Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Garden update: ramshackle shed in place!

 Its been a busy week at home outside, as hubs and son have dedicated themselves to making
my dreams come true.  What dreams?  Well I wanted to move a condemned shed in my mother-in-law's backyard, (which is next doors) into our yard, on the upper terrace near my vegetable garden.
So we began the project this week, and it started off with a few bonuses, like adding six feet of 
extra width to this narrow courtyard.  Justin's idea, and I love it! That meant building a new
granite block wall, which they did, and as we speak the extra pea gravel is being spread.
 In this "before" picture you see the arbor in front of some steps leading up to another lawn
where there is a row of green hedges.  Well that is where the ramshackle shed is going to be 
placed, and the arbor would be moved up in front of the hedges, and if we move one of them over 
it will make a nice that happened today as well!

 So yesterday the guys pulled the old shed out from behind MIL's house. They looped a moving strap around it and it promptly kind of fell apart when they set it onto the ground. But I wasn't deterred.
Neither were they, luckily!  My son said he hadn't seen me that happy (EVER) in his lifetime....not sure I quite agree, but I was VERY happy this was going to finally happen.
 So they wrapped it up again, and secured it with some screws and stuff and off it went...
 That is just one side of it...we can fix that later. 
 In the meantime, Justin moved the arbor up to the top lawn and one of the trees was moved over after hubs dug it up with his excavator. Those machines are super handy, and I want to learn how to operate it so I can do exciting stuff like this all the time.
 We found some cobblestones and are going to have an apron leading into the back area where the shed and the kitchen garden will be located.  In the background hubs was pushing around some big blocks, and it turned out he had the idea to make a granite foundation for the dumpy shed.  What a great idea!  
 After the "foundation" was put in place (just like Thoreau's at Walden Pond, mind you) hubs
carried the shed over and set it into position.
Bingo! And just like that the area is taking shape and I am beyond ecstatic.  
This ramshackle shed project is just part of my magical garden plan.
Stay tuned for the expanded courtyard pics tomorrow!!
PS. I saw this book in an antique shop but the owner said it was not for sale.
"just for inspiration.." hmmmm I was inspired by it for sure after turning the pages.
I saw tons of designs using lattice, as well as the plants that like to grown on lattice.
So I ordered it from Amazon for .78 cents. Its an awesome garden book, in case you are 
looking for that kind of inspiration, like I am.

