Category Archives: Family

Joy!

Standard

Today, the letter is J, and I am going to write about Jennifer.

Actually, I had just about settled on “Junk Drawer” for a topic, until it dawned on me that my oldest daughter’s name begins with J. This would be a perfect opportunity to write about her!

First, our drive to the hospital the night Jennifer was born. Her father started out driving very fast, until I asked him not to speed. Without an argument, he slowed down to precisely the speed limit and, maintaining that pace, drove through every single red light along the way. Our first child was born in the wintertime, just after midnight, early on a Sunday morning,

If she had been a boy, the name we had selected was Daniel Adrian. For our daughter, Jennifer Marietta. My husband and I had seen a movie titled “Jenny,” starring Marlo Thomas and Alan Alda, about young lovers and the war in Vietnam. That influenced our name choice. Jennifer was not an unusual name, but not overly common, either. I only knew two other girls with that name. It could be shortened to Jenny when she was small, but if our daughter grew up to be a doctor or lawyer, or president, for heaven’s sake, Jennifer would be a dignified moniker. Marietta was for Sister Marietta, the beautiful and kind Dominican nun who taught me in the fourth grade.

I held her, first, in the middle of the night, introduced myself, and counted her fingers and toes. There were many days and nights after that, that I held her, and watched her, and thought how blessed I was to be her mother. Then, there were a million cute things she did as a child, and special moments we shared, and ways she made me laugh, or cry, or feel proud. There are stories – some of my best anecdotes, in fact – that I am forbidden to tell. There are others that are simply too precious to share.

I believe the name you give a child plays a part in the person they become. In Jennifer, I see both Marlo Thomas and Sister Marietta reflected in Jennifer’s beauty, wit, kindness, and sense of humor. Jennifer became a much more common name, though, than I had anticipated. Along with the marginally popular movie, “Jenny,” “Love Story” came out in the months before my first child was born. It was a wildly popular, Oscar-nominated film starring Ryan O’Neil and Ali McGraw. McGraw’s character was named Jenny, and that name quickly became the most girl’s name in America! When my second daughter was little, she could not pronounce the “J” sound, so her sister’s name came out, “Nenny,” or “Nen,” as by that time we had gone to often just calling her Jen. Jen is what she still goes by now.

As with all children, and children-grown-into-adults, Jen has been the cause of many worries and concerns, and we’ve had our differences over the years. Mostly, though, being her mother has been a pleasure. The telephone rang just as I was getting out of bed the other day. Jennifer’s voice, when I picked up, instantly put a good spin on my morning. For all of the mixed blessings of motherhood, Jennifer mostly brings me joy!

Hope

Standard

“The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof.” – Barbara Kingsolver

I’ve always been a hope-er, a wisher, a dreamer, a pray-er. Which may, as I think about it, indicate that I have never been satisfied with my life “as it is.” Rather than simply being perfectly happy in the present moment, I’ve looked to the future, with a long list of hoped-for objects or occurrences that would make life better.

As a child, when prayer seemed to offer the most promise for achieving things that were otherwise out of my control, vanity dictated the direction of my appeals. “Please…” I would beg, and follow with a long list ranging from thicker lips, thinner eyebrows, lighter hair and more curves in my slight frame. Looking back, it is clear that I should have better appreciated the assets I was born with. In fact, if I were going to get deities involved in my appearance today, I’d be requesting that many of those dreaded characteristics be restored to me!

As a young mother, I became a little obsessive about my importance in the lives of my children. I wanted them to be confidant in themselves. I wanted them to be happy, and healthy, and to always feel loved. I wanted them to make friends easily. I wanted them to be polite, and to have good grammar. I felt my participation in their up-bringing was central to the success of these goals, so my biggest hope was that I was able to be there. It was for their sake that my biggest hope, beyond their health and safety, was my own safety and good health. I needed to be there, to see that they had the childhood that I wished for them.

I have a long, long list of things I have hoped for throughout my life. Many involve material things. I’ve hoped for more money, newer furniture, a bigger house, nicer clothes, a better haircut, and on and on. In hindsight, I can often feel relieved that I didn’t get some of the foolish things I wished for. And, I can see that some things, once achieved, were not as glorious or life-changing as I’d imagined they would be.

