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About meInspiration for the Day

On Success, Compromise, and Living Your Dream

By 09/19/2015February 21st, 201730 Comments

As some of you know, I just came back from a 3-week trip to Italy, something I’ve been talking and dreaming about on this blog ever since I started writing it almost 7 years ago.

Two years ago, I got really close to going when Terreeia told me she had some friends who were going to be at their house in Italy. We could stay there and tour around. It seemed like the opportunity had arrived.

cortona                                         Just one of the little alleys in Cortona, Italy. Photos by Maria Killam


When I chose to finish the house with drapery (which is just as expensive as a trip like that) instead of going to Italy, a lot of you were shocked and appalled. But then, making that decision got our house on the cover of Style at Home the following spring, so then it didn’t seem like such a bad idea after all (maybe).


Lunch in Cortona overlooking the courtyard where Under the Tuscan Sun was filmed


When I finally did get to Italy last month, I loved it just as much as everyone else does, but I didn’t experience any kind of, “OMG, I can’t believe I’m actually here, pinch me!” type of feeling because I have worked really hard to make this trip happen.

(Okay, I did feel that a little bit when we arrived in Tuscany. That was my favourite place!)

But this trip didn’t happen like, one day I’m innocently working in my studio, and the next day I’m in Italy.

I think when people say, “Oh, wow, pinch me, I can’t believe this is happening to me,” that’s more in the realm of winning the lottery.


Most place settings in Italy looked like this. And with paper napkins that looked and felt like fabric!


Like when a pretty girl gets plucked off the street, and suddenly she’s walking the runways in Milan the next day. That’s more of an, “OMG pinch me, I just won the lottery” kind of moment.



Inside the restaurant. Loved the combination of the carpet and chair fabric.


To have the life you want, though — to achieve dreams that aren’t lottery kinds of dreams — you have to commit to something, and work for it.

To have a dream come true requires effort and setting a goal, visualizing it as a reality. It also requires doing something, it requires going beyond your comfort zone. In other words, it requires becoming who you know yourself to be.

To build something, you need to get outside of your shyness and your financial realm. There are things you need to step beyond in order to achieve.

In my life, what I know for sure is that as long as I’m doing something, my life will alter. Something will happen, something will change, I will get what I want.


Frances Mayes’  (Diane Lane’s)  driveway/entry in Under the Tuscan Sun


For contrast, here’s an example: when we rented a house in Vancouver 8 years ago, I would visualize that house being renovated. New floors being laid, an extension being built. I loved that it was a rancher, I loved the view, and I loved the location. I never wanted to leave.

When the owner gave us our notice and let us know they were ready to tear down their old house and build their dream home, I was actually surprised. I was that convinced that all my goal setting and visualizing would make the dream of owning that house come true.

Instead, we had to move into a townhouse for two years, where Terreeia and I continued to build this business to where it is today.

Then, Terreeia found this house online and suggested we move to the country where we could be close to my family. That’s when I realized my dream of owning a rancher-style home had just come true. I’d been quietly working away at it the whole time, and now, here it was. The floor plan was perfect for two, and it required only a renovation instead of a major overhaul and an extension like the other house.

Sometimes you have to regroup. Sometimes there’s some pain in making a dream come true. It’s like building a muscle: it gets a tear, and when it’s rebuilding itself, it gets bigger.

You have to give up something in order to get to where you want to be. You have to move your foot forward and take the next step and be scared and just do it. I would much rather live in the city than one hour outside of it. But living close to my family is more important to me than living in the city, so I’ve set up my life that way.


Diane Lane’s house in Under the Tuscan Sun (Frances Mayes‘ house in reality)


When I first started searching out the world of colour courses, I did a few that really didn’t move my career in colour forward at all, but what they did do for me was help get me really clear on exactly where my niche was and where my personality and gifts could truly be expressed.

Someone said to me this summer that things must be different for me because I’m living my dream, but you know what? The only difference between living them and not is the decisions we make along the way. Whether it’s going to Italy, buying a home, or taking our businesses to the next level, we can’t just sit there and hope our dreams will come true. We have to make them.