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Saturday, June 18, 2016

A week of Inspiration

 Its been a week full of personal inspiration, one I won't forget.
The beginning of the week had me making the decision to create some 
landscape mural paintings in my home office/studio.  Mind you I have never painted
scenes or anything before (besides furniture and some decorative wall panels I did for
my shop two years ago).  But I was carrying the inspiration of Jennifer Lanne's artistic
style, particularly some chairs she did at the commission of designer Sandra Kelley.
I saw these french chairs with landscapes painted on the backs and I just fell head over 
heels in love.  Jennifer also painted some large landscapes on tarps for Sandra that were
beautiful and restful.  They were the inspiration for my modest panels and I hoped to achieve
the romantic look that embodied them. 
This photo was Sandra Kelly's Brimfield booth, which was happily located in
the same field that our booth was stationed.  It was a delight to stumble upon her
booth and see the chairs that before I had only seen when I discovered them a year 
or so ago on Facebook.  The landscapes are so dreamy and magical, aren't they?
The artist, Jennifer Lanne, paints with a bold and colorful style, and Sandra had 
her create these in the neutral Swedish palette that she loves.  I LOVE them!
 The best thing was that if I didn't achieve what I wanted I knew I could
always paint over it...hah!  So my point is, put your fear to the side and just
have fun and be loose and paint.  I wanted my room to be full of these dreamy
landscapes, and after creating a pair of them on the back wall, I decided to 
try my hand at a Versailles-like scene, based upon our visit there in 2014.
There were many enchanting garden buildings, and this one is loosely based on the Belvedere.
 My choice of paint was what was in my stash, which is a boat load of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint.  To that I added water to keep it loose and flowing.  I tried to never get nervous when I wasn't loving what was happening on my "canvas".  In the end, I think they came out marvelous!
 Using my favorite Versailles coffee table book as a reference,
I could find landscapes and buildings and classical notes to add to my paintings.
It feels amazing when I walk into my office space now....
so if you are inspired by something, don't overlook a way to bring it 
to life inside of your own home. 
The next day I would travel to a friend's home for an alfresco lunch.
Kaydee and I met in my shops, she was a frequent customer and it was clear
we both liked the same things.  We both would find inspiration in so many of 
the same things, and our talk turned to gardens.  I have been working on my courtyard,
and Kaydee invited me to tour her garden and so I did.
She had this charming menu board set up in her dining room, and it was the sweetest thing!
Her use of color (especially my favorite lilac) was inspiring, and her home
is filled with her own personal style, which I would say is a cross of Boho
and Cottage style.  It is such fun to see a home with style!  By the way,
Matthew Mead and I are on a personal style kick~helping people determine
their own style and make strides to getting the look that they love.  So this visit tied 
into what I am really all about at the moment.  Discovering Personal Style.
  We enjoyed a laid back lunch in the garden, and I was blown away by how many containers and beds Kaydee has growing in her yard.  Tomatoes, potatoes, lettuces, herbs, peppers, beans, and a host of flowers~all grown from seed in the late winter!! I felt like an underachiever hahah!!  Her mom,
Barbara, joined us with her homemade Strawberry Lemonade.  It was a delightful day.
The next day was big doings...I would be joining Matthew Mead on a magazine shoot.
Who is more creative and inspiring than this guy? No one!
As it seems in my life anyways, all points get connected.  This shoot was at
the country home of designer Sandra Kelly.  Yes. That Sandra Kelly.
The one whose booth I ADORED in Brimfield. The one whose commissioned 
chairs and landscapes had so inspired me....well it turns out Matthew had arranged
for shooting her home for his new magazine, and I couldn't have been more excited.
How fun would it be to shoot a video of Matthew shooting a home?  In my world,
its very fun, especially when its a Swedish style home with the color palette I love.
Photo by Matthew Mead
I videotaped him shooting a bit of the house, and we also did a video segment
interviewing the designer about her own personal style.
Photo by Matthew Mead
And there are those amazing chairs!  
I hope you find some inspiration checking out Sandra's home
on the 3 mintue video link above.  My cup runneth over with inspiration this
week, both in fulfilling it and finding it in unexpected places.
How wonderful it all was.
Next week, Matthew will be heading to my home to shoot my office, so 
I better hurry up and finish the rest of my walls....!!

For Instagram peeps you can follow along with us below:
Amy Chalmers: @amymaisondecor
Jennifer Lanne: @jenniferlanne.devilshopfarm
Sandra Kelly: @flax_in_bloom
Matthew Mead: @matthewmeadstyle

