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

Buffeted by the wind…

Capturing this autumn’s beauty has been a small challenge, because this year half the leaves fell in a very wild thunderstorm, and since then we’ve been mired under grey, sodden skies and I’m trying to give you a taste of autumn in Kentucky and at our home in very southern Ohio. As autumn 2020 progresses, does it sometimes feel like the world is a bit out of control? The UK went into another lockdown, which made me feel very sad for them, and I think we’re all preparing for the unknown, though this time we’ve stockpiled toilet paper and hand sanitizer, right?

A rare sunny day…

On this side of the pond, many are looking forward to next spring and summer. I took a stroll around my neighborhood before trick or treating started, and I chatted with a neighbor whose daughter is getting married in a vineyard next year. My own daughter is marrying next summer, and it fills us with happiness. Looking forward to an event is different now. Before we had tickets to see plays at two theaters downtown, and dinners with friends. We had planned on hosting several dinners at our new home to make them feel welcome and loved, but most of the visiting, the weddings, baby showers or even going to church just stopped.

A wee little pumpkin to watch over my lavender plants.

How do we handle Thanksgiving this year? Should a big family gathering be tucked away until next year? Do we make certain our elderly parents or grandparents stay safely away, or is it wrong to drain their calendars of these pleasures? I think we’re all glancing at the calendar toward Christmas and thinking of how to enjoy the festive season safely. I told my husband that I only wanted to put up three trees this year (I honestly normally have six or seven fully decorated trees, with one being a real Fraser fir.) A subdued season seems in order for us. What about you?

Willie enjoying the warmth of the sun, so slanted by late October.

How do we grab slices of happiness and find the beauty in these days of troubling news? Election fears. The pandemic causing so many businesses to close forever, and when will this end? Missing meeting up with our family and friends, both close by and far away. Vacation plans shuttled away until 2021, where we hope life with be normal and raucous, full of fun and joy and freedom. Until then though we do have choices. We almost always have the choice of looking at our situation in the best light possible. How so?

My neighborhood. That sky was made to be admired, and I did. All the way home.

Starting when you wake up, take a moment to stretch and think about what your day holds, and if it’s mainly work, try to fit in some time to get outside. Fresh air, even in misty, rainy, drizzly nights is worth it. Head out for even ten minutes and find something beautiful to gaze at. Even when that thunderstorm we had ripped half the beautiful hued leaves from their tenuous hold on their branches, I opened the door to the back porch just to hear the rain lashing the trees, and hear thunder rolling eastward.

Coffee in my new autumn themed mug makes me smile, no matter the hour.

If we’re forced to be indoors again more than we like, books and films are lovely companions. Are you lucky enough to have a piano or guitar in your place? Maybe it’s time to teach yourself how to be musical. Yes, I see the images of the celebrities who have chosen drastic weight loss or new plastic surgery during this pandemic, but what fun is not eating when we have the time to knead bread dough, slowly, almost sensuously by hand, and then not eat a slice slathered in butter? We don’t need an exercise in punishment or too much denial. We need to enjoy the ebb and flow of our days as they come to us.

For one fine hour, this orange tree shared her beauty with the sunset after a weekend of grey skies filled with rain.

We need to summon the patience we all have inside us, so when se do interact with the world, we can be kind and pleasant. My husband and I decided to hand out full size candy to whoever wanted some treats last night, and we brought down some whiskey and tumblers with us. Adult treats were needed to fortify ourselves against the chill. We offered a wee dram of whiskey to the parents taking their kids out, and we met so many of our neighbors in the back of the subdivision.

They laughed at the surprise treat, and called out “Cheers!” to us as we all took large sips together. The kids were plenty busy choosing the perfect candy bar, and suddenly trick or treat had turned into a meet and greet. I saw friends from at least a mile away, and we caught up as the full moon rose up behind the bare arms of the trees in my yard. We were socially distanced, used plastic cups for the neighbors and even in 2020, we decided to make a night of fun.

Well, look. I did have a candy bar with my scotch! Caught me.
On an old table I found for a future project, we started to set up our treats. No tricks allowed.

I took a walk through the streets before the trick or treating began, and while some streets had fire pits full of wood, just ready to be lit at 6:00, with chairs and tables and candy at the ready, I was actually shocked at the number of older folks (meaning my age) who closed up their homes and turned out the lights. Just a few years ago they welcomed the kids, because their own children were begging for candy, but it made me sad to see them turn into “those” old people, who were willing to spread fun and happiness just for a time that suited them.

