Every Room Needs “WOW Factor!”


Our bedroom has been undergoing a minor transition over the last few years.

About the time we got married, I had the most beautiful cream bedspread with a southwestern-style design in navy and gold.  It was gorgeous, and we loved it.

When we remodeled our bedroom, we positioned our bed in front of an accent wall painted a very dark, dark navy color called “Starry Night”. I probably have a picture of it somewhere, but that would require me to get up, go to the basement and do some digging. And I just ate lunch and am lazy. 😉

That was before all the dogs who found me just happened to be black.

So needless to say, the life span of that bedspread wasn’t as long as I would have liked, which necessitated a change. Because we liked the blue wall (we aren’t really ‘blue’ people, but it was a really pretty color), I looked for something that would go with the blue and the rustic feel of our house.

Enter the bedspread in the above picture. We enjoyed it, but then I began to get restless. Call it a career hazard.

“Starry Night” had run its course, and it was time for a change. So I painted the wall behind my bed “Garden Sage”. We loved the green wall, but the room lost it’s WOW Factor. Tired of the moose (meese?) bedspread, I wanted a plain one with no design. And so, the one in the picture above adjourned to our RV for the rest of its useful life.

Remember the term ‘focal point’? How you want  one object in the room to be the ‘focus’ of the room? That’s the item you want your eye to go to when you walk in.

Well, WOW Factor ramps it up just a bit. The Oxford Dictionary defines Wow Factor as “a quality or feature that is extremely impressive.”

It doesn’t have to be fabulously expensive. It just has to be fabulous!

Your Wow Factor can be anything.

Maybe it’s a really fabulous painting or photograph on canvas. It can be the colors or the size that give it its Wow.

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My friend John is a photographer who specializes in large canvas prints. If you visited Kirksville’s Red Barn Arts and Crafts Fair last fall, you may have seen his booth or met him and his charming wife Bonnie.

I ordered this canvas from him custom-sized just to fit my space. The crispness of the colors and the contrast take my breath away and make me feel like I’m standing in that field.

Our bedroom has its WOW back!

There are lots of things you can do to give your room WOW Factor.

A simple accent can do it. And paint is relatively cheap! This is a picture of my friend Beth’s living room from a previous post. Is that wall awesome or what? It’s Behr’s “Wine Tasting”.

The Living Room After

Or a fireplace. Here are a couple that I’m very familiar with. One was originally brick and has been recently refaced. (Ahem.)  😉

The Family Room After

And here is one made of cultured stone. Probably more cultured than the people who live here. 😉

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A large window with a spectacular view.

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Beautiful cabinetry or a piece of furniture accented with a paint color that makes it POP!

The Kitchen After

I  have it on good authority that a number of people thought my friend Beth also got all-new cabinetry, simply because they’d never noticed them before.

Perhaps it’s a really unusual mirror or some other wall decor.

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Did you see me waving in the mirror? 😀

There was no way I could contort myself out of the picture, so I decided to just flagrantly be in it.

WOW Factor makes your room look complete. And, the rest of your decor in that room become accents that harmonize with it.

It’s especially important if you’re thinking of selling your home. If there’s nothing in a room that stands out, buyers may view the room as being just sort of…blah. And thus, there isn’t really anything that stands out about the house.

You want buyers to remember your house and how they felt in it after they’ve looked at 12 different ones and they all start to run together. And to remember it in a good way.

The rooms should be decluttered,clean, balanced and neutral, and each room should have a WOW Factor. (Not all WOW Factors need to be over-the-top. Sometimes all you need is a really nice clock. Or a beautiful wall paint. Or maybe wainscoting.)

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This is our guest room just off the Black Dog Saloon (AKA our basement.) The wainscoting in here is rusty tin which came from an old barn where my parents’ house was on the farm. And amazingly enough, I found a rusty metal clock to go with it. WOW. I’m still not completely happy with this room, but that’s another post for another day.

And just in case you were wondering, your eyes aren’t deceiving you. That bed really is low. It’s an air mattress, as we don’t yet have a guest room bed. I told you my house wasn’t perfect! 😀

Staging is taking what you have and making it look nice in the space! 

If you have a room that feels like it’s missing something, try to take a look at it as objectively as possible. Or have a friend look at it for you. After all, it is really hard  to see things when it’s your own house.

Trust me, I know. When you walk by something often enough, it’s easy to simply not see it any more.

Maybe all your room needs some WOW! 🙂

That Wascally Wabbit!

