Category Archives: simple

Doors And Keys

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As I center my thoughts on this new year, I think about the doors and keys to life.  You know those doors of opportunity to knock on, doors to walk through, and finding that prize on the other side of the door.  Scriptures tell us“knock, seek, and you will find”.  At times it feels like multiple knocks before someone slowly creaks the door open with a mutter of a greeting. Other times you barely get a knock in, and  “HELLO, HERE I AM!” like a bright red door. And then there are those times, and no one answers.  Maybe I need to move onto a new address, new door, new opportunity? “When one door closes, another opens” as the saying goes.  There can be a reward for those who are persistent.

Then there are the keys to life.  Author Alex Morritt writes, “Owning fewer keys opens more doors.”   Was he speaking about property ownership, or more about simplifying your life in general?  Maybe both.  In 2016 my quest to simplify and pare down was energizing. I was able to see my immediate surroundings in a new light.  In 2017, it will be more in the area of my thoughts and words. Simplify my thoughts, less analyzing.  Simplify my communiques with fewer words, use more effective ones.  Loving words. Encouragement. God holds the key to my heart”.  He knows all my thoughts and cares of this life before I even pray them.

What door are you knocking on?  What key will open the door, your life this very day?

Different Kind Of Year

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After the main water line burst under our foundation and flooded the floors throughout our home in November of 2015, Dean and I stopped in our tracks for another look into our future. We lived in a rental home for almost 3 months while our floors, doors, and walls were upgraded. Poet Emily Dickinson once wrote, “Where thou are – that – is Home”.  Home for me is where Dean is.   We refocused on our future, and we dreamed new dreams those few days beginning 2016.  We entered this year with different eyes for our near and farther future. “Different” has many meanings, and it is a word used interchangeable with words such as eccentric, strange, or  unfamiliar and the opposite of alike, same, similar, or akin.  Unfamiliar grounds were walked with the unexpected renovations of our home, working with our home owner’s insurance company and a contractor.  Our insurance agent said she saw nothing quite like what we experienced.  Living in a slab home has its disadvantages. “This ability to reinvent oneself, to sail confidently into unknown waters, seem to be even more needed today, ” writes author Ferenc Mate. Resilience.

On March 1 we made it back into our St. Peters house.  No better opportunity to lessen and reorganize our belongings than when our plethora of boxes are delivered from storage back to our home.  Dean built another storage shelf for the garage. Redecorating our quaint, beautifully refurbished dwelling allowed for artistic expression.  In our future is a red front door, maybe not quite as eccentric as the purple door seen in the photo but I definitely wear purple.  Soothing green walls, warm pine doors, and neutral beige laminate floors bring a more natural feel to our home. A room addition came to our minds as we explored ways to invest in what we could afford, yet not as risky as a rental property we had considered in 2015.  Late this spring we signed a contract and hired the same local contractor who did our remodel for our 500-square foot house addition project.  A delay with city permits and the rerouting of electric lines in our rocky back yard, the roof and windows were installed today.  Trendy “barn doors” will be placed for the entry into a small bedroom, and the rest of the space will be a great room to include bargain-finds such as a hide-a-bed sofa, comfy recliner, dining table with chairs, more cabinets extending from our current kitchen, and a nook near one of the  windows for a day bed and night lamp. We have friends and family stop in from time to time, and hope to have a homemade dinner made as well as accommodate any overnight visits.  Will you be one of them?  I hope.

Like previous years gardening, books, writing, foods, and hospitality continue to joyfully fill my spare moments in between my job and family. More herbs and greens will fill our pantry and plates in 2017.  I will attempt to grow lavender for some aroma therapy and culinary use in baked goods and fresh tea and lemonade.  I learn from authors, artists, and eccentrics. “Blessed are the weird people – the poets, misfits, writers, mystics, heretics, painters, troubadours- for they teach us to see the world in different eyes,”  author Jacob Nordby is quoted.  On quieter days at work or at home in the evening I read books in preparation for work-life balance presentations and personal enrichment. “I think of life as a good book. The further you get into it, the more it begins to make sense”  says Harold Kushner. These three books:  The Wisdom of Tuscany by Ferenc Mate, Money Secrets Of the Amish by Lorilee Craker, and Grace Not Perfection by Emily Ley touched on the essence of my year. Take small steps with purpose, and be simple, creative, and make-do.  And give grace to yourself and others. I highly recommend these readings.

