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.
In a world with ever changing values and technology, some things remain the same. Kinship, old mountain towns, and summer lakes. Most of the time you can depend on all three. Family is family. Most of us are connected if not by blood, in some other fashion to each other no more than 3 times removed. We connected to Joe, owner of this small town bar & grill and a new eatery called the Galloping Goose Cafe while in Rico, Colorado. He is a visionary for this town. Not sure if I could go back 4 decades, but the brief week we had in the old mountain town cabin took Dean and I to the simplicity of our childhood years. And we loved it. In search for WiFi a couple of times to get connected to our urban civilization to post photos and reserve a hotel room for our travels back home, other than that we lived without any electronics and screens. Dean and I resorted to reading, writing, napping, cooking, bird watching, photography, and walks. We return to our full-time employment with government entities that overwhelm with procedures, projects, policies, and politics. Cannot escape it in the evening with the political conventions being aired. So here is to wonderful July 2016 memories with family in the old mountain town and near the summer lake. I will keep reading, writing, … making more memories and connections.
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.
“The well of Providence is deep. It’s the buckets we bring to it that are small”~ quoting Mary Webb. How rich is the life that shares love, how huge is the house that shares love. This is what I experience when I visit my daughters and their families. Nothing buys this life. Only love fills it. Sharing hearts, moments, gifts, talents with each other and those neighbors they are surrounded with. Once again our small home houses a daughter and her family while they recuperate and gain financial independence again.
Dean and I were able to get away for a couple of days, visited the utopian town of New Harmony, Indiana. 200 years ago German immigrants from Pennsylvania founded this town. Today, this golf cart community has an appeal and simplicity that I can understand why it is a R & R destination for some. The roofless chapel, wooded landscape, flower gardens, quiet streets, and history to admire. Midnight, our dog loved the little lake we discovered. Swimming and lapping the cool water. This swan shared her home with us for a couple of hours. So glad she did. Co-existence … “The well of Providence is deep …”
All My Children … Isn’t that the name of a daytime drama? If you had not heard yet, there has been daytime and nighttime drama in St. Louis, Missouri area this past 8 days. A community is at unrest due to the fatal shooting of an 18-year black man by a white police officer in the St Louis suburb of Ferguson. Protests turned to riots have lead major destruction in St. Louis County. Upheaval with law enforcement, prosecutors, government officials locally up to federally, and racial activists have made Ferguson known globally. I work for St. Louis County Government housed in the police headquarters building working in the benefits and retirement office. The sounds of security dogs, helicopters circling, and target-shooting bullets are foreign to everyday Clayton, Missouri which is the county seat of St. Louis County. This week I heard it all. And I felt and heard the turmoil of several civil and police employees. I administer the employee assistance services, make sure counselors are there for any one of them … all my children.
It was the longest week I had worked. On Friday, my husband picked me up from my office building, our usual car-pooling routine. We drove out of St. Louis County homeward bound. Home sweet home. We decided to stop in for a beer and a bite to eat. Old Town St. Peters American Legion Hall, our destination. Americana at its best. Long-hairs and farmers celebrate in unison the weekend with a beer in one hand and a fried chicken wing in the other. All I could hear was happy conversation and laughter. Beer mugs clanging like cymbals. Music. Songs of joy. The most comforting sounds I heard all week. And despite it all, the Ferguson Farmers’ Market continued on Saturday and parishioners congregated and prayed in their churches on Sunday. Foundational truths do not change. Food and faith still remain the foundation of what man and woman needs. With today’s sermon I was reminded of the Biblical story of the Cannaanite woman that others would have ignored, but Jesus paid attention to this mother’s persistant request for her daughter. With faith I pray … Oh God hear my cry for all my children, youngest to the oldest, black, white, simple-minded, disabled, rich, poor. But if not for the grace of God, any one of us are unworthy. But God You give us each the gift of Jesus Christ. Accept and receive His forgiveness, so that you in turn can show the same towards others. So be it.
