Give Me Comfort



The combination of a bright moon, a restless mind, and Rosa Parks madly scratching beside me woke me up in the middle of the night. My little dog’s allergies are worst this time of year, and they manifest in red, itchy ears. She scratches them until they are raw. I reached over and patted her. I put one thumb inside her ear, to support it while I gave her a good rub with my other fingers. Sometimes this feels so good to her that she flops over, eyes closed, as if in a faint. Not last night. She continued to dig at the offending ear with the paw of her hind leg, thump-thump-thumping as the leg hit the mattress, whimpering when she caught the tender flesh with a claw. Poor baby!

“I wish you comfort,” I said to myself, in my half-asleep state, a tiny prayer for her well-being.

As soon as the thought came to mind, I realized that was the same wish I’d held close, and repeated often, in the days before my mother’s death. We were past the shock and disbelief. We were beyond hoping for a miracle that would keep her with us for another ten or twenty years. When it came right down to it, the best and only thing we could do was keep Mom comfortable. In our large family, we worked together toward that end, making sure that pillows were fluffed and sheets were wrinkle-free, that her frail body was clean, turned and supported, and that medicines were dispensed on time. Other things – like holding her limp hand, or laying down beside her in bed – were ways of comforting ourselves, too. And the mantra that ran through my head, day and night, was, “I wish you comfort.”

To be comfortable is something I never thought of much, when I was younger. I was stronger in mind and body; my joints were more limber. It was easier both to move and to be still. Now, I don’t dare sit, stand or lay in one position for long. Regular stretching, and rearrangement and readjustment of muscles and bones is necessary if I want to be able to move when I’m ready to. My knees note every step as I go up and down ladders or stairs, and I don’t dare crouch down without assurance that there is a hand-hold nearby to assist me in getting back up.

Because the odds and ends of aging make me more aware of discomfort, I am more attuned to making myself comfortable. I opt for comfort over style in clothing, always. If I feel a chill, I don’t hesitate to add a cardigan. If I get a headache, I never wonder if it will go away on it’s own; I take aspirin right away. Though I like a morning shower, in the evening I often run a hot bath, just for the soothing relaxation of it. I find my house is filling with an assortment of little pillows and cushions: one to sit on, if I sit on the hard chair; one for behind my back on the couch; one for between my knees as I sleep…it’s all about being comfortable.

Comfort is one of the little things, big in importance, that are worth wishing for, and worth the effort.

The 52 Lists Project #43



List your favorite meals and treats:

  • Macaroni and Cheese.
  • A fried egg, over medium, with rye toast.
  • Special K loaf: a vegetarian non-meat loaf that, with cream of mushroom soup, cheddar cheese and ground walnuts in addition to the cereal, promises all the fat, calories and cholesterol of any beef or pork loaf. It doesn’t matter…I like it even better!
  • My healthy Gumbo, over Basmati rice.
  • Cashew Chicken, the way Linda and I have always made it.
  • San Shan Soup with Crispy Rice, as introduced to me by my friend, Huey Chu.
  • and Chinese Pork Dumplings, just exactly as she prepared them.
  • Homemade chicken soup with star noodles, the way I made it for my daughters when we decorated the Christmas tree.
  • If my Mom were around to prepare it, I’d love a sampling of her beef tongue. She baked it whole,  slathered in blackberry jelly and studded with cloves. It was delicious! I am, however, totally grossed out by the idea of handling or cooking beef tongue, and if I did manage to get through all that, I’m sure I wouldn’t be able to eat it. I sure enjoyed it when Mom prepared it, though.
  • Lemon Chicken with Basmati rice. I have Katie Couric’s recipe, and make it several times a year.
  • Hot, buttered noodles, with grated Parmesan cheese. When my teen-aged daughters and I were living on campus, and all busy with classes and other activities, this was our go-to supper. We’d throw frozen broccoli in to cook with the noodles, and it would be a full, satisfying meal in a bowl.
  • Gazpacho, the way it was prepared at the little restaurant near campus. My daughter, Jen, and I would walk over for cold soup with hot bread. We have been trying to duplicate that recipe for years!
  • Lasagna. My husband and I went through a time when we’d get a babysitter once or twice a month, and go out to the Villa Restaurant in Lapeer for dinner. He’d always get a steak; I’d have lasagna. There are many good recipes, and I make a good one myself, but none are as good, in my mind, as the lasagna dinners I enjoyed there.
  • Boiled dinner. In the fall of the year, when the vegetables are fresh from the garden, nothing beats a boiled dinner. Carrots, potatoes, turnips, onion and cabbage all cooked in the good broth provided by the picnic ham…delicious!
  • For dessert, any small bit of dark, rich chocolate will do just fine…or fresh berries in season…strawberry shortcake, the way Brenda and I made it one year, with fresh whipped cream and homemade, barely sweetened biscuits…a small dish of ice cream over a sliced banana…or, in the fall, Affy Tapple!

