Monthly Archives: April 2018

The 52 Lists (for Happiness) Project #18



List the things about yourself that you don’t need to change:

Well, if I took out the word “don’t,” I’d have a very long list at the ready! As it is, it’s a much more difficult question.

  • I don’t have to change my work ethic. Though it is masked by my procrastination and lackadaisical attitude, I actually have a very good work ethic. I credit my father for that.
  • My intelligence. There are still a million things I don’t know, and hundreds of things I would like to learn, but I am fortunate to be fairly smart, and able to learn many things easily.
  • My ability to look at things from both sides, in a fair and open-minded manner.
  • My niceness. Though I certainly have my moments, generally I am a very nice person, kind, thoughtful, and easy to get along with.
  • My talent for telling a story.
  • My ability to add or subtract long strings of numbers, to do multiplication or long division, all quickly, accurately, and without a calculator.
  • My love for my family. Because I couldn’t possibly love them any better than I do already.
  • The way I treat my dogs. As I – with infinite patience – get up for the sixth time in five minutes to let one of them in or out, calmly saying, “Come in,” or advising, “Be careful out there,” I often think, “I WISH I’d had this much patience twenty-five years ago, when I was raising my girls!”


Yesterday (April A~Z Challenge)



Yesterday was the last full day of our Sister’s Vacation in Florida. This afternoon, we fly back to Flint, Michigan and whatever spring weather is waiting for us there. I’m pretty sure it won’t be as sunny or as warm as what we’ve experienced here.

We’ll scatter, then, each to our own homes. On Sunday (tomorrow), I’m getting together with my daughters and their families to catch up on the birthdays and holidays that have happened since I saw them last, and on all the things going on in their lives. By Monday evening, I’ll be back on Beaver Island, faced with months before I will see any of them again.

Did I appreciate yesterday enough? Did I take time to think about how special it is to wake up with these girls I have known my entire life? Did I relish every conversation with each of my sisters? Was I thankful for their laughter and camaraderie? What about the sunshine…and the color of the sky? Was I present enough for all of it?

I hope so…because yesterday is never coming back around. Too often, it seems, I appreciate the moments only after they are gone. I’m trying to do better. Surrounded by my sisters, clearly aware of the ones no longer here, I am particularly aware of how important it is to cherish all the moments of all the days…before they turn into yesterdays.


X is a Verb (April A~Z Challenge)



I’ve been wracking my brain for days, trying to come up with a writing topic for the letter X. There are few choices! The ever so predictable “X-Ray” occupied my thoughts for a while. That was followed by “xylophone,” which I would be hard-pressed to write more than a sentence or two about, and then “Xavier,” which also drew a blank. I toyed with the idea of “xanthum gum,” which I’ve seen listed as an ingredient in foods…but I didn’t know anything about it beyond just that.

I had almost settled on “X marks the spot,” for which I was going to have to struggle to pull together an essay about maps or treasure hunting or something. Finally, joyously, it dawned on me: in my life, X is a verb!

I think, daily, in terms of what items I can “X off.” I have lists of chores, daily and monthly. I have lists of books I have read, and others I want to read. I keep lists of movies I want to see, podcasts I want to listen to and Ted Talks I want to watch. I have a Wish List, a Bucket List and a Long-Term Goals List. There is always something to be marked with an X.

I say, “I was able to X off a few things,” or “I Xed that off my movie list after I read the review,” or “I’m busy Xing off monthly chores today.” Now, thanks to this revelation, I can successfully X off the blog post for the letter X!


Exhibit A


Exhibit B


Timeout for Art: Wabi-Sabi (April A~Z Challenge)



Well, clearly this photograph is not a depiction of my art. It is a good example, though, of Wabi-Sabi, which plays an important role in my art work.

“Wabi-Sabi is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.

It is a beauty of things modest and humble.

It is a beauty of things unconventional.

When computers, methods of graphic design and new technology enabled a level of perfection in art that was impossible before, the concept of Wabi-Sabi was redemption. My art would never be perfect. I am sloppy in my work habits, careless in measuring, and unskilled in the tools that would take these imperfections away. Beyond that, I’m not at all convinced I would ever want to. I like fabrics that show wear, objects worn smooth by handling, and walls that hold layers of paint and paper.

At Crampton Park, in Lapeer, Michigan where I grew up, there is an ancient willow tree that grows almost sideways, fed by and leaning down toward the waters of the Flint River. When my daughters were small, they scampered up that tree, slid along its trunk, and jumped off the one-foot drop into the sand…as a hundred other children had done before them. Evidence to that fact was the horizontal surface of the tree trunk: bare of bark and polished to a high gloss by the many little pairs of dungarees that scooted across it. That is beautiful to me.

