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

Breezing through…

Every February it happens to me. I hit the winter slump. I’m fine coasting through autumn, where every day brings a new delight from maple trees lit up in orange to apples ready to pick, and after Thanksgiving we sail into Christmas. As fun as that is, the January respite is welcome, even if she blows chilly. But I have a bone to pick with cold and indecisive February, who has decided to grant us one more day this month. Thanks.

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By the time I pass Valentine’s Day and the beautiful flowers and chocolates, I feel ready for spring. Even small tastes will do. To open a window and hear the creek rushing from recent rains is a joy I’m looking forward to, but in the meantime, for those of us still stuck with both feet in winter, what can we do? How do we find the beauty in today and tonight? By getting out and making ourselves do something. Beyond our comfort zones.

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You’re seeing pics from my latest walk on our Kentucky farm. The day had warmed up and I decided to make the most of it. And as much as I’d like to say it’s out of my comfort zone, walking our land isn’t. I love seeing new things like this pond, above. The farmer made this pond about 100 years ago, using the clay soil to keep the water in so his cows could drink. This pond is inaccessible by spring due to all the bushes and insects, but this day? I braved the briars and felt rewarded to finally glimpse the hidden pond.

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We have no name for this pond, but the frogs make a racket each spring.

As much as I’d like to say this nature walk brought me out of the doldrums, it was joining a bowling league. Wait? Isn’t that something people did years ago? Is that for men? Who bowls? Well, my neighborhood has a bowling league and we joined. All ages were represented. My son’s friends have a team there, and I found out the first game is the best scoring-wise, getting bad and going to worst by the third game. I also learned age has no true boundaries, since an 87 year old man is in the league and he bowls with a hook! Strike after strike in the lane next to me. Impressive.

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Oh, that’s out Kentucky home. It felt so good to get back into the warmth after hours tramping outside. But I was writing about bowling. It was fun, I got to know my two teammates better and I know my husband well, so we all laughed and tried to be bowling champions. All I know is the next day one side of me hurt. Think squats. Yes, that motion over and over for three games did it to me. Come Sunday, I’ll be ready for another fun evening facing off against a new team, so I’m sure to meet more people I don’t know as well. If at all. And that’s the point.

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These pics make me ready to go back to Kentucky. This pond is called “Deanna’s pond”, since I love beach vacations and this is my waterfront view. Yeah, it’s a joke, but I like having a pond of my own. It has fish in it now. We’ve stocked two ponds for fishing fun.

If you’re in need of a reset button or want to get out of old routines, then shake it up! Do something new. Karaoke night? Hiking in winter? Euchre nights? Just grabbing dinner wherever you choose is a break. We just did that two weekends in a row. Wonderful! And then I made sure to see Swan Lake with my daughter. The one who loves the arts and used to dance, so this was a treat. I felt blessed to see such beauty on stage. A little gift from heaven came down and settled on me. It was that wonderful.

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The next night my husband and I snuck out at intermission to go to a Scottish pub and have a late dinner. Just us! We were talking about bowling and how many weeks it goes on and on the actual night, I felt abashed at using a mere 8 pound ball. Sad. But lupus has affected me, so I do my best and hope our team isn’t gunning to be number one or even seventh this year. With me? It’s not happening. But I’ll laugh and chat with everyone.

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One story before I go. On a night long ago in Milwaukee, my husband and I had hired a babysitter so we could drive to the east side and have a wonderful authentic Mexican dinner. You could buy margaritas by the glass or the pitcher, and since the pitcher was more economical, we chose that. We should have known when almost everyone in the whole restaurant looked to see who was getting that glorious pitcher full of lime and tequila. We were! Yay us!

 

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Not so fast! No yay us, because we felt it was out duty, did I mention we were about twenty-eight at this point and still dumb, to finish every last drop? Then we stood up to drive home, and wow, neither one of us was in shape to drive. No ubers back then. Taxis, yes, but we barely had the cash to cover the babysitter. So we found a bowling alley and bowled. Drinking copious amounts of water and letting the evening turn to night, we spent a long time bowling, playing it very safe. And learned a lesson. Margaritas by the glass are better for two people. By far.

