Monthly Archives: July 2018

Ice Cream

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[I first pulled this writing prompt last April, as part of the A ~ Z challenge. With snow still on the ground, I was not moved to write about ice cream. Now that summer is here, I think I can manage to come up with a few words!]

When I was a little girl, ice cream came in all sizes and shapes. After church on a summer Sunday, Dad would swing by the dairy. He’d come out with a big brown tub of ice cream, and a gigantic box of cones. We’d store it in the back room, ice cream in the freezer, cones on the long shelf above, and pull it out for after dinner sweetness.

Sometimes, when the milkman came to fill our refrigerator with milk and other dairy products, Mom would catch up with him to get something extra. He’d pull out samples, and let her choose. Waxed paper sheets each held a dozen ice cream treats, molded into identical shapes in surprising colors. One time it was blue dolphins, their backs curved over the paper like waves. Another time it was flowers in pink and yellow, with bright green leaves pointing out from the sides. These were tiny portions, for children accustomed to scoops of ice cream piled high, but we savored them for their loveliness.

Often on a summer day, we’d walk to the store. We had to ask permission, and sometimes we had to take some or all of the little kids along, to get them out from underfoot, but we were usually allowed. The store was small, and sat on the lake side of the road, just about a quarter mile from our home. We gathered bottles from the roadside as we walked, and turned them in for deposit when we got there. At two-cents each, it always increased our purchasing power! The store sold beer and bait, milk and other odds and ends of groceries. Of interest to us were the color books and paper dolls, the pop, candy, chips and nuts, and the ice cream freezer.

There, the ice cream was in generous individual portions, in cones, on sticks, or shaped into sandwiches. Fudgsicle was my favorite, though messy for the walk home on a hot day. Nutty Buddy, with the chocolate-and-nut topped ice cream in a sugar cone, was a safer choice, and my second-favorite pick. Whichever we chose, by the time we got home, all of us were sticky with drips.

As an adult, I have usually been satisfied with just a taste of ice cream. I always request a baby cone when I go to the ice cream shop. I have kept a pint of Ben & Jerry’s in the freezer for a month, indulging in just one small scoop at a time. A larger container would often get ice crystals on the surface of the ice cream, from sitting too long. Last year, though, I found something new.

Breyer’s Raspberry Cheesecake Gelato is sinfully good, and has me hooked. It tastes like rich cream, and the raspberry swirl is just sweet enough. Even the bit of graham cracker crumble is delicious. I’ve been eating my way through a carton of it every single week. I get as nervous when it’s getting low as I would about running out of milk, coffee, or any other necessity. If they sold it in a big brown tub, I’d find room in the freezer for it!

The 52 Lists (for Happiness) Project #31

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List the spaces in your life you would like to create more order and organization in:

[I could fill a book with this writing prompt!]

  • The laundry room. It is a small room that is also a hallway that leads to the bathroom. It has two small closets. One of them houses the holding tank from the well, and the hot water heater. On the inside of the door, I have a hanger for mops and brooms; in random other spaces, I hide the plunger, two light fixtures still in their boxes,and a battery charger that – I think – no longer works. The other closet holds coats and jackets on hangers. Hats, scarves and mittens fill a large basket on the overhead shelf. Another basket holds a collection of extension cords. Also on the shelf are two hard plastic cases holding a “Multi-Max”  Dremel tool and a cordless drill. The floor space is completely taken up by an upright vacuum cleaner, a pair of snow shoes, and a wooden crate holding boots, mosquito netting and a few other miscellaneous items. Across from the closet doors are the washer and dryer. The surface of the dryer holds a stack of out-of-season clothes that need to be carried upstairs, a basket that catches coin, price tags and ink pens retrieved from the pockets of my work slacks. Over the washer and dryer are shelves and bins that hold towels and washcloths, medicines, cleaning products, gardening paraphernalia, and my work clothes. The laundry basket belongs on top of the washing machine. Unless I’m doing laundry; then it gets moved to the floor. When I leave the house, I have to put the trash can on the washing machine, or the big dog will get into the garbage while I’m away. The trash can used to fit in the space between the clothes dryer and the stairway wall but, since my new appliances are larger, it doesn’t. When it’s not on top of the washing machine, sharing space with the laundry basket, it is in the hallway. Along with, usually, a stack of magazines and newspapers waiting to go to the transfer station, a couple returnable bottles, whatever burnable papers I’m saving for a chance to have a fire, and a bag full of plastic, glass and tin recyclables. Often, the hallway leading to the bathroom is an obstacle course. I could certainly use more order and organization there!

[Yes, there is more! I have neither time no inclination to go into detail. Imagine the worst.]

  • The space under the kitchen sink.
  • Actually, all of my lower cupboards.
  • My studio.
  • My car.
  • My flower beds.
  • The refrigerator.

Timeout for Art: Enforced Playtime

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Summers are hard, for me, in my life here on Beaver Island.