Why not be those older folks who make the world more joyous? Just set out a bowl of candy. The kids know what to do. Are my neighbors too poor for this? Don’t make me laugh. On my old street we’d all sit on our porches and yell out to one another, and on the warm years, we would visit and watch for the kids making their way down our street. This is what I mean by spreading happiness. It makes us feel good. Yeah, maybe it’s easier to curl up with Ben and Jerry’s (again) and watch Halloween (again), rather than wearing masks (for Covid 19 this time), sitting far from the proffered candy bars, and washing hands when it was time to head back inside, but where’s the beauty in hiding away? Turn on a light and fill a bowl with beautiful, yummy treats!

Enjoying the sent of a new candle on a chilly evening.

When I write about spreading warmth, I’m saying let’s make Thanksgiving about so much more than stuffing ourselves into a coma. Let’s tell our family or our dog what we are thankful for this year. Let’s not be so scared of the pandemic, and I understand since I have a compromised immune system, but let’s grab the rest of 2020 and make it good. Make your Christmas beautiful. Knit, bake, sing carols and enjoy the quiet this year offers us. We can have a Black Friday showdown and shove others out of our way next year. (Kidding. I don’t go near a store on Black Friday. Never!)

Dreaming of our scheduled trip to Scotland in front of a warm fire.

This year is holding our her hands, hoping you’ll find some beauty in the changes. Let’s enjoy this. Even the small things like the scent of a burning candle. A child’s delight at getting candy for free! Being thankful for food on our tables, and sending food to the pantries where others will make a Thanksgiving dinner from what we share. Let’s be lavish. On them. Makes you feel warm inside, doesn’t it? Maybe 2020 is teaching us some beautiful lessons after all.

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

Until next time,

Deanna

Leaves falling in the night…

Autumn has been sending down little showers of withered leaves this autumn, because it’s been so dry. I wondered if I see any red, gold or orange trees lit from within, showing their true colors, and I did. Last evening before the cold front blew through, I did step out to take some pics of the colors, and then while watching The Haunting of Bly Manor, lightning and thunder arrived for a properly spooky experience, and then the wind howled. I didn’t know it, but my beautiful leaves were shaken loose in the storm.

The leaves as seen from my back yard last evening…

I woke up early, for me, and had to run around almost all day. I decided due to the sunshine, I would head out and find a gorgeous row of orange glowing trees and snap some pics, but I called a friend and told her I couldn’t find any. She said she had been thinking of me yesterday since she had been north and the fall colors amazed her. The only problem was they had all been torn away in the windy storm last night. All my beautiful leaves were gone!

Some changing leaves by the new fire pit…

I asked my friend what was I going to do, and she laughed and said to look at all the leaves on the ground! She meant it, but all I noticed as I walked on the trail were brown curled-up dead leaves. Still damp from the deluge, but the color had changed and they looked sad and bereft. We decided that in another week or two, the next bunch of trees would change colors, and hopefully I would get a a chance to go out and enjoy the fiery hues, before another wild storm decided to blow in. Since the weather has been interesting, I’m going to make a point of finding a lovely colorful road, and the next sunny day I’m going to head out there and feast on autumn.

On the bike trail today, sunny, and see the leaves to the side? Yeah, me too!

I decided in the middle of running around to stop at the bike trail, which is a misnomer, since walkers, runners and bikers all share this trail. It wasn’t too crowded, though for a Tuesday at 4:00, I thought the trail had plenty of people enjoying the afternoon warmth. October is a surprise gift, with some days soaring into the 80’s and other days feeling cold and damp. We all know a beautiful day when it’s here, and we emerge, soaking up the sunlight, and enjoying the cicadas and crickets who haven’t felt the sting of a frost just yet. It’s coming, we all know that, but I love their summer songs so much, that I’ll enjoy their music for as long as they’re around.

A warm fire at the farm this past weekend…

I drift through October mainly content to spend time inside, but this year I’ve been out more often than usual. We decided to have a fire outside at the cabin, and while I savored a bit of scotch, we all chose our brand of brew and told stories in the dark. Funny ones. And because my son-in-law went to high school with our daughter, we plied him with questions about the kids in his year and what he thought of the ones we knew. We laughed about embarrassing parents, and I told them one day their son would feel just like that. Thankfully, we laughed about that day being far off.

These days their son has taken to my husband, and he even says his name, though it sounds like Bup Bup. I don’t have a name, really, though I think the way grandpa and grandson have bonded is a sweet thing. They both love John Deere tractor rides, and that’s something this Grandma doesn’t do. I read and sing to him, and my daughter takes him out for runs, so maybe liking his Bup Bup and being tossed skyward for a few seconds before my husband’s strong hands catch him again is just what this boy needs. Time enough for grandmas and their chocolate chip cookies later.