I have gotten much better, over the course of my life, of appreciating exactly what I have. Though I devote an entire page in my bullet journal to “Wishes,” it rarely has more than one or two items on it. At this time, new windows for my kitchen and dining room are the only things listed. They aren’t my only hopes, though.

I hope my children, and their children, are happy and healthy. I hope that they have goals that challenge them but that are not unreachable. I hope they manage stress and difficulty with good humor and determination. I hope they always know that they are loved and valuable. I hope they know joy.

Personally, I hope I am known, and remembered, as intelligent, kind, a good worker, and someone who always acts with good intentions. I hope to be always forgiven for the times I show temper, vindictiveness or meanness. I hope my dogs feel cherished. I hope all of the many important and influential people in my life have been aware of the difference they’ve made. I hope all the people I love know that they are loved. That the best I can hope for.

Gratitude

Standard

After she retired, my mother regularly watched the Oprah show on television. Sometime in the 1990s, Sarah Ban Breathnach was a guest on the show. It was shortly after her book about gratitude, Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy, came out, and she was there to promote it. It made a huge impression on Mom.

That Christmas, Mom got every one of her daughters a copy of the book, and the accompanying journal. We each thanked her, and did the obligatory gushing over what a thoughtful gift it was. And maybe my sisters took it more seriously than I did, but I remember thinking, “yeah, I don’t have time for that!” Mom might have sensed my reluctance, because she took me aside and spoke to me directly.

“Just try it, Cindy, and see if it doesn’t help,” she said, “give it a chance!”

I don’t know where my hesitation was coming from, to begin with. I devour self-help books! I always think I need improvement, and that the help I need is right around the corner…or in the next book of instruction or advise. Anyway, I assured her that I’d read it and give it a try, and I did.

It certainly made sense, and my attitude surely could benefit from a little adjustment. So, I started a gratitude practice. Several times, actually. I’d begin, then forget about it, or let it fall into neglect. I’d pick up a journal to make an entry, only to find that several months had gone by since I’d last written anything.

Even when I was writing regularly about it, my idea of gratitude was pretty skewed. The “dark side” of gratitude. Entries included:

“I’m grateful that I wasn’t totally depressed today”

“I’m so glad the tire didn’t go completely flat”

“My hair looked okay for a change.”

“I did not sit home alone feeling sorry for myself tonight”

“I’m glad I left the party before I got even more depressed”

“I am grateful to have made it through the day”

“I’m grateful that I don’t feel totally miserable today”

“I’m glad the green paint doesn’t look so bad on the bed frame”

I was a pathetic excuse for a thankful person!

Then, some time last year, what had been a miserly, sporadic habit suddenly seemed important…and worthwhile! Now, I fill a whole page, every single morning, with things that I am grateful for. It has caused me to pay attention. I’ve learned to look at simple, ordinary things – a cup of coffee, a wag-tail dog, birds on the lawn, a good night’s sleep – as the blessings that they are. I’m sure I am more appreciative; I’m probably happier, too.

Last week, after a rough few days, I got out of the shower and put on my Mom’s old fishing shirt, to wear as a pajama top. The next morning, I pulled on the fleecy white robe she bought me, some other Christmas. And, when I sat down to write down what I was thankful for, I realized that, in a week when I needed a little comfort, there was my mother, her presence in the old fishing shirt, the warm bathrobe, and the gratitude practice that she’d encouraged.

“I’m so grateful for my Mom,” was my first entry that day.

Eclectic

Standard

A donation recently came into the Island Treasures Resale Shop: a large and lovely dining room hutch. Oh, it brought back memories of years and years of wishing for one. That, with a matching dining room table and chairs, would make me feel like I had finally reached some pinnacle of achievement that I was constantly falling short of.

This obscure vision of success always revolved around possessions or, at least, things that cost money. In grade school, I thought I needed a professional haircut, patent leather shoes, a mohair sweater. When I got those things, and my life was not fulfilled in the way I expected, I thought of other things I lacked. If only our house was surrounded by a white picket fence…if our dog were a Pekinese rather than a mutt…and, oh, if only I had clothes like Dee Lynn Hathaway!

