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The People You Meet on the Street

Living on three acres for the last 17 years, Halloween night brings zero trick or treaters in our neighborhood. Quiet and secluded, it’s far from an inviting atmosphere for children seeking candy.

Restless and ready to do something different this Halloween, the dogs and I hopped in the car, and met the hubster at a quirky coffeehouse on historic Main Street in St. Charles. Picasso’s was the perfect spot to watch the kiddos in their cute Halloween costumes parade through the streets. There were original costumes for sure, but more interesting were the people we met on the street.

Young children, Millenial hipsters, and baby boomers with dogs stopped to greet our friendly canine fur babies, as we sat at the quaint café table sipping cappuccinos.

Bordeaux, our Bernese Mountain Dog/Aussie mix, whined as a beautiful Spaniel came into view, with its owners. Our mini Aussie, Sabrina, approached the dog cautiously. A few quick sniffs of the dark chocolate and cream Spaniel met with her approval.  Bordeaux was more than happy to lock snouts with the pooch in an all-out sniff-off.

Holly and Tom, the dog’s owners, pulled up a couple chairs across the entrance to Picasso’s to chat with us. A lively conversation ensued, initially centering around the topic of dogs.

Their Spaniel, Jasper, was included in many of their outings, since they were empty-nesters. I shared with the couple, we weren’t so lucky to have children, but the dogs and cats were our spoiled-rotten kids.

We talked about a lot of things, and eventually the conversation lead to favorite vacations, and the perks I’ve come to enjoy writing for a travel magazine.

I expressed my love for Michigan, and they let me in on a secret about Seattle and the San Juan Islands. They mentioned I should visit Reno and Lake Tahoe, and I wouldn’t shut up about islands in the Caribbean.

I discovered they were florists, whose family had been in the business for more than 85 years. Turns out, we even know some of the same authors. Their greenhouse, Parkview Gardens, hosts an author event in September. They suggested I drop by the shop for a visit when I’m in the area.

Chatting for more than an hour…the conversation flowed naturally. Time passed quickly, and the sky morphed from yellow-orange to blue-violet. Lights entwined on nearby trees twinkled and shimmered on cobblestone streets.

Holly and Tom graciously acknowledged it was time for Jasper’s meds, and they should probably head home.

While my conversation was coming to a close with the couple, my husband was actively engaged in a talk with the male patron at the next table. Over coffee and a cigar, the man spoke about his third round of chemo — his battle with cancer. The hubster shared with the man, our friend Dave’s story – diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. With three months to live, three years ago, Dave beat cancer – a walking miracle. The man occasionally scribbled in his notebook as the two talked. Later, hubby learned he was a writer.

Part of talking is listening. If you listen, you’ll realize there’s more to the person on the street than meets the eye.

Sometimes I’m guilty of not listening. But I’m working on it.

So take the time to listen to people’s stories. From their words and stories, you might just find off-the-beaten places to explore, like funky coffeehouses or restaurants, and their love of animals.

Who knows, you may find a deeper connection with this person, and learn about their quest to stay alive.

“Please be a traveler, not a tourist. Try new things, meet new people, and look beyond what’s right in front of you. Those are the keys to understanding this amazing world we live in.” 

Andrew Zimmern

Some people I’ve met on the street….

Jean Cruguet, Triple Crown/Kentucky Derby Winner, jockey for Seattle Slew.Met in Lexington, KY

DSC_0567 Jean Crugeut and me copyr

Lukas, a sand castle builder. Met in Sunset Beach, NC

DSCN0848 Lukas and sandcastle

Skully, an Australian vet, who walks in support of the “Run for the Wall” event originating in Rancho Cucamonga, California, ending in DC. Met in Wentzville, MO

DSC_1128 skully copyright

 

 

Sheree’s Happy Phone Pics – Or Things That Make Me Smile

With all the negative stuff happening in the world right now, I’ve decided to post phone pics. Sometimes the picture quality wasn’t great, but everything I snapped pics of made me happy. It’s interesting to see just how many photos are merely simply pleasures in life, or of friends and family.

Well here you go! I hope my happy crappy phone pics make you smile, too!

Let me know which photos you like the best by leaving a comment below!

Peace and Love,

Sheree

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These two – I love them so!

