Category Archives: dogs

Nostalgia

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It’s after four o’clock on this Sunday afternoon. I should have published a blog by now. It’s time to get outside for a walk with the dogs. The day is practically gone, but I’ve been busy. Because this is my oldest daughter’s birthday, I made sure to set time aside to call her, not too early, in case she worked the late shift last night; not too late, in case she had plans. I also spent quite a bit of time reminiscing about all the lovely times we’ve shared.

I made granola. I don’t eat breakfast, but I like a bowl of cereal with milk after supper. It kind of stands in for dessert. As children, my brothers and sisters and I all liked a bowl of cereal at night, before we went to bed. Yesterday, I paid over six dollars for a box of cereal. It was a smallish box, too, for that price. I’ll be lucky to get five or six bowls out of it. So. today, I got up and made a big kettle of oats, nuts and seeds granola.

When I pulled out the spiral notebook with my tried-and-true granola recipe in it, a dozen or more pages came out in my hands. It is, granted, just an old, cheap spiral notebook, but the recipes it holds are precious. I bought it at the grocery store in 1978, the first winter I spent on Beaver Island. We were renting a big old stone house that had belonged to a retired priest, Father Donahue. It came furnished. The shelves in the dining room were filled with vintage cookbooks. I divided the notebook into sections for appetizers and beverages, breads, side dishes, main dishes and desserts, and started copying down any recipes that looked interesting.

I’ve continued to add to it over the years. That’s where I recorded my mother-in-law’s directions for the best no-bake cookies. My Mom’s rhubarb crisp. My daughter’s broccoli salad. My sister-in-law’s cheese ball. I copied the recipe for “Spicy Perk-a-Punch” from my mother’s Farm Journal magazine, and I make it every year at Christmastime. The pages that have cookie recipes are spattered with evidence of their use. Though I own a large collection of interesting cookbooks, that old spiral notebook is where I turn when I’m looking for a specific recipe that I know I can count on.

Before it’s all lost for good, I decided it’s time to get the recipes copied. Because I never seem able to take the simplest or most direct path, rather than just re-writing the recipes, I decided to type them into the computer. That way, they could be more easily turned into a book, to share with my children and grandchildren.

Because it’s the first complete day off I’ve had in five days, and because I added to my wardrobe with a few good pieces from the Resale Shop, I had laundry to do. Luckily, all of those things fit nicely together. I got the granola mixed up and in a low oven, then started a load of wash. I typed a couple recipes, stirred the granola, then typed a couple more. I got up to put the clothes in the dryer, another stir, a little more typing.

In between, there was the steady rotation of dogs going outside and coming back in. And lots of good memories filling in every pause. From the January night when Jennifer was born, through all of the years, and every single cherished moment. A good Sunday!

I Love David Allen!

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I love David Allen! And that’s not all.

Today, I love the fact that Blackie Chan is feeling better, after a scary long day and all through the night when he was not doing well at all. Yesterday, I had one of his prescriptions filled. The little dog needs one of these pills in the morning, and one at night, every day, along with two other types of medicine. Usually, I get thirty tablets at a time.

Since I am no longer working at the hardware, which is owned by the veterinarian, it is a little more difficult having prescriptions filled. Blackie Chan will need these pills for the rest of his life. With his congestive heart failure, it is, in fact, the medications that are keeping him going. He’s been doing well, so yesterday, I asked if I could get a double prescription, so that I would have enough for a month before I had to get it refilled.

I came home with a double dose of heart medicine, only to find that Blackie Chan was extremely under the weather. He wasn’t on his feet, wriggling, wagging his tail, and barking out a greeting, as he does every day when I come home. He showed only a little enthusiasm when I picked him up, and he clearly wasn’t feeling well. He went outside with the other dogs, but was not up for a walk. He was uninterested in treats, and he refused his dinner.

