Tag Archives: Christmas

Another List

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Remember 2016, when I posted a blog every single day? I remember, with lots of shaking of the head and thoughts like, “How the hell did I ever manage to do that???” One of the things that pulled me through was the “52 Lists Project.” One day a week – I chose Sunday – was devoted to making a list, possibly with a little explanation or side-chatter, based on the guidelines offered. Well, the author, Moorea Seal, has come out with a new book!

52 Lists for Happiness: Weekly Journaling Inspiration for Positivity, Balance and Joy has been on my bookshelf for a few weeks now, just waiting for the new year. Now that 2018 is here, I’m going to start, one day a week, working through the lists. Maybe it will move over to Sunday – that seems a good day to focus on these themes – but, because I’m anxious to get started, this week Tuesday is “list day.”

List #1: List what makes you happy right now

  • Rosa Parks: this little dog, who will ask to sit on my lap only rarely (she’s an independent little cuss), but makes me smile whenever she does. I like the weight of her on my lap, her two front legs resting on my left arm, and the way she seems truly interested in whatever I’m doing on the computer.
  • My bullet journal. I always enjoyed playing school as a child. I love to organize. I adore graph paper. New supplies always make me feel inspired. A new year gives me reasons for new plans. All of that energy comes together in my brand new journal with it’s sea foam green cover, two ribbon page markers, elastic band closure and back cover pocket!
  • Four boxes of new art supplies, delivered to the airport on New Year’s Eve.
  • Cozy slippers, a gift from my sister, Cheryl.
  • Homemade bread – whole wheat with dried cherries and walnuts – toasted and slathered with butter.
  • The new toaster, a gift from my sister Brenda and her husband, Keith. They knew I was without a toaster. Did they also know that the last three toasters I owned were Christmas gifts from my sweet Mom, who is no longer with us? And that that contributed to my dragging my feet about getting another? And that to receive one for Christmas as a gift was the best way to bring Mom back in to the celebration…and a toaster back in to my life?
  • Soft (and red!) pajamas, given to me on Christmas Eve by my friend, Linda. One Christmas tradition I started with my daughters was to always get new pajamas on Christmas Eve, so they were perfect on many levels. Right now, it makes me happy to see the bright red sleeves poking out of my robe as I type.
  • Other gifts: from my daughter Kate and her family, wonderful scents and smells in soap and lotions and candles that give me pleasure every single day in one way or another. From my sister Amy and her husband, Dennis, a packet of fifty-two fold-over letters and envelopes, one for every week of the year. Each one has a unique design, and a different message on the envelope flap. How did they know that I was planning to be better about correspondence this year? “Correspond” has it’s own space in my new Habit and Activity Tracker! From my sister Robin and her friend, Dick, a gift certificate that I used to purchase a recently released, hard-cover mystery novel: one of those decadent purchases that I totally enjoy, but would have never purchased otherwise. From my friends, Bob and Ed, a box of cheese (some of the best cheese I’ve ever tasted). From “Santa,” a big box of wonderful chocolates, delivered on Christmas Eve. Many other thoughtful presents that make me happy, knowing that the givers know me, and know what will make me smile.
  • Hot coffee with cream.
  • The balance of this day off, to do some things I have to, and anything else I want to. I’m going to get going on that right now…or just as soon as I finish this cup of coffee.

I Remember Christmas

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I remember untainted holidays, when Christmas was pure, giddy anticipation, music, decorations and joy. That was before I realized that “baby Jesus” and “Jesus-on-the-cross” were the same guy…and before loss had touched my own life.

I was eight or nine years old when I put all the stories together. I realized then, that the sad-faced man with the beard and long hair (who never seemed to laugh, though he was always with his friends, and who spent so much time lecturing them, I thought he was lucky to have friends at all) was the same hero who wore the thorny crown and bravely endured all the other tortures until he died on the cross.

