Monthly Archives: November 2017

One Big Discouragement




After several days of mostly gray, the sun is shining bright this morning. My spirits needed it. A short exchange yesterday left me feeling dispirited.

When I turned on the computer yesterday morning, a message popped up from my friend, Linda. It directed me to her social media page, to look at a response to something she had posted. It took me a minute to find it. Linda had put up a news blurb about Massachusetts making birth control free to all residents. She had commented briefly, basically saying “Good for them,” and “I knew there was a reason I’ve always loved the east coast.” Certainly, with all the things, these days, to argue about, I wouldn’t have thought this was anything that would stir controversy.

First, someone said, “It’s not ‘free.’ Someone has to pay for it.” Linda said, “Well, I hope it’s my taxes, then…” and that was the end of that. Then someone else weighed in:

“The Illegals will out number us one day if we don’t start to repopulate at a faster rate… Americans aren’t having kids and our numbers are going down with us only having 2 maybe 3 kids and the Illegals having 5 or 6, they will out number us 2 to 1 in the coming years… America as we know it is over and change of race is on the rise… We will never be great again.. We will die out if it keeps going like it is …wait and see…Americans are being taking over by our own way of living..We need to start having larger families to safeguard our own race… we are killing our selves off by not reproducing … it’s really true and it’s happening right under our noses… wake up and look at the numbers of Illegals and our own…”


Linda was equally disbelieving (“are you joking???”), but dove in to talk about the expense of raising children, the numbers of babies born to homes that can’t afford to support them and the impracticality of the whole idea. The woman shot back:

“I’m not saying anything but the facts and the facts show white American will be the minority in just a few years and Illegals will out number us… So unless we start to increase our numbers we will be out bred and out numbered! We will loose to a group of people who do not want our laws but their own instead and unless we open our eyes and look at the numbers it is already happening… anyone can check on it yourselves… National study shows we will be out numbered in a few short years… they still are having 4,5 and 6 kids…. we pay for it now and will pay for it more later… they don’ t have to worry about taking over now they just come here and raise their kids and let them have kids and before you know it they will out number us and take over will just happen….may not in your lifetime but it will happen and there is nothing to do but sit back and watch it happen if we don’t start having larger familes to replace our elderly and those who die…. less are being born and more are dying then are being replaced… Numbers don’t lie…and neither am I… watch it is already happening…, I don’t think I’m superior to anyone but we are talking about our own race of Americans and the hate for us is still going up and I am a survivor and want to see us live on and not die out like we are heading… We need a breading program to help our own race stay strong… We are killing ourselves off and I hate to see it happen,,, Most illegals don’t respect our laws or beliefs I just hate to see it all end… We were great once but never again I fear… didn’t mean to go on but I feel very strongly about us being bred out.. like the animals we kill off we not do it to ourselves…. I pray the Spirits watch over us and help us to stay around….”

I know better, but I jumped in anyway:

“…you say “illegals,” but your narrative seems to actually be speaking of “non-white.” And your entire conversation sounds much like Hitler, wanting to repopulate and reinforce his “master race.” If you look very closely at when America was “great,” you’ll see that a segment of the population was, yes, and the country as a whole looked good to the world in business, technology and industry…but there was a lot of suffering that didn’t get a voice. I, for one, do not want to be “great” if it is at the expense of the suffering of others. We are capable of better. We are a country made up of great individuals. When the whole world is at a breaking point when it comes to overpopulation, the loss of “your people” should be of little concern…we are on the verge of losing everything. I don’t know you, but you are dangerously misinformed.”

Then my younger daughter noticed the conversation, and added her opinion:

“So? If white is the minority? To admit you don’t want to be a minority is admitting that perhaps things aren’t going so fairly for minorities.. .Its 2017, I do not care at all about skin color and I certainly am not concerned if I belong to the group with the most members. What I DO hope dies out is your sad racist bloodline.”

(I’m so proud of her!)

It was all very exhilarating…but just for a moment. Then the reality set in: somebody really thinks this way. Based on the very little I know about the woman (her profile picture, her grammar), she is not stupid…but pretty bold in her defense of some – in my opinion – unkind, divisive and down-right dangerous ideas. That’s when it struck me: she is not alone. She has discussed these thoughts before; she has heard them from others; there is support for this way of thinking. That’s when the gray of the weather infected my mood, and I spent a long day wagging my head back and forth and wondering, “How did we come to this?”