2014-06-18 20.52.58So close, but yet so far…

We live close to a state park and our house is surrounded by timber. Since we built a pond in our backyard we’ve had an abundance of wildlife living around our house.

This provides for many interesting visuals and a great deal of humor. Animals can simply be hilarious to watch.

Unless you’re one of our dogs.

In which case it’s a rare instance that you get to actually go outside and chase the “offending” animal.

The animals know this.

Take for instance this rabbit just outside our Great Room window the other night.

The girls began suddenly carrying on, prompting me to get up to see what all the racket was about.

Mr. Bunny (merely making an assumption here, I wasn’t close enough to check) was minding his own business nibbling in the grass.

Enter offensive dogs barking furiously.

Mr. Bunny pauses to see if dogs will be coming outside. He ponders for several minutes, waiting and watching.

The girls remain at the window. Here comes the human, taking pictures. Everyone remains at the window.

Mr. Bunny decides no one is coming out, but  remaining alert “just in case”…he turns his back to them. He appears to be ignoring us.

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The girls continue barking furiously, begging me to let them out. Charra told me they needed to go out.

It’s at this point I feel I should mention that this isn’t this bunny’s first rodeo here.

Mr. Bunny lives here with it’s mate, and they often play with each other around the yard.

Very rarely have the girls been let out to give chase; it’s usually an accident. None of us realized they were there until we opened the door.

We have no desire to see Mr. Bunny/Squirrel/etc. get disassembled while we watch.

It had been a really hot day.

For Mr. Bunny, it had apparently also been a long day. He was pretty tired.

There’s nothing like stretching out and relaxing under a big shade tree on some nice cool earth. Ahhhhh…..

2014-06-18 20.56.53Isn’t that nice?

Mr. Bunny really enjoyed it.

And it was especially good since his nice little resting spot was right in front of our window.

2014-06-18 20.57.13And two extremely frustrated little girls were watching.

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Ahhhh, what a perfect summer evening, just relaxing…

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After we all went to bed, I slipped out and checked on Mr. Bunny. Most likely he left as soon as the girls weren’t watching any more.

Game Over! 😀

Our Trip to Dry Tortugas National Park

2014-01-27 10.31.56I never thought I would love a place as much I loved the inter-mountain West. In fact, the exploration and settling of the West is my favorite time period in American History.

And then I visited the Florida Keys. And that jewel at Mile Marker 0 they call Key West.

And just like that, Key West became my Favorite Place Ever.

There’s something for everyone in Key West, no matter what your lifestyle. But that’s another post for another day.

Today, I want to tell you about Dry Tortugas National Park.

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Originally discovered by Ponce de Leon and his Spanish crew, they named it Las Tortugas (the Turtles) because of the vast amount of wildlife found there. Later, much later, it was renamed Dry Tortugas because of the lack of fresh water available.

Wayne Landrum, a former park service ranger who  lived there for six years, describes it this way:

There is a special place, at the end of nowhere, but on the way to everywhere, a place of explorers, pirates, smugglers, soldiers, prisoners and scientists. This is a place where some men lost all hope, and many died in despair. Though pain and suffering contributed to its fascinating history, it is also a place of beauty, vivid colors, peace, solitude and happiness. Abundant wildlife live in the clear turquise sea, rainbow-colored coral reefs, and on the white sandy islands and beaches. This is a place where sea birds rule, sea turtles thrive, and coral reefs and sea grasses provide for a rich diversity of ocean plant and animal life. This is Dry Tortugas National Park.”

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Although the information for this post came from a variety of sources and my own experience there, much of my descriptive and historical information is excerpted from his book, Fort Jefferson and The Dry Tortugas National Park. It contains far more fascinating and detailed information than I have space to post here. 

For instance, did you know that over a period of 5,000 years, the sea has risen about 350 feet as the climate has warmed and the polar ice cap melts? The rate of rise has slowed over time; during the last 2,000 years, the sea level has only risen about 6 feet.

Food for thought, isn’t it? 😉

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So anyway…

Dry Tortugas National Park is 70 miles from Key West in the Gulf of Mexico, 90 miles north of Cuba and 70 miles north of the Tropic of Cancer. It consists of seven small sandy coral islands which together only encompass about 97 acres of dry land.

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This is the lighthouse on Loggerhead Key, about 3.5 miles from Garden Key, which is the home of Ft. Jefferson.

Rising and falling sea levels during the last 100,000 years have caused major changes in the size and shape of the Florida Peninsula. As the seas began to rise due to melting ice about 15,000 years ago, coral reefs began to form as the sea reclaimed the land. (Before the seas began to rise, you could have walked from Florida to the Dry Tortugas!)