What do all these have in common? M’waw! In any given 15-hour period I can be all four places: historical small town main street, bustling city streets, tree-deprived urban avenue, or a country dirt road. The brick road, Main Street Missouri’s first state capitol of St. Charles, global skyscrapers towering over financial hub Clayton, urban neighborhoods sprinkled throughout St. Charles and St. Louis Counties, and the countryside near Defiance’s howling coyotes and wildlife; each culture is within 15 miles from my home. Today, the contrasting changes were apparent to me. Sunday, I spent 8 hours on Main Street in St. Charles, Missouri selling herbs, spices, and other food items at a niche market with literally hundreds of people during the Festival of the Little Hills, shopping at leisure and a slower pace. Early Monday morning I entered into a landscape of skyscrapers after bumper to bumper traffic at the fast pace of a city freeway. Suburbia is entered on several occasions as I get off the freeway as soon as I am able, finding quieter routes through residential areas and strip malls. And then to the greenhouse, winding down as I go out of the city, then suburbia, onto a state highway, county highway, and finally taking the dirt road near the weathered barn up the hill to our greenhouse. Most evenings we hear the owl’s hoot and the coyotes howl. Currently, I co-exist in these four cultures. Though two of them I am most at home with. Guess which two? Adaptability and flexibility have been engrained into my character these past five years while working for St. Louis County Government. Will I thrive for another 11 – 12 years in the city and its commute? Or is small town main street calling us home? More words on that subject at another time. Praying to see what God has in mind for Dean and I these last years before retirement.
My husband, Dean and I at times wonder if the grass is greener elsewhere. Not sure where, but just elsewhere. We consider relocation, a fresh start as a second-marriage couple thoroughly in love with each other. We talk about a place called “our own”. Not raising young children any more, and in a few weeks an empty nest once again. A new beginning and more discoveries is what we sense. Is it a matter of a different house other than where I raised my children, or is it a different town, and/or new positions in a different area altogether? I came across a couple of young birds this morning enroute to another building on campus. One drank from a tiny puddle near the street curb. I said “little bird look over there, there is a fountain full of water.” Why drink from a small street puddle, when a fountain of fresh water is just one building over? Is the water fresher on the other side of the bushes, the grass greener on the other side of the fence?
Dean and I traveled to Arkansas this past weekend for a family wedding. Neither of us had been in southern Arkansas before this trip. We ventured off onto country highways from I-55 to camp at a state park on Friday night enroute to the Monticello, Arkansas wedding for Saturday evening. Cotton, rice, corn, and winter wheat fields dotted the landscape between rivers, sloughs, and bogs. Crop dusters flew over us like crows, leaving green pellets of God only knows what on the highway. The dull gray soil says it needs sustainable products rather than more synthetics. Stuttgart, Arkansas is the duck and rice capital of the world according to their signs. I do not want to venture on the validity of that statement, but it was picturesque after witnessing some desolate, impoverish homesteads before arriving in this prosperous town. Crepe myrtles, magnolia trees, snowball bushes, yuccas, cactus, and water lilies dotted the landscape with green and contrasting color as we entered into central Arkansas. The state park camp was so typical, inexpensive and loved by the other travelers and locals. Father’s Day weekend was not too terribly crowded, though plenty of children bicycling and playing ball nearby probably while their fathers wetted a fishin’ line. The bugs galore are summer-long tenants rather than visitors such as ourselves. I am chewed alive by mosquitoes, and the chiggers found me within minutes. Instead of fighting the insect population I decided to read inside the zipped screen of the tent on the comforts of the air mattress. As soon as dusk came, the clothes came off to cool down. My eyelids were shut within minutes after sundown. Early in the night a raccoon visited camp rattling a cup of ice we left outside our tent door. The people of new localities always interest me. The polite southern culture resignates in Arkansas. “Yes, ma’am, no ma’am”, the young folk say with sincerity. It was nice to meet some local folks at the wedding. The bride’s and groom’s families and friends blended well for a festive occasion. Good food, music, dancing, and laughter throughout the evening. An oldy but goody song brought Dean and I to our feet, and a Spanish-flavored tune just about sent me over Dean’s shoulder. I told my dance partner, “none of that fancy stuff, I need to be able walk off the dance floor tonight.” Castanets were in order, but none to be found. The Saturday and Sunday night hotel stays were restful.
Today reality hits, the work week is in full bloom. My more-than-busy Missouri life needs to change. Working 7 days a week with three jobs is much for anyone. Demands increase at work, with no pay raises. Change is in order, and around the corner. Let’s see what comes.
These late winter snows create survival tactics to say the least. For me with my cold allergy, severe side effects could take my life. So I take precautions, carrying extra gloves, hat, sweatshirts, boots, blanket, and epie pin if we ever have a vehicle breakdown. Of course good snow tires and vehicle maintenance is a must. We have the kitchen fireplace and fire wood in case the furnace would go out.
