Changes in the Air…

Hi Friends!

You have often been on my mind in the past few weeks. I hope you are all safe and feeling healthy!

Happy Autumn! In the Midwest, the change of seasons has been a bit of a roller coaster ride throughout October. I changed from my winter jacket to a t-shirt and back to my winter jacket from day to day as I worked in the yard and finished up an outdoor painting project. I’m delighted to report that my huge project to ‘right-size’ three garden beds surrounding our front porch is finally finished! (I still feel a few aches and pains from all the weeks of digging.) Now the garden will be so much easier to care for during this busy time in life. In the Springtime, after more front porch restoration, I will plant a few favorite, old-fashioned flowering shrubs in the new, smaller garden beds. Can’t wait to make this garden dream a reality! 🙂

♫ From the cast of Hamilton ♫

 

It’s so encouraging to hear that, as of today, over 85 million Americans have already cast their ballots! Did you change your method of voting this year or will you vote on Election Day?

Due to Covid, rather than vote in person this year, we decided to vote by mail for the very first time. On the first weekend of October, we drove out west to our County Election Commission to place our ballots into a special drop box. It felt heartwarming to see a steady stream of cars dropping off their ballots a whole month before Election Day. (We were also able to drop off my parents’ ballots. They had signed the affidavit on their envelopes giving us permission to carry their ballots to the drop box.)  BallotTrax alerted us that our ballots were accepted and processed two days later. So easy… and never more important!

From early May through early November, if you happen to drive past our little bungalow, you will see our flag flying from our front porch (weather permitting). This has been my tradition for the past thirty-three years. It is not a political statement of any kind. Instead it is a symbol of my love for my country and my hopes to help make it better for everyone. Throughout my entire life, I have strived to help our country in so many small ways.

During the past four years, however, it has been necessary to show up for my country in more visible ways. “Enough is enough” were the words we chanted at a nearby Islamic Center rally to support our immigrant families. “Enough is enough” were the words we chanted as I stood with the high school students to support their demands to end gun violence in America. We sang “Silent Night” and chanted “This is what democracy looks like” on a frigid December night rally in the park for impeachment. This year, it has been necessary to raise my voice as an ally in support of racial justice for all BIPOC Americans. There is so much work to do!! I truly hope that change is in the air…

From Election Day forward, I pray for patience and peace as we all await the 2020 election results. It’s sure to take longer to count every vote this year. Our future depends upon all of us finding ways to work together. I pray for much more kindness, especially toward those who voted differently than you. History has its eyes on us!

This Autumn, we have been savoring the quiet, healing of nature’s beauty on our walks.

Watching the season change from week to week brings a sense of normalcy during such tumultuous times.

Change can bring new growth and new possibilities!

For the past few months, I have been really enjoying the chance to follow along on You Tube as the Wander Women thru-hike the Continental Divide Trail.  It’s a truly uplifting journey along a rugged trail through such beautiful parts of America watching the seasons change! The Wander Women are three retirees, Kristy, Annette, and Lynn who just love to hike, backpack, and explore. They began this hike on a snowy June day in Wyoming. Along the way, they have encountered heat, cold, long stretches with scarce drinking water, dangerous river crossings, huge elevation changes… and the most beautiful scenery along the Continental Divide Trail! It’s so encouraging to see the kindness of strangers they meet along the way. The landscape has changed as they hike about twenty miles each day. Every five or six days, they stop in a small town to resupply and Kristy uploads a weekly video of their adventure. So far, Kristy and Annette have hiked over 2,000 miles since June. They are currently hiking through New Mexico and have less than 700 miles to complete their CDT thru-hike. I so admire their endurance and positive attitudes and am so grateful for the chance to follow along on their journey!

Take a peek at this week’s Wander Women video (Episode 22). If you enjoy it, follow along! It’s the perfect antidote to all of the news and is sure to lift your spirits!

We have already had two days of snow flurries this week. So early! This weekend we will have a leaf-raking party (just a party of two!). Our snow shovels are ready. Change is in the air…

Stay safe and healthy, sweet friends!

Sending big air hugs from my heart to yours,

♡ Dawn

Turning Purple…

Hi Friends!

We all have so much on our hearts these days. I hope that you are safe and healthy in your corner of the globe. News reports of the devastating wildfires out west and the aftermath of Hurricane Sally along the Gulf Coast seem unimaginable. Sending renewed strength and hope to all those affected. Know that you are in our thoughts…

Here in Illinois, the sidewalks, trails, and tracks are turning purple all month long! We are honoring 2020 World Alzheimer’s Day (September 21st) in whole new way. Instead of huge Walks to End Alzheimer’s, families, friends, and small groups are walking in their own communities for this very important event.

Our family was grateful for the efforts of Team Spectrum in today’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s!

