Category Archives: winter

Home In 2020

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Home In 2020

2020 has been a year like no other. We learned to wear a mask everywhere we go.  New phrases such as “COVID-19”, “social distancing”, & “social bubble” have become commonplace.  Teddy bears line our living room window to remind our neighbors love resides. Our living room has been “the office” since mid-March.  I am on my work computer undertaking county government employee programs & benefits while Dean researches files & tags old photos for the National Archives.  We try to time our Zoom staff meetings & webinars to not conflict with each other, or Dean wears his earplugs. I return to the Clayton office once a week for a couple of early morning hours to retrieve my mail and file papers. I brought home my comfy office chair and bought a narrow table to fit at the one of the living room windows for my make-shift desk. We have found solace at our small cottage as our home & workplace during the COVID pandemic, racial discord, stormy election, & natural catastrophes.  Birds, blooms, blogging,“ bear chairs”, “brinner”, beverage breaks, the aroma of freshly baked goodies; these are a few of our favorite things in 2020.

The start of 2020 before the news of COVID, we met up with Dean’s cousins in Eureka Springs, AR for a long weekend. Those long weekends became fewer after the CDC announced the pandemic. Home bound we were and still are. I never dreamt I would be working from home, and for this long. I rather love it as an introvert.  That time I normally would be commuting to work, my early mornings are greeted with the sunrise or the kiss of the last sunrays at dusk while I walk most days of my week.   This is an opportune time with the challenge of a speed walking program.  I continue into this colder season, but I have shortened that time and venture out mid-day.  My allergy to the cold keeps me indoors with my perennials, crafts, reading, writing, cooking, baking, & antiques.  Dean with his extra time has taken to his “man cave” (the basement) tinkering & plane model building after seeing the real ones.  Our entertainment is the livestreamed Opry from Nashville, Turner Classic movies, and The Big 550 KTRS catching the Farmer Dave and McGraw talk shows. Dean & I turned 60 this year, me in late August & he on Thanksgiving Day. We both are healthy.  The worst of our complaints have been the shortage of toilet paper & antibacterial hand soap at the stores, and the body aches from sitting at our work computers all day then becoming weekend warriors with our yard projects.  We count our blessings.

Every year we enjoy feeding the neighborhood songbirds.  Early spring Dean & I added a bird bath/fountain we found “on sale”.  Funny how “a bargain” multiplies 1 major project x 5.  Dean resurrected nearly buried rocks from the alley area out back to create a rock garden for under the bird feeders & fountain nearby our living room window.  It took us 8 hours to piece together the puzzle of mossy rocks & purchased flat stones. We also built our pebble patio in the front situated under the dogwood tree.  For our outdoor seating pleasure Dean assembled & painted 2 wooden Adirondack chairs dubbed “the bear chairs” as they are made by The Bear Company.  The chairs’ color nicely matches our “nifty turquoise” front door.  It is such a peaceful sanctuary under that dogwood tree.  Well, until the neighborhood Cooper’s hawk comes for a visit.  The birds chatter & squawk until the bigger bird of prey flies away with or without lunch.  We finished out our warm season projects with a new retaining wall between our house & the church next door, then mulched between the flowering hydrangeas & peonies.

The green thumb report … Lettuces & greens grew prolifically at our screen house at Boone Hollow Farm, and our potted herbs & perennials here at Deanna’s Cottage. Such a truly gorgeous spring & mild enough summer we had here in our parts of Missouri.  In 2021 we may grow birdhouse gourds, which need at least 180 days of frost-free days & plenty of climbing space.  Here at the cottage, my garden projects will be to prep & stain a vintage cart, potting table, & garden bench as well as grow old-fashion flowers to attract more bees & butterflies.  I was inspired by the colonial-style garden seen while on vacation. For our big backyard Dean will build a new deck/porch & replace our fencing.  We will hire for tree removal while others need trimming.  The shade of our grove of trees provides a refuge for our feathered & human friends alike. 

