Category Archives: Family

Super Powers


Today, I mowed the grass. Not the entire lawn, but the small side yard that the kitchen door opens onto, and the whole back yard.

I wasn’t planning to. There are several memes going around about “no-mow May,” encouraging everyone to hold off on mowing until June, for the sake of the pollinators. I was happy to comply. I need very little encouragement to put off chores.

A few things caused those intentions to change. First, ticks. They are very bad this year, and I was getting nervous, thinking of them laying in wait in that long grass. Second, I swatted a mosquito yesterday, the first one this year. My house sits on a half-acre of cleared land surrounded by woods and fields. Mosquitoes can make any outdoor activities challenging; an un-mowed lawn just encourages them. Third, my sisters are coming next week. I won’t want to take time away from them to do yard work. Finally, I intended to spend this day in the studio, preparing for tomorrow’s art class. Nothing makes one job more enticing to me than when I can use it to avoid doing what I should be doing. So, by late morning I had decided that the lawn absolutely had to be mowed. Today.

I started by disassembling the massive puzzle that made up the contents of my garden shed. First, the table, that was the last thing in before I closed the doors last fall. Then, the bench and three chairs, tucked around and on top of the lawn mower. Finally, I could wheel the mower out. I checked the oil, filled the gas tank, pushed the little button three times. then pulled the rope to start it. The rope would not pull! I walked away and came back to it. Several times, expecting – or hoping – that suddenly, miraculously, it would work the way it was supposed to. No such luck.

What could be wrong? Had the engine seized up? There was oil, right to the level that it should be. There was gas. The good gas, with no ethanol to gum up the motor. I have a long, horrible history with lawnmowers. I’d spend hours out there, pulling that rope until I was sobbing in exhaustion and exasperation. When I could, I’d hire someone to come and start my mower, then mow until I was finished, no breaks, knowing that if I turned it off, I’d never be able to get it going again. My grass was always overgrown. I was constantly frustrated.

Then, four years ago, I bought the little mower that I have now. At about the same time, I learned about the problems ethanol causes in small engines. I was careful to always use the right fuel. Joy of joys, this mower would start right up for me every time. Until today. What the hell. So, I pruned the service berry tree, and weeded around the peony bed. I pulled the first of this season’s rhubarb. I worked at cleaning up the garden.

Ready for a break, I came inside, got a glass of water, and sat down at the computer. On a whim, I typed in, “can’t pull the rope on my lawn mower.” That question directed me to three youtube videos, each with a different kind, knowledgeable and not-too-patronizing man, showing me what the problem might be, and how to repair it! In my case, it was a build up of last year’s grass in the undercarriage, now hardened around the blade. It took me only minutes to find the problem AND FIX IT!

I was ecstatic! I felt like I had super powers! I wanted to burst into song, “I am woman, hear me roar!” I mowed the side yard, then moved on to the back. When that was done, even though I’d already clocked more than 12,000 steps on my Fitbit just from walking in circles and rows behind the mower. I took the dogs for a walk.

Then, fading fast, I fed the dogs, jumped in the shower, then made myself the simplest of meals: peanut butter on a flour tortilla, followed by a small ice cream cone, and finished with a large bowl of popcorn. I’m still feeling really proud of myself. As my energy fades, though, I feel like my super powers must have only been temporary. That’s okay…they came through when I needed them!

Doing Nothing


In the United States, today is Mother’s Day. I celebrated by doing almost nothing. Not that I needed a holiday to manage that. Sundays, except in the summer when my second job kicks in, tend to be lazy days. I like to watch the lighter news and features on CBS Sunday Morning. That is followed by Face the Nation which handles more serious issues. I usually make a good breakfast on Sunday. I manage to do the few tasks that I set for myself every single day, and that’s about it. Often, I make big plans for what extra stuff I’m going to accomplish, but it rarely happens. Today, I didn’t even try.

This morning, I woke up early, wrote in my journal, did a little reading, let the dogs outside and back in, then went back to bed. When I got back up, I made coffee, checked social media, read Email, and settled in for my Sunday morning programs. I made a “Dutch Baby,” essentially a large, baked pancake, and had wedges of it with mixed fruit jam for a buttery, sweet breakfast.

I took a long walk. Rosa Parks opted to stay at home. We miss her, of course, but when we aren’t hampered by the Chihuahua’s short legs and bad joints, the big dog, Darla, and I are able to go both faster and farther. Today we walked to Hannigan Road, then turned and went quite a ways down that road, too. Sometimes that area is pretty wet in the springtime, but it was dry today.

