just breathe…

 

 

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Well, the Christmas crazies have hit. I love it. Always have. I think the more celebrations we have in the dead of winter, the better. We need more than one and a half weeks of frivolity! That magical time from December 23rd (I like the build-up) until January 2nd when my tired tree is unadorned, is beautiful, frenzied, silent, exuberant, exciting, hushed, alone, together, and ours to make the way we choose.

 

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Are you wondering what I’m saying? Make your peace with this season and find your happiness. Craft and carve it out so that Christmas Eve is the way you like. And Christmas Day and why not throw in Boxing Day, which is family game day at our home, and then New Year’s Eve Day, the Eve itself culminating in New Year’s Day. Spend some time with family or friends, and the rest of it is yours. Spend some time with you. Doing what you like. And the rest can be given to your family or friends and the people who want you with them. Give them a rested, happy you. That’s the best gift. And for you?

 

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If you want a cozy fire, with classic Christmas carols playing softly in the background, cuddled in a warm blanket, glass of wine in hand with an engrossing book, plan it. If you go to church like we do, plan for that special time. Meditate on what happened on Christmas Day. I look at our creche and sing the songs long known by heart, and I do feel it. My peace on earth, come down from heaven.

 

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Yours might look different. Santa and cookies left by the tree. Or skiing all day and enjoying eggnog at night. We all Christmas differently. If you want to change something to suit you better, try it. Remember that this is the season of giving, but it’s the little things, the smallest gifts that mean the most. A cup of chai tea latte hand delivered. A candle made by your hands. Finding a new song to love and share. Laughing over funny memes. Sharing a slice of cheesecake. Baking cookies and sending them off to neighbors.

 

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Give? Letting that car merge. Giving up a parking space. Opening the door for another human. Most aren’t aware as they wander in an unknown hypnotic state, trying to finish in time. Let’s make sure we walk through the next three weeks aware, awake and able to give, with the wisdom to stop when we feel out energy depleting. Then it’s time to mindlessly play a video game, watch a Christmas movie, or sleep.

 

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I like to look at my trees and look at the ornaments. The family’s favorite tree is the one I named the “family tree” because it has every ornament ever crafted and cobbled together by my children, by me when I was just five and all the “ugly” ornaments from the 1970’s that my mom gave me. We love that tree, more than the stately one full of glass ornaments. Precious, fresh, fragrant and perfect. We choose the imperfections. That brings up armloads of happiness, much laughter and happy memories.

 

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Make the next three weeks fun and restful, exciting and calm. Give a little and save some for yourself. It’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. And it will be if we make it that way, but it’s all a choice. Grab it. Your happiness. Peace. Warmth.

 

I’m wishing you all the happiness your heart can hold…

Until next time.

grace and gratitude…

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Today was rainy, gray and dark, so I poured myself another cup of coffee, lit some candles and went to the couch to read and pray. Yes, I try to stay on track, but my mind wanders. The coffee helps.

Gratitude is splendid and sets my world aright. When I’m feeling down or overwhelmed by people and their problems, I change my outlook and turn it upside down. How? Let’s say I’m putting away my husband’s clothes, and I’m tired of matching his mismatched socks. Where the other sock goes is a mystery I hope to uncover someday. But I thank God for my husband, who is busy at work, again, day after day, often working eleven and twelve hour days. I pray over him, his life and I thank God for him.

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If you’re busy feeling thankful for a person, you’re far less likely to feel anger or annoyed by them. So say out loud how thankful you are for all those “problem” people in your life. You don’t know how much longer you have with them. Be thankful.

 

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That little picture above? Was given as gift to me years ago when I had no money and cold only accept this gift and not reiterate. I treasure this and each year place it on my kitchen windowsill so I remember the joy of Christmas. Yes, it’s a secular view, but that goes along with the message of the birth of Jesus. I remember the reason for the season.

I’ve long forgotten the beautiful soul who gave away so many of these pretties, but I look at the picture and remember being so little and excited about Santa’s visit! I slow down and try to remember Christmas is a gift. Name the reasons why you are thankful right now. Even our problems can be blessings in disguise, teaching us patience, kindness and mercy.

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Make time to sit and reflect on your blessings. Name what you are thankful for right now. One time, when I was so sick and about to have my bladder surgically removed, because the lining has disintegrated and I felt the acidic burn every second of the day, and someone asked me what I was thankful for. Really? My hair was falling out, my two children needed constant attention, I was using opium suppositories for the unrelenting pain, and my street was being torn up with new sewers going in. And my husband was working more than twelve hour days. Thankful? Seriously?

 

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But she was serious. I was thirty-two, my family lived 1000 miles away, and I kept driving to the Mayo Clinic for tests. They did not want to do the surgery because I was “too young”. Too young for this pain? Too young to have this “middle-aged women’s disease”? I quipped, “I’m thankful that I can see.” That’s it. That’s all I said. And now I look back at all that happened that awful summer and I see more blessings.

