Faster than the speed of light, our electronic devices send information via texts, emails, photos, blogs, letters, invoices, payments, deposits, documents, and on and on … I literally cannot keep up with it all. The passwords alone are too numerous; none less learning all these new programs, two computer monitors with at least four programs opened on each at any given moment in my 8-hour day. And ten different ways to pay ten different invoices! Lickity-split like in the snap of the fingers I am supposed to know these details with no written instructions. My brain is fried. Frazzled and bewildered is how I feel most of the time since I started this job. Constant multi-tasking is not good for me or anyone from what I understand. My weekends have been much like the weekdays, just crammed packed. Change is inevitable.
I feel I am missing the seasonal signs; bright daffodils blooming, sprouts of green popping up, fruit trees budding, the busy finches and sparrows nesting, not fully appreciating the approaching Spring. Like a lightning bolt, family emergencies strike. I cannot respond in a way to meet the needs, due to either lack of time or exhaustion. Other people God appoints step up in my absence. “Home wasn’t built in a day … the days were long, but the years flew by”, Todd Tilghman sings. I don’t want to miss any of it. As we march on, February ended with another family emergency with Dean’s mother having a stroke. She was rushed to the hospital by ambulance, in a coma-like state for two days, but miraculously has come through. Marching on into March, she moved into rehab and will be in an assisted living facility very soon. The elder Galls have entered into a new season of their lives, needing special attention that a reputable assisted living facility can bring. As most stories end with a glimmer of hope, here comes baby Jeremiah Robert. He waited until the shifting stormy weather to be born, two days past his due date. Our ninth grandchild, another blondie baby Gall is perfectly made.
What happened to January? The bustling holiday season went into a busy January, and finally a weekend in mid-February set aside to slow down, stay home, read, and write. My blogging and writing curtailed with a new weekday office job, weekends in Farmington, cottage interior projects, and reorganizing. Dean and I last-minute traveled to Eureka Springs, AR to join in my first evening of readings with The Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow. I shared a couple of classics from Emily Dickinson and Christina Rossetti, and then a few of my own poems. I experienced the beatnik snapping fingers. Fun! One poetry submission went out in January. I may be able to get one or two submissions this weekend. My life changed its course starting in December. After working for 18 months with part-time jobs after my retirement from my HR position with the local government, I decided to seek a full-time job where I have dependable hours. I started this HR position just before Christmas. Much more to learn with this generalist role in a smaller organization. Thankful it has been a friendlier culture. I continue to teach a culinary class one or two evenings a month. Diligence and time management are all the more necessary to keep to my writing projects.
One day out of each weekend since Christmas have been helping my daughter, son-in-law, and grandkids who live in Farmington, MO. Their house burned down Christmas night. They escaped with no injuries, thank God! They have a long road to full recovery from this tremendous loss. Miracles after miracles have been witnessed. The other day of each weekend are filled with home projects. The cottage guest bedroom had a face lift on one wall. Dean put up bead board, carefully cutting to fit around the window frame. We will paint the bead board an off-white when the weather warms up this impending spring and the windows can stay open for a day. It really lightens up the room, mellowing the cranberry red wallpaper and keeps to the Edwardian country decor. While Dean worked on that, I have been paring down and reorganizing drawers, closets, and rooms. We did a couple of furniture swaps between bedrooms to simplify access. Now Valentine hearts along with seasonal snowmen and snowbirds dot the rooms with a festive fever. I put together various candy jars for the kids and my fellow HR co-workers. I thoroughly believe gifts of love expressed from the kitchen can be given to everyone you meet.
“There is nothing better than a friend, unless it is a friend with chocolate.”
~ Linda Grayson
“At the end of the day, I believe you lead with your heart. This is all part of who I am, no matter where I am. My heart is my heart.”
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.
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.