This morning, the sun is out. Today, I can relegate her ignorant opinions to the collection of others that I am struggling to live my life around, without falling into despair. Today, I will look at what’s good and right in this world…and enjoy the sunshine.


Today, I’m Thankful



If the spirit moves me, I can almost always think of lots to complain about. There is the weather, often, whether it leans toward the “unseasonably warm,” the “damp and dreary” or the “too damn cold.” I have a dozen aches and pains and a hundred jobs not done. There are too many things I want or need, and too little money. Never enough time. There is the N key, and sometimes also the G and the K, on my keyboard, that stubbornly do not want to type when pressed. I am constantly having to go back over my writing, to fill in the missing letters. And work; if I want to complain, there’s always something going wrong at work. Grumbling is easy.

Being thankful is more difficult. It’s harder, often, to see the good…easy to just take it for granted. I’ve always been like this. There are few times in my life when I felt pure gratitude and appreciation in the present, for more than just a fleeting moment. I was always too busy analyzing the situation, or anticipating the future. Looking back, there are many, many days that make my heart swell with the poignancy, perfection and joy locked into those memories. I wish I’d had the good sense to appreciate them at the time.

My mother was always good at counting her blessings, and she encouraged all of her children to do the same. My sister Brenda is a master at “looking on the bright side.” I have to work at it, most of the time. Usually, it’s a struggle to find reasons for gratitude. I end up using tried and true platitudes of “my family,” “my friends” and “my good health.” Though I’m truly thankful for all three, it misses the point. Today was a notable exception. For whatever reason, today I feel thankful.

Every single time I got up in the night, I was thankful to return to the warmth of my bed. I felt genuinely grateful as I pulled the covers back over me. I was thankful for a good night’s sleep, and to wake up well-rested and ready for the day.

My dish soap, in a clear pump-style container, is now showing bands of yellow, green and gold, caused by the different types of detergent combined there. It makes me smile. It also makes me grateful for my brother-in-law, Dennis, who inspired me to combine things. He can’t stand, for instance, having two or three partial boxes of crackers or cereal taking up space. “Let’s just mix them together,” he’ll suggest, which leads to some unlikely combinations. We had some fun last summer, discussing this, and thinking of the worst mixtures: Count Chocula and Wheat Chex; Cap’n Crunch and Raisin BranShredded Wheat and granola.

Still, it made me think, and now I combine quite a few things. Half-bottles of lotion or shampoo are now poured together, always into the prettiest bottle. It cuts down on clutter, and makes for surprising new scents. As for the dish soap, I buy what’s on sale, or what appeals to me at the moment. I add it to the large container, which then provides a brand new color combination to appreciate, right there at my kitchen sink.

I was thankful that today was Sunday, which means a short day of work, and the next two days off. Work was not difficult, and, while there, I had good conversations with two different friends named John. The dogs gave me their usual enthusiastic greeting when I got home, and the three of us spent a couple hours outside. Because I had inadvertently left the heater on, I came inside to a nice, warm house. Last night, I prepared enough extra so that dinner will be easy to get on the table tonight.

I have some good books in progress. I’m reading The Abundant Bohemian (Live an Unconventional Life without Starving in the Process) by Joseph Downing. I feel like he’s saying exactly what I need to hear, to make me stop doubting the choices I have made, and appreciate what my choices have given me. I also picked up Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit. It is powerful writing – honest and funny – that tackles large issues of gender and equality. I am continuing to savor a wonderful compilation of poetry that my friend Norm loaned me. Finally, The Moth, 50 true stories told by a variety of people on Public Radio, now in print, and given to me by my brother-in-law, Keith (who I am also grateful for).

Nothing out of the ordinary…just an average good day. The only thing remarkable about it is that I found myself thankful for it. That, alone, makes it an extraordinary day!


What is the opposite of Thanksgiving?


My friend Kathy, who writes from the woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, shared these wise thoughts a few years ago. I think they’re well worth sharing again.

Lake Superior Spirit

Perhaps we all know what Thanksgiving is.  We know what it feels like.  Underneath all our turkey and stuffing, we know that Thanksgiving feels like gratitude, appreciation and love.  It smells like pumpkin pie mixed with joy.  It tastes like mashed potatoes whipped with the heart’s fairest harvest.  It is the giving of the feast of compassion, the giving of our deepest gifts.

But what is the opposite of Thanksgiving?