Summer into autumn was bittersweet.  Sweet was the week with granddaughter Elise at our home, a weekend with my grandkids exploring Meramec Caverns, and our 10th wedding anniversary travels to Williamsburg, Virginia.  We drove to avoid the close confines of an airplane, besides we like the journey along the way. Multiple masks and hand sanitizer packed.  Also, we welcomed 2 new grandbabies, Jefferson Dean & Clara Jean, one living in St. Louis & the other in Lee’s Summit.  In October we had a long weekend at a cabin in remote Kentucky with Dean’s brothers.  We played hooky & snuck in a brief couple of uncrowded weekdays in New Orleans. We drove once again. The bitter part, my mother became ill during late summer into autumn, but not from COVID.  Mom was very cautious, staying home away from people during the pandemic.  My brothers, sister-in-law, Dean, & I were gradually allowed in her “bubble”.  I would bring Mom library books & comically brought her a box of 48 rolls of commercial-grade TP.  We all would share photos & stories about the kids & grandkids.  By the time she braved going to the doctor, it was too late.  After 3 weeks of medical tests Mom was diagnosed with stage 4 lung & lymph node cancers.  Hospice care was arranged.  My sister & nephews made their way home for their last visits with her. Exactly 1 week after that diagnosis, Mom passed away at her home.  My mother was a tough yet classy lady, & loved her family.  Today I had the notion to call her & check if she would like to bake Christmas cookies this weekend.  I miss her. Mom is Home now with our Lord, my Dad, grandparents, & many other loved ones who have gone before her.

The Christmas tree is decorated, adorned with a new “mask-wearing” Santa ornament.  Holiday shopping is limited to uncrowded local boutiques or ordered on online & waiting for the packages to arrive on our front porch.  Gifts are coming together nicely in the guest bedroom.  Homemade goodies fill the cookie jar.  Old-fashion Christmas carols stream from the TV.  For us holiday parties, extended family gatherings, & Advent church services are virtual.  Quaint gatherings are planned. Distractions have lessen considerably by being at home, allowing quiet reflections to abound.  Authors Ann Voskamp, Matthew Kelly, and Rick Warren continue to inspire me. The Word of God is full of wisdom. This winter more frequent blogging will fill my hours. God loves you & I.  He is still in control even though the outside world seems chaotic. “Wasn’t He awakening me to Beauty everywhere, because beauty is the way of the inner eye?” Ann Voskamp questions in her One Thousand Gifts book.  “Beauty was all around … I sat very still, taking in the spirit of the night, until I felt that I was in a place as holy as a church.  And I was ready to be home”, author Dominique Browning once wrote.  I am ready to be snug at home this holiday season.  Are you?  Make home your most favorite place to be until you are called Home as the old hymn goes …

Come home! come home!
  Ye who are weary, come home!
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
    Calling, O sinner, come home!

White Season

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White Season

While the perennials are sheltered in the basement for two months now, the colder season will eventually show its true color. I anticipate white very soon. The holiday and winter season promises snow here in Missouri at some point. A white Christmas is what we sing about, but not always experienced. We have a 1 in 5 chance for the white fluffy stuff on Christmas Day. Dean and I experience the holiday lights and a “white-out” during an evening drive partaking in white snowman cookie and hot white chocolate from Starbucks. The white-out is fake snow, just simulating the real thing. I continue to take care for our perennials. Since I last wrote in this blog we welcomed a new white planter of lilies, mini roses, and a succulent sent as kind gesture as my mother passed away late in October. It is not doing so well in the living room, so I will move it under the plant lights downstairs. As I begin to address holiday cards I sing … “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas, with every Christmas card I write, may your days be merry and bright, and may all your Christmas’ be white As with the magic of snow, I anticipate Jesus’ coming for this Advent season, showering of real blessings. The real deal, nothing fake about it.