 

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I had angels in disguise watching my girls as I stayed in the hospital for eight days after the eight hour surgery. When I came home, I couldn’t stand up straight, but I walked around the block every day. I’m thankful for my surgeon’s skilled hands. I left her a note on my body, written by a nurse trying to calm me down pre-surgery, that said, “I want to have another baby.” So my surgeon took care with my body. She told me she hoped I could have another child after my body healed. What a sweet surgeon to care about that for me.

 

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I had another baby two years post-surgery. It was touch and go, but I’m thankful for my son. For the people along the way who helped me. My neighbor who knew I had surpassed my limit, since I was yelling at my two kids in the bathtub that awful summer, and she asked if she could take them for an hour. Blessed peace. No road work sounds. Just silence. Thank you Judy. I’m grateful to this day.

List them. Write them out. Speak them out loud. Your gratitude. Even for the tough times. Maybe even especially for the rough times, when we learn so much.

I’m wishing you all the happiness your heart can hold…

Until next time.

Toasting to trying the new…

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It’s been years since I’ve faced down a jam packed December, and I remember why I like them that way. I woke up and threw coffee down my throat, hurried through my list of chores, and then had fun with dear friends catching up over chai tea lattes. Mailed every Christmas card after that. Came home to  snuggle with my eleven month old grandchild, and suddenly the afternoon had melted away.

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Suddenly, my husband was home, saying we were late for dinner downtown. I hadn’t even chosen what to wear, but I threw on something suitable, left my house with my daughter and grandchild still here and made it in thirty minutes to dinner. Interesting. My husband had eaten there before and didn’t like it so much, but every place was booked, since we were seeing “Hello, Dolly”, afterward. Dinner was…burnt. I must not be an incredible foodie, because some people seemed to be enjoying the very limited menu.

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(I like snow globes. Musical ones are even better.)

Dinner. I eat. I like to think I’m open to new ideas in food, but the risotto was crunchy. In fact, everything we ate tonight was burnt and dry, and that’s the way it is supposed to be served. I have a new name for the restaurant. Burnt. Maybe Toast. The only thing not burnt or charred or dry was my wine. The very kind waiter asked if we had time for dessert, but even that menu looked dry. Chocolate mousse with peanut brittle mixed in? Nope, not feeling it.

 

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We went across the street and I found chocolate. I bought some right before the curtain went up. Another great musical. We just got back home in time to see my son visiting the food here after a tough week at college.

So, I promised to send inspiration every day for a month. This is what I learned today. Try new things, even if it’s not your cup of tea. You must might like it. Actually, the chai tea latte was the first I’ve had in years, so that turned out to be a fun surprise. And seeing my grandchild marvel at the Christmas tree lights was fun. His first Christmas. Lucky me.

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The whole day felt like a blessing. I ran out of speed at the end of the musical. I have lupus and get tired easily. Tomorrow is a full day too. So it’s off to…read. Not bed! Soon though.

Are you up for trying something new? Today, if possible? This week, definitely! You might find something you really like. And if not, you can laugh about it afterwards. Happiness and laughter shared with others is wondrous. I can’t think of a better way to spend my time. Not all days can be like today, no. All fun and play. But maybe that’s something to keep in mind, for you? Have a full day, full of fun. Enjoy every drop.

Wishing you all the happiness your heart can hold…

Until next time.

Light the way…

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For the next few crazy weeks, I’ve decided to post everyday. I hope to inspire you. To find comfort and caring in the middle of a frenzy. And if not a frenzy, then in loneliness. Because I know each person matters. We all carry light or darkness with us as we leave our homes each day. I like light at the windows, so other can enjoy the warmth. Choose light today.

 

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Deciding to deal with the gray of winter, while Christmas, which some days feels like a full contact sport, with us meeting Christmas Day, tired, longing to remain in our pajamas or sweats, nibbling on candy and watching old Christmassy movies till our hearts are full, seems almost impossible. But it’s not. Bring in the fresh cedar tree and even a tiny Charlie Brown tree. I’ll get my morning coffee today and see this Charlie Brown tree and make a choice to see good in others, even in the middle of impatience. Just the way you choose too. What do you want to change? For a better you?

 

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In spite of work, raising families, helping our aging parents if we’re lucky to still have them, in spite of all we need to do, there is time for us. Step out and look at the sky at sunset. I know, it’s awful that the sun sleeps much of the day, but still, the sky is hauntingly beautiful, in a way a December sky can only be. The angle of the sun, the silence outdoors, well I do hear the freeway, but still. Breathe in your day and exhale all the bad. And look around.

 

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Do you see the peonies I found? Peonies mean springtime, when possibility lands at your door every morning. But today I found a spot of spring in the middle of the longest nights of the year. Find a way to relax. Hallmark does have happy movies on right now. Twinkle lights make me feel less alone, when I’m here, by myself. Put up twinkle lights. Choose your color. Blue? Go for it. I’m into a classic white this year, and I’m not sure why. New house and all? I guess I have to figure her out.

