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Love Letter to My Husband

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As I sauntered into the kitchen this morning in my pink robe and Chocolate Labrador themed slippers, I noticed a single piece of paper placed on the kitchen table were I normally sit for breakfast. My attention was drawn to the big red font on the signature line that read, Happy Valentine’s Day, from Russell.

Taking a seat at the table, I lifted the paper and read the words my husband penned. Countless emotions filled me – joy, happiness, thankfulness, gratefulness, love, forgiveness, and understanding.

Still sobbing, I walked the hallway to the bedroom and stroked the white-gray hair of my friend, lover, and partner for life.

I whispered in his ear, “That was the sweetest thing…that was the sweetest thing.”

Tears still flowing, I showered him with kisses. He smiled.

While I won’t divulge the contents of the letter, he expressed more than once, I was the only one for him.

Do you know how mellifluous that sounds?

You’re the only one for me.

You’re the only one for me.

Despite my many medical issues and lymphoma diagnosis, our difficult years of marriage, the passing of our animal children, and Mom’s dementia, he stayed. Even if it meant cleaning up Mom while incontinent during a dental appointment. I couldn’t do it. But he did.

Through life’s adventures, over land and sea – diving with black tip sharks, our first helicopter ride, visiting countless coffeehouses in this great nation, walking on a disappearing sand bar in the Caribbean, horseback riding, picnicking on the lawn of a home in Eleuthera with Cotton Bay in the distance, collecting seashells, writing an award-winning coffee table book – we experienced these mile markers together.

I’ve never had to want for anything, always feeling secure with Russell. And I’ve never felt lonely, like I did in my first marriage.

People, hold your loved ones tight and close.

Don’t be afraid to show affection – whether it’s a homemade card or love letter, a heart-shaped waffle, a phone call to a family member, a candlelit dinner, or a meaningful look.

Words and actions

can often mend hearts,

touch hearts,

bring hearts together.

Russell, I love you.

You are the only one for me.

You are the only one for me.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! Now go celebrate your special day!

Peace out,

Sheree

The Grateful Jar 2016 – What are you grateful for?

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The last evening of 2016, I spent with long time friends, Tina and Mike, and my husband Russell. After a savory dinner and some music, we headed to our favorite coffeehouse in Cottleville, Van Buskirk’s Chocolate Bar for some conversation and drinks.

The mood was festive, with millenials and hipsters hanging out at the bar. Silver ribbons and star decorations hung from the rafters. Familiar music from bands of the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s played in the background. Lisa, the cute bartender, ever so stylish in her yarn hat, handed out sparkling glasses of champagne to the fifteen of us gathered that night to ring in the New Year.

I’m sure the four of us were the oldest people there. No worries. Tina and I had fun dancing and singing; the guys had fun laughing at our antics.

As Mike and Russell conversed, Tina and I shared how 2016 was like a roller coaster with its ups and downs. I mentioned to her, how I’d just love to have a day of solitude.

I planned on opening the Grateful Jar after I returned home, a tradition I’d started last year on January 1, after seeing a facebook or twitter post, but for some reason, it wasn’t the right time.

I saved the Grateful Jar for today. A day where the sun was brilliant in the powder blue sky, and snow was packed hard in the  driveway. A lazy Saturday morning — kittens talking to birds outside, and the dogs sacked out in the living room with the hubster.

The Grateful Jar’s purpose – write down good things that happen to you on paper and place them in the jar. They could be surprise gifts, accomplished goals, the beauty of nature, LOL moments or even daily blessings. Then on December 31, open the jar at midnight and read all the amazing things that happened that year.

I opened the new and improved “Count Your Blessings” jar purchased at a home decor store.

– January 4 – Grateful for my husband and three beautiful fur babies.

– Grateful for my long time friend, Tina, who reminds me of the sister I never had.

– Sleeping in my own bed.

– Thankful for long winter walks in the snow with the dogs, and mornings of discovery in January.

– January 27 – Thankful God takes away my anxiety just by reading his Word.

– January – Thankful for my fur baby wake-up crew – a black cat diva, a neurotic Australian Shepherd, and big ole goofy red dog.

– January 3 – Grateful to have a roof over my head.

– Thankful for a wonderful birthday weekend.

-February 2 – Caramel cappuccinos at Crooked Tree Coffeehouse

-February 3 – Extra Dark Cacao Chocolate with sea salt at Kakao Chocolate in Maplewood.

-February 4 – Grateful for cotton candy pink clouds in the shapes of horses and dragons.

-February 4 – Grateful for sacked out naps with dogs, hubby and kitty in the comfort of my sofa on cold winter days.

-Beautiful landscapes of fields, farms, and barns.

-February 3 – Grateful for the shooting star I witnessed in the magnificent night sky at 12:22 a.m., and the incredible night sky blanketed by stars!

