The springtime porch critters and garden perches came out this past weekend. Pots of pansies planted; pinks, purples, blues, and yellows gathered together on or near the front porch of our cottage. Birds, bees, and a bunny perch among the pots, birdhouses, and other garden art. A welcome greeting after such a long winter! Welcome Spring!
Our 2018 is coming to a close very soon. Where did the year go?! Filled with memorable days with many of you, & for others not enough time together.
Our travels started with a February trip to Louisville, KY where we went to the “show of shows” for military & gun collectors. Foodie joints, the Louisville Slugger tour, & downtown were a part of the trip. Dean & I visited the St. Meinrad Archabbey. The architecture & gardens are stunning. Mother’s Day weekend included a combined mothers trip to Pella, IA to view the late spring tulips, a windmill tour, & indulge in Dutch fare. Memorial Day weekend Dean & I visited the Lincoln Museum & Home in Springfield, IL. Late June, we gathered up my Rachel’s three, & took a 4-day trip to Branson, MO where the go-carts reigned. Such fun with the grandkids! We had a short few days in Minnesota. It definitely was not long enough, but happy to relax & visit with in-law family in the Twin Cities and family friends on Island Lake part of the 4th of July week. Over Veteran’s Day weekend, we holiday & antique shopped in Branson.
Our big news for 2018 is our purchase of a small 1940’s home in historic St. Charles, just one Missouri River town closer to St. Louis metro. The weekday commutes to our offices have been easier, & the quietness of this older neighborhood so refreshing. Dean loves the WWII era, & his “man cave” basement. “Deanna’s Cottage” is a “work in progress”; new kitchen flooring, unveiling the hardwood floor under carpeting in the living room & our bedroom, new or no awnings (depends on if you ask Dean or Anna!), new fencing, taking down at least one huge tree, & building a “garage plus” in the big back yard are envisioned. It is a quaint 4-room dwelling, under 800 sq-ft love nest. We went small on purpose. We love visitors, but really love our empty nest! The comfy guest bedroom takes you back to the whimsical Edwardian era. It has been a blast finding 1930-40’s furniture pieces & 2nd-hand decor to decorate Deanna’s Cottage. We recently listed with Airbnb for the St. Charles festival weekends only. Being 7 blocks from historic Main Street makes our place an ideal hideaway for travelers. On those weekends while guests are at our cottage, we stay at our 4-bdrm St. Peters house, which is being rented to my daughter & son-in-law. Dean & I have experienced some Airbnb suites as guests before we opened up our home as hosts. The concept seems rather novel, but in past centuries many travelers stayed in common people’s homes. This century we are using electronics to facilitate bookings for lodging. Although not a traditional bed & breakfast, I will always leave some kitchen-made goodie for our guests, as I still love to bake & our guests gladly indulge. For any naysayers about the size, pace, venue, or avenue, it is Dean & I’s dream. Deanna’s Cottage will grow. We are building our dream one step at a time. More in the years ahead …
Our grandchildren continue to flourish. Dean’s granddaughter, 2-year old Elise has developed into her own person. Loves art, music, & hands-on anything! My youngest grandchild, Eli shines in math & finally had a buddy move in his neighborhood. Ella needs to stop growing! Such a kind, pretty young lady she is. My oldest granddaughter, Hannah, is in her last year of homeschooling. Another artsy one. The last I heard she wants to be a tattoo artist, but had thoughts about nursing. Either or both paths are the right one for her. I understand that pull in vocational choices based on gift areas. Libby is thriving in her 1st year of high school, active with choir, & quite the artist as well. What is it about our girls & art? My Brendan is the other one that needs to stop growing! He excels in his height along with sports & academics.
Our beloved, Midnight passed away in June just before Father’s Day. The memories we had with him during his puppy, young & older adult doggy years I will treasure forever. Dean & I had him his last 5 years after my father passed away. Though I hesitated at the first, Dean embraced being Midnight’s new master when the need was brought to our attention. This Labrador brought so much liveliness & love to our home & our extended family. We miss our Midnight. Another doggy will come into our home later, maybe when we retire. Our feline, Celine stays at the St. Peters house. She is getting too old for another change. We have granddogs & grandcats always in plenty.
