Tag Archives: family

Quiet (the April A~Z Challenge)

Standard

IMG_2713

I like the quiet.  Too much noise makes me tense.

I think I was always like that. Growing up in a large, raucous family, I would search for places to be alone. I’d take a flashlight and a book, and crawl to the very back of the attic, alone. I would pick a mound of fresh peas and sit – hidden from view – on the far side of the black shed, while I shucked and ate them. I made a little hideaway by clearing the deep top shelf in our bedroom. I’d sit up there for hours, above the fray.

As an adult, I don’t need the radio playing or the TV on. My nerves get jangled when there are too many people speaking at once. Or when people are shouting or arguing. Or when the road truck causes my dogs to burst into a tirade of loud, sharp barking. I like things peaceful. I like it quiet.

Still, there must be another side of me that I am less aware of. I know there is a sharpness to my tone of voice that, over the years, people have interpreted as anger, sarcasm or nastiness even when it was not intended. I know I can sometimes be a “long talker,” beating a subject to death, almost. My husband thought I was bossy.  My youngest daughter would often offer to take the time-out, grounding, or whatever punishment was at hand, if I would, “JUST DON’T LECTURE!!!”

And when my dear mother, who was an only child and often seemed a bit overwhelmed by all the noise and activity in our household, begged,  “please just let me have a little peace and quiet…” I was often one of the people she was speaking to! Now, I would happily comply. I love the quiet!

Advertisements

Not Quite

Standard

IMG_1153

This is the season, it seems, for qualifiers. My birthday is almost here; I am not quite sixty-five years old. Summer is nearly over; fall is coming soon. It’s that “in-between” stage that begs for evaluation and invites plans. That’s where I’m at right now.

Summer. It came in slowly, with cold, rainy days through most of June. Even when it warmed up, it seems the hot summer days were often balanced by chilly nights or cool, windy or rainy days. Mosquitoes were never unbearable. I almost always slept under a light comforter.

I spent the early part of the summer getting my back yard reconfigured and my garden planted. Though it was a lot of work, it has pretty much taken care of itself since then, and has been a source of satisfaction and fresh vegetables for weeks now.

Most of my flowers are finished blooming, though the ones that are still offering their bright faces are more appreciated than ever. The low hedge of  “Autumn Joy” Sedum is healthy and bright green. Before long, its flat flower heads will be glorious bronze tones.

Aunt Katie’s illness dominated the summer season. When she was home, the goal was to buoy her spirits; the wish was to see her improve. “How are you today?” I’d ask whenever I stopped. “Not good,” she’d answer, discouraged. “I wish I had a different answer,” she once said, vehemently.

I brought her a large potted tomato plant, to grow on her kitchen porch. My cousin Bob planted a tub of salad greens just outside the door. His sheep grazed just behind the farmhouse. She watched them from her kitchen stool as he did her breathing treatment.

Morning Glories came up from seeds dropped in other years. Aunt Katie was never well enough to put up the rows of string for the flowers to climb; I never thought to do it for her. Now, in August, the vigorous  vines have tumbled over and formed a thick mound, reminding me of my neglect.

When she was getting care on the mainland – between two hospitals and a rehabilitation facility – telephone calls became a focus. There were calls to Aunt Katie’s room and to her cell phone. There were calls to the keyboard and to the nurse’s station. Because she was often out of her room, away from her phone, or unable to talk because something else was going on, and because the nurse’s station was poorly staffed in the evenings when I was able to call, I was usually frustrated. When I was able to get updates, I called family members downstate to spread the word. My cousin Keith changed his route to be able to visit with Aunt Katie on the way to and from his cabin. His phone calls were highly anticipated and welcome for the good information on her spirits and her progress.

When Aunt Katie finally came home, she knew – as we did – that she was coming home to die. Friends started calling, and stopping by. Dishes of food were dropped off. Family members altered their summer plans to get to the island. Though she was clearly weak, struggling, and in decline, I thought she’d be with us for a while. I packed a week’s worth of clothes, to bring to her house, and anticipated being there a month or more. That was not the way it worked out.

