Category Archives: Self-Improvment

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!



May 2nd. It was snowing when I went to bed last night, and it’s still snowing this morning. It is not sticking around. The ground is warm, and so wet that snow disappears as soon as it touches down. It’s so quiet, it could be mistaken for a gentle rain…except that my little black dog comes in covered with it. Definitely snow. Again!

I have an appointment with the physical therapist this morning. Again. I went last week, but we couldn’t agree on why I was there. I thought our physician’s assistant had put in the order to help with recent issues of extreme vertigo. The physical therapist was expecting to help me with knee pain. I remember that visit to the medical center, the x-rays and wrapping of the joint, but I have no recollection of any suggestion of physical therapy. Because of that, and because my knee was much improved, I was pretty adamant about it. He showed me the order, signed by our nurse practitioner, because of my knee. Hmmm. I explained that my knee was better. We agreed that any work on vertigo was going to be futile while I was still suffering from cold symptoms We’re trying again today.

My friend, Judith, who writes from New Zealand, read and commented on each of my alphabet blogs through the month of April. When she told me she was inspired, and might try the same thing in May, I breezily said, “if you do, I might join you.” Foolish! That reminds me of the December, several years ago, when my friend, Joss, said that she intended to publish a blog in every day of the coming year. “I’d love it if others would join me,” she said. I, who was working three jobs at that time, one of which was publishing a news magazine, considered it. My mental process was ridiculously simple: “I have tomorrow off. I’ll do it.”

So, I published a blog every day for a year. Joss slacked off, missed a few days, devolved into just publishing short prayers, then gave it up entirely. I doggedly stuck with it. I wrote blogs based on the alphabet, worked my way through all the addresses I’ve lived at, and pulled from a list of “sixty most influential women in my life.” I featured each of my grandchildren on their birthdays, and pulled from old memories for each holiday. Somehow, I managed it.

I’m proud that I managed it. And, I’m pleased with myself for working through the alphabet this April. I’m looking forward to seeing what Judith has to say in this month of May. If you’d like to follow along, this link will take you there: As for me, I’ll be writing regularly, but not every day. I’m not falling into a commitment like that again!



Here I am, at the end of the alphabet, and almost at the end of April. Like most every year when I take on the challenge of writing my way through the alphabet, I spend about half of the time feeling uninspired, and wanting to be done with the commitment. Then, suddenly, I’m at the end, and I realize I’ve wished my way through another month. What happened to April, and all the things I hoped to accomplish? Gone, already.

Counting this one, I have written 25 blogs this month. Some were pretty short, but I’ll count them anyway. With today and tomorrow not yet tallied in, I’ve walked twenty-six miles in April. That’s down from my previous monthly totals this year, but that’s okay. I have not ordered plants or seeds, nor stepped one foot into the garden to start the clean-up there. I haven’t gotten into the studio, either, to tackle any of the necessary tasks up there. Even my reading, which asks so little in terms of energy or commitment, has been neglected. I’ve been sick this month, and that has thrown everything off. I’m not a hundred percent yet, but I’m definitely doing better, and hope to be back to normal soon.

The weather, in April, on Beaver Island this year, has been all over the place. We’ve had high winds, and rain. We’ve had at least three days of significant snowfall. And there have been warm, sunny days when jackets could be set aside. The loons are back, on the inland lakes. I’ve seen the Sandhill cranes in the fields near our family farm. Wild leeks are pushing their green leaves up through last year’s leaf litter. Waves of snowdrops are blooming in my yard; in the woods, the trout lilies are just beginning to open.

Our ferry service, which operates from mid-April until the third week in December, has resumed. That means a better selection on our grocery shelves, and greater liveliness in the downtown area. Winter activities are wrapping up, and businesses are planning ahead for a busy summer. Winters progress, here on Beaver Island, very much like the month of April does for me. First, it seems like it will last forever, with time enough for all of my plans and every good intention. Then suddenly, it’s over.

Out here on the Fox Lake Road, this is a crucial time. There is a narrow window of opportunity between the time the snow melts, and the hatching of large swarms of mosquitoes and biting flies. This coincides with the small window of time between when I realize how quickly time is passing in relation to all the things I have yet to do, before business picks up and my second, summer job kicks in. This is the time, and I’d better not waste it!



Talking to my friend Linda on the telephone the other day, I suddenly sneezed…hard…and said, “I’ve gotta go…I just wet myself.” We immediately ended the call.

