Looking through a window…

I’ve been impatient with spring and her wily ways, hot sun on my neck one day only to turn around and feel the sting of a cold winter rain the next day. As a child I never noticed how spring starts at the ground and makes her way upwards. First the grass turns an impressive emerald green, and suddenly what looked murky and dreary is brightened by the new hue. The forsythia is next here, bright yellow and showy, but I don’t have any in my new yard, so I stare at the blessed ones who do.

Next are the bushes, with honeysuckle bursting forth, and I wait and watch for the trees to break out in pink, white and green. It’s so difficult to feel down when the sky is turning a deep azure again, soft breezes play at the windows, making me want to give in to all the pollen and open every single window. I do stand at the large front windows looking out, and I want to join the parade of runners and walkers, but my lot is different and I have to take walks at twilight and pull weeds when the shadows grow long. Sunlight isn’t a friend anymore to me.

As I walk in the evening with my husband, it feels good to see others out with their kids or walking a dog, but I’m secretly plotting how to walk on the bike trail (we call it the bike trail, but it’s for walking, running, roller skates and horses too) in the middle of the day when the new grass and fresh blooming trees smell like a salad. Seriously, I have no beautiful word for the essence that is spring, except to name it salad greens, and I inhale and recall how I’d run and think of food at the same time.

I suppose we all have out little eccentricities, and mine was to run dreaming of barbecue spare ribs, sweet corn bread, sliced new cucumbers and strawberry short cake. My track teammates in high school used to ask me what I smelled for dinner, knowing it was my imagination taking me away from the agony of 400 repeats at a sprint. And on a warm day, when the birds talk loudly and the world is full of color, I crave spring greens. Salad. Someone could label a candle “salad greens”, and I’d buy it. I’d want to eat it.

Spring can’t be caught, not even captured in an image on a coffee cup full of precious caffeine, but it’s experienced. Here where I live, spring creeps in sometime in March and she doesn’t fully open until later in April, but I’ve lived places where spring is a punch of blooms, birds and heady lilac scents all at once. One day is winter, and we all seemed to know when spring had finally reached it’s tendrils far enough north, so we could cast off our coats and throw on tees and sandals.

I had few days in college where I could wander away from my books and studying, and the most difficult days were in spring. I’d lean my forehead against the slim window in the library and wish I could fling away my work, but I didn’t have time for her. Spring. You know I have my stories, don’t you?

One evening, after a long day filled with upper level classes with words like mergers and acquisitions, followed by studying for statistics (not as easy as one would imagine), I managed to lure my boyfriend out of the library where he was more diligent than I, and we went to the store, the only grocery store in town and for some strange reason we bought pecan cookies thinking the other really liked them. We took the cookies and sat near Hyer Hall near full leafy trees under a midnight blue sky pricked with stars, reveling in the night while taking small bites of a cookie neither one of us would ever eat alone.

We laugh about it now, and to this day we’re not sure why we picked those cookies, but I think we remember the evening spent playing hooky from studying. For a while, because we both were in the same classes and rather competitive, so our books still sat wide open to pages that had been read five times over until we succumbed to spring’s delights. After we stared at the stars and wondered about our future, we made our way back inside. Cloistered with old books, dusty with age, we were brought in by duty and fear of failure.

We wound up together, that boy and me. I think all those days of forcing ourselves to stay in and study followed us into our real lives afterward. Demanding careers beckoned, and I watched autumn from a window, too afraid to fail again, so I made sure to put in the required overtime, and the boy studied for an important exam. We both did. But we learned to enjoy running outside, so we could feel the breeze and embrace the sunset. I’d gaze at gardens given over to tulips and daffodils, vowing to plant them when we had some money.

Those days were rewarded. Now we can take some time, some, and luxuriate in the owl who’s come back or rediscovered his voice, and the three waterfalls just down the hill from us that look fast and sound rushed as the spring rains fill the creek. That water has places to go, and so do we. Taking our time to sneak up on a pond to hear the peepers, those tree frogs is pure fun for me. In Wisconsin they wouldn’t come out until May, but here they are making a ruckus in March, and we listen and watch.

I leave the back door open as many days as I can, because I like hearing the creek, and I hope for nights of endless lightning. Thunderstorms are a spring ritual here, and sitting on the back porch while the storm rolls in makes up for all those days stuck in a library or a conference room. We have a bit more time to watch storms and run inside when the rain pelts at us, and the next morning I walk to the one window I choose to keep open on almost any day from April until November, and the creek gleams at me. Then the trees grow in fuller, and the creek becomes a delightful little secret.

As for now, this spring? I am planning on walking early. I know, the whole night owl thing can be a drudge, but last year I walked at midnight and found few lights burnings inside the houses of my neighbors, my friends. They were tucked away dreaming of their morning walk followed by a stretch session with coffee, and I want that again. That’s the beauty of spring. She brings us too many possibilities that we cannot keep up with her, but the sun slips down later, and the moon rides high in the night sky, waxing to full. How can we not want to go strawberry picking, or looking for covered bridges on a pretty day.

I think that is the word for springtime. Pretty. Even on tough day, bad days, I’ve sat outside and maybe cried, but I always wound up looking up and marveling at what we have. All of us. The beauty is here. We just have to look for it. A cat sitting screened inside an open window, or driving with the top down in the car, playing our music a little too loudly, but still. And my husband and I will agree that Oreos are the best, and we’ll laugh at what we did so many years ago when the world held promises that she kept. Be happy. Even for a minute. An hour is better, but take one minute and look.

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

Until next time,

Deanna

Secret pleasures…

With my laptop working properly now, let’s get on with finding happiness and beauty in our worlds. March came in like a lamb, but I’ll take warm, sunny days in this tempestuous month when the skies cannot decide if spring has finally arrived to stay, or if winter is going to give us one last kiss of snowflakes and cold. It isn’t winter’s fault that most of us long for her to depart by this time of the year, but spring is beguiling and a time full of promises. I decided to grab some roses on sale, and make a slightly unkempt arrangement of greens and flowers. Spring is here in my house to stay.

