Bring on the happiness…

in sunny south Florida…gulfside…

I’m down south in Florida enjoying tropical breezes and sunny afternoons filled with sweet treats. How does this help you feel happier? It’s called making the best out of what you’re currently dealing with and facing. Right now, I am in the middle of a move, renovating the new house before the owners of our “old” home take possession, my son is home from college for the summer (yeah! cause I like that boy a lot), my daughter brings her son over once a weekend for Grandma Time, and my husband and I have much to do at the Kentucky cabin before our guests arrive. It is all good. Except for my daily health things. Let’s call it that.

drinks in the early afternoon…why not?

I could be all sad over not being able to lie in the sun or wade into the waves, and my husband could get down over me not being able to walk outside for miles anymore, but we don’t. I’m enjoying our downtime together, in the shade, and one night he promised to walk the beach with me as the sun lowers herself below the horizon. Today, we went from having coffee inside to wandering out to a bar by the gulf of Mexico. Blissful? Oh yeah. Even though I had to take my meds reserved for “bad” days. Even then, happiness is a choice and one I so enjoy with the love of my life.

the lovely view from our room…

Are you happy when life is humming along and things are calm? Do you prefer to work hard and play hard? Do you putter along, getting your to do’s accomplished and then reward yourself? When spring pops up, does your happiness quotient increase dramatically? And what if life is all good? Do you tentatively enjoy the good, knowing it’s inevitable for bad days to crawl into your lap eventually? Stop. And change your view.

enjoying watching the sun slower sink into the west…

We all have ways of dealing with life, and how we approach the very good days, weeks and even months. I am so blessed to have this time in Naples with my husband right now. Back home, things for him and for me are a little crazy, and I thought about canceling, so I could be productive. But isn’t that exactly when we need to get away? Recharge, talk about more than our work and endless list of to do’s. Yes. Take time out for you. You are more than your accomplishments.

the lovely hallway in our hotel room…

Vacations and long weekends are required to power us through life. I know a couple who worked their whole lives and did not vacation. Ever. Maybe they both loved their jobs, but to me, time away from our homes, even if we’re not at the Ritz, is essential. I grew up camping every summer and loved it. Even in high school. We hiked, swam and ate under the stars. Those halcyon days are etched in my mind, and I hope my kids look back on our beach vacations as fondly as I recall camping. (We took long weekends hiking too.) The point is to get away from your life. Your work. Your hobbies at home. Everything is different when you’re away from home, and that’s a good thing.

a gorgeous floral arrangement made for sunny days…

Get away from yourself. From your routines, habits, and comfort. Go new places. Try canoeing. Parasailing. Seeing a Broadway show in NYC. Fly across an ocean and immerse yourself in a different culture. Laze by a pool and read a book. There’s so much to see in this wold, and if you’re lucky enough to get time away, then do that! Go away. Happiness can be found in so many places in so many ways; home eating a wonderful dinner, planting rosemary (yes, you know I did) to enjoy the scent for months, at work through your accomplishments and being noticed, time with your friends at golf league or book club. That’s good! It brings happiness, which I applaud. But we still need to spend time away. It is good, and you’ll have rich memories that will fill your heart with happiness.

turndown service this evening…with two chocolates…

Yes, I’m enjoying my time at the Ritz here in Florida. I get to see my love in a new light, through the haze of a sunny, ocean breeze filled afternoon, drinking frou-frou drinks that we would never even try at home. Be happy. Take breaks, even if you don’t want to, because your life will be enhanced in a good way. Vacation in a different spot. Take the moments of happiness that you have and turn them into a day full of it. Tomorrow I’m having a spa day here. I plan on being very happy. And who knows what will happen after that?

I’m wishing you all the happiness you can handle and more…

Until next time…

windy evening promises…

I’m in Kentucky again. For a girl from upstate New York, I sure love my Kentucky time. I don’t know what weather you’ve been going through, but here? Rain with a touch more rain, so we enjoyed the miracle of a rain-free drive down singing with the radio at the top of our voices, all the way here. After we arrived and the house slowly warmed herself (and us!), my husband made a fire and I lit the candles and listened to the rain lash the windows and roof.

