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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Shifts Anthology – St. Louis Area Writer Featured in St. Louis Today

DSC_2483 glass window bridge 1 copyrSweet serendipity!

Have you ever stumbled upon something while searching for something else?

So nice to be mentioned by author and editor Trina Sotira, of Muse Write Press in Chicago, from her article in St. Louis Today published December 9, 2017.

Her story tells the story of women’s challenges and triumphs in Shifts – An Anthology of Growth Through Change.

As Trina states:

“The anthology features poems, short stories and essays by 35 women who represent diversity in age groups, geographic locations, marital status, parenting status, professions and sexual orientations. It highlights the strength of women as their life shifts ultimately lead to increased confidence and internal peace. The book was a 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Award and 2015 USA Best Book Awards finalist.”

I am honored my photograph of the “Glass Window Bridge” taken on the gorgeous island of Eleuthera, Bahamas, graces the cover of his powerful book (pictured above).

To read the entire article click on the story title below –

ST. LOUIS WRITER FEATURED IN ANTHOLOGY THAT CAPTURES WOMEN’S CHALLENGES AND TRIUMPHS” 

Peace out,

xoxo

Sheree

 

 

The Grateful Jar 2017 – What are your Blessings?

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Feeling the effects of cabin fever set in, I made reservations for New Year’s Eve dinner at Pangea, voted one of twelve best new restaurants in the St. Louis area. It was located in an area called “Newtown”.

The bright and contemporary restaurant was bustling with servers dressed in black, scurrying back and forth between table delivering cream-colored plates of aromatic delectables. The hostess seated us behind a half wall, far away from the brisk night air streaming in whenever the entrance door was opened.

The menu was set for the evening – Ricotta Knudi, Filet Mignon and Shrimp, Lemon Elderberry Cheesecake, and Ancho Chile Chocolate Mousse. Dinner and dessert were divine; I was left craving more of that par excellence flavor. My tall glass of sparkling Prosecco was a nice complement to the dinner.

After dinner, we motored homeward. Once inside, we turned on the TV searching for the Dave Clark New Year’s Eve Celebration channel. I suppose the food was too much excitement for me, as I fell asleep shortly after 10 p.m.

Hubby woke me up with a kiss at midnight, singing, “Happy New Year”.

For the last three years, I’ve started the tradition of a Grateful Jar (or a Blessings Jar). During the year, you pen all the things you’re grateful for, and drop the small bits of paper in the jar, to be opened on New Year’s Day, or shortly after.

Today, with the help of my sweet little Ireland kitty supervising, I read through the memories tucked away in the jar.

Here are the awesome people, places, and memories that made 2017 great.

This was posted by my friend Abby. (She must have snuck this into the Grateful Jar while we were on vacation)

“Blessed by the fur babies I kitty sit. Love all 4 of them so very much.” Abby

  • Despite my friend Dave Reed going through cancer treatments, he and his wife Dena prepared a lovely January birthday dinner for me.
  • August 23 – The view of the bees pollinating the purple and white cleomes outside my window. The cornflower blue Morning Glory wistfully twisting around the deck spindles.
  • The artist, Craig Hosner, I met on Santa Rosa who constructed a beautiful American flag in the sand with all-natural materials — seashells, pine cones, and oyster shells.

