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…

 

Terrible truths and beautiful lies…

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Looks lovely, doesn’t it? Almost like a beach view room somewhere Southern and much warmer than the cold waters of Lake Michigan in Wisconsin. This trip had been planned for two months and I enjoyed the first part, but somewhere during the middle of our stay, my world crashed in and I fled for the safety and comfort of home. The pics I took show my feelings as my world unraveled. This first picture is warm, happy and full of hope.

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In the early afternoon of the second day, we drove around and the sky and trees mesmerized me. Wiscosnin in mid-October is a flirt and not afraid to show her true colors. We passed so many farms, with the crops harvested long ago, leaving the corn to rustle restlessly in the wind, while the sun decided to hide. Moody. Stormy? Possibly.

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My husband and I drove around a bit, chasing autumn and drinking in old memories. The afternoon was about to split open, but we enjoyed our time and stopped at a beautiful market. We filled our drive with laughter and songs. And one last Starbucks before I lost the taste for tea or food, really. While I’m not going to spill my secrets here, look at the pictures and you’ll feel what happened.

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Someone I know chose to keep their own secrets and the pain it caused was something I haven’t felt in years. As their story slowly poured out, over hours, I had to be alone and walk paths where my head could wrap itself around a new truth. I’m thankful for truths. They’re beautiful. I decided to skip the family dinner and headed outside for fresh air and a new perspective.

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As dusk settled lightly around me, I found a wooden path and wandered, alone on a bluff. The chill of night had arrived but I felt hot and stifled in the too warm room and drank in the coolness bringing clarity and sharpness to my day. To revelations that, once out, had to be faced. But the truth, revealed, fully and irrevocably, is a gift.

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In the middle of your pain, whether it’s physical or emotional, can you find a piece of beauty? The pictures speak. I know, I took them too late in the evening, but the sun keeps slipping lower on the horizon each day as we inch toward winter. No one walked my paths. I moved slowly and watched the beauty of a lake and sky almost perfectly matched. The color blue imbued everything. Including my mood.

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The small sounds of gentle waves slapping the rocks lulled me slightly. Do you do that? When something is troubling, do you head outside and look for a respite? Instead of grabbing a cigarette or another drink, heading outdoors is the better choice. While I turned truths and lies around in my head, night fell upon my shoulders. I carried night with me.

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I finally headed back to the hotel. A sleepless night welcomed me. And then my husband decided I had experienced enough pain on this trip and it was time to head home. Days earlier than planned, but sometimes he knows what’s best before I do. I’m here at home now. Still figuring out why lies came my way. Still processing the truths. And I’m hopeful for my family. That we will get past this, and maybe we all learned truth-telling is always best. I think that’s the beauty I’m carrying forward. The person who hurt me with lies, is saddened, as am I, but the path ahead is clear. I can see it now, even when things are almost dark and dusky.

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I took this today. The trees are showing their true colors after a summer full of green. The clarity of this photo exemplifies my feelings. I’m ready to tackle this problem. I see where I’m going, and with a husband who has always been my best friend, I feel like we can face the world together. Whatever comes our way, or even just my way, the two of us can handle. And I think that’s pretty beautiful.

 

brownies, cookies and two sweet ladies…

Another beautiful September night in my perfectly suburban subdivision life, and I wish you were next to me. The windows are open, of course, and the crickets continue their night’s songs. They won’t be silenced until the first frost, and even then, I’m amazed by the number of crickets who stay warm enough to sing to me until the middle of November. The other night’s noisemakers diminish week-by-week, and I’ll know Thanksgiving draws near when the nights finally become completely silent.

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Finding beauty can be easy some days. Others? If I showed you the tough days, you would see a mountain of laundry, bathrooms that need attention and very old veggies in the fridge because I wanted to cut up that cucumber and place it in a glass pitcher of water, just the way a spa does. But my life intruded, just as yours does. Endless lists and jobs and work and school get in the way too. For me? I have a body that has decided to not feel okay since I noticed something was very wrong in the days before I turned seventeen. Years later (so many years, lol) and my health never returned.

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I tried therapy, eating so many interesting diets that helped with weight loss but not health gains, running, Pilates, not running, going to top name clinics etc. Why do I share this? Because we all have different challenges in life and if we’re going to get through this life somewhat happily, contentedly and with a sense of humor too, we have to find our beauty. Okay, not the kind in the mirror. No. We’re too vain as a society, and selfies kill people each year. Not kidding. Look it up.

