Monthly Archives: May 2008

Priorities – if you’re into feng shui

Earlier today I read a post from a well-respected feng shui consultant in LA who gave her top ten feng shui tips. I can’t believe these are truly her top ten tips if by “top feng shui tips” she means “best suggestions for improving the ch’i in your environment.” They included keeping your windows and mirrors clean, your toilet lids down, your dead lightbulbs and dried flowers replaced in a timely fashion.

These are all good tips – but top ten????

When I go on a feng shui consultation dirty windows are usually far down on my list of where I believe the client’s priorities should be. Based on the issues I see in people’s homes, these are far and away the top problems:

1. Clutter, clutter clutter. This should hold the top five spots on my list. We have too much stuff.

2. Stuckness in the past (too many objects that no longer represent the person’s present or future life – and a staleness in the energy around them)

3. Lack of personal expression in the home. Furnishings, art and other decorative objects were either chosen by a decorator or are the kind of stuff you get at the mall. Either way, it’s not representative of the unique people who live there. Who are you? Figure that out then let it show in your surroundings.

4. Dull dead dreary color choices. Beige walls. Brown sofas. Color is transformative people! and paint is cheap.

5. The expectation that putting a symbol in a particular gua will magically bring their desire to fruition. Put a statue of two love-birds in your Love & Marriage corner and bingo! your prince arrives. No. He won’t unless you get out into circulation. Or lose a few pounds. God helps those who help themselves, isn’t that the line?

Paint! Power from the Palette

When I first moved into my home as a newly single woman I painted my bedroom a soothing sage green. It was soothing, womb-like, peaceful. The green pictures below are before I put up any art.

But after ruffling a lot of ch’i last week in a fit of feng shui madness, I woke up one morning and realized my bedroom was more than womb-like. It was DARK at the sleeping end despite the French doors.

Feng shui say: flesh tones very good in bedroom – peach, pink, apricot, sand, brown, etc. Hmm. Peachy sounded good. But you have to be very careful with these tones not to get into candy pink. Too much white and not enough brown.

My eye for nuance in color has gotten increasingly sharp over the years and I picked a color I thought would work from my paint deck(a fan of about 10,000 colors) and went down to my paint store and bought a sample quart.

I painted a one foot square on each of the four walls to see how the color looked with the different light exposures. I checked them in daylight and by light bulb at night. I put the art pieces I intended to use over the swatches to see if they would be enhanced or killed by the new color.

Bingo! Where it used to take me about 3 adjustments or additional quarts to get a color right, this time I nailed it on the first try.

I’d like to say that I am a DIYer, but I am a shitty painter and it would have taken me all week to do a bad job. Besides, I had two writing jobs due and my good plants are SCREAMING at me to free them from the jungle of weeds that now surround them.

I’m not a great photographer of interiors, nor a good bedmaker, but I love the new warmer look and feel.

It’s a feng shui no-no to have a work area in the bedroom, but my desk is at the other end of the room and is just for writing personal stuff and reading – as you can see I have a lot of books, mostly fun and inspirational here. Upstairs I have a real office where I write for pay, pay my bills, and keep the Serious Books.

Provincial, parochial: the anti-Portland, anti-tax, anti-light railers

Provincial: from the provinces; having local or restricted interests or outlook

Parochial: confined or restricted as if within the borders of a parish; limited in range or scope

I live in Vancouver, Washington – a city of 170,000 just across the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon. (No, we are not in British Columbia.).

Many people in Clark County work in Portland, and vice versa. Many of us also like the cultural and shopping opportunities in Portland.

Our two communities are linked by two interstate highways that cross the river . I-5 is the main west coast interstate thoroughfare – running from the Canadian border to the Mexican one. I-205 is a 40ish-mile by-pass a few miles east of I-5. Both highways cross the big river on bridges.

The I-5 bridge is old, narrow, and not earthquake safe. And with the rapid growth in the region, traffic on the bridge at peak hours slows to a crawl, and the crawl times get longer every year. It is also a draw bridge: because of its low profile any tall boat traveling up or down river means the bridge is raised and traffic stops completely for about ten minutes.

For all these reasons a bi-state task force has been studying solutions to this problem for years. They call themselves the Columbia River Crossing. At this point they’re about to release their recommendation and are taking public testimony.

Last night there was a hearing in Vancouver and all the anti-Portland, anti-tax, anti-light railers were out in force. They fear that our taxes will sky-rocket, that all the Portland riff-raff will ride the rails to Vancouver in order to rape our girls and steal our cars, and they think that light rail is a socialist plot. “We don’t need no stinkin’ Portland…”

The challenge is getting the pro-light railers out. So tonight I went to the second hearing to testify – this one in Portland. Not surprisingly most of the speakers were in favor of the project and of light rail.

I love my town, but sometimes I just want to shake my neighbors. With gas prices going through the roof, oil only getting scarcer, air getting more foul, and federal money available for this project now it seems like a no-brainer to me.

