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Lighthouses, Beaches and Waterfalls – Oh My!

Last year I had the opportunity to explore the Upper Peninsula in Michigan, not once, but twice!

I was invited on a press trip by the Pure Michigan group (puremichigan.org) to visit the Keewenaw Peninsula with a group of journalists at the beginning of summer. At the end of August, I visited Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and beyond, with my hubster and two canine kids. Many of my adventures included lighthouses, beaches, waterfalls, and great food.

Here’s my 5-page feature story with photographs published in May/June AAA Midwest Traveler. It’s also online, as well.

Hope you enjoy the adventure as much as I did!

Peace out,

Sheree

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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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The Fuss About Persimmons

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In Our State this month, there was an article about wild persimmons, and how they’re the fruit of the Gods.

Frankly, I don’t understand what all the fuss is about. Every persimmon I’ve ever tasted made my face pucker and lips curl.

The article goes on to say you should never pick a persimmon from the tree…wait until it drops on the ground…that’s how you know they’ll be ripe and edible.

So I decided to give this theory a chance, since there are wild persimmon trees on our property.

Today, I pulled on my Sahalie shorts, Life is Good t-shirt, and donned my grey warm-up jacket. After lacing up my tennis shoes, the dogs and I sprinted down the deck steps to the first clearing where the persimmons lay strewn about the ground.

I collected as many could fit into a Kleenex, and stuffed the makeshift carryall in my jacket pocket. I laughed and realized ‘how silly of me’, because I knew I’d be back for more fruit.

My mini Aussie Shepherd and I raced up the deck steps. Gently, I removed the Kleenex filled with persimmons, and set the ripe cargo on our patio table. As I glanced back at our property, I noticed Red Dog, with his nose to the ground. As he raised his head, I caught him munching on those peachy treasures, savoring every bite.

Racing back down the steps, I collected more persimmons underfoot, and plucked two from the tree. Once inside the house, I selected one of the specimens I’d picked from the tree. I was eager to prove Sheri Castle, the article’s author, wrong about her theory.

As I bit into the tough skin, my face shrunk up like a prune. I spit it back out.

Next I selected a peachy-purple specimen, almost bruised-looking, and carefully bit into the fruit. Surprised, it tasted like guava, peach, apricot and even a touch of cinnamon. As I chewed, I noticed the skin was thin, with the pulp soft and fibrous – eager to shed its seeds. Yes, this persimmon was on the ground.

It’s probably too late this year, but next year I’ll be ready for those sweet persimmons as they drop like sugarplums onto one of Grandma’s quilts, at the suggestion of Our State (blanketing the ground to catch the fruit).

But for now, I’ll savor those tiny little ‘deer candies’ until they’re gone, and concede that I’ve figured out ‘the fuss about persimmons.’

 

 

The People We Meet – And their stories

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A little over 4 years ago I visited Tybee Island, Georgia.

One of my favorite spots to hang out with hubby was Backwater Beach, a little known secret where the locals often went to relax, and view sunsets of Little Tybee Island in the distance. The quiet calm of the area was serene; perfect for people watching.

Strolling down to Backwater Beach one afternoon from our B&B, I met Marsha Henson of Sea Kayak Paddleboard (above right) who was instructing a young woman’s developmental course on stand-up paddling. We struck up a casual conversation about her passion – the paddleboard and training. She mentioned how the discipline of the paddling and the training helped some of the girls deal with issues in their own life.

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Her Southern strength and hospitality stuck with me. Marsha had a mission and a purpose. I was glad I met this woman; able to hear her story.

At my Lifegroup meeting this week, some of us talked about our stories.

How did your life begin? What happened in your life that made it broken? How were you rescued? And what is happening in your life right now?

Since my lymphoma diagnosis in 2012, I just feel like whatever is thrown in my path, I can handle it. Bring it on!

I am often reminded of a Kelly Clarkson song, “What Doesn’t Kill us Makes Us Stronger”.

So the next time you’re at a coffeehouse, the gym, or walking the dog at the park, and you come across someone that wants to strike up a conversation for whatever reason – take the time to listen to their story. There’s a reason God placed you there at that moment in time.

And maybe, just maybe, they’ll want to hear your story.

Isaiah 40:29-31

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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”
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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 Sights, Sounds, and Smells of the Morning….

As I walk the paved path at a nearby park with my blue-eyed girl and cinammon-colored boy fur babies, I am reminded of the familiarity of my surroundings.

