How to find balance and joy in time of war, soaring gas prices and up and down market



Who can think of having fun when we’re worried about Supreme Court decisions, frequent, random shootings, the continuing war in Ukraine, rents and gasoline prices soaring, interest rates rising, and the stock market plummeting? Do you get the drift? It’s easy to become discouraged.

But let’s shift gears fast. Why let gloom and doom dictate our mindset totally? We can’t control what’s going on in the world, but as the weather heats up (and that can be a worry, too), it’s time for balance and joy.

Summer seems such a short season. One minute it’s here and everything is blooming gorgeously. The tomatoes at the farmer’s market are big and juicy; the corn is extra sweet. Then, we venture out to play pickleball or canoe, and before we know it, the temperature of the ocean or lake water is starting to get colder. This signals fall is on its way.

Follow us. We’re grabbing precious summer moments and taking advantage of its pleasures of longer days and bluer skies.

We suggest you plan some activities that you only do in summer unless you’re lucky to get away in winter to a warm climate, or you live in one year-round. We share some of our favorites in our East Coast destinations and some we remember from our years spent in the Missouri Heartland. We hope our list of ideas will tempt you.

Get to a beach. It doesn’t have to be far away. Public beaches can be wonderful whether it’s the one by Lake Tightknit State Park near Barbara’s upstate New York home or Jones Beach State Park in Nassau County, not far from Margaret’s New York City apartment.

In the St. Louis area, we suggest heading to Creve Coeur Lake, Forest Park’s Post-Dispatch Lake or farther away to the Lake of the Ozarks. No lake? Consider a public pool. Bring a chair, umbrella if not a sun goddess, towel, sunscreen, hat, good book, picnic and enjoy the day. Be sure to cool off by jumping into the water or at least dipping in your toes. And if there is a sandy beach nearby, why not try some castle building, even if you’re not a kid or architect.

Go to a farmer’s market. They’re almost everywhere. Bring a basket or shopping bag so you can load up on fresh fruit, cheeses, vegetables, jams, honeys, fresh fish at some. Don’t compare prices to the supermarket. You’re supporting farmers and sustainability.

Plant some flowers, herbs and vegetables. If you don’t have a yard or balcony, get involved in a group in your community. Margaret recently joined a rooftop gardening group and is learning how to plant certain veggies and herbs. Spread the knowledge. She spotted weeds in Barbara’s garden and instructed her how to remove them. Among other tips she’s mastered are how to plant the seeds, which is specific to each herb or vegetable, the amount to water, which sun exposure is best for which plant and the importance of weeding. She has a lot more to learn; the club continues until the end of August. And the bonus is that she gets to take home fresh herbs and vegetables that she cannot grow in her small apartment with no outdoor space.

Barbara loves her perennial, shade and fern gardens; her bete noir is poison ivy. Wear gloves and wash your hands well after working, she advises.

For inspiration, go to a botanical garden. St. Louis’ Missouri Botanical Garden with its spectacular rose garden is the place that inspired Barbara first to grow her own fragrant, colorful roses.

Enjoy a meal outdoors. Barbara has one friend who loves to eat outside, whether on her deck, at restaurants in her area or in Florida come winter. Be sure again to bring sunscreen, wear a hat and get those yearly or regular all-body freckle checks. And if you have a yard or camper, invest in a small Solo stove which you can take with you on outings, along with the fixings for s’mores.

Bring summer indoors. Open any curtains wide, roll up your shades, wash your windows so they sparkle and let in the sunlight. Switch out pillows to more colorful hues and patterns, put some flowers in a vase or line up herbs on your windowsill and use them for cooking.

Think summer meals. Forget the heavy roasts, stews, casseroles. Fire up the barbecue and learn to grill fish well—it’s a skill, think salads, maybe, get a pizza maker you leave outdoors, brew some iced tea and make fresh lemonade, serve watermelon for dessert cut up in different shapes. Maybe you even grow a lemon tree and have fresh lemons at your disposal.

Barbara grows pears. Bake that great Fourth of July cake with a top that resembles the American Flag. In fact, fly a flag throughout the season. And listen for the hurdy-gurdy jingle of the ice-cream truck. Barbara’s older grandsons love their Miss Twist who comes by in the early evening in a truck, even though the music it grinds out can grate on adult nerves. Chuck it up to the sounds of summer.