When I visit a city, I look for signs of its history. The sleek new metal and glass structures do not interest me. I am drawn to the railings worn smooth by a thousand hands, the floors that have pathways worn into them from all of the feet that have walked there. I am attracted to the sides of buildings where layer upon layer of advertising reveals the past, in fragments. That is beautiful to me.

In art, I like to see the hand of the artist at work. I don’t want smoothed out brushstrokes, or to have a misguided line erased away. To see the path that the artist took to get to the finished product is a gift. I feel that gift when I look at the heavy marks of the brush left in a painting by Van Gogh; I can almost imagine that I am looking right over his shoulder as he works, his strokes are so vivid.

So, in my own work, I embrace the imperfection, the humble materials, the layers that reflect my process, and the stages that have led me to the completion of a piece. I’m afraid I couldn’t achieve perfection if I wanted it. Fortunately, that is not my goal!

Viking Chicken (April A~Z Challenge)



I was on-line wandering around Pinterest a few weeks ago, looking for Bullet Journal inspiration. A new month was coming up, and I was planning to change a few things. I’m finally very pleased with my habit tracker. Though I’m still fine tuning the list of habits that I track (remove “strength training,” as I haven’t done it in 2 months; add “sweep” to see if it makes me more diligent about doing it regularly…), the layout is working for me. I like the sleep tracker I’ve been using, too, and I feel like my sleep patterns have actually improved since I’ve been keeping track.

I was thinking, though of switching to a weekly format for my daily pages. I clearly don’t need one whole page per day. For a while, I was giving each day whatever space it needed, but then I had to wait for one day to be finished before I set up the next day. I like to get my month’s worth of daily pages laid out at the beginning of the month, so I can fill in appointments, work schedule, et cetera. Most recently, two days shared a page, four days in a two-page spread. Still, I have often had extra room where I can scribble in a little drawing, or add a quotation.

It would be nice, I thought, to have a whole week on one two-page spread. The problem being that there are SEVEN days in a week. Not six. Not eight, no. That would be too easy. Seven. Which does not divide evenly by two. So, I was looking on Pinterest to get some ideas of how others have made the ungainly odd number work. I got some good ideas, too. But not before I veered far off track. Pinterest, you know.

Anyway, as I breezed through day beds and studio spaces, encaustic art and weight loss plans, I was intrigued by a recipe titled Medieval Roast Chicken. I could see two ingredients (apple cider vinegar, 4-5 lb. chicken)in the photo, but the recipe wasn’t offered. So I went to Google to see what I could come up with. The Food Network had a recipe with that title, but the ingredients were different (no apple cider vinegar). But, down the list a ways, there was a recipe for Viking Chicken…so I had a look at that.

Viking Chicken is simply a chicken seasoned with salt, pepper and paprika, cooked in a hot oven over a bed of fruits and vegetables. They suggested many fruits that would work, including lemon, apples, grapefruit, tangerines and mangoes. I had apples, and they were just starting to get a little wrinkly, so I was happy to have a use for them. The vegetables I used were the same ones they recommended: onion, carrot, and celery.

I baked it all in an uncovered roaster at 400 degrees for about an hour and a half. The chicken was moist and good, with a crispy skin. The onions hadn’t softened as much as I’d have liked, but the carrots and celery were done. I hadn’t expected to like the apples cooked in this way…but it doesn’t hurt to try something new, right? It turns out, I loved them! The salt from the chicken toned down their sweetness, and they weren’t mushy at all, but a nice flavor with the meat. I sauteed a mound of kale to fill out the plate, and was pleased with the whole meal.





I’ve had jobs through my life that required a uniform. Working as a student nurse-aide when I was in high school, I wore a yellow-and-white striped dress with a name tag. Clear stockings and white serviceable shoes completed the ensemble. Later, as a full-fledged nurse aide, I wore a similar uniform in plain white.

As a waitress at the Shamrock Bar & Restaurant on Beaver Island, my first uniforms were ugly polyester green and white seersucker pantsuits. Next, they went to even uglier long green jumpers. Finally, Shamrock T-shirts with my own slacks or shorts became the best solution. Having worked there for more than twenty years, I had quite a collection of vintage Shamrock T-shirts! I did a short stint of serving at the Big Boy, whose uniform – at that time – was a rust brown polyester dress with a gold striped neckerchief, clear stockings and brown shoes. The other restaurants I’ve worked at – the Pretzel Bell, the Old Rectory and the Beaver Island Lodge – have had simple uniforms consisting of black slacks and white blouses.

When I got divorced, knowing that my budget did not allow for much spending on my wardrobe, I implemented something of a uniform for myself. I assessed my clothing, and made a plan. I figured that if I only purchased items in back, white and denim, everything I owned would coordinate. My mother, who hated to see me dressed all in black, could be counted on to brighten my wardrobe with Christmas gifts of bright sweaters. I have maintained this “uniform” now for more than thirty years.

