What happened to January? The bustling holiday season went into a busy January, and finally a weekend in mid-February set aside to slow down, stay home, read, and write. My blogging and writing curtailed with a new weekday office job, weekends in Farmington, cottage interior projects, and reorganizing. Dean and I last-minute traveled to Eureka Springs, AR to join in my first evening of readings with The Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow. I shared a couple of classics from Emily Dickinson and Christina Rossetti, and then a few of my own poems. I experienced the beatnik snapping fingers. Fun! One poetry submission went out in January. I may be able to get one or two submissions this weekend. My life changed its course starting in December. After working for 18 months with part-time jobs after my retirement from my HR position with the local government, I decided to seek a full-time job where I have dependable hours. I started this HR position just before Christmas. Much more to learn with this generalist role in a smaller organization. Thankful it has been a friendlier culture. I continue to teach a culinary class one or two evenings a month. Diligence and time management are all the more necessary to keep to my writing projects.
One day out of each weekend since Christmas have been helping my daughter, son-in-law, and grandkids who live in Farmington, MO. Their house burned down Christmas night. They escaped with no injuries, thank God! They have a long road to full recovery from this tremendous loss. Miracles after miracles have been witnessed. The other day of each weekend are filled with home projects. The cottage guest bedroom had a face lift on one wall. Dean put up bead board, carefully cutting to fit around the window frame. We will paint the bead board an off-white when the weather warms up this impending spring and the windows can stay open for a day. It really lightens up the room, mellowing the cranberry red wallpaper and keeps to the Edwardian country decor. While Dean worked on that, I have been paring down and reorganizing drawers, closets, and rooms. We did a couple of furniture swaps between bedrooms to simplify access. Now Valentine hearts along with seasonal snowmen and snowbirds dot the rooms with a festive fever. I put together various candy jars for the kids and my fellow HR co-workers. I thoroughly believe gifts of love expressed from the kitchen can be given to everyone you meet.
“There is nothing better than a friend, unless it is a friend with chocolate.”
~ Linda Grayson
“At the end of the day, I believe you lead with your heart. This is all part of who I am, no matter where I am. My heart is my heart.”
“I have dreamed something entirely pretend with my eyes wide open. The sweet wonder of it makes me smile. I believe in the emotions implanted by dreams, for they are not pretend, and they will never cease to bloom.” ~ Richelle E Goodrich
Enough of the cold already! Cloudy skies bring snowflakes, some days more than others. Temperatures have dipped into the single digits on more days than not. I know winter has to run its course, that is the nature of things. But January brought us enough coldness and viruses to last us through the year. I want to play outside, go for walks, and garden. The seed catalogs plant the thoughts and bring on daydreams of flourishing flowers and gorgeous green life. I want to plant more flowering perennials and herbs. And I aim to grow some succulents this year, planting them in unique planters, repurposed vessels to sell in the flea market booth. There isn’t enough room for more plants in the basement, so it will have to wait until spring.
With my allergy to the cold being outdoors is difficult to do without serious repercussions. So I busy myself with reading, decluttering the house, and new writing projects. I submitted poems to six publishers’ contests and challenges this month. The latest is a “black-out poem” with a Valentine theme. I loved the challenge of taking an already published piece and reusing specific words that had meaning to me to write an original poem, then marking out the words I did not want in my poem. The link to my black-out poem will be shared once it is published on Valentine’s Day. Of course, my poem has a culinary theme. That is my other time occupation this winter.
