Shy Stars in the Winter sky…

Freezing cold air numbs my fingers, and I finally donned some soft gloves today. I thought the bright sun beckoned me outdoors, but the cheery skies laughed at the shock I felt when winter’s winds buffeted me while I stood outside in just my sweatpants and sweatshirt. My cat braved the bright cold to watch the deer as they made their way down to the partially frozen creek, but my cat wears fur. Since fur isn’t “in” these days, I decided to wander back inside. I stood on the back deck long enough to feel my lungs and throat seared by the frigid air. I gave up far more quickly than my heat-loving cat.

Snow flying in the Kentucky air.

Winter’s cold has a way of ushering me indoors. I’m thrilled to find myself at the end of the day next to a roaring fire and yelling out wrong answers to Jeopardy, or binge watching a show. Which isn’t truly a binge, since my husband can sit for two episodes at most. Then we listen to vintage music or shove our noses in books. I’d like to think I pair a glass of wine with the wending way of words in my pile of novels, but the reality of wasted calories factors in. Chocolate and cream in my coffee matter more.

How do those of us who dwell within reach of winter’s embrace find happiness in the endless sullen clouds, the snows that fall and must be shoveled again, and where a run outdoors is almost considered dangerous? Look to the Swedes. They live in months of darkness, with cold seeping into their veins, and they’re happy. Swedes commit to the cold and practice a form of coziness, hygge. It’s the latest in loving winter, but they’re truly onto something.

When I lived in upstate New York the snows sometimes came up over my head, and we shoveled down our cereal just to be out in the glittering sunlight to build a fort. When my parents moved back there during my university years, I bought some skis and went skiing. My family decided to join me on these forays into powder and moguls, where all we worried about was shoving off of the ski lift without falling down. I went cross country skiing with a friend, and when we figured out that we had taken the wrong trail, or maybe it wasn’t a trail at all, we laughed so hard at our novice skiing efforts on the nonexistent trail.

The woods at our farm this past week.

We had to ford a swollen creek in those long skis. My friend and I finally abandoned our skis and hoofed it back to the chalet to hand in our rented equipment. My boyfriend (now husband) took the cross country skis out one dark night where the shy stars peeked out between the clouds as they passed. Looking up we marveled at the wonder of dark skies, bright new snow, and quiet, almost holy moments.

Winter is jolly, rushed, and full of celebrations in December, so the real test of our mettle comes in the long months that follow. My inclinations these days is to stay tucked up in a cocoon of soft blankets, with scalding hot coffee at hand, and burrow in deep as I sit by the fire. But winter has a magic that begs to be discovered by us. The Swedes make a point of going outdoors to collect items from nature such as rocks, feathers, sticks or moss to bring inside and use as decor. They also light up the darkness with bright white lights in windows and in the house.

If we took a cue from the people who enjoy winter and remain happy despite the cold and dark, we can hold onto ribbons of bliss.

Tonight I read about a challenge where a person commits to hiking at least one mile fifty-two times in one year. I have to ask my husband if he’d like to join my on a hike every week, and we’d have to start this week since we’re behind already, but what a unique way to get people out of their homes on dull winter days. Soon enough we’ll be posting about walks in the rain and hikes in the steamy hot days that refuse to release their heat. For now, though, this hiking challenge sounds like something the Swedes would try, and I’ll throw in searching for a beautiful pine cone.

Our bodies were made to move. After a day or night of work the last thing most of us want to do is head out for a walk. Plus the older you are, the easier it is to fall into the habit of hibernating. There are no kid’s basketball games to see, no swimming lessons to attend, and no book club due to covid. Listlessness is easy. Complacency looks alluring, but playing cribbage while drinking herbal tea or a wee dram of whiskey is better than relentless, mindless shows on tv.

I think we’ll feel better if we do commit to braving the cold and embracing it.

The real fireplace at the cabin.

When I lived in very cold Wisconsin, I watched the frost crawl up my bedroom wall in horror. The temperature hovered at -25 degrees. That cold welcomed us in our first year of Wisconsin living, but we adapted to the frozen months and accepted them.

My husband and I both took up running, since we were too poor to join a gym, and we’d run in almost any weather. I did take a nice four-miler in a blizzard, and my husband would run in every cold possible. Nothing daunted him, though -10 stared my in the face, and I backed down. The main point is changing our perspective and our position. Join in and skate outdoors, make snow angels, shovel a neighbor’s driveway. Find a leaf or feather to bring indoors to your winter collection.

