Category Archives: year

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!

Hopes And Dreams

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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!

 

First Snow

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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 …

The Bloom

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Spring seemed to arrive in Missouri early this year.  Grass and flowers bulbs sprouted up out of the ground, and we are not even to March yet. My vegetable and herb bed was prepped with rich organic compost, and spring greens and peas sowed on Monday, earliest ever for Deanna Greens And Garden Art.  The pink tulip trees and yellow daffodils bloomed in color this week.  And then … woo, the north wind blew in the arctic cold and snow flurries on Friday.  Winter is still among us this weekend.  Those daffodils swayed with the wind on Friday, but with hope they will continue to stand and bloom even in the chill of winter. Resilience.  That is what we are called to this very day, and for a season.  Isaiah 42:3 states “He won’t break a bruised reed. He won’t quench a dimly burning wick. He will faithfully bring justice.”  Hot tea, a warm Sunday breakfast, and God’s Word keeps this wick burning this day.

 

Doors And Keys

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As I center my thoughts on this new year, I think about the doors and keys to life.  You know those doors of opportunity to knock on, doors to walk through, and finding that prize on the other side of the door.  Scriptures tell us“knock, seek, and you will find”.  At times it feels like multiple knocks before someone slowly creaks the door open with a mutter of a greeting. Other times you barely get a knock in, and  “HELLO, HERE I AM!” like a bright red door. And then there are those times, and no one answers.  Maybe I need to move onto a new address, new door, new opportunity? “When one door closes, another opens” as the saying goes.  There can be a reward for those who are persistent.

Then there are the keys to life.  Author Alex Morritt writes, “Owning fewer keys opens more doors.”   Was he speaking about property ownership, or more about simplifying your life in general?  Maybe both.  In 2016 my quest to simplify and pare down was energizing. I was able to see my immediate surroundings in a new light.  In 2017, it will be more in the area of my thoughts and words. Simplify my thoughts, less analyzing.  Simplify my communiques with fewer words, use more effective ones.  Loving words. Encouragement. God holds the key to my heart”.  He knows all my thoughts and cares of this life before I even pray them.

What door are you knocking on?  What key will open the door, your life this very day?

New, Fresh

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The new, fresh year began in the Florida Keys. Fireworks flashed its arrival in living color.  The week to follow I soaked in some sunrises, sun rays, and sunsets too gorgeous for words. New vignettes and adventures, fresh insights and living in 2017.

Different Kind Of Year

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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.

 

 

 

My Own Backyard

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The last day of November was warm with a brisk wind to scurry about the colorful leaves. I walked the streets in Clayton to do some banking and grab a bite to eat on my lunch hour. The wind whipped from the west and changed directions several times that hour.  The tell-tale sign of changing seasons.  A mild autumn is quickly going into winter-like weather this week.  The weekend forecast includes snow flakes, and colder than normal temperatures next week. “Each year is a parable begun in stillness, and chill, of bare ground warmed with spring life returning, then bursting, buzzing, peaking in summer, and issuing a final flare in autumn, to subside in another winter’s seeming nullity,” author Stephanie Mills writes in her book Epicurean Simplicity.

Preparations for the winter season may not be a necessary stack of firewood in my suburban lifestyle. I remember as a child  the excitement of my family’s annual New Year’s Eve stay at the one-room cabin my father built on the family farm in Franklin County, Missouri.  The simple shingle covered dwelling probably no bigger that 500 square-feet had no bathroom or electricity, but a wood stove for its heat source.  My father and Grandpa would cut down old trees on the 100+ -acre farm and split wood throughout the autumn season in preparation for deer hunting trips and these winter weekend visits to the family farm.  My current preparations include sweaters and boots being pulled from the depths of the closets as well as my epie pin and antihistamine stowed in my purse for the next 4 months. An allergy to cold air and water is not easy, but is not the worst a person would have to deal with.  Thank goodness for gas heat.

And now I focus on my own heart matters for today.  Simplicity. “Try to see the beauty in your own backyard to notice the miracles of everyday life,” religious leader Gloria Gaither says. I would say that is great advice.  Perennial thoughts and ways, appreciating what you have now, and making do.  Simple, thankful, authentic, resourceful.  I am intrigued by the choice of voluntary simplicity as I further my research  for an enrichment class to teach at my work place.   There are authors, activists, and societies devoted to this way of thinking and lifestyle.  Choices made such as local community versus global; homegrown versus mass produced; renovate or upcycle versus disgard; a 3-generation home versus having separate homes; public transportation, carpooling, or riding  a bicycle versus commuting to work with one’s own vehicle everyday; hand-crafted versus manufacturer made; purchase local versus big brand, slow food versus fast food, and the list goes on.  As author and ecological activist Stephanie Mills states“bigger has not turned out to be better.”  I like the change back to some old ways and traditions.  What does simplicity mean to you?  How have you made simplicity a lifestyle choice?  I would love to hear.

 

Communique

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Every day brings a ship,
Every ship brings a word;
Well for those who have no fear,
Looking seaward well assuredOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
That the word the vessel brings
Is the word they wish to hear.

This poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson is called Letters.    Letters are a type of communique, a collection of words intended for a person or persons.  Letters have been written for years, centuries, and millenniums.  Their forms have been on stone tablets, metal, wood, paper, electronic mail (e-mail), Messenger, and even the Bible mentions words have been scripted on the heart.  Yes, words are heart matters.  Read a poem, letter, scripture passage, blog post, or journal page, and you can feel the author’s heart.

This poem mentions a hope for the word(s) one wishes to hear.  What do you hope to hear today?  “I love you.”  “I am sorry.”  “I need you.”  “I am okay.”  “I miss you.”  “You are healed.”  “Forgiveness.”  “Thinking of you.” “See you soon.”  “I am trying.” …

The next question:  What word(s) can you share with someone today?  My words to share today are “I love you despite all my imperfections and your imperfections.”

 

Colorful Reflections

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The holiday weekend marked the baptism of our youngest grandchild, Elise. Beautiful evening ceremony.  Lovely child.  God with us.  Labor Day seems to signify the end of summer. Colorful fields with changing hues of amber and purple for the harvest season.  A whole summer of prolific arugula is about to end although my growing season continues with my herbs.  I sowed more leaf lettuce and basil a month ago in hopes to yield a fall crop.  See how mother nature takes her course.  Next year I will introduce a new herb to my quilt of culinary herb patches.  Lavender.  So I will learn how to prepare the soil for my first crop of organic lavender.  Lavender lemonade is my favorite summertime beverage, and a lavender tisane is a soothing, calming herbal tea enjoyed before nap time or bed time. This time next year I hope to harvest my own fresh grown lavender at the Deanna Greens And Garden Art plot seated in Boone’s Hollow Farm.  Not sure if little Elise will be quite ready for a tea party then, but maybe soon in the many days that follow …