Gathering…

Hi Friends!

April showers have continued to drench the Midwest throughout May this year. We have already endured seventeen days of rain this month. Our rainiest May in 149 years has kept most gardeners indoors, as we study the weather forecast daily hoping for sunshine and warmer temperatures. Each day, our hearts have been heavy for those who are truly suffering in the aftermath of severe flooding and destructive tornadoes across our country.

May is always my very favorite month in the garden. Alas, this year’s Garden Journal holds only sparse notes of an hour here or there: tidying up the Herb & Tea garden, emptying the rain gauge, sweeping the Elm and Maple seeds from the front porch, and cutting bouquets of Lilacs and Lily-of-the-Valley. Mowing the lawn between rainstorms has taken a bit of strategic planning!

However, with our abundance of Spring rain,

Β all of the blooming trees are just glorious!

While dreaming of sunshine,

I have been gathering inspiration on impromptu Artist Dates. πŸ™‚

I took an early morning walk through a favorite park during Lilac Time.

Although I went to enjoy the beautiful Lilacs…

it was the magnificent Tulips that captured my fancy.

As I wandered through the park,

I gathered new inspiration for watercolors and ink combinations.

The designer who planned these sweeping beds

last Fall truly had an artistic vision!

As I paused to soak in all of Nature’s beauty…

I was inspired to make notes about ink colors.

Very soon, my little Paper Garden studio downstairs

will be blooming

with stamped, layered flowers for handmade cards.

Rainy days seem to call for a cup of tea, a cozy afghan, and a good book. I just finished reading The Art of Gathering, by Priya Parker. The author brings a fascinating background and her expertise in conflict resolution to this engaging book on creating transformative gatherings of many kinds. Priya Parker dives deep into many different types of gatherings throughout the world designed to intentionally bring people closer. Whether we gather for business meetings, family reunions, weddings, birthday celebrations, to mourn, or to experience something new, the author takes us step-by-step through the art and science of planning truly memorable gatherings.

As I read, I reflected on so many different types of wonderful gatherings over the years ~ those powerful moments in my primary classroom, inspiring workshops, unique gatherings of friends, and our most heartwarming family gatherings. We can all remember those very special, often unexpected gatherings that impacted us in powerful ways and created lasting memories.

Priya Parker teaches us that these transformative gatherings begin with an interesting purpose that matches a true need in our life. She shares ideas that help us understand who to include and who to temporarily exclude when planning purposeful, powerful gatherings that bring people closer together and inspire us to take action.

Oh, my goodness, I made notes as I read. I have always dreamed of bringing together the special people in my life who have never met one another in purposeful, small groups. πŸ™‚ With thoughtful planning, just imagine the conversations and inspiration that would happen at such gatherings! β™₯

(Watch Priya Parker’s recent TED Talk here. It’s wonderful!)

Although I read The Art of Gathering on my own, I think it would make a very interesting Book Club selection. Readers would be able to share past gatherings and what made them so memorable. Creating events that bring people together with a unique purpose can have lasting power!

As I read The Art of Gathering, my thoughts also turned to our little gathering place for kindred spirits here at Petals.Paper.SimpleThymes. β™₯ Our quiet, little blog is five years old now! πŸ™‚Β  (You might enjoy reading about how our blog began in this post.)Β  I’m so very grateful for the old friends who have been visiting from the very beginning and the new friends who discover us and and join in the fun. I love to learn from you and am inspired by all that you share in your thoughtful comments. I truly appreciate you spending a bit of your precious time gathering here with us. YOU are often mentioned on the Gratitude page in my journal. Heartfelt thanks for always being here!

In anticipation of our 5th Anniversary, I have been making some changes behind the scenes here. There is a brand new About page. I have updated the Inspiration page and have included a few Podcasts that I’ve been enjoying lately. The Favorites page contains two fabulous, new stamp companies that have won my heart with their unique designs and truly wonderful customer service. The Say Hello page is an easy way to reach me anytime via email.

I also added a new Category, making it easy to search for blog posts that interest you most. In addition to Petals (gardening posts), Paper (cardmaking, bullet journaling, watercoloring posts,…), and Simple Thymes (life’s simple pleasures, family stories, antiquing, nature walks, travels,…), we now have an Inspiring Books category. Searching Inspiring Books will pull up all of the posts about books that have moved me to take action. These books taught me wonderful lessons and prompted me to make real changes! I hope that you will find them valuable, too.

It is our gatherings and connections that make life extra-sweet. Although I love the creative process of making cards, my very favorite part is sending my cards off in the mail to touch hearts. Although I am energized by the creative process of writing and shooting photos for each blog post, I find true JOY in our connection in the comments that you leave here. I love taking the time to read and answer each comment. I hope you feel comfortable chatting with one another here, too! Kindred spirits always gather here… and that’s something truly wonderful to celebrate! β™₯

Just wondering

β™₯Β  What gathering has made an unexpected, powerful impact on you? What made this gathering different from all of the others?

β™₯Β  Do you prefer gathering with people who are much like you or do you enjoy meeting people who are different, yet open to a shared experience?

β™₯Β  Do you find large gatherings or small gatherings more enjoyable?

