Monthly Archives: August 2020

Before Dawn


Night before last, I couldn’t get to sleep. I tried! It was one of those nights, though, that, no matter how much nighttime ritual is observed and despite how long I lay in bed waiting for it, sleep would not come. Yesterday, I was tired and cranky. Last night, I went to bed early, and fell asleep right away. Because today is my day off, and I had a sleepless night to make up for, I didn’t set an alarm. I should have.

I woke up this morning, too early. I felt well rested. Based on the quality of light coming through the window, I decided it must be 5 AM, or thereabouts. I get up at 5 AM on the days that I have to be at work by eight o’clock. I congratulated myself on becoming an early-riser, and on being able to tell time by the color of the sky. I counted backwards to bedtime, and determined that I had gotten enough sleep, though barely.

I fluffed the pillow and rolled over. Maybe I could fall back asleep for an hour or two. Seven o’clock would be good. I’d be well rested and ready to tackle the day. I started going over in my mind all the things I want to accomplish on this one day off. Why not just get up, and get started? I could always catch an afternoon nap, or go to bed early again tonight. Just think of all that I could get done, with an early start! I’m awake, anyway, may as well be up.

Having convinced myself, I slid upward on the mattress to try not to disturb the two chihuahuas that sleep on either side of me. I found my glasses on the low shelf beside the bed, and headed for the bathroom. On the way, turned on the coffee pot. Washed hands, brushed teeth. Pulled on socks, because the floor is chilly. Added my cozy robe. As I stopped in the kitchen to pour myself a cup of coffee, I noticed the green, glowing numbers of the clock on the back of the stove. Three o’clock in the morning!?!

Next, ensued a debate with myself. Do I lay back down immediately, and try to go back to sleep? If so, do I leave the coffee pot on, to get strong and syrupy while I sleep? If I turn it off, I’ll have to reheat it in a pan, as I don’t have a microwave oven, and it never tastes like it should when it’s reheated on the stove top. If I go back to bed, will I be able to get to sleep, or will I just toss and turn? If I stay up, will I continue to feel wide awake, giving myself an advantage over my long “to-do” list, or will I peter out for lack of sleep?

Once I pour a cup of coffee, the decision is made. What to do, what to do? What made me so sure that the middle of the night was morning? How could I possibly feel well rested? And what if clocks had never been invented: would I be up and feeling fine, or still asleep? My big chihuahua got out of bed, shook herself all over, and managed a couple yoga poses (Downward Dog is her specialty) on her way to the door. Okay, that clinches it. I poured a cup of coffee. Up before dawn; I’ll see how the day unfolds.



Today is my day off. Oh, precious, wildly anticipated day! I look forward to it intensely for each of the six days leading up to it. I count down the days until my day off…can hardly wait for my day off…want my day off to hurry up and get here…until I have to chastise myself for wishing my life away.

I had a good portion of this summer off. I took to that lifestyle as if I were born for it! Long, lazy summer days stretched ahead of me…until suddenly they didn’t. Work took the place of leisure. Stress filled in for calm. And every day I look ahead to the one day when I don’t have to go to a job.

I have such momentous, big plans for the things I will accomplish on this one measly day that I must believe myself to be superhuman. Me, who can barely find the energy to make a meal and clean up after it on any given workday! I imagine my day off to stretch on and on…yet here it is more than halfway over with. Already.

I’ve gotten some things done, sure. My morning routine includes writing, drawing and studying while drinking several cups of coffee. I also fit in a little meditation, some yoga, and the morning news. These things are standard whether I’m working or not. Today, I had an appointment, so planned a trip to the Transfer Station and to the Post Office, as long as I was going to town. Trash and recyclables had to be loaded into the car, letters written, payments made, and everything sealed and stamped for the mail.

Home, the dogs and I took a long walk. I wandered through the garden, then (one cucumber, two tomatoes) and through the berry patch (about one cup of ripe blackberries). I carried my paper trash out to the fire pit and burned it. I warmed leftovers for my lunch. I checked the long string of messages on my phone’s answering system, and jotted down numbers to return calls.

And that brings me to this moment, sitting here at the computer, with the day half-gone, and a whole long list of things classified as ought-to-do, want- to-do and have-to-do. And as I sit here, I think, “I’ve worked hard all week. I deserve a break!” Ah, yes, let’s concentrate on the pause!

Stepping In



In years now long past, I went swimming in Lake Michigan early in June. By mid-summer, I was accustomed to the bracing water; by August the big lake seemed almost welcoming. I was used to it. That’s not the way it is any more. Nowadays, I rarely go to the beach, and I almost never swim. When I do get to the shore, as I did when my sisters were here on vacation, it takes quite a bit of self-talk before I even dip my toes in the cold water. It’s much harder these days. A lot of things are like that.

August 11th marked the passage of another year since my mother died. She has, almost unbelievably, been gone from this earth for nine years now. Because memories attach themselves to momentous events, whether happy or sad, that also reminds me that my little dogs are nine years old, as they were born in February of that same year. It gives me an idea of how long my brother has been living in the family home, and how long my sisters and I have been gathering for vacations together. Because I started this blog as a reaction to my mother’s death, I know, too, that I’ve been doing this for close to nine years.

Nine years! I’ve published a blog at least once or twice a week pretty regularly. I spent one year writing every single day, and I usually participate in the “April A ~ Z Challenge,” which involves writing every day except Sundays, through the month of April. Judging by my record with commitments, this blog has been a major success! Until this summer.

What happened? I’m not sure. A few “off” days; difficulty finding a relatable topic; a sick dog; not enough of a schedule in my days, switching quickly to too many obligations in any given day; justifications and excuses…and just like that, a habit fell apart. Not just any habit, but one that I was confidant was so firmly ingrained in my weekly routine that I didn’t have to worry about it, like brushing my teeth, or reading before bed.

