Monthly Archives: July 2021



The dictionary defines the verb, “help” this way: to give or provide what is necessary to accomplish a task or satisfy a need; contribute strength or means to; render assistance to; cooperate effectively with; aid; assist.

As someone who has spent forty years working in customer service, “help” has been a big chunk of my job description, and a regular part of my daily conversation.

“May I help you?”

“How can I help you?”

“Do you need some help?”

If I hear, “Can I get some help over here,” I am already two steps behind. Unless the customer has fallen down, is choking, or has accidentally tipped over a display, they should never have to ask for assistance; it should have already been offered. Or, in times of extreme busy-ness, at the very least eye-contact and a promise to help “as soon as I get a chance,” should have been made. There are ways to ask casually, without forcing anyone to admit they need help. Which shouldn’t be an issue when you walk in to a business, but sometimes it is.

“Everything okay?”

“Are you finding everything?”

“Doing alright here?”

“Did you get everything you were looking for?”

It is second nature to me. It’s the contact that’s important. Letting the customer know, without fuss, that you are willing and able to help, that you see them, and that you care.

Lately, the concept of customer service has come up in conversation far too often, and in a negative way. It seems that the basic notion of being kind and helpful to the people that come in for the service offered has gotten lost. Now, when customer service is so important! The ease of on-line shopping and the low prices offered by internet giants have made a smiling face and a sincere offer to help the only way we have to compete! And yet, we seem to have abandoned it.

There are a million examples of unfriendly, rude, and unhelpful people in jobs where they were, in fact, hired to be friendly and helpful! I don’t understand the bad attitudes, but I’ve seen them, far too often, firsthand, as a customer, and even among my co-workers. A friendly “How are you doing?” is answered with, “I’ll be doing fine when I get out of this place!” That, from a person who is being paid to be there! Making it clear that doing their job, helping you, is the last thing they want to do!

I don’t like it, but I have no power to change it. If I were in charge, employees would have to meet a higher standard. And while I’m at it, just let me take charge of everything. I think the whole world be a better place if we all approached each other with a smile, and the offer, “What can I do to help?”

Timeout for Art: Not Making Art


There’s been lots of activity in my world here on Beaver Island. Last week, my family was here; four sisters with three of their partners; four nieces with their families; and a few cousins just to round out the numbers. There were days at the beach for swimming and playing, trips to explore the island, and evenings at the beach for sunset. There were puzzles and games keeping us up until all hours of the night, and shared meals gathered around big tables. It was wonderful!

It didn’t, however, leave much time for other things. I neglected my home, garden and yard. My dogs became accustomed to – though not happy with – my erratic coming and goings. I struggled through shifts at work, with little sleep and no energy. I didn’t write. I never stepped foot in the studio.

Then, there’s the “catching up.” Mowing lawn and weeding garden and flower beds compete for my time. Showering my dogs with love and attention is also at the top of my list. Then there’s laundry. Housework. And, I admit, nap-time. Then back to my outside-of-the-home jobs. Which, especially at this time of year, can be exhausting, leaving little energy for anything else.

Though I’ve had no time or energy for making art, I’ve been busy at tasks related to studio work. There’s always something to do! Last week, I switched out the mats and frames of collages for a couple who have been good customers and loyal supporters of my work. I framed new work for an upcoming show, and put wire hangers on the backs of some others.

While working outside, I deadheaded my daylilies and bagged the spent blooms. Added to my collection of leaves and petals in the freezer, they’ll be there when I need them for papermaking. Yesterday, I delivered my work to the building where the Museum Week Art Show will take place, then filled out the paperwork and paid my fees. Last night, I cut to size, dampened and wrapped printmaking papers, so that they will be ready to print on this evening. That will be the first actual art work I’ve done in weeks! Often, though art-related activities take up much of my time, there is no art-making going on!



I’ve been skittering around the topic of heartbreak for several weeks now. How to write about it? What to say? It seems, often, that heartbreak is all around. But is it mine to speak of?

Illness and loss of ability are common, and heartbreaking to see. Death is ever-present: people that I went to school with; relatives; friends; residents of this small island. Lately, there has been news every week of one loss or another. I knew every one of them, some better than others. I am saddened by each death. It feels arrogant to talk about my own sadness, though, and somehow disdainful of those closer to the loss. I’m not one of the parents, the spouses, the adult children, or the best friends.

