In the wintertime on this small island, we are a group of less than four hundred people. We all know each other. Every year that passes seems to make that bond stronger.
In the summer, our population swells to over a thousand residents. Vacationers, tourists and day-trippers add thousands more. We love to see the people come: friendly faces from past years, and new visitors happily discovering what the island has to offer. Our economy depends on the tourist trade, but it’s more than that. Summer’s busy-ness is the antithesis of winter’s quiet, and it brings balance to our lives. Still, when we look through the chaos and catch the eye of another “year-rounder,” there’s a feeling of camaraderie and understanding.
That feeling only grows in the “off-season.” When winter is harsh, we make our way to town through ice or deep snow, for church and school and jobs and necessities, and for necessary human contact. When the planes aren’t able to make their regular trips to transport us to the mainland for doctor visits or excursions, and to bring the mail, perishable groceries and mail-order packages, we only have each other. We exchange glances of quiet understanding; we inquire and worry about each other. “How’s your road?” “Did you have trouble getting in?” “Be careful out there!” We’re all in this together.
Not surprisingly, death hits this island hard. Everyone is a friend, and every death is a personal loss. In the last week, Beaver Island lost two long time island residents. Both ladies had long, productive lives, active in business, politics, church and community before a swift decline and a sudden end. It has left us all feeling off-balance and sad.
As often happens here, one funeral will be delayed until spring, when travel is easier for long-distance family and friends. The second funeral was held Monday. It was joyous and mournful at the same time, and the church was filled to over-flowing with people that loved her. “The island’s mother,” was one apt description of the lady who always greeted me with a smile and “Hi, honey…”
Together, in grief and understanding, we soldier on.
Yesterday was cold and windy. Overnight, the temperature dropped as the wind died down. Yesterday, it was the wind-chill that made it feel so frigid. Today, it’s just plain cold. I added snow pants and a heavy scarf to walk with the dogs.
No matter what, we walk every day. morning and night. This time of year, our evening walk is in the dark. Rain, wind, ice or extreme cold slow me down the most, but we still get out there. What with heavy boots and icy roads, I’m no longer attempting the “walk-to-run” program that I was doing in fairer weather, but we walk at a pretty good pace. Even on my worst days, we get a couple miles in.
I’m working at being more serious about diet and exercise in 2020. I’m cutting back on sugars and refined carbohydrates; I’m eating more salads. In addition to walking and my little morning yoga routine, I’ve added weight-training every other day. On the days in-between, I do a longer yoga session, some Pilates, or another exercise program. Twelve days in to the new year, it’s going okay.
And that’s a good lead-in to my next topic: January 12th is my granddaughter Madeline’s birthday. It’s hard to believe she is already twenty years old! She’s good-hearted, smart, witty, kind, and beautiful; I couldn’t be more proud of her!
Yesterday was my friend Susan’s birthday. Two days before that was my friend Ellen’s birthday. It was also the anniversary of the day I got married. I’ve been divorced for a long time, but I still take note of the date as it comes around, and spend a melancholy moment or two in thoughts of “if only…” or “what if…”
After all, none of us gets married with plans of the union going badly. I started out with stars in my eyes and plans for a long and happy future together, just like everybody else. It just didn’t work out that way. Still, it’s kind of shocking to note that, had we stayed married, we’d have been celebrating forty-nine years together!
At work, I’m continuing my plans to get the basement in order. This is a job that is long overdue. We’ve talked about it as a necessary winter activity for several years now, but when hours and employees are cut severely back, it’s nearly impossible. If you’re the only one running the store, you can’t be downstairs, away from the business.
This January, we still have two people working most days, and it has been slow enough to allow for one of us to be working in the basement. I took it on. I started by relocating the Christmas merchandise as I brought it downstairs. Then, I moved the plumbing aisle over to the old Christmas location, sorting and organizing as I went along.
That allowed me to put the builder’s supplies, plus the trash cans, in neat rows where plumbing had been. Then, I gathered the coils of well pipe, corrugated drainage pipe, and flexible perforated drainage pipe from the floor in several aisles where they had been stashed, and hung them all neatly in the aisle where the trash cans had been. It’s a huge improvement!