When I drove cars that were less dependable than the one I have now, I used to abide by quite a few superstitions about how to keep them running. Never fill the tank up with gas, never buy all new tires, and, god forbid, never take it through the car wash, because, sure enough, as soon as I’d invested that much time or money into a vehicle, disaster would strike. There I would be, on the side of the road with a blown engine, a damaged tie-rod, or a broken axle on my shiny car, wishing I had the money back that I’d just put in to the gas tank.

That occurred to me yesterday, as I stashed a full month’s worth of medication, and wondered if Blackie Chan would make it through the night. But, this morning, he woke up feeling fine. He took his medicine without hesitation, and accepted treats when he came in from outside. He won’t be around forever, but I’m loving the fact that, for now, he’s okay.

In addition, I’m loving a “Dutch Baby.” Also called a German pancake, a Dutch Baby is like a giant popover. My friend, Denise, posted the recipe over the holidays. I copied it down, so that I could try it. It’s wonderful! It comes out of the oven all puffed and crisp and buttery; today I’m having it with “Four Fruits Preserves.”

As for David Allen, I haven’t always loved him. I have been reading his book, Getting Things Done: the art of stress-free productivity. For a loooong time. During my morning study time, I read and take notes on the particulars. It’s a pretty lengthy book, over three-hundred pages, and it has a lot of information. All of the instruction takes some time to become clear. I rarely get through more than five or six pages a day. I started the book two months ago! So, I’m anxious to finish it, and move on to something else. I’ve been getting pretty tired of David Allen and everything he has to say about getting things done.

Except, today, when – all the way on page two-hundred and fifty-seven – I came upon a chapter titled “Why Bright People Procrastinate the Most,” and, in reading it, felt like someone saw me for the very first time! “The smartest and most sensitive people have the highest number of undecided things in their lives and on their lists,” he writes. He goes on to say, “the most creative, sensitive and intelligent people have the capability to produce in their minds lurid nightmare scenarios about what might be involved in doing a particular project, and all the negative consequences that might occur if it isn’t done perfectly.” He even uses filing income taxes as an example! I am famous for putting off filing my income taxes! Oh, David Allen, you know me so well! And you put a positive spin on procrastination, which is my worst behavior flaw. I love you, David Allen!

What’s Going Well?

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After the several near disasters addressed in my last three posts, you might be inclined to wonder, “Is there anything that is going right ?!?” As it happens, the answer is “Yes!”

First and foremost is the fact that the incidents I described were not full-blown disasters, but only near disasters. In every case, the worst outcome was avoided. The falling cabinet did not kill me, or even mortally wound me. The lost dog was found. As for the new kitchen arrangement not living up to my expectations, well. I’ll get used to it. And even though I’m not as thrilled with it as I thought I would be, the extra space near the sliding glass door offers a designated location for the water dish I keep on the floor for the dogs. Prior to this, it sat almost in front of the door, leading to many spills by overly-enthusiastic dogs rushing to get outside.

Secondly, in addition to catastrophe being averted, there were blessings associated with each misadventure. The collapsing cabinet led to getting to a kitchen-rearranging project that has been on hold for at least ten years. It helped me pare down much of the excess that has been taking up space in my house. And, my favorite (now my only) plates were saved. When my little dog, Blackie Chan, was lost, I got in more than ten thousand steps while searching for him. That would mean nothing to me if he wasn’t found, but since he was, yay for getting my exercise in! Finally, when the new kitchen arrangement disappointed me, I spent some time researching smaller refrigerators. Now, when this appliance inevitably bites the dust, I already have its replacement picked out!

Third, surprising as it may seem, there is more going on with me than the almost-calamities that I’ve been writing about. I started a new job in December and, when I felt sure that I liked it, I put in my notice at the hardware store. After nearly twenty years of working there, December 30th was my last day. It was a little bit sad to leave that job; I knew it well, and was good at it. But, the time was right. I have no regrets. In my new position at the Community Center, I feel welcome and appreciated.

