A Life Changer – Brunswick Christian Recovery Center – Teaching individuals a new way to live

When my editor at South Brunswick Magazine, Allison, asked me to write a story on a nonprofit – Brunswick Christian Recovery Center, I was a little anxious. It was important I convey the center’s message of hope. After talking to Joshua Torbich, the director, and hearing compassion in his voice, and love of the work he was doing, not just for the community, but for the men of Brunswick Christian Recovery Center, all my anxiety was laid to rest.

Here’s the three-page story that was published in South Brunswick last week. I hope you enjoy the message, as much as I enjoyed writing the story.

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S Brunswick - Life Changer BCRC S Nielsen pg 80

S Brunswick - Life Changer BCRC S Nielsen pg 81

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Take Time to Breathe – It’s Time to Slow Down

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I read a message on author/illustrator’s Sandy Gingras’  Facebook page who I’ve recently become acquainted. She mentioned how people are missing the point of beach life – simplicity.

A beach girl at heart, trapped in the Midwest, I can identify with her. All I’ve ever wished for is a little cottage by the sea. I’d be happy with a one room home to call my own – as long as I could spend my time outside with nature, the waves, the sand, and the sea.

But for now, I’m limited to beachy vacations to the South and Great Lakes regions.

As a writer, I get caught up in trying to check things off my daily ‘to do’ list, and often miss the little things in life happening right before my eyes – like the white-bellied plump squirrel munching on organic banana chips I’ve scattered for her on the deck rails. Or the black banded pennant dragonfly fluttering above scores of pastel lavender and eggplant-hued Cleomes in my garden.

When I take time to slow down, I notice the small things in life.

Yesterday, I eyed a Momma bunny in our backyard foraging bits of dried grass, meticulously moving the straw-like material from an old nest to a fresh one, in preparation for a blessed event! She allowed me within a foot of her presence. Nesting grass was tightly gripped in her mouth. I was overwhelmed by her beauty.

Inside the house, Miss Adeline, our Manx cat, was leaping windowsill to windowsill, vocalizing about her bunny friend, and dreaming about a future bunny buffet!

It’s these times when I slow down, my ideas and creative juices flow.

With that said, for those of you who love to travel, revel at nature, and spend time with family and pets – you might just like my upcoming book – Ocean Rhythms, Kindred Spirits – An Emerson-Inspired Essay Collection on Travel, Nature, Family and Pets. It’s due to be published this summer by Ocean Spirit Photography. To accompany the essays, photographs will be at the end of each story. Cover reveal coming soon!

Have I started marketing yet? Not really. This is the first mention of the book.

Am I worried about marketing? Maybe. (Ha – who am I kidding – Yes!)

In the big scheme of things, I think it will all work out.

But for June 21, the beginning of Summer Solstice, I need to soak in the playfulness of the squirrels and the cardinals prancing about the deck rails, and listen to the words of Sandy Gingras —

“Take time to breathe”

Peace out, and love,

Sheree

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Feeding Yourself – Increasing Positive Energy; Decreasing Things that Suck Energy

Yesterday, I met a writer friend for coffee, tea and conversation at our favorite coffeehouse – Van Buskirk Chocolate Bar, Cottleville, Missouri. The conversation was easy, as it always is with this friend.

Serendipitously, another friend, who I hadn’t seen since in a couple of months, just happened to be hanging out, working on his laptop. I noticed him as I stepped inside the door.

We greeted each other with a hug and a smile. I asked how he was doing, and he spoke briefly about his new endeavor.

At one point, we invited him to pull up a chair and chat with us. I knew this man designed beautiful websites and inspirational videos. I asked for some marketing advice about our forthcoming picture book, Midnight, the One-Eyed Cat, due out in September (Amphorae).

It was effortless listening to him speak, and before we knew it, three hours had flown by. We agreed to think about his ideas and get back to him.

I bid my writer friend goodbye with a hug, knowing we would see each other soon – connected by a project and similar interests.

I also hugged my male friend and bid goodbye. But the goodbye morphed into another conversation. A conversation about being fed – spiritually, emotionally, visually and creatively – and the energy that accompanies those specific points.