 

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You have to know I follow Jesus. I choose that. So I may pepper my posts somedays with Jesus. But he brings light, just as much as my snow laden tree does. Why do we crave light? The candles, the fire, fire pits, the Christmas lights thrown everywhere? To feel less boxed in, to feel up when the darkness yanks us down? Is that it?

Choose right now, until Christmas, and if you don’t celebrate that, then until New Year’s Day, choose to light your early mornings or evenings with meaningful and purposeful light.

 

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Make a choice to put up a strand of twinkle lights. More if you have the energy, and take time out to look at them. Enjoy them. That’s my wish for you today. Light. Take it in. And send it out by showing kindness today.

I’m wishing you all the happiness in the world….

Until tomorrow then.

 

 

 

 

 

Happy ThanksChristmas…

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I’ve returned to my senses. Back to feeling up and happy, And you? Are you getting ready for the big dinner heading your way in a little more than a week? I am. I’ve been hosting Thanksgiving since 1997. Bittersweet, because my father-in-law died that year, one week before Thanksgiving, and my mom-in-law wasn’t up to having the dinner at their house. So, I offered and it became tradition.

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I went overboard that year and shelled the chestnuts by hand, for the stuffing. My fingernails were nubs by the time I had all those chestnuts ready for chopping. And I had to have a fresh floral centerpiece, created the night before so it wouldn’t wilt. Now I just run in to the floral shop and grab a centerpiece, leaving me time to bake all the pies.

I’m ready to set my Thanksgiving table. But the dishes would be dusty by next Thursday and the wine glasses would be too,  so it’s probably too early to set my table. Maybe I’ll lightly dust the day before? No? Not palatable? Okay.

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We will gather around this table in the one room my daughter asked not to be changed into my Christmas decor. It’s tough! I’m ready for the change. I’m jealous of our cousins across the Atlantic who do not have Thanksgiving, and are setting up for Christmas. I love Thanksgiving, don’t get me wrong, but the Canadians just might be right about having it in October. Why? I love the twinkle lights that grace our descent into the dark days, where it feels like night most of the time.

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Don’t say a word to my daughter, but before I head out of town for six days! Six! To see my family out East, I’m bringing in Christmas. Room by room. The second I have my trees up, you’ll know! I think I found everything I need in boxes in the basement. It’s tough to know really, because the movers put all my winter boots and shoes in the basement, and I just found them yesterday, if you can believe that. I guess Master Bedroom written on the box screamed Basement to them! Who knows? But I found them in the nick of time. It’s now a game for me. Where are the kitchen utensils? And yes, I just found them yesterday too. In the basement by my husband’s workbench. Makes perfect sense and really I was missing my ladles and rolling pin. Maybe that’s why I’m so happy. I’m finally finding the rest of my stuff. In the basement.

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When I come back, I’ll have to shop right away. Maybe I should grab the turkey this week?? What do you think? And then I’ll bring out the Christmas trees and listen to some Snoopy music (the Peanuts music from the Charlie Brown special?), and I’ll… wait! she will be so upset. My eldest. The rest don’t care where I place all my Christmas trees, and we’re not even talking about the real one I buy each year from a cold and frosty grocery store. You should see the Hallmark moments my husband I share choosing a tree in front of the store under the glow of parking lot lamps.

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Random lavender, but oh so pretty. Back to Thanksgiving and Christmas… which one do you prefer? Are you itching to place garland across your mantle? I am! My kids crack me up. Christmas for me is an event. Yes, I celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus! But I also make a game of placing trees wherever I like in the house, and my husband says anywhere is fine as long as he can see the football games from the kitchen. The kitchen, you say? Yes! I place a tree in the kitchen some years.

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Back to my daughter. I told her a few years ago that my wrapping paper “theme” was plaid, using greens and reds only please, and she actually brought in her gifts wrapped in “The Little Mermaid” Christmas wrapping paper! She told me she searched for weeks for a properly ugly Christmas wrapping paper, just so my theme would be ruined. I love that! Now she has most unfortunately brought the other daughter to the dark side and they bring in their gifts a week before Christmas, and laughingly place them under my tree next to my beautifully color coordinated paper and bows and gift tags.

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Oh, this? All the books I buy that I mean to read, but if I read them all, I would have no life at all. Do you know I have two shelves dedicated to Christmas books? Yes, I love the season that much. But I’ll keep the pilgrims, oh no! I just remembered they’re not out, and I’m not sure where I saw them. The guest bedroom closet? The coat closet? This moving thing is tricky. Now I have to find my porcelain turkey, and I haven’t seen him since last year. What to do?