The islands of the Dry Tortugas have been an important landmark for passing ships from the time of discovery until the present. To this day, they remain the only safe harbor within 70 miles. Prior to a big storm moving in, it’s harbor is often filled with boats.

According to our tour guide when we were there, “You know it’s going to be bad when all the shrimp boats come in.”

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These were the first lands sighted when arriving from the west. Spain and Portugal begun running great galleons loaded with gold, silver and precious gems from Central and South America. They discovered the fastest way back to Europe was by sailing through the Gulf of Mexico, by Cuba and east through the Florida Straits. By going this way, they could take advantage of the Gulf Stream, which allowed them to sail significantly faster.

The additional speed of the Gulf Stream did not come without a price, however. The Dry Tortugas and other islands in the Florida Keys are surrounded by shallow water with coral reefs and rocks. Combined with strong currents, frequent storms, poor charts and crude navigational instruments made this area a graveyard of wrecked and grounded vessels.

The most famous of them is the Atocha. There’s a special on either Discovery or the History channel about Mel Fisher’s search, and subsequent discovery of, the Atocha. There is a museum in Key West where you can also purchase coins and jewelry which came from the Atocha.

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During the War of 1812, the British pillaged and burned Washington D.C. This made the United States painfully aware of a need to improve its defense from a seaward attack. Due to the Dry Tortugas location directly in the path of all vessels going between the Mississippi River, west Florida, and all the eastern coastal states, it was ideal. Settlers along the Mississippi River began to ship trade goods down the River and ultimately on to Europe. It became important to establish a defensive position in the Dry Tortugas to protect shipping vessels.

The plan for the fort was to provide a safe storage depot for enough materials capable of sustaining the land and naval forces charged with the defense of the Florida Reef for one year. The fortification was also to provide a safe harbor for warships, and facilities for repair of the naval squadron.

Ft. Jefferson was designed as an elongated hexagon, capable of mounting 420 heavy guns. Congress appropriated funding for the first time for construction in 1844.

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With the beginning of the Civil War, it changed direction in history: it became a military prison.

And it was not a happy place.

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It is a hallowed place.

Peaceful and quiet, you can almost feel the souls of the thousands of people who preceded you.

Only one other place have I felt this: Rhyolite, Nevada. It is a ghostly mining town which 10,000 people used to call home. (But once again, another story for another day.)

It’s most well-known prisoner was Dr. Samuel Mudd. He was sentenced to a life sentence on Ft. Jefferson for setting the leg of John Wilkes Booth, President Abraham Lincoln’s assassin.

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Booth broke his leg when he jumped from the presidential box to the stage. He managed to escape on horseback, stopping early the next morning at Dr. Mudd’s farmhouse seeking medical treatment.

And, that is how the kind doctor’s name became mud. (Do you suppose?)

Today, you can camp at Ft. Jefferson, and many do, taking advantage of the beautifully clear and colorful water to snorkel.

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A catamaran brings you the 70-miles from Key West to the island, giving you the opportunity to observe sea life such as flying fish, dolphins and more.

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Ft. Jefferson is massive, almost reminiscent of a college campus. It’s an engineering marvel built by human hands which has withstood 150 years of nature’s fury.

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The stairs were built wider on the left than on the right. Because most men were right handed and carrying weapons,  it forced potential invaders to climb the stairs on their weaker, more exposed side, thus giving them a disadvantage.

Some parts of it were an epic fail that were never finished.

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For instance, the plan for making fresh water was to build cisterns underneath the fort. The purpose of the sandy roof was to filter the water as it moved down into the cistern.

But the only sand available was on the beaches. Salt water beaches…

And eventually, the cisterns became contaminated with salt water.

The soldiers who were stationed here were forced to wear the same wool uniforms as their brothers up north.

An epidemic of yellow fever swept through the fort.

Lives ended here, and lives began here.

Just like the Magnificent Frigate Birds who live here and no where else, Ft. Jefferson is magnificent.

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It’s a testimony to man’s ability to overcome the odds in spite of himself.

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We were able to spend about 4 hours at Ft. Jefferson that day.

It wasn’t enough.

There’s something about it that speaks to you. A magic that makes you want to come back.

2014-01-27 14.25.03 A magic so strong it almost makes you want to camp there, to see the black, starry sky as our predecessors did centuries ago, to fall asleep with no noise other than the waves crashing against the sand to lull you to sleep.