Our Saturday was off to a very chilly start. The sun quickly warmed our hands and hearts as we looked forward to this meaningful day. Our first stop was a nice visit with my parents this morning. My mom and dad are both being very brave as they strive to live their best lives throughout this pandemic. What powerful lessons in resilience they are teaching us all!

The heartbreak of a loved one living with Alzheimer’s disease has been extra challenging during the time of Covid-19.  Wearing masks conceals important facial cues, like friendly smiles. So, we try extra hard to smile with our eyes! Spending more time inside at home can be frustrating when a loved one with cognitive decline feels the need to walk around more and more. We are so grateful for the pretty indoor areas where my parents can stretch their legs and chat with their neighbors. On warm, sunny afternoons, they enjoy listening to music and watching the birds from their balcony, overlooking a beautiful, wooded area. “Elbow Hugs and Kisses” just aren’t as good as the real things, so we laugh each time we do these silly actions! Although a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease may not remember that we came to visit, each time they glance at a fresh picked bouquet from my garden they will know just how much they are loved!

This afternoon, my husband and I enjoyed our very own Walk to End Alzheimer’s in a pretty little park. We were the only ones there! 🙂 As we followed the trail passing a prairie area and a peaceful pond, we shared our hearts and so many family memories. In the shade of the tall oak trees, our feet crunched over fallen acorns with each step. We noticed the scampering squirrels and a black swallowtail warming its wings in the afternoon sun.

It wasn’t long until a family of swans joined our Walk to End Alzheimer’s. 🙂

The colorful flowers on our t-shirts represent the reasons that people fight to end Alzheimer’s.

Blue = I’m living with the disease.

Yellow = I’m supporting/caring for a loved one with the disease.

Purple = I have lost a loved one to the disease.

Orange = I support the cause,

a world without Alzheimer’s.”

Although we are all walking in our own communities this year to be safe from the Corona virus, we are all sharing the same hearts. Just knowing that so many others are intentionally walking to fight for a cure, makes me feel less alone. It’s proof that we are all striving for the same thing. We are all in this together!

The moment we returned home, 

I went online to make my donation to the Alzheimer’s Association.

It always feels so empowering to help make a difference!

♡♡♡

If you are able, I encourage you to help us find a cure

by making a donation, too!

Just click here.

Click here to donate to the Alzheimer’s Association.

The Alzheimer’s Association is a vital resource for those suffering with this heart-wrenching disease, their families, and their caregivers. They are leading the fight against this disease! They offer so many valuable online seminars. The ALZ Helpline (800-272-3900) offers live support 24/7 from caring professionals to answer questions and concerns. Their helpful webinars present the latest research and extremely helpful information for caregivers. The Alzheimer’s Association funds vital research and clinical trials in search of a cure. The research studies presented at the 2020 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference are very interesting and quite promising! I am truly grateful for the work of the Alzheimer’s Association and the difference they are making for so many families, just like mine.

Click here to read last year’s post, “Sharing My Heart.”

Although my blog only turns purple once each year, my family is living with this disease each and every day. The Walk to End Alzheimer’s is so much more than a fundraising event. During this special time, we honor all those who are impacted by this heartbreaking disease, their loved ones and care partners, and those who fight for a world without Alzheimer’s and other dementia.

White flowers = I feel hopeful that we will find a cure.

With all my heart, I HOPE that one day,

in my lifetime,

we will find a cure and see the first person to survive this disease.

The end of Alzheimer’s starts with me! ♥

The reason is LOVE.

With hope,

Dawn

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Let’s Stay Home

Hi Friends!

You have been in my heart so often lately as we all walk together through this unprecedented moment in time. ♥ I truly hope that all of you and your families are well. How are you doing?  Please let us know…

If you are new to our blog, “Welcome!” Please say “Hi” in the comments…

My family is adjusting to all of the changes and just taking things one day at a time.  Here in Illinois we have been under a Stay At Home order for three weeks already. My husband has been working remotely from home. We have turned our dining room into his temporary office with his computers gracing our dining room table. I am trying to be extra quiet to help out. 😉 We both feel so grateful that he is able to work from home during this unsettled time.

We have both been taking extra precautions to stay healthy so that we can continue to help my parents as care partners. A few weeks ago, we began doing our grocery shopping online and having groceries delivered to our front porch to avoid all the stores. We have recently begun wearing masks when we must leave home.

At present, there are thirty-three known cases of Coronavirus in our town and over sixty Coronavirus patients in our local hospital. So, we continue to heed the advice of the scientists and doctors, our state governor, and local leaders. By staying home and social distancing, we are trying our very best to help flatten the curve.

Personally, this quiet time of staying at home feels like an unfamiliar ‘pause’ for me. Since the beginning of the year, life as a care partner had been very, very busy with doctors’ appointments, hospitalizations, and extended stays with my parents to help out. It always feels like an honor to spend time with my dear parents. They are still my best teachers as they show me how to live our best lives with bravery, resilience, and everlasting love!

