Tag Archives: friends

Our Midnight

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Our Midnight.  Midnight was the extended Bates and Gall family pet and everyone’s friend. His vivacious, contagious spirit made you laugh and love life.  Midnight loved his Dean, and the special attention Dean gave him.  He loved people.  He loved our kids and grandkids, “his kids”.  He loved the many friends and family who visited our home. Whined and cried with happiness when any one came to visit “him”, of course.  He loved his Elisabeth, stayed at her side after every chemo treatment until she was back on her feet.  He loved the morning ritual of seeing Libby and Brendan onto the school bus.  He loved crockpot dinner and Chinese carry-out nights.  He loved his evening walks especially those that included a DQ ice cream cup.  He loved going out to “the farm”.  Midnight loved lakes and creeks, and chasing  after all the waterfowl that lived in them.  But he hated thunderstorms.  Major anxiety raced his pounding heart except oddly for those he embraced outside.  One of my fondest memories was being on the boat dock of cabin #2 at Valhalla Resort on Island Lake in Minnesota.  The thunderheads rolled in above the lake so abruptly like the cap-size waves that July evening.  Midnight and I faced the storm together while missing our Dad who passed away too soon to enjoy that evening with us.  We ran together for shelter once the lightning strikes began. And that story reminds me of the time Dean, Midnight, and I ran for the shelter from a tornado overhead while at the farm and greenhouse.  The whirling winds rocked our van just inches from the creek.  I think all three of us had a few more gray hairs after that adventure!

Our Midnight passed away on Monday, June 11.  And yes, this is our Midnight’s eulogy. Our 13-1/2 year old Labrador-flat coat retriever mix was 115 years old in human years.  It came suddenly, the vet said his body gave way to old age.  Midnight lived and loved 5 generations of the Bates/Gall family.  He was given to my Grandpa Earl and Grandma Paula as a Christmas gift in 2004.  Puppy love with huge paws.  Grew into a 90-lb adult dog, too much for my elderly grandparents to handle.  In turn my Dad adopted Midnight, trained him to be an excellent waterfowl retriever.  This pet came to live at the 99 Jane house with Dean and I after my father passed away 5-1/2 years ago.  Sometimes a crowded house, but always had room for our Midnight.  For a few days Midnight lived with Dean’s parents when we all were displaced from our home after the main water line flood.  One night our dog stayed with a kind family after he wandered off through an unlatched gate, no thanks to the contractor during our house addition.  Oddly enough, this family lived one field over from where I grew up on the tree farm in St. Peters.  Our handsome Midnight had been dubbed “Nerm” and “Hercules”, and I cannot explain why.  Our easygoing dog co-existed with 5 different house cats during his time with us.  Beyond tolerable, he was sociable to his feline companions especially during the late evening cat treat time all gathered in Dean and I’s bedroom every night.  He made a few doggy friends … Nasa, Mokie, Jesse, Bleu, Beatrice, Barry, Daisy, Gus, Molly, Parker, Roman, another Molly, Shawnee, Peyton, Ellie, Eddie, Max … learned to accept or avoid the young whipper-snappers as he became an old man dog.

Midnight is greatly missed, our hearts feel an emptiness yet privileged to have known him and feel his love.  Our Midnight.  We will always love you.

 

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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.

 

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.

The Stories, The Secrets, and The Heart

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God, we each need You to make us “as pure, as white as snow”. None of us are without sin.  People throw the stones, yet the person doing the castinJapanese Maple in Snowg have a few secrets they would like no one to know.  No one is exempt from the stinky secrets.  And if you think you are, then help and support the person who is not perfect rather than casting the stones. If the truth be told, the stories go like this … your married colleague had an emotional affair with the boss, the brother-in-law, the postman … or did it go further?  God knows.  Or how about the man whose wife caught him having an internet affair on a porn site?  Or the real live children and women exploited on the web, many unknowingly, secretly photographed by perverts?  Guarantee there is a story behind how these photo subjects got there.  One could hear the gossip of that neighbor or co-worker, yet never ask for the truth.  The gossip just spreads until the truth is marred.  How about the assaults that happen on campus, at work, or even in homes with more threats to follow? Bullying can happen among families as well.  What about the unloved wife, what the Bible labels an abomination?  Her husband wants to have an “open marriage” despite their marital vows to purity.  Or the spouse who cleverly justifies their spending addictions?  How about your battle with a spouse’s drinking problem, or yours?  Or the woman whose husband refuses to provide for his family, sits at home in depression, poor and pitiful?  Or the relative battling with an addiction to prescription pain killers, or the person living with constant pain because they cannot afford a doctor’s care?  A secret eating disorder or gambling problem?   The stories go on … Don’t have to look far for the faults of your brother, but how about fixing your own?  If you still think you are exempt, then pray for the rest of us, please.  God, through Jesus and the guidance of the Holy Spirit make us “as pure, as white as snow” in 2016.