The fire snickered to herself while the hollow sounds of winds whirling made me burrow into my blanket on the couch, and then the most wonderful thing happened. Before my husband went to bed, we both stood on the upper back porch, and I heard it! The peepers or tree frogs or whatever they are called. They’re the little frogs that make a ruckus early in the spring by our ponds. (I discovered more hidden ponds this way.) With the mourning doves cooing and the peepers singing, spring arrived tonight.

I know more days of cold will visit me, and the grey days full of sodden skies will linger longer than I like, but…the tops of my daffodils resiliently push through the dirt, and I hold my breath, wondering if they know more than the weather reporters? I need spring, with her flirty ways. One moment she’s full of promise, showing off tulips and dogwoods in bloom, and the next day she ices me out, bringing an unwelcome snowfall. But I’m tentatively hopeful. And happy. Does spring do that to you?

You caught me. I’m watching Katniss Everdeen take on her world, while I wonder if it’s time to shed the weight of winter, the good and bad and grab at happiness. Can we all do that? I feel lighter already. Yes, a fire dies at my feet, but the window is open. I love open windows. Does it go back to being a child, when my grandma and I shared a room with an open window, bringing in the scent of lilacs, and freshly cut grass? Happiness is found. Created by us. We can chase her down, finding her in the wind, a warm fire, a delicious book, or a wonderful conversation.

Don’t waste your time on negative thoughts that bring you down. Be optimistic. Not cautiously so either. Go full in! Dive into your days. Make each one special. How? Sip wine with a sunset. Listen to Andrea Botticelli sing with Ed Sheehan. Buy the flowers. Remember the spring when you first found love. Me? I remember so much, too much, that I could write you every night for a hundred years. I used to open my window, sit at my desk and write into the night (I still do) with the wind puckering at the gauzy curtains. I remember falling in love over pecan cookies, shared on the spring grass at college with my boyfriend. The one man who made loving as easy as breathing. I just had to look at him. And I knew. I would stay 1,000 miles away from my family to make him my family. His eyes told me all I needed to know. And we still don’t know why we were eating pecan cookies, since we both dislike them so much! Who cares what you eat when love wraps you up, just by his voice, his eyes, his smile? I love spring…

While that boy who ate pecan cookies with me in spring, sleeps in the bed in the next room, I linger, longing to write you of love, promises and beauty. Find spring where you are. Search for her. Then go deeper and find that hope in you. Chase down your dreams, your love, your children, your God. Find the happiness in music, in singing in your car. In a fire with open windows. In the lonely sound of a windy night. Crawl into your bed and feel it. Go ahead. She’s all yours for the taking. Happiness.

until next time…which just could be tomorrow…

Wisps of whispers…

cotton candy pink sails in a sea of blue…


Can you feel it on certain days? Spring inches ever closer, and I can’t think of many who don’t welcome her balmy embrace. The snowdrops have their green stems poking out of the soil, asking if it’s time to show up. I told them to sleep a bit longer; a freeze was coming our way. They aren’t listening. Spring’s impatience tugs at them and me.

Spring and love seem to go together, and Valentine’s Day is making her rounds, so I heard. The local grocer has so many floral arrangements, I feel like I’m in a summer garden, lush and fragrant, and since the flowers perch next to a Starbucks, I am in heaven every time I need a tea. So this begs the question. What to do on the day of love?

real flowers gracing a rough wooden table…

If you’re lucky enough to have love in your life, then the answers are easy. Send cards, give flowers, buy candy and catch the kisses cast in the air by those who love you back. But what if you’re tethered to a love who doesn’t think about flowers and candy? Talk about the upcoming holiday. Will we go out to eat? Yes? Will we spend a bunch of money on presents to show our affection? Not for me. Flowers and chocolate (and ice cold teas, please) are tokens of love. If you want something romantic, ask. Tell your love what you love. And give your love back, freely.

