Category Archives: dogs

The Rules at My House

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First of all, there are not very many rules at my house. We play it pretty fast and loose out here on the Fox Lake Road.

I do try. After a little excessive spending toward the end of last year, I made a rule: “No unnecessary purchases this year.” That hardly lasted a week. Deciding my purse was a bit small, I found another at the resale shop. Only two dollars, that hardly counts, I told myself. When that one didn’t work out, I donated it back and bought another, also only two dollars. Then the cover for my bullet journal, purchased in December as part of my end-of-year buying blitz, arrived in the mail. With the cover on it, I need a larger bag to accommodate it. So, I donated the second purse back, and went on-line to find a purse that will work.

I intend to double the distance I walk this year, and started the month with a renewed plan to walk every single day. We’re not even at the end of January, and I’ve already missed two days! In an effort to get my blogging back on track, I determined that this year I would post a blog every third day. Yesterday, I came home tired and let that commitment go right out the window, too.

I think I’m not much of a “rules” person. That’s my thought…though my daughters would tell quite a different story! Maybe I’m just not big on regulating my own actions. Still, there are a few behaviors that I adhere to almost without fail. These are the rules of my house.

  • I make the bed every day. That wasn’t always the case, but now I can’t imagine ever having an unmade bed.
  • I start each morning with a list of things I am thankful for. This helps me to appreciate the good things in my life, and gets my day off to a good start.
  • I recycle anything that can be recycled, and compost anything that can be composted.
  • Whenever the dogs go outside and come back in, they get a treat. Even if one of them (Rosa Parks!) goes out-and-in a dozen times in an hour (ignoring me when I ask “Rose, did you even pee?”) because it’s the only game she remembers…and because she loves those rewards. For this reason, I’ve had to drastically reduce the size of the treats over the years. Currently, the payment for being a “good girl” is one pea-sized bit of kibble.
  • Similarly (because it seems that my dogs do like rules), the dogs get fed before I sit down to my own dinner, Darla always has to lick the spoon that I use to stir their food, and I have to sing to them when I put down their dishes. Not a whole song or anything, just a little rhyming ditty to let them know it’s dinnertime. They expect it. If I happen to be on the telephone, and just put down their meal without singing, they just stare at me, unsure of what they’re supposed to do.
  • Whenever, for whatever reason, whether frustration or a stubbed toe, I exclaim, “Oh, Lord…” I have to follow up with the rest of the song, “…won’t cha buy me a Mercedes Benz…” preferably in my best approximation of the voice of Janis Joplin.
  • I always do the dishes before I go to bed.
  • I read before turning out the light to go to sleep.

That’s about it. These are the things that keep my life moving steadily along. Nothing much, but important anyway: the rules of my house.

How to Make a “Feel Better” Soup

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[Looking for fresh ideas for things to write about, I came across a suggestion to “write a how-to about something you do well.” I found that idea kind of inspiring, and immediately wrote out a list of topics. I don’t profess to be an expert, but there are a few areas where I am quite competent. Not wanting to look like a know-it-all, I’ll spread these “How-To” blogs out over several months, to fill in when I don’t have any other topic. Happy learning!]

I was home sick today. My symptoms were kind of vague: a sore throat; a slight cough; a general all-over crummy feeling. And a fever. That was the clincher. I can be a bit of a hypochondriac, so I don’t always trust the signs of illness. With a fever, I know I’m not just exaggerating, or inventing the clues. When the thermometer gave me a reading of 101, I knew there was a real reason for the aches and chills I was experiencing. I called in to work, and spent the day at home.

I have fond memories of “sick days.” The ones that I remember with such good feelings, though, are days when I was not really sick. Then, it’s a bonus day. When I was a child, those days were filled with reading, and the unusual undivided attention of my busy mother.

As teen-agers, Brenda and I could sometimes bring Mom in on the conspiracy. With promises to help her with deep cleaning or other projects, she could sometimes be convinced to give us an excused absence. We’d keep still until Dad left for work, then rush around to get everything done before the afternoon soap operas came on. Mom would join us to watch General Hospital and Dark Shadows before our younger brothers and sisters started arriving home on the bus.

