Category Archives: critter

Beauty For Ashes

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Dean and I had a different kind of year in 2022. Odd ball weather, I suppose normal for Missouri. I observed more sundogs in the sky than I ever remember. The long winter made for quality time writing. I submitted short stories and poems to several different publications and continue to submit at least one writing every month. New writings with Flapper Press published this year, and more coming out in eMerge in 2023. We had funky shifting winds in the spring, and our first failed crop of greens. Must have been a bad batch of seeds and a few too hot days. There was a record 12″ rain one summer night causing major flash flooding in our area as well as two windows leaking in our cottage in St. Charles. Dean did some work on the cottage to prevent it from happening again, or at least we hope! We had a fairly pleasant autumn, but an early arctic blast just before Christmas, that made for a white one. Holiday celebrations were delayed due to those subzero temps, illnesses, and a fire disaster. I think the word “resilience” was used on a number of occasions this year.

Dean had struggled with sleep apnea for years, but it escalated to a serious case. It was greatly affecting his normal functions, so he finally sought his doctor about it. After several tests with a specialist, he uses a machine diligently every night now. He is sleeping much better, and so am I! Overall, I am doing well. Stress will get those PVCs going, but my heart is healthy. Arthritic days come and go. Between seasonal and per diem jobs not providing enough hours and income, this autumn I had decided to seek a new full-time HR job with dependable hours and good pay. I started this job with a local credit union a few days ago. The work culture is pro-actively positive. I will probably do this full-time stuff for another 5 years until I draw on my SS. I still teach per diem culinary evening classes at least once a month. Other family members struggle with health issues. Dean’s mother has been diagnosed with a type of leukemia and undergoing oral treatment. My Rachel continues with some painful days with the rare nerve disorder. Thankful an unexpected inheritance has been able to fund her medical care. Dean’s youngest, Rainer, who lives in the suburb of St. Louis now had an emergency appendectomy just before Christmas but is healing well. Overall, all the kids and grandkids are well. We will welcome another grandbaby in March. I continue to pray that ours and those of our loved ones’ body, mind, and spirit be whole.

We had our routine travels back to see the Kansas City family a few times, a February week away from Missouri’s winter driving to beautiful St. Augustine, FL. We stopped in Nashville, TN for our first Grand Ole Opry show. It had been on my bucket list of events for a while, and so happy to finally experience country music at its finest. We visited Dean’s brother and family in Chicagoland one weekend in August. We chose to wait for another week away for September rather than the hot summer. Went to Colorado to see the quaking aspens and mountains in Avon, Colorado area. Another bucket list experience I had for good many years. Visited family in the Denver area. Memphis bound for one night so we could see Vince Gill in concert. We enjoyed the Branson area twice, a couple of days in May with some of our friends, and another weekend in November on our way back from Eureka Springs, AR where we met up with my sister and her partner. I attended a writer’s workshop at the Writer’s Colony at Dairy Hollow. Also, had an unexpected trip to Mississippi in March. My younger brother, Steve suddenly passed away while he was on vacation there. My older brother, sister-in-law, Dean, and I met up with my sister there to make final arrangements.

“You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy.”

Psalm 30:11

This year of 2022 was full as many of our previous years. Full of lovely moments with family and friends, and ones that we also said “goodbye” to so many family members. I had two uncles, one aunt, a cousin, and my younger brother pass away, and Dean had an aunt the family said “goodbye” to. Filled with mixed emotions, sadness as well as thankfulness for their lives with us. In the very last hour of Christmas Day, my daughter, Rachel and her family Micky, Hannah, Ella, & Eli escaped a fire that totally destroyed their home in Farmington, MO. A complete loss. It is a miracle that none of them were killed or injured. One of their dogs, LILO passed away from smoke exhaustion while trying to herd the family out of the house. There is a place in heaven for her. A cat and pet frog are gone from this life, too. We rejoice for our children’s lives spared, and a long road to recovery is underway. We get to witness miracle after miracle of how God is providing for them through His people. So many community and church groups have rallied together on their behalf as well as friends and family giving of themselves, resources, and love to help. I truly believe good overpowers the bad through the grace and mercy of our God! In 2023 there will be some joyful dancing!