Business is at its peak at my workplace, and we are busy there every day. This time of year,  we handle several thousand pounds of freight each week, along with all of the lifting and climbing, reaching and carrying jobs that go along with work in a hardware store. I start almost every day with Ibuprofen for backache; I can’t seem to find shoes that make it easier to be on my feet all day; I wonder if my knees will ever recover. I go home exhausted.

At home, I have a garden to tend to, a house to keep up and a yard to maintain. I have dogs that need attention and organized activities. I prepare food for packed lunches and for my dinners at home. In the summer, I have to stay focused, or things will fall behind. More than they already are.

It is summertime when familiar faces, away for the cold months. show up. There are always people to catch up with. Friends and family, if they are going to visit, come in the warm days of summer. This is the season for family reunions. This is also the season, when travel is easier, for memorial services, dinners, wakes and other gatherings for those who died earlier in the year. There are annual meetings of the Beaver Island Boat Company, the Beaver Island Association, and others.

Summers on Beaver Island are busy, too, with organized activities. There is Bike Fest, Music Fest, Baroque on Beaver, Museum Week, Home-Coming, and more. There are bands and musicians in bars and restaurants, at our Community Center, and in other random venues. There are plays, movies, and performances.

I miss almost everything. Because I’m busy. And tired. That’s just the way it is. It’s okay.

Except, sometimes, when it’s not.

Last week, after an excruciatingly long and hard day at work, when I was thinking no farther than cereal for supper and an early bedtime, a co-worker spoke up.

“It’s such a beautiful day,” he said. “and the water is so calm! I’m going to get the guys together and see if they want to come with me in the boat.” He went on to outline his plans to go see a shipwreck that is visible under the surface of the water when the lake is calm, to enjoy the cool water and evening breezes, to maybe do a little fishing before the sun went down.

That did it.

“I haven’t done one single fun thing all summer,” I ranted to myself. As soon as I got home, I called to sign up for a pastel workshop, offered at the Beaver Island Studio and Gallery.

I have worked with pastels before. I didn’t feel that I needed a lesson so much as another viewpoint, a little direction and a different perspective. I needed to be around other artists, to be working out problems, and to be focused on art-making. For fun! It gave me all of that, and five hours to play!

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So Unlike Me

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Today, I was up early, showered, dressed and in town by 9AM to go on the Beaver Island Garden Tour.

Sponsored by the Beaver Island Wellness Garden, this is an annual event that I have taken part in for the last four years. We form a caravan of vehicles, each loaded with a group of garden-lovers, to travel around the island to four or five pre-arranged homes for a guided walk through their yard and gardens. We visit different homes each year. Some are mainly vegetable gardens; others are heavy on ornamental plants. There is always much to see and learn. I always have a wonderful time.

It’s not like me, though.

Tuesday is a day that I’d normally stay home, sleep in, write my blog, work around the house and yard, and give lots of attention to the dogs. In fact, unless I absolutely have to go to the Transfer Station, Post Office or grocery store, I rarely ever go to town on a day off. This week, I had something to do on each of my days off. Yesterday I attended a pastel workshop at the Beaver Island Studio and Gallery. Today the Garden Tour.

It was noticed.

“You look so nice,” I heard more than once, with a bit of surprise in the tone, “What a great hat!” I was wearing a nice pair of cream-colored slacks with a sleeveless cotton sweater in the same color, with slip on black shoes and a black raffia pork-pie hat. I had put a little thought into the outfit, true, but it was nothing outstanding. Mostly, it was just that it was not the well-worn dark slacks and T-shirts that form my hardware store “uniform,” that is mostly all that folks ever see me wearing.

“I’m so glad to see you finally have a day off,” was another frequent comment. Unbeknownst to everyone who has never seen me outside of my workplace, I get a day or two off almost every single week. It’s just that no one sees me then. On my day off, I am usually out here on the Fox Lake Road, being social only with my dogs.

Speaking of the dogs, they’ve taken notice, too. They were unhappy when I left the house yesterday. It didn’t seem normal. Today, they were completely beside themselves. When I came home today and sat down here to write, they flopped down, completely dejected. As soon as I’m finished here, I’m going to load them into the car and take them down to Fox Lake for a romp. Just so they know I haven’t completely changed!

 

The 52 Lists (for Happiness) Project #30

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List the compliments you want to give to others:

When I want to give compliments, I do. I’m pretty bold about it. If I have regrets, they go back thirty years. Then, extreme shyness often kept me from speaking up. Thankfully, I have  had, most often, the opportunity to make up for it.

I had the chance to tell each of my parents how important they were in my life, and how hard I know they tried, all their lives, to do the right thing, and the solid foundation they provided, and all the precious, joyous memories I have, thanks to them. Family and friends hear frequent praise from me, for their determination, abilities, looks, parenting, stubbornness, conversation skills, intelligence, hard work…whatever comes along that warrants a pat on the back.

