Tag Archives: dogs

The 52 Lists (for Happiness) Project #42

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List the ways money cannot buy happiness:

  • Money cannot buy respect. It has to be earned. Mostly, I have no trouble with that. Still, I remember bringing my two little grandsons up north to spend a week with me on Beaver Island. Michael was seven years old; Brandon was five. We traveled from Lapeer to Charlevoix in my Aunt Katie’s  brand new Trailblazer. We flew across to the island in a pretty impressive little airplane. Then we walked across to the parking lot, where my battered and dust-covered three hundred dollar island “beater” was waiting. Michael’s little face fell. “Grandma Cindy, your car is a piece of garbage,” he said, and I believe in that instant, his estimation of me dropped a little, too. I laughed and told him, seriously, “Why, Michael, this is the best car I’ve ever owned!” I loaded boys and luggage, and we rattled off for home. I had a full week to bolster up his opinion of me. Long drives in my old car delivered them to sandy beaches in the daytime, and down tree covered roads after dark as we – all dressed in our pajamas – went to see what the island looked like by moonlight. We traveled to shops and stores and the Toy Museum; we went fishing, rock collecting, swimming and dune climbing. That old car would come to a quick stop for getting a better look at bird, squirrel or deer. or when either little boy yelled “Can!” Then, one of them would exit the car to retrieve the sighted aluminum can, for the ten-cent profit it would bring. By the time the week was up, Michael had decided my car wasn’t so bad. A shiny new vehicle in that parking lot, though, would have garnered instant respect from that seven-year-old boy!
  • Money can’t fill lonely days…
  • It can’t give recognition for a job well-done…
  • And it can’t turn sadness around. But it often feels like it might, and I’ve frequently stopped at the store, or went on-line shopping, just to test the possibility.
  • Money can’t buy love. Even though teen-agers would often try to convince otherwise. Most love comes by happy accident (as in the many good friends that have happened into my life) or undeserved blessings (as in my children, grandchildren, sisters, brothers and other family members who I am so fortunate to have in my life at all, doubly fortunate that we all love each other). Sometimes, though, you have to look for love, pursue it, or work for it. That seems, often, like a job best suited to those with youth and beauty, and the confidence that comes with those attributes. So, usually, I put ideas of love or romance “on the shelf.” I don’t think about it, or I think, “I’m too old for that.” And that works…most of the time.
  • Money can’t buy all the myriad of little things that bring me joy on a daily basis: the color of the sky; wag-tail dogs; roads lined with trees; the sound of waves; sunrise, sunset and the moon and stars. All the best things are free!

July 3rd, Fox Lake Road

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Tuesday, again. The last day of my “week-end.” It’s my last chance to catch up on my rest and get ready for the busy week ahead. The day to finish up all the home and yard projects I planned to get done on my days off. It’s blogging day. It’s the day I try to get to town for post office, transfer station and grocery store. As usual, one day doesn’t seem like enough time.

We’ve had a week of extreme heat, unusual for Beaver Island, resulting in a string of uncomfortably warm nights. There wasn’t a breeze to be found, here on the Fox Lake Road. My little fan barely made a difference in the oppressive heat in my house. I spent several nights tossing and turning, too hot to sleep. A storm came through on Sunday night, bringing welcome rain and cooler temperatures. I’ve been sleeping long and well the last couple nights.

This time of year, one of the busiest weeks of the whole year on Beaver Island, it is important to be rested. Businesses are stretched to their limits with thousands of visitors in addition to regular customers. The hardware store is hectic all day long. By the end of the long work day, I am exhausted. A walk or a drive to Fox Lake with the dogs, a bit of time to pull weeds from the flower beds and water the garden, then supper, a half-hour of cleaning time, and I’m done. I have no energy beyond that. All projects have to wait for my days off.

So, Monday and Tuesday are always busy days, and this week more than most. I finished setting up my bullet journal for July, with the month already underway. I finished a load of towels and another of rugs yesterday. I have dark clothes on the line now. I filled a wheelbarrow with weeds trimmed from around the stone-bordered flower beds, and started digging a new fire pit.