Duck Audacity And Boats n Birds Bobbin

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Bird life on Island Lake this summer is very active. Forty-one loons and counting as more were being hatched this week. Two families of ducks frequent the boat dock and lake side looking for handouts. Apparently vacationers were feeding them, and the presence of more people posed the promise of more handouts. Duck audacity was proudly displayed even with our 85-lb labrador, Midnight present. Midnight had a whining fit as we kept him on the porch until the ducks and ducklings were back in water swimming safely onto their next destination. Flies, butterflies, and dragonflies flew with the breeze. Owls by night and chipmunks by day sat on the tree limbs watching the life underneath. Co-existence.
The summer rains followed Dean, my sister, and I to our beloved Minnesota. It rained everyday we were at Island Lake. But each day also included some sunshine and low 80’s. Thunderheads would build up with steam as the day went along. Then, the winds would blow the rain across the lake in sheets, causing ripples and then white caps in the lake. The cool north air would follow. Those storms created some awesome views from the porch of our favorite little red cabin or the boat dock. Dean captured a few awesome photos. Our Midnight embraced the noisy storms outdoors or on the porch with us. The thunder sounds different at Island Lake than in our Missouri home. Momma loon and her baby weathered the white caps in the bay, bobbin with each wave. Dean caught the reflection in the water as a double rainbow arched above the lake. Friendships continue after so many years. And new ones form even amongst the dogs. Another memorable week at Valhalla.

Midsummer Day

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The Country Diary Of An Edwardian Lady by Edith HoldenI 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.

Valhalla Sunset & Camp Fire

Valhalla Sunset & Camp Fire

Yesterday was the Midsummer Day in the US, the longest day of the year. A much celebrated day in the Old World and other countries around the world, but especially so amongst farm cultures and country folk. For some it is held on June 23 or 24. There are many rituals, most common is a bonfire. I had not the opportunity to have a bonfire for the summer solstice as we celebrated Father’s Day in Columbia, Missouri with family at a steak house. Does the flame from the grill count? No, I don’t think so. But the company and food was good. And it is not too long until the Minnesota destination of Valhalla on Island Lake. I will be memorized by the flames of many bonfires and the sound of chatter amongst friends.

Where Does One Begin?

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Sandra Witthaus Rau Where does one begin to understand the timing of one’s life in this world? This complexity of life and death, and there are many, seems to be a mystery. I cannot comprehend with my mind, and my heart wrenches that my cousin, Sandra Witthaus Rau was taken from us on June 3. But with faith in my loving God, the Father, I pray for comfort and peace for Sandra’s son, daughter, brother, grandson, and so many family and friends. Sandra wrote poems and expressed words of wisdom beyond her years, shared with those God placed in her life. An old soul yet her laughter and zeal was contagious, and kept her young. A year ago I asked on this Word Press blog “Is The Grass Greener?”, and Sandra shared such timely advice and with grace. And it is true, Sandra, “The grass is always greener where you water it – With Love, Laughter, Family and Friends”. The last bit of wisdom left on Sandra’s FB account on May 23:
~Slow down sometimes~
Life often gets out of control. We live in busy times and as much as we try to take a step back and live in the moment often that’s just not possible. Before we know it a week has passed. A month. Maybe even a year or two.
People tell us to stop and smell the roses but instead all we see is the work that has to be done to make those roses grow. The digging and planting. The weeding and watering. Everywhere we turn we run into duties and responsibilities, tasks and chores. All those things that need to get done to make our world turn.
Is that the life we envisioned when people used to ask us what we wanted to be when we grew up? Weren’t we going to be ballerinas, astronauts and magicians? But that’s life. It has a tendency to do the unplanned. It does it without regard or consideration for our feelings or objections. It throws us in at the deep end with no life ring in sight and says swim.
Maybe we just need to embrace the unpredictability with open arms rather than constantly fight it. And more importantly, we need to see those roses for what they really are. A chance to breathe. An opportunity to live life at its fullest. A real blessing. Because after all, there are only so many roses left for each one of us.