A Green Thumb With No Frozen Fingers

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A Green Thumb With No Frozen Fingers

The word “frost” came into the weathermen’s forecasts a couple of times last week. The late afternoon of October 1, Dean and I decided to move our perennials indoors while the colder air pushed its way into our town, but before a frost could lay its frozen fingers on our delicate green friends. We moved 20 planters of several varieties of ferns, lantana, lobelia, geraniums, swedish ivy, moses-in-cradle, philodendrons, and a Meyer’s lemon tree to the basement under a huge plant light on a timer. Two favorite perennial planters went upstairs in the house with us, along with 5 pots of herbs. It always amazes me how big the plants have grown over the past 6 months under mother nature’s care. Maybe I have a green thumb, but more so God blesses us with sunshine and rain at the right times. He reminds me when I can help with a watering can, pruning, and plucking the withered leaves and blooms. The frost finally gripped its frozen fingers on the cars, rooftops, and the earth very early this morning. But 27 pots of plants are snug and safe and sound in Deanna’s Cottage here in St. Charles, Missouri this autumn and winter seasons.

White Fluff In This Green Season

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Over the course of the winter and this early spring the busy red and gray squirrels in our neighborhood have managed to empty the two patio cushions on our next door neighbors’ patio furniture.  I suppose the amount of leaves and branches in the neighborhood is not enough for these rascals.  Hoarders and self-absorbed.  Sound familiar?  The synthetic stuffing that I call “white fluff” has been scattered about in the immediate neighborhood found in the green grass, bushes, trees, leaves, and the huge squirrels’ nest in our cherry tree.  This has been going on over the past 5 months, with maybe the final unloading last night.  We don’t see another cushion laying in the yard or patio furniture, thank God. The neighbor who owns the patio cushions appears clueless or could give a darn.  Dean and I spent a few Saturday afternoons cleaning up the “white fluff” from our yard, and the next door church’s yard. A couple of months ago Dean fully emptied the one cushion the squirrels chewed a hole in and threw the remaining contents in the trash bin.  The squirrels found the other cushion, and chewed a hole in that one.  So a repeat with the second cushion, we have spent a good hour here and there cleaning up.  Rather comical at times, but mostly aggravating.

On a more serious note, this “white fluff” illustrates to me the novel corona virus and the community’s responses.  The squirrels are those people who carry the virus, and share their germs while out and about with their busy, careless activities like hoarding the toilet paper and taking their  children to the grocery store for a “social hour”.  The clueless neighbor is the person who refuses to self-educate with reputable, accurate, up-to-date COVID-19 information and seems to hide from life.  Dean and I are the millions of people trying to keep our world cleaned-up and safe for ourselves and others around us.  How about you?  Are you watching after yourself and those people placed immediately around you?  Surely you are not one of the squirrels making more of mess for the rest of us!  Let’s get this “white fluff “cleaned up, obey the social distancing rules, and pray we have a vaccine before the next season arrives.

Impromptu Sunday Drive

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What a lovely day, so much like Spring.  The daffodils started to bloom at our cottage this week.  The gold finches are molting more each day in preparation for their spring and summer survival colors.  Scripture reminds us not to worry about what to wear and what to eat as God supplies.  “Look at the birds of the air…”  I think Dean and I supply plenty of seeds for the song birds in our neighborhood besides what naturally exists.  Not that God doesn’t supply adequately enough, we just enjoy the entertainment of the songbirds outside our living room window at the feeders.

The mild temperatures warranted an impromptu drive this Sunday afternoon to the Illinois side of the Mississippi River.  We packed a picnic lunch and stopped in the little historic river village, Elsah. We relished the quiet park and tiny town while munching on our sandwiches.  Then we made our way to the river hubbub of Grafton, IL.  Bikers, antique cars, and convertibles seem to take over the town.  We managed to park the car and found a few little antique and gift shops to peruse.  Such lovely art pieces.  I found a garden sign with spring-like embellishments for my arrowhead planter.  Just a matter of another 6 weeks before the houseplants go outside, and Easter 5 weeks away.  Spring-like rains and weather continue this week with a winter return next week.  Well, today I cherished this early taste of spring.