 

 

 

My Own Backyard

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The last day of November was warm with a brisk wind to scurry about the colorful leaves. I walked the streets in Clayton to do some banking and grab a bite to eat on my lunch hour. The wind whipped from the west and changed directions several times that hour.  The tell-tale sign of changing seasons.  A mild autumn is quickly going into winter-like weather this week.  The weekend forecast includes snow flakes, and colder than normal temperatures next week. “Each year is a parable begun in stillness, and chill, of bare ground warmed with spring life returning, then bursting, buzzing, peaking in summer, and issuing a final flare in autumn, to subside in another winter’s seeming nullity,” author Stephanie Mills writes in her book Epicurean Simplicity.

Preparations for the winter season may not be a necessary stack of firewood in my suburban lifestyle. I remember as a child  the excitement of my family’s annual New Year’s Eve stay at the one-room cabin my father built on the family farm in Franklin County, Missouri.  The simple shingle covered dwelling probably no bigger that 500 square-feet had no bathroom or electricity, but a wood stove for its heat source.  My father and Grandpa would cut down old trees on the 100+ -acre farm and split wood throughout the autumn season in preparation for deer hunting trips and these winter weekend visits to the family farm.  My current preparations include sweaters and boots being pulled from the depths of the closets as well as my epie pin and antihistamine stowed in my purse for the next 4 months. An allergy to cold air and water is not easy, but is not the worst a person would have to deal with.  Thank goodness for gas heat.

And now I focus on my own heart matters for today.  Simplicity. “Try to see the beauty in your own backyard to notice the miracles of everyday life,” religious leader Gloria Gaither says. I would say that is great advice.  Perennial thoughts and ways, appreciating what you have now, and making do.  Simple, thankful, authentic, resourceful.  I am intrigued by the choice of voluntary simplicity as I further my research  for an enrichment class to teach at my work place.   There are authors, activists, and societies devoted to this way of thinking and lifestyle.  Choices made such as local community versus global; homegrown versus mass produced; renovate or upcycle versus disgard; a 3-generation home versus having separate homes; public transportation, carpooling, or riding  a bicycle versus commuting to work with one’s own vehicle everyday; hand-crafted versus manufacturer made; purchase local versus big brand, slow food versus fast food, and the list goes on.  As author and ecological activist Stephanie Mills states“bigger has not turned out to be better.”  I like the change back to some old ways and traditions.  What does simplicity mean to you?  How have you made simplicity a lifestyle choice?  I would love to hear.

 

Saturday’s Simplicity

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Some Saturdays can be activity-filled and complicated with household chores, shopping, and cleaning, “get up and get going” like a weekday.  This crisp November Saturday morning I slept in.  The sunny autumn day Dean and I began with chive & cheese scrambled eggs and cinnamon rolls knowing we needed a substantial breakfast to get the autumn leaf and brush cleaning completed. Dean captured some lovely photos while in the yard.  And my thoughts drift to a subject at hand to facilitate at an employee enrichment class in a couple of weeks.  Simplicity.  Some refer to a simple lifestyle as minimalism.  Whatever you call it, it is living in the present moment, and enjoying life, love, family, and friends.  There are only a few basics to possess … and everything else is just stuff.  It is up to you to figure out what you can live with and what you can live without.  So what can you give away from that pantry, garden, closet, or garage?  What do you need to cling to for substance for your day today?  I have confidence you will make a wise choice.message-on-a-wine-cork

 

Oh, Mimosa, Mimosa

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What an incredibly stressful two weeks for Dean and I with work and family decisions to make.  Nothing earth-shattering. Just bang, bang, bang, constant pounding.  Questions to ask ourselves:  What do we want now?  Five, ten years from now?  What is the the best thing for us?  How does this decision effect others around?  Who might we offend with the decision?  How do I handle a class of whining employees that their favorite yoga instructor has been replaced by another fully certified yoga instructor?  Again, do not want to offend, but sometimes impossible. What educational program can be created to teach 4,000 employees about smart food vending choices?  Can I  get another flu vaccine clinic scheduled last minute for the new police department building?  What are some bariatric options for our employees and their dependents?  So on and so on.  With work, family, and life in general, you cannot please everyone.  Ultimately, the decision you make has to be one you can live with.  “Own it.  And then move on,” as one of our daughters told me this week. I like how role-reversal happens as your children get older.  It is listening to your own advise, is it not?