β™₯Β  Is there a special gathering that you would love to plan some day?

Hope you will share your thoughts with all of us…

 

Please stay safe throughout this long, holiday weekend,

especially if dangerous weather threatens.

Let’s take a moment on Memorial Day to honor all those

who gave their lives for the freedoms we enjoy every day.

 

With love and gratitude,

β™‘ Dawn

 

 

 

 

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Twelve Miles

Hi Friends!

Twelve miles!

Twelve joyous, little miles!

I’m feeling so very blessed!

For the past twenty-five years, visits with my parents meant: a taxi ride, airport security lines, a 3.5 hour flight, and a Super Shuttle ride to their lovely desert home. We traveled 1,800 miles each way to visit them and they traveled 1,800 miles each way to visit us. There were always so many happy “Welcome” hugs… and so many teary-eyed “Take Good Care of Each Other” hugs…

Just two weeks ago, we helped our parents begin the next chapter

of their amazing love story!

Best of all, they are now living just twelve miles away!!

My parents chose a lovely apartment in a brand new Senior Living Community. This new, easier lifestyle offers three chef-prepared meals each day, lots of activities, housekeeping services, transportation, and a very kind, caring staff always willing to lend a hand.

Their new community offers convenience, with several dining rooms, a small library, fitness center, movie theater, hair salon, and several activity rooms. When the warm weather arrives, there are beautiful outdoor spaces to gather, as well.

As their needs change, my parents will be able to move through a full spectrum of care ~ Independent Living, Assisted Living, Transitional Memory Care, and Full Memory Care.

The entire community is filled with inviting gathering spaces that encourage neighbors to leave their apartments and make healthy, happy connections with one another. Everyone is brand new and making friends together! It’s so nice to hear new friends laughing, making connections, and networking with one another. πŸ™‚

Thankfully, everything went smoothly on Moving Day. After the movers left, our family began slowly unpacking boxes together, meeting the new neighbors, and gradually learning our way around the community. This is a time of huge transition for our parents and all of the new residents.

I have been spending lots of time with my parents each day and have watched them slowly embrace their new lifestyle. The other day, as I looked around the dining room, I noticed daughters sitting with their parents at every table. πŸ™‚ We are a ‘sisterhood’ of caregivers! It has been very nice getting to know the other daughters, too.

Change can be extremely hard!!

Throughout this challenging time of change,

over the past two years,

I have been very intentional about counting my blessings out loud.

My Self-Care Journal helped to document

this very difficult cross-country journey

month-by-month.

My monthly ‘Gratitude’ and ‘Reasons to Be Proud’ pages

are filled with the people and moments

that have become a special part of our family’s story.

So grateful for…

My husband’s love and support every step of the way!

My parents’ strength as they endured our very long, unbelievably cold and snowy winter. Their first Midwest winter in 25 years was extremely hard on them!

The special memories we made together during their stay at our home! We proved that love grows best in small houses. Life was really cozy here in our tiny bungalow!

Patience… as repeated construction and staffing delays postponed my parents’ move-in day from: the end of December, to early January, mid-January, early February, to mid-March!! We just kept looking forward to the promise of a new, easier lifestyle that I made to my parents when we left warm, sunny Arizona back in early December.

Hugs… lots of hugs!

 

So very grateful for…

Excellent medical care when my dad suffered a heart attack at our home in early February. The paramedics arrived in just two minutes. The doctors, nurses, and hospitalist that helped my dad during his hospital stay were amazing!

My mom’s bravery during this frightening emergency! My mom and I stayed at the hospital day and night with my dad throughout his stay. My brothers and my husband were there with us every day.

The kindness of a dear friend who came to the hospital with cozy blankets, pillows, slippers, and a curling iron πŸ™‚ to make those many overnight stays easier for my mom and I.

The concern of friends and family who called, offered prayers, sent flowers, offered to bring us meals, and sent emails and cards during my dad’s lengthy recovery at home. Your kindness will always be cherished by our family!

My parents’ Arizona friends who called and sent cards of encouragement.

Hugs… so very healing!

 

So grateful for…

My parents’ positive attitude as we planned for our mid-March move-in day! Moving is always very stressful, but we all kept making plans and counting down the days together.

So much help from my brothers and my husband throughout Moving week! We each offered our strengths: muscle power, assembling furniture, technology support, and detailed planning. Teamwork made everything easier!

New friends and neighbors!

The friendly, helpful staff at my parents’ new Senior Living Community.

YOU, dear blog friends! Thank you so much for continuing to visit our little blog throughout the quiet months. It truly warmed my heart to see visitors, from near and far, reading older posts each day. What a joy to hear from you, too! Skype chats and FaceTime chats added delight to my days! Our friendships continue to grow stronger and deeper. My heart is full! β™₯β™₯

New beginnings!  During April, I look forward to writing more often, visiting with friends again, time in the garden, and adding a bit more creative playtime to my days.

Look for the small joys

tucked into the corners

of each day!

 

Warmest hugs for stopping to visit today!

β™‘ Dawn

 

 

 

 

A New Rhythm

Hi Friends!