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I’ll think “autumn” and inspiration will follow. Don’t you love the holidays? Feeling competitive with your neighbors, craning your neck as you drive or walk past their windows and you see it. Their tree is all up and lit beautifully! I make it competitive! Isn’t that what the holidays are all about? Getting that perfect Instagram pic? No? You’re right. It’s about gathering together or huddling with your besties and thanking God for all he has given us. For seeing us through this year. Good and bad times. All of it. And we eat and celebrate and reconnect. And that’s beautiful…

And then the it’s a game of who flips on their Christmas lights the earliest on Thanksgiving night. Game on! Count me in!

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The fun, crazy season is almost upon us. Why don’t we grab a slice or two of pie and enjoy what’s to come. I’ll try not to get too hung up by the beautiful crusts, latticed perfectly, and browned to perfection that I see in my magazines. Thanksgiving is not a competitive sport. Christmas might be, but I think I’ll grab a glass of wine at about eleven a.m. on Thanksgiving and enjoy the people and the food. Green bean casserole will be next to me on the table.

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I have to go and find my pilgrims. I hope you have a beautiful week, and are anticipating the fun of Thanksgiving.

I’m wishing you happiness wherever you are…

Until next time…

Longing…

 

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This house reminded me of home…

 

Tonight my heart is heavy. Do you ever long for home? Even if home means a new place where your mom and dad now live? I feel like my life has been all about following them around. And I was supposed to fly home to see my mom and dad for the first time in six months. But I’m sick, so I’m staying home. It’s practical, but I’m still missing them.

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The late fall sky at evening is stunning…

Mom and Dad kept moving every two or three years, but I put my foot down in college, when they moved to Syracuse, land of my birth. At eighteen and stubborn, I remained in Wisconsin, where I met my wonderful husband, and had three amazing, stubborn kids with him. We finally moved south twenty years ago. Cincinnati. My husband liked living in the Midwest and this brought us closer to my home, but farther away from his. I love him so much for moving us here. I love this place and our home in Cincy.

We just moved five months ago. In the same neighborhood, I must add. We bought the house I always walked by and admired from a distance. It is a beautiful house with a beautiful soul. And I seriously asked each of my children how they felt about us moving. If they wanted the home they had known for twenty years, I would understand completely and not move an inch. They loved this home in the same neighborhood. So…we moved. Three blocks away. To our home.

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The view from my new living room…

 

That’s not our home in the very first picture. The pic showing the window with snow outside is my home. I just love the floor to ceiling windows.

The first home pictured above reminds me of my grandma’s house, and I snapped the photo while we gassed up our truck down in Kentucky. I walked into the middle of the road to gaze at that house, and I felt home calling me back. My grandma died thirty years ago, but I feel her, and I wonder if the older you get, the more you feel home in your soul and you remember details long forgotten in the rush of living? Do you live far away from home too? That’s why I worked to make this place, and this city our place. Home…

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Oak trees are my favorite…

I’m listening to country music and feeling low. Do I ignore the illness that’s stopping me from getting on that flight tomorrow and going back home? No. I won’t.  I want to be home, and to feel their love, and share time with both of them. Meanwhile, I have my family here. Thanksgiving will be here, with my children bringing their own families home.  I want to be grounded, planted and steady for me and my family. I vowed not to move (hey, moving three blocks does not count!) and stay here. For good. Forever. For them and me.

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Flowers make me happy. So bright and beautiful.

Do you miss home? Miss someone? It’s the people that make the place. I know, because I’ve wandered back to see the houses where inside I pleaded for one more story, sang out loud with the stereo, memorized lines for plays and learned how to bake. But the houses aren’t mine anymore and the people I love left long ago, so I walk or drive by and miss them, not the house (well maybe just a little). I think I was always a homebody, but when my dad decided a peripatetic life suited him, he didn’t bother to ask us kids, ever.

When we moved so far away from my grandma and cousins, I knew I was losing something, but only I saw it. The family all looked forward and I? Looked back. I wouldn’t be seeing my grandma so often and I needed her stories. They linked me to my past. They anchored me to a long line of musicians, and I heard about my coal miner grandpa playing clarinet in a band, though he could pick up any instrument and play it, and after a gig long after midnight, he brought the band home for coffee (why drink coffee before bed?) and food, and laughter. Shared laughter is a beautiful thing.

 

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The river near our Kentucky cabin…

If you live in a small town with family nearby, I think you’re richer than most people. Do we have to leave to “get it”? Maybe. All I wanted was what my grandma had: all four sisters lived within two blocks of one another. My mom’s father died young, leaving Grandma a widow at thirty-eight, but my mother had aunts looking out for her, feeding her, hemming her dresses and making her do homework, because Grandma had to go to work full time once her husband died. No insurance money and lots of bills. But the family rallied around her and they got by.

I think they did more than just get by, because the stories I heard through the years about my mom cleaning the oven and calling Grandma up and asking just how could she get the grime to come off? Grandma told her to use “elbow grease”, and my mom thought about it, searching for it and finally called Grandma down at the store she owned, asking, “Where do you keep the elbow grease?” And the people visiting my grandma at her little store burst our in laughter! Stories. They link us to the past. They pull us into the warmth of love, trust and caring. They push us forward.

