Monthly Archives: August 2016

The 52 Lists Project #34

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List the things that make you excited:

  • Family or friends coming to visit.
  • A new issue of the Beaver Island Beacon getting published.
  • Getting mail.
  • Receiving packages.
  • A new book.
  • Christmas season.
  • New socks.
  • Big, flashing, booming thunderstorms.
  • A brand new journal.
  • Art supplies.
  • Visiting galleries.
  • Changing seasons, the good stuff, only: the first tulip opening in the spring; the first hot summer day; the first golden leaves of autumn; the first snowfall.
  • A bargain, when it is something I needed anyway.

One Productive Day

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Oh, my gosh, that title deserves an exclamation point!

The countdown is on, with just a few days until my birthday. This will be my sixty-fourth. That seems as momentous as any of the thirty, forty, fifty, sixty milestone birthdays, and even more meaningful than the sixty-fifth. Why? Well, sixty-five no longer means retirement. Even if I were not on the “work until death” track, sixty-six would be the minimum desired age for retirement considering social security benefits. “Sixty-five” is still more than a year away, while “sixty-four” is right here. Finally and most importantly, because the Beatles sang about age sixty-four. It’s been in my head for weeks…”Will ya still need me, will ya still feed me…when I’m sixty-four?”

So, with a momentous birthday coming up, I’ve been making self-improvement plans. My birthday is second only to January first when it comes to recharging and renovating my entire life. So far, I have started reading The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr, 59 Seconds (Think a little, Change a lot) by Professor Richard Wiseman, and 52 Small Changes (One year to a happier, healthier you) by Brett Blumenthal. I’m also working through a book of inspirational quotes that my sister Brenda gave me. I scheduled a mammogram. I started a new journal. As a gift to myself, I met with a psychic/ Tai Chi instructor/ reiki healer for an insightful session. I have plans to get a new haircut, improve my diet and solidify an exercise habit. I am going to do better about making this house a pleasant place to be. This is just the beginning!

Yesterday was a good start. I accomplished a great deal in nine hours at work. I restocked shelves, then went down the housewares, paint, caulk and cleaning aisles to add items to this week’s order. I tidied areas of the basement and brought up all the corrugated cardboard for recycle. I organized the overhead storage of buckets, cleaning products and drywall corner bead. Finally, near the end of the day and with Kathleen’s help, I brought the Libman display upstairs and started putting it together.

After work, I filled the car up with gas, came home, picked up the dogs and took them to Fox Lake. I did not carry the little dog to the car when I wanted to leave, but waited until the dogs were ready to go. It was a humid day, and they were loving the water. Rosa Parks went in swimming six times! Darla waded the shoreline, investigating prints left by horses in the sand. We didn’t get home until after eight o’clock. By then, they were wondering why I was so late with their dinner!

While the dogs were eating, I put what was left of a roast chicken in a big pot of water with carrots, broccoli, cauliflower and mushrooms, to make soup. I hooked up my new dryer vent, and did a load of wash. I washed a sink full of accumulated bowls, cups and silverware, took the compost out to the bin, swept the kitchen, then sat down to supper…at eleven o’clock at night. It was a really productive day. I don’t know how many more of them I can stand!

Title? Content?

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Sometimes just coming up with a title settles my mind and gives me something to write a few paragraphs about. Sometimes, it’s finding just the right photograph. There are some days when I am happy to wallow in misery and complaints. Others when I have an idea in mind and expand on it. I appreciate the days when I have a set direction. None of that is working out for me this morning.

I have a draft started about my long, busy day yesterday, and all the elements that contributed to it. I have another about all the things I did to take care of myself after that hard day, and bring me back to center. I could have pulled either of them together into a reasonable post, one a little whiny, the other perhaps hopeful and helpful. Neither felt genuine.

I’ve been doing this long enough now, where I can elaborate on almost anything, enough for a short essay. That’s okay if it’s Tuesday, and the topic is a writing challenge. It’s not okay every day. Despite the added responsibility of getting something published every single day, I would like to stay true to my initial purpose in writing this blog. That is, to be aware.

Just the fact that I have this writing commitment has helped. I have to be aware of what is going on around me, as it might become something I could write about. I pay attention to the weather (today, moist, as if it rained through the night, and cooler). I watch like a hawk for my dogs to do something that would inspire an essay. Conversations – whether overheard or ones that I’m a part of – could help me to develop more authentic dialogue. Conflicts might help me with arguing a point. Sometimes, in spite of it all, there is just nothing to write about. Today seems to be one of those days.

