Monthly Archives: May 2016

This Tuesday

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This Tuesday, being fairly certain that I have worn thin the kindness of readers who have endured recitals of my moment-to-moment activities combined with editorial grumblings, I am going back to Writing Exercises.

For this purpose, I signed up for a newsletter that promised me 31 Writing Prompts. In order to retrieve the free download, one must only click on a link to confirm the Email address. Doing that, I am beamed over to an infomercial that wants money to improve my writing career, signed up for the daily newsletter, and presented with a PDF file of 31 Writing Prompts, as promised. I “X” my way out of the infomercial and open the file.

The prompts are long. They start with a little dialog, an inspiring quote or two, a few examples and then a suggestion for what to write about. I feel like I’d do better with some of that direction right in front of me. I cannot “copy” and “paste” from a PDF file. By the time I save and close the file, and get to this page, I feel like I have lost the gist of the suggestion.

I try to go back, for a more thorough reading. I can’t find it! This new computer is wonderful, but it is also mysterious. It does not have a “start” button that would – on my old computer – lead to choices like “documents,” “downloads,” “pictures” and “shut down.” I’d had this computer a month before I figured out how to properly turn it off! I can’t find and retrieve things that I’ve downloaded. Of course, I always believe that if I sit here trying for long enough, I will figure it out. So far, that has not proved to be true.

I go back to the inbox in my Email. I reopen the message with the special offer. I click on the link to verify my Email address. I am again transported to the infomercial, signed up for the daily mailing and given the PDF file. I still can’t seem to retain the information. I still can’t copy and paste, or even toggle back and forth from that file to my empty page. I try again.

I have now gone through these activities three times. Perhaps you can guess the results. I am now receiving three identical newsletters each day, with tiny helpful hints, but mostly encouraging me to watch and listen to that infomercial, and to purchase other writing aids. Somewhere, in this mysterious computer, I have three identical PDF files of writing prompts, which may or may not be of value. I don’t know; I only read the first one. If I want to see more, I’ll have to download it again.

In the future, I’m going to be doing some form of writing exercises on Tuesdays. Maybe I’ll get ideas from What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter. That’s where the ideas for writing about my addresses came from. Maybe from another of the many books I have on the shelf with direction for writers. It is very doubtful that any ideas will come from that missing PDF file of 31 Writing Prompts. Life is too short.

 

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Thoughts on Memorial Day

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I’m hardly qualified to speak about Memorial Day. I think of it, even, as one of the lesser holidays. Like Easter, whose traditions are fine when there are small children in the household, but seem silly (other than the religious significance, of course) otherwise, Memorial Day seems geared to a specific group. I don’t often feel a part of it.

I’ve read quite a bit about the Civil War and the two World Wars, but my interest is not in the battlefield. My participation in the Vietnam War was – early on – collecting donations of soap for my parish to send to the soldiers, and – later – in marches of passive protest. I know people that died there, and others that came back forever changed. Even so, I know very little about it, considering that it was a major news event when I was a teen and young adult. I recently watched The Killing Fields. Though the place names were familiar to me, the events had happened while I was paying very little attention.

All of the wars in the Middle East kind of run together for me. So do the countries themselves. When my nephew, Bob, was overseas, doing tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, I purchased a world map (actually, a laminated placemat with a world map on it) and hung it in my studio, so that I could get a better idea of where he was. It did little to diminish my ignorance, except in the very short term. I’m a little ashamed to admit this, but it’s true. I may tout a strong political opinion; I may do a great deal of hand-wringing over the terrors of war…but I don’t really know much about what is going on.

I was never in the service. My husband was given a “1-Y” (exempt) classification do to a back injury. My father was in the army, though the war was over by the time he got to Germany. His two older brothers were both active in World War II. In my family history, one great-grandfather fought in the Franco-Prussian War; another was shipped off to America at age seventeen, by his mother who wanted him far away from that conflict. At least three of my ancestors fought in the Civil War, and another one died of fever on his way to Grand Rapids to enlist. My nephew, as I said, served in the Middle East.

When my Aunt Katie was more able to get out and about, she and I would plant flowers on the family graves at the cemetery before this holiday. I should do it still, if only for her sake. I should take a bigger interest, anyway, for many good reasons. Of course – though conflicted about war in general – I appreciate the service and understand the sacrifice. For that alone, it’s good to have this day set aside.

I hope this Memorial Day is a good one.

