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This Birmingham Woman May Get Arrested for…WHAT?

Friday, May 1st was Ana Sullivan’s birthday.   But not even the gorgeous weather we’ve been having could brighten up this major birthday bummer

On that very day, the City of Birmingham gave her a “present” in the form of a notice.    It was a warning that if she didn’t correct a certain something within 14 days, a warrant would be put out for her arrest.

The offense?

Flowers.

These flowers to be exact:

Coreopsis 

Ana planted them in her front yard, located in the Avondale neighborhood, along with some cosmos and poppies.

What’s the catch, you may be thinking?  Certainly, there is something else going on, right???

I went to her house to check out the situation and get a closer look.  Surely, someone cannot be arrested for flowers!

Here is what I saw:

Ana’s house with lots of pretty flowers

To be fair, the flowers are in the “right of way” which is technically owned by the city.   I’m still not sure about the damage the flowers are doing to threaten a warrant. 

This is the view from the front porch.  Nothing offensive here as far as I can see.

Sure enough, here’s the letter:

I asked her about the jasmine that covers and shades the front porch, thinking that maybe there are some laws about that.  She said, no, that it has been there for years, and that was not what the letter was referring to, (to which I agree).   She also disclosed to me that this time last year, while attending her daughter’s end-of-the-school-year party, she came home to see her yard (oops, sorry, the right of way between the sidewalk and the street) cut — yes, CUT DOWN.  Last year, she was given no notice, no warning, and a neighbor confirmed that indeed it was someone from the City who had done it.

At least this time, the City of Birmingham had the decency to allow her to cut them herself?

Ana is currently in touch with several members of the community to get to the bottom of this.  The woman at the phone number on the citation loosely claimed that it was the “undergrowth” to the coreopsis, not the yellow flowers themselves, but Ana was quick to point out that those too, were flowers (cosmos) that just haven’t bloomed yet.  Plus I’m not sure how this logic plays out in accordance to the 2-to-4-inch rule mentioned in the letter.

It seems that there are a couple of species in her yard that are supposedly federally protected as well…which could make this whole thing even more interesting.

HOW YOU CAN HELP:
Spread the word!    Change takes all of us!  Ana is also concerned that 14 days is an unreasonable amount of time to figure out what to do and what her rights are.  If you can help, please email her at m.anasullivan@yahoo.com 

Remember…  
A few years ago in Los Angeles, Ron Finley was arrested for “guerrilla gardening” (this time it was food) in those patches between sidewalk and street.  ARRESTED…for gardening. 

But because of the outrage of the community, the pressure caused the city to change these ridiculous laws!  Now you can grow veggies (as well as flowers) in the areas technically owned by the city.  Note that Finley was planting in food deserts; it’s a good thing that men like Finley are working to make our cities healthier and more livable!  

Here’s his Ted Talk if you need some mad inspiration.

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50+ Books to Shift Your Consciousness & Inspire You

With summer around the corner, what better way to spend a lazy day than to read?   Get inspired this summer!   Here’s a list of some of my favorites in no particular order if you need something to oh, you know, change your life in amazing ways…

LIST OF FAVES:

Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda

The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks

The Course in Miracles

Lightworker’s Way by Doreen Virtue
Healing with the Angels by Doreen Virtue

Make Miracles in Forty Days by Melody Beattie

Animal Speak by Ted Andrews
Animal-Wise by Ted Andrews

Animal Talk by Penelope Smith

Ask and It is Given by Abraham-Hicks

You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay

Siddhartha by Herman Hesse

The Alchemist by Pablo Coehlo

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

Grace and Grit by Lanier Isom & Lilly Ledbetter

The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman

Dream Game by Ann Faraday
Dream Tending by Dr. Stephen Aizenstat

The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell

The Bible

Non-Violent Communication by Marshall B. Rosenberg

Think and Grow Rick by Napolean Hill

The Game of Life by Florence Scovel Shinn

The Four Agreements by Don-Miguel Ruiz

Anger by Thich Nhat Hanh

Diet for a New America by John Robbins

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

Mists of Avalon by Marion Bradley

Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus by John Gray

Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman

Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsh

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

The Hobbit by J. R. Tolkien

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

The Man Who Planted Trees by Jean Giono

Still Life with Woodpecker by Tom Robbins

Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki

The I Ching

Anatomy of the Spirit by Caroline Myss

The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

The Teachings of Don Juan by Carlos Castaneda

Many Lives, Many Masters by Brian Weiss

There Is A River: The Story of Edgar Cayce by Thomas Sugre

The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield

Making Movies by Sidney Lumet

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui by Karen Kingston

Feng Shui Chic by Sharon Stasney (and all her books)

Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life by Karen Rausch Carter

The Western Guide to Feng Shui by Terah Kathryn Collins

Sacred Space by Denise Linn

For more feng shui books, see this post!

What are your favorites??!

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Romance, Wabi-Sabi, and the Unglorification of Perfectionism

This is Jessica Lazarus.  She’s getting married in October.  I wish I could say that this was yet another romance sparked by a feng shui cure, but nope, I only met her two days ago.

Coincidentally, it was at an engagement party.  (We were celebrating Angela Karen, Birmingham photographer, the gorgeous blonde in the background, who is getting married in May.)

I wanted to meet Jessica because of her HAIR.  It’s red and pretty.  Again, coincidentally, it turns out that Jessica is a hair stylist and make-up artist and that, according to Angie, she is THE red expert in Birmingham.

She and I became fast friends, and as conversations go, Jessica asked me what I did for a living, and I told her that I was a feng shui consultant.  She lit up, as some people do, and she told me about her beloved home.   She and her fiancé live together in a older, more “charming” house on the edge of Forest Park and Avondale (Forest Park to him, Avondale to her) and she described how she wants everything “perfect” (i.e. the wall art can never get straight enough) and that her husband is a sort of happy-go-lucky free-for-all type who says that it’s all good…it’s wabi-sabi.

“Wabi-sabi?” I asked.  “Is that how he describes your relationship…or the house?”

Jessica smiled largely.  “Well, I meant the house, but I guess it could apply to our relationship too!”

You see, I had no idea what wabi-sabi meant.    It’s Japanese, I knew, but only because it was the name of a sushi restaurant in Venice, CA where I used to reside.

I was intrigued.  “What do you mean?  I mean, what does IT mean?  Wabi-sabi.”  My heart rate was going up.  I could tell we were hitting on something good and juicy and feng shui-y.

She kept smiling (she really has a charming smile) and said, “I don’t know.  Trey says it’s like the ‘perfect imperfection,’ like perfect is imperfect or the imperfections make a place perfect.”

Ah-ha this was it!  After all, I often encounter people who think that their houses have to be PERFECT in order for it to have good feng shui.   And I’m like, “No, no, no.  Then it would NOT be good feng shui.”

Furthermore, people are always saying to me, “YOUR home must be perfect.”

And I’m like, “No it’s not!  It’s really not.  Trust me.”  Then I wink and say, “But of course, it has good feng shui.”

So, on this serendipitous evening, surrounded by bride-to-be’s, I discover this word — a beautiful, melodic, foreign, fun WORD — for this concept of perfection being imperfect and imperfection being perfect.  Oh, how I love a paradox!

