Step out of your cozy zone…

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We’ve had a very dry two months, so some of the leaves just dry up and fall to the ground, brown and crunchy. The crunch is satisfying as I tromp through the woods by our cabin. I’ve been searching for flowers to create a rustic bouquet, but I think I waited too long. We haven’t had a frost here yet, but I know one morning, soon, I’ll look outside and see the beauty of the gardens and fields covered in white. It means no more crickets, and the growing season will be done, but the mums will still flourish and I’ve never met a pumpkin scared of a thick frost.

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Are you feeling autumn? Are you reaching for a throw in the evenings, even if you still have your windows open? Or have you sealed your windows for good and are dreaming of turkeys, pie and Black Friday sales? Either way, we’re moving farther into the season of long evenings, and I crave light, so what’s a girl to do? I turn on the lights earlier each evening, and it’s time for a good wood fire (or gas, if that’s what you have) and lots of candles.

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There’s something so cozy and warming about candles. I’m trying to unplug earlier in the night, but you know how much I love the midnight hour. Maybe you do what I do and still burn the candles while the lamps are on. My kids remember the days when I simmered spices on the stove in a pot of water. I didn’t have money for candles back then. Cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg worked.

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Now that our move is done, and the frenetic pace of summer has gone, I’m making sure to do more around town. Yes, we still have landscaping to figure out, and it looks like we might put in a terraced fire pit with comfy chairs all around. Going to my favorite bar for the first time in eight years at last, see above, made us think about spending nights at home, by a fire, under the sky, with some excellent music playing. Endless to do’s, right?

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To get to this tiny gem, you have to drive to the top of Mt. Adams. Narrow streets, and a very hilly ride, because they call it Mount Adams for a reason. At a street near the top,  between two stately townhomes,  a cobbled and worn stairway leads down and suddenly you’re standing in the middle of a gorgeous courtyard. A smattering of chairs, tiny tables, and live acoustic music with a cold drink in hand, is wonderful in autumn. Summer can be sweltering, but Friday night we waited for the fire to be set, since it was chilly. Once lit, we warmed up a lot.  I don’t usually drink, but being at the Blind Lemon compelled me to enjoy a glass or two. (I ordered a second glass when I accidentally let my Chardonnay practically boil on the table touching the fire pit.) I haven’t been there in years.

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What am I saying? Sometimes you have to get out of your rut, your routine and do something unexpected. I’ll admit that lupus has slowed me down, and many nights watching Netflix is the default setting, especially after moving and surviving another renovation. Note: If you ever say you will never do something, you’ll be doing it at some point in the near future.

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Maybe you have been living in the same house for twenty years. Why not move? It will certainly give you a new view. New neighbors. And if you normally eat out at a certain place, go somewhere that’s getting rave reviews. My favorite Mexican food is in a tiny spot (tiny places must be a theme here today), no reservations taken, and a two hour wait isn’t my cup of tea or margarita, so I went after a play, one night. I sat at the bar and had the best fish tacos. Dining at eleven at night? Why not?

 

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Are you in a city? Go find a pumpkin farm or an apple orchard. Do you love your life in the country? Head to the city and look at art, watch some football, eat amazing food or find a perch to people watch. Get out of your ordinary, even if you’re feeling cozy in your comfort zone. Especially then. Being willing to feel uncomfortable for a few hours is great. Head to NYC for a long weekend and really immerse yourself. I always go straight to the Met, but one weekend my husband took me there to see some musicals, and we fit in three in two nights there! And no Met. Had a great time!

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They say there’s no place like home, so maybe you could invite friends over for an autumn dinner?. Maybe you do have an actual fire pit, so s’mores around the fire would be a fun evening. Take a bike ride before your fingers are too numb from the cold. This is my list of new to do’s: Vinyasa yoga classes, cook dinner more often, make a wreath for my front door, knit a huge throw, hike this autumn, go to an NFL game this season (looks like I’m going:), re-read Lord of the Rings or begin A Story of Ice and Fire (the books behind Game of Thrones), walk a 10K because my running days are over, and I have more but that’s plenty for now. A book club would be lovely too. As would serving lunch to the homeless. Teach literacy. Ah, we’re talking big dreams now!