For the past month, however, their Senior Community has been on lockdown. Everyone there is healthy… and they are using an abundance of caution to avoid the Coronavirus in their building. Three meals each day are delivered to their apartment. I’m so grateful that my parents have one another for company! All activities have been cancelled and their gathering spaces must remain empty. Everyone there is doing their part to Stay At Home. So far, it has been working…

It’s definitely a worrisome time, though, as a care partner who cannot visit! Lots of phone calls and Skype ‘visits’ are helping to keep us close, but nothing can take the place of real visits to help out in so many ways. So, it’s a challenging time for us. I am still able to drop off packages of medicine and other essentials at the lobby and staff members deliver them to my parents’ apartment. Last week, after dropping off a package, I followed the outdoor path along to their apartment and made a surprise phone call to invite Mom and Dad out onto their second-floor balcony. It was so nice to chat (loudly!) together for a few minutes as a family! ♥

Now I am savoring this unexpected ‘pause’ in quiet ways, giving myself much grace to feel all of the feelings. Reading, soaking up creative inspiration, writing in my Self-Care bullet journal, listening to podcasts, attending virtual WW Workshops, talking with friends, and writing letters help to lift my spirits. The online communities of creatives have been connecting with one another more often, as we encourage one another to share our handmade kindness with the world. I spent time tidying up my little Paper Garden studio downstairs and plan to spend lots of time creating handmade cards in the weeks to come. 🙂 I’m so very grateful that my creative spirit is slowly returning!

Spending time in nature has also been nourishing my heart and soul. I’m savoring daily walks through my garden, practicing ‘the art of noticing,’ as the perennials awaken during my very favorite season. I have also been taking brisk, solo walks (with lots of social distancing) through the neighborhood enjoying the sunshine and birdsong, as the Forsythia and Magnolias begin to bloom.

Unhurried time and ‘white space’ on my calendar have led to simple, new mindfulness practices. They are just small changes, but they feel very meaningful. During this heartbreaking time in our world, I have been even more aware of the importance of practicing gratitude. Every morning, as I hang the flag on our front porch, I quietly thank all of the doctors, nurses, first responders, scientists, store clerks, mail carriers, delivery people, and other essential workers who are doing such brave work while we stay at home.

Each evening, as I take down the flag, I think of all of the teachers who are working so hard to prepare meaningful lessons for their students while they cannot gather together in their classrooms. I think of the students who suddenly have to adapt to this new way of learning and their parents who have been pressed into the role of homeschooling. I also think of all the volunteers who are helping in food pantries and distributing boxes of food for those who have suddenly found themselves unemployed due to the Coronavirus. It’s humbling to see so many people who have come together to help during this frightening time.

I have also begun counting my blessings out loud each time I wash my hands! We are constantly washing our hands these days and practicing gratitude each time I use soap and water helps to soften the effect of all the breaking news. Although life feels very different now, there is still much to be thankful for each day. It helps us to remain hopeful that if we all do our part, there will be brighter days ahead!

Let’s stay home, stay safe, and stay positive!

♥ ♥ ♥

 

We are all in this together…

Please let us know how things are going in your corner of the world.

How are YOU coping with all that is happening?

 

Sending warm blessings for Easter and Passover,

Dawn

 

 

 

 

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64 Words

Hi Friends,

Our stories truly do matter!

Today I am celebrating the power of words

as I document a bit of my story.

Adventures

Antiques

Artistic

Birthdays

Blessings

For each of the past eight years, I have focused on a ‘word.’ Throughout our home, there are visible reminders of each word. This year I created Word Stones for my Friendship Garden to carry this mindfulness practice into the garden, too! 🙂

Blogging

Blossom

Books

Breathe

Candlelight

Cards

I just LOVE creating handmade cards in my little Paper Garden studio downstairs! Each one feels like a little ‘visit’ with a loved one the entire time I am working with paper and ink. Mailing cards off to warm hearts brings me so much joy!

Cherish

Children

Chocolate

Connecting

Coziness

A cup of herbal tea, a good book, soft candlelight, and favorite music add such coziness to cold, Winter days!

Creativity

Dancing

Dancing has always been a special part of my life. I can still remember standing on my daddy’s feet and dancing together in the living room as a young child. I loved taking ballet lessons while growing up. During my college years, we all loved disco dancing on the weekends. This year, I’m having a fabulous time line dancing every week at our Senior Center. It’s boot scootin’ fun… and we laugh a lot! Gotta dance!! 🙂

Daisy

Dawn

Dawn is my favorite time of day. 🙂 Each sunrise means a new beginning with new possibilities!

Earth-friendly

Explore

Family

Friendship

Gather

Garden

Gardening with perennials and herbs is one of my passions! My Friendship Garden bed (in the foreground) is filled with perennials given to me over the years from gardening friends.

