Category Archives: writing

The 52 Lists (for Happiness) Project #33




my grand-nephew, Wyatt, in the giant birch tree

List the people you want to spend more time with before the end of the year:

  • My family. Just when it seems like I will succumb to loneliness, August is here, and family abounds! Last week, my nephew, Bob, came to the island with his family: his wife, Casey, and their children, Wyatt and Ellie. Yesterday, sisters Brenda and Cheryl arrived with their partners; today, my baby sister, Amy, will come, with her family, on the afternoon boat. It sounds like there will be a steady stream of cousins on the island through Labor Day. I’ll be leaving the island near the end of this month, for a birthday adventure with my daughter, Kate, and her family. I’m planning to get a visit in with my brother, Ted, my sister, Robin, my daughter, Jen, and others that I don’t see enough of.
  • Friends. In addition to the partners and spouses of family members (that are both friend and family), Bob and Gary arrived on the second boat yesterday. It’s always a pleasure to see them, and a special treat when they are able to make it up here for a visit. Soon, the summer pace will be letting up, allowing for more time with friends here on the island, and more time – I hope – to get together with other friends. I’d love to find time for visits with Linda, Donna, and two Marys – one on the east side of the state, the other on the west side.
  • Other artists. I miss having the time to discuss processes and ideas. Of course there are other artists here on the island…all just as busy as I am. I’m looking for opportunities to spend time with artists in a teaching, learning and sharing space.

The 52 Lists (for Happiness) Project #32



List the ways you can “fake it ’til you make it” in being happy:

[Well, let me start by saying, I AM happy. I have a good life, and I know it. Still, I find plenty of things to grumble about. It is in that spirit that I respond.]

  • I am so, so tired of working with the young people at the hardware store. I’m weary of their lack of care and cleanliness, their refusal to listen to or remember instructions, and their constant need for direction, lest their work day devolve into the male equivalent of a slumber party, with stories and jokes and banter. I’m tired of hearing “wasn’t me.” I am fed up with the rolled eyes and the snickering behind my back. I am exhausted from having to follow behind to set straight what has been done haphazardly. And yet, in consideration for their effort, not a one of them leaves without hearing, from me, “Thank you for all your hard work today,” to let them know they are appreciated, just in case it will make a difference.
  • When I hear, “How are you?” my answer is “Good, how are you?” Unless I am ranting to friends or family in a mutually-agreed-upon  bitch-session, I think that is the right answer. No matter what.
  • Likewise, to questions about how my my job is going, my garden is growing, or my artwork is coming along, I will almost always accentuate the positive. It feels like an honest answer, even if it’s not all perfect.
  • When I come home from work, I always greet the dogs with pats and love and expressions of pleasure at seeing them. I tell them what good girls they are. Even when the laundry room is strewn with trash from the upended garbage can, I can’t manage much more negativity than a solemn, “Not good, Darla, not good.” Even when Rosa Parks has gone number two on the freshly cleaned bathroom rug and peed among the cans and papers rolling around on the laundry room floor, she gets not more than a “Really? Couldn’t hold it, Rosa?” and a slight frown. I doubt they would understand why I was scolding, if I were to scold. Why bother making them feel bad, if it won’t change anything? Better that they know, always, that they are good dogs, and that I love them.

Ice Cream



[I first pulled this writing prompt last April, as part of the A ~ Z challenge. With snow still on the ground, I was not moved to write about ice cream. Now that summer is here, I think I can manage to come up with a few words!]

When I was a little girl, ice cream came in all sizes and shapes. After church on a summer Sunday, Dad would swing by the dairy. He’d come out with a big brown tub of ice cream, and a gigantic box of cones. We’d store it in the back room, ice cream in the freezer, cones on the long shelf above, and pull it out for after dinner sweetness.

Sometimes, when the milkman came to fill our refrigerator with milk and other dairy products, Mom would catch up with him to get something extra. He’d pull out samples, and let her choose. Waxed paper sheets each held a dozen ice cream treats, molded into identical shapes in surprising colors. One time it was blue dolphins, their backs curved over the paper like waves. Another time it was flowers in pink and yellow, with bright green leaves pointing out from the sides. These were tiny portions, for children accustomed to scoops of ice cream piled high, but we savored them for their loveliness.

Often on a summer day, we’d walk to the store. We had to ask permission, and sometimes we had to take some or all of the little kids along, to get them out from underfoot, but we were usually allowed. The store was small, and sat on the lake side of the road, just about a quarter mile from our home. We gathered bottles from the roadside as we walked, and turned them in for deposit when we got there. At two-cents each, it always increased our purchasing power! The store sold beer and bait, milk and other odds and ends of groceries. Of interest to us were the color books and paper dolls, the pop, candy, chips and nuts, and the ice cream freezer.