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The beauty we’re meant to find is around us. At work, in the fluorescent glow of the lights, can you prop up one picture of your happy place? I have a friend who has never taken a proper vacation, and her dream is to fly to Fiji. Pictures of white beaches and blue waters might make her feel calm. I like to walk in the evenings just as everyone’s homes light up. I used to get decorating ideas for my 1920’s bungalow that way. And now? I enjoy seeing lights on in rooms. Is someone studying up there? Is my neighbor playing his piano while his wife knits? (Oh, I love them so much!) And if your neighborhood doesn’t feel safe, go to a place where you can walk safely and look at beauty.

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Autumn is filled with beauty. The colors of the trees are finally revealed! Pumpkins of all colors surround us. Go drink some fresh apple cider! I look up at the cirrus clouds, so whispy, and I know winter’s grim, grey days aren’t too far away. But wait! We’re on a beauty hunt. So grab some acorns, snip a small branch or two from a maple or an oak tree and bring them home. Make your home, large or small, a place filled with beauty. Your kind of beauty.

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Maybe a thrill runs through you when you finish a quilt. When you have just enough pretty pillows surrounding you. Is it the music floating on the air? The scent of your newborn baby? That’s a treasured scent. Even when you’re going on three hours of sleep. Maybe it’s baking completely from scratch brownies and sharing them with neighbors. Do that! It matters and you’ll make a difference.

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When I was a newlywed and lived in a four apartment building, two kind old sisters lived above me. They didn’t get out much, if at all, and they loved it when I walked upstairs to offer them butterscotch cookies. I certainly didn’t need all of those calories staring back at me, and they didn’t seem to have much fresh food, so I baked. For them and for me. I love baking. Adore it. And now I have no flight of stairs to walk up and no one to share my pumpkin bread. Wherever you in life, try to treasure it…

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You have gifts to share. Do that! Give away your time, your love, your cakes, your ability to read well, sing, to listen to someone’s story. That’s beauty. The Sephora stuff we buy to look beautiful can’t cover up a sour person. Someone with true happiness spilling over is lovely! Why do we like looking at brides so much? Because they glimmer, gleam and beam. They shine with love, and we all enjoy it. Go for that beauty today. The kind inside you, that no one can ever take away. Even if you’re sick. Dying. Divorcing. Even then…

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You are beautiful. Make a small space in your room beautiful too. Light a candle. Drink some soothing tea…or go to Starbucks (I love the happy baristas there, seriously!). Bring pretty pictures to your space. Books, incense, jewelry. Make it yours. Make it pretty. And enjoy being you for a little bit tonight. Until next time…

IMG_E7203(I’m slowly switching out summer’s flowers, but look! The rosemary survives…)

 

 

lonely or beautifully alone…

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Last night when I went to bed, the crickets and cicadas sang so loudly, and the heat at eleven o’clock felt so intense that I thought summer would never leave. But today’s rain with temps that are thirty degrees cooler and tonight’s much quieter chorus of insects, has me believing autumn officially arrived. I feel a bit lonely at the thought. Do you? So many of us embrace sweater weather, with football games,  pumpkin spice everything, flannel sheets, cozy blankets, woodsmoke curling out the chimney and chili with cornbread suppers that we’re utterly happy.

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It usually takes me a week to wrap my head around autumn. To me, it means more time alone since my husband hunts. But over time, I’ve learned how to be by myself and am happily alone. Most of the days. I wonder what people did before phones, radios, t.v.’s, and cars? Can you imagine the days of being alone on a farm or in the country? Even cities can be unfriendly. Were people more content back then?

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Do you find contentment in being alone? And what do we do with those days and nights and weeks where we feel lonely? Posting on Facebook, saying, “I’m lonely, will you please be my actual friend and do something with me?” comes across as too needy. Though I wish we could be that plain some days. I think that’s why we have to cultivate different friendships at the same time, depending upon how many friends we can seriously handle at once. Acquaintances are great, too, because we can meet them for a pumpkin spice latte and that’s enough. On some days.

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I admire the people who dine alone and don’t bring a book along for company. How do we get to the point where we are comfortable being with us? Alone? Just you and your thoughts. No phone, no social media and no Netflix. I think music is allowed in the happily-alone universe.