Even as an adult, I could sometimes, though rarely, manage a day away from work. It seemed like I could accomplish more in those “cheat days” than on any regular day off!

But a sick day, when I’m really sick, is no fun at all. Today I felt like I should be able to do something productive…or even just some lazy, fun, wastrel activities…but no. There were several projects that I didn’t get to on my regular days off…but I felt too lousy to tackle any of them. I have a stack of seed catalogues, two new magazines, and three in-progress books. I didn’t feel well enough to give attention to any of them. I didn’t feel up to exercise, or even taking the dogs for a walk. I slept a little, but mostly just laid around…doing nothing. The only thing I accomplished of any value was to make a pot of soup.

I put a variety of dried beans in pan, covered them with water, and brought the water to a boil. I simmered them for about ten minutes, then took the pan off the heat. This method eliminates the need for soaking the beans overnight. After they sat in the water until it cooled, I drained them, put in fresh water, two pints of soup stock, and any vegetables I had laying around. That amounted to one large onion, two carrots, four wimpy stalks of celery, a part of a tomato, a few green beans from the freezer, and about a quarter head of cabbage.

I let it simmer through the day. About an hour before I was going to eat, I added a handful each of quinoa and brown rice. Soup is always comforting, and that’s especially true when I don’t feel good. On a day that was otherwise wasted, it was one small thing to do for myself.

One Lazy Day

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I enjoyed a totally lazy day yesterday.

I started it off by sleeping in. The dogs went out at six-thirty. When they came back in, I went back to bed. They went out again at eight o’clock. At that time, I started the coffee pot. When the dogs were both back in the house, and with the coffee brewing, I thought I’d just close my eyes for a few minutes more. Well, that “few minutes” went long. I woke up with my big dog, Darla, standing beside the bed, looking into my face. “Raaooow,” she said. I think it was shorthand for “Rouse yourself!” And she was right…it was ten AM!

I moved from the bed to the dining room table, where I spent several hours writing, reading and drawing. Exercise was limited to getting up to let the dogs out and in, frequent walks to the kitchen to refill my coffee cup, and an occasional trip to the bathroom. I fried an egg and made toast about 1PM. After that, I turned on the computer. I checked my mail, looked at social media updates, and played a few games of online Scrabble.

At three in the afternoon, I showered and dressed, dried my hair, and took the dogs out for a walk. Home again, I picked up another book and, for a change of scene, sat down in the comfortable armchair to read some more. I fed the dogs around six, then made myself a grilled cheese sandwich, and warmed up the last of the vegetable soup. A good “lazy day” supper. For dessert, a bowl of yogurt with fruit and granola.

Back on the computer, I went through my news feed, then listened to a couple podcasts. My daughter Kate sent me an article that made me giggle. I watched a sitcom, using the commercial breaks to do up the dishes and tidy the kitchen. My friend Linda and I messaged back and forth, comparing notes on diet and fasting. I went to bed at a reasonable time.

After a day of little activity, it didn’t surprise me when I had trouble falling asleep! I finally cried “uncle” and gave up on trying to sleep. I got out of bed at two-thirty in the morning. I found a movie on Netflix. “Leap Year” is a cute romantic comedy with a backdrop of the Irish countryside, that didn’t require a bit of thought or concentration on my part. I made popcorn, with no regard to my renewed commitment to intermittent fasting. Finally, I went back to bed at four AM.

Today, I’m waking up slowly. I am determined, though, to get moving soon. There is plenty to do, to make up for my indulgent, lazy Sunday!

What Next?

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I spent four decadent, lazy days at home, getting used to winter, and adjusting to the holidays being over. Now that the new year has established itself in my mind, what’s next?

I’ve been working on setting up my bullet journal, and have made good progress. After several years of doing this, I’ve finally figured out what works for me. I ignore the elaborate examples that crowd the pages of Pinterest, and simply repeat my same old basic format. It’s a calendar, mostly, where I can keep track of birthdays and appointments, but also just my day-to-day stuff. I rarely write “to-do” lists on my daily pages, but I do find it very gratifying to write down tasks after they are completed. Last year, I wrote a short list of goals at the beginning of each month. Almost none of them were completed; they just followed me from one month to the next, like a nagging pest. I eliminated that feature this year.

