Monthly Archives: November 2012

Transitions and Old Memories

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This  card came back to me recently, with a handful of old photographs.

I made it for my grandmother, Grandma Florence, about thirty-five years ago. She had been ill, and was just coming home from the hospital in mid-February. The front of the card had a poem I’d written:

We searched the stores through and through

To find a Valentine for you.

We found “I love you”s and “Please be Mine”s

But they just don’t make “Get Well” Valentines,

And none of them said what we wanted to say

So we decided to tell you in a different way…

And there, inside the card, is my little family, arms outstretched, offering a big hug.

My little family.

I don’t think anyone embarks on the adventure of a marriage, ever imagining it will end.

We don’t have children imagining them hundreds or thousands of miles away, with troubles and difficulties you can’t simply fix with a kiss or a band-aid.

We don’t form friendships thinking of the end of those bonds.

We don’t take in dogs or cats or even short-lived gerbils imagining their demise.

Endings always take us by surprise.

If we knew the pain of change, transition, death…or, knowing it, if we allowed ourselves to dwell on it, I think we’d never allow ourselves the joy of new beginnings.

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Talking to Myself

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I do it all the time.

Talk to myself, that is.

I live alone.

I’ve always been a loner.

Much of the time the conversation is only going on inside my head, but sometimes I talk out loud.

I’m the only voice I hear most days, out here in my home on the Fox Lake Road.

I could suggest that I’m talking to the dogs, but even they can tell the difference.

I talk to myself at work. As I walk into the kitchen to pick up an order, I’m often reminding myself what I need to grab in the way of condiments and side dishes. As I arrange the plates and bowls on the tray, heaviest items in the center, all handles turned in, tall items squeezed between other things so that they won’t topple, I’ll say, “Okay, don’t anybody move,” as I lift the tray over my head. I am often unaware that I’m speaking until Kathy comes around from behind the grill to ask “WHAT?!?” From the look on my face, she determines that the conversation was only with me; she rolls her eyes, waves her hand and goes back to her station.

I talk to myself while walking the dogs. I work out ideas for class plans or art projects. I work out furniture arrangements or planting schemes. I hold imaginary conversations. I assert myself in ways I rarely would in real life. I replay discussions. I never speak out of turn, lose my temper or say mean things, in these talks. I am also never prevented from speaking my truth.

Lately, I’ve been spending quite a bit of time defending myself, to myself, in conversations in my mind.

It seems like I’ve been fielding a lot of criticism lately.  More people, in just the last two years, have felt the need to tell me I am lacking – and how, and why – than have in the last thirty years! I’ve questioned whether I am in some way inviting negative opinions. I have not been requesting critiques! Of course, there is some truth in everything that is said. That does not mean it is a valid or necessary insult. I’m often not in a position to defend myself.

That’s where talking to myself proves invaluable.

It helps to sort the truths from the exaggerations and distortions. It helps to clarify who I am, despite how others choose to interpret my words or actions. It helps me to move forward and away from the hurt.

When I was told that I am an inconsequential story-teller, I said – petulantly – “my stories are too consequential!”

When my boss found fault with my scheduling on a regular basis, I defended the over-staffing or under-staffing – to myself, in imaginary conversations – just as regularly.

When I was told I never really stood up for anything, I had long, grumbling talks with myself. “I marched for Peace in the ’60s!”, “I fought for the Equal Rights Amendment in the ’70s!”, “I have voted in every single election!” , “I left two good jobs to stand for my principles!”

When it was suggested that my service was not up to standard…well, the conversation in my head turned into the blog titled “Dear Harry”. If you’ve read it, you have an idea the way my mind works when on the defensive!

When I was told I was not working hard enough to maintain a friendship, I talked to myself until I was able to talk – and clear the air – with my friend.

Most recently I have received a letter filled with a one-sided account of an unfortunate encounter. It makes me look pretty sorry, indeed: petty, mean-spirited and vengeful. If it were wholly untrue, it would be easier to brush it off. Because there is truth to it, and because of the source, I don’t take it lightly. Because it was delivered with a clear directive to not respond, I am impotent to clarify or work it out…except in talking to myself.

So, that’s what I’ve been doing.

Do you talk to yourself? I’d love to know I’m not alone!

Back in Time, the Sequel

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I traveled back to my hometown again last weekend, for another wedding.

This time the bride was my niece, Nicole.

Two weddings in two months seems like a lot for me to plan for, with travel and gifts and boarding the dogs…just imagine how the parents of these two sisters feel! Both were beautiful ceremonies, held in the church that has served our family well since my Mom and Dad were married in it over 62 years ago. Both receptions were lovely gatherings of family and friends with lots of laughter, music and dancing.

Each weekend was a mix of old memories and new pleasures.

Always, when I get close to the Lake Nepessing Road exit, I think of getting off. From there, it’s a right turn from the exit ramp, a short drive, then another right turn onto Hunt Road, and less than a quarter mile until a right turn would put me right in the driveway in front of the house where I grew up, and where my parents lived their entire adult lives.