The basement is dusty, damp and chilly. The job involves lots of heavy lifting, setting up shelves and moving merchandise, and also lots of cleaning, sorting and organizing. I find it very gratifying, though, and enjoy seeing the progress.
At home, I’m still working at getting the studio thoroughly cleaned and organized. Every other room in the house has been purged of excess and deep-cleaned. The struggle, now, is to maintain what is done, while concentrating my energy on what remains to be done. The weather, though, is perfect for it. These cold winter days just cry out for a serious indoor project. Luckily, I still have one!
It’s been a while since I moved my sleeping arrangements downstairs. My stairs are steep, and my little dog has a weak bladder that necessitates several trips outside each night. With my brittle bones, bum knees and unpredictable bouts of vertigo, it made sense to spend my nights on the ground floor. So, my narrow bed doubles as a sofa, and my lower story functions like a little studio apartment.
That opened up new possibilities for what had been my small bedroom in the upper level of my story-and-a-half house. The larger upstairs room, which had once been two tiny bedrooms for my daughters, has long been used as my art studio. The other room, I decided, would be a perfect place for exercise, meditation and journal-writing. I moved my Pilates chair up there. I gathered up all exercise books, tapes, CDs and DVDs, and arranged them on the shelves. The medicine ball and hand weights were given a corner spot.
Then, I got busy with other things. For several months now, I’ve been working my way through a whole-house, long overdue deep-cleaning and de-cluttering project. That, in tangent with painting the floor, dominated my spare time. It also generated a lot of excess. I brought bags to the Transfer Station, and boxes to the Re-Sale Shop. Still, there were plenty of things that no longer belonged wherever I’d pulled them from, but still did not have a “place.”
That nearly empty room at the top of the stairs became the depository for all of that “stuff.” Then, with the downstairs finished (for the most part) and the New Year looming, it was time to finish the Exercise Room. Which was now a much larger job, as it had become a storage room. Uncharacteristically, I took a few photos to document the mess.
In trying to hook up a strand of colored lights, I accidentally knocked out my telephone and internet service. With the holidays, it was going to be several days before a repair could be made. A perfect opportunity! Without the distractions of news, social media and computer games, without the ability to stall by chatting with family and friends, certainly I could accomplish something meaningful!
And I did!
I still managed to find several diversionary tactics. There were extra dog-walks and lots of coffee breaks. I set up my new bullet journal, finished a book, and played about one-hundred games of solitaire. Nevertheless, I got that one room done. Thoroughly done. From the attic spaces under the eaves to the dresser drawers and the curtains and plants in the window. One. Room. Done!
I’m doing fine. Very well, in fact. Just in case anyone was worried. Not that I expect anyone to worry about me, but just in case. I was without telephone and internet service for a while, so I missed a couple days when I would have normally published a blog. Maybe, with the holidays and all, no one even noticed, and that’s okay, too.
Personally, I am a worrier. Even though I’ve never met most of the people who I have conversations with here, I truly feel that friendships develop. I miss you when you’re gone. I worry, if I don’t know what’s going on.
I appreciate hearing that someone is taking a break from blogging, as Kathy, of Lake Superior Spirit does from time to time. Or that someone is just busy with other things, and not blogging as regularly, like Sara, of Auntie Bee’s Wax. I like knowing when someone has limited access to the internet, like Lisa, of Zeebra Designs and Destinations, down in the cloud forest of Ecuador. That way I miss them, but I don’t worry.
But what about Claire, of Promenade Plantings? We conversed back and forth for several years, reading each other’s writings, and commenting on them. Then suddenly, without warning, Claire was gone. The same with Mary, of Small House, Big Garden. The last I knew, she was taking a trip to England. I never heard from her again.
Probably, I tell myself, they just gave up on blogging. It happens. Lives change; other things take priority. They certainly don’t owe me an explanation. It’s unlikely that a plane crash or other disaster befell either of them. Still, I wonder. And I worry.
But me, I’m fine. I had a good, quiet holiday, and have been enjoying the new year so far. I used my “disconnected” days to make good progress on some on-going endeavors, finish a good book, and start a new exercise regimen. I’ll fill you in at another time. For now, I just wanted to touch base, let everyone know I’m okay, and wish you all a Happy New Year!