I found reprieve this work week, daily all 5 days.  I have decided to take my full lunch hour despite what telephone calls, emails, or projects I have waiting in my office.  With the milder temperatures I have been walking at least 6 blocks each day.  On my walk on Monday, I began to pass by the church 1-1/2 blocks from my building, and then stopped.  I decided to climb the stone stairway and go into the church to pray.  Lo and behold, there were at least 20 other people, some local residents and other business people like myself sitting in the pews and praying.  St. Joseph Catholic Church in Clayton has prayer everyday before the noon Mass.  My lunch hour cannot be adjusted to go to Mass, but I can join in prayer everyday.  Yes, an answer to my prayers for stress-relief during the work day, a prayer and meditation date at 11:30am.  I know I can, and I do pray anywhere and anytime.  God hears our heart without words even spoken.  But there is something oh so special when a group of believers come together to pray.   The church bells chime as I leave those stone steps each day.  Their echoes are heard as I continue on my walk before returning to the office, a reminder of the prayers I just prayed.

Dean and I’s budget is tight with regular bills, a room addition project, and retirement accounts to keep at.  But every now and then you have to treat yourself.  Simple pleasures.  Let me preference the following words with “I am not a lush”.  I drink a beer, glass of wine, or a spirit of some sort maybe one evening a week.  Today I indulged in an orange mimosa long before noon on this September Saturday.  A suppose well-deserved mimosa. A pitcher full would have been divine, but I refrained.  After running errands, my husband and I patronized one of our favorite local eateries, the Main Street Diner in old town St. Peters, Missouri.  Tables were taken, but the cafe bar was open.  We hopped onto a couple of the bar stools, placed our orders for Uncle John’s egg scramble and Cousin’s Jeff’s breakfast plate, and I began to watch the entertainment of the wait staff.  These 4 ladies gave each other the business the whole time, leaving a few jabs for their loyal clientele.  Dean noticed as well.  We laughed along with them.  We also noticed cocktails being served from time to time.  I had not known liquor was served on Saturday mornings at this eatery. Oh my, a mimosa was being prepared!  I love me a mimosa!  My sweetheart ordered me an orange mimosa!  By the time the delicious breakfast food was consumed, I was ready for that mimosa.  Dean watched as my cares went to the wayside.  He took full advantage of my relaxed state with a smooch right on the lips, and immediately afterwards received a smack on the arm and a “stop that PDA” by the “everybody’s mom” waitress.  Too funny!

I am definitely ready for a Saturday of cleaning and laundry while Dean works on the Jeep. And I think I am ready to tackle another week of decision-making with prayer and God’s guidance.  And 1 spirited drink!

The Best Weapon

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Simplicity.  “In a world of complexity, the best weapon is simplicity,” Price Pritchett is quoted.  The simplicity of a garden is one place I find peace in this troubled world. I am an artistic gardener, rather than a scientific one. I love creating an ambiance with green life. The fragrances of fresh herbs after a soaking rain or while harvesting feed my culinary imagination for Dean and I’s next meal, cucumber salad with snippets of cilantro to cool the heat of the summer day. The beauty of August’s blooms set in a simple vase uplifts the day no matter the bad news.  “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow,” Audrey Hepburn once said.  It takes faith. “Faith isn’t the ability to believe long and far into the misty future.  It’s simply taking God at His Word and taking the next step,”  artist Joni Eareckson Tada tells us. So I  take one step at a time, one seed at a time.  “Faith as a mustard seed can move mountains” as the Bible encourages us.  I believe one simple step of love leads to another and then another.  Those mountains of hatred will move.  Make one simple step towards peace this very evening.