I should know better. Over the years, I’ve watched other good habits fall by the wayside. One bad winter and a decade-long walking routine falls apart; a few days of giving in to exhaustion, and a cleaning/tidying habit goes out the window as clutter piles up around me. This I know: it’s easier to maintain a habit, even through hard seasons, than it is to resuscitate a habit that has been allowed to die.

In trying to honor the habits that make up my routine, my rule is, “don’t break the chain.” I like the rows of X’s that mark things completed, day after day. When that’s impossible, I tell myself, “don’t miss twice.” That way, one bad day doesn’t destroy all the diligence that has gotten me to that point. The behavior is still intact. When that fails, the habit is at risk. And that’s the point I’m afraid I’ve come to with this blog.

So, here I am, dipping my toes in the water. I don’t have much of interest to say. If I stand here long enough, I’ll get accustomed to the cold. I’ll warm up to topics that I can elaborate on. If I keep returning to it, it will start to feel welcoming again. For now, I’m just here.


Can I Ever Catch Up?



Two weeks ago, I was on top of things. At least that’s how it seems, looking back from my present situation, which is polar opposite of “on top of things.” Today, it seems like I’m on the bottom of a very large pile of things, scrambling to get my footing. What happened?

It was just about two weeks ago when my sisters started arriving for their week-long Beaver Island vacation. I’d had a good summer up to that point, both relaxing and productive. My garden was doing well, the house was in order, and work was progressing nicely in the studio. I was working a few days a week, but was looking forward to more time than usual with my family.

Cheryl arrived on Saturday. I stopped at the family farmhouse after work to say hello. We made plans to meet later for dinner and a trip to the cemetery to plant flowers, and I went home to take care of my dogs. They met me at the kitchen door. I gave them a good greeting, and we went for a long walk. I wandered through the garden to pull a few weeds and pick what was ripe. Inside, I packaged up my contribution to dinner, and started to fill the dog’s dishes for their evening meal.

It was only then that I glanced into the front room. What in the world?!


My bookshelves had given way, spilling their contents all over the room. My little television was dangling by its electrical cord. The stereo was face down on the floor. Books were strewn over every surface. Baskets, once filled with yarn, cassette tapes, CDs, DVDs and assorted on-going projects, had been relieved of their contents, too. I was thankful that the dogs, often sleeping right in the path of all of the destruction, had not been hurt. I assessed the damage, made a few necessary adjustments, fed the dogs, and went out the door to keep my plans.

So, it was several hours later when I sifted through the mess to make some sense of it, and cleared enough of a path through the room to make it usable. Cheryl had offered several times to come and help me, but I declined. The room is small, and the mess was huge. Even alone, I often had difficulty finding a place to step; there was no room for a second person.

Books had to be picked from the shelves before the shelves could be moved. Sometimes, removing the books caused a shelf to slide away in an unexpected direction. It was a long, tedious process. By the time I went to bed, I had a huge pile of books in a corner, and a stack of shelves against one wall. The supports were in a mound on the dining room floor, and the TV was on the table. And, my back was out.


And, two weeks later, that’s exactly where everything still is. Because, the next day, I worked eight hours. And my back was still causing problems. And, three more sisters arrived, along with husbands, friends and one niece. My brother-in-law, Keith, brought up my shelves more than once; if I’d asked, I’m sure he would have helped me tackle the project. I didn’t ask. One week is a short time to visit with loved ones that I see only a few times in an entire year. That was my priority.

Meals together; game nights; beach time; catching up on family happenings, mutual acquaintances, general news and health updates after months apart: that was most important to me. That’s how my time was best spent, and I don’t regret it a bit. I took time away from work last Sunday to – sadly – see the last of my family off on the ferry boat.

Monday, I went back to work at the hardware store, after a four-month hiatus. Many of the summer workers my boss had hired are going back to college, so my job was available again. Continuing to honor commitments I took on in the meantime, I am now suddenly working six days a week. And, boy, am I out of practice! This is exhausting! In addition, over the course of the last two weeks, weeds have taken over my garden and the grass needs to be mowed.

Today is my only day off. The electric screwdriver is on the charger; if it charges, I’ll be able to tackle the bookshelves. I bought gas for the lawnmower. Bed linens are in the washer; I plan to hang them on the line to dry. I’m going to take all the rugs outside to shake them, and sweep through the house. I intend to make some salads to carry for my lunches this week. Big plans…if I ever find the energy to get out of this chair!


a sunset shared with my sisters

Happily Behind


sisters sunset

The grass in my front yard is longer than it’s been all summer. Weeds are gaining the advantage in the garden. More than a week ago, the bookshelves in my living room collapsed. Since then, I’ve had a small television set on the dining room table, baskets of yarn and embroidery floss tucked onto other surfaces wherever they’d fit, and a huge mound of books stacked in front of the front door. The shelves are stacked against one wall; the supports against another. I haven’t stepped foot in the studio in a week. I’ve missed at least three blogging days.

Normally, situations like this drive me crazy. Disorganized procrastinator that I am, I often find myself behind. Usually, I hate it. I berate myself for my laziness and neglect; I rant and rail about all the obligations that keep me from my tasks. I feel anxious and frustrated. Not this time!

My sisters came to the island last week! It was a welcome and long overdue chance to catch up. I spent the whole week enjoying their good company and smiling faces. I relished every conversation, loved every shared experience, and basked in the feelings of comfort and joy that come fromĀ  sharing time with people I love. I’m behind, yes, but happily so. It was absolutely worth it!