The people I met when I lived in Wisconsin were friendly and hardy. One soul-chilling Saturday evening when the thermometer hovered at another night of -25, I asked my roommates what we were going to do since walking over a mile to the bars wasn’t going to happen. They looked at me as if I had sprung antlers out of the sides of my head! They were going to walk downtown fortified by some strong liquor and heavy coats; staying in would never be an option, so I dressed cute (no heels, because it was too cold for that at least) like Madonna, guzzled some scorching liquor that drew heat into my chest and head out for a long walk in the gloom of yet another dreary night with no starlight.

Just being out in that awful penetrating cold with my funny friends made me realize attitude is everything. We laughed our way downtown and made our way into our bar, since most students had a certain bar they hung out in for most of the night. We chucked our parkas at the door and sure enough the place was packed with all our friends. Nobody in Wisconsin is afraid of the cold, and they celebrate almost anything to bring light and laughter to a long season of frozen days.

I’m not advocating swilling down shots of booze as a way to lighten your mood. Those days are behind me, and I didn’t guzzle, even when my roomies did. I usually ordered a dry martini and nursed the drink for an hour or so, hoping some guy would buy the next one. Hey, I didn’t have much spending money!

The point is we can choose to like winter or hate every single day of this season, but what good is that? My friend laments the cold here, which isn’t honestly that cold, and she talks about moving to Fiji. I just discovered she wears a battery-operated coat that heats her coat up nicely, so in my eyes she is set. I could have used that heater in my coat when I’d leave the school library at midnight, but there’s something about bravery that lifts the spirits.

Snow flying in Kentucky.

Staring down the dark and cold take courage of a certain sort. If we balanced our weeks to include hikes on a trail or around our city, if we huddle under our softest blanket, if we sip hot tea and read the words of a book that delights us, then we’ll be happy. Make your home, your space, a place of warmth, even if it is from a space heater. Place a pile of magazines or books next to your sofa or bed and luxuriate in words.

I know this is crazy long, but this is one last tidbit I wanted to share with you. In Germany one day I stayed in my hotel room, because I wasn’t feeling so great. I placed a Do Not Disturb hanger on my doorknob, and the cleaners still came in. They cleaned around me in my bed, and they opened up a window even though the day was brisk. Germans like to open up the windows in their houses and apartments once a month, no matter what, to freshen up their homes. I understand that. Even winter air is fresh and clean with a scent no other season possesses. Open your window. Just a crack or so. Grow used to fresh air, and don’t be afraid of the cold. Enjoy it.

I hope you look up and memorize one constellation that isn’t the Big Dipper or Orion. Winter brings very dark nights just ripe for spotting planets and stars. I’ll be looking up. I hope you do, too.

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

Until next time
Deanna Eppers

silent nights…

A house is never silent. Not truly. They creak and settle their bones, the plumbing makes odd noises at strange times, and sometimes my fireplace carries the sound of the winds outdoors. It’s a hollow, lonely moan, and my cat raises his head to see if I’m alarmed. I’ll admit at times I love the quiet, and I feel blessed to barely catch the low rumbling of the trains that pass late only on certain nights. When crickets and tree frogs fill the night with music, I don’t feel slightly scared or alone. Those summer nights are a friend to me, and I lit my candles, drank tea and wrote or read long past midnight. Even a quiet windy night doesn’t usually unnerve me, except last night it did.

Last night felt different. This December night offered no snow flying peacefully through the dark. It told a story of tornado watches, and I had to turn off the fire as the room grew too warm. Alone in the house, I opened the back door rather tentatively and felt a rush of warmth, and my face felt kissed by the wet. The whole back porch had been soaked by the first round of storms, and I didn’t like the idea of falling asleep to a storm full of wind; so I stayed up long into the strange night and waited.

I lit two candles just in case the house plunged into darkness and listened. The winds rushed and moaned in the fireplace, occasionally rattling for good measure, while outside the leafless trees blew and shook, and the creek sounded close. We are perched on a cliff above the creek, but last night I couldn’t see how high it had risen, except for the sound. The water ran past the house, and I’ve never heard it do this. A neighbor on the other side of the creek stayed up long past their bedtime, too. Waiting. Watching as best we could.

Even now the wind is high, and I can finally see the water below. It looks like a wide river pouring itself over the rocks and falls, and daylight brings a reassurance that night fails to offer at times. I know about the terrible storms that hit south of here, and I wonder when this part of the world will lapse into winter’s stillness. Where are the snows with the puckering breezes that tug at our coats as we bravely shovel our sidewalks in unison with our neighbors?