Lately, I’ve been reading about the capsule wardrobe, and the benefits of living with less. I could certainly use to pare down the amount of clothing I own! After a certain age, I settled into a style of dressing that suits me, and stuck with it; there is little change to keep up with current trends.

I try to maintain my size, with no more than a little change up or down through the year.  I find that I rarely wear things out any more, so the items I have last a long time.  So, even with a minimal clothing budget, over the years I have accumulated a large wardrobe. As I look to paring down, I’m happy to have settled into dressing in  a “uniform” of sorts. It makes all decisions for what to buy, what to keep, and what to give away much simpler. And, it takes the decision-making out of getting dressed in the morning!

Tommy (April A~Z Challenge)


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I have five wonderful grandchildren. Tommy is one of them.

He’s not the only boy; I have four grandsons: Mikey, Brandon, Tommy and Patrick. His sister, Madeline, has the distinction of being my only granddaughter.

Tommy is not the oldest; that would be his big brother, Mikey.

Tommy is not the youngest; that’s his cousin, Patrick. He is the youngest in his immediate family, though.

He is also known for his kindness, generosity of spirit and exceptional sense of humor. When he was still a baby, his mother noted that Tommy was finding his place in her large family by being the most sweet-natured of all of them. He almost always has a welcoming smile on his face. When he visited me on Beaver Island two years ago, he made new friends every day. Being shy myself, I was continually impressed with his easy conversational abilities. He is a very special young man.

Still, he’s one of five. So, why is Tommy showing up on my blog today? Well, conveniently, his name begins with the letter T. More importantly, though, tomorrow is Tommy’s 16th birthday. That earns him a spot in my April A~Z challenge.

Happy Birthday, Tommy!

The 52 Lists (for Happiness) Project #17



List the movies, books and TV shows that make you feel happy:

  • I just finished reading What my Mother Gave Me, with contributions by various authors. The book was a gift, which always seems to make the content extra special. The theme was a good one, and all the different perspectives were a joy to read.
  • The Poems of Emily Dickinson. Always a pleasure!
  • Anything written by E.B. White makes me happy. I’ve recently started reading a collection of his writings on dogs, and it keeps me smiling.
  • Though I never watched Sex and the City when it was on the air, I watch it sometimes on Netflix, and it entertains me.
  • I thoroughly enjoyed watching the first season of  The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
  • I did a little Meryl Streep movie marathon during a long weekend in my studio. It’s Complicated, Julie and Julia and Mama Mia are all happy films.
  • Billy Elliot makes me feel good.
  • So does The Fisher King.
  • I truly enjoy reading cookbooks. Some of my favorites are Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant, The Little Paris Kitchen, Let’s Get Together, and An Everlasting Meal.


Stress (April A~Z Challenge)



I’m away from home this week, and through the end of the month, visiting family, taking care of some finances and bookkeeping, and traveling to Florida for a week-long vacation with my sisters. It is wonderful to get away…but travel always comes with some level of tension, too.

First, the packing. I have spent some part of every day over the last two months worrying over what I could pack for this trip. Downstate in Michigan at the end of April can be an entirely different climate than Beaver Island, Michigan. Then there is Florida. Land of bathing suits and shorts and sleeveless dresses. And me with all of my winter’s fat to contend with…you can see where the stress is coming from.

Beyond clothes, which had to be divided between the Florida suitcase and the Michigan suitcase, there are all of the papers I need in order to get my taxes filed. Forms, receipts, bank statements and business records necessitated their own brief case. The computer, another. Because my daughters and I were unable to get together over Christmas, we are planning a late celebration of that holiday. So, gifts had to be wrapped and packed for travel, too.

Reading material is another whole category of anxiety. What books shall I pack? If they are too good, I’ll finish them too quickly and be left without anything to read. What if I don’t like them? Should I start them first, to make sure they’ll hold my attention? To complicate matters, my  eight-year-old electronic reader – which was my back-up source – quit working last week. And, books are heavy, when freight is paid for by the pound!

The dogs are a major source of stress before I leave home. I’m sure they are fine in the kennel. I know all their needs are met. I probably miss them more than they miss me. Still, before I leave them, I am practically overwhelmed by guilt and worry.

Finally, there is the trip itself. Two hundred and fifty miles can seem like a huge distance when I am alone in the car. Especially if the road conditions are not good…or if traffic is heavy…or if I encounter detours…or mechanical problems.

Let me be clear: I love to get away from home. I also think that “stress” is a far over-used word lately. However, when I’m preparing for a trip, there is no word more definitive!