I have a large fire pit in the front yard, four feet in diameter, that I planned to use for pit-firing ceramics, and large bonfires with friends. I have never used it for either of those purposes. It is too big and deep to be useful for roasting marshmallows. I use it, mainly, for burning windfall branches and my household paper trash. A smaller fire pit will be more serviceable. The large circle in the front yard could be filled in and used as a flower bed, or simply returned to lawn.

So, I spent a good part of yesterday afternoon digging a hole, and removing the sod from the surrounding area. I used the soil I dug out to fill in low areas of the back yard; I filled the wheelbarrow with roots to be hauled away. Today, I plan to empty the wheelbarrow, then fill it with large rocks to border the new fire pit.

Inside, I have two unopened boxes to deal with. They are filled with metal frames and pre-cut mats: almost all the materials I need to get two large paintings and a dozen small collages framed and ready to show. To finish, I’ll have to make time to stop at the hardware store, and cut a dozen pieces of glass for the collage frames. With the tourist season underway and a couple special art shows coming up, that has to be done right away.

Beyond all that, there are bills to pay and letters to write before I go to the Post Office. I need to gather up the recyclable trash to take to the transfer station. I should go through the magazine rack and get rid of those publications that have been hanging out since Christmas.  I have a short list of necessities to pick up from the grocery store, and should go through the cupboards to see what I’ve missed. I know I’m (dread!) out of ice cream! It would be smart to plot out a week’s meals so I can put lunches and dinners together with what I have on hand.

That’s what’s happening, or should be happening, on this third day in July, here on the Fox Lake Road. From the looks of this list, I’d better get busy!

 

 

In Other Words (April A~Z Challenge)

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on the left, Rosa Parks; on the right, Darla

The other day I mentioned how when I say “Good Morning” to my dogs, what they hear is something more like “Roll over: show me your belly, and I will give you one hundred belly rubs.” They are so sure of it, that if I attempt to stop after only a dozen – or even fifty – belly rubs, they protest. Darla moans and puts on her sorriest expression; Rosa Parks takes my hand in her mouth to guide it (foolish me, to have lost my way) right back to her belly.

If I absolutely have to move away before that job is done…if my knees are screaming that I have to change position or my bladder is crying that I’d better make a beeline for the bathroom…both dogs flop onto their side. They don’t speak, of course, but I can read their minds. Darla’s train of thought goes this way: “What the hell?? What’s going on?? Weren’t we comfortable?? Weren’t we good?? Where is she going??” Rosa Parks simply murmurs under her breath, “That selfish bitch!”

I think I’ve grown more tolerant as I’ve grown older…but there’s a definite possibility that I simply have more patience with dogs than I do with humans. When Rosa Parks  scratches at the door asking to go out, then retreats to the rug to await her reward, I always calmly say, “Oh, you fooled me again,” as I give her a bit of kibble.  When Darla and I – returning from our walk – encounter Rosa Parks at the end of the driveway, we all pretend she walked all of the way with us. “That was a nice walk, girls,” I say, as together we make our way back to the door. “I think we’re fine,” I say soothingly, over and over, as their agitated, sharp barking at the road truck nearly raises the roof.

When my daughters were young, we had a beagle that didn’t understand English; he responded solely to our tone of voice. The girls would demonstrate for visitors. They’d say, “Good dog, Joe,” in a stern voice; his ears would droop and his tail would go between his legs. “Bad boy, Joe,” they’d say in a lilting tone, and he’d come running with his tail wagging.

Dogs read so much into the tone of voice that it’s possible to vent quite a bit of frustration in words…as long as I mind the inflection. When I say “Good girls, outside and inside one hundred times” (as the dogs are tag-teaming for the treats I offer when they come back inside), it is with an even tone that never gives away the inherent sarcasm. “You have been in and out one dozen times already this morning and I don’t for a minute believe that your situation is so desperate right now that it couldn’t wait until I got done with my bath,” I say – in a sweet voice – as I walk, dripping, to the door.

“She falls for it every single time,” Rosa Parks thinks, with a smile.

Good Morning (April A~Z Challenge)

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Good Morning! What a friendly phrase! Having worked as a waitress on the early – coffee-and-breakfast-serving – shift for more than twenty years, I’ve probably spoken it more than most.