Could it be the way we steer through our days on auto-pilot, concerned only about getting things done?  Concerned primarily about connecting the dots between A and B?  Could the opposite of Thanksgiving be our busy lives, our focused doing, our physical robotic movements?

Could the opposite of Thanksgiving be our forgetting to be grateful?  Our forgetting to marvel at the small gifts which life presents, moment after moment, hour after hour, day after day?  Could it be a sin…

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Thinking, Again…



Do you think we’re a little weight-obsessed?

Several years ago, a man working with the public here on the island went – over a period of several months – from a sturdy and strong but a little-bit paunchy middle-aged person to a lean, if a bit haggard-looking one. “You look great,” he heard time and time again. “What are you doing to lose all that weight?” It turned out, he had an aggressive cancer, and only a short time to live.

My daughter, who was always just plump enough to frustrate her, slimmed down over a difficult period that included a pregnancy plagued with gestational diabetes, a divorce, a move, and caring for a newborn. She ran into an old friend, who had also recently been divorced after a long marriage, and suffered all the trauma usually associated with it. As they hugged and exchanged pleasantries, they admired each other’s sleek figures. “No doubt about it,” my daughter said, “divorce looks damn good on a woman!”

I have a friend whose mother struggled with her weight for most of her life. She regularly attended a weight-loss support group, where the participants were put on a scale each week, to note pounds lost. They recognized the biggest loser by giving them a crown to wear during the rest of the meeting. When she got sick, she swore her daughter to secrecy. She wanted the members of her group to think she was dropping pounds due to determination and hard work, not from the effects of cancer and chemotherapy. She carefully dressed and did her make-up, and covered her bald head before each session. One day, when my friend picked her up from the meeting, she grumbled, “I’d have gotten the crown today, if it weren’t for the weight of this damn turban!”

I went sailing once, as part of a three-person crew in a 29-foot sailboat, in late October. We traveled from Beaver Island’s harbor in Lake Michigan, through the straits of Mackinac, and down the length of Lake Huron to Port Huron. There were a million things to marvel at and leave an impression, from the big bowl of stars that was the night sky, to the quiet and calm taking turns with raging waters, to five days of seasickness. When I tell the story, though, I always mention that I lost two pounds a day.

Similarly, when my sister died suddenly, and I went down-state to help take over her job of caring for my mother at the end of her life, the emotions and experiences altered my life and my way of looking at the world. I could go on and on – and probably have – about that precious and awful time. I always note – as one good thing in the midst of so much sadness – that I lost ten pounds in two weeks.

I know of two women, beloved by all for their kindness and generosity of spirit, beautiful both inside and out, who see their weight as a big failure in life. And I know they’re not alone. I remember the old experiment that asks participants to not think of an elephant; suddenly, they can think of nothing else. I don’t think weight is unimportant; general health and overall well-being are directly related to the weight we carry. I just think we need another obsession.

Monday Musings



I’ve noticed that my Sunday writings have migrated to Mondays over the last few weeks. Likewise, my Thursday writings have pretty much gone out the window. I don’t know why, whether it would be helpful to me to get back on track, or even if it’s possible right now.

From my confident commitments on the first of this year, I have declined into simply “as much as I can, when I can.” Not only in writing, but in just about every single course I had pledged to work on this year. And yet, I still feel pretty good about it because, eleven months in, I have not yet descended to the level of “Whatever…”

One of the rules in my house is that if I write a task in my calendar and then don’t do the job on that day, I can’t resubmit the item on the day that it gets done. For instance, if on Sunday I jot down a few lines as reminders (write; fold jeans; take compost to bin; clean sink) and then totally blow off the list to walk the dogs and then snuggle with them on the floor on the dog bed while watching BirdMan, the jobs still need to be done…on Monday. On Monday, when I do them, I can cross them off Sunday’s page, but then I have to do even more stuff to show that I also had a productive Monday. The moral of that story is this:

Only write down jobs as you complete them – never before.

My task manager is not my boss. The only things that should be written down ahead of time are appointments and specifics (like bank days or work obligations) that might otherwise slip my mind. Who needs a list of chores hanging over their head, without regard to the sun coming out, the dogs wanting attention, or a dozen other things that might get in the way of me following that path? Not me. My calendar is there to remind that every day is productive and full, in its own way. I just need to remember to use it that way.