Rather than start with a list of New Year’s resolutions – which are, I think, a set-up for disappointment – I devoted one page to “Aspirations and Goals.” It includes a few items like “set up the grape arbor” and “organize the studio,” and some habits I want to continue (though I’m trying to remember to avoid caveats like “every day”). It also contains reminders to “laugh,” “don’t gossip” and “be kind.”

I allowed several pages to record the books I read this year. My friend Candy loaned me The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. I enjoy that author, and it came with a good recommendation from Candy, so I’m looking forward to it. I’m still working my way through The Joy Diet by Martha Beck, in my morning study time. And I’m continuing to listen to the Marcus Didius Falco series on Audible. It’s been going on so long, the dogs are beginning to think “walk” and “Falco” mean the same thing!

I have a nice little stack of new books from Christmas, that I’m excited about. My daughter Kate sent me Naked by David Sedaris. I love his comedic point of view! My daughters and I went to hear him speak in Lansing several years ago, so this book also brings back memories of that good time. She also gave me Four Girls from Berlin by Marianne Meyerhoff. It is described as “a true story of a friendship that defied the Holocaust.” I don’t like war stories per se, but ever since reading The Diary of Anne Frank, I’ve always been fascinated by the back stories of the second World War. From friends Kevin and Lois, I received The Night Portrait by Laura Morelli, a novel that uses art history to link the 15th century art world with the Resistance during World War II. I started it last night, and it grabbed my attention right away. My grandson Michael sent me a book, too. I haven’t actually seen it yet, as I haven’t been to town to get the mail, but he and I share many interests, and he chooses reading material well, so I know I’ll enjoy it.

I’ll continue to walk regularly, and keep track of my miles. With my fitbit, I’m noting my daily steps, too. I’ve been slacking off on other exercise over the holidays; it’s time to get back on track with that. After a short break, I’m also getting back to Intermittent Fasting. Along with limiting when I eat, I plan to give a little more consideration to what and how much I eat, to see if that makes a difference! That’s about all the future holds in the health category.

After my long weekend, today I’m going back to work. That means I’ve got to get my walk in early today; it will be dark by the time I get home. I have a few letters and one small package to send out. I should read my gas meter. I have to go over my notes for the drawing class I lead. So, I’d better get on with it!

On to the New Year

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Here we are, at the beginning of a new year. And, even though the calendar is a human-made devise that holds only the value that we give it, the first day of a new year always seems important. It feels like a new beginning…and I love a fresh start!

Determined to make the best of it, I got up early and started my day with meditation, gratitude journaling, drawing, and study time. Then, feeling a little under the weather, and having not slept well last night, I crawled back into bed for a long morning nap. No sense in being too “gung-ho” about the new year!

When I woke up, I worked for a while on setting up my new 2023 bullet journal. Before retiring last year’s book, I like to remind myself of my accomplishments and the memorable events of the last year. As I flip through the pages where I recorded the large and small happenings of 2022, reminders of precious visits with family and friends make me smile. There are poignant memories of my sweet little dog, who died last spring. There are flowers pressed between pages, and a small gallery of colorful drawings done by my little niece, Ellie. There are records of events large and small: some important; most quite trivial.

At seventy years old and in what I like to think of as “semi-retirement,” I worked for pay 167 days last year. I volunteered my time at the resale shop thirty-four days. I wrote this blog regularly, though not as regularly as in other years, and read and recorded it for the Beaver Island radio station.

I walked almost every day last year, and totaled 375 miles for the year, surpassing my goal by ten miles. I kept track of the days that I did other exercise, and whether it was yoga, Pilates, strength training or rebounding. My sister Cheryl got me a “fitbit” for my seventieth birthday, so I’ve been keeping track of my daily “steps” since then, too. I write down my weight each day.

I read seventy-four books last year. Nine of those were books I studied. Though not exactly textbooks, I took notes as I went along, and read with the intent of improving my knowledge in one area or another.

