Category Archives: Family

Away, Then Home, Again…

Standard

IMG_1877

I’m struggling to find a way to write this so that it doesn’t sound like an essay assignment about “What I did on my Vacation.” It’s early, though; I’m tired, and have a long list of jobs to accomplish today. Every single task can be interrupted whenever the dogs need attention; they missed me, I think, even more than I missed them! But, in between pats and snuggles and belly rubs, there are things to do.

I have to call the bank to verify the amount of a direct deposit, then write checks for bills that have to go out this week. I have thank-you notes to write to the folks that fed, entertained and accommodated me this last week. When I go to town for the Post Office, I’ll run around to the shops that carry [my last issue of] the Beaver Beacon, and make note of the returns. That will allow me to tally up sales and send final bills out, which will – if I’m lucky – bring in enough to pay the printer, which is the only thing, now, in the way of me being finished, finally, with that phase of my life.

I unpacked last evening, and got a load of clothes through the washer and the dryer. They need to be folded and put away today. The empty suitcases – abandoned unceremoniously at the top of the stairs – need to be stored. The groceries I brought home need to be re-packaged for storage. I could use the freezer space, now, right away; I’ll have to talk to the young man who is going to help me move that appliance.

Temperatures are considerably consistently colder than when I left the island. There were actually good sized piles of residual snow at the airport on the mainland; I was told seven inches of snow fell in Charlevoix on Saturday. My house was no warmer than outside when I came home, and it took most of the evening to get it comfortable enough for sleeping. It is past time for dealing with the issue of my non-working thermostat, so that the heater can come on and go off on its own, as needed. Today would be a good time to look into that.

I’m still struggling with a month-old spider (?) bite, that continues to itch and refuses to heal though I’m working my way through a second course of antibiotics. I treat the spot with after-bite gel and anti-itch ointment as well the steroid cream that was prescribed. I have taken over-the-counter allergy medicines, to try to stop the irritation. If I’m going to get back in to the Medical Center before the week is out, today would be the day for that, too.

So, obviously, getting back to home and “real-life” leaves little time to talk about my trip. It was a whirlwind of activity with lots of driving in between. In my notes, it looks like this:

Wednesday: dogs to kennel; airport; flight to Charlevoix; drive to Petoskey; McLean & Eakin bookstore; Roast & Toast for lunch; Grain Train for rice, grains and oat straw; drive to Gaylord; find Treetops Resort; find [cheaper] motel; Big Boy for dinner; back to the motel for lots of HGTV until I can sleep.

Thursday: up, coffee, news, shower, dress and check-out; Treetops Resort for paint seminar through early afternoon; drive to DeWitt – outside of Lansing – to the hotel where I meet up with my daughter, Kate; P.F.Chang’s to have dinner with Kate and my sister, Amy; then off to see Amy’s [beautiful] new condo before calling it a night.

Friday: the morning begins with trying to catch up with my daughter, Jen, who is late; breakfast at Bob Evans; Schuler’s bookstore to entertain ourselves while we wait; back to the hotel to meet up with Jen, who has texted us that she has arrived; Old Town in Lansing for a great deal of browsing in shops and galleries, and a little shopping before going back to get ready for our evening; Beggar’s Banquet for dinner, then to the Wharton Center, on the campus of Michigan State University, for “An Evening with David Sedaris.”

Saturday: breakfast with my girls at a nice restaurant I can’t remember the name of; pack, load up cars, check out, and lots of (but still not enough) hugs good-bye; drive to Lapeer, to the home of my sister Brenda and her husband Keith; carry in suitcases; set up computer; contact my friend, Gary, who came right over to go over the drives and settings on my computer, to download anti-virus programs and run scans to make sure there were no residual problems from when I fell victim to the scam; a delicious dinner with Brenda and Keith; North Branch, to my sister, Cheryl’s, house where she was hosting card club, and I could catch up with all of my sisters, a couple nieces, and other friends.

