Family Time

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This is the happiest week of the summer, for me. Three of my sisters are here on the island, for a week-long visit. Dinners are well-planned, masterfully prepared, and served family-style, with lots of laughter and good conversation.

Other activities include beach days, shopping and exploring. Last night, several of us went to Donegal Bay to watch the sunset. Later, we circled around the kitchen counter for a long game of Yahtzee. This morning, another group came out to my house, to walk next door to see the goats that live there.

I’ve been fitting in my own necessities – picking beans, doing laundry, mowing lawn – while trying to take advantage of as much family time as possible. I know well how rare – and how precious – these opportunities are.

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The 52 Lists (for Happiness) Project #33

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my grand-nephew, Wyatt, in the giant birch tree

List the people you want to spend more time with before the end of the year:

  • My family. Just when it seems like I will succumb to loneliness, August is here, and family abounds! Last week, my nephew, Bob, came to the island with his family: his wife, Casey, and their children, Wyatt and Ellie. Yesterday, sisters Brenda and Cheryl arrived with their partners; today, my baby sister, Amy, will come, with her family, on the afternoon boat. It sounds like there will be a steady stream of cousins on the island through Labor Day. I’ll be leaving the island near the end of this month, for a birthday adventure with my daughter, Kate, and her family. I’m planning to get a visit in with my brother, Ted, my sister, Robin, my daughter, Jen, and others that I don’t see enough of.
  • Friends. In addition to the partners and spouses of family members (that are both friend and family), Bob and Gary arrived on the second boat yesterday. It’s always a pleasure to see them, and a special treat when they are able to make it up here for a visit. Soon, the summer pace will be letting up, allowing for more time with friends here on the island, and more time – I hope – to get together with other friends. I’d love to find time for visits with Linda, Donna, and two Marys – one on the east side of the state, the other on the west side.
  • Other artists. I miss having the time to discuss processes and ideas. Of course there are other artists here on the island…all just as busy as I am. I’m looking for opportunities to spend time with artists in a teaching, learning and sharing space.

Bounty

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From what I hear, this has been a difficult year for a lot of gardeners. Michigan weather offered snow late in the spring, unseasonable cold that lasted through planting season, then suddenly hot, and dry, dry, dry. Along with many others, I worried, watered and waited. Like most gardeners, I know that there’s always something that gets in the way of perfection. Still, there are always rewards.Big winds and pouring rains toppled one tomato plant (not fatally), gave the pole beans incentive to reach for the sky, and caused the summer squash to produce overnight.

This year, the cabbage butterfly has found my kale, and it is pock-marked with holes. The pole beans were late in going in, and slow growing. They have finally climbed up the tepees I fashioned for them, and have blossoms, but no beans yet. I’ve had two small pickings of bush beans, and there will be more. The peas are still offering a few delectable pods each day; the Chinese cabbage is sprawling out its beautiful puckered leaves. Tiny “Juliet” plum tomatoes offer perfect red jewels every day.

Even when the garden offers almost nothing, it’s okay. I enjoy the process of preparing the earth and putting seeds and plants in the ground. I love watching things grow. Where there are failures, I think about how I’ll do things differently next year. When it is productive, it’s like Christmas every day. To me, it’s always worth it.

The 52 Lists (for Happiness) Project #32

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List the ways you can “fake it ’til you make it” in being happy:

[Well, let me start by saying, I AM happy. I have a good life, and I know it. Still, I find plenty of things to grumble about. It is in that spirit that I respond.]

  • I am so, so tired of working with the young people at the hardware store. I’m weary of their lack of care and cleanliness, their refusal to listen to or remember instructions, and their constant need for direction, lest their work day devolve into the male equivalent of a slumber party, with stories and jokes and banter. I’m tired of hearing “wasn’t me.” I am fed up with the rolled eyes and the snickering behind my back. I am exhausted from having to follow behind to set straight what has been done haphazardly. And yet, in consideration for their effort, not a one of them leaves without hearing, from me, “Thank you for all your hard work today,” to let them know they are appreciated, just in case it will make a difference.
  • When I hear, “How are you?” my answer is “Good, how are you?” Unless I am ranting to friends or family in a mutually-agreed-upon  bitch-session, I think that is the right answer. No matter what.
  • Likewise, to questions about how my my job is going, my garden is growing, or my artwork is coming along, I will almost always accentuate the positive. It feels like an honest answer, even if it’s not all perfect.
  • When I come home from work, I always greet the dogs with pats and love and expressions of pleasure at seeing them. I tell them what good girls they are. Even when the laundry room is strewn with trash from the upended garbage can, I can’t manage much more negativity than a solemn, “Not good, Darla, not good.” Even when Rosa Parks has gone number two on the freshly cleaned bathroom rug and peed among the cans and papers rolling around on the laundry room floor, she gets not more than a “Really? Couldn’t hold it, Rosa?” and a slight frown. I doubt they would understand why I was scolding, if I were to scold. Why bother making them feel bad, if it won’t change anything? Better that they know, always, that they are good dogs, and that I love them.

Timeout for Art: A Gathering

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Today was the annual gathering of artists, musicians, and those who appreciate the work of either. Everyone worked really hard to pull it all together, and it was a great success. There was a steady stream of visitors coming through to listen to the music, look at the art, and enjoy the food and drink. Several sales were made.