Twenty-five were audio books, keeping me company on my walks. Of these, I’ve really enjoyed the Marcus Didius Falco series by Lindsey Davis. Set in Rome, in the first century AD, they are well researched and historically accurate (at least as far as my own knowledge of ancient Rome goes), with a good storyline that includes both romance and mystery. The series is read by Simon Prebble, and he does an outstanding job, so important to my enjoyment of an audiobook.

The other books were simply pleasure reading, some much better than others. I read at least ten adventure stories by Zoe’ Sharp before deciding they were a little too violent for my taste. The “Irish Cottage” series by Juliet Gauvin was too simplistic. And, after reading three of Michael Robotham’s psychological thrillers, I decided I’d better stop before I scared myself to death!

I re-read, in order, all four books in the Jackson Brody series by Kate Atkinson. I then read her earlier novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, before reading her newest book, Shrines of Gaeity. I read All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr before allowing myself to start his newer book, Cloud Cuckoo Land. Though wildly different from each other, both were wonderful. The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn, Light Perpetual, by Francis Spufford, and The Sentence by Louise Erdrich were other treasures.

Visits to the island by my sisters, my daughter Kate, several cousins, and a couple nephews gave me a good dose of family togetherness, just when I needed it. I made three day trips to the mainland in 2022, two for medical appointments, and one, completely unnecessary and totally frivolous, to meet my dear friend Linda for lunch.

After reminiscing about the past year, it was time to get busy with the present year. Rosa Parks opted to stay home today. but the big dog, Darla, and I went for a nice two-mile walk. After that, I made a bean, ham and barley soup, featuring black-eyed peas for good fortune in the new year. I’m not really suspicious about it, but it’s a good soup, and it can’t hurt. If it ensures good fortune, wonderful! If it doesn’t, well, it’s a nice ritual to mark the beginning of a new year! Happy New Year!

Another Day with Nothing to Say

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In previous years, I’ve participated in “last ninety days” challenges, in an effort to maintain my good habits through the difficult end-of-year trappings. Shorter days, blustery weather, holiday gatherings, and seasonal comfort foods all work to foil the best intentions. This year, I didn’t fight it.

Last week, when the temperatures dropped, and the winds were blowing, I took no walks with the dogs. For three days, I didn’t even leave the house. I swept the snow away from the sliding door whenever the dogs went in or out, but otherwise did no snow removal. Inside, I could could have kept up with my exercise with any number of books, charts and videos, but I didn’t. The trampoline leans, unused for days, against the wall. The hand weights are gathering dust.

I have a long list of things that need my attention, “when I have time.” I found myself with time, but no energy…and no incentive. Without a bit of guilt or shame, I eschewed all major projects in favor of good books and old Christmas movies. When I felt up to it, I channeled my enthusiasm toward setting up my bullet journal for 2023. Funny how plotting out my objectives for the next year can make me feel better about abandoning this year’s goals!

My diet plan seems to have gone by the wayside, too. In my defense, it let me down first. I’ve been intermittent fasting for almost two years now. In the first ten months, it was working like a charm. I lost about twenty pounds, and felt terrific. Then, with little to account for it, the weight came back. Right now, I’m almost exactly where I was – weight-wise – when I started. So, these last few weeks, I’ve paid little attention to the plan. Raisin toast with my morning coffee. A shot of Irish Cream in my coffee on Christmas. Popcorn and cocoa at midnight.

I’ve been pretty lax about blogging, too, in these last several weeks. This is one of the habits I feel good about; I don’t want to abandon it. I’ve been keeping up with it for more than ten years, now; that’s an impressive record, for me! Yet, lately I’ve been struggling to find something to write about. I feel like I’ve run out of amusing stories and interesting observations. I’ve been thinking about ways to get around that problem: other approaches, fresh perspectives, and new inspiration.

As to all of my neglected good intentions, I’m sure the new calendar will help me find my focus again. Happy New Year!

More

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I had just finished writing about adjusting, and some of the things I was having to adjust to, due to weather, age, and other factors. I realized, then, that I had forgotten to write about the time change. Daylight Savings Time, which caused me to have to set my clocks back an hour two weeks ago, was my main inspiration for writing about adjusting!