Today I have the back door open wide to the porch, and last night when I stood by that back door I heard the barred owl hooting again. He perched very close to the house, and I didn’t want to interrupt his bliss over the arrival of spring, so I remained inside, tucked out of sight. My cat lives in the screened in porch when the weather allows, and he seemed as excited by the owl as I was. I suppose spring brings happiness to all. Even the birds have taken up the chorus, and every morning they sing with delight, and the evenings are now filled with the soothing sounds of birds preparing for a night of slumber. Just not “my” owl! He likes to make a ruckus long after twilight.

Since I didn’t plant daffodils or tulips, I’ll be missing out on them, but I’m going to plant them together this upcoming fall. Deer won’t eat daffodils, so I plant them with the tulips and I’ll have to wait and see if it works. We do have many deer at this house, and they seem to think this is their ground; their land. My husband drove down the long driveway only to spot a group of deer standing close to our house. He looked at them, while the placidly took notice of him, and after many seconds passed, he gave up and left the deer to themselves. I so enjoy seeing them here, even if the do like my boxwoods. Maybe they’ll stay away from the pansies I planted. We’ll see.

We also don’t have any forsythia bushes, so I found a large handfuls of those beautiful yellow stems in a bucket at the store, and they are jauntily perched in two jars on the mantle. The warmth of the house is causing them to open up and show their springtime hues, and I’m the lucky one who sips coffee from my shamrock mug and wistfully wishes to head out for a long walk in the woods. I do have coffee mugs for every season and most holidays. Why not? Mugs are inexpensive, so I tend to impulsively purchase one or two that fit my mood. There’s happiness in the little things.

I’ve been trying to decide when we should place the outdoor Adirondack chairs around the fire pit. It seems a mite too early, and I think we’re expected to have rain for several days, which is our typical spring pattern, at least for the first half of the season. I didn’t get the chance to walk down to the quiet creek today, since I decided to do some housekeeping inside, though always with an open window nearby. We’re going to plan my daughter’s wedding, so four of us are going to taste their menu. I keep telling myself we are sticking to chicken rather than lobster and steak, but when it comes to my kids’ weddings I tend to go over the top. Just a smidge.

Weddings are joyful days, even when a few tears are shared over the enormity of what two people are pledging to one another. Throwing a wedding is nerve-racking at moments, but when the day arrives I’m excited to be able to have a few quiet moments interspersed with the fun of family and dear friends mixing together, laughing, dancing, enjoying the magic of a night filled with live music, some chardonnay (for me), and cake. With frosting. I think life is too short for no frosting!

Since it’s now the weekend, I’m in Kentucky and just came in from a long walk with my husband. The air felt mild and when the sun decided to peek through the clouds, I thought walking the hills of the land would be more beautiful than sticking to the road. Besides, this time of year no spiders are out, and we like to visit all the ponds, even the one that disappears in summer. We now have five ponds to enjoy, and I do so love my own hidden pond. I feel like she’s a beautiful secret, even if most people wouldn’t feel beguiled by the water.

The photograph is from January, since I decided to tuck away my camera and enjoy just looking at the beauty of this land. The ponds were often created by farmers in the 1800s, as this one was, for their cattle to have a place to drink. The soil is clay, which is why the land here has so many of the little ponds, and I wonder about the family who lived here and what their lives were like. Were they happy? Did they like living here? We visited their family cemetery too, and I think about the beautiful stone monuments that stand for each child and the mother. I still don’t know where the patriarch of the family wound up resting. I wonder about him, also.

You probably know by now that I find cemeteries fascinating places to look and wander, and I do hope the farming family had good times along with those sad days when someone was buried up the hill from where their little house stood. I know from the many stories my grandmother told me at night when the soft evening wind blew down from the woods behind her house, that many children died even in the 1930s. My grandma told me about twins she carried and lost, along with other infants who were born too early, and she didn’t tell it with sadness but rather as a statement.

My grandmother wove stories together seamlessly, and I learned that her life, tough as it was, had beautiful moments. The sad tales gave way to happier ones, and I count myself blessed to have those stories inside my head; tied to my heart. So I remember them now for her, since she too has gone to rest, and I make sure my kids know about her life and what it felt like to be her. I carry my grandmothers with me, and tell the old stories for them. They delight me, and my children have become linked to their past. I see the power of remembering people we’ve never even met but in tales.

She made delicious grape jelly over the course of several days. Grape jelly made from the grape arbor in the back yard made her feel pleased, and though she didn’t have much time to devote to gardening, stowing away homemade jelly made her feel rich. While I haven’t ever tried my hand at making jam, I need even a little bit of earth to garden. After today’s walk I have an idea to create a cutting garden just for me. A secret garden of sorts, tucked out of the way on the side of a hill back home and maybe one here too. We all have secret pleasures that bring us happiness.

What are you going to do this spring to bring moments of beauty to your world? Have you thought about about that yet? I’ll try to be back on Wednesday, since my laptop issues made me lose over a week with you.

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

Until next time,

Deanna

Moonlight meandering…

The clouds broke up in time for the moon to show her full face, and I watched from a window I had opened earlier in the day. She continued swinging higher through the branches in the trees, and I wondered if the moon could ever be caught in them. My bare feet felt cold on the tile, since the unusual warmth of a late winter day had chilled to perfection and still I breathed in the scent of freshness. No scent of a fire made of cedar, nothing except the quiet of evening settled down upon the hills that surround our home.

As a young girl I remember running outside through the freshly washed sheets hanging on my grandmother’s clotheslines. My brother and cousins were prohibited, yet since I alone was the only girl, I think my grandmother took pity on me as I followed her while she reached up to drape all her linens on the line in the sunshine. Running through just dry sheets brought me early memories that refuse to leave, so indelibly did they imprint on my mind and imbued my senses.

My grandmother had only one bedroom in her home, since the upstairs is where her younger sister lived, which meant grandma and I shared a room. I would climb into bed with crisp sheets still scented with fresh air. Somehow sunlight, evergreens, clouds and breezes had all wrapped themselves into those plain percale sheets, and I fell asleep to stories of days long past and the sweet fragrance of outdoors. No candle can capture that freshness no matter how much they try. Which means I’m going to leave my sheets outdoors sometime just so my children can crawl wearily into bed and be lulled by the same heady scents I used to enjoy.