“He will give: beauty for ashes; joy instead of mourning; praise instead of heaviness. For God has planted them like strong and graceful oaks for His own glory.”

Isaiah 61:3

Old Man Winter Visits Before Santa

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Old Man Winter Visits Before Santa

The Winter Solstice, the shortest day for 2022 visited earlier this week. The warmth of lights in each room kept the darkness to a minimal on the gray day. Then Old Man Winter comes and stays for a 3-day visit just before Santa’s visit! Fortunately, Santa’s elf, Dean delivered a Snuggie to me on the coldest day of the year. Perfect! I love it! An old blanket blocks the drafts around the window near my side of the bed. We are talking minus zero temperatures for 3 days; wind chills negative 35! Some of coldest wind chill temperatures in Missouri’s recorded history! Our 90-year-old cottage survived last night’s 50 mph winds. Smiling Mr. & Mrs. Frosty sit on the guest bed while the sun peers through frosted windows this day after the snowstorm. Trinkling water flowed from the heated birdbath as birds perch waiting for a turn at the water fountain and feeders. The warmth of homemade chicken soup filled the house before filling our bellies tonight.

After several months of searching for just the right job with good pay and enough hours, I finally started my new position this week. More about my new job in another post. Seeing the weather forecast, I earnestly prayed giving my concerns to God. By God’s grace, I worked from home these last 2 days of my first week. I had several virtual compliance courses to complete within my first 90 days of employment, and my new employer made accommodations. I worked on those diligently and finished late this afternoon. These answered prayers and miracles to secure my job as well as stay safe reaffirms that God is my Provider. I have a medical condition called cold-induced angioedema and urticaria that doesn’t allow me to be exposed to cold temperatures especially sub-zero temps. My body would blow up like Denise in the Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, my lungs would fill up with fluid in a matter of a few minutes of exposure in these weather conditions. From the warmth of Dean and I’s cottage I admire the social media vintage snow scenes, paintings (Magpie by Monet and December by Theodor Kittelsen) and memes about the cold. And I thank God for His provisions.

The Cold Hard Truth

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The Cold Hard Truth

I took cuttings from our philodendrons and ivies one last time. Then Dean and I brought our perennials into the basement, and herbs into the kitchen before the first frost, almost 2 weeks ago. Our plants are now ready for their first good watering indoors this cold season. Reality has set in with a hard freeze, the cold hard truth this morning, again tomorrow morning. Temperatures into the mid-20’s already. I rescued the two lone zinnia blooms to give them a few more days in a vase. We captured time at the parks with some of the grandkids these past weekends. I observed a little frog sunning one afternoon. Autumn decor decorates the door, porch, and house indoors. Extra quilts and blankets on the beds. I think we are ready for this 5-month cold weather season. Are you ready for the cold hard truth? What is that cold truth in your life today that is hard to face? I have a few of my own. God’s grace is sufficient for you and me. It has to be, otherwise, we could not continue. God is good to each of us, and His love surrounds us.

September’s Shift

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September’s Shift

Summer has been long and August lollygag gelled around until finally September has appeared. September’s shift is focused on seasonal changes. Cooler breezes, the air crispier, green leaves beginning to yellow, frantically feeding hummingbirds almost ready for migration, and squirrels burying nutty treasures before the frozen months. Welcome to the prelude of autumn. School children busy about their studies, football games, band practice, parents carpooling, traffic lines longer, and work schedules tightening after a lazier summer season.

This week my regular cooking classes start up again with 5 adults’, 4 children’s, and 1 adult/child class ahead of me. I am teaching this semester with the community college’s continuing education program plus 2 Saturday classes offered at a new venue, a local lavender farm. See more about these classes and where to sign up on my culinary class page. This weekend I worked on a recipe for photos for my crockpot apple cobbler. My Dean surely doesn’t mind being a taste tester. After that all-time record 10″ rain one night in late July, we realized our gutters needed new facia put in. So, Dean finished up the gutter project this weekend, replacing old facia boards that should have been done when a crew was hired last year for a new roof and gutters. That took 4 full days over the past few weekends to secure our cottage from these pop-up storms we have been experiencing.