 

Waste Not Want Not and the Hydrangea Tumbleweed

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My Sunday morning pancake making came with a comic note from any neighbor’s perspective, I am sure.  While Dean slept in I made my from-scratch pancakes using an overripe banana left in the fruit bowl.  You know the saying, “waste not want not”.  While cooking the pancakes, I checked the bird feeder.  The song birds and squirrels  have managed to empty the feeders in a matter of two days. It didn’t snow overnight, just cold and rainy this February morning.  Well, those pesky squirrels are hanging all over the bird feeders and has the big one twisted open.  I got our ammo out, the spray bottle of water and open the door to shoot at the squirrels.  They hate it, yet will feed on the bird seeds in the rain!  Maybe a BB gun would more effective, but may scare the neighbors.

As I spray a stream of water their way, the squirrels scatter. One goes around to the hide on the other side of the house and the other runs towards the street. In the corner of my eye I see a tumbleweed going into the street between our car and the neighbor’s car. That tumbleweed is the bloom I clipped yesterday and added to a red wire basket setting on the front porch.  I try not to waste anything, including the dried blooms left on our hydrangea bushes.  They make great fill-ins for floral baskets.  The wind must have blown it out of the basket.  Oh, I smell burnt pancake and run back into the kitchen!  Just a little too charred to suit me, but Dean will eat it. Waste not want not, you eat what is served, right?

I bundled myself with a warm robe before going out into the elements to rescue the hydrangea tumbleweed from the wind and rain.  The rescue was a success!  I shoved it back into the wire basket with a little more force and returned to more pancake making.  Dean awakes to the aroma of semi-burnt pancakes and sausage.  No, the smoke alarm did not go off to awaken him.  As I tell him my morning adventures he selects the YouTube playlist of Gene Autry as well as Sons Of The Pioneers version singing Tumbling Tumbleweeds

See them tumbling down,
Pledging their love to the ground!
Lonely, but free, I’ll be found,
Drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds…

We talk of our childhood memories of burnt meals.  This morning pancakes came close to the charred pancakes Grandpa and Great-Uncle Lloyd made for the whole family when going to the family farm in Franklin County.  Dean recalled similar stories of his childhood.

 

A February Welcome

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We got through January with bouts of snow, ice, and cold rains.  But the first two days in February softened up to temps in the 70’s by Super Bowl Sunday.   What a gorgeous and glorious weekend.  On Saturday I opened my eyes in the wee hours like a work day while the first February sunrise greeted me in its pink hues, flirting the Valentine’s Day’s colors.  I had plans to get the house thoroughly cleaned after being away for the 2 weekends previous.  I accomplished that but made the time to pull out the Valentine decorations.  The big Valentine red heart wreath went on the turquoise door.  An adorable welcome!

The neighborhood outdoor grills fired up on Sunday in celebration of the grand weather and football game.  After church, Dean and I went outside for some outdoor chores.  Dean washed layers of salt and junk off the car.  It is spiffy and shiny now!  I sanded a couple of outdoor furniture pieces.  The old metal-framed glider that came with the house and carport finally had a sander workout.  Down to some pretty smooth cedar planks.  A coat of stain and varnish will go on the cedar planks after I finish sanding the metal frame and a coat of enamel on the frame.  Most likely an early spring project after the frame color choice is decided on and more warm weekends.

A little child’s chair used as a perch on the front porch was a less than $10 purchase at a  French Town antique shop last spring.  It apparently had a layer of paint quickly brushed on it before I bought it.  The paint peeled terribly when the cold weather arrived this past autumn.  So I set the poor thing in the basement and waited for a break in the weather to sand and repaint it.  Sunday was the day to get it started.  A coat of white primer after the sanding.  And then for artistic impression, “nifty turquoise” to match the front door.  My mid-week artist’s project, painting will be a great diversion from this crazy world.