There, the ice cream was in generous individual portions, in cones, on sticks, or shaped into sandwiches. Fudgsicle was my favorite, though messy for the walk home on a hot day. Nutty Buddy, with the chocolate-and-nut topped ice cream in a sugar cone, was a safer choice, and my second-favorite pick. Whichever we chose, by the time we got home, all of us were sticky with drips.

As an adult, I have usually been satisfied with just a taste of ice cream. I always request a baby cone when I go to the ice cream shop. I have kept a pint of Ben & Jerry’s in the freezer for a month, indulging in just one small scoop at a time. A larger container would often get ice crystals on the surface of the ice cream, from sitting too long. Last year, though, I found something new.

Breyer’s Raspberry Cheesecake Gelato is sinfully good, and has me hooked. It tastes like rich cream, and the raspberry swirl is just sweet enough. Even the bit of graham cracker crumble is delicious. I’ve been eating my way through a carton of it every single week. I get as nervous when it’s getting low as I would about running out of milk, coffee, or any other necessity. If they sold it in a big brown tub, I’d find room in the freezer for it!

The 52 Lists (for Happiness) Project #31



List the spaces in your life you would like to create more order and organization in:

[I could fill a book with this writing prompt!]

  • The laundry room. It is a small room that is also a hallway that leads to the bathroom. It has two small closets. One of them houses the holding tank from the well, and the hot water heater. On the inside of the door, I have a hanger for mops and brooms; in random other spaces, I hide the plunger, two light fixtures still in their boxes,and a battery charger that – I think – no longer works. The other closet holds coats and jackets on hangers. Hats, scarves and mittens fill a large basket on the overhead shelf. Another basket holds a collection of extension cords. Also on the shelf are two hard plastic cases holding a “Multi-Max”  Dremel tool and a cordless drill. The floor space is completely taken up by an upright vacuum cleaner, a pair of snow shoes, and a wooden crate holding boots, mosquito netting and a few other miscellaneous items. Across from the closet doors are the washer and dryer. The surface of the dryer holds a stack of out-of-season clothes that need to be carried upstairs, a basket that catches coin, price tags and ink pens retrieved from the pockets of my work slacks. Over the washer and dryer are shelves and bins that hold towels and washcloths, medicines, cleaning products, gardening paraphernalia, and my work clothes. The laundry basket belongs on top of the washing machine. Unless I’m doing laundry; then it gets moved to the floor. When I leave the house, I have to put the trash can on the washing machine, or the big dog will get into the garbage while I’m away. The trash can used to fit in the space between the clothes dryer and the stairway wall but, since my new appliances are larger, it doesn’t. When it’s not on top of the washing machine, sharing space with the laundry basket, it is in the hallway. Along with, usually, a stack of magazines and newspapers waiting to go to the transfer station, a couple returnable bottles, whatever burnable papers I’m saving for a chance to have a fire, and a bag full of plastic, glass and tin recyclables. Often, the hallway leading to the bathroom is an obstacle course. I could certainly use more order and organization there!

[Yes, there is more! I have neither time no inclination to go into detail. Imagine the worst.]

  • The space under the kitchen sink.
  • Actually, all of my lower cupboards.
  • My studio.
  • My car.
  • My flower beds.
  • The refrigerator.

So Unlike Me



Today, I was up early, showered, dressed and in town by 9AM to go on the Beaver Island Garden Tour.

Sponsored by the Beaver Island Wellness Garden, this is an annual event that I have taken part in for the last four years. We form a caravan of vehicles, each loaded with a group of garden-lovers, to travel around the island to four or five pre-arranged homes for a guided walk through their yard and gardens. We visit different homes each year. Some are mainly vegetable gardens; others are heavy on ornamental plants. There is always much to see and learn. I always have a wonderful time.

It’s not like me, though.

Tuesday is a day that I’d normally stay home, sleep in, write my blog, work around the house and yard, and give lots of attention to the dogs. In fact, unless I absolutely have to go to the Transfer Station, Post Office or grocery store, I rarely ever go to town on a day off. This week, I had something to do on each of my days off. Yesterday I attended a pastel workshop at the Beaver Island Studio and Gallery. Today the Garden Tour.

It was noticed.

“You look so nice,” I heard more than once, with a bit of surprise in the tone, “What a great hat!” I was wearing a nice pair of cream-colored slacks with a sleeveless cotton sweater in the same color, with slip on black shoes and a black raffia pork-pie hat. I had put a little thought into the outfit, true, but it was nothing outstanding. Mostly, it was just that it was not the well-worn dark slacks and T-shirts that form my hardware store “uniform,” that is mostly all that folks ever see me wearing.

