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Tuesday: Exercises in Writing #8

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The exercise today comes from http://www.thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts:

Hey, even writers and creative artists have to do housework sometimes. Write about doing laundry, dishes, and other cleaning activities.

Well, so, having planned for and then (once again!) bypassed a seasonal “deep cleaning,” I am, as usual, just barely staying afloat in the housekeeping department. Every job is more complicated than it should be.

When Tommy was here, I sent him to the backyard to hang his wet beach towel on the clothesline. He was gone a long time. When I went to check, I found him trying kind of desperately to knot together pieces of clothesline rope. It was falling apart in his hands! Clearly, it had seen better days. We pulled it all down, and Tommy helped me to re-string it with new clothesline. I only had enough for two (twenty-foot)lines, though.

That was fine, until I pulled out the dryer a couple days ago, to check the venting. Loads of wash – even light summer clothes – have been taking an interminable time to dry. Laundry is just one task in this household. I don’t have that much of it, but I do need to keep it moving through the system. When a load of jeans takes three long dryer cycles to dry, everything is set back!

I brought home a long, skinny appliance brush to clean out the lint trap. It seems the problem is larger than that. Though the flexible aluminum vent seems to be intact, and it appeared to be properly connected both to the back of the dryer and to the metal pipe poking out of the wall, the wall behind, the floor underneath and the back of the dryer were covered with dryer lint

Ugh! I disconnected the flexible vent at both ends to take it outside, shake it out and check for leaks or blockage. Then, I got out the vacuum cleaner to clean up the lint. Unable to find a problem to correct, I pushed the dryer back up against the wall to wait for guidance. Now, until I can get the [very busy]plumber out here (who, by the way, set up a deal with me for the last repair he did out here: I would paint a sign for his office in exchange for the work. He did the work; I have yet to paint the sign.), I’m hanging all clothes on the line.

For that, two clotheslines are not enough. Yesterday, my day off, wanting to get laundry caught up, I started by taking the clothes off the line. I carried them in and deposited them on the dining room table, folded them and put them away. Clothes that dry in the open air smell wonderful, but – unless wind conditions are ideal – they tend to be very stiff and quite wrinkly. Because my clotheslines sag, they also tend to dry a little deformed. Folding clothes takes more thought and energy than usual.

I hauled a kitchen chair out to the clothesline poles, then came back for scissors and a new package of clothesline. First at one end, I climbed on the chair, found my balance and threaded the rope through one hole on the crossbar, then through a washer before knotting it. Down off the chair, move it to the other end, repeat. Then do it again. Now, I have four lines to hang laundry on!

Not yet finished, I then pull the wet things out of the washing machine. Full of optimism, I start another load of wash before going outside. Then, with one heavy wicker basket in hand and two dogs weaving around my legs, I head back to the clothesline. I start with towels. My lines sag, so the longest things have to go closest to the poles. The first corner gets a clothespin all to itself, but after that, they share. I lap the first corner of the second towel over the second corner of the first one, so that one clothespin will hold them both in place. Moving on to hand towels, kitchen towels and then wash clothes, I continue down the line.  One sheet, folded in half and held in place by three clothespins along its edge, gets a clothesline all to itself.

Time for a cup of coffee and another task, before taking the next load out of the washer. That is laundry day.

 

 

Some Things…

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Beaver Island is a magical place.

Really, a Magical Place.

I remember that about it, always, even when I don’t feel it. I’m not surprised to see the stunned awe on the faces of new visitors, or the bright smiles of return guests. I recognize that feeling, even when I’m too exhausted to feel it.

The fact is, I’ve been here a long time. I’m busy. I’m tired. I’ve seen it, over and over. Even the extraordinary seems ordinary when it’s right there, every day.

Then, suddenly, there’s that old magic again. Sometimes it’s just a matter of forgetting to be so accustomed to what surrounds me. Allowing myself to be amazed. Just letting the magic happen.

Some Things That Are Magical Until You Get Used To Them, So They Aren’t…Until You Forget That You’ve Grown Used To Them, And They Become Magical Again

[yes, a very long title, indeed!]

  • White sand beaches
  • Sunsets over the water
  • Whitetail deer
  • Black squirrels
  • Canopies of trees
  • Sand dunes
  • White birch trees
  • Conifer forests
  • Lilacs in the springtime
  • Milkweed in the summer
  • Apples in the fall
  • a wonderland in winter
  • the view of the lighthouse beyond the harbor as you come around the corner in to town
  • Hidden trails
  • Remote beaches
  • Barney’s Lake (and the steep hill leading down to it!)
  • Font Lake
  • Lake Genaserath
  • Fox Lake (especially in the fall of the year!)
  • Miller’s Marsh (loaded with little frogs right now!)
  • the church steeple
  • the Angelus bells
  • the moon over the water
  • and the water all around

No doubt about it, a Magical Place.

