Showing posts with label RenaissanceWoman2010. Show all posts
Showing posts with label RenaissanceWoman2010. Show all posts

Thursday, April 7, 2022

The Broken Way - Book Review

Read an Excerpt

So much of life is paradox.  Like, for instance, how the having is in the giving.  Or, how abundance flows through generosity.  And, as Ann Voskamp models in The Broken Way, how healing emerges from the shattering pain of brokenness.  

Truth be told, we are all broken, yet few of us want our broken laid bare for all the world to see.  Voskamp, with astonishing vulnerability, makes it safe for us by being the one to expose her cut lines, her cracks, and those moments when bad brokenness made way for good brokenness.  

As is especially apparent right now, we live in a broken world.  Yet, it is those things that break our hearts that provide us with the openings needed for a healing that can only come through union with other broken hearts.

In the introduction, Ann asks us this: How do we live with our one broken heart?  This is a book that challenges us to take our time with that question.  What else is time for if not for that?  

Voskamp shares:

Maybe what matters isn't what we want from the time we have to live... but what time wants from us.  There is a time to be broken and given into all the world's brokenness.  

With Easter fast approaching, I cannot think of a better time to reflect on what that means.  

This book came to me when I needed it most and I know there is someone reading this who will feel the same way.  A sure sign of an impactful reading experience, for me, is how much I write while absorbing a book.  I filled an entire journal with notes, insights, reflections, and quotes.  

Ann Voskamp's broken heart met up with mine through her exquisite way with words, her raw honesty, and her immense capacity for communion.

How do we live with our one broken heart?  We live by giving it away.  We live by connecting our broken to another's broken.  

Brokenness is our unity... our common ground... our gift to one another.  










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Thursday, February 17, 2022

DIY Vintage Suitcase Coffee Table

Vintage Suitcase Coffee Table

I have loved old chests and trunks since my childhood.  Now that I qualify as vintage myself, I take an even greater delight in finding, and transforming, items that have a story older than my own.  Perhaps it is nostalgia.  Whatever it is, I am always on the lookout for something with an interesting history.

This DIY project actually began in the aisles of my local Habitat for Humanity ReStore (a nonprofit I enthusiastically support).  As a rescuer at heart, I couldn't let a battered metal traveling case sit there abandoned and unwanted.  There was no doubt in my mind that an item with plenty of mileage on it had interesting stories to tell, that it had more than proven its worth, and that it should be given the chance to be useful once more.  I laid down my five dollars and started imagining what that chest could become.

These metal trunks were in use during the 1940s and 1950s.

Any search on Pinterest will show you that DIYers are pretty gung-ho about converting antique trunks, chests, and suitcases into all kinds of cool furniture pieces.  You can also find a number of these reclaimed treasures being sold on Etsy.  This is a popular trend with staying power.  I can't imagine these vintage pieces ever going out of vogue.

Top of Trunk - Mostly Surface Scratches in the Paint


Bottom of Trunk Had Seen Better Days


Inside of Case - Paper Lining - Perfume Spills

You can see from the "before" pics that I had my work cut out for me.  As is common with these old metal cases, there was a good deal of rust to contend with, and the inside paper lining was spotted in places (smelling, thankfully, of perfume).  The first order of business was to remove the surface rust with abrasive pads.  I didn't want to lose the character and patina of age, so I was careful to remove only the top layer of corrosion.  A person can ruin a good antique by doing too much restoration.


Removing Rust - Power Drill Abrasive Pad

Dremel Abrasive Buff - Perfect in Tight Spots

The rust had created a distressed metal effect that artisans work hard to achieve.


Trunk Lid Primed With Spray Paint

To deal with the minor stains inside the trunk, I painted over the paper lining.  I could have attempted to strip out the paper, but the likelihood of getting all of it removed without creating a bigger mess was too great.  I knew the primer would not only cover the stains, but would make the trunk smell clean and fresh.  Once the paint coats were dry, I sprayed a clear matte acrylic sealer over them.  