Why do I bring up the memory now? Because even though I am enjoying candles lightly fragranced with oranges, cloves and cinnamon, it isn’t the same as having spices simmering on my stove, and I want to go back to a more natural way of living, if possible. Of course I’m not giving up my dishwasher, but my daughters miss walking in and feeling embraced by the fragrance of the cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves that filled our home. Our home in Wisconsin was drafty and a tinge chilly, and all winter the air inside felt dry, so I boiled water, and one day I decided to see what would happen if I dropped some spices in, and suddenly our home felt cozier and warmer without raising the thermostat up at all.

Now we live in very southern Ohio, and I could afford to open the back door to our porch in February. The winters here are grey, but they don’t last too long, usually arriving after Christmas much to my disappointment and punctuated by warm days starting in February. My cat sat quietly next to that door this morning, and he didn’t do that for the last eight weeks, so I trusted him and was met with the sound of the creek rushing by and the surprise of a warm breeze. We both meandered out into the bare porch. He laid in the sunlight and I idly watched the creek as the water flowed quickly over the falls.

This photo was taken weeks ago, and all the ice and snow are gone, but the creek has swelled to twice its width. I know I must go down tomorrow to gather my thoughts and take some more photos. I want to see the little falls we “own” now. How can anyone own water? Maybe the ponds that dot our fields and woods in Kentucky, sure, but this creek is always running onward, rushing to some place it simply must find. Today she spoke wildly and didn’t have time to babble or rest in a still area near the rocks.

Do you feel the moods of the day speaking to you? Can you see the moment the sun lets go and succumbs to sinking far into the west? Do you notice the moon in her many moods, and how the clouds kiss her face, only to darken her for a moment? How about the cold winds of winter? Do you wonder at the bite of that cold, wondering how the air can feel savage? And when warmer winds beguile us and tempt us to forget our work or study and come out to play, do you follow? See how the days and nights talk to us? I try to listen. I had to finally close the door and the window, because a cold front blew through, but I have a warm fire at my feet and a pile of books next to me. And the candles. Always the candles.

You can see the rooms I walk into. The coziness of the browns feels rich and comforting in winter or fall, and the large front windows are more for summer days when the light lingers long into the evening. Here, in June and July, it is light until almost ten in the evening. I like watching the light play with the sky through these windows, where if I’m lucky enough I’ll see the deer who travel in a group pass by in front. Yes, they nibble away at the boxwoods, but it’s all part of being close to the woods.

I suppose I have no time left for stories, so I leave with this instead. I had two very different grandmothers. One lived on the edge of a large forest, and she had about an acre of her own, where the other grandma lived in a small city brought together to mine coal. That grandmother always felt too busy for me to ask her many questions, but I did watch her in fascination as she hung out her clean laundry to dry. Clotheslines were strung up between her house and the neighbor’s just twenty or thirty feel behind her, and as she hung out her sheets she would pull the line close to her second story bedroom window in winter or summer. She reached outside to quickly fasten her clean sheets between the row houses.

I never asked if they worked out a schedule, so they wouldn’t need the lines on the same day. Grandmothers are very different and while I loved her, she was brusque, busy and forever having people over to visit. I’d wend my way over to a relative who had time for me. My grandmother’s sister did, as she lived alone, so we’d play games for hours on end and she’d ply me with pie and pay attention to my words. Isn’t is odd what we carry forward with us? We don’t choose it at the time, but it follows us nonetheless and hopefully we are wiser and richer for it.

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

Until next time,

Deanna

the warmth of a snowy day…

The snow arrived after the sleet stopped. Hearing the sleet hitting the windows made me cold enough to turn on the fire which warms up the downstairs nicely. I decided the day looked dark enough to light the candles, and I decided to curl up in my warmest blanket while I worked on my laptop. At times, I’d leave the warmth to brew another cup of coffee. After I had done some work, I opened up one of the books I’m reading.

I decided to read the easier book, while I waited for the snow to finally arrive. I’m trying to get into The Silmarillion since it’s been almost thirty years ago that I slogged through those pages. Reading on any given day is a delight for me. Hand me a book, and as long as I have iced tea or hot coffee nearby, I am deep into happiness. Some people find their bliss on a spa day or time spent outdoors, but a book in my hands with a glowing fire or an open window in spring, is a day or a night filled with contentment and peace.

I didn’t set foot outside yesterday, as I was content to watch the day pass from my nest inside. I had a wonderful view from the front windows, and I did open the door to watch the snow when it arrived about twelve hours late. Living where the world stops during almost any snowfall means enjoying the beauty of a world swathed in white when she arrives. By next week all of this will be gone, and the spring rains will take over, so I wanted to enjoy the whirl of flakes as they made their way to kiss the earth.

What is it about snowy days that makes me want to bake bread and stay well wrapped in sweats and two pairs of socks? I didn’t bake the pumpkin bread yesterday, so I promised myself that today I would. It’s terribly cold now, and this would be a wonderful day for chocolate chip cookies, but I haven’t baked pumpkin bread in a long while. My cat is keeping me company, and he looks at me occasionally as if to inquire if I would be so kind as to turn on the fire in the hearth.

I usually save that for the evenings when we gather in that room after dinner. Sometimes we drink a bit of whiskey and enjoy honey-roasted peanuts. They pair together quite well. On other nights, even the coldest ones, I find myself pulling out a pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. Who ever thought ice cream in the middle of winter would be a delight, but it is. Though slicing into a still warm loaf of bread sounds better today, and I know my son will slather his slice with lots of creamy butter and carry it to his room upstairs. I need to have that ready in time for a late afternoon treat, where I’ll pair it with a hot cup of coffee.

I’m thinking about walking outside to enjoy the view and to take some pictures for fun. It’s bitterly cold now, and I’m wondering if the creek will completely freeze over. This is my last chance to see the creek in her winter glory, because the spring rains are predicted for next week, and the sound that one creek makes as the water rushes on to the large river nearby is so loud! When we first moved to this house on the edge of the woods, or rather in the center of the woods, we marveled at the sound a creek could make after a thunderstorm.

Well, I’ll have to leave the cat longing for a warm fire and turn on the oven. It’s time to bake. Time to do more than read a book, too. I can do that tonight after dinner. I’ll light the candles and turn down the lights, and the space becomes smaller. The cat and I keep each other company deep into the night, where we both cocoon ourselves in piles of blankets and pillows. It would be heavenly to have some homemade bread ready for a long after midnight treat, so I must stop writing and see if I have any cinnamon in the pantry. I’m going to fill this house with the heady scent of cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon.