 

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When the acorns drop, I know fall is here…

One day when I was back in town for a funeral, I took time to drive by and looked at Grandma’s house and the porch where I sat on the swing, singing quietly to myself, with the air perfumed by lilacs in spring, the scent of rain in summer and the homey scent of woodsmoke in autumn. I sang the songs my mom sang of teddy bears having a picnic. Mares eating oats. And I listened in to the conversation inside and I heard more stories.

 

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The front of our new house (that needs more work!).

Those stolen stories fed my soul and filled me understanding. I silently laughed when they all talked about my great-grandpa who was stolen by the gypsies and they didn’t see him for years, but when he came back a few years later, he played the violin beautifully. True story! I listened in on why the aunts were upset with their sister down the road. But they all stayed together, loved each and were there for each other. Physically. I need that. I crave that, but I was born to two people who are happy living inside their own private world, content to see their kids occasionally. I carry it forward; the idea of home. My home. Does this make sense?

What I’m trying to do is make this place the home the kids come back to with their families. That they will feel loved and listened to and accepted. That’s my dream. I’m trying to make it real every day.

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I just love Frog Princes and their attitude…

I’m feeling like that Frog Prince. He’s wishing for a kiss and a kingdom, and I’m wishing for time to stand still for just a bit, so I can see all my family, scattered across this country, and also see my husband and kids. I want us all to gather and hear the stories and remember. Now that I’m older, my children weave stories from their childhood and adolescence (I feel like a I need a good stiff drink for some of those), and their stories are legend in this house now. We are tethered to one another, reaching across time and space and touching souls and hearts. If we try, we carry home wherever we go.

 

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The perfect autumn bouquet..

I did community and college theater when I was in high school and a friend was leaving for NYC and hopefully an acting job, but I stayed home. Why? Because the theater is tough on families, and I wanted a home, and not in NYC. I knew from early on that my dream was to be married and have kids, and it happened! Lucky me. Truly. Who gets to live their dreams? I do. And today I share my dream of all of us being linked to someone, so no one is ever alone.

I wish you are happy where you are at this moment. Content with your lot in life. Not always seeking and pressing on for more, unless it’s more time with people you love. You can make your friends your family; I’ve done that too, and it works. Facing down Thanksgiving can be joyous or dreadful, and I’m hoping you take the time to talk to Uncle Joe, the one whose stories are just a bit off somehow. Or that you grab a friend and get Chinese takeout. Make your place a home. If you feel like me. If not, I kind of envy you.

 

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You know why this is in the great room…a subtle reminder, yes?

Wherever you are right now, I wish you all the happiness in your world….

I hope you have a home. A place for you. Where you are loved and encouraged and fed and are warm and safe.

Until next time….

Step out of your cozy zone…

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We’ve had a very dry two months, so some of the leaves just dry up and fall to the ground, brown and crunchy. The crunch is satisfying as I tromp through the woods by our cabin. I’ve been searching for flowers to create a rustic bouquet, but I think I waited too long. We haven’t had a frost here yet, but I know one morning, soon, I’ll look outside and see the beauty of the gardens and fields covered in white. It means no more crickets, and the growing season will be done, but the mums will still flourish and I’ve never met a pumpkin scared of a thick frost.

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Are you feeling autumn? Are you reaching for a throw in the evenings, even if you still have your windows open? Or have you sealed your windows for good and are dreaming of turkeys, pie and Black Friday sales? Either way, we’re moving farther into the season of long evenings, and I crave light, so what’s a girl to do? I turn on the lights earlier each evening, and it’s time for a good wood fire (or gas, if that’s what you have) and lots of candles.

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There’s something so cozy and warming about candles. I’m trying to unplug earlier in the night, but you know how much I love the midnight hour. Maybe you do what I do and still burn the candles while the lamps are on. My kids remember the days when I simmered spices on the stove in a pot of water. I didn’t have money for candles back then. Cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg worked.

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Now that our move is done, and the frenetic pace of summer has gone, I’m making sure to do more around town. Yes, we still have landscaping to figure out, and it looks like we might put in a terraced fire pit with comfy chairs all around. Going to my favorite bar for the first time in eight years at last, see above, made us think about spending nights at home, by a fire, under the sky, with some excellent music playing. Endless to do’s, right?

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To get to this tiny gem, you have to drive to the top of Mt. Adams. Narrow streets, and a very hilly ride, because they call it Mount Adams for a reason. At a street near the top,  between two stately townhomes,  a cobbled and worn stairway leads down and suddenly you’re standing in the middle of a gorgeous courtyard. A smattering of chairs, tiny tables, and live acoustic music with a cold drink in hand, is wonderful in autumn. Summer can be sweltering, but Friday night we waited for the fire to be set, since it was chilly. Once lit, we warmed up a lot.  I don’t usually drink, but being at the Blind Lemon compelled me to enjoy a glass or two. (I ordered a second glass when I accidentally let my Chardonnay practically boil on the table touching the fire pit.) I haven’t been there in years.