If you are at a place in your life where you’re ready to do something to achieve your professional dreams in colour and design, attend my workshop and become a True Colour Expert.

Register here.

What’s your best ‘pinch me’ moment?

Related posts:

A Window of Happiness

Our House on the Day we took Possession 3 years ago

Do you Understand Neutrals? Take the Bathroom Test

If you would like your home to fill you with happiness when you walk in the door, contact me.

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  • Robin Ann Reid says:

    Excellent and timeless advice. We can all have our dreams come true.Thank you for sharing the hard truths!

  • Laura W says:

    Your blog never ceases to encourage me and confirm my own experiences! When we finally moved into the house we designed ourselves and spent 2 years building, people made similar remarks about “can you believe you are in your dream home?” I often retort, “more like the nightmare home” , because everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. Financially, it was a nightmare, even though I asked all the right questions and pushed and fought. Just like you said, I didn’t just win this home in the lottery. We made it happen. It was scary. Many people thought we were crazy for selling a great home and moving into a yucky rental for 1.5 years with two young boys (the rental ended up plagued by rats, and broken appliances, and tons of frustrations of its own). But, here we are now, “living the dream” 🙂 I guess the “pinch me moment” came last night… I had the privilege of hosting the wedding of my dear daddy, who became a widower almost 3 years ago, immediately after we bought the lot to build our home. He knew our journey and our home is very special to him, too, so much so that he wanted to marry his sweet bride on my back deck, joined by all their children and grand children. My home is truly what I dreamed, now filled with family, and friends, and joy, and firsts. I can’t wait to meet you in November, when I take your class in Houston. I hope it’s the next step in making another dream come true and finding my 2nd career now that both my boys are in school for the first time this year! Thank you for sharing truth, real stories, but also sharing hope and joy.

  • Susan S says:

    I think you inadvertently came up with a new vocation—advice columnist! Hard-fought wisdom, de rigueur really.

  • Mary-Illinois says:

    Great advice! Thank you.

  • Fran says:

    Well said, Maria!

  • Denise says:

    All I ever wanted in life was a house. I started saving when I was 16. Other than paying my university tuition and living expenses, I sacrificed and did without EVERYTHING. No car, no vacations, no concerts, no sports, no beautiful clothes, no restaurant meals, no drinks at the bar, no Starbucks coffees. I walked and/or took the bus everywhere. I worked 2, sometimes 3, jobs simultaneously. I upgraded my skills. I took on jobs that I didn’t particularly like. All so that I could have a house and some pretty furniture. I was able to buy that house 16 years ago and start to furnish it. Although it’s small and ordinary by most people’s standards, it’s everything I’ve ever wanted. But now I’m about to lose it. I’ve been out of work for a year-and-a-half, I’ve exhausted my life’s savings and I’ve exhausted my options. Sometimes, no matter how hard you work, how educated you get or how many compromises you make, dreams simply don’t come true.

    • Maria Killam says:

      Here’s what I get from your comment! You are a determined person, so I believe you will prevail!! Don’t give up hope Denise and thanks for sharing this!

  • Claire says:

    Fantastic post Maria. So true about the commitment and hard work required to make something a success. I think many people are suprised at how much drive and determination it takes to run a successful and profitable business, I know I was. But if you have true passion for something and know you have a gift to share with others that will enhance their life, it’s totally worth it!

  • Yvonne says:

    Beautifully said! Thank you.

  • Laura2 says:

    Denise, I hear you. Circumstances have forced us to move out of our dream home (the one I worked so hard to get) and far away from family to a market where we can barely afford anything. It is terribly depressing but I am trying to view this not just as a setback but as an opportunity to grow my dreams in other areas (besides home ownership). If I can’t have the house I want… What can I have/do instead? Right now I am working on a novel and dreaming about opening a franchise. It’s hard to carve out new ambitions from these circumstances but maybe that is what this time is meant for?

  • aprilneverends says:

    Oh my, the pictures are so beautiful. Happy you had such a wonderful travel experience. Also happy to see this subtle golden with purple together..reminds me my home color palette. Now I understand a bit more why I love it so. It’s like a bit of a morning plus a bit of an evening together..

