Category Archives: work

Summer Labors of Love

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This summer continues to bring us more opportunities for projects at Deanna’s Cottage.  Dean and I put in new retaining walls between our house and the church next door.  Dean did most of the labor as the blocks were much too heavy for me.  But I was able to handle the capstones and raking of the weeds and sparse grass.  We will cover the space with landscape fabric and mulch another weekend.  There are three hydrangeas not blooming because they are under the humongous tulip poplar tree in the backyard not getting enough sunlight.  So later this summer when it cools a bit we will transplant them to this new south-side space, where it is evenly sun and shade throughout the day.

The last harvest of our spring crop of arugula went into this crustless quiche.  Much like wilted spinach, I sauteed the chopped arugula with chopped shallots in bacon bits and drippings before folding into the egg and gouda cheese mixture.  I removed the tough stems in the bigger leaves before chopping, so this becomes a labor of love.  Similarly,  the lemon herb tea bread I made included fresh sprigs of my potted lemon basil and lemon thyme steeped in steamed milk.  Then, the herbs, lemon juice, and lemon zest were folded into the dough.  Oh, so lemony!  A luscious summer bread for breakfast.  I made cake muffins with this batch.  If topped with sliced strawberries and dollop of whipped cream or yogurt, it is a delightful summer dessert.  What are you making with your garden goodies?

 

Sanity Strolls

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The song birds at our feeders keep us entertained with their thankful chirps and chatter.  The robins bob up and down listening for the worms. The cardinals’ color brighten Dean’s and I’s day.  The yellow, purple, and house finches share and then bicker over perches.  The word co-exist is familiar to many of us this present day.  We are home together all day seven days a week now with these mandatory remote work settings. After a whole day of staying indoors that first day, Dean and I knew we needed to change it up.  Fresh air and daily walks were needed to keep our sanity.  Our bodies, minds, and spirits thanked us.  We now take a stroll twice a day everyday.  We see neighbors about, too.  If we get into a spring rain, the drops are harmless. A cup of hot coffee for Dean and hot tea for me takes any chill out immediately.  The spring season is in bloom every direction we walk.  First the jonquils, daffodils, hyacinths, wild violets, and now tulips take bloom.  The tulip and plum trees opened with the crab apple and pear trees closely after.  Soon the cherry, red bud, and dogwood trees will be in full display.  Nature’s canvas and neighbors’ garden art to admire.  Our feathered and flowery friends, God’s creations teach us to take note, be present moment, co-exist, and share joy.

 

 

The First Summer Storm

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The summer solstice came and went without my celebration.  I am sure the earth still celebrated!  Too busy I would say.  Yes, I need to slow down.  Family engagements and work obligations continue to press me of my time, focus, and energy.  Simply watering the potted plants or making a light, summer dinner is a chore. I have not stopped long enough to smell the roses or savor the flavors of summer.  I took the day off today.  Had to get some reprieve from the madness, gather my thoughts.  Nothing like an upset stomach and headache to slow you down.  Every year it is like this just before vacation finishing up projects at work, home and yard chores, making sure all the travel details are together.  The air was unsettled this morning when I went out to water the potted perennials in the back yard.  Something brewing.  The clouds kept rolling in. Kind of like my recent hectic days building up.

I had no groceries in the house as we have been house and pet sitting this past week for two vacationing family households.  I thought I would beat the eminent storm.  It was like night by the time I gathered my $30 worth of protein and veggies into the Jeep.  Big wet drops started to hit the pavement and my bare arms and sandaled feet.  I managed to get to the cottage before the dark clouds totally let loose. Our first summer storm.  How refreshing.  I read Ann Voskamp’s timely words, “A soul does not work without a sabbath…Be still and know God…and not forget who you are.”  There was a time in my life when I forgot who I was.  And these memories too have preyed my mind these recent days.  This vacation will be good for me.  For Dean, too.  Different scenery, a fresh view.  I think a month-long vacation or sabbatical will be in 2020.  Brewing for my next season in life …

 

Any Room At Your House?

