Monthly Archives: November 2019

Up To

Kate and I in Massachusetts

In answer to the question, “What have I been up to,” I’m going to write a little summary of the whirlwind of activities that have kept me mostly smiling and always busy for the last eight days. It seems important to get it all down now, while it’s still fresh in my mind.

I flew off the island last Friday, picked up my rental car, and drove south and east to the “thumb area” of Michigan, where I grew up. I went, unannounced, to my sister Cheryl’s house. We had talked about the possibility of me staying with her, but I hadn’t called her back to firm up my plans. Still, she greeted me warmly, welcomed me into her home, fed me, and let me win three out of five games of Scrabble!

The next day, we went shopping. Because I have such limited buying options here on Beaver Island, going into shops and stores is always a treat. We both had short lists of things to look for; when that was accomplished, we went into the downtown area to browse the art gallery, and a few cute little specialty shops.

That evening, I got to see all of my sisters, two brothers-in-law, and a niece: it was Scrabble night at Amy’s house! Cheryl and I swung by Brenda’s house to pick her up; Robin met us at Amy’s, where she and her daughter Kristen were preparing the meal. After an outstanding fish dinner, we settled in for the games. Although the other four sisters are playing a season-long tournament, with scores saved and accumulated over the year, they allow me to play whenever I’m in the area, because they know I love it so much!

The next day, Sunday, Cheryl and I worked on a little Christmas-decorating project, and then I headed out. My next stop was Lansing, to see my daughter, Jen. Because I was fairly certain I would not be able to find her new apartment, I planned to arrive in the city before she got off work. That worked out well.

I caught up with Jen in the middle of a hugely busy day. She was unexpectedly under-staffed, and barely had time to breathe. I retreated to a restaurant across the street while she finished her shift. When she was done, I followed her home. That night, we went out to eat, at one of the restaurants that I’d frequented when I lived in the area. The casual atmosphere and excellent food reminded me of why it was my favorite.

Monday afternoon, I got on a plane. Lansing to Chicago, then Chicago to Albany, New York. My daughter Kate and her husband, Jeremy picked me up there. Anticipating that I might not have eaten, Kate had already investigated restaurants that would still be serving at 9:30 at night. After a good meal, Jeremy drove us to their home in Massachusetts. It was too dark by that time to see much of the countryside, but I could tell by the flickering lights in the distance that we were travelling through mountains.

The next morning, my grandson, Tommy, joined our expedition. We went for an adventurous breakfast (my choice was Eggs Benedict with bacon, avocado and brie!) at a small, locally-owned place. We then enjoyed all the mountain and scenic views as we made our way to New York City. Jeremy is an unruffled driver under conditions that would have otherwise had my nerves on edge. Kate and I had plenty to talk about, and there was always lots to see.

In the city, we located our parking facility (that Kate had wisely reserved and paid for ahead of time), then the restaurant (McHale’s Irish Pub) where we had dinner reservations, then the Gershwin Theatre (right across the street from the restaurant!) where we had tickets to see “Wicked.” Then, we had time to wander the streets, to take in the excitement of the city.

Whole areas were blocked off in preparation for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. We saw the famous Copacabana, Times Square, and the ball that is dropped in the New Year’s celebration. We walked all the way down Broadway. Huge movie screens (that seem to have taken the place of billboards) added to the light show that lined every street. Horse and carriage, rickshaws, buses and taxicabs shared space with other traffic. Street vendors and food trucks contributed to the sensory overload.

It was dinnertime before we knew it. The restaurant was a little noisy, first with soccer on the TV screens, later with dart tournaments, but comfortable and accommodating. I was surprised at how reasonable the prices were, and that there was never a line for the rest room. The service was good, and the food was delicious!

The theater venture deserves much more than I have time or space for here. The Gershwin is a beautiful, well-maintained, historical building. Our seats were wonderful. The show was amazing! Every aspect of the experience felt like more than I ever could have imagined, and something I will never forget!