The dogs don’t understand a time change. No matter what the clock says, they want their dinner at the usual time, which is now an hour earlier than it has been since March. By the time the clock says it’s time for me to feed them, they are languishing around their food dishes as if they think I’m intending to starve them.

We lose a lot of daylight in this northern hemisphere, as winter approaches and the days get shorter. I’m not sure how the time change helps. Maybe nothing will fix that, in November and December. Perhaps it’s not even designed to help. I think in the fall, we change our clocks to go back to “real time,” and it is in the spring that the time changes to the artificial Daylight Savings Time. In any case, it always throws me off. So, that was what had caused all the thoughts about adjusting, and then I forgot to even mention it! I was just about to do an edit, to put in a few sentences, at least, to complain about how it gets dark practically in the middle of the afternoon, and how I’ve had to change my schedule to make up for it. A phone call interrupted those plans.

On the telephone was my friend, Darrell, who I have known since he was twelve years old. I knew him first through his mother, and I always liked him, though we were not always friends. His Mom was my friend. From her, I learned of Darrell’s teen-aged exploits, his disagreements with his brother, and his fights with his Dad. I watched him grow up, settle down, and raise a family. We – from long acquaintance, shared history, and mutual close connections – became friends. He was calling to tell me that his Mom, my dear friend, Chris, had passed away.

I first met Chris in 1978, when we worked together at the Shamrock Bar and Restaurant. We were both new residents to Beaver Island. I loved being here; Chris did not. Moving to this remote island had been her husband’s idea and, like almost anything he suggested, she went along with it. She was unhappy, home-sick, and lonesome for her family back in Wisconsin. Her two sons were nine and twelve; my daughters were three and six years old. We didn’t have a lot in common, but developed a friendship, nonetheless.

We worked well together as breakfast servers at the restaurant, leaning on each other through mad rushes and difficult customers. We had family dinners together outside of work. From griping about our bosses, complaining about our husbands or sharing stories about our children, we always found plenty to talk about. By the end of that first year, Chris and I were lifelong friends.

Chris and her family moved off the island, then came back. Many times. Though she hated Beaver Island that first year, she grew to love it, and always missed it when she was away. I moved away, too, for various reasons over the years, though my heart was always here. Telephone lines and letters kept us connected through all the years, wherever we were. Whenever we found ourselves both on Beaver Island, we’d get together for coffee, and chat like the old friends we were, as if no time at all had passed between visits.

There was a running joke between us. Chris had a hard life, and she often seemed sad, or downcast. Sometimes she vented to me about her troubles; other times it was me complaining about whatever was going on in my life. No matter what, though, her tagline was always, “It’s all gonna work out.” I would tease her about it. “When?” I’d ask, “I’ve been hearing that for twenty years, Chris, when are things gonna work out??” She’d giggle at that, but she never gave up her insistence that everything would get better, in the end.

Now, all the changes that seemed so daunting pale in comparison. Now, I’m having to adjust to a world that doesn’t include my friend. Dear Chris, I hope, with all my heart, that everything has worked out for the best, for you!

Adjusting

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What, for heaven’s sake, do I have to adjust to? Plenty, I guess. Lately, “adjusting to change” feels like the theme that directs my days!

After nearly a year in my new job at the Beaver Island Community Center, I am still in the adjustment phase. I continue to grumble about the change in my schedule. At my last job, I worked from early morning to mid-afternoon (8AM to 4PM). Now, most days I start around noon, and work until 7PM. It’s not like I’ve been put on a night shift! Nevertheless, it’s a change that causes necessary alterations in my eating, dog-walking and sleeping schedule, and I’m still getting used to it. It’s also a continuing and joyful surprise to come in to such a pleasant workplace, with an always kind and supportive staff.

As I age, I continually have to adjust to changes in my abilities. I keep a magnifying glass always nearby these days, for when my bifocals are not enough. I depend heavily on my daily calendar and various other lists and notes, for lapses in my memory. I’ve learned to use walls, chairs and counters to assist with everyday activities, when my body fails to move or flex as I would like. Maybe my sense of smell is improving to make up for other losses, though. I got a bag of shredded soap “milk bath,” and put it on the stand in the bathroom, until I could get a decorative jar to put it in. Every time I walked into that room, I’d see that clear bag and think, “what is macaroni doing in the bathroom?” Then I’d catch a whiff of lavender-almond, and remember that it was shredded soap, not pasta.