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Tis the season of busyness and preparations for the holidays.  Presents bought and wrapped.  Baking.  A surprise visit and present from my son.  It is Dean and I’s heart to get these holiday greetings sent via postage mail long before Christmas week. Please know that you are in our hearts year round. Christmas joy has filled our home, peace with God and grace to all people despite any differences.  This snowy Christmas Eve is the slow-down to reflect on His Gift, Jesus, lessons from 2017 and what is hoped for 2018. The 4 Advent Sundays reminded us of this moment. Father Peter shared at Mass tonight the Christmas story, how there was no room for Joseph, Mother Mary, and the birth of baby Jesus.  A meager manger would be the chosen place of His birth. It was asked how many of us would say the same “no room at our house”? “What would you do if Joseph and Mary came knocking on your door tonight?  Do you have time to deal with this?  Can you make space in your house without resentment or casting judgment?  Would you empty the tool shed or a spot in the garage?  Would you charge high $$ to profit from this situation?  Or worst yet, steal their possessions, what little the guests have?  Scriptures tell us “What you do to the least of my brothers, you do unto Me.”

“Family” would summarize our year of 2017.  As a reminder, Dean and I have 6 children, 5 in-law children, 6 grandchildren, 3 parents, 5 siblings and their families, and we cannot forget our dog, Midnight and cat, Celine, the 7 grand dogs, and 3 grand cats.  Dean and I began 2017 in Key West, Florida with his parents and siblings, an 80th birthday celebration for Dean’s mother.  Such a while ago, but lovely memories of the beach breezes, discovering new sites, and time with family.  We still have our greeting card boxes that niece Amelia made each of us.  After the hurricanes there, I suppose the scenery is quite different.  In a couple of days warmth awaits us in San Antonio, where we will meet up with Dean’s son, AJ, Nancy, Elise, and  Nancy’s family there.  Spiced rum eggnog, homemade chicken soup, Christmas carols, and having each other will keep us warm tonight …

In February my daughter, 33-year old Elisabeth was diagnosed with 2 types of breast cancer, stage 1 and stage 2. Elisabeth went through a strict regimen of chemo treatments, hair loss, zapped energy and strength. She had a double mastectomy and reconstruction this summer. We are so very thankful to our Father as she has been given a cancer-free diagnosis in July.  Elisabeth is regaining her strength and hair while under hormone therapy and low-dose chemo.  Her husband, children, family, friends, and all the supportive, praying communities continue to surround her. Her bravery and fighter personality helped Elisabeth stay above.  I reached out for prayers by many women, visited church 1-block from my office to take part in many noontime prayer vigils, and Dean and I together continue to provide a quiet and calm home while she heals.

Refreshing spring brought us to the completion of our 2-room addition.  It took a whole year, but it is beautiful and has provided the much needed space to our home.  At this season of our lives we share our home with my daughter and her family.  More warmth with the woodwork, a set of barn doors matching the stained doors in the rest of the house as well as a high ceiling to heighten the spacious floor layout.  We use the 2 rooms as a family room/dining area and an extra bedroom that Elisabeth and Mark can rest their heads in. In May Dean and I spent almost a week in the Smoky Mountain region of our beautiful states.  Experienced the AirBnB hospitality for this vacation. We loved Gatlinburg, TN and Asheville, NC.  Antiques, the arts, and foodie places were our hangouts. Of course, a few walks in the woods. There was a sign warning us, and you know the saying “hindsight is 20/20”. Dean drove the Dragon’s Tail Highway with all its hairpin turns, not understanding what we were in for.  I was very close to losing lunch during that ride. We tried the glamper scene one night in the middle of nowhere land. And we stopped in Nashville for a night. Love the nightlife there with all the honky-tonks and country music.