Almost. 😉

Many park service staff and tour guides visit Ft. Jefferson on their off-time. If the draw is so strong when people are there, I can only imagine what it must be like when it’s hushed and quiet.

To absorb the beauty and the melancholy of this hulking place built on the backs of mankind.

There’s no wonder they keep going back. We plan to.

How I Embarrass My Husband

After 14 years of marriage, my husband and I have both mellowed and have much more in common than we did in our early years.

After all, you take two independent adults in their 30’s and mix them together, it’s not going to be all butterflies and roses.  Nor would we want it to be; that would mean that we weren’t always being ourselves.

But there are still some ways we are very different.

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For instance, my husband is quiet. I am anything but.

I am an optimist; he calls himself a realist.

I remain convinced that ‘realists’ are pessismists in sheep’s clothing, but that’s another post for another day.

He doesn’t make a habit of chatting up strangers. I could carry on a conversation with a fence post.

He thrives on routine: happiness to him is eating a ham sandwich for lunch 56 days in a row. I believe change is ‘fresh’.

Why did you have to change the shower soap? I was fine with what we had! Why do you always have to go changing everything?” 😉

So it stands to reason when I came zooming into his life, he was in for some major change.

Jimmy is one of those guys who prefers to fly under the radar and not be noticed. Unfortunately, he’s with me.

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I’ll explain.

I learned a long time ago that God had a sense of humor. When I was younger (e.g. less sure of myself), I tried to be polished. Perfect. Sophisticated.

It’s hard to feel sophisticated when you rip the back of your dress getting into a sports car.

And so, being very familiar – and now comfortable – with Murphy’s law, I have some particular quirks that I’ve simply learned to live with.

For my husband, however, it’s an ongoing process.

I am incredibly clumsy. 

It seems to go in cycles, with no rhyme nor reason.

I fall down or bump into things with astonishing regularity. I’ve been this way for years.

I’ve fallen off curbs, in parking lots, on sidewalks and down stairs. I’ve bumped into a million different objects. When I was 12, I bumped my head on a brace on the side of a grain bin and bled like a stuck pig. The end result of this was two black eyes. For WEEKS.

Several years ago, I sustained a minor head injury and had to be transported by ambulance to the ER. En route, I complained to the paramedic that there was a dance that weekend at the Moose, and now I would have black eyes.

“Oh, that’s not necessarily the case with a head injury,” he said.

“You don’t know ME!” I wailed.

Well, sometimes when life hands you lemons, you have to make lemon drop martini’s.

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So I bought a pair of cool sunglasses and pretended to be a Rock Star.

Several years ago I was leaving work one Saturday afternoon when I slipped and fell down in the parking lot. As I drove home, I could feel the all-too-familiar tickle of blood running down my knee.

I immediately called a friend of mine. Not because I was injured, mind you. I wanted her to share my grief in scuffing my new shoes, and my amusement at the irony of falling in the handicapped parking space.

Naturally, my friend’s husband wondered why she was laughing uncontrollably and wiping her eyes.

“Are you sure she shouldn’t see a neurologist or something?” he asked, concerned over what had been a recent rash of falls.

“No, she’s just clumsy,” she reassured him.

So therefore, it stands to reason that nothing strikes fear in the heart of my husband than opportunities for me to fall.

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Such as the walk we took on the top of Ft. Jefferson in Dry Tortugas National Park this winter. Three stories above the ocean with no fence or guardrails, just a bumpy sandy, grassy surface about 15 feet wide was all that separated me from a nice, open air plunge.

Poor guy was worn out after that little hike, pointing out obstacles, ushering me past uneven spots, and steering me away if I got too close to the edge.

Thanks, dear!

I’m a very messy eater.

There’s a very strategic reason why you nearly always see me wearing black if we’re out to dinner. It’s because if I spill something, you’re less likely to notice!

You probably know about the White Shirt Law: that’s the unwritten law that says you MUST wear a white shirt if you’re going to eat Mexican, Italian or BBQ. It’s just the way of the world.

Do you suppose my love of pristine white shirts is related at all to the fact that I can rarely keep them clean? Hmmmmmm.

2014-04-13 11.16.43This is a new, sparkling white sweatshirt I purchased just especially for Truman State’s Homecoming parade last fall.

What a fun day that was!

It was early, it was cold, and it was a blast!

After the parade, Jimmy and I went to the Wooden Nickel for lunch. My favorite lunch dish?

BBQ Beef brisket, of course.

I made it through nearly the whole meal, completely unscathed.