I’m still volunteering one day a week at the Resale Shop here. One perk of the job is that I am on the spot if something good shows up in their inventory. Last week, I purchased a low wooden dresser. It was just the right size to replace two low benches that held baskets full of my kitchen towels, tablecloths, and boxes of tin foil, parchment paper and freezer bags. The two shallow drawers would be perfect for keeping those things easily accessible, but out of sight.

The dresser cost ten dollars. Because its planned location – beside the freezer on the stairway wall – would hide the low opening leading to the storage space under the stairs, it needed to be easily moveable. So, as soon as I had the dresser inside, I flipped it up-side down, and got out my cordless drill driver. I removed the wheels from the bottom of the largest bench, and drilled holes in the correct size in each dresser leg. I fit the casters in, tapped them into place, then flipped it over. Perfect! Eventually, I may paint the dresser, but for now, it looks fine just as it is.

Another benefit of rearranging the kitchen is that every single drawer and cupboard got cleaned out. That tendency to get distracted by “side jobs” drives me crazy. Any job I begin takes much longer than it should, as my attention is diverted to something else…and something else again. The upside is that when I’m finished…if I ever get finished…it is a thorough, all-encompassing accomplishment. Right now, I’m very pleased with my nicely organized kitchen!

Finally, so far, I am right on top of my New Year’s resolutions! Now, admittedly, we are only 9 days in to this new year, and I kept my list pretty short: walk every day; exercise every day; continue intermittent fasting; blog twice a week. That’s it. It’s probably too early to be patting myself on the back. Still, it’s worth mentioning, if only for the fact that it may be the only time I can honestly say that I’m holding up my end of this commitment to myself. I’ll take my wins where I can get them! So, nine days in, this year is going very well!

An Almost Disastrous Holiday, Part Two

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Little Dog in the Big Woods

On Christmas Eve, instead of spending a leisurely day in my pajamas, as I had planned, I was up, dressed, and out of the house before I’d even had two full cups of coffee. After the cabinet-crushing incident of the day before (the “part one” of the “almost disastrous holiday” series), I had a whole list of necessities to buy, in order to start putting my kitchen back together. So, though days when I don’t have to work are usually spent letting dogs outside and back in, treating them for their efforts, and boosting them up or down from the furniture, I left them home alone and headed for the hardware store.

The falling cabinet revealed a wall that was covered in mold from an old and long since repaired leak in the roof. There were three large holes, two in the wall, one in the ceiling, where the nails holding the cabinet had give way. There was a crooked row of fourteen smaller nail holes; similar sites can be found throughout this house, and tell the story of me “looking for a stud to hang something up” before I learned that there was such a thing as a “stud finder.”

Mold Control spray was first on my list. A small container of spackle, a putty knife, and a sanding block to fill and repair all the holes in the wall. Then, a quart of Kilz stain blocking primer and a quart of white paint. A kit that contained a small roller inside a narrow paint tray, and an extra pack of roller covers. I picked up a white, over-sized outlet cover to replace the cracked one near the door. Finally, I bought a skill saw, as I’d been told that was the right tool to cut through the countertop, necessary for moving the lower cabinet. I came home with my supplies, and went to work.

The dogs were restless. Usually, when I come home, it is after my workday, and the first thing we do is go for our walk. They didn’t understand this change in routine. Also, there were snowmobiles going up and down the road, which kept the girls agitated and barking, and Blackie Chan confused about all the noise. I’d gotten some preliminary work done. While my primer dried, I decided to take them all out for a walk.

Usually, we walk on the Fox Lake Road. Because of the snowmobile traffic, on Christmas Eve we went down the Cotter’s Trail instead. Cotter’s Trail is basically a long driveway, a narrow “two-track” through the woods. From my back door to the end of the trail where the little hunt camp sits, is less than a half-mile. Mosquitos make it an impossible walk in the summertime. When the trail is covered with leaves in the fall, Blackie Chan, with his failing vision, can’t tell where the path is, and stumbles off into the trees and grasses, so we avoid it in then, too. In the early spring, though, and sometimes in the winter, it’s a nice, off-road walk where I don’t have to be alert to possible on-coming traffic.