I was very familiar with the look of horrible anguish on his face, the puncture in his side, his tortured countenance. We wore those images around our necks; variations hung in our classrooms, church and home. When I finally deduced that those stories were about the same person, and the little baby at Christmas was the same person, too, I asked a child’s version of the question,

Why are we so happy about his birth, when we know how sadly this story ends?

The answer, of course, was that it was his choice to die for our sins, that if he hadn’t been born that wouldn’t have happened, that he saved us all from suffering…and remember Easter, so everything turned out, after all.

I was not keen on the idea that I would have – without his grisly death – been paying for sins I didn’t commit (that was not fair!) or that a good father would make his own son go through all of that to make up for things he didn’t even do. I didn’t see “sitting at the right hand of the father,” (the same father that let him be killed?) for eternity (boring!), while leaving all of his friends behind, a truly happy ending.

I was taught, though, to accept the answers given. One question was the sign of a thoughtful child, a second was a bit cheeky, and a third was downright insubordinate. So, at Christmastime, I focused on only the baby-person, and didn’t think ahead (and hoped he didn’t know, either!) to the way it all worked out. At about that same time, I was learning to reconcile – in my own life – the joy of Christmas, in spite of loss.

My Grandpa Ted – who had lived next door – died when I was six years old; Grandma Thelma died when I was ten. When I was twelve, the flame from a candle caused Grandpa Ted’s old roll-top desk to catch fire in our back room on Christmas Eve, and it had to be dragged out into the snow. My baby sister, Darla, died in the spring of that same year. Somehow, we always still had Christmas, and we still found reason to celebrate.

Over the years, the list of heartache continues to accumulate. Death, disaster, divorce, and detachment from those we’d once held close…the holiday could be ruined, if we allowed it. We don’t, though. Christmas is changed, through every loss. It’s celebration becomes more poignant, remembering the people no longer here, and the sweet memories, long past. In many ways, it becomes more precious and dear, savoring the memories we are making, and knowing that nothing is forever.

Celebrate, no matter what the future holds. Maybe that’s the best message behind the Christmas story.

The Day After Christmas Blues

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“The Day After Christmas Blues.” That used to really be a thing in my life.

It was worst when I was a child. After all the days and weeks of giddy anticipation, preparation and decorating, magical evenings in the quiet and glow of Christmas tree lights, imagining the bounty that would be found on Christmas morning…suddenly it was over.

Sometimes it struck as early as Christmas afternoon. After the presents were all opened and gathered, after the best new dress was shown off at Mass, after breakfast that included the Christmas Eve ham, now with eggs and toast as accompaniment, things settled, sadly, down. Oh, there were the calls to friends, yet, to compare gifts. There were new dolls or toys to play with, and to find special places for. There were books to read and games to play. There was the long Christmas holiday away from school still to look forward to. Still, there was a hollow space, where Christmas used to be. The anticipation was over; the waiting was done. The reality was never quite what I had expected it to be.

As a young adult, the anticipation went hand in hand with preparation, and the promise, always, to make this one “the best Christmas ever.” The house would reflect the holidays in decorations, music and good cheer. The food, from cookies for Santa to Christmas morning cinnamon rolls, to casserole contributions to the meals that we attended, was plotted and planned far in advance. The gifts would be perfect, and received with gratitude and joy. I remember many frantic Christmas Eve nights, trying to finish just one more handmade gift, to make the under-tree bounty look just a little richer.

And then Christmas was over. Leaving warm memories, sure, and gifts to enjoy, but over nonetheless.  It never quite lived up to my expectations. Maybe gifts weren’t received quite as enthusiastically  as I’d anticipated, or my husband drank too much, or someone was cranky. It was always a letdown to some degree. Mostly, because it was over. It was time for the annual day after Christmas blues. Always with thoughts of how next year, it will be better.

Of course, now I know I should have savored every single moment of those Christmases spent among family and loved ones. Loud, boisterous, crazy, everyone-talking-at-once and “look how much those babies have grown” Christmases are the ones I miss now. I fight off tears for weeks before the holidays, with memories of Christmases past.