On, then to the services to honor my aunt. Bringing together many of her nieces and nephews and their families, islanders who knew and respected her and the contributions she made in her long life, and friends who wept openly at the dear heart we had lost. It was exhausting…and wonderful…as many events like this are, but a fitting send-off to a wonderful woman who has been a big part of my life.

The funeral was a sad start to the planned, week-long vacation on Beaver Island for my sisters and their families. Still, good company, fine weather, and lots of little children helped to bring perspective and joy to a transitional time. For me, especially this year, their presence was a blessing.

Work was the second major focus of my summer. Extended hours at the hardware store made for long, busy days. In addition, there was writing, event-covering and business to be taken care of for the news-magazine. Getting artwork where it needed to be – and myself where I was supposed to be to promote it – was another pull in yet another direction.

Though my diet and exercise plan went out the window less than two months into the New Year, I have somehow managed to lose about eight pounds. Walks with the dogs went from daily – as promised – to a couple times a week, as time and weather allowed. Our rides down to the Fox Lake were often foiled by other people and dogs on the shore. I only made it to the Lake Michigan beach a couple times this summer, and I never went swimming. That should be considered at least a venial sin in the evaluation of both my summer and my 65th year. I live on an island, for God’s sake!

So, as I look back over the year, and the summer season, I’d have to say it was not quite as successful as I would have liked. That’s okay. There was joy, and progress, and change. It was not quite a failure, either!

 

The Day After Christmas Blues

Standard

img_9891

“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!

img_9878

The 52 Lists project #46

Standard

img_9293

List your greatest comforts:

  • Family. Those people that love me and accept me no matter what, that put up with my bad humor, differing political opinions and incessant whining with grace, that shore me up with their unwavering devotion…they are my greatest comfort.
  • Friends. The gift of understanding, shared experience and laughter is a huge comfort.
  • My dogs, with their trust and unwavering faithfulness, for their warmth and closeness, for how they make me smile.
  • My books. When I read books on simplifying and clearing space, I get agitated when the conversation turns to getting rid of books. I can let go of some stuff…but generally not books.
  • My peach sweatshirt. I found it in a secondhand store, in perfect condition. I  irreparably stained it the first time I wore it. Still, it’s warm and comfortable, and long enough to hide the belly fat.
  • My health insurance. It usually only covers a fraction of the cost of an office call, lab work or prescriptions (though it paid for a flu shot entirely!) but it’s a big comfort knowing it is there if I get seriously ill.
  • My job…because it is awfully nice to be able to pay your own way in this world.
  • My memory. I’m not entirely comfortable that it will always be with me – sometimes it fails me already – but right now, it is a solace to know that I can pull up people and events from my past to revisit loved ones and relive precious moments.
  • My daily journal. To remind me of what I’ve done…and what I need to do.

The 52 Lists Project #45

Standard

img_9109

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.

Tuesday: Exercises in Writing #16

Standard

june2016 273

From The Writer’s Devotional by Amy Peters:

This is my family…

The German, Henry, is my family. He brought his wife, Elizabeth, and his small children to this country in the later half of the nineteenth century. He worked in the coal mines in New York and possibly Pennsylvania. The family grew. They homesteaded in the Dakotas. They moved to Texas, to farm there. For three years, there was not a single drop of rain. They moved on. In Illinois, one young son was killed in a hunting accident. It was in the German parish there that they saw the notice, submitted to the church bulletin by Father Zugelder, that there was land and opportunity on Beaver Island. My grandfather, George, was three years old when they moved north to build their farm here. Henry was an old man at that time, by the standards of the day. His adult sons and teen-aged boys put up the house that is our family farm here on Beaver Island, where my Aunt Katie lives, still.

The carpenter, Joseph, is my family. When he was seventeen, his mother put him, alone, on a ship to America, so that he would not be drafted to fight in the Franco-Prussian War. Raised in the Black Forest area of Germany, Joseph was already a skilled woodworker. He settled in to the community of Grand Rapids,Michigan, where his skills had a place in the budding furniture industry. He also attended  Catholic Church, and saw the notice Father Zugelder had placed in church bulletins. He came to Beaver Island, too, at the turn of the century. He and his wife, Katherine, had a large family. Joseph, Christie, Elsie and Willie are some of the names I remember. My grandmother was their daughter, Otelia.

