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

Of owls and other things…

Almost every day, while I’m out on the back porch, I hear a diurnal owl hooting, and I feel a kinship of sorts with this daytime owl. He also calls out in the early hours of night and I’m relieved to hear another call back, but most of the time the poor, mixed up animal makes a ruckus calling out in the daytime, all alone, with no answer.

I’m a night owl, but the world operates on early birds, and I envy those admirable souls who happily rise at dawn and power through their mornings with one cup of tea or a protein bar.

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At the farm, I’ll sit out on the front porch, carrying a large mug of coffee, blinking at the bright sun. Somedays it might be ten o’clock, while other days noon approaches. I’m embarrassed to tell you that. I need lots of sleep, but I adore the night. I did the whole rise at dawn for twenty years. My children had to wake up at six, and I would go out for a quick three mile run while they showered. Later in the day, once I had gathered my wits about me, I’d think about taking a quick run because I hadn’t yet worked out.

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I completely forgot the morning run! Essentially, I was running while asleep. I’d go to bed by eleven, and volunteer at the school, helping children learn to read, and at nine in the morning, I was falling asleep to the drone of a lone voice making sense of the letters on a page. Madness! I don’t fit into this world. I tried for thirty years, and finally have succumbed to my natural clock. Just like that owl who loves the daytime.

I wonder if he/she feels out of step and somewhat lonely. I know, these pics don’t fully explain my life. I love being at the farm, only I’m the last one to join it. And the flowers? Well, whenever I create a new bouquet, I like to gaze at the colors and profusion of colors as I wash the dishes. It’s a bit jumbled and wild, but it suits me.

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When I was ten years old, I’d go to bed rather late. I think my nocturnal mother sent me up by ten o’clock, but sleep didn’t find me easily. I’d gaze down through my window at the neighbors next door, still in their kitchen, talking to kids who hadn’t been sent to sleep. And at eleven I’d turn on my radio to listen to an hour of mystery stories. After that, I’d often wait well past midnight passed until I succumbed to sleep.

Trust me. I wished I could drop off into dreams when my head touched the soft pillow, but it didn’t. When the genetic testing indicated I had a gene for insomnia, I laughed at the doctor. I figured that one out years ago. I could try to be an early bird, but I never caught the worm. I was too busy swilling down shots of espresso.

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There. See that? A beautiful sunrise? No. the gloaming. The time when the sun has set but the light hangs in the sky, suspended for an hour in the summer. Almost daily I try to say good night to the sun. I’m trying to accept my place in the world. And what can this possibly have to do with happiness? Well, accepting who we are is essential. We must come to terms with ourselves, embracing the good parts and trying to do away with the bad. That’s responsible and noteworthy, right?

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If we embrace who we are at the core, but try to change the bad, I think that’s a good thing. It leads to happiness. I fought my night owl ways for most of my life, thinking I was bad and sloppy and lazy. But that wasn’t bad. I write best at night. Fact. Words flow through my hands and I don’t even think much about what is coming out of me. So, yes, I welcome the sun as it lowers and evening hovers nearby. My time is coming. I sit on the back porch and drink in the light, knowing I haven’t yet done a full day’s work. No shame. No blame.

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See the lights that turn on at dusk? I accept who I am. Finally. I’ll bet there are aspects of you that you wish you could change, but it’s such a part of you that it feels impossible. Can’t you finally accept yourself? I know women who have starved themselves, working out twice a day to slim down, and all that work doesn’t make them happy. When my friends start eating again and actually drink a latte when we sit and visit, I can see their joie de vivre has returned!

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Yes. me, drinking a wee dram of whisky at night. I perch on the bed, reading or writing and sip some good whisky, though really I’m a scotch, neat please, kind of woman. And my husband sits outside in the humid night, smoking a cigar, listening to country music and we’re both content. We’ve spent all our words on the car ride down, and dined together. I’ll visit him and listen to the whip-o-wills calling and then I make my way inside to enjoy the rest of my evening.

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The point is this: accept yourself. Love your eccentricities that make you who you are. I know an older man who works at engraving from midnight to five a.m. He’s fabulously talented and turns out the most minute yet beautiful creations. He owns who he is. Can’t we all do that? In the U.S., I think many of us suffer from FOMO, and we also want to belong, to be doing what others are doing. Sticking out, or being slightly eccentric is frowned upon. That bothers me. A lot. (See my coffee? Nothing makes sense without it!)

