I have been hibernating in the house for days now. I went out on Monday in between snow showers to pick up Dean at the train station after his Super Bowl weekend in Kansas City. Since then, I haven’t even stepped out to get the mail from the mailbox. Just plain too cold with the arctic blast! The sweatered teddy bear sits on the window still reminds folks that the warmth of love reigns in this home. The perfectly formed snowflakes glisten in the occasional sunlight while the colorful Valentine decorations, hot beverages, sweet treats, and my sweetheart, Dean will keep me cozy warm this 3-day holiday weekend. We have another week of these near zero-degree nights and less than 20-degrees days. What an opportunity for bird watching from our windows, writing, reading, cooking, baking, and movie watching! BTW: When did that groundhog say spring will arrive?
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!
Dean and I have been living in this WWII era small home in historic St. Charles, Missouri for just under 2 years. It is Dean’s dream home, and becoming mine. Deanna’s Cottage is the name we give this home. In 2019 the cottage had been rented out via Airbnb for 7 festival weekends. It has such an ideal location, just 6 blocks from Historic Main Street. Each of our cottage guests have rated our little place 5-stars. Thus far this year, the pandemic has kept us from renting Deanna’s Cottage. It will be the second half of 2020 before we will accept reservations again on Airbnb, provided the threat of COVID-19 has subsided significantly. Those weekends when the guests come stay at Deanna’s Cottage, we stay at our previous residence. Our old house is rented to my daughter and son-in-law, a family of four. There is our old bedroom we invade for 2 nights at a time with our feline friend, Celine who has taken permanent residence there.
With the social distancing for 6 weeks now in the state of Missouri, we have more time on our hands. We would rather be visiting with our kids, grandkids, parents, siblings, and friends on the weekends. Sure understand why, and respect the rules set in order for this invasive virus to die down, but it is hard not to be with everyone. Our two youngest grandkids have April birthdays. We left the fixings for a birthday party on the porch and did a drive-by birthday greeting for the 10-year grandson earlier this month. But our 4-year granddaughter will not understand why Grandpa and Grandma cannot stop to visit. So birthday presents were sent in the mail to the other side of Missouri for our granddaughter to open on her birthday this Sunday. May be able a Facetime event.
So what else to do with all this time, especially on the weekends? We gained 2 hours every weekday with telecommuting, and little prep for work. So one project after another runs in Dean and I’s heads separately and collectively with conversations and plans to follow. We have plans to take out the carpeting in the living room, hallway, and master bedroom to get to the bare wooden floors. We are not sure what we will find, so we have put that off for awhile. We think it will take old-fashion time and elbow-grease with refinishing the floors. And what to do with the furniture while we work on it? With the lovely spring weather, outdoor projects have taken priority. Off and on since last autumn Dean has worked on the windows, scrapping, glazing, priming, and painting. That project is weather dependent. The awning over the front porch needs repainting. The back awnings just need to be removed. The back porch/deck needs to be replaced. Fencing replaced, too. And then there is the landscaping. This includes a huge tree removal, resetting a small retention wall on one side of the house, and putting in a pebble patio in the front with a small fountain. I love this project as it means a lawn chair to sit in at the end of a long day to relax under the dogwood tree sipping on iced tea or a cup of hot tea. The weather temperature tells me which.
I have many longer-term plans in my mind for Deanna’s Cottage. Did you ever hear of the book A Place Of My Own: The Architecture Of Daydreams by healthy food activist and author, Michael Pollan? He dreams of a small structure, then he builds it himself, and uses as his writing studio. A quiet space, purposeful place. I found this cute place online used as a small venue for parties, showers, rehearsal dinner, and luncheons. I could see Deanna’s Cottage used as a small gathering place such as this. I can also see a quainter dwelling, maybe about 500 square-foot to be built in the big back yard within the next 5 years used as an atelier for reading, writing and art projects, but also for periodic guests and gatherings. My flower, herb, and vegetable gardens surrounding the dwelling. But what does God purpose for Dean and I at Deanna’s Cottage, and this smaller structure I dream about?
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.
I have held up fairly well this very cold winter season. I kept busy indoors with a 1000-piece puzzle, reading, writing, vacation planning, and even a couple of hand-written letters placed in the mail box. You know, the old-fashioned way of communicating! My interior decorating picked up again, with our newest additions a chaise and lace-paneled screen for my boudoir, as well as a vintage stained glass window for the wall above the buffet in the living room. It brightens the room up with the sun on it; swirls of purple, blue, and golden yellow reflect into the cottage. Just what my soul needed … color! Having just a little spring fever …
Oh, but there is the love of dirt, too! I am anxious to get outdoors to dig in the dirt, sow seeds, plant flowers, move onto exterior decorating, and feel the fresh air and sun on my face. Daylight savings time began this past Sunday, and the Spring Equinox is a week away! Do you think the weatherman and mother nature saw the calendar, too? I sure hope so! No springtime snows and frigid cold blasts, please!
