Tag Archives: family

Any Room At Your House?

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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!

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Newness Of Life

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Each week in April brought about warm days then yielding to colder, rainy days.  This week, nothing but rain.  Deanna Greens and Garden Art greenhouse/screenhouse protects a prolific bed of greens and herbs from severe weather and wildlife.  We gather water from our rain barrel or the creek at Boone Hollow Farms before the water line is turned back on from the winter shut-off.  Our garden greens continue to flourish this spring.  The arugula actually bolted this week, causing me to pluck those flowering buds by lantern light between the rains this week.  It is too early for these delicious organic greens to go to seed!

Lent season and Easter came and went too quickly.  Beautiful flower planters and spring baskets of goodies reminded me of the fresh life Easter brings.  Prayer at church during my lunch hour does the same.   Dean and I were able to have some family over for our first dinner party in the new room addition, a family/dining area and extra bedroom added to our modest 3-bedroom home.  The new fireplace mantle brought fresh color to the kitchen.

 

Dean and I’s two youngest grandchildren have April birthdays.  Being a part of our children’s and grandchildren’s lives is important to us. 7-year old Eli had a sick sibling the weekend of his party, so the celebrating takes place early May.  And baby Elise turned 1-year old this week!  How can that be?  Her family from the Netherlands came for the party, and brought her first pair of wooden Dutch shoes.  I love Spring, and all the new life it births!

A Seed

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“What shape waits in the seed of you to grow and spread its branches against a future sky?” author David Whyte writes.  So much hope from a seed.  And the size of the seed does not matter according to Jesus’ parable. “The simple truth is that if you had a mere kernel of faith, a poppy seed, say, you would tell this mountain, ‘move!’ and it would move. There is nothing you wouldn’t be able to tackle.” (The Message Bible).

Just how complex God has made each of us, “fearfully and wonderfully made”. Holy words to behold …  From seed to a tree … providing beauty to delight in, cooling shade to the weary, whispered wisdom from the leaves in the breeze, wood for a warm fire, roots as a foundation, fruit for the hungry, and sweet sap for those special moments.   Is not that a mother to her child?  A grandchild to a grandparent?  A man to his kin?

 

From seed to a tree, we each grow to be.  Taking care of self and our brother. Each can learn from the other. Growing branches at different directions, new skies to explore, yet rooted in the love of family and friends. Faith in self and who our God is, our Perfect Father.

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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.

 

Shelter

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My life is surrounded with people, animals, and plant life.  My home is shelter to the wandering soul.  “Happy is the house that shelters a friend”, Ralph Waldo Emerson is quoted. Midnight, Celine, Joe, and Pennylane … all adopted because someone else could not care for them.  Our furry critters are family.  Our Midnight wandered the streets of town late evening on Friday.  A construction or utility person must have left our gate open.  Thank God for the internet, digital photos, good people, and prayers.  A group of teenage boys watched him as he paced back and forth near a busy road, contacted one of their parents, and then brought Midnight to the shelter of their home. We were rejoined with our Labrador by early Saturday morning after a series of FB postings.  Well-fed and watered, he rather enjoyed is overnight stay at his new friends’ home.  The boys renamed him “Hercules”.

Saturday afternoon Dean and I prepared the garage for our potted plants to be brought inside. The first hard frost seems to be delayed, but may come this week. Geraniums, succulents, a lemon tree, bird-of-paradise, ferns, spider plants, and moses-in-the-cradle create a jungle our cats like to prowl in from time to time. Over the coldest months between November through March, my green friends are somewhat dormant under the high power plant lights, and most survive to be brought back outside with the warmer spring days. One green friend gets some special treatment going into 2017. My arrowhead plant grew lushly green and full over the summer.  Sensitive to the cold air, the semi-heated garage may not stay warm enough for it to maintain its brilliant green foliage. The arrowhead plant is sheltered near the mantel next to my palm until our room addition is completed.

 

Oh, Mimosa, Mimosa

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What an incredibly stressful two weeks for Dean and I with work and family decisions to make.  Nothing earth-shattering. Just bang, bang, bang, constant pounding.  Questions to ask ourselves:  What do we want now?  Five, ten years from now?  What is the the best thing for us?  How does this decision effect others around?  Who might we offend with the decision?  How do I handle a class of whining employees that their favorite yoga instructor has been replaced by another fully certified yoga instructor?  Again, do not want to offend, but sometimes impossible. What educational program can be created to teach 4,000 employees about smart food vending choices?  Can I  get another flu vaccine clinic scheduled last minute for the new police department building?  What are some bariatric options for our employees and their dependents?  So on and so on.  With work, family, and life in general, you cannot please everyone.  Ultimately, the decision you make has to be one you can live with.  “Own it.  And then move on,” as one of our daughters told me this week. I like how role-reversal happens as your children get older.  It is listening to your own advise, is it not?