  • Carol says:

    What a great writing……….WOW ……….you said exactly
    what I needed to hear as I have been struggling with how
    to move forward in my own life.
    Thank-you for such an inspiring message!!!

  • Lucy Haines says:

    Maria, What words of wisdom you speak! If everyone embraced your philosophy we would once again have a nation of productive people instead of those who want something for nothing. Your efforts prove what hard work will bring. You are a living testimonial to your work ethics.

    Your trip to Italy was just the tip of the iceberg. You can definitely achieve anything you want! Such a fabulous trip. You are blessed.

  • heddy bing says:

    I cried when I read this! When you’re in a space where you know you need to make some life changes like I am right now, this really hit a nerve! Still having tears! Thank you for this post!

  • Maria, this is your best post ever. People think the life of a colour consultant, decorator, or interior designer is so easy. I know the hard work both you and Terreeia put in to make your business what it is, and to help so many people.
    I have people, almost everyday, saying “Oh what fun you must have, being a designer, I’ve always wanted to do that!”. Well it’s not all sunshine and roses. The last 2 nights I’ve been working on a huge presentation until 1:30 am. But after I meet with my client tomorrow and help her build her house, her dreams, it will be all worthwhile!
    Thanks so much for touching on the hard work and DETERMINATION it takes to build a strong and thriving business! And for the encouragement to keep doing something.
    Love you! xo

  • Beth says:

    Great post Maria and so happy you finally got to visit Italy.

    My husband and I leave for Italy in 9 days for 2 weeks. Lasy year it was Germany/Austria, year before that Ireland, year before that Bermuda. I know people look at us now, early 50’s , empty nest, travelling and think our life is easy and that we are lucky. We are lucky to have our health and jobs but the dreams happened because we spent all of our 20’s and early 30’s saving and building two homes almost completely without help. Saving every penny for 5 years prior to buy a piece of land then spending all our non working time building our first home which took 2 years.

    We often had people make fun of us or tell us we were crazy. We lived there for 5 years finishing room by room while still saving every penny possible and then sold that and did it all again. That time with 2 toddlers in tow.

    We ended up early 30’s with no mortgage and instead of buying stuff we put the money we would have spent on a monthly mortgage into investments. Often people see the good stuff and have no idea how much work and sacrifice it took to get there.

    • Cynthia says:

      Beth thanks for your comments
      My hubby and I, like you and yours are seen to be “lucky”- in 50’s, semi retired, travel a lot, mortgage free, empty nest etc. Funny though no one saw us as lucky when we had a 18% mortgage in the early 80’s, and then kept making the same payments when rates went down, had an at home wedding, did not go on a honeymoon, ( well unless you call a cabin in Chilliwack for a coupe days a honeymoon.) All our furniture was early K Mart. We saved every extra penny to pay off the mortgage. We worked hard and now we can reap the reward of that hard work, yet people see us as ” lucky”. We are however blessed with good health, good genes but do our best to work on keeping that too. Enjoy the pleasure in all that work you did! Maybe we will see you on our travels somewhere LOL.

  • Linda Sewell says:

    Great reminder of the blood sweat and tears necessary to build a business. We have a very close builder colleague of ours that is always there to remind us when we are facing a challenging issue or, a really tough customer by saying, “If it was everyone would be doing it.” Happy you’re home safe and have had a blessed trip:)

  • Karen says:

    This type of writing and subject is really what you are best at doing. You are best when doing something, that something is self help and sharing your thoughts on how to apply the help. Color consulting is really secondary because if it was first, I believe you would have have gone to design school. Perhaps you would have a pinch me moment if you were dispensing advice about life instead of color! I’m glad you went to Italy so that you can appreciate the mixing of both clean & dirty colors. Ciao!

  • Sheri says:

    Oh wow Maria! What a great post and so timely for me as I have just been given an opportunity that has left me mulling over my own business and how I’ll fit everything in. When I left the teaching profession after 17 years, I had excitement and fear all wrapped into one. I had many tears over second guessing myself with the decision I made and the impact it would have on my family.

