Monthly Archives: January 2013

Snow Dog



I could rarely tell when my younger daughter, Kate, was not feeling well. She didn’t slow down for anything. Not for quiet time or bed time or a fever. I’m ashamed to admit there were at least a couple times when I sent her out the door in the morning, only to have the school nurse phone to tell me she was sick.

My oldest daughter, Jen, was a different story. With the slightest bit of a virus, she’d get a round, red spot on each cheek, would otherwise be frighteningly pale, and was down. No interest in play time or meal time or anything. Her ailments were probably no worse than Kate’s, but her behavior always elicited more of a reaction. It was scary.

My little dog, Rosa Parks, is a lot like Jen, in that when she doesn’t feel good, it is instantly noticeable. Her tail goes down. Her ears droop. She gets very snippy. It’s so different from her usual behavior, that it gets my attention right away.

It happened a few weeks ago. Rosa Parks did not feel well.

I called the vet for advice. He was unreachable… on the mainland, having a medical procedure of his own. I left him a voice mail anyway.

I observed her through the day. I telephoned the veterinary hospital on the mainland. Of course they couldn’t diagnose, but they listened sympathetically. Rosa Parks was not improving.

I had to make a decision, before it got so late in the day that I had no options.

I called my boss and arranged for my shift to be covered by someone else.

Called the airport and scheduled a flight.

Phoned Aunt Katie to give her an update, and arrange to use her mainland vehicle.

Contacted the vet hospital to let them know to expect us.

I threw a few necessities together, gathered up my little dog and headed out.

We flew off the island at three PM.

Blood work, x-rays and a thorough examination, two prescriptions and a lecture, and we barely made it back to the airport in time for our 4:30 PM flight home. Had we missed the plane, I’d have had to add the cost of dinner and a motel room to the already quickly mounting expenses.

I could make a credit card commercial!

Missing one shift at work: $50.00…

Round trip flight to the mainland: $100.00…

Veterinary bill: $350.00…

Knowing my little dog will survive…PRICELESS!

It turned out that she had a pancreatic infection, and would most likely have been fine until our own veterinarian got back to the island…but she looked so sick! For the peace of mind, it was worth it.

However, the veterinarian we saw did bring up another problem.

My own veterinarian has mentioned Rosa’s weight  and said that I’m a bit too free with the treats where the little dog is concerned. We have explored medical reasons for her plumpness. He has, though, always been understanding and kind.

The young mainland doctor was a tad more direct.

It brought out a side of my own personality I was unaware of until then.

“I can’t believe she’s not even two years old,” he said, “she is carrying way too much weight!”

“She has thyroid problems,” I explained.

He looked at me as if that were no explanation at all.

“For a chihuahua, she’s really quite big-boned,” I said, “I think she may have a bit of mixed blood.”

One skeptical eyebrow raised.

“She’s really all muscle,” I said, “or at least more muscle than fat!”

His expression told me he was unimpressed.

“Look, I give her precisely the amount of dog food recommended for a dog her size!”

“If that amount of food is keeping her at this size, she’s getting too much food, no matter WHAT is recommended!”

Well, okay.

So, we talked about cutting her food in half, banishing treats, weighing her weekly…and I really did listen, and have taken it to heart.

Still, on my way out, I told the nurse, “I understand that she’s carrying a bit of extra weight, and she does, I know, look a little waddle-ish in here…but if you could just see her in the wild!

Yes, I really said that.

I thought about it today, though, and it wasn’t as outlandish a statement as it seemed at the time.

Today, with ten inches of new snow, my old dog, Clover, faced with a wall of the “white stuff” when I opened the door, was not going out until I got out there to shovel a path. Not so, Rosa Parks. She plowed right out in snow deeper than she was! When Doug came around with his plow truck to clear my driveway, I had to run out in my bathrobe to grab Rosa Parks. She gave me a look that seemed to say “What, you’re just going to let him move our snow??”, and she kept right on barking. By the time I got back in the house with her, I was covered in snow balls to my waist! She was undaunted. We took two long walks today. My camera – needing new batteries – wasn’t fast enough to snap her in action. She really is a sight to behold.

In her element, that is. My chihuahua…in the wild!

Happy Birthday, Jennifer!



There were times, I have to admit, mostly during Jen’s teen-age years, when time seemed to slow right down.

A few mornings that I woke up thinking, “How long can this go on??”

For the most part, though, I loved being a parent.

I love it, still, though my daughters are grown and gone, with lives and families of their own.

And, mostly, the years have flown by leaving only memories snagged as the days rushed past.

The answer, I can say with certainty, is “Not long enough!”.

Happy, happy birthday to my beautiful daughter, Jennifer!

Back On Track



I had a hard time choosing a photo to accompany this rambling post, about half composed in my mind.

Once I decided on the photo, I had to change the title.

