Grateful: Day 10

It's 20 degrees outside, but I don't know that – really – because I'm inside my house.

Tonight, when I'm sleepy, I'll hop in my bed, and I won't need to cover myself with mounds of blankets, like I did while I was on my mission in Uruguay, because there is heat in our home. Il_570xN.177952216 Source:  Swallowfield, Jennifer Judd-McGee. 

I've lived in homes, apartments, dormitories.  Sometimes owned, sometimes rented.  On occasion, beautifully appointed.  Some of the memories are happy, some not.  The details change.

But one thing has not.

Every day of my life, I have shelter.

What about you?

Mary Alice Hatch | Creating Something Beautiful

Mary Alice Hatch is a wife and mother of two. Six years ago she actively pursued her dream of starting her own interior design studio. For the last two years she has served as her own client designing and decorating two homes in New Hampshire and Wellesley, MA.  She is most happy when she is creating something beautiful.

After you read Mary Alice's post and view her images, will you leave a comment?  When you do, you will give Mary Alice the gift of being heard and seen.  And what finer gift is there?


Since I was a small child, I have always loved to create. I love to create something magnificent from something ordinary.  I love entering a new space and coming up with new possibilities.

As a young girl I would constantly create new room layouts; when my parents would go on a trip I would repaint my furniture and add new hardware. In college, I started to build furniture; I also love to arrange flowers.

Because I have always enjoyed design, I went back to school 6 yrs ago to take a correspondence course in Interior Design from a school in NYC.  Though I opened my own design studio in May of 2003, for the last three years, I've been my own client as I rebuilt an old boathouse and new guest house at our home in New Hampshire.

Hatch Boathouse

About 1 1/2 years ago, Architectural Digest had an Open Submission, the first time ever.  One of my life-long goals has been to submit my work to a first rate Interior Design publication like Architectural Digest. I knew the chance to be picked for the single published spot was slim, but I nonetheless photographed and submitted my boathouse, went to New York, and stood in line outside the D&D Building.

When my time came to meet with one of the editors, I was so excited.  As I showed her my “before” and “after” portfolio and listened to the editor's expressions of interest, I felt such a feeling of accomplishment.

Dock:  Before and After

MAH Dock Before

Dock after MAH


Master Bath:  Before and After

Master bath before

Master bath after


Kitchen:  Before and After

Kitchen-family room before-1

Kitchen family room after


Family Room:  Before and After


Family room before

Kitchen family room after2

When I was finished showing her my portfolio she asked me if she could keep it to show Paige Reese, the Editor-in-Chief of the magazine.  Of course I said “YES”, and then floated out of the meeting.  It was so validating to have someone at the top of my field like my project.  Unfortunately, I didn't win, but I was competitive — and that felt good, really good.

Since finishing that project, and as my children continue to grow, I have been doing a lot of soul-searching as to what my dream really is.  I haven't yet figured it all out — do we ever? — but here's what I know:
I love design.
I am glad that I went to Architectural Digest's Open Submission.
I love that because I work for myself, my children can be my number one client, and I have the flexibility to create anything I want.
I also know…

I am most happy when I am creating something beautiful.

Hatch Patio

Does Mary Alice's experience signal for us how we can know that we really want something?  Including being willing to travel to another city, and stand in line all day, so that our work can be seen?  And what kind of courage does it take to put our work in front of someone knowing that may like it, but they may not? 

As I read this post, I thought of Christine Vick's post Simply Living, and her comment that “for a task to be valuable, it doesn't need to be weighty, solemn, or make history, it just needs to matter to me.”

I also couldn't help but think of how much time I spend visiting (and buying) Portabellopixie, Swallowfield, Sarah Jane Studios to name a few.  Why?  Because what I see there is beautiful to me.

As you think about your dreams, aren't they about creating?  Something not ugly, but beautiful?

Can you think of something that you wanted to achieve, and once you did, you were ready to move on?  

One final note:  All images are copyright of Mary Alice Hatch.

Janika Dillon | Taking a Stay-cation

“I don't even have the time or energy to hear myself think a thought, how can I possibly ‘dare to dream'?”
If this is your current plight, dear reader, I dedicate Janika Dillon's guest post (see her bio at the end of the entry) to you. She begins:

This week I've become a rebellious hermit.

Since last October, our family has been planning a spring break trip to visit friends and historical sites in Pennsylvania, a trip for which I had:

    • Researched where to eat, what to see (and best day to see it), entrance fees, hours of operation, parking fees, best driving routes, etc.
    • Made a neat pile of all my research and had a packing/things-to-do list two pages long.
    • Checked out children's books and tapes about Gettysburg, The Statue of Liberty, Valley Forge, and more.
    • Selected travel friendly activities for my children and bought lots of snacks.
    • Did all the laundry, packed all the bags, vacuumed & cleaned out the car, cleaned out the fridge, cleaned the whole house.

Are you tired yet?  I was.

Minutes before our planned departure I told my husband, “You know, I really don't want to go on this trip. I just want to stay home all by myself for five days.” He quickly agreed, discussed with our four kids, and within minutes they were gone. Without me.