 

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A secondhand store and its treasures

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Standing in front of Galliot Cay Sand Bar, Exuma Cays – a bucket list adventure

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The St. Louis Art Museum’s interesting masterpieces

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A Caribbean Island

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A visit to Tenth Life Cat Rescue and snuggling a kitten

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The corn field behind our house

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The cancer survivor tiles at Siteman Cancer Center in St. Louis

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The view directly in front of me

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The smell of a freshly groomed fur baby at Sebastian’s Pet Salon

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A 100 year old barn in winter

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My favorite comic strip by Hilary Price. Even better when it’s focused on English.

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Cousins

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The hubster being silly.

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An amazing book – Folly Beach Dances – photos by me and hubster; poetry by 6 women friends

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Corn Mazes involving Missouri teams

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Cappuccino at a favorite coffeehouse

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Sleepy cats

 

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Booksignings with friends

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Surprises from my honey

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Stolen moments

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Long time friends listening to a jazz concert

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A swinging bridge in Missouri

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Students that turn into friends

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These three

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Acceptance into a juried art show

 

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The aroma of a good peanut butter and cutout cookie, right out of the oven.

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Fun Hats

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Preparing a savory pork loin

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The smooth sounds of Cris Botti at the St. Louis Symphony

The Storms in our Life

Sometimes even though you may have best interests at heart for a loved one or a pet, situations may still be stressful in your household.

These episodes of conflict, or ‘storms’ were described by our pastor, Tim, at O’Fallon Christian Church. These times often seem hopeless, neverending, physically and mentally draining.

DSC_1170 folly pier after storm copy

I am currently going through a ‘storm’.

For the past three months our home has been divided – structurally and DSC_0956 Adeline and her babies copyremotionally.

It all started with a female stray cat visiting our back deck in March. We rescued and adopted her before knowing she was pregnant.

Momma Adeline delivered six precious kitten babies, and we witnessed the miracle of birth. It was simply amazing!

Our sixteen year old cat Midnight doesn’t care for Adeline and makes it know by vocalizing in the form of hisses and pig snorts. Adeline, being protective of her babies (even though Midnight doesn’t come in contact with them) takes Midnight’s vocalization as a threat — a brewing storm. This makes life stressful. I’m always trying to make peace between the two– trying to get them to see things the same way.

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Out of the six kittens, four have gone to lovely homes. Two are left – Elvis, a beautiful boy with long body, tall legs, big paws, black with striped head and haunches (manx and black cat mix); and Ireland, a feisty little striped girl (manx) that makes me laugh, loves to play, and gives kisses.

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DSC_1267 Ireland Elvis on black stool copyr

Adeline is separated from the kittens now, so they can thrive on their own without momma’s milk. At nine weeks, they are eating dry food (which they love), drinking water, and being silly little felines. The kittens enjoy running, leaping, and playing in the master bathroom and master bedroom.

At nighttime, Adeline has the run of the basement, and Midnight is on the main floor. During the day, they live together with the dogs, sometimes peacefully, sometimes not so peacefully. A house often divided indeed – by rooms and by emotions.

No sure how much longer I can live like this. Hubby says it will all work out in the end.

On top of all this commotion, I’m trying to work on my writing. There are good days, and there are unproductive days. On the unproductive ‘writing’ days, I usually clean the house, run errands, fix things that need to be fixed. You get the idea.

Add to that, the trouble my husband has with cat dander. Lately, he has been retreating to the solice of the guest bedroom with Red Dog – typically a cat-free zone.

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Our Australian Shepherd, unsure where to sleep, usually follows me to the bedroom, after I tuck the kittens in at night on their favorite cozy bench in the bathroom.

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“The Culprit”

Dogs are such gentle souls. With the storms brewing in our household, comes frustration, lost tempers, and sobbing. Let me just say, the dogs have adapted the best. Things change at a minute’s notice. The goofy pooches are always eager to lick away your tears.

Why can’t humans be like dogs with their “Oh, well attitude”? Nothing seems to bother them. Seems like dogs just go with the flow, don’t they?

I’ve experienced a pretty significant storm in my life – Tropical Storm Jerry – back in the early 1990’s. During a Blackbeard’s cruise off the coast of Bimini, Bahamas, Jerry struck, with twenty foot wind swells pummeling our sailboat of 20 scuba divers. The torrential downpour forced us to don our raingear purchased on Bimini. After 90 minutes on deck in the midst of bitterly cold rain and unforgiving ocean, we attempted singing show tunes. When that didn’t work, we retreated to the warmth of the galley and salon, conversing, smiling, laughing, and trying to remain positive until the storm subsided, all the while the boat was taking on water.