Sunday: Brenda and Keith left early for a bus trip, so I woke up alone and drank a pot of coffee by myself; to Clifford in the afternoon, to my daughter Kate’s house, where I was able to catch up with her husband Jeremy, and three of my grandchildren: Brandon, Madeline and Tommy, and get to know Eric (Madeline’s boyfriend) better; dinner was homemade lasagna (some of the best I’ve ever had) and cake and ice cream for dessert; game time with everyone after dinner; hugs and good wishes, then off for Lapeer and bed.

Monday: up, pack, load the car and off; fill up with gas, then hit the freeway for a four-hour drive; in Gaylord, I stopped at the Big Boy for coffee and a waffle; in Charlevoix, I went to K-Mart to buy a cheap watch, to the Family Fare to stock up on groceries, and the gas station to fill the car with gas again; airport, then a flight back to Beaver Island; retrieve the car and load the bags and boxes; the kennel to pick up the dogs…then home.

That’s a week-long trip, condensed. Exhausting, right? Some highlights:

  • Wonderful conversation over Chinese food with Amy and Kate, and a tour of Amy’s lovely home.
  • Time spent together with my two daughters: memories of their conversations, banter and laughter still makes my heart swell.
  • David Sedaris. I have loved his books for years; hearing him on NPR was always a treat. He’s even better in person. I’m still laughing!
  • Over conversation and coffee in the lobby with my daughter, Jen (a treat on its own) I ran into a friend from Beaver Island!
  • Visits with family and friends at Brenda’s house, and later at Cheryl’s. Both places are warm and welcoming.
  • Playing Taboo around Kate’s dining room table with my smart and giggly grandchildren.
  • No viruses on my computer (Thank you, Gary!).
  • A hidden windfall in my checking account (Thank you, Eric!).
  • Walking into my own house, with my waggy-tail dogs, after a week away.

 

Advertisements

Last-Day-of-the-Month Musings

Standard

IMG_1900

I don’t have much time: tonight I’m packing for five days away. Today has been filled with the usual “running around like a chicken with her head cut off” behavior that is fairly normal for a day off work, exaggerated by preparing for a trip. Before I let my Tuesday get completely away from me, I have a few random thoughts – in no particular order – to share.

  • love having young people next door! I loved my last neighbors, too, but since the house sold it has been a great pleasure having a young family there. Tonight, one little fluffy owl and an even smaller lumberjack stopped over for trick-or-treat. What a joy! And their sweet parents even brought presents for me!
  • You know how your computer seems to know what your interests are, and present you with ads that will appeal to you? If I have recently looked at clothes or books or shoes, similar items show up in my browser. Well, for the last week – ever since I fell victim to a computer scam – the ads in my browser all have to do with pigs. So far, I’ve seen ads for hog feed, a treatment for hog hooves, a dietary supplement and an anti-lame medicine for hogs. I don’t know what to make of it. It’s a little intriguing…and a little humiliating to think that perhaps the people that scammed me are not computer experts…but pig farmers.
  • Last year, fall lingered. Every single day was a different show as the colors progressed through each glorious stage. Every week, I’d think, “Oh, these colors are at their peak,” only to have them outdone by the next week, and the next, and the next. This year, the season is not lingering. After a September that seemed more like a month of summer, we rushed into fall…and kept right on rushing. Many of the stages of fall color were obliterated by pouring rain, or erased by strong winds. Today, we had our first snow.
  • After more than a year of going back and forth about it, Rosa Parks seems to have remembered that she likes to go for a walk. Darla has never needed convincing. It always kind of put a damper on our outing, though, when we had to leave Rosa Parks at home. Lately, it has been a pleasure to have her with us, wagging her little tail all the way down the road!
  • My daughters and I are getting together this weekend, and I’m so excited about it, I could burst! I’m looking forward to catching up on both of their lives, having lots of laughs and good conversation. On that note…I’m off to finish packing!

