Tag Archives: sisters

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.

 

 

 

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My Week Away…and Other Distractions

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The sun was shining yesterday, when I made my way home down the Fox Lake Road after a week away.

Today, it’s raining.

That’s fine with me, as I have work inside. I’m finding plenty of things to lead me away from the writing and other desk work I have to do; I can live without the further distractions of yard and garden.

After a day’s delay in leaving the island, several hours of waiting for the fog to clear for the flight to the mainland and a great deal of traffic and road work to make the drive a nerve-wracking one, I had a good time down-state. My sister,  Brenda, included me in her twice-a-week water aerobics class. Another sister, Cheryl, arranged for all of the sisters  – along with our friend, Joel – to play Pub Trivia one night. Another evening, we played Scrabble. I had good visits with each of my daughters. I received a beautiful hand-forged gift from Kate’s husband, my son-in-law, Jeremy. I had the opportunity to become better acquainted with Jennifer’s friend, Jamey. I met my two little great-granddaughters for the first time, and managed to get hugs and smiles from each of them. I spent a wonderful afternoon with Madeline and Tommy, wandering in and out of the galleries, bookstores and specialty shops that – along with a few good restaurants – have come to define downtown Lapeer, Michigan. I met the newest member of our family, my grand-niece Hannah, just ten days old. I had a nice visit with my brother, Ted. My brother-in-law, Keith, presented me with a pair of cowboy boots that he found for a price he couldn’t pass up. They fit me perfectly! The week was filled with walking and shopping, and lots of catching-up. There were meals out and meals in, all wonderful, and even better for the companionship and lively conversation. .It was a good week!

Now, it’s time to get back to work.

I made a pot of coffee and turned the computer on first thing, ready to get at it.

And yet…

The little dog reminds me frequently that – after a week alone in the kennel – she needs attention. Rosa Parks is a very social animal, and this was her first trip to the boarders without Clover to share her space. Dropping her off alone was traumatic for me (I saw none of the usual tail-wagging when we got there) and I’m thinking it seemed like a long, lonely week for her. When she wants attention, I indulge her; I was lonesome for her, too.

I have made several trips to the laundry room, to keep things moving there.

I’ve paused more than once to page through new reading material – books and magazines – that came home with me.

I called to check balances on each of my credit cards, to assess my spending habits while away.

I threw out a bouquet of long-dead tulips and watered my houseplants.

I went through a stack of mail, made a grocery list, answered a few Emails and returned a couple telephone calls.

I balanced my checkbook.

Then, it seemed of absolute necessity to report here, on my trip.

That’s it…I’m done! It’s time to get down to work…just as soon as I put those clothes in the dryer.

Pub Trivia

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I mentioned last week that I was going to play Pub Trivia.

This is the follow up.

Pub Trivia works like this: You put a team together, based on the house rules (in this case three to five players) and show up. You pay a small fee to play. Here, the fee is $5.00 per player, and it goes to support an island charity. You select a table and name your team. We were the “Power’s Do It Best Hardware Players.” You are given questions. No cell phones or electronic devises allowed. No help from non-players. Your team puts their heads together, argues, discusses and sometimes just pulls an answer out of thin air. Questions range widely in subject matter and difficulty. Each team is allowed one answer per question. There are ten rounds of ten questions each, with answers collected and scores updated between rounds. Prizes are given for first and second place.

You can’t possibly study for it, and you can’t take it too seriously.

Some questions that I remember, not necessarily from this year:

  • Who were Miss Parker and Mr. Barrow better known as?
  • What performer was known as “the Brazilian Bombshell”?
  • What American company has HOG as it’s three letter designation on the U.S. Stock Exchange?
  • Whose images are depicted on Mount Rushmore?

One year, our team took first place.

This year, first place went to “Dan’s Harem” and second place to “The Einsteins.”

This year, we narrowly avoided last place. Still, we had fun.

When my sisters and I take vacations together, we look for opportunities to play. Even the sisters that don’t love it as much as I do still enjoy the pub atmosphere and the joint activity. Sometimes they come up with the correct answer when no one else can! In Florida, we went to the Three Sisters Speakeasy with our “Seven Sisters” team. In Nashville last winter, we went to Pub Trivia at two or maybe three different locations. There, cheating was obviously going on, with tables of twenty-five college kids, all with cell phones out to research the answers. Once, I mentioned it to the management: when nothing changed, we just let it go. Winning is nice, but it’s not the end and all.

The Pub Trivia on Beaver Island, with sisters Carol Gillespie and Linda Gatliff-Wearn doing the research and all of the work, with the little restaurant freely offering its space and donating prizes, is the most professionally run game I have ever encountered! I only wish my sisters could be here to play!

Forward…and Back

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Rainy…and bright.

The August garden, a crazy circus of orange and yellow and (yes!) apricot Day Lilies, Black-eyed Susan, pink Cosmos, bright Marigolds and WEEDS, is also alive with trails of pumpkin runners, tomato plants and heavily loaded grape vines hanging over the fence. The asparagus fronds wave a golden mist in front of the drying raspberry canes. The pea plants are yellow: the last, late harvest of peas went into the soup pot yesterday. The potato plants are wilting, a sign that their work is done, and potatoes can be dug soon. The cucumbers struggle on. This rain will help.

August is a mix of living and dying.

Walking down the Fox Lake Road last evening, I noticed more of the same. The wild raspberries, just like the cultivated plants in my garden, are just about done. The milkweed is dying, putting the last of its energy into producing seed pods…but their drying flowers still perfume the air as I pass. Blackberry bushes, I am happy to announce, are loaded with green fruit. It will be ripening soon, and keep us in sweet harvest until the frost.

August is a mix of dying and living.

