Tag Archives: Hardware store

Late!

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I’m up early today, trying to make up for all I didn’t do yesterday.

I don’t set the alarm clock on Sunday morning. I don’t have to be at work until 10:30; sunshine streaming in and the dogs needing out always assure that I’ll be up in time, no matter how late I was up the night before. Not yesterday.

Yesterday morning, the dogs had each made a trip outside before 6AM. I had taken the opportunity – while I was up – to empty my bladder and get a drink of water. The windows were open to a cool breeze; gentle rain was coming down. I was cozy and warm under a heavy comforter, with Rosa Parks curled up at my feet, Darla snoring from her bed close by. A cloudy sky blocked the morning sun. There was nothing to drive me from my bed. I thought of waking up, then let myself drift back into sleep…until I finally reached out to turn the clock around, to get an idea of the time.

TEN O’CLOCK!!!

I jumped out of bed. First, to the kitchen, to start the coffee brewing. To the bathroom next, where I ran the sink full of hot water for the sponge bath that would have to replace the shower I had planned. Having gone to bed with damp hair the night before, my hair was sticking up in a dozen directions. I wet it down and dried it into what could only be described as “better than before.” I washed, dressed, and brushed my teeth.

I filled two tiny dishes with soft food for the dogs. By that time they had roused themselves, too, and were not-too-enthusiastically considering another trip outside in the rain. “You’ll be fine,” I told them, “stay inside.” I filled my thermos and poured a cup of coffee. As I put down the dogs dishes, I reminded them that this was a short day, and told them to take care of things. Purse, thermos and coffee cup in hand, I was out the door.

Seven and a half miles is the distance to town. When I was considering this property, my Dad said, “That’s an awful long way from town, Cindy.” At that time, I was living outside of North Branch, driving ten miles to bring my daughters to ballet lessons, fifteen to visit my parents, and more than twenty for my classes in Flint, Michigan. Seven miles seemed like nothing…until I moved here.

Gas prices are high. I consolidate trips. I almost never come home and then go back to town, no matter what exciting event is taking place. The roads are, for the most part, unpaved, narrow and curvy, often littered with fallen branches. One must always be on the lookout for wildlife: chipmunks, black squirrels, wild turkeys and white-tailed deer think nothing of crossing the road without warning. So I did think about Dad on Father’s Day, and his sage advice about the long distance from town, as I made my way to work.

It gave me some comfort to have that cup of coffee nearby, though it was much too bumpy a ride to try to get a sip. As I rounded the church hill, I was glad to see Mass was still in session, for the church-goers often make their way to the hardware store as soon as the service is over. I made it to work no more than three minutes late, with customers already waiting at the door. I mixed two cans of paint before I had my coffee, and the day continued busy.

By the time I got home, I was ready for a break. As it was too wet for gardening or yard work, I took the dogs for a short walk. We then convened on the sofa to watch a movie and nap. After that, a drive to Fox Lake and then down to the frog pond. A late dinner completed the day’s theme.

Yesterday, I was behind all day. Today, I’m getting an early start.

Tuesday: Exercises in Writing #11

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Today’s writing idea comes from Melissa Donovan, one of 25 writing prompts at her “Writing Forward” blog.

Tell bad drivers, rude customers, and evil dictators how grateful you are for what they’ve done. Do it with a wink and a smile.

First, let me say how very fortunate I am to have found this writing prompt at this particular time of year. I have just made it through the busiest part of our summer season, the most stressful period in the whole year. I’ve been feeling pretty good about it, too. I work long hours in customer service at a hardware store in a tourist destination.

Every single time an item was brought to the register, and wouldn’t scan, the customer said, “Must be free.” Young, old, rich or poor, it made no difference, when an item doesn’t scan as it should with the bar-code reader (which is, after all, a fallible and fairly new invention), the universal suggestion is “Must be free.” Hearing it a hundred times over the summer allowed me to perfect my response, which is, “That is so rarely the case, Sir [or Ma’am or even precocious toddler], that I hate to have you get your hopes up.”

Customers often charge in the door, look me square in the eye, and bellow, “Hammers!” or “Duct Tape!” or “Floor Leveler!” Their day, I guess, does not allow for the time it would take to speak in entire sentences, as in “Hello! Where would I find the duct tape?” I answer this way: “Well, Duct Tape to you, too, sir! That’s an unusual greeting, but a fine one anyway. Walk with me and I’ll show you where to find it.”

Others begin their greeting with, “You ain’t got no…” which is annoying for its negativity, even when spoken with proper grammar. Why did they even come in the door if they’re so sure we don’t have it? My responses vary, depending on my mood. I might say, with horror, “We don’t? Oh, my gosh! We’ve always had it before…” or, “Yes, Mr. Negative, I hate to contradict, but we do carry that item…” or a simple, “Do, too!”