Autumn is showing up in our neighborhood homes and shops, too. A prompting to shift my decor this week, an autumn wreath placed on the door, a leafy-print runner, amber lights, and pumpkins gracing the buffet. The perennials thickened up over the growing season. A trimming is needed before they come indoors early October, another project for this week. I plan to give away a few pots of houseplants as we have more than plenty. If you live in the metro St. Louis area and need greenery to warm up your home this winter, please let me know if you’d like a green houseplant such as a Boston fern, asparagus fern, spider plant, or philodendron. Each are in showy ceramic or terra cotta pots.

Summer Taking A Curtsy

Lazy daisy, dandelion days of summer are taking a curtsy,

Making way for golden rod, crispy air, and blowing winds.

Soon a final goodbye to the hummingbirds, butterflies so flirty.

With nectar-filled blooms giving a bow and then final bends,

Flowerheads wither, seeds scatter, food for the birdies.

An autumn canvas with yellow, orange, and red blends

Come after September’s rains and sunny days with certainty.

Anna Marie Gall September 4, 2022

Since The Summer Solstice

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Our spring was a very pleasant one, picturesque in its temperatures, rainfall, the length of the season, and beautiful blooms. Spring continued right through May and into early June. But since the week of the summer solstice, it’s been hotter than the dickens. A scorcher, hotter than I remember in a long while. All through July up until the 26th, we had very little rain to water these parts of the earth. And then the flood gates opened literally just before midnight on the 25th and all day on the 26th. Rains watered our parts of the earth, 8 – 12 inches! Thunderstorms off and on for two more days afterwards. Again, last night almost 4 inches of rain coming down by bucketsful. The meteorologists call these storms “microbursts”. It as if we are reliving that biblical story, Noah’s flood. In some regards we are. The aftermath is devastating to many folks in certain communities, my hometown of St. Peters, Missouri to name one. All Old Town was in 4-feet of water with no warning!

“In darkness, in grief, in despair, or even just in the midst of seasons that never seem to end, we need to make space for pause.”

Ann Voskamp

I pause to think about my summer. It started with Gall family photos at the local wildlife area the first weekend in June. Then, I made preparations for two missionaries to stay with us for a week while they ministered to the children in the neighborhood parish. These young ladies were delighted to be so close to the church. I joined in prayers every morning at 7 am Mass that week to keep their evangelizing efforts as well as my loved ones in collective prayers. Late June I trained for a new job working 1 or 2 days a week at a counseling office. So many people still deal with anxiety and the aftermath of COVID. I subbed for a couple of kids’ culinary camps. And I have helped a couple of senior ladies through the organization called Papa. We have rented our cottage home on Airbnb one weekend a month and continue with “super host” status. Dean and I took a day trip to Hermann for our anniversary, spent a fun evening with friends for the 4th of July, another day trip to St. Louis south city, and a couple of trips to visit family in the western parts of the state. We’ve had some quality summertime fun with the older grandkids with a matinee that no longer includes a PG movie because they are getting older. Thor: Love and Thunder it was. The Union Station aquarium and local Lewis & Clark history museum were with the younger grandkids. A short trip for a Vince Gill concert comes very soon for Dean and I as well as family visits in Chicagoland. But our longer vacation away is reserved for late September to see the Colorado aspens in their autumn colors.

My potted perennials, herbs, and flowering annuals receive early morning waterings during these hot days of summer, most still flourishing with their bright green, yellow, pinks, purples, and blues. My philodendrons and ivies received a trimming last week as they were taking over and rooting on their own in the mulch. The spider plants are quite prolific themselves, baby shoots and tiny white blooms. More greenery for future planters. The newest pottery planter in our backyard is my mother’s blue ceramic. I sowed zinnias and wildflowers for the pollinators, but the squirrels used the fresh potting soil as a playground. So, one lone zinnia made its way to full bloom. Our surprise lilies surprise us every year. The tender stalks rapidly grew 2-ft in a week, and now the showy beautiful pink flowers bloom. I have mixed a medley of my herbs for several dishes this summer. I still aim to create a blackberry-sage medley for tea. We started greens at the screenhouse, but it was a bad batch of seeds. The severe heat kept us from trying again this growing season. So fresh veggies and fruits are bought at the grocery stores and farmer’s markets this year. The songbirds and hummingbirds continue to thrill us and bring peaceful songs to our days. It is the critters and people we meet along the way that make this life worth living.