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

Until next time,

Deanna

Embraced…

The biggest snowfall of the year was headed our way, and for days we have been anticipating this gift. Where I live two inches of snow is a problem, so the whole city went to the grocery stores and gas stations, because we were going to get hit with twelve inches of fluffy, white snow on top of last week’s surprise ten inch snow! I was as excited as a kid on Christmas morning, woke up to no snow, waited only to hear sleet hitting the windows for hours. No big snow today. Just two inches tonight landing in the dark on top of the sleet.

Snow fell softly a few days ago while I walked to the creek.

Disappointment happens to all of us. This lack of snow isn’t a big deal, though I feel sad for our meteorologist who is on twitter saying he is so sorry. Hey, it happens. I wanted to sit by the cozy fire, light some fragrant candles, called Winter, no less, and watch the snow pile up outside. While I remained cocooned inside. I wanted to have an adult snow day. I was going to blissfully read without a care, skipping the bills and emails piling up. I might have watched a movie too. Baked some pumpkin bread.

I felt rather sad that my plans had not played out right, and I took a shower, put on clothes, opened the front door, felt the sleet, and started paying bills. When I needed to call insurance, they were gone for the day due to the terrible weather. Only we didn’t have any, and they are based right here. Sigh. Disappointment finds us all. It’s how we choose to look at it that determines if we can change into finding happiness amid our personal grey sky days.

Starting down our path to the creek…

We can usually try to focus on the positive, even while we’re feeling out of sorts. A friend cancels and we can have time to talk on the phone (call a different friend though), watch something inspiring or funny, play online, paint, write and create. When we find out we didn’t get the job, we aren’t pregnant after all (and we wanted to be), when family moves away, or when a string of blah days just won’t end, we need to lose ourselves in something. Not alcohol. No drugs. Create something or marvel at a creation made by someone else. Ever go to an art museum and want to crawl into a painting? Degas’ ballerinas at the MMoA amaze me every single time.

Put on a happy face…

Someone once told me it’s where you lose time that means you’ve hit your element. Not as in multiple personalities, but where you find yourself doing something, looking up and realizing hours have passed and you didn’t notice it. Mine is playing piano, singing (though I do it alone or with the husband now), writing and walking. What’s yours? Cooking? Tinkering on an old car for fun? Crosswords? Painting or sketching? We all have abilities to create, and we can lose our disappointment in finding out what we do that is enthralling to us, and then going for it. Do your thing. You have at least two. I believe we all do.

From a night out after seeing a play last year, before the sky fell down.

This pandemic has us all disappointed, and if I shared mine with you, maybe it might help you realize I’m not always happy. Six of us were scheduled to spend twelve days in Scotland this spring, but it’s not looking good for us. But my friend was diagnosed with a terrible form of cancer at a bad stage. She told me she might have months to a year or two left. I’m sad that we can’t go to Scotland together this year. There might not be a next year, and I’m disappointed and frightened at perhaps losing my friend. Yet, I’ll still watch Scottish shows and read up on Scotland, so when I go, with my friend or without, I’ll still find it beautiful.

When I gaze at the River Dee or see the Highlands, I will think of her, if she isn’t by my side. I won’t have to explain that I’ve acquired a taste for scotch, just a wee finger or two, neat if you please, though I hope I still get that chance. We all have problems and issues that affect us, but creating something or gazing at a creation, whether it be a mountain or garden, takes us out of ourselves. It can make us happy. We want to grab at happiness and lose our disappointments. Once you find your “thing” you can while away the hours in making your world better, happier and more beautiful.

The waterfall just might freeze before it warms up. Notice the light snow?

We make this world happier by bringing a handful of happiness with us, amid life’s disappointments, and what’s more beautiful than seeing someone smile as you pass them. We can have snow days without any snow falling. We can turn any mundane day filled with endless tasks blissful by thinking about when we’ll make time to lose ourselves as soon as we can steal away. When we’re creating paths through the woods so others can enjoy the views we so enjoy, when we listen in wonder to a love song and time melts away and we’re sixteen again, or if we just sketch out our dream home we are creating pockets of happiness. We begin to be happier, and soon we are quite content. Happiness just might be habit-forming.

More flowers.

Happiness arrives amid disappointment. How would I ever have found my true love if I hadn’t been so sad with the guy who decided to ignore Valentine’s Day? When I saw the bouquet of flowers that evening I knew he was the guy for me, and I had suddenly found more than simply happiness, but the person who would be my best friend, my only lover, my confidant and my arm candy. I hope he blushes when he reads this. You deserve to have happiness wend its way into your heart. Try losing yourself in the moment. Not just fifteen seconds of quiet on a tv commercial, but that yoga class where you find your calm. Find your happiness. Make it. Create it. Dwell in it.

I’m wishing you a snow day this week. One day where you do exactly what you choose. Maybe you’ll really find some snow outside, too. And…

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

Until next week,

Deanna

Blissed Out or Stressed Out…

The sun sets later every day now.

I try to write about finding happiness in our worlds, whoever we are, wherever we live. But it feels like most people are very exhausted with this pandemic, and people are losing their patience, tempers, and are acting out rather than acting zen. What can we do, while we wait for out turn to get the vaccine? I’ll take you through my days, so you can see how I find snippets of happiness along the road.

A new scent, Winter, from a new source is a treat.

In winter, in particular, I find myself craving light. I need sunlight, which is sparse and tough to find here in wintertime. So I turn on the lights inside and burn warming candles. They make me feel cozy as the scent wraps around my arms, my body and my space. I want the gas fire to be on, for light and warmth. I remember days when our house felt cold all winter due to old drafty doors and windows. One winter we nailed a quilt up against those windows to keep the sub-zero temps out. Warmth is a blessing.

Our creek grows wider and louder on rainy days…

I also find myself wondering out on mild days when it’s not snowing. We’ve been having light, little snowfalls for a week now, and you can see how the creek rises when we receive snow or rain. Being out on the cliff overlooking the waterfall is soothing, and the roar of the rushing water drowns out all other sounds. It’s just me and the water that hurries away. I’m cold, but I’m happy. There is a beauty outside.