It’s a good opportunity for an artist like myself, who is often seen only in her normal day-to-day (read: non-artistic) job, to mingle with others of the right-brain persuasion. It’s a chance to talk about my work. Many who know me only as a friendly hardware store employee are surprised to learn of this “other life.”

It’s lovely. And it’s exhausting. I’m more tired this evening than I often am after a long day of lifting, climbing and carrying at the hardware. I’m simply not a very social person. It wears me out to spend a day making conversation. Tonight, I have set aside everything I could or should be doing, for a lazy evening and an early bedtime. A few photos:

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Ice Cream

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[I first pulled this writing prompt last April, as part of the A ~ Z challenge. With snow still on the ground, I was not moved to write about ice cream. Now that summer is here, I think I can manage to come up with a few words!]

When I was a little girl, ice cream came in all sizes and shapes. After church on a summer Sunday, Dad would swing by the dairy. He’d come out with a big brown tub of ice cream, and a gigantic box of cones. We’d store it in the back room, ice cream in the freezer, cones on the long shelf above, and pull it out for after dinner sweetness.

Sometimes, when the milkman came to fill our refrigerator with milk and other dairy products, Mom would catch up with him to get something extra. He’d pull out samples, and let her choose. Waxed paper sheets each held a dozen ice cream treats, molded into identical shapes in surprising colors. One time it was blue dolphins, their backs curved over the paper like waves. Another time it was flowers in pink and yellow, with bright green leaves pointing out from the sides. These were tiny portions, for children accustomed to scoops of ice cream piled high, but we savored them for their loveliness.

Often on a summer day, we’d walk to the store. We had to ask permission, and sometimes we had to take some or all of the little kids along, to get them out from underfoot, but we were usually allowed. The store was small, and sat on the lake side of the road, just about a quarter mile from our home. We gathered bottles from the roadside as we walked, and turned them in for deposit when we got there. At two-cents each, it always increased our purchasing power! The store sold beer and bait, milk and other odds and ends of groceries. Of interest to us were the color books and paper dolls, the pop, candy, chips and nuts, and the ice cream freezer.

There, the ice cream was in generous individual portions, in cones, on sticks, or shaped into sandwiches. Fudgsicle was my favorite, though messy for the walk home on a hot day. Nutty Buddy, with the chocolate-and-nut topped ice cream in a sugar cone, was a safer choice, and my second-favorite pick. Whichever we chose, by the time we got home, all of us were sticky with drips.

As an adult, I have usually been satisfied with just a taste of ice cream. I always request a baby cone when I go to the ice cream shop. I have kept a pint of Ben & Jerry’s in the freezer for a month, indulging in just one small scoop at a time. A larger container would often get ice crystals on the surface of the ice cream, from sitting too long. Last year, though, I found something new.

Breyer’s Raspberry Cheesecake Gelato is sinfully good, and has me hooked. It tastes like rich cream, and the raspberry swirl is just sweet enough. Even the bit of graham cracker crumble is delicious. I’ve been eating my way through a carton of it every single week. I get as nervous when it’s getting low as I would about running out of milk, coffee, or any other necessity. If they sold it in a big brown tub, I’d find room in the freezer for it!

The 52 Lists (for Happiness) Project #31

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List the spaces in your life you would like to create more order and organization in:

[I could fill a book with this writing prompt!]

  • The laundry room. It is a small room that is also a hallway that leads to the bathroom. It has two small closets. One of them houses the holding tank from the well, and the hot water heater. On the inside of the door, I have a hanger for mops and brooms; in random other spaces, I hide the plunger, two light fixtures still in their boxes,and a battery charger that – I think – no longer works. The other closet holds coats and jackets on hangers. Hats, scarves and mittens fill a large basket on the overhead shelf. Another basket holds a collection of extension cords. Also on the shelf are two hard plastic cases holding a “Multi-Max”  Dremel tool and a cordless drill. The floor space is completely taken up by an upright vacuum cleaner, a pair of snow shoes, and a wooden crate holding boots, mosquito netting and a few other miscellaneous items. Across from the closet doors are the washer and dryer. The surface of the dryer holds a stack of out-of-season clothes that need to be carried upstairs, a basket that catches coin, price tags and ink pens retrieved from the pockets of my work slacks. Over the washer and dryer are shelves and bins that hold towels and washcloths, medicines, cleaning products, gardening paraphernalia, and my work clothes. The laundry basket belongs on top of the washing machine. Unless I’m doing laundry; then it gets moved to the floor. When I leave the house, I have to put the trash can on the washing machine, or the big dog will get into the garbage while I’m away. The trash can used to fit in the space between the clothes dryer and the stairway wall but, since my new appliances are larger, it doesn’t. When it’s not on top of the washing machine, sharing space with the laundry basket, it is in the hallway. Along with, usually, a stack of magazines and newspapers waiting to go to the transfer station, a couple returnable bottles, whatever burnable papers I’m saving for a chance to have a fire, and a bag full of plastic, glass and tin recyclables. Often, the hallway leading to the bathroom is an obstacle course. I could certainly use more order and organization there!

[Yes, there is more! I have neither time no inclination to go into detail. Imagine the worst.]

  • The space under the kitchen sink.
  • Actually, all of my lower cupboards.
  • My studio.
  • My car.
  • My flower beds.
  • The refrigerator.