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That photo? Yes, it’s Harry Potter. I love watching Harry Potter on the television, even though I’ve seen the films twenty times. Who cares? I’m delighted by hearing a network is having a “Harry Potter weekend” and I mix up cookie dough, and have my Starbucks at hand and a warm cookie in the other while watching parts of every movie…again. I feel cozy, happy and content. I’m learning to embrace the introspective parts of me too. What do you want to embrace that makes you unique?

That’s the road to happiness, I believe. Understanding yourself, how you fit into the world and making it work. For you. Your family. Your world. If we’re fundamentally kind and nice, then the rest is fluff. If we work hard and are trying to be decent people, the rest can fall into place. Those parts that make you who you are. Acceptance. I believe faith in God is essential, but many don’t choose that path. Okay, then. You can still love who you are. What you do, how much you weigh, how old you are, where you live, and how to make it through this pandemic nicely. Let’s be true to ourselves and yet, be kind.

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

Until next time….

Deanna

 

 

 

Summer breeze blue…

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Summer conjures up spellbinding clouds wafting on a summer breeze, and I stop to wonder, wishing I could find a patch of grass to lie down in, bringing along time to watch those cumulus clouds piling high in the western sky. No worries about dinner, ironing, or cleaning the bathroom. Okay, so dinner is something to contemplate, but some nights I have popcorn and peanuts for dinner and call it a night.

 

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Summer breezes bring the sound of lawn mowers, and the smell of the grass, freshly shorn, and I remember all the years of childhood, where the perfect dummer day was to open all three bedroom windows, lie on my bed and read and read. The breeze filled my room with the smell of the new mown grass, and my mom would ask me to shut the windows because the air conditioning was running. I still need open windows, summer, fall, early winter. It makes me quite happy!

This week was to be our week in an oceanfront house on Folly Beach, but we decided to put it off until next year, so I’m enjoying this week in a different way. By having some family over yesterday, and plans to go out to dinner on a beautiful patio enjoying one of the best wine selections around, and going on an antique hunt. I know I’m going to sit on the shaded porch in a minute and read until evening. Bliss.

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Believe it or not, but when we moved into this house last year, I felt the summer blues descending, and it’s because we are so far off the road, that I felt out of touch and disjointed. After nineteen years of being squashed between a neighbor having a pool party all summer long, and a lovely British couple who took tea in their garden, I suddenly didn’t have anyone around. Turns out right past the acre of trees behind me, I have new neighbors, and even if I never venture down the ravine and up their hill to visit, just knowing they are around makes me happier. Snug, cozy and happy.

 

 

 

 

 

See where I sit when we’re down on the farm? I bring out coffee, because I’ll take my Starbucks anyway I can get it, which reminds me to head over and grab a tea (sweet and yes, I feel guilty about that) before I begin my week of reading. What brings you delight in these days where night descends so late, and being outdoors is a delight?

What are you doing this summer to bring you happiness? Visiting family after not seeing them for a while? Drinking a margarita on the rocks while listening to music? What about heading out for long walk when it’s still cool outside, before everyone joins in? I’m still sleeping that early, but years ago, when my only option was to run at 6:00 a.m., I would head out and run these hills, and much later in the day I couldn’t remember if I had taken a run. Basically, I was running in my sleep; that’s how out of it I was. So evening or night walks are a pleasure to me.

 

 

I like how the candle matches the hue of the walls in our living room. Just had to mention certain colors make me happy, and so I’m sharing them here…blues, green and this muddy yellow or whatever the name was on the paint can. I love it!

 

 

 

 

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I still have so much to do here at home too, and when the sun is too high or too hot for me, I’m reminded to head back indoors and iron the linen, and put up the family photos in the little hallway upstairs. Every year I say I’m going to pick strawberries and turn them into jam, but when you can’t go out in the sun like me (damn lupus), it’s kind of difficult to do. Thank goodness I didn’t have this issue until my kids grew up, because my summer days focused on taking them to the neighborhood pool for long afternoons and even some evenings to keep them active and happy. Happiness comes so easily in the summer, if we look for it.

 

 

 

 

Take a swim, ride your bike, read long into the afternoon, but if you’re me that means reading until well past midnight, send a friend a beautiful card, buy a meal for someone, tip well, drink lemonade that’s ice cold and have ice cream from a mom & pop store, watch a film at the drive-in.  And when life gets to be too much or full of sadness, look up. I look at the trees, full green and owning their beauty, finding that first star at night but wondering if it’s Venus or a star and does it matter if I accidentally wish on a planet, or the clouds at sunset, the fading rays still touching the tops, and making them beautiful.