Today is one of those misty days that makes the landscape appear hazy.  Everything looks as if it’s shrouded in gauze. Everything feels damp. Even the air is moist. A quick walk around the yard through the melting snow, and my feet are soaked. I slide out of wet shoes, and put them near the heater to dry. I peel off the heavy, cold and dripping socks, and replace them with thick, soft, warm ones. This is a day to have a pot of soup on the stove…a loaf of bread rising on the table.

Yesterday…did I even make it outside? Maybe, briefly. I didn’t pay much attention to the weather then, or the many times I opened the door to let the dogs inside or outside. I tackled a few chores, but left a list of things undone, too. Yesterday, I got the idea to make slippers…like the slippers I used to make for my husband and daughters when my family was young…for Christmas gifts. Everything else went by the wayside.

First I pulled down the basket of yarn from the top shelf, where it has sat, neglected, for weeks. My last project was a giant sock to fit over one unfortunate grandson’s cast. Before that…I can’t remember. It was maybe a year or more since I’d crocheted.

As a young mother, I crocheted every day. Out of each week’s grocery budget, I’d buy one skein of yarn: a different color every week. All of my projects were improvisations, based on the yarn I had on hand. I made hats and scarves, slippers and ponchos. I made piles of granny squares to be fitted together into afghans. I made stuffed animals and puppets. I plotted needlepoint designs to use up all the bits and scraps of yarn. For every single finished project, I always had a dozen that I’d abandoned half-way through.

Yesterday, after assessing the available yarn, I decided the slippers would – out of necessity – be not quite identical. I used two strands of yarn: one four-ply, one two-ply, and when I ran out of one, I attached another. I finished two pair of slippers, and started a third, while watching about four hours of programs on my computer. I drank coffee until I’d emptied the pot, then water, then wine. It was a lovely, self-indulgent day. I don’t dare repeat it!

Today, I have to get busy! I have to complete the tasks that should have been done yesterday, plus all the ones on the list for today. I have cards to write, and phone calls to make. There are rugs to shake and floors to sweep, and laundry to be put through the circuit. I have a collection of staple foods still sitting on the kitchen counter, where they’ve been since I emptied the old cabinet that housed them…to make room for the freezer. There is compost to be taken out to the bin near the garden, and recyclables to be loaded in the car.

If I get to the point where I can say “enough, this will do,” with the housework, the garden still needs to be put to bed for the winter. The long hose needs to be picked up, rolled, and hung in the garden shed. Vines – from beans, peas, squash and tomatoes -need to be pulled up and disposed of. I have to, then, cover any open spaces with straw, to keep the weeds from taking over. There is at least one shovel and a three-pronged cultivator still standing out in the weather.

If I happen to manage to get all of that done, I have a back-up list. It includes things like re-arranging and repairing the kitchen cabinets, painting the floor, and cleaning the car. And now, of course, there are slippers to work on, when there is time. And the studio, always, with projects and plans awaiting. It’s unlikely that, on this day,  I’ll have time for any of that. Especially since – first on my list – I have to get that bread dough started…and get vegetables cut up for the soup!



Minor (Major) Accomplishments



Some days start like an explosion. I was thinking of the times in my life when that happened regularly: on vacation; when newly in love; during the first weeks of an unfamiliar undertaking.  Every day, then, would be filled with adventures. I would leap out of bed like a shot, ready to welcome the morning, and whatever experiences might await.

That rarely happens lately. Even if I’m wide awake, having gotten a full eight hours – or even more – of sleep…with only minor interruptions from dreams or nature’s call…I could happily lay abed most mornings. “Get up,” I tell myself, and then run through the reasons why I should. And I do get up, then, but without enthusiasm.

Some days, after the heater is on and the coffee is brewed, I warm up to the tasks and projects at hand. Not today. Not so far, anyway. This morning, I started slowly and have continued without zeal. On days like this, the small things are big accomplishments: roll over; get up; breathe in, breathe out.

Today, the smallest achievements are noted. Credit must be taken, after all. Even on this lazy day:

  • I made the bed before the dogs claimed the space for their nap,
  • drank an entire pot of coffee
  • while I caught up on the news,
  • and unsubscribed to a dozen sites that have been clogging my in-box.
  • I took two phone calls,
  • greeted one surprise visitor at the door (in my pajamas, no less!),
  • and have been slowly but surely working my way through yesterday‘s “to-do” list.

This bit  of writing gives me one more item that I can check off.

It’s now 1 P.M. I should get out of these pajamas. There is still time to turn this day around!