Brrrrr! The Polar Vortex arrived overnight bringing dangerous, record-breaking cold to the Midwest. We woke up to temperatures of -25 F (-31.6 C) with windchill temperatures of -50 F (-45.6 C). The loud sounds of ‘Frost Quakes’ can be heard as our soil reacts to the rapid temperature change. Today we are only four degrees warmer than Antarctica!Β 

Most schools here are closed today, mail delivery has been cancelled, and many people have decided to spend the day at home. We are very grateful for those who brave the Arctic temperatures to provide vital services. Friends and neighbors have been checking in to see if anyone needs help. Each time I peek out the window, I am so grateful for the heavy blanket of snow that is protecting my garden as it sleeps. Wherever you are today, we hope you are safe and warm!

Bright sunshine is streaming through the lace curtains in our dining room as I write. Pumpkin muffins are in the oven and a pot of tea is brewing. Gusty, snowy days are just perfect for writing heartwarming letters to friends. I’m so glad that you stopped to visit today! Pour yourself a cup of tea, cocoa, or coffee. Let’s catch up a bit…

The month of January has flown by very quickly this year. Such a busy time here! My dear, sweet parents are staying with us in the midst of their Big Move from Arizona back home to Illinois. Mom and Dad are very eager to settle into an easier lifestyle in their apartment in a brand new Senior Living community. They can’t wait to unpack all of their boxes as we all work together to create their new home! There have been some very disappointing delays in recent weeks. So, we continue to wait and wait and wait for ‘move-in’ day to be announced.

As we wait, oh, the sweet family times we have been sharing! Reminiscing and sharing childhood stories adds so much warmth and humor to our days. I love hearing so many of these family stories for the first time! πŸ™‚ Mom has filled a big ‘Basket of Sunshine’ with some of her favorite things to brighten her days. Dad has been busy researching his favorite hobbies online and doing a few little repairs around the house. So many treasured memories of all the home restoration projects that Mom and Dad helped me with over thirty years ago, when I became a homeowner, come flooding back. Oh, the stories this little house could tell! (We just shared our 1988 memories of working together with a heat tool to strip paint from the kitchen cabinets, as snowflakes were drifting in through the open window. πŸ™‚ ) Watching the the U.S. and European Figure Skating championships together over the weekend brought back warm memories of all the Figure Skating we watched together in my childhood. Yes, our cozy, little bungalow feels cozier than ever right now. β™₯

There is a new rhythm to my life now. The coming years will be extra busy as I have the honor of helping my parents. My special ‘word’ for the new year found me a few weeks ago. Throughout the year, I will focus on being more intentional about the decisions I make. My time is more limited now, so careful attention to the most important things will help to keep my health, our marriage, our family life, my creative passions, dear friendships, and our little home and garden thriving. This new rhythm feels exhilarating! It invites so many opportunities to learn and grow…

This month, I eagerly began my 2019 Self-Care bullet journal. It was a wonderful feeling to unwrap a brand new Rhodia dot grid journal filled with 160 pages of luscious, ivory, Clairefontaine paper from France. (J’adore anything French! β™₯ I left a piece of my heart there on my very first visit.)

My Self-Care journal is the perfect place to record and track healthy habits. It’s interesting to notice patterns over time in my Sleep Log, Workout Log, and trackers for daily Hydration, Step Counts, Creative Time, and Time in Nature. My monthly Gratitude Log continues to be my most important journal page! Nightly reflection keeps me mindful of my Self-Care.

This year, I will be more intentional about setting personal goals. In January, I created a new monthly page entitled Reasons to Be Proud. It feels like a nice addition as I reflect on my days. My Self-Care journal has become a personal space where I can get to know myself better. I only spend about ten minutes each night with my bullet journal. Yet it always feels like a luxurious a little ‘gift’ to wrap up my days with mindful reflection!

I’ve been savoring a wonderful book, The Bullet Journal Method, by Ryder Carroll, the creator of this style of journaling. It’s so inspiring to explore all of the possibilities of this quiet, analog journaling process that requires only a simple notebook and a pen. Over the past two years, I have personally stayed very motivated by using a few art supplies in my bullet journals. The chance to play with colorful inks, brush lettering, stencils, and a bit of doodling nourishes my creative heart every day when I open my journal. My 2019 BuJo will continue to be a very important Self-Care tool as I grow more intentional and spend more of my time on what truly matters. Doesn’t it sound inviting to actually spend more time on fewer things? It’s a lofty goal for someone whose ‘Renaissance’ (my ‘R’ word for Retirement) is filled with so many interests and plans!

As we tie the ribbons on January, I’m celebrating two wonderful Artist Dates that I intentionally made time for on my busy calendar. I spent an entire day with my crafty, creative ‘tribe’ at a papercrafting Crop Day. It felt so good to play with stamps and watercolors as I worked on a few Valentine projects. We all chatted about important things, like ink and paper, as we worked together on our own creations. πŸ™‚ Last weekend, I attended a fun Watercolor workshop, where we sketched and painted a Cozy Winter Cottage nestled in the woods. I tucked my artwork into a rustic wooden frame to display in my little Paper Garden studio. It’s a sweet reminder to be intentional about the choices I make as I discover this new rhythm in life! β™₯

What new things have you been doing in January?

