Monthly Archives: October 2018

Mornings Like This

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Mornings like this, I have no clear path.

Outside, the sky is bright, but clouds hide the sun. It’s chilly. Not freezing, though. It’s not one of those warm and sunny fall days that demands I find an outdoor project. Nor is it cold, windy or rainy enough to necessitate staying inside. I could go either way.

Inside, as usual, projects pull me in many directions. Yesterday, I tidied the house and did my daily chores. I brought the compost to the bin, and the recyclables to the transfer station. I did all of the laundry, picked up packages at the airport, and went to the grocery store for a few necessities. That completed list left today open for projects.

For several months now, cleaning and rearranging the studio has been on the top of my “Tasks” list. Noticed regularly, and ignored. With new art supplies to find a spot for, I talked to myself this morning about getting at it. In my handwritten journal, I spent a whole page plotting out the manner and order of getting it done. The last line I wrote was, “but the floor…”

There is still the job of painting the floor. My progress is glacially slow. The bathroom floor is painted, which diverts my attention with its sloppy edges screaming out the need for woodwork there. In the laundry room, after weeks of contemplation and procrastination, the patch of floor under the clothes dryer is done. Now, I’m stymied by the need to disconnect the washer, and pull it away from the wall.

Fortunately, being Tuesday, I have this blog to divert my attention. And yet, on mornings like this, I am engulfed with doubt and misgivings about writing. Do I really, still, have anything worthwhile to say? I struggle more and more each week with topic and relevance.

Today is my grandson’s birthday. Patrick is sixteen today. I was present at his birth. All photos taken in that hospital room of his newborn self have a holy glow. I can still clearly picture my daughter’s tired smile. At sixteen, Patrick is a strong, handsome and respectful young man, and I’m very proud of him.

Yesterday was my father’s birthday. If he were still here, he’d be ninety-two years old. As it stands, he’s been gone twenty years last August. I still talk to him, though, when I see things that I know would interest him, and we have lively conversations in my mind whenever I’m working in the garden.

On other days, either of these topics could fuel an entire blog. Today, I worry about the universal appeal. Am I being self-centered? I eke out barely a paragraph on each subject, and wonder if I haven’t said it all before.

Some days, circumstances or blind enthusiasm direct me to action. On days like this, it’s rather a matter of just plodding on, one foot in front of the other.

 

 

The 52 Lists (for Happiness) Project #44

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List the gifts you want to give to others through actions, words, and what you can make:

  • About a year ago, following up on an idea presented by my friend Kathy, I started writing a timetable of my life. Not memories, exactly, but dates with places and events. For instance: I was born in 1952; my Grandpa Ted died when I was in the first grade; I attended Bishop Kelley School from first through eighth grade; I first moved to Beaver Island, with my husband and two young daughters, in the fall of 1978; my Dad died in August of 1998; my mother died in August of 2011. That’s just a sketchy idea of my intentions. For those times, long after I’m gone, when my daughters might wonder when it was that we lived at Corner 16, or what year we moved to East Lansing, or any other detail that might not otherwise be readily available. It was a good plan a year ago, and it is still a good idea, though – after an enthusiastic start – it has been completely neglected. I’d like to find time to finish it.
  • Along the same lines, I’d like to put a book of memories together for my brother and sisters, my daughters and their children. I actually have most of it already written. I did it in 2016, when I was writing a blog every day. I divided my childhood into random sections, as we’d always lived in the same house. My young adulthood was easily divided by going from one address to the next, and writing about the memories attached to each place. Now, it’s just a matter of putting those posts together, editing for clarity, and having it printed.
  • I’d love to finish the crocheted slippers I started – last year – for my grandchildren. Thankfully, at least they are done growing!
  • Some of the best gifts I’ve received in my life have been gifts from the kitchen. Friends and neighbors have brought me jars of honey, jelly and homemade maple syrup. I’ve treasured jars of stewed tomatoes canned and presented to me by each of my parents and my Aunt Katie. With that in mind, I enjoy giving gifts of edibles: cakes, cookies and homemade granola, mostly. When I visit my sister Brenda, I have the rare chance to prepare meals for others, and I enjoy it immensely.
  • When I have over-abundance from the garden, I like to share the bounty. I’m sure I get that from my father.
  • I like to share good books, movies and other media. It’s difficult, though, because not everyone likes the same things. I have a dear friend who I would say is very much like me. I think we share many of the same ideas and tastes. However, when I’ve tried to share movies and programs with her, I have fallen flat with some of my absolute favorites. Amelie, she couldn’t tolerate subtitles; Billy Elliot, the accent made it impossible to understand. Recently I showed her the pilot for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, which I think is brilliant, witty, and some of the most touching humor out there. She asked, “Is it always so depressing?” She just bought a book,based on my recommendation. I have my fingers crossed that she’ll like it!
  • I used to give gifts of my artwork to friends and family. If I know it’s appreciated (not just accepted out of courtesy), it brings me great pleasure to do it.
  • I love to give honest compliments. It’s an exercise (not difficult) in looking for the good, and saying something about it. It’s a gift that I can give to strangers as easily as to friends, and that is always appreciated.