My keys with my gym card, and souvenirs from Charleston, SC, London and Paris…all favorite places.

I realize I didn’t tell you a story. So I’ll make this quick. See those car keys? I have my gym card in hand, and thought it was funny, since it’s been years since I stepped in there. But I have the card, because maybe I will walk on that treadmill, but on a day like today, walking inside is a shame. Being outdoors, outside, even with all the leaves tossed to the ground, was a blessing. I held Paris and London in my hand. I take them with me to remind me that the world is small, and going to both places was a gift. How so? I’ll tell you.

I found orange leaves and had to show you…and that blue, blue sky…

My first trip to London came with a week in Paris too. My parents wanted to take my fifteen year old son on a trip to those cities, and well, there was room for me if I would pay for my airfare. Would I!? They said I was the only one of their kids who had not been to Europe, so it was my turn, and my husband was happy for me. I hung out with my mom and dad, and my son and I shared times that we both remember to this day. He still talks about our first evening in Paris, where we walked in search of our dinner, and found it at a small outdoor cafe. Amazing food, and a beautiful night. London was fun, and I have been there since.

My sweet Willie Nelson on the back porch today…

The next time I landed in London was with my husband. One week running around London and then a blissful week in Munich. We ate fish and chips at many pubs. What can I say, except we love that kind of dinner, and yes to the mushy peas. But a full English breakfast is too much for me. My husband said it was divine, but I’ll take coffee with cream and wait for lunch. I laugh because I didn’t use the right converter for my curling iron, and it fried right up, so I begged my husband to go out and buy me one. I wondered if he had found a pub and decided to stay there for three hours. Turns out the English say, curling tongs. Turns out, the language barrier exists even for English people speaking English in Britain!

My back porch, in the autumn light. And with the pandemic, our visitors tend to hang out in this space. Coffee with my neighbors tomorrow. Right here…

I loved going to those cities with my husband. I’m happy to tramp around any place on earth with him, and hopefully Scotland will be a go next spring. We had fun in both cities, and wherever we go together we laugh. Walking through Westminster is always sobering. All those famous historic people buried under the stones on which we stepped made us thoughtful. And then to wander into a pub, ordering a gin and tonic, in the city known for its gin was an afternoon delight. He found some excellent bourbons that cannot be found in the States. Wonder what we’re going to search for in Scotland when it gets too warm? I’ll let you guess.

I’m happy here at home with him too, puttering around today, sweeping up the errant leaves that blew into my porch. He took care of climbing into the attic, checking for mice. Then we settled in for more of watching Bly Manor. We have a tradition of watching mysteries and scary stuff in October. I think traditions are a good thing. November will bring its own kind of traditions, but for now, let’s focus on October. On today.

I hope your trees still have gorgeous bold yellow, orange and crimson red leaves hanging in there. Slowly falling to the ground. Enjoy them. Eat a caramel apple too. And pick out a fat pumpkin for later this month.

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

Until next time,

Deanna

Sweet September Blue…

Night sweeps in earlier each evening, and the sudden change to a chilly house in the mornings is a surprise to me. September is usually still a warm month here, but it won’t be for the next ten days or so I’ve read. I decided to embrace autumn, stockpiling autumn candles that remind me of the woods ablaze with color, when only the pine trees kept their steadfast green. I miss the woods up north at this time of year, but trips aren’t really in vogue these days, so I’ll stay where some trees are shrugging off their dusty, too dry leaves, knowing others won’t turn vermillion until November.

I’m nostalgic for the days when every leaf changed at the same moment. That doesn’t happen here, so I create autumn in my home and my heart. Today I found the largest potted orange mums I have ever seen and bought them right away, adding some cute pumpkins with tall, thin stems that will look nice on the porch. I’m not ready to give into fall completely, and I adore those brave crickets who manage to stave off the frosts and live to tell their stories until November.

A cozy outdoor fire at our Kentucky farm last weekend…

Are there rules to September? Am I allowed to sleep with the windows open, only to turn on the furnace in the morning? Just for a half-hour. I savor each season as it’s handed out, which is so unlike my impetuous and impatient youth, where I waded through autumn and winter as if they were to be endured and not enjoyed. Not so now. Even those long January nights can carry warmth, love and laughter.