Grace

Gratitude

Handmade

Happiness

Heartfelt

Herbs

The ‘heart’ of my garden is my Herb & Tea garden, built with love, and surrounded by a white, picket fence.

Home

Hope

Hydrangea

Oh, how I love Hydrangeas (and Daisies)! My wedding bouquet was filled with Hydrangeas. I asked the florist to create a simple bouquet that looked as if I just walked through the garden picking blossoms. It was perfect!

Inky

Inspired

Intentional

Invite

Journals

Morning Pages inspire my creative journey. Looking back through my Garden Journal warms the coldest of Winter days. For the past two years, my Self-Care bullet journals have taught me so much. I can’t wait to begin my 2020 bullet journal. Journaling is one important way that I nourish my creative heart and soul! ♥

Joy

Kindness

Learning

Letters

Love

Memories

Mindfulness

Music

Namaste

Nourish

Old-Fashioned

Paper

Perennials

Positive

Present

Renaissance

My Renaissance (the ‘R’ word that I use for my Retirement) is such a wonderful gift of TIME. After thirty-five happy years of teaching young children, I continue the same goals that guided my teaching ~ learn something new every day, be creative, and make a difference! ♥

Restore

Self-Care

Serendipity

Story

Sunshine

I carry sunshine in my soul each day. It’s a way of life!

Teacups

Teacher

Walking

Oh, the places I’ve walked! I enjoy walking along the prairie, in the desert, on foreign cobblestones, through the woods, and on beaches along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts. When my sweet husband and I first met, many of our dates were spent walking hand-in-hand along sparkling water. We got to know one another as we walked along rivers, ponds, lakes, creeks, waterfalls, and a peaceful bog. He even proposed on a very special hike in one of our favorite places! 🙂

♥♥♥

Every single word on this list holds a part of my life story!

It was such fun to create my long list of words,

and a challenge to edit my list.

(There were so many more words that I wanted to include!)

What words would you include on your list?

Today’s post was inspired by Stacy Julian, one of my favorite Memory Keepers, Storytellers, and Scrapbookers. Stacy’s podcast, Exactly Enough Time (Episode 20 ~ “Words I Love”) resonated with me several months ago. I’m so grateful for her inspiration! As time goes on, I hope to share a bit more of my story here…

I’m hoping that you might feel inspired to tell your story, too.

Our stories truly do matter!

 

Wishing you a wonderful weekend!

Warmest hugs,

♡ Dawn

 

 

 

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Peaceful, Easy Feeling

Hi Friends!

As our busy Summer slips away, it feels like the perfect time to share one of our very favorite Summer days. Visiting the Chicago Botanic Garden is always a treat for all of the senses! On this delightful, late August day, the gardens welcomed us… as my heart overflowed with a sweet song of Summer.

Strolling together along quiet lakes with my husband has always been a beautiful part of “our story.” In fact, we will always cherish one of our very early dates here, at the Chicago Botanic Garden,  as we walked hand-in-hand while getting to know one another! ♥♥

The early morning stillness felt like a walking meditation. The pollinators were already busy at work while we had the garden paths to ourselves.

I always find so much inspiration here that it quickly turns into an Artist’s Date! I’m drawn to nature’s color combinations that would be so lovely in my cottage perennial gardens and the delicate petal forms that I long to capture with watercolors in my new sketchbook. My camera roll quickly fills with all of the beauty… along with a ‘wish list’ of perennials that would feel right at home in my garden!

 

This has been my Summer to learn more about Mason bees because we were gifted with a beautiful Mason bee house for our garden. Each morning, I check on their progress as these hardworking pollinators fill the tiny, hollow tubes with eggs. Little-by-little, they seal each full tube with wet, clay soil.

In nature, Mason bees often lay their eggs in tiny cracks, in pine cones, in bundles of sticks, and other protected spaces, then seal the opening with wet soil. We really enjoyed this large display about Mason bees.

Isn’t this a truly charming Mason bee house? Nestled in among the Hydrangea blossoms, the house rests on a tree trunk. Bee-still my heart… even more inspiration! 🙂

My heart was all a-flutter as I glanced at my watch.

It was time!

The main reason for today’s visit was to enjoy the Butterflies & Blooms exhibition at the Chicago Botanic Garden. From late May through early September, visitors have a rare opportunity to spend time with live butterflies native to South America, North America, Asia, Africa, and some Illinois natives, as well. Just six people at a time entered the vestibule for our introduction and instructions. We were reminded to look down at the ground often, especially after standing in one place to observe or photograph. Butterflies often rest on the ground and care must be taken to preserve their safety.

As we carefully stepped inside,

such a peaceful, easy feeling washed over me…

A beautiful garden of host plants in full bloom welcomed us inside the large screened-in exhibition space. Hundreds of butterflies fluttered about landing on the colorful blooms. (To learn the name and country of origin of each butterfly, just click here.)

