Category Archives: walking

I Love David Allen!

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I love David Allen! And that’s not all.

Today, I love the fact that Blackie Chan is feeling better, after a scary long day and all through the night when he was not doing well at all. Yesterday, I had one of his prescriptions filled. The little dog needs one of these pills in the morning, and one at night, every day, along with two other types of medicine. Usually, I get thirty tablets at a time.

Since I am no longer working at the hardware, which is owned by the veterinarian, it is a little more difficult having prescriptions filled. Blackie Chan will need these pills for the rest of his life. With his congestive heart failure, it is, in fact, the medications that are keeping him going. He’s been doing well, so yesterday, I asked if I could get a double prescription, so that I would have enough for a month before I had to get it refilled.

I came home with a double dose of heart medicine, only to find that Blackie Chan was extremely under the weather. He wasn’t on his feet, wriggling, wagging his tail, and barking out a greeting, as he does every day when I come home. He showed only a little enthusiasm when I picked him up, and he clearly wasn’t feeling well. He went outside with the other dogs, but was not up for a walk. He was uninterested in treats, and he refused his dinner.

When I drove cars that were less dependable than the one I have now, I used to abide by quite a few superstitions about how to keep them running. Never fill the tank up with gas, never buy all new tires, and, god forbid, never take it through the car wash, because, sure enough, as soon as I’d invested that much time or money into a vehicle, disaster would strike. There I would be, on the side of the road with a blown engine, a damaged tie-rod, or a broken axle on my shiny car, wishing I had the money back that I’d just put in to the gas tank.

That occurred to me yesterday, as I stashed a full month’s worth of medication, and wondered if Blackie Chan would make it through the night. But, this morning, he woke up feeling fine. He took his medicine without hesitation, and accepted treats when he came in from outside. He won’t be around forever, but I’m loving the fact that, for now, he’s okay.

In addition, I’m loving a “Dutch Baby.” Also called a German pancake, a Dutch Baby is like a giant popover. My friend, Denise, posted the recipe over the holidays. I copied it down, so that I could try it. It’s wonderful! It comes out of the oven all puffed and crisp and buttery; today I’m having it with “Four Fruits Preserves.”

As for David Allen, I haven’t always loved him. I have been reading his book, Getting Things Done: the art of stress-free productivity. For a loooong time. During my morning study time, I read and take notes on the particulars. It’s a pretty lengthy book, over three-hundred pages, and it has a lot of information. All of the instruction takes some time to become clear. I rarely get through more than five or six pages a day. I started the book two months ago! So, I’m anxious to finish it, and move on to something else. I’ve been getting pretty tired of David Allen and everything he has to say about getting things done.

Except, today, when – all the way on page two-hundred and fifty-seven – I came upon a chapter titled “Why Bright People Procrastinate the Most,” and, in reading it, felt like someone saw me for the very first time! “The smartest and most sensitive people have the highest number of undecided things in their lives and on their lists,” he writes. He goes on to say, “the most creative, sensitive and intelligent people have the capability to produce in their minds lurid nightmare scenarios about what might be involved in doing a particular project, and all the negative consequences that might occur if it isn’t done perfectly.” He even uses filing income taxes as an example! I am famous for putting off filing my income taxes! Oh, David Allen, you know me so well! And you put a positive spin on procrastination, which is my worst behavior flaw. I love you, David Allen!

Other Things

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The last time I posted, I bragged that I was, so far this year, keeping up with my New Year’s resolutions. Granted, they are minimal: walk every day; exercise every day; blog twice a week. And, admittedly, we were only just over one week in. Still, I’ve learned to give myself credit when I can, for whatever measly accomplishments I can claim, because that in itself is a rarity.

As a perfect example, now, only three days later, I’ve already lost bragging rights. Monday was COLD! And, it came after a string of cold and wintry days that already had me discouraged and dispirited. Walking is not even close to the joyful activity I expect it to be when I am so bundled in outerwear that I can’t even swing my arms, and even then, my teeth are chattering and my fingers and toes are going numb. So, on Monday, I refused to go for a walk.