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  • August 21 – The total solar eclipse visible in the Missouri sky over our house. The purple and red violet flares on the corona made me cry, it was one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen in my life, almost spiritual in nature. The stillness of the event, the birds singing, the crickets chirping – stunning!Sheree pic eclipse crop VEnus contrast copyr
  • Grateful for good friends to confide in.
  • Writing a story on my friend Janet Jonas, of Gentle Touch Canine Massage, Sunset Beach. Hearing her inspirational story and her love for animals.
  • My story on the Waterfront Seafood Shack being voted 1 of 5 top stories in South and North Brunswick Magazine in 2017 by the readers.
  • Watching my niece and nephews grow taller, smarter and stronger.
  • Thankful for a beautiful dinner and dessert with the hubster for Valentine’s Day.
  • Thankful for a birthday outing with girlfriends Tina, Peggy, Janet and Abby.
  • The Hallmark Channel Christmas movies.
  • The dolphin excursion in Calabash, North Carolina, where I viewed more than 35 dolphins following a shrimp trawler.
  • Great friends and fellowship.
  • Being invited to Burbank in 2018 for a private taping of the Big Bang Theory by a special friend I met on Sunset Beach.
  • My love of cooking and baking.
  • Six fur babies that live with me and the hubster.
  • Ephraim, Wisconsin, and sunsets with the dogs and hubby on the private dock with the Adirondack chairs.

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  • Unexpected double rainbows on August 20 (the day before the solar eclipse). God sure was working that week.
  • Snow for Christmas!
  • The majestic 100-year-old white-washed barn in the neighbor’s corn field.
  • Spending Christmas eve with my crazy cousins!
  • Enjoying all the wonderful coffeehouses in Nashville with my friend Pat on a girlfriend getaway.

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  • Winning 4 writing awards at the Show Me Writers Conference in April, and a free registration for 2018.
  • Sneaking peaks at the cats and Bordeaux watch birds and wildlife outside the French doors and the storm door.
  • The adrenalin rush leading up to hiking Twin Falls on the road to Hana, Maui. Crossing the raging stream with hubby, thinking we’re going to fall over the drop off. Finally reaching the falls. Hearing the rush of the water, the chilly feeling it left on my skin. Enjoying watching Russell swim behind the waterfall.
  • Santa Rosa Beach sunsets, savory food, yummy coffee, the Red Bar, Eden Gardens, meeting Namon and Rebecca.
  • Walks with the dogs to clear my head near the lake in Heritage Park.
  • A sneak peek at the cover for my picture book with Pat Wahler, Midnight, The One-Eyed Cat.
  • Watching Christine’s hen in Nashville lay 6 eggs in a row!
  • Finding our friend Dave Reed is cancer free, for the second time in his life.
  • Grateful for Ted Drewes Frozen Custard in St. Louis!
  • Dancing the polka with my cousin, Susie, around the tables at Das Bevo while listening to the Waterloo German Band.
  • Have a publisher request my poetry collection manuscript. (Still patiently waiting for an answer)
  • Being surprised with a sandwich from Jimmy John’s by my husband, delivered right to the front door.
  • Listening to two jazz musician groups this year at Jazz at the Bistro.
  • Touring Leiper’s Fork Distillery and learning how to sniff, swig and chew whiskey.
  • Meeting David Hodges from Evanescence and Alicia Witt, the actress, at the Bluebird Café in Nashville.
  • The weird art exhibit museum event with longtime friend, Tina, where we were told by museum volunteers NOT to take pictures of the pictures!
  • Walking to the Kindred Spirit Bench with Russell, Sandra, and the dogs in October before sunset. The sky was amazing!
  • Little girls named Remy at Sunset Beach in October, and husbands flying kites.
  • Touring the Bissinger Chocolate factory with friend Abby, and wearing hairnets and coats like Lucy and Ethel.
  • Meeting tango dancers Elise and Marco on the beach at Sunset Beach in October in the midst of a pumpkin-hued sky.
  • My love of photography and writing.
  • Sharing my love of travel with my husband.
  • The ability to vacation seven times this year.
  • Grateful for my fur babies and their funny quirks.
  • Grateful I’m able to comfort friends in difficult times.

What where some things you were grateful for in 2017?

 

 

 

A Thousand Sunsets…

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The last week in August, my husband, canine kids and I, spent four glorious days in Door County, Wisconsin. We stayed at a quaint inn with cabins in picturesque Ephraim, Wisconsin.

Marinas and docks dotted the curvy shoreline, and sunsets were spectacular. We set aside 90 minutes each evening to meander to the inn’s private dock, complete with white Adirondack chairs.