My boss and my co-workers, though, generally greet me with a glance at the clock. Because otherwise, I guess, I might not realize the time, or be aware that I’m late. I used to offer reasons, but I’m sure they’re as tired of hearing them as I am of telling them. It’s always something. First, there is the alarm clock, and all the things that can go wrong there, what with batteries and snooze button and accidentally falling back asleep after turning it off.  There is coffee to make and a thermos to be filled. I check my Email over morning coffee, which sometimes leads to something else that needs to be dealt with. If I wasn’t awake at three AM writing it, I write my daily blog. I often pack a lunch. Shower. Dress.

There are the dogs, who want belly rubs and ear scratches on awakening. They need at least a stroll around the yard if not a walk down the road in the morning. Before I leave, Rosa Parks needs to have her medicine crushed in the mortar and pestle, mixed with a little wet food and served in her little flowered porcelain dish (which sometimes has to be found first) as I tell her, “You take care of things!” Darla needs the same, without the medicine, just to be fair.

I travel to work on narrow, gravel roads that are also used by bicyclists, joggers, dog walkers and one elderly driver who insists on a snail’s pace for his pick-up truck. In addition, I have to watch for deer, squirrels, chipmunks, turtles and flocks of roving wild turkeys. Sometimes, depending on the time of year, the sun is blinding through my dusty windshield. At other times, ice or snow play a part.

If customers call, running late, on their way to town for an emergency purchase, I am happy to stay after hours for them. When my boss expands our hours for summer, I am fine with taking most of those late days. When tourists wander in right at closing time to look around or for a last minute purchase, I am always pleasant. At the beginning of the day, though, I am always late. Thank goodness there is always someone there to bring it to my attention!

I did not walk off my job this year; I did not yell at customers, co-workers or my boss; I did not fall apart. Surprising, when you think about it. Now, thanks to this generous – and spot-on timing – writing prompt, I have been invited to vent! I may be looking at early retirement after all. I could be banished from the island!

 

Sky, Water

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“None of them knew the color of the sky.”

So begins Steven Crane’s short story, “The Open Boat.” It’s a story of survivors of a shipwreck, clinging to life in a small, open boat on the ocean. It is based on true events; the author was one of the passengers in that small boat. His first line speaks perfectly to the hopelessness of the situation…to not be aware, even, of the sky.

The broad expanse of sky brings me calm. At my house, surrounded by woods, to appreciate the sky, I have to crane my neck. That detracts from the soothing effects of sky-watching. To get the long view, on this fairly flat, wooded island, it’s best to go to the water. There, the vision stretches to the horizon, and sky and water work their magic.

Yesterday seemed a long, hard day for me. It was busy at the hardware store. My day was interrupted only by trips to the post office and the bank, and to make a quick delivery. After work, I filled a couple newsstands with my magazine, then picked up a few groceries. Rounding the corner to head out of town, I saw a customer approaching the door of the hardware. I stopped.

“Do you need something?” I asked.

“Yes! I do. I thought you were open until six…”

I turned off the car, and opened the hardware. We looked for a prescription for her cat without success. We found the right bags of food for each of her dogs. I rang up her purchases and helped her carry them to her car.

Home, I let the dogs out, then unloaded the car. My thermos and coffee cup, one box of groceries, one stack of mail. I put away the perishables, changed shoes, doused myself in mosquito repellent and headed back outside.

A little weeding in the flower beds, then I pulled the mower out of the shed, filled it up with gas and fired it up. The grass was growing wildly fast, and the front half of the front yard had not been cut yet this year. Rain had slowed my efforts to work at it each night. If I didn’t get to it soon, it would take something much larger and more powerful than my little push mower to tackle it. I’d see how much I could get done.

I start by mowing a swath around the perimeter, then work my way inward, around and around. Up the north side of the property where the big maple trees grow, to the curved edge that runs along the little woods in front of the road on the west. Across the driveway, to catch all the stray grass that grows there, and along the edge of the small side yard. Down the south border to the rough un-mowable patch by the shed, then turn and go back across the driveway at the other end. When I come to an obstruction – tree, rock, tree stump or fire pit, I go around it with the mower, and from then on, go around it in ever-bigger circles each time I pass. What starts as a loose rectangular course with curved sides soon morphs into quite a different pattern. Always different.

Eventually, the smaller lawn on the south side of the driveway was complete. I had a large circle of mowed grass around the fire pit. That left a long hourglass shaped section of tall grass yet to  be mowed. The dogs got up from their resting places and moved toward me in unison. They each seemed to sigh as they flung themselves dramatically in my path.

Okay. It was after seven o’clock. The dogs usually eat at around six-thirty. Their day had been long, too. I turned off the mower and put it away.

