Monthly Archives: March 2022

Up and Down

Standard

It has been a week of highs and lows in my little life here on Beaver Island. The news outside of this small sphere has been so decidedly dark, I can hardly bear to look. I hate to even turn to the reports these days. Let the world go on without me for a while, I can’t stand it any more! Here in my tiny portion of the world, there have been plenty of ups and downs.

My sister, Brenda called. She told me she thinks she may come for a visit in the spring, when our sister Cheryl comes up to open the farmhouse. That was wonderful news! I miss my sisters so much, always, that it does me a world of good just to know they are coming, and have dates to look forward to. She also told me they had figured out a way to get my artwork, that has been stored in Brenda’s basement since my show ended last fall, back up to me on the island.

I wrote to Lois, who has the gallery that carries my art here, to let her know the work was coming, and to make sure she had room for it. I had foolishly planned on selling everything in October. Though my sales were good, there was plenty to contend with after the show was over. I hadn’t planned on having to get it back home. I don’t have room to store it here. “Bring it on,” was her answer. What a relief!

I ordered a trampoline. It was a decision that was a long time coming, and I felt pretty good about it. I managed to lose a couple of the pounds I’d gained back over the holidays, but not nearly enough. I’ve doubled the distance I walk, most days, and expanded my indoor exercise to thirty minutes each day. I read that working out on a trampoline burns twice as many calories as running for the same length of time. And, it’s much easier on the joints! I’d watched a couple videos that used mini trampolines for a good workout; it didn’t look too hard.

I researched further, compared prices, and ordered. One 40-inch exercise trampoline. With a safety handle. Weight capacity 350 pounds. Foldable for easy storage. I was extremely proud of myself. Then, the doubts started creeping in. People that I told were surprised. Or shocked. Aghast! “How old are you,” the woman at the airport asked, laughing, “and what in the world made you think you wanted a trampoline??” Still, I don’t think it was a bad idea. I used to love jumping on the bed…

At the first of the week, the lovely spring-like weather inspired me. Tuesday, I washed all the rugs, and hung them outside on the clothesline. I opened the windows to the breeze, and swept through the house. By Wednesday morning, Michigan’s fickle weather had reasserted itself. I woke up to a cold, sleety rain. One clothesline pole had split and fallen, leaving all the rugs on the wet ground. In the bathroom, I saw that the ceiling had sprung a new leak, and was dripping a steady stream into the bathtub. In the kitchen, I started the coffee and bent over to give my big dog a belly rub…and put my back out!

That was a discouraging morning! Since then, I’m happy to report, the guys came out and patched my roof. I got in to the Health Center and got prescriptions that help my back pain. I’ve got the rugs back inside, and down where they belong. As for the clothesline pole, that will have to wait until the ground is no longer frozen!

My trampoline arrived on Friday. Today was the first day I felt well enough to even get it out of the box. It looks sturdy; it’s quite cute. It’s going to take up a little more floor space than I’d anticipated. It’s not as easy to fold for storage as I’d been led to believe. Turns out, it takes two people to get it opened up. Since I am the only one here, it’s going to stay in its folded-up state for a while. That’s okay. The way my back feels, it’s going to be a while before I’m going to be doing any jumping up and down!

Advertisement

Just in Time!

Standard


For weeks now, I have been meaning to get busy in the spare room upstairs. There is furniture to arrange. A large bookcase has to be emptied and moved to make room for a dresser. Once the bookcase is set up in its new location, the shelves have to be filled again. One chair, a small rack that holds DVDs, and a couple framed pictures have to be moved, too. The box spring should be brought down the stairs and outside, in anticipation of having it hauled away. I’m not sure that I can manage it on my own.

I decided that, as I’m shuffling things around, I might as well put another coat of paint on the floor of that room. Of course, there is sorting and organizing and cleaning to do, too. Every day, I plan to start; every day, I find an reason not to. Once again, because I never do learn, I have built a manageable job up into an insurmountable task, that is now too intimidating to handle.

When that job is finished, if it is ever finished, I have plenty to do on the other side of the landing, in the studio. From cleaning to creating, the studio always has a long “to-do” list. Downstairs, where I manage – though barely – to stay on top of things, there are plenty of tasks to catch up on. Now is the time for spring cleaning. All of the windows need to be washed. The rugs should be cleaned. Thinking ahead, I should order plants and seeds for the garden, and I have a few seeds to start in the house.