That’s okay; I have a back-up plan. I’m big on making promises to myself, but I also know I’m pretty lax about keeping up with them. So, when that happens, I move right on to my next rule: “never miss twice.” If I miss more than one day of a commitment, the skipping of the thing gains as much traction as the thing itself. Then, to get back on track, I have to set a new agenda, and start all over.

“Starting over” is much more difficult than it seems. I give it too much significance; I worry too much about the particulars. Do I want to take some time off, before I start keeping track of this commitment again? Maybe a break is just what I need! I should pick a special day to re-start, of course. New Year’s Day and my birthday are my two favorites. If neither of those days are close, then how about somebody else’s birthday? Or, the first day of a month? But which month? At the very least, I have to wait for Sunday. Sunday is my default “starting over” day. Which leaves six days of every week to screw up!

So, it’s easier to just keep up with whatever intentions I’ve set and, failing that, to try very hard to never miss twice. Tuesday, even though it was still cold, I went for my walk. It wasn’t quite as bitterly cold, the sun was shining, and I was glad I got out there.

Beyond my capital letter “New Year’s Resolutions,” I also have a few lower-case aspirations for the year. There are things I want to get done around the house, and around the yard. I have plans for specific projects in the studio. Getting rid of excess, and concentrating more on what’s important is a recurring goal in my life. The coming of winter and the new year always makes me think about paring down, even in year’s when collapsing cabinets do not underline the need!

My over-loaded bookshelves have been on my mind. When I think about paring down, I always think about my bookshelves. The laundry room, which is actually just a hallway, and the bathroom are the only rooms in this small house that do not have bookshelves. Every one of them are full to overflowing. I tell myself it’s too much; I should cut back. And then I get anxious. The thought of getting rid of books always makes me uneasy.

This year, I’m going at it from a different angle. This year, rather than reading reviews, listening to recommendations, and buying more books, I am concentrating solely on the books that I have. Many of them, I have not read. In some cases, I can’t even remember what caused me to think I needed a particular book. This year, I’ll either read them, or decide to donate them, or both. Others, that I’ve read and enjoyed, I hold on to because I’m sure I’ll want to read them again. Well, this is the year for that, too.

Reading the books on my shelves is not the biggest resolution I’ve made this year. It doesn’t contain deadlines or rules. Still, it holds a lot of promise. I’m looking forward to discovery and insight. I’m excited to see how it turns out!

What’s Going Well?

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After the several near disasters addressed in my last three posts, you might be inclined to wonder, “Is there anything that is going right ?!?” As it happens, the answer is “Yes!”

First and foremost is the fact that the incidents I described were not full-blown disasters, but only near disasters. In every case, the worst outcome was avoided. The falling cabinet did not kill me, or even mortally wound me. The lost dog was found. As for the new kitchen arrangement not living up to my expectations, well. I’ll get used to it. And even though I’m not as thrilled with it as I thought I would be, the extra space near the sliding glass door offers a designated location for the water dish I keep on the floor for the dogs. Prior to this, it sat almost in front of the door, leading to many spills by overly-enthusiastic dogs rushing to get outside.

Secondly, in addition to catastrophe being averted, there were blessings associated with each misadventure. The collapsing cabinet led to getting to a kitchen-rearranging project that has been on hold for at least ten years. It helped me pare down much of the excess that has been taking up space in my house. And, my favorite (now my only) plates were saved. When my little dog, Blackie Chan, was lost, I got in more than ten thousand steps while searching for him. That would mean nothing to me if he wasn’t found, but since he was, yay for getting my exercise in! Finally, when the new kitchen arrangement disappointed me, I spent some time researching smaller refrigerators. Now, when this appliance inevitably bites the dust, I already have its replacement picked out!

Third, surprising as it may seem, there is more going on with me than the almost-calamities that I’ve been writing about. I started a new job in December and, when I felt sure that I liked it, I put in my notice at the hardware store. After nearly twenty years of working there, December 30th was my last day. It was a little bit sad to leave that job; I knew it well, and was good at it. But, the time was right. I have no regrets. In my new position at the Community Center, I feel welcome and appreciated.