  • My mother, coming home with bags and boxes that would be hidden away in her bedroom. Later, after long wrapping sessions, she’d come out with more and more gifts for under the tree.
  • My Dad, recalling his own childhood memories and – like a kid himself – giddily relishing the anticipation and joy of his own children.
  • Christmas morning when the gifts were piled high under the tree, and all nine of us dove in to find the ones with our names on them.
  • Christmas afternoons with games and puzzles.
  • My little family decorating the tree with handmade ornaments, a pot of chicken and stars soup bubbling on the stove.
  • My tiny daughters coming down the stairs to be surprised by what Santa left under the tree.
  • My brother David, in a Santa hat, generous with hugs and always too loud.
  • Sheila putting together the fruit salad, with wide chunks of banana, apples and walnuts in whipped cream.
  • Nita, holding and remarking on every single beautiful baby.
  • Every one of my sisters and brothers present, with their families, chatting and laughing and helping in Mom’s big kitchen.

I should have appreciated every single person and moment more than I did.

Now, alone, with my children grown and most of my family far away, I approach the Christmas season with caution. I don’t want to fall into depression; I don’t want to be miserable. I try to drum up some Christmas spirit. Usually, that happens about 6PM on Christmas Eve. Then, I think, “Oh, I wish I had a tree up…I wish I’d decorated.” I promise myself that next year, I will, so that when I sit down to watch It’s A Wonderful Life on the night before Christmas, I will be able to sit in the glow of lights from the Christmas tree.

This year, I threw myself into a flurry of last minute baking on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. By the time I left for dinner at Aunt Katie’s, my kitchen was destroyed. My car was laden with two pies: lemon meringue and blackberry, a plate of jam tarts, a dish of butternut squash, a spinach souffle, twenty-four butter horn rolls.and a bowl of cinnamon-sugar stars.

I made phone calls on Christmas morning. First to my friend Linda who, in similar circumstances, I knew would not overwhelm me with Christmas cheer while I was still on my first cup of coffee. Then my daughters, each a joy to talk to, and a quick chat with my sister Brenda, who had a houseful of guests just arriving. I took the dogs for a long walk. I opened many thoughtful gifts. I continued putting things in and taking things out of the oven. I soaked in a hot bath. I went to dinner at Aunt Katie’s, where five of us shared good food and cheer.

And now it’s over! I have to say, these days it’s more of a relief. Having used all my milk and cream in baking, I started right off with a shot of Irish Cream in my coffee. I think I may have a piece of blackberry pie for breakfast. No day after Christmas blues for me! At least not until I decide to tackle the kitchen!

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Another Monday

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I can’t think of anything to say.

More accurately, I can’t think of anything nice to say.

My default mode is usually just to fall into a long, rambling whine about all the things that are wrong in my life: all of my frustrations, petty grievances and bothersome little problems. I’m awfully good at that.

“It’s six days before Christmas,” I’ve been telling myself, “Pull yourself together!”

So, that’s on my agenda again today. Pulling myself together, that is.

My plan is this:

  • Take the dogs out for a walk.Bundle up well against the cold and wind. Bring the camera. The woods are beautiful with the fresh snow. The fresh air will do all of us some good.
  • Do some more Christmas baking. I have the ingredients for a dozen batches of cookies that I was too sick to make. I’m better now. I brought jam tarts and mini banana-nut muffins in to the hardware last week. Both customers and other employees seemed to enjoy them. It would be nice to have a plate of goodies out every day through the holiday season. I could also put together plates of treats for the service people around town.
  • Give this house a thorough cleaning. More than just the usual maintenance. Flip the mattress and put clean sheets on the bed. Vacuum under the sofa cushions. Wash windows. Clean out the refrigerator. It will give me a good sense of accomplishment when it’s done.
  • Maybe, pull out a Christmas decoration or two. I have two large totes in the attic filled with lights and ornaments. There are ornaments I made of cardboard, tin-foil and felt, for early Christmases when there was no money. There are things my daughters made in school, out of recycled cards, tuna fish cans and pop-sicle sticks. There are fifty small baskets I collected to hang among the ornaments on a tree. I used to fill them with candy and small gifts. I have a collection of small Santas that range from hand-carved, folk art versions, to the little plastic Santa on a spring with a suction cup, that I used to put on my first daughter’s high chair tray. There are stockings I crocheted for each member of my little family, and a granny square afghan in Christmas colors that I used to use as a tree skirt. I might feel more festive with a few Christmas lights around.
  • Wrap gifts, box them up, and get them in the mail. Late as it is, they should still arrive before the New Year. Write and send out at least a few Christmas cards. My biggest joy, this time of year, are the cards I get from family and friends. With that in mind, sending out cards is something I should definitely do. The cost of stamps has caused me to drastically shorten what used to be a long list, and some years I don’t even get around to the few that are left. Let this year be a good exception.

