Monthly Archives: May 2015

My Week Away…and Other Distractions

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The sun was shining yesterday, when I made my way home down the Fox Lake Road after a week away.

Today, it’s raining.

That’s fine with me, as I have work inside. I’m finding plenty of things to lead me away from the writing and other desk work I have to do; I can live without the further distractions of yard and garden.

After a day’s delay in leaving the island, several hours of waiting for the fog to clear for the flight to the mainland and a great deal of traffic and road work to make the drive a nerve-wracking one, I had a good time down-state. My sister,  Brenda, included me in her twice-a-week water aerobics class. Another sister, Cheryl, arranged for all of the sisters  – along with our friend, Joel – to play Pub Trivia one night. Another evening, we played Scrabble. I had good visits with each of my daughters. I received a beautiful hand-forged gift from Kate’s husband, my son-in-law, Jeremy. I had the opportunity to become better acquainted with Jennifer’s friend, Jamey. I met my two little great-granddaughters for the first time, and managed to get hugs and smiles from each of them. I spent a wonderful afternoon with Madeline and Tommy, wandering in and out of the galleries, bookstores and specialty shops that – along with a few good restaurants – have come to define downtown Lapeer, Michigan. I met the newest member of our family, my grand-niece Hannah, just ten days old. I had a nice visit with my brother, Ted. My brother-in-law, Keith, presented me with a pair of cowboy boots that he found for a price he couldn’t pass up. They fit me perfectly! The week was filled with walking and shopping, and lots of catching-up. There were meals out and meals in, all wonderful, and even better for the companionship and lively conversation. .It was a good week!

Now, it’s time to get back to work.

I made a pot of coffee and turned the computer on first thing, ready to get at it.

And yet…

The little dog reminds me frequently that – after a week alone in the kennel – she needs attention. Rosa Parks is a very social animal, and this was her first trip to the boarders without Clover to share her space. Dropping her off alone was traumatic for me (I saw none of the usual tail-wagging when we got there) and I’m thinking it seemed like a long, lonely week for her. When she wants attention, I indulge her; I was lonesome for her, too.

I have made several trips to the laundry room, to keep things moving there.

I’ve paused more than once to page through new reading material – books and magazines – that came home with me.

I called to check balances on each of my credit cards, to assess my spending habits while away.

I threw out a bouquet of long-dead tulips and watered my houseplants.

I went through a stack of mail, made a grocery list, answered a few Emails and returned a couple telephone calls.

I balanced my checkbook.

Then, it seemed of absolute necessity to report here, on my trip.

That’s it…I’m done! It’s time to get down to work…just as soon as I put those clothes in the dryer.

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When Things Fall Apart

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April 9th was my sister Nita’s birthday. This year, the first that she is not with us, I planned to write a little tribute to her. Instead, on that day, I wrote about dealing with my old, ailing dog.

I usually write a happy birthday message to my grandchildren – at least the younger ones – on their birthdays. Before the day arrives, I have generally sent a card with a note, and money for them to choose their own gift. This year, Tommy’s birthday was here before I realized it. I had put my back out while working in the garden. Finding that I did not have my usual prescription for muscle relaxers, I called my daughter to see if I could take the pain medicine prescribed for my old dog Clover. She got out her book to look it up, while noisy chatter reigned in the background. “Excuse the chaos,” she said, “we have all the kids here for Tommy’s party.”

Oh, no!

“Oh, no!” I said, “I forgot! I’m so sorry…”

At that moment, I heard Tommy’s voice urging his mother to hurry, and she (my sweet daughter!) said, “Just a minute, Tommy, Grandma Cindy just called to wish you Happy Birthday…” I had a nice chat with him. Later, I took one-half of one of the dog’s pills. That, combined with ice packs and ibuprofen, relieved the spasm and got me back on my feet.

Last Sunday, Clover died. As I sat with her outside, three trucks drove past filled with revelers on a jaunt around the island. One friend noticed me, and shouted “Happy Mother’s Day!” The others followed suit. As I sat in the grass, tears running down my face, with my hands in Clover’s fur as she breathed her last breaths, two dozen voices shouted good wishes to me from the road.