“Good Morning,” I’d say, as I plunked down mugs of hot coffee in front of my regulars as soon as they came in the door. I knew the exceptions that wanted decaf or tea, instead. I knew who might order a little breakfast, after a couple cups of coffee. I knew who needed to get to work quickly, and who would sit for an hour or more. They were friends, sort of, though we only met over morning coffee, and mine was a position of servitude. They felt like family, all of us still groggy from sleep, making conversation in the early morning hours.

“Good Morning,” I’d say, as I put placemats, napkins and silverware around a table, and handed a menu to each person seated there.  I’d always keep an eye on the clock, as the ferry dock was just across the road and it’s schedule drove our business. I’d address the issue right away. Early, it would be, “You have plenty of time before the boat, and the kitchen is not too busy yet. I’ll take your order as soon as I can, so you’ll have time to relax before boarding.”

Later, my spiel would sound differently. “Good Morning! If you want breakfast, and are planning to catch that boat, you should give me your order right away. At this time, I’d suggest any eggs be scrambled; pancakes will slow the order down a lot, but the cinnamon french toast is fast and good.” There were always a few stragglers who came in at the very last minute, wanting whatever we could fix them quickly, and pack for take-out.

In our heydey at the Shamrock Bar and Restaurant (which no longer serves breakfast at all), in the height of the season, we’d serve fifty to one hundred breakfasts before the ferry left the dock. By that time, “Good Morning” had changed to “What a Morning” as we rushed to clean up after the breakfast rush, and prepare to serve lunch.

These days, my “Good Morning” is first directed at the dogs. It loses a little in interpretation. What they think it means is “Roll over, show me your belly, and I will give you one hundred belly rubs.” Actually, when I’m speaking to them, it kinda does.

Dogs (the April A~Z Challenge)

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On Friday, the 30th of March, weather reports predicted a big storm coming our way. High winds and cold temperatures were expected. Plus maybe several inches of wet, heavy snow. Maybe freezing rain. What did we expect? When this month had come in like a lamb, of course it was going to go out like a lion!

On Friday, though, it still looked like spring out here on the Fox Lake Road. The road itself was completely clear of snow and ice. The snow was melting away from the tree trunks, even in the deep woods, and my yard was more than halfway bare. Daily, the big dog was finding toys she’d left outside, that had been buried for months under the blanket of white. Daffodils were poking their first leaves out of the ground, and the rhododendrons were in bud. The temperature was in the 40s, and the sun was shining brightly when I got home from work.

“We’d better take advantage of this day,” I told the dogs, and they seemed to agree. The big dog, Darla, is always up for a walk. She headed right out, no need for coaxing. Even Rosa Parks, who often has to be begged or bribed to come along, was right on my heels. We crossed the road and took Cotter’s trail through the woods.

Sometimes the snow on the trail was firm enough to walk on; most of the time, though, every footfall broke through six inches of mush. That’s tiring, and hard on my knees. I hadn’t changed into boots; my cloth shoes were going to be soaked. On another day, I might have turned back. On Friday, though, the sun was shining, and both dogs were tail-wagging along beside me. We walked the whole distance in, then back out. We were all pretty proud of ourselves for it, too!

The storm did come through, as predicted, with about five inches of wet snow. Before it had time to melt away, another winter storm followed it. This morning, the dogs are barking up a storm inside as the young man that does my plowing clears almost of foot of snow from my driveway. I’m glad the dogs and I took advantage of spring weather when it made its brief appearance!

Today, I’m Thankful

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If the spirit moves me, I can almost always think of lots to complain about. There is the weather, often, whether it leans toward the “unseasonably warm,” the “damp and dreary” or the “too damn cold.” I have a dozen aches and pains and a hundred jobs not done. There are too many things I want or need, and too little money. Never enough time. There is the N key, and sometimes also the G and the K, on my keyboard, that stubbornly do not want to type when pressed. I am constantly having to go back over my writing, to fill in the missing letters. And work; if I want to complain, there’s always something going wrong at work. Grumbling is easy.

Being thankful is more difficult. It’s harder, often, to see the good…easy to just take it for granted. I’ve always been like this. There are few times in my life when I felt pure gratitude and appreciation in the present, for more than just a fleeting moment. I was always too busy analyzing the situation, or anticipating the future. Looking back, there are many, many days that make my heart swell with the poignancy, perfection and joy locked into those memories. I wish I’d had the good sense to appreciate them at the time.

