Category Archives: people

Our Midnight

Standard

Our Midnight.  Midnight was the extended Bates and Gall family pet and everyone’s friend. His vivacious, contagious spirit made you laugh and love life.  Midnight loved his Dean, and the special attention Dean gave him.  He loved people.  He loved our kids and grandkids, “his kids”.  He loved the many friends and family who visited our home. Whined and cried with happiness when any one came to visit “him”, of course.  He loved his Elisabeth, stayed at her side after every chemo treatment until she was back on her feet.  He loved the morning ritual of seeing Libby and Brendan onto the school bus.  He loved crockpot dinner and Chinese carry-out nights.  He loved his evening walks especially those that included a DQ ice cream cup.  He loved going out to “the farm”.  Midnight loved lakes and creeks, and chasing  after all the waterfowl that lived in them.  But he hated thunderstorms.  Major anxiety raced his pounding heart except oddly for those he embraced outside.  One of my fondest memories was being on the boat dock of cabin #2 at Valhalla Resort on Island Lake in Minnesota.  The thunderheads rolled in above the lake so abruptly like the cap-size waves that July evening.  Midnight and I faced the storm together while missing our Dad who passed away too soon to enjoy that evening with us.  We ran together for shelter once the lightning strikes began. And that story reminds me of the time Dean, Midnight, and I ran for the shelter from a tornado overhead while at the farm and greenhouse.  The whirling winds rocked our van just inches from the creek.  I think all three of us had a few more gray hairs after that adventure!

Our Midnight passed away on Monday, June 11.  And yes, this is our Midnight’s eulogy. Our 13-1/2 year old Labrador-flat coat retriever mix was 115 years old in human years.  It came suddenly, the vet said his body gave way to old age.  Midnight lived and loved 5 generations of the Bates/Gall family.  He was given to my Grandpa Earl and Grandma Paula as a Christmas gift in 2004.  Puppy love with huge paws.  Grew into a 90-lb adult dog, too much for my elderly grandparents to handle.  In turn my Dad adopted Midnight, trained him to be an excellent waterfowl retriever.  This pet came to live at the 99 Jane house with Dean and I after my father passed away 5-1/2 years ago.  Sometimes a crowded house, but always had room for our Midnight.  For a few days Midnight lived with Dean’s parents when we all were displaced from our home after the main water line flood.  One night our dog stayed with a kind family after he wandered off through an unlatched gate, no thanks to the contractor during our house addition.  Oddly enough, this family lived one field over from where I grew up on the tree farm in St. Peters.  Our handsome Midnight had been dubbed “Nerm” and “Hercules”, and I cannot explain why.  Our easygoing dog co-existed with 5 different house cats during his time with us.  Beyond tolerable, he was sociable to his feline companions especially during the late evening cat treat time all gathered in Dean and I’s bedroom every night.  He made a few doggy friends … Nasa, Mokie, Jesse, Bleu, Beatrice, Barry, Daisy, Gus, Molly, Parker, Roman, another Molly, Shawnee, Peyton, Ellie, Eddie, Max … learned to accept or avoid the young whipper-snappers as he became an old man dog.

Midnight is greatly missed, our hearts feel an emptiness yet privileged to have known him and feel his love.  Our Midnight.  We will always love you.

 

Advertisements

Any Room At Your House?

Standard

 

 

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!

First Snow

Standard

Is that Santa peering at us from the tree?  Or an angel? Maybe an angel in the form of Santa in the first snow!  Angels are amongst us, and I believe in miracles.  Perform Your miracles through me and Your People, Lord God.  We need Your Peace.  Let us be an instrument of Your Peace this Christmas and each day of the New Year …

Punctuated With Green

Standard

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.

Two Peas In A Pod

Standard

 

 

 

I chose to live this life alone over 12 years ago.  “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life,” one of the proverbs tell us.  My heart was sick for too many years with an unhappy relationship.  I only imagined what a happy marriage would be like.  A come-true dream is a tree of life for me today.  Eight years ago this July, Dean and I met on a semi-blind date arranged by his brother and sister-in-law.  This tall, dark handsome man captured my eyes.  But unlike the other bucks in the herd, Dean captured my heart.  So happy I pursued this relationship. With our family backgrounds and life experiences, Dean and I came together like two peas in a pod, and we still are.  Our pod is shared with our huge family almost every evening and every weekend. “If you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together” is how an African proverb is told.

