Tag Archives: vacation

Keeping the Feeling

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I’m not sure why I look “legless” here, but it’s a good picture of the five sisters. From the left: Amy, Cheryl, Robin, Brenda, Cindy

I am freshly back from twelve days away from home that included a seven-day vacation in Florida with my sisters. We marvel, still, at how well we get along, and how much we enjoy each other’s company. This vacation was no exception. What great fun it was! We had plenty of time for exploring, shopping, and trying out new adventures. There was also time for relaxing in a dozen different ways. It was a wonderful trip!

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A morning of putt-putt golf. From the left: Amy, Robin, Cheryl, Cindy, Brenda

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Cheryl snapped this picture of four of us: Brenda, Robin, Cindy, Amy

The day after arriving back in [cold, but not frigid, and showing some signs of spring] Michigan, I met my daughter Jen and her son Patrick for a good visit over lunch. My daughter Kate had a work conflict, so we were unable to get together that day, but the next day – yesterday – Kate and her husband, Jeremy, drove me up to Charlevoix where I would catch the plane to come home. That gave us a chance to catch up on things, too.

Last evening was spent hugging my dogs, unpacking, and doing laundry. Today, I’m starting slowly. I have calls to make and things to do. Now that the snow is almost all gone, the yard and flower beds need attention. There are projects to attend to in the studio. There is still laundry to be folded and put away. Tomorrow, I’ll be back at work.

This morning, though, I’m just trying to savor all the wonderful memories, remember all the conversations, and hold on to the good experiences. As I pour another cup of coffee and go through my pictures, I’m concentrating on holding on to that “vacation feeling” for just one more day.

 

Sweet Pea

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I never have been much of a “vacationer.”

When I visit a place, I want to see it the way the locals do. I don’t want the “tourist experience;”  I want to fit in. I imagine that it’s my place, that I’m familiar with the people and their particular mannerisms, that I know the vendors and I’m a regular at a certain coffee shop.

I wanted to live on Beaver Island for as long as I can remember.

When my Dad gave up his own electrical business and started working at Chevrolet Manufacturing,  he got a paid vacation. We used that time to go to Beaver Island every summer, to the farmhouse where Dad was raised, and where my Grandpa George and Grandma Florence still spent their summers.

We played on rope swings in the barn, roamed the fields, climbed trees and built forts. On rainy days, we explored the old trunks and boxes and attic spaces. Grandma would let us help with the old wringer washer, and was always up for games of “Crazy Eights” or “Kings in the Corner.” On nice days, we’d load up and go to the beach. In the evenings, Dad told the old stories as he drove us around on the curving roads through the tunnels of trees.

I loved it all! I always imagined it was my home. When the time came to go, I was the kid hanging over the rail of the ferry boat, sobbing.

I wanted to live there.

In preparation, of course, I’d read.

The Egg and I by Betty MacDonald, plucked from my mother’s bookshelf, was early research.

E.B.White’s essays – written when he moved from New York City to a saltwater farm in Maine – were treasures. His story about trying to save an ailing pig, that would eventually go to slaughter, still makes me laugh…and cry. His sheep were named with Celtic numbers (Yain, Tain, Eddero, Peddero, Dix…)and his little dachshund was always around, investigating the goings-on.

As soon as my daughters were old enough, our bedtime reading turned to the books of Laura Ingalls Wilder. One chapter a night, we went through the entire Little House on the Prairie series, learning as we went about the old ways.

An Island Garden by Celia Thaxter helped me plan my own island garden. She talked about the way Sweet Peas climbed and wound around their supports, about tiny bouquets of the little blossoms and of their heavenly scent.

Sweet Peas were added to my list of dreams for my little island home.

Eventually, I did move to Beaver Island, with a husband and two small children.

It didn’t always go as planned.

Problems arose that were never covered in the books I’d read.

Living on Beaver Island is not what I expected it would be.

It doesn’t matter.

I kind of fit in. It’s my place. I’m familiar with the people and their particular mannerisms. I know the vendors, and I’m a regular at a certain coffee shop.

I still hate to leave Beaver Island and I love coming back.

Sweet Peas blossom just outside my kitchen door.

This is home.

Where I Live

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It was suggested that if I were to have another day where I could think of nothing to write about, I could write about Beaver Island.

Today is that day.

Though there are many wonderful and interesting things to tell about this place, first and foremost, Beaver Island is my home.

