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…

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…

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…

 

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