Looking through a window…

I’ve been impatient with spring and her wily ways, hot sun on my neck one day only to turn around and feel the sting of a cold winter rain the next day. As a child I never noticed how spring starts at the ground and makes her way upwards. First the grass turns an impressive emerald green, and suddenly what looked murky and dreary is brightened by the new hue. The forsythia is next here, bright yellow and showy, but I don’t have any in my new yard, so I stare at the blessed ones who do.

Next are the bushes, with honeysuckle bursting forth, and I wait and watch for the trees to break out in pink, white and green. It’s so difficult to feel down when the sky is turning a deep azure again, soft breezes play at the windows, making me want to give in to all the pollen and open every single window. I do stand at the large front windows looking out, and I want to join the parade of runners and walkers, but my lot is different and I have to take walks at twilight and pull weeds when the shadows grow long. Sunlight isn’t a friend anymore to me.

As I walk in the evening with my husband, it feels good to see others out with their kids or walking a dog, but I’m secretly plotting how to walk on the bike trail (we call it the bike trail, but it’s for walking, running, roller skates and horses too) in the middle of the day when the new grass and fresh blooming trees smell like a salad. Seriously, I have no beautiful word for the essence that is spring, except to name it salad greens, and I inhale and recall how I’d run and think of food at the same time.

I suppose we all have out little eccentricities, and mine was to run dreaming of barbecue spare ribs, sweet corn bread, sliced new cucumbers and strawberry short cake. My track teammates in high school used to ask me what I smelled for dinner, knowing it was my imagination taking me away from the agony of 400 repeats at a sprint. And on a warm day, when the birds talk loudly and the world is full of color, I crave spring greens. Salad. Someone could label a candle “salad greens”, and I’d buy it. I’d want to eat it.

Spring can’t be caught, not even captured in an image on a coffee cup full of precious caffeine, but it’s experienced. Here where I live, spring creeps in sometime in March and she doesn’t fully open until later in April, but I’ve lived places where spring is a punch of blooms, birds and heady lilac scents all at once. One day is winter, and we all seemed to know when spring had finally reached it’s tendrils far enough north, so we could cast off our coats and throw on tees and sandals.

I had few days in college where I could wander away from my books and studying, and the most difficult days were in spring. I’d lean my forehead against the slim window in the library and wish I could fling away my work, but I didn’t have time for her. Spring. You know I have my stories, don’t you?

One evening, after a long day filled with upper level classes with words like mergers and acquisitions, followed by studying for statistics (not as easy as one would imagine), I managed to lure my boyfriend out of the library where he was more diligent than I, and we went to the store, the only grocery store in town and for some strange reason we bought pecan cookies thinking the other really liked them. We took the cookies and sat near Hyer Hall near full leafy trees under a midnight blue sky pricked with stars, reveling in the night while taking small bites of a cookie neither one of us would ever eat alone.

We laugh about it now, and to this day we’re not sure why we picked those cookies, but I think we remember the evening spent playing hooky from studying. For a while, because we both were in the same classes and rather competitive, so our books still sat wide open to pages that had been read five times over until we succumbed to spring’s delights. After we stared at the stars and wondered about our future, we made our way back inside. Cloistered with old books, dusty with age, we were brought in by duty and fear of failure.

We wound up together, that boy and me. I think all those days of forcing ourselves to stay in and study followed us into our real lives afterward. Demanding careers beckoned, and I watched autumn from a window, too afraid to fail again, so I made sure to put in the required overtime, and the boy studied for an important exam. We both did. But we learned to enjoy running outside, so we could feel the breeze and embrace the sunset. I’d gaze at gardens given over to tulips and daffodils, vowing to plant them when we had some money.

Those days were rewarded. Now we can take some time, some, and luxuriate in the owl who’s come back or rediscovered his voice, and the three waterfalls just down the hill from us that look fast and sound rushed as the spring rains fill the creek. That water has places to go, and so do we. Taking our time to sneak up on a pond to hear the peepers, those tree frogs is pure fun for me. In Wisconsin they wouldn’t come out until May, but here they are making a ruckus in March, and we listen and watch.