I’m still volunteering one day a week at the Resale Shop here. One perk of the job is that I am on the spot if something good shows up in their inventory. Last week, I purchased a low wooden dresser. It was just the right size to replace two low benches that held baskets full of my kitchen towels, tablecloths, and boxes of tin foil, parchment paper and freezer bags. The two shallow drawers would be perfect for keeping those things easily accessible, but out of sight.

The dresser cost ten dollars. Because its planned location – beside the freezer on the stairway wall – would hide the low opening leading to the storage space under the stairs, it needed to be easily moveable. So, as soon as I had the dresser inside, I flipped it up-side down, and got out my cordless drill driver. I removed the wheels from the bottom of the largest bench, and drilled holes in the correct size in each dresser leg. I fit the casters in, tapped them into place, then flipped it over. Perfect! Eventually, I may paint the dresser, but for now, it looks fine just as it is.

Another benefit of rearranging the kitchen is that every single drawer and cupboard got cleaned out. That tendency to get distracted by “side jobs” drives me crazy. Any job I begin takes much longer than it should, as my attention is diverted to something else…and something else again. The upside is that when I’m finished…if I ever get finished…it is a thorough, all-encompassing accomplishment. Right now, I’m very pleased with my nicely organized kitchen!

Finally, so far, I am right on top of my New Year’s resolutions! Now, admittedly, we are only 9 days in to this new year, and I kept my list pretty short: walk every day; exercise every day; continue intermittent fasting; blog twice a week. That’s it. It’s probably too early to be patting myself on the back. Still, it’s worth mentioning, if only for the fact that it may be the only time I can honestly say that I’m holding up my end of this commitment to myself. I’ll take my wins where I can get them! So, nine days in, this year is going very well!

An Almost Disastrous Holiday, Part Two

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Little Dog in the Big Woods

On Christmas Eve, instead of spending a leisurely day in my pajamas, as I had planned, I was up, dressed, and out of the house before I’d even had two full cups of coffee. After the cabinet-crushing incident of the day before (the “part one” of the “almost disastrous holiday” series), I had a whole list of necessities to buy, in order to start putting my kitchen back together. So, though days when I don’t have to work are usually spent letting dogs outside and back in, treating them for their efforts, and boosting them up or down from the furniture, I left them home alone and headed for the hardware store.

The falling cabinet revealed a wall that was covered in mold from an old and long since repaired leak in the roof. There were three large holes, two in the wall, one in the ceiling, where the nails holding the cabinet had give way. There was a crooked row of fourteen smaller nail holes; similar sites can be found throughout this house, and tell the story of me “looking for a stud to hang something up” before I learned that there was such a thing as a “stud finder.”

Mold Control spray was first on my list. A small container of spackle, a putty knife, and a sanding block to fill and repair all the holes in the wall. Then, a quart of Kilz stain blocking primer and a quart of white paint. A kit that contained a small roller inside a narrow paint tray, and an extra pack of roller covers. I picked up a white, over-sized outlet cover to replace the cracked one near the door. Finally, I bought a skill saw, as I’d been told that was the right tool to cut through the countertop, necessary for moving the lower cabinet. I came home with my supplies, and went to work.

The dogs were restless. Usually, when I come home, it is after my workday, and the first thing we do is go for our walk. They didn’t understand this change in routine. Also, there were snowmobiles going up and down the road, which kept the girls agitated and barking, and Blackie Chan confused about all the noise. I’d gotten some preliminary work done. While my primer dried, I decided to take them all out for a walk.

Usually, we walk on the Fox Lake Road. Because of the snowmobile traffic, on Christmas Eve we went down the Cotter’s Trail instead. Cotter’s Trail is basically a long driveway, a narrow “two-track” through the woods. From my back door to the end of the trail where the little hunt camp sits, is less than a half-mile. Mosquitos make it an impossible walk in the summertime. When the trail is covered with leaves in the fall, Blackie Chan, with his failing vision, can’t tell where the path is, and stumbles off into the trees and grasses, so we avoid it in then, too. In the early spring, though, and sometimes in the winter, it’s a nice, off-road walk where I don’t have to be alert to possible on-coming traffic.

