Tag Archives: David Sedaris

Beginning the Year with A, B, and C

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some books on my nightstand

A brand new year. New expectations; new promises to myself. A new journal to keep track of my life…or to keep my life on track, I’m not sure which. It will be filled, soon enough, with resolutions, plans and good intentions, and a number of graphs, lists and charts to record my progress…or lack thereof. I start by noting accomplishments and memorable things from the year just past.

For that, I page through last year’s journal. It is a wealth of information, often discouraging and sad. I can see, for instance, that, though I devoted lines each month in my “Habit and Activity Tracker” to “weights,” “yoga/pilates” and “walk,” I fulfilled those goals only a tiny fraction of the times planned. I did better in other areas. I rarely missed a scheduled work day. I posted a blog twice a week, occasionally more, almost without fail. I read every single day. From the pages I devoted to “Books I Read, 2018,” I see that I completed thirty-three books last year.

With that in mind, I’m going to start this year off on a positive note, focusing on the books I am reading right now. It just happens – coincidentally – that they begin with the first three letters of the alphabet.

Atomic Habits by James Clear is the perfect book to have first on my reading list at the start of a new year. So far, it has given me such confidence that change (improvement) is possible, that I have put off all my usual resolution-making until I finish this book. Clear suggests that it is not helpful to focus on goals; we should, instead, focus on “systems,” the behaviors that will help us get to the results we want. “Goals are good for setting a direction, but systems are best for making progress.” Systems are the steps you take to get the desired outcome. This is a highly technical – i.e.: lots of graphs and studies – but very easy-to-read book. I’m thinking it just might change my life!

Becoming by Michelle Obama. My daughter and I were talking about this book just before Christmas. “Do you have it?” she asked. “No,” I told her, “I’ve seen so many good, in depth interviews with her, I feel kind of like I know how it goes. Maybe I don’t need to read it.” That wasn’t quite true. I had seen many wonderful interviews, and I was telling myself that it was unnecessary to invest in another freshly published hard cover book right now. However, when I received the book on Christmas Eve – a gift from that same wily daughter – I was thrilled! I’ve only just started it, but Michelle Obama is an extremely engaging writer, and I’m thoroughly enjoying her book!

Calypso by David Sedaris is the third book I’m reading right now. My two daughters and I met in Lansing last year, to see Sedaris at the Whiting Auditorium. I’ve loved his books, and his readings on NPR for years, and his talk there did not disappoint. To commemorate that special get-together, I got each of my daughters a David Sedaris book for Christmas. For Jen, Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls. I own that book, and re-read it whenever I need to improve my mood. I can’t get through the first essay in that book without tears of laughter running down my face! I hope Jen likes it as much as I have. For Kate, Calypso. Because I had not yet read that one, I bought it for myself as well…an early Christmas present for me. Unnecessary, gift-wise, as I was very generously inundated with all kinds of wonderful, thoughtful presents, but I appreciate this book anyway.

So, A, B and C. I’m sure reading – my biggest success – will continue through the year. I can’t say if it will continue to follow the alphabet!

Away, Then Home, Again…

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I’m struggling to find a way to write this so that it doesn’t sound like an essay assignment about “What I did on my Vacation.” It’s early, though; I’m tired, and have a long list of jobs to accomplish today. Every single task can be interrupted whenever the dogs need attention; they missed me, I think, even more than I missed them! But, in between pats and snuggles and belly rubs, there are things to do.

I have to call the bank to verify the amount of a direct deposit, then write checks for bills that have to go out this week. I have thank-you notes to write to the folks that fed, entertained and accommodated me this last week. When I go to town for the Post Office, I’ll run around to the shops that carry [my last issue of] the Beaver Beacon, and make note of the returns. That will allow me to tally up sales and send final bills out, which will – if I’m lucky – bring in enough to pay the printer, which is the only thing, now, in the way of me being finished, finally, with that phase of my life.

I unpacked last evening, and got a load of clothes through the washer and the dryer. They need to be folded and put away today. The empty suitcases – abandoned unceremoniously at the top of the stairs – need to be stored. The groceries I brought home need to be re-packaged for storage. I could use the freezer space, now, right away; I’ll have to talk to the young man who is going to help me move that appliance.

Temperatures are considerably consistently colder than when I left the island. There were actually good sized piles of residual snow at the airport on the mainland; I was told seven inches of snow fell in Charlevoix on Saturday. My house was no warmer than outside when I came home, and it took most of the evening to get it comfortable enough for sleeping. It is past time for dealing with the issue of my non-working thermostat, so that the heater can come on and go off on its own, as needed. Today would be a good time to look into that.

I’m still struggling with a month-old spider (?) bite, that continues to itch and refuses to heal though I’m working my way through a second course of antibiotics. I treat the spot with after-bite gel and anti-itch ointment as well the steroid cream that was prescribed. I have taken over-the-counter allergy medicines, to try to stop the irritation. If I’m going to get back in to the Medical Center before the week is out, today would be the day for that, too.