 

 

 

 

 

Wander into beauty, and happiness will find her way to you. Another perfect scotch, neat? I’m proud of myself because I’m learning to like scotch. There’s no way I’ll ever get gin out of my system, because I learned ages ago, one good martini lasts far longer than a gin and tonic. That’s how I spent so little in the bars when I was in college in Wisconsin, where I swear drinking is a matter of personal pride there. I played darts, danced in the courtyard and carried my one martini around. Basically, I could not afford more than $10 out on a Friday, and some nights I had $5 to my name. But dancing never cost anything, and I still like waltzing in the kitchen with my husband, when we’re laughing and singing along. Summer laughter is easy to find.

 

 

 

 

Summer wanders in one day and decides to stay. Aren’t we blessed to be anointed with deep blues skies, balmy breezes, summer bracelets jangling on your wrist, wearing tee shirts every day, all day long, and coming home to find more flowers decided it was about time to show their beauty? We are so lucky.

 

 

 

 

 

Summer breezes in and blows another season into our hands. The days are long and the years so short. Grab it. Happiness is here, all around, and all we need is to recognize her when she’s near. Look up and wish on a planet, listen to the thunder, watch the rain fall. Have wine at noon, and espresso after dinner. I’ll have to write again some time and tell of how I had French espressos for a week in Paris, and I could still fall asleep. Another memory for another time. Enjoy those soft summer winds, and grab some happiness for yourself. I really do need to get a Starbucks….. (instant happiness in a cup!)

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

Until next time…

Deanna

 

Dark eyes of the soul…

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What’s this? A window with wooden slats open to the night. Big deal? Yes, to me it is a big deal, and I have to stop writing to close out the dark. I’ve always hated seeing the windows open at night, unless it is warm out, because I feel the dark pressing against me. The dark has no soul, and I don’t like the bottomless pit of these soulless eyes peering at me. Watching me. Silly, huh?

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Except it works the other way by day for me. I felt all warm and happy inside. Just lit up by my screened in porch, with the pillows set for summer (oh cold weather, please leave for the upper North), my Boston ferns happily perched on the floor, and I look outside. All is bright, lit, the sun shines with a wisp of cloud scurrying by to join the rest of his friends. Must be a wayward cloud. Happily enjoying the gifts of this day.

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I shutter out the night, except the whole set of front windows have no curtains, no sheers, because those beautiful windows rise from the floor to the ceiling. I cannot bear to cover them up, but at night, when I’m alone, I feel like dark’s eyes are on me, watching my movements. It’s not a pleasant feeling, but it goes back to childhood. I had two windows that “screamed”. They made a high pitched whistling sound, and at five, I imaged all the monsters screaming for me.

My mother told me they were angels singing me to sleep. If that’s what angels sound like, I thought back then, who wants to spend any time in heaven? I’ve since changed my mind and made an easy pace with whistling, not properly sealed windows. I’m good with the angels. All is well.

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So I shutter out the dark, embracing the lights and the warmth within. Which brings me to you. How are you holding up these many, many weeks that droll on? An end is in sight, though cautiously. I went to the market and picked up tulips. Yellow is a happy color, don’t you think? Plus, I asked for just flowers for Mother’s Day, no chocolate, so I couldn’t very well buy a massive arrangement to brighten up my springtime home, could I?

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Are you looking forward to getting out more, being able to go more places, even with all the rules laid in place? Are you cool with isolation and hoping it goes on for a while longer? For the first time, tonight, I felt the strings of regular life pulling on me. I’m ready for full on summer. Are you? And I just cancelled our beach home for June! We will go next year. In the meantime, Im enjoying every sunbeam that floats my way, just like Willie is on the porch.

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Aren’t we told to soak up the sun? I think it’s time you decided what you’re comfortable with and do it! One thing. I’m going to get a pedicure and relax. Not say a word. And I might putter in the garden and pick some fresh lavender. Do you see it growing, in spite of the cold we’ve had? I think gardening is a blessing; you get so much in return. Hand sunk deep in cool soil while placing the plants in their dirt for the season feels right.

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The pics with sunlight make me smile. Even if Willie snuck into yet another photo. I love this light, so full of soul. The energy coming from the windows is bright, effusive, welcoming and happy. Ah happy! You knew that was coming. I love seeing the slant of the sun as it makes its pass in the sky, sailing high above our heads. I feel brightened. No dark, soulless black pressing against me.

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Wherever you are, enjoy the gifts of spring. It costs nothing to wake up and listen to birdsong. Though when I was in LaConner last summer, the birds began their racket at five a.m. Yay for morning birds. I learned to drink more coffee on that trip.

