Winter’s gifts…

This is a place to come and find a way of looking at the world in all its craziness and still find happiness and contentment. Find the beauty in this world. So why would I even start with winter? Well, this is a tough season because many of us are stuck inside with few places to go to and escape this cold, dark time of year. I’m thrilled to see the sun setting later each evening, when I do catch a glimpse of that orange orb, because winter here is often filled with low, grey clouds that do nothing to lift one’s spirits.

The beauty of evergreens is the instant pop of green I see, especially now.

I try as much as any of us to find little snippets of contentment, and some days I find it by enjoying a sunny day or going on the back porch to listen to the rush of water as the creek runs past me, or by hoping for a foot of snow. Yes, snow! I am from the Northeast where it snowed almost everyday, and large snowfalls were common. I like the muffled sound that occurs when the world is being covered rather quickly in white, and then the feeling of unity or camaraderie that arrives when the neighborhood comes alive with the sound of shovels scraping or the occasional whir of the snow blowers.

A bit of snow transforms the browns of autumn to a winter wonderland.

I enjoy going out to shovel the snow (sometimes), and last winter brought us only rain, so I’m hoping for a lovely, large snowfall. A sunny day will usually follow, and after shoveling the sidewalks and paths, it’s great to come inside to wrap my cold fingers around a steaming cup of coffee or tea and feel a great sense of accomplishment. It’s been years since I made a snowman or a snow angel or went sledding, but I remember those days fondly. When I lived up North, I liked the feeling of being snowed in for the day. Nowhere to go, except home, where beef stew and fresh bread waited since the grocery stores were ransacked the day before a storm hit. Reading a book, and then tucking into some made-from-scratch brownies using the Toll House recipe makes me happy in winter.

Just a sprinkling of snow, but isn’t it beautiful?

Another way I’ve found to bring a bit of happiness to my winter world is traveling to see my family, as in mom and dad and brother or sister. It’s winter where they live too, but a visit every February lightens my heart, as I have a spa day with mom, while dad and I watch movies every evening together. He lights the candles I send him almost every month, and we settle in for a good visit. I’m just about ready to plan my trip, and this time I’m going to look through old albums to remind me of fun days spent with people who love me. Instant happiness.

Wood ready for the fireplace, while the snow flies at our cabin.

Can you tap into ways to find happiness as we still deal with the virus? Do you have a real fireplace to sit close to in the evening or even the day? Stringing up lights inside your space will bring a cozy feeling at night. Do you have a fire pit outside? Sit close to the fire, though be sure not to burn your shoes and bring out a warming drink. Whisky or hot cocoa? You can be by yourself and surround yourself with dreams of days past or the things yet to come, or invite a hardy soul to brave the elements with you next to that roaring fire.

The flakes just starting to fly.

I do have a little story to share with you about a campfire. My husband and I were camping with some other couples, and the evening was very cool to the point where a fire was necessary. We gathered next to it, shelling peanuts and telling stories and jokes, when one of the guys yelled that his shoe was on fire! We yelled back for him to get his foot far away from its perch across the stones encircling the fire. He stamped out the fire on his smoking shoe, and we laughed at how deformed his rubber sole now looked, and all because he had been so cold he placed his foot quite literally in the fire! That’s one way to get permanently warm.

A frozen pond perfect for ice skating.

If we embrace winter, rather than fighting it all season, we can find a measures of happiness poured out into our hands. I used to downhill ski, and then I tried cross country skiing, which is actually a blast and burns millions of calories. I took ice skating lessons with my young daughter a lifetime ago, or I would run laps while she skated and learned to pirouette on ice. Hockey games are fun, and if you’ve tried to enjoy winter’s gifts and are longing for escape, I have so many ideas for you.

Baking is my kind of fun, but maybe cooking brings you pleasure, reading while candles (real or faux) burn next to you conjures up warmth. What about staying in your sweats and watching a series of movies while you use your French press to make a delectable cup of coffee, and while you’re at it, add some Bailey’s Irish whisky to that cup. Call up a friend and chat. You’ll feel like you’re sitting across a table catching up on life. Take a drive and stop and take photos of something that catches your eye and captivates your imagination. Go to a small downtown area and shop their stores. Do a zoom while watching the football playoffs. Imagine all you’re going to do when this world opens back up. Save some money to take a trip, even a small one nearby, when it’s safe to do so.

It really is the small things that make our lives beautiful, fun and happy.

Be silly. Camp out in your family room. Turn up the heat for a whole day. Read a book that takes place in summer or play songs that remind you of summers long past. Order takeout as a splurge, and make it from a really fine restaurant. Have a picnic next to the fire. Take silly pics that will warm your soul next winter. Think warm. Look up how warm it is in Key West, Florida and imagine you are there. Go somewhere warm if you’re up to it. Play for a whole day. Workout so you can take a long hike or bike ride on the first lovely spring day.

This year will see the world opening back up at some point. Let’s keep our eyes on the beauty near us now, while keeping an eye on the near future when we’ll be able to go anywhere we wish. That day is coming. This won’t last forever. And now that I’m hungry, I think it’s time to bake some chocolate chip cookies that way I like them: with double the chocolate chips.