Head to an ice-cream shop. Some are closed part of the year, at least one with unusual flavors such as lemon with poppyseeds is, which is shuttered in winter in Barbara’s hood. She made a beeline to it when it opened this month. She also has a soft-serve place she orders from—yes, a twist with chocolate sprinkles, please. Indulge, you don’t have to do so regularly but a few times each summer is worth it.

If you’re lactose intolerant, many offer options. And, of course, make at least one excursion (weekly?) to Ted Drewes’s Frozen Custard, which we were delighted to see now is stocked in vending machines at the airport.

Attend a baseball game or two. It’s America’s favorite pastime. And if you live in a place with a national league team such as the St. Louis Cardinals, all the better. But there are minor leagues, and you can always watch a good college or high school game, too. Summer is baseball season with the smell of hot dogs and the iconic sounds from the pop of the ball on the bat to the singing of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” This is summer at its finest.

Consider going to a free concert, outdoor movie night or affordable live show. Free outside activities abound in the summer. Take advantage of the offerings on those warm sultry nights. Check local listings. If in St. Louis, make at least one outing to The Muny to see Camelot, Legally Blonde, The Color Purple, Chicago and other shows this season. Stages St. Louis now hosts Karate Kid and will have Chorus Line, another perennial favorite. And for many of us, outdoor plays by the bard Shakespeare are worth waiting for and are hosted in many venues nationwide. There are also various free outdoor concerts featuring all genres of music, in small towns and big cities.

Change your wardrobe. It’s time to shed the heavy outerwear and feel free and easy. Bring out the shorts and tank tops, if you can wear them, the capri pants and polo shirts, cotton skirts and light and breezy long, midi or mini dresses, caps, sun visors, straw hats and purses, open-toe sandals, ballet shoes and flip flops, bathing suits and coverups  If eating indoors, bring along a sweater or jacket for the air conditioning, which may be blasted.

Exercise outdoors. You don’t have to be a super athlete to enjoy activity in warm weather, from longer walks to jumping rope, yoga en plein air, a swim, playing tennis or pickleball, flying a kite, taking a boat ride in a canoe or kayak or sailboat or playing croquet. More adventuresome? Maybe, it’s time for a hike—don’t forget your compass, bug spray, long sleeves and pants, socks, a hat. More adventuresome? Consider a bungee jump or zip line but don’t invite us.

Head to an amusement park. You don’t need a child with you to take a ride on Batman or the Big Kahuna at the Six Flags in Eureka, Mo., but it helps. Barbara is currently listening to the audio book Disney’s Land by Richard Snow, which details Walt Disney’s founding of the iconic California amusement park.

Head to an outdoor fair or sculpture park. Laumeier Sculpture Park may be the city’s most famous and offers workshops in construction and clay for all ages. In proximity to Barbara’s home, there’s Storm King Art Center in New Windsor, N.Y., which offers famous works by such notables as Alexander Calder, Alexander Liberman and Mark di Suvero. Wear comfortable shoes.

Read lighter. Put away those heavy serious tomes and try something lighter. Barbara recently bought the late Lori Zabar’s book on her New York family business, Zabar’s, which includes recipes for its iconic black and white cookies and more. And bring that book, newspaper or stack of fun magazines outdoors to a bench in a nearby park or wicker chaise in your yard.

Set up a hammock. Just chill and enjoy being in nature. Grab an ice-cold beer or Aperol spritzer, tune into some soothing jazz, light classics or pop tunes about the “lazy hazy days of summer” as in the song by Nat King Cole. Invest in a good water bottle rather than use plastic, which is damaging to our oceans and fish.

Hit the links. For all those golf aficionados—there are many more with the ramp up of Covid since it’s a good activity for keeping your distance. Summer is your season to drive, putt and par to your heart’s content on one of this country’s many picturesque and splendid public and private golf courses. Don’t forget miniature golf for some old-fashioned family fun.

Summer is synonymous with kicking back and giving yourself a break. Chill in the heat, destress and enjoy yourself before the leaves fall once again.