My mother was always good at counting her blessings, and she encouraged all of her children to do the same. My sister Brenda is a master at “looking on the bright side.” I have to work at it, most of the time. Usually, it’s a struggle to find reasons for gratitude. I end up using tried and true platitudes of “my family,” “my friends” and “my good health.” Though I’m truly thankful for all three, it misses the point. Today was a notable exception. For whatever reason, today I feel thankful.

Every single time I got up in the night, I was thankful to return to the warmth of my bed. I felt genuinely grateful as I pulled the covers back over me. I was thankful for a good night’s sleep, and to wake up well-rested and ready for the day.

My dish soap, in a clear pump-style container, is now showing bands of yellow, green and gold, caused by the different types of detergent combined there. It makes me smile. It also makes me grateful for my brother-in-law, Dennis, who inspired me to combine things. He can’t stand, for instance, having two or three partial boxes of crackers or cereal taking up space. “Let’s just mix them together,” he’ll suggest, which leads to some unlikely combinations. We had some fun last summer, discussing this, and thinking of the worst mixtures: Count Chocula and Wheat Chex; Cap’n Crunch and Raisin BranShredded Wheat and granola.

Still, it made me think, and now I combine quite a few things. Half-bottles of lotion or shampoo are now poured together, always into the prettiest bottle. It cuts down on clutter, and makes for surprising new scents. As for the dish soap, I buy what’s on sale, or what appeals to me at the moment. I add it to the large container, which then provides a brand new color combination to appreciate, right there at my kitchen sink.

I was thankful that today was Sunday, which means a short day of work, and the next two days off. Work was not difficult, and, while there, I had good conversations with two different friends named John. The dogs gave me their usual enthusiastic greeting when I got home, and the three of us spent a couple hours outside. Because I had inadvertently left the heater on, I came inside to a nice, warm house. Last night, I prepared enough extra so that dinner will be easy to get on the table tonight.

I have some good books in progress. I’m reading The Abundant Bohemian (Live an Unconventional Life without Starving in the Process) by Joseph Downing. I feel like he’s saying exactly what I need to hear, to make me stop doubting the choices I have made, and appreciate what my choices have given me. I also picked up Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit. It is powerful writing – honest and funny – that tackles large issues of gender and equality. I am continuing to savor a wonderful compilation of poetry that my friend Norm loaned me. Finally, The Moth, 50 true stories told by a variety of people on Public Radio, now in print, and given to me by my brother-in-law, Keith (who I am also grateful for).

Nothing out of the ordinary…just an average good day. The only thing remarkable about it is that I found myself thankful for it. That, alone, makes it an extraordinary day!

 

Monday Musings

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I’ve noticed that my Sunday writings have migrated to Mondays over the last few weeks. Likewise, my Thursday writings have pretty much gone out the window. I don’t know why, whether it would be helpful to me to get back on track, or even if it’s possible right now.

From my confident commitments on the first of this year, I have declined into simply “as much as I can, when I can.” Not only in writing, but in just about every single course I had pledged to work on this year. And yet, I still feel pretty good about it because, eleven months in, I have not yet descended to the level of “Whatever…”

One of the rules in my house is that if I write a task in my calendar and then don’t do the job on that day, I can’t resubmit the item on the day that it gets done. For instance, if on Sunday I jot down a few lines as reminders (write; fold jeans; take compost to bin; clean sink) and then totally blow off the list to walk the dogs and then snuggle with them on the floor on the dog bed while watching BirdMan, the jobs still need to be done…on Monday. On Monday, when I do them, I can cross them off Sunday’s page, but then I have to do even more stuff to show that I also had a productive Monday. The moral of that story is this:

Only write down jobs as you complete them – never before.

My task manager is not my boss. The only things that should be written down ahead of time are appointments and specifics (like bank days or work obligations) that might otherwise slip my mind. Who needs a list of chores hanging over their head, without regard to the sun coming out, the dogs wanting attention, or a dozen other things that might get in the way of me following that path? Not me. My calendar is there to remind that every day is productive and full, in its own way. I just need to remember to use it that way.

 

 

Here’s the Scoop

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Lately, when out in public, whether at the grocery store, hardware, post office or bank, I’ve been – unasked – bursting out with a story. Perhaps encouraged by a glance that seems to go on a bit too long, or a quizzical look, or a raised eyebrow, I get the feeling that an explanation is needed…and I am quick to oblige.