The growing season was shorter this year. This spring I missed the window of opportunity to sow my greens like arugula, lettuce, & spinach because it was winter up until mid-May. Summer came 2 weeks later! In our screen house we again had monster tomato plants produce some delicious cherry tomatoes. I still have a few of those green tomatoes picked before Jack Frost came that are turning red in a bowl set in the kitchen window. Boone Hollow Farm where the screenhouse/greenhouse seats is still a serene place for Dean & myself to hide away during a workweek evening or weekend. Just 30 minutes of the country quiet & picking weeds or vegetables can restore my blood pressure & sanity to normal.
Dean continues to serve & learn from the clients that come into the research room at the National Archives. The stories the researchers & employees uncover are quite entertaining. Throughout the year we go out for happy hours or dinners with his clients. My work with the employee wellness program at St. Louis County was nationally recognized by the American Heart Association this year, after 10 years of creative efforts & hard work. In 2019, I along with other wellness professionals in the St. Louis region will address diabetes & glucose issues. I can personally vouch that regular physical activity keeps those numbers in line. I was walking 10,000 steps a day this year, & am now challenged by the cold temps. Our basement will be put into use over the winter months just like the underground tunnel at work.
Advent season sets the stage of waiting in hope & a readiness for the Gift. The Gift of Jesus is there to embrace any day & any time. Our hopes are birthed in Him. One of our children has a hope for healing of chronic health conditions of degenerative disc disease & arachnoiditis against the current medical odds. Conventional medicine has harmed more than helped, so alternative therapies are sought for pain management. Missouri joins the legalization of marijuana, a miracle in itself. Another one of our children is waiting & has a hope for having a child. Dean & I continue to pray for our daughters & sons. And for each of us who have a hope whether tiny or big, impregnate our whole being, let the joy of knowing that our God reigns, He cares, He loves us right now just as we are. Look to Him for security. “Hope as an anchor” is what I pray for you & our loved ones this holiday season & long into 2019!
Tis the season of busyness and preparations for the holidays. Presents bought and wrapped. Baking. A surprise visit and present from my son. It is Dean and I’s heart to get these holiday greetings sent via postage mail long before Christmas week. Please know that you are in our hearts year round. Christmas joy has filled our home, peace with God and grace to all people despite any differences. This snowy Christmas Eve is the slow-down to reflect on His Gift, Jesus, lessons from 2017 and what is hoped for 2018. The 4 Advent Sundays reminded us of this moment. Father Peter shared at Mass tonight the Christmas story, how there was no room for Joseph, Mother Mary, and the birth of baby Jesus. A meager manger would be the chosen place of His birth. It was asked how many of us would say the same “no room at our house”? “What would you do if Joseph and Mary came knocking on your door tonight? Do you have time to deal with this? Can you make space in your house without resentment or casting judgment? Would you empty the tool shed or a spot in the garage? Would you charge high $$ to profit from this situation? Or worst yet, steal their possessions, what little the guests have? Scriptures tell us “What you do to the least of my brothers, you do unto Me.”
“Family” would summarize our year of 2017. As a reminder, Dean and I have 6 children, 5 in-law children, 6 grandchildren, 3 parents, 5 siblings and their families, and we cannot forget our dog, Midnight and cat, Celine, the 7 grand dogs, and 3 grand cats. Dean and I began 2017 in Key West, Florida with his parents and siblings, an 80th birthday celebration for Dean’s mother. Such a while ago, but lovely memories of the beach breezes, discovering new sites, and time with family. We still have our greeting card boxes that niece Amelia made each of us. After the hurricanes there, I suppose the scenery is quite different. In a couple of days warmth awaits us in San Antonio, where we will meet up with Dean’s son, AJ, Nancy, Elise, and Nancy’s family there. Spiced rum eggnog, homemade chicken soup, Christmas carols, and having each other will keep us warm tonight …
In February my daughter, 33-year old Elisabeth was diagnosed with 2 types of breast cancer, stage 1 and stage 2. Elisabeth went through a strict regimen of chemo treatments, hair loss, zapped energy and strength. She had a double mastectomy and reconstruction this summer. We are so very thankful to our Father as she has been given a cancer-free diagnosis in July. Elisabeth is regaining her strength and hair while under hormone therapy and low-dose chemo. Her husband, children, family, friends, and all the supportive, praying communities continue to surround her. Her bravery and fighter personality helped Elisabeth stay above. I reached out for prayers by many women, visited church 1-block from my office to take part in many noontime prayer vigils, and Dean and I together continue to provide a quiet and calm home while she heals.