Four evenings brought lively conversations with other guests from the inn – a family with a young boy who loved to fish, a baby boomer couple who wiled away hours during the day searching for the perfect winery, a grandma with her children, and their children who gave the dogs repeated hugs, and a doctor and her husband who hailed from flooded Houston, but were afraid to check texts and voice messages for fear they would be homeless when they returned.

Just as the people we met were unique, so were the sunsets – pastel pink clouds, blue violet strands dancing across the glassy bay, ebony silhouettes set against golden-hued horizons – no two alike, painted by God’s hands.

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And no matter how routine our sunset ritual seemed, I welcomed the hand-holding with my husband, and the dogs’ tags jingling as we stepped lightly across the two-lane road, to settle on the wooden Adirondacks. I never tired of this. It was our time to chill. No schedules. No worries. No expectations. Nature doing what nature does best, in all its splendor.

During the day we visited new coffeehouses, ice crea20170827_192050 cherry crumblem parlors, creameries with homemade gelato, chocolate establishments, gift shops or restaurants or markets selling cherry-themed products – cherry crumble, cherry pie, cherry salsa, cherry jam, cherry granola, cherry juice, and cherry spumante. You name it, we tried it.

We hiked along fairy-forest paths that paralleled aquamarine harbors, sank our feet in sandy beaches sometimes tripping over pebbles, stood atop cliff outcroppings with lofty expectations of jumping in (well, at least my husband), traipsed through sunflower fields, visited art galleries, observed an authentic fish-boil from the porch of our tiny cottage, and frequented dog-friendly cafes and restaurants. A special thanks to Buttercups Coffee in Egg Harbor for loving on the dogs so sweetly.

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I’ve not felt this relaxed since our anniversary trip to Pearl Harbor, and the grandiose waterfalls, beaches, and stunning scenery in Maui, Hawaii.

But of course, travel back to that familiar place is inevitable – home.

Last evening, I listened for the beauty at our abode –

It showed me favor in the crisp fall air with crickets chirping, coyotes wailing, the faint sound of a motorcycle revving its engine in the distance, the monotonous hum of our refrigerator, and the sound of voices from the television on the lower level.

Four cats reposed in harmony – one cleaning and preening velvety fur and precious paws while sniffing night air, another curled up on the sofa, one more playing hide and seek in the tunnel of the kitty city condo, and one waiting at the garage door for Daddy to come home from a long day’s work.

Two goofy canines slumbered on the king size master bed complete with tons of throw pillows. They dreamt of running as they yelped and fidgeted.

It’s nights like these I cherish the ceiling fan pushing cool air downward from the open window as I nestle ‘snug as a bug’ under the covers.

It’s times like these that remind me of the thousand sunsets of my life I’ve been lucky enough to share with loved ones, by quieting my mind, and realizing that beauty is universal.

Stop. Listen. Observe. Feel.

Quiet your mind, and look for the sunsets in your life. What you’ll discover might just be amazing!

Peace out and love,

 

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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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 Flower of my Heart – Sweet Adeline & Her Kittens

March 14

While eating my usual breakfast of oatmeal, I gazed up to notice a striped-cat with no tail licking her fur while perched on the deck rail.

Quickly, I filled a ceramic bowl with catfood, and scurried outside. Her loud purrs and figure 8 cuddles between my legs in appreciation for the food was enough to tug on my heartstrings.

She frequented our deck every day for four days straight, rubbing up against the screen door in the kitchen, and making eye contact with our Bernese Mountain Dog. She peered through the French Doors like she lived here. Our Bernese wagged his tail in delight as the kitty settled in on the deck.

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March 17

As I stepped through the doorway of the garage to the back yard with our mini Aussie, kitty emerged from under the deck to greet our pooch with a meow, inches from touching noses.

I promised myself that if kitty babe was still hanging around on St. Patrick’s Day, I would take her to the vet to see if she was microchipped.