I could skirt the subject entirely. I could talk about the heart-breaking-ly beautiful way my hollyhocks have bloomed this year. They came up like two giant bouquets in my narrow flower bed. The stalks lean, so I see their red blooms, visited frequently by bumblebees and hummingbirds, through the window of my kitchen door. I could write about floods in Germany, wildfires in the northwest, or the rise of the Delta variant. Lord knows, every day’s news offers plenty of heartbreak!

I could talk about my own personal heartbreaks. Some of them don’t hold up very well in hindsight. There was the man that rejected me, throwing me into a months-long depression. Honestly, I had already been gathering a list of faults and grievances about him. If he hadn’t walked away, I’m sure I eventually would have. There was the job I thought I wanted and felt I deserved, that broke my heart when I didn’t get it. Realistically, I can think of a hundred reasons why it would have frustrated me, and why the way it worked out was better all around.

Of course, I’ve also had true, stand-up-to-time heartbreaks. More than enough. I understand the frustration and sadness of not being able to do things that used to be taken for granted. I know that it’s often just as hard for those watching the decline, as it is for the ones experiencing it. I know how difficult it is to see those we love in pain. And I recognize that, sometimes, when death comes, it is a blessing.

I know, too, that no matter the blessing, no matter the acceptance, that is only the beginning of the heartbreak. That is when the harsh reality sets it. When the realization strikes that somehow life will continue on, and yet never be the same. There are the litany of holidays and special events that continue to arrive, in spite of the glaring absence of the loved one. There are all the ordinary days when you look up and expect to see them coming through the door, pick up the telephone and expect to hear their voice, or when you – from a scent or a shadow or a summer breeze – feel that they are right beside you. Then, the heart breaks again, with the cruel reminder, “still gone.”

A segment on this morning’s news was talking about a disaster somewhere. It was just background noise as I worked on something else. I looked at the screen in time to see one of the bystanders talking into a microphone. “You see all the heart-ache,” she said, “and it breaks your own heart.” That’s it, exactly! Whether, in sympathy, we can say, “I know what this feels like,” or, “I can’t imagine what you’re going through,” is not important. Our hearts break when we see the heart-ache. Our hearts break for you; our hearts break with you.

Happy Day!


Today, I’m good.

I slept well, and woke up feeling rested, strong, and ready for the day.

I’ve lost about ten pounds so far this year. I notice it a little bit in my face, and I have a few pair of pants that now need a belt, but mostly I look about the same. Still, it feels like a good accomplishment.

The dogs seem content. Though they each have health issues, this has been a good week for them.

I’ve got several good books going. I’m reading That Sounds Fun by Annie F. Downs, Everything is Figure-outable by Marie Forleo and Indelible by Laurie Buchanan. For my morning study time, I’m reading The Power of Daily Practice by Eric Maisel, PhD. For my evening walks, I’m listening to Eternal by Lisa Scottoline.

I’ve just completed filling every page in my sketchbook with drawings, and I’m ready to start another.

My bush beans have finally poked through the ground in the garden. The peas are up, too. The pumpkin is looking quite impressive. After a traumatic start, I think my tomatoes are all going to make it. The pole beans have just started to climb their tepees.

I had a couple really productive days outside last week. I moved a rhododendron plant to make room for several daylilies that I had to thin and move from another bed, to make room for two Gold Drop Potentilla that I bought on sale. I think the bushes will stand up better to my big dog’s thrashing through the flower beds looking for snakes. The daylilies seem to have handled the mid-season transplant just fine. In fact, I swear they seem a little relieved to be out of the big dog’s path of destruction! My hollyhocks are up, taller than me, and loaded with buds, just outside the kitchen door.

I crawled around on hands and knees pulling weeds. Nothing new, except that I can actually see the progress I’ve made. I moved the last of my straw to the garden, to mulch the tomatoes and squash. I picked up a bunch of windfall and a dozen dog toys. I mowed the back yard and, oh, it looks nice!

I met a few friends and cousins after work for a drink on Friday. On Saturday, I ran into a couple other cousins, and had a good chat over coffee. Then I ran to the gallery for a wonderful conversation with another cousin, who shared the news that my work is selling well this year. And even better, reported that she’s getting good feedback about it, too.

Today, before work, I’m going to stop in at the farmhouse to say good-bye to my cousin, Keith, as I won’t be able to be in town to see him off. I’ll be working at the golf course, then, for the rest of the day. After today, though, I have three days off. Oh yeah, plus…the boat that will be coming in to the harbor and carrying Keith away…will be delivering my sisters to the island!!! Oh, Happy Day!!