Category Archives: brother

A Seed

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“What shape waits in the seed of you to grow and spread its branches against a future sky?” author David Whyte writes.  So much hope from a seed.  And the size of the seed does not matter according to Jesus’ parable. “The simple truth is that if you had a mere kernel of faith, a poppy seed, say, you would tell this mountain, ‘move!’ and it would move. There is nothing you wouldn’t be able to tackle.” (The Message Bible).

Just how complex God has made each of us, “fearfully and wonderfully made”. Holy words to behold …  From seed to a tree … providing beauty to delight in, cooling shade to the weary, whispered wisdom from the leaves in the breeze, wood for a warm fire, roots as a foundation, fruit for the hungry, and sweet sap for those special moments.   Is not that a mother to her child?  A grandchild to a grandparent?  A man to his kin?

 

From seed to a tree, we each grow to be.  Taking care of self and our brother. Each can learn from the other. Growing branches at different directions, new skies to explore, yet rooted in the love of family and friends. Faith in self and who our God is, our Perfect Father.

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Summer Kinships Bloom

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As the summer solstice approaches we relish the vibrant blooms in the gardens and roadside, as well in our homes.  Our dream is to bloom with our kin folk.  Dean and I refurbished our living room, a blend of fresh and vintage.  Midnight, our Labrador is ready for the companionship of kin, and is on the welcome committee at our home.  In the meantime a few recent travels take us to our families in other Missouri towns.  Dean is such a proud father and grandfather.  He carries his digital camera to capture the moments and shares his finds with zeal.

Late April we were blessed with another grandchild.  Elise is Dean’s first born grandchild.  Beautiful baby.  We took the occasion and traveled to meet her early May when she was less than a week old, and another one this past weekend.  The last Saturday in April we honored my deceased father, aunt, and uncle with a Relay For Life team of kin at the cancer relay held downtown St. Louis. Mother’s Day was a visit to an old lookout point in St. Francois County  with my daughters and their families. We had another May day trip to the Missouri Botanical Gardens with my brother and sister-in-law.  And there is summer league baseball with our oldest grandson, Brendan. The first weekend in June we celebrated the 30-year birthday of Dean’s daughter, Liz as well as the birth of our youngest grandchild, Elise.

“Let us be grateful for the people that make us happy, they are the charming gardeners that make our souls blossom.”  Marcel Proust

Where Does One Begin?

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Sandra Witthaus Rau Where does one begin to understand the timing of one’s life in this world? This complexity of life and death, and there are many, seems to be a mystery. I cannot comprehend with my mind, and my heart wrenches that my cousin, Sandra Witthaus Rau was taken from us on June 3. But with faith in my loving God, the Father, I pray for comfort and peace for Sandra’s son, daughter, brother, grandson, and so many family and friends. Sandra wrote poems and expressed words of wisdom beyond her years, shared with those God placed in her life. An old soul yet her laughter and zeal was contagious, and kept her young. A year ago I asked on this Word Press blog “Is The Grass Greener?”, and Sandra shared such timely advice and with grace. And it is true, Sandra, “The grass is always greener where you water it – With Love, Laughter, Family and Friends”. The last bit of wisdom left on Sandra’s FB account on May 23:
~Slow down sometimes~
Life often gets out of control. We live in busy times and as much as we try to take a step back and live in the moment often that’s just not possible. Before we know it a week has passed. A month. Maybe even a year or two.
People tell us to stop and smell the roses but instead all we see is the work that has to be done to make those roses grow. The digging and planting. The weeding and watering. Everywhere we turn we run into duties and responsibilities, tasks and chores. All those things that need to get done to make our world turn.
Is that the life we envisioned when people used to ask us what we wanted to be when we grew up? Weren’t we going to be ballerinas, astronauts and magicians? But that’s life. It has a tendency to do the unplanned. It does it without regard or consideration for our feelings or objections. It throws us in at the deep end with no life ring in sight and says swim.
Maybe we just need to embrace the unpredictability with open arms rather than constantly fight it. And more importantly, we need to see those roses for what they really are. A chance to breathe. An opportunity to live life at its fullest. A real blessing. Because after all, there are only so many roses left for each one of us.

