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?

 

 

 

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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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Dry?”

“Yes please.”

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

“Yeah, I know.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All is right with the world.

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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

When a White Dove Crosses Your Path

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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 suggested I get a biopsy for a recently diagnosed medical condition, and the stress of working on my book caught up with me.

After seeing the dove, I felt calmness throughout my body, and peace.  God was telling everything was going to be just fine.

Wikianswers gives this explanation:

“A white dove in your path is not by coincidence. Your awareness of its presence, calmness and beauty is also a gift. You were meant to see this dove to remind you to focus on the peace you have in your heart and that is always present all around you, and in your life.”

Wikipedia says,  “In Christian Iconography, a dove also symbolizes the Holy Spirit, in reference to Matthew 3:16 and Luke 3:22 where the Holy Spirit is compared to a dove at the Baptism of Jesus. The early Christians in Rome incorporated into their funerary art the image of a dove carrying an olive branch, often accompanied by the word “Peace”. It seems that they derived this image from the simile in the Gospels, combining it with the symbol of the olive branch, which had been used to represent peace by the Greeks and Romans. The dove and olive branch also appeared in Christian images of Noah’s ark…”

So no matter what the explanation, my thoughts turned to God at the sight of the dove, and that’s what’s important.

 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and all your soul.   Proverbs 3:5