Because I didn’t have to be alert, I wasn’t. As the dogs romped ahead or followed behind me, occasionally nudging me for a bit of kibble, I was busy daydreaming. I was plotting out the blog I would write about my collapsing kitchen cabinet adventure. I was working out the sequence of events, and putting sentences together in my mind. “An Almost Disastrous Holiday” would be my title.

I came out of my reverie to realize I was missing one dog. There was Darla, tail up and ears flopping, zig-zagging up ahead, shaking the bushes for interesting smells. There was Rosa Parks, trudging dutifully along ten steps behind me, her tail sweeping from side-to-side, and a slight smile on her face. Where was Blackie Chan? Was he up in front? When did I last see him? Did he get turned around? Did he stumble off into the deep snow?

I called out his name, once, then again, while standing in one place. I’ve watched him, though, put his nose in the air and turn in circles, trying to figure out where I am and where my voice is coming from, and then head off in the wrong direction. Not wanting to confuse him, I figured it was better not to keep calling out. Instead, I walked forward on the trail until the lack of paw-prints told me he was not up ahead. Then, I turned and headed back toward my house. “He just got turned around,” I told myself, “he’ll be right up here around the next corner.” But he wasn’t.

I continued on, quickly now, toward the house, my heart racing, watching for signs that would tell me if he’d left the trail, praying for his safety, hoping he was home, in the yard waiting for us. Darla bounded ahead, oblivious. Rosa Parks, sensing my distraction, continued steadily jumping on my leg, wanting a treat. “Find Blackie Chan,” I scolded in my mean voice, “you’ll get treats when we find your brother!”

All the way to the house I rushed, then around the house to make sure the little dog wasn’t waiting at the back door. I put the other dogs inside. Three more times, I walked across the road and down the Cotter’s Trail, then back home to circle the house and yard. “Foolish,” I thought, “to leave the other dogs at home. There’s a better chance of finding him if they come along.” Nearly panicked now, I brought the other dogs as I traversed the route two more times.

Exhausted, I told myself to pause, to give Blackie Chan time to come home. Just then, my cousin, Bob, pulled into the driveway. I answered his casual, “How ya doing, Cindy,” with a frenzied, “I lost my little dog!” He shook his head, asked how long he’d been missing, and told me of the many sightings of coyote on his wilderness camera. He had just come from “the forty,” he said, which is south of me on the Fox Lake Road. He was heading north when he left; he assured me he’d keep an eye out for the little dog, and bring him home if he found him.

As soon as I caught my breath, I headed out again. This time I left the dogs at home, and took the car. I drove south, slowly, to where Hannigan Road meets the Fox Lake Road, then home. Again, I walked around the house, hoping that Blackie Chan would be waiting at the back door. No. Back in the car, I drove slowly north, to Loretta’s driveway, then turned and came home again. Another peek around the house, then another walk down the Cotter’s Trail. So sad. Discouraged. Imagining my poor little dog, lost and confused…

Near the end of the trail, I heard a small bark. I scanned the area. There! Way up ahead, a movement. I yelled out his name. I clapped my hands. Yes, that was my little Blackie Chan, running in circles, trying to find where my voice was coming from! I ran to him, grabbed him up in my arms, nuzzled him and told him how happy I was to see him. I carried the little dog all the way home. It was four-thirty when we walked into the house, three hours exactly since we had left for our walk.

Only three hours! It seemed like much longer! I had covered a lot of ground, heart pounding, while chastising myself for my carelessness and imagining every worst-case scenario, I was exhausted! The dogs seemed tired, too. There would be no more progress on my kitchen project today. What was left of Christmas Eve, I’d spend relaxing with my dogs, and thanking my lucky stars that – once again – what could have been a disaster, wasn’t.