Because I didn’t have to be alert, I wasn’t. As the dogs romped ahead or followed behind me, occasionally nudging me for a bit of kibble, I was busy daydreaming. I was plotting out the blog I would write about my collapsing kitchen cabinet adventure. I was working out the sequence of events, and putting sentences together in my mind. “An Almost Disastrous Holiday” would be my title.

I came out of my reverie to realize I was missing one dog. There was Darla, tail up and ears flopping, zig-zagging up ahead, shaking the bushes for interesting smells. There was Rosa Parks, trudging dutifully along ten steps behind me, her tail sweeping from side-to-side, and a slight smile on her face. Where was Blackie Chan? Was he up in front? When did I last see him? Did he get turned around? Did he stumble off into the deep snow?

I called out his name, once, then again, while standing in one place. I’ve watched him, though, put his nose in the air and turn in circles, trying to figure out where I am and where my voice is coming from, and then head off in the wrong direction. Not wanting to confuse him, I figured it was better not to keep calling out. Instead, I walked forward on the trail until the lack of paw-prints told me he was not up ahead. Then, I turned and headed back toward my house. “He just got turned around,” I told myself, “he’ll be right up here around the next corner.” But he wasn’t.

I continued on, quickly now, toward the house, my heart racing, watching for signs that would tell me if he’d left the trail, praying for his safety, hoping he was home, in the yard waiting for us. Darla bounded ahead, oblivious. Rosa Parks, sensing my distraction, continued steadily jumping on my leg, wanting a treat. “Find Blackie Chan,” I scolded in my mean voice, “you’ll get treats when we find your brother!”

All the way to the house I rushed, then around the house to make sure the little dog wasn’t waiting at the back door. I put the other dogs inside. Three more times, I walked across the road and down the Cotter’s Trail, then back home to circle the house and yard. “Foolish,” I thought, “to leave the other dogs at home. There’s a better chance of finding him if they come along.” Nearly panicked now, I brought the other dogs as I traversed the route two more times.

Exhausted, I told myself to pause, to give Blackie Chan time to come home. Just then, my cousin, Bob, pulled into the driveway. I answered his casual, “How ya doing, Cindy,” with a frenzied, “I lost my little dog!” He shook his head, asked how long he’d been missing, and told me of the many sightings of coyote on his wilderness camera. He had just come from “the forty,” he said, which is south of me on the Fox Lake Road. He was heading north when he left; he assured me he’d keep an eye out for the little dog, and bring him home if he found him.

As soon as I caught my breath, I headed out again. This time I left the dogs at home, and took the car. I drove south, slowly, to where Hannigan Road meets the Fox Lake Road, then home. Again, I walked around the house, hoping that Blackie Chan would be waiting at the back door. No. Back in the car, I drove slowly north, to Loretta’s driveway, then turned and came home again. Another peek around the house, then another walk down the Cotter’s Trail. So sad. Discouraged. Imagining my poor little dog, lost and confused…

Near the end of the trail, I heard a small bark. I scanned the area. There! Way up ahead, a movement. I yelled out his name. I clapped my hands. Yes, that was my little Blackie Chan, running in circles, trying to find where my voice was coming from! I ran to him, grabbed him up in my arms, nuzzled him and told him how happy I was to see him. I carried the little dog all the way home. It was four-thirty when we walked into the house, three hours exactly since we had left for our walk.

Only three hours! It seemed like much longer! I had covered a lot of ground, heart pounding, while chastising myself for my carelessness and imagining every worst-case scenario, I was exhausted! The dogs seemed tired, too. There would be no more progress on my kitchen project today. What was left of Christmas Eve, I’d spend relaxing with my dogs, and thanking my lucky stars that – once again – what could have been a disaster, wasn’t.

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An Almost Disastrous Holiday

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the inside of my cabinet door, painted

On the day before Christmas Eve, I finished my shift at the hardware store, picked up my mail at the Post Office, and stopped at the gas station, where I picked up a few things: frozen pizza; a bag of barbecue potato chips; a box of “pot-stickers.” At the counter, I joked that, “it’s evidently going to be a junk food holiday!”