“Ride?” I asked.

They both thought that was a good idea. Windows down to the summer breeze, we drove to Fox Lake. I parked the car and let the dogs out to run.

I stand, facing the lake. Let my eyes rest over the water where the far row of trees meets the sky. Lazily follow the slight movement of the clouds. Breathe in; breathe out. Let the cool breeze carry the tension away. Feel shoulders relax, worries drift away. Think only, “sky…water…” and hopelessness is gone.

 

 

 

Respite

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I have, as has become my usual, plenty to complain about. I have been so tired lately, I can hardly think straight. It is starting to take a toll. I was so grouchy yesterday at work, my co-workers could hardly stand me.

This time of year gets so busy, so quickly, whether we know it’s coming or not, it’s impossible to prepare for it. Compounding the Memorial Day rush of people coming to Beaver Island to open their summer homes, the hardware store has, over the course of the last week, received:

  • a new four-foot display of Milwaukee drill bits and accessories,
  • a new eight-foot display of paint color samples,
  • about four hundred gallons of paint including new products all needing to be arranged on shelves,
  • several boxes of T-shirts and other gift shop items,
  • a large shipment of dog food,
  • a huge hardware store order and
  • two large orders of plants: flowering annuals and perennials, shrubs, fruit trees, vegetables and herbs.

On top of all that, the owner is taking veterinary appointments, running for office and rehearsing for a play. Of the employees, every single one of us has other jobs – often several – to contend with in our spare time.

I do the scheduling for the hardware store. I make a good wage, but I don’t get extra for doing the schedule. I try to carefully consider what every one wants in terms of hours or days, with respect to their families and other obligations. My goal is to have enough help without being over-staffed. It seems I have almost never gotten it right. Days like yesterday, when exhaustion has put me in a bad mood anyway, I’d like to hand that job over to the next person that speaks up about it, and let them see how thankless it is!

Thank God I have dogs!

If I didn’t have dogs, I would think of twelve things that should be tackled right away when I stepped into my house, and there would be no pause after work. Dogs need fresh air and sunshine, though, after being home all day. Dogs need love and attention.

When I get home from work, their smiles and wagging tails welcome me. We load in the car for a drive to Fox Lake. Windows down to let in the breeze, the drive alone helps to release tension. At the lake, the dogs explore and play. Sometimes I take photos; sometimes I read. I let the view of the water and the movement of the trees do their work. By the time we pile into the car for the ride home, I have let go of all of the day’s aggravations.

Then, I’m ready for the evening’s work.

Creative Fire Journal, Day #4

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If I weren’t afraid of failing, I might…

If I weren’t afraid of failing, I might tackle a lot more home repairs. There are several waiting, if I ever feel brave enough.

Outside, I am unafraid. I have dug up and transplanted shrubs and vines and bushes like someone else might rearrange furniture. Eventually, they end up in a spot where they both look good and thrive…then I let them be. Until I decide to thin out, rearrange or redesign again. I built a low stone wall to border a wild area of the yard, and a stone walkway to my backdoor, though I don’t know a thing about the proper way to do either. The walkway in particular has several issues with holding water, growing weeds between the stones and tripping up visitors on its uneven surface. No matter. I’ve dug out every stone at least twice, in an effort to get it right; I can always try again. In my little vegetable garden, I built raised beds, tried out Ruth Stout’s “no weed, no work” gardening ideas, employed Patricia Lanza’s “lasagna garden” plan, used methods outlined in Mel Bartholomew’s Square Foot Gardening…and many others. I have removed dozens of gigantic wild junipers from my property with a pair of long handled loppers and a “tromp and lop” technique I invented myself. I may not be using the right or the best method, but it doesn’t seem to matter much outside. I can figure it out, make it work, or try something else.

At the hardware store, I am always willing to tackle large organizing projects.After more than ten years of working there, I have a pretty good idea of what sells, and what things are used for. The company provides “planograms,” in many cases, as a guide for arranging an area. They can be very helpful, but don’t always work with our space or our inventory. I have gotten in hot water more than once, for veering off in a direction of my own. If I don’t know the product or it’s function, I devise my own method of arrangement. When I organized the spark plugs and later the oil filters, I laid them out in numerical order based on their product number. That way at least, it’s easy to find the one you’re looking for. In housewares, I organized by function: cooking, baking, table-setting, clean-up, and on and on. When I organized the fishing lures, I did it by size and color. When all else fails, make everything look pretty!

In my studio, I am fearless. I almost never know why I’m doing what I’m doing or where I’m going with it. I have always ignored hierarchical methods and hard and fast rules in favor of letting the materials dictate. Ooze, drip, squish and rub are my main techniques, though I have a few others, too. It doesn’t matter if  I’m working with clay, paint or charcoal, I want to give it full reign. I have a lot of failures, but I also have a lot of fun. I learn from everything I do, and gain insight into the materials as I go. When success happens, I know it’s something that has never been done before, in exactly the way I did it.