What Goes Wrong

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Ah, the best laid plans. Yesterday, Tuesday, I wrote an extra essay. I scheduled it to be published in the early morning hours today, Wednesday. That way, I’m a little ahead of the game. I’ve done this before. In fact, I have quite a few of the “52 Lists Project” underway, and I add thoughts and pictures, or flesh out ideas when I have time. When I’m taking a trip, as I did this last spring to meet my new great-grandson in Connecticut, I write several days ahead, and just schedule them to be published on a certain day. I figure if time opens up or inspiration strikes, I can write a fresh blog, and delay publication of the pre-written one for another time. It usually works just fine. It’s kind of cheating if you think I agreed to write every day…though I do still write every day, in other forms and formats; it’s not cheating if you understand that what I committed to was publishing a blog each day. Anyway, the blog I wrote yesterday to be published today accidentally got published yesterday…so here I am, at 1:37AM actual time, writing this lame excuse for a blog so that I will fulfill my obligation. Even though I’m tired, have to work in the morning, and published two blogs yesterday. You can’t say I don’t take this stuff seriously!

Walking with Darla II

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On a day when I have to work, the dogs know they should be thankful for whatever they get in the way of exercise. If I get up early, it might be an actual walk, while the coffee’s brewing, down the road to the drive that marks one half mile. If I sleep late, it might be a simple wander around the yard. If I sleep very late, I may just send them out on their own while I drink coffee and get ready to rush off…with the promise that I’ll make it up to them later, with a ride down to Fox Lake, of course.

Rosa Parks could really go either way. Some days she passes on the walk altogether. She often has to be carried out to the yard, when it’s early. She’d opt for a ride any day, if given a choice. Darla takes her walk seriously, and never misses a chance. If she realizes that I’m not going to work, she gets down-right demanding. That’s a good thing, in this household. Who knows what I would forget, if the dogs forgot to ask!

Darla is a mild-mannered dog, though, and even her “demands” are pretty tame. When she wants to keep her spot on the bed or the couch, it’s passive resistance all the way. She just makes herself totally limp, and pretends to be unaware of my coaxing. When she wants to be petted, she tucks her big head under my hand. When she wants to take a walk, she picks up whichever toy she has decided gets the honor of coming along and puts her chin on my lap. “Look,” she is telling me, “the giraffe is ready to go for a walk!”

We check with Rosa Parks, then, to see if she feels up to coming along. If not, she gets a biscuit to keep her occupied. Darla and I head out, the little stuffed giraffe in her mouth, tail in the air, a bounce in her step. She waits at the end of the driveway until she sees the path I will take. North, if it’s early, where the open road offers sunshine; south, later in the day, to take advantage of the shade. Sometimes – especially if Rosa Parks is with us – west, down the long drive to Cotter’s cabin. There is no traffic there, yet plenty of squirrels to keep their attention.

Darla likes to be in the lead, but she always knows my whereabouts. At some point she tires of carrying the toy, and puts it down on the side of the road. Sometimes she picks it up on the way home; sometimes she retrieves it another day. She always seems to know where she’s left them.

Yesterday, walking home, we came upon two scooters, parked at the roadside, and two men looking at the trees. Darla went ahead to see. I called out a hello, and told them she was a friendly dog, in case her size would frighten them. “We like dogs,” they called back, and put out hands for her to sniff while I caught up. We had a short conversation, then, about dogs and trees and the weather. Darla rested at my feet until I was ready to continue our walk.

Home, she boasts, just a little bit, about getting a walk if Rosa Parks didn’t. She takes a big drink of water, and is ready to relax. Our exercise is done for the day.

Tuesday: Exercises in Writing #11

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Today’s writing idea comes from Melissa Donovan, one of 25 writing prompts at her “Writing Forward” blog.

Tell bad drivers, rude customers, and evil dictators how grateful you are for what they’ve done. Do it with a wink and a smile.

First, let me say how very fortunate I am to have found this writing prompt at this particular time of year. I have just made it through the busiest part of our summer season, the most stressful period in the whole year. I’ve been feeling pretty good about it, too. I work long hours in customer service at a hardware store in a tourist destination.

