Monthly Archives: November 2018

Oh, Happy Day!

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Some days, I am gloomy. I often don’t know why. I’ll come up with reasons, though, because sadness seems to need a foundation. The weather often takes the blame. Drizzle, fog, wet snow, or lack of sunshine seem like sensible excuses for a foul mood. Sometimes I blame things that are going on at work. Other times the responsibility falls on loneliness, financial troubles, or lack of sleep. Any of these things could contribute to my mood, but deep down I know that melancholy overtakes me, at times, without any justification at all.

Weather is always out there and, though some days are naturally better than others, I could just as easily be happy on a miserable day, as sad when the sun is shining. As for work, well, there is always some issue regarding work. It is never just predictable and easy, but I almost always just take it in stride. I get lonely, but I handle it. Likewise, financial struggles are always present in my life, but I rarely dwell on them or let them affect my mood. Nights without sleep are a common frustration, too, but it’s only a meager attempt at rationalization to say it’s to blame for my disposition.

Most days, I am happy. And I rarely look for reasons; I hardly give it a thought. A good mood, I guess, does not need to be justified. Yesterday, after an almost sleepless night, I found myself with a very positive outlook. And I took note of it. In my morning journal pages, I made a list of things that I was happy about:

  • Three pink rugs on the bathroom floor. Usually, in the bathroom, I have one mid-sized rug in the middle of the room, centered in front of the window. That means I have to take a big step, when getting out of the shower, to stand on the rug. It means that I stand on bare floor when using the sink. The other day, when pulling rugs out of the clothes dryer, I noted that I have quite a few extras. Rosa Parks loves rugs, so I often pick them up when I find them on sale. In addition, I have four or five small fluffy rugs that I got from Aunt Katie. When I pick up a rug to wash it, I always have another ready to be put down. On a whim, I brought two more rugs to the bathroom. I put one pale, shag rug right beside the bathtub. I put another small velvet-textured rug directly in front of the sink. Both small rugs overlap the larger rug in the center, which gives the room a slight gypsy-tent appearance. That makes me smile. And my feet are always toasty warm.
  • A spindly-spined Christmas tree, leaning against the wall outside the kitchen door. I cut it down on Sunday, and plan to set it up today. It’s a comical little tree that will, I’m sure, be charming as all get out when decorated with tiny lights and simple ornaments.
  • Christmas cards are ordered, and should arrive today, in plenty of time to be filled out and mailed.
  • I have gifts to wrap for children and grandchildren.
  • My laundry is already all caught up for the week.
  • I started a new exercise program. Two days in, I’m doing okay!
  • I’ve almost finished my calendar layout for December.
  • As I write, I have coffee in hand, and two dogs lounging at my feet.

And my good mood continued all through the day.  The only thing different was that I gave it the same thought and attention that I would have if it had gone another way. Nothing out of the ordinary; nothing of special note. It was just another normal, wonderful day.

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The 52 Lists (for Happiness) Project #48

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List the things you think you’ll want out of life five years from now:

In five years, I’ll be more than seventy years old. With that in mind, I’ll hope to have

  • a sound mind. Longevity isn’t very enjoyable without that. I am aware of becoming more forgetful already. I laugh about it now, and hope it is always a small enough problem to be funny.
  • Good health. The ability to do the things I enjoy, and to work if I have to.
  • I’d like, by that time, to have a little more leisure time.
  • I want to have regular time for art-making, and to have some good solid venues for my work.
  • I’d like to still be learning, in five years. I think the ability to continue growing and learning is one of the things that makes life worthwhile. I’ve been looking, lately, at painting, encaustic and writing workshops. I’d love to fit some of those into my life.
  • And, with learning in mind, I’d love the opportunity to visit some of the places I’ve studied. Egypt, Greece and Italy come to mind first, thanks to Mrs. Bates’ Art History classes, and the way she made those locations come to life. I enjoy travel most if there is a chance for growth. Whenever I’ve had the chance to travel, activities to expand awareness of a place have been on the itinerary.
  • I’d like a bit more of a social life than what I have right now.
  • That should include more quality time with family and friends.