I found reprieve this work week, daily all 5 days.  I have decided to take my full lunch hour despite what telephone calls, emails, or projects I have waiting in my office.  With the milder temperatures I have been walking at least 6 blocks each day.  On my walk on Monday, I began to pass by the church 1-1/2 blocks from my building, and then stopped.  I decided to climb the stone stairway and go into the church to pray.  Lo and behold, there were at least 20 other people, some local residents and other business people like myself sitting in the pews and praying.  St. Joseph Catholic Church in Clayton has prayer everyday before the noon Mass.  My lunch hour cannot be adjusted to go to Mass, but I can join in prayer everyday.  Yes, an answer to my prayers for stress-relief during the work day, a prayer and meditation date at 11:30am.  I know I can, and I do pray anywhere and anytime.  God hears our heart without words even spoken.  But there is something oh so special when a group of believers come together to pray.   The church bells chime as I leave those stone steps each day.  Their echoes are heard as I continue on my walk before returning to the office, a reminder of the prayers I just prayed.

Dean and I’s budget is tight with regular bills, a room addition project, and retirement accounts to keep at.  But every now and then you have to treat yourself.  Simple pleasures.  Let me preference the following words with “I am not a lush”.  I drink a beer, glass of wine, or a spirit of some sort maybe one evening a week.  Today I indulged in an orange mimosa long before noon on this September Saturday.  A suppose well-deserved mimosa. A pitcher full would have been divine, but I refrained.  After running errands, my husband and I patronized one of our favorite local eateries, the Main Street Diner in old town St. Peters, Missouri.  Tables were taken, but the cafe bar was open.  We hopped onto a couple of the bar stools, placed our orders for Uncle John’s egg scramble and Cousin’s Jeff’s breakfast plate, and I began to watch the entertainment of the wait staff.  These 4 ladies gave each other the business the whole time, leaving a few jabs for their loyal clientele.  Dean noticed as well.  We laughed along with them.  We also noticed cocktails being served from time to time.  I had not known liquor was served on Saturday mornings at this eatery. Oh my, a mimosa was being prepared!  I love me a mimosa!  My sweetheart ordered me an orange mimosa!  By the time the delicious breakfast food was consumed, I was ready for that mimosa.  Dean watched as my cares went to the wayside.  He took full advantage of my relaxed state with a smooch right on the lips, and immediately afterwards received a smack on the arm and a “stop that PDA” by the “everybody’s mom” waitress.  Too funny!

I am definitely ready for a Saturday of cleaning and laundry while Dean works on the Jeep. And I think I am ready to tackle another week of decision-making with prayer and God’s guidance.  And 1 spirited drink!

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 …

Summer Connects

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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.

Summer Kinships Bloom

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As the summer solstice approaches we relish the vibrant blooms in the gardens and roadside, as well in our homes.  Our dream is to bloom with our kin folk.  Dean and I refurbished our living room, a blend of fresh and vintage.  Midnight, our Labrador is ready for the companionship of kin, and is on the welcome committee at our home.  In the meantime a few recent travels take us to our families in other Missouri towns.  Dean is such a proud father and grandfather.  He carries his digital camera to capture the moments and shares his finds with zeal.

Late April we were blessed with another grandchild.  Elise is Dean’s first born grandchild.  Beautiful baby.  We took the occasion and traveled to meet her early May when she was less than a week old, and another one this past weekend.  The last Saturday in April we honored my deceased father, aunt, and uncle with a Relay For Life team of kin at the cancer relay held downtown St. Louis. Mother’s Day was a visit to an old lookout point in St. Francois County  with my daughters and their families. We had another May day trip to the Missouri Botanical Gardens with my brother and sister-in-law.  And there is summer league baseball with our oldest grandson, Brendan. The first weekend in June we celebrated the 30-year birthday of Dean’s daughter, Liz as well as the birth of our youngest grandchild, Elise.

“Let us be grateful for the people that make us happy, they are the charming gardeners that make our souls blossom.”  Marcel Proust

Co-Thriving

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“Co-exist” is a word that became popular a few years ago. It implies people, critters, and plants living harmoniously on this earth despite our differences. A lofty goal, easier said than done, but is wonderful to experience when it happens. I would rather think “co-thriving”.  I want to thrive rather than just exist. I know there are other people in my world who feel the same.  Even my Labrador, Midnight thrives when people surround, a social animal. My geraniums thrive in the warm and sunny afternoons and a humid Memorial Day rain storm.  Rain finally came after many cloud build-ups this 3-day weekend!

I am hitting the age where more of my colleagues are retiring.  Dean and I attended a happy hour this past week for  one of my friends. More Cardinal ball games and late mornings are in my friend’s new season.  I can be entering that season of life in about 4 years and 4 months. That would be 225 more work weeks. Oh, I forgot I have a few vacation weeks in there as well, but who is counting?! I want to thrive, not merely exist during retirement. Good chance I will do just that because that is what I am doing now. Key is, co-thriving with my Dean, family, and friends. I believe green plants and gardening will fill my days, as well as serving with joy the people God places in my life. Much like today. “And those who were seen dancing were thought to  be insane by those who could not hear the music” Friedrich Nietzsche is quoted.  I hear the music, and I want to dance every season of my life.