By the time I reached high school, I’d moved on to bigger and better things. Now, I was plotting my adult life. I went through the catalogs – we received them from Sears & Roebuck, J.C. Penney and Montgomery Ward – and planned my future. I picked out the clothes that would make up my adult wardrobe, the hairstyle that would flatter my adult self, and even the model (dark hair, cute, not too glamorous) that I could hope to grow into. Sometimes, even a future husband.

Then, on to the S & H Green Stamp catalog. Past the pages of wristwatches, telescopes and toys, there were photos of entire rooms full of furniture! My style, I determined, would be French Provincial, where all the pieces were light, curvy and delicate-looking. In the living room, the television would be a large console model; the sofa would be accompanied by a coordinating love seat and chair; every table would match. Room by room, I planned my future.

Of course, when I actually became an adult, and started setting up my household, all of those plans went sideways. There were the realities of living within my means, and of living with children and pets. There were lots of moves to various, odd and challenging homes.

Still, I dreamed. That matching dining room set, with a hutch for displaying fine dishes, stayed with me for quite a while. The Pottery Barn catalog replaced the others, and for years my wish list included the large, slip-covered, roll-armed sofa that I found in its pages. The Ikea catalog thrillingly offered a hundred good solutions, all within my budget. Until I learned how expensive the freight costs would be, and how daunting their merchandise is to assemble.

I came to realize that it was rewarding, in its own way, to improvise with what came my way. Accepting cheap or hand-me-down clothing and furniture, and putting my own spin on it. became my way of life. If I had managed to acquire a matching dining room set back when it seemed so very important, I may have been the one recently delivering it to the resale shop. There is certainly no room in my house – or my life – for that kind of extravagance.

My living space, now, contains a mixture: an armchair that was a gift from Emma Jean when she got new furniture; curtains that came out of my daughter Jen’s house eighteen years ago; two side chairs that came from Roy’s Erin Motel; the small bookcase that my brother, Ted, built for me in Wood Shop; dining room chairs that my friend Huey and I snatched from a dumpster at MSU. And my precious dining room table. My Dad brought it home nearly sixty years ago, from a junk sale, and set it up in the back room of our house. For the rest of my childhood, it was the clothes-folding table…and folding clothes was my job. After a roundabout journey as a party table in the family garage, it came to me after my mother died. It’s the perfect complement to my jumble of furnishings. When I was much younger, I would have judged this style “tacky;” now, I call it “Eclectic.”

Chocolate

Standard

Today, C is the letter dictating my topic in this A to Z challenge, and Easter is right around the corner, bringing thoughts of all kinds of sweets. So, it’s a good time to write about chocolate.

I’ve always had a weakness for chocolate. I don’t remember ever not liking it. My mother, raising her family in the 1950s, thought dessert should be offered after supper at least a few times each week. Often, because she was busy, it was something simple. Chocolate pudding was my favorite. Brownies were another treat. Chocolate cake was always my choice for my birthday.

In the summertime, we older children were allowed to walk to the store, herding several of the younger ones with us. In the quarter mile between our house and the store, there was a lakeside tavern and a boat launch. That contributed to quite a few beverage bottles tossed on the roadside. We collected the discarded bottles as we walked. The deposit in those days was 2 cents each; by the time we reached the little country grocery, we had enough to buy treats.

The ice cream freezer was favored, despite the dripping mess that would ensue on the way home. Sometimes the “nutty buddy” ice cream cone with the chocolate and nut topping would be my choice. The sugar cone held the melting ice cream, sometimes long enough to finish it. My most frequent pick, though, was the “fudgsicle.” It was a rectangular block of frozen, fudgy chocolate on a stick. Though it was delicious, I never made it all the way home without having chocolate dripping down my arms. Then I, along with all the younger kids, covered with their own sticky choices, would find the garden hose, to clean up before we went inside.

In the fall and winter, my mother attended meetings of the St. Jude Circle at our church. My father was in charge, then. Often, to entertain the children, he’d make fudge. He didn’t use a candy thermometer. I don’t think he even measured the ingredients. He seemed to work by instinct and habit. It always turned out perfectly! He gave us the credit.