Flowers picked from your yard are free and smell heavenly. You can rearrange your rooms to make it feel happy and friendly. These extra days at home can bring simple little bursts of happiness. I’m not talking about that pint of Half-Baked by Ben & Jerry’s, though it is yummy. I was thinking of how we can enjoy the length of each new day. The days are still growing longer, and I heard tree frogs making a racket when I was at the farm in KY last week. Simply happiness is in the small things. We just have to find them.

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As the sun sets and I bid you a good night, think about your little bits of happiness. In isolation. Wearing masks. Being socially distant. The whole world is together for once. It might not be fun living through a major historical event, but there are small moments of happiness such as mac & cheese for dinner. The cheap box kind. Or a warm strawberry just picked. Hearing the owl hoot in the woods behind you. Buying a Boston fern for all summer and autumn. Maybe some lavender for by the kitchen window? Why don’t you fill your home with soul? A happy soul. Find it, and when the night creeps in so stealthily upon us, we won’t care. Choose happiness.

We’ll have so much light and happiness in our own souls, we won’t worry what is outside our windows. I think I’m going to try that tomorrow. Tonight? I’m still going to close the blinds. Old habits and all that.

Wherever you are, I’m wishing you all the happiness in your world…

Until next time,

Deanna

Billow and blow…

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Tonight, I listen to the rushing sound of the creek just down the path from my back door. Soothing, I love the way the night winds stir up the curtains, making them billow and pucker in the breezes. Those breezes touch my hands, anoint my feet and I reflexively grab my throw blanket. Even with the world falling to pieces, in a way, spring arrives and reminds us to hope. Do not give up. Hope.

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Even while waiting in exile away from others, here in the middle, waiting, knowing it’s coming and will touch us all, we can enjoy beauty. The sighing of the evening wind that swoops and dips around our house, apartment, farm or condo. Open a window. Let in the freshness, even if the day is a mite chilly or cold. We can celebrate spring and dare to hope as the leaves thrust out their new shoots.

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We have the sweetest creek running down a huge hill from our backyard, and I’ve never had the pleasure of going down to see her. Today, I decided was the day. My husband said I would slip and fall, and what does he know? So I picked my way past honeysuckle bushes turned green, buttercups all yellow and waiting to be picked, down to the little tiny creek, and oh! was it steep. I did slip on moss and my foot fell into the creek, but I laughed in spite of myself and went as far as I dared.

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Isn’t that little waterfall gorgeous? I knew if I didn’t get down there and quick, the bushes would prevent my passage, and so I did. The creek talks to herself and I stood on old stones listening. Peace. No thoughts of how I have to stay in the house now. No thoughts of my loved ones so far from me. Will we be okay? Are we as ready as we can be here? And still the world goes on. The creek babbled along, talking about promises and of a new spring and then someday summer. It will still happen.

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I think of not seeing my parents. My grandson. And of my son, in his junior year of university, holed up here, studying until his brain feels like it cannot take another single fact, and not being able to blow off the steam in a bar full of friends and pretty girls and dancing. We all are sacrificing, but I think it’s for good. I choose to believe that. Can we try to find the good in the people out there? Some are rotten as a dying tree. But most are like us, waiting, hoping, praying. We want peace. Happiness. Is that too much?

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I have hope in us. We will emerge wanting to get away from computers and tv.s. We will put down our phones and we will connect. Today, when I ambled and partly tumbled down the hill, I heard the birds chattering, going about building their nests, preparing for life. I could hear the children farther up the creek laughing and playing. When I made my way carefully back uphill, the water gurgled and spoke. The breeze blew my hair about, and I listened. Just stopped and stayed. I had no where else to be. Why not linger and look at the trees, the beguiling sky that always mesmerizes me? Why not just be?

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I cannot make a great offering for the world. I only have my words. And tonight I hear my son laughing with friends, online upstairs. Harry Potter is on the tv, on mute though, which is my go-to default for coziness. And the back door opens to the most delightful porch, so I hear the wind and even the creek. When I sleep, I leave a window open, to hear, to not miss the thunder that arrives at night, to hear birds chattering long before a decent time, but sweet to hear nonetheless. No matter the cost, no matter our price, the world goes on. We can pause for now. And then move forward.

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Tonight or today, whoever you are, you can still feel the wind on your cheek. The breeze carries the freshness of a new night, or at daybreak we are offered the sun along with our coffee. Drink it in. Staying at home and learning to be by ourselves is maybe a thing we needed to learn all over again. I read and write. Yes, we binge watch some shows, but the true magic is in seeing my family on Zoom, watching the leaves unfurl, unafraid of tomorrow, and learning obscure Scrabble words. Wish. Hope. Learn. Cry. Then laugh.