I leave the back door open as many days as I can, because I like hearing the creek, and I hope for nights of endless lightning. Thunderstorms are a spring ritual here, and sitting on the back porch while the storm rolls in makes up for all those days stuck in a library or a conference room. We have a bit more time to watch storms and run inside when the rain pelts at us, and the next morning I walk to the one window I choose to keep open on almost any day from April until November, and the creek gleams at me. Then the trees grow in fuller, and the creek becomes a delightful little secret.

As for now, this spring? I am planning on walking early. I know, the whole night owl thing can be a drudge, but last year I walked at midnight and found few lights burnings inside the houses of my neighbors, my friends. They were tucked away dreaming of their morning walk followed by a stretch session with coffee, and I want that again. That’s the beauty of spring. She brings us too many possibilities that we cannot keep up with her, but the sun slips down later, and the moon rides high in the night sky, waxing to full. How can we not want to go strawberry picking, or looking for covered bridges on a pretty day.

I think that is the word for springtime. Pretty. Even on tough day, bad days, I’ve sat outside and maybe cried, but I always wound up looking up and marveling at what we have. All of us. The beauty is here. We just have to look for it. A cat sitting screened inside an open window, or driving with the top down in the car, playing our music a little too loudly, but still. And my husband and I will agree that Oreos are the best, and we’ll laugh at what we did so many years ago when the world held promises that she kept. Be happy. Even for a minute. An hour is better, but take one minute and look.

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

Until next time,

Deanna

Billow and blow…

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Tonight, I listen to the rushing sound of the creek just down the path from my back door. Soothing, I love the way the night winds stir up the curtains, making them billow and pucker in the breezes. Those breezes touch my hands, anoint my feet and I reflexively grab my throw blanket. Even with the world falling to pieces, in a way, spring arrives and reminds us to hope. Do not give up. Hope.

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Even while waiting in exile away from others, here in the middle, waiting, knowing it’s coming and will touch us all, we can enjoy beauty. The sighing of the evening wind that swoops and dips around our house, apartment, farm or condo. Open a window. Let in the freshness, even if the day is a mite chilly or cold. We can celebrate spring and dare to hope as the leaves thrust out their new shoots.

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We have the sweetest creek running down a huge hill from our backyard, and I’ve never had the pleasure of going down to see her. Today, I decided was the day. My husband said I would slip and fall, and what does he know? So I picked my way past honeysuckle bushes turned green, buttercups all yellow and waiting to be picked, down to the little tiny creek, and oh! was it steep. I did slip on moss and my foot fell into the creek, but I laughed in spite of myself and went as far as I dared.

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Isn’t that little waterfall gorgeous? I knew if I didn’t get down there and quick, the bushes would prevent my passage, and so I did. The creek talks to herself and I stood on old stones listening. Peace. No thoughts of how I have to stay in the house now. No thoughts of my loved ones so far from me. Will we be okay? Are we as ready as we can be here? And still the world goes on. The creek babbled along, talking about promises and of a new spring and then someday summer. It will still happen.

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I think of not seeing my parents. My grandson. And of my son, in his junior year of university, holed up here, studying until his brain feels like it cannot take another single fact, and not being able to blow off the steam in a bar full of friends and pretty girls and dancing. We all are sacrificing, but I think it’s for good. I choose to believe that. Can we try to find the good in the people out there? Some are rotten as a dying tree. But most are like us, waiting, hoping, praying. We want peace. Happiness. Is that too much?

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I have hope in us. We will emerge wanting to get away from computers and tv.s. We will put down our phones and we will connect. Today, when I ambled and partly tumbled down the hill, I heard the birds chattering, going about building their nests, preparing for life. I could hear the children farther up the creek laughing and playing. When I made my way carefully back uphill, the water gurgled and spoke. The breeze blew my hair about, and I listened. Just stopped and stayed. I had no where else to be. Why not linger and look at the trees, the beguiling sky that always mesmerizes me? Why not just be?

