About Me

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A writer by predilection, an aunt by blessing and a friend by choice, Shelley has spent many years journaling before sitting down to draft her first novel. She has a B.A. in English discourse and is currently working on her third romantic-suspense, the title of which will be announced soon pending publication. Shelley is a member of the Romance Writers of America as well as her RWA state chapter of the Maryland Romance Writers.
"I love story-telling. It's a way to live an experience through the eyes of a character." - Shelley N. Greene

Sunday, January 3, 2016

BLANK SPACE

I welcomed in the New Year, waving a bittersweet goodbye to the outgoing annum. I wish I could say that I was sad to see the old year go, but 2015 brought with it some drastic changes. It’s also left a few loose ends of the home improvement variety.

While important to some, a home-base is a vital need to me. Like a turtle, I need a cozy shell to tuck into, and hide away in. When I first moved in, my place was basic, a solid room to hold my schtuff. Over the years it’s evolved into my beautiful sanctuary, customized to my every need.

Several themes became the basis of inspiration for my home d├ęcor. The first was an article I’d come across in a magazine. An artist in New York City made an incredible discovery when she’d helped move an old photo booth in Harlem. Behind the machine were decades of lost portraits. In homage to the history, the artist framed the pictures along with her ink art in a pattern of frames.




I’d seen the concept many times before in interior design books, a wall collage of various arrangement, but the photo booth pictures spoke to me.

A few years after moving in, and inspired by the picture wall article, I began to cover my walls with my nature photography. To add in a little New Age, I applied some Feng Shui techniques, to give my place positive Chi, a good flow of energy.

In Feng Shui, the North area (center-middle wall when you enter the room) is your Fame/Reputation gua, and is stimulated by the Fire element (triangular shapes, the color red, etc.). The North-West area (Far-left square), is the Prosperity gua, which is considered the “Fortune” place. While fortune pertains to luck (if you want to win the lottery, this is the gua you want to stoke), it also applies to gratitude—blessings you have already received.

With this in mind, the wall adornment started off simple—the picture of the day I bought my car. I love my little Toyota, I’m so lucky that it’s mine. So it falls under the heading of Prosperity, big time. Later I added a picture of the Cherry Blossoms from 2006. Then the spiral staircase in the Pagoda at Patterson Park, Baltimore. The ruins at Savage Mill. Each photo I added represented a moment in time that I’d captured—an experience that taught me something new.




Images and words are my prosperity.

My cup, and my wall overflowith. But like any house, the wear of time and a loophole in structure held a surprise for me, a problem that culminated last year. While hanging my photos, I’d noticed that the wall near the windows appeared soft—a bad sign. Following one scary episode of water spouting out of a hole, an inspection identified an external leak that was funneling water behind the drywall and causing decay.

It was both a relief and a nightmare when it was decided that the walls needed to be replaced. With 24-hours’ notice, I covered the contents of my room (everything I own) in plastic and took to the couch as the work commenced, the job slated to be completed in under two weeks.

When the men ripped out my walls, rotting beams were revealed, the damage far worse than originally anticipated. I stared, dumbstruck, as they removed more and more of the walls, the construction moving into the roof and rafters.




Two weeks turned into six as disputes ensued about how much was covered by insurance. I kept my bedding in a trash bag as I ducked in and out of my room, trying to shield my furniture and clothes from the cyclone of chemicals, mold, and drywall dust. At one point a workman on the roof slipped and put a foot through the unaffected area of my ceiling, sending a chunk of plaster down onto my computer.

I strived to keep the lights off at night, the lack of curtains making the bedlam visible to neighbors passing by outside. I felt like a zoo exhibit.   




One particularly hopeless night I sat on my plastic-tarped bed in the dark, watching the rain through the windows. I was on guard, observing the new wood beams that the workmen had installed that day. I stared straight ahead at the North area thinking of how long the damage had been behind the wall, water extinguishing the "fire" of the gua.

I clung to the belief that, for as disorienting as it is, chaos precedes change, and when the storm passes, one gets to start afresh.

It rained and rained that week, but no water seeped in, and I was exhausted from all the camping out. My family’s unwavering emotional support was my lifeline, but I’d never felt more displaced in my life. I was uprooted.

After excessive feet-dragging with the insurance company, the drywall was finally installed. The pleasure of getting to pick a new paint color came as a comfort following all the personal trauma, as did the new-found appreciation of sleeping in my own bed again.

Before the renovation I would wake up in the morning, my Prosperity wall in my line of sight, the light from the adjacent window illuminating my pictures. I never tired of looking at the images, they were an encouraging start; an exhibit of where I'd been and an illustration of where the new day might take me.

After the renovation I’d noticed how sparse the new stretch of lunar blue was, but I was content to loll in the apathy of simply having walls again, relishing the new color. July turned into August, the weeks passing. It wasn’t until September that I began to miss my pictures. One Saturday in the fall, I opened my eyes, the blank space making my heart sink.



The expanse was beautiful. Pristine and new and… empty.

I sat up and measured the section. Following the construction, I’d consulted a framing specialist who’d done work for me previously. To limit holes to the new drywall he’d suggested an art hanging system that anchored in a track near the ceiling, the same setup he used in his art gallery.

Throughout the fall I’d researched the cost and application of the system. It would be an investment, and I felt hesitant to go forward with it. But decision-making is a double-edged sword for me. As a Libra (why not touch on a little Astrology), I always gather as much information as I can before making a choice, to the extent that I paralyze myself. Sometimes there isn’t more information to be found. My polar opposite sign, Aries, likes to take action first, then see what happens. Libras hem-and-haw with the thinking that a better solution will come along—

My walls were replaced last June, and by the holidays I was still stalling. The budget for the art hanging system made it on the resolutions list for early 2016, and I was generously gifted the money for Christmas where I didn't have to wait. I'd spent more than average at the grocery store for provisions and feared that I may have dipped into the hanging system money—as if subconsciously debunking the project.

But the situation became clear this morning when I woke up. I stared at my Prosperity corner and felt hollow, the nothingness of the area upsetting me. 

It hit me then. The truth isn’t about the cost or the energy to install the hanging system—it’s about facing my fears and taking action.

I’m afraid that the wall isn’t strong. I’m afraid of personalizing a space that won’t always be mine, or will be taken away. I’m afraid of making a decision and having that choice be wrong.

That’s when I realized that inside I was still sitting on my plastic-covered bed in the dark, watching to see if the new joists were reinforced and dry.

The crazy thing about fears is when you shine a light on them, they disappear. You need to live your own truth.


Or in my case:

 - Do. What. Makes. You. Happy.

 - Nothing is yours forever, but it’s yours now. Enjoy it.

 - Wrong and right are subjective. There will be decisions that result in penalties, but make the best choice with the information given at the time. Go for it.

I’d rather live with the consequences than eclipse myself in fear.


And it was scary pulling up the Art Hanging Systems website, but liberating, too. To test out what the cost would be I filled my digital cart with all the parts I needed, the bottom-line budget a fixed amount in my head.

I went to check out and had to smile. The total plus shipping came in .19 cents under budget, even after my grocery store splurge. I took that as a good sign. 

Either way, I'm living with it.  

Who knows, it could be the worst decision I’ve ever made, but I’m willing to face the outcome, so long as it puts prosperity on the wall.

-         SNG