Having lived in the Bay Area before and after BART was built, I know how fabulous light rail is. But these folks haven’t left the provinces to experience it for themselves.


Proposing Change: Problematic!

I am serving on a committee that is proposing to change the name of our congregation from a long, obscure and unwieldy one that our 18 founders chose in 1953, to one that more accurately and concisely communicates to the world at large who the 250 of us are today.

We want newcomers to find us more easily and understand who we are more readily because our growth has stagnated, and like all the other mainline Protestant denominations, we need new YOUNGER members.

This seems obvious to those of us on the name change team. And the majority of the congregation agrees. But when it comes up for a vote we don’t want to be blind-sided by the nay-sayers, so we’ve held a bunch of discussion sessions over the past couple of months to get everyone involved. We had another discussion session this noon.

Oh. My. God. This is why I hate my fellow Unitarians. We can be as hidebound in our thinking as any fundamentalist group… but our fundamentalism is Individualism. Me, mine, my way. Open-minded as long as you agree with me.

Trying to get some folks to see that this change would be for the common good of our congregation is like trying to mollify spoiled brats. “I LIKE our name. I don’t CARE if newcomers don’t get it. I don’t care if we get any new members; my needs are being met.”

We actually had a couple of people say that if we changed our “sacred” name, they were LEAVING! As if a different name would make it a different congregation.

The truth is the founders pulled the name out of their butts back then, and the only founder that is still with us says she has always hated the name. So much for sacred.

I understand that change is hard for many people. But dang it! We are not the same congregation we were back in 1953; it’s not the same cultural and religious environment, and the spiritual needs of our community are expressing themselves in new ways. We adapt or die.

We must not be so attached to the past that we can’t move.

UPDATE – Dec 7, 2008: We DID it! After a year-long process the new name passed with 88% of the vote!

Perfection vs. Imperfection

I took these two photos about 20 feet apart in my back yard.

On the one hand, Gold Medal, a rose so perfect I want to weep looking at it.
And then a patch of weeds (one of many) so rampant I want to weep – in horror.

This is the face of nature. This is my life. Some parts so perfectly in order, others totally out of control.

I crave beauty, and both my yard and home have truly lovely sections. But both the yard and the house are too big for a single woman to keep up without significant help. Twice a year I spring for a major yard cleanup (the spring one coming up this week – YAY!) and three guys come in and do in one day what it would take me weeks to handle. The rest is up to me.

In this climate at this time of year, the weeds grow and proliferate at breathtaking speed. Once again I have to remember to apply the fifteen minute rule. Set the timer and just get out and work in an area for fifteen minutes. I tell my feng shui clients that it’s amazing what you can get done in just fifteen minutes – but I don’t always listen to my own wisdom…

In my non-gardening life, I’m great at starting projects, but maintaining them is something else. I have too many great ideas and not enough time, energy or money to take care of them in an on-going way. A few of them I go at full tilt and the result is pretty good (not quite perfection, but as close as I’ll probably get). A multitude of other projects showcase my imperfections – skeletal remains litter my workroom and lurk in the dusty corners of my crowded brain.

Poodle’s progress


My dog Molly will be 14 in a week.

Last week, while I was out of town and had left her with some friends who consider her their adopted child, she suddenly developed the colly-wobbles. The blind staggers, if you will. Her eyes started to go spastic and her legs just collapsed. She couldn’t stand up because it was obvious she was completely dizzy.

In a panic they took her to the vet, afraid she’d had a stroke. Turns out it was a very common disorder in older dogs – an inner ear disturbance. Old dog vestibular syndrome is what it’s called. The vet gave her some anti-nausea medication in case she was queasy and told my friends she’d probably be better in a few days.

They called me right away but I was 2000 miles away and could only rely on their good judgment and special care. Molly has been such an amazingly healthy dog that I’ve really not considered what life would be like without her. Just having her constant company by my desk, by my bed, at my chair is a comfort I’ve taken for granted. No more.

By the time I got home Molly was significantly better, though she kept her head tipped to the left as if she were perpetually saying, “Wha??”

Now, about ten days later she seems pretty much back to normal. Still deaf, but clearly not blind because on our walk this morning she took off like a rocket after a rabbit in the bushes.

Phew. Disaster averted for now.

Pontificating for a projector

I bought myself a projector last week in order to more effectively give talks that benefit from illustration – most specifically, about feng shui.

My family gave me a hard time about this expenditure but I told them (not sure if I was just blowing smoke out my butt) that it would pay for itself in new business in no time!

Tonight I earned half the cost by giving a feng shui talk at a local home furnishings shop. 34 folks showed up at $10 each (twice what I expected). That’s $340! and at least two of them want home consultations which should pretty much cover the rest of the cost of the projector.

I didn’t USE the projector because I don’t yet have my pictures assembled for an illustrated feng shui talk. Instead I blathered on for an hour, which most folks seem to enjoy. They especially like stories of people whose homes are in worse shape than theirs. Especially homes with a clutter problem.

