Day 15: The favor chain.

Dear friends,


So I have this neighbor three houses down from mine.

And my neighbor happens to work with me. I don’t want to be all specific about the work sitch, so let’s just say she’s down the chain from me. And when I get ideas, she gets the “fun” of implementing them. She’s really great at implementing ideas, whereas I am only good at dreaming them up, and that’s just one reason why I love working with her.

Today, on my way to the office, I drove by her house and noticed her yard was awash in autumn leaves. She’s a widowed working gal living among retirees and a stay-at-home dad (Mr. Mom), all of whom have plenty of time to rake their leaves.

My neighbor would have more time to rake her leaves if I didn’t have so many ideas at work needing her attention. So I called Mr. Mom and asked, very politely, if he would mind raking her leaves because, you know, I’ve been keeping her busy and she might feel bad that everybody’s lawn is clean but hers.

He’d already raked and burned another neighbor’s leaves so he really didn’t mind, but he refused to do it without knowing “her preferences.” (This is where the woman who’s never raked leaves in her life learned people have preferences about this sort of thing.)

So I called my neighbor under the pretense of details related to a meeting later that day and I mentioned her leaves. Because she’s a nice person who indulges me but probably thinks I am either an exceptionally nosy neighbor or colleague, or both (the mixing of which can be tricky), I managed to end the conversation with enough information to get Mr. Mom going.

And, of course, he got it done pronto. So when she went home for lunch she saw that her weekend’s chore had been taken care of.

Which made her really happy.

Which made me really happy.

And I have to say: this favor chain idea — where someone does me a favor and then someone else returns the favor for me — well, it really rocks! You should try it.

With gratitude {for the endless favors, large and small, granted to me by almost everyone in my life},

Joan, who’s not the least bit OCD about autumn leaves and actually prefers the view with them on the ground but conforms to societal standards as long as Mr. Mom provides the labor

Day 2: The drive.

Dear friends,

On Day 2 of this month of Thanksgiving, I had the afternoon off. It was a brilliant autumn day. Sunny skies and mild temps and the prospect of the open road called to Mr. Mom and me like a songbird.

We drove down some of our state’s loveliest back roads, where corn fields and tiny towns dotted the landscape. The fall foliage was in full splendor and we couldn’t believe such a perfect convergence of time and opportunity had landed in our laps.

We ducked into an out-of-the-way roadhouse in a town with the proud name of Defiance, where we shared a cup of coffee with the Friday afternoon patrons enjoying their beer and cigarettes and lonely-hearts country songs.

We talked about buying this cottage, then that one, then another, and retiring right here (no there!).

And then, on our way home, we decided to pull over near the top of a ridge so I might snap a photo as a keepsake of our day. We knew there was a view to be had if only we could find the right spot. Mr. Mom, who’s half a foot taller than me, nosed around for few moments then declared he’d found just the place, but I couldn’t see a thing through the dense underbrush. He offered to pull back the branches of an overgrown shrub for me and, there, like Brigadoon, appeared the most magical view in all of Missouri I think:view

It was the perfect Benediction to a perfect autumn drive.

With gratitude {for unexpected gifts born of an everlasting companionship},

Joan, who’s posting this just in time to put on her running shoes and head for the race

Blessedly boring.

Dear friends,

I’ve been away for a while, transfixed by a life that is blessedly boring.

Last night I sat in my easy chair watching the storm coverage on cable. I had a computer on my lap and a dog wedged in beside me, as well as a blanket and a beverage and all the comforts of a working power grid and an intact roof.

Our cold and overcast Midwest weather seems like a gift by comparison.

I ran yesterday morning in humid, 29-degree weather and I won’t offer a single word of lament. Yes, it’s unseasonably chilly and yes, I’d prefer a little sunshine — but so what? I have a blanket and a dog and a computer on my lap. No one can complain about those conditions!

You know what I’ve been doing since we last chatted?


Really, nothing. I’ve napped — in between long, winter’s snoozes. I’ve read. I’ve cooked and eaten plenty. (Pioneer Woman’s salisbury steak is great, by the way.) I’m watching television and running and chatting with friends.

In other words, life is sedate. Easy. Relaxed.

Maybe that’s what autumn is meant to be?

I don’t know, but I know I’ll take it any day.

With gratitude {for my currently boring life},

Joan, who was about 30 before she learned the definition of a bore is not a boring person

The road to my house.

Dear friends,

This is the road to my house.

As you can see from the photo, today is a little overcast. Pretty breezy, but a beautiful 64 degrees. Autumn is in full splendor.

I had one heck of a week, working 42 hours in the last three days alone. But on this glorious Sunday, I paused on my way to the grocery store to snap a photo because, otherwise, how would you ever believe me when I say I live in one of America’s most beautiful spots?

It’s clear now, isn’t it, why Mr. Mom and Parker are so happy with our little patch of paradise, our 15 acres of wooded bliss, chock full of wildlife living under the big Missouri sky?

And me? I complain a lot about those darn hills. (Especially when I’m running up and down them, as I did four times last week — hooray for me!) But I never fail to appreciate their beauty, or the ways in which they delight our spirits even as they exhaust my incline-weary running stride.