The next day, Wednesday, we visited the Clark Gallery, with its wonderful collection of Impressionist art, then lunch, then sad good-byes (how did this precious time fly so quickly by?), then onto another airplane. This time, I flew first to Detroit, then on to Lansing, where Jen picked me up just after eleven PM. Her son, Patrick, was at her apartment; I was thrilled for the chance to see him, too! I managed to stay up long enough to have one glass of wine, while telling about my adventure, before I gave in to exhaustion.

Thanksgiving Day, we drove in two cars to Lapeer, to Brenda and Keith’s house, for Thanksgiving Dinner. I think there were about forty people there, and more than enough good food for all of them. It was wonderful to catch up with my grown-up nieces and nephews, and their families. My granddaughter, Madeline, stopped by, with her boyfriend. They were making the holiday rounds, with lots of each of their families to see. Though my brother was unable to attend, I had a chance to catch up with each of his children. My sisters were all there, and all contributed to the fantastic meal.

Yesterday, after coffee with Brenda and Keith, I loaded the car and got on the road. The gray sky seemed to hold the promise of snow, but other than a smattering of wet flakes around Bay City, the conditions were dry all the way to Charlevoix. There, I made a quick run through the grocery store, then dropped my packages off at the airport, returned the rental car, and made it back for my 4:30 flight.

I loaded up the car, went to get the dogs, then home. I unloaded the car, then took the dogs for a walk. I emptied my suitcases, washed a load of clothes, and made dinner. Bedtime was early. And, though I had big plans for what I wanted to accomplish today, I haven’t gotten much of anything done so far! After so much activity squeezed in to the last week, I think I need this one day to catch up!

Taking Time for Art


It has been a busy week. At the hardware store, we’re gearing up for the last ferry boat of the year with bigger orders of winter stock. Snow shovels, ice scrapers, hats, gloves and ice melt have been brought up from the basement and arranged into seasonal displays. We’re receiving new products from the trade show, and getting ready for a “Small Business Saturday” event.

At home, I have all of the usual projects underway, just to make every day more complicated. I had to arrange visits from two separate workmen for a couple mechanical problems. I’ve been preparing for a week away for the Thanksgiving holiday, with all of the packing and preparation involved in that.

Personally, I had prescriptions to refill, and blood work to schedule. I had a dental appointment. On top of all that, Mr. Richards and I were able to coordinate our days so that I could spend a couple mornings in his classroom teaching paper-making.

Paper-making involves a lot of preparation. For several days before the class, I devoted my reading-time going over my old notes. The night before the first class, I was up until 2 AM blending paper pulp. There are a lot of materials. Four five-gallon jugs and six bus tubs filled with towels, couching cloths and paper-making molds were loaded and unloaded many times before finally making their way, clean and dry, back to my little studio.

Many of the high-school students in Mr. Richards’ classroom had, many years ago, attended my after-school art program. So, there was some familiarity with the process, and a good deal of nostalgia at play. I had a wonderful time! Sometimes, adding something extra to an already jam-packed week is just crazy. Other times, it turns out to be exactly what is needed!



The holiday shopping season kicked off on Beaver Island today, with the annual Christmas bazaar. Sponsored by the Beaver Island Christian Church, and held in their Fellowship Hall, it’s a great opportunity to see the products of many island artists and craftspeople. There is live music, and a good selection of hot soups for lunch. There are more gift ideas than I need, this year when I’ve promised myself to cut back. It was a fun day.

I attended this year as a vendor. It’s been many years since I’ve done that. I find it excruciating to sit peddling my own work. I’m terrified people will not like what they see. It embarrasses me to see people try to walk past without making eye contact. If they stop, I refuse to try to convince them of its merits, to the point where I humiliate myself. I understand that my style of artwork is not for everyone. I simply do not enjoy being present for it.