February is obviously a red month.  Why look at the KC Chiefs, the Super Bowl champions!  A sea of red confetti at the game and parades. Oh, we cannot forget Red Dress Day this Friday.  Always the first Friday in February.  Wear that red and be good to your heart.  So the gray winter gets a splash or two of color, and I love it.  The red and turquoise palette suits you well, February!

 

 

 

 

Dormancy

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No winter-like simulation now, it is the real deal.  The winter weather seems to be sticking around for more than a few days.  Icy, sleety, and snowy last week, and again this week dipping into the teens overnight and staying below or close to freezing during the day.  Due to budget constraints our winter vacation week was decidedly best to stay in our home state of Missouri this year.  No expensive sandy beaches to sunbathe on.  Making the most of our budget and what our state has to offer during this winter season, Dean and I chose to visit our state’s Ozark Mountains.  Most of our vacation budget is for a lovely lodge in the woods, the journey there only a 5-hour drive from home.  Home-cooked meals prepared in a well-stocked kitchenette, and an occasional meal out satisfy us both.  Every night a vignette of soft lights dot the mountain sides from the valley we are nestled in.

Dean and I venture out on half-day trips for a couple of days, visiting small towns and cousins.  We went target shooting at an outdoor range one afternoon.  We meander into northern Arkansas part of the week.  Naked hardwood trees, pines, and cedars clothe the mountains along with icicled cliffs and crags much like glittered ornaments.  Flowing valley streams, swooping birds of prey, and cattle feeding in the fields are the only movement around.  Dormancy is what we experience, and what we need. Oxford’s online dictionary defines dormancy … “the state in which a plant is alive but not actively growing” and with this sentence example “dormancy allows woody plants to survive these unfavorable conditions”.  

The quiet, unassuming beauty of the woods in dormancy stills my busy body, mind, and soul.  Very present moment several times each day, a retreat without structure.  Just being, breathing in and out, and audibly awake.  It is not necessary to block out the static and noise of my job, the house, and almost no obligations as I am far enough away from these occupations.  Words come in and out on occasion, Dean and I relating this quiet vacation week to our retirement years.  Some words make a page in my journal, and others are just thoughts in dormancy for a later writing in favorable conditions and more life lived.

This year I am ending the summer season of my wellness career.  The autumn season of my career follows, short and sweet like Missouri’s autumns with the winter season close behind.  The dormant season always emerges into a glorious spring song.  A book of collected letters, Letters To A Young Poet, poet Rainer Maria Rilke urges the young budding poet, Franz Xavier Kappus to look inward and know what motivates his own writing.  Rilke encourages the development of a rich inner life which is the process of creative art. “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet.  In today’s words, live today, be present moment.  Some answers come eventually.

 

New Year’s Day And Occupation in 2020

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New Year’s Day it is!  Morning is trying to wake up this first day of 2020.  Slow, or it seems.  A cup of hot chocolate and whipped cream awaken all my senses, warm me along with my Life Is Good long-sleeve t-shirt and leggings.  I cannot sleep this weekday holiday.  I awoke at 4:30am like it was a work day.  The sun finally peers above the two-story houses across the street while sitting in our small cottage’s living room.  My blogging urge comes.  Reflection of 2019 was last night before I fell asleep on the couch.  This morning it is looking forward.

What is to be my occupation in 2020 beside getting through this predicted long winter?  Last week I came across this Sinclair Lewis quote, “Winter is not a season, it’s an occupation.”  For those who live in the cold regions, or have cold-induced angioedema like myself, this rings true.  Reading, researching, journaling, writing, blogging, bookkeeping, and filing will be my occupation the next 3 months before the growing season.  I may work on a jigsaw puzzle for a change.  Maybe this mindless occupation will bring clarity and direction.  All are warm indoor activities.

