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

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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

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

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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

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

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

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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

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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.’