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Hopefully, you’ll try bowling at least once in your life. And then find a group activity or a solo endeavor and do it! Shake off the cold remnants of winter. Wait for the winds of March to blow warmer breezes on a beautiful day, and then go out and feel the wind. Open your window and freshen the air in your home. Nothing smells as good as fresh air. Just once dry your sheets outside, no matter what the covenants say in your neighborhood, and that night, climb into the stiff sheets and drift to sleep smelling the freshness of the day.

Who knows, you just might have dreams of the one new thing you’re going to try.

I’m wishing you all the happiness in the world today….

Until next time…

Wisps of whispers…

cotton candy pink sails in a sea of blue…


Can you feel it on certain days? Spring inches ever closer, and I can’t think of many who don’t welcome her balmy embrace. The snowdrops have their green stems poking out of the soil, asking if it’s time to show up. I told them to sleep a bit longer; a freeze was coming our way. They aren’t listening. Spring’s impatience tugs at them and me.

Spring and love seem to go together, and Valentine’s Day is making her rounds, so I heard. The local grocer has so many floral arrangements, I feel like I’m in a summer garden, lush and fragrant, and since the flowers perch next to a Starbucks, I am in heaven every time I need a tea. So this begs the question. What to do on the day of love?

real flowers gracing a rough wooden table…

If you’re lucky enough to have love in your life, then the answers are easy. Send cards, give flowers, buy candy and catch the kisses cast in the air by those who love you back. But what if you’re tethered to a love who doesn’t think about flowers and candy? Talk about the upcoming holiday. Will we go out to eat? Yes? Will we spend a bunch of money on presents to show our affection? Not for me. Flowers and chocolate (and ice cold teas, please) are tokens of love. If you want something romantic, ask. Tell your love what you love. And give your love back, freely.

simply beautiful…

If you want something, sometimes you have to ask. Be specific. If you want a certain bottle of bourbon, ask. Hopefully, they just want to give you love wrapped in a box, tied with strings that might be attached, but then, those are the best kind. Don’t you want a string luring you toward your love? One Valentine’s Day, so very long ago, I brought six red and pink frosted cupcakes to a boyfriend’s apartment. He did not acknowledge my gift at all, rather he stood in his kitchen washing dishes. I had classes to attend, but he didn’t take my frugal (in college, on a tight budget) present. He didn’t tell me he loved me. I emotionally ate my way through two cupcakes.

a lovely new painting we bought recently, see, winter is beautiful (if you’re looking at it and not living in it:)…

And rather than make him notice me, I left the rest of the cupcakes and left him. That afternoon, another guy I had met and had been studying with since we had the same classes and major, sent me a beautiful arrangement of flowers! I found him and thanked him, and the man I married, has never forgotten a Valentine’s Day since that first one, and he still romances me with flowers and chocolate. And much more.

I decided the guy who paid attention to me, made me feel valuable, loved, and liked and appreciated was the man to go through this life with. What does this mean for you? The people or person who makes you feel valuable and important is the one. Love them. The good guy who loves you? And you think he’s beautiful? Him. Choose him. Choose love. Choose laughter, love and life.

aren’t real fires cozy? the warmth, the crackling logs are a part of our winter nights…

On Valentine’s Day, or anyway this week, if you want flowers and aren’t in a relationship at the moment, buy them for you. Pick out the candy you like and enjoy it. Light a candle and enjoy the beauty of being able to buy flowers in winter, and buying sweets. We are lucky. We are blessed. Wrap a blanket around you and enjoy your company. But the icing on the cake would be to make the day sweet for another human. Bake brownies. Send a card that you made with a note inside. We all want to be noticed and not ignored. It took years and that one Valentine’s Day for me to figure that out. I hope you have a week full of laughs, love and beauty. I have to finish my iced tea before the Grammy’s end! Until next Sunday…

light snow will be rain tomorrow…I’m not complaining one bit…

Candlelight and contentment…

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The winter days are almost as cold as the nights, and last night brought more snow than we’ve seen in two years, and while I like to hide away in the warmest nooks of our house, I do emerge. I must. My cats like to lie on the heat registers and sleep, but I can’t quite pull that off. I thought I needed a bit of April in the middle of January, so I brought home the prettiest bunch of flowers and surrounded them with my favorite votives.