I was watching for morel mushrooms. The time is right, the weather is good, and several people have found them already this spring. I don’t have a good eye for spotting them, so I didn’t have much hope, and, in fact, did not find a single one. The wildflowers are out in force, though. Trout Lilies and the tiny Spring Beauties are bountiful, and I’ve never counted so many Trillium. They seem to have all opened at once!

In my own yard, the forsythia is already dropping its yellow flowers, and the cherry tree blossoms are just about to burst open. Daffodils, tulips and hyacinth are blooming. The rhubarb is unfurling its leaves. The garden spot needs lots of work; I just glanced at it as I walked quickly by. I wasn’t in the mood for that today!

I received Mother’s Day greetings from sisters, friends, children and grandchildren. I warmed leftovers for my dinner, and cleaned up the kitchen. Of course, tomorrow will be a full day, doing all the things I didn’t do today in the areas of housekeeping, gardening, prepping for my art class, and planning for family coming to visit next week. On this day, though, I was happy to do nothing!

Shadows and Blessings


It was a rough weekend.

On Saturdays and Sundays, I start with morning news. The coverage of the coronation couldn’t outweigh the preponderance of grim reports. More devastation in Ukraine. Violence in Sudan. Another mass shooting in this country. In another city, a driver plowed into a group of people waiting for a bus.

Here, it rained. I didn’t sleep well. There is turmoil going on within my family that I’m unable to fix or alter. Doing nothing is difficult, even when there are no helpful actions to take. And, I’m still working at getting over this sickness that has grabbed onto me and held on.

I’m much better; sometimes I think I’m completely recovered. But, I still have a persistent cough that that catches me by surprise at the most inconvenient times. And, I’m lacking stamina. My daily walk wears me out. Yesterday, I stripped the bed, laundered the sheets and comforter, and remade the bed. For how exhausted I was after that endeavor, you’d have thought I’d run a marathon! It was all I could manage to get through after-dinner clean-up and a bath before collapsing into bed, dead-tired.

No matter how bleak things seem, though, I have learned to look for the blessings. There is always something of value to find.

A phone call from my daughter, Kate, was a nice surprise. A long walk with my big dog did us both some good. Words of encouragement and understanding from friends and family made my heart swell. A long, hot bath, with scented salts and a good book, is always so relaxing. And it is such a good feeling to crawl into bed between freshly laundered sheets!

Today, the sun is shining. I think it’s going to be comfortably warm. I have the day off. There is nowhere I have to be. As for what to do, I could go in several directions. The flower beds need to be raked out. There’s still organization to be completed in the studio. I have to go over my notes for art class. Right now, I’m going to pour another cup of coffee while I consider my options!



This is a long out-of-date photo of my grandson, Tommy. It was taken in 2017, when he was here on Beaver Island for a visit. A lot has changed since then.

Tommy is a grown man now. He’s graduated high school, got a job, bought a car…so many grown-up things! Some things haven’t changed, though. He still has that sweet smile. He still has a gentle manner, and one of the kindliest dispositions of anyone I know. He’s a little bit shy. He is tender-hearted and thoughtful. He has the best giggle in the world!

Today is Tommy’s birthday. What are the odds that his birthday would fall on the day that T is my letter for the April A~Z challenge?! So, I’ve set aside the beginnings of an essay on “Touch,” and another on “Trouble.” Neither were going very well, anyway, and I had already started a third, talking about the “Ten Days I’ve Spent in This House, Feeling Under the Weather.” But, I’ve already complained so much about being sick, even I am getting tired of it! Much better to celebrate this fine young man, on his birthday!

So, Tommy saves the day!



Quiet. That’s my topic for the letter Q. Maybe you expected another post spent complaining about my spring cold? I could have! I’m pretty good at those whiny, self-pitying diatribes. I am still sick, though I’m starting to feel like I’m on the mend. I decided to give it a break. I still have the rest of the alphabet (Recuperation, Sickness, Temperature, Under-the-Weather…)if I feel the need to grumble.

Today, the subject is quiet. Mostly, I love silence. Growing up in a large and raucous household, I went to great lengths to find spaces where I could be away from the fray, alone with my thoughts. The top shelf of a deep built-in bookcase became a cherished hideaway for me. With a soft toy and a book as my only companions, I’d spend hours up there. There were nooks in climbable trees, thickets in the big field behind our house, and spaces in the garden when the corn was tall that were welcoming spaces, too, for a child looking for quiet.