My father was raised here, as were his parents.

In Lapeer, Michigan, where I grew up, we often had visitors from Beaver Island. Those visits were full of laughter, stories and reminiscing, and always put Dad in a cheery mood. We knew from a young age that Beaver Island was a special place.

We came here on vacation when I was a child. We roamed the fields, climbed the trees and played in the barn at the farmhouse where my father had grown up. We spent long days on the beaches, then snuggled under warm quilts in the big iron beds at night. When vacation was over and we boarded the ferry to begin our long trip home, I was the kid hanging over the rail, sobbing, because I couldn’t bear to leave.

When I was able to come here to live, I did.

Beaver Island is the largest of the islands in Lake Michigan. It is about four times the size of Mackinac Island, which sits over in Lake Huron, and quite a bit more remote. As the crow flies, we are about ten miles from the mainland, whether the shores of the Upper Peninsula or Cross Village in the Lower Peninsula. Transportation to the island – either by boat or small plane – comes from Charlevoix, about thirty-two miles away. The ferry ride is two hours long!

Beaver Island has about five hundred year-round residents, and about triple that number in the warm seasons.

When my Dad was growing up here, the main industries were Fishing, Farming and Logging. That changed drastically just after World War II. The fishing industry fell off, I think in part due to the introduction of the Lamprey eel. The last of the virgin timber had been logged and hauled away. Shipping rates made profitable farming nearly impossible. In addition, the G.I. Bill created a lot of opportunities elsewhere. Between 1940 and 1950, the population dropped from possibly about two thousand residents to barely one hundred fifty.

Today, there is some logging going on here, as well as fishing, farming and building. We have teachers and medical personnel, electricians, plumbers and carpenters. Tourism is our main industry, though, and the bulk of jobs are in the shops, pubs and restaurants that cater to them.

Winters are long and lonely and cold; Summers are so busy there is little time left to enjoy all the wonders here. Wages are often lower, and the cost of living higher than in most other areas.

When I answer questions that, “Yes, I live here year-round,” and, “Yes, I love it,” I often also add, “I have several brothers and sisters that think I’m crazy to want to be here all year…”

It is certainly not a place or a lifestyle that is for everyone.

Speaking only for myself, Beaver Island suits me just fine.

Where Am I?

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Well, here I am.

I was away from home for two weeks. I attended a meeting in Lansing filled with interesting, knowledgeable and helpful people. I was able to connect and spend time with one daughter, two nieces, one grand niece, one brother and five sisters. Plus assorted and dear in-laws. I went to Nashville with my sisters! I came back from my vacation energized from new sights and sounds and adventures.

And then I ran out of steam.

I’ve been sick. We’re fairly protected, here on Beaver Island, from many of those things that make the rounds in the wintertime. When one manages to get away, it usually results in some sort of contagious nuisance grabbing hold. I came home with a bad head cold that – just when I’d decided a head cold was the worst ailment – moved down into my chest. I truly believe a broken leg would be easier to live with than a bad cold. But then, I’ve never had a broken leg.

My method of dealing with a cold is to mask all symptoms with as many over-the-counter medications I can manage: non-drowsy tablets to get me through the day, and the strongest drowse-inducing liquids for nighttime. So, I’ve been pretty drugged-up.

I came home to still Winter. Normally, the end of February is a good time to get away. Usually, by the first of March, signs of Spring are starting to show even when we’re still in Winter’s grip. The days are longer, the sun is brighter…there is hope. This year, I believe Beaver Island recorded a temperature – or at least a wind chill – of something like 25 below zero on the first of March. And, it wasn’t just a fluke. That was just an average day in the mass of cold days we’ve had this month…finishing off a winter that came early and hit us hard. In fact, today – March 19th, the eve of the first day of Spring – we are getting more snow! I am winter-weary.

I came home broke, and behind in everything. None of my jobs offer “vacation days.” We have a quaint old arrangement that an hour of work results in an hour’s pay. If it doesn’t interfere with business – or the plans of others – it is possible to get time away…but it will not be compensated. This vacation has been on my calendar for months. The fact that this hard winter resulted in less business (so fewer hours of work), higher utility bills and a whole new idea of the cost of snow-plowing would not cause me to cancel this trip. I’d figure it out. I had a few obligations for articles coming up in the first couple weeks of March. I work well under pressure, I assured myself. I’d figure that out, too. So, I’ve been busy…working, writing, turning in hours and paperwork, paying bills and filing taxes (while drugged up on over-the-counter cold medicine).

