Tag Archives: Kate

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.

 

 

 

Artifacts to Memories: One Photograph

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There’s a photo of my daughter, Jen, that hangs, right now, in my kitchen. Above it is the round kitchen clock, with its sweeping second hand to mark precise time. Below it is a wood-framed photo of my other daughter, Kate, in profile, that I took for a photography class. In other homes, at other times, Jen’s picture has been displayed in living room or bedroom, but it always has a place of distinction.

The photo was taken when Jen  was four years old. My husband’s uncle was visiting us in our townhouse apartment in Lapeer, Michigan. He had an impressive new camera, and fancied himself to be quite a capable photographer. He snapped the picture as Jen stood in front of the sliding glass doors, looking out onto our little patio. Later, he presented it to us, simply framed, as a Christmas gift. It was not my favorite.

Jen had beautiful big eyes and a bright smile. Her dark hair framed her little face perfectly, and her expressions were wonderful.  This picture, taken from the back, shows none of that. She was wearing hand-me-down, elastic-waist denim pants that had a black and brown snakeskin pattern. They were a little long, and bunched awkwardly around her ankles. Her turtleneck top looks rumpled, too. The light from the window emphasizes her uncombed hair. Lost in her own thoughts, the thumbs of both hands, double-jointed, are poking out in odd directions.

Because it was a thoughtful gift, I held onto it, though it wasn’t the best picture of my daughter. As the years went by, it gained nostalgic value.  Oddly, as Jen grew older, this image seemed to capture her true nature more than any other. By the time she was an adult, this photograph was a treasure!

Travel

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On the last day of November, I loaded my luggage into the car, brought the dogs to Andi’s kennel,  stopped at Aunt Katie’s to say good-bye and pick up the car keys and went to the airport. I was going on a trip!

I’d been unable to leave the island over Thanksgiving, but still wanted to get visits with my brother, sisters and daughters before the weather turned bad. My friend, Bob, hosts a Christmas Party on the first Saturday in December, so I planned my trip around that. Complications caused him to have to reschedule his party, but my travel dates had to remain the same.

My flight was at eleven 0’clock. This time of year, the water temperature is often warmer than the air. Steam rolls up from the water.  As I flew over it, the shoreline was completely obscured by huge masses of fluffy clouds beneath us; I couldn’t see the big lake until we were halfway across it. It was a calm day, though, and a good flight.

Upon landing, I retrieved the “mainland car” from the parking lot and pulled around to load my suitcases. Five bags for five days travel: one with changes of clothes: one with pajamas, medicines and my toiletry bag; my computer case, with computer, scanner, and some paperwork inside; one bag of paperwork and reading material; one bag – my purse – loaded to the brim with everything else I might need.

I had one stop to make in Charlevoix, and was then on my way. M-66 south through East Jordan then onto M-32 east to Gaylord. I filled the car with gas there, and went to the Big Boy restaurant for coffee and a late breakfast. I was a little disoriented, as the restaurant has a totally different look. Had I made a wrong turn?

“What town is this?” I asked the server.

“Gaylord.”

“Well, that’s what I thought…Didn’t there used to be a gigantic Big Boy statue outside?”

“Oh, yes,” she smiled, “that has been moved to the Big Boy Museum.”

Well, that explained that.

I got onto I-75 south after my meal, with about three hundred miles yet to travel. Just outside of Flint, I switched to the I-69 freeway, which took me right into Lapeer. From there, it was a quick drive to my sister Brenda and her husband Keith’s house, where dinner was waiting. That would be my “home-base” for the next several days.

Thursday, I drove to Clifford to see my daughter, Kate. As I walked through the door, she handed me her telephone, to say hello to my oldest grandson, Mikey. Kate’s house is cheery, decorated for the holidays and adorned with her collections of art, books and antique toys. She and my son-in-law, Jeremy, took me to Frankenmuth, for lunch and some shopping. I got my glasses fixed. We got back to her house in time to catch up with Madeline and Tommy, just home from school. Kate helped me solve some computer issues.

Friday, my daughter, Jen, came to Brenda’s. We set up two computers, and spread our paperwork over the dining room table and the kitchen island. We managed to sort out many billing issues for the Beaver Beacon, and plot out the next two issues. Jen helped me solve some more of my computer issues, approved my bookkeeping method, and straightened out my database. We managed a little bit of a visit, too, but agreed that – if time allowed – we’d like more opportunity to catch up on things. Friday night, sisters Cheryl, Robin and Amy came over for a dinner of salad, pizza, wine, with lots of laughter and good conversation.

Saturday, I picked up a small gift, and went to North Branch to help celebrate the first birthday of my grand-niece, Ellie. That turned into a good opportunity to see other nieces and nephews, and more of my family. That evening, Brenda, Keith and I watched movies.