Looking Up



Fall is a wonderful season.

October is a beautiful month.

Every day offers an amazement of color, from the ground underfoot, to the sky overhead, and all of the growing things in between.

My grapes are ripe. A little smaller than last year, I think they are sweeter than they’ve ever been. I have a pitcher of perfect juice in the refrigerator, and a basket of the fruit always nearby for nibbling.

The bumble bees still come to find the rosy flat flower heads of sedum when the sun is shining.

The sun still warms the days, this October, but nights are cool, and mornings are crisp. After a summer of hot nights, I’m happy to be sleeping under blankets again. It’s nice to pull out the sweaters against the autumn breeze.

Walking through fallen leaves makes me feel like a child again, that satisfying crackle underfoot, the urge to kick up a flurry of dry leaves. There are paths that will be knee deep in leaves before the season is done. At this time it’s just a jewel-toned carpet.

Driving through the canopy of trees on the Fox Lake Road is an ever-changing treat at any time of day. Sunshine filters through the brightness in the trees, and the light itself is tinged with their color. Paid Een Ogg’s Road offers a wider view of the mixed forest on either side. The King’s Highway, long and straight, is a corridor of reds and golds with just the right amount of evergreen to serve as backdrop. Any view that includes water shows deep blue garnished with reflections of glorious trees.

The sky, on this island, in the fall of the year, is the most beautiful sky of the entire year. Blues are deeper; clouds are larger, fluffier, and more panoramic. Every day it tells a different story. I don’t know the reason why. I’m sure there’s a meteorological reason based on water temperature and air pressure. I don’t care. I’m just thrilled to, every day, be able to enjoy it.

I’m spending a lot of time looking up.



What Next?



Some days, I wake up with a dozen ideas for things to write about. Other days, there is one clear choice. Now and then, when no ideas jump out at me, I can consult my list of possible topics for subject matter. If nothing there grabs my interest, I just start writing.

I have nothing to talk about today. I am out of ideas, empty, no more ammo.

Oh, I’m sure there is more family history I could expound on. I could relate more of the self-improvement strategies I’m trying to incorporate into my life. Some things are working; some are not. There is always something to complain about. I just don’t have the energy for it. Today, it doesn’t seem interesting, or enlightening, worthy of my time…or yours.

Today, I’m going to just swing my arms and feel the sun and breathe the air…and just be. Without putting it into words. Tomorrow, I’ll have something more to say.

88 Wonderful Things



Today is my Aunt Katie’s birthday. Tonight, we’ll celebrate with a good meal, cake and ice cream. This morning, I’m making a list…for her 88 years, of many wonderful things that I happen to know and love about her.