simply beautiful…

If you want something, sometimes you have to ask. Be specific. If you want a certain bottle of bourbon, ask. Hopefully, they just want to give you love wrapped in a box, tied with strings that might be attached, but then, those are the best kind. Don’t you want a string luring you toward your love? One Valentine’s Day, so very long ago, I brought six red and pink frosted cupcakes to a boyfriend’s apartment. He did not acknowledge my gift at all, rather he stood in his kitchen washing dishes. I had classes to attend, but he didn’t take my frugal (in college, on a tight budget) present. He didn’t tell me he loved me. I emotionally ate my way through two cupcakes.

a lovely new painting we bought recently, see, winter is beautiful (if you’re looking at it and not living in it:)…

And rather than make him notice me, I left the rest of the cupcakes and left him. That afternoon, another guy I had met and had been studying with since we had the same classes and major, sent me a beautiful arrangement of flowers! I found him and thanked him, and the man I married, has never forgotten a Valentine’s Day since that first one, and he still romances me with flowers and chocolate. And much more.

I decided the guy who paid attention to me, made me feel valuable, loved, and liked and appreciated was the man to go through this life with. What does this mean for you? The people or person who makes you feel valuable and important is the one. Love them. The good guy who loves you? And you think he’s beautiful? Him. Choose him. Choose love. Choose laughter, love and life.

aren’t real fires cozy? the warmth, the crackling logs are a part of our winter nights…

On Valentine’s Day, or anyway this week, if you want flowers and aren’t in a relationship at the moment, buy them for you. Pick out the candy you like and enjoy it. Light a candle and enjoy the beauty of being able to buy flowers in winter, and buying sweets. We are lucky. We are blessed. Wrap a blanket around you and enjoy your company. But the icing on the cake would be to make the day sweet for another human. Bake brownies. Send a card that you made with a note inside. We all want to be noticed and not ignored. It took years and that one Valentine’s Day for me to figure that out. I hope you have a week full of laughs, love and beauty. I have to finish my iced tea before the Grammy’s end! Until next Sunday…

light snow will be rain tomorrow…I’m not complaining one bit…

Windy winter day roses…

The wind outside is outdoing herself. The house stays silent except for the rush of the winter winds. Her cadence changes, from a full out gust that tosses the tops of the trees and hits my house with a slam, and then she winds down to a whisper for a moment. And the sky. I adore skies and seeing the dark clouds to the west from where I write fills me with happiness and expectation.

A bale of hay waits in a wintery field at our farm…

The dark clouds are not those of summer. No, these rise steadily but the skies have been overcast all day anyway, so I see the light grey give way to a deep blue. The approach of the storm thrills me. It’s curious that my mom feels the same way. Almost. One drippingly humid summer’s day in Virginia thunderstorms hit my house with hail and thunder, and as the power went out, my mom told me storms made her feel like a witch. I knew what she meant. She felt as though her mood conjured up the storms battering us outside, while indoors we had properly cast the spells that protected us. even when the power gave out. Especially then, because we sat in the semi-dark house and listened and told stories to pass the afternoon. I’ll always remember that day.

My $4.00 roses in my kitchen so I can enjoy them all day…

Another house, another summer storm blew up while I stood on my porch watching the dark clouds pile high in the western sky. I should have been inside cooking dinner, since each family member had a night, but the storm called. When my mother asked why dinner wasn’t in the oven yet, I beckoned her to our porch and pointed to the almost greenish-black sky, and she too stood in silence and watched. Together, we enjoyed the wind whipping our hair. Food could wait. Storms are to be enjoyed while they happen.

Can you believe February is almost upon us?

Do you have storms with winds scouring your home? A storm in your life? Where is the beauty in that? I enjoy the cleansed air after a storm. I enjoy the storm itself at times, too. Crazy? Not really, since I’m talking about a brief thunderstorm and not a tornado or hurricane. Just a storm that comes with too much to do. Yesterday, after a full day, my husband gave me some more items to put on my to-do list and suddenly we had stormy conversation.