All Of Me
Sandra, you are terribly missed. And I know you are with Grandma, cousin Billy, your Mother, your Father, and your Uncle Marty now. For this I rest my mind and find peace. I love you, Sandra!

Snuckered In

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SnowflakesThe midwest blizzard and subzero temperatures have Dean and I snuckered in the past two days. Recovering from an upper respiratory infection, the cold air has kept me inside with hot herbal tea, fresh baked scones, fragrant glowing candles, and the love of my husband to keep my body and soul warm. Home is the place to be. Business comes to a halt as most offices are closed. We can choose to be stifled or set free. Cannot deny the snow is so beautiful, perfectly white. Snowflakes patterned a glittery shooting star on the kitchen window. Neighborhood Eurasian tree sparrows discover our cedar wreath blown under our wagon as a shelter. The berries fed our feathered friends. Photos were captured with Dean’s new digital camera. And then our red adirondack chairs contrasting with the white. The sunshine and wind cast everchanging shadows with snow drifts. Cannot wait to see the photos. “Photography… it’s the way to educate your eyes, stare, pry, listen, eavesdrop …” St. Louis born photographer Walker Evans has been quoted. We did not have to go for a hike in the country today as our home’s window panes framed the wintery scenes.

The Dust of Everyday Life

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At times life can get messy or just plain mundane. A change of pace is in order, but another trip north isn’t feasible. So this past week and weekend I spent my leisure time in St. Charles, Missouri as well as worked my second job in the same historical town. The weekend I sold spices and gave out culinary advise to visitors and locals while at the spice shoppe on historic Main Street. One of my creative expressions, the culinary arts comes alive while there. Thursday night was an open house affair at the Foundry Art Centre in Frenchtown, where the French immigrants settled in this town over 200 years ago. Met some local artists, and viewed some creative art pieces in their studios. For the audience, “The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.” Aristotle tells us. I think and feel when I gander at artwork. While at the art centre I entered into a raffle for a pair of tickets to a September concert featuring the Man In Black, a Johnny Cash retro singer along with his band. And I won that raffle! Friday night was a catch-up double date with my brother and sister-in-law at Picasso’s Coffee House on historic Main Street. We talked about their trip to Hawaii and our trip to Minnesota, and about the kids and grandkids. Picasso’s has all the artsy ambiance that its name signifies and sharing “the art of coffee”. Folks sipping on coffee, tea, or spirits listening to a local jazz trio, Peaches. A couple of other locals brought their saxophones billowing high notes to the low bass, so it made the group a lively quint for a few songs. A famous Picasso quote is painted onto a wall of the local establishment. “Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.” For the artist, musician, culinaire, author, and gardener a cleansing is experienced while engaged in their art form. Creating pots and gardens with plants and garden art definitely does this for me. I transplanted blooming red geraniums into the large planters outside the greenhouse this weekend. These 4-month old cuttings had good root systems, ready for a broaden growing space. Coming up with our signature flower, the geranium must be it as I primp and fuss with them everytime I am at the farm. I am learning how to grow them organically, friendly on the ecosystem. Once I had a geranium for over 6 years, bringing it indoors every winter. It would shed leaves through the dormant months, and I would wonder if it would come back once May finally arrived. Every now and then it would bloom while near the kitchen patio door, white snow in the contrasting background. Always in a terra cotta pot awaiting the spring and summer months. One year for Christmas gifts I created some book marks for my foodie friends with this saying,“Friendship, like geraniums bloom in the kitchen.” Not sure who to credit for those words, as many people have quoted it, but it is true on both accounts. I want to take a try growing scented and ivy varieties. Though the old-fashioned red contrasting with the broad green leaves are my favorite palette. I will bring my geraniums inside late autumn, sheltered from the cold, non-electric greenhouse and outdoors. Pruning and propagating once again for next spring. Life continues …