Out and Back

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No matter how much I love this island I call home, sometimes it’s good to get away. Even if I go no farther than the small cities and towns that line the coastline of the mainland, it feels like a big change. This trip, just a short over-night getaway, was to catch up with my friend, Linda, to do some shopping, and to see the fall colors.

Granted, Linda and I talk every week, and sometimes several times in the course of a week. I know how her life is going, and what’s keeping her busy. Still, it’s different and better to converse face-to-face, to mull over old experiences and revisit memories and people from our past. Linda has retired since I saw her last, and she has a new puppy, who I was happy to meet.

As for shopping, there aren’t many things I have to cross Lake Michigan for these days. Our Spartan grocery store is well stocked, and I recently took advantage of their annual canned goods sale. I’m still eating vegetables harvested from my garden. Last week, my cousin Brian brought me a big pumpkin and a peck of potatoes from his garden. My Amazon Prime membership fills in the gaps for things not available here.

Still, how nice to walk the aisles of other grocery stores, looking for bargains. The farmer’s market was a fantastic fall destination! Oleson’s grocery had several good deals on meats; the Grain Train cooperative yielded my winter’s supply of beans and grains. It was wonderful to explore the shelves in my favorite bookstore, and treat to wander through other stores, small and large. I spent way too much in the bookstore, but the extremely low prices at the farmer’s market kind of balanced it out. That’s what I’m telling myself, anyway.

It’s true, the colors of autumn are lovely on Beaver Island. I didn’t think I had to travel to be awed by Mother Nature. But I did travel…and it was worth it. Beaver Island doesn’t have the rolling hills that are a stunning feature of the mainland in northern Michigan. They stretch the vista out for miles in every direction, with party-hued trees vying for attention with fields of gold and green. Today I watched as the waves of Lake Michigan crashed over the breakwater in Petoskey, under a big sky of magnificent clouds, with fall colors on the distant shore. And I was awed by the sight.

I’m home now, and happy to be here. New purchases are spread over the table, as I work at putting things away. I’m halfway unpacked, and have clothes in the dryer. The dogs, glad to be home from the kennel, are asleep at my feet. It’s nice, now and then, to get away; it’s wonderful, always, to get back home!

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The 52 Lists (for Happiness) Project #43

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List how where you are right now fulfills dreams and desires of your past:

