SPACE OF HER OWN
A woman needs many things to flourish. Her own time. Her own money. Her own dreams. Her own space.
SOHO is an area of lower Manhattan in New York City that is known for its artsy scene, shopping and upscale restaurants. It was named as such because it is the area South of Houston Street, thus the acronym SOHO.
For us, it means Space Of Her Own. Therefore, a woman needs a SOHO to flourish.
I have my own. It is a loft space, formerly our boys’ room when they were much smaller. It is attached to our bathroom, and accessible only through our bathroom that is attached to our master bedroom, the only rooms on the upstairs floor of our home. It is highly private, except for the loft side that opens to a TV room downstairs.
In an earlier professional incarnation, I rented a tiny office space in town in an historic building. My son, at about age 11, said, “Mom, this is like your fort.”
When my office moved home, it, too, became my fort. My husband aptly named it “Fort Kathleen.” The name stuck, and Fort Kathleen it is. Anyone I’m close to knows what I am talking about when I refer to it as such.
Gail revamped and revitalized her now-33 year-old daughter’s bedroom into her own space. She aptly named it “Camp Gail.”
My younger sister had her own room in her old house, she simply called it her lair. She recently moved, and has turned one of her small bedrooms into her space. She hasn’t yet named it.
These spaces are highly personal, personalized and privatized. There are no rules of decorating or arranging made or broken in them. There are no outside influences allowed in when decisions about where to put what, how much or how little is the right amount, or if something should stay or go. My beloved, in his never-ending effort to make my life easier, simpler and to share his ideas that are usually good ones, was shot down once in a decision making process, and he hasn’t tried again. He did build the house, paint this room a warm, sunny orange color for me, hang pictures, change lightbulbs, suggest the name and will gladly hang out in here with me by invitation, so his contributions are much-appreciated.
My college-era futon occupies the space where blue-blanketed bunk beds once stood. On the floor in front of it is a beautiful rug that came home from my office in town. On top of that is a yoga mat so I can drop and stretch at will. Built-in shelves, stacks of books, my grandfather’s wicker chair and small table all call this space home. I even found room for my professional stuff—books, files and supplies make it my official office.
It is 62 degrees and stormy on this mid-October Saturday. On days like this, I hole up in Fort Kathleen and languish in my space and get in the flow. So far, in F.K. today—and it is only 1:56 p.m.—I have:
*Talked to both of my sisters on the phone.
*Found the perfect spots for 3 garage sale treasures I picked up this rainy morning.
*Hung the beaded curtain that has been waiting patiently to be hung.
*Took a nap on the futon.
*Read from one of the 17-or-so books I have started and stacked beside the futon.
*Refilled and turned on the oil diffuser.
*Surfed the web.
*Ate leftovers for lunch
*Colored in one of my many color books.
*Wrote this blog post.
I am alone in my castle today, and this room is my preferred hideout, even when there is no one to hide from. I opted out of an informal family gathering in order to languish in my alone-ness, something I don’t get enough of. While they kindly requested the pleasure of my company, I politely declined. They understand.
My sisters and I grew up in a tiny, four-bedroom, one-bathroom farmhouse in our family of seven children. Nine people occupying such a small space. Thank God we had the great outdoors to escape to on the farm. I think we have all earned this space.
Our dad turned 65 in the year 1999; he promptly retired from farming and handed the farm over to the capable direction of one of our brothers in 2000. Dad had already called him “The Boss” for some time, and it was a title aptly and respectfully earned. He was ready to get out of the biz, and my brother was ready to take it over. Dad and Mom then moved into a small house in town. Not the grand space Mom had always dreamed of, but it was her new dream home. She promptly staked her claim to the room at the end of the hallway in their new home as her own, filling it with exactly whatever she wanted, however she wanted, whenever she wanted. She had her own TV and a stack of books, as well as a futon. It is only as I write this that I realize the similarities between her space and mine. Perhaps she inspired me without my even realizing it, so that thirteen years after she claimed her space, I claimed mine. Minus much of the stuff, she had her own Fort Liz. She knew for years how important it was for a woman to have her own space. She just never got it—until she was 62 years old.
Many of the decorations and treasures in Fort Kathleen have come from garage sales, the ultimate destination for anyone like myself looking to define such a space as one’s own, in one’s own style, on one’s own budget in the family years. And there are many treasures. There is little space left bare both on the walls and shelves, as well as any nook, floor space, or other flat surface. Even surfaces that are not completely flat are fair game. It is fair to say that I have a lot of stuff in Fort Kathleen. And I want more.
While I cannot name one single piece as my favorite—that would be unfair, not to mention impossible—there is one treasure that defines my style, my vibe, my decorating essence in Fort Kathleen. It is a small, stitched rectangular pillow bearing the name of one of my mother’s favorite artists: Mary Engelbreit. Her design accompanies the quote from another legendary woman; one who, while she was known to be spirited and saucy, obviously had great fun in her life. I want to be like Mae West (only in that respect) when I grow up. The quote reads:
“Too much of a good thing is wonderful.”
To add a fourth legendary woman to the trifecta of Mom-Mary-Mae, it must be known that this pillow came from the garage sale of one of my dearest former patients—we will call her Mimi. I adored her when I had the privilege of treating her, and she recovered well, regaining her spirit and sweetness. Although she was quiet like Mom, she had that deep sense of knowing what it was all about. After her recovery, she moved away to a larger city with her daughter, thus the garage sale. I got to see her at the sale, and her daughter was there too. I let her know how much I adored her mother. Several months later when Mimi’s name was on page 4 of our local newspaper, my heart broke a little. I knew she was a woman of great faith—just like my mom. I knew she was ready for whatever she had to face in life—and death—just like my mom.
I know now they occupy that same space-less space in the great beyond, the ultimate Space Of Her Own.
God bless you Mom and Mimi, Mary and Mae—and thank you for the inspiration. We will enjoy our spaces of our own in your honor.
A few more pics from Camp Gail…
And, of course, our signature picture, which was taken in Camp Gail last year on Thanksgiving weekend, where we always spend my favorite holiday.
A few more from Fort Kathleen.
NAME THAT SPACE
So Suzanne has been in her house now for seven months, and she has yet to arrive at a name for her SOHO. Perhaps one of you can offer a name for this beautiful room. Remember, Suzanne is so wisely a minimalist, so she has kept her space relatively bare, in comparison to her older sisters.
Some facts about Suzanne to remember when you are suggesting names for her space:
*She spends most of her time in this space working puzzles.
*She also loves to color in there, and anywhere.
*She has a tiny little obsession with mermaids.
*Like Gail, she loves bicycles.
*The picture above the shelf is the only possession she would rescue from her house if it were on fire. She only has one print of her daughter at age 3 pictured with Elmo, and it is her greatest material treasure.
*She has no desire to fill (overfill?) it with stuff like her sisters have done in theirs.
Feel free to suggest a name for her SOHO, and thanks so much!
Remember: Good vibes only, and it really IS okay to have too much fun!
May you be blessed with enough time, money, dreams and space to be fulfilled.