These roses have a lovely, light scent…

The conversation had to happen, because my husband didn’t know what was going on in my everyday life. There’s a beauty in knowing how to navigate a brief thunderstorm. The clean air afterwards feels fresh and revitalized. Beauty is everywhere. Even when the grass lies dormant. Even when I picked up branches brought down by these winter winds, with a broken foot. Even then I admired the stark landscape. Join me.

Even a broken rose is beautiful…

Those $4.00 roses that I brought home and placed in a vase, after I picked up the fallen branches? Those roses gave me summer on a winter day. So worth the little splurge, wouldn’t you say? The snowstorm has passed, and the skies are sunny again. I’ll have to wait a bit for another windy, wild storm. I’m looking forward to the spring with it’s cold fronts that bring lightning to my nights. For now? I’m going to enjoy the wintery white snow, glistening in sunlight. Each day hands me a gift, and I have to decide whether to enjoy it or balk at yet another grey, cold day. I choose to see beauty in the day (trust me, there are plenty of days where I do not see beauty, but really, that’s my fault). I choose happiness today. I hope you do too. Until next time…

Resolute resolutions…

the fire settling down for the night…

We’re down at our cabin, where life is slower and much quieter, and I’m thinking about a few things I can do starting today. I want to find beauty wherever I am. If I’m wending my way through a difficult spot, it’s still good to look up and see the sky and her many moods. Notice the people who subtly smile at us as we pass them in the store or on the street. I have this beautiful place we built in Kentucky and it feels remote, probably because it is, and beauty is out here and easy to grab. Back home, instead of seeing the many chores waiting for my hands to complete them, I need to find the beauty tucked into every corner. You too? Stop dusting and sweeping and sit down. Cut a slice of happiness and contentment for yourself.

ice on a pond in Amish country…

Are you musing over resolutions? Are you looking backwards over your shoulder at everything the past year placed in your lap? Are you running away from some of it? And grasping firmly to the good? Do that. Absolutely, yes. 2018 brought me surprises; mostly pleasant but since this is real life, some unhappiness wandered onto my path too. But…I’m a believer in the power and freedom of forgiving and letting go. Just drop your anger and sadness, open your hands and receive all the beauty that’s within your reach.

my Chanel bag took a trip to the cabin because I didn’t have time to switch purses…

My godmother divorced my uncle after 40 years of marriage, and since then their kids have been a house divided, and it’s only becoming worse. My aunt cannot forgive. She’s deeply unhappy and holds grudges for decades. Why? In my family we are often abrasive with one another, sometimes intentionally, sometimes not, but you know what? We forgive. Forgive for saying something hurtful and forgive for choosing to take things the wrong way. We all come from different perspectives, so when I tossed out the wine bottle at my parents’ house to help out, since it had barely an inch of wine left at the bottom, I didn’t know my dad was going to rage at me. I felt hurt and shocked.

a flight of scotch on a recent night out…

My dad had been sentimentally keeping that bottle because he and he sister drank that wine right before she suddenly passed away. He kept the months old bottle as a tangible memory of her. I casually poured out the little bit of wine at the bottom and tossed away the bottle. His treasure, my trash. I didn’t know! After many tears and a slightly heated exchange, we forgave each other and I promised to never throw a single item out at my parents’ home. So yeah, I see the potato chips that expired three years ago, but my hands will not touch that bag. Forgiveness and peace. They’re so beautiful.

the crackling of wood on a cold winter’s night is beautiful…

That handbag doesn’t exactly fit with the country vibe out here in the middle of nowhere, but I smile when I realize the incongruities in my life. We can be many things to many people, but let’s be real with ourselves. Embrace who you are. All the rough sides of you that still need polishing. Walk into the new year resolutely, determined to find happiness and beauty. Forgive. Learn. Love. I wish you a year full of wonder and beauty. Look for it. She’s there with you now, if you’ll only look…

Drams and dreams…

The sun disappeared thirty minutes ago, and the sky looks like snow. Coming from Syracuse, where six inches of snow is unremarkable, and school was never cancelled, I’m dreaming of a proper snowstorm; one that dumps snow so thick and furiously, that once the driveway is shoveled, I have to go to the top and begin again. Or give up and hide inside for a few warm hours.