I had been wavering between “Memories” and “Reminiscences” and had finally settled on the somewhat sappy “Down Memory Lane”. This one’s more suitable.

It is things like that that keep my anxiety level high, and my life in chaos.

I’ll have a simple task to do, but rather than just do it, I’ll decide I need to have the perfect tool to accomplish it, or the magazine article describing it, or my notes about how I plan to do it, so time is wasted in the search. In searching, distractions inevitably come up, and I’ll find myself going off on a completely different tangent, and in search of whatever I need for that job. It is multi-tasking to the farthest and most impossible extreme. It is the embodiment of the crazy-making “monkey mind”. It is a curse, and I’m working on it.

This year, I’m employing the Pomodoro Technique. It involves setting a timer for twenty-five minutes (they say twenty-five minutes segments are key to the success) and forcing myself to stay on task – whatever that task may be – for that length of time.

I’m also using a nameless technique that I invented myself to try to make the best of an out-of-control mind. It’s working title should be something like “if not A, then B”. It works like this. Magazines belong in the magazine rack, or in the recycle bin. If I’m in the middle of browsing through a magazine, I don’t want to put it in the rack, where it will be lost or forgotten. If not in the magazine rack, then on the corner of the side table. Multi-tasking through meals is not a good thing, for many reasons. Living alone, it’s an easy habit to fall into. If I can’t simply concentrate on eating, then at least limit distractions to inspirational reading (instead of surfing the internet, reading the news or watching old Bruce Willis films while trying to digest). I think it helps, a bit. It’s a work in progress…as I am.

Yesterday, I blew off most everything I was planning to accomplish. Today, I’m trying to get back on track.

In this new year, I’ve been starting my mornings with a simple yoga routine. It’s designed to take about a half-hour, and I generally do it first thing, while the coffee is brewing. Having missed yesterday entirely, I worked into it more slowly today.

With coffee in hand, I first checked the internet.

That’s another issue, here at home. First there is the writing and publishing of posts on a regular basis. I’ve been pretty steady about it, for a little over a year, and I’m proud of that. But then there is the distraction of thinking someone may have read, and liked what I wrote, and I am not right there to see it. Maybe someone even commented, and I’m not there to answer!

When I first got a computer, and got set up to receive Email, I was enthralled. I sent my daughter into gales of laughter one day by mentioning that she should Email me, because “sometimes I just turn the computer on and sit and wait to get a letter.”

It’s kind of the same thing with this little blog. I’m working on getting it under control.

But, this morning, with coffee, I checked the internet. I noted how many readers had checked in. I responded to a few comments. I read a few posts by others. Judith Baxter, who writes a lovely blog at had written about nostalgia. She grew up in London, during and after World War II, and was remembering butcher shops and cheese mongers and milk delivery.

By the time I started my yoga routine, I was in a reminiscing mood.

I try to concentrate on my breathing, the stretches, my balance…but my mind wanders. Employing my “if not A, then B” technique, I try at least to use my wandering mind for the greater good. I try to focus my distractions into something helpful, like easing kinks out of joints and muscles, or on affirmations and intentions for my day.

This morning, memories were filling my head.

The “Stork” is a simple standing and balancing stretch.

“Stand balanced on one foot. Fold other leg behind and hold foot…”

That was where I was, one foot in hand, when an old memory came out of the vapors, and made me laugh out loud.

As little children, we had all kinds of games and activities to pass the time and entertain ourselves. Some were classic children’s games; some were of our own invention.

We loved to race. There were plenty of us to compete, and my brother, Ted, was great at the “On your mark…Get set…GO!!”

We had foot races, both walking and running. We had hopping on one foot races. We had wheelbarrow races. Remember those? One child walks on her hands while another child holds that one’s feet in the air and walks behind. We’d do them running. In the yard! We’d do them as entertainment and for prizes at birthday parties!

When I think of how difficult one single push up is today, I can hardly imagine that I was once able to run from one end of the yard and back on my hands!

The other races we did, and the memory that set me off giggling this morning, were “Knee Races”.

Alternately, we called them (horror of politically incorrect horrors! Forgive me, it was the ’50’s) “Crippled Races”.

We’d line up on one end of the living room. Necessarily so, as it was the only room with a rug for cushion. We stood on our knees holding our feet behind us, in our hands. When Ted gave the shout to “GO”, we ran  upright – on our knees – as fast as we could to the other side of the room.

Can you imagine what a sight that was?! We must have kept our parents in stitches!

Odd, I can remember my mother chastising us for sitting “on our knees” at the dinner table. We were all small, and folded our legs underneath ourselves for added height. She’d warn us it would cause us to have bad joints and achy knees later in life. In fact, I do have achy joints. My sister Brenda’s knees audibly crackle whenever she uses them, even just going up and down stairs. I don’t remember ever being warned against the Knee Races. Maybe it was just too funny to give up!