When it comes to jobs around the house, I am timid. I can’t shake the idea that there is one right way to do a thing, and that I am not privy to that knowledge. I feel clumsy and inept at most home projects. Those that I’ve tried, I have usually messed up. I can rearrange things without end, but I panic at the thought of hanging a door, cutting a mitered corner or putting up woodwork. Replace a window? No way! Put down flooring? Yikes!

If I could conquer my fear when it comes to home repairs, there is plenty to do!

I’ve Got Nothing

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On this thirteenth day of November…which just happens to be Friday the 13th, too…I have nothing to write about.

I don’t even have a current photograph, as I’ve been arriving home after dark these days. We’ve had several days of strong winds here on Beaver Island, and most of the leaves are on the ground. The photo that I’m posting was taken two years ago, sometime in November of 2013.

I may not have admitted that, if I had more to say. Having been very shy for most of my life, silences in the middle of conversations are not comfortable for me. They bring me right back to childhood, to those long, excruciating voids when I knew I should speak, but didn’t know what to say. I knew that if i opened my mouth, I’d say something terribly stupid. Even if I had something planned, not completely foolish, to contribute, I often couldn’t force myself to speak.

I’ve overcome my shyness, mostly. Still, give me much of a pregnant pause and I’ll chatter on about almost anything, just to keep the conversation going. I’ll tell more than folks want to hear. I’ll tell things that are really nobody’s business. I’ll admit to things I could have kept hidden. I’ll state right out that the photo is a sham.

Maybe I am, too, only thirteen days in to this thirty-day challenge, and already nothing to write about.

Stubbornly, I forge on.

News about my job at the hardware store is not really “subject matter,” but self-indulgent chatter. If I had a husband, he would be duty-bound to listen to the minutiae of my day…no one else should feel obligated.The same goes for updates on my little dog, details about what foods I’m preparing and/or eating, and information about how busy, stressed, tired, sleepless or sleepy I am.

Let me just tell you, anyway, that I finally finished reorganizing the light bulbs at the hardware store. Whether the customer wants compact fluorescent bulbs, the old incandescent bulbs, the new halogen bulbs, or any manner of track, flood, fan, post  or Christmas light, we will now be able to find it with a lot less trouble than before!

Hunters are arriving on the island, to prepare for opening day of rifle season. They come to the hardware for propane cylinders, raffle tickets and other odds and ends. They seem good natured and happy to be here, in spite of the wind and cold rain. That, along with normal Friday business and a run on windshield wiper blades, kept us busy all day.

Allow me to report that my little dog is just as cute and smart as can be. She knows “sit,”  “give me paw” and “stay,” and will actually demonstrate, if there’s a treat in it for her. When she does something that she thinks is really good, like bark at the road truck or number two outside, she expects a reward. If I’m not right on top of it, she’ll dart her eyes back and forth expectantly, from the treat jar to me, and back again…just trying to help me “get it right” without making me feel foolish or forgetful.

As for dinner, I made a bowl of soup and a grilled cheese sandwich. It took me forty years to learn how to make a less than “army-sized” pot of bean soup. Still, I’ve been eating it all week.

Beyond that, I am busy, stressed, tired, sleepless and sleepy, separately by turns or together in weird combinations. But mostly, I’m fine. Thanks for listening!

Good Morning!

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Yesterday, I didn’t have to work at the hardware store.

I had a long list of things to do, anyway.

As usual, I accomplished only a fraction of what I hoped to.

By evening, faced with too much to do and too few hours to do it, I was working up to a big panic attack: stomach cramps, jitters, a big sense of failure, a black cloud of depression, the urge to run…the desire to hide…

I have been there before.

I took a deep breath…turned off the computer…made a simple dinner…read a little in a book that had nothing at all to do with any of the tasks looming over me…and went to bed.

It was the best thing I could do for myself.

Still, projects don’t take care of themselves.

I woke up this morning thinking of everything I’d left undone.

Two long days at the hardware store, the holiday with family then back to work through the weekend…when would I find the time? The energy?

As I made my way through the house in the dark, turning on lights and heaters, brewing coffee and getting ready for the day, these thoughts were looming. I felt stressed before I was even fully awake. I felt the pressure of responsibilities before the sun was up.

But then, as the sun came up, I saw what had happened as I slept.

New snow!

Lots of it!

The plow trucks have not yet made their way down the Fox Lake Road.

There is a deep drift of snow that my car won’t make it through.

I’ll have to wait.

All of a sudden, I have time on my hands!

Snow day!

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