Monday…the Possibilities are Endless!

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My “weekend” begins after work on Sunday and ends Tuesday night in a mad scramble to get food prepared for a weeks-worth of packed lunches, laundry finished and complete whatever projects I had started on Monday.

This week, I started with a nice dinner with friends. I followed that by reading in bed until midnight, cozy under a warm comforter while rain, thunder and lightning continued outside. I slept in this morning until I woke up naturally (7:45!), and I’m now enjoying my second cup of coffee, having not yet moved far from this computer desk.

I have big plans for this day, though. There is a list of “must-do”s and a longer list of “should”s. I keep my “want-to” list in my head these days, where I can indulge if a moment or an hour opens up. It’s sad to note the things – so necessary to my healthy body, mind and soul – that I have let migrate to the realm of guilty pleasures.

The Must-Do List includes:

  • write this daily blog.
  • do the dishes: a collection of bowls, spoons,coffee cups and one pan, that have been waiting in the sink for a couple days now.
  • call Central Drug Store to renew prescriptions.
  • call my daughter, Jen, to make sure she is on track for getting the next Beacon organized and ready to be proofed before going to the printer.
  • follow up on an Email to correct the spelling of a couple names in one submission.
  • update the database with the latest subscriptions, so those checks can be deposited.
  • go to the bank for Beacon business, and to deposit my check from the hardware store.
  • drop off four small collages for the Museum Week art show.
  • two hours to clean at Aunt Katie’s house, upstairs and down today.
  • fold the clothes that have been waiting in the dryer since yesterday, before they settle into wrinkles.
  • talk to the mechanic about when I can get the car in for needed maintenance and repairs.

It’s not a bad list, barring complications. If, for instance, Jen tells me we don’t have enough material to fill the pages of the next issue, I’ll have to push other things aside to turn notes into articles immediately. If she has small areas to fill, I may have to gather more photos or news tidbits. If the clothes in the dryer have wrinkled…if there are unforeseen complications at Aunt Katie’s…if the mechanic needs the car today…but let me assume all will go well.

The Should-Do List is next. It includes things that, Lord knows, need to be done, but that – due to time constraints, necessity and reality – have been relegated to the secondary list. Things like sweep, clean the bathroom, wash the sheets and clean the windows. And other things, like get into the studio and finish the work that is underway, and promised for the Meet the Artists event the first week of August. Mowing the lawn is out, because of last night’s rain(blessed relief!). Hanging sheets on the line and taking the big dog for a walk will hinge on weather, time, and the mosquitoes.

The Want-To List is already suffering as I look over the “Must”s and “Should”s. I have already missed the yoga class, held Monday mornings at the Community Center, just as I have every other Monday this summer. It’s doubtful I’ll find time to watch the Netflix movie that has been waiting for me, in its red envelope by the TV set, for more than a week. I probably won’t – if I manage to make it into the studio – have time to work on the large painting that has been looking at me so imploringly whenever I go in there. I can’t see where I could find the time to pull the masses of now-fading wildflowers that have taken over the garden area. I won’t have time, I guarantee it, to rearrange my kitchen to accommodate the new maple counter top my cousin Bob made for me. I’ll get in the shower before I leave the house, but the relaxing bath – with the bubbles and book and glass of wine that I’ve been looking forward to – will have to wait.

Ah, well…tomorrow is another day.

 

What Next?

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I was starting to catch up. I was feeling pretty good about it, too. A little chagrined that it took so many weeks into summer to catch up on winter’s bills, but pleased nonetheless.

The hours at the hardware store have been expanded, to take advantage of summer’s business. That gives me some over-time. There have been a few days where I worked 10 hours. Working longer hours makes it even more difficult to find time to cover events I should be covering for the news-magazine. It’s even harder to come home and sit right down to write when I’m tired from my other job.Still, I was counting the money.

I have been whittling away at my long list of hardware store charges. You know, dog food, detergent, a candy bar to help get through the afternoon slump…it all adds up. The charges tend to pile up over the winter, too, when money is tight and hours are few. I’d finally be able to pay it off! I would be able to pay my winter tax bill…just in time for the summer tax bills to come out. I would pay off winter’s propane bill, before I had to turn on the heat this fall. Hurrah!