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

Until next time,

Deanna

Savoring the season…

How did your November go? Was Thanksgiving strange? Hopefully it was still a lovely day, full of reasons to be thankful. Now we’ve turned the corner into the Christmas season, and it is different. I still have to remember to put on my mask as I walk into the store, but I decided to help my daughter shop for the last few items for her little family before she welcomes her second child and we had a lot of fun today. No, I couldn’t drink my Starbucks while I shopped, but we wondered what kind of wrapping paper her little boy might like.

Candles and cookies. We look forward to our neighbors’ cookies.

One thing is certain. Change happens to all of us, and while this might be a strange time for us, people are still getting married, having babies, moving to new homes and still visiting virtually. While waiting for the new baby to make her entrance into the world, I’ll also be watching my bride-to-be daughter trying on wedding dresses next week. And by this time next week, I will finally have a waterfront property! Yes, we will “own” a piece of the creek that runs behind our house. My dreams have been realized.

Are you laughing with me? A younger me once wished to have an oceanfront home, though I changed my mind after I discovered sunlight made me ill. Who knew the sun could make some people sick? (Lupus.) Since then, my husband and I have joked about the ponds on our farm in Kentucky, but this creek that has a real name brings me happiness. When it rains, the creek swells and turns rather violent. Thankfully, our house is a long ways up the hill, so I can hear the rush and roar of the three waterfalls. One will be ours, but who can own water, truly?

It’s easy to have a sense of wonder as a child.

We are blessed to have Hunner’s Creek, and we love hearing the neighbor’s kids enjoying the water as much as our own kids did when they were younger. My husband thinned out a few trees, so we can see the small waterfall from our back porch. I like knowing another generation is as mesmerized by a creek just as I was when I was about ten or twelve. My friends and I would play in the large forest that had a small creek running through it, and we were lucky that it ran past our back yard.

My daughter who is getting married next summer wants “her” ornaments. I’ve come to love them, but I’ve kept them safe all these years. It’s time to relinquish them.

A strange thing happened years ago when I drove past that old house where I spent so many days climbing the tall trees, and I found that forest had grown smaller. Much smaller than I recalled, and I had to laugh at the way children can turn something small and not very impressive into a magnificent world. What if we did that now? If we marveled over the cookies our neighbor brings to us each year, and instead of noticing that the array of cookies has shrunk over time, we could enjoy her mint brownies with the green icing? If we looked at the lights people have lit up outdoors in defiance of the darkness of 2020? If we wondered at so many neighbors joined in solidarity against the nights the swoop in early and linger too long?

An early snow changes the dull brown to a world full of wonder and light.

We light out world in unison, in solidarity, and turn our backs to the uncertainty of this world, and it brings smiles to so many. I look at the Christmas tree that looked large at the store, and no, it was not the grocery store this year. I went to Home Depot, and that Fraser Fir looks small. I thought about it over coffee one morning and realized the higher ceilings in this new house, along with the larger rooms mean we have to bring in a larger tree. So, next year we are going to cut down one of the cedars that grows so easily in the poorer soil of Kentucky!

Just watch, though. I think we will wind up bringing in a tree that is far too wide. Which brings me to a story. One December I had just given brith to our third child, so I asked my husband to take the car and find a tree with the girls. They were eight and five and eager to pick out the perfect tree. Did I mention that we had just moved to a larger house with a two story ceiling, so when I noticed a tree covering a car driving up our road I wondered. My husband had tied a huge tree to the top of the car, and how he managed to see the way home was a marvel. The tree they chose covered the front and back. All anyone could see was a tree on wheels. Seriously.

A vintage ornament nestled next to one with glitter made by one of my kids long, long ago.

My proud husband and excited daughters brought in that monstrosity that would be our Christmas tree, only the bottom had to be cut off quite a bit and then the top of the tree had to be tied to the bannister going up the stairs to the bedrooms. I could hang ornaments only as far as my arms could reach, so the tree had bare patches higher up. But the kids were thoroughly enchanted with “their” tree. They had chosen it and watched their father chop it down. It might not have made the pages of any home decor magazine, but it made for a memory. We still laugh about that Christmas tree, so this year’s spindly one (for a second year in a row, because it took me that long to figure out the issue) will be enjoyed.

It’s the small things that bring happiness, as long as we’re willing to feel it. To take this time and snuggle under a blanket, maybe in front of a warming fire or one outside, and turn off all the lights except for the tree and watch a holiday film. To send out a few cards to friends this year. To buy someone a cup of coffee just because. To sing out loud. To really look at the ornaments on your tree and enjoy your favorites. I still go out in the cold and listen to the creek. I’m thankful for heat, for candles, for my family. I’m thankful for all the old Christmas carols that I sing in the car. Thankful for tinted car windows too.

An “ugly” ornament from my mom’s 1970’s collection. It’s growing on me. Might be a collector’s item one day.

In the waning days of a tiring year, can we find the wonder? Can we enjoy a different Christmas? We’re having ours on Christmas Eve, since one of my kids has to work at the hospital on Christmas Day. I’m looking forward to watching movies that I like on the actual day itself. And no cooking! Nope. We’re getting Chinese. I’ll be wishing and praying for a thick snow to fall and make the world look beautiful, but even if it’s drab and grey, we still can feel happy. We’ve made it this far. I think we can wander into 2021 with hope. Wonder. And happiness.

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

Until next time,

Deanna