WABI- SABI.  There really is no real English translation for it.  There is only description.  I searched online for attempts at definitions.  While Wikipedia was satisfactory, this one was my favorite:

From NobleHarbor:

Pared down to its barest essence, wabi-sabi is the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in nature, of accepting the natural cycle of growth, decay, and death. It’s simple, slow, and uncluttered-and it reveres authenticity above all. Wabi-sabi is flea markets, not warehouse stores; aged wood, not Pergo; rice paper, not glass. It celebrates cracks and crevices and all the other marks that time, weather, and loving use leave behind. It reminds us that we are all but transient beings on this planet-that our bodies as well as the material world around us are in the process of returning to the dust from which we came. Through wabi-sabi, we learn to embrace liver spots, rust, and frayed edges, and the march of time they represent.    —- -architect Tadao Anode

Poetry, I tell ya.

source

Trust me, I’m still absorbing what the concept of wabi-sabi means, but I can tell you that, as far as feng shui goes, the word has inspired me to reinforce to you that a “perfect,” Pinterest-worthy home may not be good feng shui.   A lived-in, happy, and (gasp) even outdated home, with quirks and imperfections, but a good flow, a humble presence, gracious hosts, and plenty of authenticity, may just be the best feng shui of all.

(This all being said, wabi-sabi is not an excuse for you not getting that annoying leak fixed nor allow the paint to chip all over the home.)

The point is, your home is as unique as you are.  None of us are perfect, and in this society, with its air-brushed bikini bodies and manicured lawns, we can forget that our imperfections — and our homes’ imperfections — are well, what make us perfect.

What does this all have to do with Romance?  Interestingly, when I was 16, I met a girl my age who was raised in Europe, so naturally she had different sensibilities that I did, and she was in love, and I found her strangely wise.  She said to me once, about her boyfriend, “I love him because of his flaws.  It’s his flaws that make him who he is.  And I love him for them.”

And it’s stuck with me ever since.

Congrats to both Angela and Jessica on your upcoming nuptials!  May the spirit of wabi-sabi be with you both!  xooxox

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The Year of the Sheep, My Take

On February 19, 2015, we will move into the Year of the Sheep (otherwise known as the Ram or the Goat.)

We will be moving out of the Year of the Horse.

Horses I am into.  I absolutely love horses.  They may just be my favorite animals.

But Sheep?  I mean, I really don’t think about sheep so much.

What you talkin’ about, Katie?  (Source)

Because I was a bit dissatisfied with what information I found on the Internet regarding the Year of the Sheep, I decided to sit down and see if I could get some of my own guidance, (a.k.a. “automatic writing).

This is what came through:
I wrote, “I ask for information/guidance regarding the energies of the Year of the Sheep that is coming up.”

I got:
Sheep’s energy is one of Giving.  It gives milk and wool and is mild-mannered.  There is an abundance energy regarding Sheep in that it can give and give and not be affected much in that giving.  The milk is easily replaced as is the wool.

Source  “Comfort & nurturing” are marks of the Year of the Sheep

Innocence is the mark of Sheep too.  (Sacrificial lamb.)  Sheep is not necessarily a determined creature but one that is content to follow the herd.

While some people, especially in Western cultures, may see this attribute as a flaw or weakness, in truth, it is simply a willingness to surrender to the flow of the energy currents already present.  Not wanting nor striving to be a “leader” or “unique” can have great benefits.

It has the element of being content with one’s “herd” or tribe and enjoying the comforts of a pastoral life, knowing that there is a shepherd of sorts watching over in protection.  After all, how many tales have a shepherd as an important character?  One who is usually humble and true and free of pretense?

Source

Sheep does not hide nor does it stand out particularly.  Their role may seem passive in Western eyes, yet Westerners have forgotten the value of going with the flow and allowing.

After all, if a sheep strays from the herd, that is when disruption happens.  If the shepherd is a true one, it is IDEAL to stick with the herd — so before one judges the “herd mentality,” remember that the herd mentality can be healthy if it’s in the highest good of all.

As far as 2015, the Year of the Sheep, goes…. expect abundance — not in the flashy, showy way — but in the creature comforts of home and family life.  If one can unplug from the go-go-go mentality of the Western culture and learn to surrender to a calmer, more meandering path, one will discover the joys of a slower pace and really ENJOY life.

While the Year of the Horse had its ups and downs and excitements, the Year of the Sheep will be a welcome one with its nurturing energies if one can recognize that there is value in living day to day at a slower speed.  Give thanks for the blessings that are here!  Sheep shall give great comfort and joy.  She is The Great Provider and while she does not fan fancy feathers nor strut her stuff, her gifts are 10,000-fold if you could all just settle down and honor her.