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What’s on your list? Make a list of what you would like to do this season, then a list of to do’s this next year and finally, write down what you want to do before time’s up. I already took my grandson to a pumpkin farm, but I really want to go on a hayride. I’m going to take him again, hopefully it won’t be spitting rain, and then onto a hayride under the fading blue of an October sky. Step out of your cozy zone. Do something uncomfortable, then go back to your regularly scheduled life. We only get to do this once!

Wishing you all the happiness and beauty your heart can hold…

Until next time…  Deanna

 

Lilacs offered to a queen…

lilacs in my yard…

Do flowers make you happy? Or lush green grass, just mowed, perfuming the air with freshness? I loved lilacs before I knew what they were. See, as a younger child, in May, at the Catholic school I attended, we made a big deal about Mary, the mother of Jesus by gathering outdoors and processing with flowers and surrounding her statue with as many blooms as children can afford. Cheap. But so worth it. Since lilacs grew along the playground, mingled with shrub roses and honeysuckle, Mary wore a crown of violet lilacs.

rosemary grows in a planter, waiting for her new house…

When I moved into a lovely bungalow (cottage) with my young family, I happily discovered the long line of shrubs standing sentinel along the fence were lilac bushes. Towering 10 feet high. Every spring I picked lilacs to fill my home. But one very early spring day I came home to discover my husband had decided to prune back those bushes, and I almost cried at the loss of all the little blossoms. He didn’t know he had inadvertantly cut my lilacs. And while I told my neighbor the story, she promised to share her blooms with me that year. And one breezy cool night, she told me to join her on a lilac walk.

my favorite oak on our farm…

A lilac walk? Intrigued, I made my way to her home to find a few other friends gathered on her front porch. We walked one block away, where the yards and homes are large. The streets wind appealingly. And in the middle is a park, where children fish in summer, skate in winter, play ball in autumn and in spring? Lilacs grow in luxuriant splendor. Everywhere. And those ladies who need a bit of happiness in the often capricious spring in Wisconsin, pick lilacs. Those who have enough at home, simply enjoy the night, spent talking in hushed voices, laughing (quietly, hopefully) about our lives, and secretly wondering if we would ever be able to live in the Washington Highlands ourselves. Those who have no lilacs, pick more, to enjoy at their leisure on a colder day when they think spring has forgotten them.

these beauties are moving to my new house in two weeks…

That night I tentatively picked, until a woman urged me to take more. All had taken a sprig or two, but they knew I needed lilacs that spring, so I filled my empty arms until my heart was full. An hour later, I had that heady scent to share, while I placed my lilacs on my nightstand, and fell asleep dreaming of warm days and long moon soaked nights. I felt richer than a queen. I didn’t even wonder if I would ever live in a larger home the rest of that month, as I happily worked in my perennial garden that the previous owners had bequeathed to me.

while the lavender grows, the rosemary is lush and ready to move to the new house too…

I’m moving in two weeks. Beautiful home. Same area, on a two acre lot. But what I did last night made me realize how blessed I am, because the last nineteen years have been spent toiling in clay soil. A small lot. Filled with trees to block the pool next door. So I learned to enjoy summer with a few flowers. I went over to the house to check on the renovation and decided to plant some roses and dianthus, and from that first shovelful, I knew I had struck gold. Gardening gold. The soil felt silky and soft and easy to work. I felt like the queen of May, taking more flowers over tonight, knowing my springs and summers can once again be lush and fragrant with roses and flowers. Such happiness!

this past weekend at the Kentucky house, listening to whip-o-wills at sunset…

Why do I tell you about lilacs? Flowers and gardening? Because getting a small piece of earth to tend is wonderful. For our souls. For our minds and our happiness. Beauty fills us with it, don’t you think? If you live in a city, having a real plant, some herbs growing inside, or fresh flowers will bring you beauty. If you live in the country, then make flowers and herbs your best friends. Happiness can be found almost everywhere. A garden is never wasted space. Time spent growing whatever you choose is worth it. And if you can only manage to buy a $5 bouquet this week, do it. You’ll feel rich. And if you don’t have enough money for herbs or flowers, then maybe a walk in the country will bring you beauty for your space. Or maybe you just need to take a little walk. One little sprig of lilacs might be just what you need.

