Happy ThanksChristmas…

YuHYcCNYTg2+SvsLAIBbIg

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.

odLcBu+9TiOTZyIWe8Jgyw

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.

1FB39ZywT7+1qOX9odj%Vw

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.

ba1rquHqSTGIrm0LitY4iw

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.

IMG_0787

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.

futMq2GVTraENqy5JvxHmw

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.

YsmL9OUYSyKQqL4TSU3bAA

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.

5yG5HeL8TyerLF8mqh%LNg

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?

wSuGPDtoQBa8q2Zmx%Uh6w

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!

%pu0ZzBKT5u9s78srCtVXw

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.

IMG_5060

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…

 

fullsizeoutput_e90
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.

wQqBuArZTJK8pPr3QfQ
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.

puMRfk4vR1eEJ3A4PAqheA
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…

SIfRsOd6Qzuc7Uxi94rhUg
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.

tYjidGAvTOaZ%XrE5XVIXw
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.

 

e+xZomosSmO3+P4i1s+fLQ
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.

 

azeHpz82R9OfI7jRPsfZzg
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.

 

L5bx8lFlRn+hvwEYCKATCg
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.

0O1ENwkdTZqMEiUNpANmnw
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.

 

smYK58SXQl+JatOqnJKuLw
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.

 

eGfU84n7Q6mJ61vgWc3MCQ
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…

BqYm591lRl2NFNJvelDMXQ.jpg

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.

ADaawxlTvqP6tu9oTuFA.jpg

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.

IMG_4056.jpg

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.

LwnvIxsqRs2twhKJRJvXAg.jpg

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?

EnG7goPkRJaA3J3E1jmjcA.jpg

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.

4jAomW4EQJyZAlGapbajVg.jpg

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.

Uvn9I2NYTpqWoIRPvApEOQ.jpg

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?

 

Ypt45FPQMSFynLg0aHatw.jpg

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!

L5bx8lFlRnhvwEYCKATCg.jpg

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!

IMG_6572.jpg

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…

fullsizeoutput_ca3

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.

qPTzHVIUQhmUgf5ieCLww.jpg

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.

weW75GvFTnWkOFfgAFHnXw.jpg

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!

VF4B6ddhQeRmPkhAVXwvQ.jpg

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.

t7VgMfmsTtGbY0x7XWC7aA.jpg

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.

F7C65D1E-3818-40D2-B443-0ABCB6F527FF

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.

YWPIlp5sTm6raiRq7P3U8A.jpg

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.

IMG_2627.jpg

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…

noSMF69ITU6A1V8azhKNA.jpg

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…

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…