Every single time an item was brought to the register, and wouldn’t scan, the customer said, “Must be free.” Young, old, rich or poor, it made no difference, when an item doesn’t scan as it should with the bar-code reader (which is, after all, a fallible and fairly new invention), the universal suggestion is “Must be free.” Hearing it a hundred times over the summer allowed me to perfect my response, which is, “That is so rarely the case, Sir [or Ma’am or even precocious toddler], that I hate to have you get your hopes up.”

Customers often charge in the door, look me square in the eye, and bellow, “Hammers!” or “Duct Tape!” or “Floor Leveler!” Their day, I guess, does not allow for the time it would take to speak in entire sentences, as in “Hello! Where would I find the duct tape?” I answer this way: “Well, Duct Tape to you, too, sir! That’s an unusual greeting, but a fine one anyway. Walk with me and I’ll show you where to find it.”

Others begin their greeting with, “You ain’t got no…” which is annoying for its negativity, even when spoken with proper grammar. Why did they even come in the door if they’re so sure we don’t have it? My responses vary, depending on my mood. I might say, with horror, “We don’t? Oh, my gosh! We’ve always had it before…” or, “Yes, Mr. Negative, I hate to contradict, but we do carry that item…” or a simple, “Do, too!”

My boss and my co-workers, though, generally greet me with a glance at the clock. Because otherwise, I guess, I might not realize the time, or be aware that I’m late. I used to offer reasons, but I’m sure they’re as tired of hearing them as I am of telling them. It’s always something. First, there is the alarm clock, and all the things that can go wrong there, what with batteries and snooze button and accidentally falling back asleep after turning it off.  There is coffee to make and a thermos to be filled. I check my Email over morning coffee, which sometimes leads to something else that needs to be dealt with. If I wasn’t awake at three AM writing it, I write my daily blog. I often pack a lunch. Shower. Dress.

There are the dogs, who want belly rubs and ear scratches on awakening. They need at least a stroll around the yard if not a walk down the road in the morning. Before I leave, Rosa Parks needs to have her medicine crushed in the mortar and pestle, mixed with a little wet food and served in her little flowered porcelain dish (which sometimes has to be found first) as I tell her, “You take care of things!” Darla needs the same, without the medicine, just to be fair.

I travel to work on narrow, gravel roads that are also used by bicyclists, joggers, dog walkers and one elderly driver who insists on a snail’s pace for his pick-up truck. In addition, I have to watch for deer, squirrels, chipmunks, turtles and flocks of roving wild turkeys. Sometimes, depending on the time of year, the sun is blinding through my dusty windshield. At other times, ice or snow play a part.

If customers call, running late, on their way to town for an emergency purchase, I am happy to stay after hours for them. When my boss expands our hours for summer, I am fine with taking most of those late days. When tourists wander in right at closing time to look around or for a last minute purchase, I am always pleasant. At the beginning of the day, though, I am always late. Thank goodness there is always someone there to bring it to my attention!

I did not walk off my job this year; I did not yell at customers, co-workers or my boss; I did not fall apart. Surprising, when you think about it. Now, thanks to this generous – and spot-on timing – writing prompt, I have been invited to vent! I may be looking at early retirement after all. I could be banished from the island!

 

Quiet Morning

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Suddenly, it’s over.

Yesterday, I stopped at the Holy Cross Hall after work to pick up my supper. Volunteers were manning the long outdoor grills, filling the air with the tempting aroma of roasted chicken. Others were hustling around the kitchen doing prep-work and clean-up. At the back of the hall, long tables were set up with the beverages, chicken, side dishes and desserts; ladies wielding large spoons or tongs waited to help each visitor fill their plate.  There were others at the front entry, selling raffle tickets and collecting the very reasonable fee of $14.00 for a half chicken, grilled, mashed potatoes and gravy, coleslaw, corn, bread and a lovely dessert. I chose not to eat there, at any of the long tables set up for diners, but to take my meal home to reheat after I’d walked the dogs and settled in. I paid for my ticket, then went around to the kitchen door to pick up my food, packaged for travel.

This is Beaver Island’s “Homecoming Dinner,” offered every year, the second weekend in August. It is a traditional reunion weekend, for all old islanders that have left their home here to live ad work elsewhere. It has changed over the years, but is constant in that it marks the end of our tourist season. Oh, we’ll continue to have vacationers, through Labor Day at least, then color tour visitors and those that come for hunting and fishing, but the huge influx of summer people is now, too quickly, over.