I’ve always felt that I need time alone. When my children were small, no matter how tired and sleep-deprived I was, I’d be up after everyone else was asleep, for the peace and quiet. I rarely feel like I need the background noise of radio or television. Though I talk to the dogs, my house is mostly a very quiet place. Sometimes when I pick up the telephone, I’m a little surprised at the sound of my voice!

For most of my life, I’ve worked in some form of customer service. And, I’m pretty good at it. I could rattle off daily specials, the merits of one product over another, or all the services offered by our Community Center. I’m pretty chatty, when the circumstances warrant it. One time, as I was about to embark on a lengthy lecture about how her behavior was unacceptable, and why the consequences were justified, my young daughter begged, “Pleeeease stop telling me! Just give me the punishment!” But, for all the talking I do, I feel like I have to regain my equilibrium…and for that, I need quiet time.



A little over a week ago, I wrote about fun. I noted that, though I am content in my life and also generally quite happy, I don’t seem to be having very much fun. I wondered if it was just an issue of semantics, or something deeper. Since then, several people have commented on the subject. Maybe I struck a nerve!

My friend, Audrey, and I had an interesting discussion about fun, and what the underlying reasons are for “less fun” in our lives. As always, she offered valuable insights that gave me more to think about.

We agreed that one thing that contributes to the “fun quotient” of any give activity is novelty. There is no getting around the fact that the longer we live, the less opportunity there is for brand new experiences. Even fresh occurrences are tainted by our brain’s annoying penchant for finding patterns and similarities.

My Aunt Katie told a story about when they first got electricity installed in the home she grew up in. There was a switch inside the living room, just through the door from the kitchen. “When we flipped the switch, the light would come on,” she told me, “flip it again, and it would go off.” She smiled at the memory. “We never got tired of watching that light go on…and off…and back on,” she said, “it was just like magic!” And, though I knew the answer, I asked anyway, “does it still feel like magic, Aunt Katie?”

“Well, no, of course it doesn’t. We got used to it.”

I remembered a similar event from my own childhood. My Dad built the house I grew up in. The basic box eventually sprawled out in all directions as he added additional rooms to accommodate his ever-growing family. The kitchen, though, was the first addition, and everything about it seemed wondrous. We, tiny children, were sometimes allowed past the tarp into that new room that smelled like fresh wood. We watched Dad as he planed the boards that would miraculously become cupboards and drawers; we saw walls open up to big windows, and paint brighten the whole space.

When the room was finally complete, and opened for our use, we were amazed! Had we ever seen such a big room, such a wide expanse of shiny floor? Dad was an electrician, and this was an important room for his young family. He made choices from the newest trends. We had a built-in oven, a separate electric range, and a bright white Frigidaire refrigerator. The sinks were stainless steel; the cupboard handles and drawer pulls were slick chrome. The overhead lights were double-circle fluorescent bulbs.

Mom whirled around the space as she showed us through the new kitchen, custom designed with her short stature in mind. She marveled about all the drawer space, the spot for her radio on top of the refrigerator, and the double sink facing corner windows that looked out over the back yard.

She demonstrated the lights. Back then, around 1958, fluorescent bulbs were a modern, stte-of-the-art luxury. But they had to warm up before they reached their full brightness. I can still picture Mom’s mischievous smile as her hand hovered over the light switch. She flipped the switch, said “wait for it…” then grinned as the lights came on.

For quite a few years, we mimicked our mother’s introduction as we showed those lights to friends and family. It became second nature to warn, “wait for it…” whenever we flipped the light switch.

Sadly, we got used to that, too.

Kids and Kindness



I have two lovely daughters, each with their own struggles.

One works too hard, and takes on too much. She pushes herself beyond what seems humanly possible. She tries to “be there” for all the people in her life, no matter what is called for. Some people just need emotional support; others need financial help; a few just want her to fill in for them at work, so they can get a day off. She helps whenever she can. She is always over-committed and stretched too thin. She telephones me regularly, just to see how I’m doing.

The other has money problems and job insecurity, among other things. She doesn’t call often, and she doesn’t always answer when I call her. Her voice mail is not set up to receive messages (for a few years now). She is not on social media. When I hear from her she’s generally in a desperate situation.

Over the years, their situations have changed. Sometimes they seem almost to trade places and positions in life. No matter, they remain very loyal and devoted to each other, which is what I always wished for them. And, if I had to describe either of them with only one word, that word would be “Kind.”