My sisters were here, with families and friends, to celebrate life in our own crazy ways. August is a mix in our family, too, with birthdays and anniversaries interspersed with dates associated with the death of a loved one. Strength is born of sadness, but more: through loss I have learned to cherish the moment, the life we are given, and the people I’m blessed with. I feel in every hug, every baby’s laugh and every “I love you,” a tremendous gratitude for the insight to appreciate this wild life.

A good friend lost her sister last week; another lost her brother just the day before yesterday. My friend, John, is here on Beaver Island to honor his lifelong partner, Larry, who died last year.

It’s raining today, but the sun shines through.

Life is a mix.

We must forge on.

“We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world.” (Jack Gilbert)

“It has done me good to be parched by the heat and drenched by the rain of life.” (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

“These are our few live seasons. Let us live them as purely as we can, in the present.” (Annie Dillard)

Cheers!

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august2014 036My sisters are here!

From youngest to oldest, left to right, there is Amy, Robin, Nita, Cheryl, Cindy and Brenda.

They came with children and grandchildren, friends and spouses. Though a few can’t stay the entire week, we’ve had more than thirty people at dinner some nights! We have five little ones under four years old!

These are the best days of the whole year, for me!

I’ll get back to writing, drawing and exercise when this week is over.

For now, I’m enjoying the good company of some of my very favorite people in the world.

Focus

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Yesterday, I paid attention.

Nothing else was changed.

I watched and listened and focused as I went about my daily activities.

I walked the dogs. I stopped along the path to listen to the crows as they flew up, complaining at my presence. I paused near a patch of St. John’s Wort, to watch the  bees bumbling from flower to flower. I admired the way Clover noticed every movement in the woods, and how Rosa Parks was completely tuned in to whatever Clover was doing. When Rosa found a cool spot for a rest, I waited with her.

I worked in the little gallery in town. I greeted customers, talked about the artists and their work, commented on the weather. I answered questions, had a chat and made a few small sales. In between customers, I read a magazine. Nothing different, really, except for my level of awareness.

I bought some groceries, went to the library and ran a few other errands.

I picked beans and cleaned them and steamed some of them to go with my dinner.

Another walk with the dogs, a few chores, a couple chapters of a book and then bed.

It was an ordinary day, the first of August.

Last year on August first – though she didn’t know it at the time – my sister, Sheila, was living the last day of her life.

Sheila was staying at the family home, taking care of our Mom, who we knew was living her last days. She slept on the living room sofa, just a thin wall and a few steps away from Mom’s bed, so that she’d hear her call if Mom woke in the night.

Sheila’s boyfriend was usually around. He was good for moral support during this hard time. He’d grill Sheila a steak, and insist that she take a break to enjoy her dinner outside in the fresh air. He’d often sleep on a cot in the back room, and have coffee with her in the morning.

My sisters had worked out a detailed schedule, so there would be at least two of us there through most of every day. There were issues of Mom’s care that took more than one person, meals to prepare and medicine to dispense. Mostly, though, it was so that no one would have to be all alone, during such a sad time. The plan was that I would complete my work week, then leave the island to be down there…for the duration.

I called Mom on the first of August. When we lost the connection, I called Sheila’s cell phone to make sure everything was okay. Mom had dozed off, but Sheila and I had a good chat. Because we’d all gotten in the habit of calling or stopping in whenever we could, Sheila spoke to most of her siblings and several nieces and nephews that day. She had several chances to visit with Mom. She had dinner with two other sisters and they took advantage of the opportunity to talk with each other while they ate and tidied up. I think my sister, Cheryl, left the house about 11PM. Sheila sat down at the computer. She wrote a couple e-mails and sent a few friend requests through her “Facebook” account. I’m sure she checked on Mom again before she lay down on the couch.

She never woke up.

When my sister, Robin, arrived early the next morning, Sheila’s boyfriend was on the phone with 911, and desperately trying to revive her. The ambulance was on the way. Calls were made: Brenda waved her husband in from the lake; Amy came to the house; Cheryl arrived in time to follow the ambulance to the hospital. I can only imagine the desperation as the reality of the situation came clear.

Mom, without her hearing aids in, was unaware of the horror that was going on just a few feet from her bed.

When I received the call at work at 9AM, I thought it was about Mom. “It’s not Mom,” Amy said, and I couldn’t think where that information could lead. “Sheila. Sheila died.”

We didn’t learn the cause of her death until later that day. Sheila had a stroke, probably about 2AM, and was gone long before the first attempts to revive her.

Sheila was young – only 55 – and in good health, as far as she knew. She was strong, purposeful and doing important work. She had no warning.  We had no time to prepare.

I mourn Sheila’s death to varying degrees all through the year. Some days it seems sadder, or more poignant than others. I always miss her.

On the first of August, Sheila had no idea that she was living the last day of her life.

Some of us get warning; some do not. I don’t know which is better.

To honor Sheila, I am trying to live each day fully aware, as if it were my last.

Because I can.

And because it could be.

Sheila

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Sheila, July 2011

My sister Sheila, who died unexpectedly last August, would have turned 56 years old on the 1st of March.

Sheila was born in a leap year, barely missing making her appearance on February 29th. This leap year, all of the remaining sisters were together on Sheila’s birthday.

We’re a large group; 14 years separate the oldest and the youngest in our family. That’s practically a generation! We are each unique, and different in many ways from our siblings. On the surface, looking at our lifestyles, politics, careers and interests, it sometimes seems surprising that we all grew up in the same household. Within that household, we all formed different bonds with our brothers and sisters. Each of us carries individual memories of Sheila, based on our own relationship with her.

We all loved her. We all miss her. This year – with laughter and tears and lots of good memories – she was a part of our happy time together.