Do you make resolutions or choose a ‘word’ for the New Year?

How is the weather in your little corner of the world?

Hope you’ll share with us…

 

Warmest hugs!

β™‘ Dawn

 

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Prickly Times…

Hello, sweet friends!

It feels so good to be back home again! We have lots of catching up to do here in our little gathering place of kindred spirits. I have really missed you all. Heartfelt thanks for stopping to visit today!

I have spent the past several months with my dear parents in Arizona. Well into their 80s now, Mom and Dad began needing a little extra help earlier this year. It has been my honor to spend extra time helping out and making plans with my parents. For health reasons, Dad and Mom decided that it was time to make a BIG move, back home to Illinois to be close to their children.

After twenty-four happy, healthy years of desert living, their Retirement dream was taking a most unexpected turn. My parents faced very difficult choices… and many months of ‘prickly’ times. There were so many hard decisions to be made. Working side-by-side, our days were extremely busy. We donated so many cherished items to charitable causes. Finding good homes for beloved antiques and collectibles proved to be a true ‘labor of love.’ So many avid collectors were grateful to become the new owners of my dad’s Lionel trains and antique telephones. My mom’s vintage irons, beautiful, old crocks, oil lamps, antique kitchen tools, and many pieces of Southwest art all went to new homes, one-by-one. ‘Prickly,’ but important, work…

Preparing to sell their lovely, desert home in the foothills of Red Mountain just made our hearts so sad. With the Tonto National Forest just a short walk away, it is a nature lover’s paradise. My parents built their home with breathtaking views of Red Mountain, the Superstition Mountains, and the Usery Mountains. Moving away from longtime friends and special places was the most ‘prickly’ time of all.

Packing boxes, boxes, and more boxes filled our days and weeks. My dad shipped his car back to Illinois. A great pair of movers loaded up a few special pieces of furniture and many boxes filled with family photos and mementos.

After the moving truck pulled away, we were all lost in our thoughts.

It was all feeling very real now…

We took our last long drive through the Tonto National Forest, admiring the mountains, the giant Saguaros, and the wildflowers in bloom. We reminisced about all of our favorite hiking places, remembered picnics at Saguaro Lake, and waved farewell to the beautiful ‘secret place’ in the desert where my husband proposed to me. We all hold so many heartwarming memories of special times in the desert over the years. My mom chose a few favorite rocks from her lovely, desert garden to bring along as special mementos.

Unforgettable, beautiful, heartbreaking, ‘prickly’ times for us all…

After special gatherings with dear friends and a few nights in a hotel, my parents and I flew back to the Midwest together just two weeks ago. Together we knew we were flying toward our next adventure ~ a brave, new chapter in all of our lives. We have been a great team through all the ‘prickly’ times. I have learned so many important lessons over the past months. My parents will always be my first and best teachers!

Throughout my life there have been several challenges,

but this has truly been the most difficult thing

I have experienced so far.

Tears have filled my eyes so often over the past months.

Throughout the ‘prickly’ times this year, I always looked for blossoms…

and counted my many blessings out loud.

It really helped!

Making time for walks in nature always soothed my tender heart.

Sunrise walks filled my soul with sunshine for the day ahead. Walking many miles each week was an important part of my self-care during this very stressful, ‘prickly’ time. Remembering my ‘why’ and tracking my foods on the WW app daily have helped me maintain my healthy weight goal. πŸ™‚Β  Good health is such a wonderful blessing!

Early mornings spent pulling unfamiliar weeds (using pliers) from the dry, red earth in my mom’s garden reminded me of the gift of gardening Mom gave me thirty-one years ago. What a blessing! My life has been enriched in so many ways since I inherited Mom’s love of gardening.

Sunset walks were the perfect way to connect with my husband each evening. FaceTime allowed us to walk together, although we were 1,800 miles apart. Sharing the stories of our days made it easier for both of us.

My sweet husband has been my ‘rock’ and constantly helps in so many ways. Throughout the Summer months, each evening after work, he deadheaded my ‘He Loves Me’ daisies, so that they would be in full bloom each time I returned home for a brief visit. When the seasons changed, he took such good care of our little ‘igloo’ throughout the big November blizzard. Storm damage left our home without power for several days. So, he worked with a neighbor to prevent our water pipes from freezing in our dark, frigid home. He researched and helped arrange moving plans from across the miles. A great listener, he can always make me laugh. My dear husband is a truly great blessing in my life!

I’m so blessed by friends, both near and far. Quick texts, long emails, and encouraging WhatsApp messages were most welcome day brighteners while I was away from home for extended times. Beautiful cards and letters always warmed my heart. We are so grateful for the kindness of our friends! A perfectly-timed ride home from the airport in a friend’s toasty, warm SUV (complete with a cozy, lap blanket for my parents) was an extra-special ‘welcome home’ on a cold December day.Β  A friendly visit delivering hugs and homemade turkey noodle soup warmed our hearts and tummies. Heartfelt thanks, dear, sweet friends!

