Monthly Archives: December 2018

The 52 Lists (for Happiness) Project #52

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one of the historic sconces at the Redford Theater

List the happiest moments of your year:

To respond to this without simply putting down the moments I remember, which would be current or at least very recent, I read through my 2018 bullet journal. There, I jotted down schedules and events. I made note of things I was grateful for. I placed a heart near things that made me especially happy. I am glad to report that I have had many happy moments this year.

  • “Sunshine” followed by an exclamation point was often entered as something I was thankful for. Surrounded by water, gray, sunless days are common on Beaver Island, especially in the wintertime. It seems we had plenty of sunshiny days in 2018; I was happy for every single one!
  • “A good talk…” was another regular entry. Whether it was a conversation with one of my daughters (which would be followed by a heart), a sister or a friend, it was always worthwhile.
  • “A good day at work.” It looks like I had several.
  • “Long walk with the dogs.” Not often enough, for the joy it brings to me as well as the dogs!
  • A trip to Florida with my sisters in April yielded many happy moments. From quiet times in mornings and evenings, to fun adventures out and about, it was a joy spending time with these wonderful women!
  • A visit from my friend, Donna, was a welcome and happy time.
  • The annual visit to the island, in August, of my sisters and their families was, as always, great fun.
  • In August, my daughter Kate treated me to a trip to Chicago to see the musical, Hamilton, along with her husband and two of my grandchildren. The entire trip was wonder-filled and joyous. From the excellent company my family offers, to walks through parks and museums, rides on the water taxi, wonderful meals, exciting sites and the glorious musical itself, the whole thing made me feel extremely lucky and very, very happy!
  • An excursion this fall to meet my best friend, Linda, was another happy time. We enjoyed the fall colors, shopping, talking and visiting the farmer’s market.
  • Sisters, Brenda and Cheryl, my nephew, Bob, and my cousin, Keith, came to the island in the fall of the year, to close up the farmhouse for the winter. Though they were busy, and so was I, we happily managed to have time to spend together, and had a good time.
  • This year, I decorated for Christmas. I also traveled downstate to spend the holiday with my family. My daughter Kate added to the joy by including me in a trip to Detroit on December 22nd, to the historic Redford Theater, to watch “It’s a Wonderful Life.” It was so special to view it on a big screen, with a theater full of people reacting together as the story unfolded. At one point, someone cried out, “Is there a doctor?” My daughter, the nurse, stood up, and moved to the area where a woman had collapsed. In all, four nurses, two paramedics and an EMT responded to the call for help. The woman, who had fainted, and was going to be fine, was transported by ambulance to the hospital. The film continued, after a short intermission. And I was proud as could be of my daughter!
  • There were many simple, joyful moments throughout 2018, that came from just appreciating my accomplishments and surroundings. There was the day I finished planting the garden, and the day the peas first pushed out of the ground. There was rhubarb crisp in the springtime, tomatoes and blackberries in summer, and beautiful color in the fall. Then there was the first snow, a Christmas tree, and an end-of-year trip to see family and friends, yielding presents and the greater gift of spending time, once again, with those that I love.

Looking back, there were many joyful times. I’m looking ahead to a new year filled with happiness, too, for me…and for all of you!

What’s Remembered; What’s Forgotten

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Starting off with what’s forgotten:

  • I did not pack my 52 Lists For Happiness book. The one that I have been basing these Sunday lists on for all of this year. Today should be the last list of the year. Maybe even the last list forever…or at least until the author comes up with another book that piques my interest. Though I glanced at the last page, I can’t remember what the directive was. So, since I’m four hundred miles away from my book, cozy right now in my sister Brenda’s house in Lapeer, Michigan, the blog based on that list will have to wait until I get home.
  • I forgot an envelope of photographs that I’d had copied for my daughters, sisters and brother.
  • I forgot my medicine. One pill for thyroid function; another to control my cholesterol. It’s not the end of the world. I’ve done this before. I may be tired or a little out of sorts, but will be able to get back on track as soon as I get home. It’s just frustrating. Medicine is always on the top of my “What to Pack” list.
  • I forgot the way to my daughter’s house. Though I’ve been there several times, I felt like I wasn’t sure of the way, so I pulled up directions on the computer. They gave me a different route than I’ve taken before, which threw me off a little, and I ended up having to circle back ten miles to get better information.
  • I’m forgetting a lot of semi-useless information lately. Last night, my daughter, my granddaughter and I were discussing Gone with the Wind. I was trying to tell them about a chapter in Pat Conroy’s autobiography that spoke eloquently about his mother and the influence Gone with the Wind, the book and later the movie, had on her life. I couldn’t remember Pat Conroy’s name, but I knew they’d be familiar with the movie based on another of his books. I couldn’t remember the name of the movie. Barbra Streisand starred in it, though, as well as a good-looking blonde actor who’s name I also couldn’t remember. Also, Gwyneth Paltrow’s mother, whose name escaped me. And, it turns out, I couldn’t really relate with much accuracy exactly what he had said about Gone with the Wind! It was like jibberish, coming out of my mouth! Well, today I have managed to come up with Pat Conroy’s name, as well as The Prince of Tides, Nick Nolte and Blythe Danner…but would still stumble when trying to relate Conroy’s mother’s take on the book and movie up for discussion!