I’m wishing you all the happiness you can find….

Thank you to all who are helping the sick. I pray for your strength. Your health. Thank you. We all will never be able to repay you. But I offer my silent thanks every day, in spite of the tears.

Until next time.

Deanna

Breezing through…

Every February it happens to me. I hit the winter slump. I’m fine coasting through autumn, where every day brings a new delight from maple trees lit up in orange to apples ready to pick, and after Thanksgiving we sail into Christmas. As fun as that is, the January respite is welcome, even if she blows chilly. But I have a bone to pick with cold and indecisive February, who has decided to grant us one more day this month. Thanks.

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By the time I pass Valentine’s Day and the beautiful flowers and chocolates, I feel ready for spring. Even small tastes will do. To open a window and hear the creek rushing from recent rains is a joy I’m looking forward to, but in the meantime, for those of us still stuck with both feet in winter, what can we do? How do we find the beauty in today and tonight? By getting out and making ourselves do something. Beyond our comfort zones.

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You’re seeing pics from my latest walk on our Kentucky farm. The day had warmed up and I decided to make the most of it. And as much as I’d like to say it’s out of my comfort zone, walking our land isn’t. I love seeing new things like this pond, above. The farmer made this pond about 100 years ago, using the clay soil to keep the water in so his cows could drink. This pond is inaccessible by spring due to all the bushes and insects, but this day? I braved the briars and felt rewarded to finally glimpse the hidden pond.

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We have no name for this pond, but the frogs make a racket each spring.

As much as I’d like to say this nature walk brought me out of the doldrums, it was joining a bowling league. Wait? Isn’t that something people did years ago? Is that for men? Who bowls? Well, my neighborhood has a bowling league and we joined. All ages were represented. My son’s friends have a team there, and I found out the first game is the best scoring-wise, getting bad and going to worst by the third game. I also learned age has no true boundaries, since an 87 year old man is in the league and he bowls with a hook! Strike after strike in the lane next to me. Impressive.

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Oh, that’s out Kentucky home. It felt so good to get back into the warmth after hours tramping outside. But I was writing about bowling. It was fun, I got to know my two teammates better and I know my husband well, so we all laughed and tried to be bowling champions. All I know is the next day one side of me hurt. Think squats. Yes, that motion over and over for three games did it to me. Come Sunday, I’ll be ready for another fun evening facing off against a new team, so I’m sure to meet more people I don’t know as well. If at all. And that’s the point.

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These pics make me ready to go back to Kentucky. This pond is called “Deanna’s pond”, since I love beach vacations and this is my waterfront view. Yeah, it’s a joke, but I like having a pond of my own. It has fish in it now. We’ve stocked two ponds for fishing fun.

If you’re in need of a reset button or want to get out of old routines, then shake it up! Do something new. Karaoke night? Hiking in winter? Euchre nights? Just grabbing dinner wherever you choose is a break. We just did that two weekends in a row. Wonderful! And then I made sure to see Swan Lake with my daughter. The one who loves the arts and used to dance, so this was a treat. I felt blessed to see such beauty on stage. A little gift from heaven came down and settled on me. It was that wonderful.

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The next night my husband and I snuck out at intermission to go to a Scottish pub and have a late dinner. Just us! We were talking about bowling and how many weeks it goes on and on the actual night, I felt abashed at using a mere 8 pound ball. Sad. But lupus has affected me, so I do my best and hope our team isn’t gunning to be number one or even seventh this year. With me? It’s not happening. But I’ll laugh and chat with everyone.

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One story before I go. On a night long ago in Milwaukee, my husband and I had hired a babysitter so we could drive to the east side and have a wonderful authentic Mexican dinner. You could buy margaritas by the glass or the pitcher, and since the pitcher was more economical, we chose that. We should have known when almost everyone in the whole restaurant looked to see who was getting that glorious pitcher full of lime and tequila. We were! Yay us!

 

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Not so fast! No yay us, because we felt it was out duty, did I mention we were about twenty-eight at this point and still dumb, to finish every last drop? Then we stood up to drive home, and wow, neither one of us was in shape to drive. No ubers back then. Taxis, yes, but we barely had the cash to cover the babysitter. So we found a bowling alley and bowled. Drinking copious amounts of water and letting the evening turn to night, we spent a long time bowling, playing it very safe. And learned a lesson. Margaritas by the glass are better for two people. By far.