Now, to pull this wandering story together, it’s early afternoon. I have finished my yoga, walked the dogs and wrote this story. Still, I have yet to accomplish many of the things I put off yesterday.  I’m ready to set the timer (for twenty-five minutes), and give it hell. I’ll check in later. Right now, time to get back on track!

Snow Day



We have about five inches of fluffy new snow here on Beaver Island.

I had the day off.

With two bits of business writing I was determined to get done, a new exercise routine planned,  several things underway in the studio, and a living space that could use a serious once-over…procrastination was the order of the day.

The sun was shining.

Yesterday’s winds had calmed.

The dogs were in perfect agreement.

Morning, just after coffee, I bundled up and headed out.

Down the driveway to the Fox Lake Road and a short jaunt over to Cotter’s Trail. We followed the trail about halfway in, then took the drive that leads past two pole barns and into the wide path through the woods back to the Murray’s summer home. Usually from there I’d go up the driveway to the road, and home from there. That’s about a 45 minute walk.

Today, we circled the yard, walked past the pond and re-traced our steps back through the woods. Back at the Cotter’s Trail, we veered to the right. We continued down the trail past Crazy Larry’s old campsite, past the deer-camp sign, Tom Mann’s little shelter and the cabin that used to be Cotter’s (and so will always be known as Cotter’s, though the ownership changed nearly thirty years ago). We continued into the woods toward the West Side Drive.

The dogs were willing to continue our adventure, but my legs were burning from the long walk in deep snow. I made my turn before we came out into the clearing, and we headed back home.

By the time I was ready for our afternoon walk, the snow mobile riders had been out. Their runners firm and pack the snow, leaving a nice path. They had followed the power lines that run parallel to Fox Lake Road. That’s the way we walked. First south, through the meadow and up to where the road makes a sharp turn, then north, past my house and on to where the power lines cross the road, and home from there.

I still have my long list of things I should have done today.

There’s still time.

It was a great day to be out in the snow!

Happy Birthday, Madeline!



My granddaughter, Madeline was born with a head of wild, dark hair, a beautiful rosy complexion…and a tooth!

A fully formed baby tooth, bright white, already perfectly visible!

When I first met Madeline she was just a couple weeks old. Her Mom drove me to visit my dentist in Okemos, Michigan. Madeline came, too. The dentist marveled at Madeline’s tiny tooth, and thought she was the perfect little newborn to come along on a dental appointment!

A few years later, Madeline had her own dentist. She had a tiny cavity on the top surface of one of her molars. It needed to be filled.

Madeline and her family lived in an urban area at that time, and Madeline had seen a lot of dental extravagances. She loved the look of braces, and the sparkle they added to a smile. She liked the diamonds and other jewels set into front teeth. At three or four years old, her idea was, the more dazzle, the better.

When she was told about the filling, she started her campaign. “I’m going to get the gold tooth,” she told her Mother and Father.

They tried to explain, but she was insistent.

“I’m going to get the gold tooth!”

Whenever the appointment was mentioned, the topic of the gold tooth came up.

“I’m getting the gold tooth!”

We were all worried that she was going to be terribly disappointed.

The idea of the sparkle, though, was keeping her from dreading the procedure.

In fact, she was extremely brave!

The dentist was good, patient and kind, and the filling went quickly.

We had just a bit of trepidation about the reveal.

It hadn’t occurred to any of us that gold and silver are both sparkly. A small girl might not know the difference. To the inexperienced, an amalgam filling could look like gold!

She walked out into the waiting room with her Mom.

She was beaming!

“I got it!”, she told us, “I got the gold tooth!”

She opened her mouth wide.

Her brother Brandon – in one of his best big brother moments – leaned in close to examine the filling and, with reverence in his voice, said, “That’s really AWESOME, Madeline!!”

And she knew that it was!

Today, my granddaughter Madeline turns thirteen years old.

Happy Birthday, Madeline!

Reassessing 2012



I’m thinking I may have been a bit hard on 2012.

I spoke of bad luck and hard times, and how sadly it fell short of my expectations.

How audacious of me, anyway, to decide that 2012 or, for that matter, any year – a man-made measurement of time – was going to be “my best year yet”.

I spoke it in hopefulness, and in the spirit of manifestation (which sounds, as I write it here, a bit like a plague!). I was opening myself up to wonderful things.

It turns out, I was opening myself up to disappointment.

How could any year compete with the golden years that live in my memories?