Last night made me think of spring, but my Christmas tree is trimmed, finally, and a magnolia garland graces one of the mantles, so a fire looks perfect and feels good most evenings; and I think it’s time for snowmen, singing Christmas carols and indulging in the culinary delights my friends hand me. I’ve never thought of winter as my season, but I’m beginning to realize the beauty of the solitude of a cold, winter’s afternoon hike. Walking at night while gazing at the strings of lights draped across yards and houses seems magical, and I wonder when silent snows will finally fall here.

Isn’t this the time of the year when we truly recall our childhood? Christmases filled with grandparents, cousins and aunt and uncles who liked to kiss me hello, while all I wanted was to open the candy jar and escape their questions about school and my height. The house had a nativity scene under the tree, and cookies were made every afternoon; but the snows of long ago are etched in my mind forever. Christmas snows two feet deep that made us rush out into the world and create forts, houses and villages.

In the days preceding Christmas the aunties told us to get out of the house and outside, so we did. The whisper of smoke meant a fire had been kindled in the fireplace that promised warmth for later. We had serious sledding to enjoy, and the house felt crowded at times, so of course we were encouraged to head outside. Why is it that twenty people would stay in one house with just a single bathroom and three bedrooms? That house at Christmas was never silent. Someone was always getting up, and all of us sleeping on the floor often heard it or felt it.

Is that why my silent house feels luxurious to me? This one small pleasure of having a whole night spread out before me isn’t empty. It’s full of promise, and the joy is in knowing I can while away the evening doing whatever I choose. I’ll read, nibble on a mint brownie Jeannine made and gaze at my Christmas tree. So many days are full of cares and busyness that this night feels special and almost sacred. The threat of bad storms troubled me more than usual last night, and the lightning didn’t feel cozy like it did in August.

Today I’m back to normal, and my Kentucky-loving husband is almost home, which means football games on the television. I’m ready for music and laughter, and I’m in the middle of placing a village underneath one special tree upstairs. I haven’t used the village for years, and my mother is the one who gifted me with the lit up houses and buildings. I decided it’s time to enjoy all the Christmas my mother bestowed on me, knowingly or not. I listen to the songs we sang together, and I bake the same cookies we did long ago in her kitchen.

The time for silence is gone, and now night is stealing the day. I have to light the trees mom gave me, along with the huge nativity scene from my mother-in-law. I’m ready for the sound of people again, but I’m also ready for the stillness of a world cloaked in white. No storms, no high winds and no worries. Just a peaceful sky full of stars after a wonderful snow. Since we moved a bit further south, we don’t enjoy the deep snows of the north, but I like the way our city shuts down if two inches falls. The world is silent for a few precious hours as the snow falls, and the sounds of the neighbors going about the business of clearing their driveways hasn’t yet begun.

My wish is for a winter wonderland, but if I don’t receive that gift this year, then I hope to sit beside the fire, gazing at the lights on the tree and listen to this house. The storms are gone, the wind is dying, and I’m back to hearing just my house settle down for the night. Tonight will bring a measure of peace, and since the cold has decided to return, the back door is firmly shut. I only have to turn on the fire and decide on dinner. We’re almost at the darkest and longest night of the year, and I like the thought of the sun slowly adding minutes to our daylight. I’ll light a candle and wait as I listen for the sound of the garage door opening.

I’ve had enough silence for now, and I’m ready for meaningful noise. Happy conversations and hopefully a cozy Christmas movie.

I hope you have moments of beautiful silence in your days and nights. And I’m wishing you all the happiness your heart can hold.

Until next time,

Deanna

A Season For Everything…

This is a sacred place of sorts to write about finding happiness, but I haven’t dragged myself away from the news long enough to feel happy. To sleep well. To get over daily migraines (again). To handle squabbles that arise almost every day. So how am I supposed to help you find the happiness in your world when I’m not there myself. Can I get there with you? Tell you what. I’ll try. Ready?

By the time you read this we’ll be slipping into the honey-golden month of September, and that month brings so many changes. We finally have some clear, cooler days after a summer of heat, and the blues skies no longer wear their scorched look; they appear bright blue again. Clean, bright summer still hangs on here for most of this month. The trees will start to change at the end of September, but until then we enjoy hearing the tree frogs, cicadas and if we manage to have some rain, the trees look lush, full and green.

An old forgotten home near our farmland.

I’ve long loved September. I lost that love when I lived in the far north, where cold, rainy days tended to show up mid-month, and I remember talking with the other moms at the school drop-off about who was holding out on turning on the heat the longest. I don’t think I ever grew used to the cold that descended by late September, so I lost the game and happily turned on that heat. Here, the moms used to try and make it to November, but I lost easily and enjoyed the cozy warmth. I don’t know where you live or when the weather changes for you, but this month brings us longer nights.

