Tag Archive | missouri

Just Listen for the Beauty

This has been a popular post; so I’m sharing with you again.

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I position the hot red-hued Adirondack chairs on our back deck facing each other. The hubster lights the Tiki torches and pots of citronella for ambience. We’re eager to relax as night falls over the pine, birch and maple trees on our three acre slice of heaven.

This night is different. It’s cool and crisp for a summer evening in the Midwest. Normally humid, our French door windows are fogged with condensation.

As I gaze up at the sky from my chair, I delight in the pastel white-blue clouds blended with the deep indigo blues.

We’ll see no stars tonight. Just as well, as I close my eyes and listen for sounds in the distance. The pooches settle in on the bright red and white patterned rug nearby.

I ask hubby, “What do you hear?”

“The pool, the people, the crickets…”

Dogs bark in the neighborhood adjacent to ours, cars putter slowly down the gravel road, and a plan’s engine zooms overhead. Through the window screen, I can hear the kittens playing, shuffling in the curtains, meowing inside.

“Just close your eyes and listen,” Russell says. “Just listen for the sounds of the night.”

My eyelids become heavy as I reflect on the beauty I discovered in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan this week. Creamy yellow and dreamsicle sunrises over Copper Harbor, vivid red orange and blue violet sunsets silhouetting kayakers in lake waters, endless waterfalls, pebble beaches, and an eagle flying above the shoreline as day breaks.

DSCN1326 sunrise copper harbor copyr

I believe beauty is where you find it. And it’s everywhere in this land, in every form.

It’s present in the smiles of my two pooches as the wind whips through their silky hair as we tool around town in my Chevy Equinox.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sabrina (copyright Sheree K. Nielsen)

It’s in the faces of the two sweet kittens we adopted…and their mother.

It’s in the eyes and weathered face of the 86 year-old woman I converse with at the airport, as she tells me how much she loves her children and grandchildren.

There’s beauty in the crisp morning breeze as the fan pushes air downward, and the comfort of the feathered pillow caresses my head.

Or in the ruby-throated hummingbird, wings fluttering, as it sips nectar from the lavender magnolia in my back yard.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Beauty is present in the hugs from my long time friends that shower me with affection after I’ve been out of town.

There’s beauty in the smiles of the baristas at my favorite coffee shop as I walk in and they ask, “Hey Sheree, how ya doing?” Of course I know all their names. We’ve had a beautiful relationship ever since that coffee shop opened. As they pour those perfectly pulled shots of espresso into a mug, they leave time for latte artwork in the shape of a heart or a leaf.

I guess you could say, there’s a reason to find beauty in just about everything. I’m looking at seven of those reasons right now – my husband who is intently gazing at his computer from the leather chair, and my six fur kids playing, sleeping, or exploring.

Stop what you’re doing right now, close your eyes, take a deep breath and just listen and observe.  You’ll be surprised how much beauty you’ll find in whatever you see and hear.

Peace out and love,

Sheree

DSC_1721 cappucino art design 1 crop copry

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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

DSC_0567 Jean Crugeut and me copyr

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

DSCN0848 Lukas and sandcastle

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

DSC_1128 skully copyright

 

 

Just Listen for the Beauty

I position the hot red-hued Adirondack chairs on our back deck facing each other. The hubster lights the Tiki torches and pots of citronella for ambience. We’re eager to relax as night falls over the pine, birch and maple trees on our three acre slice of heaven.

This night is different. It’s cool and crisp for a summer evening in the Midwest. Normally humid, our French door windows are fogged with condensation.

As I gaze up at the sky from my chair, I delight in the pastel white-blue clouds blended with the deep indigo blues.

We’ll see no stars tonight. Just as well, as I close my eyes and listen for sounds in the distance. The pooches settle in on the bright red and white patterned rug nearby.

I ask hubby, “What do you hear?”

“The pool, the people, the crickets…”

Dogs bark in the neighborhood adjacent to ours, cars putter slowly down the gravel road, and a plan’s engine zooms overhead. Through the window screen, I can hear the kittens playing, shuffling in the curtains, meowing inside.

“Just close your eyes and listen,” Russell says. “Just listen for the sounds of the night.”

My eyelids become heavy as I reflect on the beauty I discovered in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan this week. Creamy yellow and dreamsicle sunrises over Copper Harbor, vivid red orange and blue violet sunsets silhouetting kayakers in lake waters, endless waterfalls, pebble beaches, and an eagle flying above the shoreline as day breaks.

DSCN1326 sunrise copper harbor copyr

I believe beauty is where you find it. And it’s everywhere in this land, in every form.

