Monthly Archives: June 2012

David

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I woke up early this morning in a fog of sadness and worry.

I assumed it was my job situation. Everyone has been helpful, kind and sympathetic. Still, it’s stressful to change jobs, hours, type of work and method of payment. Today, I had three people to talk to about supplemental work for the summer. I also had to go back to my old place of employment, to pick up my final paycheck. Coming onto the first of the month, bills were coming due.

Sleep was impossible; I got up and made coffee.

I wrote a couple checks, in anticipation of my bank deposit. I looked over my day book, trying to memorize my schedule so far. What I really needed, I decided, was a purse-sized calendar that would show me a full week – or even month – at a time. I know I have at least two…but where? The file drawer – not the one with actual hanging files in it, but the other one…with stacks of miscellaneous papers – was the obvious place to start. I started working through the layers.

The warranty papers for my new phone,  I filed correctly. The stack of hand-made paper samples went to a drawer in the studio. A stack of photos diverted my attention for at least a half- hour. Christmas cards, purchased on sale and never mailed, went into my new correspondence drawer, where they will – I hope – be remembered next winter. A scrap of wrapping paper…the fat, county phone book…a map of Michigan…my page-a-day book from 2010…

I have kept a daily planner for at least twenty years. I keep track of my work schedule, hours worked and tips, if any. I keep track of the medicine dose for my dogs. I used to have a “to-do” list, but it suits me better to jot down jobs as I finish them. I get the sense of accomplishment without the angst. I have a master list of goals in the front, and a wish-list in the back. I keep a Christmas list in there, and write down gifts as I buy them. At times, I’ve kept a food diary. I always keep track of steps and/or miles walked, plus any other exercise I fit in. Letters written, phone calls made, visitors to my home are noted. Book and movie recommendations, and quotes from books and magazines are in there. Photos and letters are sometimes tucked in the pages…”2010,” Now there’s a distraction!

At first glance, nothing much had changed. A couple things could be checked off the wish-list, but the goals were pretty much in tact (note to self: choose easier goals!) I flipped through to today’s date.

Oh.

I drew in a breath.

My brother, David, died on June 29th, two years ago.

Too young. Too soon.

Ten years younger than me, David and I had little in common…

No, that’s wrong, though I say it all the time. I always have.

It’s true, we had many differences. David was loud. Sometimes crazy. A big tease. He was a party-er and a big drinker. He worked, but not steadily. He never saved. Other than a short stint in Texas with two of my sisters, David always lived in the family home. Dad was generally mad at him: Mom did him no favors by being overly generous and protective of him. I was second to the oldest; David was second to the youngest.

Still, we had the same parents and the same brother and sisters. We grew up in the same big, rambling household. We attended the same church and the same schools. We shared many of the same memories, both tragic and joyful. We shared the same dark sense of humor, that caused us to laugh at the most inopportune times. We were family.

He was born on a Sunday morning in September. Dad came home and gave us the news, then packed us up to go to Mass. In the excitement, he forgot to give us dimes for our collection envelopes. When the basket came around, Dad just dropped in a few dollar bills. I taped the pink collection envelope, stamped with the date, into my scrapbook, as a memento of the day my little brother was born.

I rocked him to sleep, helped to entertain him, babysat for him and helped him with his homework. I watched him grow up.

As adults, David helped me move a couple times. Beyond that, I saw him at holidays or other occasions when I visited my parents. Sometimes we’d have a little chat; sometimes he’d join in board games or cards with the rest of us. He always impressed me with his memory and wealth of knowledge. David was always good for a hug.

David wasn’t a big part of my life when he was alive, so I’ve puzzled over why I miss him so much now that he’s gone. David was pure energy. Like a firecracker – or a lightning bolt – his presence seemed to change even the quality of the air around him. I think sometimes it’s not so much that I miss David – though I do – but that I miss the world the way it was with David in it.

I have a photo – not found this morning – that I took, at age sixteen, with my brand new Kodak Instamatic camera. We were here on Beaver Island, on vacation, on the beach at Iron Ore Bay. David had stripped down to his underwear, and was headed for the water: hands in the air, arms every which way and legs at a dead run. I caught the moment when both of his feet were in mid-air.

That’s the image of David that I hold in my mind.

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UNemployed

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Well, let’s see…after two days of high drama at work  (none of which directly affected me, but anyone that works knows everyone is affected), I drove home Wednesday evening, took the dogs for an especially long and thoughtful walk, sat down at the computer and composed a letter, quitting my job. After considerable pacing and arguing with myself, I hit the “send” button.