I enjoyed seeing so many of the same flowers that grow in my perennial garden beds. 🙂 (To learn about the flowers from the exhibition, just click here.) It was so interesting to observe the how blossom colors and forms attracted the butterflies.

We headed toward the Pupa Room to peek through the window into the Emergence Chamber. Every Friday throughout the exhibition, 300 to 500 new chrysalises arrive here. All of them are raised on butterfly farms for  educational purposes. The butterflies and moths for this exhibition are never caught in the wild.

The chrysalises hang inside the hot, humid Emergence Chamber (80 degrees F, 80% humidity) until they are ready to hatch. Butterflies usually emerge in the morning as the sun shines down on the Emergence Chamber. It only takes a few seconds to emerge! The new butterfly hangs onto the chrysalis until it is ready to unfurl its wings. As soon as its wings are dry, it begins to fly around. Then it is carefully lifted out for release. What an amazing Morning Science lesson!

We were delighted to observe several brand new butterflies being released into the exhibition. I just love new beginnings! 🙂 The new butterflies immediately flew over to a nearby feeding dish.

Four feeding dishes are scattered throughout the exhibition space. The dishes are filled with rotting fruit and a sponge filled with blue Gatorade. Butterflies like to eat bananas, watermelon, mangoes and pineapple (the more rotten the better). They sip sugar water from the sponge and flower nectar through their proboscis, a straw-like structure. Butterflies do not have chewing mouth parts.

Enjoy the delicate beauty of a few of these “flying flowers”…

We also had a fascinating opportunity to view a large atlas moth (native to Southeast Asia) up close. It is one of the largest insects on the planet. The atlas moth does not feed after emerging from its cocoon. During the day, it doesn’t move from its resting place. It uses all of its energy while looking for a mate at night. This beautiful moth only lives for one or two weeks.

This close up shows the intricate, detailed wing of the atlas moth.

Awe inspiring!

 

When a butterfly landed on my wrist, it was a perfect time for an impromptu Science lesson with some young visitors. (Once a teacher, always a teacher!) 🙂 Another visitor walked by wearing a straw hat adorned with visiting butterflies.

  A short Butterflies & Blooms video (courtesy of The Chicago Botanic Garden)

As visitors came and left, we lingered in this peaceful oasis for 1.5 hours. There was so much beauty to savor and enjoy! My sweet husband has been a Lepidoptera enthusiast since childhood. So, he was truly in seventh heaven! Spending time among hundreds of colorful butterflies gave me the most wonderful, peaceful, easy feeling!

As we left the Butterflies & Blooms exhibition, special Butterfly TSA volunteers carefully checked us for any butterfly ‘hitchhikers’ that might ride out with us. In the outer vestibule, each visitor spun around at a mirror to check for possible butterfly escapees. We must be very careful to avoid introducing non-native species to our environment.

We had such a lovely morning! It was simply delightful to watch the young children interacting with the butterflies. Photographers focused their long lenses as butterflies sipped nectar from blossoms. Gardeners dreamed of new perennials to attract butterflies to their gardens. My heart was overflowing with gratitude for this peaceful, enchanting experience!

Heartfelt thanks, dear blog friends, for continuing to visit

over the past several weeks.

I am truly grateful for your friendship! ♥♥

Special family time is keeping me extra busy.

I still have SO many stories to share…

♥♥♥

Sending crisp, cozy Autumn blessings,

from my heart to yours!

 

With gratitude,

♡ Dawn

P.S.  When did you experience a peaceful, easy feeling this Summer?  Hope you will share with us!

 

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Happy Things…

Hi Friends!

When the world feels unsettled in so many ways, it’s always healing to stop, catch our breath, and focus on happy things. That’s exactly what I’ve been doing the past few weeks…

Intentionally…

Mindfully…

With gratitude…

Our family recently gathered for a very special celebration in honor of our parents’ 67th wedding anniversary! What a joy it was to be together for such a happy reason! There were flowers, balloons, cards, and a delicious dinner in a very elegant setting.

Most important of all, there were so many heartwarming memories shared! The stories of how our parents met, their dating years, and the proposal on a very snowy night so long ago.

They reminisced about how my dad made it home from the Army the night before their wedding day and their honeymoon on Mackinac Island. They shared how it felt to leave their families behind, as newlyweds, when they moved to Texas where my dad was stationed next.

Months later, Mom and Dad were separated, in service to our country, when the Army shipped Dad off to Korea. They faithfully kept in touch by writing letters to one another every night. Their bundle of precious love letters, still tied with a ribbon, holds the day-to-day stories of that challenging time in their young marriage. I wonder if they will read their letters to one another again? I hope so!