There’s just a pang of remembrance, the reality that they are no  longer here, a sigh, and drive on to the next exit, which puts me closer to my sister and brother-in-law, Brenda and Keith’s, house.

There, we are welcomed with open arms, my cousin, Bob, and I, down from Beaver Island. Brenda has prepared a guest room for each of us. When my daughter, Jen, arrives from Lake Odessa tomorrow, she’ll share my room. Barbecued pork, for hot sandwiches, is in the oven, and plates of fresh vegetables are ready, as accompaniment. Later, Keith’s nephew, Steve, drops in with his family, here from out of state. My baby sister, Amy, stops by with her daughter, Kristen, in the midst of last minute wedding arrangements. All are greeted warmly, invited in and welcomed to the table.

With such evident generosity of spirit, an observer would never guess that just that morning Brenda and Keith had attended the funeral for Keith’s Mom…that, in fact, Keith had been released from the hospital just in time to attend…that before they came home to wait for us to arrive, they’d had to help convert the Odd Fellow’s Hall from the site of the funeral  luncheon to a Bingo hall. They had to be exhausted, physically and emotionally!

Yet, Brenda doted over us. “How was the drive?”… “Could you use a luggage rack?”…”If you’re chilly, we can set up the heater, and there are extra blankets…”

Brenda gave me a choice of going for a pedicure with her the next morning, her treat, or joining her in her yoga class.

Unbelievable.

On the dresser in my room, I found a manilla envelope with my name on it. Inside, old photos and other memorabilia that they’d found and thought I should have. There, among dated snapshots of me, pictures of my children and a card I’d made for my Grandma Florence, were old photos of Brenda and I.

Proof positive…no matter what, she always has been there for me.

Daylight Savings Time Changeover Day Blues

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Good Morning!

It’s not really morning anymore.

I’ve already been outside walking in the woods with my dogs today.

I’ve had my morning coffee.

I’ve returned three telephone calls from messages left on my answering machine.

I’m watching the clock, counting time before I have to get ready to go to work.

Today was the day I could set the clocks back, for Daylight Savings Time.

One extra hour!

I saved the act of re-setting clocks for morning, so it would seem like a bonus.

One extra hour to drink coffee or write or read or lounge in a bubble bath!

One extra hour to catch up on the dozens of tasks there are not time for in a normal day!

One extra hour of golden time!

I slept through it.

Simple as that, I slept through it.

For years, I teased my friend, Diane, about her tardiness. She was late for everything, to the extreme. She is famous for it, still, here on Beaver Island. Everyone has a “Diane was so late…” story. She always said she’d be late for her own funeral. In fact, for that, she was too early, in my mind.

In the last several years, I found myself developing Diane’s habit myself, of being less than punctual. I was getting pretty lackadaisical about it, too. After all, we live on an island where bumper stickers say, “Slow Down…this ain’t the Mainland!” and “There is no LATE on Beaver Island!”. We talk about the slower pace and more relaxed schedules of “island time”. Then, my aunt gave me a pretty stern lecture about the inconsideration of tardiness. I took it to heart. I set my clocks ahead.

I allow myself to be fooled by whatever the clock says.

Enforced gullibility.

It helps that each clock says something different, so I’m not sure which one to trust.

So, this morning, I started the coffee brewing, and went room to room.

The little, old-fashioned dial clock in the bathroom, back one hour. Still twenty minutes fast, so I won’t linger too long in the bathtub, or take too much time tweezing things or trying to do something creative with my hair.

The digital clock in the CD player on the bookshelf in the living room, back one hour, still ten minutes fast.

The small, battery-operated alarm clock in the bedroom, back one hour, twenty-five minutes fast. To allow for me to hit the “snooze” button at least twice, and still be pleasantly surprised by the earliness of the hour when I make it to the next clock.

The large, schoolhouse clock in the kitchen, back one hour, fifteen minutes fast. This clock loses time pretty regularly, so I have to keep my eye on it. Sometimes I set it a little extra-fast, to compensate.

The little clock on the oven and the watch I wear on my wrist, I set back one hour to the correct time. I need to be, at some point, in touch with real time. I can’t actually read either of these dials without my glasses.

By that time, the coffee was finished.

I poured a cup.

Last week, I took a phone call from a friend before my coffee had finished brewing. We ended up in a discussion that had no business happening, and that left us both feeling bitter.

Now, I don’t answer the phone until I’m ready to talk.

I usually sit at the computer checking my e-mail account while drinking my first cup of coffee. The dogs can go out at this time, but they can’t go in and out, in and out, and they can’t beg for treats, or bother me for their morning walk.

I have enjoyed thinking that they understand when I say, “First cup of coffee!”

Turns out, they don’t.

It turns out, my dogs cannot tell time, either, and don’t care one bit about Daylight Savings Time.

No matter how diligently I set every clock back one hour, when I overslept this morning, I got up just in time for their walk, and they weren’t about to have it any other way.

Now, my bonus hour is gone.