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I cannot make a great offering for the world. I only have my words. And tonight I hear my son laughing with friends, online upstairs. Harry Potter is on the tv, on mute though, which is my go-to default for coziness. And the back door opens to the most delightful porch, so I hear the wind and even the creek. When I sleep, I leave a window open, to hear, to not miss the thunder that arrives at night, to hear birds chattering long before a decent time, but sweet to hear nonetheless. No matter the cost, no matter our price, the world goes on. We can pause for now. And then move forward.

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Tonight or today, whoever you are, you can still feel the wind on your cheek. The breeze carries the freshness of a new night, or at daybreak we are offered the sun along with our coffee. Drink it in. Staying at home and learning to be by ourselves is maybe a thing we needed to learn all over again. I read and write. Yes, we binge watch some shows, but the true magic is in seeing my family on Zoom, watching the leaves unfurl, unafraid of tomorrow, and learning obscure Scrabble words. Wish. Hope. Learn. Cry. Then laugh.

I’m wishing you all the happiness you can find….

Thank you to all who are helping the sick. I pray for your strength. Your health. Thank you. We all will never be able to repay you. But I offer my silent thanks every day, in spite of the tears.

Until next time.

Deanna

smiling sliver of the moon…

Roses from the store remind me of all the flowers to come. Why, as I write to you, the very high windows in our great room, that I leave open, with no curtains or blinds to hide the wonder of the outdoors, those windows show me my bare limbed maple tree. And behind the branches lifting her limbs up to the sky in wonder, sits the crescent moon, tipped on her side. She smiles down at me and my tree, since the moon is waxing and she’s a large white smile in the inky sky. Even the moon loves spring!

The wind rising outside makes a lonely sound, and fast clouds pass my smiling moon and find other places to beguile. I’m showing you “Lucy”, a painting we brought home a month ago. We only buy paintings that make us happy, or content or restful. And I suppose I cannot wax eloquent about a moon all night. So here is a sliver of happiness on a wall to brighten the grey days. The yellow is in our kitchen, since to me, it is a very proper kitchen color at times. Sunshiney and pleasant.

Daylight is not foreign to me, and we all have our lists of to do’s, and one of mine is to play with accents at home. (See how occupied I can become and thus avoid editing my book?!) This bunny hopped into my arms and I carried her here, in the foyer, on our antique poplar table. The bunny likes the real roses as much as I do. Do you smile when you see flowers? The pizza delivery guy told me how much my crocuses made him smile as he made his way to our door. Smiles come easily in spring.

The crocuses are small, but the yellow catches the eye and stalwartly says, “Spring is here, even if tomorrow blows cold and grey. I’m here to tell you, be happy. I bring you spring.” What I buried in the cool earth five months ago, has brought me hope. The grass greens, and the buds on the trees swell. Oh! The birds! Do you hear them chattering as they gather sticks and grasses to feather their nests? I threw open the windows and door and reveled in their raucous songs today! You know spring is here, when the quiet is broken by birdsong. They’ll grow quieter as the summer approaches. So enjoy their music. You don’t need a radio; you need an open window or door.

What’s your favorite season? I used to love summer, since she’s hot, brash, full of color and brings long days of bright sunshine. Spring? I fell in love with her a few years ago. Did you know the greening up happens at the ground first, in the grass, then it slowly makes its way up to the bushes, with the forsythia and pussy willows showing off too. And finally the trees open up and share their sweet green leaves with the world. Another winter passed. Another spring is made welcome.

Since we’re discussing spring and how happy that season feels, I thought I’d show you another one of my frog princes. Why? Because he looks supremely confident, and it’s a subtle reminder to me that when I go down to our farm this weekend, the frogs will be singing all night long. I learned to love that sound years ago in Wisconsin, where spring is celebrated with abandon. (They have long winters, so I understand their happiness when a warm day arrives.) Do you grill out on that first warm day? Do the longer days make you happier? Happiest? I hope so.