Sheep is the 8th animal in the Chinese zodiac.

The numerology adds up to an 8 year (2+0+1+5=8).

8 is the number of prosperity and abundance and flow.

It is tradition in China to prepare for the Chinese New Year by letting go of the old — decluttering and cleaning house!  Please join us for DECLUTTER YOUR WAY TO CLARITY so Sheep can have room and space to provide for you in 2015.  Click here for testimonials and to sign up!  

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How to Declutter — Japanese-style!

I’ve been antsy to write this book report since I read Marie Kondo’s book a few weeks ago.  

 

Turns out you CAN judge a book by the cover.  (Notice the all lower caps.  love.)  This one is precious from the outside all the way through.

First, be warned:  Marie Kondo is Japanese.  She’s tiny and quaint and precious as far as I can tell, having not met her in person (yet).     Her book is about “tidying,” which in plain English translates to “decluttering and organizing” which in most American households translates to “getting rid of your s@#* that has piled up.”

I have not been to Japan (yet), but let’s face it, I think the Japanese have we Americans whooped in the “tidying” department.  You never hear about McMansions over there.  No, instead visions of crisp white mats on floors and neat little chopsticks and perfectly-rolled sushi fill my brain when I think of Japan.

When I think of typical middle-America?  I see SuperSizeMe and strip malls and big cars and traffic, truth be told.

So.  We are whooped.

Top that by the fact that Marie has literally been decluttering (tidying) since she was FIVE, stealing her mother’s housekeeping magazines to learn as much as she could and sneaking into her siblings’ rooms to practice her techniques.

By the end of the book, we also discover that every time she enters her home, she has a ritual where she unpacks her purse and places her wallet and few other items in special “homes.”

I have never, ever known anyone to unpack her purse every day and have special little spots in the house for all the items within.

Here’s the painful part of all of this.

Her method — the KonMari Method — makes 100% total and complete sense from a feng shui point of view.

It’s humbling.

In all my days of preaching about the impact of clutter, this woman puts my American-self to shame.

Rest assured, she and I have very similar styles.

Here is where we agree:
1.  She believes in “discarding” first.  YES!  Get rid of it.  Please.  Just.
2.  She believes that organization containers are bogus and that the house is equipped with proper storage.  YES!  Don’t get sucked into The Container Store thinking that it will cure your organizational woes!  It won’t.
3.  She poo-poos buying in bulk.  YES.
4.  She believes that every item has a life of its own and that it has a profound affect on the owner.  YES!  A million times, yes!
5.  She believes that if it “doesn’t spark joy,” it goes!  YES!!!  And I thank her profusely for this term because I was using the vague: “Does it raise your energy?” for each item, and I know for a fact that this sparking-joy clause is super-charged and powerful beyond belief!
6.  She declutters according to category (clothes, books, etc.) rather than room.  YES YES YES!
7.  Every item needs a home.  YEEEEESSSSSSSSS!

God, I love this woman.

Now, for the American vs. Japanese part:
Here is where I may not agree, as well the main things I learned from her thus far:
1. She believes that every one can organize according to her system, that different personalities and brains can operate under the KonMari Method.  I, for one, love “studying” how different we all are, and I can speak for myself that, being a fast-moving right-brainer, there are some practices she recommends that wouldn’t serve me.  Still.  I may try them…
2.  She likes to fold.  She is teaching me to like folding.  Folding is fun.  Well, it is when you get the results of her technique which have sort of kind of blown my mind.  But yes, folding can be fun.  (Remember that origami comes from Japan, right everyone?  Okay, so it’s ingrained over there.  I’m learning.)