New Liner - Tissue Paper Decoupage

In determining a decorative finish for the interior, I considered several options: stenciling a design, applying a decoupage treatment, lining with fabric, using decorative stick-on tiles, or inserting a thin cork liner. I decided to go with a lovely tissue paper decoupage (using a matte Mod Podge finish).

Towards the end of the project, I changed my mind about the exterior finish. Originally, my intent was to simply sand the finish and leave it with a wire brushed finish. That would have worked for my rustic cabin decor. However, once I decided to sell this piece, I felt a freshly painted finish would be more appealing to potential buyers. I used Rust-Oleum Chalked Spray Paint (in a neutral linen white) and then gave the trim a light distressing with fine grit sand paper.

After Pic - Suitcase Coffee Table Transformation

I could see the finish line in sight as I attached four hairpin legs to the bottom of the trunk.  Because the metal skin on the case is very thin, I reinforced the bottom interior of the trunk (essentially creating a false bottom).  This provided the added stability and thickness needed to bolt the legs securely to the case.

Would I tackle a project like this again?  Absolutely!  It's not easy to walk away from a vintage item needing some TLC.  Besides, these chests are iconic and incredibly versatile.  Not only will someone gain a unique conversational piece, but this suitcase is a great place to store things like remote controls, or dreams of future travel.

This coffee table and I now share our own unique story.  Sometimes, in quiet moments, I feel transported as I imagine where it has previously been, what it carried, and who might have packed and unpacked it time and time again.  I find myself composing little vignettes about the Sisterhood of the Traveling Case.  Pretty good entertainment for the price of a five-dollar admission. 









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Thursday, November 4, 2021

Hope Heals - Book Review

 

Books find us when we need them. If ever I needed to focus on hope and healing, it was at the moment I downloaded this incredibly life-affirming account of how two extraordinary individuals survived the unsurvivable. This is an encouraging read for anyone dealing with trauma, a seemingly impossible situation, or a season of the heart requiring a lifeline.

Katherine and Jay Wolf were twenty-six, with a new baby, and tons of dreams, when the unimaginable happened—Katherine was struck down by a devastating brain stem stroke. People just don't survive the kind of massive neurovascular event this young mom had experienced. At the time, Katherine was expected to die during the initial marathon surgery needed to remove half of her brain. 

Forty days on life support. Endless surgeries. Slim odds of regaining lost capacities. What could possibly sustain a family during such an extreme time of suffering and uncertainty? 

Hope Heals is about endless love, authentic community, redefining yourself and what it means to be healed, and making the most of second chances. It is about finding an anchoring hope. Most of all, it is about overcoming.

A memoir like this truly puts things into perspective. Katherine and Jay's journey causes one to reflect on what it means to find restoration in the midst of living an unexpected life. It is that restoration that gives birth to new dreams.

Read this book for free with Kindle Unlimited. I also recommend the sequel: Suffer Strong - How to Survive Anything by Redefining Everything.





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Thursday, September 16, 2021

Blind Turn - Book Review

Forgiveness... let's just lay it out here right at the start.  Chances are every single one of us is going to need an extra helping of it more than once in our life—maybe even today.  The probability is 100 percent.

As we read Jess's story, which swirls like a catastrophic, Category Five hurricane, we will not only think about her mistake, but we are likely to reflect on our own lapses in judgment.

The thing is, it's pretty easy to err when you are sixteen years old.  Despite the fact that Jess is that absolutely model student, athlete, daughter, babysitter, friend, and girl most likely to succeed, she is also human.  And to be human, is to fail at something, or to fail someone—sometimes spectacularly.

In life, there will be devastation.  Blind Turn is about how you handle the devastation of humanity—your own and that of others.  It is about how you find your way to forgiveness when it seems you have done the unforgivable... when you feel unworthy of ever being forgiven.

This isn't a simple accounting... this story of a teen driver involved in a fatal accident.  The extreme fury of the allegations against her, Jess, would be enough to level any one of us.  Who could survive such sustained force of judgment and hatred?  Who could love themselves afterwards?  