Many times, as Dad stood stirring the bubbling mixture in the heavy pan, he’d spoon out a sample onto a saucer. One of us older kids was responsible, then, for carrying it over to share with the rest, making sure it was cooled enough before letting anyone dip their fingers in, seeing that everyone got a taste, and then reporting back to Dad how good it was. He was watching, as he spooned it out, for it to have reached the right temperature. Then, he’d pour it into a buttered cake pan, and we’d wait for it to set. Which it always did.

I’ve tried, over the years, to recreate Dad’s delicious fudge, always without success. Even when carefully measuring ingredients, following instructions, and using a candy thermometer to bring the mixture to precisely the right temperature, I have failed. Sometimes it’s under-done, resulting in a tar-like mixture that refuses to set up and is impossible to cut. Other times it is over-done, crumbly and gray. I finally gave up on it.

When I am craving chocolate, or nostalgic for Dad’s alchemic ritual, I make quick cookies. This is my mother-in-law’s recipe, and – as long as I keep an eye on the clock – it never fails.

In a large saucepan, combine 2 cups of sugar, one-third cup of butter, one-third cup of cocoa, and one-half cup of milk. Mix, and warm over medium heat until the mixture comes to a boil. Boil for exactly one minute. That is crucial. It’s worth having a clock or a watch with a second-hand for timing it. Then, remove the pan from the heat. Stir in about one-quarter cup of peanut butter, and 3 cups of oatmeal. Drop by the spoonful onto parchment paper or foil, and give them a few minutes to set up. That’s it!

P.S. to my brother and sisters: Before adding peanut butter and oatmeal to the mixture, spoon out a small portion onto a saucer. Eat it by licking it off your fingers while you’re waiting for your cookies to set up. It will propel you back more than fifty years, to the long table in Mom and Dad’s red and white kitchen, surrounded by smiling children, with Dad at the stove!

Beans

Standard

My Dad used to recite a little rhyme: “Beans, beans, the musical fruit/ The more you eat, the more you toot/ The more you toot, the better you feel/ So let’s eat beans for every meal!” As children, we giggled over the ditty, and over the predictable side effects of the food. Though canned Pork & Beans was a fairly common side dish when I was growing up, my Mom used dried beans infrequently. Homemade bean soup or, more often, split-pea soup were rare treats reserved for those days when Mom had a good, meaty hambone for flavor.

Bean soup is common in my household. From the first cool days of autumn until late in the spring, I make bean soup every other week, usually on the same day that I bake bread. It’s always different, depending on whim, and what I have on hand. It is mostly vegetarian, though I’m not against adding bits of meat for extra flavor if I happen to have it. Italian sausage, ground beef, chicken, or even a hambone have found their way into my kettle of soup at different times.

My recipe varies, but the strategy remains the same. My method speeds up the process, and eliminates the unfortunate side effects that my Dad sang about. I start with about a cup of dried beans. I buy mine at the Co-op in Petoskey, and store them in jars on my kitchen shelves. Sometimes it’s all one type of bean, but more often, I mix them up: a handful of Great Northern beans; a handful of Lima beans; a scattering of Black-Eyed peas for good luck. A portion of lentils or split peas will break down more readily, and provide a thicker broth.

I put my chosen combination in a pan, cover the legumes with water, and add a pinch of baking soda. When the water boils, reduce the heat and let the pot simmer for about ten minutes, then turn off the burner and let it cool. This eliminates the need for soaking the beans overnight; the baking soda gets rid of the bean’s gas-producing properties. After about an hour, I pour the mixture through a colander, give the beans a quick rinse, and return them to the pan.

Next, I add a quart of stewed tomatoes, two quarts of fresh water, and about two cups of vegetables. This usually consists of diced onion and celery. If I have some green pepper, I add that. I always save the tough stems of broccoli, and the core of cabbage or cauliflower for soup; cut into small pieces, they add a great flavor. After this mixture has simmered for a couple hours, I may add chopped spinach or kale, and carrots. Then, I add a handful of grain. Barley is my favorite, but rice, corn meal, or steel-cut oats will thicken and flavor a soup. too. If I have wild rice on hand, it’s a welcome addition. If I’m going to add cooked meat, now is the time.