All Of Me
Sandra, you are terribly missed. And I know you are with Grandma, cousin Billy, your Mother, your Father, and your Uncle Marty now. For this I rest my mind and find peace. I love you, Sandra!

Winter Wellness

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At my full-time job I am inundated with wellness information constantly. Everyone and their brother have a new service or product to sell for one of the seven dimensions of wellness. I will expand on that concept in another post in the future. Working with employees on their wellness needs brings it back to me asking “what I am doing to take care of myself”? Creative ideas, programs, products, white papers, aggregate reports, diets, menus, and so forth pop in my head at any moment. Some of those ideas I apply to myself. Tai Chi and Weight Watchers At Work for this season in my life… This cold winter proves a challenge for many of us while we hibernate in our warm homes. Though this year I have devoted 10 minutes every morning to the 4-3-2-1 exercise routine … 4 minutes of cardio, 3 minutes of resistance, 2 minutes of abs, and 1 minute for stretches. This replaces the outdoor walks in nicer weather. Not only do I keep my body from idleness, in the evenings I fill the brain with articles, books, garden catalogues, blogs, poetry, art, and classic movies while curled on the recliner with a blanket sipping a cup of hot tea. In a few days the Winter Olympics will come to our TV screen after the Super Bowl hype is over. Meantime, I have picked up once again my copy of A Place of My Own written by Michael Pollan. He writes about simple living in a place he built. This so relates to the greenhouse we built, thinking “look at what our hands have made”. No, look at what Dean has made. I credit my husband for his craft, skill, and diligence. My plants survive like I in the winter, but become vibrant once again come spring.
A couple of evenings ago I shared on this blog my healthy dinner menu and a recipe. (See “On The Menu”.) Last night we had comfort food, warm comfort to counteract the winter cold. I made a healthier version of chicken dumpling soup with a homemade veggie, herb,and chicken stock before spooning the herbed dumpling batter into the boiling brew. Did you know if you add 1 tablespoon of vinegar to the liquid while cooking bone-in meat, more collagen and other anti-inflammatory nutrients will be drawn from the bones? This reserved liquid gold will be used for a seafood chowder recipe I have been mulling over in my mind for this weekend. My culinary vocabulary book cleared up the one question I had, “what is the difference between chowder and bisque?” Chowder has chunks of vegetables, and bisque has a puree of vegetables. Both often have cream in or served with. I will lighten my recipe with milk. I will make more stock from scallops. Cubed potatoes, shredded carrots, chunked celery and a medley of herbs will fill the soup pot just in time for the next arctic blast blowing Missouri’s way on Monday. This is my winter wellness. Cooking healthy foods, reading, writing, and those morning exercises.

Plumposity

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The birthday trip to Chicago this past Thursday and Friday was great! On Thursday night Brian Setzer and Orchestra gave a Christmas concert to remember for our lives. The big band or rockabilly Setzer-style to favorite holiday tunes set our feet a dancing. The show was held at the beautiful, classy Rialto Theatre in Joliet, Illinois. Dean and I were dazzled by the spirit, sounds, and sights of the holidays. On Friday the birthday boy and I ventured to the big city. After finding a parking space (which cost more than our lunch!), we met up with his younger brother and dined at a downtown Chicago pizzeria called Lou Malnati’s. Scrumptious, delicious Italian fare! This eatery described the Roma tomatoes as “plumposity” for the sauce in their signature deep dish pizza. “Plumposity” might be another word for “pleasing plump”, as some men describe how they like their women. My hubby included. Or the “plumposity” of a freshly picked crisp apple as you bite into, it squirts juice down your hand. Or the “plumposity” of the Cherokee purple tomatoes I indulge in still with our tomato plants under plant lights in the semi-heated garage. But the word definitely describes the Roma tomatoes used on this classic Chicago-style pizza. “It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato,” quoting Southern comedian, Lewis Grizzard. Culture shocked for a couple of hours, we then battled the traffic headed out of the city into the suburbs. We visited with my cousin and her husband over a home-cooked meal, before heading back home on a 5-hour drive. A blitz trip, and now we are back to prepare for 5 more adults and 4 more dogs staying for the Thanksgiving weekend, with more family for a pasta dinner Saturday night. Now I am thinking this new-found word might describe the effects of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Yes, this weekend I think our home will experience “plumposity”, an overflow of holiday indulgence and family!