Home

Merry, Merry…

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I put up the little Christmas tree early this year. I arranged all of the Santa Clauses on top of a small bookcase that sits in front of the dining room window. I draped the holiday banner over the curtains. The snowman my sister Cheryl made for me became a part of a seasonal display in the kitchen. The nativity set, brought out for the first time in many years, dressed up a stand in the living room. As holiday cards arrived, I taped them onto and around the mirror that hangs over the circuit breaker box on the back wall.

As someone who has dealt with severe depression a few times in my life, I know to be careful. Holidays, like birthdays, can be dangerous times. Sadness and melancholy hide just under the surface of what looks like Christmas cheer, ready to take over if given half a chance. Sometimes a big build-up beforehand leads to an equally large let-down afterward.

I remember a couple childhood Christmases when I was thrown in to deep despair over a gift that was not exactly right. My poor mother, who struggled every year to make a good Christmas for all us, was forced to take time away from getting several small children dressed for church, to comfort me over tights that didn’t fit right, or the mistaken notion that “everybody else got better stuff than me!” As an adult, I’ve expected all holidays to rise to an impossibly high standard, and self-pity always wants to step in for any shortcomings.

At this time in my life, and the way the world is now, of course Christmas cannot measure up. My children are grown; even my grandchildren are all adults now, and scattered around the country. it’s impossible to be with all of them. In years when I have gone to spend the holiday with family, I left my own traditions behind, for the celebrations of others. And no matter what, there are loved ones missing. Even if we weren’t dealing with a pandemic that makes travel a scary proposition…even if there were a kennel to house my dogs….even if I could afford the time away…still, Christmas would not be the same.

Holidays accentuate any changes. We note who is missing around the table. This island, especially this year, seems to be treading lightly through the Christmas season, for fear that grief will take over. I am not in the center of many of these losses, and it seems somewhat presumptuous to bring them up. It wasn’t my child, after all, nor my spouse, nor my best friends who died this year. Still, I feel it. Many, I’ve known for years; some for all of their lives. And I care about the people, still here, who are newly dealing with the absences. Sadness radiates outward, and touches all of us.

So. I kept my expectations low, as I put out decorations. I wrote holiday cards and wrapped gifts at the dining room table, with the soft glow of tiny colored lights to help set the mood. I didn’t make plans, or expect anything at all. Every card and letter was a sweet surprise. Packages were welcomed with pleasure, and put around the base of the little tree.

I was thrilled when my cousin Bob stopped in for a visit on Christmas morning. I was overjoyed to get telephone calls from each of my daughters that day, and happy to hear from my grandchildren. I opened gifts in the middle of the day. The dogs and I went for a long walk. I spent a good part of the afternoon reading and giggling over a book my daughter gave me. I warmed up leftover pizza for my dinner. Later, I made popcorn and cocoa, and watched It’s a Wonderful Life. All in all, it was a lovely day.

I hope your Christmas was merry, too!

Coming Home

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Though going away can be invigorating, rejuvenating, refreshing, and exactly what the spirit needs, eventually, one has to come back home. And, no matter how well a trip goes, I always look forward to coming home.

I miss the dogs when I’m away, no matter what trusted, conscientious and caring hands I have left them in. For my last trip away, since the island has lost its kennel, my grandson, Patrick, came up to take care of the dogs. Darla and Blackie Chan took to him right away; Rosa Parks was the last, stubborn hold-out. Even though he made every effort to make friends, even stopping in on his vacation last August to let her become familiar with him, Rosa Parks refused to be nice. She continued to respond to his presence with snarls and scowls and constant barking.

Patrick came up here two days before I had to leave, to get to know the routine, and let the dogs get used to him. When Rosa Parks snarled and barked, I closed her in the bathroom for “time out.” After five or ten minutes of that, she was willing to join the group, limiting her bad behavior to a ferocious scowl. On the day after I left, Patrick sent me a message telling me “Rosa Parks is finally warming up…” Great news! Other messages informed me of their behavior, both good and naughty, and let me know that Patrick was taking his responsibility seriously. Even though I knew they were being well cared for, I was glad to get home to them!