I quickly corralled our canine in the house, while I searched for a cat carrier. I tempted her with some treats strewn inside the carrier, which worked.  She meowed slightly during the ride to the vet, but overall appeared very sweet.

“No microchip. FIV and feline leukemia – negative. Internal parasites – negative. Slight case of fleas,” Dr. Schneider remarked.

“Is she pregnant?”

“I believe so. Let me see how far along. I’ll be right back.”

“Yep, she’s due in about 4-6 weeks. We can give her a rabies shot, but no other vaccinations.”

I called the hubster, and gave him the news.

“She’s pregnant.”

“Bring her home. We can’t leave her out to fend for herself.”

“What’s her name?” said Dr. Schneider.

I thought for a moment of my sweet Mother and a song Dad used to sing to Mom.

“Adeline. For the song Sweet Adeline, and my Mom’s confirmation name.”

I tucked Adeline in the cat carrier for the ride home, all the while, thoughts dancing through my head. Am I crazy for bringing home a pregnant cat? Will the other animals get along with her? When will she deliver? Will the babies be okay?

I set up a nice layout in the master bathroom for Adeline’s pregnancy – kitty litter box, container with food, fresh water, and a small box with a towel for her to snuggle.

She spent much of her time sleeping, watching the birds and squirrels through the two picture windows, relaxing, and enjoying tummy rubs from me.

Miss Adeline tugged on my heartstrings. A Godsend, I felt like she was my child. Though hubby and I tried for awhile, to have children, God must’ve had a greater purpose for us.

March 23

Adeline discovered the ceramic frog on the side of the green vase. She growled at it, and crouched low to investigate, but then backed off.

Although I tried to assure her the frog wasn’t real, she seemed wary and kept her distance.

March 24

Adeline is very particular about covering up her ‘business’ and hates it when she gets even a small amount of litter outside the box. She ‘gathers’ the litter on the foam protective mat, and moves it closer to the box.

March 25

“Do you want your food?”

Adeline meows non-stop and pops her head in the Purina Focus Kitten Food even before I scoop out the kibble for her bowl.  She eats with a vengeance and determination, making a low grunting noise.

March 31

Adeline loves to ‘make biscuits’ on my toes, and delights in purring. A favorite hiding spot is under my legs, when I’m seated on the shower chair.

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When resting on her side, I liken her belly to a platypus or football.

“She’s bonding with you,” remarks the hubster.

I can’t wait to see her kittens.  I admit, I might be a little worried about her and the babies.

April 1-8

I’ve been allowing Adeline to explore the bedroom since she’s confined to the master bathroom. As I open the bathroom door, sometimes she is eager to discover the bedroom, and sometimes she’s content just to sit on the bathroom floor and stare at me.

 April 9 – 10

Adeline’s favorite observation spot is the cool comfort of the marble sink which conforms to the contour of her pregnant body.

She’s also been spending alot of time in her specially designed kittening box by the hubster, lined with a soft Sherpa blanket. She loves to ‘make biscuits’ by kneading the soft fleece.

 Monday April 11

Adeline passed a brownish menstral-like substance this morning. She seems tired today. Not her usual self, typically perched in the picture windows.

After checking on her before we left for dinner around 5:15 p.m., she was resting in the kittening box.

When we arrived home from dinner, I immediately took the dogs outside to do their business. Russell motioned to me from the master bath picture window with his index finger, “One”.

I corralled the dogs inside, rushed to the bathroom, and experienced the miracle of birth!

6:45 p.m.

Adeline delivered a light striped kitten encased in a clear sac. Momma cleared the sac away from the baby’s eyes, and began licking the kitten to warm it up.  Kittens loose heat quickly when newly born and wet, so it’s important to dry them off as soon as possible. Baby #1 had no tail.

Just as soon as she was finished with kitten #1, she started contractions again, and out popped kitten #2 –  a medium-hued striped kitten with no tail.

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Within 15 minutes, kitten #3 was born. A black cat with a tail. Then #4 – also black with a tail.