The 52 Lists Project #22

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List your favorite places you have been:

  • Chicago, Illinois. This may be the largest city I’ve ever visited, and I love it: the architecture, the art, the shops and restaurants, and the many things to see and do. I am interested in its history, and our family history there. My grandmother was raised in Chicago. She learned to drive on the old rail tracks. Her mother, as a small child, was one of the survivors of the Iroquois Theater fire. Her father predicted, when he saw buildings being erected on what had been a landfill along the shoreline, that the foundation would erode and compromise the structures. Grandma took great pride, at eighty years old, of telling us that her father was correct, and that recent news stories were telling of all the expense of saving the skyscrapers, which were too heavy for the foundation they were built on. I have good memories of visits to Chicago with sisters and daughters and friends, of good meals, sight-seeing in the daytime, and night-life adventures.
  • East Lansing, Michigan. For the beautiful campus that welcomed and sheltered my little family, and for the experience, growth and knowledge I gained there, this place will always be one of my favorites.
  • Northern California. I flew in to San Francisco, stayed in San Jose, and visited Calaveras County. We drove through the mountains one night at sunset, to Lake Tahoe, and returned as the sun was rising the next morning.
  • Grand Turk Island, in the British West Indies. I spent time there on a working vacation as a laborer on an archaeological dig. I traveled alone. It was a lovely place and I learned a great deal about archaeology, the history of the area, and the Taino people. The trip stands as one of the biggest adventures in my life.
  • Kissimmee, Florida. Four of my sisters and I traveled from Michigan to Florida in the winter after my mother’s death. My sister, Nita, came from Texas to join us.  Brenda had arranged for our lodging in a luxurious resort. The weather was heavenly. We talked and laughed and played games. We walked to shop and see the sights. Mostly, though, it was a sharing and healing time for all of us. For that reason alone, it is one of my favorite memories.
  • Beaver Island, Michigan. This was always my favorite place to visit as a child, and the place I always wanted to live. I have to admit that, having lived here now for over thirty years, some of the magic has faded. This can be a lonely and difficult place to be. Winters are hard; mosquitoes are vicious; everything is expensive. Still, sitting on the beach to watch the sun go down over the water, driving through the woods after dark, or coming around that last curve into town – with the view of the lighthouse and the harbor laid out just like a postcard – can always bring the magic back.

Saturday, Rain

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The dogs have an almost identical rainy day routine. When, at their request, I open the door, they look out, sniff the air, shake their head twice, take one step back, then rush outside. They come back quicker than usual, anxious to be inside again. Their coats are damp when I run my hands along their back to tell them, “Good Girl.” Not so wet, today, that they spray me with droplets when they shake off the moisture. Not so wet that I have to get the towel to rub them down.

This is a mild rain, soft and steady.

It’s helping, though, to alleviate the dryness and dust. The air smells clear and all the colors are brightened. Buds seem to have magically appeared on the grapevines, that looked like dead twigs just a couple days ago. The grass is growing so fast, you can hardly tell what areas of the yard I mowed. Suddenly, with a little rain, we have moved from Early Spring (when the snow is gone and “thank God for that!” and “it’s not one of those big-mud seasons, that’s good”, but nothing s really happening and “what will the summer bring?”) to Spring, fully arrived, in all of it’s lushness and glory.

There’s nothing quite as nice as a gentle rain!

Respite

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I have, as has become my usual, plenty to complain about. I have been so tired lately, I can hardly think straight. It is starting to take a toll. I was so grouchy yesterday at work, my co-workers could hardly stand me.

This time of year gets so busy, so quickly, whether we know it’s coming or not, it’s impossible to prepare for it. Compounding the Memorial Day rush of people coming to Beaver Island to open their summer homes, the hardware store has, over the course of the last week, received:

  • a new four-foot display of Milwaukee drill bits and accessories,
  • a new eight-foot display of paint color samples,
  • about four hundred gallons of paint including new products all needing to be arranged on shelves,
  • several boxes of T-shirts and other gift shop items,
  • a large shipment of dog food,
  • a huge hardware store order and
  • two large orders of plants: flowering annuals and perennials, shrubs, fruit trees, vegetables and herbs.

On top of all that, the owner is taking veterinary appointments, running for office and rehearsing for a play. Of the employees, every single one of us has other jobs – often several – to contend with in our spare time.

I do the scheduling for the hardware store. I make a good wage, but I don’t get extra for doing the schedule. I try to carefully consider what every one wants in terms of hours or days, with respect to their families and other obligations. My goal is to have enough help without being over-staffed. It seems I have almost never gotten it right. Days like yesterday, when exhaustion has put me in a bad mood anyway, I’d like to hand that job over to the next person that speaks up about it, and let them see how thankless it is!

Thank God I have dogs!

If I didn’t have dogs, I would think of twelve things that should be tackled right away when I stepped into my house, and there would be no pause after work. Dogs need fresh air and sunshine, though, after being home all day. Dogs need love and attention.

When I get home from work, their smiles and wagging tails welcome me. We load in the car for a drive to Fox Lake. Windows down to let in the breeze, the drive alone helps to release tension. At the lake, the dogs explore and play. Sometimes I take photos; sometimes I read. I let the view of the water and the movement of the trees do their work. By the time we pile into the car for the ride home, I have let go of all of the day’s aggravations.

