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

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

 

Long roads with wonderful views…

 

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While sorting through the pictures to choose the ones I want to place here on this page, that take you through my day, I pass through photos going back more than five years. And in those pictures of specifically my family, I see an array of emotions. Sure, happiness on a birthday where we all deliberately sing terribly out of tune (and one daughter insists on regaling us with The Star Spangled Banner at the same time) is evident. That’s fun. Special and happy. We’re all laughing and grinning!

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And I see the vacations. Happy times, right? Except I see the depths of depression welling up into one daughter’s eyes. She cannot hide what lies beneath. She tried to take her life. Deep stuff here, I know. But I see it every time I come here to write to you about happiness. Be happy wherever you are, except. Except, there are simply times where we cannot feel it. So what do you do? I chose to ride it out. It hurt. I hurt, and others around me were affected, which didn’t make me feel any better.

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But I made it out. I’m happy to be here doing this thing called life.

In those particular vacation pictures of me and my always smiling daughter, I see her smile never reaches her eyes. And I remember her long road to happiness. That was so very worth it. She left the kind of life that brought her down and climbed out of the darkness and now lives a life full of laughter, with much kindness and concern for others. Because she knows what it feels like when we just can’t cross the bridge to happiness. But she and I know it’s a climb worth making.

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So what can we do if we’re not at happy? When it’s nowhere in sight? Talk to somebody. Reach out. Counselors can be good, but sometimes it’s a kind friend. Find the merciful, kind people in life and keep them. They are worth so much more than a roomful of raucous laughter. My daughter just happened to call a college friend to say good-bye. A forever goodbye. Outside my house, while I slept.

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That far-off friend called the police, not knowing quite where she lived, and that saved her life. I had no idea how sad my laughing, uber friendly, voted funniest of her class, daughter was. But I found out.

She lived. Thank God, she is alive. And if you are at that point of thinking nobody cares and that you’re worthless. Stop. You are worth more than jewels. Just being alive matters. Not how much money you make. Not the clothes you wear. You. Are here. For a reason. You might not know that reason yet, but hang on. Because the day is coming when you will find out why. Why you went through pain. The suffering. The loneliness. Worthlessness. And you know what?

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Don’t buy into it. Don’t listen to the negative voices in your head, or the people around you that bring you down. Because you are worth so much. You matter. You’re smart enough, good enough and nothing you have ever done takes that away. Hold your head up. Look for the beauty. If you can’t see the beauty looking back at you when you look in the mirror, that’s okay for now. But please, take my word for it, you are beautiful, wonderful and amazing. And someday, after you survive this time, you will look back and see why. Why it happened. That dark and lonely road you travelled had a purpose.

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See those stairs? I pass them on my favorite walk, and it means I’m almost finished walking or running. Our life is a bunch of stairs we get to climb to go somewhere pretty amazing. We can stop here and there to catch our breath and admire the view higher up. That’s life as you age. Trust me. And then you start up the stairs again. I’m here to tell you the view gets better the higher we climb, so do not give up. Talk to someone who is caring and kind, if you feel alone. I have been there. Alone. Sad. No one understanding why I couldn’t pull myself together. But…I let time, medicine (we might need that at times), counseling, and kind friends help me. You can do this. You’re not alone.

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Happiness can be found along the way. In so many places. For me, it’s beautiful flowers, bought on the cheap. Iced tea in the afternoon. Pasta for dinner! A good book and my kind of music. Candles. My cozy spots in this house, where I retreat to when I feel like I need that. Find yours.

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I love long walks. Alone. It gives me time to untangle problems and I dream up my best writing ideas for that book. You? You might prefer matcha or an espresso in the early afternoon. Maybe a jazzercise class? Hey, my 77 year old dad goes to jazzercise three times a week. I love that about him! Go daddy! Find your thing. And stop to enjoy the view along this trip called life. We only get one shot at this. Let’s make it a happy one. Here’s to you and how amazingly beautiful and wonderful you are…

 

Until next time…

 

Resolutely resolutionless…

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Here we are with another year spent and a new one arriving in hours. There are things I want to do; accomplishments awaiting my toil, but I don’t think I’m going to make any resolutions this year. Last year brought a bucketful of trouble sprinkled with a few blessings bestowed. Sometimes getting through the year with your humor intact and new ways to observe this world is enough.

It’s frigid out here, and that’s affecting me too. Just driving to the cold grocery store and laying in a store of provisions feels like a monumental achievement. I’m an indoors girl once it’s below freezing, so our plans for celebrating a new year by staying in the city and running all over town having bunches of fun, didn’t sound like it would be all that wonderful. I cancelled the hotel room and decided it’s cabin time.

 

I said goodbye to my Christmassy home (though these flowers felt like a whiff of January), and we packed sweats and hoodies and thick socks to ring in 2018. Do you take Christmas down the day after? I just can’t. My mom tells me stories about long ago Christmases not beginning until December 24th, with the tree and caroling and Christmas cookies and feasting continuing until Epiphany, on January 6th. I’m trying to keep it going, but our world drags us into the Christmas season by Halloween. So I’m happy to be ensconced at the cabin for a bit with no twinkle lights or nutcrackers. Just a lot of warm blankets. And my winter potpourri.

 

The potpourri sits in the strangest vintage bowl I’ve ever seen. Is it meant only for pretzels? Am I using it incorrectly? I bring out my winter finds; the ones I reserve for the dark days of January. Do you? Doesn’t it feel like a slice of heaven to be home, in a warm corner, with the scent of pine or piñon, book in hand, with maybe a chocolate truffle or three, ready to while away the evening?

 

Cats really have perfected the art of relaxing wherever they are. My Willie makes himself at home in the warmest room, while I linger near the fire. The cabin sat at a firm 55 degrees when we walked in today. It’s toasty warm now though. Just perfect. Quiet.

The quiet season. Hush. Sure, there are parties aplenty with spirits and noise and sequins and kissing at midnight, but this year, after the year we had, we packed up some steaks, potatoes and a cake (hey, it’s always a good time for a cake, and it will be my breakfast tomorrow morning along with my hot coffee). It feels right this year. Just us. And the cats, of course. Piles of magazines at my feet. Contentment. Even though I threw my back out yesterday and then hurt myself sweeping the cabin today. Even then…

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We choose our moods. Kind of. So my back hurts. I’ll be okay in a few days I hope. In the meantime, I wander around the cabin taking some pictures. The beauty of being out here in the middle of nowhere is amazing. My husband is tramping around outside, checking on things. I linger close to the house. I reflect on how I’ve grown this year, as I remember the substantial losses, and the wonderfully magical gains. The quiet is lovely. No Times Square this year. Just a bunch of hills and a smattering of snow.

 

 

What will 2018 bring to our doorstep? How do we move forward and step into the new?

I’m resolutely against resolutions this year. A certain number of times around the sun and I realize maybe January isn’t the best time to begin training for the marathon, or planting a garden. Maybe January calls for quiet. Reverence. Introspection.

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Maybe a bunch of books, thick socks and an iced tea in silence is just what we need. No running away from yourself. No staying so busy you miss out on you. By the way, I drink iced tea in sub-zero temps. Crazy, I know. But back to resolutions. I make mine in September when the kids return to their schools. Right now? I’m just trying to keep myself away from that glorious cake waiting on the counter.

Aren’t we meant to drink soups and eat casseroles now? To huddle together underneath quilts piled high? To read the not classic literature but the kind that holds you mesmerized long into the night?

 

Let’s plunge into January with hopes for a happy year. And a nice, long January thaw.

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Be happy, sweet friend. Welcome 2018 with open hands…