Sitting by the fire at our cabin…

We do have a quiet cabin that’s our refuge from the world, and I’d very much like to have a Christmas there, but not this year. My grandchild is due on Christmas Eve (oh please, little baby, show up in time for Christmas, because you’ll be the best gift ever!), so staying close by makes sense. I can drink my morning coffee and watch the birds from my windows, and day dream about the thick, deep snows of my childhood.

marathon cookie baking with my daughter…

Do you hold fast to traditions or are you flexible, whimsically following your heart? For years, I spent most holidays far from home, because I lived in Wisconsin with my own family and simply didn’t have the money to travel home, and vacation time was (still is!) precious, so we stayed in Tosa and created new traditions. But we usually had snow. Wisconsin is cold and wintering there should earn us all thermoses of hot chocolate. One winter frost covered the entire back wall of the kitchen. Inside my house. I know!

A light snow at the cabin…

While I’m waiting for that baby, waiting for Christmas, waiting for some time off, and waiting to give gifts (which happens to be my second favorite part of the holidays), I made plans to bake cookies with my daughter. The other daughter is studying abroad right now, but she’ll be home in time to sample the goodies I bake. And I wonder, even with a heart that hurts for others who are walking dark paths, for those who don’t know their way home to love and wholeness, I wonder how to make them happy. Can I? 

the more chocolate chips in the batter, the better…

Can we find beauty in the mundane? Yes. Absolutely. Can we find it in the unexpected? Of course. Most times. Can we forge ahead with new traditions, new ways to connect with ourselves and others? Absolutely, yes. This cookie baking will be interesting and I’ll take pictures, because I bake according to the directions and my daughter? She likes to experiment and sometimes the result is delicious and then there are cakes that come out hard as a rock. I’m looking forward to sampling her recipes as well as mine. 

sipping bourbon on a chilly evening…

The sky is darkening even more and I have a book begging to be edited, so I’m going to have to wander away from holiday musings with you. But I wonder, do we make our own happiness? Or are we waiting for others to fill that want? Forging ahead even on cold days and frigid nights, facing our ways through the crowds with a tiny smile on our upturned faces, takes discipline and we can practice that. Smile just a bit and see how many faces turn as you pass by. See how your happiness imprints on others and bring that beauty to your loved ones. Bring them the beauty of a happy heart. I’m running out of iced tea, so I do have to make a Starbucks run….

Until next time…

Free flowers and bourbon…

 

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December descended upon me and the first flakes of snow surprised my upturned face, and I began to hope for a very snow-filled holiday. While spending time over some very good bourbon with my husband, we began deciding where to travel next, but for now I’m happily tucked away at home, buzzing with energy and happiness. Is it the hot coffee I cradle each morning or the excitement of the season? Do you feel caught up in the fun? Are you merrily preparing for Christmas or Hanukkah?

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I’m back on a happiness hunt and finding it so many places my head spins round. I found these gorgeous flowers at the store and half of them were thrust in a shopping cart labeled “free”, and I grabbed the gift. It’s not about presents but about being fully present in the moments that make our days happy. My daughter came over and made a gingerbread house while I played with my free flowers.

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Have you noticed it’s the small things that bring us happiness? I love Snoopy and always have, and after the dog decided to ravage him last year, I replaced him and he sits, lovably, with all my bears. Small thing, discovering this Snoopy at the grocery store. (I know! My grocery store sells the most interesting things and I love it.) I’m creating a teddy bears’ picnic under one tree and sweet Snoopy crashed their party. I’m happy fussing with my trees and their themes. So…what’s your small bit of happiness today?