Not the Day I Expected…Part 3

Standard

IMG_1859

Wednesday, I’d gone to town for coffee, banking and garbage drop-off. I arrived back home just before noon, and was pleased to see that the power was back on. I reset the clocks, made a pot of coffee, and started in on the kitchen.

The next three hours was a flurry of dusting and scrubbing, moving and arranging. Some things were almost done, and just needed finishing touches; others were jobs that had to be started at the very beginning. Files were moved to the dining room. Kitchen shelves were reconfigured and every dust-free book, basket and jar was replaced nicely on them.

The refrigerator was completely cleared: magnets, posters and photos from the metal doors; baskets, bins and boxes from the top; foodstuffs, shelves and bins from inside. I scoured it, then, outside and in. I washed each shelf and all three bins. I stood them on the rug, leaned against the cupboards to drip dry.

I poured a cup of coffee, sat down at the computer and turned it on. A warning window popped up on the screen; the controls didn’t work. “Your computer has been compromised,” the message said, “Call Microsoft for assistance in repairing this problem.” A toll-free number followed. “Damn it! I should have paid attention to all those other messages telling me to upgrade my system,” I thought, as I dialed the number.

What followed was a lengthy interaction between me and a technician. He had me open an internet sharing window that allowed him access. He showed me lines and lines of the many harmful things that were in my system. “It’s pretty serious,” he told me. he asked about the age of the computer, what virus protection it has, and whether the warranty was still valid. He quoted a price ($299.99), then explained that there would be an additional charge of $99.99 because my warranty was no longer good.

I wailed; I whined; I told him I was just starting to make progress on getting my credit cards paid down. He said, “Look, lady, you called me!” Finally, I agreed to the amount, and gave him my credit card information. He told me to leave my computer on, that the other technician would be working on it for about an hour, to remove the viruses, scrub the system and set up protection. I would get a call when they were finished.

I went back to my housekeeping while waiting for the call, grumbling about how impossible it is to get ahead. The second call came in; I sat back down at the computer. The technician – a young woman, this time – used lines and arrows to show me the security features she had added. She showed me the location of their toll-free number, should I need further assistance. She said, “Your credit card will be charged four hundred dollars.”

“No way,” I said, and seem to recall that caused her to gasp, “what I agreed to was two charges that would total three hundred ninety-nine dollars and ninety-eight cents.”

“Of course, you’re right,” she said, “I was just rounding up.”

I was feeling pretty bleak…and considerably poorer…though still proud of myself for catching that two-cent error…by the time I got back to the kitchen. The phone rang again. This time, it was a woman from the electric company. I thought, at first, that she was calling to apologize for the recent electrical outage. No, she was collecting data for a survey. She didn’t ask if I had time, or would care to participate, but just started firing off questions. I was balancing the telephone between my ear and my shoulder, while trying to reassemble the refrigerator. Juggling shelves and bins while trying to keep the phone from sliding away, my answers were peppered with curses and protests.

“How much longer??” I demanded at one point. “If you quit complaining and just answer the questions, about two minutes,” was her sharp rebuke. Such was my state of mind that day, that I meekly followed orders: I quit complaining, and answered the questions.

Hours later, discouraged, dejected and depressed…but with a sparkling clean kitchen…I sat down to dinner. The telephone rang. I almost didn’t answer it. I didn’t feel like talking to anyone; the phone had not been my friend that day. I picked it up, just before the answering machine kicked in.

My friend Linda! A friendly voice, at the end of a rough day. I started to tell her about the rotten day I’d had, from the power outage and lack of coffee to the old man’s toenail clippings to the awful telephone calls. When I got to the part about the pop-up warning with the number to call and the high cost of repair, she immediately said, “Oh, Cindy, that’s a scam!”

As soon as she said it, I knew that she was right. How would Microsoft know I had a virus? Why would I consider paying nearly four hundred dollars to fix it, when I could practically get a whole new computer for that price? How very stupid I had been! Then, I started thinking about the consequences: they had my credit card numbers! What had they been doing in my computer…and what did they actually download onto it?