That’s my plan. I hope it works magic on my Monday morning mood!

The 52 Lists Project #45

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List the things that make up your ideal holiday season:

  • Family. I’ve just recently come to the conclusion that I cannot go down to be with my sisters and brother, my daughters and their children this Thanksgiving, so I’m feeling a little sad. Other than a chance to see family, though, Thanksgiving is not much of a holiday for me. Neither is Easter…or even Halloween. In fact, other than Christmas, I’m not much of a holiday person.
  • Christmas, ideally, would be in my home, clean and decorated, with my family around me. unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case in many years. If I’m around family, I’ve traveled there; if I’m home, I’m alone. Well, there is Aunt Katie close by, of course, and cousin Bob; there are the dogs, always. It’s not so bad. I’ve gotten used to it, but it’s not “ideal.”
  • If my family were here, a tree would be a necessity. I’d pull out the lights and all the old ornaments, the funny angel for the treetop, and looped paper garland.
  • The old crocheted stockings that I made when my family was young.
  • Church bells. I walked home with my daughters one Christmas Eve night, along the harbor on Beaver Island as the church bells rang out for midnight Mass. It was perfect!
  • Chicken soup with homemade noodles cut out in the shape of stars. This was traditionally our supper on the evening we decorated the Christmas tree.
  • Music. I like the old albums: Burl Ives, Julie Andrews and Bing Crosby, but i also listen to the albums of lively songs I’d play for my little daughters at Christmas time.
  • Snow. Not necessary for all holidays…or even for any other holiday, but I do like snow for Christmas.

Timeout for Art: This Life

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When I was twelve or thirteen, I sat with pen and paper and cultivated the straight up and down handwriting that I’ve used ever since. It was a deliberate act of rebellion. It was an abandonment of the slightly-slanted-to-the-right cursive that the nuns had forced us to perfect, and that – by that time – came naturally to me. It was an attempt to infuse the letters with my creative spirit.

Through my adult life, I have fallen in love with clothes that have folds or flounce or fringe, bright colors and wild patterns. Artist-Chic. Trendy Bohemian.”That should be my style,”  I think,  “That is me!” Unfortunately, though they seem to reflect my personality, clothes like that do not fit my body. Seriously. It’s not just a matter of daring or convention. Instead of making me look to the world like a creative free spirit, clothes like that make me look like somebody’s frumpy grandmother. Which I am, but that’s not the image I’m trying to project.

I see creative people who sign their work with a flourish, who’s style defines them, who live the free-wheeling life one would expect of an artist.

Not me.

My simple, neat signature is the same one – other than giving up the little circles or hearts that I used to dot my “i”s with – I practiced as a child. My clothes are simple, comfortable and suitable to my life. Paint splatters are the only thing that would define me as an artist, most of the time.

I’ve grown to like it that way.

I appreciate my ordinary life.

This morning, Christmas, I put a splash of Irish Cream (a gift from Santa!) in my coffee, and carried it up to my studio. With the news on the television for company, I sorted and stacked collage materials, arranged the bits and scraps I’d saved, and covered them with a pane of glass, for later consideration.

I spoke to one daughter and one grandson on the telephone. There are more phone calls arranged for later in the day.