Later that day, I received the good news that my niece and her husband had just welcomed a new baby girl.

I had planned to be on the road today, on the way down-state for a visit with my family. After a long stretch of working without a day off – while juggling many other jobs and obligations – I was ready to get away. A call this morning changed my plans. I suddenly had to make other arrangements for my little dog while I’m away, rearrange my flight, delay my travel and shorten my trip.

Things fall apart.

Habits; routines; expectations.

The best laid plans.

Once I resigned myself to the unexpected changes, I decided to enjoy this bonus day at home.

When things fall apart, it’s best to just roll with it.

I Fall To My Knees

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I’m reading a book by Norman Vincent Peale: Positive Thinking Every Day. It has a little prayer or meditation or positive message for each day of the year. I feel, most of the time, that I could use more positive thoughts in my life! Actually, the book is one I bought for my mother. It is inscribed, wishing her “Merry Christmas and much love, 1996.” When Mom died, my sisters set it aside for me.

Though it makes me feel good to think that as I  turn the pages I am following her movements, I’m not really sure she ever read it. Probably, though.

Mom was a positive-thinker, a believer in miracles, a pray-er. She had so many children, I suppose she had to be.

My most sincere prayers have been for the health and well-being of my children. Or dogs.

For the most part, I’m not much on praying, though. When friends are ill or having difficulties, I’m careful to offer “best wishes” or “good thoughts” rather than prayers. Worse than not praying, I figure, is offering to pray and then not doing it. I cut my losses.

Even so, I’ve been spending a lot of time on my knees.

These longer, warmer days provide a chance to work in the garden.

Snowdrops are wildly blooming along the edges of my flower beds. Clusters of Narcissus and Daffodils show all shades of yellow. Tulips have fat buds at the top of their stems. Iris and Day Lilies have presented their fan-shaped leaves. Through it all are layers of wet brown leaves that fell from the maple trees last fall, long bunches of pale Day Lily stalks and leaves and the remains of the fall-flowering plants. Together, they hide the progress of persistent spreading weeds.

Every day I come home from work, stash my papers and bags, let the dogs out to enjoy the sunshine, and I drop to the ground. My tools are simple: one claw tool for loosening and lifting roots, one ratcheting pruner for wayward rose, grape or wisteria branches. The creaking, wobbly and rusty wheelbarrow stands nearby.

My rule is that I’ll work at least one hour, and fill the wheelbarrow at least once with debris.

First, I pull all the dead stuff away, working with my hands around stalks, raking with my fingers though the blooms. Then I tackle the weeds.

Years ago, when I had about four fewer jobs, and much more impressive gardens, friends would ask me to come over in the springtime, to look at their gardens, and help them determine what was a desired plant, and what was a weed. I couldn’t help. I don’t recognize every good plant, and I don’t know all weeds, especially in the springtime. My advise was this: “Pull what you know: pull the grasses; pull the dandelions. If you’re not sure about it, wait until you’re sure.” Weeds show their true nature soon enough.

That’s the way I do it. One at a time, I move the rocks that border the flower beds. Roots of grasses are visible there, as they try to move into the gardens. I dig in with my fingers. I try to use gloves, but can’t get a sense for what I’m doing, so I usually set them aside. I pull roots up one by one, and follow them to the end, or until they snap. When an area is clear, I move on to the next rock, and repeat the process.

When I am working at the hardware store, I’m often thinking of things I need to accomplish for the news magazine, or for the townships. When I’m driving to and from other obligations, I’m planning art projects or remodeling projects, or plotting where I’ll find time to get groceries or do a load or two of laundry. When I’m awake in the middle of the night, I’m running through to-do lists or writing articles and doing interviews in my head.

When I’m working in the garden, I’m hardly thinking at all. One leaf, one root at a time, I am in the moment. It’s the closest thing to a meditative experience in my life.

The entry for May 1st, in my little book of positive thoughts, says this:

The secret of prayer is to find the process that will most effectively open your mind humbly to God. So experiment with fresh prayer formulas. Practice new skills and get new insights.

May 7th, I have heard, is the National Day of Prayer.

If the sun is shining, I’ll be on my knees…with my hands in the dirt.