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These pretty pillows add to the Christmassy feeling. I know one of the guys in our family is going to comment on the impracticality of a pillow with jewels attached, but I’m on a tartan plaid hunt, and the reds are luscious. Everyone on my list is getting tartan flannel pajamas, and the reds turned my head. Red feels warm and this cold weather has me reaching for anything that brings warmth and beauty and comfort.

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These flowers look beautiful. And I have a few more secrets to share…

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This luxurious Advent calendar sits under my “main” tree and every day, after I’ve spent time reading and sipping hot coffee, I open another day and find a pretty treat. I’ll take these little treasures on trips since they’re perfect for packing on a flight. It’s a small bit of happiness, I know. But sometimes that’s all we need.

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I’m trying to enjoy each day. My cat thinks the “kids” Christmas tree is his personal play land and climbs the branches, batting at the “toys” hanging so deliciously. For him (or so he believes). I know it’s not his tree, really. But watching him enjoy Christmas makes me think how we need to find happiness today. Grab a book and head for a quiet spot. Watch those Hallmark movies. Head outside and embrace that cold and the skies that are the color of snow.  Ice skate again. Hike. Sit indoors with a little bit of bourbon and watch Netflix.

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Make this your happiest holiday ever. I’m wishing you skies full of snow and a basket of free flowers for the taking. Until next time…

Delightfully December…

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We’ve made it. Arrived. December sits at our feet and what do we do with it? Rush around, picking out the perfect tree, lit with fifteen strands of lights at least, baking perfectly homemade cookies, while attending holiday events looking incredibly composed even though we feel slightly crazed, desperate to create the perfect holiday (as if that exists), with Christmas cards written and sent before December 25th.  I forgot the gifts! Shop for the perfect gift for everyone on our overly long lists, including the mailman, as long as the monetary value is less than $20 per regulation. But not me. Not this year. I’m embracing a form of simplicity. I decorated with eight Christmas trees because that is my thing, but I let other tasks slide. Store-bought cookies taste great. That’s why I buy them.

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The point is to do the things you most enjoy. Christmas brings out the tree fanatic within me, but my neighbor rocks an outdoor colored light show each evening, and my friend bakes long into the nights, sharing her assortment of cookies with us every year. What do you like to do around the holidays? What makes you happy? Focus on that. Bring your brand of beauty to December, and the other stuff is just stuff.

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Christmas is not a competitive sport. No one wins an award for doing it all, even if we did it all well. Which isn’t humanly possible. Here’s a secret to my eight trees: I don’t adorn every one with ornaments even though one year my mother decided to bring a U-Haul filled with Christmas to me, as a surprise. I have enough ornaments (massive understatement); I just don’t feel the need to place them on every tree. Though the first year after the U-Haul I did re-create a Santa tree, and all my kids said that year was how utterly creepy the Santa heads with full beards and no bodies were. And I placed the Santa-head tree in the front room so everyone had a month of laughter each time they strode through the door. Not quite the look I was going for, but, I laughed too.

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In dark December, I crave light, and my trees bring that to me. I have different lights on each tree and the glow makes my soul warm even in this terribly chilly month. Candles, fires, lanterns and lights bedazzle my eyes and I don’t feel the dark descending upon the world. I love the soul who places a lit Santa next to our winding, heavily treed road, and this year Mrs Claus joined him. I smile every night and wonder how many extension cords they needed to plug in the Clauses in the middle of their woods.

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Embrace December, regardless of your beliefs. Be willing to change traditions. I don’t know how this started, but after going to church on Christmas Eve, my family loves to go to China Town Buffet. So we do. I only have to produce one dinner then, as expected on Christmas Day. But if you don’t do Christmas, go to the movies (though I think that is becoming very popular), or stay all day in your P.J.’s doing what you love. Spend these dark nights with those who light up your world.

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And even better than that; spend some time with others who struggle with bills, loneliness, bad health, and face a bleak winter. Give. Give away your manicure. One December, I really wanted to take a romantic horse ride through the city, but decided to hand the cash to a homeless man. I’m so warm thinking of his smile. I feel it years later. Find the beauty in this month. She might be hiding a bit, but search for her.