Each day, as I quickly checked our little blog, it was so heartwarming to know that friends were stopping to read stories from the blog archives. I could feel our connection and was both humbled and grateful for the powerful friendships that have grown here over the years. I’m looking forward to blogging often in the New Year… and finally making time to visit my blogging friends again!

We felt so blessed that my parents’ beautiful, desert home sold in just ONE day! We were very grateful when the buyers visited and promised to take extra good care of this special place. We were so fortunate that our moving plans and travel plans all went very smoothly. Such a big blessing for us all!

After a long, cross country trip, the movers delivered everything safely to a nearby storage unit. Family heirlooms were handled with extra care. We were so grateful to see the big, orange truck pull up last week! Local movers will help with the next stage of the move in January, when my parents’ beautiful, new apartment will be ready.

After spending time in the desert in the Springtime and experiencing this Summer’s Monsoon season, I was delighted to arrive home for a brilliant, instant blast of Autumn color. I was so blessed that the beautiful leaves waited for me!

We packed lots of Autumn walks into my two-week visit home! It was so refreshing after the long, hot Summer days in the desert. (This year, the Phoenix area had over 125 days of triple-digit heat! Whew!)

No matter where I roam, the Midwest always feels like home to me!

I embrace the change of seasons,

with the blessings each one brings.

 

In spite of the ‘prickly’ times, it has been a very special blessing to experience ALL of the seasons in the desert Southwest this year. I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to learn so much about the desert plants over the past 24 years. Walking with my mom is always a wonderful gardening lesson! I have also learned to beware of the desert creatures. It’s still the ‘wild west’ with coyotes, scorpions, lizards, and rattlesnakes passing through! Over the years, I have learned so much about the Native American people. I will always hold the call of the drums at the Harvest Pow Wow on the Pima-Maricopa reservation close to my heart. It was a remarkable cultural experience.Β  I truly understand why the Arizona desert will always have a special place in my parents’ hearts!

My greatest blessings of all are my dear, sweet parents! β™₯β™₯

I cherish every precious moment with them!

We have been enjoying old family memories

and look forward to sharing as much joy

as we can squeeze into the coming years!

 

Hugs and simple joys,

β™‘ Dawn

 

 

 

 

 

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Unexpected Joys!

Hi Friends!

The past few weeks, my heart has been filled with sweet memories of the beginnings of this quiet, little blog and some of the unexpected joys that it has brought into my life. It’s the perfect time to share the story of how Petals.Paper.SimpleThymes came to be! Enjoy a cup of tea as we reminisce and savor some photos from the blog archives…

Early in my ‘Renaissance’ (the ‘R’ word that I use for my Retirement), it was such a sweet treat to begin each day with an hour of visiting blogs. This morning ritual took me to faraway places and creative spaces, and introduced me to the most interesting people. As I got to know each blogger, it was always fun to join in the conversation by leaving a comment on each blog I visited. As time passed, I noticed that many of my favorite blogs were using WordPress as a blogging platform. Hmmmm… interesting!

One of my favorite, early morning stops was always Susan Branch’s blog. Susan has long been my favorite author and artist. The chance to soak up a bit of her inspiration and creativity was a perfect way to begin my days. The chance to leave Susan a comment and wait for her to reply was over-the-moon exciting. I had no idea how Susan wrote a blog, but it felt positively magical to me!

Just a few months later, I read that our wonderful public library was offering a WordPress workshop. πŸ™‚ Always curious, I decided to find out just how this blog magic worked! Perhaps I could just create a private blog using WordPress. No one could see it but me! So, I chose a simple, old-fashioned theme (just like me). It reminded me of a scrapbook page, with its ribbon banner holding a title. The tiny flowers in the header reminded me of paper cuts that might embellish one of my handmade cards. All of the ‘working bits’ were tucked neatly away in a slide-out sidebar. Hmmmm… fascinating!

When I showed my sweet husband all of the magical things I had learned at the workshop, he wondered aloud what I might write about if I had a blog. Hmmmm… just out of curiosity, perhaps I could write a pretend post! No one would see it.

A lifelong letter writer, my very favorite things to write were always long letters to friends. So, I just sat down and wrote a letter to a friend and within a few hours I figured out how to insert the photos. Later that week, I met with the technology director at our library one evening. Cher looked over my pretend post and said it was ready to publish. Publish? I was truly just learning out of curiosity!

“I’m kind of shy. I could never have my own blog, Cher.”

“Let’s just click ‘Publish’ together…

and see what happens,” she said.

So, (very bravely) we did.

I arrived home five minutes later

only to discover that someone in New Zealand was reading my story!

At that very moment, I knew that blogging was truly magical.

An unexpected joy!

When I showed my husband, he suggested that we go to a nearby Quilt Show that weekend so that I could write about it on the blog. He wanted to go to a Quilt Show?? (*wink*) Soon, we began planning weekend ‘Blog Dates.” πŸ™‚ An unexpected joy!

Still feeling shy, I decided not to tell my friends and family about the blog. I only confided in my dear friend, Cathy, who was enduring a very brave battle with ALS. I knew that the iPad attached to Cathy’s wheelchair allowed her to explore and experience the simple joys of life. Cathy began reading my posts and commented that they “felt like a walk in the park with a friend.” Happy tears! I discovered that a quiet, little blog could make a difference in someone’s day. An unexpected joy!