After two weeks out in the hustle and bustle of the mainland, a full week in the big city of Nashville and seven (twenty-four hour) days with my sisters, it might seem logical that I – the loner in the family – would be happy to get back to my little house on the Fox Lake Road on my little island away from the fray. The opposite is true! I have been so lonesome for my family, I wake up every day missing them! I wander this sad house alone every evening. I almost never suffer from loneliness, but now it has me in its grip.

I woke up this morning with the remnants of a dream still on my mind. It was filled with family, living and dead (though all very lively in my dream!), and busy with buying and selling houses and moving furniture. It was noisy with planning, friendly discussion and debate. As I awoke, I struggled to keep my Dad’s voice in my head. His words: “It’s good, then, you’ll be down here when it’s time to put in the garden.”  Though tears were drying on my cheeks as I got out of bed, it was comforting to note that Dad – from his high perch – knows that Spring is coming.

And I’m here…waiting for it.

Sister Time

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I just spent a week on vacation with my sisters!

We drove to Nashville, stayed in two large side-by-side apartments in a lovely resort (thanks to my sister, Brenda!), had a wonderful tour of the city that included a traditional dinner and “honky-tonkin'” down Broadway (thanks to my sister, Amy!), took in a fantastic show at the Grand Ole Opry (thanks again, Brenda!), and all-in-all just had the best time with the dearest women I know (thank you Brenda, Cheryl, Nita, Robin and Amy!).

We started out on Sunday, in two cars. Cheryl drove one, with Brenda keeping company beside her, and me lounging in the back seat. Amy drove the other, with Robin as co-pilot and Nita relaxing in the back. Both cars were loaded to capacity with the luggage of six women off on a jaunt. Each car took a different route, but arrived within a half-hour of each other.

We unpacked and settled in, opened bottles of wine, ordered pizza delivery and started plotting our week. Some things had specific dates and times, others were just ideas or possibilities. We’re big on possibilities in my family. We prefer to not book every moment, leaving openings for serendipity and the wonderful surprise. We keep in mind that on vacation, relaxation and enjoyment trumps an agenda every time.

The wine was the first of many bottles we worked through; the pizza was the first of many wonderful meals.

Cheryl was called away on a family emergency. She left in her car on Tuesday to be with her son and his family in South Carolina. We missed her, and worried along with her, but did our best to soldier on. I’m happy to report that everything seems to be going well there, and we’ve all been able to relax a little.

I could report on all the activities we managed to squeeze into our week, all of the sights and sounds of Nashville, the many interesting shops and marvelous restaurants, the terrific characters we met. They are nice memories, but not most important.

I can say, honestly, that there were moments of tension, of anger and hurt feelings. When you get a group of people together who were all children together, those things come out. They were only moments, though, quickly resolved, and not the memories I will hold when I think of this vacation.

When I remember this time with my sisters, I’ll be thinking of other things:

…the way we kept informed and kept Cheryl “in the loop” by frequent text messaging and long-distance word games.

…early morning, sitting in the outdoor hot tub chatting with Brenda as the steam rose into the cool air.

…high fives all around whenever we pulled a correct answer out of the air during Pub Trivia.

…eating a nice meal at a brewery, Brenda and I decided to order the six-glass artisan beer sampler. I expected double-shot sized samples, but we received our beer in 8-ounce glasses. I tasted each, shared with Nita, and drank my favorite with my meal. Brenda started at the left and worked her way through every one!

…Robin and Amy, the youngest in our family, shopping for their grandchildren.

…Nita, reporting to her grandson, “I’m having SO MUCH fun!”

…the candle we lit for our sister, Sheila, to keep her close though she’s no longer with us.

…packing to go home, with one less car, more passengers and many purchases: when the hatchback finally closed successfully after many failed attempts, we cheered and embraced.

…running into bad weather on our way home, we ended up in a motel for the night. Shortly after we checked in, the electrical power went out. We drank beer and wine and played our game with one small LED flashlight, and the glow from Sheila’s candle.

These, along with the giggles, the bright eyes and sweet smiles of each of my sisters, are the memories I’ll cherish.

August: Sun Shine

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The month of August, for me, brings a wide mix of emotions.

It always has.