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Hopefully, you’ll try bowling at least once in your life. And then find a group activity or a solo endeavor and do it! Shake off the cold remnants of winter. Wait for the winds of March to blow warmer breezes on a beautiful day, and then go out and feel the wind. Open your window and freshen the air in your home. Nothing smells as good as fresh air. Just once dry your sheets outside, no matter what the covenants say in your neighborhood, and that night, climb into the stiff sheets and drift to sleep smelling the freshness of the day.

Who knows, you just might have dreams of the one new thing you’re going to try.

I’m wishing you all the happiness in the world today….

Until next time…

A cup of comfort…

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New Ear’s Eve. We had fabulous plans, my husband and I, to stay downtown in a swanky hotel and walk around the city until dinner at 9:00. A steak dinner with martinis, which is completely proper, followed by kissing and fireworks at midnight. But…I came down with bronchitis so we spent NYE in Kentucky at our farm, with wine and a martini for the man, shrimp, stuffed mushrooms and then the steak. Fabulous!

 

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We watched A Star is Born because everyone needs a tearjerker movie to set the mood. Thankfully, we like to laugh together, so we spent too much time taking silly pics and popping those little confetti things which are plain old fun. The fire felt good and we counted down and toasted a brand new year. I love laughing with that man. Do you have someone in your life who cracks you up even when you’re trying to be stern? That’s my guy!

 

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We need laughter. Can that be our resolution this year? To find happiness in a cup of comfort that is named laughter? How do we get through the tough times without laughter? The joyful days when we feel like the tips of our fingers graze the stars above? We laugh easily, beautifully, and sometimes until we cry. Laugh. I want you to fill your cup, no matter what you’re doing, going through or facing and laugh. Alone, with someone, it doesn’t matter.

 

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I have a story for you. When I started my first real job out of college, all the new associates were expected to pass all four parts of the CPA exam on the first try, so I worked lots of overtime and it made my head spin. I would come home, eat ramen noodles and study. My boyfriend, now husband, was working at another top accounting firm who didn’t pressure their newbies into passing the exam right away. So he went out at night. Bars, drinking, skiing. Fun!

 

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I studied every night and almost every weekend too. I worked Saturdays too. At our national training, two weeks before the dreaded exam, I asked a partner how we could have fun at training and still be ready for the exam. He said to just study. As in no fun. So yeah, I did. Except one night my roomie and I stayed out drinking until 6:00 a.m. We met Richard Petty (I had no idea who the guy with the hat and boots was, but the drinks were free), and we wandered about finding fun. Great night, but training that day felt awful. Tired, half-ill, half-drunk (please don’t judge I was 22 and dumb). Diet Coke saved that day.

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The day of the CPA exam dawned on a Wednesday. It is a two and a half day exam. My boyfriend and I drove down together to the huge, expansive convention hall. He and I separated to locate our seats and prepare and pray. Did I ever mention that alphabetically his name is right after mine, most anywhere? Engle was my name, so I sat at the table and guess who was to my right? Eppers. My boyfriend. Trust me when I say you never want to take that exam next to your boyfriend. Nope. Not good. Not fun.

 

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That’s us. Now. After that dreadful exam.    So proctors stood at every angle to ensure no cheating, and no way in hell was I going to jeopardize my career by cheating on the exam, so I kept my head down. You know how you look at all the test pages and try to figure out how much time to allot for everything? I do that. I also listen to when people start flipping to the next page to judge my progress. The boyfriend flipped his page way before I had finished the problems on page one, and he and I were evenly matched, so we usually flipped at the same time. I was doing horribly! He was on page two and why was I so slow?

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When I finally turned to page two, he was flipping to the third page. How? Why? I couldn’t look at him. Why was he so much faster than I? After four and a half hours of hell, we left the room. Done until 8:00 a.m. tomorrow. So I asked him about being so far ahead of me and how it messed with my brain! I was panicking during the exam! My boyfriend told me he decided to mess with my head and flipped the pages, knowing I’d be in meltdown mode. And since I couldn’t look at him, I never saw him quietly go back to the right page he was still on.

Did it work, he asked? I fumed! Of course I felt flummoxed! And I had studied and he hadn’t, much. He “got me” just because he knew me so well. Knew I was listening for when he turned to the next page, the next problems. And then I just started to laugh. Yeah, the test was important, but for him to take that precious time to mess with me cracked me up! What an interesting sense of humor!  I loved him. Especially then, because we needed some laughs after those problems we faced down. Sheesh!

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The next two days were filled with every problem imaginable. I don’t know how we survived. We passed. I passed first, but retired long ago and now my husband does accounting “stuff” that is way over my head now. But what I love about him is he played me during the most important exam ever, of our whole lives. Our college prepared us with timed tests, too much homework and more. But my husband “got” me, understood me and decided to spend some minutes having some fun. I loved that back then, and am delighted to this day that he thought of that, when all I thought of was the clock and the exam. Laughter. Happiness that warm me even now.