A little graveyard in KY. Quiet and undisturbed.

One place that is restful and hauntingly beautiful is the little family graveyard on our land, and we like to think about the people who lived and worked on this land. And then they passed away. Several of the couple’s children did in the 1800s. One son was eighteen, while a daughter made it to twenty-five. Why is the wife buried there but not the husband? Where is he? Graves tell us beguiling stories, and we have to wonder what life felt like for them. They died over a hundred years ago now, and yet the spot feels right. Peaceful. Quiet, except for the wind blowing the tops of the trees above me. I feel a kinship with them, since we know where their house stood, along with their well, and the ponds they had for their cattle.

Dinner out at a tiny wine bar and restaurant. A rare treat!

A week ago, my husband and I took time to shop at the stores in our small downtown area, though the husband can only endure about fifteen minutes of shopping! So we walked down to a wine bar/restaurant and found they had just opened for dinner. We decided to enjoy some really good wine and wonderful food, and it felt like old times, as in before the world fell apart a bit. We both liked being in this very small place, so guess where we’re going for Valentine’s Day? Yes, to the wine bar. I’m already dreaming of their dessert menu.

Scalding hot coffee with a splash of cream keeps me warm. And clears my mind.

The weather here is supposed to turn bitterly cold and very snowy, which is a huge change from the original prognosticators claiming we’d have another mild winter. When February arrives, I’m ready for mild days, so I’ll try to embrace the cold. Skiing, skating or walking outside? No way! I’ll work out at home, bake some gluten free pumpkin bread, turn on the fireplaces, and warm up in my sweats and two pairs of socks. I embrace the cold by being warm these days. Plus every winter when I think I’m going crazy waiting for spring, I read a book about a snowed in family on the frontier. It never fails to give me perspective that life can always be worse. So…think warm thoughts and push on.

Our cabin as seen from our little road.

I do like the feeling when a snowstorm is upon us. I’m tucked inside baking, and the world is muffled. Quiet. Until I hear the relentless scrape of shovels or the drone of snowblowers, and I know it’s time to crawl out and join in camaraderie or send my son out instead. Living in the back by the woods is different, because the creek is rarely quiet. Today when I lifted the blinds in the morning I spotted a lone deer making her way into a steep ravine, and later I looked out and saw the neighbor’s kids flying by on a sled. Life can be so good, and filled with quiet moments that light up our days. Think on them.

I like having too many candles and too many books.

It’s time for my story, and then I’ll leave you to your own delightfully warm thoughts about hot chocolate and being snowed in with a great book or film to watch. So, back when we lived in Wisconsin, it could get terribly cold. Frigid. My husband’s sister had offered to watch our two little cherubs so we could spend a night at a hotel. We lived in Milwaukee, and she lived in Madison, which is about ninety minutes away. The actual temp on Saturday morning was minus thirty degrees, so of course my car wouldn’t start.

Keep looking for those beautiful blue skies.

Undeterred, we pushed my car into the road, and my husband’s car was in a rickety old garage, but it offered some protection, so we took his car battery and brought inside to warm up. We wanted that night away so desperately, and the warmed up battery started his car and we took off with the kids. The real temperature outside never moderated, so we hovered around negative fifteen or so with a strong wind, but we never turned the car off until we had dropped off our daughters.

The waterfall down the hill from our house.

We tried drinking Irish coffee in the lobby, but the cold crept in and snaked around us, so we decided to take our drinks up to our room and order my favorite thing: room service! How decadent for me back in those days. To order and never move, then have a beautiful meal wheeled in for us was splendid! My husband went outside every two hours to run the car for a few minutes to keep the battery charged, even throughout the night. We loved that one night, and to this day I still think of how wonderful it was of “Alice” to watch our kids. Never mind that one of them kept her up all night saying, “Goggie!”, because she had a dog and we did…not.

If you’re feeling chilly or downright cold, then find a way of warming yourself up. Call a friend. Bake or cook or do delivery. Find the beauty in others, because kindness is always pretty. Spend a day dreaming about what you’re going to do when the world goes back to normal and write your ideas down, because this is when we have the time to dream big and small. So do that. Make your own space a little cozier, pile up pillows, blankets, and make a little fort. Watch a miniseries all in one day. Why not? Before we know it, this world will be back to being busy as usual, and we will have wished we had spent our pandemic time more wisely. Normal is coming. Hang on a little bit longer; we’re going to get there.

And in the meantime, stay happy, warm and safe.

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

Until next time,

Deanna

Winter’s gifts…

This is a place to come and find a way of looking at the world in all its craziness and still find happiness and contentment. Find the beauty in this world. So why would I even start with winter? Well, this is a tough season because many of us are stuck inside with few places to go to and escape this cold, dark time of year. I’m thrilled to see the sun setting later each evening, when I do catch a glimpse of that orange orb, because winter here is often filled with low, grey clouds that do nothing to lift one’s spirits.

The beauty of evergreens is the instant pop of green I see, especially now.

I try as much as any of us to find little snippets of contentment, and some days I find it by enjoying a sunny day or going on the back porch to listen to the rush of water as the creek runs past me, or by hoping for a foot of snow. Yes, snow! I am from the Northeast where it snowed almost everyday, and large snowfalls were common. I like the muffled sound that occurs when the world is being covered rather quickly in white, and then the feeling of unity or camaraderie that arrives when the neighborhood comes alive with the sound of shovels scraping or the occasional whir of the snow blowers.

A bit of snow transforms the browns of autumn to a winter wonderland.

I enjoy going out to shovel the snow (sometimes), and last winter brought us only rain, so I’m hoping for a lovely, large snowfall. A sunny day will usually follow, and after shoveling the sidewalks and paths, it’s great to come inside to wrap my cold fingers around a steaming cup of coffee or tea and feel a great sense of accomplishment. It’s been years since I made a snowman or a snow angel or went sledding, but I remember those days fondly. When I lived up North, I liked the feeling of being snowed in for the day. Nowhere to go, except home, where beef stew and fresh bread waited since the grocery stores were ransacked the day before a storm hit. Reading a book, and then tucking into some made-from-scratch brownies using the Toll House recipe makes me happy in winter.