Dean and I needed to become just “two peas in a pod” again for a few days.  We stole away to the Great Smokies, doing the Air B & B thing.  Mountains, pines, music, and the visual and culinary arts we surrounded ourselves with.  Despite the hot days while on a mountain culture retreat away from our Missouri life,  I picked two big plastic bags full of leaf lettuce and a heaping bowl full of arugula and chives from my gardens this week.  And those delectable garden peas!  I love the pods picked fresh, and peas plucked out one at a time right into my open mouth like a baby bird awaiting mother robin’s wiggly worm catch after a rainy morn.  The bountiful earth is feeding me (and my family and friends) goodness this spring.  The longer and hotter days tell me the summer equinox is soon.  Purple lobelia, wandering jew, and red geraniums are filling my moss baskets and terra-cotta pots.   I thank God for watching over my beloved gardens while pursuing what captured my heart 8 years ago!

 

 

Newness Of Life

Standard

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!

The Gardens, Soups, and Salads

Standard

My not-too-old Rival crock pot has been put to use the past 3 weekends.  I love this kitchen accessory.  In the morning, I put in a roast or roaster with some herbs and beer or wine.  This time of year dinner slow cooks all day while I work in the yard or garden beds.  And the leftovers are awesome.  I can usually get 3 or 4 meals for Dean and I from a 5 – 6 lb chicken roaster or turkey breast.  Homemade chicken soup, chunky chicken salad, creamy chicken enchiladas.  Beef and pork roasts are so tender slow cooked in the crock … Some meals are simple salads or wraps with goodies such as pecans, walnuts, cranberries, or roasted beets along with leftover slow-cooked meats.

I have my first tender leaves of arugula ready to be picked this week!  This early crop was sown on February 20.  So after about 50 days we will partake in this fresh peppery salad green for dinner, and probably an omelet for breakfast this Sunday morning.  Spring is the time of year where my back, legs, arms, and hands ache from the amount of time in the garden and yard.   Methodical movements are made the hours I work/play in the dirt.  “Gardening has to be as much about contemplation as it is about tilling and toiling.  Mental toiling, perhaps … turning things over, quietly thinking, in a place that gives you a peaceful corner for just a moment or two.” ~ Dominique Browning.  The birds and fresh air call me to sit on the porch early morning, but pure exhaustion hits the pillow by 9 even on the weekends.

 

Making Way For Spring Colors

Standard

Household and yard projects ruled the weekend.  Dean and I managed to get a couple of walks in with Midnight between chores.  On Saturday Dean cleaned and prepped the concrete slab for the laminate flooring to be installed this coming week in our house addition. While he did that I raked twigs and leaves, remnants of autumn and winter.  The winds seem to blow the gum balls and pine needles from the neighbor’s trees our way. Cannot complain too much as these neighbor’s trees attract an owl that lives in the neighborhood.  All the brown rubbish filled the compost bin, and then some.  So that is just the front yard.

The back yard is one huge mess with the room addition project. The yard needs to be leveled and new grass seeded.  Dean and I picked up huge tree roots and rocks unearthed from the foundation dig up.  We continued discussion on making a small retaining wall, a rock swale, and small patio area.  Piles of gray and brown sit curbside for the city’s bulky trash pickup this week;  twigs, limbs, scrap lumber  and old pipes.  Seasons.  Making way for spring colors.  Greener grass; purple, pink, and white blooms; and the perennials being brought outside from the semi-heated garage one warm weekend before Easter.  See what the March winds bring until April.  Welcome Spring!  So happy you came Today!

