Category Archives: Life

Stress (April A~Z Challenge)

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I’m away from home this week, and through the end of the month, visiting family, taking care of some finances and bookkeeping, and traveling to Florida for a week-long vacation with my sisters. It is wonderful to get away…but travel always comes with some level of tension, too.

First, the packing. I have spent some part of every day over the last two months worrying over what I could pack for this trip. Downstate in Michigan at the end of April can be an entirely different climate than Beaver Island, Michigan. Then there is Florida. Land of bathing suits and shorts and sleeveless dresses. And me with all of my winter’s fat to contend with…you can see where the stress is coming from.

Beyond clothes, which had to be divided between the Florida suitcase and the Michigan suitcase, there are all of the papers I need in order to get my taxes filed. Forms, receipts, bank statements and business records necessitated their own brief case. The computer, another. Because my daughters and I were unable to get together over Christmas, we are planning a late celebration of that holiday. So, gifts had to be wrapped and packed for travel, too.

Reading material is another whole category of anxiety. What books shall I pack? If they are too good, I’ll finish them too quickly and be left without anything to read. What if I don’t like them? Should I start them first, to make sure they’ll hold my attention? To complicate matters, my  eight-year-old electronic reader – which was my back-up source – quit working last week. And, books are heavy, when freight is paid for by the pound!

The dogs are a major source of stress before I leave home. I’m sure they are fine in the kennel. I know all their needs are met. I probably miss them more than they miss me. Still, before I leave them, I am practically overwhelmed by guilt and worry.

Finally, there is the trip itself. Two hundred and fifty miles can seem like a huge distance when I am alone in the car. Especially if the road conditions are not good…or if traffic is heavy…or if I encounter detours…or mechanical problems.

Let me be clear: I love to get away from home. I also think that “stress” is a far over-used word lately. However, when I’m preparing for a trip, there is no word more definitive!

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Reading Material(April A~Z Challenge)

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When packing for my trip off the island, I had plenty of things to consider. Reading material should have been the least of my worries. For the bus that would take me from Charlevoix to Flint, Michigan, I was allowed one 50 pound bag, plus one small carry-on. For the trip by plane from Bishop Airport in Flint to Orlando International Airport, I was allowed one 40 pound bag to be checked. No carry-on.

Beaver Island was in the middle of a snowstorm, with ice and freezing temperatures. That storm had already gone through the Flint area. Still, it was April; what the weather would be like tomorrow, or the next day, was anybody’s guess. Do I add a winter coat? What will that do to my weight capacity? Because part of my plans for this trip were also to solicit my sister’s help in filing my taxes, I had to also allow room for several folders of receipts and forms.

When I checked the long-term forecast for the area of Florida we’d be in, it showed cooler temperatures and thunderstorms for three of the seven days we’d be there. Who could tell if that prediction would hold? On top of that, all Florida clothing had to travel well, be versatile, and promise to hide my fat. I know, I was asking a lot.

With so much to consider, I had fallen into procrastination mode until there was no longer any time to waste. I was becoming more tense in every day that went by. The time for making lists and considering options was past; it was time for action! Finally, on the day before I was scheduled to leave, I had two revelations:

  1. I would leave my computer at home. In this day and age, there are computers out there to use, in a pinch. I could check my mail, post my blog and be done with it. No temptation to waste time on social media or in playing internet Scrabble. What a relief to not have to worry about where and how to carry my laptop computer, and all of the cords and accessories that accompany it. How nice to have one less thing to weigh, and carry! What a good time to practice going technology free!
  2. I would weigh my books first!! Because my electronic reader had recently given up the ghost, I had three books set aside to take with me on vacation. Peony in Love by Lisa See, The Alice Network by Kate Quinn, and We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter: paperback books that each sounded like they would grab and hold my attention on a plane, on a rainy day inside, on the beach, or before falling asleep at night. Stoking the Creative Fires by Phil Cousineau was the one technical book I allowed myself. A Morning Cup of Yoga  by Jane Goad Trechsel would keep me up on my daily practice. Then, of course, I had to have my journal for writing “morning pages,” my sketchbook to document my trip in pictures, and my bullet journal for keeping track of everything else.

Whew! That did it! Once I made the decision to prioritize reading material, everything else fell into place. Logically, I can say that it shouldn’t have played such a major roll in my decision-making, with all of the other things I had to consider. In the end, though, it seems that having my books with me made all other decisions easier.

 

Quiet (the April A~Z Challenge)

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I like the quiet.  Too much noise makes me tense.

I think I was always like that. Growing up in a large, raucous family, I would search for places to be alone. I’d take a flashlight and a book, and crawl to the very back of the attic, alone. I would pick a mound of fresh peas and sit – hidden from view – on the far side of the black shed, while I shucked and ate them. I made a little hideaway by clearing the deep top shelf in our bedroom. I’d sit up there for hours, above the fray.

