Almost Midnight; Happy Thanksgiving


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The clock is ticking. It’s almost midnight.

I didn’t get a blog written this morning; I was busy helping stuff the turkey, baste the ham, arrange the desserts and greet the company.

From 2PM until 11:30PM, we’ve had a house full of people – about thirty-six, I think – ranging in age from seventy years old to six months old. We ate, we talked, we laughed…we hated to say good-bye.

Tonight, no time for details, let me just say I hope everyone enjoyed their day as much as I enjoyed mine.

My day was wonderful!

Happy Thanksgiving!


This Good Day


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I didn’t sleep at all last night. Or maybe I did, but didn’t know it. It felt like my brain was always working, though I lay dutifully in bed, with eyes closed, waiting for and hoping for sleep.

Maybe my travels are catching up with me. This is more stimulation than I’m used to on a daily basis, with traffic and stores and lights and droves of people. Though my room here is quiet and comfortable, there are still sounds I’m not accustomed to. Last night I heard a train in the distance! Visits with family and friends give me lots of pleasant thoughts and good conversations, but are not a part of my usual routine on Beaver Island.

I could have been reacting to medicine I took for a sinus infection. Sometimes those over-the-counter tablets that say they “may cause drowsiness” have the opposite effect. Maybe the mug of hot apple cider that I had before bed spiked my sugar. It seemed a more sensible choice than anything with caffeine in it, and much safer than wine, with the medicine.

It could be that my list of unfinished work kept me from sleep. I certainly had time to go through every single item, while laying in bed. I’d bring up one thing, toss it around in my mind, worry over it, process several different possible solutions and put it back on the shelf, to make time for the next item. Several things that seemed like  problems without solutions at 3AM appear much more manageable in the light of day. On the other hand, many of the solutions that I worked out in my half-asleep state make no sense at all today.

With the holiday dinner coming right up, the list of things to be done is still long. Yesterday, we managed to get some things finished, ready for putting out or reheating on Thursday. Today we’re going to finish an appetizer plate, and bake pies, thaw the turkey, set up tables and plan the arrangement of platters and bowls for serving.

Everything is going to be just fine.

In the middle of a sleepless night, everything seems more troublesome.

In the middle of a sleepless night, I am frustrated by the knowledge that everything would be easier to handle if I could just get some sleep!




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When faced with projects of intimidating immensity, I slow down.

I think.

I plot strategies and means.

I wait.

When deadlines loom hugely in front of me…when panic is right under the surface… then I think, “better get moving!”

I came downstate with specific goals: to spend time with family, re-connect, relax…but I also brought down quite a bit of work.

First, this writing commitment. I was late one day, writing my daily blog after an evening with my sisters. As the clock was ticking down to midnight, I was feeling a little harried, but I pushed it away. I published the post at 12:05AM, throwing it onto the next day’s statistics…and it was okay.

I have two or three articles to edit, and notes and photos to put together into a large story. One birth announcement and at least three obituaries to ready for publication. Four other submissions that just need introductions. I’m squeezing it in around visits and appointments…and it will be fine.

I had to consult with a few people about my malfunctioning computer, get it repaired if possible, replace it if not. It turns out replacement is necessary, so…that means more phone calls and paperwork to retrieve the software. It will work out.

Through it all, I have been calm. I have rare opportunities each year to spend time with my family. If I squander this time being frantic and stressed…that time is wasted. “I can only do what I can do,” I tell myself. “There are only so many hours in each day.”

Deadlines are getting closer: work is piling up.

Today, I’m going to water aerobics with one sister and one friend. Tomorrow, I’m baking pies. I may get a chance to visit with another friend who is in the area for a few days. Thursday, the day will be filled with family and friends. Friday, I’ll drive back to Charlevoix to get on a plane to go home…and there will be no more opportunities for spending time with my family and friends down here, no more time for sharing hugs and making memories.

The deadlines will still be there. The work will still be waiting. I can kind of feel the pressure…the underlying panicky feeling…but I will treasure this time with family, and that will carry me through the stress later.

It’s a slow-moving panic.

Out and About


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My sister Brenda and her husband Keith have a lovely, comfortable house. They live on a little lake and enjoy stunning views year ’round. Last summer we watched an eagle, perched on top of a pole with wings half spread, as he watched over the water. This time of year, we see geese gathering on the lake. Deer wander though the yard almost every day. Beautiful!

The photo I snapped, from the warmth and safety of the kitchen, is not a good illustration of any of that. It does, however, show the amount of snowfall we got, in one day. Lots!

Lots of snow on the roads, turning to dirty slush  as cars made their way through it.

Lots of snow in the driveway, as Keith rightly figured he’d might as well wait until the road was cleared, before he cleared the drive.