As a child, the hot days pulling weeds in the garden were balanced by time at the lake, splashing around at the Hill Top Beach, or fishing from Magabelle’s dock. The stifling nights were often spent camping in large tents in the the backyard, with an assortment of sleeping bags and army cots to accommodate the masses of over-heated children.

The field behind our house offered mysteries and danger, wild berries and lots of hiding places. The willow trees, front yard and back, always offered a nice shade. The privet hedge shielded the back yard play area from the passing cars. We wore as little clothing as possible, and were barefoot except for church-going. I treasure one photograph of a cluster of us little children, squinting into the sun in a mad collection of underpants and shorts. My brother Ted, the only boy in the photo, is the only one with a shirt on!

August was birthdays and birthday parties, family reunions and family vacations. The start of school loomed just around the bend, but even that brought new supplies, a fresh wardrobe and its own level of excitement.

August was the best month of summer…made even more sweet with the knowledge that the season was coming to an end.

Now, as an adult, I still feel the bittersweet mixture of joy and sadness all through the month.

Here on Beaver Island, the cooler nights of August remind us to treasure each summer day. Warm weather and our “Home Coming” celebration bring the crowds. Visitors pour off the ferry boats and planes, or their own motorboats or sailboats. They enjoy the beaches and wander through the shops.

Yet, every week is marked by people leaving. The businesses are forced to rearrange work schedules to make up for employees who go to get settled into dorms or houses, to get registered for classes, to get ready to start another job, or just to get a break before the season has passed them by.

Every joy at seeing loved ones come to visit is juxtaposed with sadness at their departure.

To the many birthdays we’ve always celebrated in August, my family has added a whole collection of memorable dates. Many are happy ones: we have several wedding anniversaries in August. Others note passings: my sister Sheila and both of my parents died in this month. It is almost impossible for a day in August to go by without a memory attached to it.

This year on August 2nd – which is my godson’s birthday but also the day that, two years ago, my sister, Sheila, died unexpectedly – I had a meeting before my regular workday. My granddaughter, Madeline, and I walked the dogs early. We picked raspberries in the evening as we watered the beans and squash. We took our simple dinner upstairs to the studio to watch Jeopardy while we ate. We read two chapters before bed.

The next seven days – which included two birthdays and two wedding anniversaries – were spent in similar fashion.

On August 10th, family and friends came: Robin and Dick first, then Bob, Gary, Brenda, Keith, Amy, Danielle, John, Lillie, Nicole, Jim, Kristen and Chris. Cheryl and Joel arrived the next day.

Sunday, August 11th, was our “Home Coming” Dinner, a much anticipated annual event held at the Holy Cross Hall here on Beaver Island. This year was special, as a series of events had caused the dinner to be cancelled last year. Madeline and I made pies to donate to the dessert table.

We didn’t attend, though.

In our group, Sunday was “Thanksgiving in August.” Brenda cooked turkey and all the trimmings! Because I am never able to get off the island for that holiday, it was wonderful to enjoy that lovely meal surrounded by my family.

August 11th is the birthday of our dear family friend, Mary, who watched all of us grow up.

It is also the anniversary of the day our Mother died, two years ago.

That wasn’t forgotten, through the laughter and chatter and, “pass the gravy down this way, please.” We are happy, though, to build new memories to go along with the other ones.

Tuesday, Madeline left on the ferry boat with my sister, Amy, and her family. I waved them off, then went to work. I felt like I could cry uncontrollably if given half a chance. Yet when I stopped at the house where my sisters were staying, my friend, Bob, greeted me at the door with a big hug, and before I knew it, I was happily surrounded by the love of my family.

And the week went on, joyously.

Yesterday, all remaining family and friends left.

Last night’s dinner was a simple affair.

The evening, without diversion of any kind, seemed to drag on a bit too long.

It was awfully quiet out here on the Fox Lake Road.

I went to bed early.

The sun came up warm and bright this morning, though. It shined through the trees as I walked the dogs, leaving dappled patterns on the path.

Summer is not over yet.

There are still warm days to be savored, memories to be made, sunshine to enjoy.

There is still some August left.

Zoom In Closer!

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Several years ago, a visit from my daughter and her family ended on a day I had to work. As we had only one car, she got up and drove me to town to start my early shift, then came back to the house to wake up her husband and children. They dropped the car off to me, and we said our good-byes when they came to town to get on the ferry a couple hours later.