Open windows are a blessing, and I’m glad enough for the beauty and freshness of waking to open windows and birdsong. It’s not raucous as it was all spring, but enough birds stay here and make a pleasant chorus even heading into deep winter. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Autumn will arrive soon, and many people are ready for the change. I’m among them, and I’m hoping for long nights next to our sunk-in fire pit in the back yard at the home house, but at the farm we have a simple ring of stones to make campfires.

A late summer flower arrangement.

I’ll have to remember to stock up on marshmallows for roasting. I didn’t grow up making s’mores, since we thought eating a blackened marshmallow was pretty fine all by itself. My family likes the treats, so I make sure not to bake any cookies, and we’ll bring out our favorite drink to nurse by a rousing fire and talk about everything and stare up at the sky. Football games feel right, and we have tickets to a game or two already. They serve popcorn and hotdogs and I call it dinner and enjoy the game.

Did you know the full moon in September is the Harvest Moon? I always thought it made more sense to have it in October, but that’s the month of the Hunter Moon. I’m not ready to pick out mums and pumpkins yet, since that is one of October’s pleasures, but the end of summer brings an interesting delight. Some early mornings if you go out to a pond or a small lake you might see mist rising from the water that is warmer than the surrounding air. I like watching the swirling mists, though I forlornly bid good-bye to the honking geese who make such a racket as they fly far away to their winter homes.

A well used path at the farm.

Which brings me to a story, except this is more of a wish. I’ve long admired people who choose to go on vacation by themselves. It doesn’t have to be that far away, but I like the idea of slipping away for a few days all by myself. Yes, I can go to our cabin if I want and hole up there, taking long walks when I feel like it. But it’s the ocean that calls me and always will, so I’m thinking about spending the end of October in a beachfront house while I work on my book. I’d take walks during the day, since the sun will be low enough for me, and I’d pick up dinner at some hole-in-the-wall place that stays open even after most of the tourists have left.

Part of me wants to head to the Northeast where I came from before my family made a series of moves (that I didn’t look forward to very much). Autumn in New Hampshire or Vermont is gorgeous, and I like to stop by little villages along the way and take hikes in woods full of colors. But I’m getting ahead of myself again. We still have plenty of summer to enjoy, and our pool is still open; so I might take an afternoon plunge. This is the time when I like tidying up the outside of our house, and I’m getting ready to touch up the decks, as in two of them. I don’t turn on music, because I like hearing the birds and squirrels as I work away. I think I’ve been missing the barred owls, and I hope they come back to out little piece of land. I’ll know soon enough.

The path to the beach from the house.

One last thing about happiness. It’s found in many little moments. Not just the big beach vacations or weddings or hosting dinners. That’s all fun and nice, but I like to look for happiness when I’m spending time with my husband, where we’ll just talk and laugh together. Or choosing to disengage from the news which is truly sad and maddening lately. Choosing to pick up a book or magazine, baking cookies or brownies for just me, or walking on the bike trail (which is really a running and biking trail that horses can use also). We can find beauty in the middle of hardship. We know we can get through just about anything, and so we do; but isn’t it worth it to find time for beauty, peace and happiness?

Try to have tea or scotch or an iced espresso some sunny afternoon. My old British neighbors enjoy sitting on their deck, having a cup of hot tea while looking at the mass of crabapple trees that tower over their fence now. I always admired the way they took the time out for a steaming pot of tea, and I went out and purchased a a teapot and strainer and loose leaf tea. English breakfast tea is what I’m planning on starting with, and if I make a decent enough cup I’ll branch out to more exotic flavors. My husband will still be at work, but books are excellent company. I can see myself staying out there in the comfy chairs until he comes home. Wouldn’t it be something if I decided to have a warm fire of my own? With tea and a book?

We don’t have to leave to have happiness. It’s living in the moment, and being willing to close off the bad and finding the beauty. It’s all around us now. We just need to lift our eyes, or open a good book or turn off the news. We can find happiness in conversations, music and more. We only have to look for it. Enjoy those September breezes and bright, clean days. This is a month of beauty and bounty. Let’s enjoy it.

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

Until next time,
Deanna

Whispers of woodsmoke…

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Well. After a month of waiting, my computer is fixed and my fingers are ready.

October is here in all her winsome ways. Beguiling us with mums, pumpkins and fat full moons with geese flying across her face in search of endless summers. But we know this is a beautiful time to stay behind and linger. Put on your sweater or hoodie and head outside. Look up at the blue skies, growing paler each day. Get ready to bring in your plants. My cats think my plants are their personal play land and litter box (yuk, I know), so I let the rosemary and fragrant lavender die each year.