Like my client who complained of being stressed. When I came to her house, she could not sit down to talk to me because she was so busy watering her potted plants – of which she had HUNDREDS – dozens in every room. And she wasn’t even a collector. Whenever a plant got too crowded in its pot she divided it – but couldn’t bear to throw away the subdivisions. She was like a cat-lady who never learned about spaying.

Or the guy who worked on the kitchen table because he didn’t like going into his office. When you looked in the office door the first thing you saw was a floor-to-ceiling bookcase crammed higgledy piggledy with books and boxes – if there had been a magnitude 1.5 earthquake he’d have been buried alive. His desk was overflowing with papers and fixit projects. No wonder he didn’t want to go in there!

All the ch’i ruffling I’ve done around my own home this past week has really paid off! Three writing assignments, 2 unsolicited job offers, and all those folks tonight. Wow.

Purging excess possessions: 3 easy steps

Why would you want to purge your excess possessions? Let me count the ways…

No, actually I’m not going to enumerate them right now; it’s too depressing. I’ll just say that we Americans have a serious Possessions Problem, and it’s choking our ch’i.

So if you’re looking around your place feeling stuck, stagnant, stale and stupefied, consider purging. Here are the four most basic steps.

  1. Stop clutter at the front door. Prevention is always the best strategy! Only buy what you need and have a predestined place for. Stop going to garage sales. Throw out junk mail before it settles on the kitchen table. As catalogs arrive, call their 800 number and ask to be removed from their lists. Accept other people’s stuff only if you really need it. If you acquire a new piece of furniture, let go of a piece of furniture that someone else can use. Ditto with clothing. Recycle or compost early and often.
  2. Tackle small chunks at a time. Avoid feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of the task ahead by biting off manageable chunks. Set a timer for fifteen minutes and choose one drawer, one shelf or one category of clothing. Do this for fifteen minutes every day and you’ll see remarkable progress in no time.
  3. As you approach each item, ask yourself these questions:
    • Do I love it?
    • Do I need it?
    • Do I use it?
    • Does it enhance my life? (or does my heart sink when I see it?)

Then sort your things into 4 piles or boxes for dealing with. Mark the boxes Yes YES!; Yes, but…; No, but…; and No NO!

  • Yes yes! I love it and I need it, it works and it’s useful
  • Yes, but… I love, need, use it – but it needs fixing or is in the wrong location
  • No, but… Someone else should have it (Goodwill, relative, friend, Ebay)
  • No no! Toss it out (or recycle)

If you get stuck, enlist a dispassionate friend to help. Trade time. Or pay if you must. Their job is to keep you focused, to cheer you on, to help you realistically assess value (or lack therof), and to ask you the hard questions: “Do you honestly think you’ll be a size 8 again?” “Do you really believe your children will want that?”

You CAN do this. And you’ll feel sooooo much better. (I just finished de-cluttering my bedroom and home office and I feel like a new woman.)

Lather, rinse, repeat. (This is an ongoing process, not a state of perfection. Sorry)

Perils of pontificating – feng shui edition

I’m scheduled to give another talk on feng shui this week.

I love these assignments because as I review my feng shui books and notebooks for fresh ideas I quickly realize that my own house has once again fallen out of order. If I’m going to pontificate about creating positive energy with feng shui, keeping the ch’I moving, getting rid of clutter, and all that, I’m going to have to do some serious purging myself.


That’s the trouble with feng shui. Once you understand the psychic costs of living in an environment with stuck ch’I, you must do something to free it up again. So you go on a feng shui rampage — purging and purifying, plumping and primping.

Then time passes. Piles accumulate. Crap attracts more crap (a law of thermodynamics I just invented). The season changes but Christmas decorations linger and a certain winter heaviness prevails in the color scheme. Symbols that you placed in your wealth corner (a pair of lovely lead crystal goblets) to usher in the big bucks are dusty and forgotten. Ditto the lovebirds in the love and marriage corner which were supposed to bring in a new romance.

Every few months I awaken, as if from a dream, to realize that the house has gone unconscious again and it’s time another round of purging, purifying, plumping and primping.

That’s what I’ve been doing the past few days. I cleared a nearly composted mound of paper off my desk and another one off the kitchen counter, moved about a dozen paintings into new locations, and reorganized the books on my bookshelves to reflect my current projects (and have a boxful ready for the library’s book sale). I bought a couple of light bright throw pillows to wake up the couch, put a summery bed ruffle, bedspread and cheery sheets on the bed. I got some paint samples to test colors for a bedroom makeover.

Altogether, I feel much lighter.

Tune in tomorrow for some purging tips.

Poppies are popping!

My neighbor up the street has the most phenomenal oriental poppies. In full open mode a blossom is about nine inches across. Watching the phases of a blossom is like watching an egg hatch. Here’s part of the sequence:

Poppy Bud