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Friday, June 10, 2016

My magical garden plan takes shape

 This year's goal for the outside is to pull together different ideas I have conjured up for the outdoor
spaces and get it all to come together.  Last year we created a small peagravel courtyard that is 
accessed by the french doors we added off of our dining room.  When you do everything yourself, it sometimes takes longer to come together, and that has been the hardest part I think.
 That entire project was a dramatic win for me and hubs.  We all use the french doors daily
 as our main access.  So now I really want to finish the courtyard details.  
(Oh....that is my mother in law's Cape with the yellow shutters in the background,
 and now we can go from back door to back door with ease.)
 On the left side of the courtyard I had a hedge of knockout roses which all died, probably due to the digging we did for the courtyard, and then the cold snowless winter.  GAH!  So that means it will need to be replanted (the dead rose garden is out of screen shot on the left).  I think we will skip the roses as our dog seems to love the challenge of chewing and fighting with thorny branches for some bizarre instead I think it will be a narrow perennial bed, more like a cutting garden for household bouquets.  The iron day bed will be moving to the upper level of the garden next to a garden shed I hope to restore and turn it into a folly.  The gas grill will move closer to the french doors so I don't have to walk across the courtyard to cook dinner, which is almost a nightly occurrence during the summer.  The other changes will include moving the arbor to the upper level as an entrance to my imagined vintage garden space which will contain our garden folly, the kitchen garden (which is essentially tomatoes and basil plants), and the old daybed.  
 The vintage garden area will have vintage garden things of course. 
 Like this day bed, and those old fashioned flower baskets which I just bought
 from a gal who is selling a lot of stuff (more on this later). 
 I imagine filling the flower baskets with garden cuttings, 
or big mounds of mint or whatever is growing. 
 When we move the arbor to the upper level, I want to have hubs and sons dig up one of the arborvitaes in the center so I can squeeze the arbor in the middle of the hedgerow.  Kind of like a secret garden entrance...and the other exciting thing for me and Colby, is that a fence company is coming to install a white spindle picket fence with gates on the lower level (kind of where my dog is posed) so he can have a free run space, instead of always being on a lead if we are outdoors.  This should all be done by July, and I will be blogging about this incessantly step by step.  Haahah.
 In other news, I recently saw a FB notice about a gal selling some things, one of which was the flower basket collection.  I drove up to New Hampshire to pick them up, as well as a french style magazine rack when we got to talking and she mentioned she had purple transferware after I told her I collect it....say what???? She told me to hold on and she went into her house and came back out to the garage where I was waiting. 
 She had a milk crate with a dinner set for 8, almost complete, with a platter and vegetable serving bowl.  Oh boy!! Needless to say, this set came home with me, and I put it into action straight away. 
 Oh, and this was the beautiful cane magazine rack she had....I fell in love with this thing!
 So last night we had a dinner for 8, with some cousins of my husbands, and I happily set the table using the new old transferware set, Tonquin, by Royal Staffordshire. The pattern was designed by Clarice Cliff, who was the first woman designer who was a signed artist for Royal Staffordshire, which I think is a cool little factoid.  In the background you can see my dog and my doors to the courtyard.
 The flowers are in a porcelain watering can that belonged to my mom, 
and when she and dad moved, she gave it to me (I had always admired it). 
 It has held many flowers from her Martha's Vineyard garden, and now it will hold
 my garden flowers.  Its not old or anything like that, but it is very charming I think.
Next week I hope to accompany Matthew Mead to a photo shoot for this amazing stylist.
I will reveal who it is when I share on the blog...if it happens (fingers crossed).
I saw first hand how beautifully she creates spaces at Brimfield, as this was her booth.
If I get to go on the shoot, we will do one of our videos to share 
with you all on our YouTube channel.  
But aside from that I am busy trying to pull together my outdoor spaces.

Over on Instagram I have been obsessing over all kinds of lovely 
garden spaces and sheds, culling my ideas from many different sources.  
This one is just magical and has a mix of the wild and orderly style that I love. 
 Thanks to Country Living  Magazine for sharing it....
if you want to follow me on Instagram, my name is @amymaisondecor
No big surprise there.

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Friday, June 3, 2016

Taylor shares about her heart transplant

Hi everyone, its been awhile since my last blog post, and I have to say life is just whirling right now. I finished up Brimfield Antique Fair with my son, Justin Power.  We also made the decision to close his shop, Pioneer Goods Co., in Boston.  Although it was heart wrenching in some aspects, in other ways it was a clear cut decision for Justin to move in another direction.  Retail Home Decor shops are incredibly time consuming and a true labor of love.  Even when a shop wins accolades, awards and such, it doesn't mean it translates into the bottom line.  And while many can run a shop without taking home a paycheck, this was not the case with Justin's store.  Online and big box stores have essentially taken out the little guys, and I cannot express how important it is to try to make a conscious effort to support those still in the game.
Anyway, so after Brimfield, Justin and the family did the needful and wrapped it up.  It was exhausting both physically and mentally.  Now the dust has settled and I am returning to my new retired from shopkeeping life, and Justin has moved on to a new position, working with my husband in his growing excavation business.  Together they will accomplish great things, and its wonderful to still be able to work in our other small family business, with plans to make it bigger and better.
Another amazing person in my (extended) family, Justin's sister-in-law, Taylor, has been through a very hard journey, and she is finally coming out the other side. Tay has written a letter to us about her heart transplant. I cannot thank all of my friends and readers here on the blog and on Facebook for proving how wonderful humanity can matter where you find it.  People have been truly amazing and supportive for Taylor during this time.  And now she is sharing her thoughts on how it all went down, and what the process was really like, how she got through some of the darkest days and what she has learned (so far) throughout this unique journey of hers.  
Taylor, we LOVE you so much, and I wish for you to find all the 
happiness in the world, you deserve it.  xoxox

(Taylor, Madison and Justin, the night of my son's engagement party three years ago.)