Weekend trips to Lee’s Summit and Farmington keep us on the road at least once a month visiting with children, grandchildren, and Dean’s parents.  When we are home we read, write, catch a music venue or new foodie joint in St. Louis.  And there is always those weekend chores.  We garden and mow at the greenhouse site on Boone Hollow Farm near Defiance 7 or 8 months out of the year. This year’s gardening included a voluntary cherry tomato plant that literally took over the whole vegetable bed from July until the October frost killed it.  We dubbed this plant as “Audrey” from the play/movie Little Shoppe of Horror. We made a delicious green tomato marmalade from the abundance of fruit left after the killing frost.  Our perennials are inside now, and our bird of paradise is about to bloom again under the plant lights in the garage.  Autumn brought Dean and I a steal-away weekend to Pella, Iowa.  We loved this Dutch town so much, we are planning a Mother’s Day weekend there with our mothers.

My occupation as the employee wellness coordinator of St. Louis County is the work God called me to this season of my life.  We had our Billion Steps Challenge using Fitbits and a web portal called One Community.  With two 8-week walking challenges this spring and summer, we cleared the 1 billion steps goal and went well over 2 billion steps amongst 2800 participating employees and spouses.  I have been asked to speak along with a panel at the St. Louis area American Heart Association’s Wellness Forum in February discussing employer wellness budgets on a shoestring.  Personally, my biometric numbers were improved substantially with the walking challenges, and my primary care physician is thrilled.  The walking culture continues through winter.  Dean, Midnight, and I still take an evening constitutional almost every night.  At 20 degree temps, I declined tonight. Hives or worse a visit to the emergency room would not be good.  Dean’s occupation with the National Archives keeps him going, and work he was called to as well.  He loves the hunt for military records especially for his family and friends.

Our youngest granddaughter, Elise has captured her Grandpa Dean’s heart.  I think he counts the days until he can see her again.  This Father’s Day was a wonderful gathering of Dean’s children and their families with us at our home. The red children’s swing in our sweet gum tree remind us of that special weekend.  We had a Gall Family Thanksgiving  at Rainer and Erica’s newly bought house in St. Louis City, and a birthday gathering for Dean the following day at a local bakery cafe. Another day that weekend we celebrated my oldest grandchild, Hannah’s 16th birthday.  Church every Sunday and occasional birthday celebrations and plays keeps us in touch with my mother and family. While celebrations and victories punctuate our year, so does illness and death. Dean’s extended family lost a cousin recently. Cancer, this wicked stuff.  Keep Mike’s wife, Terri and 2 daughters in your prayers please.  Another extended family member is undergoing treatments ; please say a prayer for Marion, our son-in-law’s father.  My oldest daughter, Rachel has multiple medical conditions, her conditions declining, which cause severe pain.   In 2018 I plan to take more time off from work each month to help Rachel with the kids and house.  Please bathe Rachel in your prayers.

What room do you have in your heart, home, and life for the least of these My brothers?  What has God prepared you for this very night, or the 365 days in 2018?  Blessings to you this eve of Jesus Christ’s birth.  As the carols sing … “Christ was born to save!  Christ was born to save!”… “He rules the world with truth and grace and makes the nations prove the glories of His righteousness and wonders of His love, and wonders of His love, and wonders, wonders of His love.” Joy to the world!

Ice Ice Baby

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“Ice ice baby, too cold.  Ice ice baby, too cold,” as the lyrics from singer Vanilla Ice go. We are under an ice storm warning here in Missouri.  Freezing drizzle.  Freezing rain.  Sleet.  Ice pellets.  Ice.  Whatever the frozen precipitation is called, it is slick.  No need to be out on the roads.  Stay indoors in the comfort and warmth of home, if at all possible.  Such a sharp contrast from last Friday.  I was in sunny Florida.  I welcome this surprise 4-day weekend winter hibernation as Dean and I’s government offices are closed today as most of Missouri is. Malls and shops closed mid-day.

Today it is 30 minutes of sweating to Richard Simmons’ Sweatin’ To The Oldies, reading, blogging, caring for my indoor green friends, movie watching, and the homemade goodness of orange cranberry scones for breakfast, white chili for lunch, roasted root vegetables and sesame pork for dinner.  The weekend paperwork and housework will be tomorrow.

