New room, new year

I love to have plenty of light, green nature and living things around me to feel well, especially in winter. Inspired by the idea of greenhouses, I took my Christmas money and rearranged half of my bedroom to become a sanctuary. Here’s how I did it!

It started with a plan. I drew something in my journal with my dream for the space.



Before picture

Since we live in a singlewide trailer with 1,000 sq. ft. for three adults, clutter is a constant issue. Our bedroom had recently become more “storage shed” than inviting space. I was motivated to make a change!


My first step was to clear the clutter, move out the tall bookcases into the living room and put away the horse tack in the closet. It’s too cold to do much with the horses in winter other than spoil them with carrots.

Then I picked up a sale rug for $20 from the hardware store to define the space.



My next step was lighting. I wanted the room to be magical at night as well as bright from natural light during the day.

I got some twinkle lights on sale after Christmas.

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I also got some twinkle lights for my beloved snake plant and some crackle glass lights for the wall over where my chair would go.

New plants

I stopped by the store to pick up some new plants. I wanted a nice variety of colors, leaves and types. From my friend Tami, I recently learned than many of my plants are air purifiers so we will have the added benefit of cleaner air.


Some fun air plants!


A fuzzy Panda plant.

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I picked up a chair and ottoman on sale because they were the floor models. My husband, Logan, had the brilliant idea to add a mirror so the greenhouse effect is extended. The mirror also have the benefit of adding more light.

Here it is with the new chair and ottoman. The ottoman can store an afghan inside.


Care of the plants

I made a notebook of care for each of the plants so I know what everyone likes. The book in the photo is from the 1970s. I got it from my sister-in-law, Lisa, in 1990 when I got my very first plant, the snake plant you see in the photos. This plant been going strong for 27 years!


For the plants that like to be misted, I added a piece of blue tape so they are easy to identify.


Enjoying my “greenhouse”

After our friends Justin, Laura and David were kind enough to deliver the chair for us, the last step was to start enjoying the space.

This was me the moment I first tried sitting in my new chair in my new space. Of course the pups had to join me. Happiness!


Now I have a reading nook, a place to write, a prayer space, a greenhouse to putter in and a welcoming room for a cup of tea with a friend. I hope you’ve enjoyed the tour of my new room.

My sister Laura always talks about getting the essence of a desire. I wasn’t able to build a new greenhouse, but I could remake part of a room. If this project shows anything, it shows that it’s not what we have, but what we do with what we have. If I can make my dream come true in a singlewide trailer on a very limited budget, you can make your space match your dream wherever you are and whatever your dream is. God bless you in the coming year! May it bring you much healing, happiness and peace. ❤️




Thank you to all the people, animals and pets who help make this space so inviting!





Why I am thankful: a look back to 1986

Pixie grazing

Thanksgiving 1986

Snow flurries drifted down.

I woke up alone in a four-bedroom house. It had never been a home. I had only lived there 13 months.

The house was going to be sold and the proceeds divided however the divorce court decreed my parents should split them.

I peered in the fridge for some breakfast. A plastic gallon container had only enough milk to cover the bottom. I poured it over some stale raisin bran flakes.

I crunched the mostly dry cereal.

I put on jeans, a sweater, a hat, mittens and my coat, a wool Russian military jacket I found in
a used clothing store in Minneapolis.

I had nowhere to go. I walked the streets of the subdivision. The houses had packs of cars parked in front of them. Inside bodies moved across the yellow lights shining out. Blue TVs flashed and every so often I could hear the murmur of crowds from inside the houses. Families filled the homes.

I had no family like that. I had no home like that.

I walked on.

I walked past the gas station, closed on the holiday. It had a vending machine for bait. “How Minnesotan,” I thought.

The grey sky drooped over me. I walked along the frozen lake. Snow twisted and untwisted in swirls from the wind gusts.

“I will always be alone,” I thought.


Thanksgiving week 2016

The light spread long warmth over the field. I grabbed my camera, a combined surprise gift from friends on my 40th birthday.