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I’ve kept out the candles from our last dinner party and added a warm, cozy faux fur table runner. The faux fur is supremely soft, and I think it gives the table a wintery, cozy look.

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Candlelight visually warms me. I miss the glow of the lights on all my Christmas trees, but by the first week of January I’m ready for my home to take on its winter look. I bring out the warmest blankets, and my seasonal pillows usually match the hues of winter themselves; ivory, white, fawn and other soft browns. I open the windows to let in light during the day, but as soon as twilight steps in, the curtains are closed and I turn to my candles to add happiness to my day.

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Everyone has colors that make them happy and mine are greens and blues, and maybe I’ll get to the point where I decorate in those super summery hues. Until then, I find flowers that scream happiness to me. Okay, maybe that’s not the best word choice. Should I say the subtly whisper to me? I’m lucky enough to have a store with a large floral area, and the first thing I do is buy an iced tea, and then I wander through the flowers. These pinks and yellows are summery, and I’ll take it.

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I know I just told you about my stark winter home, but I need a pinch of summer to keep me going. My imagination takes me fairly far, even to the point where I can imagine the steady sounds of traffic at my mom’s house to be the sound of ocean surf, gently lapping at the shoreline. But in January, I’ll take my dose of happiness in reality, please. And so can you. How? When you barely have enough money after a delirious dose of holiday spending? When January has you choosing between beans and rice for dinner, again, or a bowl of cereal (takes me back to college…cheap and barely any dishes to wash)?

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I’ll tell you. Right when I enter Target they have a little area with deals for a dollar or so, and I find the best home decor there! Seasonal and inexpensive. And then I scour the clearance at Kohl’s, Home Goods, and TJ Maxx. You have stores like these by you, I imagine. Look for clearance items or do what my daughters do. Go to thrift stores. My eldest picked up a very expensive candle for $1.00, and it had been burnt only once! Happiness for a song!

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Try to enjoy winter wherever you are. Turn on your kind of music, keep the lights low and the candles bright. I’m hanging on to my sweet tea and trying to enjoy this very cold season. My friend with the heater inside her coat would side with my other friend who moved to super sunny California, but I’m here in Cincinnati (actually Kentucky as I write this), to stay. When I walk through my home at night, when the house is quiet, I feel peaceful. Content. And that makes me happy.

 

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Until next time…

 

Christmas, pizza and two cats…

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If you do nothing else this week, bring out one piece of Christmas or winter decoration and display it. And if the ensuing weeks bring you no closer to decorating, that’s okay, because you already did. The wreath went up the second my autumn pumpkins left and even though our calendar still claims it’s November, we know better. It is winter to us. We make it that way, and I like how it feels to own winter, so to speak. I claim it rather than winter dragging me into doldrums and thinking grey thoughts.

And while I try to find my voice, and whether I write about the sad that often accompanies our moments or days of happiness (and if you have a string of days of happiness then please share with me your secrets) I’ll continue to write about the good. I have things going on that do weigh me down, and I am watching other people walk through valleys of sadness and mourning and I can’t help them. I cannot kiss the hurt away, the way I kissed the scrapes and bruises of childhood away. Or thought I did. My kids each suffered bullying and often did not tell me, because what could I do? Make the girl in the group who shared pizza with the whole table except my daughter because she didn’t like her that day, share with her? Because my daughter was the one girl. With no pizza. Could I make that girl be nice? Where is the happiness there? Do I share this real stuff with you?

I think the sad times make the happy ones sweeter. We savor those moments of happiness, don’t we? And we find ways to punctuate the regular days of life with celebrations. Thanksgiving! Christmas! Total solar eclipse!