After seventy years on this planet, it seems that I’d be used to the change of seasons. Not yet! This fall, I again walked in wonder through the beautiful colors, as if I’d never seen them before. I snapped hundreds of pictures, to add to the thousands I’ve taken in previous years, documenting every aspect of the metamorphosis of grasses and leaves. And, after more than seven decades in this climate, the first big snow always surprises me. As if, this once, winter weather would not come. It brings a sense of awe, at the stunning changed landscape. It brings memories of other winters, and it puts me right in the Christmas spirit. That is combined, always, with a feeling of dread, and a little fear.

Keeping the house warm is a big challenge in the winter, and includes the added expense of fuel to keep the heater going. The driveway needs to be plowed. Pathways have to be shoveled. Driving – and even walking – can be difficult when the road conditions include snow and ice. But, I adjust. I’ve brought my winter boots out of storage. I found the cleats that fit onto the soles, to make slipping less likely. I brought my warm parka and my knit cap with earmuffs out of the depths of the closet. And I think, how wonderful it is, that after all this time, there are still surprises in store for me, even if they force me to adjust!

Without Power

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Today is election day, and there are plenty of important issues on the ballot. If I were a better person, perhaps my title, “Without Power,” would be in reference to our privilege, in this country, of having a voice about the people and ideas that hold sway. This essay would be about the importance of each of us asserting our own values and priorities, with the power of our vote.

Alas, I am not that good. Instead, my sole purpose of writing today is to grumble and moan about a power outage that was a big inconvenience to me. I wasn’t the only one affected. All of Beaver Island was without power for a while, and even that was a part of a larger outage caused by storms that swept through Michigan on Saturday. But, true to form, I am talking mostly about myself. Saturday evening was when it began,

I spoke on the phone to a friend on the other side of the state. “The sky looks really weird,” she told me, and asked if we were expecting bad weather. It had started raining here on Friday, and continued off and on, but I didn’t anticipate any major storms. The forecasts that I’d heard talked mostly about marine conditions. Since I had no plans to be out on the water, I paid little attention. I was not concerned.

I’d had dinner: baked chicken with cauliflower, and my dishes were stacked in the sink. I warmed fresh apple cider, added a cinnamon stick, and sat down to read. The wind was picking up, but I was cozy indoors. The lights flickered, then went out, then came back on again. I lit a few candles, and went back to my book.

Shortly after eight PM, the power went out again. This time, it didn’t come back on. This isn’t unusual. We have lots of trees in close proximity to electrical lines. Our beech trees are dying, and come down easily in any wind. Great Lakes Energy, the cooperative that provides the electrical service here on Beaver Island, has a full time employee here, and he works hard to keep us all going. Outages are usually a few hours at most. Inconvenient, but not impossible. A few things happened to complicate the issue this time.

First, our full-time electrical service guy was not on the island; he was with family on the mainland, due to the death of his grandmother. Two other employees were sent over to replace him. However, as I understand it, the corporation decided to pull them off the island on Saturday. Maybe because they didn’t think the storm would be so bad; maybe they thought their presence elsewhere was more crucial; maybe they didn’t want to spring for hotel rooms for them here. I don’t know.

Second, the island was assailed with strong winds (50mph) for many hours. The main pole that brings electricity to the island was knocked out. Several other lines were down, around the island. There were difficulties with our back-up generators. And, we had to wait for the sun to come up on Sunday before it would be possible to get a crew back here to work on it! So, for many reasons, this was an unusual and extreme outage.

photo by Jon Bonadeo, posted with a warning to stay away!

Without electricity, I have no internet service. I never have cell phone service at my house. When the lights go out, I unplug my cordless phone (which depends on electricity), and plug in an ancient, large, ugly beige, corded telephone. On Sunday morning, that worked. I called the toll-free number to report the outage. I listened to the recorded message telling me that over 17,000 customers were without power, and that they were working on it, and that if it wasn’t resolved by 10PM, I should seek shelter elsewhere. By Sunday evening, even my corded phone had gone dead. Evidently, when the power is out, even corded phones depend on batteries, and our island telephone company doesn’t have enough battery back-up to keep all of us going.