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Shared laughter is beautiful. Comfortable and comforting. That’s why I married him. Well, there are many reasons, but we laughed from the start! We laugh when things go terribly wrong, because what else are you gonna do? Cry all the time? Nope. Fill your cup of comfort with laughter and you’ll feel full. And happy. Warm and loved.

That’s what I wish for you this year. This shiny new year that we haven’t messed up yet. I wish you laughter in good times and bad. In sickness and health. I laughed in Kentucky just as much as I would have downtown on New Year’s Eve. I was sick, but inside I felt warm, with wine, love and laughter. Be happy, my friends. We just get one shot at this, and why not start fresh? Find your cup of comfort. Fill it with hope, love, peace, cosiness, happiness, looking on the bright side, trying to give to others. All that. But don’t forget to laugh!

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

Until next time.

 

just breathe…

 

 

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Well, the Christmas crazies have hit. I love it. Always have. I think the more celebrations we have in the dead of winter, the better. We need more than one and a half weeks of frivolity! That magical time from December 23rd (I like the build-up) until January 2nd when my tired tree is unadorned, is beautiful, frenzied, silent, exuberant, exciting, hushed, alone, together, and ours to make the way we choose.

 

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Are you wondering what I’m saying? Make your peace with this season and find your happiness. Craft and carve it out so that Christmas Eve is the way you like. And Christmas Day and why not throw in Boxing Day, which is family game day at our home, and then New Year’s Eve Day, the Eve itself culminating in New Year’s Day. Spend some time with family or friends, and the rest of it is yours. Spend some time with you. Doing what you like. And the rest can be given to your family or friends and the people who want you with them. Give them a rested, happy you. That’s the best gift. And for you?

 

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If you want a cozy fire, with classic Christmas carols playing softly in the background, cuddled in a warm blanket, glass of wine in hand with an engrossing book, plan it. If you go to church like we do, plan for that special time. Meditate on what happened on Christmas Day. I look at our creche and sing the songs long known by heart, and I do feel it. My peace on earth, come down from heaven.

 

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Yours might look different. Santa and cookies left by the tree. Or skiing all day and enjoying eggnog at night. We all Christmas differently. If you want to change something to suit you better, try it. Remember that this is the season of giving, but it’s the little things, the smallest gifts that mean the most. A cup of chai tea latte hand delivered. A candle made by your hands. Finding a new song to love and share. Laughing over funny memes. Sharing a slice of cheesecake. Baking cookies and sending them off to neighbors.

 

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Give? Letting that car merge. Giving up a parking space. Opening the door for another human. Most aren’t aware as they wander in an unknown hypnotic state, trying to finish in time. Let’s make sure we walk through the next three weeks aware, awake and able to give, with the wisdom to stop when we feel out energy depleting. Then it’s time to mindlessly play a video game, watch a Christmas movie, or sleep.

 

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I like to look at my trees and look at the ornaments. The family’s favorite tree is the one I named the “family tree” because it has every ornament ever crafted and cobbled together by my children, by me when I was just five and all the “ugly” ornaments from the 1970’s that my mom gave me. We love that tree, more than the stately one full of glass ornaments. Precious, fresh, fragrant and perfect. We choose the imperfections. That brings up armloads of happiness, much laughter and happy memories.

 

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Make the next three weeks fun and restful, exciting and calm. Give a little and save some for yourself. It’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. And it will be if we make it that way, but it’s all a choice. Grab it. Your happiness. Peace. Warmth.

 

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

Until next time.

grace and gratitude…

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Today was rainy, gray and dark, so I poured myself another cup of coffee, lit some candles and went to the couch to read and pray. Yes, I try to stay on track, but my mind wanders. The coffee helps.

Gratitude is splendid and sets my world aright. When I’m feeling down or overwhelmed by people and their problems, I change my outlook and turn it upside down. How? Let’s say I’m putting away my husband’s clothes, and I’m tired of matching his mismatched socks. Where the other sock goes is a mystery I hope to uncover someday. But I thank God for my husband, who is busy at work, again, day after day, often working eleven and twelve hour days. I pray over him, his life and I thank God for him.

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If you’re busy feeling thankful for a person, you’re far less likely to feel anger or annoyed by them. So say out loud how thankful you are for all those “problem” people in your life. You don’t know how much longer you have with them. Be thankful.