Lest you think this too dark of a read for these stormy times, let's take a moment to speak hope.  I found, and I trust you will also find, the eye within the storm.  Inside that calm, even if temporary, are the insights that make this a read for this turbulent time.

The real blind turns in life aren't just in the roadway.  We will encounter some blind turns in our relationships.  There are things we just won't see coming.  As the lives of the main characters unfold before us, the thing that is striking is how they have each been shaped by that which was blinding at the time.  

I found that I especially loved the high school guidance counselor and the truly beautiful Miss Helen, who was widowed as a result of Jess's actions.  She lives and breathes the forgiveness, the love, the light of what it looks like to be the best possible version of ourselves.  Helen is the one I want to be.  I will carry forth her humanity.





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Thursday, September 2, 2021

DIY Cable Spool Cat Scratching Post

 

Stenciled Cable Spool

I'm that person who can't pass up an abandoned cable spool.  When I saw this little spool, I knew it wanted to go home with me.  So, I adopted it, spiffed it up, and gave it a new life.  Here's how to turn a cable spool into a cat scratching post or mini table for your porch or patio.  


Recycled Cable Spool

Step 1: Pick up a small spool anywhere wires or cables are used or sold.  I found this one at a big box home improvement store.


Spool Parts Ready for Prepping

Step 2: Separate the parts in preparation for sanding, painting, and finishing the wood.  All I had to do was unscrew the top bolts to release the three sections.


Sanding the Spool

Step 3: Sand the spool's top and bottom wood sections.

Step 4: Decide how you want to treat the wood.  I chose to lightly torch the wood to accent the grain and give it nice warm tones without stain.


Sealing the Wood - Spar Urethane

Step 5: Seal the wood and cardboard spool parts with an indoor/outdoor Spar Urethane.  I used a spray application to make it quick and easy (and fast-drying).  


Boho Medallion Stencil

Step 6: Decorate the spool top if desired.  I happened to have the perfect sized stencil (Boho Medallion) on hand for another project.  I chose to use a charcoal colored chalk spray paint that was a lovely balance to the natural wood (and a match with the metal spool bolts).  


Sisal Rope Wound Around Spool

Step 7: Reassemble the spool.  Wrap sisal rope around the cylinder.  It took a little bit more than 50-feet of 3/8" sisal.  


Recycled Cable Spool (After)

This was a really enjoyable DIY project.  Though I imagine using this recycled spool as a scratching post for my rescue cats, I can also see using it as a small end table on my porch.  I'm picturing it as a coffee table situated next to my Adirondack chair, or as a sweet little piece of furniture for the catio I'm building.

Who says it has to have only one use?  How do you envision it?  I'd love to hear your ideas in the comments below.




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Thursday, August 19, 2021

The Soul of an Octopus - Book Review

The Soul of an Octopus
Oh! From start to finish, The Soul of an Octopus had me utterly mesmerized. Such wonder. I continue to find myself in the awest state of awe (and if that isn't a word, I hereby declare it).

Who knew this creature was so magnificent in every way?  Well, Wilson knew.  And Bill, along with Scott and everyone who had the enormous privilege of intimate engagement with Athena, Octavia, Karma, and Kali.  And now, every single one of us who accepts the invitation to be wowed, and wooed, and wonderized will know.

There is plenty to give rise to a constant state of astonishment.  Three hearts for starters.  Eight arms that function like brains.  A kaleidoscopic flashing of stunning colors and patterns—dizzying in speed and intensity.  

Suction power beyond belief.  Just imagine a quarter ton of lifting and pulling capacity in one tiny body (all contained in small suckers that can untie delicate knots, unscrew lids, manipulate intricate puzzle parts, and discern your body chemistry).  

Then, there is the escapist element.  To be the Houdini of all Houdinis is something quite spectacular.  Give an octopus an inch of opportunity and that octo will, impossibly, ooze through the tiniest of gaps with a fluidity that should be impossible.  Should be.  But isn't.