He often suggested to friends or clients to reflect on their own lives by making a list to identify which people, places and even actions, feed energy levels, or suck energy levels.

I began to think about his advice in terms of motivation, focus and goals in my own life.

I quickly realized that my fur babies, nature, song, dance, art, sunshine and exercise are a positive force in my life. At different times, my husband can be positive, neutral and even negative. (Sorry dear) Certain friends are always positive. Some friends fall in all three categories at one time or another.

So, what’s a person to do?

Spend more time with those people that give you positive vibes. Hang out where people are uplifting. Spent more time in nature, if that’s your thing. Needlepoint, paint, draw – whatever lifts your energy level.

The opposite is true for things that suck energy. Decrease those aspects.

For me lately, social media sucks energy. Often times, it’s so depressing. So, I’ve vowed to limit my social media time to a minimum per day.

As a writer, it’s hard to get away from social media, altogether. It’s an important aspect of networking, connecting with readers, and even selling yourself.

Since nature uplifts me, I spent more time with the pooches yesterday walking our property. Normally, I rush right through it, hoping they will do their business, get some exercise, so I get can back to writing.

Yesterday was more of a ‘meander’. Sure, it took longer, but we observed nature’s splendor and noticed the small things along our journey.

Things like –

The way the sun reflected on the slightly budding, yet naked trees and caramel-hued earth in my favorite part of the clearing.

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The carvings in the smooth telephone pole, and shiny metal inspection tags left by the lineman over the years.

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Twisted, tangled, fairy tale branches, leaning into another tree trunk for support.

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A hollow depression in a log carved by some creature exhibiting ragged edges, wedged horizontally against a knobby trunk.

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The way my blue-eyed Pretty Dog pondered life intently studying the landscape.

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The wet, pungent leaves underfoot, and how Red Dog stepped gingerly to avoid the sticky Missouri clay on his paws.

Their noses to the ground, Red Dog and Pretty Dog explored new growth in the clearing, and coyote scat laden with seeds.

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Yes, this was exactly what I need today.

I needed to be fed.

I’m curious to see how you increase positive energy and decrease things that take energy from your lives. Please feel free to comment.

Peace out,

xoxoxo

Sheree

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lists – Why We Make Lists…Why We Need Goals…Does it Stem from Our Childhood?

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Today I got stuck on the subject of lists with an acquaintance.

As a young girl, I used to send notes airborne from the second-floor balcony to my parents below, via the winding mahogany staircase.

I floated notes to Mom and Dad on brightly colored paper whenever I felt they weren’t listening to me, taking me seriously, or when I wanted to voice my opinion.

My sister-in-law, Geri, reminisced about a time she was dating my brother, and was hanging out at our house one evening. I was four years old, and had refused to go to bed.

Most of my note scribbling pertained to reasons why I should stay up late.

Justifications were:

I’m not tired.

I hear something outside.

My tummy hurts.

I have to pee.

I need a drink of water.

I’m still hungry.

According to Geri, sometimes I’d convince Mom (based on which excuse would win her sympathy), to garner a more few hours with the adults in the living room. Other times, they ignored me. Eventually the effort of note-writing just wasn’t worth it, and I fell asleep, recognizing defeat.

I suppose I’ve made lists all my life.

At my first home, Post-It Notes came in handy.

I scattered lists all over the kitchen table. Since I attended college in the evening, and worked full time, my lists consisted of –

  • What art projects I needed to finish
  • Lists of supplies for class
  • How to study for my anatomy quiz in Figure Drawing

When I began my career in Telecom, my lists morphed into color-coded spreadsheets of my customers whose circuits I was designing for their networks and stages (steps) of the Provisioning process.

After my first marriage ended, there were lists of goals I wished to accomplish. I was determined to take my mind off my recent divorce, and lift my spirits.

My lists were:

Take a yoga class.

Take a dance class.

Snap more photos.

Go on a vacation.

Get a promotion.

As I checked these items off my list, I met the man I was going to marry.

I created more lists!

What shape diamond do I like?

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Where should we hold the wedding?

What flowers would be in my wedding bouquet?

Savory food for the menu?

What musicians should we hire?