But on to what is remembered:

  • I remembered to pack everything my dogs will need at the kennel while I’m away. I have, in the past, forgotten Rosa Parks’s special dish. The last time I left, I forgot to pack their treats. This time, all of their medicines, with instructions, were in the bag as well as food, treats, the special dish for Rosa Parks, and a toy for Darla. Plus a Christmas morning goody for each of them.
  • I remembered all the packages and gifts, plus the Christmas game.
  • I remembered to bring comfortable shoes.
  • I remembered how much I hate driving on the freeway, especially in the winter. And driving at night, with wet roads, and reflections from street lights and car lights adding to the confusion.
  • Beyond that, I have never forgotten how nice it is to be down here, in the area where I grew up. The area feels familiar, even through all the changes that have happened. The people I’m spending time with are those that I love and feel comfortable with. And that love and appreciate me. It’s the best way to spend the holiday!

Wishing all the best to all of you this holiday season!

Dogs (Especially Darla)

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Rosa Parks gets a lot of attention. She demands it. She has no qualms about scratching on the door twelve times in an hour, if she feels neglected, just for the little rub behind the ears she’ll get, whether or not she actually steps outside. She’ll disturb whatever activities I am involved in – doing dishes, writing, sleeping – to request a lift onto a piece of furniture, a bit of attention, or a treat. Right now, she is sitting at my feet, whining, because she knows I am enjoying a piece of buttered toast…and she has none.

I talk and write about Rosa Parks frequently, because there always seems to be something to say. She is so darn cute! Her name makes me smile. She has a strong personality, in good ways and bad. She will crawl right up to nuzzle my neck when she senses that I’ve had a bad day. She has no qualms about growling, snarling, or even snapping at the groomer, the veterinarian, or even me. She has to be put into “time-out” when company comes. I’ve had Rosa Parks the longest of my two dogs. If I were forced to choose a favorite, I’m afraid Rosa Parks would be it.

But I do have two dogs, and I love both of them. Darla gets side-lined sometimes, because she’s quieter in her requests. When she wants to be let outside or inside, she stands calmly at the door, no scratching or commotion. If I don’t notice, or can’t make it to the door right away, she will eventually furrow her brow and give out a slight whine.

Darla is too big to sit on my lap, so she settles for staying as close to me as possible. When I come out of the bathroom, she is always right there, waiting at the door. If I’m upstairs, she’s pacing below. If I stay up there too long, she will nervously climb the stairs. When I’m sitting at the desk, she is on her dog bed, right behind me. Sometimes Darla examines the tiny space under the desk, where Rosa Parks often sleeps on a rug at my feet, wishing that she could fit under there, too.

Darla is the best dog for a walking companion. When Rosa Parks joins us, I shorten the distance, because her little legs will only carry her so far. She doesn’t like crossing the road, and often has to be carried. She doesn’t like walking through mud. When she goes exploring through the brush on the sides of the path, I get nervous about predators, and have to call her back to me. She doesn’t always come.

Now and then, though, Darla and I sneak out for a walk, just the two of us. She’ll stick right with me, happily, no matter which direction I head or how far I go. She explores, but doesn’t wander too far from me. She comes when she’s called. She is friendly with anyone we encounter along the way. And for the entire distance, her ears bounce up and down – like the wings of a bird – in time with the wagging of her tail.

Recently, both of my dogs received Christmas presents through the mail. Two chew toys, and two stuffed animals. Rosa Parks feigned interest, but she doesn’t really enjoy toys. Darla was ecstatic! And, claimed every toy as her own. At one point, she was sitting on one stuffed animal, had the second one right beside her, and had both chew toys in her mouth. When I put one near Rosa, Darla whimpered and paced, and employed every distraction she could think of until she was able to reclaim it.