At first I felt guilty and slightly rebellious–who am I to opt out of the family vacation?  I love my kids, was looking forward to some family time and was eager for them to learn about our country’s history with me as their tour guide!

But I really did need a break.  It had been three and a half years since I had the whole house to myself for a few days, and in fact, what I'd wanted last Christmas more than anything was “12 hours by myself in my own house!”


Courtesy:  Swallowfield

Once I gave a million kisses and waved good-bye, I found myself suddenly alone in a perfectly clean and quiet house. I had no desire to venture out of the house; I just wanted to luxuriate in time to myself. I made a long list of things I wanted to do, including some sewing, organizing and keeping in touch with loved ones.

I called my 88 year-old grandparents for a delightful hour-long phone call.  A few minutes later a dear high school friend called me, saying “I just saw your phone number in my book and thought I should call you.” We spoke for two hours, our friendship never missing a beat. I chatted with another out-of-town friend who happened to be coming to Boston this week; we've planned a day's worth of lovely activities.

I began to sort through files on my desk, finding long-forgotten scribbled notes on tiny scraps of paper with phone numbers and emails of friends I meant to contact months ago. One friend had a baby in December–still haven't been to see her. Another newly-discovered friend is an amazing artist, mother and person–someone I'd love to know better. My husband and four children going in different directions had left a wake of neglected friendships and missed opportunities.

More than that, I had filled my mind with so many to-do lists in the midst of mothering chaos, I had forgotten how to hear my own voice over the past few months. When a quiet moment did come, I didn't how to use my free time because I didn't really even know what I wanted to do.


Courtesy:   Swallowfield

With everyone gone, I thought I would feel lonely, that I would listen to books on tape all day to keep me company. But I'm not. I love the silence and the chance I have to hear my thoughts, to wonder what what I will think up next, to wake up early, my mind spinning with new ideas.

Just this morning I woke up with a plan for how to improve my town’s Patriots Day celebration. Paul Revere rides through our town each year complete with a mini-parade, a speech from the Mayor, the high school band and lunch at the Revolutionary-era funeral home.  But because the crowd (mostly comprised of young families and grandparents) waits about an hour between the time that the mini-parade is over and when Paul Revere actually rides in, the high school band runs out of songs to play and an awkward dead space ensues.

My early-morning idea was to involve the city historical society, the city family network, the local top-notch university and other city and business organizations to sponsor several historical activity tables for the children to learn more about Paul Revere and the history of our town.  I mapped out the layout, supplies, partners, activities and funding in less than an hour and realized that I felt so strongly about this project that, if needed (gasp! How scary is that to my shy self!), I could go talk to the mayor, business owners, historical society president, or whoever I needed to help get this event rolling.


Courtesy:  Swallowfield

It was so refreshing to discover that I felt strongly about something that I was willing to step outside of my comfort zone to make it happen.  In my normal ‘non-rebellious, non-hermetic' life, I often find myself pushing away really good ideas because I just don’t have time to develop or implement them.  Maybe, just maybe, this time away from the noise will allow me to set some priorities for myself until the next time I take an extended break.

Joseph Campbell wrote, “You must have a room, or certain hour of the day or so, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don't know who your friends are, you don't know what you owe anybody, you don't know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.”

As I carried on coherent conversations with my long-lost friends, many were at first shocked I would stay home, but then commented enthusiastically, “Oh, that is exactly what I want to do!”

It has been my perfect stay-cation and I highly recommend it.

Kudos to Janika for ‘asking for what she wanted'; kudos to her husband and children for saying ‘yes'.

For Mother's Day, your birthday, or even next year's Patriot's Day, why not ask for a Stay-cation? Everyone leaves, and you magically remain home alone.

For more on this topic, click to Making a Place for Your Dream, Spoiler Alert, When our Loved Ones Ask What about me?,  A Space for Women's Voices.

P.S.  In the spirit of full disclosure (she says with tongue firmly in cheek), I've purchased more than several pieces of art from Swallowfield, and plan to purchase many more in the coming years.  Jennifer Judd-McGee's art makes me happy!

More about Janika: (She asked me to shorten, but it was far too interesting!)

Janika Dillon originated in Ithaca, New York where her parents were in graduate school. She spent her childhood roaming her Wichita, Kansas neighborhood on a sparkly blue banana seat Schwinn bicycle and organizing club meetings in the tops of trees. Her teenage years were spent in Provo, Utah where she played violin in the orchestra, designed and sewed the costumes for school musicals and Shakespearean plays and dreamed of traveling to Europe.  As a student at BYU she studied Communications and German and had the time of her life studying abroad in Vienna, Austria and Frankfurt, Germany.  Two hours before departing for an 18 month church mission to South Korea, she turned in the final draft of her honors thesis about noted 19th Century woman's suffragist Emmeline B. Wells.