Christmas Eve is most often associated with high excitement. When I was a small child, it was waiting for Santa Claus, and Christmas morning. Later, it was helping to make the holiday special for the younger children. As a young adult with children of my own, the anticipation rose from the desire to make their Christmas memorable.
In my little family, we had a few traditions. My daughters could open one present before bed on Christmas Eve, and it was always new pajamas. That way, they’d be well turned out for Christmas morning photos. Stockings could be gotten into as soon as they woke up in the morning; all other gifts, even the ones unwrapped and perfectly visible under the tree, had to wait until everyone was up. Gifts were well thought out, but not excessive.
I did not believe in going overboard at Christmastime. The girls always received a doll, and a stuffed animal. There were books, puzzles and a game the whole family could play. New blankets, sheets or sleeping bags would be wrapped as gifts when they were needed, just like socks and underwear. If a new winter coat or boots was needed, and if it could wait for Christmas, it would be wrapped and under the tree.There was always a new outfit for school, and the Christmas Eve pajamas.
Still, I was raised in a large family. With nine children, even a modest Christmas looked excessive, when all the presents were arranged under the tree. So, there was usually a point on Christmas Eve night where I felt my own Christmas didn’t measure up. More stuff was necessary, I would decide, long after the time I could do anything about it. Many Christmas Eve nights found me desperately sewing or crocheting “just a few more things” to make the display more impressive.
I miss those special days, with young children and the magical spirit of the holidays. What has replaced them, though, is special in its own way. This year, I traveled mid-December down to meet my daughters and their families for our Christmas celebration. That forced me to have all of my buying and wrapping done far ahead of time. It was a wonderful gathering, a good chance to see everyone, and a perfect celebration.
I came home glad to be able to settle in to my cozy home for the next few months, and happy to be home for Christmas. Tonight, the house is bright with candles and Christmas lights. I have a pot of soup simmering on the stove. The dogs are dozing on assorted chairs and cushions behind me, and I think I’ll settle in with a holiday movie. This is a perfect Christmas Eve!
Though it looks and feels like winter here on Beaver Island, we’re actually not there yet, for a few more days. As the change of season approaches, as well as the coming transition into a new year, it’s time for me to take stock. Not of all the considerations going on in my life. My gosh, that would take more time and energy than I have today, or even this week! But one thing.
I’ve been participating in Rachel Hollis’s “Last 90 Days” challenge, with the plan to start the new year riding on recent accomplishments, rather than the failures and disappointments of the past year. The challenge came with five daily goals:
Drink half your body weight in ounces of water.
Move your body for thirty minutes each day.
Write down 10 things each day that you are grateful for.
Get up one hour earlier each day, and use the time for something that benefits your spirit.
Give up one category of food or drink (thirty days at a time) that will help to make you healthier.
With two weeks left in this challenge, I’m looking at mixed results, and not much time to redeem myself. My assessment:
My weight is 130 pounds, so that means 65 ounces of water, which is about 60 ounces more than my previous usual daily water intake. Though I never met my goal, there were several days when I came very close. Even my worst water-drinking days (48 ounces, or thereabouts) were still a huge improvement over my old habits. I’ve noticed that I enjoy water more, and that I crave it. Also, I feel thirsty more often than ever before. So, this has been a positive change, and one that will continue.
I’ve always been a walker, though I’d grown neglectful. Last spring, when I added a dog to my household, I reinstated the habit of walking every single day, morning and evening. That pattern was well-established before I started this ninety-day challenge, so it was the easiest requirement. I had been doing a “walk-to-run” program for at least one of my daily walks, but cold and icy conditions have curbed that. Still, we go at a pretty good clip, and I get a bare minimum of thirty minutes of walking in, often much more.
Writing every morning was already part of my daily practice, so also easy to continue. Gratitude is fairly new, though. It has become easier to find things to be grateful for, the longer I do it. It changes the way I approach the world. As I’m watching for things to be thankful for, I pay more attention to small kindnesses, and appreciate more fully the beauty that I too often took for granted.
I’ve had mixed success with getting up an hour earlier. I managed it successfully for a while, and was using the time for writing, yoga and meditation. First a bout of the flu got me off course. Then, I let some joyous travel opportunities get in the way. A week of flying from one place to another left me with an inner ear issue that has temporarily affected my hearing. On several days, I’ve slept right through the alarm! I see the value in taking this extra time; it’s a habit I will continue to work toward.
