Category Archives: Life

Listing

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I’ve said it before: I love a list.

Lists give organization to my days. They work as outlines, to highlight my accomplishments and help my scatter-brained self to continue from one task to the next.

Lists can be memory aids. The children in my family, when I was growing up, in age order: Brenda, Cindy, Ted, Sheila, Cheryl, Nita, Robin, David, Darla, Amy, Bobby. The children in my father’s family: Henry, Alfred, Robert, Katherine, Margaret, Kenneth. The children in my mother’s family: Janice (no list there!). My own children: Jennifer, Katherine. My grandchildren: Michael, Brandon, Madeline, Tommy, Patrick. My great-grandchildren: Lacey, Faith, Lincoln. These recitations seem silly and unnecessary…right up until I stumble trying to remember a grandchild’s name. Then I know that – especially as I age, and fumble over even common words and things I should absolutely know – any assistance is a good thing.

My job is easier when I refer to my mental lists. The lights to turn on when I open the hardware store: two switches by the front door; six switches by the stairs; one switch in the front of housewares, one in the back and two slide controls on the side wall; one switch in the front of the gift shop; the toggle switch for the paint color display. Opening procedure at the hardware: punch in; turn on the lights; start up the computers; count and record the starting till for each register; turn on the radio; turn on the mixer for the paint machine; put stuff outside, according to the season: grills, lawnmowers, lawn chairs, wheelbarrows, snow blowers; tidy the entry. And the day continues this way, with procedures for sales, returns and charges on the registers, lists for ordering…and on and on.

I have a list of staple foodstuffs I like to keep on hand, and will usually put another list together before going to the grocery store, of things I need based on my planned week’s meals…which is another list. There is a list of foods I cannot have if I follow one diet plan, and a list of foods I need if I go with a different plan. If the cupboards are bare, and I don’t want to go to the grocery store, there is a list of basics that – if I have one or two of them on hand – I can use to put a satisfying meal together with, in a pinch. It is both heartening and scary to think that, with flour, eggs, and frozen vegetables, I could survive.

I have a list of “Nine Habits of People with Clean Houses,” because I do so aspire to be one of them. I have a list of chores to do on a daily basis, and another – often neglected – for weekly and monthly tasks. There is a separate list, for reference, of things that I should tackle, when I have time. There are lists of springtime jobs, autumn chores and holiday-oriented tasks. Always, in my day planner, there are lists of the cleaning I do manage to get done.

I have lists of books I have read, that I am reading, and that I want to read. The same with movies, Ted talks, on-line classes and art projects. Lists of pets, both living and dead. Lists of places I’ve been (few), and places I would like to see (many). I have lists of friends, relatives and acquaintances. Lists of accomplishments and (sadly) of failures.

I picture my life as a large outline, made up of lists with arrows leading from one to another, with quite a few scribbles…and a lot of stars and exclamation points.

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This Frosty Morning

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Getting out of bed was hard this morning. The little dog was sleeping tight against my back, and I was cozy under the covers. The house was cold. Outside, the grass looked like velvet. Frost!

I haven’t been outside to investigate, yet. I’m sitting next to the heater, in my warm bathrobe, drinking steamy coffee. From what I see looking out the windows, though, I think we just experienced the first “killing” frost of the season.

That signals the end of the garden. No more tomatoes, coming in half-ripe to finish up on the kitchen counter. No more green beans. Every mature bean I picked was a surprise this time of year as they continued to grow and even put out new blossoms. I put the last little handful of them in a vegetable soup the other day. This morning, the vines are dark. The progress of the pumpkin that I’ve been watching as it pushed from green to orange will be done now. No more ripening squash. It’s all done now.

It’s time, then, to pull up the plants, remove the weeds that have managed to push up through the mulch, and cover the whole space with straw. Time to drain the hose, roll it up and hang it in the shed. Put away the shovel and the hoe. I plan to spread organic fertilizer (cotton-seed meal) over the straw this fall, and let it work its way into the soil over the winter. Then, I’ll be finished with the garden until spring.

It’s time to start thinking about winter projects. First, though, I think I’ll take time to relish the coming glorious days of fall!

On the Agenda

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Yesterday was a wildly productive day off! I went to bed (on clean sheets, no less!) feeling very self-satisfied with all the progress I’d made in many directions. Today, I am facing a day with an even more full agenda, as a direct consequence.

Yesterday, I went through the files and pulled out the masses of out-dated and unnecessary papers. Today, they need to be taken care of. In checking the local news, I noted that today is the beginning of the fall sale at our local grocery store. Yesterday, I started a list; today, I’ll do the shopping. In cleaning out shelves, closets and drawers, I gathered quite a collection of things to be donated to the library and the re-sale shop. I’ll box them up today.

Yesterday, I cleaned, peeled and stewed all the ripe tomatoes that had been attracting fruit flies on my kitchen counter. I now have two kettles of stewed tomatoes in the refrigerator that today need to be packaged for the freezer (add freezer containers to the grocery list). The freezer needs to be cleaned out and organized, before I put anything else in it. So, cleaning the refrigerator and freezer is on the agenda for today.