So I’m pulling you with me, into opening your eyes to the feast laid before us, or the one to come. Yes, the sun slips lower now, but that sweet September blue is back, and oh how the white wisps of clouds look perfectly content to sail high in the sky now that the haze has diminished. I know. It’s permanently hazy in the West, and I don’t want to hear of a hurricane. I need to know why the west is burning and can we please make it stop? The last time I was in the Northwest fires blazed, and none of us saw the mountains surrounding us. They stayed obscured, and I felt like I walked through apocalyptic days with the sun barely penetrating the daylight gloom.

Having fun playing with my candles at our Ohio home…

We can find happiness even then. Maybe not outdoors, but maybe so. I never saw the mountains on that trip, but I marveled at the gorgeous gardens, the homes built on hilltops, the thrumming of the Native Americans in the evenings just across the bay, and the shops that welcomed me as I made my way across the main streets. And did you know I stumbled across the most magical thing there? A tiny library for free. It was a very little cupboard on a post, telling people to take a book or leave one to share.

If that’s not magic, I don’t know what is. Books. I love words and the way authors place them perfectly into sentences that haunt me for years. Words flavor my life, and I carry some books, read long ago, in my heart forever. Seeing that perfect little invitation to take a book, and right next to the most beautiful garden perched against a simple, humble one-story home tells me magic exists anywhere. We just have to look for it.

Placing my weekly dose of flowers in the kitchen, where we all can enjoy them…

Even in this season of smoke. Even when the weather is much cooler than anticipated. Even when a hurricane brings too much rain. Especially then, don’t you think? We can find pockets of pretty in the middle of almost anything. Every sport under the sun is being played at the same time, after months of nothing, to the point where we watched two people playing corn hole on ESPN. Now we have a feast, and isn’t it fun? I love football, baseball and basketball, but my hockey-long family is gorging on that. Every sport is trying to make it work, and I am mesmerized at how resourceful we humans can be when hard pressed!

Sweet sunset evenings in the country, after visiting the neighbor’s horses…

One summer when I lived up north in a place called Wauwatosa, I spent much of my spare time painting the trim around the windows of our bungalow. One day I decided to have rice for lunch, so I set it to simmer when I spied the paint and paintbrush waiting for me by the kitchen’s back door. I picked up my toddler and took her outside to play while I methodically applied brilliant white paint to the freshly scraped wood trim.

While I perched precariously on that ladder, I heard the somewhat far off sound of a car alarm or siren of some sort. After five minutes or so of the relentless siren’s scream, I wondered if the source might be coming from inside my house. Was I ever shocked to discover the kitchen smoke alarm blaring as smoke billowed from the pot of rice! My self-diagnosed ADD had kicked in, and I had forgotten all about that rice. I had been in such a hurry to finish the painting, because September had arrived and I knew the number of warm days were winding down. Rain and cold typically took over by the end of that month.

Seeded eucalyptus and a baby pumpkin…

I spent that gorgeous afternoon opening every window, turning on the fans not yet placed in storage, and I scrubbed the pot until I realized I had no choice but to throw it out. In the evening when my husband came home, he walked in the door and started laughing. “Burnt rice again?” was all he said, and I shamefully nodded my head yes. It’s family lore now, all the times I forgot about the rice on the stove and scorched it instead. Finally, one day my husband bought me a rice cooker, and I’ve never burnt another pot of rice again. Just don’t ask about the time I forgot about the bacon. And I did.

September brings an urgency to complete so many outdoor tasks, and back then I spent my poorer days painting. Now it’s more about making sure we have wood stacked, and bulbs planted and leaves raked, but here I have until the end of October to finish. Somehow all the Septembers of my younger years have imprinted a more hurried approach, and any chance to be outside is refreshing and welcome.

A bouquet of September blooms and grasses…

I’m sending you our blue skies from the Midwest, the Ohio River Valley as they say here. Grab a fistful of flowers and bring them inside, burn those summer or autumn candles (inside, of course), hit up a movie at the drive-in, savor the simplicity of vanilla soft serve ice cream. Play your favorite music until it surrounds and imbues your mood. I always love The Boys of Summer and play it endlessly each autumn. Take care of you right now. Others always, but in the middle of everything or nothing, remember you matter. Find the beauty in you. It’s there. Then find the magic out there, waiting for you.

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

Until next time,

Deanna

Of sunshine and laughter…

Summer still lingers, even though I spied the first mums at the grocery store yesterday, and some faux pumpkins too. I enjoy summer’s long days, where the angle of sunshine reaches out to places usually hidden in shadows, but I have to admit I fully embrace autumn. It wasn’t always this way. I lived life loving half the year, and spent the next six months is a purgatory of sorts, where I waited for spring. Everyday brought an extra minute or two of sunlight, and a return to living my best life, though I loved the occasional March thaw.

