Sweet September Blue…

Night sweeps in earlier each evening, and the sudden change to a chilly house in the mornings is a surprise to me. September is usually still a warm month here, but it won’t be for the next ten days or so I’ve read. I decided to embrace autumn, stockpiling autumn candles that remind me of the woods ablaze with color, when only the pine trees kept their steadfast green. I miss the woods up north at this time of year, but trips aren’t really in vogue these days, so I’ll stay where some trees are shrugging off their dusty, too dry leaves, knowing others won’t turn vermillion until November.

I’m nostalgic for the days when every leaf changed at the same moment. That doesn’t happen here, so I create autumn in my home and my heart. Today I found the largest potted orange mums I have ever seen and bought them right away, adding some cute pumpkins with tall, thin stems that will look nice on the porch. I’m not ready to give into fall completely, and I adore those brave crickets who manage to stave off the frosts and live to tell their stories until November.

A cozy outdoor fire at our Kentucky farm last weekend…

Are there rules to September? Am I allowed to sleep with the windows open, only to turn on the furnace in the morning? Just for a half-hour. I savor each season as it’s handed out, which is so unlike my impetuous and impatient youth, where I waded through autumn and winter as if they were to be endured and not enjoyed. Not so now. Even those long January nights can carry warmth, love and laughter.

So I’m pulling you with me, into opening your eyes to the feast laid before us, or the one to come. Yes, the sun slips lower now, but that sweet September blue is back, and oh how the white wisps of clouds look perfectly content to sail high in the sky now that the haze has diminished. I know. It’s permanently hazy in the West, and I don’t want to hear of a hurricane. I need to know why the west is burning and can we please make it stop? The last time I was in the Northwest fires blazed, and none of us saw the mountains surrounding us. They stayed obscured, and I felt like I walked through apocalyptic days with the sun barely penetrating the daylight gloom.

Having fun playing with my candles at our Ohio home…

We can find happiness even then. Maybe not outdoors, but maybe so. I never saw the mountains on that trip, but I marveled at the gorgeous gardens, the homes built on hilltops, the thrumming of the Native Americans in the evenings just across the bay, and the shops that welcomed me as I made my way across the main streets. And did you know I stumbled across the most magical thing there? A tiny library for free. It was a very little cupboard on a post, telling people to take a book or leave one to share.

If that’s not magic, I don’t know what is. Books. I love words and the way authors place them perfectly into sentences that haunt me for years. Words flavor my life, and I carry some books, read long ago, in my heart forever. Seeing that perfect little invitation to take a book, and right next to the most beautiful garden perched against a simple, humble one-story home tells me magic exists anywhere. We just have to look for it.

Placing my weekly dose of flowers in the kitchen, where we all can enjoy them…

Even in this season of smoke. Even when the weather is much cooler than anticipated. Even when a hurricane brings too much rain. Especially then, don’t you think? We can find pockets of pretty in the middle of almost anything. Every sport under the sun is being played at the same time, after months of nothing, to the point where we watched two people playing corn hole on ESPN. Now we have a feast, and isn’t it fun? I love football, baseball and basketball, but my hockey-long family is gorging on that. Every sport is trying to make it work, and I am mesmerized at how resourceful we humans can be when hard pressed!

Sweet sunset evenings in the country, after visiting the neighbor’s horses…

One summer when I lived up north in a place called Wauwatosa, I spent much of my spare time painting the trim around the windows of our bungalow. One day I decided to have rice for lunch, so I set it to simmer when I spied the paint and paintbrush waiting for me by the kitchen’s back door. I picked up my toddler and took her outside to play while I methodically applied brilliant white paint to the freshly scraped wood trim.

While I perched precariously on that ladder, I heard the somewhat far off sound of a car alarm or siren of some sort. After five minutes or so of the relentless siren’s scream, I wondered if the source might be coming from inside my house. Was I ever shocked to discover the kitchen smoke alarm blaring as smoke billowed from the pot of rice! My self-diagnosed ADD had kicked in, and I had forgotten all about that rice. I had been in such a hurry to finish the painting, because September had arrived and I knew the number of warm days were winding down. Rain and cold typically took over by the end of that month.

Seeded eucalyptus and a baby pumpkin…

I spent that gorgeous afternoon opening every window, turning on the fans not yet placed in storage, and I scrubbed the pot until I realized I had no choice but to throw it out. In the evening when my husband came home, he walked in the door and started laughing. “Burnt rice again?” was all he said, and I shamefully nodded my head yes. It’s family lore now, all the times I forgot about the rice on the stove and scorched it instead. Finally, one day my husband bought me a rice cooker, and I’ve never burnt another pot of rice again. Just don’t ask about the time I forgot about the bacon. And I did.