 

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!

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).

Where Do The Butterflies Go When It Rains?

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Coneflowers Life gets stagnant from time to time. Satiety, boredom, ennui sets in. Another time the demands of this person and that project adds up to a multitude of “have to” rather than “want to” chores. So what do you do to get out of that funk, evolve into a better mood for the day or status in your life? You spontaneously take a 24-hour breather, an overnight retreat somewhere neutral. Dean and I did just that. On Saturday into Sunday we drove the Missouri country highways in St. Charles, Warren, Franklin, Washington, St. Francois, Jefferson, and St. Louis Counties. Saturday afternoon we stopped at a local winery. By evening we found a state park to eat and finally lay our heads down.
Sunday morning, another overcast start to the new day. But silence resignated instead of the buzz of street traffic and urban noises. I gathered my sundress, dressed quietly to not wake my sweetheart. Stepped out the back door, leaving just a screen door between me and the quaint hideaway I slept in. I sat in a lawn chair situated on the deck overlooking the slopes of huge trees leading to the river valley. The cardinals and finches sang. Then a hush before the dark cloud rolled over with a hum of pitter-patter on the dense leaves. I heard the raindrops approach before they where atop the trees in front of me. A steady rain, gently watering the earth.
Butterfly In Rain Queen Anne’s lace, orange day lilies, and pink coneflower swayed with the breeze and occasional rain shower. Darker clouds rolled in with sheets of rain coming down as we dined at the state park cafe. We waited out the sudden outburst, and then made it to the jeep for a drive to the motel seated on a high ridge over the Meramec River. “Where do the butterflies go when it rains”, I thought aloud. Butterflies hide when it rains, like they do at night. They hide under the shelter of large leaves or a pile of leaves. Sometimes butterflies go under rocks or structures. But other butterflies just put their head down on the grass or bushes closing their wings tightly. If the rains are heavy, their wings are damaged and they never make another flight. Where do you hide when the weather gets rough?

The Gift Of Art

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My Saturday morning arrived on the sunny side of life. Awoke with plans to repot my 2-year-old plants into bigger pots. They are thriving in this rainy and mild spring into summer season. I did a few stretches while repotting and top-dressing my succulents and geraniums. Afterwards, I spent some time in the house, cleaning, laundry, and cooking for the upcoming week. By bedtime, I was sore. As I write I listen to a CD “Feather On The Breath Of God” a friend sent over my way at the office awhile ago. I suspect she herself listens to this same CD to calm her hectic lifestyle as a yoga instructor for yoga instructors as well as amateurs such as myself. The art form of yoga has been recommended to me for a few years by my physicians. Releases the tensions of the day with each pose and breathe. I am needing to keep this a daily practice. I have two colleagues reminding me each time they see me about this goal. So my achy body tells on me. Yoga every morning from here on out! The weekend warrior routine is not the way to go. Gardening, yoga, music, and writing … the gift of art. Calms my soul and keeps me healthy.

More Than A Spring Fling

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The plump blossoms are excuberant this spring. Must be the extra cold winter days that cause the colors to be so full and vibrant. Or maybe its the perspective of this blogger, who just relishes these spring days. My more-than-a-spring-fling lover, my hubby Dean captured some photos of our white dogwood contrasted with the Japanese maple. Easter Day was about an adorable puppy name Beatrice or “B”, our newest granddog. That digital camera came in handy to capture the moment when Beatrice greets for the first time my great-nephew, Felix. Another day last week while on a day outing with Dean and our grandkids Hannah, Ella, and Eli, we discovered one of the biggest American Beech trees while at a park in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. At our nephew’s springtime wedding last weekend, love and celebration was in the air. And today, this lovely spring day brought me to a dairy farm near Marshfield, Missouri while meeting with dairy inspectors employed with St. Louis County. We were graced with a Holstein calf, born just hours before. The newborn breathed life afresh, just as I am this spring season. Blossoms, babies, puppies, new life and love, is this not what spring is all about? I am thankful to God.