Pumpkins, Bumpkins

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The past two days it has been a steady rain off and on. So some red, orange, and golden yellow-colored leaves had remained on the trees, illuminating from the fresh water. Today’s rain has been heavier, more color has fallen to the ground. But the most colorful this Halloween are the pumpkins and bumpkins that glow tonight. Trick-or-treaters walking on streets or at the neighborhood trunk-n-treats while gourds and pumpkins are displayed for autumn vignettes. Shared in the collage are photos of my children and grandchildren, and some of their pumpkin art … and a poem written by my brother. Such creative bumpkins in the family.

AUTUMN AGAIN by Richard Bates

Bleeding with color, leaves parachute
and cry out: this is the end
of something great; now the trees
wear a fashion of surrender.
Deep shadows pour over the lawns
and streets- where there’s a feeling
that it’s getting late; despite all rumors
and denial, dark clouds play out
some ancient prophecy: how the cold wind
scatters secrets come September…

The Dust of Everyday Life

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At times life can get messy or just plain mundane. A change of pace is in order, but another trip north isn’t feasible. So this past week and weekend I spent my leisure time in St. Charles, Missouri as well as worked my second job in the same historical town. The weekend I sold spices and gave out culinary advise to visitors and locals while at the spice shoppe on historic Main Street. One of my creative expressions, the culinary arts comes alive while there. Thursday night was an open house affair at the Foundry Art Centre in Frenchtown, where the French immigrants settled in this town over 200 years ago. Met some local artists, and viewed some creative art pieces in their studios. For the audience, “The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.” Aristotle tells us. I think and feel when I gander at artwork. While at the art centre I entered into a raffle for a pair of tickets to a September concert featuring the Man In Black, a Johnny Cash retro singer along with his band. And I won that raffle! Friday night was a catch-up double date with my brother and sister-in-law at Picasso’s Coffee House on historic Main Street. We talked about their trip to Hawaii and our trip to Minnesota, and about the kids and grandkids. Picasso’s has all the artsy ambiance that its name signifies and sharing “the art of coffee”. Folks sipping on coffee, tea, or spirits listening to a local jazz trio, Peaches. A couple of other locals brought their saxophones billowing high notes to the low bass, so it made the group a lively quint for a few songs. A famous Picasso quote is painted onto a wall of the local establishment. “Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.” For the artist, musician, culinaire, author, and gardener a cleansing is experienced while engaged in their art form. Creating pots and gardens with plants and garden art definitely does this for me. I transplanted blooming red geraniums into the large planters outside the greenhouse this weekend. These 4-month old cuttings had good root systems, ready for a broaden growing space. Coming up with our signature flower, the geranium must be it as I primp and fuss with them everytime I am at the farm. I am learning how to grow them organically, friendly on the ecosystem. Once I had a geranium for over 6 years, bringing it indoors every winter. It would shed leaves through the dormant months, and I would wonder if it would come back once May finally arrived. Every now and then it would bloom while near the kitchen patio door, white snow in the contrasting background. Always in a terra cotta pot awaiting the spring and summer months. One year for Christmas gifts I created some book marks for my foodie friends with this saying,“Friendship, like geraniums bloom in the kitchen.” Not sure who to credit for those words, as many people have quoted it, but it is true on both accounts. I want to take a try growing scented and ivy varieties. Though the old-fashioned red contrasting with the broad green leaves are my favorite palette. I will bring my geraniums inside late autumn, sheltered from the cold, non-electric greenhouse and outdoors. Pruning and propagating once again for next spring. Life continues …