What song would I walk to at our sunset ceremony?

What memory of my Dad could I include in the ceremony?

Today, I create lists of goals I want to accomplish as a writer.

  • Tweet more
  • Finish editing my essay collection
  • Write a better bio
  • Network more
  • Figure out how to sell more books
  • Prepare for those upcoming presentations at schools
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Hubby, Russell, speaking at Troy Buchanan last year about our book, Folly Beach Dances

My writing lists seem far more stressful. Working at home can be both a blessing, and a hindrance. There is no sense of urgency on self-imposed deadlines. Or is there?

Taken from Wikipedia, Newton’s First Law of Motion states –

  • An object that is at rest will stay at rest unless a force acts upon it.
  • An object that is in motion will not change its velocity unless a force acts upon it.

For me, I accomplish a lot if I keep moving. I start my day early with a strong cup of espresso, a sunny bay window and a great view. This keeps me motivated.

Other times, I feel somewhat overwhelmed, so I accomplish the easy items first. Afterwards, I meet a friend for coffee, smooch my hubby, or play with the fur babies. I end up staying at rest. Not always a good plan.

One goal that’s sure to keep me moving – a new picture book with Amphorae Publishing slated for September release, titled “Midnight, The One-Eyed Cat”, with coauthor Pat Wahler.

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Midnight, the inspiration for our new picture book, with her ‘Daddy’

It’s about overcoming handicaps, building confidence, and learning to be the best you already are.

Guess I could take some advice from Midnight!

Do you find lists helpful in accomplishing goals, or does making lists stress you out? I’d love to hear your opinion.

 

Peace Out and Love,

Xoxo

Sheree

 

 

What We Need, When We Need it. Learning to Trust God

This morning, I awoke early, riddled with anxiety from a concern weighing heavy on my heart from last evening. I tried praying my favorite Bible verse, “Don’t worry about anything, pray about everything,” over and over in my mind, but the more I prayed, the more restless I became. After thirty minutes of tossing and turning in bed, I glanced at the alarm clock which read 7:01. I sat up in bed, stretched my legs, slipped on my tan wool slippers, and greeted Red Dog who was by my side, with a pat on a head.

As I pulled the cord to open the vertical blinds in our bedroom, I gazed up at the moon, still high in the cornflower sky, with hints of waking from a cold Midwestern night. The sky delighted in a canvas of cornflower blue, and silhouettes of barren trees painted the serene landscape.

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As I purveyed the entrance to our clearing, a single deer appeared. I moved quickly through the house to locate my Nikon camera in the dining room. As I moved back through each room, I glanced out windows as I passed, and spotted two more deer, for a total of three. Two does and one fawn meandered gracefully west to east along the back yard of our property. At the boundary of our neighbor facing directly east, I snapped several photos. The creatures were bending, sniffing the ground, and looking up on alert. They traveled at a leisurely pace, repeating their routine. Parts of the ground were frozen and snow-laden, while oaky-hued ground laid the foundation.

As I pushed back the sheer curtains in the dining room’s bay windows, the dogs quietly whined when they noticed the deer, and Momma cat kept a tune with a low growl, her sleek body all the while brushing the windowsill.

I watched as the deer entered our neighbor’s yard directly across the cul de sac, and disappeared in the wooded area behind their home.

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I had hoped they would come full circle, and perambulate our yard a second time, enabling me to capture a few more snapshots. So much for wishful thinking.

I prepared my breakfast of oatmeal with blueberries and cinnamon, pumpkin bread, and English Breakfast tea. Rather than follow my routine and turn on the Today Show, I opted to sit and ponder my ‘wake up call’ by appreciating the wonders of nature outside my kitchen door.

The exquisiteness of the deer, the moon, the snow, and the trees, was just enough inspiration to take my mind off my troubles and anxieties. It forced me to slow down, and funnel my energy in a positive manner.

And although I received thirty minutes less sleep than yesterday, what I received in return was even more valuable and rewarding. My concerns are still near, but I soon realized I needed to replace my worry with trust.

God gives us what we need, when we need it. We just need to figure out how to use it.

God is good all the time. All the time God is good.