Over the years, we have celebrated our parents’ wedding anniversary in many special ways and special places. However, this was one of the sweetest celebrations ever! ♥♥

After weeks of record-breaking rain totals in May, we finally have a bit of SUNSHINE!  In fact, we just had four sunny days in a row. 🙂 It truly lifts our spirits and fills us with solar energy!

We have been taking long walks, chatting with neighbors outside, and enjoying quiet times on the front porch. Our days and nights have been cooler than usual… and feel oh-so refreshing!

 

My Friendship Garden is in full bloom. It has been a delight to watch the colors change daily! The dainty, white Anemones have been dancing in the breeze. The pale purple Iris blossoms appeared next. (They always feel like a special ‘visit’ from my dear friend, Iris, in Germany!) The sunny, yellow Irises added a bright pop of sunshine to the Friendship Garden. The deep purple Siberian Irises added such depth of color to this special garden bed.

All of the plants in my Friendship Garden were gifts from the gardens of special friends. So, in addition to all of the color they add to the garden, they fill my heart with special memories of loved ones!

 

Old-fashioned Peonies added lush beauty to the Friendship Garden. They were already here 32 years ago, when I became a first-time homeowner and gardener. I often think of Mrs. G. who lived here and loved her garden for so many years. Perhaps she planted the Peonies?

Due to our abundance of rain, the bright, pink Peonies are taller this year than I can ever remember! It has been such fun to cut bouquets from the Friendship Garden for the front porch and to share with my parents.

 

After so many rainy days, I’m still busy planting containers for the front porch and our flagstone patio near the Herb and Tea Garden. “No rain, no flowers!” So, I’m grateful for the rain showers.

Although Lavender thrives in dry Mediterranean soil, our Lavender is happily blooming in its container in a corner of the Friendship Garden. Nestled along the edge of its pot are two small ‘lovebirds.’  They remind me of my sweet husband and I who will always be newlyweds! This month, we will happily celebrate our 11th wedding anniversary. The years have flown by so quickly! ♥♥

 

 

Earlier this month, a rainbow of welcoming doors was constructed and installed on the grounds of a nearby church. This artwork, created by the congregation, shows visitors to our town that ALL are welcome here. What a meaningful, heartwarming symbol of love!

 

 

A dear friend and I have a special tradition of celebrating her birthday at our beautiful Arboretum each year. This month, we were captivated by the creative artwork of Sean Kenney. Wandering along the tree-lined paths, we admired several intricate creations of insects, animals, and plants completely formed using Lego bricks. (Click to enlarge the photos to read the descriptions.)

 

Sean Kenney designs his fascinating creations to remind us that all of nature is connected just like the Lego bricks are connected.

 

 

The insects, animals, and plants are nature’s building blocks. We are reminded to take care of our fragile planet which connects us all.

 

 

Thick clouds overhead grew darker as two best friends walked and talked. Before long, we were caught in a very heavy downpour. Dripping wet as we burst into laughter, we promised to return again soon, to see the rest of these awe-inspiring creations!

 

 

For the past few months, I have been absolutely fascinated following a very special hiker on You Tube. It was her You Tube name, Radiate Joy, that first caught my attention. Yvette is documenting her 2,000+ mile journey as she hikes along the Appalachian National Scenic Trail from Georgia to Maine. Carrying her 25 lb. pack with camping essentials and 5 days worth of food at a time, Yvette is vlogging her Thru-Hike on the narrow trail, up and down mountains and across National Parks. She remains so upbeat and inspiring throughout this huge challenge!

I hope you will take a peek at her latest video on her Radiate Joy You Tube channel. As of Day 59 on the trail, Yvette has hiked northbound 865 miles, following the tiny, white ‘blaze’ marks painted on trees along the narrow footpaths. She has a beautiful way of filming her trek, with breathtaking sights and sounds of nature and wonderful music. I’m so impressed that she is filming on her iPhone and editing her videos in her little tent in the evenings. Yvette’s bubbly personality shines brightly through the rainiest of days and the countless obstacles she encounters along the AT.

In this video, Yvette shares her reasons for beginning this journey:

In this video, her journey begins:

 

Such an inspiration!! Although I would never attempt an AT adventure, I think of Yvette very often. Her joy is contagious! She inspires me to walk a little further along our nearby prairie and to meet the challenges I face along life’s journey with courage, determination, and as much joy as possible.

What Happy Things are you enjoying these days????

Do share with us…

 

Take time to smell the Rosemary!

♡ 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. 🙂  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.  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.  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! ♥♥

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,

♡ Dawn

 

 

 

 

 

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Quiet…

Hi Friends!

Our native plants are in full bloom here in the Prairie State. We are very fortunate to have several prairie areas nearby, just perfect for a walking meditation on a recent Summer morning.

The gentle, winding path took me past a quiet marsh area. Peaceful lilypads, slender grasses, sunny coneflowers, and delicate Queen Anne’s Lace inspired me to pause and reflect…

Native wildflowers have long roots that run so deep,

much like our family roots.