I put my long coat over my pajamas, and took the dogs for a walk in the woods. We went all the way back to the pond this morning. They sniffed and wandered and explored. I drank coffee and took photographs.

Now, with a cheery candle burning beside me and the dogs napping nearby, I have time to write.

Mornings like this one, this ordinary life feels extraordinary.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Dad

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I love this photo of my father.

Christmas Day, Dad with his red suspenders, wearing his brand new red plaid flannel shirt, reading glasses in his pocket, that shock of coarse, thick hair, just about to speak.

Being one of the oldest of his children, the second of eleven, I have other memories of him, too.

I remember my Dad when he was young, gangly and a little bit shy, with a wide grin and a big joy in life.

I remember when Dad would never leave the house without giving my mother a big kiss good-bye…when he’d come home tipsy and try to charm and tease the scowl from her face…when they’d snuggle together on the couch while watching the news.

As a young man, Dad was lanky and strong with a quick stride that we struggled to keep up with. He had long arms hanging from broad shoulders. In motion, he seemed all elbows, wrists and big hands.

He’d chuck us under the chin, or use his knuckles to rub the top of our head, or grab our knees to make us squeal.

He’d reach out – quick as a striking snake – to cuff the ear of a child whispering in church.

He’d scoop up a small child to place her on a shoulder as he set out walking.

Or throw one over his shoulder “like a sack of potatoes.”

Or grab one to hold up by the feet, to “shake the dickens out of you.”

He’d carry a little one in the crook of his arm.

Sometimes he’d just reach down to offer a hand to hold as we crossed the street.

With such a large family, it seemed like he’d always have a little one to tease and fuss over.

Dad was always quite surprised at our “growing up.”

We did, though.

Children gave way to grandchildren, who also remember the tickling and other tortures he’d administer, when he caught them…and then great-grandchildren.

Christmas, when all the family gathered, was extra special for Dad.

For years – maybe twenty – he’d say, “this could likely be my last Christmas, you should come.” If we had other plans, or if traveling home was not in the budget, we’d rearrange, in order to be there. If a few of us were not getting along at the time, we’d put our disagreements aside for the sake of a good holiday. Dad would usually indulge in too much food and drink, which would make Mom angry, and add another layer of tension to the day.

Still, he would greet us all warmly, beam at the little ones, twinkle at our conversations, allow the toddlers to open his presents for him and bask in the pleasure of his big family around him.

That’s why I like this photo.

Today is my Dad’s birthday.

Though he’s been gone from this life for years, his influence is still a big part of my life, and I think of him often.

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Larry, My Friend

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I heard the sad news this morning that my friend, Larry, has passed away.

There, that’s it.

I was going to tell this story another way.

I’m taking a little course in creative writing. I’ve also been reading about the craft of telling a story well. I’ve been learning about talking around the thing you want to say, until there’s nothing else to do but say it. Anticipation, suggestion, forewarning, premonition.

I was going to start by explaining how the owner of the hardware store where I work is also a veterinarian, and that his clinic is in the back, and about how I first met Larry and his partner, John, when they came in with questions and concerns about their two old dogs.

We became better acquainted over pipe and wood stains and plumbing fixtures as they struggled to get their little house in shape.

They came to the opening reception when I had an art show here.

We met for lunch a few times.

Our friendship deepened.

I’d grumble to them about my problems while helping them pick out a paint shade or compare the qualities of different snow shovels.

They’d talk to me – separately and together – about changes and issues in their own lives.

They sold one house, and bought another. They moved a piano. John made drapes.

One year, Larry taught a class on making Christmas ornaments from long strips of colorful papers; my daughter attended with me. What a hoot, watching Jen and Larry tease and cajole and laugh together as she tried her very best to grasp his technique!

Larry played Santa at Christmastime for our charitable animal fund: “For a donation to the Animal Fund, have your pet’s picture taken with Santa!” He was a big hit! He even had his own Santa suit! I’ve never seen anyone so capable of handling animals of all types and sizes, while keeping hat, belly and beard on straight!