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I’m back on the hunt for beauty and happiness, and it feels so good. Spread the warmth. Light up your soul. My goal this month is to set aside the time to read a good novel. Iced tea and a book, even if December brings more cold and cloudy days.  I’ll sit by my Christmas forest and smile in sheer contentment. I’ll be back in a few days. We have so much to look forward to…together.

Untethered…

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I write truth. When I started this blog, I thought I could be bubbly, happy and inspirational for you no matter what, but I can’t. Just the way that I could never hang with the bubble-headed girls, constantly fixated on their manicures, spreading rumors about others outside their circle, and eating so little I thought I’d faint from merely watching them in college. I like truth. In people. In me. In those I love. I expect truth, too.

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Just like the first pic, life has been rather bleak for me, and I didn’t want to write from a dark place, but I finally decided that if I could write truth, maybe you’d be okay with it; maybe it would resonate with you even more. Because if I can’t find beauty on some days or even for a whole month, I know that one day I will. I know life’s going to get better. Slowly maybe, but life is a gift and I see that now. I tell the twenty-somethings to not kill themselves; to stay here and wait, even though the waiting for better is dark, bleak, dull and infinitely sad.

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In the middle of my anxiety ridden days and endless sleepless nights, I didn’t see anything but bad, except this time, I remembered my daughter is expecting a baby in a month. I went through depression in one of my three pregnancies, with postpartum depression descending upon me for two of those pregnancies, but I am so glad I stayed here and walked the paths at dusk. I have three very unique and interesting kids, and I like them all, different as they are. And I’m married to a man committed to walking with me in truth. We’re not fake with one another. Not anymore.

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What caused this fall, this tumble into semi-darkness where the familiar became unknown and my steps were haunted by the memory of another? I cannot tell. That’s someone else’s story and I play but a part, but I can say this. Holding someone up so high in your eyes and your esteem will only result in a crash. An earthquake violent enough to shake your world, wide awake.

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I’ve been feeling untethered. Shaken. Scared and tired. My foundation has been shaken, but not my faith. See, I follow a guy named Jesus, and based on what he says, he’s got my back no matter what. He’s supposed to be my rock, but I didn’t quite do that. I have an annoying habit of making other people my Jesus. Unintentional, yes, but a bad idea, nonetheless. And God has a way of pulling down anything that could stand in the way of Jesus being my foundation. So discovering that the people I idolize are capable of disappointing me or not thinking of me first, causes me to walk with my eyes downcast, not seeing much except a few steps in front of me. And then I hand myself over to God. I surrender. He becomes more of my rock, though I think this is a lifelong task.

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I’m not going to lie and say my days are rocked with sunshine and I feel like singing from a hilltop. No. I feel the antidepressant working but it doesn’t touch that core of hurt. It never does. So what’s beautiful when your world is tinged with grey? Knowing the family will be together for Thanksgiving. Hearing music that brings me to my knees in anguish and relief. Starbucks, oh come on, you knew that was coming! My husband and kids bring me offerings of Starbucks tea and I see light. Happiness? She’s a ways off, but this life is rich and worth living. I’m inspired by those who give. Stories of people being kind lifts my eyes up for a while. I try in my own way to give.

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Tipping at the car wash or coffee shop every single time. Stuffing money into the hands of the street people who call the outside their home. Giving money to the disabled in Romania, because they are treated worse than dogs.

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I hope you’ll stay with me while I gain ground, sort through this latest earthquake in my life, and begin my somewhat faltering steps back to beauty and sunshine, and happiness at waking up to another day. Stay here. Even though my days are subsumed with winter and long nights and cold. Even when sweaters and blankets piled on do not quell the cold inside me. We’ll walk through this life together and claim beauty and laughter and happiness…again. Please stay…

a beautiful soul…

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While wandering back roads searching for the perfect autumn tree in Wisconsin, I had to stop and stare at the cornstalks restlessly shifting in the rising winds. Warm days up north are a wonder and want to be savored slowly, so we did. And while I looked for the beauty, I almost missed the most beautiful thing in my life, save one.