It’s not easy to rouse four children, exhausted from fresh air and late nights and cold water swims. It’s especially difficult  when the end of the vacation is the reason for having to get up early. We adults, too, had stayed up too late…last night to visit and all. Everyone was tired. Everyone was cranky. No one was being cooperative.

When I came home from work that day, a little melancholy at coming back to an empty house, I was confronted with the remnants of their chaotic morning.

Two mattresses were still on the living room floor, sheets and blankets strewn over them. The toy box had been emptied onto  the floor, and the contents were scattered throughout the house. Towels were hanging on every hook in the bathroom, and draped over the backs of two dining room chairs. A box of cereal had fallen on its side, and the contents covered the floor. A single dirty diaper, neatly wrapped in plastic, perched on the arm of the sofa. A brush and two hair ties shared space on the table with two coffee cups, four cereal bowls, a collection of silverware, a jug of milk, a jar of raspberry jam, three partial pieces of toast and a note from my daughter.

The note said: “Mom, Had a great time! Thanks for everything! Sorry to leave your house in such disarray. XOXOXOX.” A cheerio crunched under my foot.

“Disarray is a good word,” I thought.

She gets that from me. Understatement is the key!

I have evidently convinced several people that read these posts that I am performing super-human feats here at my little house on Beaver Island. I assure you,  that’s not the case.

I was going to admit it  last week, when Sara told me she thought I was one of those super-bloggers who could accomplish everything. I chickened out. I, instead, used the “Zoom” title to underscore my busy-ness, with garden and home and studio and home-made soup and bread…Then I read what Kathy wrote about  writing… her musings about what to write…and what, to her, constitutes something worthy of writing about. I knew, then, that I was squandering opportunities to say something real – and possibly meaningful – for deceptive, “look at my perfect little life” posts. That has to change. It is ridiculous to invite you in, then be afraid you’ll see my mess.

This week, the title is “Zoom In”.

That’s what I do. I give the close up view.

Photos of my flower beds show only the flowers in their weed-free beds. If I were to show a wider view, the weeds growing strong between the stones in my crooked walkway, the grass needing to be mowed and the rusty wheelbarrow would be visible.  Pan out a bit more and you’d see the collection of gas cans sitting near the back porch – because I never have a can with me when I need to get gas for the mower, so have to buy another. I think  I  have five now! You’d see the two pine trees that – for a reason unknown to me – were cut down three feet above the ground, leaving their bottom rows of branches spreading out over the back yard. The little shed that started life as a chicken coop, that has blackberry canes and wild roses growing through the floor, to the extent that I can no longer retrieve the hoses and tomato cages that were stored there. Hiding behind a big juniper bush, the satellite dish, giving me access to local television channels. Did I ever mention that I had TV? NO! I wanted you to think I was perfect!

This is just the outdoors!

I started this writing practice, having lost two siblings and my mother in a fourteen month period, as a way to make myself a little more aware of life as it happens. I wanted to pay attention to my surroundings, take notice of the every-day occurrences in my world, be more aware of my thoughts and feelings.

I choose to do my writing on this public forum, and I am thrilled to have people take interest in what I write.

I don’t choose to be dishonest. Sometimes, I just prefer to “zoom in”!

Off-Track

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I told myself I’d publish one essay a week.

From years of experience, I know better than to set my sights too high. Lists are easy for me. Charts are a breeze. I excel at the planning stages of any endeavor. It’s the follow-through that kills me.

So, one post a week, usually on Sunday. Maybe an extra one here and there for a special event, but no pressure.

And here I am, less than three months in, already off track.

I have a good reason for my neglect: I took a vacation!

Six sisters, having survived one of the worst years of our lives, convened in Florida to celebrate our survival, our precious lives and our constant love and respect for each other. We laughed and cried and walked and played together. We relived old memories and made lots of new ones. We loved the sand, the sun, the water, and each others company. We filled every single day with wonderful experiences! It was a time to catch up with each other, and a time to catch our breath. It was healthy and healing and just plain fun!

I was away from my computer for ten days, from Friday through the following Sunday. During that time, six of us shared one computer. Two of the six were handling business issues via the internet; one of the six was looking for housing and employment; all of us were using the computer to keep up with family back home.

So, here I am, off-track, but still glowing from the experience!Image

In order from oldest to youngest (as we have posed for pictures all of our lives!), my sisters and I: from the left, Brenda, Cindy, Cheryl, Nita, Robin and Amy.