What fun it would be that very first summer as a blogger! I planned to stroll around my garden taking photos of my cottage perennial and herb beds. Oops! Suddenly, our quiet street was under construction and heavy, earth-moving equipment began digging up the entire street. Each night, they parked all of the equipment in front of our house. For many weeks, I would brave the dust to run out and take a quick photo in the early morning or late evening light. That summer, I learned the importance of close-up photography. An unexpected joy!

Spring Anenomes dance in the late May breeze.

Petals.Paper.SimpleThymes continually inspires me to keep learning! Over the years, out of curiosity, I attended many more workshops at our amazing library. I wanted to learn about basic photo editing, personal branding, intellectual property, watermarking my photos, close-up photography, and writing memoir. At the library, I connected with others interested in blogging. Webinars introduced me to SEO and taught me to be intentional as I created the ‘look’ and ‘feel’ of this little blog. There is still so much to learn! Currently, I am having fun exploring flat lay photography. Unexpected joys!

Petals.Paper.SimpleThymes often challenges me to be very brave! Now I find great joy in sharing personal stories celebrating the small moments that make life oh-so sweet. Sharing my ‘One Little Word’ each year keeps me accountable as I grow in so many new ways. Publishing photos of my handmade cards and hand-lettered journal pages was scary at first. I’m so grateful for all of the kindness and encouragement here. Unexpected joys!

Petals.Paper.SimpleThymes has truly enriched my life! From the very beginning, blogging has felt just like being pen pals with the world. I am genuinely humbled that people from across the globe stop here to read my quiet stories. It has been such a blessing to meet so many delightful kindred spirits and new friends who gather here and join in our conversation. The seeds of many strong friendships have grown here over the years! It feels magical each time I meet a friend in person that I have known through blogging. I look forward to nurturing our friendships in the years to come! Unexpected joys!

A ‘heartstrings’ moment of serendipity happened two years ago at a Tea Party and booksigning with Susan Branch. (Remember that Susan was my inspiration as I tiptoed into the world of blogging. Hope you will take time to visit her blog. It’s truly enchanting!) This was the third time Susan and I had met and we always had something fun to talk about together. We had another lovely chance to talk together before Tea was served. Afterwards, a long line of Girlfriends chatted together, making new friends as we excitedly waited for Susan to sign our books.

I was absolutely stunned when Susan completely surprised me! Her kind words about Petals.Paper.SimpleThymes truly touched my heart. She spoke of this delightful gathering place, a lovely community of kindred spirits, and told me that she quietly visits my blog to read my stories.

Oh, my goodness!! β™₯ Be still my heart!Β 

A complete circle of love and kindness… and a most unexpected joy!

β™₯ β™₯ β™₯ β™₯

This month Petals.Paper.SimpleThymes

is celebrating its fourth birthday!

I can hardly wait to see what unexpected joys

it will bring in the coming years!

Thank you, dear friends,

for being a very special part of our celebration!! β™₯ β™₯

 

Scatter joy each day!

β™‘ Dawn

P.S.Β  I know that two of our dear blog friends are thinking about beginning blogs of their own. Let’s encourage them! One never knows what unexpected joys are waiting just around the corner! Hope you will share the magic of blogging in your comments! Inspiration is contagious…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Christmas Past

Hi Friends!

Just a little fairy tale today…

Once upon a time, there was a little girl

who dreamed big dreams.

Along her way she collected

cherished people,

cherished places,

and cherished memories.

Very sentimental, and a bit old-fashioned,Β 

she kept Christmas in her heart

all year long.

Over the years, her Christmas tree

filled up with treasured stories

and became a precious ‘scrapbook’

0f her life.

As a child, I watched with admiration as my mom hand stitched a beautiful quilt. For my very first Christmas tree, my mom surprised me with a handmade dove and star, lovingly hand stitched with scraps she saved from her quilt. So precious! β™₯

The oldest ornaments on her tree

were lovely handmade gifts

from family and friends,

for her very first Christmas tree

in her apartment.

Throughout my childhood, I have wonderful memories of my dad restoring our Model A Ford. My love of antiques began with those fun rides in the ‘rumble seat’ in our Model A. He taught me how to use tools and years later helped me to restore my old house into a cozy home. For my first Christmas tree, my dad surprised me with a handmade Model A of my own!Β  β™₯

 

While growing up, I admired my Aunt Carlene’s ‘People Tree’ every Christmas. All of her ornaments were gifts from family and friends. I knew that I would have a ‘People Tree’ of my own one day! Aunt Carlene lovingly hand stitched this Santa and rocking horse to surprise me for my very first Christmas tree. (She worked on them while sitting in a little boat on vacation, as my uncle fished.) Truly a labor of love! β™₯

Years later, she began to celebrate Christmas

in a cozy, little home of her own.

Every December,

just after her birthday,

her brother would come with his truck

to help her choose the perfect tree. β™₯

Oh, those frigid days, as he patiently

twirled each tree on the lot,

until she found the ‘perfect’ one!