I loved having time with family and friends when I was downstate. Leaving them to come home is comparable to ripping off a Band Aid. It hurts! It’s hard to wake up and not have my sister Brenda right there to talk to! I have to get used to not having my family nearby, to not being able to run into old friends on the street. Though I love my solitary life on Beaver Island, coming home is always an adjustment.

I have to get used to letters and phone calls instead of in-person visits. On-line shopping replaces quick (though, granted, overwhelming) trips to Meijer’s or Walmart. And, though my time away was short, local prices give me a bit of “sticker-shock” when I first get home.

On top of all that, coming home is exhausting! Or, maybe it was the travel that wore me out, and it just catches up with me when I get home. Either way, I was drained! My first day back, I saw Patrick off on the plane, picked up my mail, and got a few groceries. Home, I greeted the dogs, and unloaded the car. I pulled the clothes from my suitcases, swept the floor, did a couple loads of laundry, and washed the mound of dirty dishes my grandson had left. A walk with the dogs, a simple dinner and an early bedtime finished the day.

The next day, I excused my laziness as a need to catch up. I did a lot of sitting around: a little writing, a lot of reading, and too much time staring at the computer screen. The day after that, I checked the garden, picked what was ready, and stewed the vegetables to process and freeze for soup stock. That was just about all I accomplished that day. The following day, though still spent in lazy restfulness, was also my day of reckoning.

I noted that I had let my good morning exercise habit, developed over many months, drop by the wayside between travel and home-coming. The rest of my well-established morning routine was hanging on by a thread. I had let rain and drizzly weather keep me from walking the dogs two days. My kettle of steamed vegetables was still in the refrigerator, waiting to be processed. My empty suitcases were still sitting at the foot of the stairs. Enough! Time to get back on track!

There have been times in my life when a trip to the mainland has ended with me going immediately back to my job. I’m so glad that wasn’t the case this time! This particular trip demanded almost a year of preparation, and several months of long days and intense labor on my part. Travel is always an adventure, tiring and exhilarating at the same time. And, maybe my present age is a contributing factor. Whatever. In any case, it appears that I need almost a week to recover upon coming home!

Walking in October

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There are a many good reasons to get out for a walk. Walking has benefits for both my physical and mental health. It strengthens my bones, makes me feel fit, and is a great stress reliever. My dogs love their daily trek down the Fox Lake Road. So much so that, when I wasn’t here to take them, little Blackie Chan set out on his own. It sent my dog-sitting grandson into a panic, and gave me quite a scare, too, but it all turned out okay. Now that I’m back home, I make sure to get them out for their fresh air and exercise.

In October, there are a few more reasons to step out. First, I just received a new book: Walk Your Way to Better: 99 Walks That Will Change Your Life by Joyce Shulman. I’ve only gotten through the prologue and first chapter, but so far find it to be both inspiring and motivating. Second, an on-line course I’m taking today talked about “Gratitude Walking” for good health and peace of mind. Third, the colors are beautiful, and changing daily. Fourth, the weather is outstanding, mild and warm here on Beaver Island. Fifth, winter is coming. No matter how mild this season, it will be followed by cold weather, and snow, and ice that will make walking outside less pleasant often, and sometimes nearly impossible. Better to take advantage when I can.

Finally, and this is new information to me, this is “Walktober!” I learned about it through my friend, Kathy, who writes her blog, Lake Superior Spirit, from the woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. She has, over the years, often been a source of information and enlightenment. This is no exception. She told me (well, me and any other person who is wise enough to read what Kathy has to say) about Robin, who whose blog is Breezes at Dawn, and who had the bright idea to share our October walking experiences. Kathy wrote about a lovely walk with her mother, and inspired me to share my walk as well. Because it’s so lovely out there, today I’m going to share it with a few photos.

Happy Day!

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Today, I’m good.

I slept well, and woke up feeling rested, strong, and ready for the day.