-March 3 – Glorious day of a purple sky sunset against silhouetted trees!

-March 14 – Thankful Adeline, the manx cat, showed up on our deck. Thankful we didn’t leave a pregnant momma out in the cold to fend for herself.

-Grateful for Adeline and the delivery of six healthy kitten babies on April 11. Praying for her health and well being.

-Grateful God listens to my prayers – April 12.

-Grateful Adeline’s kittens Patric, Dora, Sweet Tea, Elvis, Ireland and Skye make me laugh every day biting my legs, jumping on my back, crawling up my nightgown, and jumping in Russell’s underwear. (six weeks old)

-Thankful for a house full of love – kitties and kittens.

-Grateful Adeline’s kittens have gone to friends and church family.

-Russell snuck this one in – Grateful for Sheree’s need to be productive.

-Some days I’m just grateful for everything! (March 28) Smiley face

-Grateful my lymphoma is in check.

-Iced cappucinnos and cake pops from Starbucks.

-Grateful for outdoor showers at beach houses in Sunset Beach and the way the cool air feels on my nubile skin.

-May 24 – Grateful for the beautiful orchid I’ve kept alive for more than 1.5 years.

-Dogs riding in cars with their heads hanging out the windows, and ears flapping in the wind.

-My husband gently washing my back in the shower.

-The hummingbird on the purple helicopter plant (Cleome) on the back deck.

-The sound of the 12:30 a.m. train whistling through my open bedroom window.

-My big red dog, Bordeaux, inquisitively memorizing our car trip to the beach.

-Conversations with strangers on planes that last for 2 hours. (Strangers no more)

-When Ireland, our kitten, carries that big yellow artificial Gerber Daisy in her mouth. My inability to catch her.

-My friend Abby snuck these in. Love you Abby!

I am grateful for Sheree and Russ sharing their fur babies with me. Love, Abby

I am grateful for Midnight, Adeline, Elvis and Ireland wait for me to come in at the door. (Three hearts)

I am grateful for my very good friends Sheree and Russell !! xoxo, (smiley face with exclamation eyes) Abby

-Toes dug in chilly Michigan sand, and warm up jackets.

-God’s grace. (heart)

-Backyard bonfires with friends and s’mores with dark chocolate and Reese’s peanut butter cups.

My husband snuck this one in.

-“My wife’s big boobs.”

-Grateful to console friends that need to talk.

-Grateful for Katie Eichhorn’s ‘wedding of the century’ held at Bissinger Chocolate Factory, with all the cousins.

-Grateful for five vacations this year.

-Blessed that Wildlife Rescue Center released 12 baby squirrels on our property.

-Grateful the pain in my breast was nothing.

-Grateful to ring in the New Year with friends, Mike and Tina, and the hubster, Russell.

Alot of people on facebook said that 2016 was a bad year. Well, it wasn’t for me. Sure there were some low periods. Even unproductive times. With all the things that bring a smile to my face, make me laugh, and gave me warm fuzzies, I think it was a pretty good year.

And Lord knows, I love all that chocolate and coffee stimulating my brain!

Isn’t that what it’s all about? Feeling, seeing, touching, hearing, smelling, talking, loving, building relationships…

However your 2016 played out, remember there’s always this year to change things up.

Hope 2017 is a good one for you.

Peace Out and Love,

Sheree

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Dear Kindred Spirit…..How I’ve Missed You

DSC_1691 Ks mailbox copyri Dear Kindred Spirit, This is the fifth time in three years that I’ve visited your peaceful respite. The mailbox and the bench formed the basis for newfound friends – Nancy and Jazzy from Virginia, Jacqueline and Sandy – your keepers, and Colin and Dan from LA. It’s piqued the interest of friends back home, Lisa and Mark.

It’s with deep sadness since last I wrote in your journal, my Aunt Georgia succumbed to emphysema, and my sweet three-legged cat, Tripoli passed on. Though they’re gone, they shared a common thread. Both were both Kindred Spirits – bringing joy and happiness to all those around them.

And just last year, on the sandy shoreline, near the Kindred Spirit Bench, our dogs Sabrina and Bordeaux frolicked with Dan, the Italian greyhound, now running free on Rainbow Bridge. DSC_1702 dunes copyr

Oh Kindred Spirit, how I love your inspiration! From your weathered post, to the ocean’s depths,DSC_1697 flag copyright to your rolling dunes, to the red, white, and blue waving in the breeze!

A gracious ‘thank you’ to the couple who planted a foundation so many years, and started a movement of love…a way to share innermost thoughts and feelings in journals safely protected by a mailbox at sea’s door.

I come here today with my fur babies, and my husband – my best friend.