This is much more than a read.  Truly, to enter into the Soul of an Octopus is to find oneself deep-diving into the lost paradise of Atlantis.  It is a portal into great mystery, majesty, and yes, I admit, there will be mortality.  Life demands it.

From the tanks of the New England Aquarium, to exhilarating open water octopus encounters, breathtaking moments will find you, move you, and capture your heart.  

Which brings us back to the three hearts...

More than anything, I was struck by how encounters with an octopus transformed all she held in thrall: a despairing autistic teen who had recently lost her best friend to suicide; an aquarist with a wife in hospice; a developmentally different twin who exulted in being liked by Karma.  

But wait—how can an invertebrate stir such emotions, such obsession, such desire to connect at the deepest of levels?  What is this?  Is this a soul connection?

Ah, now we are asking questions that have no neat and tidy answers.  Yet, these are questions that bring us beyond ourselves.  No matter the viewpoint, and there are plenty of perspectives regarding what constitutes soul, to embrace that there is more to this oceanic creature than meets the eye is to embrace a deeper sense of ourselves in relationship to that magnificent mystery.  

An expansion of consciousness can happen in that space between the knowing and the not knowing (if, like the octopus, we become fluid enough to flow through the impossibly possible).  

I encourage you to dive deep into this wonderland.  I consider The Soul of an Octopus to be one of the most exquisite books I have read this year.  Highly recommended.









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Thursday, August 5, 2021

Upcycled DIY End Table Pet Bed

Upcycled End Table Pet Bed

As a continuation of my DIY series on repurposed furniture projects, I present to you my latest pet bed creation.  These upcycled end table dog or cat beds are extremely popular with both fur babies and their pet parents.  I speak from direct experience.  My animals spend nearly all of their time in these beds.  

The four-poster pet bed featured here can be easily completed in a weekend.  Here's a quick rundown of the process I used to bring new life to a vintage end table.  

Supplies Needed: 

  1.  Vintage End Table
  2.  Sand Paper or Sanding Sponge
  3.  Paint (I used Rust-Oleum Chalked Spray Paint - Chiffon Cream)
  4.  Bun Feet (optional)
  5. Finials (I used crystal drawer knobs; lamp finials are another great option)
  6. Clear Coat Sealer (I used the Rust-Oeum Chalked Paint Matte Topcoat)
Tools Used:
  1. Screwdriver
  2. Hack Saw
  3. Sander
  4. Drill
  5. Pliers
  6. Brad Nailer

Vintage End Table (Before)

I started with a quick shopping trip to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore and the Goodwill Store.  This vintage end table was perfect for my project and easy on my budget (eight dollars).  It's nice to get a bargain while supporting a cause near and dear to my heart.

Step One: Flip table. Pull out drawer. Remove inner drawer supports to clear space for bed. I simply used a mini hack saw to cut the cross piece and then a screwdriver to remove the two side supports. 

End Table With Drawer Removed


Cutting Out Drawer Brace


Unscrewing Side Drawer Support


Step Two: Remove drawer pulls by unscrewing inside hardware.  Save parts for later.

Removing Drawer Pulls

Step Three: Pull off the plastic leg disks used for leveling and protecting the floor.  Discard.

Removing Plastic Leg Disks

Step Four: Cut off the back part of the drawer and reinstall drawer front (I cut it with a hacksaw leaving an inch of the drawer's side and then used a brad nailer to affix it).  As you can see from the second photo, the drawer takes up room needed for the pet bed.  However, the drawer face is needed for the front side of the cabinet.  I considered using the drawer to make a little step up into the princess bed.  That would be a fun option if you have a tiny dog that could use a boost.


Drawer Front/Side After Cut-Off


Drawer Inside Table (Before)

Step Five: Install supports and false bottom for bedding area.  The wood pieces will provide enough depth to drill in the bolts for the bun feet (from the other side). The veneer of the end table top was too thin for the bolts and bolt inserts, hence the wood blocks covered by a sheet of masonite.

Supports For False Bottom

Masonite Covering Bottom Supports

Step Six: Sand wood in preparation for two fresh coats of paint.

