Category Archives: uncle

March Is Mad

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March is mad. It seems to be mad at the world with its destructive tornadoes earlier this week and dive-bombing temperatures this weekend after spring was introduced weeks ago. The below freezing temps continue for 6 days, not just one night. And snow in the forecast!

I had my early spring sprouts emerge from the organic soil of the raised bed at least a week ago. Dean and I went to the farm last night between the spring showers and by lantern light we covered the vegetable bed with a plastic tarp. This bed is inside the screen house, so the baby plants just need an extra layer of protection the next few days. See what happens. Gardening is definitely one science experiment after another.

March is also the month to celebrate a few birthdays. Today, my father was born 81-years ago. He is no longer amongst us on earth, but they must celebrate birthdays in heaven! Happy Birthday, Dad!  Hope you are celebrating with Grandpa and Uncle Lee!  I miss you dearly!  I hope you are proud of your family and what we are in our lives presently. That makes me happy to think you are. You must know about your granddaughter fighting a battle with cancer. I have asked for prayers and for the angels to watch over her. You and God must hear these supplications daily, hourly. Thank you for listening. In God’s hands…

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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  How do I handle a class of whining employees that their favorite yoga instructor has been replaced by another fully certified yoga instructor?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!

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

A Few Good Men

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I have been missing a few good men and women who left the earth in past 2 years. My father, my best buddy, my favorite uncle, my grandfather, my aunt, and my cousin. My father would have been 79 years old today. As the Employee Wellness Coordinator for my employer, I attended a forum discussing onology care for patients this afternoon. After three oncology experts and a HR professional presented their perspectives, a woman shared her experience in caring for your husband who died of brain cancer. Very emotional for me. Much what this woman shared related to my mother’s story if she would speak about it. I have kept to myself as well for reasons I cannot write about at this time. Such to God’s plans for my day, I ran into one of my cousins, the grandson of my favorite uncle who passed a year ago. This cousin was the IT/sound man for the oncology forum I attended. My guess there were a few tears shed in that conference room today. He, too lost his grandmother (my aunt) to cancer. And last week I met with American Cancer Society folks in regards to the local Relay For Life event held in May. They are soliciting support and a possible team to form. They struck a chord with me last week, but not quite like the woman sharing her story today. Just cannot get away from cancer, as it is prevelant in our aging population at work as well as with my kin folk. I will write later about the Relay For Life event held at Soldier’s Memorial in St. Louis. My Dean & I will form our own team if my employer does not. This is just one way to honor my father. This day, the anniversary of your birth day, Dad I reflect on you and the things you found joy in … earth, plants, fish, birds, dogs, and of course Mom. You are loved and missed today!