Just a sprinkling of snow, but isn’t it beautiful?

Another way I’ve found to bring a bit of happiness to my winter world is traveling to see my family, as in mom and dad and brother or sister. It’s winter where they live too, but a visit every February lightens my heart, as I have a spa day with mom, while dad and I watch movies every evening together. He lights the candles I send him almost every month, and we settle in for a good visit. I’m just about ready to plan my trip, and this time I’m going to look through old albums to remind me of fun days spent with people who love me. Instant happiness.

Wood ready for the fireplace, while the snow flies at our cabin.

Can you tap into ways to find happiness as we still deal with the virus? Do you have a real fireplace to sit close to in the evening or even the day? Stringing up lights inside your space will bring a cozy feeling at night. Do you have a fire pit outside? Sit close to the fire, though be sure not to burn your shoes and bring out a warming drink. Whisky or hot cocoa? You can be by yourself and surround yourself with dreams of days past or the things yet to come, or invite a hardy soul to brave the elements with you next to that roaring fire.

The flakes just starting to fly.

I do have a little story to share with you about a campfire. My husband and I were camping with some other couples, and the evening was very cool to the point where a fire was necessary. We gathered next to it, shelling peanuts and telling stories and jokes, when one of the guys yelled that his shoe was on fire! We yelled back for him to get his foot far away from its perch across the stones encircling the fire. He stamped out the fire on his smoking shoe, and we laughed at how deformed his rubber sole now looked, and all because he had been so cold he placed his foot quite literally in the fire! That’s one way to get permanently warm.

A frozen pond perfect for ice skating.

If we embrace winter, rather than fighting it all season, we can find a measures of happiness poured out into our hands. I used to downhill ski, and then I tried cross country skiing, which is actually a blast and burns millions of calories. I took ice skating lessons with my young daughter a lifetime ago, or I would run laps while she skated and learned to pirouette on ice. Hockey games are fun, and if you’ve tried to enjoy winter’s gifts and are longing for escape, I have so many ideas for you.

Baking is my kind of fun, but maybe cooking brings you pleasure, reading while candles (real or faux) burn next to you conjures up warmth. What about staying in your sweats and watching a series of movies while you use your French press to make a delectable cup of coffee, and while you’re at it, add some Bailey’s Irish whisky to that cup. Call up a friend and chat. You’ll feel like you’re sitting across a table catching up on life. Take a drive and stop and take photos of something that catches your eye and captivates your imagination. Go to a small downtown area and shop their stores. Do a zoom while watching the football playoffs. Imagine all you’re going to do when this world opens back up. Save some money to take a trip, even a small one nearby, when it’s safe to do so.

It really is the small things that make our lives beautiful, fun and happy.

Be silly. Camp out in your family room. Turn up the heat for a whole day. Read a book that takes place in summer or play songs that remind you of summers long past. Order takeout as a splurge, and make it from a really fine restaurant. Have a picnic next to the fire. Take silly pics that will warm your soul next winter. Think warm. Look up how warm it is in Key West, Florida and imagine you are there. Go somewhere warm if you’re up to it. Play for a whole day. Workout so you can take a long hike or bike ride on the first lovely spring day.

This year will see the world opening back up at some point. Let’s keep our eyes on the beauty near us now, while keeping an eye on the near future when we’ll be able to go anywhere we wish. That day is coming. This won’t last forever. And now that I’m hungry, I think it’s time to bake some chocolate chip cookies that way I like them: with double the chocolate chips.

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

Until next time,

Deanna

It’s a happy life…

My kitchen table at New Year’s.

Here we sit uon a New Year, with prospects for it to go better than the last, and for once I rang in the new with no celebration other than binge watching a show with my love, toasting with wine and whiskey at midnight and sharing a lovely kiss. No watching the throngs of people mashed into Time’s Square in New York, where I always wonder why they want to be there in the cold, and no party this year, not with even another couple, let alone thirty of my friends.

Because I want to help out my daughter who just had a sweet baby who has days and nights mixed up, all I need to do is show up Covid-free, so we’re being careful, and hold the baby for a while. Graveyard shift, but I will gladly take it. In fact, I revel in telling of my last baby, born at the end of November, and his days and nights were mixed also, and I had to run around with my two older kids besides. When my husband and I wandered over to the neighborhood party on New Year’s Eve, the ladies swooned over my one month old. I just swooned from lack of sleep.

The best view of the creek that has ice on it this year.

I tried to make coherent conversation, but then it struck me. If my friends were sober, they could hold my son for a few hours, and I had brought bottles, so I asked if they would like to hold onto him, and his daddy toted the little guy home much later. I went home well before midnight to…sleep. New Year’s Eve parties do come in handy at times, but tonight the world seems muted, waiting, guarded, yet gathered around the table again. We’re in a state of anticipation and becalmed excitement. And yes, more waiting.

Are you talking more and connecting? I know we played games on our Christmas Day, which we celebrated on Christmas Ever day, because my nurse daughter worked on Christmas Day. The day felt authentic, even though we forgot to read Luke Chapter 2 the way my father always did before opening gifts. I think having an excited toddler, with his new baby sibling along with all my kids being together, with their husband and fiancé too, made for a noisy, happy day filled with more fun and laughter at the joy of being able to spend this precious time together.

Do you see what I see?

Did you feel that way too? As if your holiday meant more, because of all we need to do to be safe, and we don’t have those casual spur-of-the-moment visits, so we find time together to be a gift. No arguing politics (it’s done!), and no arguing about food because we all brought everything we wanted and noshed all day long. And I think as weary as we all are now, it will be so different next year. Well, this year now, because I think we will appreciate the little things that make our lives happier.

Right? From meeting with friends at Starbucks for three hour long chat sessions, to flying out on a crowded plane to see my mom and dad, or greeting people with a hug, seeing smiles again, visiting the theatre finally, going to sporting events, staying in a hotel or that trip to Scotland (fingers crossed, and please God make it so), to seeing my neighbors and standing to talk to them and none of this cursory, “hi” and “cold today” from twenty feet away. And I appreciated the cookies our neighbors brought over and it is something we all look forward to, but I handed out candles to be “safe” when cookies taste better. I should have done cookies, but with the new baby and all. Ah, well, there’s always this year, right?