  • Well, for as long as I can remember, I always wanted to live on Beaver Island. And here I am!
  • I consistently wanted a designated space for working on art projects. At the tiny cottage on Lake Pleasant, I used a corner of the front porch for art-making. It was only useful in the warm months, and I shared the space with spare tires, cat litter, and trash bags waiting for the garbage truck. When I was living with my family in a small duplex in North Branch, I would convert the kitchen to working studio, sometimes for days at a time. We ate a lot of cold cereal and sandwiches until my projects were completed. As a student at Michigan State, living in a tiny campus apartment, I’d haunt my studio in the Art Center at all hours of the day and night. When I came back to Beaver Island, I cleared out the area that had been sleeping space for my daughters. I set up my drafting table, and moved in files cabinets and bins for storage. Later, I added a printing press. Finally,  my own little studio!
  • I always imagined dogs as a part of my life…and they are!
  • I dreamed of a small house with a high pitched roof, surrounded by gardens and fruit trees and flowers. That’s where I live!
  • When I was four years old, my Grandpa Ted would take me and my sister Brenda to his electrical shop. We got to sit in the brown leather chair that could spin around. We could trace our names into the dust on the windows. Best of all, we were allowed to sort the nuts, bolts and other tiny parts that were mounded on the desk into rows of baby food jars provided by my mother. I loved sorting! My mother reminded me of that fifty years later, when I started working at the hardware store and took on the wall of nuts and bolts as a challenge. “Oh, you’ll do great at that,” she said, “you’ve loved that kind of work since you were tiny!”
  • I invariably think of myself surrounded by books. And I am.

The Big Dryer Project

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I had plenty of things going on yesterday. The dogs were going to the groomer, to have their nails clipped and to get rid of the smells of all the gross things that they love to roll in. I had a visit planned with my friend, Judi. There was a package at the airport, mail to pick up at the Post Office and a couple items I needed from the store. I had class notes to go over, and materials to prepare. The focus of my day, though, was “The Big Dryer Project.”

It was way last spring when an ink pen leaped of its own accord out of the basket, that sits on top of the dryer for mismatched socks and miscellaneous items found in pockets, and dropped down the chute where the lint filter goes. I was emptying the lint filter at the time. The pen dropped all the way down and got stuck in the fan that keeps the air moving out the exhaust tube. I didn’t know that at the time. I only knew that whenever I tried to use the dryer, it made a huge racket sounding like it was about to take off, or break apart at the seams.

But, it was spring. The weather was fine. And I have a clothesline. I knew that eventually I’d have to deal with the dryer. But not immediately. So, over the course of the long summer, while drying clothes outside, I made my plans. I turned what was going to be a small – though daunting enough – project, taking the back panel off the dryer to find and remove the pen, into a big project. I decided that, since I had to pull the dryer out anyway, I should take that time to prime and paint the laundry room floor. I should also replace the elbow at the back of the dryer, and the flexible aluminum vent hose.

The bigger the project became, the easier it was to continue to put it off. Until rainy September. One week, my clothes hung on the line for eight days! The next week, it was even longer. I finally carried them in – damp – to finish drying while slung over the backs of my dining room chairs. And decided I could procrastinate no longer. Still, it took a few trips back and forth to the hardware to find the right bit to fit the hex head sheet metal  screws in the back of the dryer. And assemble everything I needed: new aluminum elbow,  hose clamps, flexible vent, primer and paint.

Finally, Sunday after work, I was ready to get started. After walking the dogs…writing my blog…making a couple phone calls…and fixing dinner. Shortly after dark, I started. First, there was the gigantic mound of laundry, gathered from over two weeks now, to move out of the way. I got a dish to hold the screws as I removed them, no time for searching for wayward hardware. The dryer had been unplugged for weeks, in anticipation of this job, so then it was only necessary to put it away from the wall.

Leaving a pathway through to the bathroom was a major consideration for every aspect of this job. The laundry room is a wide hallway leading to the bathroom. With closets built into one side, and the alcove for washer and dryer on the other, it becomes just a normal width hallway. When the laundry basket is on the floor – as it is whenever the washing machine is in use – it becomes an even narrower space. Quick access to the bathroom, at my age, is a necessity.

With the dryer pulled out into the room, it was easy to see the job at hand. First, I pulled off the existing vent and removed the PVC elbow. I removed the sheet metal screws one-by-one, then gently pulled off the the metal plate from the back of the dryer. There was the pen, firmly lodged between the blades of the fan. I managed to work it out of there without hurting anything, and replaced the back. I swept the floor and walls where the dryer goes, resulting in a gratifying mound of dryer lint. Midnight, I washed then primed that section of floor, and went to bed.