Today marked 6 months with my new heart.
It continues to blow my mind how it can seem like it just happened yesterday & that it happened so long ago all at the same time. I can’t quite explain it. There are so many things that I want to say to everyone reading this but I struggle to find the perfect set of words.
After I was first diagnosed with Dilated Cardiomyopathy, I continued living my life as a normal girl in her early twenties. I focused on my studies, family & friends, and my health (with a few pills and cardiology appointments thrown in the mix). In discussions with my cardiologist at the time, talk of devices to maintain my heart health and a transplant were always brought up as a possibility much further into the future. I carried on with no symptoms of my disease and almost no worry at all as to how it might impact the future that I was working toward. Fast forward 4 short years later, I was sitting in a hospital bed at Brigham & Women’s Hospital with my doctors telling me that without open heart surgery to implant the LVAD, I would not survive the time it would take to receive a new heart.
I remember one night in particular in April of 2015, three months after my LVAD surgery. I was laying in my bed at my parents house in Maine. I unknowingly had developed a bacterial blood infection within my internal pump and was experiencing a frightening set of symptoms. My heart was racing, alarms on my device would blare with any sort of movement I made. I was dizzy, lethargic, and sweating through my clothes and my bedding at least 3 times throughout the night. This happened every single night over the course of a week. I remember looking at my phone and having it read 5:38 AM, and I had yet to fall asleep. As sick as I had been while in the hospital, I had never felt so close to death in my life as I did in that moment. I remember pulling the soaked covers over my head to try and muffle my sobbing, not wanting to wake my mom in the other room and worry her with how terrified I was, and just pleading "Whoever is up there, please just let me wake up in the morning”.
I am FAR from perfect, but in moments like that night in April I would question… “Why is this happening to me?”. I might have had a few drinks on a weekend night out, I never smoked, never did drugs, did not often gorge on junk food, stayed physically active; I could not understand how the life I had led up to this point had resulted in something so catastrophic. It got me thinking about the work I do as a psychiatric occupational therapist. Much of what I do in my role at the hospital I was working at before I got sick was to develop & lead one-on-one or group self-reflective discussions on a variety of subjects, including ideas on change, the power of positive thinking, gratitude, changing your thought process to promote positive outcomes, & how seeking out support and asking for help when you need it is not a sign of weakness, but rather a sign of strength. It was then that I had a realization: who was I to dedicate my career and life to passing these values onto my patients, when I can’t even live my own life by those standards? I realized I had so much to be thankful for, and that starts with all of you.
I have considered my father, mother, & my sister to be my best friends my entire life, and when my brother-in-law Justin entered our lives, he immediately became another part of our unit like he had been there all along. They all sacrificed so much to be beside me throughout this entire journey, I can’t begin to imagine how scary it must have been for them to sit by helplessly and watch someone they love in pain. When people commend me on my strength over the past 2 years, I can only think of the strength of those four to be strong when I couldn’t be. To put it simply, I hug them each a little tighter now. I promise you that.
I’ve been lucky enough to have the support from the many different communities that I have been a part of throughout my life. My hometown community came together and organized an amazing benefit dinner that I know took so much planning and hardwork. It re-affirmed why I will always be so proud of where I came from. The benefit held here in Boston that my best friend from college organized was also a huge success, and so many people came out to sing & dance along with Jimmy Plunkett and support the cause. In addition, so many individuals from UNE, Bournewood Hospital, the Chalmers/Power group, CMMC, Brigham & Women’s, The Massachusetts Chapter of the AHA & Go Red for Women, BMC Cardiac Rehab, Parish Cafe, extended family, acquaintances, and complete strangers reached out to show support for my family and I. I wish I could thank each and every one of you individually and thank you for all that you’ve done for myself and my family. I will never be able to repay you all. As I’ve said before, I promise to pay it forward in whatever way I can. You have restored my faith in humanity and the love, kindness, and generosity of others.