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See that lovely rosemary? She’s still going strong, but I feel time is against me with so much to do. New house and all. So I’m planting tulips and daffodils together this week. I discovered living with a forest on three side brings deer in, and they think the pumpkins I so jauntily placed against trees and stairways are theirs for snack time. I look out and see so many deer tearing into the pumpkins! I love it. I keep buying more.

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Not a pretty picture, but it shows how they start nibbling on them. You should see the pumpkins ripped open and strewn across the yard. I don’t mind. this is like feeding bird but on a larger scale. Besides, I think the deer like me now.

The other evening, we were sitting outside in the screened in porch (I love this house, I do!) and heard a hoot owl again and again. My husband and I smiled and we knew all the craziness of renovating was worth it. We are blessed. We live in our same neighborhood, but in the back section, by a creek with actual waterfalls right below the house. It’s close but not too. And how it roars after a rain!

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This is part of the porch. But right now, I’m upstairs, window open, listening to the crickets cheerfully filling the night with their music. I’m waiting for the train to sound. It’s almost eleven, and I feel so cozy hearing the sounds of distant traffic and the trains, mixed in with crickets and owls. We still live in an urban area, and I enjoy hearing the announcer at the high school on Friday nights, at the football game.

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Do you look forward to that first fire inside? Outside? I do. We don’t have a place to put a fire pit until we terrace the backyard, but we are lucky to have a real fireplace here and a gas one for when I feel lazy. Oh, this pic above is before I added a bunch more pumpkins to the front door. And all the bushes are coming out next week. Just sharing. So back to autumn, I like cooler weather, even the frosty nights that sting your cheeks and make you draw in closer to the fire.

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We find happiness or peace in moments. Fresh apple cider. Hayrides. Pumpkin picking. Sweaters against bare skin. The scent of woodsmoke. Coming in from the chill to a roaring warm fire. Socks. Stars prickling the sky earlier each evening. Chili and cornbread for dinner. Comfort food. Football games (or insert soccer or lacrosse or autumn baseball). Cuddling under layers of blankets in bed. Listening to the rain lash the windows, knowing you’re safely inside. Holding the hand of a loved one. Sharing a fire with someone. Being alone with good music and a great book.

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Find a way to enjoy this month before November stakes its claim on us. Thanksgiving will come soon enough and then winter. So make a vow right now to find a fall day to get out and gaze at the trees. Drink wine or cider outside one night, even if it is chilly. Then you get the double bonus of a blanket shared with another. Laugh with delight every day. Find something that just makes you stop in wonder. For me it’s the deer who stand next to my winding driveway, acting like they own the place. And in a real way, they do.

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I’m a grandma now. I love it. Truly, as much fun as they say it is. And tomorrow, God willing, I’m going to wake up, make coffee and drink in the view and then go with my daughter and her son (my grandson 🙂 and enjoy a hayride and the goats and pick more pumpkins and yes, finally find some Indian corn for my mantle. And then? Well, I went to Barnes and Noble, because I don’t want real bookstores to become obsolete, and bought way more than I meant to, but I have a stack that my lazy cats are lying on (so much for new magazines), and three new books that I’m starting on tonight. Well, maybe tomorrow…

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But right now? My college kid is home for fall break and we’re going to watch a movie together! He went all on his own and visited his sister and nephew, which makes my mama heart smile. If only we can search for the good, the kind, the sweet, and look for a chance to complement someone or give a hand to the old and the young, this world will be more beautiful in our eyes. Let’s embrace October. Savor sweet moments.

I hope you find all the happiness 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…

Windy winter day roses…

The wind outside is outdoing herself. The house stays silent except for the rush of the winter winds. Her cadence changes, from a full out gust that tosses the tops of the trees and hits my house with a slam, and then she winds down to a whisper for a moment. And the sky. I adore skies and seeing the dark clouds to the west from where I write fills me with happiness and expectation.

A bale of hay waits in a wintery field at our farm…

The dark clouds are not those of summer. No, these rise steadily but the skies have been overcast all day anyway, so I see the light grey give way to a deep blue. The approach of the storm thrills me. It’s curious that my mom feels the same way. Almost. One drippingly humid summer’s day in Virginia thunderstorms hit my house with hail and thunder, and as the power went out, my mom told me storms made her feel like a witch. I knew what she meant. She felt as though her mood conjured up the storms battering us outside, while indoors we had properly cast the spells that protected us. even when the power gave out. Especially then, because we sat in the semi-dark house and listened and told stories to pass the afternoon. I’ll always remember that day.