I don’t have a picture of the moon that’s sinking lower in the west, so here’s one in a store nearby. Whether you revel in nighttime ponderings or love waking before dawn to watch the gold slowly light the sky on fire, try to open a window. Let yourself feel the hope spring brings us and places right at our feet. Those dandelions will soon remind us that our days and nights tucked in around a fire have given way to walks around the neighborhood, greeting people we haven’t seen since November. Be happy. Find your sliver of happiness this week and weekend. Embrace spring. Get outside. Breathe. And smile. Always…

Until next time…

Breathless Wonder…

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I’ve been waiting weeks for today. The first day of spring. Not calendar spring, but that undeniable mist of green covering every bush, ready to burst forth with tender leaves, and daffodils nodding their pretty yellow heads that, yes, it’s here. My daffodils are trusty and stood up in defiance of an early spring snowfall, whereas my magnolia tree? She waited and now those creamy white blooms reach out heavenward and I know it. I’m in love with the world again.

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How can anyone feel ill on such a beautiful day, I once asked myself, about a hundred years ago. Because I was. I thought twenty year olds stayed healthy until old age dawned. You know, like, around age forty at least. I smile at my younger self. I can laugh at her too. Especially on days when happiness is the creek running fast, gurgling songs that make you pay attention to her. And did I mention the bluebirds I’ve seen in my yard?

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How can you not feel gloriously happy when bluebirds show up at your bird feeder? The gentle spring rains are adding their music to my day, while I sit here in the quiet and listen to the pattering on the roof, snug underneath, thick socks still keeping toes cozy. Don’t days like this feel wonderful? Happiness, like love, is so much easier when hope blooms. And it is. Some of you have already thrown open your windows to catch the warm whispers of spring breezes, while others wait patiently for old man winter to finally move out for good.

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Happiness looks you in the mirror in the mornings, because that sun is starting to shine so brightly, that even wrinkles look good. Yes, I am that enthralled by spring. Aren’t we all lured outdoors to bear witness to the dawn, and the gold-hued world she offers on sun drenched mornings? I’m called out in the evenings, the colors feel more muted and soothing, and I love holding tea in my hands, while drinking in the purples, chasing the pinks, that follow the orange in the sky.

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Even if you’re sick, in body or heart, take time to be outside in the freshness of this spring. You need time out for you, and ten minutes of sitting on your front step is pouring life and love back into your body. Share the moment with others and add to your happiness. I like to pick out the evening star and remember the night my father taught me the basic constellations. If you can get away from city lights, look into the night sky and be filled with stars and planets.

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On a late spring evening when I lived farther south, I stood under the whisperings of a willow tree with several friends, ready to head home. My best friend’s brother reached out to my thirteen year old self, to catch my attention, and I’ll always remember him saying with a measure of wonder in his voice,”Your skin feels so soft.” It caught me off guard. Was that a good thing? Soft skin? Because a thirteen year old girl back then didn’t know if she was pretty or pretty enough. At least, I didn’t. I wanted dark hair and dark skin, but had been handed very light hair with almost blonde skin, so I didn’t know if what I saw looking at me in the mirror was okay. When the guy I secretly liked said that to me, I felt beautiful and light, as though I had drunk a glass of wine.

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Why do I bring that up? Because most of us are lucky enough to have had springs of discovery, where we found our footing in a precarious world. We only have a handful of springs before responsibility calls our name and we enter the race. Busyness claims us, one by one. But don’t let the cares of this world keep you from feeling love, wonder, happiness and hope. We were made for these days. May wide-eyed wonder fill your days (and evenings) this week.

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Until next time…

Within our grasp…

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How is March going for you? I think those of us who live in the warmer parts of the nation are feeling spring tugging at their sleeves, begging them to take off that jacket and enjoy the warm sunshine. Those of us farther north are gritting out teeth while we look for snowdrops and crocuses to push up through the brown ground, or through the endless slush of grey snows. I live in the middle, so the grass is greening up (and I heard someone close by mowing their lawn this week, and no! it’s way to early to begin that) and my daffodils are blooming. But we had snow last night at the farm. This is a month of waiting.