There was quite a break in delivery between kitten #4 and kitten #5 – it seemed almost 40 minutes or more.  I noticed her panting, tongue hanging out to side, eyes large, and within a few minutes a black and striped kitten was delivered, with a tail.

About a 30 minute break in delivery, and #6 was born – a small black kitten with a tail.

We told Adeline, “Good job Momma!”

Both of us mesmerized, we sat with her for what seemed liked a couple hours.

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April 12 – 13

The past couple days have been rewarding, but they’ve also made me realize I’m worried about Miss Adeline – much like a Mother cares for her child. And of course, all the kittens are my grandbabies.

I often find myself checking on her, ensuring all the kittens are suckling, and Adeline is eating and rehydrating.

Adeline allows me to caress her paw when she’s nursing, and purrs loudly. When I’m observing the seven of them, she often scoops the babies closer to her warm frame.

The kittens are little wonders of their own – eyes closed, groping for each other and searching for Momma with tiny paws. Their nubile bodies vocalize their frustration when they’re not happy. Momma kindly obliges and calms all their fears.

Snuggled together in geometric formations, their bodies lay 3 in a row with 3 across, 4 in a row with 2 across, and sometimes 5 in a row with the first born, light-striped kitten shoving her head above all the others as if to say, “I’m the oldest.”

I suppose I’ll be concerned until all the kittens are weaned and litter trained. The next step is feeding them kitten food. And then I’ll be concerned until they’re all adopted. (Well, except for maybe one that I have my eyes on).

But for now, I’ll try and enjoy the miracle that appeared on our deck March 14, the flower of my heart – Sweet Adeline.

And remember my favorite Bible verse Philippians 4:6

“Don’t worry about anything, pray about everything.”

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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

There is No Such Thing as a Little Moment….

DSC_0114Walking through the house this week, I was reminded of a saying on a picture frame, “There is no such thing as a little moment.”

The moment in time, protected by pewter and glass, was captured at the St. Joseph, Michigan lighthouse jetty, early on in my marriage. It was a windy day, the sun was shining, and hubby and I were smiling ear to ear.

Each day, I am reminded that there are no such things as ‘little moments’.

When the dog does something silly like get wrapped up under the blankets, rendering it impossible to make the bed…20150325_094841 Sabrina copyr

When you walk among 4,000 Blue Morpho butterflies in flight at the Sophie Sachs Butterfly House, in Chesterfield, Missouri…

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When you witness the sky change colors from orange, to blood red, to blue-gray while strolling the shoreline in Sunset Beach, North Carolina…

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They’re really big moments, aren’t they?

So here’s to those moments, those fleeting bits of time, that lift us up wherever we are.

Those moments…knowing God is in our presence.

Happy Thursday and God Bless!

Xoxoxo
Sheree

“A Sudden Light” Garth Stein STL booksigning, and some heart and soul

The same night my favorite fiction author and NYT bestseller, Garth Stein, was hosting a booksigning at the St. Louis County Library, I was one of 65 authors hosting a multi-author booksigning at a local library.

DSC_1014 Garth crop copyrCall it it a ‘gut feeling’, call it what you may, but I was been tugged in the direction of the Garth Stein event. My heart and soul wanted me there.

I told few friends about the Garth Stein event.

One such friend, Diana, met me at the library. Diana’s love of authors (in general) amazes me. It probably far surpasses mine, since I’m zoned in to certain genres. Not Diana. She’s like a cat, wide-eyed, adventurous and eager to learn about all. I’d thought she’d appreciate this booksigning.

As we settled into our seats with our new purchase, A Sudden Light, we anxiously awaited Garth’s arrival.  As I spun around, I eyed probably at least a 100 people or more.

DSC_1017 Garth smiling crop copyrAs Garth entered and took the microphone, the room became quiet.  As he spoke, I was captivated by his quick wit, and charming personality.