Hens and drakes skim across the lake, a killdeer sings her song of distress least anyone disturb her nest, and the cicadas low hum remind me of a small fan motor.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI bump into Jan and Ralph, a cute couple, out for their morning stroll. They always surprise my curious canines with crunchy Milkbone treats. Today is no different.

Nearing the end of our walk, the dogs hop in the car. I quench their thirst by pouring water from an empty milk carton into their pink soft-sided bowl. Girl dog sloppily sips water from the mouth of the jug before it trickles into the bowl.

We make our usual morning coffee run to Starbucks, where I know the all the barristas names.

Lincoln greets me at the counter, and says, “The usual?”

“Tall cap, non-fat, ristretto, extra hot, with one pump of mocha, light whip and salt.”

“Dry?”

“Yes please.”

“Haven’t seen you here in awhile,” Sarah says with her cheery smile, who is busy making my beverage.

“Yeah, I know.”

I love hearing the sound of the espresso machine as it screeches, before the dark caramel-hued liquid drops into the shiny shotglasses.

I head back to the car to find Boy dog sitting in the driver’s seat, or Girl dog posed in the passenger seat.

As I drive away, I roll the windows all the way down, so my animal children can feel the cool air caress their soft fur like an ocean breeze hugs warm naked skin.

As I turn down the gravel road to my home, cardinals chirp, squirrels carrying nuts scurry, and bunnies scamper. The oak, walnut, and maple trees are dressed in celery greens and corn-maize yellows ready for their fall fashion show.

Opening the door from the garage to the kitchen, I tell Boy dog to “push it,” and he gently nudges it open with his nose.

Girl kitty is waiting for our arrival home, talking in her best ‘quack’ voice that we’ve been gone way too long!

As I pen this note on the deck, the dog children rest nearby – one sleeping, the other pensive and curious about the sounds and sights on our property.

The Cleomes, bathed in shades of lavender, are favorites of the hummingbirds. I study their lacy blooms that fan out in a helicopter-like pattern.

All is right with the world.

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Music, Poetry and True Glory

20150605_192734powell orchestra pitLast Friday evening, I attended a concert at Powell Symphony Hall with my friend Nancy. Like a child opening a gift, we were ecstatic to see Chris Botti and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra perform together. If you’ve never heard of Chris Botti, he’s only the best jazz trumpeter to walk the face of the earth. I’ve not missed a concert of his since he opened for the silken songbird, Diana Krall over 12 years ago at the Fox Theatre.

With no musicality in my family, I love to listen to music of all genres – jazz, classical, Christian and rock.

Entering the venue, seeing everyone dressed in their best, eyeing the winding staircases and the magnificent chandeliers, made me smile.

20150605_191709 powell chandelier 1As we settled in our seats and the lights dimmed, the audience became silent. I closed my eyes for a moment and listened to the sweet melodies permeating from the orchestra, the smooth sounds of Chris’ trumpet, and the weeping strings of the guest violinist. It was nothing less than magical.

Over the course of the evening, Chris brought out guest singers, highlighted his band, and introduced new up-and-comers. As the concert drew to a close, the lights dimmed deeper, and the spotlight was on Chris and his pianist. The room’s ambiance felt like an intimate jazz club.

On Sunday, I headed to another cultural event at the Unity Center in Columbia, Missouri, Friends Abby and Marcia accompanied me to the book launch of Well-Versed 2015. Marcia and I were receiving awards for our works from the Columbia Chapter of the Missouri Writer’s Guild. Our poems and prose were accepted for inclusion into the anthology.DSC_0145DSC_0135

Winners and contributors read aloud poems and stories about Moms, mystery, nature, pets, and even family conflicts. I listened intently.

DSC_0136Some stories had me rolling with laughter, others made me think; still others stirred up such raw emotion I found myself sobbing.

Each event had one thing in common. The performers – whether musicians or writers – glorified God.

When a human being is doing what he or she was created to do, then God is honored and glorified.

When God is honored, “Other people take notice. The world wakes up a little bit, sees things in a clearer/holier light, and seeks the source of that light,” says Coffee with God author, Sarah Arthur.

Performers glorify God by “using their talents to their utmost,” Arthur says.

Sometimes I don’t feel fully alive. I’m either wandering aimlessly throughout the day, depressed or unmotivated. (Like yesterday)

When I take the time to glorify God (right now with my writing), that’s when I feel alive.

And that when I think He is happiest.

Peace, love, and all that Jazz,

Sheree