I had the next four days off, and was looking forward to a mellow, relaxing time. All Christmas cards had been sent; all packages were mailed. I had a chicken to roast on Christmas day; beyond that, I had no intention to fuss over meals. I had my supplies from the gas station, and a pot of soup to warm up if I felt like it. I was going to put away the gift-wrapping clutter, and give the house a “once-over,” so that I could enjoy its tidiness. That’s how it started out.

The dogs and I took our walk down the Fox Lake Road. I gave them their dinner while my pizza cooked. I read through a nice Christmas letter, and taped the last few cards onto the mirror. I started a movie and watched it while I had dinner. Then I got up to clean the kitchen.

Pizza generates few dishes. From my entire day, I had only a few items in the sink: one coffee cup; one lidded soup bowl and an insulated mug that I had carried to work; one small plate; one fork; one spoon; and the knife I had used to cut the pizza into sections. I could have just left the dishes, but I like to wake up to a clean kitchen, so it’s worth the small effort. I started filling the sink with soapy water. I picked up a bowl that was in the drainer, and opened the cupboard to put it away.

That was the start of my nearly disastrous holiday.

Without a bit of provocation – I didn’t pull or lean on the cupboard; I barely touched the knob to swing the door open – the entire thirty-six inch overhead cabinet came off the wall, and down on top of me! There was no time to react; I had barely enough time to think “yikes!” as assorted dinner plates, soup bowls, jars and vases rained down on me. I have always assumed my last words would be something like that, as I absentmindedly did some stupid thing that caused my demise.

Not this time, though. Instinctively, I turned, and deflected most of the weight of it away from me. I took a breath. Assessed the situation. I wasn’t broken, though I was standing in a mass of shattered dishes. One shoulder was sore, I had a bump on my forehead, and I’d jammed the thumb of my right hand. Not bad. I called a friend, just to share the enormous, scary, “holy shit” moment that it was. Then I started cleaning up the mess.

It didn’t take long before my racing heart had slowed down, and I’d begun to see the positive aspects of this disaster. First, I wasn’t killed, nor even badly injured. Second, I’ve been planning for quite some time to move the refrigerator over to this spot in the kitchen; I was stopped by the huge effort involved in moving the cabinets. Now, that job was half done! Third, this manner of weeding out of the excess was far less painful than trying to make those decisions on my own.

Last, and of utmost importance, are the things that were saved. Four vases: one that my friend Judi had given me; another from my friend, Carol; a third, handmade by my friend Ruth; and the fourth made by my friend, Susan. Several food storage containers made it through. One soup bowl survived the fall.

On each of the knobs on my cabinet doors, I have small ornaments hanging. On these doors I had: a felted wool, copper and cork Christmas tree that was a gift from my daughter, Kate: a painted shell ornament that my daughter, Jen, made; and a woven paper star that I’d learned to make in a class held by my now departed friend, Larry. All survived!

I had a set of four red plates that I’d bought several years ago. They were a part of a Jaclyn Smith collection for K-Mart. They are small, for dinner plates, and have an embossed floral design on the surface. I just love them! They were stacked on the lower shelf in the left side of the cabinet, on top of four larger black glazed dinner plates and a red and gold hand painted chicken plate that I had recently picked up at the Resale Shop. On top of them was a celadon green ceramic plate and a pink glass dessert plate. All were smashed. Except for the four red plates that – by some holiday miracle – tipped out onto the countertop, still stacked together, and completely intact!

This wasn’t without loss. I liked my cupboards. Though they were “bottom-of-the-line,” I saved several years to afford them, and it was a big improvement to my kitchen. When I painted them several years ago, I added poster-like images on the inside of each cabinet door. The doors and drawers are adorned with a wild collection of mismatched knobs, a gift from my daughter, Kate. But, as catastrophes go, this could have been much more dreadful. So, I avoided the worst this year on the holidays…I’m hoping yours were equally disaster-free!