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What am I saying? Sometimes you have to get out of your rut, your routine and do something unexpected. I’ll admit that lupus has slowed me down, and many nights watching Netflix is the default setting, especially after moving and surviving another renovation. Note: If you ever say you will never do something, you’ll be doing it at some point in the near future.

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Maybe you have been living in the same house for twenty years. Why not move? It will certainly give you a new view. New neighbors. And if you normally eat out at a certain place, go somewhere that’s getting rave reviews. My favorite Mexican food is in a tiny spot (tiny places must be a theme here today), no reservations taken, and a two hour wait isn’t my cup of tea or margarita, so I went after a play, one night. I sat at the bar and had the best fish tacos. Dining at eleven at night? Why not?

 

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Are you in a city? Go find a pumpkin farm or an apple orchard. Do you love your life in the country? Head to the city and look at art, watch some football, eat amazing food or find a perch to people watch. Get out of your ordinary, even if you’re feeling cozy in your comfort zone. Especially then. Being willing to feel uncomfortable for a few hours is great. Head to NYC for a long weekend and really immerse yourself. I always go straight to the Met, but one weekend my husband took me there to see some musicals, and we fit in three in two nights there! And no Met. Had a great time!

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They say there’s no place like home, so maybe you could invite friends over for an autumn dinner?. Maybe you do have an actual fire pit, so s’mores around the fire would be a fun evening. Take a bike ride before your fingers are too numb from the cold. This is my list of new to do’s: Vinyasa yoga classes, cook dinner more often, make a wreath for my front door, knit a huge throw, hike this autumn, go to an NFL game this season (looks like I’m going:), re-read Lord of the Rings or begin A Story of Ice and Fire (the books behind Game of Thrones), walk a 10K because my running days are over, and I have more but that’s plenty for now. A book club would be lovely too. As would serving lunch to the homeless. Teach literacy. Ah, we’re talking big dreams now!

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What’s on your list? Make a list of what you would like to do this season, then a list of to do’s this next year and finally, write down what you want to do before time’s up. I already took my grandson to a pumpkin farm, but I really want to go on a hayride. I’m going to take him again, hopefully it won’t be spitting rain, and then onto a hayride under the fading blue of an October sky. Step out of your cozy zone. Do something uncomfortable, then go back to your regularly scheduled life. We only get to do this once!

Wishing you all the happiness and beauty your heart can hold…

Until next time…  Deanna

 

Whispers of woodsmoke…

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Well. After a month of waiting, my computer is fixed and my fingers are ready.

October is here in all her winsome ways. Beguiling us with mums, pumpkins and fat full moons with geese flying across her face in search of endless summers. But we know this is a beautiful time to stay behind and linger. Put on your sweater or hoodie and head outside. Look up at the blue skies, growing paler each day. Get ready to bring in your plants. My cats think my plants are their personal play land and litter box (yuk, I know), so I let the rosemary and fragrant lavender die each year.

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See that lovely rosemary? She’s still going strong, but I feel time is against me with so much to do. New house and all. So I’m planting tulips and daffodils together this week. I discovered living with a forest on three side brings deer in, and they think the pumpkins I so jauntily placed against trees and stairways are theirs for snack time. I look out and see so many deer tearing into the pumpkins! I love it. I keep buying more.

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Not a pretty picture, but it shows how they start nibbling on them. You should see the pumpkins ripped open and strewn across the yard. I don’t mind. this is like feeding bird but on a larger scale. Besides, I think the deer like me now.

The other evening, we were sitting outside in the screened in porch (I love this house, I do!) and heard a hoot owl again and again. My husband and I smiled and we knew all the craziness of renovating was worth it. We are blessed. We live in our same neighborhood, but in the back section, by a creek with actual waterfalls right below the house. It’s close but not too. And how it roars after a rain!

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This is part of the porch. But right now, I’m upstairs, window open, listening to the crickets cheerfully filling the night with their music. I’m waiting for the train to sound. It’s almost eleven, and I feel so cozy hearing the sounds of distant traffic and the trains, mixed in with crickets and owls. We still live in an urban area, and I enjoy hearing the announcer at the high school on Friday nights, at the football game.

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Do you look forward to that first fire inside? Outside? I do. We don’t have a place to put a fire pit until we terrace the backyard, but we are lucky to have a real fireplace here and a gas one for when I feel lazy. Oh, this pic above is before I added a bunch more pumpkins to the front door. And all the bushes are coming out next week. Just sharing. So back to autumn, I like cooler weather, even the frosty nights that sting your cheeks and make you draw in closer to the fire.