This will be our first spring in our little St. Charles cottage. Signs of green popped up a couple of snowstorms ago. I believe they are daffodils throughout the front and back yards. Bursts of yellow in a few days! I am sprucing up the indoor plants at home and at the office, trimming dead branches and topping the pots with fresh potting soil this week and next. My green friends have done well under the plant lights in the basement, where it is not quite as cold as the barely heated garage at the other house. And no feline friends to perch themselves in the potted plants! My citrus tree, bird-of-paradise, ferns, and other potted perennials will go outdoors when the threat of frost is past, late in April.
Plans for very old awnings to come down, painting weathered window frames, window cleaning, and new fencing are on the top of the list of outdoor chores this spring and summer. But the other chore, which to me is so much fun, is yard designing with the existing garden beds, as well as the choices and placement of garden art. One of my childhood friends from Minnesota sent me a photo of her little mini greenhouse in the midst of an autumn snowfall, the sun gorgeously set behind it filtering through the autumn leaves and windows. It brought to life the desire to build such a potting shed, maybe a bit of a “she-shed” where I can play in the dirt and plants. But also to sit and relax on a comfy chair sipping herb tea, my writing journal, and pen among the birds, butterflies, and blooms.
“Ice ice baby, too cold. Ice ice baby, too cold,” as the lyrics from singer Vanilla Ice go. We are under an ice storm warning here in Missouri. Freezing drizzle. Freezing rain. Sleet. Ice pellets. Ice. Whatever the frozen precipitation is called, it is slick. No need to be out on the roads. Stay indoors in the comfort and warmth of home, if at all possible. Such a sharp contrast from last Friday. I was in sunny Florida. I welcome this surprise 4-day weekend winter hibernation as Dean and I’s government offices are closed today as most of Missouri is. Malls and shops closed mid-day.
Today it is 30 minutes of sweating to Richard Simmons’ Sweatin’ To The Oldies, reading, blogging, caring for my indoor green friends, movie watching, and the homemade goodness of orange cranberry scones for breakfast, white chili for lunch, roasted root vegetables and sesame pork for dinner. The weekend paperwork and housework will be tomorrow.
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.
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.
This time of year the work day is eased into analyzing aggregate reports, research on other wellness programs, event planning, and networking for the year. I like the slower pace which last about 4 – 6 weeks in December into January. It is when I finally have the employee wellness events booked on the calendar. Yes, forecasting at least 9 months ahead. It is much like a teacher and his/hers curriculum planning during the summer for the next school year. It will be another busy year at St. Louis County, the busyness starting next week with several meetings and a health fair.
Much the same as with the farmer, his/hers planning for the spring and autumn crops is done during the frigid cold months. My father was a tree farmer, and the winter was filled with book work and ordering of a new stock of plant liners. My siblings and I would plant 100’s of plant saplings through the spring; lots of hoeing, weeding, and watering in the summer; and autumn a few more plantings and prepping the pines for the holiday harvest.
I cannot say Deanna Greens And Garden Art has quite the planning of a full-time farmer. The greenhouse is a hobby of Dean and I’s while we work full-time. Our part-time organic herb and vegetable growing is fragrantly and deliciously rewarding while the beautiful geranium blossoms are pleasing to the eyes. During Dean and I’s Nashville mini-vacation in December, we toured the Belle Meade Plantation. Each room in the historic house was festively decorated with period Christmas ware, with the kitchen set in the 20’s. The kitchen is my favorite room. And there set a terra cotta pot of red geraniums in the windowsill, again another favorite of mine. A vintage flower.
The subzero wind chill has me hibernating today. I wanted snow, but not this frigid cold stuff. God forgives my absence in church, and He knows my severe allergy to the cold. Early morn I went outdoors in my pjs, robe, socks, and slippers to let our Labrador into the fenced yard, not realizing just how cold it had gotten over night. It dropped 30 degrees in less than 12 hours. My joints have been screaming about it since 7:00am. The daily antihistamine did not take much of an edge off the symptoms, so I took an extra dosage this afternoon. Drinking lots of hot herbal tea while I watch cooking and gardening shows, write, and read …
Life did not bring me silken gowns,
Nor jewels for my hair,
Nor signs of gabled foreign towns
In distant countries fair,
But I can glimpse, beyond my pane, a green and friendly hill,
And red geraniums aflame upon my window sill.
The brambled cares of everyday,
The tiny humdrum things,
May bind my feet when they would stray,
But still my heart has wings
While red geraniums are bloomed against my window glass,
And low above my green-sweet hill the gypsy wind-clouds pass.
And if my dreamings ne’er come true,
The brightest and the best,
But leave me lone my journey through,
I’ll set my heart at rest,
And thank God for home-sweet things, a green and friendly hill,
And red geraniums aflame upon my window sill.
by Martha Haskell Clark
I picked pea pods, lettuces, and herbs galore this past weekend. After a week of rain, the sun shined for a day. Finally, I was able to get to Boone Hollow Farm and Deanna Green And Gardens Art greenhouse without fear of rising creeks and rivers. I found an old saying in my book The Country Diary Of An Edwardian Lady “June damp and warm does the farmer no harm,” which I feel the local farmers and folks as far as Texas would disagree. Floods waters have ruined acres of crops. May be too late to try another round of crops this growing season.