    Fast forward to today, I am amazed at everything that has happened (both the good and bad). I have taken every ‘struggle’ as a lesson learned that has moved me forward. Although I struggled a bit with the path that I wanted my business to take, I have truly found what I was meant to be doing.

    My ultimate ‘pinch me’ moment was when I attend your True Colour Expert Workshop in Vancouver. First of all, I had never travelled by myself before. I know that sounds crazy but I had never! I got married right out of university, had kids right away and always travelled with my hubby and/or my family. I was nervous to say the least. My friends giggled at me and told me to take images of me successfully ‘making in’ in Vancouver! I successfully got myself from the airport to the hotel without any help at all! Who knew at 44 years old I could successfully travel by myself! Secondly, I was doing your course as an investment for my business. And what an investment that has been! I had followed your blog for some time and knew the timing was right for me. Third, my business is booming in a way that I envisioned it would. I dreamed it, worked hard (and continue to work super hard) and I’ve now got a waiting list (and people are ok to wait) to work with me. All of those events take me to a total ‘Pinch Me’ moment! I think it just goes to show that although there are people who have ‘overnight success’, the majority of us work hard – long days, countless hours, to live the life we wish to live. Hard work and determination do go a LONG way.

    Thank you again for your wonderful post!

  • Kathi says:

    Wow-fantastic post,Maria- It is a classic, hope it is read by thousands of people,It is that good.My mother was a huge believer in the power of positive thinking over 50 years ago. My 13 year old self wanted a canoe more than anything in the world-I visualized and hoped for it for 3 months and nothing materialized -finally my mom says, okay now you have to figure out a way to make money and save for it, after countless babysitting, walking dogs for money, I finally bought my canoe and spent the happiest years paddling the canals of florida- Nothing has ever been sweeter than making that particular goal happen, even though I have had a wonderful life, she taught me an important lesson in achieving goals after you dream of them first.

  • Barb says:

    Thank you Maria!!! Your advice is so timely!!! These past couple weeks I have been struggling, and your words have given me the push to stop feeling sorry for myself. I know what I need to do, I just have to do it!!!

  • This is great advice, Maria. I think it is easy, especially for creative people, to get caught in the mindset that if they are talented and good at what they do, someone will “discover” them. I just don’t think happens, or if it does, it’s very rare. I think you have to make it happen yourself. You have to put yourself out there, and connect with people who can further your career. I think this can be very difficult for creative people, because creative work can be so personal, and they feel like if they are rejected it is a personal rejection.

  • Maria, you’re such an inspiration to me, in so many ways! Thanks for a lovely post, and know that we love you and appreciate you.

  • Kathi says:

    I finally have the kitchen “of my dreams”, yet I walk into it and do not have that “lottery” feeling. Thank you for explaining it so eloquently. I love my kitchen and have been planning it for 30 years. Now that it is here, it is everything I have wanted and dreamed of and I get to cook in it!! It was very hard work to achieve it, and my husband, God love his soul, worked unbelievably hard to make it happen.

  • roberta says:

    Earthy advice Maria. I used to sit on a little beach a few hundred yards from what I thought to be the house of my dreams…until…vinyl siding was installed. I instantly knew it was not to be so I put my little dream cottage in a bubble and let it go over the ocean. Three years later I found it…perfect and even better than the other one! That was 15 years ago. Dream & Work. Great formula!! Roberta

  • Kelly says:

    Well, Cortona WAS my pinch me moment. My Grandmother sent me to Italy for a college graduation gift with my art professor – she attended art school in Cortona; and I fell in love. I had lost my mother 3 years earlier and Italy was healing for me. I can’t wait to go back and love seeing your photos of this beautiful place!

  • Ivy Lane says:

    So glad you had a wonderful time in Italy! Your post is quite thought provoking. I have been in mental turmoil of late about “what am I doing in life?” “am I truly fulfilled in my career?” etc… You are always so inspiring Maria!

    My best “pinch me moment” was getting off the plane in Hawaii for my honeymoon almost 29 years ago. You see, that was my FIRST time on an airplane. I couldn’t imagine the paradise I was about to see… the smell of orchids in the air..the sunshine, palm trees and the ocean…. it was truly a “pinch me moment”….

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