“I’m so glad to see you finally have a day off,” was another frequent comment. Unbeknownst to everyone who has never seen me outside of my workplace, I get a day or two off almost every single week. It’s just that no one sees me then. On my day off, I am usually out here on the Fox Lake Road, being social only with my dogs.

Speaking of the dogs, they’ve taken notice, too. They were unhappy when I left the house yesterday. It didn’t seem normal. Today, they were completely beside themselves. When I came home today and sat down here to write, they flopped down, completely dejected. As soon as I’m finished here, I’m going to load them into the car and take them down to Fox Lake for a romp. Just so they know I haven’t completely changed!


The 52 Lists (for Happiness) Project #30



List the compliments you want to give to others:

When I want to give compliments, I do. I’m pretty bold about it. If I have regrets, they go back thirty years. Then, extreme shyness often kept me from speaking up. Thankfully, I have  had, most often, the opportunity to make up for it.

I had the chance to tell each of my parents how important they were in my life, and how hard I know they tried, all their lives, to do the right thing, and the solid foundation they provided, and all the precious, joyous memories I have, thanks to them. Family and friends hear frequent praise from me, for their determination, abilities, looks, parenting, stubbornness, conversation skills, intelligence, hard work…whatever comes along that warrants a pat on the back.

Loss has given me a keen sense of how important it is to take advantage of each moment, and to not let things go unsaid. So, I let compliments fly, whenever I see a reason. I voice appreciation to customers for a nice shirt, a good haircut, an excellent choice of paint colors, or for figuring out a plumbing problem on their own. I commend other employees for their hard work and a job well-done. I offer honest acclaim to other artists and other writers, from a position of knowing how much heart and soul goes into the process, and of knowing how important it is to hear it.

Though my dogs hear an occasional, “Not good,” my conversations with them – much like conversations with my children when they were small – center around what they are doing right. Compliments form the basis of all of our best discussions, from “Good girl, pee outside,” whenever that happens, to “Good dogs, protecting our family,” as they madly bark at the County road truck when it drives by. Their belly rubs and ear scratches are accompanied by murmurs of “Such a nice dog,” and “So pretty…”

So, I have a very abbreviated list today, of the compliments I wish I had given others, and didn’t.

  • On the first day back at school after Christmas vacation when I was in the seventh grade, when mohair sweaters were the big fashion item, and all of our parents had scrambled and saved to provide them for Christmas gifts, every single girl came in wearing a mohair cardigan in a pastel shade of pink or yellow or blue. Except for Dee Lynn Hathaway. She made an entrance with a red, sharply-pleated wool skirt and a prim white blouse topped by a deep red, cable knit mohair sweater. I think every girl gasped. All of a sudden, our prized and coveted best-present-ever paled in comparison. Why hadn’t any of the rest of us thought of red? Why hadn’t I? I’m sure Dee Lynn knew how stunning she looked; maybe some of the other girls even told her. I didn’t, but I should have. In more than fifty years, I have never forgotten it.
  • Mrs. Price, the mother of my best friend, made a huge impression on me, growing up. From the attractive “babushkas” that she’d wear to cover her head in church, to her sweet smile and musical laugh, to the hamburger buns that she steamed before serving, Mrs. Price was a valued bonus to my friendship with her daughter. I’m sure she knew it. I wish I had told her.
  • My father-in-law, Jack should have gotten more compliments from me. He always knew I loved him and appreciated him, but we didn’t talk about things like that. He influenced my life in a thousand different ways. I hope he knew it.

The compliments I want to give – or wish I had given – are no longer possible. My chance is gone. Which is a reminder to me, always, to not let those chances go by.

Good Things




Sometimes it’s easiest to see what’s wrong: with a particular situation, or a day, or with the whole world. It takes more energy to find the good things. Not always, though. There are times when my natural propensity for looking at the negative flies right out the window. I am left, then, with a humble appreciation of my rich life, and all the blessings in it.

I’ve had a lovely weekend. Well-balanced. It was productive, but not in a crazy-making way, where I plan more projects than I could possibly ever finish. Busy, but not too busy. I put laundry on the line…but also sat on the shore, reading, for one entire afternoon. I tended the garden, but also wandered the fields to collect wildflowers. I went over my notes for a class I am planning, and put hanging wires on a dozen framed collages. Then, I spent the rest of the day in my studio in frivolous and playful pursuits. I cooked and cleaned, but also took time to relax.

I could list the things I didn’t accomplish; there are quite a few. But why? They’ll be there, waiting for me. Right now, I’d rather just relish the good things.


dried Rhododendron flowers make a nice bouquet


wildflowers make another


one almost-ripe tomato, two days before I harvested it for a wonderful BLT


a row of collages, ready for the Museum Week Art Show