Monthly Archives: October 2015

This Day…

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It seems, these days, that my head is filled with lists of things I need to do.

I wake up, usually, about two AM, running the items through my mind. I’m out of bed by three, with a cup of chamomile tea, shuffling through papers or writing things down. I rarely accomplish anything worthwhile in the middle of the night. If I’m lucky, the tea and a bit of activity will allow me to fall back asleep, so that my nocturnal worrying doesn’t spoil me for the day ahead.

I feel overwhelmed in my life.

There seems to be no area that I’m not behind in.

When I am at my main day job, I’m able to focus on that. It keeps me busy enough to hold my attention.

It’s when I’m home that everything else crowds in.

Housework, laundry, home repair, special projects, yard and garden maintenance, dog-walking, bill-paying and letter-writing.

That’s just my personal life.

The news magazine has a whole list of its own, of things to write…or plan…or send…or do.

Then there is the studio, with paintings and collagraphs to finish and other ideas to flesh out. A daily drawing practice planned and abandoned. A new collaborative project, and thirty canvases waiting. Ceramic wares to be fired…big plans for a new kiln…no time.

There are stacks of books in progress, or waiting to be read.

November is just around the corner. Last year, I wrote a blog post every day of that month. I’m thinking of trying it again this year. It seems my writing has devolved into long tirades filled with whining and complaint. Would writing every day get me past that, or just indulge my self-centered ranting? Do I really want one more obligation? Am I crazy?

Yesterday, facing my day off, I was up in the night plotting all that I would accomplish. I took to the couch at 6AM, and slept until after nine. UGH! Rainy outside, I was able to set aside the mowing, raking, pruning and pulling that might have otherwise competed for attention.

In between loads of laundry, sweeping and scouring, I managed to finish a couple projects that have been waiting.

I assembled a new box spring, to support the mattress of my double bed.

I was not dissatisfied with my single bed. It actually gives me a bit more room to move around in my small bedroom. That is  doubly important ever since I moved Mom’s cedar chest and Mrs. Valaquet’s hand-me-down dresser into the space. However, last year, while attempting to drill through the wooden headboard, to lower the height of the mattress so that my little dog could get on and off on her own, I split the frame. Since then, the single sized flat springs topped by single sized mattress have been sitting on top of a twin-sized metal bed frame. Though the difference is small, it’s enough so that every time I roll over or shift in bed, the mattress slides off one edge of the frame, and sits at a slant until I get up to fix it.  The mattress is not the best, either. Lately, I’ve been looking longingly at the double bed.

I have always liked the double bed. My husband and I found the frame on the roadside, on sale for twenty dollars, many years ago. I had just bought a new mattress for it when – in an allergy-induced fit of purging the house of anything that might harbor dust mites – I got rid of the old box spring and stored the bed.

I tried to make a mattress support for it several months ago, in the middle of the night. With a hand saw, I trimmed a dozen 1 x 6 pine boards to fit precisely between the metal side rails of the bed, arranged them as planned, added the mattress, sheets and comforter, congratulated myself on a job well done, and got into bed…only to have it collapse. Evidently, pine boards have too much sway. So, in the middle of the night, I had to clear away the boards, stash the mattress, metal headboard, foot board and side rails in the attic, pull out the frame and mattress for the twin bed from the same small attic (a task that involves more coordination, planning and ability to pirouette than I have, thank you!), remake the small bed…and done.

This product, designed for supporting a mattress, should be better. It came through the mail several weeks ago, in a surprisingly small box. Though it’s called a box spring, there are no springs. The box contained several pre-drilled pieces made up of boards and spacers, bolts, nuts and screws. In order to have room to assemble it, I would have to commit to – once again – disassembling and storing the twin bed. That alone caused another week of procrastination!

Yesterday was the day for action!

It went surprisingly well. The kit required twelve bolts and nuts (thirteen of each were in the package) and thirty screws. Only 28 screws were sent, which caused a bit of a scramble to remember where I’d stored the toolbox that would probably (and it did!) have a couple screws in it. Otherwise, there were no major issues. Box spring assembled and double bed put together, sheets and comforter in place, I am happy to report this bed does not collapse when I get into it!

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I was so bolstered by this success story, I went on to move the legs on my suitcase coffee table. That also went without a hitch!

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Encouraged by this success, I’m wondering what I can accomplish today!

First, I’m going to tackle the crazy-making agenda of my life. I need a schedule. I am going to plan time to work on specific projects…but it can’t be all the time. I am going to figure out how to have time to do whatever I want, even if just a few minutes a day, without guilt over what I “should” be doing.

On this day, I’m going to start placing as much importance on living this life as I do on any other job.

That is, after all, the most important job any of us have.