This mixture will simmer for another hour or so, until dinnertime. If the broth seems too thin, I remove about a cup of soup, whirl it in the blender, then return it to the kettle. If it’s too thick, I add tomato juice or more water. It’s a cheap meal that provides one hearty dinner and a week of lunches afterward. Inexpensive, easy, and impossible to mess up. And how nice to have a kettle simmering on the stove! That combines to make bean soup a standard in my house!

A Year After “Aloha”

Standard

Last year, when I started the “April A to Z Challenge,” I was in Hawaii, and my title was “Aloha.” I was, in fact, stranded in Hawaii by shut-downs associated with the – then brand new – Corona Virus. What a year it has been! What a time we have all been through! Today, beginning on this first day of April, I feel that this last year has got to take center stage.

First of all, let me remind you what the April A to Z challenge is. Through this month, I’ll post one blog every day except Sunday, based on the letters of the alphabet. I don’t have a particular theme in mind; maybe one will develop as I move through the letters. For now, it’s just the commitment. During this month, I am setting aside the list of blog topics that I’ve been writing about on Sundays, based on David Whyte’s book, Consolations. I plan to take Sundays off from blogging in April; I’ll pick that up again in May. I’m also changing my “Timeout for Art” blog. I’ve been working my way through the alphabet with that, too, and had just gotten to those difficult few letters at the end…I’m happy for the interruption there! Though art will still turn up as a topic, this month it will have to fall in to whatever letters turn up mid-week..

I should clarify that “stranded in Hawaii” sounds a lot more dire than it actually was. My older daughter and I had travelled together for a visit to my younger daughter and her family. Our one week planned vacation was extended to almost a month. Truly, it was quite wonderful! The weather, of course, was fabulous. We always felt safe. We were comfortable and well taken care of in my daughters house. Until last spring, I hadn’t had more than a couple days at a time with my two daughters together in at least thirty years. So, though there were concerns about our jobs and pets, and our lives were put on hold, I feel blessed to have experienced that special time.

By the time I got home, and finished my mandatory self-quarantine, I had been replaced in my job at the hardware store. That was, without a doubt, challenging in many ways. Still, it offered me several weeks OFF, in the spring and summer, on Beaver Island, for the very first time since I moved here in 1978! My vegetable and flower beds were never so well-tended. My lawn got mowed before it looked like a field. My dogs basked in the attention. And I loved it!

Since last year at this time, I started a new, seasonal job at the Beaver Island Golf Course. I began volunteering at the Island Treasures Resale Shop. I worked out the details for an art show next October. I read at least one book each week. I continued and expanded on a rewarding morning routine. I took care of several long-neglected medical procedures. I found and enjoyed quite a few new recipes. I walked almost every day.

It’s not possible, though, to look back on this year without acknowledging the tremendous devastation caused by Covid-19. How many lives have changed? How many jobs have been lost? How many businesses have closed? How many have died? Everyone knows someone lost to the disease. Everyone has been affected by it. This virus has touched all of us, in the entire world, in one way or another. We are experiencing trepidation and fear, trauma, and grief on a scale never experienced in my lifetime. This year has altered our thinking, and our behavior. I think, as humans, we are forever changed.

That’s the crux of it, I guess. This last year has been defined by the ways that the virus has changed our lives. Everything else seems unimportant in comparison. That makes it all the more necessary, I think, to continue to notice all the little pleasures along the way. As long as I’m here to appreciate them, they still matter!

Friendship

Standard

Like most everyone, my life experiences have determined my friends. The first source was family. My sister, Brenda, was my very first friend. Even though she tried to tip me out of my bouncy chair when I was just a baby (she was still a baby, too, just one year older than me), and even though it often seemed like we were mortal enemies, I have always adored her. When she refused to play with me, though, there were younger siblings that could fill in. Stand-by friends, you might say.