“I gotta go,” I said, near tears, “I’ve got to figure this out.”

In the days since that happened, I’ve had several conversations with my credit card company. I’ve cut up my card, and will be issued a new one. I’ve been struggling to remove everything that was added to my system that day, and have been very cautious about using the computer at all. I’ve changed passwords and security measures. I have cried in utter humiliation. I have chastised myself constantly for my foolishness.

Today is my Dad’s birthday. Because of that, I’ve spent some time imagining how this whole episode would have gone over with him, if he were still alive. Dad was often unpredictable in his response. It’s hard to guess if he would be angry for me…or angry at me. I can guarantee, there would be a lot of “goddamn”s involved.

I can picture Dad going on a rant about the “goddamn scammers” who would take advantage of my ignorance. He might rail on about the “goddamn computers” which have made such things possible, and completely changed the world as he knew it. He might have even gone after the “goddamn telephone,” which he never was comfortable with.

I like to think, though – because Dad could be light-hearted, too – that he’d be impressed with my ability to tell the story, and that he’d see a bit of humor along with the tragedy of it. I can picture him wagging his head from side to side, with a look of both sympathy and understanding. I can clearly see his mischievous grin as he speaks: “Cindy…how the hell did you get to be so goddamned STUPID??”

Not the Day I Expected…Part 1

Standard

IMG_1822

It wasn’t the day I expected.

None of them are, really. My days off, that is. They begin – Sunday evening – with high expectations and big plans. That gives way, by Monday, to too much time sitting at the computer, going over the week’s news and drinking coffee. “It is my day off, after all,” I tell myself, an excuse for my sloth. By Tuesday, desperation has taken over.

Tuesday is writing day, but also the day to give the dogs a good, long walk, the day I promised myself I’d make time for the studio and the last day to catch up on all the weekly chores before going back to work. It is a day always tinged with desperation: too much too do; too little time.

This week, in addition to all the usual tasks (plus grapes to harvest to be cleaned and cooked and turned into juice, tomatoes to stew and freeze for the winter, the whole garden to be pulled up, covered over and readied for winter, the grass to mow and leaves to rake!!!), I was rearranging the kitchen.

Aunt Katie bought me a small chest-type freezer about a dozen years ago. It was a bit large for my small kitchen, so it was set up in her pole barn. At first, it worked okay for the vegetables and fruits I put up for winter. I’d stop for a visit, then fill a grocery sack with a week’s supply of foods. My cousin Bob used it sometimes for his overflow of venison, pork or lamb. After a while, it seemed like too much trouble to burrow through to find what I needed to fill the little freezer compartment in my refrigerator, to make sure everything was rotated for freshness, and to remember what was there. Eventually, I quit using it. Now, with the sorting and purging that goes on after a death, that freezer is coming down to my house. But I have to make room.

The file cabinets that sat under the kitchen shelves could be moved to the dining room. That would allow me to add one shelf – necessary, because I will lose the space for one cabinet – while I was emptying and moving the shelves down four inches to the end of the stairway wall to leave just enough space for the freezer at the other end. I also planned to clear out and clean the refrigerator, in anticipation of being able to redistribute the contents of the freezer compartment.

While I was at it – if time allowed – my plans were to also empty and clean two thirty-six inch cabinets on the south wall. Then I could unscrew them from the wall, cut boards to support the Formica top while I pulled the cabinets out.  That would allow me to access a blind corner…where I am fairly certain a family of mice is setting up winter housekeeping. But that was probably too much to expect.

By Tuesday afternoon, I was on a roll, getting things done, making good progress…but watching the clock. Not enough time! After weighing my options, I made a couple calls and arranged to have the following day off, as well. I chastised myself a little for the time I had wasted and the pay I was sacrificing, but all-in-all, it seemed like a good plan. One more day, fired with enthusiasm as I was, would be enough.

That was what I thought, anyway. I don’t know how many things can possible go awry in a single day, but I’m sure my day was in the running for the most! Too many, in fact, to go into in the time I have this morning. That will have to wait for Part 2.

