Just This One

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Just this one. I’ve been saying that to myself lately. Maybe I always have.

I remember saying to my children, “Just this one game, and then it will be time to get ready for bed.”

To myself, “Okay, finish just one chapter, then put the book down.”

Or, “Finish just this one job, then take a walk.”

Lately, the bargains made are more demanding of my time and energy, the rewards less, you know…rewarding.

“Just work through this one night, and get that article finished, then you’ll be able to concentrate on the next one.”

“Just make it through this one day with no sleep, and you can go to bed on time tomorrow.”

“Just work all the extra hours you can, this one season, and get caught up – or at least almost caught up, if nothing else falls apart – by summer’s end.”

“Just make it through this one crazy summer, and things will slow down in the fall.”

“Just put off doing this one good thing (sunset, walk, visit, event, entire season of gardening…) and maybe you’ll get another opportunity.”

“Post just this one lousy blog, even if you have nothing good to say, and maybe it will come easier tomorrow.”

Always one to strike a bargain, that’s me.

 

Merry, Merry Mary Days!

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I’ve just spent five lovely days catching up with a dear friend.

Mary and I attended Bishop Kelley School together from first through eighth grade. For about the last four of those years, we were very close. For high school, she went to the Dominican Academy, a boarding school in a nearby town. I went on to public high school. We lost touch. Not completely, but mostly out-of-touch.

Last Sunday, after several letters going back and forth to finalize the arrangements, Mary came to Beaver Island. Fifty years is a lot of years to catch up on!

We compared symptoms of age. We talked about health issues and annoyances. Parents, and the loss of our parents. We caught each other up on our respective brothers and sisters. We talked about mutual friends and acquaintances. We talked about jobs, careers and homes. About dreams that died and others that came true. We shared information and photos of children and grandchildren. We talked about men, divorce and relationships. We compared notes on single-motherhood. We discussed our lives today: what entertains us; what makes us frustrated; what brings us joy.

While all this chatter was going on between us, we – one day – toured the island, the inland lakes and beaches. Another day, we visited all the gift shops. We went through the museum, the Community Center, the Brother’s Place (once a religious retreat, now a cute hotel) and the library. We checked for treasures at the island’s re-sale shop. We attended an open house at the Medical Center. We tried out almost every single restaurant. We went to a Bluegrass concert. We talked and laughed and talked some more.

I worried, beforehand, that we’d have nothing in common anymore. I wondered if we’d find anything to talk about after all these years. I was concerned that every conversation would be filled with long, uncomfortable silences, or that we wouldn’t like each other, or understand the adults we had become. I can honestly say all that worry was for nothing. The only sad part of the entire week was this morning, having to say good-bye. I had a wonderful time!

Timeout for Art: Failures

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This piece was great fun to create, though it did not survive the firing process. The sculptures that I made by building with soft coils of clay were very prone to crack and separate between the coils. That, I didn’t mind. I heated solder until it melted and let it run down a slope made of a metal panel to form irregular and various-sized silver beads, about the shape of fresh water pearls. With dark gray mortar and the silver beads, I filled the cracks to accentuate the flaws. It was not always possible, however.

This piece, which was built up in coils that swirled in figure 8s, at times joining columns together, at others letting them grow independently, cracked along the coil lines, as expected. It also cracked vertically, which was not something that I could remedy in a way that pleased me.

I should have anticipated the failure. There were too many pressure points and areas where the clay would heat or cool (thus expand and contract) at different rates in the kiln. It was so fragile throughout the many weeks I worked to build it, that it could not be lifted from the wood panel (covered with a layer of fabric, so that the sculpture could shrink as it dried) that I built it on. It was moved into the kiln on that board. On the second day – of a five day firing process – when the heat was sufficient to turn the support board to ash, the sculpture would have to endure settling. Often the clay is in a flux state, and that can happen without incident.

Sometimes everything works out just as it should. This time, it didn’t. With clay work, what you take away from a failure is the experience of all the steps along the way, and knowledge gleaned from what went right, and what went wrong.

 

Walking with Darla

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I’ve been on the run lately. With company here, even my days off were spent out of the house, off and running. I was able to include the dogs, sometimes. They came along in our trip around the island to explore all the different beaches. They did not come with us the day we took in all the gift and novelty shops. Or the day we went to the museums. I’ve been feeling justifiably guilty.

Rushed to get out of the house in the morning and exhausted when I got home, their exercise was often limited to following me to and from the clothesline. Then dinner. Then bedtime. A great big canine sigh should go right here. What a life for a dog! Now, Rosa Parks is still nursing a bum leg (which, it turns out, is not the ACL tendon that I had diagnosed before taking her to the vet…her little kneecap had popped out of place! We are hoping it will stay put, without surgery, but she has to be careful), so is enjoying a lazier version of normal life. A little extra attention and a couple extra treats will allay most guilt where she is concerned. Darla is another story.

Darla likes a good walk, and usually gets one at least on Sundays (which is a shorter workday for me) and on my days off. To make up to her, I got up early this morning. I set the coffee pot to brew, and we headed out the door. It took her a moment to catch on. First, she stopped to pee, and looked to me for approval. Next, she headed for the clothesline (a good guess, considering…). When she finally realized that I was headed for the road, and that this was going to be a genuine good walk, she bounded out ahead, with a big grin.

Clover used to wear her ears like a gangster’s fedora: her mood was evident by the way she arranged them. Alert, curious, happy or threatened, the ears told the story. Darla seems to have no such control over that part of her body. Her ears flop on either side of her head in a manner that shows her calm and friendly disposition. As she walks, they flap up and down, like the wings of a little bird. Her tail, with its white tip, is held aloft like a flag for the entire distance. I’ve had dogs that would give up the walk for the chance to chase a chipmunk, or to roll in something disgusting. Not Darla. She shows mild curiosity to movement and smells, but nothing deters her from her path. When Darla is out for a walk, that’s exactly what she’s doing!