Most of my life I lived in the North, as in Upstate NY, land of snowy days starting in October and running until March. Did I mention the grey days that accompanied those snows? Then I lived in Wisconsin for twenty-two years, and yes I counted. Cold. Bitter, freezing cold to the point where I watched in shock as frost climbed the walls in my bedroom, and later in my own home, spreading across the back door and hallway. That’s cold. I counted the days until spring, and then I opened windows and slipped on my shorts when it hit sixty degrees. But then we moved. Seven hours south of north.

Cows at the farm next door…

That made all the difference. We still have all four seasons, but summer lingers until the end of September, when I’m ready for evenings where the chill curls around my legs, and adding a blanket on the bed feels good, even if I do keep the windows open. Then bring it on! Mums, pumpkins, and nights spent on the back porch listening to the creek talk to itself. The owls hoot in the evening, and I start to bring out throws for nights spent on the deck, watching the Harvest Moon sail high in the sky. Did you know the Harvest Moon is in September? October’s full moon is called the Hunter’s Moon. Interesting….

My copper comes out in autumn. It pairs with autumn colors so well…

I fell in love with autumn one day when dusting my parents’ room. I looked out the back window and saw the forest bordering our yard drenched in crimson, yellow, bright orange and burnt umber punctuated by the evergreens. I don’t know how long I watched the sunlight spotlighting the trees, and as soon as my Saturday chores were over, I ran outside and marveled at the lightening blues in the sky. Who knew the sky changed colors with the seasons? I had no idea until I turned nine. When did the world around you become noticeable, a presence who showed herself on some days, when others were shrouded in weeping, sodden clouds. Did you notice? Do you? Now?

The tombstones from over 100 years ago, on our land…

Yes, I’m lucky. I moved to a more temperate home. But I learned so much from being in the north. Things that might warm you through even if you’re basking in oceanside breezes come January. The people in the north are friendly, once you get to know them. You’ll be invited to soak in their hot tub, as I was, drinking wine on a frigid night, with the only issue trying to get home soaking wet and hoping to not turn into an icicle. Yeah, I didn’t properly think that one through, and she lived 400 yards away from me. Northerners get things done. It doesn’t matter the temp or if the sun sets close to 4:00, so you go to work in the dark and come home in the dark, and then if you’re lucky, you take a chilling 5K run…in the dark. We just do it.

the house last year….

They embrace cold, snow and laugh easily. I once attended a Green Bay Packers playoff game in January at Lambeau and froze. The people all around us laughed and cracked jokes, even though out team was losing to the Giants! They offered me hand warmers, but even I had to laugh when I told them I had hand warmers in my boot, mittens, and across my back. I still shivered. But I loved that even through a disappointing loss, the fans weren’t cussing, throwing beer or yelling awful things about the referee’s parentage. Being kind is a whole thing in the frozen tundra. I do miss the warmth of friendship carrying us through the cold and dark.

an impromptu country bouquet gathered in late summer….

Finding happiness where we are is essential. We have to make out peace with our place. I am thrilled to be where we are now, and yes, people are friendly here, but the summer days can be so hot that it seems like people spend their summer hidden inside. We learn how to enjoy the water, take walks in the cooler shade and these days we don’t have as much to distract us, so I think a whole world is rediscovering the pleasures of home. We can garden, even in a city. We can step outside and drink to the end of the day and a beautiful evening. We have the power over how we think.

Mostly. Sometimes medicine is needed. But if we’re doing fairly well, we can enjoy every drop of summer fun, listening to the cicadas and crickets. I love to light candles any night of the year, and I’m loving the fresh and citrus scents. Have you had a fish taco yet? Drank scotch neat? Binge watched a show with a lover, friend or cat? Had popcorn for dinner, heavy on the butter? Dipped your toes into a pond, ocean or creek? You know we have a creek here! Swoon. That’s my waterfront property. And I laugh with my husband, because the life by an ocean is out of reach now. And that’s a good thing.

the woods are lovely any time of year…

I loved, loved the ocean so much. I could go out in the waves and play in the turbulent waters of the Outer Banks, riptides and all. I took my kids to the pool every day each summer, and then I found out I had lupus. No big deal, right? Well, I wound up being severely affected by the sun. Sunlight makes me sick. So I’m enjoying autumn a lot more. Summer isn’t the best season for me, so I read a lot and emerge in the evenings. And nights! I’m all about loving the night. I could stay up until dawn. Seriously.

taken from high up in a tree on our farm….