My mother lives an hour north of of us in Pike County. Pike County is always 10 degrees cooler than St. Charles County, and produces more severe winter storms. We received about a foot of snow the past 10 days, where Mom’s neck of the woods received two foot of snow. Her neighborhood is just outside of the town of Bowling Green. All her neighbors are older like herself, though Mother has a heart condition which keeps her indoors during extreme heat or cold. Normally she has senior assistance come to her house twice a week, but this past two weeks it posed a problem for the agency to get to their clients. I called Mother every day or two, checking on her. She kept saying I am fine, I have food, drinking water, medicines, and a warm house. But she failed to see what her mental and soul health needed. Survival tactics also mean taking care of the inside person as well. Since father’s death in October, Mother is lonely and still mourning. A computer, TV, or novels go only so far. The human voice and human presence heals.
Thursday evening, I decided Dean and I would go up to see my mother on Friday morning after we got the van packed and our banking done for our trip to Kansas City. A funeral wake Friday evening, and a graduation party on Saturday afternoon were the plans with Dean’s family. I asked my mother to come with us, though she declined. I am so glad we went to my mother’s home. She was snowed in, housebound. Two-foot snow piled high on the gravel driveway, mailbox, garage, and sidewalk to the front door. When Mother opened the door, she looked old and reclused to me, almost did not recognize her, and she me. It scared me and made me sad. After helping Dean clean the sidewalk off, while he finished the rest, Mother and I talked. Mother said she must have made a mistake, and should have come down to St. Charles County with us last week. After digging our way out Friday morning, we went into town for a couple of errands and ate lunch at one of her favorite local cafes. Mother just bought a villa a mile away from our home, plans to move there in June. But June is three long months away still, maybe three or four more snow storms away.
Make a visit to your neighbors and family, no matter what age or condition they are in. Their soul depends on it. “Words mean more than what is set down on paper – it takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning”. ~ Maya Angelou
Our Texas mini vacation included a jeep, cowboy boots, cowboy hats, cattle, big houses, a larger family, and a huge menu of local dishes. More on the Texas tea as promised … Dean & I made time for an early afternoon tea on Friday. We found a tea place in the northern suburb area of Dallas/Forth Worth inside an antique mall. The weather was a mild 70 degrees, warmer than it had been in St. Louis. I was hot after touring the Fort Worth stockyards and happen upon a livestock auction. A cup of hot tea wouldn’t do, though iced tea was served at this establishment with raspberry as the flavor of the day. Simplicitea had all the charm of a small tea house, minus an excellent glass of iced tea. Not homemade, as I did not experience plump flavorful berries in the taste or texture. Disappointed there. Though where their iced tea falls short, their quiche of the day, bacon asparagus and an elegant dessert, orange dream cake ranked high with us! The quiche had a smokey flavor with crisp asparagus tips. And the cake burst with citrus! There were actual bits of orange in the cake, whipping cream between and atop the cake layers, and swirls of orange zest garnished the delicious dessert.
Yes, the quote from “Texas Tea (Part One)” post is a rather bold statement, yet mostly true. The people of Texas love to brag, “the bigger the better”. And Texans love to eat! Therefore, they believe “Texas does not, like any other region, simply have indigenous dishes. It proclaims them…” Many are foodies, and not just foodies, but locavores. They savor local foods and are proud of their creations.
Two of the three dinners we had this vacation weekend included some type of corn dish. At the BBQ on Friday night, a cold corn salad was served as a side dish to beef brisket, pulled pork, and sausage. Other sides accompanied, but the corn salad scored #1! I did not see any green at this meal, other than the green chilis in a dip. Beer, wine, and spirits flowed endlessly amongst the family in the home of one of Dean’s cousins. On Saturday the 80th birthday party for Dean’s aunt was held at her youngest son’s well-decorated home. Hors d’oeuvres were catered as the main entree. Thinly sliced roast beef wrapping a blanched asparagus tip & red sweet bell pepper strip was my favorite followed by another fruity cake, strawberry. Flecks of berries dazzled the birthday girl and 100+ guests. Very luscious! And then there is Babes in downtown Arlington, a famous fried chicken eatery with all the fine fixins including a warm corn dish. Sunday’s dinner was mounds of crispy chicken with creamy mashed potatoes, milk gravy, bacon-smothered fava beans, and herb biscuits with sorghum and honey … no dessert necessary! The ambiance took us away from urban Texas, back 80 years in a small, simple town with a porch light and swing. I am sharing a photo of the warm Grandma’s Corn dish from Babes found on their website. Let me know if you find a recipe that mimics this dish. I, too will do likewise.