Lots of heavy snow on the van I drove, parked in the turn-around space where it had been sitting since I’d arrived Friday evening.

Most days I’d be content to just stay inside, pour another cup of coffee, read a book, chat with my sister.

Yesterday, I had different plans.

My daughter, Kate, has recently moved back to Michigan, from South Carolina. She and her husband bought a house (with some land, a garage, a beautiful stone-bordered pond, a red barn, mature trees, fenced garden, perennial beds…)and have been working intensely on it. Old wiring had to be upgraded; some walls had to be removed; floors and fixtures needed to be replaced. They worked at it while staying elsewhere until it was at a stage where they could move in. They still have plenty to do, but are getting settled, and are happy to be home.

Kate and Jeremy are both artists in a wide range of media. Both have good, creative ideas for home improvements; both are hard-working and capable enough to implement their plans themselves. I was anxious to see what they’d accomplished.

Beaver Island is pretty remote, expensive to travel to and from. Even when my daughters are both in Michigan, I’m fortunate if I see them two or three times a year. When Kate and her family were in South Carolina, it was even harder to get together. I hadn’t seen them since last summer, and wasn’t going to let an opportunity go by – to catch up with the adults, to hug my grandchildren – now that they are so much closer.

The first thing I did was to dig out the van. I started with a long-handled shop broom, finished with ice scrapers and windshield wipers.

Though I over-packed, not knowing what I’d want for various holidays and activities, I under-packed when it came to the weather. No rain gear. No winter coat. No boots. In November! What was I thinking?

I managed it though, and got out on the road.

Next, I took a short drive, to see if the roads were slippery, and if they were being cleared.

Then, when a drive seemed possible, I contacted Kate, to make sure she’d be home and to get directions.

I was on my way!

It was a pretty drive, north on M24 toward Caro, then east on Clifford Road. I had forgotten how beautiful that area of lower Michigan is, with rolling hills and farm fields bordered by evergreens. The roads were clear the whole way. Kate’s directions were perfect, and I found them with no problems.

I could write pages about how wonderful it was to see them all. They  welcomed me warmly. Kate and Jeremy generously shared their art and handiwork, the processes and inspiration.  Madeline and Tommy continue to amaze me with their kindness and humor.

I could devote several more pages to the beautiful views outside their home, and all of the inspiring, creative ideas they’ve employed inside.

I will, maybe, another day. Today, I’m happy simply to report that I did get out, in this wintry weather, for a wonderful visit with my daughter and her family.


After the Party


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After days of covert travel and secretive blogging, I arrived at my sister Brenda’s house in Lapeer on Friday evening. She was surprised to see me.

“Your blog said you were going to Jen’s first!”

True. I told Brenda – on the phone – that I was coming to her house. In my blog, I said I was going to meet up with my daughter, to work on the news-magazine.

That’s because my sister Amy also reads my blog. If I had said I was coming to Lapeer, Amy’s suspicions – that her daughters were going to throw a surprise birthday party for her – would have been confirmed.

Actually, Amy’s surprise 50th birthday party was my sole reason for extending my travel beyond Aunt Katie’s doctor visits.

Since I’m here, I will get together with my daughter Jen to do some work on the Beacon. I’ll get out to see my daughter Kate’s new house in Clifford. I will stay for Thanksgiving. I thought I’d even get into North Branch yesterday, for my mother-in-law Pat’s surprise 80th birthday party…but weather got in the way of that.

Though big wintery clouds were constant, the weather was clear for my drive down-state. Yesterday morning there was just a dusting of snow. I planned to drive to Clifford, then to North Branch (the surprise was scheduled for 3PM there), then back to Lapeer to be at Amy’s party by six. We had visitors, so I didn’t get out of the house as early as planned. Then the snow started seriously piling up, accompanied by winds that kept the roads slick and the visibility low.

First I delayed going, then I decided not to try it at all. The first snow is always the worst for accidents, before we remember how to navigate through winter weather. I’d been on the road seven hours the day before, and wasn’t up for more, especially fighting through a snowstorm. I would have loved to give Pat my good wishes, but wasn’t crazy about being stranded with my ex-husband’s relatives. Finally, I couldn’t chance missing Amy’s party.

My other sisters – Robin and Cheryl – had arrived at Brenda’s shortly after I did on Friday. Cheryl thought we should do a “production number” to honor Amy. She had several ideas in the works, that we tossed around. We finally decided on “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town,” re-written to say “Aaamyyy…Don’t Let Age Get You Down,” with lyrics pertaining to her legendary forgetfulness (can’t blame that on age!) and the fact that all of us are older than she is. My grandson Brandon found the background music for us (“Make it really loud,” I told him…to drown out our poor singing voices and help to keep us on track). My brother-in-law Keith did a mid-night shopping run for poster board, glitter, ribbon and markers. We made a giant four-part birthday card, that we’d wear for our “performance.” As Cheryl left, she suggested we all arrive a little early, “for rehearsal.”