As an adult, I don’t need the radio playing or the TV on. My nerves get jangled when there are too many people speaking at once. Or when people are shouting or arguing. Or when the road truck causes my dogs to burst into a tirade of loud, sharp barking. I like things peaceful. I like it quiet.

Still, there must be another side of me that I am less aware of. I know there is a sharpness to my tone of voice that, over the years, people have interpreted as anger, sarcasm or nastiness even when it was not intended. I know I can sometimes be a “long talker,” beating a subject to death, almost. My husband thought I was bossy.  My youngest daughter would often offer to take the time-out, grounding, or whatever punishment was at hand, if I would, “JUST DON’T LECTURE!!!”

And when my dear mother, who was an only child and often seemed a bit overwhelmed by all the noise and activity in our household, begged,  “please just let me have a little peace and quiet…” I was often one of the people she was speaking to! Now, I would happily comply. I love the quiet!

Patchwork (April A~Z Challenge)

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this photo was taken in mid-April, 2017

I used to be quite the quilter. I was never taught; actually, it never seemed to me to be one of those things that needed to be taught. Some patterns, of course, were beyond my skill level, but I wasn’t aiming for whorls or stars or flowers. Mainly, I was just using up scraps. I thought that’s what quilting was all about. I was a hoarder of all manner of bits and pieces, so quilting seemed right up my alley.

My husband was a roofer, and would wear through two dozen pair of blue jeans in a season. I patched them with scraps from other jeans that were beyond repair. I stitched the patches on with various embroidery stitches, sometimes embellished with a row of flowers, a heart, or a peace emblem. Then, when I became overrun with denim scraps, I stitched large pieces together – some embellished with embroidery, some not, in twelve shades of faded blue – into a pair of wide leg pants for myself. They had a drawstring waist, and were quite dapper, for the 1970’s. I took the zip-out liner from a jacket my husband never wore, and covered it with patchwork denim scraps to create a blue-jean vest for him.

As with every craft I have tried to master, there are many more unfinished examples than completed projects. I started a silky baby quilt made just from old neckties. I started another using just the silk labels from inside of clothing. In both cases I fell far short of materials. I planned a large quilt made of old T shirts, and collected them for years with that purpose in mind. When I started having grandchildren, I intended to make each of them a crazy quilt, using bits and scraps of old clothing from various family members.

I think I finished a couple of them. They were colorful, without a doubt. They were accepted graciously by babies and parents. Years later, when one of them (I think Tommy) brought his quilt out to show me that he still had it, I was embarrassed at the poor quality. Seams – that were never properly put together – were coming apart. Edges were crooked; stuffing was lumpy. I was embarrassed, but not surprised.

Some time, between first putting denim scraps together to make “masterpieces,” and – twenty years later – fitting all manner and shapes of fabric together to make “crazy quilts,” I came to the realization that there are, in fact, rules to proper quilting. Knowing that – and knowing that I had never learned them – dampened my spirit about the whole endeavor. There is a lesson here, somewhere, in my quilting experience…though it’s not a quilting lesson!

 

Out (April A~Z Challenge)

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Beaver Island is, at this writing, in the middle of a mid-April winter storm. It started with a mist of icy snow that progressed, over the next twenty-four hours, to what I can only describe as a long-lasting downpour of driving, icy snow. It sounded like pouring rain, with a hint of a hailstorm thrown in. Electrical outages, closings and cancellations ensued. The roads are snow-covered and slippery, and the snow is still coming down. Though I made it out to go to work on Sunday, I’ve been home ever since.

I am leaving the island this week on Wednesday, for about two weeks away. I’ll have one night in Charlevoix before heading down-state by bus to my sister’s house for two days. On Saturday afternoon, four sisters and I will board a plane for Florida. We’ll be there for a week, from the 21st to the 28th of this month.

So, one thing that is concerning me this morning is how to pack for travel in Michigan, just a few days away. Shall I plan to wear my winter coat, and pack a lighter jacket? There’s a weight limit for my luggage on the plane to Florida, bus also for the bus to Flint. That winter coat will be appreciated, if the weather stays like this, for the two-mile walk from the airport, where I park the car I’ll be using in Charlevoix, to the bus stop. If it’s warmer, it will just be unnecessary weight. It’s hard to throw my confidence behind the summer clothes I’m packing for Florida, when I’m looking out at a very unseasonable blizzard here!