That joke about having a creek as mine is funny and perfect! I made my peace with my new reality. Now I love the ponds at the farm and we have a creek there too. One that the neighbor’s cows love to cross to get to our fields. My doctor told me to embrace vacationing up north in the lands of my youth. Maine, Vermont, and the Adirondacks. And Scotland! My dream come true. Oh pandemic go away! We all want to move about the globe freely.

An August sunset is savored….

I want you to feel happy. I’m not thrilled about being stuck inside over summer, but that’s my reality. I’ve made my peace with it, and the north would be a good place for me, but my family is here now. It’s okay. Can you make peace with your reality? Can we find a way to enjoy where we are, whatever season it is, city or country, a pandemic or not, rich or poor, sick or well (you know where I land on this one), alone or with family, moving forward or staying still? I think we can. Quick! Make your list of things to do before summer slips silently away.

And then? Decide to make the most of the autumn. You might find it’s your new favorite season. It’s mine. And I’ll tell you a secret. I’ve been yearning to burn a raked pile of fallen leaves for decades. I know, it’s bad, so I won’t. Plus I have images of starting a huge fire, so I found a new….candle, yes, you know me by now, I love candles, and this promises to smell like a leaf pile burning. Enjoy the rest of August. Wherever you are.

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

Until next time,

Deanna

Letting go of the safe…

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After midnight, with the back door slightly ajar, just enough to hear crickets and cicadas enjoying the summer night, I feel content. My cat is out there on the porch, enjoying himself, and I’m ready to write. Properly. I’ve been thinking about school. August is when most of my schools started, though as a girl in New York, we began around September 10th. Not sure why, but when I moved to Dayton, the school year began toward the end of August, and I learned how hot a classroom could be, and wished they had waited until September to begin. All of my schools after that began in August after that. No matter where we lived.

My last kid is starting his fourth college in a week, so I’ve been thinking about college days.

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I have a story for you that I think you’ll like. In my sophomore year, I left one college to get away from a boyfriend, who I felt defined me. Too much. At my new university, I navigated my classes, made good friends, lived 800 miles from home (still), and I worked making pizzas and serving wine (sometimes a little bit too much for myself), but it was a ten hour shift, so Lambrusco made it enjoyable. I learned to live without the boyfriend, but I missed my girlfriends, and so I went back to the other university for the second semester.

I gave in to my dad. Accounting instead of theater or music. He was paying, so I obliged. The man has two Master’s degrees, so I finally listened to him. On the first day of classes in snowy, cold Wisconsin, I stood at the door of Accounting 101, and being on time meant the only row available was the front. I scooted to the far side, and yes, the boyfriend decided to take his accounting class with me. We sat together, smushed right up against the professor’s desk. Not fun, but all business majors had to take this class. Had.

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Two minutes after the start of class, two guys showed up and hovered at the door, looking, searching for a seat. The only two left were next to me. I saw the boy with bedroom eyes, green maybe, but he just glanced at me as his friend took the seat right next to me. I liked how he looked, but the professor had begun. It was a tough class. I studied a lot that semester, well I had to, and I discovered Mr. Green Eyes liked studying in the library too.

My roommates were Marketing majors which I believe means they majored in going out drinking every night of the week. I never once made it to Dime Taps at Mitchell’s. I had to study in a quiet space, and the library became my new spot. Green Eyes was there as much as I was, so I finally sauntered (well, I probably loped over, but the beauty of memories is changing them to suit us) over to his table. Green Eyes smiled up at me, but those eyes, with laughter hiding behind them, were blue. I asked for help with some obscure problem, but I spent the whole time wondering if he had a girlfriend.

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Turned out Blue Eyes was free. I still had the boyfriend from high school, though due to his cheating on me at least a dozen times when my parents (and I) moved from Milwaukee to Syracuse. He cheated while I waitressed and took a run each night, because I knew no one there. I thought the boyfriend and I would marry, but in my sophomore year, I told him I was now taking time to survey the scenery. Meaning other guys. He didn’t like it, but those were my rules at that time.

I flirted shamelessly with Blue Eyes, and I knew his name now too. He said he had seen my name on the homework I had to pass down to the end of my row in class. He noticed I had a boyfriend, so I explained about New York, my high school love and cheating, and somehow we began to easily converse. I liked his name. I liked him so very much, too. I knew since the boyfriend had decided I was his, after sampling others for two straight summers, that I would have to initiate any meeting with Blue Eyes. I kept the boyfriend, because it had been three years, and he was my security blanket, and I still liked him. Yet…

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I set it up so well. I told Blue Eye’s roommate that he should meet me at a certain bar where they had dancing on Fridays, and to look for the blonde from his class, if he was interested in me at all. I didn’t set it up with Blue Eyes directly, because what if he gave me a flat out no? When I turned up at the bar with my friend for support, he was dancing with his old girlfriend from high school. What is it about our high school romances, that they follow us out of the corridors of lockers, and stay with us long after graduation?

