Tag Archives: dailybloggies

Feeling Small

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Well, sure, I guess there are plenty of reasons why I could feel small.

First, my stature. I am exactly 60 inches tall. All of my brothers and sisters, once they reached their full growth, were taller than me. Except for Sheila. She was the largest of my mother’s babies, and the smallest adult. Because I was one of the oldest children, all of the younger ones were still shorter than me. My mother stood barely 4′ 8″ tall.  Mostly, as a child, I never felt short. Except on group picture day, of course, when my height would determine my position in the composition. And during the Christmas pageant, when my size relegated me to the role of the mouse (as in, “not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse”). Of course, as an adult, I realized I was smaller than most people. People come in all sizes, though; it was rarely a shocking difference. Working as a waitress, I was surrounded by seated people, so height was not important. Most of the time, it isn’t an issue.

Second, I’ve been sick. Whatever this is, whether virus or infection ot a combination of the two, it has really had a hold on me. I’m getting better, but it has been a long haul. Illness always makes me feel small and weak. Everything seems harder, from waking up in the morning, to getting to sleep at night. And all things in between.

Third, I’ve been grouchy. I like to think that’s not my usual nature, but I have to admit, when I am ornery, I feel very comfortable with it. Maybe it is my true nature, and – when I’m not trying to function with lack of sleep, illness and too much stress – I just suppress it. I do feel small, and sorry, and ashamed of myself, when I take my bad mood out on others. I have spent a lot of time apologizing lately.

Fourth, I have been called out for my grouchiness. Then, it seemed I was not just cranky, as I thought, but annoying, heartless and mean. That made me feel very small.

Actually, though, what has made me feel small these last few days, are the fall skies. Enormous clouds in dramatic formations loom over the island this time of year. The winds cause them to shift and roll, revealing sunshine for an instant, and showing patches of blue sky beyond. Everything is dwarfed by their presence. Clusters of houses look like they came from a Monopoly board. Tall trees seem tiny against the big sky. Our world has become a miniature landscape, and we are all small specks within it.

 

Reflections on a Day Off

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“An object in motion stays in motion; an object at rest stays at rest.”

Unless, of course, acted on by another force. The force of gravity will slow down and eventually stop a moving object if not other force does it first. A big push (the force of energy) will start a static (at rest) object in motion. That’s one of Sir Isaac Newton’s laws of motion. I thought of it yesterday when – after writing a list of things that I was going to accomplish – I spent several more hours sitting at the desk.

I did some writing for the next issue of the Beacon. I looked over some things that were sent for inclusion in the magazine, and moved them to folders. I answered a couple Emails. I read a few blogs that I subscribe to, and replied to several generous comments made about my own blog over the last few days. I spoke to Aunt Katie, decided what my contribution for Christmas dinner would be, and took down a short list of things she needed from the grocery store. I read the news, and checked the weather. I called my bank about a missing check, then balanced my checkbook. I paid my bills. I wrote a letter. All were important tasks, though none were on my list.

Finally, I forced myself to move. I gave the bathroom a quick wipe-down, then started a load of laundry. I pulled on sweats over my pajamas, and took the dogs for a walk down the Fox Lake Road. It was cold, as expected, but also windy and quite icy. I brought my camera, but it was kind of a poor day for taking pictures, with blowing snow under a gray sky.  We didn’t walk as far or stay outside as long as I’d planned, but it did all of us some good.

By that time, I had collected quite a list of things that required a trip to town. I had letters to mail, rental movies to return and packages to pick up at the airport. I wanted to stop at the library. I had Aunt Katie’s grocery list, and a fairly long one of my own. Time to get in the shower and get dressed. 1PM is, in fact, a perfectly reasonable – and usual – time for getting dressed around my house, on a day off.

Chores in town took up most of the rest of the day. No deep cleaning at my house; no baking; no decorating. My first day off is often like that, because always, in the back of my mind, I think, “There’s always tomorrow.” Well, this is tomorrow. A shipment came in to the hardware store, of nuts and bolts and fittings. I maintain that section of the store, so I will go in and get a start at checking in and putting away. I have to clean at Aunt Katie’s today, too. Right now, I’m not very hopeful about my own list!

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 #51

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List the things that you want to be known for:

  • I’d like to be recognized as an artist. Not just as someone who spends a lot of time in the studio and spends too much money on materials…not just as someone who sometimes makes something good or worthwhile or even beautiful…but as a serious artist.
  • I’d like to be known as a writer. Having never published anything beyond a few letters to the editor, articles in my own news-magazine, and this blog, it’s not likely…but I’d like it, nonetheless.
  • I’d like to be known for my good cooking. On Beaver Island, there are legends that live on beyond the person: Aunt Joy’s cinnamon rolls; Catherine White’s good bread; Rose’s ginger cookies, Madonna’s homemade Irish cream. I’d love to be remembered for a special dish like that!
  • I’d like to be known, most importantly, as a decent person: as a good daughter, mother, sister, aunt, grandmother and friend, and as someone who tries to stand up for what is right, who has a good moral compass, a kind heart and a respectable set of ethics.