The Year of The Mattress

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ValhallaValhallaMap
Dean and I along with our labrador-flat coat retriever mix, Midnight arrive at the 60+ year old cabin situated on Island Lake just at sundown. Oranges, pinks, and purples kiss the lake “good night” and welcome us. It’s been a long haul from St. Charles County, Missouri to this Minnesota paradise. But so much worth the road trip. Weekday and weekend warriors cannot stop on vacation either. We had taken the extra long route following the Mississippi River highways. So a 12-hour trip became a 15-hour trip. The meandering scenery had slowed our pace down before arriving at this moment. Midnight climbs out of the SUV from his secure kennel into what I think my father described to him as heaven. Our dog gazed wide-eyed at this expansive beautiful lake recounting the aquatic tales his deceased master had told him, I am sure. Into the lake he went, lapping water and going for his doggy swim in Island Lake. Just 2 minutes to realize heaven was here, and my father’s spirit present.
Our first night at the cabin we unloaded the SUV, then gathered jackets and a flashlight onward bound by foot just up the road with our dog. The little green cabin had folks congregated there near a campfire. We met up with my childhood friends and greeted new ones from as far away as Norway. Midnight gets acquainted with more labradors, the natural breed of our 4-legged friends in the land of 10,000 lakes. Before we know it, the time passes midnight with the campfire still aflame. Embers will be there in the morning to start a skillet breakfast. We head back to our lakeside cabin, choosing the front bedroom of the 2-bedroom pine-lined dwelling. I climb into bed too tired to have a spring from the mattress just about empale me. We’ll sleep in the back bedroom tonight and deal with the mattress issue tomorrow. We discovered the back bedroom mattress was not much better as Dean and I are forced to meet in the middle. This mattress’ sunken center provided cozy quarters for this exhausted yet still honeymooning couple. Our backs ache in the morning begging for more support. Dean flips over the empaling mattress to its other side to discover the year of the mattress … 1971. Why that is the first year my father along with my mother and their 4 children ventured to this heavenly northern destination in a Chevy Impala. Now don’t cast too much judgement on this mattress date. The cabins are only used 3 – 4 months out of the year, so a normal 10-year mattress can go to 30 – 40 years. So at 42-years old, it might be due for replacing.
Electronics, computer and TV are non-existent in the cabins. While on this get away, Dean chose to use his basic cell phone on occasion. I took a vacation from it all. This post was written last week, scrawled onto my paper journal … I awoke this morning before sunrise. Is it night still? No clock to check as we are in a time warp at this northern lake retreat. In just a few minutes I see a tinge of blue in the black sky. I take this moment to observe the day’s beginning. I slip on my jeans and sweatshirt and quietly step onto the screened porch. Those moments of complete silence, no human awake just nature and I welcome the morning in this neck of the woods. Our dog, Midnight stretches on the porch and awaits at the porch door to be let out. He, too embraces morning’s arrival this day. There is something special about living in the present moment. All senses akeen, see the colors change before my eyes recognizing the picturesque treeline before me. The loons cry out as the fog lifts from the lake. Misty vapors keep my skin and clothes damp, I smell and taste the lake, and I remember my father’s love of this place. His planning, mapping, and research of his yearly fishing trip started in January when the tree farming and landscape designing was at a hault. My father was a planner, and I too like him. Yet this present moment reels me back to reality. I would have missed this unforgetable sunrise had I rolled over and slept in another morning of my vacation … ducks, a blue heron, and even a night owl calling it a night show themselves amongst the pines, birches, and cattails. The dragonflies are now flitting about, illuminating more color for this overcast day. The brisk morn may see a rain shower before the warm noon sun. No boat on the lake, that I hear or see, and 2 hours into this day … In 1971 and several years to follow, my father would have been out on the lake by now catching walleye and bass for that evening’s dinner. Way before my siblings or I and definitely my mother opened an eyelid. I miss my father today like everyday. This place called Valhalla is heaven on earth, and was my father’s favorite place while he was alive on earth. Somehow he is with Midnight, Dean, and I. It is called eternal life …
For my siblings and I Valhalla meant playing with friends all day with very little chores. We would play h-o-r-s-e in the barn, swim in the cold lake, boat rides, hide-n-seek with the fireflies lighting the path, and a campfire with songs and roasted marshmallows. Those young teenage years I wanted to be on the receiving end of another kiss from a cute Norwegian boy, my Minnesota friends’ visiting cousin. To me Valhalla is about people, kind-hearted genuine folks. The mild summer and lake fish bring the people. But the people bring life to the vacation. The summer visitors enjoy fish fries, potlucks, smokey breakfast skillets, and campfire tales. This year the fish fry, skillet breakfast, fire grilled pizzas, and lemon rice krispies treats make the food highlights. More Norwegian cousins entertain the family and friends this year. I miss my Norwegian friend from my childhood, and his cousin promises to persuade his return to Valhalla next summer. Initimate moments we share about the death and memory of loved ones. Songs were sung at church and at the campfire. Yes, my Scrabble game had kinder words reflecting my kinder, at peace thoughts this restful week. The year of the mattress did not reflect the oldness of 1971, but the goodness.