Lastly, I have to acknowledge the reason that I am still here- my donor. When people ask me about receiving “The Call” I usually hear, “You must have been SO excited!”. In all honesty, excitement was the last thing I was feeling. Instead, there was an immense sadness knowing that while my family and I received the news we had been waiting so long to hear, another family was having to say goodbye to someone that they love. I couldn’t fathom that in that moment, they were also faced with the decision of whether or not they wanted to honor their loved ones wishes by donating their organs. My transplant coordinator told me that it is recommended to wait a year until writing a letter to my donor’s family, but even at a little over a month post-transplant on National Donor Day, I wanted so badly to write to them. There is atleast one moment in every day that I think about who my donor was, and I sometimes find myself standing there with my hand on their beating heart, wondering where the heart inside of me has been and what it experienced before reaching me. I hope that when I do write my letter to my donor’s family, that they will accept it, read it, and want to meet me someday. There is nothing I want more than to be able to tell them that not a day goes by without me closing my eyes, clutching my chest, and thanking them for the most selfless gift. If there is one thing that has been the hardest thing to deal with post-transplant, it is the strange guilt that comes with the realization that I will never be able to thank my donor. The closest thing I can think of to a thank you is to live a life that they would be proud of. My mom summed it up best, saying once: “I don’t know who your donor was but I love them just as much as I love you and Madison”. They will be a part of me forever, even when someday it is no longer their heart that is beating within me. I couldn’t be more proud of that.
There is a theory proposed by Erik Erikson, who was a well-known developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst. He suggested that there are eight distinct psychosocial stages that we experience throughout the lifespan. From the moment I learned of this theory in my undergraduate studies, there has always been one that has stuck out as my favorite; the final stage. The eighth and final stage is described as “Ego Integrity vs. Despair” and takes place between age 65 and the end of ones life. In this stage, it explains that as you approach the end of your life, you can look at it in two different ways: you can choose Despair, and look back on your life with guilt, regret for things that we never got to experience, or sadness that it is all coming to an end. Or, you can choose Integrity; you can look back on the life you have lived and be proud of your accomplishments, focus on the beauty of your experiences both good and bad, and know that you lived your best life. In my work as an occupational therapist, I’ve always said that I want all of my patients, regardless of age, ailment, illness, or situation, to choose Integrity. In my own illness and recovery, and in times of anxiety and fear, I would often think about all that I hadn’t yet been able to experience: a long fulfilling career, traveling the world, watching my sister and Justin start a family, watching my parents become the most wonderful grandparents, meeting the love of my life, and someday hearing a little one running around calling me “Mum”. I just kept thinking, "I'm not ready. I don't feel like my work is done here yet". It is so easy when things are hard to focus on these sorts of negative thoughts, but I ask all of you to choose Integrity in whatever stage of your life you may be in. Don’t waste a single second not living your best life or reminding the people around you that you love them. You have all already done so much for me, but if I could ask you to do one more thing, it would be to please choose Integrity. I promise you won’t regret it.
I am feeling stronger physically, mentally, and emotionally each day and even though I still have a ways to go in my recovery, I am tackling every challenge one day at a time. I can only imagine what things will be like in another 6 months! Someday soon when I am back to work and leading a “normal” life, I will always carry with me the love and encouragement that you all have showered upon me. In this post, I have decided to include a picture of my native heart right after they took it out of me, to replace it with my new heart (sorry in advance if you are squeamish!). I was originally planning on keeping this picture to myself, as it is the last piece I have of the heart I was born with. But, ultimately, it felt like the right thing to do to share it with you all, as each and every one of you have held such a big piece of it for so long. Once again, my gratitude and love for each and every one of you is endless. Thank you, thank you, thank you 
-Taylor XO

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