Blissed Out or Stressed Out…

The sun sets later every day now.

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

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

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

Our creek grows wider and louder on rainy days…

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

A little graveyard in KY. Quiet and undisturbed.

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

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

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

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

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

Our cabin as seen from our little road.

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

I like having too many candles and too many books.

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

Keep looking for those beautiful blue skies.

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

The waterfall down the hill from our house.

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

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

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

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

Until next time,

Deanna

Step out of your cozy zone…

BqYm591lRl2NFNJvelDMXQ.jpg

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.

ADaawxlTvqP6tu9oTuFA.jpg

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.

IMG_4056.jpg

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.

LwnvIxsqRs2twhKJRJvXAg.jpg

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?

EnG7goPkRJaA3J3E1jmjcA.jpg

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.

4jAomW4EQJyZAlGapbajVg.jpg

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.

Uvn9I2NYTpqWoIRPvApEOQ.jpg

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?

 

Ypt45FPQMSFynLg0aHatw.jpg

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!

L5bx8lFlRnhvwEYCKATCg.jpg

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!

IMG_6572.jpg

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

 

lonely or beautifully alone…

IMG_7140.jpg

Last night when I went to bed, the crickets and cicadas sang so loudly, and the heat at eleven o’clock felt so intense that I thought summer would never leave. But today’s rain with temps that are thirty degrees cooler and tonight’s much quieter chorus of insects, has me believing autumn officially arrived. I feel a bit lonely at the thought. Do you? So many of us embrace sweater weather, with football games,  pumpkin spice everything, flannel sheets, cozy blankets, woodsmoke curling out the chimney and chili with cornbread suppers that we’re utterly happy.

IMG_7159.jpg

It usually takes me a week to wrap my head around autumn. To me, it means more time alone since my husband hunts. But over time, I’ve learned how to be by myself and am happily alone. Most of the days. I wonder what people did before phones, radios, t.v.’s, and cars? Can you imagine the days of being alone on a farm or in the country? Even cities can be unfriendly. Were people more content back then?

IMG_7147.jpg

Do you find contentment in being alone? And what do we do with those days and nights and weeks where we feel lonely? Posting on Facebook, saying, “I’m lonely, will you please be my actual friend and do something with me?” comes across as too needy. Though I wish we could be that plain some days. I think that’s why we have to cultivate different friendships at the same time, depending upon how many friends we can seriously handle at once. Acquaintances are great, too, because we can meet them for a pumpkin spice latte and that’s enough. On some days.

IMG_7157.jpg

I admire the people who dine alone and don’t bring a book along for company. How do we get to the point where we are comfortable being with us? Alone? Just you and your thoughts. No phone, no social media and no Netflix. I think music is allowed in the happily-alone universe.

IMG_7142.jpg

I know someone who sits by a fire pit in his backyard on autumn nights by himself. And he’s happy. My dad can walk into a bar alone and either talk to a stranger or remain quiet and he’s happy. I have a friend who goes to a new movie every Friday night, with popcorn and a box of candy as her only companions and she’s happy. So what’s the secret? Not being afraid of being alone, I think. Being content with you and your thoughts. Confidence helps.

IMG_7162.jpg

This season, why don’t we try doing something by ourselves? Get to know you and like that person. Walk, pedal or drive alone down back roads and think. Try sticking your toe into the pool of introvertedness. Yes, I just made that word up. I believe most of us would feel happier in any season when we embrace us. Like yourself. My husband says that he made friends easily when he was going through times in his life where he felt confident and happy being alone, spending hours engrossed in drawing. When he felt desperately alone, it seemed as though friends were few and far between. The difference? Him. How he felt about himself. Be alone and soon people might join you.

IMG_7149

When we learn who we are, our gifts and talents, and are content with our direction in life, even though it might not be easy, we become beautifully alone. We can contribute to this world. Hey, there’s seven billion people outside our door. That’s a lot of distraction, if we let it happen. So don’t. I’m saying we need to be alone somedays. Learn lonely and you’ll have a new skill. Sure, you can do ten things before tomorrow night, but if you spend some time journaling or something with just you, then you are more… Beautiful. Appealing. Wonderful. This autumn make dates with you.

IMG_7148.jpg

By the way, how do you like my first hints of autumn decor in my Ohio home? Tomorrow, I’m going full-on-crazy autumn home with orange, crimson, bits of yellow and browns. I have to go now…my sweet iced tea is turning to just tea. Enjoy your pumpkin spice! Until next time…

deanna