A wee dram with my Scottish Highland dreams by the fire.

How are you doing? Are you finding bits of happiness peppered through your week? Do you miss your family? Your routines? The sky still looks the same. I look up and realize the stars and moon have no idea what social distancing is. The owls are silent now, but we do hear the neighbor’s dogs and I like that too. The dogs have no idea anything has changed, except we are all home more. I like that cozy feeling of knowing my neighbors are near, my home is warm and we gather nightly in front of the fire.

No, it is not real, we have that at the cabin, but the gas fire draws us in anyway. We grow almost too warm, and I light the candles I bought from London. The one labeled Winter is excellent, but the Highlands candle is eh, so I’ll gift that away. And we talk. Have you discovered the magic of a zoom call? I love them most of the time. My sister organizes it, I press a button and suddenly I’m looking at my brother’s ceiling, my father’s knee and my sister’s table. They are all yelling that they’ll be right there, and then we sit, talk, tell stories and laugh. We talk about our old cars that my day duct taped together. Well, one, but I could see the road underneath as I drove. Dad told me not to look down then! Laughter!!

Getting little gifts in the mail is a treat!

The talking. The connecting as we laugh about the Kentucky Meat Shower that someone brought up, we googled and it’s a thing! I’m going to miss the zoom calls. And the connections made on social media for me this year have been so fun. My friend who lives in Nevada sent me this gift, above, when I mentioned how I love Vegas and want to go back. Maybe the Luxor is in my future. I smile every time I see that. As I hope you smile when you pass by a trinket given to you in friendship. Or by a love. From a child. We still have that.

I think we will have a good deal more in the new year, and I hope you fill your eyes with the beauty of a sky filled with stars or the soft sound of snow gently falling, muting the sounds, filling us up. We can still use these next months well, before things get back to a new normal. We can read that novel, the good one about the Crawdads. We can talk face to face or on the phone. We can gather people together in our hearts, keep them in our thoughts and always our prayers. We still have some time before the reset button is pushed, so let’s use it for good.

We’re at the cabin, so its toasty warm here.

Use these winter months to be you. Sweatpants, messy hair, enjoying your cup of tea or your warming soup on a chilly day. Read, write, because people will want to know what it was like in the pandemic of 2020/2021. Walk outside. Sing inside. Light the fire, or a candle. Tell someone how beautiful they are, and then go back to playing your guitar, baking those cookies, and laughing at the year that was. We can certainly smile knowing this year is going to be a good year, because of all we have learned.

I’m wishing you a wondrous New Year filled with all the happiness your heart can hold.

Until next time…

Deanna

Savoring the season…

How did your November go? Was Thanksgiving strange? Hopefully it was still a lovely day, full of reasons to be thankful. Now we’ve turned the corner into the Christmas season, and it is different. I still have to remember to put on my mask as I walk into the store, but I decided to help my daughter shop for the last few items for her little family before she welcomes her second child and we had a lot of fun today. No, I couldn’t drink my Starbucks while I shopped, but we wondered what kind of wrapping paper her little boy might like.

Candles and cookies. We look forward to our neighbors’ cookies.

One thing is certain. Change happens to all of us, and while this might be a strange time for us, people are still getting married, having babies, moving to new homes and still visiting virtually. While waiting for the new baby to make her entrance into the world, I’ll also be watching my bride-to-be daughter trying on wedding dresses next week. And by this time next week, I will finally have a waterfront property! Yes, we will “own” a piece of the creek that runs behind our house. My dreams have been realized.

Are you laughing with me? A younger me once wished to have an oceanfront home, though I changed my mind after I discovered sunlight made me ill. Who knew the sun could make some people sick? (Lupus.) Since then, my husband and I have joked about the ponds on our farm in Kentucky, but this creek that has a real name brings me happiness. When it rains, the creek swells and turns rather violent. Thankfully, our house is a long ways up the hill, so I can hear the rush and roar of the three waterfalls. One will be ours, but who can own water, truly?

It’s easy to have a sense of wonder as a child.

We are blessed to have Hunner’s Creek, and we love hearing the neighbor’s kids enjoying the water as much as our own kids did when they were younger. My husband thinned out a few trees, so we can see the small waterfall from our back porch. I like knowing another generation is as mesmerized by a creek just as I was when I was about ten or twelve. My friends and I would play in the large forest that had a small creek running through it, and we were lucky that it ran past our back yard.

My daughter who is getting married next summer wants “her” ornaments. I’ve come to love them, but I’ve kept them safe all these years. It’s time to relinquish them.

A strange thing happened years ago when I drove past that old house where I spent so many days climbing the tall trees, and I found that forest had grown smaller. Much smaller than I recalled, and I had to laugh at the way children can turn something small and not very impressive into a magnificent world. What if we did that now? If we marveled over the cookies our neighbor brings to us each year, and instead of noticing that the array of cookies has shrunk over time, we could enjoy her mint brownies with the green icing? If we looked at the lights people have lit up outdoors in defiance of the darkness of 2020? If we wondered at so many neighbors joined in solidarity against the nights the swoop in early and linger too long?

An early snow changes the dull brown to a world full of wonder and light.

We light out world in unison, in solidarity, and turn our backs to the uncertainty of this world, and it brings smiles to so many. I look at the Christmas tree that looked large at the store, and no, it was not the grocery store this year. I went to Home Depot, and that Fraser Fir looks small. I thought about it over coffee one morning and realized the higher ceilings in this new house, along with the larger rooms mean we have to bring in a larger tree. So, next year we are going to cut down one of the cedars that grows so easily in the poorer soil of Kentucky!

Just watch, though. I think we will wind up bringing in a tree that is far too wide. Which brings me to a story. One December I had just given brith to our third child, so I asked my husband to take the car and find a tree with the girls. They were eight and five and eager to pick out the perfect tree. Did I mention that we had just moved to a larger house with a two story ceiling, so when I noticed a tree covering a car driving up our road I wondered. My husband had tied a huge tree to the top of the car, and how he managed to see the way home was a marvel. The tree they chose covered the front and back. All anyone could see was a tree on wheels. Seriously.

A vintage ornament nestled next to one with glitter made by one of my kids long, long ago.