Roller Coaster Ride

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Holiday greetings! Who knew what 2014 would bring? God, our Creator did. With Him and each other is how Dean & I held on during the wild roller coaster ride. I believe Dean & I experienced a miracle with our blended and extended families this year. After the joyous engagement announcements of last year, all 3 of Dean’s children chose to marry their sweethearts in this magical year of 2104. To fill you in, Dean & I have a blended family of 6 grown children, Rachel is 33 this week & married to Mick and have 3 children Hannah age 13, Ella age 8, & Eli age 4; Elisabeth is 30 married to Mark and have 2 children Libby age 10 & Brendan age 7; AJ just turned 30 & married Nancy in November; Elizabeth is 28 & just married Vince this month; Rainer is 25 & married Erica in July; and our youngest, Ben is 22. We welcome into our hearts and home the Compier, Rockford, and Rens families!
Dean & I averaged a 2 or 3-day trip (sometimes with our Labrador-flat coat retriever Midnight in tow) every 3rd weekend to the Missouri towns of Farmington, Lee’s Summit, Liberty, and Springfield as well as Leawood, KS to see our kids, grandkids, and Dean’s parents. Engagement parties and showers along with the grand finale celebrations kept us busy. Besides these beautiful weddings, we sought a reprieve of 10 warmer degrees (above freezing!) one extended weekend in February, and drove down to Paducah, KY. A lovely artisan town and my sanity! The coldest winter on record in the Midwest and with my allergy to the cold, I was in a constant swollen state until the thaw in May. This season, I am on a preventive antihistamine,taking it religiously until next May and hoping for a milder winter. No epie pins for me! Other events … Rainer’s master’s studies graduation in May, Dean’s male bonding Ohio trip with AJ & his father in July, this summer’s memorable One Direction concert Dean escorted my granddaughters and daughters to, and another sanity check with an extended weekend in New Harmony, IN in September, and Dean’s 35th high school reunion as well as his niece’s baptism this autumn. My mother and 2 children live nearby. We enjoyed visits with the Fait, Heuertz, and Christenson cousins. The deaths of my Uncle Lee, my cousin Sandra, my 99-year old Grandpa Earl, and Dean’s Aunt Rachel brought sorrow as well as the celebration of their lives. We said goodbye to two beloved grandpets, Jesse and Pixie and welcomed the bundle of energy named Bleu.
In 2014 Dean & I reduced our debts significantly, refinanced the house, and managed to stay above water with all the weddings. Our future plans are for a big family room. We viewed a few area houses this summer, and now entertain the thought of a room addition at present abode. There’s not much left on the mortgage, we like the central location, and know all the little quirks of this house I have lived in for 28 years, Dean the past 5 years. Paring down, repairs, and renovations will be for 2015’s weekends. Last spring we built a huge herb bed of organic marjoram, dill, sage, parsley, and 4 varieties of basil inside the screen house side of our 1400 sq-ft greenhouse. Vines of gourds grew on trellises, and bush beans produced a few green meals over summer. Next autumn we will build another bed for organic root vegetables as well as a cold frame for greens within the double protection of our experimental farm structure during the winter. I write this Word Press blog Deanna Greens And Garden Art, please read if you like to keep abreast. The practice of walking, gardening and eating greener may keep us healthier longer. We are a 3-generation home once again. My Elisabeth and clan (includes 2 more cats) have lived with us since September. They are making plans for the future within this present economy. Hearing Elisabeth sing to the kids every night, and tonight “You Are My Sunshine” warms my heart. Our Midnight and cat, Celine have adjusted to sharing their eating, napping and perching spots as Dean & I have.
Our full-time jobs, Dean with the National Archives and I with St. Louis County, have their perks as well as draw-backs. We love the Monday holidays, PTO banks, and good benefits. The draw-backs are the modest income, the ultimate politics, and security threats. Working in St. Louis County, MO has been a challenge at times since the historical August 9 shooting. By the grace of God despite the presence of protestors, media, FBI, National Guard, and extra police force, I came through with the mindset, “God is in control and I am placed here for such a time as this”. I pray for protection for our police officers and for peace that surpasses all understanding for those who feel victimized. I am taking an online course study towards a CEBS certification. Study, study, more study in 2015!
Blessings and wholeness to you! From this wordie, foodie, and wellness guru in St. Charles County, MO, love always! Anna

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!

Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow

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Uncle Lee and SandraYesterday is gone, today is here, tomorrow may come … Live life to its fullest TODAY! … My Uncle Lee lived like this until the day he passed away, February 6, 2014. What a wonderful person, full of goodness and love towards all. An avid fisherman, hunter, gardener, husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, brother, uncle, friend … His smiling big blue eyes I will remember with fondness. A handsome man. He and my Aunt Shirley who passed before him 20 months ago have two amazing kids, my cousins Sandra (in the photo) and Robert. Uncle Lee now joins his wife once again, and my father, Marty, his fishing and hunting buddy in the heavenly realms. All the Witthaus family is in my prayers. We on earth will miss him.

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.