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We find happiness or peace in moments. Fresh apple cider. Hayrides. Pumpkin picking. Sweaters against bare skin. The scent of woodsmoke. Coming in from the chill to a roaring warm fire. Socks. Stars prickling the sky earlier each evening. Chili and cornbread for dinner. Comfort food. Football games (or insert soccer or lacrosse or autumn baseball). Cuddling under layers of blankets in bed. Listening to the rain lash the windows, knowing you’re safely inside. Holding the hand of a loved one. Sharing a fire with someone. Being alone with good music and a great book.

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Find a way to enjoy this month before November stakes its claim on us. Thanksgiving will come soon enough and then winter. So make a vow right now to find a fall day to get out and gaze at the trees. Drink wine or cider outside one night, even if it is chilly. Then you get the double bonus of a blanket shared with another. Laugh with delight every day. Find something that just makes you stop in wonder. For me it’s the deer who stand next to my winding driveway, acting like they own the place. And in a real way, they do.

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I’m a grandma now. I love it. Truly, as much fun as they say it is. And tomorrow, God willing, I’m going to wake up, make coffee and drink in the view and then go with my daughter and her son (my grandson 🙂 and enjoy a hayride and the goats and pick more pumpkins and yes, finally find some Indian corn for my mantle. And then? Well, I went to Barnes and Noble, because I don’t want real bookstores to become obsolete, and bought way more than I meant to, but I have a stack that my lazy cats are lying on (so much for new magazines), and three new books that I’m starting on tonight. Well, maybe tomorrow…

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But right now? My college kid is home for fall break and we’re going to watch a movie together! He went all on his own and visited his sister and nephew, which makes my mama heart smile. If only we can search for the good, the kind, the sweet, and look for a chance to complement someone or give a hand to the old and the young, this world will be more beautiful in our eyes. Let’s embrace October. Savor sweet moments.

I hope you find all the happiness your heart can hold…

Until next time,

Deanna

Changing into happiness…

This “road” used to be well-travelled in the 1800’s…

I’ve been gone from this blog for a good reason. We moved. Changed houses. I loved my home surrounded by trees but it sat on such a teeny lot, so when this stately home came up for sale with acreage and a waterfall at the creek below, we scooped it up. 20 days later our home sold and I was living in the middle of another renovation (which I said I would never go through again, so the joke is on me). And I had so much to do. Change sat on my bed every morning waiting for me. Do you embrace change? Any change?

Willie Nelson loves the screened in porch…

I think change is good for us and our mental well-being. Seriously. Moving to this house made me see things differently. I went through box after box from 19 years of living in one house, and it felt good to rearrange and yes, toss out. I am the queen of throwing things out. I want to feel unencumbered. But change? No thank you. Except, we grow through change. You need a new view. A casting off of the stuff that weighs on you. All those photos waiting to be printed and placed in that scrapbook project you worked on five years ago. Let go…

Cookies from Coffee Emporium were a mid-day pick me up…

I’m not saying you should move. Though it does make you evaluate so much of your life. But you can change your view. Move your furniture around and place those vintage framed pictures just so. Sit by the window while reading your blogs. Eat dinner outside. I knew a couple who breakfasted out on their porch, fueling up on coffee and biscotti. What a beautiful way to see the world as it wakes up. Though you know me too well. I’m asleep then, but come midnight, I’m walking outdoors hoping for shooting stars.

a summery scene from our farm in Kentucky…

Listen, I never thought we would go through this ever again. Living with dust. No running water. Sean, the guy working on the master bath, lived in that small room. I think he spent some nights in there too. And I feel like I need to invite the painter, Bob, to our Thanksgiving, because he’s been here for two months! And I didn’t get to our farm much, since we have so much to finish here. We still have boxes lying around and I’m wondering where my grandma’s potato masher went.

Bourbon on the front porch in Kentucky…

We couldn’t leave the house much. We’ve missed our farm so much. But we’re enjoying the changes here. Now? When it rains, the creek below our house roars! We’re told many old-timers used to enjoy taking a canoe down that creek and over the Class III rapids! Crazy!! But the change has changed us. We’re in this home for the long haul. And this change of view? The quiet this home offers us? Is beautiful. A big sigh and a shaking off of the frenetic world just down that long driveway. Change your view. You’ll find out more about yourself and you will be happier. Just breathing in the cool (kind of) night air brings contentment and solace to our weary heads. We crave stability but why do we fight change so much?

Another day ends and I finish my walk…

Comfort calls. We are mostly creatures of habit. Some of you mavericks out there plunge into the rapids and shake off your cares so easily, but the rest of us? We need to push ourselves into doing something new. Find a different chair to sit in. This doesn’t have to be a “we’re moving to China so I can see if I’m happier there”. The subtle changes expand our minds and hearts. The night my whole family sat in Charleston,S.C. facing down a platter of escargot. And we all slurped them down and laughed. We ate that stuff and survived. I’ll always remember our first trip to Charleston.

friendly horses are our neighbors…

With one full month of summer left to us, why don’t you change? Read the new before heading out for work. Grab coffee and sit down and focus on the taste. I throw back shots of espresso, when the iced coffee I slowly sipped later this afternoon brought happiness. I was hanging out with my girls, in the bohemian chic part of Cincinnati. Surprise! We have it here too:). Grab your kid and go to a ballgame. Eat the hotdogs. Laugh and yell. Try to catch a foul ball. Then go home and sit in a different chair to catch up on Yellowstone or Stranger Things.