There.

Done.

I slept like a baby that night.

I had stood up for myself, and my friend. I had spoken my mind in a way I am often too timid to do, but not unkindly.

I woke Thursday morning with the world laid before me, pregnant with possibility.

A morning to linger over coffee and then take a long walk.

A day to give the house a thorough cleaning: I tell you, if my floors had eyebrows (which they probably could have fashioned from the dust that was accumulating), the eyebrows would have been raised in wonderment at the attention they were given that day. I actually removed the sofa cushions to vacuum underneath; under normal circumstances, that rarely happens twice in a season! I cleared the dining room table, which had been looking quite a bit like a work station, and gave it a bouquet of peonies to celebrate.

A day for getting work done outside: I spent actual hours digging and weeding in the garden, trimming around the stones and trees in the yard, picking strawberries and watering everything.

A day for getting caught up on things in the studio: I assembled frames and unwrapped plexiglass. I matted and mounted new work. I knocked down and cleared out a bunch of cardboard shipping boxes. I finished writing out a plan for Drawing Classes to be offered this summer.

A day to spend time with my dogs: I thawed a packet of sliced turkey and worked on some of the training methods I’ve learned from watching “Dogs in the City”. It turns out, those television dogs are faster learners than mine…or maybe there’s some editing involved. We fit in three long walks, and one nice afternoon nap.

A time for contemplating my future: I balanced my checkbook and went through my bills. I checked the “forum” for job possibilities. I made a few lists, and a few calls.

In addition to all this, the man came out to do my roof repair. He even fixed my screen door while he was here!

I fixed myself a simple meal and ate at the dining room table with a cloth napkin, a lit candle and a glass of wine.

It was a wonderful day, with not one moment of regret.

Until bedtime.

When my head hit the pillow, my heart started pounding.

What had I done???

I had placed my principles above my security.

That would be fine, if I were independently wealthy…or even had a reasonably-sized savings account…or if I had a husband to help support the house-hold…or had another job in the works…

Principles are fine, but they don’t pay the bills.

What followed was not pretty.

Six hours of tossing and turning, pacing the floor and self-recrimination. I wavered between extreme worry and all-out panic. I cried once. I fell asleep, finally, at five A.M.

Yesterday, I picked myself up after two hours rest and gave myself a good “talking-to”. I am a good worker. I have skills that are useful. I am not too old to be of service.

I started making – and taking – calls. By early afternoon, I had a job.

And my unending gratitude goes out to the universe.

Unemployment does not sit well with me for long.

Father’s Day

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If I am a good communicator, and I’ve been told that I am, it comes from struggling to hold a conversation with my father. He wasn’t an easy man to talk to. He would announce without hesitation that my opinion was “bullshit” if he thought so. He would often loudly support a contrary viewpoint just for sport. He was quick to anger if he thought we were agreeing with him just to be compliant. Few subjects were worthy of his time and attention.

If I have a work ethic (I’m not always sure that I do!), I got it from my Dad.

Dad was a worker.

He was a good husband and father. He enjoyed all children, and was like a big kid at heart. He loved to tease and he enjoyed a good argument. He had a great memory, and was brilliant at card games because of it. He loved good food, simply prepared. He loved watching things grow. Dad liked John F. Kennedy, Cassius Clay, cowboy shows and Big Time Wrestling. He enjoyed a nap on a Sunday afternoon.

Dad did not like meanness, stupidity, dishonesty or laziness. He didn’t like long hair on boys. He didn’t like music if he couldn’t understand the lyrics, but he made us late to church one Sunday while he listened, with a grin, to “Harper Valley P.T.A.” on the radio. He never learned to swim, so was not especially fond of the water.

My father hated having his picture taken. At Dad’s funeral, my three-year-old grandson, Brandon, looked over the picture board. The only way his photo could be taken without him bellowing was to catch him when he was asleep… so there he was, dozing in his comfortable chair, or stretched out on the sofa, napping with my baby sister, Amy, or snoozing under the apple tree after driving all night to bring us up north. “Papa was dead?”, Brandon asked, as he pointed to one photo after another.

The truest statement I can make about my father, though, is that he was a worker.