Merry, Merry…

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I put up the little Christmas tree early this year. I arranged all of the Santa Clauses on top of a small bookcase that sits in front of the dining room window. I draped the holiday banner over the curtains. The snowman my sister Cheryl made for me became a part of a seasonal display in the kitchen. The nativity set, brought out for the first time in many years, dressed up a stand in the living room. As holiday cards arrived, I taped them onto and around the mirror that hangs over the circuit breaker box on the back wall.

As someone who has dealt with severe depression a few times in my life, I know to be careful. Holidays, like birthdays, can be dangerous times. Sadness and melancholy hide just under the surface of what looks like Christmas cheer, ready to take over if given half a chance. Sometimes a big build-up beforehand leads to an equally large let-down afterward.

I remember a couple childhood Christmases when I was thrown in to deep despair over a gift that was not exactly right. My poor mother, who struggled every year to make a good Christmas for all us, was forced to take time away from getting several small children dressed for church, to comfort me over tights that didn’t fit right, or the mistaken notion that “everybody else got better stuff than me!” As an adult, I’ve expected all holidays to rise to an impossibly high standard, and self-pity always wants to step in for any shortcomings.

At this time in my life, and the way the world is now, of course Christmas cannot measure up. My children are grown; even my grandchildren are all adults now, and scattered around the country. it’s impossible to be with all of them. In years when I have gone to spend the holiday with family, I left my own traditions behind, for the celebrations of others. And no matter what, there are loved ones missing. Even if we weren’t dealing with a pandemic that makes travel a scary proposition…even if there were a kennel to house my dogs….even if I could afford the time away…still, Christmas would not be the same.

Holidays accentuate any changes. We note who is missing around the table. This island, especially this year, seems to be treading lightly through the Christmas season, for fear that grief will take over. I am not in the center of many of these losses, and it seems somewhat presumptuous to bring them up. It wasn’t my child, after all, nor my spouse, nor my best friends who died this year. Still, I feel it. Many, I’ve known for years; some for all of their lives. And I care about the people, still here, who are newly dealing with the absences. Sadness radiates outward, and touches all of us.

So. I kept my expectations low, as I put out decorations. I wrote holiday cards and wrapped gifts at the dining room table, with the soft glow of tiny colored lights to help set the mood. I didn’t make plans, or expect anything at all. Every card and letter was a sweet surprise. Packages were welcomed with pleasure, and put around the base of the little tree.

I was thrilled when my cousin Bob stopped in for a visit on Christmas morning. I was overjoyed to get telephone calls from each of my daughters that day, and happy to hear from my grandchildren. I opened gifts in the middle of the day. The dogs and I went for a long walk. I spent a good part of the afternoon reading and giggling over a book my daughter gave me. I warmed up leftover pizza for my dinner. Later, I made popcorn and cocoa, and watched It’s a Wonderful Life. All in all, it was a lovely day.

I hope your Christmas was merry, too!

Coming Home

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Though going away can be invigorating, rejuvenating, refreshing, and exactly what the spirit needs, eventually, one has to come back home. And, no matter how well a trip goes, I always look forward to coming home.

I miss the dogs when I’m away, no matter what trusted, conscientious and caring hands I have left them in. For my last trip away, since the island has lost its kennel, my grandson, Patrick, came up to take care of the dogs. Darla and Blackie Chan took to him right away; Rosa Parks was the last, stubborn hold-out. Even though he made every effort to make friends, even stopping in on his vacation last August to let her become familiar with him, Rosa Parks refused to be nice. She continued to respond to his presence with snarls and scowls and constant barking.

Patrick came up here two days before I had to leave, to get to know the routine, and let the dogs get used to him. When Rosa Parks snarled and barked, I closed her in the bathroom for “time out.” After five or ten minutes of that, she was willing to join the group, limiting her bad behavior to a ferocious scowl. On the day after I left, Patrick sent me a message telling me “Rosa Parks is finally warming up…” Great news! Other messages informed me of their behavior, both good and naughty, and let me know that Patrick was taking his responsibility seriously. Even though I knew they were being well cared for, I was glad to get home to them!