Tuesday: Exercises in Writing #8

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The exercise today comes from http://www.thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts:

Hey, even writers and creative artists have to do housework sometimes. Write about doing laundry, dishes, and other cleaning activities.

Well, so, having planned for and then (once again!) bypassed a seasonal “deep cleaning,” I am, as usual, just barely staying afloat in the housekeeping department. Every job is more complicated than it should be.

When Tommy was here, I sent him to the backyard to hang his wet beach towel on the clothesline. He was gone a long time. When I went to check, I found him trying kind of desperately to knot together pieces of clothesline rope. It was falling apart in his hands! Clearly, it had seen better days. We pulled it all down, and Tommy helped me to re-string it with new clothesline. I only had enough for two (twenty-foot)lines, though.

That was fine, until I pulled out the dryer a couple days ago, to check the venting. Loads of wash – even light summer clothes – have been taking an interminable time to dry. Laundry is just one task in this household. I don’t have that much of it, but I do need to keep it moving through the system. When a load of jeans takes three long dryer cycles to dry, everything is set back!

I brought home a long, skinny appliance brush to clean out the lint trap. It seems the problem is larger than that. Though the flexible aluminum vent seems to be intact, and it appeared to be properly connected both to the back of the dryer and to the metal pipe poking out of the wall, the wall behind, the floor underneath and the back of the dryer were covered with dryer lint

Ugh! I disconnected the flexible vent at both ends to take it outside, shake it out and check for leaks or blockage. Then, I got out the vacuum cleaner to clean up the lint. Unable to find a problem to correct, I pushed the dryer back up against the wall to wait for guidance. Now, until I can get the [very busy]plumber out here (who, by the way, set up a deal with me for the last repair he did out here: I would paint a sign for his office in exchange for the work. He did the work; I have yet to paint the sign.), I’m hanging all clothes on the line.

For that, two clotheslines are not enough. Yesterday, my day off, wanting to get laundry caught up, I started by taking the clothes off the line. I carried them in and deposited them on the dining room table, folded them and put them away. Clothes that dry in the open air smell wonderful, but – unless wind conditions are ideal – they tend to be very stiff and quite wrinkly. Because my clotheslines sag, they also tend to dry a little deformed. Folding clothes takes more thought and energy than usual.

I hauled a kitchen chair out to the clothesline poles, then came back for scissors and a new package of clothesline. First at one end, I climbed on the chair, found my balance and threaded the rope through one hole on the crossbar, then through a washer before knotting it. Down off the chair, move it to the other end, repeat. Then do it again. Now, I have four lines to hang laundry on!

Not yet finished, I then pull the wet things out of the washing machine. Full of optimism, I start another load of wash before going outside. Then, with one heavy wicker basket in hand and two dogs weaving around my legs, I head back to the clothesline. I start with towels. My lines sag, so the longest things have to go closest to the poles. The first corner gets a clothespin all to itself, but after that, they share. I lap the first corner of the second towel over the second corner of the first one, so that one clothespin will hold them both in place. Moving on to hand towels, kitchen towels and then wash clothes, I continue down the line.  One sheet, folded in half and held in place by three clothespins along its edge, gets a clothesline all to itself.

Time for a cup of coffee and another task, before taking the next load out of the washer. That is laundry day.

 

 

Birthdays Past

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in garage, mom, brenda, me

Brenda & Cindy with Mom, on the car deck of the Beaver Island ferry, circa. 1955

Today is my Mom’s birthday.

When we were very small, Mom’s birthday meant a homemade card, and bouquets of dandelions. She was always very gracious.

As we got older, we added a cake to the list, baked in her kitchen, with her ingredients. We probably left a mess behind.

There were quite a few years when one of her children, as a representative for the family, would call Perkins Flower Shop and order a bouquet of roses to be delivered to her. As Mom had a charge there, they added it to her bill.

As adults, the gifts became more thoughtful. A dinner out, a night of entertainment, cards and gifts.

The ones that came from me, more often than not, were late in arriving. It wasn’t that I ever forgot; I was just lax in getting those packages and letters to the post office in time to arrive by her birthday. “It’s a good thing you had lots of kids,” I would say, “so at least some of them are thoughtful and on time!” Still, she was always very gracious.

Like so many things, Mom’s birthday has taken on greater significance since she’s been gone. It never goes by these days without consideration and gratitude for her having been a part of my life. As always, she’s on my mind and in my heart today.

 

 

The 52 Lists Project #30

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List the qualities you admire most in others:

(Which, by the way, are the same qualities I try hardest to cultivate in myself)

  • Kindness is the most attractive quality in anyone, male or female, young or old.
  • A Sense of Humor. I see humor as insight, intelligence, and an ability to look at the world from a different perspective. And isn’t it just so fun to have a good laugh?
  • Tolerance. Because this world and the people in it can try the patience of a saint. So can I. Though it is sometimes good to see someone stand up for themselves against slights or injustice, I think it is too often the first response, and pushed too far. As a whole, we all need to relax a little. It is surprisingly wonderful to observe tolerance in the face of asshole behavior!
  • I admire a good Work Ethic.
  • Intelligence, in those that don’t feel the need to flaunt it.
  • Interest and Curiosity. Those people that lean in to truly listen, and want to learn are amazing to me. I will learn from a book, or alone, mulling things over in my own head. When I’m out in the world, I’m all too worried about how I’m coming across, whether I look okay or what worthwhile thing I could say. As a shy introvert, it’s hard to focus on others, or what is going on in the world around me. I admire those that do.