead to enjoying life just a little bit more and making it richer and deeper.”

“Hygge is a simple concept, and it’s all about appreciating the little things in life. The Danes tend to be a lot less materialistic than other cultures. This is because they value experiences and connecting with friends and family, over accumulating vast amounts of stuff. The best things in life are free, and the most memorable activities can cost little to nothing, such as a picnic in a park or watching the snow fall with a cup of hot chocolate and a good friend. If everyone adopted a little more hygge in their lives, we’d have happier, more relaxed people and a more caring world.”

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures by Anne Fadiman

I learned of this book from a Facebook group string of recommendations and comments.  This is a true account of the Lee family, who are among the 150,000 Hmong who have fled Laos since their country fell to communist forces in 1975.  Really, this is a story about medical care in America and cross-cultural differences.  The Hmong did not fit any pattern most doctors are trained to deal with.  Their completely different belief system, the language barrier, and the uneasiness most Westerners feel about “the other” all combine into one patient’s disaster.  Truly, they have “a rich history, a complex culture, an efficient social system, and enviable family values.” I found this interesting, if not a bit long.  Recommend.

“To most of them, the Hmong taboos against blood tests, spinal taps, surgery, anesthesia, and autopsies—the basic tools of modern medicine—seemed like self-defeating ignorance. They had no way of knowing that a Hmong might regard these taboos as the sacred guardians of his identity, indeed, quite literally, of his very soul. What the doctors viewed as clinical efficiency the Hmong viewed as frosty arrogance.”

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana: Five Sisters, One Remarkable Family, and the Woman Who Risked Everything to Keep Them Safe by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

Kamila Sidiqi, a young dressmaker turned serial entrepreneur, is just one of many Afghan women who was unprepared to be the family’s breadwinner but succeeded nonetheless.Kamila started her first venture from the living room of her home in Khair Khana. She helped her family and many in her community and made a difference to service and education and the role of women in her society, despite the many risks.  In spite of confinement under Taliban rule, Kamila found a way to be productive.  Today she has trained more than nine hundred of her countrymen and women so that they, too, have the skills to build and grow their own businesses.  This is nonfiction that reads as fiction… a favorite of mine.  Recommend.

“What I found in Kabul was a sisterhood unlike any I had seen before, marked by empathy, laughter, courage, curiosity about the world, and above all a passion for work. I saw it the first day I met Kamila: here was a young woman who believed with all her heart that by starting her own business and helping other women to do the same, she could help save her long-troubled country. The journalist in me needed to know: where does such a passion, such a calling, come from? And what does Kamila’s story tell us about Afghanistan’s future and America’s involvement in it?”

The Witness Wore Red: The 19th Wife Who Brought Polygamous Cult Leaders to Justice by Rebecca Musser

Becky grew up in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  She tells her story so well that I felt like I was with her as she grew up and then became the 19th wife of her people’s prophet, 85-year-old Rulon Jeffs.  She escaped and started her own family, only to get pulled back in in order to protect other young girls in this fanatic cult.  Very interesting reading – highly recommend.

“As I learned more about choice, and looked over the extensive evidence in all of the cases I had testified in, I realized that what was happening in the FLDS was human trafficking — both for labor and for sex.  In mainstream society, money and lust are the currency.  In the FLDS, salvation and position are the currency, but the forced acts of labor and sex are the same — the very definition of slavery.  And whether greed of God is the currency, it is not right to own another’s free agency.”

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Continuing the home tour: daughter’s room

I’d better show you the rest of my house updates (from last summer) before it becomes summer again! This is my daughter’s room BEFORE.  Pink walls, double bed,

When she saw how paint transformed the rest of the house, she really wanted to paint her own room.  I used that as motivation for her to seriously clean up in there.  We ended up doing a bit more than painting… she is 8 now, not really wanting the babyish decor and definitely wanting to make it her own.

We had so much fun transforming it! Here’s our Pinterest board.

First we painted her dresser glossy white and added some multi-colored knobs (Etsy). 

Next, the walls became purple.  Her colors are aqua, lavender, and hot pink.

We spray painted these (Bed Bath & Beyond) jewelry racks.

And on to the ceiling fan.  We took it apart… that took a good hour! I spray painted the blades with a primer and the hardware with aqua paint.

SG helped paint the blades lavender.

Cute! You can see that in the meantime we added drapes…

The next project was searching for a loft bed.  She got that idea in her head and it stayed for quite awhile, so we thought we were safe getting her one.  We used it as motivation for sleeping all night in her bed.  

This was what we had in mind… we bought the bed from Rosenberry Rooms and I bought 2 toy chests and had seat and back cushions made to size.  Of course, when they arrived, the idea was a no go.  I measured wrong and got stuck with very expensive cushions.  We were also going to put these cubbies down there too.

It was so exciting when the bed got delivered!!!

Actually, it was in many parts and was quite a to-do putting it together.

She chose her bedding from Pottery Barn Teen.

And the spin chair…

Ta da! We read stories under there every night.

This is the new light fixture in her bathroom:

And I had to buy this to reach her bed to tuck her in at night!We still have to hang some things up on her walls but she loves it and it looks very nice.

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