He went to work and – when the job demanded it – would work seven days a week, twelve hours a day. On top of that, he’d plow up an acre or so of land and plant a big garden. He raised pigs, and chickens…and an occasional duck or rabbit as well.

Dad often took on extra jobs, for pay or not. He processed deer for hunters. He widened our road to make a shoulder for the children to walk on, on the way to the bus stop. He back-filled the swamp near our house, to keep the mosquito population down. I don’t believe my father ever took a vacation that wasn’t a working vacation. We’d go north to visit his parents on Beaver Island, but his week would be spent painting the farmhouse or tearing down the old barn.

His children were never left out. From their toddling years, the boys were charged with clearing stones and branches from the yard ahead of the mower. Not a stranger to housework, Dad often demonstrated the “correct” way to clean a window or polish the table, then would sit back and watch, to make sure we’d been paying attention.

Springtime was spent preparing the soil and planting the garden. In the summer, we were herded out to the garden to pull weeds out of the stubborn clay soil. In the fall, he’d load us all into the back of his truck with a huge pile of burlap sacks. Arrangements had been made for us to hand pick cob corn from the farmer’s fields, after the mechanical picker had gone through. We’d use the corn to feed our pigs through the winter. It was a long day in the fields, but the ride home was atop mounds of full sacks of corn, and punctuated by a stop at the local tavern, where we’d each be rewarded with a coca cola and a dime for the jukebox. In the winter, Dad would – for lack of anything better to do – build elaborate, icy sledding ramps in our backyard.

As adults, we often disagreed with Dad’s methods and moods but if we needed help with a move, a repair or a remodel, he was on the task.

It’s hard to believe he’s been gone almost fourteen years! If a frost comes late, or I see a coyote, or I count six deer on my way to town, Dad is still the one I want to share that with.

Happy Father’s Day!

Whew!

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I like the four seasons we experience here in Michigan.

Living on Beaver Island, with its wintertime isolation contrasting with summer’s influx of visitors, the season’s are even more distinct.

Labor Day marks the end of our busy summer season. In this economy, business drops off suddenly.

I’m right on top of it! When things slow down, I move instantly into my off-season pace.

Springtime, when things pick up, I’m a bit slower to catch the wave.

Through the winter, with time spreading out before me like a warm blanket, it’s easy to start new projects. Winter menus and New Year resolutions inspire new commitments to exercise. Time in the studio sparks several new creative pursuits. Maybe try encaustic painting…do a little clay work…get back into drawing…teach a class or two. A warm April encourages a whole new aspect in my garden. Why not? Time for writing…sure, commit to a blog. Add pages showcasing my art. And writing. And sure, why not even add book reviews.

Memorial Day marks the beginning of our summer season. Talk of the weather is replaced by speculation on summer business. Gas prices are up; the economy is not. It’s an election year; unemployment is still high. We depend so heavily here on summer’s bounty to carry us through the entire year, it’s always a concern. Will people come to Beaver Island?

They’re coming!

The days are once again punctuated by the blast of the ferry boat’s horn. The restaurants are adding their summer help. Businesses have changed to summer hours. Gift shops are open for the season. The streets are busy with cars and people. The islanders breathe a sigh of relief.

The second sigh is one of exhaustion.

I just finished working a stint of eleven days in a row. Actually, there was one day off squeezed in there, which I used to take my aunt to the mainland for medical tests. Not even considering the 8AM flight or the mainland traffic, a day spent in hospital waiting rooms and medical offices is not a relaxing day. I’m counting it as a work day. So, eleven days, many nine or more hours. Busy! My pedometer, which barely clocks ten thousand steps per day all winter no matter how many walks I add, was marking over double that, just during work hours!

I came home exhausted every night. Dragged myself out to walk the dogs. Put the most pathetic collection of meals together. Read a few meager paragraphs before falling asleep. No exercise program, no studio time, no gardening. No blog.

For my blog entry, I re-posted one of Renee Fisher’s “Life in the Boomer Lane” selections. She is an excellent writer, always thoughtful and often laugh-out-loud funny. It was a wonderful, encouraging post. It covered many issues that have been rolling around in my mind for quite some time. She spoke of those issues much more eloquently than I would have. Still, it felt like a cheat to my commitment. I’ve already quit writing the book reviews, having remembered that – though I love reading, and even enjoy reading reviews – I have always hated writing book reviews. Now I’ve sunk to re-blogging, as well.

Sorry.

When the tempo picks up this time of year, it takes me a while to catch up with it!