Peace from Amber Lewis

Photo credit: Tessa Neustadt

Two Christmases ago, my husband bought me a copy of Amber Lewis’s Made for Living. Hubs made this purchase intentionally, not intending for the book to be just another coffee table decoration. He knew it would stir something special inside of me.

Photo credit: Tessa Neustadt

I scoured through the book for hours, getting lost in the beautiful images of her interior and exterior designs and styling. I can’t say that I was much of a design fan in my twenties, but when we bought our new home in 2019, something changed inside me. I wanted to create a space that felt like home and was beautiful. I wanted to create a work of art to stop me in my tracks each time I walked into a room.

Maybe I felt that way because I loved our house so much when we considered making it our own. Maybe I felt that way because I’ve been a stay at home mom for so many years and home is where my heart is. But there’s something magical about making a house feel unique and special that gave me the energy to follow through.

Enter: Amber Lewis

This book has changed the way I think about design. It has changed the way I think about color. Lewis spends so much time considering the tones and hughes and variations of white that gave me a whole new outlook. She plays with textiles like pillows made from old rugs (there is a fancy name for this) that is so unique and fun I had to try for myself (enter: Etsy, I found many incredible pillows from Turkey!).

Photo credit: Tessa Neustadt

I think the tendency is for people to get inspired by an artists work and want to replicate it. And there is truth in that. I would gladly live inside any of Amber Lewis’s designs. But her work does more for me than that. She inspires me to try this for myself, to play with space and textiles and furniture placement and exciting pieces of art and furniture. She is so awesome that I want to feel awesome about what I can learn to do, too.

This weekend, Hubs and I found ourselves with a quiet house. This meant time for two cups of tea and sitting (for more than three minutes straight) on our cozy living room sofa, complete with a fleece throw I found online last year. And what did I reach for to complete this perfect snowy morning?

Made for Living.

Photo credit: Tessa Neustadt

The book lives on a sweet little stand next to the sofa. Even though I’ve been through it a dozen times, I reached for it to consider new possibilities. What changes can I make to the house? What slight alterations will add even more depth to what feels like a dramatically wonderful space?

Today I noticed how Lewis always varies throw pillows so that she doesn’t repeat any patterns on living room sofas. I noticed where she hung a mirror, slightly right over top of a armoire, not centering it on the wall, but then drawing the eye left with a vase of yellow flowers. I noticed how incredible black can look in a kitchen, especially as a base for a center island.

Photo credit: Tessa Neustadt

Now, I’ve shopped on Lewis’s website, and it is incredible. Her furniture has signature leather straps that are unique and fabulous. Her throw pillows are somehow all the right colors (how is that even possible?). I haven’t purchased anything from her site. I’m not there yet, financially. With three kiddos under age 8 there are other things that take precedence over a $400 throw pillow. But I love the pillows. I appreciate them. And I love how fantastically they were designed. And I work hard so that one day, I can get that pillow if I want it.

All of this is to say that absorbing incredible designs brought me peace. I read through her book again, gathered more and more inspiration, and felt totally and utterly grateful. She is clearly doing something that makes her heart sing. And that makes mine sing, too. But most importantly, it brings me peace.

What brought you peace this week? Share the peace!

Peace in The Good Ol’ Times

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This morning, for no apparent reason, Hubs found himself laughing at some silly meme on social about Blockbuster. For younger eyes, Blockbuster was a video store where you could go and rent a movie for two nights, until you lost, forgot or broke the VHS tape or DVD and then paid for it in full.

I realize that all the spiritual healing guidebooks in creation talk about living in the now. But every now and again, it’s fun to reminisce. It can bring about peace and laughter and joy. And that’s what our snowy, tea-sipper morning included this morning….Now for a few thoughts on Blockbuster.

When I was a kid, there were two smaller mom-and-pop style video rental spots and then a big Blockbuster came into town. This place was HUGE. It used to be a “Shoe Town,” which was a discount shoe store, cheaper than a DSW with long silver racks (no boxes) containing shoes.

When that went out of business, Blockbuster redid the entire shop with what felt like a million bright overhead lights, tall grey and blue display shelving, and a TON of grey wire bins filled with candies and popcorn. (My favorite was Swedish Fish, my sister liked Sour Patch Kids and Dad liked Nonpereils.)

My weekend evenings sometimes included a trip to the Blockbuster with a friend (or multiple friends) and we scoured the shelves for who-knows-how-long to land on the perfect feature film. It was usually Now and Then or Robin Hood, Men In Tights if all the newer stuff had already been checked out by early birds.