A Better Path

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Sometimes I get  so caught up in everything that is wrong that I can’t see my way out. I don’t feel good. I’m tired. I’m frazzled.  I have a million things to do, and I’m behind on every single one. It’s Christmas season and I haven’t put out a single decoration. I’m lonesome. I miss my family. I miss my friends. I’m broke. It seems like I work all the time, yet I can’t seem to get ahead. I can’t get on top of my bills. I can’t even stay on top of my housekeeping. It is a never ending labyrinth of frustration and anxiety, spiraling downward toward darkness and despair. I can’t see my way out.

Then, something gives.

Yesterday, it was a call from my daughter. A cheery voice at the other end of the line, saying “Hello! How are you?” Sounding really happy to hear my voice. Sincerely wanting to know how I’m doing. Then she listened, calm and sympathetic, as I railed about my bad week and my bad mood and my miserable day. She said all the right things. Then, she told me about her own lousy experience. I was justifiably outraged for her. We commiserated back and forth. We made each other laugh. Before our long conversation was over, the spiral had turned, and it was leading me toward the light.

One accepting, understanding voice, reaching out, with love. That’s it.

That’s everything, really.

A Couple Words…

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A couple words is honestly all I have time for tonight…and I’m writing this in the evening to be published tomorrow morning, because I know I’m going to be too short of time, and running too late to write in the morning, before work.

Work was hard today, and it will be hard tomorrow, too. I’ve started re-setting the electrical aisle. Electrical, which I know not a goddamned thing about, I’m ashamed to say, even though my father was an electrician. So, in order to make the arrangement of small parts and nondescript pieces make some kind of sense, I’m having to learn about electrical “stuff” (for lack of a better word!).

I now  – kind of – know whether bitty parts go with PVC, EMT, rigid or flex conduit, so I can sort them accordingly. I have separated out the connectors and accessories for Romex, or wire connections, as they don’t go with conduit at all. It will all be helpful knowledge, if I ever get through it. Every shelf has to be cleared, cleaned and moved. I’m sorting pieces into rows of brown paper sacks. I’m trying to follow the diagram for set-up provided by the supplier, and the advice of a local electrician. I’m sure it will be an improvement. For now though, it’s a lot of mental and physical strain.

When I got home, I planned to work for an hour or two updating the database for the Beaver Beacon. Then my daughter called, with a list of other things I had to do first. I should have already done many of them…but, you know, I’ve been under the weather (in case you missed all the complaining I did about it!). So, it’s now almost nine-thirty, and I’m just sitting down to a plate of leftover spaghetti. I still have to update the subscriptions and winter addresses in the database. When that is finished, I’m off to bed. That’s all the energy I have left. Thank you all for joining me for dinner, and yet another bitch session.

Timeout for Art: Red is the Color of a Brazilian Goddess

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“Red is the Color of a Brazilian Goddess”

That’s a long title for a small (approximately 12″ x 16″) painting, but that’s the mood it sets, for me. Red exudes power…and status…but also heat, energy and simple exuberant fun. I played with several of these small studies, having in mind a larger (maybe 4′ x 6′) wall-sized, predominantly red painting. I put a lot of large scale ideas, including this one, on hold for lack of space. Nothing has changed there. My studio is still a ten by twelve foot room at the top of the stairs, jam packed with books, materials, artwork leaning against every wall, a drafting table and an extremely bulky printing press. Still, this painting called strongly to me today. Maybe it’s time!

Bad is Not Good

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It starts simply enough.

“Hi, there! How are you?”

“Bad,” I think, “I’m doing real bad. My head hurts, my chest hurts and my throat is sore. I haven’t had a good night’s sleep since I came down with this cold, for all the coughing and – you know – trying to breath and all. Really bad.”

“Bad” is not a good word. It brings up the idea of bad behavior, as when Rosa Parks piddles on the laundry room floor  (even then, on days when I am too fed up to simply tongue-in-cheek thank her for trying to make it to the bathroom, I usually say, “Not good, Rosa Parks, not good…” as I can’t bring myself to call her a bad dog). I am not bad. I have done nothing wrong to deserve this misery!

“Badly,” according to Strunk and White (who I will always trust in matters of grammar and usage) is not acceptable. It is both redundant and unnecessary (just like the use of both redundant and unnecessary in one sentence!). “Not good” sounds a little non-committal, and begins a sentence with a negative. There are many shades of gray between “bad” and “good.” Better to aim for a more exacting term.

“Sick” is accurate. I am sick. I refuse to say it though, for fear of eliciting the expected responses.

“Well, stay away from me, then!”

“Don’t come near me with those germs!”

“What are you doing here then?”