One month after returning home from her mission in Korea, she returned to work as an intern at a small manufacturing company in Seoul.  The fascinating experiences with the women in this office and other companies she eventually interned at inspired her masters thesis on “Women in the Workplace in Korea” for her degree in Organizational Behavior and International Development. Janika worked in Exec Ed for a few years before moving to Boston with her husband James and deciding to stay home full time with her four young children.

When Our Loved Ones Ask, ‘What About Me?’

When a would-be ‘dare to dreamgirl' eagerly shared with her husband an entrepreneurial idea, his response was:

What about our household?  Our children?  (I suspect he was also thinking what about me?)

The myth of Psyche, a story that helps us understand feminine psychological development, may have been helpful here, as Psyche would not have undertaken her hero's journey had it not been for the sake of a relationship.  Meaning, consensus suggests women can't attend to their relationships and their identity:  the Psyche myth suggests otherwise.

Let's look at the first question:

1) What about our home?

As we pursue a dream, will there be specific tasks that we currently do that won't get done (e.g. will chaos ensue?)

Do you remember the ants that help with Psyche's first task?  The ants illustrate the importance of intuition and of delegation as we sort and sift through priorities.  Specifically, as we plan out how to get our dream done, let's inventory which of the tasks that mom currently does that can be delegated to our children. Our husband. To outside help.

Lest you worry that by delegating these jobs, you will no longer have a real place within your family, think again.  It's simply not true.

And remember — just as the ants sorted the seeds one-by-one, we can delegate one task, one simple task, see what happens, then delegate another.

Sort, sift, sort some more.


Source:  istockphoto

2)  What about our relationships?

Psyche's 3rd Task, which involves filling the flask, or achieving a goal against tough odds, also illustrates the importance of delegation.  This time she delegates to Zeus' eagle.  I can't help but think that the eagle is representative of the men in our lives.  There are things that we can learn from them, not to mention our children, that will help us accomplish our goals.


Source:  istockphoto

3) What about the times when our journey requires we go it alone?

Psyche's 4th Task requires she journey alone to retrieve a box of beauty ointment. As she travels she must say no (word of protection) to those seeking help so she can say yes (word of connection) to her relationships. With any dream, there are moments when we must figuratively, if not literally, go it alone.

Which circles us back to our loved ones underlying query — ‘What about me?'

For Psyche's 2nd Task, gathering the fleece, that's the easy part. The trick is to gather without engaging in head-butting, thus losing her innate sense of caring and connectedness.  This is not an easy one for me.  It has been and continues to be easy to become so intent on gathering the fleece, and wanting to be good at that gathering, that I (we) can forget why we are gathering in the first place.


Source:  istockphoto

In Orson Card's book The Call of Earth, there's a character named Hushith.  As a raveler, Hushith “lives in the constant awareness of all the connections and relationships among the people around her. Having a web-sense is naturally the most important thing in her life, as she watches people connect and detach from each other, forming communities and dissolving them.”

So here's what I wonder.

Do any of us really begrudge our loved ones living their dream, fleece gathering as it were, so long as our relationships are strengthened, and the fleece they gather is spun into wool that binds them to us?

Samuel Johnson said, “the ultimate result of all ambition is to be happy at home.”

So true.


Source:  Etsy — Swallowfield

As you have the floated an idea, have you encountered resistance from your loved ones?

Is it possible that the resistance is less about their confidence in your ability to pursue the dream, and more about their concern that you will go away?  I must say I often wonder what happens on What Not to Wear after the makeover.  How do the relationships shift?

If you aren't willing to delegate, why?  Are you worried about your loss of place?  Or identity?

In what ways can we involve our children, our husbands and the men in our life in the pursuit of our dream?

If the connections between and among people were visible, what would people see? Who would we be connected to?  Five years ago?  Five years hence?

“Spoiler” Alert

I woke up this morning happy, rolled over, slept some more.

An hour later, I woke up again, giddy.

My husband took our children to visit with family for the day.

So I'm home alone without a list of a million things that I expect myself to get done because my perfectionist self is away as well…I kindly asked that she go on holiday — and proceeded to give myself a permission slip…

To watch two episodes of What Not to Wear (if anyone would like to nominate me — would you please?)

To get up when I want to.

To think what I want to.

To do what I want to — when I want to.

Used by permission from Swallowfield

What will I do today?

I don't know yet.

And I don't need or want to know.

My friend Jen said to me recently, “How can I ‘dare to dream' when I don't even have time to think my own thoughts?”

She's absolutely right, isn't she?

If you don't quite have it in you to carve out a day alone ‘just because', when your husband or boyfriend or roommates or parents or friends ask you what you want for your next birthday, tell them you want a day all by yourself — in your very own house — to think your own thoughts.

It's going to be hard to ask — so before you do — you may want to read: Martha and Mary, Psyche and Choice, Asking for What We Want, Learning to Give Myself What I Need

A day by your self will feel indulgent.

It will spoil you.

And it will feel wonderful.

Have any of you done this recently?

Just how hard was it? Or not?

How did you feel?

Did you find there was there more, not less, of your self, more ability to care and connect?

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