 

One extremely cold day, my brother and I put up my partially-frozen Christmas tree. My whole family helped to decorate it. A few hours later, we heard a loud crash, as my beautiful Christmas tree hit the floor, sending ornaments flying everywhere! As the branches thawed, they had pushed the tree away from the wall tipping it over. This precious ornament (a gift from my brother years before) was in need of repair. So, he patiently glued the pieces back together. Good as new… and even more special! β™₯

Her Christmas tree also holds

cherished memories of her travels

over the years.

Many years ago, I spent a magical Christmas in Germany, with my dear friend, Iris, and her family and friends. I bought the candles and candle clips there to bring a bit of German Christmas tradition to my tree. The wooden mouse came from the Christkindlesmarkt in her city in southwest Germany. (It has been enjoyed by hundreds of my young students over the years, as we studied ‘Christmas Around the World’ to learn the origins of our holiday traditions!) The glass ornaments were special gifts from my Christmas in Germany. β™₯

 

This handmade, wooden ornament is from the Czech Republic. I dreamed of visiting Prague and Iris carefully planned our adventure there. I was delighted to find this beautiful Christmas ornament for my tree on a hot, summer day in Prague! β™₯

 

Years later, she met the one

who melted her heart…

and made her want to say “I do.”

Ever since their first Christmas,

they have been trimming their tree together.

Now he knows all of her stories

that each ornament holds.

Beautiful glass ornaments

from his childhood Christmas tree

also add a very special sparkle

to their tree.

Now she knows all of the

cherished stories of his life, too. πŸ™‚

A gift from a dear friend, this ornament always melts my heart and makes me smile. It looks just like us! β™₯

 

Their Christmas tree is filled with a lifetime of

memories and blessings!

If you peek under their Christmas tree

this year,

you won’t find many packages.

The many gifts they are giving are

gifts of kindness,

gifts of helping,

gifts of caregiving,

and gifts to their favorite charities.

β™₯β™₯β™₯

This little fairy tale comes from

our true story, The ‘Heart’ of Christmas.

(Click here for the story!)

β™₯β™₯β™₯

We know that sometimes the holidays can be

a very difficult time.

Hopefully, looking back on the memories

of Christmas Past

and looking ahead to brighter days

will remind you that you are

wrapped in our love…

 

Handmade wishes… especially for you!

 

Warm wishes to all this holiday season!

Wishing you peace, love, and hope

in the coming year.

Heartfelt thanks for the gift of your friendship! β™₯

 

Comfort and joy!

β™‘ Dawn

 

 

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Together Again!

 

Hi Friends!

A-n-t-i-c-i-p-a-t-i-o-n can be a wonderful thing! The months and weeks leading up to the big day were filled with excitement and making plans. When September finally arrived, it was time to prepare a cozy, welcoming guest room for our very special friend.

Let’s start at the very beginning of this story…

The seeds of our very special friendship were sown 39 years ago. My Uncle Bill (who had moved to Germany, after serving in Vietnam) knew that his co-worker and friend would be passing through Chicago on a tour with her parents. He asked Iris to bring a packet of photos for us. We were so grateful for her kindness! So, my mother, my brother, and I met Iris and her parents at the Blackstone Hotel on a Sunday afternoon, in March. It was a day that would change lives forever!

Our families felt a friendship begin to sprout that afternoon, as Iris translated for all of us. There was so much to talk about as we got to know one another. Iris and I both felt a warm connection beginning to take root that day. We were both the same age and curious about the world. We promised to write letters to one another. As we parted ways, I told her, “If you’d ever like to come visit again, you are always welcome to stay with us!”

Just a few months later, Iris came back for an extended visit! πŸ™‚Β  πŸ™‚

Our friendship began to blossom as Iris became a special part of our family and my circle of friends. My teaching career was just beginning and my dreams were just beginning to come true! The following summer, I went to visit Iris for several weeks. She lives in a beautiful city in southwest Germany, near the Black Forest. I felt so blessed to be welcomed into her family and her circle of friends during that wonderful summer in 1979.

Our special friendship has flourished as three decades have passed.Β  Since we were both single, footloose, and fancy-free, we were so fortunate to share our travel dreams together. Iris often came to visit me (during the even-numbered years) and I often visited her (during the odd-numbered years). Oh, the exciting adventures we have had together!!

Dear friends, together again!Β  πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

(Full disclosure:Β  In the Munich beer garden, I just was holding the huge beer for a photo op! Beer has never been my ‘cup of tea.’ πŸ™‚ )

Cars, buses, boats, trains, and planes have helped us to explore America and Europe together. In between our visits, letters, postcards, and phone calls were the water and sunshine that kept us close. I will always remember writing a letter and waiting weeks for a reply via overseas airmail. How fortunate we are to stay close so easily now, via email and occasional Skype visits!Β  πŸ™‚

Both of our lives have grown busier over the past several years. Yet, Iris and I have always kept one another very close at heart. I was so excited to introduce my husband to Iris (and all of my German family and friends), when we visited Germany five years ago to celebrate my Renaissance (the ‘R’ word that I use for Retirement)!Β  True friends, together again!Β 

Over the years, I have always grown Irises in my Friendship Garden, as I dreamed of another visit with my perennial friend. I carefully tended the yellow and purple blossoms as our friendship continued to grow and blossom.