Flowers Keep The Light

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“May the flowers remind us why the rain was so necessary.”

~ Xan Oku~

April and May showers brought these beautiful blooms this month. Some sunshine had something to do with their vibrancy, too. The rainstorms brought peony petals to the ground quicker than desired, but I was able to capture their beauty before the rains.

“Deep in their roots, all flowers keep the light.” 

~ Theodore Roethke~

“Bloom as if you want to make the whole world beautiful.”

~ Debasish Mridha ~

Dean and I took on a spring garden project of sanding an old cart, hopefully staining it very soon. Its purpose will be a huge planter for lettuce, spinach, and arugula greens, up and away from hungry rabbits. We always enjoy watching the birds and this time of year the baby birds fledge. Here is a robin fledgling perched in our front door wreath with a metal bird. Maybe he or she felt at home there? We just saw a young hairy woodpecker come to our feeder and water fountain with momma close by. Hummingbirds frequent the sugar water feeder. And a short trip to Branson and central Missouri’s countryside gave us spectacular views this May! Light seems to shine even between the clouds!

A Finicky Finish With April

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A Finicky Finish With April

“Finicky”, “fickle”, “temperamental” whatever you want to call this weather, April has had it all! Ice, snow, sleet, hail, rain, windstorms, thunderstorms, tornadoes, rainbows stretching from one horizon to the next it seemed, the 80’s to the 20’s with the temperatures, and even a 2.8 earthquake felt this evening as I finish this blog post. The epic center was in the St. Louis metro area.

The miracle is despite the bizarre weather the gold finches and orioles have come back in full swing, nesting and feeding like crazy. I just heard reports of the hummingbirds’ return to Missouri. This weekend Dean and I will be getting our hummingbird feeder filled and hung on the hook near the guest bedroom window. I have the huge ceramic pot that belonged to my mother as well her shepherd’s hook to hang another hummingbird feeder in our backyard. Destined to be together, the pot will have wildflowers blooming from this weekend’s sown seeds, a double-attraction for those hummingbirds and bees.

We might be frost-free now? If the 10-day forecast tells us it is safe, Dean and I will bring the perennials out from their winter home on Sunday. Some of my herbs have started to get fresh growth while in the basement under those plant lights. The green life just needs fresh air, rainwater, and real sunshine for these next 6 months, just like you and me. Within a week, our perennials will be thanking us!

Our organic greens at the screenhouse are coming up nicely. Weekly watering plus the natural moisture making its way through the screen have been sufficient for growth. The occasional light frost has not zapped them. I look forward to a salad bowl filled with our lettuces and spinach in about a month. Volunteer arugula made its way through the soil again this year. I want a plethora of basil for my Stone Soup workshop in August. Fresh plantings may be started in the next week or so.

As the weather goes back and forth, I enjoy a cup of hot tea on the cool days. Warmer days, it is iced tea. Earlier this week it was cleaning up weeds, twigs, and leaves in the backyard. This spring afternoon, I find comfort writing while a mild thunderstorm brewed along with my tea choice of herbal vanilla-lavender. I find joy inside and outside. The sweetness of a fruit tisane and the relaxing tap-tap on the keyboard bring sheer delight to my senses. When stepping to the outdoors I see, hear, feel, taste, and smell the wonders of nature that surrounds me. Oh, the joy of living one moment at a time. I feel blessed and loved by our God who is still in control and is Omnipresent.

“Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.”