He mentioned how his first 2 books won awards.  In spite of the accolades, he didn’t sell many copies.  His next manuscript was told from the perspective of a dog (smarter than humans, of course) which was soon nixed by his literary agent.

Garth fired him over the phone.

By coincidence, Garth found another agent through an author friend at a networking event. This agent believed in Garth and loved the book’s concept. The Art of Racing in the Rain went on to sell more than 4 million copies, and stayed on the NYT bestsellers list for over 3 years. Garth took time to properly market the book, traveling and speaking about the book’s message and purpose.

In his new release, A Sudden Light, Garth promised this book to be even better than The Art of Racing in the Rain.

When the opportunity presented itself to ask questions of Garth, I jumped at the chance.

“Why did it take so long between books?”

DSC_1019 Garth crop copyrGarth explained that he tried to write the book where the protagonist flashes back to different time periods, and it just wasn’t working. His wife — his best editor and critic, suggested he write the book in chronological order.

Garth went on to pen more than 100,000 words, which took more than 2.5 years. Those years were spent in character development and history — basically the family tree of A Sudden Light.  After this undertaking was complete, then and only then, could he begin the actual story.

Wow. I was blown away. Now that’s an author that stands above the rest in my mind! Not worried about the almighty dollar, not worried about what others think. Just following his heart to know what he feels to be right. He’s also cofounder of Seattle7Writers, a non-profit dedicated to getting books to those in need.

I supposed that’s why I enjoyed The Art of Racing in the Rain. It’s my favorite fiction read.

Garth said, “If just one person is touched by what he reads, then I’m happy and I’ve done a good job.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “The reward of a thing well done, is to have done it!”

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After his talk, Garth autographed books, and exchanged words with his fans.

Diana and I headed to a local restaurant for dinner, and chatted about the fun evening. During dinner, I opened my copy of The Art of Racing in the Rain and turned to the page Garth signed.

I smiled as I read the words, “Sheree, somewhere the zebra is dancing.”

That he is, Garth, that he is….

 

 

Things I’ve Seen Before, but Never Noticed

Since returning home from our South Carolina book tour, I’ve felt less than inspired to write. Blame it on the hectic schedule, blame it on ‘beach’ withdrawals, blame it on being tired and rundown. I’ve used countless excuses for the last 2 weeks.

I needed a jolt of energy to jump start my creative inner-self.

So rather than hop on social media, as I often do after breakfast, I slipped into my Sorrel boots, grabbed my trusty Olympic camera, a jacket, and the dogs for a pre-winter walk-about on our three acres.

Rural suburbia (an oxymoron, in itself) provides all kinds of photo ops in the Midwest and I set out to find them.

Normally, when I go for walks with our Aussie and Bernese Mountain Dog, we don’t take time to enjoy the little things — we’re just walking to walk.

Today was different. Dogs do what dogs like to do. Sniff. Scratch at the ground. Sniff. Explore.

Today was as much their day, as it was mine. They had free reign.

As I ambled, I observed.

I found…..

Knarled leafless trees, reaching skyward, like those in a Tim Burton movie

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A shiny, crisp brown maple leaf reflecting the sun’s rays

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Majestic pines and hickorys bathed in white light

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The cottony fuzz of a wild grass, against the warm sienna hue of dog’s fur

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A petrified permisson hanging on for dear life

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A forest clearing. Untreaded.

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Acorns in mulch, mud, and wood dust, scattered about by squirrels or other forragers

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Fungus sprouting on cut worn wood, reminding me of barnacles under the sea

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And as the three of us trudged through the red berry bushes hugging the property boundary, we found ourselves in a pasture of wet, tall grass.  In the distance, sat a century-old barn — white washed — the foundation of our neighbors farm.

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These things I’ve seen before, but never considered, and maybe took for granted.

Sometimes all it takes is a little visual stimulation and a walk in the woods to be inspired and to clear your head.

Live your passion. Whatever it may be.

LIFE IS PASSING YOU BY!

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