It’s present in the smiles of my two pooches as the wind whips through their silky hair as we tool around town in my Chevy Equinox.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sabrina (copyright Sheree K. Nielsen)

It’s in the faces of the two sweet kittens we adopted…and their mother.

It’s in the eyes and weathered face of the 86 year-old woman I converse with at the airport, as she tells me how much she loves her children and grandchildren.

There’s beauty in the crisp morning breeze as the fan pushes air downward, and the comfort of the feathered pillow caresses my head.

Or in the ruby-throated hummingbird, wings fluttering, as it sips nectar from the lavender magnolia in my back yard.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Beauty is present in the hugs from my long time friends that shower me with affection after I’ve been out of town.

There’s beauty in the smiles of the baristas at my favorite coffee shop as I walk in and they ask, “Hey Sheree, how ya doing?” Of course I know all their names. We’ve had a beautiful relationship ever since that coffee shop opened. As they pour those perfectly pulled shots of espresso into a mug, they leave time for latte artwork in the shape of a heart or a leaf.

I guess you could say, there’s a reason to find beauty in just about everything. I’m looking at seven of those reasons right now – my husband who is intently gazing at his computer from the leather chair, and my six fur kids playing, sleeping, or exploring.

Stop what you’re doing right now, close your eyes, take a deep breath and just listen and observe.  You’ll be surprised how much beauty you’ll find in whatever you see and hear.

Peace out and love,

Sheree

DSC_1721 cappucino art design 1 crop copry

Troy Buchanan Writer’s Week – 7 days of inspiration

On March 16, hubby and I had the great pleasure of presenting two talks to students at Troy Buchanan High School Writer’s Week.

Writer’s Week is an annual event where authors come from all around to talk about their books, their journey, and the craft of writing – a full week of back-to-back sessions for the students.

As my husband, Russell and I stepped into the library, we noticed a photo of our book propped on an easel. Upon closer inspection, it was actually a ceiling tile painting, and realistic depiction of our book cover, Folly Beach Dances. So excited, I asked April Elliott, the Art teacher who painted the tile, to pose for a photo next to her creative masterpiece.

DSC_0875 April Elliott copyr

Book covers from visiting authors hung as ceiling tiles in the space overhead, such as The Hate List by bestselling author Jennifer Brown.

DSC_0878 Ceiling tiles crop copry

The session commenced as a few students read their works to fellow students before our presentation. One young writer from our church, Tyler Tippett, shared a poignant and touching essay about a family member.

DSC_0868 Tyler Tippett crop copyr

 

 

DSC_0874 Russell copyrAfterwards, Russell and I proceeded to tell the story of Folly Beach Dances in words and pictures. We hoped the students took away with them the purpose and mission of our ‘healing’ coffee table book.

DSC_0884 Me and Georganna crop copry

Georganna Krumlinde, Library Media Specialist, (yellow t-shirt) graciously provided us with lunch and a surprise basket of gifts from the school once our session ended.

In the process, I discovered Annie England Noblin, NYT bestselling author of Sit! Stay! Speak! was a presenter at Troy Buchanan. Later in the week, writer friend Pat Wahler and I, attended her session. During Annie’s break, we chatted about writing, our fur babies, and life in Missouri.

 

A World’s Fair Home – Karen Kalish Clayton mansion showcases her art collection – pub’d Missouri Life

Good afternoon everyone,

I had the opportunity to step inside a real piece of history – a World’s Fair Home patterned after the Missouri Building from the World’s Fair in 1904, when a query I submitted to Missouri Life that came to fruition.

Entrepreneur, Karen Kalish owns the magnificent home in the historic Old Town Clayton district, and has filled it to the brim with her personal charm and eclectic style, all the while showcasing her extensive collection of art work.

Here’s my feature article and photographs that appeared in the August 2015 issue of Missouri Life. I especially fell in love with her pets while doing the story.

Maybe, she’ll invite me back just to hangout?

Peace out and love,

Sheree

ML0815 A World's Fair Home - Karen Kalish_Page_1

ML0815 A World's Fair Home - Karen Kalish_Page_2

The Loveable Dogs of Excelsior Springs, Missouri

Last week, I enjoyed a getaway with friend, Nancy, in Excelsior Springs, Missouri. Hubby stayed home with the fur babies. I knew I would miss them all terribly, but this was my chance to unwind.

After checking in the hotel, and dropping luggage in our room, we decided to peruse the quaint shops of the downtown area. As we strolled about town, we discovered stores closed for shorter work weeks, and a number of stores boarded up. Much to my dismay, even the natural springs had shut down, a source of industry and profit for Excelsior Springs in years past.

