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.
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.
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!
The “Christmas Trees For Sale” sign in the store front window caught my attention. Fresh pine scent, the friendly “howdy” greeting, footsteps on the squeaky wood-planked floor, and the jingle of the door bells as I enter and close the door into the little gift shop … each liven my senses … bring me to back when. A little pony-tailed blonde-haired girl. Cannot wait for the holiday season, Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Years. But all the events leading to those wonder-filled holidays. Baking, decorating, crafting, wrapping, and for me living on a tree farm, setting up the pine trees to sell. Always Thanksgiving weekend my Dad and Grandpa brought in a truck and trailer overflowed with fresh cut Christmas trees. Scotch pine, white pine, and spruce trees planted, trimmed, and cared for by Dad, and any family members looking for some extra $$ pitched in. My siblings and I included. We would play hide-n-seek in the pile of cut trees until there were no more to set-up. Snow, ice, or rain, it did not matter. Wholesome fun. We had the time of our lives back when.
A weekend away in Branson, Missouri for early Christmas shopping and a membership inquiry with a vacation club for more of these empty nest long weekends and longer week dream vacations. Dean and I are local shoppers, whether in our home town of St. Charles, Missouri or while on vacation. There is something down-to-earth about brick & mortar and mom & pop shops. Branson has the downtown landing and tourist attractions, but take us where the locals shop, eat, and play, please! Nostalgic Dicks 5 & 10, Main Street Flea Market, the Classy Flea, and the Farmhouse Restaurant … Back when the Nativity was in every shop, home, and city hall. The holidays included real pine rope trimmings with bright red velvet bow wreaths and pine cones. Back when that fresh field-cut Charlie Brown tree was dressed with hand-sewn ornaments, Shiny Brite glass balls, and a collection of heirloom from Germany or England, wherever your family originated from. Back when home-baked breads were served at every meal with a home-jarred fruit preserves, and your favorite sugar cookies piled on a plate or in a large jar for the eating any time. But not too close to your mother’s or grandmother’s home-cooked dinner, “not to spoil your appetite”. The house smelled of a fresh pot of chicken & dumplings. I imagine my father’s Christmases in the 1940’s. Filled with joy to have his father, my Grandpa Earl back home from the war. Grandma Anna doting over the menu preparations. Two or three simply wrapped presents with his name “Marty” on the tags under the tinseled Christmas tree. Back when is close to my heart at this present moment in the guest bedroom of our 1940’s house. My family has been blessed with fond memories and we will make more.
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!
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 …
In my Missouri town my furry hat and leather gloves are needed when I get out and about this week. Winter’s chill is here to stay for a few months. It came before the winter solstice and Christmas this year. A fire in a wood stove or fireplace is welcomed, but the chillest of December days seem to warm up with good food, drink, and fellowship. Holiday celebrations are underway. The inner chef in me loves the holidays. With last week’s office party I made a traditional tiramisu to go with the Italian luncheon of pasta con broccoli and lettuce salad. For the extended family gathering last weekend, I prepared a 11-lb ham with a Bavarian-style glaze of brandy, brown sugar, and Dijon mustard with each family member pitching in with a homemade side dish or dessert. A cheese platter like this photo from Cabot will be designed for another celebration, with spirits served at each gathering. I want to connect with those I love, and those I need to love more … warming spirits and hearts. Tis the season, reason for the season. Hibernation will come later. Curling under a blanket with a book, writing, and dreaming. “Ham and green beans in my evening rice, with a glass of that good blackcherry wine on the side. Hibernation is a fine art!” ~David J. Beard.
Oh, Christmas morn early enough before the busyness of unwrapping gifts and brunch making … The dazzle of the tree lights, church bells chime, and then silence. My most favorite moment of the year! And this moment came despite the strangeness of being displaced from my physical home. Home is where the heart is. And my heart is here. Poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote these beautiful verses in his poem, Holiday:
The holiest of all holidays are those
Kept by ourselves in silence and apart;
The secret anniversaries of the heart,
When the full river of feeling overflows; –
The happy days unclouded to their close;
The sudden joys that out of darkness start
As flames from ashes; swift desires that dart
Swallows singing down each wind that blows!
White as the gleam of receding sail;
White as a cloud that floats and fades in air,
White as the whitest lily on a stream,
These tender memories are; – a Fairy Tale
Of some enchanted land we know not where,
But lovely as a landscape in a dream.
Believe! Merry Christmas from Dean and Anna!
Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him / Nor earth sustain; / Heaven and earth shall flee away / When He comes to reign: / In the bleak mid-winter / A stable-place sufficed / The Lord God Almighty, / Jesus Christ.
Enough for Him, whom cherubim / Worship night and day, / A breastful of milk / And a mangerful of hay; / Enough for Him, whom angels / Fall down before, / The ox and ass and camel / Which adore.
Angels and archangels / May have gathered there, / Cherubim and seraphim / Thronged the air, / But only His mother / In her maiden bliss, / Worshipped the Beloved / With a kiss.
What can I give Him, / Poor as I am? / If I were a shepherd / I would bring a lamb, / If I were a wise man / I would do my part, / Yet what I can I give Him, / Give my heart. These are the words from the poem In The Bleak Midwinter by poet Christina Rossetti, which her lyrics have made a lovely Christmas carol since the early 1900’s.
Work, work, work, and then rest. Warm, cold, warm, cold, cold … the seasons of life, some shorter than others.
The calendar says it is 3 days into winter, though the freezing cold has been around for weeks now. This week I have experienced some brief moments for reflection and observance to the reason for this Christmas season. This Sunday church attendance had picked up and we arrived just as the bells chimed, to find the pews filled. The 4th Sunday of Advent, Dean and I seated ourselves in the balcony of our 190-year old gothic-style church near the choir. The view was like of a bird’s-eye, watching as other late comers found a space or two to join the congregation while the purple vestments of the priest and deacon glittered at the altar. The most touching was the worshippers coming forth for communion, with Dean and I to join by the grace of God to commune with Him.
The song above Bleak Mid-Winter played overhead while sitting at a large novelty store. This is our last chance for shopping before Christmas gatherings. My tired feet and I awaited while my Dean was in search of the right gift for my son and son-in-law. My feet ached after standing for 7-8 hours at the spice shoppe, so I found a bit of solace in a quiet corner surrounded by books, novelities, and shoppers. Reflections of the lyrics brought me to Him. Whether it be the pure white snow, a shining star on a clear winter night, sharing intimate communion with others, or sitting in a store quietly, all and many more opportunities draw us to our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. He dwells amongst us. Merry Christmas to you, and may you know the gift of love and peace through Jesus Christ.
“I’m dreaming of a white Christmas …” I am! I had enough of these 100 + temp days! How about you? Well, if I cannot have a white Christmas right now, I will settle for milder summer days in the north woods of Minnesota with friends.
Dean & I are headed there for a few days! Need to hear the loons once again!