I turned away to leave, because clearly Blue Eyes wasn’t there to meet me. Suddenly I heard him say, “You can’t leave. You haven’t met me yet.” My roommate smiled and gave me space. Gave us space. We still don’t know what happened to his ex that he was dancing with.

We chatted and danced, and later, after a slice of pizza at two a.m., we walked to his dorm and talked. All night. Nothing else. But we had so much in common. It felt uncanny, how similar we were, about our days in high school, and what we did, who we were then, and where we were trying to go now.

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Do you believe in destiny? I have to, because no other explanation exists. I should have gone home to Syracuse to finish my schooling at that prestigious university. But I was angry and tired of moving, so I stayed behind. And our last names are such that I usually sat next to him in our classes. Accounting is not a popular major for a reason. I was Engle. He was right next to me. Eppers.

When I graduated university, I took my number and climbed the hill searching for my place among the E’s. I finally found it, and who should pop up but Blue Eyes. Eppers. I graduated five seconds before he did, though he is in my formal graduation photo, due to him being next. Yes. We sat side by side, and I guess our parents thought that was cute. Eppers had become my boyfriend, and I had left behind the security of a boyfriend who wanted to marry me, but only after two summers of cheating that hurt my soul. I gave him up. And went forward with Blue Eyes. With destiny. With hope.

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I chose Blue Eyes. My heart chose first, and then my head followed. And do you know, I had to take the CPA exam next to my very serious boyfriend? Engle. Eppers. Fate? Yes. But making the leap from the blanket security of high school, which reminded me of when my family still lived close by, to taking a chance on a man I met in class? That took courage. For me. I fell in love with his eyes first. Sexy. Kind. Bemused. Flirty. Funny. And then I decided to live in Wisconsin after graduation, because I loved him.

I jumped. Into the unknown. I had no idea that we would marry. Blue Eyes was smart and handsome and had so many opportunities to cheat or to change to another woman. I took a chance on a forever with him.

My point in your happiness comes down to this: Do you stay with the familiar, the comfortable just to feel safe? What if your happiness means you have to take a jump into the unknown, not having any idea how it will turn out? I learned to jump. To trust myself first, which I did by going to a different college to “find” my true self all on my own. And once found, I did hang onto the safe, for a time. But oh! the happiness that lies at the end of possibilities is worth a jump.

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To be happy, I think we need to know ourselves. And when we do, we know which way to go. When to jump, and when to pause. When to move forward with confidence, even if we don’t feel it yet, or when to wait. Happiness arrives at the least expected moments. I willingly gave up living by my family to spend a life with Blue Eyes in Wisconsin. I made the right choice. I’m happy with him. More than happy. Blissed out. Overwhelmed that God set me on a path to meet a remarkably gifted, intelligent, funny, sarcastic, sexy man who would be the father of my children.

Happiness. How do we capture it? How do you find your happiness? Is it fate? Destiny? Maybe not, but I know you have to sometimes choose the less traveled path. A path that might not make sense. Blue Eyes made me so happy that even though I lived sixteen hours away from home, I made a home with him. My soul found a home in him. With Blue Eyes.

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Trust me. It was hard to explain to the old boyfriend that all his cheating had hurt my soul and nibbled away at my confidence. How could I even imagine walking down an aisle to that? Our hearts need safe havens where we can rest. Mine is with him. Blue eyes. I handed him my heart on a January night at his place. He knows when. I chose to make my shelter with him on a late March day before spring break. And I waited for him to propose.

When the day arrived and I walked down the aisle, feeling awkward as I made my way to the front of the church, suddenly I saw him. I could walk confidently now. To him. He had my heart, and now I was simply handing it to him in a public manner, in front of all the people we loved.

Friends, happiness is real and out there. You have to let go sometimes to find what you want. And need. Let your heart find rest, and may we enjoy this summer, grabbing at moments that bring us bliss. Maybe it’s your turn to jump. Time to take that chance.

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

Until next time,

Deanna

Looking back with eyes wide open…

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I’m just going to post some of my latest pics, but they don’t follow the narrative today. I just like the pics because they lighten the mood. Today is about our past. Where we’ve been, understanding it, and using it to move forward.