The topic today, though, is “out.” How does that have anything to do with weather, and travel? Here’s the thing. I despise the idea of leaving perishable food behind to spoil when I leave the island. Groceries have to be shipped to the island, which adds to the cost. Throwing away food is like tossing away dollar bills. So, I try to plan so that my refrigerator is bare by the time I am ready to go away. Though I tend to “stock up,” to always have more than enough on hand, my grocery lists have been spare. My menus and meal plans have been carefully orchestrated to use up what is here.  It’s not an easy dance I do.

Yesterday, I made a big pot of soup. Two quarts of my homemade vegetable stock from the freezer, plus one quart of stewed tomatoes, the last two carrots (out! that’s a score!), the leftover cauliflower leaves and stems (out!), the rest of a green pepper (out!), and six stalks of celery (leaving four more to, sadly, wither away in the vegetable bin). To that mixture I added half of the leftover pork loin, diced, a quarter cup of barley and a handful of wild rice. I’ll be able to eat soup until I leave, and put any leftovers in the freezer. I froze the rest of the leftover pork and – except for the celery – considered it a success.

This morning, with a snowstorm raging outside, I notice I have about two tablespoons of milk left in the jug. Cream for my coffee, not much more. Before the time for my departure, I will be forced to drink my coffee black. I have no raw carrots for crunchy snacks. All of a sudden, it seems I am out of everything! Even though that was my goal, even though I still feel bad about what I don’t use up, it’s a little scary to run out.

Nap (April A~Z Challenge)

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My husband was a napper. He could fall asleep on the beach, at a drive-in movie, even on the couch at my parent’s house after Sunday dinner.When he worked as a contractor, he’d sometimes come home from work in the early afternoon, not for lunch, but to take a nap. It used to drive me crazy!

“How can you possibly sleep in the middle of the day,” I would ask him, incredulous. “How can you sleep when the sun is out?” I struggled, even, to fall asleep at night. If something woke me up, no matter the time, that was the end of my night’s rest. There was no way I could sleep during the day, unless I hadn’t gone to bed until morning. That wasn’t napping, but just a skewed schedule.

Then, I started working the morning shift as a server. I had to be up at the crack of dawn, and I ran miles in that restaurant, delivering meals to the customers. If you’ve worked as a server, you know it involves a great deal of mental calisthenics as well as physical labor. Timing, memorization, organization and diplomacy all come into play, while hauling large trays full of heavy dishes back and forth from the kitchen.

My shift ended at 2 PM. My daughters remember that as soon as I got home, I’d put my feet up and say, “I want to just sit here and not smile for a while.” Sometimes, if they were at school, or away for the afternoon, I’d take a nap. By the time they were grown, and I could nap whenever I chose to, I had come to realize what a true pleasure it is.

From the time I was a small child, I’ve fought bedtime, and I’ve always had trouble falling asleep at night. There’s something frightening to me about giving in to sleep. Fear of death? I don’t know. But is has followed me through life.

Just after midday, though, when the afternoon sun streams in and warms the sofa, when the bright sun chases away any fears, when the background noise of TV or radio reassures…a nap is a treasure! More restful, often, than a whole night’s sleep, a nap renews and refreshes, and hands back the rest of the day with energy to spare.

My job these days doesn’t allow time for midday naps. I don’t get home from work until late in the afternoon. The dogs need a walk, then, and attention. I have to get to dinner, and chores, and other obligations. Now and then, though, when I have a day at home…when maybe I didn’t get a good night’s rest…and the sun is streaming in through the window…I’ll wrap an afghan around myself, and lay down for the rare indulgence of a nice afternoon nap. And what a pleasure it is!

 

The 52 Lists (for Happiness) Project #16

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List the experiences that have made you feel that you are living life to the fullest:

  • Giving birth
  • Moving to Beaver Island
  • Moving to East Lansing to finish college. I was thirty-four years old, newly divorced with two young daughters, and I’d never lived in a city before. And it was a wonderful experience!
  • Sailing from Beaver Island to Port Huron…on a 29′ sailboat…as part of a 3-person crew…in October!
  • Traveling to Grand Turk Island to work on an archaeological dig
  • Riding in a bi-plane as it performed dips and spins and barrel rolls.
  • Travel. There have been many memorable trips with family and friends. Some stand-outs: Chicago with my daughter, Jen. We ate at a wonderful Italian restaurant, went to a show of Jasper Johns work, and explored the city together, just the two of us; Florida with my sisters, the winter after my mother died. It was tearful and poignant, relaxing and fun, and oh-so-necessary for every one of us; Chicago with my sisters and a couple nieces for Mother’s Day weekend, the first Mother’s Day that our own mother was no longer with us. Connecticut with my daughter, Kate, and her family. We went to see my oldest grandson and his new baby. That alone would have been wonderful. Kate, though, is a good one to travel with: she researches and plans, leads side-excursions and detours, to make every single trip a memorable one.