  1. Aunt Katie was born on Beaver Island,
  2. the oldest of the two girls
  3. with four brothers
  4. (one of them was my father), and
  5. was the tiniest, at birth, in her family.
  6. They kept her warm by the wood stove,
  7. and she thrived.
  8. She attended Sunnyside School,
  9. which was next door to her house,
  10. so she would walk home for lunch.
  11. That was especially nice on the day her mother baked bread.
  12. Aunt Katie always loved to read.
  13. In her little bedroom at the top of the stairs, she would read by the light of the moon.
  14. At school recess, the girls played baseball right along with the boys.
  15. The nun played, too.
  16. They climbed Mount Pisgah one day on a class excursion,
  17. and another time traveled together to High Island
  18. where they saw remnants of the Israelite’s gardens, still coming up in rows.
  19. Aunt Katie’s mother died when she was eleven years old.
  20. Sometimes, then, she and her sister, Margaret, walked to their Aunt Lizzie’s house in the mornings, so she could braid their hair.
  21. Her father once bought metal dishes because there had been so much breakage,
  22. and she felt offended at the insult.
  23. She went to high school in town,
  24. and graduated with a smaller class than she had started with
  25. because most of the boys had dropped out.
  26. She worked, then as a waitress,
  27. at a restaurant that sat where the old part of the hardware store is now,
  28. while she waited for her sister to graduate, so they could move to the city together.
  29. She still remembers who the poor tippers were!
  30. She and Margaret shared a basement apartment in Pontiac, when they first left the island.
  31. Aunt Katie worked behind the soda fountain at a drugstore,
  32. until she landed a job in the mail room at Pontiac Motors.
  33. She worked there until she retired,
  34. during which time she often had to train young men to do the job,
  35. and then watch them be promoted before her, because “a man has a family to support.”
  36. The irony was not lost on my Aunt Katie,
  37. who recognized the injustice
  38. but lived with it.
  39. She had her own home, with taxes and expenses just like anyone,
  40. and a car payment,
  41. and she helped others when she could.
  42. She took in her Uncle Joe, and he lived under her roof until he died.
  43. On weekends, Aunt Katie played golf in the summertime,
  44. and was on a bowling league in the winter.
  45. By the time she retired, she had many trophies for both sports.
  46. Sometimes, on Sunday, Aunt Katie would come to visit us.
  47. If we were lucky, she’d bring a treat.
  48. Aunt Katie made the world’s best chocolate chip cookies.
  49. She still does!
  50. One Christmas, she brought “Harvey Wallbanger Cake,” with flavors of orange and rum.
  51. She was my Confirmation sponsor.
  52. On her vacation, Aunt Katie often came to Beaver Island.
  53. She rarely came alone.
  54. She’d pick up a few nieces and nephews to give them a chance to get away.
  55. Often, it was the Evans boys.
  56. One especially hot trip, when traffic was moving slowly, she remembers that all of those long-legged boys were sprawled out, with feet and legs hanging out of the windows!
  57. Once, she brought Brenda and I.
  58. First we got car-sick, then sea-sick, then home-sick. She sent us back, early, with Uncle Henry and Aunt Betty.
  59. Many years later, she gave me a second chance, and brought me on vacation with two of my cousins.
  60. She gave me my first chance to drive a car, here on Beaver Island.Not knowing what the accelerator was (as in “take your foot off the accelerator!”), I drove right into a ditch.
  61. Aunt Katie made a shockingly low wage, through all of her working career,
  62. but she was careful with her earnings, and wise in her investments.
  63. She took many of her nieces and nephews aside, if they showed any inclination or desire in their studies, and offered to pay their way through college.
  64. Several of us accepted loans from her for other reasons.
  65. Aunt Katie was able to retire on schedule…maybe a little ahead of schedule,
  66. and has now been retired longer than she worked,
  67. which was one of her goals.
  68. After retirement, Aunt Katie moved back to the family farm,
  69. where she has made necessary and helpful improvements to the house and grounds.
  70. She worked on the Board of Review for quite a while,
  71. and has always taken an interest in politics, both local and national.
  72. Aunt Katie has visited many areas of the United States
  73. and she has traveled the world!
  74. She keeps up with the news
  75. and knows more about the Dow Jones numbers than I ever will!
  76. She has been active in the church, and – until recently – rarely missed Sunday mass.
  77. She planted a big garden for many years,
  78. and now lets her nephew do the gardening.
  79. She just canned a dozen pints of stewed tomatoes for me!
  80. She still welcomes her many nieces and nephews when they come to visit,
  81. and she opens her home to our friends, Bob and Gary when they are on the island.
  82. Her sister is able to come, too, now and then.
  83. Aunt Katie loves dogs, and usually has one around.
  84. She grumbles about her memory, but it’s better than mine,
  85. and she has a sharp wit.
  86. She is stubborn – a family trait.
  87. her health is not what it once was, but she manages,
  88. and she still enjoys a beer and a bit of conversation.