Let’s celebrate the sunrise. Look at it. (You can do that for me and tell me all about it.) I prefer the sunsets. Always have. The muted colors of evening. And winter has stunning evenings. Hold that cup of whatever warms your heart close to you. Sit outside and watch the sun win the sky over. Just the way I watch the blues chase the orange and pinks away, and I love it. Even with sadness, knowing we made it through another day is something. And you know me, I love my candles. And I light them to ward off the dark and the chill. Figuratively speaking. The lights and scents cheer me up!

And I love Christmas. Always have. And while I make a game out of seeing just how many Christmas trees I can stuff in this house (I am up to six full trees with the real one making it seven, but the real is waiting to be purchased), you might be happily buying gifts or making candies and cookies. I like the thought of cutting down a tree, but so many years I have gone to a lot to pick out a tree, and one year I decided to run out to my grocery store at 6 a.m. and get the pick of their fir trees. I happily chose the right one and even put it in my car. But three days later, after too many needles emptied themselves onto my floor, I took the tree back.

Yup. Took off the ornaments, and ever since my mom brought over a U Haul filled with ornaments and trees, I have too much on my trees. The lights came off too. When the cashier took back my Christmas tree, she couldn’t find it in the system. That’s because I bought it at 6:00 a.m. when I was not properly awake, and I drove off with a tree I had not paid for! Do not buy your Christmas tree at six in the morning, right? Since then, I have paid for my trees. And buying them at the local store makes me sane and happy. No felling a tree in the cold woods for me. I’m too busy trying to figure out what to do with all the trees and ornaments! And I’m so deliriously happy with that.

What I’m trying to say is do what you love this season. You can’t do it all. So do some things really well and let the other stuff go. See the tree right above? Well I forgot I bought it last January and placed it in the wrong room and so late last night I had to switch two trees because my son and his girlfriend were laughing about the pathetically small tree standing sentinel in the front windows! I had a mammoth tree in the dining room. I know. Tree madness. But I love it and if I don’t put up ornaments on some of the trees, I’m happy with that. In January, when I take almost everything down, I’m even happier.

So let’s enjoy each day left to us this year. Try to find moments of peace. Read a snowy book. I read beach books in the summer. And right now I’m only reading books that take place in winter. No great reason, except it feels right to me. Just like we expect pumpkin spice to show up in September, I look for the breezy December books come late November. What do you like? Time to enjoy movies and tv that you normally wouldn’t watch in summer? Do it. Watch all the Christmas movies if you like. Me? I was watching Harry Potter until I sat down to write.

Winter is coming if it’s not already here. Enjoy it! Get your heart ready for Christmas. Sit in the chair with a new pillow. And see that vintage sign? My late mom in law displayed it for the thirty two years I knew her, and with her passing, I inherited her Merry Christmas. I miss her. But I’m lucky enough to have some of her things to treasure. I’m even luckier to have a husband with four sisters and they are all marvelous! Kind and giving.

I know not everyone is as lucky. But be with good people. Be a good person. Don’t be the one who keeps the pizza for herself and the “friends” she chooses on that day. Share as much as you can. That incessant bell ringer at the stores right now? A kind word and a dollar or a quarter is all we need to give. Look at them. Share what you have. Give your kid a U Haul full of love. Though I thought my husband was going to pass out when he saw all the Christmas stuff my mother decided should go to me! My mom shared with me. I love that! She shared what meant a lot to her. I get my love of creating a Christmas forest in my house from her. So yeah, I know you hear it everywhere, but give.

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You might not be a cat person, but I have two cats, and see both of them curled up on top of the Christmas tree? They’re happy. Content. Which is better than happy any day. I didn’t get to put up that tree and they decided to enjoy the tree this way. I pictured them hanging out under one of the other trees but they decided to be good with this. I like that. Make your own kind of happiness.

Christmas is coming. If you can’t get everything done, hang out around the Christmas tree box. Okay, maybe not. But the idea is almost right. Let’s be happy with what we have. Share what we have. No overspending. But please pay for your Christmas tree before you take it home.

Happy end of November sweet friend.