The Year of The Mattress

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ValhallaValhallaMap
Dean and I along with our labrador-flat coat retriever mix, Midnight arrive at the 60+ year old cabin situated on Island Lake just at sundown. Oranges, pinks, and purples kiss the lake “good night” and welcome us. It’s been a long haul from St. Charles County, Missouri to this Minnesota paradise. But so much worth the road trip. Weekday and weekend warriors cannot stop on vacation either. We had taken the extra long route following the Mississippi River highways. So a 12-hour trip became a 15-hour trip. The meandering scenery had slowed our pace down before arriving at this moment. Midnight climbs out of the SUV from his secure kennel into what I think my father described to him as heaven. Our dog gazed wide-eyed at this expansive beautiful lake recounting the aquatic tales his deceased master had told him, I am sure. Into the lake he went, lapping water and going for his doggy swim in Island Lake. Just 2 minutes to realize heaven was here, and my father’s spirit present.
Our first night at the cabin we unloaded the SUV, then gathered jackets and a flashlight onward bound by foot just up the road with our dog. The little green cabin had folks congregated there near a campfire. We met up with my childhood friends and greeted new ones from as far away as Norway. Midnight gets acquainted with more labradors, the natural breed of our 4-legged friends in the land of 10,000 lakes. Before we know it, the time passes midnight with the campfire still aflame. Embers will be there in the morning to start a skillet breakfast. We head back to our lakeside cabin, choosing the front bedroom of the 2-bedroom pine-lined dwelling. I climb into bed too tired to have a spring from the mattress just about empale me. We’ll sleep in the back bedroom tonight and deal with the mattress issue tomorrow. We discovered the back bedroom mattress was not much better as Dean and I are forced to meet in the middle. This mattress’ sunken center provided cozy quarters for this exhausted yet still honeymooning couple. Our backs ache in the morning begging for more support. Dean flips over the empaling mattress to its other side to discover the year of the mattress … 1971. Why that is the first year my father along with my mother and their 4 children ventured to this heavenly northern destination in a Chevy Impala. Now don’t cast too much judgement on this mattress date. The cabins are only used 3 – 4 months out of the year, so a normal 10-year mattress can go to 30 – 40 years. So at 42-years old, it might be due for replacing.
Electronics, computer and TV are non-existent in the cabins. While on this get away, Dean chose to use his basic cell phone on occasion. I took a vacation from it all. This post was written last week, scrawled onto my paper journal … I awoke this morning before sunrise. Is it night still? No clock to check as we are in a time warp at this northern lake retreat. In just a few minutes I see a tinge of blue in the black sky. I take this moment to observe the day’s beginning. I slip on my jeans and sweatshirt and quietly step onto the screened porch. Those moments of complete silence, no human awake just nature and I welcome the morning in this neck of the woods. Our dog, Midnight stretches on the porch and awaits at the porch door to be let out. He, too embraces morning’s arrival this day. There is something special about living in the present moment. All senses akeen, see the colors change before my eyes recognizing the picturesque treeline before me. The loons cry out as the fog lifts from the lake. Misty vapors keep my skin and clothes damp, I smell and taste the lake, and I remember my father’s love of this place. His planning, mapping, and research of his yearly fishing trip started in January when the tree farming and landscape designing was at a hault. My father was a planner, and I too like him. Yet this present moment reels me back to reality. I would have missed this unforgetable sunrise had I rolled over and slept in another morning of my vacation … ducks, a blue heron, and even a night owl calling it a night show themselves amongst the pines, birches, and cattails. The dragonflies are now flitting about, illuminating more color for this overcast day. The brisk morn may see a rain shower before the warm noon sun. No boat on the lake, that I hear or see, and 2 hours into this day … In 1971 and several years to follow, my father would have been out on the lake by now catching walleye and bass for that evening’s dinner. Way before my siblings or I and definitely my mother opened an eyelid. I miss my father today like everyday. This place called Valhalla is heaven on earth, and was my father’s favorite place while he was alive on earth. Somehow he is with Midnight, Dean, and I. It is called eternal life …
For my siblings and I Valhalla meant playing with friends all day with very little chores. We would play h-o-r-s-e in the barn, swim in the cold lake, boat rides, hide-n-seek with the fireflies lighting the path, and a campfire with songs and roasted marshmallows. Those young teenage years I wanted to be on the receiving end of another kiss from a cute Norwegian boy, my Minnesota friends’ visiting cousin. To me Valhalla is about people, kind-hearted genuine folks. The mild summer and lake fish bring the people. But the people bring life to the vacation. The summer visitors enjoy fish fries, potlucks, smokey breakfast skillets, and campfire tales. This year the fish fry, skillet breakfast, fire grilled pizzas, and lemon rice krispies treats make the food highlights. More Norwegian cousins entertain the family and friends this year. I miss my Norwegian friend from my childhood, and his cousin promises to persuade his return to Valhalla next summer. Initimate moments we share about the death and memory of loved ones. Songs were sung at church and at the campfire. Yes, my Scrabble game had kinder words reflecting my kinder, at peace thoughts this restful week. The year of the mattress did not reflect the oldness of 1971, but the goodness.