Monday, April 11, 2016

Tile when your heart is aching.

Pat tern/padern/
Noun. A model or design used as a guide.
Verb. A regular intelligible form.

Ok. T.S. Eliot may have won a noble prize but he was wrong about one thing. April is not the cruelest month. February is.  That's why Valentine's Day is in the middle. All the roses, cards and chocolate are a ploy to take your mind off the fact that the month is bleak.

At least it is short.

Speaking of Valentines...One of the most recognizable patterns in the world is a heartbeat.  The same is true of brain waves.  So what happens when these two things seem to short-circuit?   Can something as simple as a cut piece of plastic hold the answer to resetting a heart to happiness and a brain to hope? And are the things that happen to us random luck or a pattern that is part of a larger story?

This is the story of my winter of discontent and how a stencil guided me back.

In our business, February is the slowest month. The holiday rush for projects is over but finishers will often take a class in January to get the year started. This winter was particularly tough for studios given the shift in design trends. Ours was no exception.  I scrambled to get a class schedule together with more diversity and on-trend samples while working on a face lift for the studio. We held an open house for local finishers, designers, and potential clients.  And it paid off.! January was good-better then expected-which made February even more disappointing. 

Now Bruce still comes in and helps me with accounts.  I don't know which is more stressful: Watching him get sick while working or not knowing what else to do to make things better?  My brain is out of ideas. 

In the end I sent him to California to visit his family and enjoy some warm weather. Also I wanted him to avoid this:

As I noted before, my sweet husband used his Uber money to hire the crew that worked on our last house to help me. Every room in the "new" house looked like this...

and this.......

and this.......

At least Bridget, Jack and Murray seem enthusiastic.  I moved into the only room not torn apart, a guest room, with our  3 dogs....for 2 weeks. I think this is the 4th time since moving in that things have been put away and then packed up again. It's like moving every 3 months!

The house is covered in plastic and dust. I'm working in the rooms opposite of the painters to get stuff set-up before Bruce returns.  And when I finally think I'm getting things done....

I realize that I'm not dealing with the Top Brass. 

This happened when I started painting the walls...

There are specific primers that go over removed wallpaper. Then you let the mud dry well before sanding. After sanding you WIPE OFF THE DRYWALL DUST before priming again.  Every time I rolled my paint which is a quality Benjamin Moore, the walls bubble and then peel.  What is worse? The crew does not fix the problem or reimburse us anything for the poor job. All I can think about is Bruce working hard to pay these bozos!

I can tell that he is becoming tired even while he pushes ahead these past few months.  But right now, Bruce is in California riding go-karts and ultra-lights. He is at a beautiful wedding and viewing a private car collection.  This should make me happy. I wish I could say that I'm bigger then this. Braver then this. But I'm broken.  I throw my trowel every time the paint peels. The dogs hide in their kennel.  I sit on the top of the stairs and cry with my shoulders hunched over. 

I call 2 other contractors to help me on projects. One never sends me a bid. The other one never even shows up.  How will I pull this house together? How will I pull myself together?

While I'm trying to figure out how to save my husband, my business and my home, my body is also done.  I can't figure out how to start running again. My legs feel like lead. Something that I used to enjoy just seems like one more thing I need to fix. What happened to my mojo? All I want is to wake up happy and feel optimistic.

So I do what thousands of the unhappy and unhinged do each year. I go to Florida.

When you are depressed find the friend that makes a good breakfast and serves good champagne. For us that is Mr & Mrs. Smith.

Not them.

Way more fabulous.
Our oldest friends welcome us to their home.  Every morning Burks makes a yummy breakfast with a Bloody Mary.
Kim has coffee and lively conversation ready. My shoulders that are rubbing against my ears begin to relax.  Our trip to Florida is not only social. I signed up for the Gasparilla Half Marathon before things started to fall apart. Here I am about to run a competitive race without much training. And I have to be at the start before dawn.

What was I thinking?  How sweet that Bruce drove me to the race at the un-holy hour of  5am.

My brain is a jumble as I start.  Running in the dark as I'm going over every thing that is wrong in my life the sun starts to come up.  It hits the ocean water just right and I take in the sparkle.  I can really see the people around me now all trying to accomplish something. There is an elderly man bent so far over that he can't look straight. And a woman with a shirt dedicated to someone she loved and lost.

 I start thinking how Bruce is here-not just at the race but in my life. I have these great friends sharing their hospitality.  It reminds me how much my friends at home have helped me.  Someone says, "looking good" as we pass mile 10.  And I smile because for the first time in months I really believe it. 

The weather is beautiful as I finish in 2 hours. Not a PR but a respectable time.  More importantly, my body reminded me that it wasn't giving up. It knew the pattern. Now my brain needed to get on board and let the sunshine in.  I can hardly walk but I'm happy to enjoy brunch with Bruce and the Smiths on this beautiful day.