Going to Blockbuster was an event. It was part of the fun in our weekends. Sometimes we bumped into other friends. Sometimes, my sister and I convinced Dad to grab Dunkin’ Donuts from next door before heading home. We ran through the store, got yelled at for running, and felt our excitement grow over the possibilities of the films ahead. Side note: My bestie, sister, and I also went through a weird horror film period, which was intense and immensely exciting. The Shining and The Ring remain the scariest films viewed in our youth.

Nowadays, movie selection includes sitting on the couch and aiming the remote up at the tv. Or reading through reviews online and trusting the word of others before making a selection. It doesn’t exactly stir the heart.

Sometimes, peace comes from laughing at the past and enjoying the sweet, simple pleasures we shared. I can picture my sister and bestie trying to persuade me which film to watch. I remember doing the same to them. I remember the rush of excitement when we saw another friend at the store with a parent or another friend. These were days I still appreciate. Thinking back brings me peace.

What brought you peace this week? Share the peace!

Peace in Perspective

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Every now and again, I experience a total shift in perspective.

When we moved into our house in 2019, we bought it knowing that it came with a “pros” and a “cons” list, like any house on the market. Nothing is perfect. There are no unicorns.

On our cons list, I noted our house’s position on the lot. The back of the house looks out onto Route 113, which is a busy, 45 mph road. There is a woodsy patch that separates our yard, but it’s there, it’s loud, and it’s not going anywhere. Living so close to a busy road never seemed like something we would pursue. Yet, there we were in 2019, choosing a house seated right on a busy street.

Now that we’ve lived here for two years, there’s been a shift. It didn’t come quickly. I’m not even sure what brought it on. But this morning, I worked on dishes after Hubs had taken the boys down to the school bus stop. And I could see the road from the kitchen window. I could sit peacefully and wait, sip some tea, and watch for the school bus to check if the kids had missed it.

With winter’s bare branches outside, I can see everything. And I can work on my morning tasks with one eye one the road.

In reality, the road doesn’t matter at all. What matters is perspective. Everything in life can be seen through more than one lense. It’s all about which one I choose to use.

Today, when I watched the school bus slow as it drove toward the corner where my boys sat waiting, I felt nothing but peace and gladness that we live where we live. I found total peace in the fact that what most troubled me about our home is now a huge gift I never before considered.

What brought you peace this week? Share the peace!

Peace in Others’ Pain

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I was putting on my makeup this morning after a great workout and shower when a thought occurred to me. The mind is a powerful thing and who knows why it comes up with the things that it does. But I suddenly recalled a moment from the past (well over ten years ago).

I had slept over at the home of a dear loved one after some event (I can’t even remember what the party was for). When we rose in the morning for pancakes and coffee, this person saw me in my raw, unkempt self and replied, “Oh, you’re ugly like me in the morning.”

It was a strange thing for a person to say, admittedly. I want to say that at the time I agreed with this person and laughed it off, not quite sure how to react or what to say. I’m good at that. I keep the peace by agreeing with people and rarely have a witty retort at the ready.

Now, I am fair skinned with light eyebrows, eyelashes, and eyes. I look different with makeup on. I have worn makeup everyday until my thirties, when multiple kids and responsibilities made makeup less of a concern. Or, from a practical standpoint, I had less time to mess with it.

For some completely unknown reason, that moment in time popped into my head this morning. I was adding mascara (side note: Urban Decay Lash Freak is fabulous) and saw that moment play in my head again. Only this time, I had a completely different reaction.

Instead of thinking how sad it had been for someone to call me ugly (a person I love and care about) I suddenly realized how much pain that person had been in to say such a thing. I suddenly realized pain makes people say things that can be untrue.

I realize that this is VERY OBVIOUS! But in the heat of a moment, it is difficult to maintain clarity on such things, I promise you.

I don’t think I’m ugly. Nor do I think that person is ugly. I do think pain is real and that it can create ugliness.

I saw this moment frozen in my mind, took a deep breath and found peace. I saw that someone else’s pain doesn’t have to be my pain.

I don’t think about this moment at all. I hadn’t thought of it for a very long time. It is not a moment in time that created a burden or repetitive loop in my brain for me. But there was still room to find peace within it. There was an opportunity to recognize there are a million moments such as these in our days: moments when pain becomes ugliness that leads to untrue words spoken.

And I don’t have to take those moments or words or memories into my heart. Instead, I can choose peace and truth and let it all slip away like sand, falling away from my mind and heart.

Musing on this thought brought me peace today.

What brought you peace? Share the peace!