September brings an urgency to complete so many outdoor tasks, and back then I spent my poorer days painting. Now it’s more about making sure we have wood stacked, and bulbs planted and leaves raked, but here I have until the end of October to finish. Somehow all the Septembers of my younger years have imprinted a more hurried approach, and any chance to be outside is refreshing and welcome.

A bouquet of September blooms and grasses…

I’m sending you our blue skies from the Midwest, the Ohio River Valley as they say here. Grab a fistful of flowers and bring them inside, burn those summer or autumn candles (inside, of course), hit up a movie at the drive-in, savor the simplicity of vanilla soft serve ice cream. Play your favorite music until it surrounds and imbues your mood. I always love The Boys of Summer and play it endlessly each autumn. Take care of you right now. Others always, but in the middle of everything or nothing, remember you matter. Find the beauty in you. It’s there. Then find the magic out there, waiting for you.

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

Until next time,

Deanna

Changing into happiness…

This “road” used to be well-travelled in the 1800’s…

I’ve been gone from this blog for a good reason. We moved. Changed houses. I loved my home surrounded by trees but it sat on such a teeny lot, so when this stately home came up for sale with acreage and a waterfall at the creek below, we scooped it up. 20 days later our home sold and I was living in the middle of another renovation (which I said I would never go through again, so the joke is on me). And I had so much to do. Change sat on my bed every morning waiting for me. Do you embrace change? Any change?

Willie Nelson loves the screened in porch…

I think change is good for us and our mental well-being. Seriously. Moving to this house made me see things differently. I went through box after box from 19 years of living in one house, and it felt good to rearrange and yes, toss out. I am the queen of throwing things out. I want to feel unencumbered. But change? No thank you. Except, we grow through change. You need a new view. A casting off of the stuff that weighs on you. All those photos waiting to be printed and placed in that scrapbook project you worked on five years ago. Let go…

Cookies from Coffee Emporium were a mid-day pick me up…

I’m not saying you should move. Though it does make you evaluate so much of your life. But you can change your view. Move your furniture around and place those vintage framed pictures just so. Sit by the window while reading your blogs. Eat dinner outside. I knew a couple who breakfasted out on their porch, fueling up on coffee and biscotti. What a beautiful way to see the world as it wakes up. Though you know me too well. I’m asleep then, but come midnight, I’m walking outdoors hoping for shooting stars.

a summery scene from our farm in Kentucky…

Listen, I never thought we would go through this ever again. Living with dust. No running water. Sean, the guy working on the master bath, lived in that small room. I think he spent some nights in there too. And I feel like I need to invite the painter, Bob, to our Thanksgiving, because he’s been here for two months! And I didn’t get to our farm much, since we have so much to finish here. We still have boxes lying around and I’m wondering where my grandma’s potato masher went.

Bourbon on the front porch in Kentucky…

We couldn’t leave the house much. We’ve missed our farm so much. But we’re enjoying the changes here. Now? When it rains, the creek below our house roars! We’re told many old-timers used to enjoy taking a canoe down that creek and over the Class III rapids! Crazy!! But the change has changed us. We’re in this home for the long haul. And this change of view? The quiet this home offers us? Is beautiful. A big sigh and a shaking off of the frenetic world just down that long driveway. Change your view. You’ll find out more about yourself and you will be happier. Just breathing in the cool (kind of) night air brings contentment and solace to our weary heads. We crave stability but why do we fight change so much?

Another day ends and I finish my walk…

Comfort calls. We are mostly creatures of habit. Some of you mavericks out there plunge into the rapids and shake off your cares so easily, but the rest of us? We need to push ourselves into doing something new. Find a different chair to sit in. This doesn’t have to be a “we’re moving to China so I can see if I’m happier there”. The subtle changes expand our minds and hearts. The night my whole family sat in Charleston,S.C. facing down a platter of escargot. And we all slurped them down and laughed. We ate that stuff and survived. I’ll always remember our first trip to Charleston.

friendly horses are our neighbors…

With one full month of summer left to us, why don’t you change? Read the new before heading out for work. Grab coffee and sit down and focus on the taste. I throw back shots of espresso, when the iced coffee I slowly sipped later this afternoon brought happiness. I was hanging out with my girls, in the bohemian chic part of Cincinnati. Surprise! We have it here too:). Grab your kid and go to a ballgame. Eat the hotdogs. Laugh and yell. Try to catch a foul ball. Then go home and sit in a different chair to catch up on Yellowstone or Stranger Things.