Listing

Standard

IMG_1729

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.

These Days

Standard

IMG_1260

I took some time yesterday to update my bullet journal. Through the busy summer months, it had been kept up in just the most rudimentary fashion. Yesterday, I filled in the workdays and paydays, habits and activities to the monthly charts, based on the notes I’d jotted on the daily pages as I rushed through my days. I went through the long-term lists for home and garden, and highlighted the tasks that I’ve completed.

IMG_1289

I made pretty good progress in the garden; in the house, not a bit. But, winter is coming, with more time to devote to painting and repair.

There is still plenty to do around here, no doubt. In addition to all the items on my list – many of which take money as well as the time that I seem to always be so short of – there are sorting, deep-cleaning and organizing tasks all through the house. There is – new to my household – the old footstool to reupholster. Soon, if the weather holds, I’ll have tomatoes to put up for the winter. The lawn needs to be mowed. On top of all that, I have big plans in the studio, with projects to finish and new skills to learn. And, the exercise program that I’ve neglected for so long. Every single new day, week and month, I think, “It’s time RIGHT NOW to re-commit to that!” There is plenty to keep me busy, but – these days – I do not feel overwhelmed.

I was recently able to pass on the Beaver Beacon, the bi-monthly news magazine that I have struggled with (as writer, editor, reporter-at-large, bookkeeper, distributor, bill-collector, and sometimes photographer) for the last two-and-a-half years, to someone more capable of the job. I have gone to press with my last issue, and expect it to arrive any day now. I feel like I’m learning to breathe again.  I’m remembering what it is like to wake up in the middle of the night without a sense of panic and a long list of things to do immediately. Now, there is no guilt and self-recrimination involved when I simply roll over and go back to sleep. These days, I feel like there is time, and that I will find the energy, for whatever life brings.

IMG_1248

End-of-Summer Day

Standard

IMG_1249

Yesterday started out cool in the morning, rallied for a short time in the early afternoon with a bit of sunshine and rising temperatures, then finished off with a combination of cold, damp and wind. An autumn day.

So clearly was yesterday an autumn day, I resigned myself to the idea that summer was over. “Maybe, at least, we’ll get a nice, long Indian Summer,” I thought. Then, today dawned bright and clear. Warm, even. Glorious! A true summer day! All the better – and better appreciated – because it was not expected.

When I got home from work, I first made the rounds of the yard and garden. From the garden I harvested a handful of green beans, a half-dozen peas (still!), and three almost-ripe tomatoes. Circling the perimeter of the yard, I filled a bowl with blackberries.

Inside, then, I fixed a sandwich for lunch, and debated what job to tackle next. House-keeping? Studio? Home repair? A Sunday-afternoon nap? When I opened a book, Rosa Parks gave out an audible sigh as she lowered her chin to her little paws. No fun for her.

That decided it.

“Rosa Parks, do you want to take a RIDE??

Enthusiastically, YES, was her answer. Darla got in on the excitement, too.

I loaded two dogs, one book, one camera and one bottle of beer into the car, and off we went, down the road through the woods to Fox Lake…which rarely disappoints. It was beautiful today, with bright sunshine on blue water, and just the tiniest nip in the air that served to remind me to savor this day.

We walked along the shoreline and then through marsh grass until we came to the Fox Lake bog, which is beautiful in its own way. Back through the trees, then, to the boat launch where I opened my book – and my beer – and relaxed while the dogs continued their wag-tail explorations. Only when they were ready, when they had left all the sights and smells to come and sit at my feet, did I suggest we move on.

But not for home yet. A stop at “the forty,” which was my Grandpa’s wood lot, was next. I had not packed buckets, but drew out an empty ice cream carton and a cottage cheese container from the bag of recyclables in the back of my car. While the dogs, freshly curious, checked out the paths, I filled both containers with blackberries.

The glories of the season, and two dogs wagging their tails: it was a perfect end-of-summer day!