Cool bourbon on a steamy night on the porch swing…

I know we’re blessed to have a beautiful farm and this larger (just when we became empty nesters too) new home. We had little homes for so very long, that I am beyond thankful for this. Back to your point of view… When we’re almost to the farm, we drive rolling back roads and count how many people are whiling away the afternoon just sitting on the porch. Not reading. Not playing any games from what we can see. Yes, our neighbors sit and watch the world go by. Do that, would you? Look for late season fireflies. If you’re lucky enough to live in a bustling city, then open your window and let the sounds find you. Sit at an outdoor cafe and watch. Just enjoy the people around you. I wish you armfuls of happiness this August.

Until next time…

Lilacs offered to a queen…

lilacs in my yard…

Do flowers make you happy? Or lush green grass, just mowed, perfuming the air with freshness? I loved lilacs before I knew what they were. See, as a younger child, in May, at the Catholic school I attended, we made a big deal about Mary, the mother of Jesus by gathering outdoors and processing with flowers and surrounding her statue with as many blooms as children can afford. Cheap. But so worth it. Since lilacs grew along the playground, mingled with shrub roses and honeysuckle, Mary wore a crown of violet lilacs.

rosemary grows in a planter, waiting for her new house…

When I moved into a lovely bungalow (cottage) with my young family, I happily discovered the long line of shrubs standing sentinel along the fence were lilac bushes. Towering 10 feet high. Every spring I picked lilacs to fill my home. But one very early spring day I came home to discover my husband had decided to prune back those bushes, and I almost cried at the loss of all the little blossoms. He didn’t know he had inadvertantly cut my lilacs. And while I told my neighbor the story, she promised to share her blooms with me that year. And one breezy cool night, she told me to join her on a lilac walk.

my favorite oak on our farm…

A lilac walk? Intrigued, I made my way to her home to find a few other friends gathered on her front porch. We walked one block away, where the yards and homes are large. The streets wind appealingly. And in the middle is a park, where children fish in summer, skate in winter, play ball in autumn and in spring? Lilacs grow in luxuriant splendor. Everywhere. And those ladies who need a bit of happiness in the often capricious spring in Wisconsin, pick lilacs. Those who have enough at home, simply enjoy the night, spent talking in hushed voices, laughing (quietly, hopefully) about our lives, and secretly wondering if we would ever be able to live in the Washington Highlands ourselves. Those who have no lilacs, pick more, to enjoy at their leisure on a colder day when they think spring has forgotten them.

these beauties are moving to my new house in two weeks…

That night I tentatively picked, until a woman urged me to take more. All had taken a sprig or two, but they knew I needed lilacs that spring, so I filled my empty arms until my heart was full. An hour later, I had that heady scent to share, while I placed my lilacs on my nightstand, and fell asleep dreaming of warm days and long moon soaked nights. I felt richer than a queen. I didn’t even wonder if I would ever live in a larger home the rest of that month, as I happily worked in my perennial garden that the previous owners had bequeathed to me.

while the lavender grows, the rosemary is lush and ready to move to the new house too…

I’m moving in two weeks. Beautiful home. Same area, on a two acre lot. But what I did last night made me realize how blessed I am, because the last nineteen years have been spent toiling in clay soil. A small lot. Filled with trees to block the pool next door. So I learned to enjoy summer with a few flowers. I went over to the house to check on the renovation and decided to plant some roses and dianthus, and from that first shovelful, I knew I had struck gold. Gardening gold. The soil felt silky and soft and easy to work. I felt like the queen of May, taking more flowers over tonight, knowing my springs and summers can once again be lush and fragrant with roses and flowers. Such happiness!

this past weekend at the Kentucky house, listening to whip-o-wills at sunset…

Why do I tell you about lilacs? Flowers and gardening? Because getting a small piece of earth to tend is wonderful. For our souls. For our minds and our happiness. Beauty fills us with it, don’t you think? If you live in a city, having a real plant, some herbs growing inside, or fresh flowers will bring you beauty. If you live in the country, then make flowers and herbs your best friends. Happiness can be found almost everywhere. A garden is never wasted space. Time spent growing whatever you choose is worth it. And if you can only manage to buy a $5 bouquet this week, do it. You’ll feel rich. And if you don’t have enough money for herbs or flowers, then maybe a walk in the country will bring you beauty for your space. Or maybe you just need to take a little walk. One little sprig of lilacs might be just what you need.

I’m wishing you all the happiness your heart can hold…

Until next time…