Refreshing spring brought us to the completion of our 2-room addition. It took a whole year, but it is beautiful and has provided the much needed space to our home. At this season of our lives we share our home with my daughter and her family. More warmth with the woodwork, a set of barn doors matching the stained doors in the rest of the house as well as a high ceiling to heighten the spacious floor layout. We use the 2 rooms as a family room/dining area and an extra bedroom that Elisabeth and Mark can rest their heads in. In May Dean and I spent almost a week in the Smoky Mountain region of our beautiful states. Experienced the AirBnB hospitality for this vacation. We loved Gatlinburg, TN and Asheville, NC. Antiques, the arts, and foodie places were our hangouts. Of course, a few walks in the woods. There was a sign warning us, and you know the saying “hindsight is 20/20”. Dean drove the Dragon’s Tail Highway with all its hairpin turns, not understanding what we were in for. I was very close to losing lunch during that ride. We tried the glamper scene one night in the middle of nowhere land. And we stopped in Nashville for a night. Love the nightlife there with all the honky-tonks and country music.
Weekend trips to Lee’s Summit and Farmington keep us on the road at least once a month visiting with children, grandchildren, and Dean’s parents. When we are home we read, write, catch a music venue or new foodie joint in St. Louis. And there is always those weekend chores. We garden and mow at the greenhouse site on Boone Hollow Farm near Defiance 7 or 8 months out of the year. This year’s gardening included a voluntary cherry tomato plant that literally took over the whole vegetable bed from July until the October frost killed it. We dubbed this plant as “Audrey” from the play/movie Little Shoppe of Horror. We made a delicious green tomato marmalade from the abundance of fruit left after the killing frost. Our perennials are inside now, and our bird of paradise is about to bloom again under the plant lights in the garage. Autumn brought Dean and I a steal-away weekend to Pella, Iowa. We loved this Dutch town so much, we are planning a Mother’s Day weekend there with our mothers.
My occupation as the employee wellness coordinator of St. Louis County is the work God called me to this season of my life. We had our Billion Steps Challenge using Fitbits and a web portal called One Community. With two 8-week walking challenges this spring and summer, we cleared the 1 billion steps goal and went well over 2 billion steps amongst 2800 participating employees and spouses. I have been asked to speak along with a panel at the St. Louis area American Heart Association’s Wellness Forum in February discussing employer wellness budgets on a shoestring. Personally, my biometric numbers were improved substantially with the walking challenges, and my primary care physician is thrilled. The walking culture continues through winter. Dean, Midnight, and I still take an evening constitutional almost every night. At 20 degree temps, I declined tonight. Hives or worse a visit to the emergency room would not be good. Dean’s occupation with the National Archives keeps him going, and work he was called to as well. He loves the hunt for military records especially for his family and friends.
Our youngest granddaughter, Elise has captured her Grandpa Dean’s heart. I think he counts the days until he can see her again. This Father’s Day was a wonderful gathering of Dean’s children and their families with us at our home. The red children’s swing in our sweet gum tree remind us of that special weekend. We had a Gall Family Thanksgiving at Rainer and Erica’s newly bought house in St. Louis City, and a birthday gathering for Dean the following day at a local bakery cafe. Another day that weekend we celebrated my oldest grandchild, Hannah’s 16th birthday. Church every Sunday and occasional birthday celebrations and plays keeps us in touch with my mother and family. While celebrations and victories punctuate our year, so does illness and death. Dean’s extended family lost a cousin recently. Cancer, this wicked stuff. Keep Mike’s wife, Terri and 2 daughters in your prayers please. Another extended family member is undergoing treatments ; please say a prayer for Marion, our son-in-law’s father. My oldest daughter, Rachel has multiple medical conditions, her conditions declining, which cause severe pain. In 2018 I plan to take more time off from work each month to help Rachel with the kids and house. Please bathe Rachel in your prayers.
