And Life Got in the Way

I’ve been away from my blog way to long and I woke up this morning and I decided I was done being sad. We’ll see.

I lost my mom. A tragedy yes, a blessing yes. She had Alzheimers. Caring for her was both a privilege and the hardest thing I have ever had to do. She was 93. My sister and I managed to keep her at home. Let me tell you it was touch and go, we couldn’t have gone on for too many more days. Thank heavens for the VNA, without their help we wouldn’t have managed. Anything we needed 24/7 we had within 20 minutes.

Nancy Regan said Alzheimers is the “long goodbye”. It is. My mom was diagnosed 3 years ago, but really she started showing signs 2 years before that. We were in denial. This was the explanation for some of the outrageous things she would occasionally say. Accusations of stealing that were so out of character. Other things that were strange but funny at the time.

My mom was my mentor in design, and my best friend. We did all the things that mothers and daughters do, but we had an understanding of each other that was beyond the parent-child relationship.

She was fearless when my dad was by her side. When he died, I became her anchor and she went into waiting mode. She quit spending time with friends, she quit experimenting with the big projects for her home, she quit filling her head with beautiful things. She put on a brave face and never seemed weak or needy. It’s only now that I look back, I realized she was just waiting. For 11 1/2 years she waited.

Mom was still living on her own the last year. Being a collector of 18th Century Antiques she filled her time with rearranging her accessories, moving them to a new location and forgetting where she put them or frankly, hiding them. I was still working full time and sometimes 50 hours a week for a design store. My sister took up
the slack.

Then the phone calls came. She would call the house several times a day. Sometimes 10-15 times a day and one day there were 54 calls on the caller ID. She would never leave a message. I would tell her about the calls and she would be shocked and call me a liar. I should have never brought it up.

This was when we understood she could no longer be left alone. She began to have hallucinations about boys staring at her in the night. Poring tooth brushes down the bathroom drain (which she actually did) that was a fun plumbing bill! Stealing her Sterling Silver dresser set which she had hidden in her dresser drawer.

Caring for someone with Alzheimers is so emotionally and physically draining. Their body begins to break down and they lose their strength, but it’s the emotional roller coaster you are on minute to minute. You never know who you are dealing with or what’s next.

I found myself not being the person I wanted to be or expected to be. Sometimes kindness just isn’t there. That was shocking to me. That I could become so frustrated with her. I remember telling her I would never lie to her to make her feel better. I would always tell her the truth. Was that the right answer? Probably not.

I learned that you just have to go with it and play along. In her last week, she awoke in the middle of the night scared because someone was in the closet. I turned on the light and checked the closet, of course no one was there. She was seeing herself.
The next day I learned from the VNA nurse that you cover all the mirrors with an Alzheimers patient. She had a mirror on the closet door. She didn’t recognize herself. We covered the mirror and never had another issue with that.

The VNA nurse also shared that when they say something outrageous ask them how old they are. One day at a restaurant she poured a huge amount of ketchup on her french fries. So out of character for her. I wish I’de have known to ask her how old she was. I’ll bet she was 6! It makes it easier to know how to relate to them.

A few days before her death she called for me. When I came into her room she asked me if I was related to her. I said Only in the Best of Ways. I’m your Daughter and you are my Mother.

For me it was saying goodbye to the one person on the face of the earth who got me. The person who took joy in all my accomplishments. Saying goodbye to the shared giggles and the absurdities of life. Saying goodbye to that font of information that was ever present in that wonderful brain of hers.

So my life has totally changed. I’m going back to my own design business Shelley Humpal Design Solution’s. I’m embracing my own family again. They have all been very supportive but I haven’t been there for them. I’m going to take a deep breath and wait for the house to sell, and I’m going to take some time to figure out who I am with non of my parents expectations.

If you are going thru a similar situation it is my hope that telling my story can be of help to you. Give you some tools that I wish I would have known sooner. And, to tell you to be kind to yourself.

Thank you for hanging in there with me. I appreciate it more then I can say. And in this holiday season I will try to fill your heads with useful information and beautiful inspiration and just maybe a giggle or two.

Christmas house tour up next. Enjoy your Sunday


Magical Moments

The Christmas Star And
Starting a New Holiday Tradition

So the reason for the season is almost upon us and I am still knee deep in storage boxes, greenery and making Christmas cards. Let’s not even talk Christmas Cookies and Parties. I am so behind I will probably still be decorating on Valentine’s Day!

In my defense, I have started a new position and I am still learning the ropes, so it is taking some major brainpower. I’m living in a mess day after day and I try to make headway during the extra hour I have here and there. The long suffering husband just nods and smiles when the chandelier greens get torn down yet again because I can’t seem to get them just right. My chandelier may be greens less this year! Oh well.

When decorating for the holidays, I’ve come to the conclusion that you can’t out do yourself every year, and you shouldn’t expect to. Some years everything I touch turns out and the juices are flowing. I get the vignette done and I stand back to make sure it doesn’t need any tweaking and I clap all by myself. Yup, it’s really good. I just get giddy with joy. Last Christmas was just that way for me. I had a new room to inspire me and everything fell into place. I was so pleased with almost everything I touched. This year not so much! I think I just must be too distracted, so I think that I will focus on the magical moments, of which there are a few. Does this home decorating block ever happen to you? I will keep you posted but I do want to share a magical moment that happened to me just last weekend. Continue reading “Magical Moments”

Tucking in Christmas

With many of us digging into the deepest recesses of our homes to unearth the Christmas decorations the time has come to Tuck in Christmas.