Sunday, I drove out to Lake Nepessing to see my brother, Ted, who has had some serious health issues lately. They were getting ready to decorate the Christmas tree, so his whole family was there. Jen stopped in, too, and we traded ideas around the table on healthy low-fat and diabetic diets before my daughter and I left them to their decorating, and went to have a less-than-healthy lunch at the bar across the road. Brenda and I drove to Cheryl’s house that evening, for dinner and several games of Scrabble.

Monday morning, up at seven 0’clock to start a long, hectic day. First coffee, and write, then pack: dirty clothes separated from clean and crammed back in the suitcases; new acquisitions and gifts put in bags that would endure the luggage compartment on the plane; computer – with all of its cords and paraphernalia – tucked back in its case. More coffee, then, and last minute conversation with Brenda and Keith before the final sad good-byes.

I filled the car, again, with gas and hit the road. My next stop was Gaylord, where I revisited the Big Boy restaurant just off the freeway. In Charlevoix, I topped off the gas tank and handled a little business downtown before going to the airport. Back on the island, I checked in with Aunt Katie and returned her car keys, went to Andi’s to pick up my dogs, then home.

Monday night and all day Tuesday were spent catching up: loving up the dogs; unpacking; laundry; assessing what groceries I need, what bills I need to pay and what other things I neglected in my time away. Rest! I came home with a virus, and no energy at all. Travel takes it out of me. Today, it’s time to get back into the swing of things.

Potatoes

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Aunt Katie would prefer potatoes every day with her main meal. She rarely has bread with dinner, and eats a well balanced mix of lean meats and vegetables, but potatoes are a mainstay. “It doesn’t seem like a whole meal without potatoes,” she has told me.

I like potatoes. I sometimes make a simple meal of fried onions, potatoes and tomatoes. I enjoy a baked potato, with butter and sour cream. I like crisp baked potato skins, with butter melted inside. Mashed potatoes are good, on occasion. There’s nothing nicer, on a Sunday morning, than homemade hash browns with eggs and toast. I like potatoes cooked with boiled dinner in a ham broth, or nestled, along with carrots and onions, in with a beef roast. Rarely, I’ll make a boiled potato. It seems too plain, and needs gravy to make it taster good. I love pierogi, filled with cheesy mashed potatoes; my daughter, Kate, makes them from scratch. I make potato gnocchi, potato pancakes and potato bread. Still, I certainly don’t need potatoes at every dinner.

I am okay with sweet potatoes, as a special flavor at holiday time, but there flavor is not one I would want regularly. My healthy gumbo called for sweet potatoes. They weren’t bad, but over the years I’ve substituted carrots, which I prefer. My sister Cheryl and I used to always split a baked sweet potato at Thanksgiving, and that was just enough.

When I was in college, and my girls were in school in East Lansing, we were only on Beaver Island for three months in the summertime. We didn’t have time for a garden, but I always grew potatoes. I brought seed potatoes up north with me. I split the big ones, and removed extra eyes. Without even working up the soil, I planted potatoes. I pushed the shovel into the ground, jumped on it to get it in deep enough, tipped in forward and dropped a potato in the space behind the head of the shovel. Pulling the shovel out buried the seed potato. One giant step forward, and I’d repeat the process. On and on until all were planted. They took care of themselves, then, through our busy summers. Before we left at the end of August, we’d dig up our harvest. Any missed potatoes would grow up as new plants the following year. I often carried about a bushel back to campus with me.

A few years ago when my granddaughter, Madeline, was here, she was invited to help my cousin Bob with his harvest. I dropped her off on my way to work. When I picked her up, she was covered from head to toe with garden soil, with a great big grin. “You’d think she was digging for gold, as much as she loved finding those potatoes in the ground,” Aunt Katie told me. For that story alone, I like potatoes!

One Week Into September

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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.

 

Assessment

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Now that I’m home from my little trip, let me look at what I did with my two days on the mainland.

  • I had a mammogram. It was overdue, as I’ve neglected to schedule the procedure for a couple years now. It will ease my mind and quiet my hypochondria-fueled fears and imaginings.
  • I walked. More than five miles one day, and at least two the next.
  • I slept. Though the mattress was not the best, I enjoyed both an afternoon nap and a long night’s sleep in my little motel room.
  • I watched Jeopardy. It was the second and last day of the finals in the Teacher’s Tournament, one of my favorites. I knew the answers to the first five questions! Though my success rate dropped of drastically after that, it was still an enjoyable program.
  • I read. I am reading The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan, and it’s a hard book to put down. I also went through several magazines – unavailable on Beaver Island – that I picked up while I was over there.
  • I shopped. A trip through K-Mart resulted in a wrist watch, a canvas purse, B&B cream, toothpaste, disposable razors, underwear, ibuprofen and O magazine. The grocery store yielded items from Aunt Katie’s shopping list, two cans of soup and a Real Simple magazine. From the three bookstores I visited, I came away with three note cards, books: A God in Ruins by Kay Atkinson and Tibetan Peach Pie by Tom Robbins, and magazines: American Craft, Dwell, and Spirituality and Health.