Autumn weather lingers well past Thanksgiving into December, now on this winter solstice. My purple pansies still bloom on the porch. This month severe weather plagued our Midwest. Over 8 years ago a summer tornado went above Dean and I while at our greenhouse on Boone Hollow Farm in Defiance. That tornado touched down in nearby Weldon Springs and Harvester that Friday evening. I wrote my account of the experience in this blog post https://deannagreensandgardenart.com/2013/06/01/my-friday-family-adventures/. This year on December 10, another Friday night tornado touched down just yards from our greenhouse, leveling several homes, barns, and outbuildings in a 3-mile stretch on Highway F outside of Defiance. Sadly, one fatality. Farmer Chuck explains the hole in his barn door, “I can’t imagine the power needed to pick up the huge oak beam and throw it like a spear across the road, through the trees and into the barn door.” This beam was hurtled across Highway F from one farm to another. Dean and I watched online while the local meteorologists reported a tornado on the ground in Defiance. We waited to go out to the farm, went the following afternoon to allow utility linesmen to get the lines off the roads. By the grace of God our greenhouse still stands untouched. Mother Nature’s temper tantrum disrupted this rural town much like our granddaughter’s protest for her 2nd COVID vaccine. Wasn’t one enough? The community rallies around the survivors to clean up and rebuild as Christmas and the New Year approach.
This Advent season I wait for Him. I prepare my heart. “Make me blameless, white as snow through Jesus Christ,” I pray. “Keep me on task, direct me to Your purposes. Speak to me, Lord.” The word “advent” means “to come” or “arrive” in Latin. Holiday music, shopping, gift wrapping, decorating, and baking fill my unhurried post-retirement days. There was one Christmas many moons ago, 29 years ago to be exact when I was post-partum with my son that I was most relaxed and prepared for the holidays. Ben was due around Thanksgiving, so I knew I would need to get the holiday tasks finished prior to his arrival. I eased into the holidays at an easy pace and a peace like no other to this day because I prepared. My Ben was a miracle baby, and I knew God’s hands were on us. Let me approach this Christmas and New Year knowing Your hands on me and those around me. “Let the storms of this life dissipate.” As Alan Jackson sings …
“Let it be Christmas everywhere In the hearts of all people both near and afar Christmas everywhere Feel the love of the season wherever you are On the small country roads lined with green mistletoe Big city streets where a thousand lights glow.
Let it be Christmas everywhere Let heavenly music fill the air Let every heart sing let every bell ring The story of hope and joy and peace And let it be Christmas everywhere Let heavenly music fill the air Let anger and fear and hate disappear Let there be love that lasts through the year And let it be Christmas Christmas everywhere…”
“Let there be love that lasts through the year.”~ Alan Jackson
Every autumn comes the day to gather the perennials indoors for their winter home, the basement. Dean and I know it is coming, and make room in the basement under the plant lights. Some years it is sooner rather than later. For 2021, it is much later. The cool mid-40’s mornings warm up quickly to warmer, mild afternoons. The weather forecast shows a probable frost in the 3-day forecast. I pluck falling gold, orange, and red leaves from the plants’ foliage and take cuttings while the perennials are outdoors. The cuttings we propagate for next spring’s pots. I gather a variety of these cuttings in water-filled recycled mayo and jelly jars. Both of my daughters have a love for our green friends so some jars of cuttings will get passed on.
Our perennials grew lusciously this summer, such a long summer season with rain. Our showiest pot is a Kingston fern with a philodendron planted together in April. I trimmed that thing three times already! Now gathered greenery fills our basement under the plant light tonight, their home for the next 5 months. I need to harvest the lasting herbs of mint, thyme, basil. oregano, and parsley, so the pots gather on the kitchen counter for tomorrow’s project. Our last single ketchup and mustard rose gets snipped and put into a bud vase to treasure just a few more days indoors. My northern friend shares her last rose in an amber vignette saved before Minnesota’s killing frost.
A nephew’s wedding brought us to a few family gatherings this weekend. Dean and I found some Edwardian era reproduction hats while on vacation in September to wear to the costume rehearsal dinner party. I found a suitable dress on sale from Victorian Trading, and Dean wore a dark suit with a vest and skinny tie, and both wore feathers in our caps! A fun gathering to distract from my sprained ankle, caring for aging parents, and work schedules. This evening our front porch awaits a gathering of Halloween trick-or-treaters.
This 4th of July was the mildest that I remember for St. Louis. 80’s and low humidity. And this week following is not too hot either. A reprieve from the typical summer sultry stuff. We had days of rain, but a dry spell for a week where we actually had to water our potted perennials and annuals. My blue lobelia wasn’t happily blooming one morning, so a good soaking it received. Our lettuces and greens are fully bolted. Nature takes over and seeds are being formed to reproduce more. The bed of greens has produced scrumptious salads for two months. We had the last harvest for the season. I may get a few rows sowed for an autumn crop late in August. The rain returned this weekend, some storms with it this time. Feast or famine. The rains or dry patches.