Now go have a blessed day!

Peace out and Love,

Sheree

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Storms in our Life

(This is are repost from last summer.)

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.

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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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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

When a White Dove Crosses Your Path

Since this seems to be one of my popular blog posts, I’m sharing with you again.

Sheree's Warm Fuzzies

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After a wonderful afternoon strolling Main Street St. Charles with hubby, Russell, and our two canine children, we made the trek home in our SUV on I-70.  Russell cast his eyes to the sky and a perfect white dove flew overhead.  The dove, immediately in our line of sight, crossed paths at the specific moment we were traveling down the highway.

Coincidence.  Maybe?  Or Maybe not.

This stirred up memories of a service at O’Fallon Christian Church many years ago.  I’d been searching for a church for several months – one my husband and I could attend together.  The service was uplifting with joyful music.  Listening to the song, “I Surrender”, the Holy Spirit filled me with an unexplained emotion and vulnerability.  I was baptized shortly after.

Over the last few days, a series of events happened – my husband lost his aunt due to a heart attack, it was…

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Oysters and Pearls

Recently, I’ve been listening to Jimmy Buffett’s Encore 2 CD set of hits while taking the canine kids for drives around town, running errands, or heading to appointments. I’ve played this CD so many times, it has deep groves in the vinyl.

As I was singing along to “Oysters and Pearls” one afternoon, the chorus was stuck in my head.

(Chorus)

Some people love to lead
And some refuse to dance.
Some play it safely, other take a chance.
Still it’s all a mystery
This place we call the world
Where most live as oysters
While some become pearls.

(Chorus)

Some never fade away, some crash and burn
Some make the world go round, other watch it turn.
Still it’s all a mystery
This place we call the world.
Most are fine as oysters
While some become pearls

Hmm…Oysters and Pearls…

Haven’t some of us been both, at one point in our lives?

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When I won the Da Vinci Eye Award for my ‘healing’ coffee table book, Folly Beach Dances, in 2015, published by Ocean Spirit Photography, I felt like a pearl – so proud, so confident, to have collaborated with five talented Missouri women authors, my husband, and a wonderful designer, to ultimately publish this inspirational book of poetry and photography.

When I realized I wouldn’t be able to bear children, I felt like an oyster, even a failure. A deep chasm was left in my heart.

But quickly, I felt like a pearl again, when I was able to mentor a select group of youth at O’Fallon Christian Church for three years. And what awesome adults these kids have grown up to be – Riliegh, Sidney, Tyler, and Ben.

Some say the key to life is moderation. “You need to crack open the oyster to find the pearl.” (author unknown)

I like that a lot.

So maybe, in our own way, we’re oysters on the outside?

We don’t realize our own potential until we go out on a limb, take a risk, learn how to scuba dive, ride a horse, walk across a ranging stream to reach that waterfall, or whatever it is we crave to get excited about life….and you!

My little kitten, Ireland (aka Tater Tot), sure knows how to live life. She is pure joy! All I have to do is look at her, and the corners of my mouth upturn in a grin. Everything is an adventure for this fur baby. She loves chasing foil balls, talking to cardinals through the French doors, watching squirrels on the deck, stalking her brother from behind the footstool, trying new treats, and snoozing on my lap in the cool of the evening.

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But me…I’ve been playing it safe, except for vacation, when anything is possible.

Why is it for most of us, we hide in our bubble after arrive home from a vacation adventure?

Today, I’m going to make a promise to you, that I’ll try to take more risks in life.

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I’m not sure where this adventure will lead, but I’m going to finish those writing projects that have been collecting dust, explore my local area, dance more, laugh more and be the tree hugger nerd that I truly am.

Hopefully, I’ll feel more like a pearl than an oyster…every day.

Care to join me?

Peace out and love,

xoxo

Sheree

The Happiness Factor – Get your Hygge On!

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My silly husband

Not only is today the first day of spring, it is recognized as Happiness Day around the world. What makes you happy?