May your birthday be everything you want it to be! Happy Birthday, Aunt Katie!

Tuesday: Exercises in Writing #20




I have avoided, mostly, speaking up about this election, the candidates or my politics in general. I do hold opinions, based on my own values, upbringing and thoughtful analysis of the information I gather.  I don’t like having to defend them. I am not good at debate, so I’m immediately disadvantaged and – though I don’t pick my ideas out of the blue – I’m not particularly well-read or informed on the issues of the day. I’m not proud of that. I should be more aware of what’s going on out there, but it doesn’t hold my interest for long. The end result, though, is that a debate over political beliefs feels like a personal attack, and I don’t want to be on either end of that.

However, with the election right around the corner, I have finally, nervously, put a Clinton sign out on my lawn. And, when I opened The writer’s Devotional by Amy Peters, I was faced with this prompt:

The nation is controlled by…

The nation is controlled by the media. I hate to put that down in print, because it feels too much like what I’m hearing from the conservative candidate right now, but I believe it to be true. Our country is a democracy guided by popular opinion. I’m afraid that most people get their information the way I do, and the way that is easiest, from newspapers and magazines, television news reports and the internet, and from the voices of people we respect. I would be hard pressed to know how to investigate a candidate beyond that.

But is it fair? Or accurate? The news networks clearly have an opinion. If the people I trusted and listened to were on Fox News, I’d come away with an entirely different viewpoint and set of “facts” than if I were to put my trust in CNN. I go to the BBC for a bit more of a global perspective. I look at Fact Checker to analyze speeches and debates. It quickly becomes too much information to sift through, and I go back to just listening to the stuff that reinforces my own beliefs.

I want a hero. I want a champion. I think we all do. For many, myself included, Barack Obama was that guy: handsome, fit, intelligent, compassionate, well-spoken, and a symbol of an evolving country. He was “hope” to a large group of people. Considering that – despite the pedestal we gave him – he was a human being, and also had the checks and balances our government provides to contend with, I think he has done a fine job. Still, I wonder if he would have had the opportunity, if it weren’t for the media.

“Did Oprah get Obama elected?” It’s a question that was tossed around quite a bit after his first election. I think she definitely played a part. Oprah Winfrey was in all of our living rooms. She reflected our thinking, yes, but she also guided it. Her shopping show alone revealed dozens of things I felt I absolutely needed…though I didn’t even know they existed before I saw  them on her show. Her book club guided the reading habits of a nation. The doctors, decorators and life guides she supported, got the support of a million viewers overnight. And Oprah Winfrey loved Barack Obama.

Saturday Night Live was so biased in their portrayal of Obama in comparison to the other candidates, they started mocking their own bias! At the same time, their portrayal of Sarah Palin was so “spot-on,” it became difficult to remember what she had actually said versus what words their comedy skits put in her mouth. They do a good job of mocking most candidates equally, though it’s easy to latch onto the foolishness of the opposition, and simply laugh at the silly parody of the others.

It’s possible, with television and the internet, to find support no matter what direction a person is headed. The media helps to funnel a million different opinions onto a hundred paths. People don’t agree on every aspect, but the chances of making change are better with a support group, so ideals are diluted and differences are shaded over. In an election year, there are only two main paths. It seems those millions of different ideas, goals and guiding principles have to be hammered into shape to fit into one or the other.  No wonder we’re all so tense!