The past few days in the backyard birdhouse a pair of Eurasian tree sparrow nestlings hollered at their parents for their feedings. Dean and I watched with careful observation as the nestlings grew, seemed to add feathers and chirps each day. The nestlings became fledglings in a matter of days. They took flying lessons from the back porch rail. After this weekend’s storm, I found one of the baby birds dead in the back yard. Not sure if its sibling had a better outcome, hopefully safe somewhere in the shelter of the trees. Life is so fragile. Death is so final or it seems. Another brood of Eurasian tree sparrows will hatch this autumn or next spring or summer. Nature and its circle of life goes round and round. Lessons to learn.
Spring came a bit late this year. The subzero temperatures in February stiffened the green sprouts on bushes and trees, as well as the gardeners such as myself who stay indoors during the severe winter. The cinder block basement houses our potted perennials under timed plant lights. In late January I was able to get cuttings from those perennials and put them in water or planted in small pots of soil. They all sprouted roots. This past weekend I designed and filled hanging wire planters with organic soil and my new tender plants. I have four lovely planters with room for new spring & summer growth. Tender herbs (parsley, lavender, golden & lemon thyme, basil & oregano, and chocolate & pineapple mint) were purchased from the local greenhouse down the street, and repotted into bigger pots. Adorable, and oh does that pineapple mint smell delicious! Cannot wait to make some delicious sweet bread and tea with it. Begonias and sweet alyssum grace the front porch at Deanna’s Cottage.
I am about a month late sowing our greens bed, but an early spring/post-COVID vaccinations vacation to Arkansas, Texas, and western Missouri kept us away for 2 weeks. We saw more spring sprouts each hour we traveled further south. A bucket list item was to experience a field of blue bonnets, and we accomplished that. On Sunday afternoon we added more organic soil, then I sowed lettuce and spinach seeds in the bed. Very tiny sprouts of green appear in a couple of rows after 4 days from sowing. Where the greenhouse and screenhouse is housed, Boone Hollow Farm is lovely especially in the spring. The crab apples, pears, dogwood, and red buds are all abloom. The peaceful surroundings welcome Dean and I at every visit. And I welcome the pots and sprouts every growing season.
I have been hibernating in the house for days now. I went out on Monday in between snow showers to pick up Dean at the train station after his Super Bowl weekend in Kansas City. Since then, I haven’t even stepped out to get the mail from the mailbox. Just plain too cold with the arctic blast! The sweatered teddy bear sits on the window still reminds folks that the warmth of love reigns in this home. The perfectly formed snowflakes glisten in the occasional sunlight while the colorful Valentine decorations, hot beverages, sweet treats, and my sweetheart, Dean will keep me cozy warm this 3-day holiday weekend. We have another week of these near zero-degree nights and less than 20-degrees days. What an opportunity for bird watching from our windows, writing, reading, cooking, baking, and movie watching! BTW: When did that groundhog say spring will arrive?
“Sitting inside the warm, pleasant kitchen while icy rain beat against the window, I felt the wordless contentment of a horse in a stable or a wren in a birdhouse,” author Gretchen Rubin wrote. I can so relate. And of course while in the kitchen I cooked and baked this long weekend. Some for Dean and I, and some for others needing an extra dose of love. “The people who give you their food, give you their heart,” Latino civil rights leader, Cesar Chavez once shared. “Cooking has nothing to do with the ingredients, but everything to do with love,” author Dominique Browning commented. I make-do with the ingredients in my well-stocked kitchen, but I beg to differ with Dominique that the right ingredients can make foods taste better. Muir Glen’s organic tomato sauce is the best for a rich red sauce contrasted with a from-scratch white sauce for spinach cannelloni. I happen to pick up a couple of cans last week. Of course, everything is done with love when it comes to cooking, even the acquiring of ingredients. That’s where my organic gardening comes in. Slow cooking, fresh, from-scratch and homemade reigns. “Through cooking, touching, feeling, preparing, and savoring good, real food made from real ingredients, I get to fully inhibit my kitchen; heal my body; connect with friends, family, the Earth, and the larger community where I live,” quoting Mark Hyman, MD. I had a fun weekend in my warm kitchen!