With snow piling up, we received phone calls throughout the day from cousins and friends that weren’t going to be able to make it. Keith came in shaking his head about the bad roads. Brenda accidentally exploded a whole spaghetti squash in the microwave oven: clean-up was necessary. Still, we all managed to be showered and dressed in reasonable time. The party was less than four miles away…no problem. Well, in Keith’s little hybrid car…on un-plowed roads…with snowfall of close to a foot, plus drifts…in a blinding snowstorm…that was a long four miles…ending with getting firmly stuck at the end of the driveway!

We made it though, and the party was wonderful. Amy seemed surprised and pleased by all of it. Our little production number went without a hitch except for our bright blushing faces.

Today, the storm is over. The snow has transformed the landscape into a beautiful winter wonderland, and I’m happy to be here with my family.





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Travel offers a new outlook, if only temporarily. Different scenery alone can change perspective. Travel companions, weather, deadlines, appointments and expectations play a role in the total experience. I wrote about my long list of things to do, to prepare to leave; I wrote about my plane ride, and my “night of little sleep.” In every trip, there are moments to remember. Here are a few:

  • Aunt Katie sat beside me on the little airplane, as the wind tossed it around. I had a firm grip on her shoulder; the other hand clutched the window frame. She calmly tried to explain the grocery list, “Bob is cooking, and he wants a Butterball. If it were up to me, I’d just get a Spartan brand turkey for half the price, but he’s doing the cooking…” I told her sorry, but I couldn’t listen right now, “It’s taking all my concentration just to keep this  plane in the air!” (Not that I was actually at the controls or anything)A big grin spread across her face.
  • Trying to use my computer from the motel room, I got to know the desk clerk very well. After giving me over-the-counter advise three times, she finally followed me down to the room to look at it in person. With her mere presence, the instructions she had given me now worked perfectly. I should have invited her back before I accidentally posted my blog a dozen times to Facebook!
  • Telling me about her health issues, as reported to her by the several doctors she saw, Aunt Katie said, “…well, I still find it interesting.” In answer to my puzzled expression, she said, “you know, watching my body fall apart at the speed of light.”
  • Traveling across the state, I pulled in to the Big Boy restaurant in Gaylord. As I got out of the car, I heard a crash. An accident had just happened a few yards up the road. If I hadn’t turned off the highway, it might have been me in the middle of that crash! The restaurant staff, all intent on watching the progress of police cars and tow trucks on the corner, forgot all about restaurant service.
  • Driving at night has never been my strong suit. Wet roads, reflecting   lights and freeway speeds add to my discomfort. Whenever I arrive at my destination intact, see the faces of people I know and get that first hug, there is reason to be thankful.

That’s all for today. Before I get back to Beaver Island, to retrieve my little dog and go back to life-as-usual, I’m sure I’ll have another adventure or two to share.

Waiting for Morning


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Exhausted from travel, multiple appointments and shopping, and sick with a sinus infection, I barely made it through Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy last evening before collapsing into bed.

Aunt Katie stayed up for a while. I woke up a few times, noting that the television was still on, that she was still sitting on the end of her bed, that lights were still on, and that the heat in the room was still a blazing seventy-eight degrees. I’d throw off a cover, roll the other way and fall back asleep.

Until I didn’t.

Sometime in the night, I woke up, fully alert. Aunt Katie was in the next bed, breathing softly in her sleep. The bathroom light was casting a bright glow from her side of the room. Two trees, bedecked in Christmas lights, shined through the window on the other side. The room was still uncomfortably warm.

I tried rolling over…flipping the pillow to a fresh side…counting sheep…nothing worked. I was wide awake.

I could not use any of my usual remedies for sleeplessness. If I put on a light to read, it would disturb my aunt’s sleep. I couldn’t set up the computer for the same reason. I couldn’t even brew a cup of chamomile tea!

No matter how hard I tried, I could not fall back asleep.

I knew the motel employees would start putting the continental breakfast together at 5:30. It had to be close to that time. I could carefully put back on the clothes I’d worn yesterday, quietly sneak a book out of my bag, silently slide out the door and down the hall to the lobby to read until the coffee was ready…

A great plan!

I retrieved my eyeglasses…looked at the clock.



That was the beginning of a long night of waiting for morning.

A very, very long night.

I mercifully fell asleep at some point, because the alarm woke me up…but I sure didn’t feel very rested.

Waiting for morning is a terrible way to spend the night!