Apathy For A Day

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Sometimes I do not care, or want to care. Right now I am too tired to care. My head spins. It hurts. Am I an apathetic person? No, I just need to rest. To have no cares in this weary world… That was my day on Friday. A headache from hell, and it finally subsided into the evening hours, and sleep swallowed it… The Memorial Day 3-day weekend was met with markets on Saturday and Sunday. I was at the spice shoppe, selling BBQ rubs and teas for pouring over ice this balmy weekend. Local folks and tourists searched for that missing ingredient to make their recipes more spectacular than the last. Dean went to two farmers’ markets this weekend. Not as busy, but just as excitable with the locals and tourists. By Sunday late afternoon, after I closed the shoppe I headed home to gather the food and dog for Dean and I’s first overnight at the greenhouse. Dean greeted me at Boone Hollow Farm as I drove the Jimmy in the upper field road rounding the bend, his smile and his hand waved me in. What a heavenly evening and night … just what I needed. The screenhouse had a cool breeze flowing through the mesh. The citronella candle glowed to ward off the bugs and make for an exotic ambiance. Frogs and crickets croaked and hummed throughout the night. We anticipated the howl of the local coyotes, but never did hear. Midnight, our big black labrador probably deterred their visit. The night sky was cloudy with flashes of lightning in the distant and few rumbles of thunder. No rain until later, but the raindrops sooth my busy mind into la-la land. Moonlight and the stars shined somewhere in the night as I recall waking for a few short minutes. Dean and the dog were restless. Finally my partner’s snoring chimed with the morning bird tweets just as the darkness slipped away. I managed to get back to sleep for a 7:00am rising. Dean slept for another hour while I read. We finished our camp stove sausage and egg breakfast with a piece of homemade strawberry-rhubarb coffee cake and hot hibiscus tea. And then the greenhouse became our work station. I cleaned terra-cotta pots, and potted our basil and dill. Dean worked on the structure and potted wandering jews into the coco-lined baskets. New edible and adorable plants for the market. Another storm was brewing, yet we waited for Grandpa’s visit before calling it a day. My uncle and aunt brought Grandpa to Boone Hollow Farm. My grandfather and uncle were well impressed with the struture Dean and I rebuilt. My artist aunt said the screenhouse would make the perfect studio. Yes, art in the making. My thoughts precisely. A quick visit, back in their vehicle just as the nickel-size drops came full force. An electric storm finished off our time at the memorable camping trip. But more about the evening of Memorial Day later … a bit of patriotic history in the family. So glad apathy does not reside more than a day. Too much to experience. Life is an adventure.

Wet Weekend

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Creek Saturday morning we awoke to rain! This is an occasion as we have been in a severe drought since last spring. The 14 inches of snow we received in the past 2 weeks, melted to 4 inches of liquid according to the rain barrel at the greenhouse. Now with this rainy weekend, we received another 2 inches. River barges started moving on the rivers again after sitting idle for 2 months. The melted snow running into the northern streams have made their way to the Mississippi, Missouri, and Illinois Rivers. Creek beds have filled once again in Missouri. The 2 creeks on Boone Hollow Farm were running with a cold rush, a soothing sound to the ear. I walked the plank to get over the creek and up the hill to the greenhouse. We cleaned the barn while the rain watered our earth. Late morning the rain subsided, and finally the sun peeped out of the clouds. A chainsaw was used on old trees near the barn, trying to avoid storm damage to the outbuilding and roads. Working alongside the half-full creek bed, I lobbed small limbs. I hauled the twigs to the huge bush pile down the gravel road while the tree frogs croaked “its spring!” Honey bees and flies buzzed about the warm afternoon air. Nature’s critters tell us.
My brother wanted to bring my grandpa out for a visit. This was their first visit to Boone Hollow Farm, so a countryside adventure for both this fine Saturday afternoon. Cellular telephone service is hit or miss, so I hoped they heard my directions okay. I explained several times before, “we are between Chandler Hill Vineyards and the Daniel Boone Home off Highway F, look for the huge barn on the right side.” Our labrador, Midnight chewed on sticks and chased after two barn cats up the larger trees while I cleaned up the limbs. He would follow with such enthusiasm walking near the gravel path alongside the wheelbarrow. But when a white SUV pulled onto the gravel road off the highway, and he recognized the sound of the vehicle. It was my father’s old SUV, and in it was two of Midnight’s favorite persons, Grandpa Earl and my brother, Steve. Grandpa took care of Midnight as a young pup. This overgrown Christmas gift became my father’s hunting companion when Midnight was too much for my 97-year old grandfather to handle. Now Midnight is Steve’s duck and goose hunting companion. Midnight ran to greet his buddies, and stayed at their sides their entire visit. Grandpa could not make the walk up the hill to our greenhouse, and it was too muddy to get a vehicle up there. So that will have to be their next trip to Boone Hollow Farm. But the farmer chat while the elder sat on the farmer neighbor’s bushhog was so refreshing like that spring rain heard in the creek bed. It backed me up 45 years ago, when jaws jabbered during the farm visits in Franklin County, where my Grandpa and Uncle Lloyd made their father’s farm into a weekend get away for their families. That circle of life again, Dean and I making a weekend refuge for our family now. And Grandpa was able to enjoy it after the weekend rain.