May your legacy live on! Xoxoxo Sheree Nielsen Wentzville, MO http://www.beachdances.com

For Mother’s Day…..Reminiscing about Uncle Willie’s Farm

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Growing up, my best memories were the sights, sounds, tastes and smells of South St. Louis.

The corner confectionary sold rainbow-colored candy buttons and chunk chocolate. Housed in a shiny glass case, the candy was the main act, on show for all to see.

The brick five-and-dime store on Meramec Street, about three blocks from my house, sold everything imaginable. The same store where my cousin Carol, pounded her fists and kicked her feet in a full-out temper tantrum, because my Aunt Katie refused to buy her what she wanted.

Ted Drewes Frozen Custard on Grand Avenue, still standing to this day, made superb lemon floats. I remember many reflective walks to the custard stand with my friend and neighbor Cindy Winschel.

As an adult, I loved hearing Mom’s childhood stories. She frequented Uncle Willie’s Illinois farm as a young girl, and spent lazy weekends exploring with sisters Georgia Lee and Isabella, often getting into trouble with her cousins, the Wagner kids.

What I remember most about Mom is that she was tough. Tough as nails. And funny.

So here’s a tribute to my Mom ‘Gladys’, and to all moms everywhere.

It’s a story that was published in the St. Louis Post Dispatch on October 13, 2010 titled Visiting Uncle Willie’s Farm. I hope you like it.

Visiting Uncle Willie's Farm - STL Post 2010001Happy Mother’s Day…no matter what kind of mom you are….even moms of animal children.

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I Lost A Good Friend Today – Thoughts on the loss of a pet

Tripoli smaller fileJanuary 14 was like any other morning.

As a freelance writer working from home, I had a ritual from the moment I arose. Stretch my legs. Put on socks. Go to the bathroom. Let the dogs out. Feed the cats. Make breakfast. Turn on the computer.

This bitterly cold day was different. It would be the last time I would hold my sweet three-legged tuxedo cat, Mr. Trip.

I was meeting a friend for coffee at 11:30 a.m. at the local Starbucks. Shortly before I left, I let the dogs out to do their business. Mr. Trip tried to sneak out, but I knew the wind would chill him to the bone.

Around 11:15 a.m. I gently rubbed thyroid cream into Mr. Trip’s ear, and gave him a kiss on the nose, and a pat on the head, then headed out to the car.

The engine light came on when I tried to start the car.

I came back in the house, called my friend Peggy and informed her of my problem. She said she’d just come out to the house and pick me up. When Peggy showed up, our dogs and black cat greeted her. I looked around for Mr. Trip, and just figured he was hiding under the bed, as he sometimes does with visitors.

In the meantime, I phoned the auto place. They came out and recharged my battery, and suggested driving the car around town for least 15 minutes. Peggy and I were off to run errands.

I arrived home around 2:30 p.m. I felt an uneasy feeling come over me as I entered the house.

Our Bernese/Aussie mix jumped down from the bench in front of the bay window and greeted me.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Mr. Trip lying on his side on the wool rug in the dining room. I thought this was odd, as he never lays on the side with his back leg up. He’s usually sunning himself on the bench, or laying tummy up.

I quickly dropped the bags from Target on the counter, let our other Aussie out of her kennel, and ran straight to Mr. Trip.

Bending over him, I called his name several times. He didn’t answer. I stroked his soft black and white fur and called his name – again and again. His bright lemon yellow eyes stared straight ahead.

Somehow I knew he was gone, but his body was still warm to the touch. I cried uncontrollably, still stroking his fur, noticing his beautiful white whiskers. I phoned my husband and hysterically muttered words into the phone. He told me to calm down and speak slowly so he could understand. I then called my neighbor, and asked her to come over and sit with me until my husband came home. Then my best friend called and tried to console me.

I sobbed from the depths of my soul. Tears flowed like I’d lost a child. I kept mulling details over in my head, trying to figure out what happened in the two hours that I was gone.

I lost a good friend on January 14.

We’d raised Mr. Trip since he was a kitten. A beautiful Tuxedo, he was missing his right rear leg. Suckers for a cute face, we adopted the three-legged kitty from VCA All Creatures animal hospital in O’Fallon, Missouri.

Despite his handicap, he became adept at maneuvering throughout the house, and used his back leg like a tricycle.

Mr. Trip was my shadow. He’d sit on my computer desk, and follow the mouse pointer across the screen. One night I caught him watching television. I placed a chair in front of the TV so he could be closer. I observed as he ‘tap, tap, tapped’ his front paw on the screen in an attempt to swats all the insects in a popular movie.

He enjoyed dipping his toes in my bath water, loved ripping out my hair with his teeth, basking in the sunlight on his favorite bench in the dining room, sitting on my lap on the sofa recliner, watching the birds from his bench in the kitchen, talking constantly in his baby voice.
I nicknamed him “Puppy” and “Tripolipski” and “punk kitty cat” and “Tripopipoleee”.