Monday, dogs to the groomers, then home to put a coat of paint on the floor. To town, for all my other running around, pick up the sweet-smelling but unhappy dogs, then home. With brand new hose clamps, I fastened the new aluminum elbow to the back of the dryer, then the flexible vent to the elbow, then the dryer could be pushed back into place. The most difficult part of the entire job was squeezing out from behind the dryer after plugging it in. Then,it was quick work to hook the other end of the flexible vet to the wall-hung contraption that catches the lint. Done! Now to the laundry! By the time I left to visit Judi, both washer and dryer were working just as they should be. Success!

 

 

The 52 Lists (for Happiness) Project #42

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List the ways money cannot buy happiness:

  • Money cannot buy respect. It has to be earned. Mostly, I have no trouble with that. Still, I remember bringing my two little grandsons up north to spend a week with me on Beaver Island. Michael was seven years old; Brandon was five. We traveled from Lapeer to Charlevoix in my Aunt Katie’s  brand new Trailblazer. We flew across to the island in a pretty impressive little airplane. Then we walked across to the parking lot, where my battered and dust-covered three hundred dollar island “beater” was waiting. Michael’s little face fell. “Grandma Cindy, your car is a piece of garbage,” he said, and I believe in that instant, his estimation of me dropped a little, too. I laughed and told him, seriously, “Why, Michael, this is the best car I’ve ever owned!” I loaded boys and luggage, and we rattled off for home. I had a full week to bolster up his opinion of me. Long drives in my old car delivered them to sandy beaches in the daytime, and down tree covered roads after dark as we – all dressed in our pajamas – went to see what the island looked like by moonlight. We traveled to shops and stores and the Toy Museum; we went fishing, rock collecting, swimming and dune climbing. That old car would come to a quick stop for getting a better look at bird, squirrel or deer. or when either little boy yelled “Can!” Then, one of them would exit the car to retrieve the sighted aluminum can, for the ten-cent profit it would bring. By the time the week was up, Michael had decided my car wasn’t so bad. A shiny new vehicle in that parking lot, though, would have garnered instant respect from that seven-year-old boy!
  • Money can’t fill lonely days…
  • It can’t give recognition for a job well-done…
  • And it can’t turn sadness around. But it often feels like it might, and I’ve frequently stopped at the store, or went on-line shopping, just to test the possibility.
  • Money can’t buy love. Even though teen-agers would often try to convince otherwise. Most love comes by happy accident (as in the many good friends that have happened into my life) or undeserved blessings (as in my children, grandchildren, sisters, brothers and other family members who I am so fortunate to have in my life at all, doubly fortunate that we all love each other). Sometimes, though, you have to look for love, pursue it, or work for it. That seems, often, like a job best suited to those with youth and beauty, and the confidence that comes with those attributes. So, usually, I put ideas of love or romance “on the shelf.” I don’t think about it, or I think, “I’m too old for that.” And that works…most of the time.
  • Money can’t buy all the myriad of little things that bring me joy on a daily basis: the color of the sky; wag-tail dogs; roads lined with trees; the sound of waves; sunrise, sunset and the moon and stars. All the best things are free!

A Late Report

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“Late” seems to be the theme today. I was up late last night working on home projects. I slept in late this morning. I was barely on time for my drawing class. After walking the dogs, working in the yard and fixing supper, I am now, late in the evening, finally sitting down to write my Tuesday blog.

I had a little trouble coming up with a theme. I’ve been publishing a blog for seven years now. Since I most often write about myself and my own experiences, I feel like raw material is getting rather scarce. I’m afraid I’m getting repetitive. Looking for inspiration, I went through a couple books of writing prompts; nothing piqued my interest.

When I was about to give up hope, I remembered: my “birthday list!” Each year, for my birthday, I have published a list, corresponding to my age:  favorite people and life-changing books have been the theme of past birthday lists. Of course my birthday this year is long past; I was in Chicago then, having a glorious time with my youngest daughter and her family. That’s okay, I can do the list now. Late. Because that’s how my day is going.