George and Otelia, my paternal grandparents, are my family. Grandpa George lost his wife when my father was thirteen years old. His second wife, Florence, became family, too.

I have some distant history on my mother’s side of the family, but could not recite it without looking up the facts. My knowledge begins with my maternal grandparents, Ted and Thelma. They are constant participants in my early childhood, and frequent, friendly occupants of the memories I hold now. They are my family.

Bob and Janice, my parents, are my family. Not alone, for I cannot separate them from the brood of children, my brothers and sisters, that they raised: Brenda, Cindy, Ted, Sheila, Cheryl, Nita, Robin, David, Darla, Amy, Bobby. This is my family.

Terry, my husband, was my family for many years. With our two precious daughters, we were a family. All of Terry’s relatives were my family, too. Divorce is like cutting off a limb, for all the loss it entails. It took all of my strength to maintain “family” from the broken shards that were left.We managed it, though. We figured it out.

My daughters, Jen and Kate, are my family. We share history and memories that no one else has. They have a place in my heart that only they can fill.

Their children are my family. These are not the conventions I grew up with. There is greater physical distance and, it seems, larger societal divides. Even in this age of cell phones and social media, it is hard to keep in touch. I take comfort in the knowledge that all of my grandparents were huge influences in my life. I saw Grandpa George and Grandma Florence only a couple times a year, and my maternal grandparents were both dead before I turned ten-years-old. I try. It’s worth the effort.

Aunt Katie is my family. She and her sister, Aunt Margaret, are the last of that generation in our family. They are the link to my father, and to the past. They are also the living connections to a whole string of cousins, and cousins once, twice or three times removed. All are my family.

My friends are my family. Sometimes they fill a need that no one else can, with understanding or words of advice, or they are good for a laugh over an inside joke. Like family, at this age I find there is shared history with most friends, and that adds to the bond.

This is my family: the big dog that walks with me and the little dog that sleeps curled up near my feet. I feed them, talk to them and give them lots of belly rubs. They communicate with bright eyes, wagging tails, whimpers, dog kisses and heads dropped trustingly into my lap. In spite of friends, and all of my relatives – living and dead – there are times when Darla and Rosa Parks are the most heartfelt interactions of my whole day.

One Week Into September

Standard

august2016-085

Seven days into this new month, and everything is fine.

Though we had a very dry summer, the last few weeks have provided several nice rain showers.Nights have been a little cooler, and good for sleeping. Our K~12 students went back to school yesterday. Tourism has slowed, now that Labor Day is over. Many of our summer residents are already gone. Though the daytime temperatures are still plenty warm, there’s a hint of fall in the air.

The blackberries are ripening in the woods and fields. If the weather holds out, I’ll be berry picking until frost! I eat a dish of blackberries with milk every single day. I stir them into oatmeal or yogurt; I put them over a bowl of Rice Krispies. Yesterday, I used them in pancakes. I already have four quarts in the freezer, and yesterday came home from the store with a fresh box of zip-lock bags. Blackberries will be a nice reminder – in the middle of the winter – of this friendly time of year.

I’ve been dreaming of making art. Patterns and colors fill my brain. My muscles remember the arc and weight of a loaded paintbrush. Ideas are flowing freely. I know…it has happened before…all of that may come to a stand-still when I actually get into the studio. Still, it’s nice to have the inspiration. From this point, it takes showing up and working to bring the seeds to fruition. As things slow down here on Beaver Island, I’m starting to have hope that I will find the time.

I spoke to both of my daughters yesterday. We used to have a steady telephone date on Sunday afternoon, and I never went more than a week without hearing their voices. Now, with work schedules, travel and other obligations, sometimes several weeks go by without a word. They are always in my heart, though, and often on my mind. It’s a special day when I can have a conversation with each of them, too.

My youngest grandson, Patrick, had his first day in high school yesterday. When I tried to call him, I accidentally dialed the wrong number. A deep, familiar voice said, “Well, hello, Grandma Cindy!” I had a moment of panic that Patrick had grown up overnight…until I realized I was speaking to my oldest grandson, Michael. He’s out of school, and a new father, and we managed to have a good conversation, too.

Seven days in, so far September is going well.