Larry came in one day alone, to tell me that John had been diagnosed with cancer. We just hugged each other tight with that sad news.

One day after I had quit working there, Larry called the hardware store regarding an urgent problem concerning his dog, Samantha. To Larry, all problems with his pets were urgent. He doted, fussed and worried over his animals like an over-protective mother.

The young girl that answered the telephone was new to the business. When Larry said, “I need to talk to the doctor!”, she replied, “Sir, this is a hardware store! There is no doctor here!”

Larry and John came to the little downtown gallery where I was working that day.

“This is crazy,” Larry shouted, after relating the telephone conversation. “What are you thinking? You have to go back! You are needed there!”

And then he broke down.

And we sat there, side by side, and I held both of his hands in mine as he told me about Samantha, and her nervous stomach, and the diet they tried first, then second, and the meals they were now making for her themselves, with organic brown rice and yams and chicken. He told me about her arthritic joints and how he could sympathize because of his own aches and pains. He told me about the puppy they took in, to replace the old dog they’d lost, and how it terrorized the entire household, especially Samantha, until they regretfully had to find it another home. He told me about their house-guests, who understood nothing, and stood in judgment of his doting and worrisome nature…

Every single painting could have been carried out of the gallery, and I would not have been able to turn away from Larry that day, he was so distraught and sad and in need of a listening ear.

Every now and then I caught a glimpse of John rolling his eyes.

Mostly, having missed Larry and his sweet disposition as much as he’d missed me, I was content to just hold his hands and let him talk.

I was going to tell all of this first, so that the message of Larry’s death would be a shock to you, as it was to me.

Having gotten to know him a little, you might feel the loss, too.

I just couldn’t get my heart into it.

It seemed manipulative, for one.

Two, there’s really no dressing this up.

Sometimes, a sad story is simply that.

And the loss of a dear friend is always a sad story.

Getting Away and Settling In

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The older I get, the more nervous I get about driving.

The longer I live here on Beaver Island, the more I am intimidated by traffic and speed.

It’s not road conditions.

We, here in northern Michigan, are well aware of ice and snow.

I have driven to work before the plow truck came through, making the first tracks through deep snow.

I have made it home on roads slick with ice.

I’ve had my share of scary sliding, fish-tailing and spinning events that make my heart pound and my hands shake.

The differences are this:

  1. On Beaver Island, I rarely contend with other vehicles. My car, for most of my trip, is the only one on the road.
  2. I can pick my speed, based on the conditions. If worn out tires and slippery roads dictate a speed of 15 miles per hour, I can pretty much guarantee there won’t be an angry four-wheel-drive pick-up driver tearing up from behind and zipping around me.
  3. If an accident happens, it is usually car-to-snowbank, car-to-ditch or car-to-tree…not car-to-madly-careening-down-the-icy-freeway-sideways-semi-truck.

I drove down-state this last weekend, for a Christmas party and a pre-Christmas visit with family and friends.

I watched the weather predictions closely, and with trepidation. It was a fickle forecast, changing almost daily from “not bad” to the terror inducing “winter storm watch.” By the time my departure day on Friday came around, it looked like the most I’d have to contend with was a little “lake-effect” snow around the Kalkaska area.

That held true, and my drive down was an easy trip.

In Ionia, I met my daughter, Jen, and my grandson, Patrick, for dinner and presents, conversation and games.

The next day, Jen took the wheel. We brought Patrick to his Dad’s house, then headed for Saugatuck.

More talk and laughter, more family and friends and the thirty-fourth annual Pine & Pasta Party.