Yesterday, I caught up on laundry, including the bed linens. I used the last of the detergent, and am out of the ingredients to make more. So, I add washing soda, borax and Fels Naptha soap to the grocery list, and plan to make detergent today.

Yesterday, I watered and fertilized all the houseplants. I transplanted a few that had outgrown their containers, and pruned and trimmed as I went along. I noticed that the weight of the plants hanging from an iron rod in the north window in the dining room has pulled the trim board away from the wall, where it is hovering at a dangerous angle threatening to give way any day. Today, I need to work out a different set-up for my plants. Maybe I can put some shelves together, or distribute them throughout the house, or devise a better method for hanging them. In any case, that’s on today’s list, too.

At the end of a busy, productive day, I watched a movie. Because I frequently rent a movie and then don’t find the time to watch it, that is also counted as one of my accomplishments. Because the movie is due back today, returning it is also on today’s agenda.

Too often, days off devolve into hour after hour of time wasted, and good intentions gone awry. Yesterday was not like that…and I’m paying the price today!

 

Spin the Bacon

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I rarely eat before going to work. That’s true even on Sundays, when a later work time allows for a longer morning at home. Because I often work alone on Sunday, and because it’s a short day, I don’t pack a lunch, either. By the time I get home, I’m famished.

Today, after work, I greeted the dogs: Darla and Rosa Parks, did a couple minor chores, and put bacon in the frying pan.

“First, I’m going to eat,” I told them, “then I’m going to write. After that, we’ll take a ride.” They each gave a slight tail wag in acknowledgement, but were more interested, at that moment, in what was cooking on the stove. As I pulled eggs out of the refrigerator and put an English muffin under the broiler, they sat at attention. “They love watching me cook,” I thought to myself, and stopped to give them some attention.

“You love watching me cook,” I told them as they rolled to offer their bellies, “such good girls! Such nice doggies!”

Getting down to dog-level is much easier, lately, than getting back up. On the floor with hands-in-fur is a nice place to be; we were all comfortable. Then I smelled the meat cooking.

“Oh, my goodness,” I said, jumping to my feet, “I have to spin the bacon!”

“Spin the bacon?!? What is that? Of course I should have said ‘turn the bacon.’ Oh, you guys, that sounds like a danger sign! Maybe I’m getting senile!”

Darla looked at me adoringly. If she could speak, she would have said, “No way! You’re perfect! There is nothing wrong with you!”

Rosa Parks, a skeptic and a realist, raised one eyebrow. Running through her mind were the not few incidences when I lost track of the time, and gave them their dinner late. She was thinking of when I forgot to fill the water dish, and all the times I seemed unaware that she had done something worthy of a treat. Then there were all the minor slip-ups, when I called Darla “Rosa Parks,” or called Rosa Parks “Darla,” when I missed the drive to go down to Fox Lake, and when I forgot to invite her in to the bathroom when I was going to take a bath. If she could speak, she would have muttered, “It’s possible…”

The conversation, real and imaginary, went on as I finished cooking my brunch. Everyone was thoughtful, and made good points. Though the talk was centered around loss-of-memory, feeble-mindedness and senility, I think it’s worth noting that at no time did any of the participants think it was at all odd that the entire conversation was between me and my dogs!

In the Middle of the Night…

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A month ago. when I woke up in the night, it was with a sense of dread, and near panic. Forefront in my mind were the one hundred things I had yet to do, at least half of which I was behind on. Deadlines loomed. Mistakes and missteps haunted my thoughts. There were always money worries. My household bills were behind because I was using my personal income to make ends meet for my  business.

I was often driven out of bed by obligations to be met, a budget to review, or jobs to be done that my schedule didn’t allow for. I would sit at the computer, then, trying to write an article covering an event that I had been unable to attend because I was at my other job. Or, I would once again cover the dining room table with paperwork, trying to figure out what I was missing, that there was no profit here. There were many nights of too little sleep.

Days were spent juggling my job at the hardware, a couple other side jobs, the duties and obligations associated with my business, and everything else necessary to keeping a life running smoothly. That was my life for the two-and-a-half years that I held the position of owner and editor of the Beaver Beacon news-magazine.

When I took on that job, it seemed like a good idea. I have many long years of study, and college degrees I have barely used. I’ve spent most of my adult life working at menial labor in customer-service positions. That’s something I am really good at; that is grtifying all by itself. It has also allowed me to live on Beaver Island, which I love. It has provided me with enough income to support myself, and the freedom to pursue my artistic calling. Still, at times, I’ve felt that I’ve sold myself short. So, over the years, I’ve occasionally applied for or taken on other positions that seemed to better suit my qualifications. The Beacon was one of them.

Almost immediately, I realized it was a mistake. I was overwhelmed, incapable of giving it the time it deserved, unable to fix the things that were going wrong.  I spent about two years trying to find someone willing and able to take over. I contemplated other options, none of which were good…for me, personally, or for the long-standing place the Beaver Beacon has held in this community.