My face, these days, bears what I have called “the mark of Zorro.” Actually, though, it’s more of a simple “zig” than a “zig-zag.” The scratch begins under my right eye and runs diagonally across the bridge of my nose to my left nostril. There, it shifts course and makes another diagonal swipe across my upper lip to the right corner of my mouth. It was bright red for a day or two, then relaxed into a brown scab which slowly wore away until, presently, I am left with a distinct pink line. It will probably heal without leaving a scar.

Some people say, “What happened to you?” and I am happy to explain. I didn’t fall down, drunk, or trip into a thorn bush. It wasn’t clumsiness or stupidity. I have nothing to be ashamed of, though I’m embarrassed by the big mark on my face. It seems so outrageously visible, I feel an explanation is necessary whether prompted by a question or not. So, I’ve been spontaneously jumping into an explanation. This is the story:

My back is out, and I sleep more comfortably downstairs, where I can press by body against the back of the sofa for support, and where I don’t have to navigate stairs in the middle of the night. So, I’ve been sleeping on the couch. When I sleep on the couch, Rosa Parks takes position on the back of the couch, where she can see out the window. Darla sleeps on her big cushion on the floor beside me.

Last weekend, in the middle of the night, something came into the yard. At the time, I thought wild turkeys, though I’ve since been told that turkeys don’t usually move around at night. Maybe it was a coyote…or a deer…or a stray cat. In any case, at about three in the morning, when I was sound asleep, something came into the yard. It startled Rosa Parks, who sounded the alarm with her shrill bark.

Instantly, Darla was on the job. In her eagerness to assist Rosa Parks in frightening away whatever was invading our territory, she forgot I was on the couch. I had barely been frightened out of sleep by one dog barking when the second – larger – dog jumped on top of me with such force, I thought she had broken my nose.

I staggered in to the bathroom to stanch the bleeding and assess the damage. So enthused were they at their thorough job of protecting me, neither dog realized anything had gone wrong. Neither of them would ever hurt me on purpose. As I held a cold compress to my poor bleeding face, I doled out treats and told them, “Thanks for taking care of things.” I’ve considered, though, that – in the future – when my back is out and I’m forced to sleep on the sofa, a football helmet might be a good accessory!IMG_1308IMG_1309

Nothing’s Lost In God’s Kingdom

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I have a co-worker who insists that, to find anything, one must state – out loud and with confidence – “There’s nothing lost in God’s kingdom.” I have to admit, it has proven to be a pretty reliable method when I can’t remember where I left my coffee cup or when one of us has misplaced the hand-held computer. It’s not working so well at my house.

Losing things is easy for me. I spend far too much time looking for stuff. To compensate, I try to have a place for everything, and stick to it. In an extra file drawer, there is a slot specifically for tape, another for tape measures, and a third for staples and staple guns. Pens and pencils always belong in a cup on the desk; the dogs leashes go in a basket by the back door; my purse always hangs on the back of my desk chair. Those designated spots have added hours to my life, that otherwise would be spent searching.

It’s a good system, but there are flaws. Sometimes, that’s because an item is unusual or new, and doesn’t have a designated place. Most often, it’s because I neglect to enforce my own rule about putting things where they belong…or, I get scatter-brained. Lately, I’ve been doing lots of talking out loud about nothing lost in God’s kingdom while tearing around looking whenever a new possibility crosses my mind…and – so far – to no avail.

First, I lost an envelope. A customer handed it to me while I was working at the hardware store. It was addressed to the Beaver Beacon, and I believe it held a check for three subscriptions. I didn’t open it, but folded it twice, and tucked it into the left front pocket of my blue jeans. Then, I continued my work day. When I got home, I worked out in the garden for a couple hours. Later, I showered, put on pajamas, and dropped my clothes into the laundry basket.

I woke up the next morning with a start, having remembered the envelope. It was not where I expected to find it, in the pocket of my jeans. Then the search began. Could it have fallen out in the garden? In the car on the way home? At work? Might I have shifted it to another pocket? In my jacket, maybe? Or tucked it into my purse? Could I have accidentally thrown it away, with stickers, tags and other detritus that I pick up at work and carefully only put in my right-hand pocket?