With consideration to my two dogs, and the knowledge that likely everyone on the island was in the same predicament, I did not seek shelter elsewhere. Still, by Monday morning, I was anxious to find out what was going on! So, I drove to town. I enjoyed the first cup of coffee I’d had in over 24 hours, got the rundown on what had happened, and received the good news that those of us who still were without power could expect relief by that night. Which it was!

I was one of the twenty-five households here that were without power the longest, about 53 hours. As I was able to get back on-line, I saw many offers of help from those islanders whose power was restored earlier. “If you need water, or a meal, or a warm place to sleep…” was a common refrain. One friend sent me a message, telling me she wasn’t at home, but the generator was working, and I was welcome to go there. A volunteer at the Community Center made big batches of soup and chili, and put the word out that anyone could come there for a hot meal.

Now that it’s over, I guess it wasn’t so bad. It could have been better, though. I could have had kettles and buckets filled with water, for when the faucets ran dry. I should have made sure my tablet was fully charged, and that extra books were downloaded, so that when, in my boredom, I blasted through the last pages of three titles, I’d have another to turn to. I should have checked that batteries were handy for flashlights and lanterns. The next time I hear mention of a “weird sky” or a storm coming through. I’ll pay attention!

Now, though, I’m off to vote!

Heading into November

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Yesterday, I got a good walk in. My little dog, Rosa Parks, opted to stay home. She was happily dozing on her cushion near the heater. She didn’t rouse herself when I put on my shoes. She ignored me when I grabbed a jacket. She opened one eye when I filled my pocket with kibble, but did not get up. So, the big dog and I headed out on our own.

Darla is an easy dog to walk with. Though she wags a greeting to every vehicle that comes along, she easily yields to them. She wanders ahead to explore the roadside, but she stays within sight, and she comes when she’s called. Unlike the little dog who expects to be coaxed along and rewarded with treats, Darla needs no encouragement.

It was a lovely day, sunny and mild. The fall color is still evident, but clearly nearing its end. Last week’s bright hues have dulled. Bronze has replaced gold, and many trees are bare. Fallen leaves cover the edges of the roads. It feels important to get outside to see the season’s glory. To take notice. To appreciate the warm days. For all of these reasons, it was a good day for a long walk.

Way back in January, when I was laying out my goals for the new year, I decided to be more disciplined about walking. One mile a day, on average, was my plan. Because there will always be days when a walk is impossible, I was determined to make up for those times with longer walks on other days. Then, all the things that got in the way last year, and the year before, continued to foil my good intentions.

Daylight Savings Time makes darkness come early. Weather is always a consideration, from winds that threaten to topple trees, to ice that could cause bone-breaking falls, to driving rain or extreme cold. Mosquitos and gnats can be discouraging in the warm months. Then there are days when I’m just too tired. And days when aches and pains – my own, or those of my little dog – affect my plans.

Almost every day, I get out for a walk with the dogs. Too often, though, I turned at the half-mile mark. That, combined with those days that I didn’t walk at all, served to bring my average down. The longer walks haven’t happened as regularly as they needed to. Now, at the end of October, I’m falling far short.

Last weekend, on another beautiful day when Rosa Parks again stayed at home, Darla walked with me all the way to Fox Lake. She enjoyed a swim before we headed back home. That was a four-mile walk, and I was encouraged. Yesterday, we walked a mile south on the Fox Lake Road, then turned east onto Hannigan Road, to check out the scenery there. We walked the length of that road, then turned, and retraced our path. The colors were spectacular, and the distance, round trip, was six-miles.

My goal of walking 365 miles this year is possible, but it will be close. I’m eighty miles short of that number, with 62 days left in the year. Today, my joints are aching, and Rosa Parks is limping. It doesn’t seem likely. But, I’m not giving up. Whether I reach the target or not, we all benefit from the exercise. And, on days as pleasant as yesterday was, there is plenty to appreciate along the way!