The party had its start when my friend Bob, newly divorced, decided that decorating for Christmas would be more fun with a few friends. It has evolved over the years into a much anticipated holiday tradition. Bob makes a big pot of his famously good spaghetti sauce and cooks up pasta to go with it. Guests bring breads and salads and munchies. Bob and his brother Gary – AKA “The Bare-Chested Christmas Tree Wrestlers” – bring in the tree, set it up and string the lights. Some visitors add the ornaments while others advise and dictate placement from the comfort of the sofa. Many of the decorations were contributed by guests over the years and reflect the times past. One of my favorites is a garland of hand-sewn silver alewives, presented in the year our beaches were smelly with that fish. Drawings are held, and gifts distributed. My sister, Brenda, was the proud winner of a box of miniature hotel soaps from all over the country…collected by Bob in his travels with the Red Cross. Others were lucky enough to receive prizes retrieved from cereal boxes or earned with box tops or coupons. Every guest was given a commemorative ornament, inscribed by Bob with the event and year. I don’t make it to his party every year, but have a nice collection of ornaments reminding me of when I attended. It was a great group this year, and I’m glad I was there.

Sunday morning, up early and on the road.

First east, to pick up Patrick and bring him and Jen home. After that, I was on my own.

North, to Charlevoix, where I’d get on the small plane that would take me back to the island.

The roads were clear and the trip was without complications. I had allowed enough time so that when I came into wet, snowy conditions less than a hundred miles from my destination, I was able to slow down without worrying about missing my flight.

I arrived early at the airport, and – with inclement weather threatening – my flight left shortly after.

A smooth flight and a perfect landing on the island, then retrieve the car and load my bags, a quick visit with my aunt, to the boarders to pick up my dogs…then home!

It has hardly stopped snowing since I got here, day before yesterday!

I was ready for a trip, and happy to get away. It was a great chance to reconnect and visit and play.

I was happy to get back home, too, to my cozy house in the snow.

I’m ready, now, to settle in for a while.

Shadows of Gratitude

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My friend Kathy, who writes from her little house in the woods of Michigan’s upper peninsula, yesterday wrote about gratitude.

She was inspired by the writing of two others, and she was pretty inspirational herself.

If I could remember how to link to things, or if I had the stamina to figure it out, I’d link to all three.

It’s an important thing to remember,  to be thankful.

About twenty years ago, my mother was similarly inspired when she heard Sarah Ban Breathnach speak on the Oprah show about her book, Simple Abundance; a Daybook of Gratitude and Joy. She really took it to heart. For the rest of her life, Mom counted her blessings. She had always been one to “look at the bright side” so it was a subtle change, but important to her. Mom gave Breathnach’s book to me and several of my sisters that year for Christmas.  I remember, too, a short but heartfelt lecture about it.

“Just read it, Cindy, and sincerely give it a try! Just give it a chance, and see if your life doesn’t improve…”

I say things like that to my daughters when it seems they are struggling or unhappy. I suggest books or programs that might help to make sense of the chaos their lives seem – to me, from this distance – to be in. Even over the telephone, I can almost hear the sound of their eyes rolling, they do it with such vehemence!

A talk like that was rare from my mother, though, and I listened.

I read the book, as she requested, and started a “gratitude journal.” Not being one to throw away perfectly good paper, I have it still.  It looks like I was pretty faithful about writing down the things I was thankful for  from April 9, 1996 through May 10, 1996. There is one entry in December of that year, then a long interval until July 24, 2001…then February 3, 2002…then February 1, 2005, where the first entry is, “I’m grateful I didn’t let 3 entire years go by without keeping up with this.” Very funny. I kept up the daily practice, then, for another five days. That’s it. I’m not even a quarter of the way through the book!

What is even more startling than my lack of dedication to the task, is my pathetically negative attitude.

I have my moments.

“I am glad to have two beautiful, sweet daughters”

“…my friends and family”

“…my grandchildren”

These sentiments repeat frequently enough, as well as gratitude for a package, a letter, a good book, a sunny day, a fresh snow, a warm cat curled beside me, the arrival of Girl Scout cookies…

I’m grateful that I at least noted these good things because mostly my gratitude journal is shameful.

“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 feel okay today”

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

This is like the “Dark Side” of gratitude!

It’s no wonder I didn’t keep up with it…I was horrible at it!

Freshly inspired by Kathy’s enthusiasm, I think I’ll try again.

I still have plenty of pages to fill, after all!