66 Random Things That I Know

  1. The sky is most beautiful, here on Beaver Island, in the fall of the year.
  2. The water in Lake Michigan is warmest in the fall. That probably holds true for other bodies of water, too.
  3. In places where there are evergreens among the deciduous trees, fall colors are most breathtaking.
  4. Water, too, provides a good backdrop for the changing autumn colors.
  5. Winter apples need a frost to bring out their juicy sweetness.
  6. If you count the seconds between the sound of thunder and the flash of lightning, that is how many miles away the storm is.
  7. Sleep is better when it’s raining.
  8. A jet stream is a weather pattern. Until I was forty years old, I thought a jet stream was a contrail. A contrail is the white trail that a jet leaves in the sky.
  9. Cheap wine is better appreciated if you can’t see the label.
  10. Better vodka is worth the extra cost.
  11. A good haircut can be life-altering.
  12. Sisters and brothers who grew up in the same household are more alike than even they know, no matter what their current differences.
  13. It takes about thirty days to form a good habit or to get rid of a bad habit.
  14. Either can be turned around in one moment of weakness.
  15. I think lateness is a way of revolting from life experiences that are not ideal.
  16. I believe procrastination is a side-effect of perfectionism.
  17. And perhaps what looks like laziness is actually the inability to act because of a lack of direction (or too many directions to pursue).
  18. Dogs are comforted by familiar voices.
  19. Pigs are some of the smartest animals.
  20. Chickens respond to novelty.
  21. You can move a chicken at night, without them knowing. Just drape a cloth over them to keep out the light, pick them up and carry them to their new location.
  22. Having the right tools for a project makes a big difference.
  23. Bicycling is easier on the knees than running.
  24. Cheaters never win.
  25. Honesty is the best policy.
  26. Summer always goes too fast.
  27. Humidity makes hot weather feel hotter, and cold weather more bitter.
  28. Most savory dishes can be improved with something from the onion family, or by lemon.
  29. Butter is now healthier than margarine.
  30. When it was new, margarine was sold as a block of white fat. The purchaser had to stir in the little packet of yellow colorant to make it look like butter.
  31. Friends that I know only through their writing are still true friends. Sometimes I know more about their lives and inner feelings than people I see every day. Likewise, I often reveal more in my writing than I ever would in “real life.”
  32. Letter writing is a great way to communicate.
  33. Everybody, deep down, wants to be accepted, appreciated and loved.
  34. Morning glories and moon flowers are more likely to sprout if the seeds are nicked before they are planted.
  35. Dogs have the right attitude toward life.
  36. We are all born with a sixth sense. It can be recognized and nurtured or denied and buried. In either case, awareness and practice will always improve intuitive ability.
  37. Anyone can learn to draw. If they want to.
  38. People that are good readers and enjoy reading, have a richer life than those who don’t.
  39. A book doesn’t have to be high literature to be good. It only has to speak to the reader at the time.
  40. That said, there is a lot of lousy writing out there.
  41. That holds true in the art world, too. If you like a piece, good. Enjoy it.
  42. Good teachers change lives.
  43. Continuing to learn, through life, is the best way to feel truly alive.
  44. Music communicates with us through our beating heart.
  45. Games are good for the mind.
  46. Plants have feelings.
  47. All life is precious (though I still set mouse traps this time of year).
  48. Daughters are more fun than sons (says this mother of two girls).
  49. Grandchildren are a blessing.
  50. Grocery shopping when hungry is never a good idea.
  51. A good experience, in a restaurant, is expected. Often food and service needs to be over-the-top before it is recognized.
  52. Inadequate service or a bad meal in a restaurant will be noticed right away, and never forgotten.
  53. A word of encouragement or praise goes a long way.
  54. Coming from a boss, it’s great incentive.
  55. Coming from a co-worker, it builds camaraderie.
  56. A compliment from a stranger is easier to believe than the same from an acquaintance.
  57. We are all, generally, too stingy with our feelings.
  58. Everyone deserves to hear something nice.
  59. A day can seem interminably long, when doing something unpleasant.
  60. Hours speed by when doing something enjoyable
  61. On that same theme, children seem to remain at two years old much longer than any other age…
  62. Until they reach their teen years, which drag on for a lifetime.
  63. But all in all, children grow up way too quickly.
  64. The longer you live, the more loss you have to bear.
  65. It’s always worth it.
  66. Life goes on, like it or not. May as well find the silver lining.