I took today off – arranged in advance – to participate in a garden tour. I scheduled myself for Monday to make up for it. Monday, my back went out, so I ended up off work that day, too. It’s not going to be such a big paycheck after all.

Sunday, coming down the hill to Fox Lake, Rosa Parks twisted her leg. She’s been hobbling around on three legs ever since. It doesn’t seem to be getting any better. I’ll have to get her in to the vet. I’m terribly afraid that it’s that tendon in the knee, that will not repair itself and that requires surgery to fix it. My old dog, Maggie, had to have each of her knees done; Clover, after slipping on ice, had one. Now maybe Rosa Parks.

Last night, driving home late after attending a concert, I found I had no headlights. Someone waved at me, enthusiastically, from the sidewalk as I drove through town. I thought they were just appreciating the cool jazz playing on my car radio. By the time I made it out of town and away from the street lamps, I recognized the problem. I messed with a few buttons and switches to no avail.

No lights. At least the King’s Highway is fairly open, and the sky was still pretty light at 10PM. Paid Een Ogg’s Road, though, is bordered with trees. Luckily, it’s a straight road. Fox Lake Road not only has a dense canopy of trees down the entire length, but it’s narrow and very curvy, too. I found the blinkers still worked, and gave off enough light to make my [slow, strobe-y] way home. So, add the car to the list of necessary expenses.

What next?

End of June

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Yesterday after work, I retrieved my grandson from the beach and headed for home. The clouds were already gathering. The smell of rain was in the air.

Tommy spent the last two afternoons at the public beach in town.  He made friends, and enjoyed the sun, sand and water. On the way home, he told me how exhausting it is, being in the water. “I can only imagine…” I told him. When we got to the house, he headed for the shower.

I pulled out the lawnmower. I’d run out of gas the other day, just shy of finishing the back yard. There was a small triangle of tall grass between the clothesline poles and the garden fence. I had also missed the area directly behind the garden, as the broken fence posts were leaning that way.

I pushed the fence back to the garden side, scoured the area for dog toys, filled the mower with gas and fired it up. It was quick work, and not unpleasant. There was a slight breeze that kept the mosquitoes at bay. I was finished in no time at all, with the yard finally finished and the mower tucked away in the shed.

I clipped bunches of sweet peas, wild daisies and yarrow to make a rustic bouquet. I heated up several types of leftovers for dinner. When we’d eaten our fill, we gave the rest to the dogs.

We opened the windows to the cooler air and waited for the rain. After dinner, we both retreated to our computers for work or play. It was a quiet evening inside, a quiet rain outside. A nice finish to the month of June!

Random Thoughts for Monday Morning

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Tommy has a job today, helping my friend, Vince, with some yard work. I’m unreasonably nervous about it. I want him to make a good impression. I hope he’s strong and diligent, and that he listens and learns. It’s not hard work – raking and picking up roots and branches, mostly – and I’m sure he’s capable, but still.

At my house, Tommy has a chart to mark his work time, and we have talked about things he can do to earn money here. Lord knows I could use the help! The chart is divided into two sections, as outdoor work pays at a different rate than indoor jobs. We figure his time to the quarter hour.Two days ago, he clocked in a half hour for sweeping.

“What did you sweep?” I asked him.

“The whole downstairs.”

“Really!?”

I pointed out that his socks, my shoes, and several dog toys had not been moved from the center of the floor. It appeared that he had also managed to go around – without going under – every single table and chair. I explained that – if he were sweeping out of the goodness of his heart, to help out his old grandma, and not expecting pay – I’d be glad to say, “Good job, Tommy, and thank you very much!”

That changes, I told him, when he expects payment. Then, standards are important. I told him he needed to first pick up everything off the floor: rugs, dog beds, socks, shoes and toys. I told him to move the chairs out to sweep under everything. “Corner to corner, edge to edge,” I said. Yesterday, he clocked one full hour for sweeping. The rugs had not been picked up; the dog beds hadn’t been moved. There were still crumbs on the kitchen floor.

“One hour!?”

“Yes, I swept for an hour. Honest to god!”

I wanted to suggest that he could have made better time if he hadn’t worked so hard to avoid actually sweeping up anything…but I refrained. I remember my brother Ted at that age, not comfortable with most jobs, and Dad’s sharp reprimands. I did remind Tommy of the standards we talked about, and said that until the floor was actually clean, I was not going to pay him for cleaning it.