My proud husband and excited daughters brought in that monstrosity that would be our Christmas tree, only the bottom had to be cut off quite a bit and then the top of the tree had to be tied to the bannister going up the stairs to the bedrooms. I could hang ornaments only as far as my arms could reach, so the tree had bare patches higher up. But the kids were thoroughly enchanted with “their” tree. They had chosen it and watched their father chop it down. It might not have made the pages of any home decor magazine, but it made for a memory. We still laugh about that Christmas tree, so this year’s spindly one (for a second year in a row, because it took me that long to figure out the issue) will be enjoyed.

It’s the small things that bring happiness, as long as we’re willing to feel it. To take this time and snuggle under a blanket, maybe in front of a warming fire or one outside, and turn off all the lights except for the tree and watch a holiday film. To send out a few cards to friends this year. To buy someone a cup of coffee just because. To sing out loud. To really look at the ornaments on your tree and enjoy your favorites. I still go out in the cold and listen to the creek. I’m thankful for heat, for candles, for my family. I’m thankful for all the old Christmas carols that I sing in the car. Thankful for tinted car windows too.

An “ugly” ornament from my mom’s 1970’s collection. It’s growing on me. Might be a collector’s item one day.

In the waning days of a tiring year, can we find the wonder? Can we enjoy a different Christmas? We’re having ours on Christmas Eve, since one of my kids has to work at the hospital on Christmas Day. I’m looking forward to watching movies that I like on the actual day itself. And no cooking! Nope. We’re getting Chinese. I’ll be wishing and praying for a thick snow to fall and make the world look beautiful, but even if it’s drab and grey, we still can feel happy. We’ve made it this far. I think we can wander into 2021 with hope. Wonder. And happiness.

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

Until next time,

Deanna

Simplicity and tough days…

Normally, I write about lovely pursuits, but I’m going to be very real today. I think it will help me, and I hope it helps you as we head into Thanksgiving week. I’ll still write about some lovely little things as they come to mind, and that’s what this is all about: being grateful even when life is tough. I do know Thanksgiving looks different this week, and I’ve spent the whole week in discussions with my adult kids about how we’re going to “do” Thanksgiving. Safely.

The last of the leaves, finally succumbing to the chill of late November.

While I’ve enjoyed the somewhat slower pace of my days, a lot is going on. I’ll explain. Yes, this pandemic isn’t getting any better. Meanwhile, I have a daughter about ready to give birth to her second child, and we’re deep into planning a wedding for early next summer while also setting final plans in place to take that trip to Scotland with a dear friend who is fighting cancer. In spite of the crazy year, I still believe in the inherent beauty of life.

Our days are measured out for us, and we don’t know how much time we have here. I think if we did, our days would look very different, me included. Every evening, I go on the back porch and listen to that little waterfall talk to itself, and I marvel at the long twilight we see in winter. Did you notice that, too? I feel sorry for the crickets who missed out on the summer party, only to arrive weeks late and in time for a killing freeze. Thanksgiving sits on our doorstep. So what are your plans?

Candles and books make a day brighter…

Every year since my father-in-law died, I have hosted Thanksgiving. Twenty-three years now. Due to the virus hitting people all around us, we have decided to keep our number at the table small, and I’ve spent all month contemplating buying a pre-made Thanksgiving courtesy of a local restaurant, or do I roast the turkey, mash some potatoes and call it as feast? I’m willing to make everything I usually do, though I am cutting out the stuffing. I might bake just one pie rather than the usual two. My family back east are having small dinners too, and we’re zooming afterward. It feels nice knowing we’re all eating at the same time. Almost like being together.

Bright, bold flowers were fun to play with today.

So many of us are having an unusual week, and I wonder at all the homes with Christmas trees lit and sparkling, and the Christmas lights are outside too. Half of me wants to dive into Christmas mode, but I realized tonight that I never switch to Christmas until Thanksgiving is done. No one in my family wants to enjoy a November holiday next to the tree, or so they tell me. So I wait, admiring those brave souls who’ve decided to lighten up a darkened world a week or two early. I’ll be joining them on Friday.

Treasuring the days where the door can still be open. Lucky me.

Simplifying sounds appealing to me. I usually decorate my house with six full Christmas trees, but not this year. I’ll buy a fresh tree for that glorious scent of pine and maybe a flocked one, dripping with faux snow. I usually arrive at Christmas Day exhausted, and I’m done with that. I want the time to read books for fun in December, so I’m taking a step back from what I’ve done for years. My Christmas is looking quieter. Calmer. What I wouldn’t give for a slice of peace in my world. Are you feeling the same way? Yeah. We’re all tired.

Even my usual autumn decorating is minimal. I like that.

Even though I’m not holding court in Starbucks as I usually do, it was so pleasant meeting friends outside, sitting apart, but enjoying the milder autumn days. Now that the windows are closing, in both senses of that word, I want a warm fire, a cup of scalding hot coffee and a pile of books at my feet. Maybe it’s a good thing that Black Friday began a month ago. No rushing through a dinner, that used to be savored later in the day, followed by pieces of pie that we couldn’t possibly manage to eat, yet we did. And so we will this year. We have our Thanksgiving back! Small things matter.

The last breath of autumn.

Wherever you are this week, can you find some time alone to think? Time to dwell on what you’ve learned about yourself in this year in particular? We’ve had to change so much, and yet it’s the simple things that make this crazy year okay. People choosing to be kind and patient, smiling even if no one can tell because of the mask. Asking others if they’re okay and waiting for the answer. Singing “Happy Birthday” over a zoom call like we did with my sister this past week.

Just a long last look at autumn.

I’m full of gratitude for lessons learned. How to hold back on airing my opinion. Realizing we’re hungry for words from other souls sitting close to us, more than we ever could be for food. Staying off the Instagram pages of those whose lives look perfect, especially now. Not comparing. Accepting boundaries and making my own. Deciding on spending time with my daughter, rather than curling up for a whole day with a book. Even if I’m tired. Making others feel loved and valuable. Reaching out over some texts to someone who is alone. Giving.

Think how a few kind words can change someone’s day, and then change it!

There’s so much to be thankful for this year. Enjoy these last days of autumn. Savor them with a fine wine or warm coffee. Light your candles and have a fire. Be warm. Be happy. Choose happiness.

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

Until next time,

Deanna