I think the last time I had a table at the bazaar, I was selling a mass of winter hats that I crocheted. I thought that would be easier that sitting with my abstract paintings and collages. It was, a little. Still, it wasn’t fun.

Today, I was at the bazaar for the benefit of my cousin, Mary. She sews beautifully, and had, at my request, sent me a selection of her things. Her mittens are made of recycled sweaters, and lined in cozy fleece. Her large tote bags are sewn from vintage tapestries, meticulously lined with complimentary fabrics. As I was crazy about her products, but had no personal investment in them, none of my usual discomfort applied.

There was a steady stream of people coming through. Sales were good. Everyone was in high spirits. I managed to get a little of my own Christmas shopping done. The soup was delicious, and the music was wonderful. I had a good time!

Early Snow


I haven’t been carrying the camera on my daily walks lately. That’s partly because I was sick, and it was all I could do to drag myself out of the house for shivery and often abbreviated walks with the dogs. Taking pictures was not a concern. Also, here on Beaver Island, we’ve been in an in-between stage for seasonal beauty.

The stunning fall colors are nearly gone. Though some leaves still cling to the trees, the brilliant golds have dulled to shades of brown, and strong winds have stripped the treetops. We’ve gotten snow, but not enough to cover the grasses and fallen leaves. The magical autumn views are gone, and the winter fairy tale landscapes are not yet here.

Today, feeling better, I walked with the dogs through the falling snow down the Fox Lake Road to the big rock and back. When we got home, I picked up the camera and went back outside. The long views are not very interesting, but within my yard, there are things to take note of.

This has been an odd year. Fall came early with cold, rain and high winds. Frost held off until quite late. Now here is early snow. It has cloaked the fruit trees that are still holding on to their leaves, and shrouded the Sedum in the back flower bed. My concord grapes, which never did ripen this year, are still clinging to the vines, wearing caps of fresh snow.

Things Get In The Way

Note the drastic lean to the left!

It seems I’ve been writing “Finish painting the Floor” in the “Tasks” box of my Bullet Journal every month for a year! I know I’ve mentioned the project in several blogs, and bored many listeners with my snail’s-pace progress. With the summer season’s long hours, company and general “busy-ness” over with, I dove back into my project with renewed determination.

I have a small house. The entire downstairs floor is less than six hundred square feet. This should be a simple thing! And yet, it is not. For one thing, I live here, in this small space, with all of my furniture and accessories taking up space. With three dogs, and their dog beds and water dishes to work around. With the necessity to always maintain a route for the animals to get outside, and for me to get to the bathroom.

For another thing I, for some crazy reason, decided that deep-cleaning should be done simultaneously with the painting of the floor. So, the task of painting has been compounded by the sorting, organizing and purging of my accumulated stuff from every cupboard, cabinet, shelf and drawer.

It has, naturally, made the original goal much more elusive, but it has been rewarding nonetheless. How nice to have every drawer that I open be neat and tidy! Wonderful to have shelves clean, dust-free, and in good order! It’s a good feeling to be rid of much of the excess: unused, outdated and unnecessary stuff that has cluttered my space.

Then, there is life. A week ago, I noticed that my newly reorganized living room bookshelves were listing at a dangerously rakish angle. One of the vertical supports had given way. Obviously I’d accidentally missed the stud when I put the shelves up several years ago. All other progress had to stop while I tended to this.

a closer view of the cause

I had to remove everything from the shelves: television; stereo; speakers; baskets of CDs, cassette tapes and DVDs; and too many books. All of which had been recently sorted and arranged by category and alphabetically. With stacks of books now covering the living room floor, I ran to town to purchase wood screws, drywall anchors and spackling compound.

In my haste, I neglected to put the trash can up out of the reach of my big dog. By the time I got home, Darla had my plastic recyclables spread all over the laundry room floor. Just another detour along my route! So, first I got that mess cleaned up, then I patched the wall and rehung the shelves. Finally, I was able to replace everything on the shelves! I like the – slightly tweaked – arrangement even better than before!