“I’m going out to get some pictures,” I told my family.

I sat in the pasture and the pony came close to me to graze the still-green grass. It had been a warm fall.

Out of all the acreage, she chose to be close to me.

She had been starving when she was rescued. The horses in the herd with her had died. But she survived. The people at Longmeadow brought her back to health. Then we adopted her, skittish and shy though she was.

Over the past five years with us, her friendly, confident self bloomed.

I sat with her and listened to her eat. The sun set.

I came inside, inside my home with my husband and son.

My son helped me pick the best photos and edit them.


I am thankful for my home.

I am thankful for my memories of no home because now I know what I have.

I am thankful for my family.

I am thankful for my memories of being alone because now I know what I have.

I am thankful that ponies can forgive and learn to love.

I am thankful that people can forgive and learn to love.

I am thankful for today.

I am thankful for today.


Wherever you are, may you know the presence of God and feel the peace that transcends understanding. I wish you a Thanksgiving full of enough to eat and a heart full of hope!

Pixie grazing

Pixie grazing

Pixie grazing

Pixie grazing

Pixing grazing

Pixie grazing

The end of a scarf of many colors

This fall has been full of fun for my family and me.

My son, Derek, enjoys his first semester as a freshman at Mizzou. We love seeing his excitement about what he is learning.

Logan likes his new job at Bioengineering. He always has stories about the incredible research happening in his department. Fascinating stuff!

I had the good luck of participating in a national conference called HighEdWeb where I saw Dave Cameron teach a workshop about productivity. He discussed how undone things in your life are mentally draining. It’s important to close the loops.

Me? Make to-do lists that are impossible to get done in a reasonable time span? Start projects and not finish them? (See my previous blog posts on life-changing magic! Two months since I started, I still have rooms that need the life-changing magic of tidying up. But I see visible progress.)

I can say with full confidence that I do finish every cup of tea I start. At least there’s that!

After the inspiring workshop with Dave, I was motivated to come home and work on finishing my unfinished things.

Such as my scrap scarf. I finished crocheting this scarf months ago. But those ends… I do not like to sew in ends!

I committed to getting my scrap scarf done, my poor colorful scarf that has sat curled in neglect next to the couch since March.

It took me two hours with a needle to sew in 140 stubby yarn ends. But I finished it! Now I can look forward to feeling mentally more energetic.

I wore the scarf this week in the evening after a storm. The light was weird. The reds of the trees glowed. This photo that my son Derek took has no editing and no filter.

Now I’m at the start of NaNoWriMo, where people work to write 50,000 words in one month. Thanks to a lot of Darjeeling tea, I am 7,000 words in. Only 43,000 more to go…

It’s a third attempt at my memoir (putting me in the rebel category because it’s not a novel). So far my writing surprises me, as it always does. The stories wait inside and want to see the light of day, or the white of the page. The stories are uncomfortable. They’re strange. They are not the pretty, funny, sweet stories I think they should be. They are not well behaved.

But this time I want to be strong, strong enough to write the real stories that need to be told. I hope someone will read them and accept me as I am. Maybe I am a scrap scarf that needs my ends sewn in, and writing this memoir will tidy up those ends.

As I look back on my past, I can see how lucky I am now. Good things are happening! I celebrate this happy, healthy fall and hope you too are enjoying the light. Hug your friends with an extra squeeze! God bless you.


Faith in the process of decluttering

One closet.

Two hundred plus journals.

Three big bins of memories.

If you’ve kept up with the Life of Gen, you’ll know that we last left our hero with a beautiful closet but a Very Cluttered Bedroom.

I managed to give away an entire carful of goodness to the Moberly Goodwill. Thank you, Moberly Goodwill person, for graciously accepting an odd assortment of items including: a leather laceup bodice from Castro Street in San Francisco, ten photo frames, a duck basket I originally got from the Goodwill in St. Paul and a 20-year-old plant stand.