So, obviously, getting back to home and “real-life” leaves little time to talk about my trip. It was a whirlwind of activity with lots of driving in between. In my notes, it looks like this:

Wednesday: dogs to kennel; airport; flight to Charlevoix; drive to Petoskey; McLean & Eakin bookstore; Roast & Toast for lunch; Grain Train for rice, grains and oat straw; drive to Gaylord; find Treetops Resort; find [cheaper] motel; Big Boy for dinner; back to the motel for lots of HGTV until I can sleep.

Thursday: up, coffee, news, shower, dress and check-out; Treetops Resort for paint seminar through early afternoon; drive to DeWitt – outside of Lansing – to the hotel where I meet up with my daughter, Kate; P.F.Chang’s to have dinner with Kate and my sister, Amy; then off to see Amy’s [beautiful] new condo before calling it a night.

Friday: the morning begins with trying to catch up with my daughter, Jen, who is late; breakfast at Bob Evans; Schuler’s bookstore to entertain ourselves while we wait; back to the hotel to meet up with Jen, who has texted us that she has arrived; Old Town in Lansing for a great deal of browsing in shops and galleries, and a little shopping before going back to get ready for our evening; Beggar’s Banquet for dinner, then to the Wharton Center, on the campus of Michigan State University, for “An Evening with David Sedaris.”

Saturday: breakfast with my girls at a nice restaurant I can’t remember the name of; pack, load up cars, check out, and lots of (but still not enough) hugs good-bye; drive to Lapeer, to the home of my sister Brenda and her husband Keith; carry in suitcases; set up computer; contact my friend, Gary, who came right over to go over the drives and settings on my computer, to download anti-virus programs and run scans to make sure there were no residual problems from when I fell victim to the scam; a delicious dinner with Brenda and Keith; North Branch, to my sister, Cheryl’s, house where she was hosting card club, and I could catch up with all of my sisters, a couple nieces, and other friends.

Sunday: Brenda and Keith left early for a bus trip, so I woke up alone and drank a pot of coffee by myself; to Clifford in the afternoon, to my daughter Kate’s house, where I was able to catch up with her husband Jeremy, and three of my grandchildren: Brandon, Madeline and Tommy, and get to know Eric (Madeline’s boyfriend) better; dinner was homemade lasagna (some of the best I’ve ever had) and cake and ice cream for dessert; game time with everyone after dinner; hugs and good wishes, then off for Lapeer and bed.

Monday: up, pack, load the car and off; fill up with gas, then hit the freeway for a four-hour drive; in Gaylord, I stopped at the Big Boy for coffee and a waffle; in Charlevoix, I went to K-Mart to buy a cheap watch, to the Family Fare to stock up on groceries, and the gas station to fill the car with gas again; airport, then a flight back to Beaver Island; retrieve the car and load the bags and boxes; the kennel to pick up the dogs…then home.

That’s a week-long trip, condensed. Exhausting, right? Some highlights:

  • Wonderful conversation over Chinese food with Amy and Kate, and a tour of Amy’s lovely home.
  • Time spent together with my two daughters: memories of their conversations, banter and laughter still makes my heart swell.
  • David Sedaris. I have loved his books for years; hearing him on NPR was always a treat. He’s even better in person. I’m still laughing!
  • Over conversation and coffee in the lobby with my daughter, Jen (a treat on its own) I ran into a friend from Beaver Island!
  • Visits with family and friends at Brenda’s house, and later at Cheryl’s. Both places are warm and welcoming.
  • Playing Taboo around Kate’s dining room table with my smart and giggly grandchildren.
  • No viruses on my computer (Thank you, Gary!).
  • A hidden windfall in my checking account (Thank you, Eric!).
  • Walking into my own house, with my waggy-tail dogs, after a week away.

 

Getting There

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I have one million things yet to do before I’m finished with this project…but I’m happy with my new shelves.

My stereo is in the living space along with a collection of old albums (the Beatles! Vanilla Fudge! Hendrix! The Soft Machine!) quite a few cassette tapes (Harry Chapin, the Eagles, Paul Simon) and a couple dozen compact discs (jazz, blues and folk, mostly). As the technology changed, so did my taste in music.

The little television set – that doesn’t actually “receive” television – is in the living room, too. It has a built-in DVD player, so is good for watching a movie with company, if I choose. I am also taking a couple courses on DVD: The Art of Teaching and Analysis and Critique. Finally, I have a couple exercise videos that I use, and the living room is the only room large and open enough to actually do the exercises in.

My favorite books are here. Not the ones that have the best bindings, or that I’m proudest to have read because they show me to be a thoughtful and intelligent person. No. These are the ones that I pick up to read again and again, that I can flip open to precious passages or reflect on when it is meaningful. Emily Dickinson is here, along with E.B. White and Maxine Hong Kingston…but so are David Sedaris, Christopher Moore…and Jim Fitzgerald, who got his start writing for the Lapeer County Press, my home town newspaper.

A few plants are tucked in, to soften the lines.

I’m pleased with this space.