I couldn’t seem to find the energy tackle any of it. Every day, more of the same: ice; cold; snow. The end-of-winter doldrums had caught up with me. I did not want to get out of bed in the morning. I forced myself through my daily routines: make the bed; write in the journal; study; draw; exercise; go to work; walk; do the dishes. Most of the time, they are just rituals that add order to my life. Some days, in this long, slow time of year when the landscape hardly changes and it feels like winter will never end, those habits are the only things that keep me from dropping into depression. Often, they are the only things I accomplish in a day.

Then, suddenly and seemingly without warning, everything changed. There was a hint of spring in the air. The sunshine was especially warm and cheering. Overnight, what had been a thick layer of snow and ice on the Fox Lake Road turned to slush. By the next day, there were large patches of gravel showing, and the slush had melted. My little dog, Blackie Chan, usually hates to get his feet wet. He will shake off each paw with a look of disgust on his face, if he steps into anything other than solid ground. And yet, the day before yesterday, that little dog walked all the way down the road, in water to his knees, smiling the whole distance. I know just what he was feeling!

Today, I can see bare earth in patches across the back yard. When the sun is shining in, it’s warm enough to have the door open to the screen. The rhododendron has unfurled its leaves, and has tiny buds forming on the stems! I think I’ll hang the rugs out on the clothesline today! It’s early yet, for spring on Beaver Island. Here, we can usually expect at least one more major snowfall. Several years, we’ve gotten a blizzard after the first of April, and we often have patches of snow still visible through the month of May. Still, today it feels like spring, and I’ll relish it. I say, just in time!

Excessive Worry Leads to Nothing Good

Standard
Six words to describe my life right now: excessive worry leads to nothing good.

I think radio, television, and the internet have given us all much more to worry about, every day. Of course there are advantages, but sometimes I find myself longing for a time when news was not available twenty-four hours a day, from all around the world. Can you imagine? I think it sounds quite lovely to be unaware, to not feel like I should be coming up with a solution, or fretting about things that I have little power to change. Not forever, but for a while.

Right now, the world seems dark, and ominous. Too heavy. Ukraine. Nuclear saber-rattling. Climate change. A dozen more worrisome things that make the news and, I know, a hundred other travesties that, for one reason or another, are not in the headlines today. I do what I can, but it feels like nothing in the face of such enormous issues. So, I worry.

Yesterday, storms swept through the mid-western United States. Tornadoes touched down in Iowa. One of my daughters lives in Iowa. She’s a nurse, and works the night shift. I couldn’t call her. I spent some time trying to get more information, and pulling up maps of her location, in relation to the path of the storms. And, I worry. I worry about both of my daughters and all of my grandchildren, often, even when I know they’re doing well, even when they’re not possibly in the path of a tornado.

In my own small, sedate, and secure world, I have tiny concerns. A little glitch in my bookkeeping, a small health issue, a leaky roof, three aging dogs, two books underway that I’m right in the middle of the high-stress point…in comparison to what’s going on “out there,” I have nothing to complain about. Still, in the middle of the night, when worries take over, these little things play leapfrog with all the big things, to make sleep impossible.

Sandwiched, as I usually am, between two small dogs in my bed, the decision to get up is not made lightly. Sometimes, unable to sleep, I stay where I’m at just to avoid rousing the whole household. Last night, after hours of frustration at not being able to quiet my mind, I got out of bed. First a glass of water, then a cup of tea. I paced the floor. I sat and read. Maybe, the very least I could do is finish one book, and have that one less thing playing on my mind. I made toast, and ate it with butter and jam. Then I ate a dozen dried cherries, each accompanied by a roasted almond. Another cup of tea. All the while, letting dogs, their own sleep interrupted, outside and back in.

Finally, around four o’clock in the morning, I went back to bed. I had not solved the world’s problems, nor found solutions to any of my own. I had made no progress in any area; I hadn’t even finished a book. I ate – too much, and not particularly healthfully – in the middle of the night. Lacking a good night’s sleep, I’ve been dragging around all day, less productive than usual, even. All I’ve managed is to prove my statement: excessive worry leads to nothing good!

Lent and other Trivialities

Standard

Ukraine. It has been a cause of worry for weeks, as Russian troops gathered at the border. Then, they moved in. The news is terrifying. I’m not afraid for myself, or for my own family. I am frightened for people I have never met, all the way around the world, in a country that, to be honest, I knew almost nothing about until this happened. It now occupies all of my thoughts. I am constantly uneasy about what will happen next. My heart breaks for their suffering, and swells with pride for them at every act of bravery or resistance. And yet, I have been at a loss for words.