Our trash collector was also kind enough to accept the extra trashcan full of items such as my wedding dress, broken hangers, my old paintings from when I painted along with the Jerry Yarnell show on PBS, my high school yearbook and muck boots with a hole in them.

Nothing nastier than mucking out a pony pen with holey boots!

In her decluttering book, Marie Kondo mentions that good fortune comes after we make space in our lives. After an experience this weekend, I believe it.

Letting go of my muck boots was hard. They were from my favorite brand. I have used these boots—my trusty horse care companions—for almost 10 years. Because it’s time to buy hay for the winter, I don’t have the money now to get new ones to replace the old. But it was time to let go. I threw the holey muck boots away.

Happiness is a barn full of hay (and a husband and son who helped stack it–thanks!)

After I give my donations to Goodwill, we stopped inside to see if there was anything interesting. What do you think I found there?

Hardly used muck boots in my size, for a quarter the cost of brand-new ones. I grabbed them and made them mine.

My new-to-me boots!

Like cleaning out the old hay to make room for the new, I still need to go through my three bins of memorabilia and make room for new memories.

Letting go of the old is a hard process. It is hard to trust that what we need will be there. But it will be.

I will keep on surrounding myself with items that bring me joy, like fresh hay and almost-new boots.

Keep on enjoying life and trusting that God will take care of you. He will!

God bless you, friends! ❤❤❤

My closet is beautiful

My bedroom is not.

I’m in the middle of organizing the house using the KonMarie method. If you haven’t read “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”, the essence of her method is simple.

  1. Touch each item.
  2. Does it give you joy? Keep it.
  3. No joy? Toss.

Wonderfully easy in concept.

Incredibly time-consuming in practice.

I own thousands of items. I’m on week three of trying to touch each item I own. I’m not even close to halfway done.

Have you ever taken a suitcase and overfilled it? Then added a little more stuff and sat on the lid to get it zipped close? That is what I did with my closet over the past 16 years.

I only dared to open the door a crack to prevent all the stuff from tumbling out and knocking me over like a stuff tsunami.

Last weekend I decided I would work on the closet as part of the tidying order. I’m in the komono (miscellany) section. I steeled my nerves and drank pure espresso to get energized enough to attempt this kind of life-changing magic.

I took everything out of the closet. It took hours.

An hour in, I thought I wouldn’t be able to do it. I endured. I schlepped out boxes of wires, photos, baby clothes (my son is 19), enough coats to cover a small foreign army and bank statements from the 1990s.

The bank statements are especially curious because we moved into the house in 2000. This means I moved old bank statements into the house.

shaking my head

Somehow I got everything out of the closet.



I viewed the stuff stacked in the bedroom. I was shocked to see how much stuff I had packed in that small closet!

This weekend is the “touch each item stranded in the bedroom now and decide if it brings me joy” project.

Is there hope for me? Or has my bedroom turned into a storage shed forever? Will I be over-caffeinated in my attempts?

Stay tuned ‘til next week!



The day I had perfect hair

Do you recognize perfection in yourself?

Do you have someone you could call to come over who would celebrate that perfection?

In the 1980s, it was clear how we were supposed to look. Two words: big hair.

It didn’t matter if you were a girl or a guy. Big hair ruled.

Purple super-hold Aqua Net hairspray made it possible.

Gotta be the purple can.

My hair routine went like this:

  • spray hair,
  • curl hair,
  • brush hair and
  • finish with a final spray.
  • Put a small travel can of hair spray in my purse for freshening during recess.

One day in the summer of 1983, the stars aligned. It was more than a good hair day.

I picked up the phone in the kitchen that had a curly cord and dialed my friend. Of course I had all my friends’ phone numbers memorized.

“Ali, I need you to come over and take a picture. My hair is perfect,” I said.

She jumped on her 10-speed and rode down. She agreed my hair was perfect.

Kodak disc camera. Photo by D. Meyer.

I handed her my disc camera so she could take my picture.