What room do you have in your heart, home, and life for the least of these My brothers? What has God prepared you for this very night, or the 365 days in 2018? Blessings to you this eve of Jesus Christ’s birth. As the carols sing … “Christ was born to save! Christ was born to save!”… “He rules the world with truth and grace and makes the nations prove the glories of His righteousness and wonders of His love, and wonders of His love, and wonders, wonders of His love.” Joy to the world!
My whole life is punctuated with green. Green color and green life is found in my meals prepared, the walls and art decorating my home, plants breathing life in my office, and voluntary as well as deliberate gardens of vegetables and herbs.
I recently read in a book about small houses and spaces, that one color needs to be threaded in every room in order for the space to feel bigger and flowing. I would say green is that color. My living room and kitchen walls are a subtle mint green. Blue and taupe tones on the bedroom and bathrooms walls are contrasted with green in the art pieces, textiles, dishes. As I read what the color green symbolizes, I understand why I am drawn to green. And yes, my whole person matches green. I think plants and me are inseparable.
Each week in April brought about warm days then yielding to colder, rainy days. This week, nothing but rain. Deanna Greens and Garden Art greenhouse/screenhouse protects a prolific bed of greens and herbs from severe weather and wildlife. We gather water from our rain barrel or the creek at Boone Hollow Farms before the water line is turned back on from the winter shut-off. Our garden greens continue to flourish this spring. The arugula actually bolted this week, causing me to pluck those flowering buds by lantern light between the rains this week. It is too early for these delicious organic greens to go to seed!
Lent season and Easter came and went too quickly. Beautiful flower planters and spring baskets of goodies reminded me of the fresh life Easter brings. Prayer at church during my lunch hour does the same. Dean and I were able to have some family over for our first dinner party in the new room addition, a family/dining area and extra bedroom added to our modest 3-bedroom home. The new fireplace mantle brought fresh color to the kitchen.
Dean and I’s two youngest grandchildren have April birthdays. Being a part of our children’s and grandchildren’s lives is important to us. 7-year old Eli had a sick sibling the weekend of his party, so the celebrating takes place early May. And baby Elise turned 1-year old this week! How can that be? Her family from the Netherlands came for the party, and brought her first pair of wooden Dutch shoes. I love Spring, and all the new life it births!
My life is surrounded with people, animals, and plant life. My home is shelter to the wandering soul. “Happy is the house that shelters a friend”, Ralph Waldo Emerson is quoted. Midnight, Celine, Joe, and Pennylane … all adopted because someone else could not care for them. Our furry critters are family. Our Midnight wandered the streets of town late evening on Friday. A construction or utility person must have left our gate open. Thank God for the internet, digital photos, good people, and prayers. A group of teenage boys watched him as he paced back and forth near a busy road, contacted one of their parents, and then brought Midnight to the shelter of their home. We were rejoined with our Labrador by early Saturday morning after a series of FB postings. Well-fed and watered, he rather enjoyed is overnight stay at his new friends’ home. The boys renamed him “Hercules”.
Saturday afternoon Dean and I prepared the garage for our potted plants to be brought inside. The first hard frost seems to be delayed, but may come this week. Geraniums, succulents, a lemon tree, bird-of-paradise, ferns, spider plants, and moses-in-the-cradle create a jungle our cats like to prowl in from time to time. Over the coldest months between November through March, my green friends are somewhat dormant under the high power plant lights, and most survive to be brought back outside with the warmer spring days. One green friend gets some special treatment going into 2017. My arrowhead plant grew lushly green and full over the summer. Sensitive to the cold air, the semi-heated garage may not stay warm enough for it to maintain its brilliant green foliage. The arrowhead plant is sheltered near the mantel next to my palm until our room addition is completed.