Darla’s favorite, now that she’s had time to get used to them, is the little, hot pink, stuffed dog with a crazy, tooth-full grin. She just loves it! It stays with her, wherever she goes inside the house. She tries to take it outside with her, but I won’t let her. She drops her toys when she gets outside, and forgets where she left them, so I make her leave that precious pink dog in the house.

When Darla’s ready to come back in, she sees the toy sitting there, on the floor, waiting for her. No more the calm, patient, uncomplaining dog that I’m used to, Darla stands right up on her hind legs and paws madly at the glass door. She barks until I get there to open it. She charges in, full steam, and pounces protectively onto the stuffed animal. Whew! She has once again saved it from Rosa Parks! The pink dog grins.

The 52 Lists (for Happiness) Project #51

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List the ways you have invested in your happiness this year: 

  • I took more time, this year, to spend with family and friends. That included taking a spring vacation with my sisters, making time for friends when they visited Beaver Island, allowing for a couple extra days off when my sisters and their families were here on the island, going on a trip with my daughter, Kate, and her family, and meeting my friend, Linda, on the mainland this fall for shopping and catching up. I’m preparing to go down-state for Christmas, too, to spend the holiday with my family. I’m hoping to squeeze in a visit with another friend, too.
  • I made a point of prioritizing my art career this year. I finished several pieces that have been “in progress” for too long, and discarded a few others that no longer stirred my interest. I invested in materials for encaustic painting, and researched a couple workshops to delve further into that process. I planned and taught a drawing class. Recently, I’ve been putting out feelers about getting my work in a new gallery.
  • I’ve tried, this year, to cut myself a little slack. I don’t have to be so hard on myself. I’m barely concerned, for instance, that this blog is a whole day late. Who cares?!
  • I bought a new pillow. It’s a huge improvement over the small sofa cushion I had been using as a pillow for the last several years. It makes me happy every time I lay my head down on it.
  • Along those same lines, I bought a new bed. My last bed came from the re-sale shop: $5.00 for the headboard and footboard; $15.00 for the flat springs; and $20.00 to pay the young man that delivered it to my house. I spent another three dollars on a can of spray paint to dress it up, and put it all together with a mattress I already owned. That was two years ago. I didn’t realize that all flat springs are not the same, and that they are not all suitable for adults. The bed drooped instantly, just from the weight of the mattress. It sagged worse when I got into bed. Every movement caused discomfort. Rolling from one side to the other was painful. Getting in or out of bed was a chore. I spent an hour every morning just trying to un-kink my body from the torture I’d put it through. Buying a bed through the mail is a scary proposition. It’s hard, also, to compete with the great deal I got on that miserable bed. Facing the end of the year, knowing that one of my New Year’s resolutions will drastically curb my spending habits, I finally made the leap. The bed arrived last week. I assembled it in an evening. I put a new mattress pad on top of the old mattress, and arranged it on the wood slats that replace springs on this new bed. I was correct that the mattress was not the problem. This new bed is heavenly! Supportive, comfortable, and good-looking, too!
  • I reclaimed Christmas as my favorite holiday. In most areas of my life, as chance or circumstance alters my course, I don’t let my situation dictate my level of participation in life. I never planned on living alone, especially not here on Beaver Island, far from siblings, children and grandchildren. Over the years, I’ve lost family, friends and acquaintances here: some moved away; some died. My jobs have changed, due to businesses failing or opportunities falling through. I continue on. But not concerning this holiday. Regarding Christmas, when I no longer had friends or family to share it with, I let it go by the wayside. Maybe a few contemplative moments in the morning; perhaps a shot of Irish Creme in my coffee, in honor of the special day; probably a nice dinner with kind folks who invited me to share. No decorations, though. Not for just me. Too depressing. Too stark of a contrast from holiday memories of big family gathering, with lots of noise and laughter and children. Well, this year I said to hell with that attitude. This year, I took back the joy to be found in putting up a tree, pulling out decorations, and sifting through memories. This year, there are Christmas lights in the evenings, and carols playing on the stereo. On the side table, there is a basket full of Christmas cards from years past, each holding the place of another time, stirring fresh reminiscences. Often, there are cookies near the big basket of oranges in the kitchen, and a long row of “Santa”s peer down from the shelf. All just for me! And I’m happy!

I Hold Back

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Social media has changed the way we interact with one another. We go there, to Facebook or Twitter, or other sites, to be more social. We want to meet new people. We want an easy way to keep up with the day-to-day events in the lives of family and friends. We want to catch up with  others that we’ve lost contact with.