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I know someone who sits by a fire pit in his backyard on autumn nights by himself. And he’s happy. My dad can walk into a bar alone and either talk to a stranger or remain quiet and he’s happy. I have a friend who goes to a new movie every Friday night, with popcorn and a box of candy as her only companions and she’s happy. So what’s the secret? Not being afraid of being alone, I think. Being content with you and your thoughts. Confidence helps.

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This season, why don’t we try doing something by ourselves? Get to know you and like that person. Walk, pedal or drive alone down back roads and think. Try sticking your toe into the pool of introvertedness. Yes, I just made that word up. I believe most of us would feel happier in any season when we embrace us. Like yourself. My husband says that he made friends easily when he was going through times in his life where he felt confident and happy being alone, spending hours engrossed in drawing. When he felt desperately alone, it seemed as though friends were few and far between. The difference? Him. How he felt about himself. Be alone and soon people might join you.

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When we learn who we are, our gifts and talents, and are content with our direction in life, even though it might not be easy, we become beautifully alone. We can contribute to this world. Hey, there’s seven billion people outside our door. That’s a lot of distraction, if we let it happen. So don’t. I’m saying we need to be alone somedays. Learn lonely and you’ll have a new skill. Sure, you can do ten things before tomorrow night, but if you spend some time journaling or something with just you, then you are more… Beautiful. Appealing. Wonderful. This autumn make dates with you.

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By the way, how do you like my first hints of autumn decor in my Ohio home? Tomorrow, I’m going full-on-crazy autumn home with orange, crimson, bits of yellow and browns. I have to go now…my sweet iced tea is turning to just tea. Enjoy your pumpkin spice! Until next time…

deanna

Sweet September Surrender…

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I woke in time to witness the dawn, with the swirls of mist snaking through the low places on our land. The verdant green of the trees and swaying grasses play tricks on my mind, and I believe summer might last forever. On a lazy September weekend anything feels possible, so I pretend for a while that the sun beating down on our cabin/farmhouse (take your pick) is as strong as June sunlight, but I’m fooling myself. It’s time to wake up from daydreams and wishes and look this month straight in the eye.

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Give in to this beautiful month of what is technically still summer. Autumn will arrive, and then we can find our blankets and socks. But now is a wonderful time to hike without the scorching heat of summer swallowing you (hopefully). Take a bike ride or linger for a morning outside, drinking in the quiet, since many birds have left for their southern nesting grounds. I have a friend who naps on a cot on her back porch. Doesn’t that sound wonderfully indulgent?

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Do you see the school busses rambling around the roads, collecting children and think about the start of a new year? Does your heart catch for a minute, thinking you missed the bus? Only to realize those days live in another time and place?  This feels like the right time to begin anew. And we can, you and I. We can take stock of where we are, how far we’ve come since those rosy January resolutions, and adjust. Maybe you need to rest on a porch in the afternoon sun, with a blanket and book by your side, but only if you open your eyes long enough to see them. Maybe you need to work on that project you so wanted finished by the end of spring. Do it! Get it done! Time’s almost up…

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See that tree above? The oak? That is my favorite tree in the world. The new sun, slanting more each day, runs her fingers through the leaves, and I hope for plenty of acorns for the fawns and their mothers this fall. I have many favorite trees, just like all my kids are my favorites. I think it’s good to love something so much that you enjoy life that much more. Find your favorites, especially going into the turn of the year. Take time to love this time in your life. The hard times and the good… Give in to it. Accept. Surrender.

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We have so much to learn, and if we only had good times, then we’d never learn how to find the beauty in the middle of a cubicle on a Monday morning. Right now there is so much beauty everywhere you turn your head. The farmer’s market, and the grocery stores both hold new tomatoes, zucchini and yes, mini pumpkins. Grab one for your apartment and celebrate. Hold this time close to you. Go about your work, but open the door and marvel at the sunset. I do that so many nights, saying good-bye to this day before welcoming the next.

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Surrender to September. That beautiful month of transition. And enjoy this day.

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Our pool closes this weekend and I want to take a dip before the preschoolers stake their claim. Early morning might be best. So while I take one last summer swim, why don’t you say bye to your summer in your way and enjoy it?  Take time away from studying, working, cleaning and whatnot, and enjoy the beauty of a September sun. Be happy. Find beauty. Until next time…

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(My dream home just north of Seattle.) Hey, a girl’s gotta dream!