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

just breathe…

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Until next time.

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.

brownies, cookies and two sweet ladies…

Another beautiful September night in my perfectly suburban subdivision life, and I wish you were next to me. The windows are open, of course, and the crickets continue their night’s songs. They won’t be silenced until the first frost, and even then, I’m amazed by the number of crickets who stay warm enough to sing to me until the middle of November. The other night’s noisemakers diminish week-by-week, and I’ll know Thanksgiving draws near when the nights finally become completely silent.

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Finding beauty can be easy some days. Others? If I showed you the tough days, you would see a mountain of laundry, bathrooms that need attention and very old veggies in the fridge because I wanted to cut up that cucumber and place it in a glass pitcher of water, just the way a spa does. But my life intruded, just as yours does. Endless lists and jobs and work and school get in the way too. For me? I have a body that has decided to not feel okay since I noticed something was very wrong in the days before I turned seventeen. Years later (so many years, lol) and my health never returned.

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I tried therapy, eating so many interesting diets that helped with weight loss but not health gains, running, Pilates, not running, going to top name clinics etc. Why do I share this? Because we all have different challenges in life and if we’re going to get through this life somewhat happily, contentedly and with a sense of humor too, we have to find our beauty. Okay, not the kind in the mirror. No. We’re too vain as a society, and selfies kill people each year. Not kidding. Look it up.

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The beauty we’re meant to find is around us. At work, in the fluorescent glow of the lights, can you prop up one picture of your happy place? I have a friend who has never taken a proper vacation, and her dream is to fly to Fiji. Pictures of white beaches and blue waters might make her feel calm. I like to walk in the evenings just as everyone’s homes light up. I used to get decorating ideas for my 1920’s bungalow that way. And now? I enjoy seeing lights on in rooms. Is someone studying up there? Is my neighbor playing his piano while his wife knits? (Oh, I love them so much!) And if your neighborhood doesn’t feel safe, go to a place where you can walk safely and look at beauty.

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Autumn is filled with beauty. The colors of the trees are finally revealed! Pumpkins of all colors surround us. Go drink some fresh apple cider! I look up at the cirrus clouds, so whispy, and I know winter’s grim, grey days aren’t too far away. But wait! We’re on a beauty hunt. So grab some acorns, snip a small branch or two from a maple or an oak tree and bring them home. Make your home, large or small, a place filled with beauty. Your kind of beauty.

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Maybe a thrill runs through you when you finish a quilt. When you have just enough pretty pillows surrounding you. Is it the music floating on the air? The scent of your newborn baby? That’s a treasured scent. Even when you’re going on three hours of sleep. Maybe it’s baking completely from scratch brownies and sharing them with neighbors. Do that! It matters and you’ll make a difference.

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When I was a newlywed and lived in a four apartment building, two kind old sisters lived above me. They didn’t get out much, if at all, and they loved it when I walked upstairs to offer them butterscotch cookies. I certainly didn’t need all of those calories staring back at me, and they didn’t seem to have much fresh food, so I baked. For them and for me. I love baking. Adore it. And now I have no flight of stairs to walk up and no one to share my pumpkin bread. Wherever you in life, try to treasure it…

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You have gifts to share. Do that! Give away your time, your love, your cakes, your ability to read well, sing, to listen to someone’s story. That’s beauty. The Sephora stuff we buy to look beautiful can’t cover up a sour person. Someone with true happiness spilling over is lovely! Why do we like looking at brides so much? Because they glimmer, gleam and beam. They shine with love, and we all enjoy it. Go for that beauty today. The kind inside you, that no one can ever take away. Even if you’re sick. Dying. Divorcing. Even then…

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You are beautiful. Make a small space in your room beautiful too. Light a candle. Drink some soothing tea…or go to Starbucks (I love the happy baristas there, seriously!). Bring pretty pictures to your space. Books, incense, jewelry. Make it yours. Make it pretty. And enjoy being you for a little bit tonight. Until next time…

IMG_E7203(I’m slowly switching out summer’s flowers, but look! The rosemary survives…)