We worked together outside. I showed him the weeds to pull around the garden beds; he worked at that while I mowed, then we switched jobs. It was a warm afternoon. When we stopped for a glass of water, Tommy said, “Well, I think that was a good days work!” We had been at it for forty-five minutes. His face fell a little when I told him we were just getting started.

He really wants to make a pocketful of money while he’s here. I want him to feel the pleasure of earning his own money, and the satisfaction of doing a good day’s work…that extends past the first forty-five minutes!

We have a jig-saw puzzle spread out on the table, and are spending evenings putting it together. Last night, we heard one piece drop to the floor. “Better look for it right away,” I said, “’cause you’ll never find it when you sweep…”

“Awright, Grandma, good one,” he grinned.

The 52 Lists Project #26

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List the things you would change in your life right now if you could:

  • I would be financially secure enough to choose when, where and how much I worked.
  • I’d be able, too, to spend time away from the island, and be closer to family and friends when I wanted to.
  • My house would be finished…not fancy, but cute. I’d have hardwood floors in the bedrooms upstairs, and in the living and dining area downstairs. There would be linoleum in the kitchen, bathroom and entryways. I’d have 1 x 6 boards painted bright white as baseboards, and old-fashioned metal cabinets in the kitchen. I’d have a separate studio combined with a garage. That way, I could turn the studio upstairs back into a bedroom, so I’d have room for guests without turning the living room into a camp.
  • I would have more time.
  • I’d have my garden tilled up, planted and weed free.
  • I’d be better organized.
  • I’d be a better housekeeper.
  • I’d be a better person: less self-absorbed; more attentive to my family and friends. I’d send cards – on time – for birthdays and other special occasions, and pay more attention to important events in the lives of my children and grandchildren. I’d be freer with hugs, say “I love you” more often and listen better.

Of everything I’ve listed here, the last entry is most important, and most possible. It doesn’t involve drastic changes in finances or time or energy…just commitment.

Saturday, Almost Father’s Day

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I looked – once again – at a special DVD created from old home movies taken in the early fifties. My Grandpa Ted bought the movie camera because he had new grandchildren: my sister Brenda, me, my brother Teddy. Grandpa shot most of the movies himself, but sometimes Grandma Thelma had the camera, and sometimes my Mom did.

My Dad did not take pictures, and he didn’t much like being in them. Yet, there he is, grinning widely as he hoists a child to his shoulders, or bends to rub a dog’s ears. There he is, striding purposefully across the lawn carrying boxes that soon reveal a new swing set…and there is Dad, assembling it as we smile from the sidelines. He’s there in the summer, giving us rides in the wagon he built to pull behind the riding mower; in the winter he’s pulling us on a sled. At parties, he laughs as he fills glasses from a pitcher. In other scenes he talks to adults or tickles children, and often puts up an arm to hide his face from the camera.

My heart swells to see my father so young and vital, so involved with his family, and with so much life still ahead. Being one of the oldest, I remember that man. I also remember the man he became: frustrated, saddened  and disappointed – often – with how his life had turned out, sometimes a little bit bitter.

It’s hard to know, because all change is gradual, what happened, and when, to make the difference. Age alone, I’ve come to realize, alters the world. There comes a point where some dreams have to be set aside; no longer is there time or energy or ability enough to continue to believe that anything is possible. Aches and pains can be frustrating. Everything that could once be done without a second thought, but that now is a struggle, becomes a discouragement. Losses build.

If I could spend a day with my Dad, I’d choose a time when hard work was possible, and hope was still alive. Let it be in the years when he always leaned over to give Mom a long kiss before he left the house, and when they’d snuggle together on the couch to watch cowboy shows.Let him be old enough to have his many children all around him, young enough so that we were still at home. I’d like to give each of us children enough foresight…or insight…so that we’d  appreciate Dad more than we did at that time.

Sometimes it’s hard to see the value in a person or a thing until it’s long past. If I could spend a day with my Dad, I’d offer him fresh strawberries with cream. I’d tell him everything that’s happened in our family; I’d talk to him about Aunt Katie’s health, Bob’s sheep and chickens and the new pond. I’d do my best to let him know I love him, and appreciate all that he was, and all that he taught me. I know his value, now.

