What is the opposite of Thanksgiving?

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My friend Kathy, who writes from the woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, shared these wise thoughts a few years ago. I think they’re well worth sharing again.

Lake Superior Spirit

Perhaps we all know what Thanksgiving is.  We know what it feels like.  Underneath all our turkey and stuffing, we know that Thanksgiving feels like gratitude, appreciation and love.  It smells like pumpkin pie mixed with joy.  It tastes like mashed potatoes whipped with the heart’s fairest harvest.  It is the giving of the feast of compassion, the giving of our deepest gifts.

But what is the opposite of Thanksgiving?

Could it be the way we steer through our days on auto-pilot, concerned only about getting things done?  Concerned primarily about connecting the dots between A and B?  Could the opposite of Thanksgiving be our busy lives, our focused doing, our physical robotic movements?

Could the opposite of Thanksgiving be our forgetting to be grateful?  Our forgetting to marvel at the small gifts which life presents, moment after moment, hour after hour, day after day?  Could it be a sin…

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Thinking, Again…

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Do you think we’re a little weight-obsessed?

Several years ago, a man working with the public here on the island went – over a period of several months – from a sturdy and strong but a little-bit paunchy middle-aged person to a lean, if a bit haggard-looking one. “You look great,” he heard time and time again. “What are you doing to lose all that weight?” It turned out, he had an aggressive cancer, and only a short time to live.

My daughter, who was always just plump enough to frustrate her, slimmed down over a difficult period that included a pregnancy plagued with gestational diabetes, a divorce, a move, and caring for a newborn. She ran into an old friend, who had also recently been divorced after a long marriage, and suffered all the trauma usually associated with it. As they hugged and exchanged pleasantries, they admired each other’s sleek figures. “No doubt about it,” my daughter said, “divorce looks damn good on a woman!”

I have a friend whose mother struggled with her weight for most of her life. She regularly attended a weight-loss support group, where the participants were put on a scale each week, to note pounds lost. They recognized the biggest loser by giving them a crown to wear during the rest of the meeting. When she got sick, she swore her daughter to secrecy. She wanted the members of her group to think she was dropping pounds due to determination and hard work, not from the effects of cancer and chemotherapy. She carefully dressed and did her make-up, and covered her bald head before each session. One day, when my friend picked her up from the meeting, she grumbled, “I’d have gotten the crown today, if it weren’t for the weight of this damn turban!”

I went sailing once, as part of a three-person crew in a 29-foot sailboat, in late October. We traveled from Beaver Island’s harbor in Lake Michigan, through the straits of Mackinac, and down the length of Lake Huron to Port Huron. There were a million things to marvel at and leave an impression, from the big bowl of stars that was the night sky, to the quiet and calm taking turns with raging waters, to five days of seasickness. When I tell the story, though, I always mention that I lost two pounds a day.

Similarly, when my sister died suddenly, and I went down-state to help take over her job of caring for my mother at the end of her life, the emotions and experiences altered my life and my way of looking at the world. I could go on and on – and probably have – about that precious and awful time. I always note – as one good thing in the midst of so much sadness – that I lost ten pounds in two weeks.

I know of two women, beloved by all for their kindness and generosity of spirit, beautiful both inside and out, who see their weight as a big failure in life. And I know they’re not alone. I remember the old experiment that asks participants to not think of an elephant; suddenly, they can think of nothing else. I don’t think weight is unimportant; general health and overall well-being are directly related to the weight we carry. I just think we need another obsession.

Monday Musings

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I’ve noticed that my Sunday writings have migrated to Mondays over the last few weeks. Likewise, my Thursday writings have pretty much gone out the window. I don’t know why, whether it would be helpful to me to get back on track, or even if it’s possible right now.