Then, I’m ready for the evening’s work.

Timeout for Art: Just Art?

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collagraph, Touch Point

In response to my request for ideas to fill these pages every day, one friend suggested that I just post a picture of a piece of art:

“Just the art. No description needed. Just something you did. That we can appreciate (because we will!). Let us see the art and add our thought/feeling that it provokes……”

Well bless her heart! That sounds wonderful! Not only would I not be needing to make art to talk about, I wouldn’t even need to talk…or write.

But is it cheating? Unfortunately, it feels kind of like cheating. If I commit to writing a blog a day…and then manage it, through hell and high water, for one hundred and forty-five days…I don’t want to take the chance that someone will pull out a rule book and tell me I failed because a blog means words or some such nonsense. So i will write, dammit, even if it’s foolish drivel like this.

Another friend suggested that I post a piece of art and talk about it:

“How about talking about one piece of art that you created per week and any memories surrounding that piece?”

Well, just to avoid the “foolish drivel” designation, let me give a little background.

This is a collagraph print. It is made using a collagraph plate that I created when I was a graduate student at Michigan State University. I was in a not-always-successful relationship; I had two teen-aged daughters; I had a killer schedule of work and classes; I was often desperately lonely for my home on the island. In the middle of a long winter, I got a card from my friend, Topper, on Beaver Island. He gave me all the “news” from home, most of it lies and invention, and it made me feel connected when I most needed it.

I made the collage from his card and letter: I cut the heart from the card stock; the envelope contributed the rectangle shapes; some worn out sandpaper scraps formed the wing-like bits on either side of the heart. Drops of glue march across the top border. It makes me think of a stage, with the curtains pulled back…and there is the heart, exposed, open, sharing.

I titled it “Touch Point.”

Two Days

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Monday and Tuesday are my days off. This week, as always, I had big plans. I was going to give my house a good cleaning after getting caught up on all the chores, clean up the yard and mow the lawn, work in the garden, finish the next issue of the Beacon, write letters, pay  bills, do some long overdue paperwork, get into the studio, play with the dogs, do a little reading, of course write every day and (big drum roll here, please…) catch up on my rest.

Monday, I was out of bed at 6:30. The dogs were fairly frantic, afraid that I had overslept. They couldn’t be convinced otherwise…might as well get up. I got my writing in early, over morning coffee. I ran a sink full of soapy water and did up the dishes I had neglected the night before. I worked my way through two big loads of laundry.

Time, then, to douse myself with mosquito repellent before heading outdoors. I finished moving a big pile of pine chips that the tree trimmer had left on the lawn. They are handy for keeping weeds out of the front walkway, and as mulch around strawberries and Rhododendrons. Still, I wish I had thought to ask him to leave them somewhere off the lawn. As it was, they had to be completely moved away before I could mow.

I moved two chairs and a bench off the lawn, picked up a half dozen dog toys, a few sticks and my clothesline pole. I raked the leaves from the back flower bed, from the north side of the house, from the rosebushes in front, and from around the cherry trees. I gassed up the mower, then cut the grass in the back yard to the fence line and the side yard up to the shed. Those areas are closest to the doors I use most, and are filled with fast-growing quack grass that harbors mosquitoes. They had to be done first.

Hot and exhausted, I walked the dogs, next, then did some paperwork inside during the hottest part of the day. Later, I went back to weeding, watering and mulching in the garden. I intended to finish mowing the grass, but it was almost dinner time. I opted for a shower, and a quiet dinner. There was always Tuesday.

Between dinnertime and bedtime, I gathered photos and typed a short article for the news-magazine, wrote to my daughter about a couple formatting issues, took a phone call, and watched on episode of The West Wing on Netflix.

Tuesday, I let the dogs out and back in at 5:30, then managed to sleep in until eight o’clock. Two phone calls alerted me that the contractors were coming to the hardware store today, to set up our new paint rack. I wanted to be there, as paint is my department, so I scheduled it in. Coffee, writing and  bill paying were next. I then went through old blog posts to find some to use for my radio broadcast, and wrote Kevin to schedule that in. I went through the draft – sent in a PDF file – of the next Beacon and made notes for changes and corrections.  Outside with the dogs, then in to take a shower and get ready to drive to town.

My first stop was the hardware to print out the writings I’d use for my Island Reflections, then to the Post Office. The bank was next, then to McDonough’s Market to replenish their rack with Beacons. A short visit with Sue, at her little gallery, then on to the Community Center to do my recording. I finished just in time to make it to the hardware to meet the contractors and watch the installation of the new color display. Back to McDonough’s Market, then, for a few groceries, and on to Aunt Katie’s to do her floors.

Home again, in time to take the dogs down to Fox Lake for a romp, then supper, more paperwork, then bed.

Two days are never as long as they need to be, for the things I want to fill them with!