Here the story begins, fairly normal and nothing out of the ordinary in our day and age. I married my college sweetheart and we had five beautifully wonderful children in ten years. I came from a big family and loved the camaraderie I grew up with in my large family. I longed to create that loving environment in which I am blessed to call home. I became a full time stay at home mom after giving up teaching soon after the birth of our third child. Being a nurturing personality, I loved and cherished my role! I loved those years of celebrations and firsts. Laughter was light and found often. Chaos danced on our doorway each and every day. It was physically demanding and they certainly kept me on my toes in their young years but the house was full of fun and love. As time passed, plans went awry and things we did not count on occurred.
Our oldest son who had been premature, was diagnosed with severe ADHD and learning differences along with what would now be labeled as Aspergers, but I really do not care for labels so I will call it a challenge, but not a disability. Our youngest son, who was also premature and had experienced some developmental delays was diagnosed with learning differences of a different nature, both very bright, but the “normal” path was not to be theirs. No, they did not have a life threatening illness but they had a life “deviating” path and I became the orchestrator of how to help them make their way along that path along with the paths of the three that learned in the traditional manner. Life slowly shifted to “all about my family”, where I began to internalize the difficulties they were experiencing. I started to stifle what I wanted in any shape or form to fulfill what they needed. We as mothers and as women have a tendency to do this, do we not? My identity became that of my children’s mom, my husband’s wife, with no real identity of my own. I began to feel like I was loosing myself. Sound familiar?
As these thoughts swirled around in my head, we moved into the historic home of our dreams that we had been looking for over the period of a few years. The goal at first, was to move closer to the special school that dealt with my oldest child’s needs so we would not have to drive an hour to and from school each day. That search that would take us away from a wonderful support system of friends became a search for an old home that “spoke to us.” As luck would have it and the hands of fate, we eventually found it and moved into a beautiful old historic dream home with room for animals, a large empty stone bank barn and many acres to harvest a very large vegetable garden and wonderful flower beds. I could feel my senses coming alive. Coinciding with this move, my creative soul, which was getting its fill of volunteer projects in the classroom, came alive with the prospect of utilizing all of the wonderful goodies that were left in the barn, old doors, huge old shutters, window frames and other such treasures. I have always loved history and find myself drawn to old structures, architecture, and objects time and time again. The thought came to me to use these pieces in some of the barn and house renovations that we had decided to do and needed to do in some areas. Have you ever stood in the kitchen of a grand old house, the original kitchen, not one “re-done” for modern living? Maybe that of a home on tour or a notable historic one, that has the old serving kitchen intact? Have you run your hand along the edge of the wooden counter and felt like you just might have been there before? Possibly as the scullery maid? Maybe it is my absolute and utter love for the past or maybe the fact that I too have spent many years in the kitchen, and loved it! Whatever the case may be, I utilized and repurposed those old pieces into our home and the results incited comments from friends and family. Friends who also knew that I had spent many years providing the creative aspects of the children’s various fundraising events, class projects and miscellany, spurred me on to start a business in this fashion.
This was one side of the barn when we moved in, filled with items that to be honest with you, most people would have thrown out. I used them to renovate the upper and lower barn. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure…
When we moved into the property, I would walk the wide plank flooring of the old barn as I pondered on what to do with this massive old structure. The farm no longer housed the dairy cows that it once did. How could we repurpose it? As I looked around at all of the treasures in that gorgeous stone structure with the massive beams, a business idea came to be born. Why couldn’t I continue to collect treasures, for I had a long history of collecting flea market goodies and found objects for our home and decor, and then open up the barn every so often to sell the items…a barn sale? Maybe I could also add old china and glass pieces for I have a huge penchant for collecting both, a love inherited from my mom and grandmother. An idea was born and a business plan was hatched. My spine tingled again, my soul felt on fire by the idea and the challenge. I told a friend about my dream and she said, “What are you waiting for?” I replied, “I am waiting for the time when I have more time to make it happen.” She replied, “That will never happen,” and spurred me on and volunteered her time to help me make it happen.
We cleaned out all of the acquired goodies, kept what we could repurpose, like the old window frames that I had the contractor hang on the beams when you enter the barn and filled a dumpster with what was not salvageable.