Soups, soups, and more soups! Every week this winter it has been a big pot of soup or chili homemade. They fill our souls and tummies. Chicken-noodle, wild rice & mushroom, Italian stone, and cheesy broccoli soups, and 3-bean chili so far. Speaking of soup, my Italian Stone Soup recipe is featured in the Winter issue of e-Merge online magazine that just published. Click on the link above and make it! Full of veggies and robust flavor. I have refrained from baking sweets and breads. Those holiday cookies were enough to throw off my A1c numbers. I have to be good to my body. Those winter daydreams include fresh picked organic greens from the garden bed. My cooking classes for 2022 finally start up in February. Italian Cooking Made Easy and Cupid’s Brunch are on the agenda for next month. A warm destination occupies those winter daydreams and planned for February, too. More on that next time …
“She was always daydreaming. She never wanted to live in the real world; she always seemed to be separated from other children her age. They couldn’t understand her or her imagination. She was always thinking outside of the box, breaking rules, and only following what her heart told her was right.” ~ Shannon A. Thompson
The COVID pandemic life continues another year with social distancing, masks, vaccines, remote work, and political debates. Dean and I felt more at ease once we received our vaccines early spring. This year became new, uncharted territory when I retired from full-time government administration work in June. Several years without regular pay raises due to tax issues and corruption had something to do with my decision. My inheritance allowed me to make this life change now rather than later. Subsequently, my mental and physical health improved while focusing on different work. God’s new purposes are being revealed to me one day at a time.
I am in full swing to my loves of writing, gardening, cooking, & antiques. I now teach per diem adult & children’s culinary classes at the local community college in their continuing education program. I opened a booth in an antique store & flea market near my daughter’s town and taken other items to resale stores repurposing items once belonging to myself, my mother, & others who donate. I dubbed it “Flock Together Mercantile”, as it is a “birds of a feather” endeavor. Monies earned go towards my daughter’s medical bills to treat her rare nerve disorder. Mom would have approved. A non-profit may be in the future? My life-long passion of writing includes recipes & poems found in eMerge, an online publication as well as my WordPressblogs, & more recently six-word stories on gratitude with Flapper Press. My Seashells poem is included in the book Dairy Hollow Echo that came out in August. This collection of poems & short stories on love, joy, & hope has already made Amazon’s best seller’s list for the anthology category. Since August we once again opened our St. Charles cottage one weekend a month to Airbnb guests. A detached garage with a studio is in the expansion plans for 2023, but maybe sooner. We will be able to offer many more weekends to guests. This year we had installed new roofs for both houses & gutters as well as a new HVAC system for the St. Charles cottage.
Dean & I road tripped several times, keeping off airplanes during the pandemic. Besides, it’s the journey getting there as well as the destination. Late March into April, we visited family & friends in Arkansas, Texas, and western Missouri. We searched, finally found the Texas bluebonnets blooming in the fields as we visited during their early season. We enjoyed a family weekend in Branson in early June. During the summer I spent a week in Eureka Springs at The Writing Colony at Dairy Hollow in their culinary suite. What a lovely experience, a week to just write, make culinary creations, & meet other writers. A September week included cranberry bogs & festival in Wisconsin, & a millinery boutique in Galena, Illinois where we purchased Edwardian-style hats for a costume party. Dean’s cousin, Leigh passed away in October, traveled to Arkansas for her memorial services. Mid-November was another weekend in Branson & where we will finish the year there with family all wearing our red buffalo check attire. In 2021 Missouri celebrates her 200th year as a state in the Union. Dean & I saw so many places & towns taking the country state & county highways this year. We discovered the quaint Missouri River town of Glasgow while staying at Dean’s classmate’s charming inn, The Orchard House Inn. A few Friday nights were enjoyed at the DeSoto CIA Hall where my childhood friend serves an elaborate menu to the local community while her partner plays old country-western, gospel tunes. Our Saturday nights we still watch the Opry show on the Circle Network with country radio personality, Bobby Bones. Hope to be in Nashville in 2022 to see a live Opry show.
A spring tea party, birthday celebrations, memorial services, a nephew’s wedding, long weekends, & holidays brought us together with family. Dean & I’s eight grandchildren continue to grow, ages now range from 20 years old to 14 months. Our six grown children work hard at their occupations & homes. A stray puppy found on the streets near my daughter’s came home with me for a week until we found a home for Peanut Butter. Dean’s brother & family adopted & renamed him Scout PB. My twin sister, older brother, sister-in-law, Dean, & I cleaned out my mother’s villa this summer. We made some minor repairs, put it on the market, & the home sold at a price higher than we asked for. Dean’s parents have had a difficult year. His mother fell, requiring hip surgery with a slow, but sure recovery. I spent a week & Dean most of November in KC helping his parents, making their house more safely accessible.