I loved having time with family and friends when I was downstate. Leaving them to come home is comparable to ripping off a Band Aid. It hurts! It’s hard to wake up and not have my sister Brenda right there to talk to! I have to get used to not having my family nearby, to not being able to run into old friends on the street. Though I love my solitary life on Beaver Island, coming home is always an adjustment.

I have to get used to letters and phone calls instead of in-person visits. On-line shopping replaces quick (though, granted, overwhelming) trips to Meijer’s or Walmart. And, though my time away was short, local prices give me a bit of “sticker-shock” when I first get home.

On top of all that, coming home is exhausting! Or, maybe it was the travel that wore me out, and it just catches up with me when I get home. Either way, I was drained! My first day back, I saw Patrick off on the plane, picked up my mail, and got a few groceries. Home, I greeted the dogs, and unloaded the car. I pulled the clothes from my suitcases, swept the floor, did a couple loads of laundry, and washed the mound of dirty dishes my grandson had left. A walk with the dogs, a simple dinner and an early bedtime finished the day.

The next day, I excused my laziness as a need to catch up. I did a lot of sitting around: a little writing, a lot of reading, and too much time staring at the computer screen. The day after that, I checked the garden, picked what was ready, and stewed the vegetables to process and freeze for soup stock. That was just about all I accomplished that day. The following day, though still spent in lazy restfulness, was also my day of reckoning.

I noted that I had let my good morning exercise habit, developed over many months, drop by the wayside between travel and home-coming. The rest of my well-established morning routine was hanging on by a thread. I had let rain and drizzly weather keep me from walking the dogs two days. My kettle of steamed vegetables was still in the refrigerator, waiting to be processed. My empty suitcases were still sitting at the foot of the stairs. Enough! Time to get back on track!

There have been times in my life when a trip to the mainland has ended with me going immediately back to my job. I’m so glad that wasn’t the case this time! This particular trip demanded almost a year of preparation, and several months of long days and intense labor on my part. Travel is always an adventure, tiring and exhilarating at the same time. And, maybe my present age is a contributing factor. Whatever. In any case, it appears that I need almost a week to recover upon coming home!

Walking in October

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There are a many good reasons to get out for a walk. Walking has benefits for both my physical and mental health. It strengthens my bones, makes me feel fit, and is a great stress reliever. My dogs love their daily trek down the Fox Lake Road. So much so that, when I wasn’t here to take them, little Blackie Chan set out on his own. It sent my dog-sitting grandson into a panic, and gave me quite a scare, too, but it all turned out okay. Now that I’m back home, I make sure to get them out for their fresh air and exercise.

In October, there are a few more reasons to step out. First, I just received a new book: Walk Your Way to Better: 99 Walks That Will Change Your Life by Joyce Shulman. I’ve only gotten through the prologue and first chapter, but so far find it to be both inspiring and motivating. Second, an on-line course I’m taking today talked about “Gratitude Walking” for good health and peace of mind. Third, the colors are beautiful, and changing daily. Fourth, the weather is outstanding, mild and warm here on Beaver Island. Fifth, winter is coming. No matter how mild this season, it will be followed by cold weather, and snow, and ice that will make walking outside less pleasant often, and sometimes nearly impossible. Better to take advantage when I can.

Finally, and this is new information to me, this is “Walktober!” I learned about it through my friend, Kathy, who writes her blog, Lake Superior Spirit, from the woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. She has, over the years, often been a source of information and enlightenment. This is no exception. She told me (well, me and any other person who is wise enough to read what Kathy has to say) about Robin, who whose blog is Breezes at Dawn, and who had the bright idea to share our October walking experiences. Kathy wrote about a lovely walk with her mother, and inspired me to share my walk as well. Because it’s so lovely out there, today I’m going to share it with a few photos.

Timeout for Art: Not Making Art

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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!

Happy Day!

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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!!