I take great pride in having two such helpful, sympathetic and kind-hearted daughters, though I probably don’t deserve the credit. If there is one recurring regret that I’ve carried through the last fifty years of interactions with my children, it is my lack of kindness. Not constantly, of course. I’m basically a nice person, and I tried hard to be a good mother. But the incidents that haunt me even years afterward are those times when I could have approached a situation with patience and generosity of spirit…and I did not.

Even now, I continually frustrate myself by my inability to stop trying to help my daughters by scolding them. Whether they are working too much or not trying hard enough, if there is something that could be improved upon, I will mention it. I’m sure they get as aggravated with me as I get with myself. Telephone calls always start with joy at hearing their voices. I have a clear intent to keep the conversation light. No matter. Those chats too often devolve into me telling them where they are falling short, followed by long sighs, then mutual “I love you”s, and good-bye. Followed by me chastising myself, and promising to do better next time.

When my mother was dying, she said her main regret in life was that she hadn’t shown more patience in raising her children. I understand! Maybe regrets like that go hand-in-hand with parenthood. For my part, I intend to continue struggling to show more kindness with my kids!



In the home that I grew up in, there were always new games under the Christmas tree, and the winters days were filled with playing them.

My mother was probably the least enthusiastic about it, but she played games with us anyway. Parcheesi, Scrabble, Checkers and Monopoly. Card games: war, rummy and crazy eights. When she got us to the point where we knew all the rules, and how to keep score, she’d retreat to her own activities, and leave us on our own. The older kids taught the younger ones, and we all grew up loving to play games.

As kids, when we were finishing supper, we’d start sending each other signals with subtle hand movements and eye rolls to “hurry up! meet me upstairs!” Our goal was to get a game in before time to clear the table and do the dishes. Our dream – never realized – was that our parents would forget about us, and the clean-up would get done without us, while we continued playing Monopoly. Before bed, and sometimes long after we were supposed to be asleep, Brenda and I would be up playing games. Chinese Checkers was one of our favorites, though it was hard to be quiet with all those marbles.

Dad was good at many games. He excelled at strategy, and was skillful at counting cards. After one round of play in any card game, he had a pretty good idea what cards each player was holding. When we were small, though, he preferred to just watch us play. He could quickly figure out the rules of even the most unfamiliar game, then from the sidelines would offer advice and encouragement. When we were older, he’d sometimes play cribbage with one of us, and after Sunday dinner he often get a poker game going. If he wandered into the kitchen and found us sisters playing a board game, he’d still always stop to watch and commiserate about our strategy.

When we visited our grandparents on Beaver Island, Grandma Florence would teach us new games around the kitchen table in the evenings. She’d also take us to play Bingo at the Holy Cross Hall on the weekends. We were familiar with the game of Bingo, because our Dad would take us to play when the Fraternal Order of Eagles held games near holiday time. He’d buy one card for each of us. One year, I had the luckiest card: I “bingo”ed four times, and won three turkeys and a chicken! Mom teased that I should make a career out of playing Bingo!

I married into a family that loved games, too. With them, I learned the rules of Hoyle, and many different card games. My father-in-law and I played cribbage for “penny a point, double on skunk.” I could never beat him! I occasionally won a game or two, but I always owed him money. We kept a running tally. Several times, for my birthday or Christmas, he’d give me a card, with a “paid in full” message, wiping away my cribbage debt. My husband and I played chess together, and then backgammon.

My children grew up with games, as well. While travelling, we always had a game underway. There were rotating spoken word games like “ghost” and “my name is Alice,” and all kinds of games that involved the passing scenery. Later, when my grandchildren came to visit me, we played games to see who’d get stuck doing dishes.

Living alone does not deter me from playing games. I enjoy solitaire, and I’ve even devised ways of playing dice, dominoes and Scrabble alone. And, of course, the computer offers a wealth of game-playing opportunities. Last Thursday after work, I went down to the brewery for their Euchre night. I’d been trying to talk myself into going for a while, but kept finding reasons not to. I’m so glad I finally went! It was a lot of fun! And wasn’t I just saying how I want to bring more fun into my life?!



Fun. Now that I’ve decided on this topic, I’m kind of at a loss. I remember having fun. I know what it feels like. I just have few opportunities for that level of delight in my life right now. I’m almost always content. I’m usually happy. There are many activities that I enjoy. “Fun” though, seems a little high energy for me, most days.