Dean hopes to retire in about four years. I picture him in free-lance research & consulting after his work with the National Archives, as his love for history is broad. He returned to the federal building two days a week this autumn, works remotely the other three days. My 61-years old hubby remains in good health; tall, dark, & handsome as ever in his salt & pepper hair. Dean tinkers with his plane models or the bird feeders where he tries to make them squirrel-proof. Key word is “tries”. A December tornado just missed our greenhouse/screenhouse in Defiance. Spring greens from the screenhouse still fill our salad bowls during the warm weather months. Harvested herbs spice up our dishes during the winter months. Our hydrangea blooms provide texture and color the year round inside & out. We revel over the maroon pansies blooming on the porch planter late into December, the longest growing season that I recall. No white Christmas here. In 2022 I hope to complete my first book of short stories with a culinary theme as well as a poetry chapbook. Meantime, I write & will submit to more literary magazines & websites. Our feathered derby & cloche hats wait on the chaise for our next outing on the town. Established routines such as quiet time, prayers, & journaling are interwoven with such spontaneity. The days do not have to be same old, same old. Revere each day & moment like a gift. Then it becomes just that, a gift even on the difficult days. Sometimes it’s a simple red apple from the fruit basket, or a fancy wrapped package. Untie the bow, unwrap the paper. There is something wonderful inside for you. God-given.
No winter-like simulation now, it is the real deal. The winter weather seems to be sticking around for more than a few days. Icy, sleety, and snowy last week, and again this week dipping into the teens overnight and staying below or close to freezing during the day. Due to budget constraints our winter vacation week was decidedly best to stay in our home state of Missouri this year. No expensive sandy beaches to sunbathe on. Making the most of our budget and what our state has to offer during this winter season, Dean and I chose to visit our state’s Ozark Mountains. Most of our vacation budget is for a lovely lodge in the woods, the journey there only a 5-hour drive from home. Home-cooked meals prepared in a well-stocked kitchenette, and an occasional meal out satisfy us both. Every night a vignette of soft lights dot the mountain sides from the valley we are nestled in.
Dean and I venture out on half-day trips for a couple of days, visiting small towns and cousins. We went target shooting at an outdoor range one afternoon. We meander into northern Arkansas part of the week. Naked hardwood trees, pines, and cedars clothe the mountains along with icicled cliffs and crags much like glittered ornaments. Flowing valley streams, swooping birds of prey, and cattle feeding in the fields are the only movement around. Dormancy is what we experience, and what we need. Oxford’s online dictionary defines dormancy … “the state in which a plant is alive but not actively growing” and with this sentence example “dormancy allows woody plants to survive these unfavorable conditions”.
The quiet, unassuming beauty of the woods in dormancy stills my busy body, mind, and soul. Very present moment several times each day, a retreat without structure. Just being, breathing in and out, and audibly awake. It is not necessary to block out the static and noise of my job, the house, and almost no obligations as I am far enough away from these occupations. Words come in and out on occasion, Dean and I relating this quiet vacation week to our retirement years. Some words make a page in my journal, and others are just thoughts in dormancy for a later writing in favorable conditions and more life lived.
This year I am ending the summer season of my wellness career. The autumn season of my career follows, short and sweet like Missouri’s autumns with the winter season close behind. The dormant season always emerges into a glorious spring song. A book of collected letters, Letters To A Young Poet, poet Rainer Maria Rilke urges the young budding poet, Franz Xavier Kappus to look inward and know what motivates his own writing. Rilke encourages the development of a rich inner life which is the process of creative art. “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet. In today’s words, live today, be present moment. Some answers come eventually.
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.
Thick arrow pointing to the left and up, made from plenty of colorful jigsaw puzzle pieces separated on white background.
Every day brings a ship, Every ship brings a word; Well for those who have no fear, Looking seaward well assured That the word the vessel brings Is the word they wish to hear.
This poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson is called Letters. Letters are a type of communique, a collection of words intended for a person or persons. Letters have been written for years, centuries, and millenniums. Their forms have been on stone tablets, metal, wood, paper, electronic mail (e-mail), Messenger, and even the Bible mentions words have been scripted on the heart. Yes, words are heart matters. Read a poem, letter, scripture passage, blog post, or journal page, and you can feel the author’s heart.