The day my hair was perfect

I couldn’t wait to get see my perfect hair preserved for all time. But I had to. It was the 80s, decades before digital selfies.

Next time we went to the grocery store, we filled out the envelope and dropped off the photos to get developed.

How we look matters less than how we feel about it. I work on a college campus and every day I’m surrounded by people at the height of their health and attractiveness. Yet they don’t seem to see themselves.

I recently read how college students are less empathetic than ever and how devices are changing the quality of friendships. I feel for young women now, growing up on social media under scrutiny in a competitive environment of looks.

I hope women everywhere have the experience of feeling perfect and the chance to invite over a friend who agrees.

If you need some help for your perfect hair day, here’s my tip. Pick up the biggest can of Aqua Net you can find.

Life is short but perfect hair is possible! It’s up to you to make the call.

Call yourself beautiful and surround yourself with people who see that too. ❤❤❤

God bless you today and always!


My new favorite breakfast: Swiss Birchermuesli (with recipe)

Bern rooftops

We went to Europe for two and a half weeks in June. What a magical time! We saw mountains, ate incredible food including the famous Swiss chocolate and exceptional dairy products, and had a fantastic time laughing while traveling with family. A sense of humor is the best thing to bring on a trip!

One of my favorite breakfasts in Switzerland was Birchermuesli, invented by Dr. Bircher-Benner around 1900 as a way to increase fresh fruit and raw foods in the diet.

Breakfast at Hotel Kreuz Bern
Enjoying Birchermuesli at Hotel Kreuz Bern

I tried Birchermuesli at five different towns in Switzerland. They were all a little different. My favorite Birchermuesli was in Hotel Kreuz Bern. I loved this hotel because of the rooftop terrace and the 24-hour tea room. What? Tea for free 24 hours a day! How could I not love it!

Since I have returned, I have been making Birchermuesli for breakfast. Here’s my recipe.

Birchermuesli, Gen-style (not authentic Swiss)

blueberries on Birchermuesli1 cup old-fashioned oats
Apple juice
Apple cider vinegar
Dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, blueberries)
Fresh fruit (apple & blueberries are my favorite)

Soak 1 cup of oats with as much apple juice as necessary and a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. The apple cider vinegar is optional. I use it because it *might* have miraculous qualities. I have heard apple cider vinegar does everything from making your hair shiny to repairing bridges (not quite) so I figure it can’t hurt.

Let the oats soak for at least 10 minutes. You can cut up your apple and feed your dogs while you are waiting. Don’t have dogs? Some little Chihuahua needs a home. Adopt a dog and you will never be lonely again. You might be annoyed because you are constantly walking, feeding, cleaning up after and entertaining a small, energetic creature, but hey, at least you’re not bored.

I like to cut up my apples into tiny bites, about a quarter-inch square. I recommend an apple with some crisp character: Granny Smith, Honey Crisp or Gala.

Then I stir in the apple, coconut, nuts, dried fruit and yogurt.

What kind of yogurt? Your choice! I use what I have. Might be Fage Greek, might be Yoplait mixed berry (a classic from my childhood when I don’t want the heavy intensity of Greek yogurt), might be Aldi regular vanilla (which tastes a lot like Brown Cow to me).

If you use an unsweetened yogurt and you want your Birchermuesli sweet, now is the time to add some honey or brown sugar.

Don’t like coconut or nuts? You could leave them out. I won’t judge. I personally like a lot of nuts: chopped almonds, pecans or walnuts. Brain food!

Last I put the blueberries on top. Fresh peaches would also be an excellent choice. In Switzerland, I saw people put canned pears on top as well.

I don’t have a lot of vices (save for tea, but is that a vice, really?) so sometimes I like to go a little wild and add a dash of half and half. It makes it richer.

I love Birchermuesli as a light, energizing breakfast. It brings a little of Europe back to me every morning.

If you try it, let me know how you like it!

God bless you this week!

More food we enjoyed in Europe