Can you imagine the happiness that we all felt as we awaited a mid-September visit from our dear friend, Iris?

We filled our precious days together with some of our very favorite activities. We enjoyed a family gathering for our traditional Pumpkin Soup dinner. My parents and Iris enjoyed a nice Skype visit across the miles. We truly relished all of our relaxing evenings spent talking and laughing on the front porch, while the cicadas and the crickets serenaded us. Dear friends, together again!Β  πŸ™‚Β  πŸ™‚

We welcomed Autumn with a visit to Amish country in Northern Indiana. Iris and I have always loved exploring the peaceful countryside near Shipshewana and Middlebury and the clip-clop sounds of the Amish horse and buggies. My husband was fascinated by his first visit to Amish country.

Signs of Autumn were everywhere, while Summer-like temperatures soared to the mid-90s (twenty-five degrees above normal!). We admired beautiful Amish quilts and handmade furniture and were tempted by yummy baked goods and preserves. We learned a great deal about the history of the Amish and Mennonite people from the interesting tour guides and multi-media presentations at the Menno-Hof . Everywhere we went, the Amish people were eager to speak German (their first language) with Iris.

We spent our second day exploring the small town of Middlebury, Indiana. We enjoyed a colorful quilt shop and a beautiful Quilt Garden. Iris visited her first covered bridge. I will always remember our visits to an Amish home and farmstead to admire their handmade quilts.

My husband and I look forward to visiting other Amish communities in the future. Iris and I promised to carry the tranquil clip-clop sound of the horse and buggies with us when life returns to its usual busyness.

We all enjoyed spending a day at a Native American Harvest Pow-Wow. Dancers and drum circles from Indian Nations across the Midwest gathered for the weekend to share their traditional dancing, drumming, music, arts, and foods. It was a nice opportunity to talk with several Native Americans. It was fascinating to learn more about their traditions and the ceremonial herbs used in their sacred fire circle. The dancers and drummers endured two days of unseasonably hot, humid weather to share their traditions and we felt so grateful for the opportunity to experience another Pow-Wow. (You might like to visit the large Red Mountain Eagle Pow-Wow with us on the Pima-Maricopa Reservation last Fall, in Arizona, here.)

The next day, we cooled off with a peaceful walk along the beaches of Lake Michigan, at Illinois Beach State Park.Β  Lake Michigan is one of the five Great Lakes. Its name comes from the Ojibwe word “michi-gami” (meaning ‘great water’).Β  During past visits, we have enjoyed sailing on Lake Michigan with dear friends!

Then it was time to share some of my favorite places closer to home. Iris and I enjoyed lovely walks in nature at a nearby Arboretum and along our native prairie. We visited nearby greenhouses to admire their expansive collection of beautiful orchids. We visited my favorite library and two favorite shopping malls. (Her suitcase was extra-full on her trip home!)

We thrive on new experiences! So, Iris sat in a sporty, red Tesla and learned all about it. She always dreamed of sitting on a Harley. So, we wandered through the Harley-Davidson dealership as a friendly salesperson answered all of our questions.Β  For a new taste treat, Iris enjoyed her first burrito!

We squeezed many new adventures into our time together. I will always cherish our times reminiscing (and laughing) about our adventures over the past 39 years. What fun to look through photo albums filled with happy memories of our times together in Germany (and so many places in Europe) and America!

When I look back on our 2017 visit, I will always remember three special sounds:Β  the clip-clop of the Amish horse and buggies, the call of the drums at the Harvest Pow-Wow, and laughterso much laughter! Our time together just overflowed with happiness and hugs!

As always, our visit flew by much too quickly. Of course, we didn’t say, “Goodbye.” Instead I promised, “Bis bald.” (“See you soon!”) Our next adventure might happen here, there, or somewhere in between. πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚Β  Dear friends, together again!

 

β™₯β™₯β™₯

Heartfelt thanks for taking the time to visit today! It has been very quiet here on our blog for several weeks now.Β  With everything happening in America and beyond, it felt kind of trivial to share my words. Unbelievable wildfires, the destruction caused by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose, Maria, and now Nate, a devastating earthquake in Mexico,…Β  and then the heartbreaking gun violence in Las Vegas.

Long ago, I experienced the dangers of Nature’s fury. I do know how it feels to have one’s life unexpectedly turned upside down. The effects last long after the clean-up. We cannot forget the people in Texas, Florida, and the islands. They will need our help for a long time as they put their lives back together.Β  If you have been affected by recent storms or are one of the brave first responders, please let us know how you are doing.

Blogging has become such an important part of my creative journey. I have been giving it a great deal of thought over the past weeks. Perhaps when times are difficult in our world, it is important to share my voice… and a little dose of sunshine! β™₯β™₯

I’m looking forward to visiting all of my blog friends in the coming days, too. πŸ™‚

Warmest hugs,

β™‘ Dawn

P.S.Β  This weekend we will celebrate World Cardmaking Day!Β  I’ll be back very soon to share!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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