Social media helps. A few minutes on Facebook each day, and I feel like I’ve got a good idea of what is going with my family. It has enabled me to broaden my awareness beyond my closest relatives. I can keep in touch with cousins, ex in-laws, and distant relatives. I am reminded of birthdays and anniversaries. I see how the children are growing, along with their Halloween costumes, report cards, and visits with Santa. I get an overview of who is doing what, from getting a driver’s license, to starting a new job, to retiring.

As for friends, Facebook has opened the floodgates! Without a shadow of doubt, I have way more friends on social media than I have ever had in real life! And they are all there together: the ones I went to grade school or high school with; those that I know through my job, or some other previous job; others that I met through another friend, or member of my family; and the few who were my friends before social media made it so easy.

I’m not complaining. It has been wonderful to re-connect with people who I knew fifty years ago, and to realize that our lives have often run along parallel lines, and to see that we – after all these years – can relate. Social media is a convenient way to stay in touch. I am aware of vacation trips and diets, illnesses and deaths that  otherwise I might not know about.

Still, there are drawbacks. You can speak out when writing, without seeing the reaction of those people you are speaking to. I know that lack of immediate, visual response has changed us. As I write this, I can only assume that readers are intent on every single word I type. If I were speaking to you in person, I might notice your attention wavering, and have the good sense to quit yammering on.

Social media, where we never see the reaction our words evoke, has made people, in general, more confrontational, argumentative, and disrespectful. Meaner. It has also led to an awful lot of over-sharing. It’s not our fault. We cannot see the eye-roll brought on by the one-hundredth picture of our child, pet, or restaurant meal. We can’t observe the averted glance that would let us know, in face-to-face conversation, that our political rant was falling on deaf ears. We can’t immediately see that we have shamed, embarrassed, or hurt someone’s feelings. With that in mind, I hold back.

I have strong political opinions, and work toward specific ends. I vote; I write my representatives; I make phone calls. Sometimes, I protest.  But on social media, I refrain. I argue for a point now and then; I sometimes post an opinion piece written by someone who can speak to my beliefs much better than I can; I do a lot of fact-checking. That’s all.

I am often tempted to show off a particularly good-looking meal, or speak about the foul mood I woke up in. Usually, I hold back. Or, if it’s really something good enough – or awful enough – to warrant an image or a rant, I write a blog rather than just a Facebook post. That way, I can yammer on incessantly.

Today is my youngest daughter’s birthday. I thought about posting a photo of Kate and me together, on Facebook, in honor of her special day. I held back. Kate is beautiful now, as she always has been. But the true purpose of my actions would be to show myself when I was younger and prettier. The fact is, though there are photos of the two of us that show me with long hair, or dark hair, or fewer wrinkles, I was unfortunately never any better looking than I am now.

The only photo of myself – recent or not – that is actually worth posting is the one my sisters and I call “the bathing suit picture.” It was taken a few years ago, on a “sister’s vacation” in Florida. I had convinced a one-armed man (another story, for another time) to snap a photo of us – six sisters – in our bathing suits, sitting around the edge of the pool.

It was just a stroke of luck that, in lining ourselves up in age order, I ended up in the perfect position for a good picture. All of my body fat was hidden by the arms of the  sisters on either side! I look absolutely svelte! Not so, my other sisters, in less fortunate positions. Brenda and Amy, at either end, look absolutely huge!

Because it is such a flattering photo of me, I have posted it often. First, to chronicle my vacation for all of my Facebook “family.” Then, on the first, second and third anniversary of that vacation. Or whenever Florida comes up in conversation. Or bathing suits. My sisters don’t like it, and question my motives each time. I can’t think of how I could possibly tie in that Florida vacation photo to my daughter’s birthday. So, once again, I hold back.

The 52 Lists (for Happiness) Project #50

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List some images that make you happy:

[Funny, isn’t it, how memories attach themselves to photographic images? The image stimulates the memory much like a particular scent will bring back a person, a time or a place. Even when the photograph is no longer around, the mind holds the memory of the image, and the image releases the memory of the actual event. I keep a “collection” of photographic images in my mind, each capable of opening up to another time, and revisiting people who are changed, or gone.]