Cool bourbon on a steamy night on the porch swing…

I know we’re blessed to have a beautiful farm and this larger (just when we became empty nesters too) new home. We had little homes for so very long, that I am beyond thankful for this. Back to your point of view… When we’re almost to the farm, we drive rolling back roads and count how many people are whiling away the afternoon just sitting on the porch. Not reading. Not playing any games from what we can see. Yes, our neighbors sit and watch the world go by. Do that, would you? Look for late season fireflies. If you’re lucky enough to live in a bustling city, then open your window and let the sounds find you. Sit at an outdoor cafe and watch. Just enjoy the people around you. I wish you armfuls of happiness this August.

Until next time…

windy evening promises…

I’m in Kentucky again. For a girl from upstate New York, I sure love my Kentucky time. I don’t know what weather you’ve been going through, but here? Rain with a touch more rain, so we enjoyed the miracle of a rain-free drive down singing with the radio at the top of our voices, all the way here. After we arrived and the house slowly warmed herself (and us!), my husband made a fire and I lit the candles and listened to the rain lash the windows and roof.

The fire snickered to herself while the hollow sounds of winds whirling made me burrow into my blanket on the couch, and then the most wonderful thing happened. Before my husband went to bed, we both stood on the upper back porch, and I heard it! The peepers or tree frogs or whatever they are called. They’re the little frogs that make a ruckus early in the spring by our ponds. (I discovered more hidden ponds this way.) With the mourning doves cooing and the peepers singing, spring arrived tonight.

I know more days of cold will visit me, and the grey days full of sodden skies will linger longer than I like, but…the tops of my daffodils resiliently push through the dirt, and I hold my breath, wondering if they know more than the weather reporters? I need spring, with her flirty ways. One moment she’s full of promise, showing off tulips and dogwoods in bloom, and the next day she ices me out, bringing an unwelcome snowfall. But I’m tentatively hopeful. And happy. Does spring do that to you?

You caught me. I’m watching Katniss Everdeen take on her world, while I wonder if it’s time to shed the weight of winter, the good and bad and grab at happiness. Can we all do that? I feel lighter already. Yes, a fire dies at my feet, but the window is open. I love open windows. Does it go back to being a child, when my grandma and I shared a room with an open window, bringing in the scent of lilacs, and freshly cut grass? Happiness is found. Created by us. We can chase her down, finding her in the wind, a warm fire, a delicious book, or a wonderful conversation.

Don’t waste your time on negative thoughts that bring you down. Be optimistic. Not cautiously so either. Go full in! Dive into your days. Make each one special. How? Sip wine with a sunset. Listen to Andrea Botticelli sing with Ed Sheehan. Buy the flowers. Remember the spring when you first found love. Me? I remember so much, too much, that I could write you every night for a hundred years. I used to open my window, sit at my desk and write into the night (I still do) with the wind puckering at the gauzy curtains. I remember falling in love over pecan cookies, shared on the spring grass at college with my boyfriend. The one man who made loving as easy as breathing. I just had to look at him. And I knew. I would stay 1,000 miles away from my family to make him my family. His eyes told me all I needed to know. And we still don’t know why we were eating pecan cookies, since we both dislike them so much! Who cares what you eat when love wraps you up, just by his voice, his eyes, his smile? I love spring…

While that boy who ate pecan cookies with me in spring, sleeps in the bed in the next room, I linger, longing to write you of love, promises and beauty. Find spring where you are. Search for her. Then go deeper and find that hope in you. Chase down your dreams, your love, your children, your God. Find the happiness in music, in singing in your car. In a fire with open windows. In the lonely sound of a windy night. Crawl into your bed and feel it. Go ahead. She’s all yours for the taking. Happiness.

until next time…which just could be tomorrow…

Basketball, cell phones and Kentucky…

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Last weekend my husband and I headed to our farm in Kentucky. One night is what we planned on, coming home in time to work on various projects and run errands But guess what happened? When we walked into our cold cabin, lit a flickering fire, turned on the hot water and stocked the fridge, we decided to stay all weekend. No tea from my local cafĂ©, but good, strong, hot coffee. And a wi-fi that’s temperamental, but loads of movies on dvd. Action movies, mainly. The Crown waits for a weeknight.