From my confident commitments on the first of this year, I have declined into simply “as much as I can, when I can.” Not only in writing, but in just about every single course I had pledged to work on this year. And yet, I still feel pretty good about it because, eleven months in, I have not yet descended to the level of “Whatever…”

One of the rules in my house is that if I write a task in my calendar and then don’t do the job on that day, I can’t resubmit the item on the day that it gets done. For instance, if on Sunday I jot down a few lines as reminders (write; fold jeans; take compost to bin; clean sink) and then totally blow off the list to walk the dogs and then snuggle with them on the floor on the dog bed while watching BirdMan, the jobs still need to be done…on Monday. On Monday, when I do them, I can cross them off Sunday’s page, but then I have to do even more stuff to show that I also had a productive Monday. The moral of that story is this:

Only write down jobs as you complete them – never before.

My task manager is not my boss. The only things that should be written down ahead of time are appointments and specifics (like bank days or work obligations) that might otherwise slip my mind. Who needs a list of chores hanging over their head, without regard to the sun coming out, the dogs wanting attention, or a dozen other things that might get in the way of me following that path? Not me. My calendar is there to remind that every day is productive and full, in its own way. I just need to remember to use it that way.

 

 

Yesterday…Today

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Today is one of those misty days that makes the landscape appear hazy.  Everything looks as if it’s shrouded in gauze. Everything feels damp. Even the air is moist. A quick walk around the yard through the melting snow, and my feet are soaked. I slide out of wet shoes, and put them near the heater to dry. I peel off the heavy, cold and dripping socks, and replace them with thick, soft, warm ones. This is a day to have a pot of soup on the stove…a loaf of bread rising on the table.

Yesterday…did I even make it outside? Maybe, briefly. I didn’t pay much attention to the weather then, or the many times I opened the door to let the dogs inside or outside. I tackled a few chores, but left a list of things undone, too. Yesterday, I got the idea to make slippers…like the slippers I used to make for my husband and daughters when my family was young…for Christmas gifts. Everything else went by the wayside.

First I pulled down the basket of yarn from the top shelf, where it has sat, neglected, for weeks. My last project was a giant sock to fit over one unfortunate grandson’s cast. Before that…I can’t remember. It was maybe a year or more since I’d crocheted.

As a young mother, I crocheted every day. Out of each week’s grocery budget, I’d buy one skein of yarn: a different color every week. All of my projects were improvisations, based on the yarn I had on hand. I made hats and scarves, slippers and ponchos. I made piles of granny squares to be fitted together into afghans. I made stuffed animals and puppets. I plotted needlepoint designs to use up all the bits and scraps of yarn. For every single finished project, I always had a dozen that I’d abandoned half-way through.

Yesterday, after assessing the available yarn, I decided the slippers would – out of necessity – be not quite identical. I used two strands of yarn: one four-ply, one two-ply, and when I ran out of one, I attached another. I finished two pair of slippers, and started a third, while watching about four hours of programs on my computer. I drank coffee until I’d emptied the pot, then water, then wine. It was a lovely, self-indulgent day. I don’t dare repeat it!

Today, I have to get busy! I have to complete the tasks that should have been done yesterday, plus all the ones on the list for today. I have cards to write, and phone calls to make. There are rugs to shake and floors to sweep, and laundry to be put through the circuit. I have a collection of staple foods still sitting on the kitchen counter, where they’ve been since I emptied the old cabinet that housed them…to make room for the freezer. There is compost to be taken out to the bin near the garden, and recyclables to be loaded in the car.

If I get to the point where I can say “enough, this will do,” with the housework, the garden still needs to be put to bed for the winter. The long hose needs to be picked up, rolled, and hung in the garden shed. Vines – from beans, peas, squash and tomatoes -need to be pulled up and disposed of. I have to, then, cover any open spaces with straw, to keep the weeds from taking over. There is at least one shovel and a three-pronged cultivator still standing out in the weather.

If I happen to manage to get all of that done, I have a back-up list. It includes things like re-arranging and repairing the kitchen cabinets, painting the floor, and cleaning the car. And now, of course, there are slippers to work on, when there is time. And the studio, always, with projects and plans awaiting. It’s unlikely that, on this day,  I’ll have time for any of that. Especially since – first on my list – I have to get that bread dough started…and get vegetables cut up for the soup!