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Waiting requires patience and that’s difficult. I even broke open my St. Patrick’s Day candy a bit early. Green looks so good after months of brown, taupe, and grey. Those grey days pull me down sometimes. You? Can you march right through a string of grey days, armed with inner fortitude? I think we all have ways of dealing with endless grey days, whether they be outside or in our heart. A cup of steaming coffee, espresso or tea in the morning helps. Coming home to a glass of Chardonnay or two fingers of bourbon is something to look forward to for others. Me? My espresso when the morning is rough, followed by copious amounts of sweet tea. And yes, sugar is bad for me, but it is my vice. Okay, yes, chocolate is my vice too. I know. I should gnaw on a carrot stick rather than savor that dark chocolate, but I don’t. How about you?

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If you’re going to tell me a five mile run followed by a green shake (not a Shamrock shake) is your pick-me-up, I will act impressed. But. I can’t do that right now. Maybe never. And if you’re in the same boat as I am, what do we do, while we wait for sun soaked days filled with lilac scented breezes?

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Several things come to mind. Bringing spring inside helps. Some prefer escaping into a book, their video games, meeting up with someone. I was on Facebook last night and a young man messaged me. He went to school with my daughter, and basically he said he felt very lonely. I wasn’t going to bring up loneliness this week, but this conversation  happened. I tried to make suggestions for him, but it’s tough for introverts to get out there. Just stepping through the door of a new place sends shivers down their backs. I think we all need to cultivate a couple of friendships.

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Making the effort to join a group where you’ll find friends is vital. Join something. Yoga, soccer, book groups, running groups or just about anything you dream up is out there. Walk out your door and join. And if you’re connected, fabulous! Can you look for the people on the side? Not talking to anyone? Just watching? While your laughing away with your besties, can you look for a new friend to pull into your circle? Can we all be more inclusive? What is that old saying?

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Step outside your comfort zone. That’s what we’re told. Do something new, and grab someone kind of new to go along. I just went with a new friend to construct a rustic sign for my farmhouse/cabin. I felt like I was back in shop class, and as intimidated as I am by drills and hammers, I persevered and the sign looks okay. Nice, even. But the best part? Getting to know a new friend better and laughing our way through the event.

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Tonight I’m going to a play with one of my kids. They know one of the actors, which I think is way cool. Last night, though? I stayed in all day. In my sweats. I worked on my book, with plenty of breaks spaced between chapters. I was alone. By myself. Part of me liked it and another part didn’t so much. It really is a balance, isn’t it? Time alone and time together. Ready for a story? Then, I’m done, promise.

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When my kids were little, my mom and dad organized and paid for (thank you!) a vacation at Disneyland. We stayed in a house about 45 minutes away from the Magic Kingdom, because my dad is thrifty. He woke us up every morning at 6:00 a.m. and my brother and sister helped me get the kids dressed, fed and ready for a day of happiness. We were in the van by 7:00, parked, walked, and stood in line for early access. Then it was five hours of rides, ice cream and running after my kids. My dad drove us all back for nap time around 2:00. (I think it was his nap time to be honest.) I played in the pool with my two older kids for a few hours, and then up! and back! on the long drive to Disneyland. From 5:00 until 10:00 p.m. Long drive home. Then some relatives would visit once we got back to the house, and my father slipped up to bed, while my brother and I yawned and did everything we could to indicate visiting hours were over. In bed at midnight. Up at 6:00. To get to the “happiest place in the world”.

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I thought it was just me, feeling tired, just wishing we could spend a day at the house by the pool, when my brother whispered to me, “I need a vacation from this vacation.” Oh, thank goodness. It wasn’t just me! I adore my dad. He has the energy of a twenty-five year old on five Red Bulls. And a few espressos also. I do not. And, I need and crave time in my woman cave. Alone. Especially when three kids are with you constantly. And relatives that you love, but not at midnight. What I learned is balance. That vacation taught me a lot. Time alone. Time together. Let’s find that balance while we revel in the end of winter. Eat your chocolate or that cookie, and let’s see if we can find a bit of happiness along the way.

Until next time…

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Arms wide open…

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Let’s sit and catch our breath. I wanted to write before it all happened yesterday and I can’t get over it. Can you? The kids, at school, who will never come home from school ever again…    I’m going to purposefully turn to what I can control right now, because, we, the lucky ones, have lives that go on, thankfully, mercifully, wonderfully. (And if not, look at my last post.) I’m changing gears here. To the happiness we find where we are. Even in tough weeks we can grab it. Touch it. Feel it.