Jennifer’s second year:  we tilled up a section at the back of the driveway at the little house near the lake, and planted a tiny garden and she learned the joy of growing things; I took pictures every day of my beautiful daughter…trying on her Daddy’s work boots or in her Halloween costume, with her puppy or her plate of freshly-dug nightcrawlers; I sewed sundresses for her, and made seed mosaics and bead curtains and crocheted slippers; it seems like we walked down to the water every single day…

Katey’s first year: at the townhouse in Lapeer, my perfect little family; two daughters in the bathtub, two daughters getting tucked in at night; with Katey in the stroller, we’d go to the park…Jen would walk ’til she was tired, then she’d stand on the axle and ride along; I learned to cook Chinese food and started taking college courses. My husband would play his guitar in the evenings and my daughters laughed and sang…

That first year here on Beaver Island: the heart-stopping, joyous rush every time I rounded the corner into town and was faced with the harbor view; the seasons, each one a new adventure…When a tree fell in a storm that first winter and crushed our car, my husband and I looked at it, turned to each other, grinned and said – in unison – “Firewood!”

But, you see, I’ve forgotten all the bad parts, of all the good years.

Since my memory is selective, there is no competition.

Held up to my standard of “best year yet,” of course last year fell short.

By any other standard, 2012 was a good year.

In my family, we had weddings and births, new houses and new jobs.

In February, my sisters and I went to Florida together for a wonderful vacation. Three sisters, three nieces and I went to Chicago for a lovely Mother’s Day weekend. Three of my grandchildren and my daughter, Jen, came here for a week-long visit in July. Family and friends came to help me celebrate my birthday in August. Other friends came, through the season.

I quit my job in 2012! I could write a litany of difficulties it has caused in my life, but the bottom-line is, I enjoy what I’m doing and I feel good about it.

I have consistently written and posted these blogs through all of the past year. Knowing my habits, I know better than anyone what a huge accomplishment that is, all by itself. On top of that, it has introduced me to a world of good writers, of old and new friends, of support and love and mutual admiration.

I walked every day in 2012.

I laughed every day in 2012.

Looking at it now (eight days past), 2012 was a very good year.

Six Days Into The New Year, How It’s Going So Far



I want to be on top of it this year.

I don’t want to look back and wonder.

I know 2011 was a difficult year.

It wasn’t all bad, but it held some of the hardest times I’ve ever experienced.

Living through it, and being able to continue on, was the best part.

Going into 2012, I was filled with optimism. I was glad to put that old, sad year behind me. 2012 was going to be a good year!

Chinese New Year followed shortly after. The Year of the Dragon! I was born in the year of the dragon, considered the most powerful sign in the Chinese calendar. That had to be a good sign, right? The year of the dragon would be a wonderful year for me.

In August, I turned sixty. 60! I’ve always loved those round numbers! This has to be good…doesn’t it? “This year, aged sixty, will be my best year yet”, I told myself.

Over and over, as things seemed to turn from bad to worse, uglier and uglier, I said, with less and less enthusiasm, “My best year yet!”

I will not bother with the details. I experienced job troubles and money problems. There were difficult encounters and lost friendships. Illness and death, both human and canine. Car trouble and lawn mower trouble. A roof that was leaking buckets-full…through the new attic insulation…pouring out through the light fixture in the laundry room…ruining the floor. And on, and on.

I’ve thought, perhaps, I’m just focusing on the negative.

No, I think the opposite is actually true.

But I wasn’t wearing blinders, either. I experienced the bad as well as the good.

2012 is behind me. It wasn’t the worst, but it fell far short of my expectations for it.

February 10th will mark the beginning of the Year of the Snake in the Chinese calendar. The dragon was not particularly good to me.

Come August, I’ll be back in those other pesky numbers, with five years before another round number in my age. Sixty hasn’t been the worst, but so far it has quite a way to go before it could be considered my best year yet.

I’m not going to put so much pressure on 2013.

This doesn’t have to be the best.

This year, I will have no expectations.

The year will unfold.

I’ll deal with the rough times.

I’ll enjoy the good times.

I will laugh as much as possible.

Just like last year.

Six days in, it’s going okay so far.

…and On We Go



“Make new mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t  stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, do it. Make your mistakes, next year and forever.”

~Neil Gaiman

I’m sure I’ll have a list of new (old) goals and resolutions before the day is out.

I’m big on fresh starts, turning over a new leaf, beginning again.

As a child, I was the one – when things didn’t go as planned – crying, “Let’s start over!”

Certainly there are encounters I wish I could re-do. Days that could have been better spent.

Hell, there are entire chapters of my life I wish I could over-write!

My list, I’m sure, will reflect all of that. More patience, organization,  devotion to heath  and heart and spirit, more letter writing…less sloth, mindlessness and temper.

For this moment, on this first morning of 2013, though, I want to sit here at peace with myself.

I want to embrace this person that I am, with all of my short-comings and all of my flaws.

I want to be comfortable with my mistakes, past, present and future.

I want to love myself for the flawed, good-hearted being that I am, nothing more.

Simple acceptance.

May you find it, too!