~ Mother Teresa

The Gift of One Year, One Day

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The COVID pandemic life continues another year with social distancing, masks, vaccines, remote work, and political debates. Dean and I felt more at ease once we received our vaccines early spring. This year became new, uncharted territory when I retired from full-time government administration work in June. Several years without regular pay raises due to tax issues and corruption had something to do with my decision. My inheritance allowed me to make this life change now rather than later. Subsequently, my mental and physical health improved while focusing on different work. God’s new purposes are being revealed to me one day at a time.

I am in full swing to my loves of writing, gardening, cooking, & antiques. I now teach per diem adult & children’s culinary classes at the local community college in their continuing education program. I opened a booth in an antique store & flea market near my daughter’s town and taken other items to resale stores repurposing items once belonging to myself, my mother, & others who donate. I dubbed it “Flock Together Mercantile”, as it is a “birds of a feather” endeavor. Monies earned go towards my daughter’s medical bills to treat her rare nerve disorder. Mom would have approved. A non-profit may be in the future? My life-long passion of writing includes recipes & poems found in eMerge, an online publication as well as my WordPress blogs, & more recently six-word stories on gratitude with Flapper Press. My Seashells poem is included in the book Dairy Hollow Echo that came out in August. This collection of poems & short stories on love, joy, & hope has already made Amazon’s best seller’s list for the anthology category. Since August we once again opened our St. Charles cottage one weekend a month to Airbnb guests. A detached garage with a studio is in the expansion plans for 2023, but maybe sooner. We will be able to offer many more weekends to guests. This year we had installed new roofs for both houses & gutters as well as a new HVAC system for the St. Charles cottage.

Dean & I road tripped several times, keeping off airplanes during the pandemic. Besides, it’s the journey getting there as well as the destination. Late March into April, we visited family & friends in Arkansas, Texas, and western Missouri. We searched, finally found the Texas bluebonnets blooming in the fields as we visited during their early season. We enjoyed a family weekend in Branson in early June. During the summer I spent a week in Eureka Springs at The Writing Colony at Dairy Hollow in their culinary suite. What a lovely experience, a week to just write, make culinary creations, & meet other writers. A September week included cranberry bogs & festival in Wisconsin, & a millinery boutique in Galena, Illinois where we purchased Edwardian-style hats for a costume party. Dean’s cousin, Leigh passed away in October, traveled to Arkansas for her memorial services. Mid-November was another weekend in Branson & where we will finish the year there with family all wearing our red buffalo check attire. In 2021 Missouri celebrates her 200th year as a state in the Union. Dean & I saw so many places & towns taking the country state & county highways this year. We discovered the quaint Missouri River town of Glasgow while staying at Dean’s classmate’s charming inn, The Orchard House Inn. A few Friday nights were enjoyed at the DeSoto CIA Hall where my childhood friend serves an elaborate menu to the local community while her partner plays old country-western, gospel tunes. Our Saturday nights we still watch the Opry show on the Circle Network with country radio personality, Bobby Bones. Hope to be in Nashville in 2022 to see a live Opry show.

A spring tea party, birthday celebrations, memorial services, a nephew’s wedding, long weekends, & holidays brought us together with family. Dean & I’s eight grandchildren continue to grow, ages now range from 20 years old to 14 months. Our six grown children work hard at their occupations & homes. A stray puppy found on the streets near my daughter’s came home with me for a week until we found a home for Peanut Butter. Dean’s brother & family adopted & renamed him Scout PB. My twin sister, older brother, sister-in-law, Dean, & I cleaned out my mother’s villa this summer. We made some minor repairs, put it on the market, & the home sold at a price higher than we asked for. Dean’s parents have had a difficult year. His mother fell, requiring hip surgery with a slow, but sure recovery. I spent a week & Dean most of November in KC helping his parents, making their house more safely accessible.