My $4.00 roses in my kitchen so I can enjoy them all day…

Another house, another summer storm blew up while I stood on my porch watching the dark clouds pile high in the western sky. I should have been inside cooking dinner, since each family member had a night, but the storm called. When my mother asked why dinner wasn’t in the oven yet, I beckoned her to our porch and pointed to the almost greenish-black sky, and she too stood in silence and watched. Together, we enjoyed the wind whipping our hair. Food could wait. Storms are to be enjoyed while they happen.

Can you believe February is almost upon us?

Do you have storms with winds scouring your home? A storm in your life? Where is the beauty in that? I enjoy the cleansed air after a storm. I enjoy the storm itself at times, too. Crazy? Not really, since I’m talking about a brief thunderstorm and not a tornado or hurricane. Just a storm that comes with too much to do. Yesterday, after a full day, my husband gave me some more items to put on my to-do list and suddenly we had stormy conversation.

These roses have a lovely, light scent…

The conversation had to happen, because my husband didn’t know what was going on in my everyday life. There’s a beauty in knowing how to navigate a brief thunderstorm. The clean air afterwards feels fresh and revitalized. Beauty is everywhere. Even when the grass lies dormant. Even when I picked up branches brought down by these winter winds, with a broken foot. Even then I admired the stark landscape. Join me.

Even a broken rose is beautiful…

Those $4.00 roses that I brought home and placed in a vase, after I picked up the fallen branches? Those roses gave me summer on a winter day. So worth the little splurge, wouldn’t you say? The snowstorm has passed, and the skies are sunny again. I’ll have to wait a bit for another windy, wild storm. I’m looking forward to the spring with it’s cold fronts that bring lightning to my nights. For now? I’m going to enjoy the wintery white snow, glistening in sunlight. Each day hands me a gift, and I have to decide whether to enjoy it or balk at yet another grey, cold day. I choose to see beauty in the day (trust me, there are plenty of days where I do not see beauty, but really, that’s my fault). I choose happiness today. I hope you do too. Until next time…

Drams and dreams…

The sun disappeared thirty minutes ago, and the sky looks like snow. Coming from Syracuse, where six inches of snow is unremarkable, and school was never cancelled, I’m dreaming of a proper snowstorm; one that dumps snow so thick and furiously, that once the driveway is shoveled, I have to go to the top and begin again. Or give up and hide inside for a few warm hours.

Sitting by the fire at our cabin…

We do have a quiet cabin that’s our refuge from the world, and I’d very much like to have a Christmas there, but not this year. My grandchild is due on Christmas Eve (oh please, little baby, show up in time for Christmas, because you’ll be the best gift ever!), so staying close by makes sense. I can drink my morning coffee and watch the birds from my windows, and day dream about the thick, deep snows of my childhood.

marathon cookie baking with my daughter…

Do you hold fast to traditions or are you flexible, whimsically following your heart? For years, I spent most holidays far from home, because I lived in Wisconsin with my own family and simply didn’t have the money to travel home, and vacation time was (still is!) precious, so we stayed in Tosa and created new traditions. But we usually had snow. Wisconsin is cold and wintering there should earn us all thermoses of hot chocolate. One winter frost covered the entire back wall of the kitchen. Inside my house. I know!

A light snow at the cabin…

While I’m waiting for that baby, waiting for Christmas, waiting for some time off, and waiting to give gifts (which happens to be my second favorite part of the holidays), I made plans to bake cookies with my daughter. The other daughter is studying abroad right now, but she’ll be home in time to sample the goodies I bake. And I wonder, even with a heart that hurts for others who are walking dark paths, for those who don’t know their way home to love and wholeness, I wonder how to make them happy. Can I? 

the more chocolate chips in the batter, the better…

Can we find beauty in the mundane? Yes. Absolutely. Can we find it in the unexpected? Of course. Most times. Can we forge ahead with new traditions, new ways to connect with ourselves and others? Absolutely, yes. This cookie baking will be interesting and I’ll take pictures, because I bake according to the directions and my daughter? She likes to experiment and sometimes the result is delicious and then there are cakes that come out hard as a rock. I’m looking forward to sampling her recipes as well as mine. 

sipping bourbon on a chilly evening…

The sky is darkening even more and I have a book begging to be edited, so I’m going to have to wander away from holiday musings with you. But I wonder, do we make our own happiness? Or are we waiting for others to fill that want? Forging ahead even on cold days and frigid nights, facing our ways through the crowds with a tiny smile on our upturned faces, takes discipline and we can practice that. Smile just a bit and see how many faces turn as you pass by. See how your happiness imprints on others and bring that beauty to your loved ones. Bring them the beauty of a happy heart. I’m running out of iced tea, so I do have to make a Starbucks run….