This Thanksgiving Week

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It is Tuesday, two days before we celebrate Thanksgiving here in the United States. We are 47 weeks into the year. These facts poised together on the page result in not a feeling of gratitude, but rather frustration. This year seems to have flown by, soon to be added to the growing collection of “years gone by.” Did I do what I could to make every day count? Did I pay attention? Did I recognize the importance of each precious day?

I don’t know. I try. Sometimes busyness, obligation, frustration and mindless activities get in the way. I feel like, once again, I’ve let another year zoom past while I stumble along, senseless to all the wonders. That thought makes me sad. One thing I know is that I can’t get the time back. If only!

I have long lists of things – some simple, some profound – that I’d like to re-do, if I could. There were dozen nights – maybe more – when the stars were ablaze in a clear sky when I got up to let the little dog outside or back in, when I yawned and turned away from the glory, to curl back up in my bed. There were conversations I cut short, with friends or family, to start a meal or to finish a chore. Many times I turned away from dogs to face the computer screen. What if that were my last chance?

There have been plenty of missed opportunities and squandered last chances in my life. I’ve learned from them all…but maybe not enough. Otherwise, why do I continue to have this conversation with myself? Will I never get it through my head? Sometimes – too often – a wasted opportunity turns out to be the LAST opportunity.

At the end of this year, before the final page is turned and we move into a new year, I’ll sit down, as I do every year, and write down “Accomplishments and Memorable Things.” Seeing them on paper, I’ll feel better about how I’ve spent my time. I may even be impressed by all that I’ve managed to do. Right now, though, 47 weeks in, it feels like NOT ENOUGH. Maybe this Thanksgiving week comes at just the right time. It gives me cause to assess my year so far, when I still have five weeks to do more…and better!

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

The 52 Lists (for Happiness) Project #47

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List everything that you think of as a treat for yourself:

  • The first cup of coffee I pour in the morning. With cream.
  • A good book. One that grabs and holds my interest, that can make me laugh or cry or quiver in trepidation, and that expands my understanding or enhances my world view.
  • A perfect poem. The ones I love are treasures, that can be read and enjoyed over and over.
  • Time in the studio. Unencumbered. Without six other things that need to be done diverting my attention and spoiling my fun.
  • A hot bath. In a heated room, with scented salts, nice candles and a glass of wine.
  • Perfume. Having recently found myself in the rare position of being all caught up on my bills, with a little money to spare, I bought myself a bottle of nice cologne, for the first time in years. It feels absolutely luxurious to have it.
  • Fresh flowers. I pick wildflower bouquets all summer long. When I first got divorced, I walked past a little flower shop every day on my way to and from work. At least once a week, I’d stop in to buy a cluster of posies or even just a single carnation. It was well worth the strain on my budget for the way it lifted my spirits!
  • A long walk. Right now, with ice on the pathways, and hunters in the woods, the dogs and I spend our walks just circling the yard. We aren’t fooled, though. We know it’s not the same, no matter how many steps we get in.
  • A square of dark chocolate.
  • A soft-boiled egg. My mother used to make them for her children when we were sick. That feeling of being nurtured and cared for comes back to me when I cook an egg that way.
  • A good meal in a nice restaurant is a rare pleasure.
  • A chat on the phone with someone I love. I’m not usually big on telephone conversations. My daughters decided, years ago, that I must be watching a timer, because I always ended calls after no more than five minutes. True, I don’t stay long on the phone, but I’m not timing the conversations. I simply run out of things to say; I find empty chatter excruciating and silence difficult. So, most phone calls are short. When the conversation flows, though, it’s a pleasure! One day last week, I had a nice long chat with my granddaughter, Madeline, then a good visit with my daughter, Kate. Before the day was out, my daughter, Jennifer, called. What a special treat, to talk to three of my favorite people all in one day!