Dean hopes to retire in about four years. I picture him in free-lance research & consulting after his work with the National Archives, as his love for history is broad. He returned to the federal building two days a week this autumn, works remotely the other three days. My 61-years old hubby remains in good health; tall, dark, & handsome as ever in his salt & pepper hair. Dean tinkers with his plane models or the bird feeders where he tries to make them squirrel-proof. Key word is “tries”. A December tornado just missed our greenhouse/screenhouse in Defiance. Spring greens from the screenhouse still fill our salad bowls during the warm weather months. Harvested herbs spice up our dishes during the winter months. Our hydrangea blooms provide texture and color the year round inside & out. We revel over the maroon pansies blooming on the porch planter late into December, the longest growing season that I recall. No white Christmas here. In 2022 I hope to complete my first book of short stories with a culinary theme as well as a poetry chapbook. Meantime, I write & will submit to more literary magazines & websites. Our feathered derby & cloche hats wait on the chaise for our next outing on the town. Established routines such as quiet time, prayers, & journaling are interwoven with such spontaneity. The days do not have to be same old, same old. Revere each day & moment like a gift. Then it becomes just that, a gift even on the difficult days. Sometimes it’s a simple red apple from the fruit basket, or a fancy wrapped package. Untie the bow, unwrap the paper. There is something wonderful inside for you. God-given.

Whispers and Legacy

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Whispers and Legacy

A sea of familiar, friendly faces gathered in one room for a celebration. The birthday boy could not account for so many loved ones at his surprise 60th birthday party. But that is how many people this one generous, loving person has touched, and countless more Gary will never know how he blessed through his music and smiling face. One humble life touched so many others as witnessed at this joyous occasion. I am one of the many friends fortunate enough to cross Gary’s path and know he is God’s own.

What legacy will you leave? I ask myself that question. I hope the joy found in God’s creations like the millions of plants, flowers, birds, clouds, the stars in the night sky, critters, and His people’s uniqueness are evident in my words shared. Creativity in words through stories, poems, and blogs as well as in the canvas of gardens, vignettes, and recipes where I have captured a glimpse of God’s goodness for each of us. I point the direction of our Creator. He has the answer to this world, and all its ills. Prayer is the key that unlocks (or locks) a billion “whys” and “why nots” I personally cannot own. God knows. He is all-knowing, Omni-present. It is His perfect timing. His perfect love. His Son, Jesus Christ. What is God whispering to you above the shouts of this world? What print will be imbedded on this Earth because you have been placed here for such a time as this?

Plenty of Prayers and Laundry

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Prayers, proposals, projects, lesson plans, puppy love, and plenty of laundry all in a week’s time. Last year it was a major yard project in building a rock and fountain garden as well as a pebble patio area and replanting some hydrangeas in the newly mulched area of the side yard. This year it is the sorting, then removal of home goods and furniture with major cleaning and sprucing up of my mother’s villa for the real estate market. Dean and I along with my brother and sister-in-law spent hours and hours of hard work these past 4 weeks. Carpentry, electrical, gardening, sorting, and scrubbing. Summer gave us the time for very purposed labor. The gift is one sparkling clean, revamped premium piece of real estate during a prime time market. We have prayed for the just right buyer and the St. Joseph statue is buried in the mum garden. “O Saint Joseph, do assist me by your powerful intercession, and obtain for me from your Divine Son all spiritual blessings, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, So that, having engaged here below your heavenly power, I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most Loving of Fathers”.

“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

St. Francis of Assisi

Between jobs and the villa, we celebrated our youngest grandson’s first birthday last weekend and fostered the cutest rescue puppy ever for a week. I had wished we could have adopted him, but Dean and I aren’t ready for that long-term commitment yet. Peanut Butter goes to the loving home of Dean’s brother’s family. I believe these words ring true today that St. Francis shared many years ago. “Start by doing what is necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” We hosted two ladies at our Airbnb cottage over the weekend, the first time since COVID hit our area. There is plenty of laundry and sanitizing this Monday. September’s lesson plans and my class proposal for the spring semester are due this week. My “Soups On!” class needs more students. Interested to learn how to make my Italian stone soup, chicken-vegetable noodle soup, and my famous potato soup? Sign-up at http://www.stchas.edu/learnforlife under culinary classes/seasonal favorites. Guess what, four contracts came in after the Open House on the villa this past weekend! And these contracts are for more than we asked for! Thank you, God and St. Joseph! My siblings and I decided on an attractive contract, and its being worked on as I blog.