Until the very.last.piece.

I tried to cut it with my fork. It didn’t wish to cooperate.

Zing! It shot out from under my fork to another area of the plate.

In the process, it literally showered me with sauce droplets.

Jimmy’s expression was somewhere between shock, amazement, amusement, and horror.

“How DO you manage to do that?” he asked. “Every.single.time?”

The look on his face was priceless. It sustained me for weeks.

After 3 days of soaking and about 4 wash cycles, my sweatshirt is as good as new and ready for the second go around.

Needless to say, I go through a lot of tee shirts in a year’s time. After a while, they just look sort of…tired. 😀

I could keep going, but there’s a beautiful day out there to be enjoyed and I’m about to go do it. Make it a beautiful day, friends!


The Reason I Write This Blog

2014-01-14 17.52.51I knew I had to be willing to be a little bit ‘nekkid’.

That’s why it took me ten years to get a blog up and going after several false starts and several unfinished books and short stories.

To be authentically me, to be willing to have my thoughts and opinions and insights ‘out there’ and be willing to receive or hear criticism took courage. (At least it did for me.)

I guess that’s the beauty of  getting older. The things that were so important when you’re trying to build a life and a resume and a career and figure out who you are matter. Then you get older, and it doesn’t matter so much. You gain confidence, and realize that maybe you do know something after all. I mean, isn’t that why we’re all here? To learn about life?

By the way, I know this picture has nothing to do with this post. Who doesn’t like sunsets?

But I digress.

I believe that we all have our purpose on this earth, we all have a place. We’re here to serve mankind and to make the world a better place. The hard part is just figuring out what that purpose is, and navigating all the road blocks that pop up along the way.

A dear, dear friend (who shall remain nameless, you know who you are!) messaged me on Facebook last weekend. She made my day.

She reminded me why I began this whole blogging journey in the first place.

True friendship cannot be defined by miles or time.

That’s the beauty and the reward.

Hundreds of miles and a couple of decades have gone by since we’ve seen each other in person. Yet, I know that if we saw each other tomorrow, we’d give each other a big hug and it was like time never passed.

She’s gone through a rough bit these last few years.

We all go through long periods of sadness or stress. That’s just life.

Her simple words, “Your latest Sunshine express made me smile. Life has been rough…and reading your stories has been a highlight on many days. Thank you!!”

It’s easy to get caught up in numbers and page views and wanting to appeal to readers.

But my friend’s message was a sign; an affirmation, if you will, that I need to keep being authentic. I need to continue on this path I’m on. I need to keep being ‘nekkid.’

Because if I brighten just one person’s day, I’ve accomplished my purpose and been successful for that day.

So friends, thank you for reading. I hear positive feedback from a number of you, and I appreciate that. I hope you’ll keep joining me on this journey…where ever it goes, because I love ya.

And I love you too, my friend. Hugs to you from afar. 🙂

Things in Life I’ve Learned From My Dogs

Skippy and me


This is the first post in a series about me, my dogs, and everything I’ve learned from them. I am smarter, and a much better person because of them. (I wish I was as cool as they think I am. HA) These posts are especially appropriate because I just found out I’m allergic to dogs. Not that I intend to do anything differently, of course, except spend the next few years getting shots. 😀

This is me and our dog Skippy when I was about two.

Skippy is the first dog I ever knew, and one of only two purebreds I’ve ever lived with. He was a beautiful English Shepherd.

He was never vaccinated or neutered, lived outside (except in our basement when it was cold outside), and ate nothing but table scraps.

And he lived to be about 18 or 19 years old. Go figure.

I grew up as an only child. (I wasn’t an only child, mind you.)

I had older brothers and a sister. But I was an accident (my mom was sure she had cancer), so I came along much later after my siblings. In fact, they were all pretty much in high school when I was born.

Eventually I had nephews around, but much of my early years was spent with my barnyard friends, since we lived on a farm way out in the boonies.

I had a pet pig named Curly, and chickens, and bottle calves to play with.

In fact, I spent so much time with the chickens that one of my mom’s friends became concerned. But that’s another story for another day. 😉

I suppose I learned to be resourceful spending so much time by myself.

Skippy was my buddy.

Skippy taught me how what a good friend, and good company, a dog could be. He and I hung out together, went on picnics with Miracle Whip sandwiches out in the pasture, and explored. If my mother wondered where I was (or any of my siblings when they were younger) she called Skippy.

He was a great dog and a terrific friend, and although I don’t have many pictures of him, I have lots of great memories. 🙂