Until next time…

Free flowers and bourbon…

 

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December descended upon me and the first flakes of snow surprised my upturned face, and I began to hope for a very snow-filled holiday. While spending time over some very good bourbon with my husband, we began deciding where to travel next, but for now I’m happily tucked away at home, buzzing with energy and happiness. Is it the hot coffee I cradle each morning or the excitement of the season? Do you feel caught up in the fun? Are you merrily preparing for Christmas or Hanukkah?

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I’m back on a happiness hunt and finding it so many places my head spins round. I found these gorgeous flowers at the store and half of them were thrust in a shopping cart labeled “free”, and I grabbed the gift. It’s not about presents but about being fully present in the moments that make our days happy. My daughter came over and made a gingerbread house while I played with my free flowers.

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Have you noticed it’s the small things that bring us happiness? I love Snoopy and always have, and after the dog decided to ravage him last year, I replaced him and he sits, lovably, with all my bears. Small thing, discovering this Snoopy at the grocery store. (I know! My grocery store sells the most interesting things and I love it.) I’m creating a teddy bears’ picnic under one tree and sweet Snoopy crashed their party. I’m happy fussing with my trees and their themes. So…what’s your small bit of happiness today?

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These pretty pillows add to the Christmassy feeling. I know one of the guys in our family is going to comment on the impracticality of a pillow with jewels attached, but I’m on a tartan plaid hunt, and the reds are luscious. Everyone on my list is getting tartan flannel pajamas, and the reds turned my head. Red feels warm and this cold weather has me reaching for anything that brings warmth and beauty and comfort.

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These flowers look beautiful. And I have a few more secrets to share…

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This luxurious Advent calendar sits under my “main” tree and every day, after I’ve spent time reading and sipping hot coffee, I open another day and find a pretty treat. I’ll take these little treasures on trips since they’re perfect for packing on a flight. It’s a small bit of happiness, I know. But sometimes that’s all we need.

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I’m trying to enjoy each day. My cat thinks the “kids” Christmas tree is his personal play land and climbs the branches, batting at the “toys” hanging so deliciously. For him (or so he believes). I know it’s not his tree, really. But watching him enjoy Christmas makes me think how we need to find happiness today. Grab a book and head for a quiet spot. Watch those Hallmark movies. Head outside and embrace that cold and the skies that are the color of snow.  Ice skate again. Hike. Sit indoors with a little bit of bourbon and watch Netflix.

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Make this your happiest holiday ever. I’m wishing you skies full of snow and a basket of free flowers for the taking. Until next time…

Delightfully December…

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We’ve made it. Arrived. December sits at our feet and what do we do with it? Rush around, picking out the perfect tree, lit with fifteen strands of lights at least, baking perfectly homemade cookies, while attending holiday events looking incredibly composed even though we feel slightly crazed, desperate to create the perfect holiday (as if that exists), with Christmas cards written and sent before December 25th.  I forgot the gifts! Shop for the perfect gift for everyone on our overly long lists, including the mailman, as long as the monetary value is less than $20 per regulation. But not me. Not this year. I’m embracing a form of simplicity. I decorated with eight Christmas trees because that is my thing, but I let other tasks slide. Store-bought cookies taste great. That’s why I buy them.

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The point is to do the things you most enjoy. Christmas brings out the tree fanatic within me, but my neighbor rocks an outdoor colored light show each evening, and my friend bakes long into the nights, sharing her assortment of cookies with us every year. What do you like to do around the holidays? What makes you happy? Focus on that. Bring your brand of beauty to December, and the other stuff is just stuff.

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Christmas is not a competitive sport. No one wins an award for doing it all, even if we did it all well. Which isn’t humanly possible. Here’s a secret to my eight trees: I don’t adorn every one with ornaments even though one year my mother decided to bring a U-Haul filled with Christmas to me, as a surprise. I have enough ornaments (massive understatement); I just don’t feel the need to place them on every tree. Though the first year after the U-Haul I did re-create a Santa tree, and all my kids said that year was how utterly creepy the Santa heads with full beards and no bodies were. And I placed the Santa-head tree in the front room so everyone had a month of laughter each time they strode through the door. Not quite the look I was going for, but, I laughed too.

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In dark December, I crave light, and my trees bring that to me. I have different lights on each tree and the glow makes my soul warm even in this terribly chilly month. Candles, fires, lanterns and lights bedazzle my eyes and I don’t feel the dark descending upon the world. I love the soul who places a lit Santa next to our winding, heavily treed road, and this year Mrs Claus joined him. I smile every night and wonder how many extension cords they needed to plug in the Clauses in the middle of their woods.