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!
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
As most weekend mornings go, I cannot sleep in long. Weekday awakening before 5:00am makes it difficult to sleep much past 7:00 am on the weekends. The weekend to-do-list is long, so Saturdays are packed. On Sundays, I start at a slower place making meditation and prayer a part of my morning. The front porch welcomes a cup of hot honey chamomile tea an inspirational gardening book, and me. The sights, sounds, and smells of a rain storm bring freshness to the morning. I became one with the springtime outdoors, crisp breeze and tender green plants and white dogwood blossoms. A bit shabby from winter life, my potted plants are waiting for a play date with their gardener. I withheld that Sunday knowing next Saturday will be a better time for gardening. This time was set aside to rest rather than produce.
Besides my green passion needs to get fluffed up like a flatten feather pillow. For months my focus has been our house, all those details with a major insurance claim … the funds, renovation, inspections, and the move back in. There is a good-size pile of paperwork still needs sorting through, but it can just wait. This gardener needs to get her green thumb out again, play in the dirt, sow some herb and vegetable seeds, design some pots of virid green life. We had no time to sow in trays, so direct sowing it will be this year. Better late than never.
Ambitious thoughts for another Saturday, Dean and I spent a good part of the day cleaning gumballs and rocks out of the front yard. The neighbor’s gumball tree scattered its fruit all over the neighborhood with the help of the spring winds. The rocks surfaced during the water and sewer line repairs. Perennials were brought out from the garage. The babies are seated in the cart while the large potted birds-of-paradise, lemon tree, asparagus ferns, geraniums, and arrowhead plant are now situated in the newly mulched landscape. Our succulents have been outdoors on the front porch for about a month. We placed a covering over them with a frost-forecast. Fortunately March and early April have been mild like much of the winter. The herbs and green leafy vegetables will be sowed next weekend as well as annuals planted in a couple of moss baskets. Only so much time during one day. The journey is a part of gardening, not just the end result … one day at time …one season at a time.
I relax on the porch another Sunday. This particular morning is special as my two oldest granddaughters join me. Talking and soaking in the morning sunshine, it is a tender moment indeed like the fresh spring foliage…and more porch Sundays to look forward to.
I had a deja vu moment this past weekend while walking down a neighborhood street to the auto part store with my Dean and our Midnight. During our brisk walk I approached a view unforgettable from my childhood. An old brick house, the grandmother’s house of a farm family I grew up with just down the road from my childhood home and tree farm. I was 12-years old again and at the place where I knew I was more than 1/2 way home from the old town ball diamond where I played softball. On occasion my sister and I would walk to ball practice and our games. It was at least a 2-mile walk one way, and required us to cross over the interstate on a cross walk. Considered a summer adventure, not scary. Over 40 years ago, my hometown St. Peters, Missouri was a farm community. Everyone knew each other, and for the most part everyone was trustworthy. That cross walk was torn down a few years back. But if it was still usable today, would I let my 10-year old or even 14-year old granddaughter walk that distance to ball practice from home and back again? I would say “no” as this community has greatly changed in size. We do not know our “neighbors” like we did back then, and who knows about the interstate traffic and travelers. The world has changed its character.
“Almost home” is like those familiar places and people. Thankful for, content with. The rental house has been a temporary refuge for us, almost home. But home and family is where we are meant to be. All my senses clearly see, smell, hear, touch, and taste its warmth. The pine wood and painted walls smell fresh, clean, new. These colored walls are awaiting our human presence. I hear our birds chirp near the front porch in the maple and dogwood trees. And I feel the crisp new bed linens and quilt to my skin as I lay in my bed along side my husband. This weekend we will be moving our personal items back to our renovated home. And our hearts come with. Living minimally has been refreshing like the aromas of fresh wood. Dean and I vow to continue this. As I wrote a few weeks ago, “’Home’ is where you lay your head, and share your heart and blessings with your family…” no matter the structure or belongings. The Books of Matthew and Philippians in our Bible say, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” and “I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content–whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need.” My prayer for each of us, we know that God our Father provides for our every need and that we each are content with His provisions.