 

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That little picture above? Was given as gift to me years ago when I had no money and cold only accept this gift and not reiterate. I treasure this and each year place it on my kitchen windowsill so I remember the joy of Christmas. Yes, it’s a secular view, but that goes along with the message of the birth of Jesus. I remember the reason for the season.

I’ve long forgotten the beautiful soul who gave away so many of these pretties, but I look at the picture and remember being so little and excited about Santa’s visit! I slow down and try to remember Christmas is a gift. Name the reasons why you are thankful right now. Even our problems can be blessings in disguise, teaching us patience, kindness and mercy.

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Make time to sit and reflect on your blessings. Name what you are thankful for right now. One time, when I was so sick and about to have my bladder surgically removed, because the lining has disintegrated and I felt the acidic burn every second of the day, and someone asked me what I was thankful for. Really? My hair was falling out, my two children needed constant attention, I was using opium suppositories for the unrelenting pain, and my street was being torn up with new sewers going in. And my husband was working more than twelve hour days. Thankful? Seriously?

 

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But she was serious. I was thirty-two, my family lived 1000 miles away, and I kept driving to the Mayo Clinic for tests. They did not want to do the surgery because I was “too young”. Too young for this pain? Too young to have this “middle-aged women’s disease”? I quipped, “I’m thankful that I can see.” That’s it. That’s all I said. And now I look back at all that happened that awful summer and I see more blessings.

 

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I had angels in disguise watching my girls as I stayed in the hospital for eight days after the eight hour surgery. When I came home, I couldn’t stand up straight, but I walked around the block every day. I’m thankful for my surgeon’s skilled hands. I left her a note on my body, written by a nurse trying to calm me down pre-surgery, that said, “I want to have another baby.” So my surgeon took care with my body. She told me she hoped I could have another child after my body healed. What a sweet surgeon to care about that for me.

 

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I had another baby two years post-surgery. It was touch and go, but I’m thankful for my son. For the people along the way who helped me. My neighbor who knew I had surpassed my limit, since I was yelling at my two kids in the bathtub that awful summer, and she asked if she could take them for an hour. Blessed peace. No road work sounds. Just silence. Thank you Judy. I’m grateful to this day.

List them. Write them out. Speak them out loud. Your gratitude. Even for the tough times. Maybe even especially for the rough times, when we learn so much.

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

Until next time.

Toasting to trying the new…

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It’s been years since I’ve faced down a jam packed December, and I remember why I like them that way. I woke up and threw coffee down my throat, hurried through my list of chores, and then had fun with dear friends catching up over chai tea lattes. Mailed every Christmas card after that. Came home to  snuggle with my eleven month old grandchild, and suddenly the afternoon had melted away.

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Suddenly, my husband was home, saying we were late for dinner downtown. I hadn’t even chosen what to wear, but I threw on something suitable, left my house with my daughter and grandchild still here and made it in thirty minutes to dinner. Interesting. My husband had eaten there before and didn’t like it so much, but every place was booked, since we were seeing “Hello, Dolly”, afterward. Dinner was…burnt. I must not be an incredible foodie, because some people seemed to be enjoying the very limited menu.

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(I like snow globes. Musical ones are even better.)

Dinner. I eat. I like to think I’m open to new ideas in food, but the risotto was crunchy. In fact, everything we ate tonight was burnt and dry, and that’s the way it is supposed to be served. I have a new name for the restaurant. Burnt. Maybe Toast. The only thing not burnt or charred or dry was my wine. The very kind waiter asked if we had time for dessert, but even that menu looked dry. Chocolate mousse with peanut brittle mixed in? Nope, not feeling it.

 

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We went across the street and I found chocolate. I bought some right before the curtain went up. Another great musical. We just got back home in time to see my son visiting the food here after a tough week at college.

So, I promised to send inspiration every day for a month. This is what I learned today. Try new things, even if it’s not your cup of tea. You must might like it. Actually, the chai tea latte was the first I’ve had in years, so that turned out to be a fun surprise. And seeing my grandchild marvel at the Christmas tree lights was fun. His first Christmas. Lucky me.

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The whole day felt like a blessing. I ran out of speed at the end of the musical. I have lupus and get tired easily. Tomorrow is a full day too. So it’s off to…read. Not bed! Soon though.

Are you up for trying something new? Today, if possible? This week, definitely! You might find something you really like. And if not, you can laugh about it afterwards. Happiness and laughter shared with others is wondrous. I can’t think of a better way to spend my time. Not all days can be like today, no. All fun and play. But maybe that’s something to keep in mind, for you? Have a full day, full of fun. Enjoy every drop.

Wishing you all the happiness your heart can hold…

Until next time.