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I almost forgot the beauty in my husband. Almost. And while I’ve always thought him to be the most handsome guy I have ever seen, and I’ll readily admit to falling in love with his eyes long before I formally met him in college, it is the beauty in his soul that has drawn me towards him. On our trip, he revealed that a former girlfriend of his had been in contact with him, and while I asked questions, I caught my love in a new light.

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He has long assured me he is the lucky one, and while I’m not one to argue (please laugh here), I know it is I who am blessed. On the night we really met one another, we stayed up all night and talked until the sun made a bleary-eyed appearance through the curtains. And the next date? Even though he had heaped the one armchair with clothes, shoes and a basketball, knowing I’d be forced this time to sit next to him, I managed to find a few inches of space and perched on the chair. (My mom told me to never to sit on a bed with a guy. So I listened this once because I so wanted to impress this man.) And we talked all night. Again. I kissed him on the cheek and left with bright sunlight escorting me home.

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The next time we did a bit more than talk, but my point is we connected. We were so evenly matched in so many ways, and when we compared our timelines we discovered how many times we had been together, except we didn’t know it then. I sat next to him in our college classes since we had the same major and our last names bumped up against each other. All…the…time…

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This funny, self-deprecating, outdoors loving, athletic guy kept me on my toes in so many ways. Do you know he is in my college graduation picture? I’m shaking hands happily with the college president while over my shoulder is my boyfriend (husband) grinning as he accepts his diploma. Once seated I whispered to him, “I graduated first,” and smiled. The next week we had finals. In our last final exam ever, I sat up front, painstakingly poring over my paper, and the moment I stood up to turn in the test I heard a commotion behind me, and a blur flew down the steps in the exam hall. My boyfriend slapped his test down on the table while I placidly walked over and turned in my test too. When we were both in the hallway, he leaned over, grinning broadly, and said, “I finished college first.” Yes, he had. How could I not love him?

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So while I show you pics from our stay near Lake Michigan, I admit I didn’t see him in a new way. Until he told me about meeting an old girlfriend. And while I wasn’t super excited to know he had met her, I did see by the way my husband treated me, that he loved me. Wanted my best. Thought of me first, so often, ahead of himself. And I’m realizing, with our nest empty (but a grandchild due in two months!), he and I have so much good going on.

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We have time for each other. Finally! We could have drifted apart aways without noticing much, but thankfully we both felt wide awake to the possibilities open to us; to being able to intentionally plan on being together. I had started to let my daughters claim my time, and I only have so much energy to place into each day. I want to be with that beautiful soul I fell for so long ago. And just in case you wondered if I was hearing God correctly, I have one last, tiny story, so you’ll know, just as I did.

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We were finally sitting for the dreaded CPA exam. Your eyes must be on the test at all times and many proctors watch for cheating. Guess who had assigned seating right next to me? Him. The boyfriend. Now husband. I thumbed through the test pages to better allocate my time, and while I always listened to when the first (show-offs!) paper flippers started making those familiar rustlings, the boyfriend next to me started flipping to page two waaay before I had even solved half of page one! I couldn’t look, only listen, and I panicked, during the most important exam ever. I kept working, doggedly hoping to catch up to him when suddenly he had turned to page three. That meant I was now a whole page behind him! Utter panic. Mercifully the bell rang and pencils down. He decided turning the pages early would throw me into terrors and it did. The guy knew me better than I did. We both laughed more when he explained the effort he put into turning the pages back so quietly that I wouldn’t catch on.

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I’m back home. Ready to spend time with my one true love. The boy who makes me laugh so much. Who made me a mother to three great kids. Who brings me Starbucks on bad days. I’m grateful for realizing I have beauty next to me. Well, not literally. He’s sleeping and I am writing to this to you, quite late. Find beautiful people. Kind people. Beauty is there, if only you’ll look for it.

Until next time…