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Change

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I never figure coin, when adjusting my checkbook. If I deposit $438.87, I only add in $438.00. If I write a check for $12.02, I subtract $13.00. Most errors occur in adding and subtracting the coin, and I’ve eliminated it. I’ve also given myself a little cushion. If I forget to subtract the $2.50 service charge each month, I am covered. If I forget to enter a check or debit from my account, I am usually okay. With nothing more than the coin, I accumulate a couple hundred dollars each year.

It’s a nice little bonus. Sometimes it covers a little trip away; sometimes it gets me out of a bind caused by an illness or an unforeseen auto repair bill. A few years ago, with no other pressing needs, I used it to buy a camera. It’s nothing fancy – just a little “point and shoot” – but I enjoy it immensely. Because I got it with “left-over coin,” it seems like a gift.

I take more photos in October than in any other month of the year.

Change is what I am documenting.

Leaves turn from ordinary and expected greens to a wealth of gold-red-orange-purple colors that continue to delight, amaze and surprise me, though I’ve been observing this process for more than sixty years. Yesterday, the temperature dropped more than ten degrees, mid-day. We had episodes of rain here on Beaver Island, then sleet, then snow…and beautiful blue skies and bright sun in-between!

Change is the way we make note of our lives, as we live. It’s not always as pleasurable as watching autumn colors.

It includes “where did this summer go?” and “where did these wrinkles come from?” and “how did it happen that my precious babies are now grown, with problems and disappointments of their own?” It includes loss. And death.

I was, in fact, going to title this piece “Change and Disappointment.”

Beaver Island is losing its Beech trees. Every one. A disease that infected them years ago is taking them down. The woods are littered with their fallen majesty; every wind storm adds to the toll. As if that weren’t enough, fallen trees take out the electrical power and block roadways.

[even I can see the sheer audacity of that statement: “bad enough that an entire species of hundred-year-old trees is dying…but it’s inconveniencing me, as well!” Shame on me, as I continue, self-centered-ly]

A dear island gentleman passed away recently, an old friend of my father’s. I’ll attend his funeral this morning.

Last week, a man died – the father of an old friend – who I’d known for fifty years. As children, we’d raid his food stores for our midnight snacks. We’d roll our eyes at his commentary as he drove us to the Pix theater for movies. His voice, downstairs talking on the HAM radio, was background to our whispered midnight conversations. He was an integral part of my childhood.

I suffered a huge letdown with another project last week, which has caused a total upheaval in the process. I can’t quite make sense of it yet, or form words to describe the disappointment and fear…but I forge on.

“Forge on through disappointment and loss,” I tell myself. “Make the most of change.”

With thoughts like that, I headed down the Fox Lake Road last week, planning to be on time for work at the hardware store, which was the only job – at that time – that was not causing me grief. A large beech tree had fallen across the road, blocking my path. I couldn’t move it. What could I do? I could back up (on curvy road with dust-covered windows) more than a quarter-mile to a place where I could turn around, then back-track and take the long route to town. I could sit and wait for someone to come that could help me move the tree, or that could cut it out of the way. I could go around it…maybe. I got out and paced the distance from the end of the tree, across to the drive-able shoulder and off to the nearest barrier, which was a cluster of small trees. I might just make it, if I aimed just right, and turned just so, and didn’t flatten my tire rolling over the end of the tree trunk…

Well, I didn’t.

I got wedged in between the tree trunk in the road and the cluster of small trees off the road. After inching forward and back – forever, it seemed – to dislodge the car, I thought a bold push forward was necessary to get past a tiny fingerling tree that was holding me up…

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I tore the mirror right off the passenger side of my good little car. I’ve been so very appreciative of this car and so careful of it, I wanted to just cry. [I hate to admit, I also toyed with the notion of titling this piece “First Blood” to mark the first damage incurred on my watch.]

So much for getting to work on time!

So much for forging on with good spirits!

So much for making the best of change!

And yet…change is not only the things that happen, out of our control, that we fight and rail against and mourn for.

Change is also What is Left.

Change is the coin left over when you break a dollar. The eyes of small children twinkle when they give you one thing…a dollar bill…and they get back many shiny things in return. We adults all know it’s not as much…but oh, to look through a child’s eyes, and see that way! From my own experience, I know how change can accumulate.

For every loss, no matter how great, something is left, something is gained. For all of my self-centered melodrama, I still have an exciting business; I still have a working vehicle. When one sense is lost, the other senses are heightened. When a loved one dies, we look with renewed love and appreciation to those who are still with us; every memory becomes more precious.

The task is to take What is Left…and live with it. Let it grow, let it accumulate, let it be.

Sometimes – as in the autumn colors all around – what’s left is glorious.

Check it Out!

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My day off started in the usual way: with mounds and mounds of office work.

There were my own things: bills to pay, papers to file and calls to make.