My best summer was in 1978. My family moved frequently, but this summer was my second in Northern Virginia, and I had friends. A best friend, who would be the closest friend of my life. I loved waking up, knowing another day at the pool beckoned, and being thirteen, and waiting to be fourteen before school started back up, meant I was into boys. Crushing on them pretty much.

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I fell for my best friend’s older brother. One year above me in school, he had black tousled hair, tall in the way freshman boys tend to be, and he played electric guitar. My heart hummed around him, and since I was learning how to properly smoke cigarettes at her house, he was there too laughing at my coughing fits! I think my mother let me run free that summer, to make up for all the moves and summers of complete boredom.

So I spent all day at the pool. Starting at noon, swimming and playing four square, I listened to the songs playing loudly overhead, and they are imprinted on my soul. I instantly know where I lived when I hear a song, and any music from the summer of ’78 is on my phone. I loved that time so much. I learned about love. I cut my teeth on “Blake”. I think I was his first crush also, and my bestie wasn’t thrilled, but….

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We would all head home for dinner, when all our fathers who worked for the government came home, late, again. Around six thirty. None of us knew what our dads did, because it was all “classified”. That’s DC for you. I’d swallow dinner in ten minutes and head back to the pool until closing at nine. And we’d linger afterward, some of us talking, not wanting to go home to parents who asked too many questions.

On a night thick with stars hanging down on us, Blake brushed his hand down my bare, tanned arm. He said quietly to me, so no on else could hear, “Your skin…. It’s so soft.” I wanted him to run his hands all over my arms, legs, face… But my best friend was still there, so he smiled at me, and I floated home. Turns out, boys like soft skin, but I wasn’t sure of anything at that time. Only that I wished we could date.

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Blake and I would run into each other often, but my best friend had told me I had to choose either her or her brother. They were so close that she couldn’t handle me dating him and hanging with her at the same time. I chose her. I needed a best friend, and we had so much fun that summer. I might sound like a delinquent, but I got good grades and preformed in community theatre and sang. I always sang.

And I would actually sit on the swing at the far end of our backyard, thick with the overgrowth of bushes and trees so close to the creek, and I hoped no one would hear me, as I swung and sang love songs. I loved Blake, and we talked so much at his house. It was difficult to set aside my feelings for him. But I tried. For friendships’s sake. I kissed a different boy for my first kiss ever, ¬†and I don’t even know his name. It wasn’t Blake.

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I moved the following summer. To Wisconsin. I hated that first summer so much that my mom sent me on a trip to meet my old best friend at summer’s end and stay with her family at Rehoboth Beach. I hugged my friend, and we caught up on life. She had fallen for a boy back home. And one night, Blake asked me to meet him on the beach. I had grown a bit taller, and I had the lithe body of a teen who ran three miles every day for fun, and I was just realizing how to navigate the world of boys.

We met at the beach, and I finally tasted my first real kiss. A kiss from a boy who held my heart in his. He knew that too. Blake used to stop by my house to drop off something my bestie wanted me to have, and he’d find me playing piano and singing alone. He’s pause and listen for while. We had shared music. At the beach, we talked and kissed more. Looking out at the dark ocean, I knew Blake would fall out of my life, so I decided to find my friend, shook out all the sand clinging to him and me, and I never looked back with any regret. Well, not much.

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We learn to love at our own pace, but the teen years are fraught with falling in love so easily, at least for me, and then hurting so much when my love was rejected and tossed aside. I went on to love others before I found my husband sitting two seats away from me in a class. Isn’t life about love? Aren’t we who give our hearts to another blessed? I look back on that best summer ever and realize I had great summers with every boy who had my heart. Four. And I married number four.

While our lives are in a state of suspension, it might be sweet to look back at our lives, picking out the good parts, and trying to feel a slice of what we felt then. Music does it for me. Always will. It’s difficult to look forward with certainty, but the past is there, and maybe there are lessons we learned, and we can remember the people who strolled into our lives for a time, making us who we are today.

Can you do that, for fun? Play songs from your high school years. Go back and laugh at your first forays into having a crush and acting silly. We were learning. We had to start small, because by the time we hit twenty or so, those people we loved might be our forever love. Mine was. I met him at nineteen. The man I’ve been with for thirty-six years now. Go back. Re-read letters. Love yourself. Love the paths you took to get you to who you are now. And then look forward, facing uncertainty, knowing you made it through high school, so you can do this.

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You’ve got this. Crazy times are here, but we can face it with love for others, unafraid, because we know we’re tough enough to deal with it and still feel happy. We’re learning that the little, small moments in life are the ones that count. Find them. And hold onto them.

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

Until next time,

Deanna