Whimsy and fun Barn Vent Decorated for the Holidays

So the question is how do you decorate for Christmas? Do you sweep the decks and start with a clean slate? Do you go for a different “theme” every year? Or do you tuck Christmas in?

Continue reading “Tucking in Christmas”

All Hollows Eve

This little witch was spotted in a book of antique weather vanes many years ago.  A favorite, she was reproduced and hand carved by my dad.   The littlest witch hangs on my wall thru every season.

Have a happy and safe Halloween everyone

Going Against the Grain

Can good design still be good design if it isn’t the flavor of the moment?

When clients ask me what the current trends are, I really just want to cringe.  The more appropriate question should be, what is currently trending in your home or with your lifestyle?

We are so locked into the flavor of the moment, we forget that we will be living with this “look” for 8-10 years.  For some of us, even longer.  With that consideration, is the “trend” the right one for you?

I’m a firm believer in allowing your personal style to speak to you.  It should be nurtured, and allowed to grow.  Do our tastes change over time?  Certainly.  But does that mean everything we valued from before needs to be chucked, just because it doesn’t work with the new look?  No!

Here are my rules for designing my own home.

  1. Don’t shop where everyone else shops.  I want my home to be unique and reflect my personal style, and I love antiques, things with history. I shop Antique Shows, Estate Sales, and yes, the Antique Mall when nothing else is going on.
  2. Don’t be afraid.  If you see something that catches your eye, and makes your heart pound buy it!  Believe me, I have let a lot of things get away.  Don’t worry about how you will use it, if it’s a great piece it will find it’s way in your home.  I have pieces that are floaters.  I have had them for many years and they still haven’t found the perfect home.  But, they make me smile when I handle them and they look great wherever I put them.  I may know they aren’t in the perfect spot but no one else will, and frankly no one cares.
  3. Start a collection.  Collecting has been one of the greatest joys of my life.  Am I still using the same things that I purchased 40 years ago?  Some of it, absolutely.
  4. One thing isn’t enough to make a statement, but 3 things from the same genre can make a huge impact.  Five things even better.
  5. Know when to say when.  This is very important.  I collect many different things.  A home that is furnished with only one collection is not balanced.  The sum of these various collections has created my own home, my own lifestyle.
  6. Experiment.  “Stuff” is toys for grown-ups.  It shouldn’t be sacred, it should be handled and enjoyed.  For example, I don’t “set a table” I create tablescapes.  I pull accessories from all over the house and play with the table.  I don’t have a huge pantry that is full of “Table Scape Stuff” my stuff is always in use.
    Antique Blue and White Transferware
    18th Century Brides Table

    For me the greatest joy of entertaining isn’t necessarily the food (there is always Taco Bell!)  It’s the table and creating something that is delightful to my eye, and if it pleases one of my guests so much the better.  Move your “stuff” around.

So, the answer is NO!  Good design can still be good design if it is not the “flavor” of the moment.  Give yourself a break and be true to yourself.



Falling Into Place or Seizing the Day Part ll

If you are sitting down to read this for the first time be sure to read Part l first.

After allowing the door to stare at me for a couple of weeks it was time. With great enthusiasm, paint stripper, gloves and putty knife in hand I began pouring stripper on this door.

Scruffy Antique Victorian Door

(Remember lead paint.) After a 20 year hiatus from paint stripping I was certain that new technology would win the day, and this door would be stripped in no time. Ah, no such luck!

Continue reading “Falling Into Place or Seizing the Day Part ll”

Falling Into Place

Falling Into Place or Seizing the Day

Part 1

Every once in a while things do fall into place. Sometimes it may take a couple of years to get the last exclamation point on a room. I can be patient.

After 30 years in our home my husband and I decided to improve upon a built in wall unit we had built when we first moved into this house. At the time we were armed with very little budget, absolutely no skill, a hammer, a circular saw, and a borrowed level.  I had a vision.   Continue reading “Falling Into Place”

The Evolution of Country Style

So don’t go running for the hills! As a designer, I always hesitate to put a label on personal style. Is it French Country, Cottage, Farmhouse Style, Industrial or just plain Country. Is it Contemporary or Mid-Century Mod, Old World European or Boho Chic. A person can go crazy just trying to put a label on their style. For now let’s just talk about Country.

Country Style scares most people if they grew up in the 80’s and 90’s. All they see are those horrible borders that marched around their mother’s kitchen and the over all state of too much stuff!

Continue reading “The Evolution of Country Style”

Last Breath of Summer or Best Laid Plans!

Sometimes you can’t make a nickel.  My oldest daughters birthday was Friday and we decided to have a birthday party on Sunday.  I’ve been planning this party all week, kind of a bon voyage’ to summer.  Dining El Fresco on the deck.  I really wanted this to be special for her, she turned 41.

Days before I headed out to the nurseries looking for just the right pumpkins for the centerpiece and concocted what I would pull from my stash to go with these magical pumpkins I had purchased,  What to do for dishes and tablecloth etc.  Continue reading “Last Breath of Summer or Best Laid Plans!”

How to Shop an Antique Show

There are many types of antique shows.  There are the very fine vetted shows like the Lauritzen Gardens Antique Show, there are the “regular” antique shows, flea markets, and the ever popular Junk Stock type shows.  I approach all of them the same way.

Antique Shows can be so overwhelming if you have never been before.  There is the crush of people and all that eye candy, or not.  How do you navigate?  Sometimes a good strategy is to start at the end and work your way forward.  The crush of people will be less, and you will have a bit more quiet time.

Continue reading “How to Shop an Antique Show”