 

 

Different Kind Of Year

Standard

After the main water line burst under our foundation and flooded the floors throughout our home in November of 2015, Dean and I stopped in our tracks for another look into our future. We lived in a rental home for almost 3 months while our floors, doors, and walls were upgraded. Poet Emily Dickinson once wrote, “Where thou are – that – is Home”.  Home for me is where Dean is.   We refocused on our future, and we dreamed new dreams those few days beginning 2016.  We entered this year with different eyes for our near and farther future. “Different” has many meanings, and it is a word used interchangeable with words such as eccentric, strange, or  unfamiliar and the opposite of alike, same, similar, or akin.  Unfamiliar grounds were walked with the unexpected renovations of our home, working with our home owner’s insurance company and a contractor.  Our insurance agent said she saw nothing quite like what we experienced.  Living in a slab home has its disadvantages. “This ability to reinvent oneself, to sail confidently into unknown waters, seem to be even more needed today, ” writes author Ferenc Mate. Resilience.

On March 1 we made it back into our St. Peters house.  No better opportunity to lessen and reorganize our belongings than when our plethora of boxes are delivered from storage back to our home.  Dean built another storage shelf for the garage. Redecorating our quaint, beautifully refurbished dwelling allowed for artistic expression.  In our future is a red front door, maybe not quite as eccentric as the purple door seen in the photo but I definitely wear purple.  Soothing green walls, warm pine doors, and neutral beige laminate floors bring a more natural feel to our home. A room addition came to our minds as we explored ways to invest in what we could afford, yet not as risky as a rental property we had considered in 2015.  Late this spring we signed a contract and hired the same local contractor who did our remodel for our 500-square foot house addition project.  A delay with city permits and the rerouting of electric lines in our rocky back yard, the roof and windows were installed today.  Trendy “barn doors” will be placed for the entry into a small bedroom, and the rest of the space will be a great room to include bargain-finds such as a hide-a-bed sofa, comfy recliner, dining table with chairs, more cabinets extending from our current kitchen, and a nook near one of the  windows for a day bed and night lamp. We have friends and family stop in from time to time, and hope to have a homemade dinner made as well as accommodate any overnight visits.  Will you be one of them?  I hope.

Like previous years gardening, books, writing, foods, and hospitality continue to joyfully fill my spare moments in between my job and family. More herbs and greens will fill our pantry and plates in 2017.  I will attempt to grow lavender for some aroma therapy and culinary use in baked goods and fresh tea and lemonade.  I learn from authors, artists, and eccentrics. “Blessed are the weird people – the poets, misfits, writers, mystics, heretics, painters, troubadours- for they teach us to see the world in different eyes,”  author Jacob Nordby is quoted.  On quieter days at work or at home in the evening I read books in preparation for work-life balance presentations and personal enrichment. “I think of life as a good book. The further you get into it, the more it begins to make sense”  says Harold Kushner. These three books:  The Wisdom of Tuscany by Ferenc Mate, Money Secrets Of the Amish by Lorilee Craker, and Grace Not Perfection by Emily Ley touched on the essence of my year. Take small steps with purpose, and be simple, creative, and make-do.  And give grace to yourself and others. I highly recommend these readings.

 

 

 

Big Enough Heart

Standard

It is hard to fathom how much love can fit into one person’s heart.  God is the ultimate example, as He cares for each of us perfectly. He has made each of us perfectly, and equipped us with a big enough heart to love all who surround us.  Our loving Father shows us the way to love.  Love is seen in the prayers of one soul or many.

This first week of December begins with morning aglow in pinks and oranges, and ends with clear, star-lit nights.  The wintry skies and precipitation are predicted in the upcoming days though. The weather like health can turn with no permission sought or granted. Too many of my loved ones are in battle for their health, needing pain lifted and minds freed.  That neighbor, brother, or sister has a struggle for life today that is different from you or I’s cross-to-bear.  Stand in their shoes for even a minute.  The heart feels and melts.  I want to take this burden from my loved one.  Poet Robert Frost wrote, “the best way out is always through.”  Prayers are said at this moment and repeated daily sometimes hourly.  Sometimes a miraculous healing happens and we rejoice, and other times little miracles happen along the journey, getting us through the dark clouds.  Prayers are said for God’s love to be felt along the journey.robert-frost-quote