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Embrace December, regardless of your beliefs. Be willing to change traditions. I don’t know how this started, but after going to church on Christmas Eve, my family loves to go to China Town Buffet. So we do. I only have to produce one dinner then, as expected on Christmas Day. But if you don’t do Christmas, go to the movies (though I think that is becoming very popular), or stay all day in your P.J.’s doing what you love. Spend these dark nights with those who light up your world.

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And even better than that; spend some time with others who struggle with bills, loneliness, bad health, and face a bleak winter. Give. Give away your manicure. One December, I really wanted to take a romantic horse ride through the city, but decided to hand the cash to a homeless man. I’m so warm thinking of his smile. I feel it years later. Find the beauty in this month. She might be hiding a bit, but search for her.

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I’m back on the hunt for beauty and happiness, and it feels so good. Spread the warmth. Light up your soul. My goal this month is to set aside the time to read a good novel. Iced tea and a book, even if December brings more cold and cloudy days.  I’ll sit by my Christmas forest and smile in sheer contentment. I’ll be back in a few days. We have so much to look forward to…together.

Untethered…

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I write truth. When I started this blog, I thought I could be bubbly, happy and inspirational for you no matter what, but I can’t. Just the way that I could never hang with the bubble-headed girls, constantly fixated on their manicures, spreading rumors about others outside their circle, and eating so little I thought I’d faint from merely watching them in college. I like truth. In people. In me. In those I love. I expect truth, too.

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Just like the first pic, life has been rather bleak for me, and I didn’t want to write from a dark place, but I finally decided that if I could write truth, maybe you’d be okay with it; maybe it would resonate with you even more. Because if I can’t find beauty on some days or even for a whole month, I know that one day I will. I know life’s going to get better. Slowly maybe, but life is a gift and I see that now. I tell the twenty-somethings to not kill themselves; to stay here and wait, even though the waiting for better is dark, bleak, dull and infinitely sad.

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In the middle of my anxiety ridden days and endless sleepless nights, I didn’t see anything but bad, except this time, I remembered my daughter is expecting a baby in a month. I went through depression in one of my three pregnancies, with postpartum depression descending upon me for two of those pregnancies, but I am so glad I stayed here and walked the paths at dusk. I have three very unique and interesting kids, and I like them all, different as they are. And I’m married to a man committed to walking with me in truth. We’re not fake with one another. Not anymore.

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What caused this fall, this tumble into semi-darkness where the familiar became unknown and my steps were haunted by the memory of another? I cannot tell. That’s someone else’s story and I play but a part, but I can say this. Holding someone up so high in your eyes and your esteem will only result in a crash. An earthquake violent enough to shake your world, wide awake.

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I’ve been feeling untethered. Shaken. Scared and tired. My foundation has been shaken, but not my faith. See, I follow a guy named Jesus, and based on what he says, he’s got my back no matter what. He’s supposed to be my rock, but I didn’t quite do that. I have an annoying habit of making other people my Jesus. Unintentional, yes, but a bad idea, nonetheless. And God has a way of pulling down anything that could stand in the way of Jesus being my foundation. So discovering that the people I idolize are capable of disappointing me or not thinking of me first, causes me to walk with my eyes downcast, not seeing much except a few steps in front of me. And then I hand myself over to God. I surrender. He becomes more of my rock, though I think this is a lifelong task.

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I’m not going to lie and say my days are rocked with sunshine and I feel like singing from a hilltop. No. I feel the antidepressant working but it doesn’t touch that core of hurt. It never does. So what’s beautiful when your world is tinged with grey? Knowing the family will be together for Thanksgiving. Hearing music that brings me to my knees in anguish and relief. Starbucks, oh come on, you knew that was coming! My husband and kids bring me offerings of Starbucks tea and I see light. Happiness? She’s a ways off, but this life is rich and worth living. I’m inspired by those who give. Stories of people being kind lifts my eyes up for a while. I try in my own way to give.

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Tipping at the car wash or coffee shop every single time. Stuffing money into the hands of the street people who call the outside their home. Giving money to the disabled in Romania, because they are treated worse than dogs.

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I hope you’ll stay with me while I gain ground, sort through this latest earthquake in my life, and begin my somewhat faltering steps back to beauty and sunshine, and happiness at waking up to another day. Stay here. Even though my days are subsumed with winter and long nights and cold. Even when sweaters and blankets piled on do not quell the cold inside me. We’ll walk through this life together and claim beauty and laughter and happiness…again. Please stay…