There were things for the Beaver Beacon, the news magazine that my partners and I put out every other month. I had a pile of subscriptions to update, gift subscriptions to enter and send cards for, advertising payments to document, at least a dozen seasonal address changes and a few letters to answer. Plus bills to pay and a bank deposit to prepare.

I’ve been behind in all of it. It is embarrassing to get a shut-off notice, simply because I haven’t taken time to pay the telephone bill! I couldn’t deposit monies to the Beacon account before I had made the necessary changes to expiration dates, because I simply can’t trust my memory anymore.

I was delayed by long, exhausting work weeks, some enjoyable company that I took time for, and the Beacon deadline. I had to edit things that were sent to me, type things that were handed me, turn all of my notes from various events into news stories (WHY don’t I do that right after the event, while it’s all still fresh in my mind??) and write up a couple things I hadn’t thought of earlier.

With all of that temporarily behind me, today I was able to dedicate time and energy toward getting my desk cleared.

I worked pretty steadily, too, until mid-afternoon.

I ran upstairs, then, to retrieve a folder. I noticed the clock in the corner was flashing: at some point, the electricity must have blinked out. Because the clock was on a high shelf that had a clothes drying rack leaning against it (such is my life!), I couldn’t get close enough to see what I was doing, but pushed a couple buttons in an attempt to get the numbers to stop flashing. No luck, and I gave up on it.

I’m working hard at staying on task these days, not allowing myself to get distracted and pulled away from the job at hand by a drawer that needs tidying…or flashing numbers on a clock.

Back downstairs, and back at work, I started hearing a repeating buzzer. What was it? My little dog, Rosa Parks, was sure it was her arch-enemy, the road truck, backing into our driveway to turn around. She started madly barking, and running through the house, frustrated that she couldn’t see outside. I realized pretty quickly that it was an alarm clock. In blindly hitting buttons to set the time, I had inadvertently set the alarm instead.

I ran upstairs and turned it off. The dog was unconvinced. She continued her wild barking until I let her outside, to see for herself that we were safe.

Poor Rosa Parks! I rearranged the living room furniture a few weeks ago. It’s a small room, and there are only two places the sofa will fit. I had moved it to the south wall, just for a change. It hadn’t occurred to me that in moving it away from the window on the west wall, I was taking away Rosa’s ability to see the yard and the road in front of the house. Her only view had been through the sliding glass doors, into the back yard. Not much activity there, most days, for a dog intent on guarding the homestead.

For the sake of Rosa Parks, I decided to rearrange the furniture. Much to her delight, I moved the couch back in front of the window…

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…where she’ll be the first one to spot the road truck, should it dare come by.

This arrangement, however, reminded me that a coffee table was needed. I had taken the old one – built by my then-husband, of 2 x 6 boards, more than thirty years ago, altered and painted and given a hundred different uses in that time – to use for file storage in my office space.

I had a plan, though! I purchased an old suitcase in a sale many years ago. It is handy for storing afghans and extra sheets. On end, it kind of works as a narrow, somewhat wobbly, side table. Not the best solution, but okay. Then I saw a similar old suitcase – on legs – in one of those design magazines. It was brilliant! I ordered legs and stability plates from “amazon dot com” weeks ago. I already owned a cordless drill (which, if I have not told you, Kate and Jeremy, is one of the most used if not absolute best Christmas gift I have ever received!). I was only waiting for time, opportunity, and courage to tackle the job.

Today, my day off, was as good as any.

I emptied the suitcase, fit the drill bit into the power tool, measured and marked where the legs would go. I drilled four holes without a hitch. My confidence was building. I threaded the bolts at the top of the legs into each hole then, from inside the case, screwed the plates onto the bolts. There were four little screws to hold each plate in place. They had to go straight in so that they would go into the thick top of the legs. The suitcase itself was too thin-walled to hold them. I replaced the drill bit with a #2 Phillips bit in a magnetized bit holder. Ready!

Those sixteen screws nearly finished me! How to get the right angle while working sideways inside of a suitcase? How to put enough pressure on the driver to get the screw started, without having it jump out of the holder? How to stay on my knees that long?  I turned the air blue, with my language, every single time I had to retrieve one of those screws from inside the hinge of the suitcase, or the rug underneath. But I finally got it together.

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It’s a bit shorter than I’d like. The legs are a way too close together (what made me think a sheet torn from a legal pad and folded in half lengthwise was the serendipitous “perfect” distance from the edges?? I don’t know), reminding me of a very large person with very tiny feet. That will have to be changed. The top surface needs some attention, too, now that it’s laid out for everyone to see. I don’t mind the scratches, but the ringed water marks will have to go. Not today, though.

Though I let distractions take me away from my work today, I got a lot accomplished. Rosa Parks is happy, and so am I. It was a good day off!