Of course, the two of us found other things to do, like savoring scrumptious cuisine at trendy Gram and Dun restaurant in Kansas City, slipping into the pool and enjoying a massage at The Elms Hotel, grabbing a cappuccino, and snapping photographs.

Time flew, and before we knew it, Friday morning checkout was inevitable. I browsed Facebook for the first time in two days, while packing. I stumbled upon a story that piqued my interest – a pit bull adoption. The canine spent 5 years at a shelter before his forever family came to rescue him.

The story warmed my heart, as well as rekindled my memories of the dogs I met over the last couple days in Excelsior Springs like the sweet Jack Russell Terrier named Chance that greeted us at Bliss, a vintage store on Broadway. The frisky canine’s favorite spot was a mahogany-hued leather chair positioned near the storefront window. The terrier’s back legs balanced on the seat of the chair, while his front paws steadied on the chair’s arm – all the while barking at the passing cars and enjoying life.

DSC_1606 jack russell terrier at bliss

We also met a scruffy black and white Shih Tzu resting on the leopard-skin pillow placed strategically in the window of Cline Country Club Barber Shop. This view allowed the pooch to watch his attractive banjo player friend strum familiar tunes for a street side audience.

At the Artisan Gallery, on Thompson, an ebony and white Rat Terrier named Molly doled out an endless supply of kisses to patrons browsing the photography, paintings and pottery throughout the store.

On a side street, in the shady alcove of a local business, stood a caramel-colored puppy with snow-white face, secured loosely to a wooden ladder. Close by, a rugged man, set the foundation for an elaborate Italian-style fountain on the ground adjacent to the sidewalk. As Nancy and I leaned down to greet the rambunctious pit bull puppy, the owner told a story that brought me to tears.

“This morning, I felt someone was telling me to visit the animal shelter. As I looked at the kennels filled with dogs, I noticed a sign on one cage – “PTS: 9 a.m. – put to sleep. I couldn’t leave the puppy there. That’s why he’s at work with me today.”

“You’re a good man,” I said.

But the most compelling story was told by a man we met at the Dari B custard shop Thursday evening. We pulled into the one of the limited parking spaces at the custard stand, and hopped out of the car. Sitting curbside, a ginger-haired mustached gentleman wearing a t-shirt with the words the 9th Hour and scripture quotations by the apostle Luke, held a soft serve cone.

Close by, studying the tasty delight, were two Newfoundland’s. To his left, sat the older canine, with droopy eye sockets, languid lower jaw, and arthritic ridden joints that curved outward on the dog’s knee sockets. The other gentle giant sauntered over to me from the custard stand and nudged his big round head into my upper thighs, urging me to give him some lovin’. He stood about waist high. His sleek body, sparkling eyes and silky fur cued me he was still a young dog.

A conversation ensued with the gentleman, and we listened intently about the rescue of the young dog, named Jax.

A couple of years ago, with the intention of taking Magilla Gorilla, the older Newfoundland, for a walk, the man loaded his companion into his car for a ride to the park. As he steered his vehicle into a parking space, he watched a disturbing scene unfold in the distance. A Newfoundland puppy looked down the barrel of a shotgun, while the owner pointed the gun at the dog’s head. The gentleman jumped out of his car, with Magilla still inside, and cautiously approached the man with the gun.

“What are you doing?”

“This puppy’s worthless. He doesn’t do what I say. He tears things up. He’s a terrible dog.”

“Well if you don’t mind, can I have him?”

“You want him, you got him. Good luck.”

The ginger-haired man scooped up the puppy, placed him in the car with Magilla, and immediately drove home before the man changed his mind. He felt the hand of God leading him to the park, at that moment in time, to save the innocent and unsuspecting puppy.

Jax became a therapy dog, learning quickly from his older brother, Magilla Gorilla.

Magilla, while in his prime, pulled floats in parades, and plastered smiles on the residents of nursing homes. While a woman named Ida couldn’t remember her children’s names because of Alzheimer’s, she always remembered “the big black dog” and asked about him frequently.

As I reminisced about all the fur babies I’ve met while in Excelsior Springs, I especially loved their uniqueness.
Chance, the Jack Russell Terrier – outgoing and talkative,
The Rat Terrier – sweet and friendly,
The Shih Tzu – quiet and observing
The Pit Bull puppy – naive and playful,
And
Magilla and Jax – so stoic and gentle.

I quickly realized we could all learn a lesson from the dogs of Excelsior Springs, who don’t’ judge, are honest with their feelings, and don’t care what people think.

Loving unconditionally, just as God loves us unconditionally.

“A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than you love yourself.”

~Josh Billings

Peace out and love,

Sheree K.

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

me and mom backyard Meramec002 crop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visiting Uncle Willie's Farm - STL Post 2010002