When everything seemed hopeless, someone came forward. After several discussions, many questions answered, and papers signed, Steve and Elaine West, who have successfully managed to put out the Northern Islander for more than a decade here on Beaver Island, have added the Beacon to their repertoire. They have good ideas and exciting changes planned. I can’t wait to see how the whole thing evolves under their guidance. I’m looking forward to contributing an article now and then…when it’s not a crucial deadline that keeps me from sleep!

Now, when I wake up in the middle of the night, I smile. Sometimes I get up to let a dog outside. I may, if the weather is mild, step out onto the porch to look up at the stars, or to see what stage the moon is at in the night sky. Other times I just lay there in the darkness, appreciating the calm, and the warmth of the little dog sleeping at my feet. Sometimes I stretch, roll over, and go back to sleep. This is the way I want to always spend my nights!

 

First of October, Fox Lake Road

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The morning started out cool today, as it has for the last two mornings. Temperatures have been reported in the thirties. My house has felt down-right cold to wake up in; I have not yet gotten the thermostat fixed on the heater, so it doesn’t automatically come on when the temperature drops. At least parts of my garden have been touched by frost.

It warmed up, though, and was a beautiful day on Beaver Island today. Just about everyone mentioned it, when they came into the hardware store. “Yes, it sure seems to be,” I would answer, and looked forward to getting out of work to enjoy the sunshine. It was a busy day, so the time seemed to go by quickly, even with late customers. Before I knew it, I was out the door.

Home, I greeted the dogs, and invited them outside to walk the yard and garden with me. The Autumn Joy sedum are turning rosy and preparing to put on a wonderful show this fall. The cosmos – planted late – have just started blooming in between spent blossoms of brown-eyed Susans, and dried peony, poppy and day-lily stalks. Sunflowers are showing bright faces, though they’ve turned away from me this time of day. The marigolds are the brightest thing in the garden.

As I wander through, I pick every tomato that shows any promise of ripening, to finish on the kitchen counter. I do this every day, to get as much harvest as possible before cold temperatures bring the garden to an end this year. A few of the plants – some tomatoes and most of the squash – already have the dry, blackened leaves that indicate frost. Others seem untouched. The bush beans appear dead, but the pole beans are bright green and even have new blossoms!

I pull one hundred dried day-lily stalks, for an art project I have planned. I then cut the dried and dead brown-eyed Susans. I could still find live ones, blooming gold and brown on the edges of the yard and in the field. I like the looks of the spent blooms, though; I arrange them – without water – in a clear vase to make an autumn bouquet.

Next, we load up and head for Fox Lake, where the dogs enjoy a good romp, and I shiver in the cold air. Hannigan Road next, to see if the colors are changing there (barely) and then to the family woodlot to check the blackberries. They’re almost finished for the year. I found just enough to have a taste: one handful, a bit tart, but a nice reminder of the season, coming to an end.

I think the dogs got into an altercation over dinner last evening, while I was out having a meal at the farmhouse with my cousin, Keith. They’ve been sulking around, giving each other dirty looks since I got home last night. They did pull together this morning, to chase the wild turkeys out of the yard, before going back to their grudge. Over the adventure of a ride in the car with the windows down, and new smells at Fox Lake and in the woods, they seem to have forgotten their differences. All is well on the first of October, here on the Fox Lake Road.

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Mornings Like This

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Last night my sleep was disturbed by cramps in my toes, cool air coming in the windows and – as usual – the dogs needing to go outside.

I have an organic apple cider vinegar tonic that works wonders on leg cramps. I put one cap-full into about two ounces of water, then drink it down as if it were a shot of good whiskey. In just a few minutes, even the worst Charley horses have relaxed their hold. I did not get up to take it last night, though I was aware that the pain was interrupting my rest. I think the cramps are sometimes brought on by dehydration. I’m not much of a water drinker, but when my muscles start to seize up, it’s a good reminder to get a glass of water. Not last night.

We’ve had a string of hot days and nights, and every window in the house is open, to welcome any breeze. I’ve abandoned all blankets and comforters, and had one thin sheet for cover. Last night, when the breeze turned cool – to the point of goosebumps and shivers – it would have only taken a minute to close the window beside my bed.  Just a few steps would have allowed me to retrieve a fleecy afghan. I did neither.

Though too lazy to rouse myself enough to do a single thing to make myself more comfortable, when the dogs needed to go out, of course I got up to let them out. They do not share the same schedule. Sometimes I think they deliberately tag-team their outings, to get more treats. Rosa Parks went out at 12:45 and 3:50. Darla took her turns at 1:30 and 4:25. At just before six o’clock, they went out together to chase the turkeys out of the yard. In every case, I stumbled to the door to let them out and in, then shuffled right back to bed to resume my restless slumber.

I slept in, then, until I woke up naturally…no alarm clock. From my bed, while petting and talking to the dogs, I watched the sun move up over the treetops. I got up, finally, and made coffee. I took advantage of the bright sunshine to pluck a few errant hairs growing out of my chin. I took a walk through the garden, where ripening continues, and the sunflowers are just beginning to bloom. I had a rich, chocolate cookie with my first cup of coffee, while checking the news. With my second cup, I played – and won – a game of on-line Scrabble, then started this writing. I am now fully awake, with enough caffeine and sugar to keep me going. I have my planner in front of me and am ready for the day!

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