This poem mentions a hope for the word(s) one wishes to hear. What do you hope to hear today? “I love you.” “I am sorry.” “I need you.” “I am okay.” “I miss you.” “You are healed.” “Forgiveness.” “Thinking of you.” “See you soon.” “I am trying.” …
The next question: What word(s) can you share with someone today? My words to share today are “I love you despite all my imperfections and your imperfections.”
Below I share the blog of another blogger I follow on Word Press. This was written on More Herbs, Less Salt Day, which was yesterday on my birthday. I never heard of such a day, a good cause for another celebration besides a birthday! Apparently More Herbs, Less Salt Day originated by a eccentric couple who own Wellcat Herbs. They grow their own herbs and sell herbal products from their Pennsylvania home and gardens. I share these herbalists’ love of herbs on a part-time basis.
Enjoy this blog …
Here we are, all the way into the August of another year. The garden is exploding. I think that a vegetable garden shouldn’t just be functional…it should be pretty to look at. So come see how my garden grows…and shows. And, yes, I’m here to suggest you put that salt grinder down. Herbs. I love. Here’s […]
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.
“Paraphernalia” is an underused word. In most cases it conveys “drugs”. According to Widipedia, it is “apparatus, equipment, or furnishing used for a particular activity”. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paraphernalia.) For me gardening is a necessity of life. As the Thomas Jefferson quote states, “no culture comparable to that of the garden.” It is my therapy, and I relish the fruits of my labor. A greenhouse, leather gloves, muck boots, dresser planters, troughs, a weather vane, and even writing this garden blog are paraphernalia. They are not necessary for a garden, but they each make the gardener’s or farmer’s chore easier, more enjoyable, gives life. Plus gardening becomes an art form, an expression from the heart as St. Francis of Assisi told us hundreds of years ago. Cooking from the heart with what I receive from my garden is an art form, too. Just as writing on this WordPress blog.
Dean and I are northward bound in 8 days. We will have a 7-day visit with friends who are family to us. The birth of a book has taken place at this destination. More of the family story will be told to us. While in Minnesota we will take a country day-trip to peruse some local antique shoppes and flea markets. We are looking for a unique, artsy weathervane to place atop the teepee-shaped trellis we made with repurposed steel poles for our gourds vines. We will scout out some narrow wooden troughs for window boxes to plant our overabundance of airplane plants and wandering jews. What garden “paraphernalia” do you enjoy?
I am counting down the days now to our summer escape to my favorite northern destination in Minnesota. 62 days to be exact. Island Lake between Detroit Lakes and Park Rapids at Valhalla Resort is the place to be. The steady lapping of the water across the sandy shoreline, I long to hear. And the loons with their young calling out to the others, echos in the morning air. The swift tide brings gemmy and shell treasures along the shoreline with mossy driftwood after an afternoon storm. Just the quiet of a summer evening is what I desire. Simple. No city lights, just the northern stars and shining moon to guide my walk along the gravel road to the campfire sparks awaiting for more friends to join.
During those days of rest, a book or two will be at hand to read. Poetry felt. More words to spill onto my journal, eventually onto this blog. Last summer was the genesis of another writing genre, a literary affair with history and romance. Dean and I’s first. Another new adventure for us, probably a several year project with military and history research with 1st and 2nd hand accounts from the Minnesotan locals. Nature walks and shady naps under the birch trees abade.
Of course, the other escape is the garden. Someone’s other than mine, where I do not have to work in it, just be. All the senses awakened. Planted purple lobelia, pink impatiens, and contrasting green native ferns glisten with dewdrops of the crisp mornings. Vignettes of wrought-iron and wooden creations, the ambiance of charm. Fragrant organic tea and delicious strawberry bread shared with my friend while sparrows chirp and chipmunks scurry. I cannot wait to be at Valhalla once again.
Other destinations are on the horizon, I see a place for Dean and I to call “our own”. “Because there’s nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline, no matter how many times its sent away,” poet Sarah Kay writes. “Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So … get on your way,” Dr. Suess encourages us. See where this life leads us …
Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. ~William Wordsworth