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Minor (Major) Accomplishments

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Some days start like an explosion. I was thinking of the times in my life when that happened regularly: on vacation; when newly in love; during the first weeks of an unfamiliar undertaking.  Every day, then, would be filled with adventures. I would leap out of bed like a shot, ready to welcome the morning, and whatever experiences might await.

That rarely happens lately. Even if I’m wide awake, having gotten a full eight hours – or even more – of sleep…with only minor interruptions from dreams or nature’s call…I could happily lay abed most mornings. “Get up,” I tell myself, and then run through the reasons why I should. And I do get up, then, but without enthusiasm.

Some days, after the heater is on and the coffee is brewed, I warm up to the tasks and projects at hand. Not today. Not so far, anyway. This morning, I started slowly and have continued without zeal. On days like this, the small things are big accomplishments: roll over; get up; breathe in, breathe out.

Today, the smallest achievements are noted. Credit must be taken, after all. Even on this lazy day:

  • I made the bed before the dogs claimed the space for their nap,
  • drank an entire pot of coffee
  • while I caught up on the news,
  • and unsubscribed to a dozen sites that have been clogging my in-box.
  • I took two phone calls,
  • greeted one surprise visitor at the door (in my pajamas, no less!),
  • and have been slowly but surely working my way through yesterday‘s “to-do” list.

This bit  of writing gives me one more item that I can check off.

It’s now 1 P.M. I should get out of these pajamas. There is still time to turn this day around!

Away, Then Home, Again…

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I’m struggling to find a way to write this so that it doesn’t sound like an essay assignment about “What I did on my Vacation.” It’s early, though; I’m tired, and have a long list of jobs to accomplish today. Every single task can be interrupted whenever the dogs need attention; they missed me, I think, even more than I missed them! But, in between pats and snuggles and belly rubs, there are things to do.

I have to call the bank to verify the amount of a direct deposit, then write checks for bills that have to go out this week. I have thank-you notes to write to the folks that fed, entertained and accommodated me this last week. When I go to town for the Post Office, I’ll run around to the shops that carry [my last issue of] the Beaver Beacon, and make note of the returns. That will allow me to tally up sales and send final bills out, which will – if I’m lucky – bring in enough to pay the printer, which is the only thing, now, in the way of me being finished, finally, with that phase of my life.

I unpacked last evening, and got a load of clothes through the washer and the dryer. They need to be folded and put away today. The empty suitcases – abandoned unceremoniously at the top of the stairs – need to be stored. The groceries I brought home need to be re-packaged for storage. I could use the freezer space, now, right away; I’ll have to talk to the young man who is going to help me move that appliance.

Temperatures are considerably consistently colder than when I left the island. There were actually good sized piles of residual snow at the airport on the mainland; I was told seven inches of snow fell in Charlevoix on Saturday. My house was no warmer than outside when I came home, and it took most of the evening to get it comfortable enough for sleeping. It is past time for dealing with the issue of my non-working thermostat, so that the heater can come on and go off on its own, as needed. Today would be a good time to look into that.

I’m still struggling with a month-old spider (?) bite, that continues to itch and refuses to heal though I’m working my way through a second course of antibiotics. I treat the spot with after-bite gel and anti-itch ointment as well the steroid cream that was prescribed. I have taken over-the-counter allergy medicines, to try to stop the irritation. If I’m going to get back in to the Medical Center before the week is out, today would be the day for that, too.

So, obviously, getting back to home and “real-life” leaves little time to talk about my trip. It was a whirlwind of activity with lots of driving in between. In my notes, it looks like this:

Wednesday: dogs to kennel; airport; flight to Charlevoix; drive to Petoskey; McLean & Eakin bookstore; Roast & Toast for lunch; Grain Train for rice, grains and oat straw; drive to Gaylord; find Treetops Resort; find [cheaper] motel; Big Boy for dinner; back to the motel for lots of HGTV until I can sleep.