For me, it’s

  • Long time friendships
  • Walks on the beach
  • Scubadiving, and chance dolphin encounters
  • Smiles, cuddles and purrs from my fur babies
  • The aroma of freshly roasted coffee beans
  • The taste of dark chocolate, so smooth and luscious
  • A waterfall rushing over my skin
  • The day I married outside my husband on the grounds of a beautiful mansion, the sunset, and the smells of a spring day.

This past weekend, CBS Sunday Morning televised a segment on the world’s happiest countries.

Apparently, Denmark has topped the charts for years. Their happiness factor stems from a state of mind called ‘hygge’ (pronounced hooga). Hygge, according to the Huffington Post is “drama-free togetherness time”. Danes believe that hygge is “we time, not me time”.

Some look at hygge as a barrier from the outside world – no conversations about politics, family issues, no complaining, no negativity, and no bragging. It’s a light-hearted interaction where people enjoy each other’s company over a meal or time together. It’s often considered shelter from the outside world.

But what would happen if we shut out social media for one day? We could compare our experience to being on a desolate island or a cabin in the woods, with no contact to the outside world.

My ‘hygge’ is evident in the list I shared above.

Here are five rules for hygge, taken from the Jessica Alexander’s, Huffington Post article “The Secret to Danish Happiness”.

  1. Come as you are.
  2. Forget the controversy.
  3. Think of yourself as a team member.
  4. See hygge as a shelter from the outside.
  5. Remember it is time limited.

Hygge is “a moment in time where everyone takes off their masks and leaves difficulties at the door, in order to appreciate the power of presence with others”.

My ‘hygge’ this weekend was spent with my husband strolling the halls of the Edgar Degas exhibit at the St. Louis Art Museum in quiet solitude, savoring A butterscotch and hot fudge sundae at Ted Drewes Frozen Custard, eating Mexican food, and sipping a Kaldi’s mocha cappuccino.

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And with my pooches, meandering our three acres, discovering the sights, the sounds, and the smells of nature.

“Happiness is when what you think, what you do, and what you say, are in harmony.”

~ Mahatma Gandi

Now go have a good day and spread the love!

Peace out,

Sheree

What you Think you Heard (What I Really Said)

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Have you ever been in a situation or a conversation with a coworker, friend, family member, or loved one where no matter how great, wonderful, and positive your day is going, someone misconstrues what you said, words become heated, bringing your happiness to an all-time low?

Some people are quick to anger, or have a critical spirit. How do you react to ‘words that were put in your mouth’?

In your head, you’re thinking, “I never said that” or “What are you talking about?” or “What just happened?” although many times you remain quiet, and say nothing, lest you incite an argument.

We’ve all probably been the recipient (and accuser) different times in our lives.

No matter how hard you try to decipher misinterpreted words, often, it’s not possible. There’s got to be an underlying reason. Right? Maybe there’s something else on their minds, maybe they had a bad day….

Sometimes, situations escalate. You may not talk to that person for days, months, or even years.

Life happens. And in the scheme of life, Sh** happens.

The above phrase reminds me of my first girlfriend’s trip to Honolulu, Hawaii. On a strict daily budget, the four of us visited the local McDonald’s. After receiving our food, we garnered seats at a table, partially protected by a roof overhang in an open-air atmosphere. Deb and Cheryl sat under the roofed area; Jo Ellen and I sat outside.

As I began to nibble on my Filet-O-Fish and fries, I noticed several pigeons inching closer to our table.

“Don’t feed the pigeons, they’ll poop on you,” Jo Ellen advised.

I didn’t want to hear what she said. I just figured those pigeons must be hungry.

Soon, I felt a ‘plop’ directly on top of my head. A warm, white liquid began trickling down my bangs, onto my stylish sunglasses, and landing onto my Filet-O-Fish sandwich. Quickly, the tarter sauce and the ‘white liquid’ became one.

The feeling of misinterpreted words mentioned earlier, felt eerily similar to the pigeon pooping on my head.

So what can you and I do to remedy these situations?

With the pigeon poop dilemma, I located the nearest restroom, put my head under the faucet, and washed out the unpleasantry with clean water. I proceeded to enjoy the limitless beauty of the tropical island.

Sometimes, it’s not that easy with relationships.

The Bible tells us to stay calm.

Proverbs 14:29 says, “Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly.”