3.  She doesn’t realize that she is practicing feng shui!!!  This tickled me because she has a small and lovely section on feng shui, but she claims not to identify with it, as she’s never studied it.  Sure, she uses a different language than we consultants would use, but I’d say this woman is practically a feng shui master herself — at least when it comes to the items in a household.
4.  She skips over certain very large topics that Americans would need to read about.  For example, garages don’t seem to come up.  At all.  And we all know about stuff and garages.

Still, Marie Kondo is the Saint of Stuff as far as I’m concerned.  Her approach is minimalist to be sure, but in all my years of practicing feng shui, I can attest to minimalism — or close to it — as being the way to go.

Read her book.

Or, do that, and/or take my online Declutter Your Way to Clarity course where you will get an email a day to motivate you.

Bottom line:  Whether you live in Japan or America, clutter affects you.  Your stuff affects you!  And you won’t know how much it affects you until you deal with it.

After all, when you deal with your stuff, you deal with your life.  Period.

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Love Me Some Turquoise

Sometimes, I just need to play!

Olioboard is a great tool for designers to use for clients and for themselves when coming up with initial ideas for a space.  Or if you are thinking of re-doing a space, give Olioboard a whirl.  You can even buy the products on-site, and it calculates a budget to boot!

They also have tons of contests (I have no idea what you win), but when I saw one for a TURQUOISE LIVING ROOM, oh, I just had to….

This is what happened:
Turquoise & amber
I’d live here, would you?   To each her own!

If you are so inclined, and you are reading this in November, consider voting HERE… you know, just for fun!
xo, K

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The Home Office + Guest Bedroom Combo

I’m a huge fan of the guest room/home office combo!  Why have an entire room used only on the occasions that people are coming to stay with you?  While I think it’s great to have guest rooms, as it symbolically “invites” in the good, it’s also important to keep the chi circulating there, and what better way than to actually USE it?  The trick to pulling off the office/guest room is to get creative and to be honest with yourself with the needs for the room.  (i.e. Is it more important to function as an office or a bedroom?  Who will be visiting?  Can you surrender your office for the days that your guests are there?) 
Here are some examples below that may give you some ideas for yours:
Modern flair!  Source
Sofa beds…in purple.  Yes!  Source

Lofty  Source

Playful, fun, and functional.
Source
This is for those who need an office more than a guest room but want that option.  Clever, isn’t it?
Source

IMPORTANT NOTE:  None of these rooms would be appropriate for a bedroom that someone used all the time, as it’s not conducive to have an office IN your room unless you have no other choice, and even then, there would have to be some cures set in place.  These examples are ONLY for the guest room and office combo!  Also, it’s important to establish the “command” position when working at a desk as well as when sleeping.  (The “command” position simply means you have a view of the doorway of the room.)  This could be taken care of with some strategically-placed mirrors.  

Thanks!  

–K

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Is Feng Shui for Christians?

The short answer is YES!

YES times a billion and times infinity!

Source

So…why is this even a topic?

The fact is, I moved back to the South (aka The Bible Belt) after years of being out west, and since my return, I have heard little whispers amongst some folks that feng shui may go against their religion.  Therefore, I am writing here today as a way to clarify and bust through that myth once and for all.

FENG SHUI IS NOT A RELIGION.  Nor will it mess with yours.  In fact, it is my job to work with whatever religion and/or spiritual practice you prescribe to!

Isn’t that awesome?!

It’s true.

But hold tight.  What that means is that feng shui is also for Muslims, atheists, Jews, Pantheists, Buddhists, Hindis, Baha’is, Taoists, yogis and yoginis, Wiccans, Sikhs, Hare Krishnas, Pagans, and any other religious or spiritual practice under the sun.

Source

Because feng shui is just that:  spiritual.  It’s not a religion.  It’s an ART and a SCIENCE with spiritual undertones.

And even if you don’t even consider yourself spiritual, feng shui will work for you!

I pride myself on working within the context of my client’s lifestyle.  In fact, that is the point of feng shui.  My suggestions must work for YOU, the unique being that you are.   I’ve worked with clients who practice religions with names that I cannot even spell or pronounce (or remember for that matter), and you know what?…

It’s ALL good.