No Topic This Tuesday

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Natalie Goldberg says, “having a topic to plow into can give your mind direction.” A topic evades me this morning. Today, rather than scrambling to come up with something, I have committed to it. This is no-topic Tuesday. With nothing to provide direction, let’s see where this keyboard will take me.

I’m reading Transcription, the newest book by Kate Atkinson. After reading – and falling in love with the writing in – Life After Life, I’ve made a point to watch for her books. They don’t all move me the way that first one did, but she’s a good solid writer, anyway. Other authors I seek out are Laurie R. King, Barbara Kingsolver, and Louise Erdrich. I’ve been putting off getting Kingsolver’s latest book, though. One bad review reminded me of other recent works of hers that have disappointed. I seem to have so little time to read these days, I try not to commit to a book that isn’t worth it.

Other titles on my nightstand include Fear by Bob Woodward, Joyful by Ingrid Fetell Lee, Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald, and Consolations by David Whyte. Some, I have started, then saved until I’m more in the mood for that particular writing style; others are on-going. Some nights, I’m too tired to follow a plot line. Then, a short essay or a few paragraphs of creative writing suits me.

My dining room table needs to be cleared this morning. It’s the first item on my “to-do” list. It is especially over-burdened today, as I cleared my desk yesterday. All the excess just got shifted over to the table. So, facing south, I’m quite pleased with my newly cleared work space. Turn to the north, however, and I’m face-to-face with the results of the half-finished job.

One tablecloth, one small houseplant and two candles: that’s what belongs on the dining room table. This morning, in addition to those items, there is:

  • a small stack of stationery, notepads and stamps, formerly Aunt Katie’s belongings, found by my sisters in a drawer at the farmhouse, and sent home with me;
  • a large stack of books purchased as Christmas gifts for my grandchildren;
  • installation instructions for my new smoke alarm;
  • one bag of Damar resin and one butane torch for encaustic painting, both brand new and not yet put away;
  • a hammer and nail, for hanging the new smoke alarm;
  • a pile of writing books, exercise manuals, receipts, and miscellaneous other papers that used to take up space on the desk;
  • a pair of scissors (used to cut open the clam shell package that the smoke alarm came in);
  • an empty bowl that, two weeks ago, held Halloween candy;
  • my purse;
  • my daily journal, with the directive, “CLEAR TABLE” in plain view at the top left under “Tuesday.”

On the same page, at the bottom of the right-hand column, the reminder says “BLOG POST.” Which just goes to show where my priorities lie, even when I have nothing in particular to write about!

 

 

The 52 Lists (for Happiness) Project #46

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List one achievement, big or small, every day this week:

[I am writing my list based on last week, because who knows what the future holds!]

  • Monday, I made soup. I soaked dried beans until they were softened, then drained them, added fresh water, plus vegetable stock, stewed tomatoes, barley, wild rice and lots of vegetables. It simmered on the stove until everything was tender. I ladled up a couple portions for lunches later in the week, and brought the rest to the farmhouse for my family there.
  • Tuesday, I voted. I also made popovers to go along with the dinner my sisters were preparing at the farmhouse, and an apple pie for dessert. My sisters plan so well when they come to the island, I’m rarely able to make a single contribution, so it’s always a nice treat when I can.
  • Wednesday, the euchre team made up of me and my nephew Bob beat the other team (my sister, Brenda, and my cousin, Keith) both games!
  • Thursday, we did it again!
  • Friday, I saw my family off at the airport…without bursting into tears. Though I felt like it. I finished out my work day, then went home to unpack the two heavy bags they had sent home with me. Which included a lifetime supply of mustard, enough catsup to last a year, at least, if I ever even start to like catsup, and a few other condiments. There were some file folders and other things found in Aunt Katie’s drawers. There were potatoes from Keith’s garden, goulash left over from Thursday’s supper, and the balance of my soup.
  • Saturday, after ice and snow from an early winter storm sealed the driver’s side door of my car closed, I managed to crawl in from the passenger side door, climb over the console, and wedge this [too plump and inflexible] body down into the driver’s seat. That is after clearing the outside of the car with a broom and a kitchen spatula. Because the snow shovel was safely tucked into the garden shed, which was inaccessible because of the snow. Before coming home in the evening, I remembered to pick up a few groceries, and to put gas in the car.
  • Today, I drove in to work, then home again, on ice-slick roads. They seemed more slippery today than they were yesterday, after even more snow fell overnight. The first winter weather is always a driving adventure.