 

Summer Connects

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In a world with ever changing values and technology, some things remain the same. Kinship, old mountain towns, and summer lakes. Most of the time you can depend on all three.  Family is family. Most of us are connected if not by blood, in some other fashion to each other no more than 3 times removed. We connected to Joe, owner of this small town bar & grill and a new eatery called the Galloping Goose Cafe while in Rico, Colorado.  He is a visionary for this town.  Not sure if I could go back 4 decades, but the brief week we had in the old mountain town cabin took Dean and I to the simplicity of our childhood years.  And we loved it.  In search for WiFi a couple of times to get connected to our urban civilization to post photos and reserve a hotel room for our travels back home, other than that we lived without any electronics and screens.  Dean and I resorted to reading, writing, napping, cooking, bird watching, photography, and walks.  We return to our full-time employment with government entities that overwhelm with procedures, projects, policies, and politics.  Cannot escape it in the evening with the political conventions being aired. So here is to wonderful July 2016 memories with family in the old mountain town and near the summer lake.  I will keep reading, writing, … making more memories and connections.

Contrasts

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A week in the mountains away from suburban life, work day conflicts, time constraints, and society’s woes … God’s creation … His canvas …

colorful vignettes, the snow-capped peaks and vi-rid valleys, mountain streams, deep-rooted trees, fresh air, hummingbird shrills, delicate flowers abloom, the silvery paper coins of the aspen groves fluttering, and the simplicity of just being can settle anyone’s mind, heart , and soul.  What a difference a week can make.

Why are we as a people so fired up?  In fight mode, defensive?  Pause a moment. Take a deep breathe or two. Quiet the soul.  Chill, or sip some chamomile tea if you cannot get away to that quiet place on your own.  Think, but not too hard.  Meditate on goodness.  Selah from the heart.  Thank God.  Love unceasingly.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails…”  1 Corinthians 13:4 -8 (NIV).

The Basics

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Gratitude

One water pipe can change the course of one’s life.  A broken one anyway! Life took a U-turn or some may say a few steps back.  I remind myself that life is not a linear course.  There is so much to learn and experience for it to be a flat, straight line.  Dean and I are back to the basics.  Simple living arrangements in a 1-bedroom studio apartment in a hotel. Stripped to enough clothing for one week.  And I am managing!  Maybe I need to rid myself of the excess in my closets at home collecting dust?  Same with food provisions.  We manage without all the condiments in the frig and choices in the cupboards.  What about all the nick nacks that we packed those 2 days immediately after the flood?  I could give away or toss away into the trash.  The basics indeed, and I am grateful to have a warm bed, comfortable couch, a stove to cook on, breakfast served daily, and the ability to write.

Our plan to buy a guest house in our beloved Hermann, Missouri was curtailed with the water main break in our home 2 weeks ago. We have to take care of our own residence before providing for others. Purples, lavendar, greens, and grapevines color my vision to share a tranquil retreat with others.  This will come about … God’s perfect timing and plans.  We focus on new flooring, walls, and doors for our home.  God’s provisions and blessings.  The basics and the details are in His hands.

 

Detour Ahead

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We will be on the road very soon for our trip to the Minnesota northwoods, a sanctuary of peace and quiet on a picturesque lake. Any lengthy road trip includes a detour sign or two. With the flooding in our region and anywhere in the central states with a river or creek, we suspect to encounter several detour signs. The detours slow us down, keep us on watch for the next arrow sign to give direction, and it just seems to keep us from arriving at that final destination in the time we desire. The word “detour” means “an indirect or roundabout path or procedure”. Isn’t life full of detours? In life, we sometime miss the neon orange detour signs. We simply see our flight delayed, a closed door, a failing relationship, no job offer, a difficult medical diagnosis, storm damaged vehicle, pay freeze, or failed crops. In reality, the detour ahead is a part of the journey. I would rather enjoy the curves, hills, and valleys in life’s journey, as well as “keep my eye on the prize.” What deep yearning or dream is hiding behind the detour signs?