I’m right where I told you I would be today. On the sofa, with a a cup of coffee and stack of magazines and my laptop. I’m narrowing down tonight’s supper menu, which will likely be a whole roasted hen, wild rice and Basmati dressing with sausage and sage, cheese grits and corn pudding, and sauteed kale with garlic and red onion. Between the view and the menu, I can’t think of anything more restorative to fill my short weekend respite.

With gratitude {for a glorious Sunday and a three-day work week starting tomorrow},

Joan, who might be disappointed if at least one reader doesn’t note how insanely steep and unrelenting the hills are, thereby commiserating with the flatlander who hasn’t yet made her peace with running in this part of the world

Taking notice.

Dear friends,

With gratitude {for glimpses of wonderful whenever or wherever they may be found},

Joan, who loves all verse,  free or rhyming, simple or eloquent, abbreviated or epic, and the poets who dare put words to paper

One of those days.

Dear friends,

It’s one of those days, baby, where the entire world is sweet and bright and happy.

We’ve had a long morning rain, which all the creatures around our place needed so. It’s just a bit chilly, which practically makes me sing September. My boys are in the next room watching football and talking about plans great and small and the sound of their voices tumbling toward me is music to my ears.

And me? I’m sitting on the sofa with a blanket over my feet, a cup of coffee and a cat snuggled close by, and a view of the scenic Missouri hills stretched out beyond my toes.

I spent the morning constructing a simple reminder of my mantra, seven letters glued to burlap patches, strung by twine and ribbon, and stretched across a mirror to reflect gratitude throughout our home. It’s a one-word poem in tribute to the season of thankfulness otherwise known as autumn.

Join me (won’t you?) in the moment, in the reflection, in the acclamation of a day made for no more or no less than the fullness of our hearts.

With gratitude {for the first in a long season of perfect fall days},

Joan, who saw a similar banner on Etsy for $25 and thought “Psssshaw, I can make that” and promptly did for about two bucks

PS: For many years, my dining room buffet has been the center of my expressions of seasonal decor. It usually starts with twinkly lights and extends from there to a large stash of holiday tchotchkes. I wasn’t quite ready for the explosion of pumpkins and fall leaves I usually pull out after Labor Day, so I went with a muted, faded summer look. Here’s an unedited photo if you’re curious to see the entire tableau.

The first sign of Fall.

Dear friends,

In my world, the first sign of Fall is the school photo.

Not cooler temps, not football, not aisles of school supplies including “a bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils” (name that movie!), all of which have arrived in our corner of the world.

No — the real first sign of Fall for me is the ubiquitous school photo, that 2″X3″ technicolor reminder of poor wardrobe choices, goofy smiles, and regrettable hairstyles.

Every now and then, though, a good one comes along. And forgive me if I brag by noting I received a good one yesterday. Take a look:

I’m not sure when school photos got all fancy and stuff, but I’ve noticed the last couple of years we’ve had far more ordering options. I don’t even remember selecting this particular three-shot lineup, but I was delighted to see it sitting on my kitchen island when I got home last night.

I used to think my boy had a whole lotta me in him, but these days all I see are Mr. Mom. Some days I feel like I have two versions of my husband under foot — Mr. Mom 1.0 and Mr. Mom 3.0. Fortunately, both versions seem to run compatibly in our household.

By the way, it feels like approximately 2.47 weeks ago that I came home to find this school photo on the kitchen counter.

I promise not to get all weepy on you, but I do want to say this:


Sorry. I’ll contain myself now.

By the way, the “adorable child” gene did not come from me. My dear sweet Gram saved every single one of my school photos in a small Hallmark book titled “What is a Grandmother?” that I gave her when I was a child. She glued one or two photos to each page of the book and carefully noted the school year and the grade of each. You only need to flip through a couple of pages to figure out I’m not the source of my children’s photogenic features.

That third grade overbite was a doozy, though I have to give my mother props for choosing the snazzy plaid jumper and crisp white blouse.

Before I get off the nostalgia wagon, I just want to mention that I have vivid (and fond) memories of my first- and second- grade portrait outfits. Both were made by Danskin. Does anybody else remember their line of girls’ knit basics — jumpers and turtlenecks and skirts and trousers in Dick-and-Jane shades of navy, red and white? I recall they were a little pricey, more than my single mother could afford, but my Gram always took me “school clothes shopping” and always seemed to find a way to buy several pieces of Danskin to round out my back-to-school wardrobe.

Parker’s back-to-school wardrobe this year consisted of a new pair of athletic shoes and four t-shirts ordered online. Sixteen-year-old boys wear a lot of t-shirts and seem to prefer shopping online rather than going to stores with their mothers, who might or might not hover outside the dressing room and insist they model every conceivable combination of apparel within reach. It’s a modern parenting dilemma I’m learning to live with.

But only until I have grandchildren and get a do-over.

With gratitude {for school photos of my children that on any given day make me weep, but that just might be a sign of aging},

Joan, who invites you to leave a comment about a memorable school photo and thereby convince her that the Year of the Overbite wasn’t the worst in school-photo history