The Native plants support one another.

Growing together in the prairie ecosystem

allows the wildflowers to survive the difficult times and thrive.

As I walked, the silence was only broken

by the song of red wing blackbirds and crickets.

Then the stillness and quiet returned.

I wanted to let everyone know that, much like the quiet of the prairie, our blog will be quiet for a little while. I will be dedicating my time to helping my family and there just won’t be time to write and edit posts for a while. As soon as possible, I look forward to writing again. There is so much to share!

In the meantime, I hope you will peek into the blog archives to enjoy stories you may have missed during your busy times. Be sure to read through the comments, for these little conversations are always the highlights of every blog post here!

I will pop in to check our blog each day, so please do continue to leave your lovely comments on any post. Replying to your comments brings me such joy! You can always reach me, by email, through the ‘Say Hello’ page. I very much look forward to hearing from you!

Heartfelt thanks for always being here!

With love,

♡ Dawn

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May Blossoms

 

Hi Friends!

Such incredible Springtime extremes! Very likely, you might also be noticing extreme weather events in your little corner of the world, as coverage of terrible flooding, violent storms, devastating wildfires, and dangerous volcanic eruptions fill our news reports on a daily basis. I just returned home to the Midwest after spending several weeks visiting the Sonoran desert of Arizona. Throughout this month, my thoughts often turned to extreme weather contrasts offering just a tiny glimpse into the month of May on our fragile planet.

I boarded my flight in late April on a frosty 31 degree morning and landed a few hours later in the warm sunshine. It was such a blessing to spend a few weeks making precious memories with my parents in their lovely Southwest home. ♥♥

I enjoyed many peaceful mornings in my parents’ desert garden. Unfamiliar birdsong, gentle breezes, and mountain views nourished my soul as I worked outside very early to avoid the afternoon temperatures of 111, 108, and 106 degree days. We were experiencing typical July temperatures in May.

Pulling weeds ‘desert-style’ requires a large brimmed hat, thick gloves, and long-nosed pliers. Although I didn’t know the names of any of the weeds, it was easy to identify intruders that didn’t belong in the their tidy yard covered with tiny pebbles, smooth river rocks, and beautiful granite from the foothills of Red Mountain. The red, parched earth in their yard anchors the deep roots firmly as they reach for water.

Less than one inch of rainfall in 2018 has caused extreme drought conditions in their area. The last measurable rainfall was in January. However, my parents’ desert neighborhood is in full bloom this month. The stunning colors, against the bright blue skies, were a remarkable treat to behold!

Palo Verde tree in full bloom

 

Jacaranda tree filled with blossoms

 

Pink blossoms of the Ironwood tree

 

Blossom-filled stalks of the Joshua Tree

Whenever my mom and I took early morning walks, she shared fascinating facts about the desert plants. We both love the majestic Saguaro cacti. This month my mom has noticed more Saguaro blooms than she has ever seen in her 23 years in the desert.

The white blossoms not only crowned the tops and arms of the Saguaros. The blossoms lined the prickly sides of the Saguaros, too. We were in awe of these plentiful blossoms everywhere we walked. The pollinators were quite thrilled with this spectacular blossom display, as well!

Some of my solo walks became ‘Artist Dates’ as I observed…

the beautiful shadows created by the Red Yucca blossoms…

the brilliant, ombre color palette of the Mexican Bird of Paradise blossoms,

the pale, pink Prickly Pear buds that opened into sunny, yellow flowers,

and the hummingbirds sipping nectar from the blossoms of the Ocotillo cactus. I’m quite certain that some of these desert wonders will inspire watercolors in the weeks to come!

♥♥♥

While I was away, I was so grateful that my sweet husband was keeping watch over our Midwest garden. He told me of hot weather, cold weather, huge rainstorms, and a microburst causing a tree to fall onto a home just three doors down from us. Each evening after work, he checked on the garden, sent frequent photos of our Magnolia in bloom,

and updated me on the activities of a very hungry groundhog.

(Last week, it devoured all of the buds on our Columbine plants. 😦 )

May has always been my very favorite month in the garden. I wondered if I might miss seeing my perennials in bloom with our unpredictable Spring weather. We had almost five inches of rain during my absence and I was so curious to see all of the changes!

My return flight landed late at night.

I was so excited for the dawn’s early light…

and my first peek

at my Friendship Garden!

Everything has changed so much!

I’m absolutely thrilled that the May blossoms waited for me!

Can’t wait to play in the garden!

Spring blessings!

♡ Dawn

P.S.  How is the weather in your little corner of the world?

 

 

 

 

 

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Growing… Day by Day!

Hi Friends!

Things are growing and changing here slowly… day by day.

My Midwest perennial and herb gardens are definitely growing and changing, but that’s not the only place I’m noticing new growth. It’s happening within me, as well!