I especially like this quote from James 1:19-20 —

“Understand this my brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.”

Wow. What a powerful verse. Especially, the last sentence.

Human anger doesn’t produce the righteousness God desires.

Try to talk about what just happened with each other, in a calm, respectful manner.

Then pray.

The Feels Like Home blog suggests to pray for yourself, pray for the other person, and pray for the situation. People can’t change people. Only God can change people.

And above all, love one another.

Ephesians 4:1-32

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism…”

Peace out, and love

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

20170107_103258

The Four Trees of Christmas…..

DSC_1030 animals tree copryAs hubby and I stared at the boxes stacked on the shelves in our basement storage closet, he looked at me asking, “Which tree do you want to put up? The 7-footer or the 4- footer?”

“Neither.”

Somehow, putting up a big tree this year, didn’t seem that important.

A small green tree, about 2 feet high, partially decorated, rested on a storage box, with names of our fur babies. It needed some tender loving care. I carefully removed the tree, and set it outside the closet.

A 2 ½ foot tall white, snowy-covered pine tree (more trunk than branches) stood on the floor, decorated with red garland, next to a foot-high pine tree with burlap-sack covered base. I smiled gazing at the trees, and placed the two outside the closet.

On my favorite glass coffee table in the basement sat a mostly-brown, prelit tree with tiny cylindral-like lights at the branches tips. I lifted the tree, and placed it next to the other three trees.

Hubby assisted by carrying the boxes filled with ornaments to the dining room on the main floor.

The first tree, or ‘fur baby tree’, was missing some names of pets, past and present. Light aqua, pink and red ornaments caught my eye. I wrote the pet’s names in metallic permanent marker on the shiny glass balls until all fur babies were accounted for. I hung snowflake ornaments on the branches, and draped hot pink ribbons on the tree, which rested on a stark white window bench in my office.

The second tree – or marine life tree – was just for hubby and me. Although there begged too many ocean-themed ornaments to pick from, I carefully selected momentos such as the scuba diving ones – bees, reindeer, and people; glass fish ornaments given to me by friends and family; a handcrafted stained glass scallop shell made in Charleston, and a couple ships in a bottle. This bright, happy tree rested on the modern Danish buffet table in the dining room.

DSC_1037 sea life tree crop copryI draped a red tablecloth dotted with a black tree pattern, on a small round glass table situated near the French doors in the kitchen. The location was perfect overlooking our backyard, trees, and the field beyond.

On this table, I placed the skinny white snow-covered and meek burlap-based trees next to each other. At the base of the white tree, I leaned a ‘nativity’ matchbox scene, gifted to my husband by a friend at Starbucks. In front of the tiny nativity scene, I placed the Willow Tree angel nativity scene – Joseph, Mary with baby Jesus, a shepherd holding a sheep, and the ox and two lamb. These trees were for Jesus.

DSC_1038 jesus tree cropAnd although we didn’t have a huge artificial masterpiece with treetop touching the ceiling, the simplicity of the four trees became meaningful – each in their own way.

So Christmas isn’t about the ‘stuff’, it’s about what’s deep down in your hearts.

It’s about thanking God for everything he’s done for us, and giving up his SON for our sins.

It’s not about US.

It’s about paying it forward to others – in the form of a cup of coffee, opening a door for someone, helping them out with their medical bills, saying a kind word – whatever you can manage.

There’s a poem I discovered online called “The True Meaning of Christmas” by M. S. Lowndes. I’d like to share it with you. Please enjoy.

Jesus Christ was born this day
So many years before
He came a servant to the lost,

Though he was Lord of Lords
We celebrate this joyous time,
Reflecting on His birth
Not born in a mansion, but a stable
As if He had no worth
He came so He could identify
With the human heart of man
And gave His life as a sacrifice,
Offering a better plan
A plan that reconciles us back
To our loving Father God,
Bringing hope and redemption from
Sins ruling, iron rod
For this is the only reason that we
Should celebrate this day,
To become focused on anything else,
Would take the meaning away
So let’s arise with joy in our hearts
And share it with everyone
The meaning of Christmas will always be
The birth of Jesus – God’s son