  • I took a photo of my brother David, when I was sixteen and trying out my brand new Kodak Instamatic camera. David was five years old. We were here on Beaver Island, on vacation, on the beach at Iron Ore Bay. David had stripped down to his underwear, and was headed for the water: hands in the air, arms every which way and legs at a dead run. I caught the moment when both of his feet were in mid-air. David’s been gone from this earth for more than eight years. He was jaundiced and bloated, barely able to walk the last time I saw him. But that spitfire, energy-filled little boy, running through the sand toward the water…that’s the image of David that I hold in my mind.
  • In the mid-seventies, I photographed my two young daughters, sitting together in our living room, in the avocado green beanbag chair. Jen was playing on her little guitar; Kate’s head was tilted onto Jen’s shoulder. Both were singing. Everything in the picture, from their clothes to the beanbag chair, speaks of that time period. And that was a very good time in my life.
  • I took a picture last week of my Christmas tree. Crooked, scrawny and spare as it was, the image makes me happy. The tree did, too, but it turns out my little dog is allergic to it, so it had to go. I picked up a replacement at the re-sale shop (for only three dollars!), and spent an enjoyable evening undressing one tree, and dressing another. The artificial tree doesn’t make Rosa Parks itch, and – truth be told – it has a fuller, more symmetrical appearance than the other. This one makes me happy, too!

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Oh, Christmas Tree…

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Let me start by saying that I’m thrilled to have a Christmas tree in my house this December. It’s the first time I’ve decorated for the holiday in probably a dozen years. I turn the lights on every single night, and enjoy their ambiance. It makes everything  special, and set apart from the ordinary. Reading a book, eating dinner, practicing my Pilates routine or playing with the dogs all seem imbued with holiday flair when done in the glow of the Christmas tree. That being said, I recognize that my tree has a few “issues.”

Picking out the Christmas tree was an hours-long adventure when I was young. The tree had to look good from all sides. Or, if it were exceptional in every other way, three good sides would do, with the flawed area backed into the corner or turned to the wall. Our tree had to have a straight trunk. It had to be symmetrical. It should be full, but not so full that ornaments wouldn’t hang properly. It had to almost reach the ceiling, with just enough room for the tree-top ornament.

Exceptions were noted. There was the year that my father had managed to score a lovely blue spruce. That went into the family annals as “the best Christmas tree, ever.” One year, the tree was so unstable – do to an overlooked bend in its lower trunk – that it had to be wired to the ceiling to keep it upright. And there was one that shed its needles so badly, we were afraid it would be bald by Christmas.

We admired the Christmas trees of others. The Immaculate Conception Church always had beautifully decorated trees on each of the side altars, and an almost life-sized nativity set, too. Mr. and Mrs. Hathaway had an awe-inspiring color-coordinated tree. Mrs. Linehan had the most darling, tiny tabletop tree. The unseemly white, artificial tree, in the front window of the Grue’s house, caused murmurs and sighs every day when we rode past in the school bus.

In my husband’s family, it was my father-in-law’s job to go and get the Christmas tree. He took the task seriously. He was sent with a list of specifications and requirements from his wife and two children. He tried very hard to please. Yet, every single year, he came home with a tree that was bigger around than it was tall. “A shrub!” my mother-in-law would exclaim, “You brought home another bush!” He’d grin sheepishly, and say, “But look how full it is,” and, “Now, Pat, you have to leave room for the Christmas tree stand,” and, “Don’t you think it’s going to look just fine once it’s decorated?” He was right, it always did look fine, in a short, fat, comical way.

This year when I decided to get a tree, I also decided that it didn’t require so much thought. I have several little pine trees that have grown up in my side yard; all of them need to be removed. My tactic was to find the best-looking one, and give it a stint as my Christmas tree. The dogs and I spent an afternoon wandering through the brambles and low brush to assess each one. I cut down the one deemed “best” with a small carpenter’s saw, and leaned it against the house.

It waited there for several days, until I had time to bring it in, set it up and decorate it. By that time, anticipation had made me quite attached to my little tree. So, I was willing to ignore several flaws in it’s character. First, it’s crooked. I don’t know how I missed it, but it’s true. Definitely crooked. Second, it’s quite spindly. The broadest part of its crooked trunk is only perhaps an inch in diameter. Third, it’s branches are very sparse. There is at least twelve inches between each row of branches through the whole length of the crooked trunk.

Fourth, its branches are weak. The lights clip on, so they at least hold their place, though they cause each branch to droop. The ornaments slide right off. There is always a puddle of decorations on the floor under the tree, and I am constantly picking them up to try again. Finally, this tree is a bit too tall. It reaches the top of the room and the spindly top branch bends sideways across the ceiling.

It’s okay. I can’t locate the home-made angel (that, in any case, looked a bit too much like a hooker) that we used to put on the treetop, anyway. I may have passed it down to one of my daughters. And this year, happy to have a Christmas tree, I am prepared to overlook every single flaw in this particular specimen!