DSC_2121Mr. Trip was famous – my essay about him titled, “Purrs, Paws, and Cat Scratch Kisses” was published twice – once in Whispering Angels Nurturing Paws Anthology and again in The Animal Anthology Project. This wonderful feline even won Third Place in the Humane Society Pet Pals contest with his canine sister Maggie (passed on). His picture was featured in the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

For years, he slept on my head in bed in the exact same spot Rory, my first kitty slept. And although they’d never met, somehow I felt he sensed Rory’s presence.

He was my little love, and my spark of happiness. No matter how bad I was feeling, one look from his sweet face would cheer me up.

I remember the day my Mom passed away. Mr. Trip was there to console me. Hopping up in the recliner, he placed his paw in my hand and gazed into my eyes as if to say, “It’s okay Mom, I’m here for you.”

DSC_1404 My sweet TripoliAhhh. His gazes would melt your heart. It was as it he was looking through to your soul.

A couple of years ago, he wasn’t able to jump as high as he used to, so I positioned a stool in the kitchen that he could hop up, then on to the next counter stool, and finally to the counter to get his food.

When I’d exercise on the floor, he had to get in on the action. And if I’d roll to one side to do leg lifts, you could be sure he’d be right in front of me; even when I changed sides.

He gave me joy every day.

He made me smile.

He calmed me down.

He had the softest tongue, and the sweetest disposition.

I loved him so much. I hope to see him again one day, with all the other fur babies that have passed on.

My heart aches without him.

***

Recently, I read two stories about loving a pet unconditionally that touched my heart.

The first, was a story on Buzzfeed about Lauren Fern Watt who took her dying dog Gizelle on an Epic Adventure. To cope with losing her best friend, she took her 160 lb. English Mastiff on an adventure that changed both of them.

Lauren’s dog Gizelle, taught her that love is the most wonderful gift she could receive, and the best thing Lauren had to give.

The second story called, “The Dog Years” tells of David Dudley’s canine, Foggy, who was there for every life event, as well as all the fun vacations and good times. And finally, when Foggy, turned 18, David knew his life was over as they rode in the car to the vet for the last time — despite his best efforts to give him everything he needed.

The piece of advice I took away from Dudley’s feature story published in AARP was that “Everything you do for a dog (or cat) to help them age well, you should do with them.”

“So eat the best food you can afford.

Go for a walk, even if it’s raining.

Take a lot of naps.

Keep your teeth clean and your breath fresh, so that the people you lick will not flinch.

And when someone you love walks in through the door, even if it happens five times a day, go totally insane with joy.”

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

 

Friends, the Lowcountry, and Thoughts on Life…..

Boy, it’s been awhile since I blogged. Time sure flies when you’re busy.

I spent last week in Folly Beach and Charleston, South Carolina in search of just the right places to market FOLLY BEACH DANCES, my ‘healing’ coffee table book.

Folly Beach Dances graces the shelves of independent bookstores in South Carolina – Blue Bicycle in Charleston, and Indigo Books on Kiawah Island, and the Folly Beach Pier giftshop. I’m very grateful for these opportunities to showcase my proudest mission, and journey.

While in South Carolina, I visited the sweet town of Summerville for the first leg of a freelance story, and visited a dear friend from Missouri. It was wonderful to share time together.

I enjoyed savory food, new sights, and the company of my best friend and Folly Beach Dances, contributing writer, Tina Solomon.Key Lime Pie - Eclectic Chef

We had some laughs, got lost a few times, met some interesting people, visited her family, and of course, spent time at the beach.

You know the beach just has it’s way of pulling you in.

Dreamy, creamy sunsets. The wild surf. The soft sand between your toes. The sultry nights. Long conversations with friends. I just love it all.

Tina and I on the beach

We even saw a couple young men twirling fire wands in the dark of night. It was mesmerizing.

And although the Carolinas are (by far) my favorite states, and I know I’ll be back in October for several book events, it’s always nice to come home to the ones you love. An understanding husband. Some goofy dogs. A couple of arrogant cats. Some Daddy Long Legs on the porch. The resident rabbits.

The scene from my kitchen table overlooking our property is priceless – cardinals, hummingbirds, rustic oak trees, and a squirrel scampering on our deck with not one, but two, walnuts in his mouth.

And as I sit here in the quiet of the house, penning this post, and watching my wonderful husband work with feet propped up on the ottoman, I’m thankful. Thankful for all the opportunities afforded me as a writer and photographer over the last six years.

Bordeaux at front door

The low hum of a motor sounds

in the distance.

 

The big dog

rests peacefully

astride the ocean-hued rug

gazing at the bounty of green

outside his door.

 

Sheree K. Nielsen, copyright Sept., 2014