You can see where this is going. For three days now, I have been looking for the missing envelope. I have searched the house, yard, garden, car, and the hardware store. I have gone through all pockets and every trash receptacle. I have gone through every pile of papers, every nook and cranny. The envelope is lost.

Yesterday, in an amazingly productive day, I finished mulching the raspberries, put up tomato cages, fenced in the garden, and finally completed the mowing of the back yard. At one point I brought the camera out, to document my progress.

I photographed the lawnmower, nearly invisible in the last patch of really tall grass. I took pictures of the garden, the flowers, and the finished lawn, complete with towels hanging on the clothesline in the background. I photographed one hundred feet of deer fence rolled out over the grass in my front yard while I trimmed twelve inches off, so that it would be the right height. I documented the tangled snarl of deer fence after it was dragged to the back, and as I fought to wrangle it around the posts that border the garden. I took one final picture of the fence, finally in place.

In between pictures, I was careful to put the camera on the potter’s wheel, along with other necessities I had brought outside. When I was done for the day, I gathered up scissors, pruning shears, staple gun, two boxes of staples, graph paper tablet, pencil, camera and coffee cup, and carried it all inside.

It was after my shower, while the dogs were having their dinner and mine was cooking, when I went to download the pictures from my camera. Where was the camera?  Scissors and pruning shears were in the basket by the back door; the tablet and pencil had been deposited on the dining room table; staples and staple gun were in their proper file; my coffee cup was in the sink. No camera!

I checked outside. I retraced my steps inside. Then I did it again…and again. I tried bribing the dogs, “Find the camera, and I’ll give you a treat!” I chanted “There is nothing lost in God’s kingdom” while continuing to search. Is it sitting in plain sight, and I’m just overlooking it?

Disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to post photos of my productive day, I decided, instead, to share photos of my “reward.” On the day that I got such a huge list of things accomplished, I was treating myself to a T-bone steak dinner with asparagus spears and sauteed mushrooms on the side. I’m not big on photographing food, but it would be compensation for not being able to show the other pictures. Then, it struck me. Without a camera, I can’t photograph my meal or anything else. The camera is lost!

A Day Turns Around

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I won’t go into the many and varied elements that contributed to the end result, but I was bone-tired, grouchy, and on the verge of tears by the time I got home last evening.

I have been determinedly forcing myself, no matter how tired from my day at work, to get in an hour or two of garden work every day, digging, weeding and planting, before I come inside. Even with that, my progress is slow, and the summer will quickly be upon us. There are days when I’m stymied by rain. There is no time to waste!

Last evening, I let the garden go. I quickly unloaded the groceries from car to house. I refrigerated what needed it, and put my precious pint of special ice cream in the freezer. I loaded the dogs in the car, rolled down the windows, and headed for Fox Lake. There, a couple geese with a half-dozen goslings swam leisurely just off-shore. The dogs wandered, and waded, and played. I updated my planner, took a few photographs, and relaxed. A walk through the woods along the shoreline completed our excursion, and we headed for home.

It had started sprinkling by the time we got there. Inside, then! While feeding the dogs and putting my own dinner together, I called my sister Brenda. There was a bonus: my sister Robin was there, too! I spoke to both of them, told them about all the worries and conflict playing around in my head, listened to good advice and welcome empathy, heard about their day, and even found plenty to laugh about. It was a long, good conversation that ended with “I love you”s all around, and improved my mood tremendously.

Off the phone, I sat down to a dinner that included potato salad made to my Mom’s recipe and standards. I mixed it up and served it from the sunshine yellow ceramic bowl Aunt Katie gave me. For dessert, a wedge of rhubarb crisp, from the first rhubarb picking of the year. Again, Mom’s recipe. Later, one small waffle cone filled with raspberry-cheesecake gelato. None of these foods are good for my diet. All were worth it for the good they did for my state of mind!

Finally, I eschewed “cleaning time” and laundry waiting to be moved along in the never-ending cycle. I poured a glass of wine. I used a special hand blown wineglass in swirling blaze colors that was a gift from my daughter Kate. I ran a hot bath, and added scented oil that I’d purchased on a trip with my sisters. I lit a candle. I gathered up a fluffy towel, my good book, and the wineglass. A long soak in the tub, then early to bed.

Not every bad day can be turned around; yesterday, I managed it.