I wish I could tackle all of ‘life storms’ in the same way. Sometimes I forget my favorite Bible verse Philippians 4:6 which says, “Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything”.

As I write this today, I’ve decided to forego my usual morning breakfast ritual of raspberries, oatmeal, and toast accompanied by a dose of Gayle King, Charlie Rose and Nora O’Donnell from CBS This Morning. Instead, I’ve spent my time reflecting on life, and reading Coffee with God by Sarah Arthur – 365 Devotions to Perk Up Your Day.

Because sometimes…. many times, you just need a dose of God and a good cup of coffee to start your day, to get you through those ‘storms’ in life.

And the prayers of friends, family, and even strangers doesn’t hurt either…

I hope the ‘storms’ in your life subside.

Peace out and love,

Xoxoxox

 

Sheree

A Walk in the Woods….

Yesterday, the morning air was crisp, and my senses were awake to the sights of October in all its fall regalia. Took a walk with the canine kids on our three acres and found some amazing feats of nature.

They reminded of a song by Chris Tomlin – “Indescribable” — the first part goes like this:

“From the highest of heights to the depths of the sea
Creation’s revealing Your majesty
From the colors of fall to the fragrance of spring
Every creature unique in the song that it sings
All exclaiming
Indescribable, uncontainable,
You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name.
You are amazing God”
_________________________
Please enjoy my photo journey that I’ll do my best to describe…

20151013_085236 fuzzy seedpod copyrA white fuzzy seedpod…

20151013_085130 knarled tree trunk crop copryA knarled tee trunk reminding me of a scene from a fairy tale…

20151013_085315 berries crop copyrberries that looked like miniature tomatoes…

20151013_085210 leaf crop copyra tree changing colors, and the affects of pests, but still beautiful…

20151013_085737 yellow wildflower crop copyra yellow wildflower…

20151013_085409 dried queen anne's lace copy crop copyrA dried flower that mimics tiny stars…

20151013_085442 deer like trunk crop copyra fallen branch that looks likes a doe’s face…

20151013_085614 corn copy copyrcorn stripped clean from the husk….

20151013_085533 leaf crop copyra sunset in a leaf…

And finally, when our walk was finished, I snapped this pic of the dogs. You can sense the happiness they are feeling (well, at least one of them!)

20151013_090117 dogs revised cropTake time to notice the universal beauty in nature and everything around us, and you’ll soon realize we’re all connected….

The Loveable Dogs of Excelsior Springs, Missouri

Last week, I enjoyed a getaway with friend, Nancy, in Excelsior Springs, Missouri. Hubby stayed home with the fur babies. I knew I would miss them all terribly, but this was my chance to unwind.

After checking in the hotel, and dropping luggage in our room, we decided to peruse the quaint shops of the downtown area. As we strolled about town, we discovered stores closed for shorter work weeks, and a number of stores boarded up. Much to my dismay, even the natural springs had shut down, a source of industry and profit for Excelsior Springs in years past.

Of course, the two of us found other things to do, like savoring scrumptious cuisine at trendy Gram and Dun restaurant in Kansas City, slipping into the pool and enjoying a massage at The Elms Hotel, grabbing a cappuccino, and snapping photographs.

Time flew, and before we knew it, Friday morning checkout was inevitable. I browsed Facebook for the first time in two days, while packing. I stumbled upon a story that piqued my interest – a pit bull adoption. The canine spent 5 years at a shelter before his forever family came to rescue him.

The story warmed my heart, as well as rekindled my memories of the dogs I met over the last couple days in Excelsior Springs like the sweet Jack Russell Terrier named Chance that greeted us at Bliss, a vintage store on Broadway. The frisky canine’s favorite spot was a mahogany-hued leather chair positioned near the storefront window. The terrier’s back legs balanced on the seat of the chair, while his front paws steadied on the chair’s arm – all the while barking at the passing cars and enjoying life.

DSC_1606 jack russell terrier at bliss

We also met a scruffy black and white Shih Tzu resting on the leopard-skin pillow placed strategically in the window of Cline Country Club Barber Shop. This view allowed the pooch to watch his attractive banjo player friend strum familiar tunes for a street side audience.

At the Artisan Gallery, on Thompson, an ebony and white Rat Terrier named Molly doled out an endless supply of kisses to patrons browsing the photography, paintings and pottery throughout the store.