Next came the children of my mother’s friends. Sandra, the daughter of Mom’s friend, Pat, who lived next door, was one of my earliest friends. Though there were many gaps in our friendship, we graduated high school in the same class and later both lived on Beaver Island. Our oldest daughters were the same age, attended school together, and became good friends, too. Patti and Tena, daughters of Mom’s friend, Peg, were the same ages as Brenda and I, so we became friends out of convenience…or by default.

Cousins, that we saw when their families came to visit, became friends, too. Uncle Al and Aunt Mary Lou had four boys; Craig was less than a year younger than Brenda, Gary a little younger than me. The rest of the cousins were younger, and played with my younger brothers and sisters. They often visited when my Dad had a big project going: butchering pigs or chickens, for instance, so age became secondary to all the exciting business at hand. When Aunt Margaret moved in next door with her eight young children, we roamed the big yard and the fields behind as if we were one big family. When we got a baseball game going, we needed to include everyone, to have full teams. When Dad was slicing watermelon, or Aunt Margaret was making ice cream, we were all the best of friends!

I was a painfully shy child and socially inept little girl, and didn’t make friends easily. I was in elementary school for five years before I had made a single good friend there. Emboldened by that milestone, more friendships developed, and many of those have lasted through my life.

Some friends were constant. Mary has turned up at weddings, funerals and other occasions big and small; her presence is always a blessing. Linda and I were attendants in each other’s weddings, and we’ve been together through raising children, attending college, poverty, divorces, and deaths. I can’t imagine who I would be, without her influence in my life. Other friends, I have reconnected with through class reunions and social media. It amazes me how those shared beginnings, now so long ago, have contributed to many similar values, life choices and even sense of humor!

As an adult, it seems affection develops from life experience. I formed lasting friendships with fellow students, advisors, and members of the faculty when I was in college. Every job I’ve held has resulted in new friends. Some were people that I worked with; others were regular customers. In both cases, the bond expanded well beyond the workplace. The internet has opened up an entirely new avenue for meeting people and forming bonds. I have many friends that I know only through on-line Scrabble; others that I communicate with through social media; many others that I know only from the blogging community. It’s surprising how well you can get to know people from simply reading and responding to what they have to say!

As the years go by, mutual history takes on more importance. Shared memories, broad or narrow, influence friendships. I feel like I automatically have things in common with folks that remember and love the Beatles, or those who identify with the hippie culture of the 60s. I’ve found that people who share a Catholic school education can always find things they have in common, no matter if their schools were in different countries and cultures. People who have given birth, or raised teen-agers, or worried over their adult children, will find things to identify with.

My children, who have known me only as an adult, but who now share many years and life-experiences with me, have become some of my closest allies. I have a special bond with the members of my family who have shared the same up-bringing, life-experiences, joy and grief that have shaped my values. So, in some ways, it goes right back to the beginning: family are friends, and friends are family!

Forgiveness

Standard

There is a story I’ve told before, about how Pat Burris, who at that time was our next-door neighbor, had her baby just a week before my mother gave birth, and usurped the baby girl name that Mom had picked out. So, when Mom also had a baby girl, she had to come up with another name. Though they were lifelong friends, Mom never forgave Pat for that. Seventy years later, when the conversation turned to Pat, or to her daughter, Shari, or to my named-at-the-last-minute sister, Sheila, Mom would point out the fact that Pat had stolen her baby name.

I must take after my mother in that regard. Forgiveness is one of those things that I KNOW is important, but that is so, so difficult to achieve. I have learned how to move on from insult or injury. That, alone, is a major accomplishment. But I don’t forget and, if I’m honest, I rarely forgive.

I attribute it, partly at least, to my good memory. I can not only remember incidents that happened years ago, I can recollect the way they made me feel. I can bring up the emotion as if it were yesterday. So, when that emotion involves hurt feelings resulting from being snubbed or slighted or slandered, I still feel the pain, and the bitterness lingers.

I hold on to things that are of absolutely no consequence in my life today. When I was five years old, and my mother punished me unfairly. When my Dad deliberately missed my Confirmation ceremony, too busy setting off dynamite charges to get rid of tree stumps. When my sister mocked my skinny legs. When a teacher singled me out for blame on the rare occasion when I was blameless. It’s not that I’m still mad, no. It’s that the lingering feelings of resentment let me know that forgiveness has not happened yet.