Maybe fun is one of those things that I’ve kind of grown out of. I can remember lots of things that would fit that category before I reached adulthood. Playing house, playing school, playing church with flattened white bread serving as the host…anything could be fun. Even simple things were new and exciting then. A sleepover with friends was a giddy experience.

As a grown-up, fun seems harder to come by. Pleasurable, enjoyable, entertaining and interesting are words I would use instead. Oddly, those are all synonyms for “fun.” So maybe it’s just my perception that is skewed. Fun, to me, is the energy of a new puppy…and I have the vigor of an old dog!

“Fun” as a young adult, was cribbage and banter with my father-in-law, Jack. Group camping-and-canoeing weekends. Almost any vacation. Going to the beach with my small daughters. Dinner with friends. Fishing with Jerry. Giggling with Huey, or Linda, or Mary.

Now, fun is playing games with my daughter Kate and her family. It’s hanging out with my sisters. It’s browsing bookstores with my friend, Linda. And part of the trouble is that opportunities for this kind of entertainment is rare. And that’s okay. Like I said, I’m content. Still, I think I’m going to look at finding ways to bring more fun into my life!



I’ve never been a very good house-keeper and, at this age, I kind of doubt I ever will be. Cleaning house seems to me like a series of never-ending tasks, with little reward, and no finish line. Drudge work. Whatever job it is, from doing dishes to cleaning windows, it’s only a matter of time until it will need to be done again. With that logic, cleaning chores always seem like a form of torture to me.

I know it doesn’t make sense. There are a lot of things in life that involve repetition, that don’t cause such strong feelings. Organizational tasks, like cleaning drawers and putting shelves in order, don’t repel me in the way that regular housework does. I shower nearly every day, with the clear sense that I won’t stay clean forever. I mow the grass regularly all through the spring and summer, even though I understand it will continue to grow. What is it, then, about housework? I don’t know.

I do enjoy having a clean house. It’s just the daily maintenance that I don’t like. I’ve devised a few strategies to get me through.

  • The Pomodoro Method:  This is a time management technique based on 25 minute stretches of focused work followed by a five-minute break. It gets its name from the timer used. In Italy, where this system originated, kitchen timers are often shaped like a tomato. Pomodoro is the Italian word for tomato. The timer puts just enough pressure on to be motivating, and there is a stop built in to the system. When the buzzer goes off, it’s time for a pause. It reminds me of when, as kids, my sisters and I would run around to get the whole house in order before Dad came home from work. Or of when I get a call that someone is going to stop by “in twenty minutes.” It’s amazing how much can be accomplished when the pressure is on!
  • Variations of the Pomodoro Method: The timer is a useful tool for me. It helps me to avoid getting sidetracked by other things that catch my eye. I’m easily distracted, always. Sometimes, even with the timer ticking away, twenty-five minutes seems too long. Some days, too many areas of the house need attention. Then, I set the timer for shorter increments. Ten minutes per room works well most days. It’s not enough time to think of reorganizing drawers, but it’s sufficient for making the house presentable. I start in the bathroom, and work my way through the downstairs: laundry room, entryway, kitchen, dining room, living room. At the end of an hour, I will have made good progress.
  • Commercial Cleaning: This is similar to the shorter variations of the pomodoro method, but instead of using a timer, I work during TV commercials. Before television became so complicated, with streaming services that have eliminated many breaks in the programming, this was my preferred method for house cleaning. Thursday used to have a string of half-hour comedies that I enjoyed. From the time Jeopardy started at 7:30, until the last sit-com ended at ten o’clock, I could get my entire house cleaned, while the sponsors were doing their advertising!

These next three methods do not result in an entirely clean house, but they work well to get me out of a slump. Sometimes that’s enough to get me moving to other areas that need attention. At other times it only serves to make me feel like I’m not a total sloth.

  • Shiny Sinks: This is self explanatory. I get out the Bon Ami, and give every sink a good polish.
  • All Horizontals: Just exactly what it sounds like, I run around and clear all horizontal surfaces of everything that doesn’t belong. The dining room table, kitchen counters, coffee table, file cabinet, the top of the clothes dryer. I’m terrible about setting things down to be dealt with later. When I do “all horizontals,” later has arrived!
  • All Verticals: This is when I tackle the cabinet doors, appliance faces, windows and mirrors.

Housework, for me, will never be fun. These tactics, at least, help to keep me from devolving into complete chaos!