The last of my sisters left yesterday, too. The arrival of my family was divided into three ferry trips over two days last Saturday and Sunday. The week was filled with sunshine and laughter, beaches and games, food and wine. The days sped by! The departures were spread over several days. On Thursday, Nicole, Jim, Hannah, Kristen, John, Danielle, Lily and Cash left on the boat. The next day, it was Todd, Tammy, Cole, Cade and Chloe that boarded the ferry to go home. Saturday, it was Amy and Dennis, with their two little dogs. Yesterday, Keith, Brenda, Cheryl and Joel left on the morning  boat that was the busiest boat of the whole season, carrying people away.

Nicole cried when she was leaving. “I hate good-byes,” she told me. “Oh, Sweetheart, then you could never live here;” I told her. “on Beaver Island, in August, it seems like we’re constantly saying good-bye!” It’s true. Every boat carries people away. Many will be back in the spring, or in the heat of summer for their next vacation. There are always some that we will never see again. The hugs are always heartfelt; the final waves from the rail of the ferry are always sad. No matter how you look at it, it’s hard to say good-bye.

This morning, I woke up slowly. I have no place that I have to go. The dogs watch me suspiciously, still not sure that I won’t run off again, to come back hours later smelling like the water, and whatever my sisters gave me to eat and drink. Today, I’m staying home. I’m going easy on myself, and not worrying about my long “To-Do” list. I’m munching pistachio nuts – a gift from Brenda – for breakfast, and drinking my third cup of coffee. I haven’t yet moved far from this desk chair. Some days, a quiet start is best.

 

 

The 52 Lists Project #33

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List the ways that you are a leader:

I am not a leader. I am particular about how things should be done. I can be bossy. I have been a [bad] influence. Still, it is a stretch to think of myself as a leader. Most leadership qualities are imposed only on myself…and I fall short even at that. Still…

  • I’m big on giving  reasons for doing things a particular way. It seems that if it makes sense, of course others will comply. I explain to the point of irritation.
  • I can make myself at home in other people’s kitchens in order to put a meal together. I know what I’m doing when it comes to cooking, and don’t mind asserting myself.
  • I can be quite good at public speaking when I have knowledge or information to share. If I’m teaching or giving a report, my shyness is not generally an issue.
  • I am disciplined about my creativity. I once – after much saving, and paying bills ahead – gave myself eight weeks to pursue the idea of “full time artist” as a career. I worked every day. I produced over two hundred collagraph prints. I entered an art show  and approached several galleries with my work. It never took off as a full time career, but not because I wasn’t willing to give it the time. Always having known myself to be undisciplined and quite lazy, it was an eye-opening experience. This year, I am writing every day. Sometimes it’s hard to find the time or inspiration, but I continue on, anyway.

Karma

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There is a family photo floating around, taken of my mother with many of her grandchildren, that – I admit – has made me smile. In it, my niece Jess – who might, soaking wet, tip the scale at 100 pounds – looks gigantic. She is positioned at the front corner of the picture plane. Everyone else in the photo seems to be in another dimension. A kinder, more slender dimension. Jess looks like a giant, guarding the gates to that other dimension.

There is another family photo that I hold dear. In it, my sisters and I sit in a semi-circle on the edge of a pool. I am at the back of that curve, in the farthest position from the camera. I am wearing a very forgiving black bathing suit. One thick thigh is tucked so closely beside a sister’s leg, it looks slim. Quite a bit of fat rolls are similarly hidden behind the sisters closest to me. At the two front ends of the curve – in that dreaded too-close-to-the-camera spot – are my sisters, Brenda and Amy. Both sisters are taller than me, but otherwise Brenda is about my size, and Amy is a bit smaller. Not in that photograph, though!

I look great! I look especially petite compared to the two giant sisters at the ends! I love that photo! Whenever our trip – or any trip – to Florida is mentioned, I am quick to re-post that picture. Any time we get talking about bathing suits or swimming pools or sisters, I pull out that photo again. “Don’t do it,” Amy will suggest. “Knock it off,” is Brenda’s order. Still, I never miss a chance.

Last night, all that karma came home to rest.

Having said good-bye with tearful hugs, to every sweet niece and nephew and each cute-as-a-button grand-niece and grand-nephew, the sisters and their spouses went out to dinner. Of course, in addition to beautiful ambiance, good food and wine, spectacular desserts, wonderful conversation and the pleasure of the company of loved ones, we had to get a photo.

And look who – with fat arms, double chin and distended belly – ended up in the behemoth position.