First, my friend knows that I’m waiting for a new telephone, and that until it arrives, I am limited to an old-fashioned, corded slim line phone that keeps me attached to a corner of my dining room. Second, she is my same age, so understands issues of bladder control. Third, I’ve known Linda since sixth grade. She remembers, as I do, when it was laughing hysterically that would cause an accident like that. And we often set each other off into fits of giggles. So, I didn’t think twice about divulging my problem.

Time was, though, that I would never mention it to anyone else, and certainly never write about it. I’ve always been a private person, hyper-conscious of the image I portrayed to the world, very secretive about my faults and flaws. I would go to great lengths to try to show everyone that I was “normal.” Just like them, or as I perceived them to be. What happened?

Well, age, for one thing. I don’t get embarrassed as easily as I used to. I don’t care as much what other people think. I am more accepting of myself, complete with all my weaknesses and flaws. I’ve reconciled myself to the fact that I’m never going to be the person I was pretending to be, so may as well accept it. I am nit-picky but disorganized. I am a time-waster. I am prone to laziness. I will never be a good housekeeper. I am a terrible procrastinator, and have a propensity for hoarding. Among other things.

For another, I started putting this blog out into the world. If you write about your own life regularly enough, eventually you get beyond the surface fluff, and into what is real and true. At first, that made me very uncomfortable. After a while, I realized that the more foibles and shortcomings I revealed, the more feedback I received. That has led to the understanding that we are all holding on to secrets. We all feel vulnerable. We present the best side of ourselves, and hope that’s all that others see. It’s in the darker, often hidden sides of ourselves that we make the truest connections.

So, though it often makes me cringe, I tend, now, to write from my heart, blemishes and all.

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!

How To Make “The Best” Granola


[Looking for fresh ideas for things to write about, I came across a suggestion to “write a how-to about something you do well.” I found that idea kind of inspiring, and immediately wrote out a list of topics. I don’t profess to be an expert, but there are a few areas where I am quite competent. Not wanting to look like a know-it-all, I’ll spread these “How-To” blogs out over several months, to fill in when I don’t have any other topic. Happy Learning!]

Now, I understand, you may think your own granola is the best. Or a granola you’ve found at some local bakery or coffee shop. There are many great choices out there, and I’ve enjoyed several of them. The granola they offer at The Grain Train in Petoskey is wonderful! However, looking at controlling both cost and sugar content, I’ve been making my own granola for quite a while. I gave my daughter, Kate a batch several years ago. Having a bowl of it with milk, Kate nodded seriously at her granddaughter and said, “Grandma Cindy makes the best granola! So, that’s where it gets its name. My recipe is “the best” granola. A title, not a judgment.

But, if you’d like to try it, to see for yourself, my recipe is simple. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Spray a large sheet pan with oil (I use avocado oil, but Pam or any similar spray will work just fine). In a large mixing bowl, combine:

  • 8 cups of old fashioned rolled oats
  • 4 cups of other stuff. You can swap these ingredients out, based on what you have on hand, or on your particular preferences. My list is pretty unwavering: 1 cup pepitas; 1 cup slivered almonds; 1/2 cup chopped walnuts; 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut; 1/2 cup sunflower nuts; 1/4 cup whole flax seeds; 1/4 cup hemp seeds. If you don’t have, or don’t like, some of these ingredients, other ideas include: crispy rice cereal, puffed wheat or puffed rice, or basically any low-sugar, fairly natural, minimally processed cereal, and any nuts that you prefer.
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup real maple syrup. Or honey. Or molasses. But maple syrup is my favorite.
  • 1/4 cup oil. For this, I use MCT oil, which is a healthy coconut oil in liquid form. Note, however, that it has a smoke point of 320 degrees, so keep your oven temperature at 300.

Mix all ingredients together, and spread onto the prepared pan. This recipe makes a “loose” granola, without large clusters. If you prefer a chunkier granola, add about a quarter cup of water to the pan, and squeeze the ingredients together to form clumps. Bake in a slow oven for two to three hours, stirring occasionally, until all ingredients are toasted and golden brown. Remove from oven. If you choose to add raisins or other dried fruit, now is the time, while everything is still warm. I like a combination of zante currants and dried cranberries. A cup or less of dried fruit is plenty.

For a crisp, slightly sweet topping for anything from salads to hot cereal to ice cream, leave the oatmeal out of this recipe, and reduce the amount of brown sugar, maple syrup and oil to one tablespoon each. Bake just the same.

There you have it, my “best” granola recipe, and one variation. The rest is up to you. I’d love to hear your granola ideas!



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!