Dean and I are looking to our retirement years, how soon is the big question.  I have exhausted my energy and drive at my government job.  Too many politics and bosses to please, and why?  I just want to focus on the holistic well-being of those people God has or will place in my life, my purpose in living.  I will retire this autumn, with plans to find more enjoyable employment using my organizational skills for another 10 years, retire fully at age 70.  My thoughts are I will probably use my human resources management, non-profit, and/or hospitality experiences in a combination of occupations.  Desired is a Masters in Creative Non-Fiction Writing at my alma mater, Lindenwood University.  This can be obtained with classroom or online courses.  There is a 50% discount for students age 60 or over. My 60th comes in August.

The other question is whether to move south to at least a little warmer area after my retirement, and how far south to reside.  Dean and I love our home state of Missouri, lived here all our lives.  Maybe southern Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, or Texas will be where we will find our new home, in a less populated area?  We are reading about and visiting various locations in 2020.  My current read is the The Body Keeps Score, authored by world-renown Bessel Van der Kolk, MD.  This book addresses the physical and psychological aspects of trauma.  This is helping me understand my own past trauma and the trauma of others as well as the hope of healing.  The book I started writing this past summer has come to a halt while I work through this healing.  With our travels, I hope to occupy a writer’s retreat in the spring to continue this work.

What direction are you going in 2020 and into this decade?  What will occupy your time and energy?  Are you living your life with purpose?  I ask for God’s light to guide you.

The Coziness of Winter

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The snow storm has all the schools closed as well as many offices closed or on a shorten day.  Dean’s office closed for the whole day and my office closed before lunch.  Fortunately our Jeep gets us through everything thus far that Missouri’s winters have dished out.  Don’t know what we will do when that vehicle dies.  Dependable.  It has almost 300,000 miles on it.  My Prince Charming came and swooped me up at the end of the sidewalk next to my Clayton office, onward to our cottage home in our blue metal carriage.

I came home to a bottle of Irish cream on the dining table and the Christmas tree set up, ready for the ornaments and trimmings.  A festive afternoon it is to be.  What a thoughtful hubby!   The cottage is small, and as well as our tree.  We always wait about a week before Christmas to decorate our tree.  Boxes of our holiday trimmings were brought up from the basement.  We had such a cozy day into the evening with the snow falling outside the window, Christmas carols playing, hanging the ornaments, decking the rooms, the warmth of the smooth spirits, butter cookies, and snuggles.

Our European friends create this atmosphere naturally through their traditions. “Koselig is a feeling: that of coziness, intimacy, warmth, happiness, being content. To achieve the feeling of koselig, you need koselig things. In darker months, cafes provide blankets on their outdoor chairs, and shops light their entrances with candles,” written in Living In Norway  by David Nikel.  “You could roughly translate koselig (pronounced “koosh-lee”), as ‘coziness,’ but that leaves out crucial components of it, like enjoying the company of others and a connection with nature. There’s no direct English translation, but there are regional equivalents such as the Swedish ‘mys,’ the Dutch ‘gezelligheid’ and the most well-known of these, the Danish ‘hygge’,” writes David G. Allan in is CNN health and wellness column “The Wisdom Project”.  “Basically anything can (and should) be koselig: a house, a conversation, a dinner, a person. It defines something/someone /an atmosphere that makes you feel a sense of warmth very deep inside in a way that all things should be: simple and comforting… a single word to express all at once love, friendship, comfort, trust, and most of all happiness” author, Lorelou Desjardins describes “koselig” in her blog Frog in the Fjord. 

So what makes you feel love, friendship, comfort, trust, and happiness all at once?  Could it be hot chocolate with home-baked cookies, sipping spirits, fire in the fireplace, candles lit, warm socks, cozy blankets, homemade jam made with local berries, snug long johns, soft flannel, oversized sweaters, scarves, slow & soft music, nature brought indoors, vegetation draped on a table top, and a communal encounter with a Christmas carol?  I wish you koselig this holiday season and into the New Year.