Scrabble Words

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I keep a Scrabble board set up in my office at St. Louis County, available at the front lobby area for co-workers, visitors, and employees alike to play at their leisure. I borrowed the board game from our neighbor colleagues one building over. One of my office break activities is to play Scrabble. It is a stress relief with the construction projects in my office building. It is like fingernails on a chalkboard some days. Spelling a word or two takes the edge off from the noise level of the drills and saws. I can concentrate better after forming words from the letters that pop in my head. I know it is strange, but it helps. Wellness in action versus taking a “smoke break”, a drag or two of a cigarette before hitting the reports and answering the 100 and 1 questions our employees and retirees have. A “game” is completed usually in 4 or 5 days, with myself the most active player. I experience this same release when I write this WordPress blog or in my journal.
My daughters call me the “Scrabble Queen”, because I love playing it and am very competitive. Though I am competitive in other games such as Monopoly, card games, softball, tether ball, etc. I can still smack that softball over the left field fence. Ask my elementary schoolmates about my tether ball game. I would beat the snot out of the boys at every tether ball game. Well, not the boys but the tether ball! There was a boy or two I may have swung at as well… So back to Scrabble, with my family I use to make nonsensical sentences with the words we formed on the board. My siblings or children and I would laugh for what seemed like hours making up sentences with the Scrabble words. The analyst in me wonders if the combination of words I form for any given Scrabble game have a subliminal significance? Yesterday’s Scrabble board has the words “dead”, “blind”, “fist”, “knot”, “whimp”, “weigh”, and “czar”. BTW: “Czar” scores big points for a short word if you put it on a triple letter or triple word score. So the above words are fairly strong, echoing my recent thoughts of this tough world. “I wish I were blind to the world, whimpy by character, or dead to my feelings, because I am weighed down with knots in my stomach from the tight-fisted czar called life.” Woo! Simply said, I am overdone and have a tude. Feeling ready for my vacation from the house, office, spice shoppe, and greenhouse, you think?! R & R is right around the corner, tomorrow a matter of fact. Thank God! Maybe my Scrabble game will have kinder words such as “zeal”, “calm”, “smile”, “peaceful”, “love”, and “gratitude” when I return from my northern destination? Good chance of it! I want to be a colorful light to this world!


What words does your life spell today? I pray God’s best in your life: color, music, adventure, health, love, and peace!