Loss has given me a keen sense of how important it is to take advantage of each moment, and to not let things go unsaid. So, I let compliments fly, whenever I see a reason. I voice appreciation to customers for a nice shirt, a good haircut, an excellent choice of paint colors, or for figuring out a plumbing problem on their own. I commend other employees for their hard work and a job well-done. I offer honest acclaim to other artists and other writers, from a position of knowing how much heart and soul goes into the process, and of knowing how important it is to hear it.

Though my dogs hear an occasional, “Not good,” my conversations with them – much like conversations with my children when they were small – center around what they are doing right. Compliments form the basis of all of our best discussions, from “Good girl, pee outside,” whenever that happens, to “Good dogs, protecting our family,” as they madly bark at the County road truck when it drives by. Their belly rubs and ear scratches are accompanied by murmurs of “Such a nice dog,” and “So pretty…”

So, I have a very abbreviated list today, of the compliments I wish I had given others, and didn’t.

  • On the first day back at school after Christmas vacation when I was in the seventh grade, when mohair sweaters were the big fashion item, and all of our parents had scrambled and saved to provide them for Christmas gifts, every single girl came in wearing a mohair cardigan in a pastel shade of pink or yellow or blue. Except for Dee Lynn Hathaway. She made an entrance with a red, sharply-pleated wool skirt and a prim white blouse topped by a deep red, cable knit mohair sweater. I think every girl gasped. All of a sudden, our prized and coveted best-present-ever paled in comparison. Why hadn’t any of the rest of us thought of red? Why hadn’t I? I’m sure Dee Lynn knew how stunning she looked; maybe some of the other girls even told her. I didn’t, but I should have. In more than fifty years, I have never forgotten it.
  • Mrs. Price, the mother of my best friend, made a huge impression on me, growing up. From the attractive “babushkas” that she’d wear to cover her head in church, to her sweet smile and musical laugh, to the hamburger buns that she steamed before serving, Mrs. Price was a valued bonus to my friendship with her daughter. I’m sure she knew it. I wish I had told her.
  • My father-in-law, Jack should have gotten more compliments from me. He always knew I loved him and appreciated him, but we didn’t talk about things like that. He influenced my life in a thousand different ways. I hope he knew it.

The compliments I want to give – or wish I had given – are no longer possible. My chance is gone. Which is a reminder to me, always, to not let those chances go by.

Good Things

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Sometimes it’s easiest to see what’s wrong: with a particular situation, or a day, or with the whole world. It takes more energy to find the good things. Not always, though. There are times when my natural propensity for looking at the negative flies right out the window. I am left, then, with a humble appreciation of my rich life, and all the blessings in it.

I’ve had a lovely weekend. Well-balanced. It was productive, but not in a crazy-making way, where I plan more projects than I could possibly ever finish. Busy, but not too busy. I put laundry on the line…but also sat on the shore, reading, for one entire afternoon. I tended the garden, but also wandered the fields to collect wildflowers. I went over my notes for a class I am planning, and put hanging wires on a dozen framed collages. Then, I spent the rest of the day in my studio in frivolous and playful pursuits. I cooked and cleaned, but also took time to relax.

I could list the things I didn’t accomplish; there are quite a few. But why? They’ll be there, waiting for me. Right now, I’d rather just relish the good things.

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dried Rhododendron flowers make a nice bouquet

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wildflowers make another

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one almost-ripe tomato, two days before I harvested it for a wonderful BLT

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a row of collages, ready for the Museum Week Art Show

The 52 Lists (for Happiness) Project # 29

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List the happiest and funniest stories and news you’ve heard lately:

  • I cheered, just like everyone else, for the successful rescue of the young boys trapped in a cave. With water rising, monsoon season coming, and the whole world watching, it was high drama with a happy ending.
  • Rain, this week, was a relief for many of us around the state of Michigan. It has been a hot, dry season. Our “extreme fire danger” status has been lifted, which is excellent news in this season that brings so many campers to our woods.
  • My best friend, Linda, turned sixty-six years old yesterday. That’s almost unbelievable…and funny (though not unbelievably funny)…because my birthday is not that far away, and then I’ll be 66, too. How has it happened that we, who met in the sixth grade and bonded over a mutual love of mischief-making, have grown so old?  When we were both eleven-years-old, Linda’s perfect Yogi Bear imitation made me laugh. Over the years, my best – rolling on the floor, laughing ’til my belly hurt, almost peed my pants – laughs have been with Linda. Our lives have carried us from marbles, pull-over sweaters and the Beatles; to husbands, housework and babies; to single-life adventures with teen-aged children; to all the things that make life enjoyable today. One of the best things is having Linda, who maybe knows me better than anyone (possible exception: my sister, Brenda), still in my life. We share interests in feminism, activism, art, cooking, gardening and books. And, after all these years, we still share some of the best laughs.
  • I have this Sunday off, for the first time since April. I’m almost giddy with all the possibilities! What I am not going to do is spend it sitting in this computer chair. So, as my mother used to say, “up and at ’em!”