I’ve lost about ten pounds so far this year. I notice it a little bit in my face, and I have a few pair of pants that now need a belt, but mostly I look about the same. Still, it feels like a good accomplishment.

The dogs seem content. Though they each have health issues, this has been a good week for them.

I’ve got several good books going. I’m reading That Sounds Fun by Annie F. Downs, Everything is Figure-outable by Marie Forleo and Indelible by Laurie Buchanan. For my morning study time, I’m reading The Power of Daily Practice by Eric Maisel, PhD. For my evening walks, I’m listening to Eternal by Lisa Scottoline.

I’ve just completed filling every page in my sketchbook with drawings, and I’m ready to start another.

My bush beans have finally poked through the ground in the garden. The peas are up, too. The pumpkin is looking quite impressive. After a traumatic start, I think my tomatoes are all going to make it. The pole beans have just started to climb their tepees.

I had a couple really productive days outside last week. I moved a rhododendron plant to make room for several daylilies that I had to thin and move from another bed, to make room for two Gold Drop Potentilla that I bought on sale. I think the bushes will stand up better to my big dog’s thrashing through the flower beds looking for snakes. The daylilies seem to have handled the mid-season transplant just fine. In fact, I swear they seem a little relieved to be out of the big dog’s path of destruction! My hollyhocks are up, taller than me, and loaded with buds, just outside the kitchen door.

I crawled around on hands and knees pulling weeds. Nothing new, except that I can actually see the progress I’ve made. I moved the last of my straw to the garden, to mulch the tomatoes and squash. I picked up a bunch of windfall and a dozen dog toys. I mowed the back yard and, oh, it looks nice!

I met a few friends and cousins after work for a drink on Friday. On Saturday, I ran into a couple other cousins, and had a good chat over coffee. Then I ran to the gallery for a wonderful conversation with another cousin, who shared the news that my work is selling well this year. And even better, reported that she’s getting good feedback about it, too.

Today, before work, I’m going to stop in at the farmhouse to say good-bye to my cousin, Keith, as I won’t be able to be in town to see him off. I’ll be working at the golf course, then, for the rest of the day. After today, though, I have three days off. Oh yeah, plus…the boat that will be coming in to the harbor and carrying Keith away…will be delivering my sisters to the island!!! Oh, Happy Day!!

Ground

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“Ground” is a perfect topic for this week, in this time of the year. I’ve been watching the ground for weeks!

I am constantly looking down; in the springtime, there is always something new to observe. First, I watch the steady regression of the snow cover, then I note the things that are revealed. The pale grass in my yard brightens with each spring day; rain intensifies the many shades of green. Under the trees at the edge of my driveway, wild ramps and trout lilies carpet the ground.

Walking down the Fox Lake Road, the view changes daily. Bright greens shoot up among fields of dull grasses. Ferns slowly uncurl their fronds. Brambles that just yesterday were bare, show bright buds at the ends of every branch. From areas where there was nothing of interest to see, suddenly a cluster of trilliums bloom. Always, especially after a rain, and just in case luck favors me, I watch for morels.

It’s not all new. Around my lawn, before I can mow the quickly growing grass, I pick up windfall shaken down by winter winds from several large trees, clothespins dropped and forgotten under the clothesline, and a dozen dog toys.

My big dog, Darla, loves to carry her toys outside. She’s choosy about which one gets to go out with her on any given day. If it’s muddy, she always seems to want the white lamb; the crazy chicken is her current favorite. No matter; she never brings them back inside. I pick them up, regularly, and bring them inside. There comes a time, though, when the day is too cold, or the snow is too deep, or I’m simply neglectful. The toys are abandoned outside, and buried under the snow. It’s an annual ritual, when the snow melts, to gather them up, wash them, and give them back to Darla. She greets them all like long-lost friends, and we begin again.