On a side street, in the shady alcove of a local business, stood a caramel-colored puppy with snow-white face, secured loosely to a wooden ladder. Close by, a rugged man, set the foundation for an elaborate Italian-style fountain on the ground adjacent to the sidewalk. As Nancy and I leaned down to greet the rambunctious pit bull puppy, the owner told a story that brought me to tears.

“This morning, I felt someone was telling me to visit the animal shelter. As I looked at the kennels filled with dogs, I noticed a sign on one cage – “PTS: 9 a.m. – put to sleep. I couldn’t leave the puppy there. That’s why he’s at work with me today.”

“You’re a good man,” I said.

But the most compelling story was told by a man we met at the Dari B custard shop Thursday evening. We pulled into the one of the limited parking spaces at the custard stand, and hopped out of the car. Sitting curbside, a ginger-haired mustached gentleman wearing a t-shirt with the words the 9th Hour and scripture quotations by the apostle Luke, held a soft serve cone.

Close by, studying the tasty delight, were two Newfoundland’s. To his left, sat the older canine, with droopy eye sockets, languid lower jaw, and arthritic ridden joints that curved outward on the dog’s knee sockets. The other gentle giant sauntered over to me from the custard stand and nudged his big round head into my upper thighs, urging me to give him some lovin’. He stood about waist high. His sleek body, sparkling eyes and silky fur cued me he was still a young dog.

A conversation ensued with the gentleman, and we listened intently about the rescue of the young dog, named Jax.

A couple of years ago, with the intention of taking Magilla Gorilla, the older Newfoundland, for a walk, the man loaded his companion into his car for a ride to the park. As he steered his vehicle into a parking space, he watched a disturbing scene unfold in the distance. A Newfoundland puppy looked down the barrel of a shotgun, while the owner pointed the gun at the dog’s head. The gentleman jumped out of his car, with Magilla still inside, and cautiously approached the man with the gun.

“What are you doing?”

“This puppy’s worthless. He doesn’t do what I say. He tears things up. He’s a terrible dog.”

“Well if you don’t mind, can I have him?”

“You want him, you got him. Good luck.”

The ginger-haired man scooped up the puppy, placed him in the car with Magilla, and immediately drove home before the man changed his mind. He felt the hand of God leading him to the park, at that moment in time, to save the innocent and unsuspecting puppy.

Jax became a therapy dog, learning quickly from his older brother, Magilla Gorilla.

Magilla, while in his prime, pulled floats in parades, and plastered smiles on the residents of nursing homes. While a woman named Ida couldn’t remember her children’s names because of Alzheimer’s, she always remembered “the big black dog” and asked about him frequently.

As I reminisced about all the fur babies I’ve met while in Excelsior Springs, I especially loved their uniqueness.
Chance, the Jack Russell Terrier – outgoing and talkative,
The Rat Terrier – sweet and friendly,
The Shih Tzu – quiet and observing
The Pit Bull puppy – naive and playful,
And
Magilla and Jax – so stoic and gentle.

I quickly realized we could all learn a lesson from the dogs of Excelsior Springs, who don’t’ judge, are honest with their feelings, and don’t care what people think.

Loving unconditionally, just as God loves us unconditionally.

“A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than you love yourself.”

~Josh Billings

Peace out and love,

Sheree K.

Booksignings, Southern Authors, Beaches, and New Friends

The first week in March, hubby and I set out on a two-city booksigning event for FOLLY BEACH DANCES.

First stop was the Tides Folly Beach Hotel. I’d stayed there last September when my long time friend and author, Tina Solomon, visited Folly Beach to market our ‘healing’ coffee table book FOLLY BEACH DANCES. Recognizing familiar hotel faces, I was happy to be back.

The view from our hotel balcony was the ocean. (Sigh)

In our spare time, Russell and I made it a point to enjoy leisurely strolls on the beach. The first morning, we met a twenty-something Lizzie on the pier. As the three of us walked, we conversed. She spoke fondly of her boyfriend in the military. Browsing through the pier’s gift shop, we noticed FOLLY BEACH DANCES on display. Picking up a copy, Lizzie flipped through the pages of the book, and ended up buying a copy.

Lizzie and me, at FB pier

Lizzie and me, at FB pier

That afternoon we headed to The Preservation Society of Charleston for a booksigning. At first, sales were slow, but by late afternoon we’d hit our stride. What the customers didn’t buy, Evan, the event coordinator, ended up purchasing for the store. A successful event!