Who am I to talk about this conflict? My feelings are not stronger than those of every other caring soul, watching from this safe distance. I show my support, as so many do, by posting images of sunflowers, the national flower of Ukraine. I display the colors of their flag. I participate in group prayer and synchronized meditation for the country and its people. I share news stories and images of courage and resistance. I know, all the while, that my meager acts of moral support are tiny, indeed, to the families in the thick of this horror. I have nothing to say about the trouble in Ukraine that hasn’t been voiced, more eloquently and more knowledgeably, by others.

When something this big is occupying my heart and my thoughts, it makes any other topic seem trite and irrelevant. So, I have been silent. Frozen. Almost ashamed of going about my normal daily activities when such big, tragic, life-altering things are going on. I remind myself that there have been wars and conflicts, natural disasters, starvation, pestilence…horrors beyond my imagination…always, somewhere in the world. It doesn’t necessarily show up in my news; it doesn’t always feel so personal. But it’s there, nonetheless. I should be ashamed of ever going about my easy, normal life. I should be constantly working for peace. I should do more!

Then, I came across this, written by Mari Andrew:

Seeing the truth in these words, I have decided to plunge ahead, with my simple thoughts, about my ordinary life. That has led me to “Lent, and other trivialities.” I can imagine Sister Mary Michael frowning at my suggestion that Lent is trivial, But in the context of world events, I stand by my choice of words. Today is the first day of Lent. I haven’t observed Lent, or, for that matter, any of the Catholic traditions, for many years. For selfish reasons that have nothing to do with religion, that’s changing this year.

I have been doing Intermittent Fasting since January of last year. It worked like a charm for quite a while. It was easy. It fit well with my lifestyle. Giving up cream in my coffee was the biggest hurdle. Once I managed that, it was easy to limit my eating time to eight hours a day. I saw slow but steady weight loss; my sugar levels, cholesterol and blood pressure all improved. In the first eleven months, I lost fifteen pounds.

Several things changed, then. First, winter arrived, with cold temperatures that always make me want comfort food. In my book, that translates to rich, starchy, carb-laden food. Second, I started a new job, with a schedule I wasn’t used to. I had to adjust my eating window to work with my new routine. Third, I received lots of chocolate at Christmastime, and I enjoyed every bit of it. Finally, the price of cereal went up to over six dollars a box.

I like to have a bowl of cereal almost every evening. After dinner. Maybe with a banana sliced on top. I think of it like a poor man’s dessert, something cool and refreshing to finish off the meal. Not when a box of cereal is over six dollars, though! So, I made granola. The first few batches were cheap, because I had all of the materials on hand. I stock up on nuts and seeds when I get to the Co-op, and store them in my freezer.

I have a good granola recipe that is quite delicious. It varies slightly from one time to the next, but basically it is: 4 cups of old-fashioned oatmeal; 1 cup of slivered almonds; 1 cup of pepitas; 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts; 1/2 cup of sunflower nuts; 1/4 cup of flax seed; 1/4 cup of raw, unsweetened coconut; 1/4 cup of brown sugar; 1/4 cup of real maple syrup; and 1 tablespoon of flavorless oil. I toss it all together, and put it in my big roaster in a 275 degree oven for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally. When it’s done, but still warm from the oven, I add up to a cup of dried fruit. Lately, that has been a combination of currants and cranberries.

It is delicious, but not a low-calorie food. Nuts are pretty high in fat; oatmeal is one of the foods that encourages inflammation and bloat. Then there’s the sugar. And the oil. But delicious, that’s the key! So, rather than eating cereal with a banana and milk, I’ve been having a scrumptious mixture made up of 1/4 cup of either frozen raspberries or blueberries, and one cup of plain yogurt, topped with 1/2 cup of granola. Served up in my clear glass bowl, it looks like a sundae, and feels like a decadent indulgence. I have it every day. Sometimes twice a day.

I’ve gained seven and a half pounds! That is half of all the progress that took almost a full year to accomplish! And maybe it’s not the granola. It could be the schedule change. Or the comfort food. Or the chocolate. But, it just so happens that on this, the first day of Lent, I am out of granola. I finished the last bit of it last night. The time is right. It’s worth a try. I’m not making another batch! This year, I’m giving up my fruit, yogurt and granola bowls for Lent. That’s the mundane news in my little corner of the world!