We were in the planning stages when our middle son, whose life was humming along in a nice trajectory, was suddenly struck with an obscure illness that shut down his autonomic nervous system. It caused him to miss months of school, year after year and he has basically lost the last six years of the everyday experiences and opportunities that a typical fifteen to twenty one year old lives. We were in year number two of figuring this all out with our son, doctor visit after doctor visit when we launched Life’s Patina. My path to moving ahead with my plan was fraught with negative voices. I was moving forward on one hand and negative self- talking on the other. I have NEVER had so many internal conversations… with myself. “How are you possibly going to have time for this when you can barely take care of what is on your plate?” “You know nothing about running a business” and “You are too old to start a business.” We talk about excuses all the time, excuses for why we cannot make a change, why we cannot move forward, how we are stuck in our circumstances. Here was a big excuse for me to bail out on, but frankly it acted in reverse. I desperately needed at this point something to re-energize me, to take me away from what I was being swallowed by… to help me focus on something that I had some control over so that I could face issues where I had none. My energy was lagging along with my spirits. The moments of my greatest joy watching my young ones grow had turned into my greatest sorrow as they stumbled along on their difficult paths. I, helping as much as I could but not able to fix those challenges and take down those hurdles that they had to jump over daily. My identity all but indistinguishable, my outlets for creativitythat had presented themselves in my children’s younger years, were drying up…I had to move forward. I had to inject passion back into my life, pick up my floundering feet and soul, for the benefit of not only me but for all those around me. We seized the idea and brought it to life.
The name for Life’s Patina was born of a realization that as we age, we develop our own patina, our own beauty based on our experiences, our own life choices. Each adding layers of depth to our lives just as an old French shutter weathers, its paint fades, peels, chips and creates beautiful hues by this process. The time worn wood is exposed, mellowed by its age, softened, altered in places with the prints of the hundreds of hands that have opened and closed them, touched them… through the years. Others who enter into our lives have the same effect on us as those hundreds of handprints through the years have on that old French shutter. We are entering our fifth year of business and I am so very happy that I forged ahead in a time when I could have thrown in the towel. Life can be difficult, it can have its challenges but it is beautiful and filled with blessings. Life’s Patina, although difficult to balance at times with my family’s needs has been a gift. It has branched out into avenues that I had never planned on, from giving me a place to express my voice through my blog, which has been very therapeutic while sharing my journey. It has let me express my creativity, which has re-energized me and made me feel like I can do something that makes a difference outside of my family. We have raised over forty thousand dollars for various local charities and created a small community that fuels my fire and in return, I hope that I fuel theirs. We have grown organically and by word of mouth as we create an experience when one visits us at our seasonal barn sales and pop up events. We are thrilled to be sharing more of Willowbrook Farm as we are launching our small intimate venue options on the farm this year.
The past five years have not always been smooth sailing. Halfway through this journey, I was stumbling pretty badly, unsure of continuing on with what I had created. Torn daily by my negative self talk of who really cares if I do this or not? Is it worth the balancing act of time and is it worth the way too many late nights? The work is hard but rewarding but made more difficult by the needs of my family. Why am I sharing all of this now? Couldn’t I just pretend to all of you that this comes easy? That it was a breeze? More like a banshee coming in on the tail of Murphy’s Law most days. This is when I gathered up my muster and traveled alone to Idaho to attend Cathy Wilkins and Melody Ross’ Brave Girls Camp. I had been following them almost since the beginning of Life’s Patina. Their daily “a little birdie told me” inspiring messages that came into my mail box, felt like they were written just for me way too many times for me to ignore them, so I answered their call and came to them.
My four days of life changing fun based around the Soul Restoration coursework that Melody had created was just the tonic that I needed. I got back in touch with the little girl and her dreams of many years ago. Fueled by that and other inspiring soul searching work that I did while attending, I returned to my often conflicted path, more determined than ever to keep going. To keep showing up daily with ALL of me, even when only maybe a quarter of me wanted to get out of bed. I am so grateful for the time that I had out in Idaho with all the other Brave Girls who attended. I am grateful to have been given this life path and will continue treading it. This path has held many blessings. It has given our oldest son, whose own path is still being created, a place to work and utilize his talents. This in turn feeds his soul. Our daughter sees me as something else besides her mom, and I think, values me in another way and this has fueled her life making decisions in college and now beyond. Our other sons see the same each in their own ways. There are still tears and challenges, nothing is perfect, nor ever will be for we love the warmth and beauty of patina…be that of an object or of a life. We love the flaws, the chips, the peeling, the imperfections that create character. We celebrate the beauty of life…past and present here, combining my love of family, history and tradition and what they all represent.
I truly am over the moon to be hosting and bringing Soul Restoration, a four day immersive retreat, to Willowbrook Farm. The lessons that I learned in my four days in Idaho are ones that I want to share with all of you. My dear friend Kristen, who I met during my experience at the Brave Girls Camp, will be bringing her Soul Restoration training here to help those of you who are questioning the voices that are going around in your head, that just might be focusing too much on the negative. For those of you who want to connect with women who are all searching for deeper meaning on your path, you might find it at this event.
Thank you for taking the time to read and please…no judgment! I realize that this is heavy content but many issues in life are…are they not?
photo credit: Lisa Gemperline of Tiptoe Collections