On fear and inadequacy

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” 

~ Marianne Williamson

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Taking stock mid-way

We are exactly halfway into our Jewish year… 6 months past Rosh Hashanah and we have just completed Pesach.  It’s the perfect time to assess how we are doing with our goals and intentions for the year and what we need to tweak to be better.

Passover can be about examining our lives and determining what the “hametz” is; what we want to remove from our life to make ourselves and those around us better.  A couple weeks ago, I set an intention to slow down my mornings a little bit.  After getting SG to school and doing my exercise and showering, it is the perfect time of day to sit for awhile with a book or journal and be still with myself.  I can read, write, draw, or simply listen to the sounds of the freshly-born oasis in my own backyard.

So far, so good.  I am slowly wrapping up most large responsibilities I have taken on, opening up more time for just being.

In addition to deciding to not be the Sisterhood President this coming year, I also turned down a nomination to be a VP on the Hillel board.  It is also very tempting to take on more responsibility at SG’s school.  However, I have the sense that there will be many, many opportunities in the future for me to assist with meaningful events and activities.  Perhaps the time is not quite right to take it all on this minute!

When I began the year, I wanted generally to use my life for good.  I know I am doing that in many ways, and that knowing is enough for me for now.  I feel no need to add more to my plate.  In fact, by taking off some activities, I am going to be able to take better care of myself and those around me.  That’s got to be a good thing!

I am taking it one day at a time, following my heart and my intention to slow down.  6 months from now, at the Jewish New Year, things will once again look different than they do now.  It will be a new school year (with a new book fair to plan!), a fresh year of programming for my committees at the temple, and I will be facilitating a mussar group for the first time.  I am excited for the future just as much as for the present.

How about you? Are you on a path of growth and positive change?

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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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