Fall Memories

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This time of year, I walk my dogs on roads and paths and two-track trails that are carpeted with fallen leaves. Usually, the whistling wind or the cars driving through send the mass of leaves to the edges, where they rest among the ferns, briers and grasses that grow there. They settle, sometimes, in mounds on the roadside. My dogs find piles of leaves terribly interesting, and always take the time to dismantle them, registering every scent they find there.

In other areas, where there is no traffic, and the sheltering trees slow the wind’s action, the leaves pile up. Last week, before the fall rains came to Beaver Island turning everything to a dull and sodden mess, we wandered through long pathways of crisp fallen leaves several inches deep.

Sunshine, the smell of autumn in the air, and the sound of leaves crackling underfoot brought me back to my childhood. I let my usually quick pace falter; I deliberately changed to a shuffling walk that kicked up, with every step, crisp leaves in shades of gold, red and orange. I was transported, in my mind, to another fall day more than sixty years ago.

Three tiny children, Brenda, Cindy and Teddy, were making their way, through deep autumn leaves, across their own big front yard to the big front yard of the house next door. That house is where the grandparents lived and, there in the yard, on a white wooden bench, sat their grandfather. The children were going to pay him a visit.

Maybe their Mama had sent them there, after bundling them up against the autumn chill. Or they might have come up with the idea on their own for, as my memory serves, we were allowed to travel freely between the two yards. Whatever the reason, on that fall day, three children set out together through the fallen leaves to sit with their Grandpa Ted.

The leaves were deep! Stately elm trees still thrived in Michigan at that time, and several of them graced the front yard there. They sheltered chipmunks and squirrels that my grandmother coaxed to eat from her hand. They provided shade for the bench where my grandfather often sat at the end of his work day. In the fall, they dropped their leaves in what – to small children – seemed unbelievable depth.

We could tip backward anywhere, and the leaves would cushion our fall. We could dive face-first into a mound of them, and never reach the ground below. We could throw them up in the air just to watch them rain down on us. We could make giant piles of them, with or without a child hidden inside. And we did all of these things, but on this one remembered day, we were intent on our purpose.

With our destination in sight, we made our way through the bright, crackling ground cover. Sometimes we held each other’s hands for support; sometimes not. We pushed through the deep mounds, up to our waists in places. We shuffled through, enjoying the sound and the feel of the leaves. We’d tilt sideways, now and then, to try to take a giant step over the leaves, giggling as we fell.

Finally, we made it to our destination! There was our Grandpa, grinning a wide grin. One-by-one he picked us up, hugged us, nuzzled our neck, and deposited us on the seat beside him. We were all smiling. Brenda, the oldest and most responsible of the children, let out a big sigh, “Grandpa, you should get these leaves raked,” she said.

In just that instant, with the remembered sound of my sister’s five-year-old voice, my memories shifted to a time twenty years ago, when Brenda’s granddaughter, Samantha, used that exact tone of voice to direct her own Grandpa. Then, in the blink of an eye, in this present day, I could hear the same tone reflected in Samantha’s daughter, Kayleigh, as she scolds her great-Grandpa for things left undone.

Then back, in my mind, to that far-away time with my Grandpa Ted, who loved us – the children of his only and much-loved child, Janice – whole-heartedly. I imagine his heart swelling  as he watched us, tiny children, teetering and swaying through the deep leaves to visit him. I can almost hear him chuckle. I can feel the joy he felt as he lifted each of us onto the bench. In response to my sister, he smiled. “Yup, sweetie,” he said, “I was just thinking about that!”