Inspired by all of the changes in my garden over the past two years, and the lessons learned and documented in my Garden Joys bullet journal, I knew that I wanted to create a very special, very personal Self Care bullet journal for 2018.

The new year offered a blank slate filled with endless possibilities and opportunities to grow day by day. So, I chose a beautiful,  Rhodia dot grid journal for this time of new growth. The luscious, ivory, brushed vellum paper, made in France by Clairefontaine, called to both my hand and heart. These creamy, blank pages must be filled with ink, color, and most importantly… with intention!

In late December, I anticipated that something very important was just about to begin. My blank journal would need a dedicated place for writing and reflecting upon all that I would learn. So, I chose a simple, pine, IKEA desk and my sweet husband spent hours assembling it, with so much love and care.  Now every day of the year begins and ends with those luscious pages and a few simple art supplies. The time I spend with my Self Care journal always feels like a special gift ~ to me, from me!

My Self Care bullet journal is the perfect place to set new healthy goals and quietly document my daily progress. Each morning, I track my hours of restful sleep and also those restless hours filled with worry. It’s interesting to see my sleep patterns throughout the month. I have grown very mindful of going to bed on time because I know that I will have to graph it in my journal in ink.  (*wink*) 

It’s truly heartwarming to fill my Gratitude page with the small blessings that add joy to each day.  I find myself looking for moments of gratitude all day long. By the end of each month, this page is overflowing with blessings and I always wish I had more space to write. I think my Gratitude page is actually the most important page for Self Care each month!

I have also been tracking all of my ‘workouts’ throughout each month. Whenever I workout, I document how many minutes I spend: shoveling snow, practicing Yoga, doing  a Zumba workout, walking, mowing the lawn, or gardening. My activities change throughout the seasons. It’s so wonderful to be more active outside now that Springtime has finally arrived here!

I’m keeping track of how much water I drink each day in my “Hydrate Your Soul” tracker. I have grown more mindful of refilling my water bottle multiple times each day while attempting to reach my daily goal!

My Fitbit counts my steps and I graph them daily. Just knowing that I must record my step count in ink helps me to think about moving more throughout each day. Bundling up for Winter walks felt energizing because I had to walk quickly! We have been ‘Walkin’ on Sunshine’ lately during our evening walks together.  Sunny morning walks in the park always lift my spirits. The easiest walks of all are long, chatty walks with friends. The miles fly by as we catch up on one another’s lives! I’m just delighted that nice walking weather is finally here!

It has been very interesting to document how I spend my days! By the end of the month, I can actually see how much time I have spent in my little Paper Garden studio, writing Morning Pages, going on Artist Dates, writing letters, and blogging. It is creative time that truly nourishes my heart and soul. So, when I notice that one of my important activities is not a part of my days, I strive to make a change. This has been such a gift for my creative spirit!

From the beginning, I made a conscious decision not to include the minutiae of daily tasks in my Self Care journal. During my ‘Renaissance’ (the ‘R’ word that I use for Retirement),  I truly relish the freedom of my days. So, I use a beautiful Lang Engagement Planner for the events and tasks that must be done each day. I either ‘X’ each task as ‘completed’ or migrate it to another day.   I’ve always enjoyed being ‘busy.’ However, now I can feel the difference between just being busy and being productive. What a great feeling!

Perhaps it’s our wild Springtime weather, but it’s so hard to believe that May is almost here!  I’ve been peeking into the birdhouses in our garden waiting for robins or wrens to move in. So, it was such fun to create new spreads with birdhouse doodles in my Self Care journal. I just love adding inspirational quotes on every page!

It will be interesting to watch my healthy habits continue to grow, step by step, throughout May.

This month, I added a new chart to help me stay mindful of my most important healthy goals. Looking down the column each day will remind me of my intentions to do those things that make me both healthy and happy!

Have you noticed that I never include any eating habits in my journal? I feel extremely content using the Weight Watchers app to track all of my meals. It’s a very user-friendly, effective tool to help me maintain my healthy weight. I still count Smart Points every single day and attend my Weight Watchers meeting every week. Staying at my healthy weight for the past six months has been such an important part of my Self Care!

If you are interested, plenty of wonderful inspiration for bullet journaling can be found on You Tube. Kara Benz @ Boho Berry motivated me to give bullet journaling a try. Kara just created a beautiful digital planner (available on May 1st) for those who might prefer a more portable way to bullet journal. (Very interesting, but I think I will always prefer luscious paper and ink!) I also find great bullet journaling inspiration from Amanda Rach Lee.  Helen Colebrook creates lovely journals, too.

I’m so curious…

Do you keep a journal of any kind?

How do you bring Self Care into each day?

Hope you will share with us!

♥♥♥

Thanks so much for visiting today!

 

Sending warm, sunny hugs!

♡ Dawn

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