For the month of October, I gave up alcohol. Feeling that that was a bit of a cheat, as I’m not much of a drinker (I had only had one alcoholic beverage in the month of September), I also gave up chocolate. My cousins came to the island, and invited me to join them for happy hour at the pub. I did, and ordered simply tonic water while we visited. My sisters came next, with several bottles of wine for the week. I doggedly stuck to my plan, and had water instead. Chocolate was more greatly missed, but I stuck to it.
For November, I gave up pasta. It was a healthful choice, and something I should be looking into anyway. As much as I hate the thought, I will probably be forced, before long, to adapt a low-carb lifestyle, for my health. So, November was a trial run. This was a difficult sacrifice, as pasta forms the basis of many of my meals. It fills the plate, and fits my budget. Giving it up forced me to rethink my menus and my grocery list. Even travelling around the holiday to other homes, even with several meals out in restaurants, I made it through.
For all of my high hopes that these healthy habits and good choices would make a difference on the scale, I saw very little improvement. I’d lose a single pound, then gain it back. Though the fluctuation did seem to be in a downward direction, it was still not noteworthy. Could I do better in December?
This month, rather than give up a food group, I changed a habit. After reading Body Love by Kelly LeVeque, who promotes a low-carb lifestyle without dieting, I committed to having one of her “Fab-Four” smoothies every morning, rather than my usual breakfast of yogurt, granola and fruit. In her book, she sites many success stories. There are people who lost 11 pounds in two weeks without making a single change other than replacing breakfast with the smoothie! What better incentive? If I could lose significant weight in two weeks, you can bet I’d be utilizing her entire program for the new year!
The “fab four,” by the way, are protein, greens, fiber and fat. The recipe I use, which is only one of the many variations she offers, is this:
1 scoop of protein powder (protein)
2 cups loosely packed spinach, kale, or a combination of the two (greens)
2 Tablespoons ground flax seeds, chia seeds, or a combination of the two (fiber)
1 Tablespoon almond butter or 1/4 avocado (fat)
1/4 cup frozen raspberries or blueberries (flavor, and the saving grace for this smoothie!)
2 cups almond milk
Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Especially if you use vegetable-based protein powder (which smells like dried split peas), it helps to drink this with a straw. If it doesn’t keep you satisfied for at least four hours, add a little more fat, or more fiber. I’ve grown to like the flavor, though I can’t tolerate it without the fruit. It’s satisfying and healthy, and I plan to continue this as part of my morning routine.
As for the weight loss, nothing. Ah, well, the New Year is almost here, with new opportunities for fresh starts and diet plans. For my year’s end, I did what I could!
I have about ten minutes to spare this morning. I spent the morning rushing around. I walked the dogs, finished packing my suitcase, and loaded it into the car along with a tote of Christmas gifts (that I was up wrapping until two in the morning!), and everything the dogs will need for two days at the kennel. I just dropped the dogs off. Time for one more cup of coffee before I head for the airport. Perhaps trying to write something worthwhile is not the best idea, but I’m going to make an attempt at it anyway.
I’m off to Frankenmuth, Michigan, to meet my daughters and their families for an early holiday gathering. Tomorrow is my daughter Kate’s birthday, too, so we’ll celebrate that as well. Frankenmuth will be the perfect setting, as it features Christmas all year ’round in its Bavarian-style shops and restaurants.
I’ve packed too much, I’m sure, for a short trip, but managed to fit it all into one small suitcase, so consider that a success. I have my reader loaded with two good books, plus a new audio book for the drive. I talked myself out of trying to fit the large book that is on my nightstand. Even though it’s really good. I will be fine without it. Surrounded by my children and grandchildren, I doubt I’ll be taking time to read at all!
Yesterday was stormy here, and the planes weren’t flying for at least part of the day. Then snow moved in overnight. By the time I went to bed, I was a nervous wreck imagining delays, bad road conditions and every other possibility to turn this jaunt into disaster. Today, the snow has stopped, the sky is clear, and the planes are flying on schedule. I have plenty of time to make it to my destination. All is well!