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Everything back home could wait, and we had plenty in the pantry to see us through. We really are quite far from a store. No pizza delivery. No deliveries at all. Contrast that with our other life in the suburbs and farm time is special. I know how lucky we are to have two places. When we started out together, we had a tiny starter home in an area rife with crime. I could safely run in only one direction. West. And we dreamed of the day when we could run in all directions and not worry much.

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Why am I telling you this? I guess I’m afraid of sounding like I have it all. Or maybe that we don’t deserve this. And you know what? As hard working as my husband has been throughout our marriage, we still feel like we do live a dream life. But it didn’t fall into our laps. No. Years of working, saving and waiting paid off for us.

 

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I’m amazed at where God brought us. So many years we worried about paying for doctor’s bills and groceries. And what does that all have to do with your happiness? Well, I’ve been thinking of how we made it here and how you will too. It involves goals, working, and not giving up on yourself. Years later here we are in a nice home with good schools. Old cars for the kids. Heck, phones for the kids, which seems more necessary some days than cars. And that brings me to a funny story.

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My oldest was sixteen and phoneless. I didn’t see why she needed a cell phone yet, except her new driver status meant she might run into an emergency. So the time had arrived for her to join the world. (This was over eleven years ago and cell phones weren’t nearly as prevalent.) A phone for her made sense and also for child #2, who spent countless hours at different fields and courts and required rides everywhere. So I decided to have a little fun with the whole cell phone bit.

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Daughter #2 is athletic. She played basketball and in her sixth grade year she played awesome defense, but I wanted her to score more than four points a game for a fun change. So I promised kid #2 that if she made ten points in this game, today, she would earn herself and her sister a cell phone. Each. Two cell phones. (I was running three kids in three separate directions while my husband worked 75 miles away, so the phones would help us all so much.)

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The parents on the sidelines knew about my promise. The coach did not. My husband, the assistant coach, knew nothing, thank goodness. As the game entered the fourth quarter (each child played equal amounts of time, generally), my daughter sat at six points. She had come so close! I felt bad for her and waited for the end of the game to arrive, so I could tell her how wonderfully she played. Except some parent on my side had told the coach to let her play until she made ten points. That’s all he knew. I was oblivious to the plan. The coach kept her in. The game. And yes, she was fouled. Bam! Two free throws. Two points.

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Oh wow! Daughter #2 now sat a mere two points away from her goal. And yes, she made a shot, and hit her ten points! My four points a game princess did it. And even though the game hadn’t ended, every parent on our team stood up and screamed! She had done it! The other team looked at us as if we were insane. Why cheer with two minutes left in a very close game? Because she had earned it. A cell phone. Two actually. As her teammates laughed and the parents patted me on the back, a smile grew larger on my face. I happily joined in the happy celebration! She had earned it, and everyone celebrated. We shared kid #2’s happiness. Yes! Yesss!

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I explained to both daughters how achieving a certain goal had earned them cell phone bliss. Having goals for yourself, reasonable ones, and pie-in-the-sky goals too, is necessary. It keeps us working long past our breaking point. We don’t give up. We push onward. Because we know if we work at it, we will get better and get our cell phone. That Kentucky farm. A trip to Colorado. Whatever you long for and wish for.

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It’s good to really work your way through something. Have goals. Ambition. Stay at work long into the evening. Hitting and then smashing past our benchmarks, brings us happiness. It does! Hard work yields so much in this world! And the other funny thing? My husband who really did work eighty hour weeks for years on end, lost his access to country land when his dad died. He’s a country boy. And for over twelve years in Ohio, he depended on the invitations of friends to get in some rural time. Until, I found a slice of country heaven five years ago and we snapped it up.

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Knowing how much he wanted some land to putter on, farm, and enjoy, I decided I would rather have land in Kentucky than travel and see the world. We bought the farm and built a cabin, and happiness secret #2 came alive. Making someone else’s dream come true is fun, wonderful and it brings us happiness! It does! Out of his happiness, I have found bliss and delight. We both enjoy the farm so much, that staying the whole weekend is wonderfully fun and relaxing.

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Maybe your goal is to save up money to buy a slice of land somewhere safe. Keep at it! You can do this. And the other way to happiness is to bring some of that to another person. Give away your happiness for theirs.

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Happiness given away is happiness earned. Just ask my eldest. She remembers finding out her little sis had won a phone for her, and her happiness spread out. We all enjoyed their excitement. The cell phones I bought the very next day? The girls used them, and nowadays they text one another and snapchat and connect.

See? Happiness can be given and taken. Earned and spent.

I hope you have a lapful of contentment this week. Moments of bliss in the middle of hard work. And let’s spread some happiness around this week…

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Until next time…