 

Now that Labor Day is here, what did I do with my summer?

  • I worked. Long hours and many days each week at the hardware store. I spent too many (yet still not enough) hours working on the Beacon, or doing bookkeeping or other things to support that business. I cleaned at Aunt Katie’s. I gave what I could to my own lawn, garden and house.
  • I managed some creative work. I wrote every day. I completed thirty small paintings. I did my radio broadcast.
  • I walked. With a new dog that likes a walk, I have happily reintroduced walking to my regular schedule this summer.
  • I read. In stolen bits of time over lunch, in the bathtub, or before sleep at night, I managed to get some reading in. I finished a couple good books and have several others underway.
  • I enjoyed time with family and friends. Sue, who runs a seasonal gallery here on Beaver Island, and I have had several good chats and a couple good meals this summer. Mary, my friend since grade school, visited for a long weekend. My grandson, Tommy, came for two weeks and my daughter, Kate, surprised me with a short visit, too. My sisters, Brenda, Cheryl and Amy, came with children and grandchildren, spouses and loved ones for a wonderful week of laughter and fun. Aunt Katie and I managed to squeeze in a few good conversations…a couple of them while eating ice cream. Before the season was over, Lois, Pam, Shirley and I made it out for our annual dinner.
  • Other stuff. With company or on my own with the dogs, I made it to several beaches. I attended two concerts, saw one movie, and went out to dinner a half-dozen times. I had a thrilling, short boat ride out into our harbor to see – close up – the Viking ship that was anchored there. I went on the Garden Tour. Though I have not been swimming or climbed Mount Pisgah, there are still a couple weeks left of summer.

 

Now, already 10:00 on my day off, I’ve accomplished nothing so far except for drinking three cups of coffee and this bit of writing. I’d better get busy, or the end-of-day assessment will be a disappointment!

 

Kids and Dogs…and Horses

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Once, it seems like a hundred years ago (at those times when it doesn’t seem like just yesterday…), I was in the esteemed position of raising two precious little girls. They were not quite three years apart in age. Jenny, being the oldest, was usually the first to discover and act on little divergences from our normal acceptable behavior.

Jenny was a good girl, and they were minor infractions. Still, whether it was blowing bubbles in her milk at dinnertime, bouncing on the furniture or arguing about bedtime, there were times when I would remind her of the rules, and suggest the responsibility of being a big sister. She should try to be a good influence for Katey, I would tell her, and show by example the way we should behave.

That’s when Katey, who up to that point had been innocent, would get involved. I could always see it coming. First the slight raised eyebrow, then an expression that showed both thoughtfulness and determination. She’d give me that sideways eye, then proceed to do exactly what I had just scolded her sister for doing!

The message was clear: she would rather be in Jenny’s camp, no matter what the consequences.

I am now in the fortunate position of sharing my life and my home with two nice dogs. I make no excuses for talking to them as we go through the day. Not constantly – we’re a fairly quiet bunch – but enough. Sometimes it’s just random chatter; other times it’s flattery, scolding or reassurance. “Good girls, going outside together,” I’ll encourage them, or, “I think we’re fine, girls,” as they madly bark at the road truck passing by.

Yesterday, we were out in the front yard together. I was gathering sticks and branches that had fallen during the storm, checking the blackberry bushes and taking clothes down from the line. Darla and Rosa Parks were chasing scents: wild turkeys had been in the yard. They each found smelly patches to roll in, so that they could carry that odor through the day. Darla took off, then, through the thick brush beyond the maple trees, with Rosa Parks on her heels. The partridge they were interested in took flight, and Darla came right back into the yard.

“Where’s your sister?” I asked her, “Where did you leave Rosa Parks?”

Rosa Parks is still nursing a dislocated kneecap. Though any exercise she will take is good for her, she can’t always manage to get over, around and up onto things the way she used to. In her enthusiasm to be on a hunt with the big dog, she had managed to get over logs and through brambles. The way back was a different story. “You can’t just leave Rosa Parks behind,” I told Darla as I scrambled through the underbrush to retrieve my little dog, “You have to watch out for her.”

Just as we were all safely back in the front yard, two riders on horseback came down the road. The big dog, barking, bounded down the driveway. “Darla, NO,” I shouted with enough authority to give her pause. That’s when I noticed Rosa Parks. First a slight, raised eyebrow. Next, a look of both thoughtfulness and determination. That old, telling sideways eye. Then, she went tearing down the driveway to chase after the horses!

The message, once again, is crystal clear.