It’s not all good. The fenced-in space for my vegetable garden needs a lot of work. The light deer fence has come down along the whole south side, and is tangled in the milkweed, blackberry brambles and tall grasses that grows in the field there. Weeds have sprung up in the planting beds, and the mulch that marked the pathways has pretty much disappeared. The flower beds are covered in clumps of blown-in leaves, and choked in quack grass. That’s what forces me down to the ground.

I tackle the flower beds one at a time. I work on hands and knees. One by one, I roll away the rocks that form the border. I pull the grasses that have taken hold between the stones then, digging down with my bare hands, I follow the long white roots into the bed. I’ve never been able to get used to wearing garden gloves. I can’t feel anything through them – not the bulbs and corms I’m trying to save or the tangled roots I’m attempting to eradicate – so I sacrifice neat fingernails for the satisfaction of getting my hands in the earth.

It’s a slow process, and one that is continually interrupted by more pressing duties. Last week, I spent parts of three days getting the lawn mowed. Before the summer season gets underway, I have to tackle the vegetable garden, and get plants and seeds into the ground. Always, there are other jobs calling me away. Recently, the mosquitoes have hatched, and their fierce attack brings all outdoor work to a quick halt in the evening. Still, it’s satisfying to see the progress, and when I’m able, on almost any bright day, I’ll spend at least part of it on the ground.

What In the World??

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What is going on? Where are the stars and planets? It seems, according to my life, that something must certainly be out of whack. What in the world?

Usually, my life rolls along on a pretty even keel. I have good days and bad days in a fair balance, in between the majority of days that are just routine. Which is fine with me.

The last couple of days, though, have brought a string of unfortunate events, one on top of another.

First, the weather. Is it wanting to be spring…or fall? Rain turns to snow, then, along with cold weather and whipping winds, it turns back to rain. The weather affects my ability to get a good walk in, which makes it harder to get rid of a sour mood.

It seems like I often come home from work with a poor frame of mind. I get so tired of all the machinations of just getting through a day. But, I’d need much more room than I have here, to do my grumbling about that!

Yesterday, my bathroom ceiling developed a serious leak. Water dripped into the bathtub for hours, as the rain came down outside. The drywall on the ceiling sagged, and felt spongy. Where is that water coming from? My bathroom is on the first floor of a story-and-a-half house, with an inaccessible space above it. The roof is a 12-12 pitch; there is no plumbing up there. It wasn’t raining that hard!

Then, while I was cooking dinner, the panel of indicator lights on the back of the stove started going crazy. There was a humming sound coming from it as the clock flashed on and off, with numbers on display that made no sense. The indicator lights for “Bake,” “Broil,” and “Clean” flashed on and off, too. After several minutes of that, it all went dark. I have no oven, until I get it fixed.

Today, for the first time this month, I didn’t have a blog written ahead. No problem, I was up early enough to write. I had it started, even. The title was “Waking Up.” Then, in helping Blackie Chan get down from the bed, I wrenched my back. Blackie Chan is my smallest, lightest dog! I’ve made that maneuver hundreds of times before. Today, I put my back out! So, the rest of the morning was spent alternating hot compresses and ice packs, so that I could go to work.

And, once again, work was a strain of swallowing my pride, accepting my station, and just continuing to do my job. By the time I got home, the rain was pouring down (and still dripping enthusiastically into the bathtub inside, as well), and the temperature had dropped. No walk. I’d make a nice dinner.

No oven.

Okay. Dinner would be leftovers warmed-up on top of the stove. I decided to treat myself to dessert. I had a box of no-bake cheesecake, and all of the ingredients I needed to put it together. With the crust nicely formed and chilling in the refrigerator, I mixed up the filling. Nice and thick. I pulled the beaters out of the bowl. Then, in a moment of idiocy, I pushed the button that I thought (because that’s how it was on my old mixer) would release the beaters. On this new mixer (that I’ve had, and used, for at least five years, mind you) that button is the “burst of power.” Pushing it sent the beaters madly spinning, coating everything with sweet filling. From the floor to the coffee pot to the entire stove top to the overhead cabinets to last night’s dishes still in the drainer, everything is spattered.

What else could possibly go wrong? What in the world?