Paint Prep - Sanding

Step Seven: Prime and paint with two coats of Rust-Oleum Chiffon Cream chalked paint.

Chiffon Cream Spray Paint

Step Eight: Seal the paint with a clear finish. I used the Rust-Oleum matte topcoat.

Clear Topcoat Protective Finish

Step Nine
: Attach bun feet. This was done by drilling holes for the bolt inserts.

Bun Feet Installed With Threaded Inserts

Step Ten: Screw in finials atop the legs.  I love the rainbows that wash over the bed when sunlight shines through the prisms.

Crystal Finials Installed

Step Eleven: Reattach the drawer pulls after painting them.  I used the same creamy chalk paint.

Painted Drawer Pulls Back In Place

Step Twelve: Select fabric and make a cozy bed cushion/pillow.  I used foam cushions and two fabric selections: one is a fleece damask pattern in pink and chocolate; one is a super soft ribbed pink chenille.  Which do you like best?  

Damask Fleece Bed Cushion

Pink Ribbed Chenille Bed Cushion

So there you have it.  Upcycling is a fun way to exercise your imagination while feeling great about saving an item from a premature demise.  Why send something to the landfill when it has plenty of life left in it?  

I like to think this old end table is pretty pleased to be looking better than ever and to be enfolding the life of a beloved pet.  There's nothing like being needed and valued.  

Interested in more pet bed demos?  Check out my DIY upcycled dresser drawer beds.  My cats adore them.

Stay tuned for upcoming DIY demo projects.  Up next is an antique door hall tree and a vintage metal suitcase coffee table (recent Habitat for Humanity ReStore finds that I could not resist).





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Thursday, July 15, 2021

Catching Dawn - Book Review

To what lengths would you go to keep a promise to a stranger?  To whom would you turn when fulfilling that promise proved to be beyond the scope of what you alone could do?

Catching Dawn starts as a rescue story that becomes a story, within a story, within a story.  There is the story of what it means to rewrite your own story as you do everything within your power to help the ones barely surviving.

And then there is the story of how the strays of the world find their belonging, their purpose, their peace.

Nested within those stories are the circular beginnings and endings where the lines blur between having rescued and having been the one most in need of saving.

When Melissa Armstrong is approached by a stranger about helping a litter of newborn puppies born to a dog living on the streets, she is quick to take on the mission.  After all, how hard could it be to gather up a nursing dog and her babies?

It turns out that a highly traumatized dog is one of the hardest things anyone could ever attempt to catch.  Six months of failures could have been the end of that story (and the end of those frail puppies).  Instead, this book reveals how both humans and animals in desperate need helped one another rise above those initial failures.

As a young girl, Armstrong grew up feeling there was something wrong with her that made her unlovable.  She felt out of place and knew great loneliness.  Her inner stray could relate to the fear and lack of trust displayed by dogs that felt a need to hide and avoid the kind of pain associated with people.

While going to great lengths to catch a dog that did not want to be caught, Armstrong simultaneously found herself catching the things that had proven so elusive during her earlier years: feeling loved, being needed, and discovering the embrace of a real family.

Having been immersed in challenging dog rescue scenarios, there was much that resonated for me in these embedded stories of transformation, friendship, and healing.  The writing revealed the beauty and wonder of the truest of relationships.  This book reminded me to never take for granted the many gifts offered up by my animals every single day.  It deepened my gratitude for how my rescue dogs have helped me rewrite my story.  

There are no small promises when lives are hanging in the balance.  There are no lengths too great when it comes to living out our promises.  Catching Dawn inspires us to be the promise needed in this world.





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Thursday, July 1, 2021

The Emptiness of Our Hands - Book Review

Who would you become if you were to suddenly find yourself without a home?  Some of you here know the answer to that question because you have lived it.  For the authors of The Emptiness of Our Hands, the answer was far beyond what they could ever have imagined.  Living the question forever changed who they were and who they continue to become to this day.