The 52 Lists Project #21

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List the things you want to make:

  • I want to make a cookbook. I’ve been thinking of it for a few years now: the 60 most inspirational women in my life, with stories and recipes.
  • I want to make this house feel like a home. It has devolved into an eating, sleeping and working space that serves it’s base purpose but doesn’t bring joy. And it should.
  • I want to make art! My mind is full of projects and ideas! I have plans for new color combinations and different ways of manipulating space. I want to paint. I want to get my hands in clay. I want to try encaustic. I want to put that printing press to work again.
  • I want to make a vegetable garden. Last year, I didn’t get it planted, and was forced to watch the weeds take over where there should have been beans and squash and tomatoes. The time is now! If I’m going to do it, I need to do it soon!
  • I want to make peace! (1) With my dogs, who have good times – like yesterday, when they ran together, tails wagging, through the woods and on the paths around Fox Lake – then bad. Like this morning when they got in a altercation over – to the best that I can figure – which one of them was going to wake me up. Turns out, their growls and barks and yelps drove me out of bed, to put them outside with a good scolding. Now they’re sulking. (2) With my life, and all the things that vie for my attention. I create the craziness myself. Even when I imagine a winning-the-lottery type scenario, where I could quit working so hard, I find my mind wandering to areas like, “I could get a dozen chickens and raise all my own food,” to “maybe I’ll buy a restaurant” or “then I could build that wood fire kiln.” I have to make peace with openness, space and free time in my life…or I will never have it. (3) With this entire aging process, which – since it continues to, by turns, surprise, discourage or infuriate me – I cannot yet say I’m resigned to. And I’d might as well be, because it’s happening. Oh, yeah…and (4) world peace, too, of course.

 

Dogs

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These dogs were good buddies. Clover and Rosa Parks entertained each other. Whether out on a chipmunk-chasing walk through the woods, a sniffing and swimming adventure at Fox Lake, or just sitting around watching me work, they kept each other company.

Ever since Clover died – just a little over a year ago – Rosa Parks has been a little down. She knows I’m her “pack” and she loves me…but I’m just not very much fun. I have no interest in finding the garter snakes that hide in the flower beds. I don’t chase chipmunks, or squirrels, or birds. Even walks have been less fun, without Clover. “What good is it to find smelly stuff,” Rosa Parks thinks, “without anyone here who wants to smell it?” Sometimes, when I am working at the computer, Rosa Parks lets out an audible sigh, and drops her chin onto her paws. I feel like she’s been bored, a little depressed and even sad without her friend.

I’ve been thinking about adopting another dog. I’ve gone back and forth about it. There is the expense: sometimes it’s a struggle to cover the vet bills for one dog. I work long hours. Rosa Parks gets lonely, and I feel guilty. Would I be just doubling my guilt? Putting a second dog into the same boring rut? I’ve been advised that’s not the case. Two veterinarians, plus the dog boarder and several animal lovers have assured me that – even though they may not interact much when I’m not at home – it would be reassuring to have another dog around.

Last weekend, my friend Linda and I visited the humane society near her home. We were introduced to several sweet dogs, learned their stories and observed their dispositions. In all, we visited three days. Darla is a mix of Boxer and Pit Terrier, just as Clover was. She is good with other dogs, and good with cats. She – due to household situations, not her own behavior – had already had four homes, and had three times been brought to the humane society kennel. Before I left for home yesterday morning, I stopped and got her, to bring her back to Beaver Island with me.

Darla is a big, gentle dog who was anxious for a home. Every time I stopped along the trip to walk her, she’d look around, find the nearest house and, wagging tail, start to walk toward it. Every time I guided her back into the vehicle, she seemed disappointed. Finally, we made it to Charlevoix and, after a scary (for her) plane ride, we were home. She seemed happy with her new yard and house. She rolled in the grass, and got quite excited about the big basket full of hardly-used dog toys. She wandered through every flower bed.

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After getting Darla settled in, I went to pick up Rosa Parks from the kennel. We were happy to see each other. I was nervous, hoping that my little dog would like Darla as much as I do. There was a little grumbling on first meeting, and there has been some growling coming from each of them since then. I’ve been able to intercede, though, before it escalates. Rosa Parks spent some time letting us know her nose was a bit out of joint about the new addition.

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Eventually, though, after wandering around the yard and garden together, they seem to have reached a level of acceptance. Rosa Parks practiced her manipulation techniques all evening. She’d look out the window and give a sharp bark (“Bird!”). Darla would rush to the door; I’d open it and they’d both run out. Darla would run after the bird; Rosa Parks would go sit under the cherry tree, and look back toward me with a little grin that said, “She fell for it again! Silly dog – you can’t catch a bird!” Then they’d both come back in for a treat. I think we’re going to be fine!

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