But just in case you are Christian, and you still have doubts, keep reading, so I can once and for all, erase any thoughts that feng shui is not for you.

WHY FENG SHUI IS FOR CHRISTIANS TOO:
First of all, you are probably already practicing feng shui.  The truth is, if you clean your home regularly, make it nice for guests, take care of your furniture and belongings, declutter often, have some sort of organizational system, and change up the pillows or artwork now and then, you are practicing a basic form of feng shui.  You do not have to put up dragons or crystals to be “doing feng shui.”

I sometimes tell clients to get their house “ship-shape.”
 Surely, Noah did to some extent?

Feng shui is about HONORING YOUR SPACE, or, in more religious terms, making your space holy, sometimes in very simple ways.  Sadly, in today’s disposable and fast-paced society, most folks don’t even know what honoring one’s space even means.  Which is where I come in.  🙂

Furthermore, I will be bold here, and announce, in all my unscholarliness, that it may be that Jesus “did” feng shui. 

Source

And so did Mary, and Moses, Abraham, Lazarus, and other Biblical persons.

Here’s the bottom line:  These spiritual figures more than likely had some sort of order to their belongings, but did they call it “feng shui”?  Probably not!  But that is because they didn’t speak Chinese.  (…that I know of.)

“Feng shui” translates to “wind, water” in Chinese, which has to do with the “flow” in a space.  In feng shui, a home must be inviting.  There are countless stories in the Bible that involve inviting people into one’s home, are there not?

Also, feng shui may just be IN 
the Bible…(again, it’s just not called that).  Think about it:  Solomon was given implicit instructions for building his temple.  Again, art meets science in the form of deliberate architecture.  Was it called feng shui?  No, because the temple was not in China, but the idea of building with intention is 100% aligned with feng shui-like concepts.

And consider this:  A priest, when blessing a space, is practicing a basic feng shui ritual.

Even Luke knew a little feng shui:
Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ Luke 10:5 
In feng shui, this is known as as setting an intention, a.k.a saying a prayer.

So please, if anyone tries to tell you that feng shui is “against your religion,” ask them first — in a nice way — what they know about feng shui.  I guarantee you that they know very little and that they have made some false, uneducated assumptions!

In the end, people only come to feng shui when they are ready.  It is powerful work, and yes, I believe  that it is “holy” work.

My theory with feng shui?  Don’t knock it until you try it.  No matter what your religious beliefs may be!

AND I ALSO PRACTICE FENG SHUI!
(Source) 

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Healthy and Easy Fall Vegetable Soup (Vegan & Protein-packed)

Yum.  I made up this recipe the other day using what was in my kitchen, and it turned out!

So here is goes, without amounts. because I just threw it in the pot!

In large pot, heat COCONUT OIL on medium heat.  Add a generous amount of TURMERIC and CUMIN and a clove or two of CHOPPED GARLIC and stir until a bit heated.  Then toss in chopped CELERY and  CARROTS and sauté for a bit.

Boil some water on the side.  Add a vegan BOUILLON CUBE and a good amount of REAL SALT.

source

Peel a SWEET POTATO and chop it up into bite-sized pieces.

In main pot, add the BOILING WATER (with dissolved bouillon cube), then put in the sweet potato, some already-cooked CHICK PEAS (I made mine the day before according to the package — makes an awesome snack with olive oil and salt — but canned is good too), a can of STEWED TOMATOES, and some QUINOA.

Add some VEGGIE BROTH if you have it, for another layer of taste.   I also put in a BAY LEAF and some BLACK PEPPER.

Cook for at least 20 minutes more, so that the vegetables are at the consistency that you like them and the quinoa cooks.

YUM!

The result should be a nice soup with a bit of sweetness from the carrots and sweet potatoes in a lovely golden hue, thanks to the turmeric.

Enjoy!  Satisfying and healthy!

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