After we get home, I'm sitting by the Smith's pool checking emails. And I see this....

Royal Design Studio is having a contest to name a new tile stencil.  The tile is inspired by vintage Spanish 1920's design.  For some reason this resonates with me even thought it seems totally unrelated to my current state.

 For a creative person, I am a literal thinker. So I google Spanish Homes in the 1920's.  This comes up....

El Marisol, a mansion built in Palm Springs...Florida. It reminds me of the homes I ran by earlier in the day. The one's I passed in the morning sunshine. The name comes from Mary, Our lady of Solitude. This seems appropriate. Running is a solitary sport even when you are in a race. And what I've been going through lately makes me feel alone.

Marisol. It is also associated with two Spanish words mar y sol. Sea and Sun.  Both things with rhythmic soothing patterns. Things I've enjoyed on my Florida break. I submit my name to the contest, finish my beer and relax. Even if I don't win, for the first time in months I don't feel like I'm losing.

I win!  I am unreasonable happy when I get the email from Royal Design Studio. I start researching Spanish tile. While looking at the patterns it becomes clear to me where and how to use the style in our own home. Suddenly the disaster that I call the kitchen doesn't seem so unsolvable.

My Marisol Damask Tile Pattern with stencil topper.

The first colorway I try is OK but not quite right. I decide to integrate my Rockport Grey paint color into the pattern and  the Rapid Rust that I love. Then somehow it all comes together. It is bold and cheerful. The palette pulls together the room.

I am feeling truly inspired-not the fake "I'm going to act like I'm with it to be inspiring" for my blog, Facebook or Instagram followers.  But the deep knowing in your heart and brain that you are breaking through the block that is holding you down.  That feeling of not only anticipating the finished project but enjoying the process.

And when it is done, I knew what to paint my cabinets and how to fix the awful pantry doors. I could finally put away things that were in storage since July 2015.  The clutter in other parts of the house is now gone.

Bruce tells me he loves it and I can see him relaxing as we enjoy dinner together. My parents visit and say it's so much brighter which is funny since the walls before were much lighter. Our new neighbors come in and gush, "That looks like something in a magazine."

And me?  I go in early every morning to make coffee at my new station and feed the dogs.  I look at my tile wall and smile.  It makes me feel happy. It reminds me how I can create beautiful things. It encouraged me to finish other projects in the house. My creativity is sparked at the studio again.

Things are starting to look like home. Like us. I understand when you have chaos you need to find order.  Even when it doesn't seem like it - there is a design to it all.

I turned a corner after February.  My attitude shifted.  I feel more optimistic. Business has improved. I started running again. Now, I will confess that I still worry about the future. But I look at my wall and know I am capable of pulling it together- of pulling myself together. I will need that reminder in the future but for now I am secure in understanding it is possible.

Yes it was just a simple contest. Yes, it is just a piece of pretty plastic. And Yes, it is just a stencil-like the hundreds of stencils I've used in the past.

But this time. It was the pattern of my life.


  1. Thank you Rebecca, your blog is always something I enjoy reading, it's usually quirky and entertaining as well as touching.
    In French we have a term for something like that, "c'est très humain" (it's very humane), meaning that it makes us feel connected to whatever it is that expresses that quality. It's a beautiful quality for a blogger, being able to touch others.
    I can relate to your story professionally but also personally as this past winter was a bit harsh for me too.
    Thank you for sharing your stories and thoughts, failures and successes on top of your professional expertise and all with a great sense of humour. And all the fun pictures :)

    1. Thank you so much mariepierre! The French always have such a lovely way of saying things. I like the "c'est tres humain." There are so many things that we all share! I hope your spring is much better and by summer things are amazing!

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  3. Wow! Rockstar, you really hit it out of the park with this blog! I related to everything that you said especially they hang your head in your hands hunch over and cry day !!! It's been a long winter for all of us and your blog was so enjoyable to read! Congratulations for winning the contest your newly stenciled kitchen wall is just like you ....
    Thank you for being you and sharing it with the rest of us !

    1. I've been with you every step this winter in spirit. There are just some times in our lives that feel overwhelming and a good cry is at least earned. Know that I am cheering you on and hoping that as the days get brighter so does our futures! Love you!

  4. Replies
    1. Thank you Kay! I appreciate hearing from you! Take care!

  5. I don't get to "stop by" often, but apparently today was the day I needed to!
    Thank you for your sharing , open, raw was the encouragement I needed today & I am certain you have given a glimpse of hope & encouragement to many others that have read this...
    Congratulations on your well deserved win- the kitchen looks beautiful!
    Love and prayers to you both!

    1. Thanks so much for reading! And glad the message was helpful. I too get busy and forget to stop by myself! lol-that's why I miss comments. Thanks for thinking of us-we so appreciate it!

  6. wow! these designs are looking so beautiful and i really like these design. shared so good things about these design and thanks for sharing it.
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