Choosing to live on the streets of Columbus, Ohio for 47 days may not seem earth-shattering, but for Phyllis Cole-Dai, and her photographer friend, James Murray, the experience was, in many ways, soul-shattering.  They found themselves immersed in an alternate universe offering up the kind of devastation that stripped bare their psyches and spirits.  After just two nights, Murray was already broken to pieces. 

The decision to go to the streets had not been made lightly or done as a stunt.  Cole-Dai felt a deep call she could not ignore.  Her intent was to offer up the gift of presence to everyone she met.  

So then what transpires when you suddenly find yourself in deep survival mode?  How are you transformed while living in a world ill at ease with the homeless... with you?  How do you cope with feeling invisible, despised, and less than human?  When constantly wrestling with intense fear, uncertainty, and struggle, what gives?  What sustains?  

How is it that something as simple as being seen can be such a consolation?  Nothing is inconsequential to the one in need of the kind of attention that shelters, or the haven to be found in the eyes of compassion.  To be seen like that is to receive an act of love.

As one with an outreach to those without a home, immersing myself within The Emptiness of Our Hands has reaffirmed for me the power of "thereness" (really being there for, and with, someone).  It has stirred a deep desire to be a very present haven to the one who might need to rest for a moment in my embracing presence.  

This book is for anyone who seeks to express the kind of humanity that feeds and shelters souls.  Just as there are many ways to experience homelessness, there are also many ways to be the kind of home presence needed by the displaced, the lost, or the lonely souls we encounter all around us.  

I also highly recommend the companion volume entitled Practicing Presence.  This compilation of 47 reflections (one from each of the author's 47 days on the streets) enables each of us to more fully develop and engage our mindfulness intentions.  I consider these two books the most important reading I have done all year.  






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Thursday, May 20, 2021

DIY Cat Bed Fit for a Queen

 


The ruler of my household happens to be a cat of a certain age known as Miz Grizz.  She is The Queen, and as such, deserves royal treatment.  I noticed that Her Royal Highness is quite fond of the reimagined drawer beds I made for Gracie and Minnie (two Kingdom of Grizz subjects).  The time has come to honor Her Majesty with a cat bed fit for a queen.


I still had a drawer left over from my first foray into creating upcycled pet beds, so I claimed it for this project.  As I looked around the house for additional inspiration, and potential supplies, a theme quickly presented itself.  One of the first items I found was a metal honeycomb that I decided to use as a stencil for the sides and back of the bed.  Now that I knew I was going with a queen bee motif, it was time to get started.  First, I removed the drawer's hardware.  Then, I sanded all of the surfaces to prep for painting (and filled holes).  


Next, I primed everything with spray paint.  On the outside of the drawer, I used Rust-Oleum Chiffon Cream Chalked Paint.  The drawer's inside surfaces were painted with Rust-Oleum Metallic Gold.  Choosing to go with a metallic finish provided an unexpected, and very appealing, outcome.  How I love the way the underlying wood grain is highlighted by the shimmery play of light.




Following the application of the first coats of paint, I used the metal honeycomb sheet to overlay the creamy background with metallic hints of ongoing hive activity.  While working to evoke this effect, an additional idea came to mind.  If I modified the metal sheet for use on the front of the Queen's new bed, it could frame a name plate.


That is when I began to envision another feature: an acid-etched brass bee emblem.  Though I had recently experimented with etching copper, I wasn't sure if the same method would work with other metals.  I discovered that the technique worked perfectly with brass.  My new etching became the centerpiece of The Queen's nameplate.


In keeping with the bee theme, I used decorative jelly jars (think royal jelly) for the legs of the bed.  It was just a matter of painting the jars and then attaching the lids to the bottom of the drawer.


Finally, I added a luxurious faux fur mattress fit for a queen.  Miz Grizz works hard keeping everyone in line and has more than earned an extra measure of comfort.  I hope Her Majesty is pleased with my humble offering.  Though it is a small gift, it was made with great love.  She is the Queen of My Heart.

New Demo: Four-Poster Upcycled End Table Pet Bed




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