Thursday: up, coffee, news, shower, dress and check-out; Treetops Resort for paint seminar through early afternoon; drive to DeWitt – outside of Lansing – to the hotel where I meet up with my daughter, Kate; P.F.Chang’s to have dinner with Kate and my sister, Amy; then off to see Amy’s [beautiful] new condo before calling it a night.

Friday: the morning begins with trying to catch up with my daughter, Jen, who is late; breakfast at Bob Evans; Schuler’s bookstore to entertain ourselves while we wait; back to the hotel to meet up with Jen, who has texted us that she has arrived; Old Town in Lansing for a great deal of browsing in shops and galleries, and a little shopping before going back to get ready for our evening; Beggar’s Banquet for dinner, then to the Wharton Center, on the campus of Michigan State University, for “An Evening with David Sedaris.”

Saturday: breakfast with my girls at a nice restaurant I can’t remember the name of; pack, load up cars, check out, and lots of (but still not enough) hugs good-bye; drive to Lapeer, to the home of my sister Brenda and her husband Keith; carry in suitcases; set up computer; contact my friend, Gary, who came right over to go over the drives and settings on my computer, to download anti-virus programs and run scans to make sure there were no residual problems from when I fell victim to the scam; a delicious dinner with Brenda and Keith; North Branch, to my sister, Cheryl’s, house where she was hosting card club, and I could catch up with all of my sisters, a couple nieces, and other friends.

Sunday: Brenda and Keith left early for a bus trip, so I woke up alone and drank a pot of coffee by myself; to Clifford in the afternoon, to my daughter Kate’s house, where I was able to catch up with her husband Jeremy, and three of my grandchildren: Brandon, Madeline and Tommy, and get to know Eric (Madeline’s boyfriend) better; dinner was homemade lasagna (some of the best I’ve ever had) and cake and ice cream for dessert; game time with everyone after dinner; hugs and good wishes, then off for Lapeer and bed.

Monday: up, pack, load the car and off; fill up with gas, then hit the freeway for a four-hour drive; in Gaylord, I stopped at the Big Boy for coffee and a waffle; in Charlevoix, I went to K-Mart to buy a cheap watch, to the Family Fare to stock up on groceries, and the gas station to fill the car with gas again; airport, then a flight back to Beaver Island; retrieve the car and load the bags and boxes; the kennel to pick up the dogs…then home.

That’s a week-long trip, condensed. Exhausting, right? Some highlights:

  • Wonderful conversation over Chinese food with Amy and Kate, and a tour of Amy’s lovely home.
  • Time spent together with my two daughters: memories of their conversations, banter and laughter still makes my heart swell.
  • David Sedaris. I have loved his books for years; hearing him on NPR was always a treat. He’s even better in person. I’m still laughing!
  • Over conversation and coffee in the lobby with my daughter, Jen (a treat on its own) I ran into a friend from Beaver Island!
  • Visits with family and friends at Brenda’s house, and later at Cheryl’s. Both places are warm and welcoming.
  • Playing Taboo around Kate’s dining room table with my smart and giggly grandchildren.
  • No viruses on my computer (Thank you, Gary!).
  • A hidden windfall in my checking account (Thank you, Eric!).
  • Walking into my own house, with my waggy-tail dogs, after a week away.

 

Saying it Better Than I Can…

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I (Cindy) was out visiting with grandchildren yesterday, and had no time to write. Today, I’m traveling. Over morning coffee, while catching up on the news and a few blogs that I follow, I came upon this timely and important opinion. I would love to hear views like this expressed by a presidential candidate!

(Note to Readers: Life in the Boomer Lane has recently been appalled by the predictable silence that has followed the Vegas massacre, the proposed new tax code, the administration announcement that fossil fuels will prevent both sexual abuse and reduce climate change, and a just-viewed recruitment video posted by the NRA in June. And now, […]

via Words of My Fantasy Democratic Candidate for President 2020 — Life in the Boomer Lane