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

Until next time…

If we only knew…

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Isn’t this candle wonderful? For us, I mean. Since we’re on a happiness journey, it’s fun to  find little treasures to grace our days. I decided to give this sweet candle away. There really is such a thing as too much of a good thing, which, in my case, means I am candled out. But the message is perfect. Be happy today. I think the “be” is particularly poignant, since someone close to me is hurting and I’m not feeling the “be” right now.

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Let me explain. Someone I love dearly was completely blindsided by the love of their life (thus far) telling them they were no longer loved or at least, not loved as much. I feel their pain. It’s hard to sit on the sidelines and watch someone you love swim through the deep end of murky, unknown waters. Rejection is never fun, but going through a tough time helps us learn more about ourselves. And we discover resilience. Eventually, moments of sunlight give way to days of sun washed happiness. We find our way.

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I’ve always wondered about (and envied) the people who find love the first time they dip their toes in the dating waters. They stay together, marry, and still stay together. They didn’t muck through the mud of rejection. Are they as happy as I am, since I loved a few people on my way to the guy I really fell for. And married. Has your heart been burned? Frozen on a frigid night? Have you thought happiness would never run through your veins again? That the laughter spilling from your soul was quenched? And you thought it would last forever?

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The person I gave this sweet candle to just wandered in from several months of realizing the one she thought she was settling down with, meant she was settling for a lot of bad. (I didn’t know until right before their break-up.) She can light that candle tonight and smile with true happiness again. It’s back, but it seemed as though night claimed her heart forever. Have you been there, ever?  I wonder if there isn’t something necessary about the process. About feeling sad, left out and alone. Finding our way through tough times just might lead us to a much better place; a place filled with a sense of happiness and contentment. And peace.

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Our souls are fragile. To be in love feels heady, warm and wonderful. To have loved over many, many years is bottled happiness. I would “be” happy today if it weren’t for one close to me being rocked to the core. Because I know what that feels like. Actually, add in a summer’s worth of girls on the side, and that’s what I faced. Long ago, when I wore the body of a college girl, tanned from a summer of sun, I eagerly returned to college to find a cheat where I once knew a kind, sweet boy. You too? Huh. And if not that, maybe you’ve felt the sting of rejection at the hands of friends. Maybe your family. Where is the happiness in those days? I’ll tell you.

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Time. It heals. The love of others sustained me, too. Roommates, determined to see my smile, made me laugh. In spite of the cold center in my heart. Frost had touched it, and I never thought it would feel warmth again. But it did. Oh please, know your breaking heart, for whatever reason is going to come out whole, will feel love, will thaw and seem light as the air on a warm and breezy May evening. I’ve been there myself, and I’ve walked that road with each of my children now too.

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Be happy today? Did you also receive a handful or a heartful of sadness today? Hang on through this ride, because you will find your way to blissed out, singing at the top of your lungs in the shower kind of day soon. You’ll weather the storm. Even if someone just told you they don’t love you…anymore. Or as much. Or that they found another love. Or someone told you how wrong you are, when you meant well. Are you wandering through waves of misunderstanding? Are you being shunned? Does it feel like that?

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I so want you to find your happiness today. Be happy. Tonight too. But if you only want to huddle under a blanket and eat Oreo’s until midnight, go ahead. I think chocolate is a part of a well-balanced diet. Because I know this…

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You will have days and nights where you will feel drunk with happiness. Love you enough to find kind hearts to surround you and make you laugh in spite of yourself. Take those runs. Walks. Do jazzercise like my 77 year old dad. Then find a small treat and bring it home. One red rose. A sweet tea (I had two today! with less sugar, yesss!). A dance party in the kitchen while listening to great music that you have to sing with. Even if your nose is stuffy from crying. Because you will find your way back to happy.

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I have to admit my heart still hurts tonight. Writing about finding happiness doesn’t mean I feel super happy every moment of the day. But this will pass. Happy days will be here again. By the time May runs into me, I hope to be taking pics of sun laced days where being happy isn’t something to aspire to. I’ll just fall into it, languidly. I hope you will too. We’ll look out for each other along the way. So try to be happy today. Be happy today. Find it. It’s out there, waiting for you. I promise.

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Until next time…