All valid. Yes, I am sick, and yes, I am at work. Of course you don’t want to catch it. I feel the same way  when dozens of you come in to my workplace, talking about the miserable cold you’ve had, can’t seem to shake it, couldn’t stand to stay in the house another day, etc., etc. Yes, I am at work – going through the hand sanitizer as if it were water, practically overdosing on over-the-counter products to stifle my symptoms and using every safety precaution for preventing the spread of germs that I can muster up – because I’ve already taken two days off with this, and – since I don’t get paid for sick days – I can’t really afford another. I’m at work because we have a small crew and somebody needs to be here. Because others are at home nursing their own sicknesses. Because nobody else wants to work Sunday. I am sick and I’m at work…but I’d rather not discuss it.

So, starting over.

“Hi there! How are you?”

“I’m fine, thank you for asking! And how are you?”

A Simple Cup…

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When I am sick, I feel most strongly the fact that I walk alone in this world. I am fortunate to have people who care. One friend has been in touch daily, to see if I’ve improved. Another brought me over a pot of steaming chicken soup. My family has been concerned. All of it is so appreciated, but none compares, quite, to a nurturing hand.

My mother used to warm oil of clove, dip cotton balls in it, and place those warm, scented bits of cotton in our ears. She rubbed our chest with menthol ointment, gave us syrupy sweet tea and soft-boiled eggs. She rested her hand on our foreheads to see if we were feverish, and tucked extra blankets right up to our chins.

When I was a young mother, I remember great fear when my children were sick, but also a great deal of impatience. I tried to employ the lessons I’d learned in my own childhood. I hope my efforts gave them the feeling of love and calm that my mother’s ministrations always gave to me.

I worked on Sunday, with a miserable cold and a wintry day outside. One friend suggested that when I get home, I make hot tea with honey to make me feel better. I thought of it for the rest of the day. I stopped, on the way home, to get a couple movies. I was planning to settle in on the couch under blankets, with a big mug of hot tea.

Home, I put the kettle on. I poured out the crystal apothecary jar filled with teabags. Organic Ginger Tea was my choice. Once, in college, when I was deathly sick with the flu, My friend, Chung, dropped by with a large thermos. “Ginger tonic,” he said, “does not taste good…taste like medicine. Drink it all, little bit at a time. Just sip. It will make you all better.” He gave me a wink. “Ancient Chinese medicine,” he smiled. He was right. It did taste terrible, but it was hot and soothing to sip. And it did cure me.

Mom had always sweetened our tea with sugar, but my mother-in-law had preferred honey, especially for medicinal purposes. I rarely use honey, but I knew I had a part of a jar on the counter. I don’t remember where I got the idea for whiskey and honey, but I know that is an old folk remedy, too, and I was willing to try it. I pulled down an old bottle of Hennessy Very Special Cognac from the cabinet where I store wine glasses, cocoa powder, and odds and ends of liquor.

I chose my largest mug and put two ginger teabags in it. When the water was near boiling, I opened the honey. It took me a few moments to realize that the black flecks on the surface were dead fruit flies. I paused for just a second before saying, “Oh, what the hell,” and I boldly dipped my spoon in among the tiny cadavers to retrieve one spoonful of honey. The balance of the jar, I threw away. The bottle of cognac had a heavy layer of dust on it. When I pulled the cap off, the cork crumbled into a dozen pieces, some of them falling into the bottle. I got out my little strainer, and poured a good shot of liquor over the honey in my cup. Over that, I poured boiling water.

I covered the whole concoction with a saucer, to let the tea steep, and brought it to the living room with me. Both dogs in their places on the couch, I took my spot between them. A steaming mug in front of me, I started the movie, raised my feet onto the stool, pulled the afghan over me, and settled in. Who says a person can’t self-nurture? I had to lower my standards a bit, but otherwise was perfectly capable!

 

 

Finally, It’s Christmas-y!

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After a fall that has to have challenged the record books with its length and mild temperatures, we are finally getting a taste of winter. Here on Beaver Island, depending on whether you’re near the water or in the woods, north end of the island or south, In the last twenty-four hours, we’ve gotten between three and six inches of heavy snow.

Enough to cover the masses of fallen leaves that seem to narrow our already narrow roads, and lead the eye into the black and white landscape of the woods. Enough to cover the devastation there: sick, old and fallen trees; trees harvested for wood, trunks and treetops left behind; trees that were mercilessly shredded by the big machines, because they dared to grow under the electric lines. Now, all is softened by the snow.

Enough to insulate the cement slab that is the foundation of my house, and make my floors feel warm for the first time in weeks. I actually turned the thermostat down yesterday, from sixty-seven to sixty-three degrees. It felt sufficiently warm, now that the autumn winds aren’t swirling in around my ankles!

Enough to gratify all of those who have been wondering, “Will we have snow for Christmas?”  It looks like yes, we will. The ground is cold now. This isn’t one of those fleeting snowfalls that disappears as soon as the sun shines; this is of stronger mettle. That fairy-tale landscape is here now, and I believe it will stick around for the holidays.