Today I decided spring is here no matter what, and so I started switching the season in my Ohio house. Notice the lighter pillows? The cranberry ones went away until cranberry season.

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What make me supremely happy are these warm, wistful days that you can’t hold onto. You can try to hang on, but all you get at first is a snippet of an afternoon to grab your iced tea, open a window or three and feel the freshness of the day wash over you.

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Do you see my cat, Willie Nelson, looking out at the seventy degree day? He’s as happy as I am today. We watched the robins tussling with the cardinals and sparrows over the seed I placed out there this morning. Rain did meander her way across the skies, but I dodged the raindrops and enjoyed running errands.

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Oooh. Right now I hear the faraway call of the night train on her way to somewhere. Anywhere.  The whistle makes me feel cozy and happy, and I revel in the freedom of following my heart to other cities. I could get up, head out and go. (I won’t.) But doesn’t the mere thought that you could, right now, just get up and leave, somehow make you feel lighter and happier? We both could do that. Just dreaming about it is fun.

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The call of the train is so loud tonight, that I even hear the low rumble, and I hardly ever manage to hear that.

Do you feel cooped up and penned in sometimes? Like tomorrow is another wintery day where you get up in the dark, brush your teeth, go to work, or school, or watch the kids? Then home to a hastily made dinner or hockey or soccer practice? Piano? Watch the same show on tv again. Mindlessly numbing? Then back into bed. Escape in your dreams. Ah, but dreams come true. Wait for it. Plan for that dream of yours. That trip on that night train, so to speak.

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That’s why the train’s call gives me shivers. You and I could go. Somewhere. A place that is warmer, drier, higher, by the sea, by that river, in the country. Anywhere but here. But… we can be happy where we are. Why? How? Bad things happen to good people. How do we even?

Because we know we’ll focus on what we can change, do our best to the people around us and find ways to enjoy the time given to us. And that’s where my pillows come in. And my flowers. And the open windows.

 

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Today I decided to revel in spring. We might have six more weeks of snow, sleet and ice but I’m calling it. Spring! I even took a walk looking for (desperately hoping for) crocuses, but I didn’t see any yet… So I brought home these pretty pink tulips that smile at me all day long. And the white roses? From my love, of course. I love the greenery he added, himself. Pure white love in a vase of sweet roses.

When I brought out the pillows that aren’t a perfect match for the front room, I decided to like those spring-y pillows anyway. Because you and I know some secrets that younger ones have yet to discover.

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We can take a drizzley day in the middle of February, when we feel fat from too many chocolates and champagne, or steak and chardonnay, and we turn it into the best day. Warmth? Yup, I’m in. It could be fifty-five degrees and the window would still be open because I decided I’m done with Old Man Winter and, besides, the robins are here. Springtime! It is on! And seventy degrees is blissful. Revel in what you have. No snowdrops in your garden? Roses in the house are magic. But really, we don’t need flowers or pillows to make this a happy day. We need our minds. They take us everywhere.

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That train I hear calling goodbye goes all the way West. Want to go? We can plan for that day. I want to head out and see DeSmet, South Dakota. Because my favorite author lived there and wrote all about it. I still haven’t been there, but just tonight I asked my love if he would go with me, and I got a great, big, “Yes!”. So, someday, even if I’m eighty, I’ll go. And knowing that makes my heart sing with happiness.

 

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Oh, please find your things that make you happy. On days when the news is bad and you want to crawl back in bed until sunny days bring better tidings, you need something to look forward to. To pull you through.

Develop your interests. Don’t be bored. Not ever. Find the things you love to do, and pretty soon you’ll have a bunch of people deciding they want to go to DeSmet, South Dakota with you. They might not know why, except you’re super excited about it, and happiness spreads. Your happiness will spill over. Today. Tonight. When you hear the call of the train, miles from home. When you open your windows and throw back the curtains. When you delve into your passions, your dreams, your hopes. Be happy. Today, tonight. Tomorrow…

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Until next time…