These things are all in the far distant past. Between the time of my childhood and now, I’ve been married and divorced. I’ve raised children. I have had businesses and partnerships and jobs, and have experienced friendships of all kinds. Imagine all the indignation I could hold on to, from all of those interactions over the years!

I give myself a little grace in this area. I know that these old grudges hurt me more than anyone else. I also know that I hold myself to an even higher standard, and that I don’t forgive myself, either. I remember a time my Mom came into my room and put her arm around me, and I turned my back to her. I remember a dozen times when I behaved unkindly to my parents, or to my brothers and sisters. A thousand times, at least, when I messed up as a parent. A million times when I, out in the world, said the wrong thing or didn’t speak up when I should have. These things haunt me, too, if I dwell on them. When it comes to forgiveness, I should learn to be as generous with it as others have been with me!

Disappointment

Standard

The more I think about it, the more it seems that disappointment is a pretty common emotion in my household. I’m surprised at how often it comes up!

I was planning to write about a job I recently applied for, and did not get. With help from my sweet daughter, Kate, I updated my resume. I filled out the application form and read through the job description. Then I debated about whether I really wanted the position or not. At the eleventh hour, I turned in the paperwork. An interview was scheduled. I anticipated topics and prepared possible responses. I also wrote out several questions about the job requirements. I had a long conversation via “zoom” with Kate and her family, to make myself comfortable with the on-line meeting format, and to make sure the screen was placed so that I was not looking ghoulish, or like I had a double chin.

The only glitch, on the day of the scheduled meeting, was several inches of fresh snow. While I was waiting for the interview to start, the road truck went down the road, throwing all of my dogs into fits of barking. They had just calmed down when the other participants showed up on screen. I started right out with a warning that, if the young man showed up to plow my driveway, I’d have to interrupt the interview to put at least one dog (Rosa Parks is the instigator) into “time-out.” It’s good that I warned them, because that exact thing happened!

Beyond that, though, the interview went well, in my opinion. I was able to communicate my abilities, voice my concerns, and address their questions confidently. I know all of the other participants, and they were each as friendly, kind and generous as I expected they would be. The next day, I got a call letting me know I did not get the position.

I felt a little twinge of disappointment, sure. It would have been nice to be working at something challenging like that. It would be a chance to use my abilities and education; I’d be learning new skills, increasing my knowledge and stretching my boundaries. The money would be helpful.

If I had gotten the position, though, I’m sure I would have felt an equal amount of disappointment. I’d had so many concerns. Did I really want to take on a third part-time job? The hours to fulfill the requirements of the position would not, I’m sure, include the self-training I’d need to update my computer skills. Would I be a failure? Was I trying to do too much? When would I find time to make art? To walk the dogs?

So, that’s one example, in my life, of “Disappointment-No-Matter-What.” It’s a fairly regular occurrence. I walked, penguin-like, to the end of my icy driveway yesterday, only to find the entire length of Fox Lake Road to be equally as icy. Too slippery to take a long walk. That’s a disappointment. The day before, the road to the north was nearly clear, and the dogs and I went for a good long walk…which eliminated time to get in the studio before dinner. That was disappointing.

It’s kind of a trade-off. I’m always a tiny bit disappointed when I finish a good book, but I’m excited, in equal measure, to begin a new one. Every page that I turn in my journal gives me a wisp of disappointment at the lack of accomplishment and the too-swift passage of time. Yet every new page is a fresh start, with new promise and possibility. Disappointment at not being able to travel means, at the same time, no guilt and turmoil over leaving the dogs at the kennel. Disappointment over not being able to eat out is accompanied by the comfortable pleasure of enjoying my own cooking at home, with book in hand, and three dogs waiting for leftovers.

Disappointments are just little bumps along the road that remind me to take notice. They aren’t devastating; they don’t lead to despair. They are part of the juggling act in my life, where there are many good things that cannot all be acted upon at once. That kind of disappointment, I can live with!