My Friday Family Adventures

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Tornado
So this Friday is like so many of my days, filled with family adventures. Early morning we are greeted by my son-in-law asking to use our van to help a mutual friend move his bee hives. Big bee hives, and the trunk of a car would not suffice for the task. Of course, use the van, put gas in it, though do not leave any bees in it. Remember we will be loading the huge van with plants later tonight.
The morning goes along with a telephone call from my younger brother while at work, asking if we had found out if we can sell Grandpa’s snake-skin belts and jewelry at the farmers’ markets. A few days ago I told Dean about this request, but I had not heard whether we gained permission to include my grandfather’s handmade snake-skin crafts at our tent. But I will follow-up with this. The next question my brother ask, “Would you like to donate your body to St. Louis University when you die?” He asked this with no hesitation, like he was asking if Dean and I can come over for dinner tomorrow night. Now, I have to take a few seconds to think why he is asking this. With my pause in reply, he interjects that this is what our 97-year old grandfather is doing, and what him and Uncle Earl have discussed doing as well. “Would it be neat for the university to do genetic studies on the Bates Family?” Steve says. “I am going to ask Rick and Marge (my other siblings), too. And maybe Rachel and Elisabeth (my daughters) will consider doing the same?” So it takes what seems like 5 minutes to respond, probably more like a minute. “It’s a good idea, and I am open to it. I always thought to donate an organ to science after I pass, but I need to consider what Dean wants when I pass. I will ask him.” Dean and I discuss briefly on the commute home from our jobs, “no immediate answer, we have time for this decision,” I add.
Then Mom calls late this afternoon asking about the weather-stripping for the front door. It appears what we installed this winter caused a suction when it rained earlier this week, that she could not get the door open. Great, she is trying to sell the house. We will be up there to take care of this weekend or on Wednesday when we assist her with her move to the villa 1-1/2 miles from our house rather than the hour’s drive we currently have. Mixed feelings altogether there.
We get home to eat a quick dinner my chef son-in-law prepared, fried fish, mashed potatoes, and a tomato-mozzerolla salad. Dean and I needed to get to the greenhouse as soon as possible as a large cell of violent storms was on the way. Dean checked http://www.wunderground.com, and it was in Warren County, one county west of us. Onward to the greenhouse to pick up a few plants for the Saturday morning farmers’ market. The radio said a tornado had been sighted in Franklin County, one county southwest of St. Charles County. Probably 30 minutes from us. The earlier rains had the ground soaked already, so we parked the van just past the barn. Dean and I quickly walked up the hill, gathered armfuls of plants, each making 3 trips back and forth. By my last trip back to the van, the sky was an eerie green with a black cell right in the middle. Lightning flashes bolts bright, and the heavy rain starts. Our Charlie Brown spruce tree was in full glow with the solar lights like it was nighttime already. It was only 7:15pm. The van radio told me a tornado warning was issued for St. Charles County, and a tornado was sighted in Defiance. Wonderful, we are in Defiance! I guarantee that black cell I saw had a tornado in it! Dean arrived with his last armful of plants, promptly loaded them in the van, and backed the van up in a hurry. We slide off the gravel road right into the slippery clay mud. That van kept sliding towards the rushing creek! Inches from it! Dean tried pulling forward, and we were stuck. Dean and I tried gravel, wood planks, and prayer. We were not going anywhere, especially when Dean accidentally locked the keys in the van. Thank God the engine was turned off! Flash flood warnings came over the weather band radio in the barn. I asked my husband to call our landlord, to see if we could start the tractor to pull the van out. No keys were available, with the landlord in another county over. We asked for the farm neighbor’s telephone number. We called my son-in-law and this farm neighbor. My son-in-law got to us with our spare van key and a smile in his voice within 30 minutes. Our rescuer! The farm neighbor was not home, 30 minutes away but would try to get to us. Dean rocked the van back and forth shifting in reverse and back forward. Mick and I pushed with all our might. A wood plank shot back and hit my ankle. Bruised, swollen, and sore but no cut. Thank Jesus. Rocking back and forth for 10 minutes, the van was out of the muddy mess onto the gravel road. Shovels put away, barn light turned out, and we all managed to cross the creek to the safety of a paved county highway. A call to the farm neighbor to say we were out of our predicament. Reports of a huge tornado touching down in the local towns of Weldon Springs and Harvester, Missouri wiping out multiple houses came over the radio. Cannot help to think we were stuck in the mud for a reason, to avoid being in the path of that nasty tornado. A muddy mess and sore, we all three were, but safe in our house now tonight. Yes, my family adventures never end. Sometimes like the whirlwinds I experienced tonight. Peace I sense. Gratitude, I have family to help when we need it, and to be with on this stormy night. St. Louis University is not ready for me yet. Stay tuned, another chapter of our family life on this blog, maybe with Dean’s family.