After that lengthy roundabout, I got the flu. For two days, I’ve done almost nothing but make my way from the bed to the bathroom. Sleep twelve hours, sit up for two hours has been my routine. Bundled up as if I were on the North Pole, I managed the shortest, shivery walk with the dogs. I’ve been living on water, chicken broth and jello. Sipping hot tea and Thera-Flu.

Today, not yet feeling one-hundred percent, I am back at it. I’m continuing my slow progress, priming and painting small sections between dog walks and work hours and other projects. Too much time is spent simply waiting for paint to dry, but I’m getting there. Working my way toward completion. Hoping nothing else gets in the way!

As Long As I’m Up…


Once again, I’m wide awake in the middle of the night. I lay abed until I could stand it no longer. I’ve had a glass of water, and took aspirin for a mild headache. Now I’m having a cup of herbal tea and debating the issue.

Shall I just stay up? It’s only three-thirty, but if it weren’t for the time change two days ago, it would be four-thirty. If it were four-thirty, surely I’d have given up on sleep by now, and the coffee would be brewing.There is plenty to do, if I find the energy.

I’m still midway through painting the floor. It’s a long and tedious job in a small house that is being lived in. Everything has to be moved out of the way so that, by sections, I can prime and then paint an area. The rooms are small, and the furniture is bulky.

The dogs get confused about which areas are off limits at any given time. Yesterday, Darla barged through my makeshift barricade to walk over the piece of kitchen floor I had just painted. She was trying so hard to do the right thing, I didn’t have the heart to scold her. I get confused, too. I pulled out the refrigerator, then found dinner preparation to be so complicated, I pushed it back in place without painting that area.

I haven’t tackled the studio yet. There, I have to organize stacks and stores of mat board and frames, clear shelves and sort through the contents of several totes to make everything accessible. It doesn’t sound so overwhelming when I write it here but, trust me, it is! When I was charting everything I want to get done this fall, under the “Studio” heading, I just wrote, “Ugh!”

Shall I just go back to bed? Maybe I should. A little sleep is better than none at all. If I can fall asleep. I’ll probably be more productive after I’ve gotten some rest. If I can rest. These middle-of-the-night dilemmas are always frustrating. I’m too tired to be ambitious, too wide awake for sleep, and too sleepy to debate the issue!

On to November


I had a moment of euphoria today, knowing that the fall reversal of Daylight Savings Time added an hour to my morning. I grinned and even hummed a tune as I made the rounds to turn each clock back one hour. Then, I sat down and wasted that bonus time playing a silly computer game. Ah, me.

I did spend some time today, and over the last couple days, assessing my accomplishments for October. I’m participating in the “Last 90 Days Challenge,” and there were five daily expectations:

  • Drink half my body weight in ounces of water
  • Thirty minutes of exercise
  • Start each day writing out ten small things I am grateful for
  • Give up one category of food or drink that I’d be healthier without
  • Get up one hour early each morning, and use that time for personal development

There were some successes, and quite a few short-falls. I never drank the 65 ounces of water that was my goal, but even on my worst days, my intake was far better than ever before. I walked every day, morning and night, easily surpassing the thirty minutes per day I had committed to. I missed my morning writing about a third of the time. I gave up alcohol and chocolate for the month, and made it through without a single “cheat.” I rarely made it out of bed an hour early; when I did, I almost never used the extra time productively.

Beyond the “Five to Thrive” list, I had my own agenda. I intended to complete a major whole house purge, clean and organize extravaganza, plus finish painting the floor downstairs, and get my studio ready to work in. I delayed my progress by taking time to list my goals and chart my progress (ah, me.). Though the ability to highlight things as they were finished was a great motivator, I am still not done.

I’m not discouraged. I’ve learned that the biggest triumph comes not from what is finished, but in continuing to try. Here is November. A new month, a fresh start, and another chance for success!