The next day, we drove to the end of the island to visit the Folly Beach County Park. As I stepped foot on the sand, I felt transported to a Caribbean oasis. The white sand and muted landscape hues, drew me closer to the water’s edge. And the crisp air beckoned windsurfers to ride the ocean’s waves.

Walking the shoreline, I followed the island’s natural curves. With unbridled anticipation, I was anxious to uncover visual treasures with my camera’s lens. A weathered tree with branches that mimicked windblown hair, awaited me around the next bend.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe bid our goodbye to Folly Beach the next morning, but not before stopping at Bert’s Market – an eclectic hipster produce store. Speaking with Julia, the store’s owner, I was happy when she said she’d carry FOLLY BEACH DANCES!

Next stop – Columbia, South Carolina. After checking into Homewood Suites, we met fellow writer C. Hope Clark and husband, Gary, for dinner at Mr. Friendly’s. The time passed quickly as we spoke of writing, publishing, conferences, the beach, and the lake. I thought the waiter was going to kill us for lingering at her table for more than 2 ½ hours!

Hope and Matt

Hope and Matt

The following day we headed to Irmo Branch Library for a 15-author event. Matt Matthews, author of Mercy Creek, and the First Carolina Novel Prize sat to our right. Hope sat to our left. With her Low Country mysteries, there was a constant stream of visitors to her table. I felt comfortable wedged between these wonderful writers. At the end of the event, I took inventory of our book sales, and realized we did okay.

I told hubby, I’d be back, and took some time to find Southern writer, Tom Poland’s table. Co-author of Reflections of South Carolina. I’d seen his book everywhere – even in Missouri. Along with Robert Clarke, Tom created a wonderful journey of photography and essays, weaving personality and character into the book’s colorful pages.DSC_1220 Tom Poland crop copyr

Tom and I chatted for awhile, and I learned of his humble beginnings in writing. Back in the 70’s, he had a wild idea to take to the road with Robert. With no plan in mind, they’d write and photograph whatever they found interesting. And they never looked back. We shook hands, exchanged business cards, and agreed to meet again whenever in the South.

The car loaded with suitcases, we set course for our next destination – Sunset Beach, North Carolina. Three hours later, we pulled into the parking space of our beach rental, the Graham Sporting Goods house.

Friend and fellow author, Jacqueline DeGroot, stopped by for a visit the following night to talk, watch the sun set below the horizon, and drop off her recent book releases – The Cemetery Kids series. I snapped a photograph of Jack for an upcoming story.

The next three days were bliss. Lazy days spent walking the beach – in the morning, the afternoon, and at sunset. Oh, the sunsets. The sunsets were divine.DSC_1452 birds under pier sunset copyrWhen not on the beach, we’d hop in the car and putter along Shoreline Drive, gazing at the gorgeous homes, with the intercoastal waterway in the distance. We’d stop at our favorite coffee shop, or just shoot photos of flowers, birds, or landscapes.

Oh how I love Sunset Beach.

We made some new furry friends along the way. Sassy and Libby, whose owners live in Little River, came down for a beach visit. We met Emmy, a sweet golden, who lives a short five minute walk from the beach.

Emmy

Emmy

Libby

Libby

Needless to say, we’ll be back in Sunset in May with our fur babies. They’ll get to meet Sassy and Libby, and maybe even Emmy. I know they’ll see their friend Mosa, a boxer, who vacations the same week every year.

Oh yeah, the first day of our trip, FOLLY BEACH DANCES was nominated for the Eric Hoffer Award, including a finalist for the da Vinci Eye Award, for excellence in book cover design.

So, all in all, I’d have to say, we had a great trip.

DSC_1211 Sheree Irmo crop copyr

Fur Babies Alarm Clock….

Those of us who are dog lovers, are familiar with our fur babies routines. Some of those routines include urging us humans to “get out of bed” in the morning, when we’re not quite ready to face the cruel world.

This poem is for dog lovers and for those who like to linger, just a few more minutes, in dreamland.

I give you, short and sweet,

“Fur Alarm Clock”

Dogs are like
An alarm clock
On the brain.

Soft tongue kisses
on a waking face.
Wimpers of joy sing,
While eight paws pace.

It’s time to rise,
you ‘lump on a log’!

Tick tock,
Tick tock.
DOGS!

Copyright Sheree K. Nielsen, December 2014

DSC_0166 Bordeaux and Sabrina crop smaller file copy