Tag Archives: work

Today, I’m Thankful

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If the spirit moves me, I can almost always think of lots to complain about. There is the weather, often, whether it leans toward the “unseasonably warm,” the “damp and dreary” or the “too damn cold.” I have a dozen aches and pains and a hundred jobs not done. There are too many things I want or need, and too little money. Never enough time. There is the N key, and sometimes also the G and the K, on my keyboard, that stubbornly do not want to type when pressed. I am constantly having to go back over my writing, to fill in the missing letters. And work; if I want to complain, there’s always something going wrong at work. Grumbling is easy.

Being thankful is more difficult. It’s harder, often, to see the good…easy to just take it for granted. I’ve always been like this. There are few times in my life when I felt pure gratitude and appreciation in the present, for more than just a fleeting moment. I was always too busy analyzing the situation, or anticipating the future. Looking back, there are many, many days that make my heart swell with the poignancy, perfection and joy locked into those memories. I wish I’d had the good sense to appreciate them at the time.

My mother was always good at counting her blessings, and she encouraged all of her children to do the same. My sister Brenda is a master at “looking on the bright side.” I have to work at it, most of the time. Usually, it’s a struggle to find reasons for gratitude. I end up using tried and true platitudes of “my family,” “my friends” and “my good health.” Though I’m truly thankful for all three, it misses the point. Today was a notable exception. For whatever reason, today I feel thankful.

Every single time I got up in the night, I was thankful to return to the warmth of my bed. I felt genuinely grateful as I pulled the covers back over me. I was thankful for a good night’s sleep, and to wake up well-rested and ready for the day.

My dish soap, in a clear pump-style container, is now showing bands of yellow, green and gold, caused by the different types of detergent combined there. It makes me smile. It also makes me grateful for my brother-in-law, Dennis, who inspired me to combine things. He can’t stand, for instance, having two or three partial boxes of crackers or cereal taking up space. “Let’s just mix them together,” he’ll suggest, which leads to some unlikely combinations. We had some fun last summer, discussing this, and thinking of the worst mixtures: Count Chocula and Wheat Chex; Cap’n Crunch and Raisin BranShredded Wheat and granola.

Still, it made me think, and now I combine quite a few things. Half-bottles of lotion or shampoo are now poured together, always into the prettiest bottle. It cuts down on clutter, and makes for surprising new scents. As for the dish soap, I buy what’s on sale, or what appeals to me at the moment. I add it to the large container, which then provides a brand new color combination to appreciate, right there at my kitchen sink.

I was thankful that today was Sunday, which means a short day of work, and the next two days off. Work was not difficult, and, while there, I had good conversations with two different friends named John. The dogs gave me their usual enthusiastic greeting when I got home, and the three of us spent a couple hours outside. Because I had inadvertently left the heater on, I came inside to a nice, warm house. Last night, I prepared enough extra so that dinner will be easy to get on the table tonight.

I have some good books in progress. I’m reading The Abundant Bohemian (Live an Unconventional Life without Starving in the Process) by Joseph Downing. I feel like he’s saying exactly what I need to hear, to make me stop doubting the choices I have made, and appreciate what my choices have given me. I also picked up Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit. It is powerful writing – honest and funny – that tackles large issues of gender and equality. I am continuing to savor a wonderful compilation of poetry that my friend Norm loaned me. Finally, The Moth, 50 true stories told by a variety of people on Public Radio, now in print, and given to me by my brother-in-law, Keith (who I am also grateful for).

Nothing out of the ordinary…just an average good day. The only thing remarkable about it is that I found myself thankful for it. That, alone, makes it an extraordinary day!

 

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Intermission

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I love a break in the action, no matter what the action is.

An evening of euchre? Let’s take intermission at some point, to finish up all the threads of conversation that were left dangling as cards were played. Let’s cut into that pie.

A good book? Chapters provide an ideal pause. The characters take shape, the tension deepens and the motivations become clearer in the time between putting a book down, and picking it up again.

A play? Intermission is time to get a snack or run to the rest room, but it’s also the perfect opportunity to turn to the folks on either side. A short exchange of “Isn’t this wonderful?!” or “He is hysterical!” and something that was going on between the stage and each individual member of the audience now feels like shared experience.

A major project at work or home? Goals can change once underway. Perspectives are different in the middle of a project than they are at the start. A short intermission, maybe with a cup of coffee or an apple,  allows for an assessment of progress, and a reevaluation of the direction forward.

An evening of watching TV? I swear, my house has never gotten the attention that it did when I had television! There was one evening a week when I liked every show on the air from 7 to 10 PM. That was also my housekeeping night. During every commercial break, I’d jump up and furiously tackle a project: change loads from washer to dryer; wipe down the stove and counter tops; sweep a room; dust a shelf; clean a window. It’s amazing how much can be accomplished in five-minute increments!

There were times that I combined housekeeping night with exercise night. Then, the commercial intermissions were spent cleaning house, and the shows were watched while standing on one foot in “tree pose,” holding a plank position or getting in a few sit-ups. When handled correctly, TV – and the intermissions it provides – can be quite worthwhile!

A meal. I think it’s a good idea to take a little intermission before taking a second helping of anything. Time to reflect on the flavors of the meal. Time to decide if I’m still hungry, or just wanting more because it tastes good. Sometimes I take a second helping anyway, but at least I’ve made myself more aware of my motivation. If I’m over-eating because it is delicious, it’s good to know that, and better appreciate the experience.

Sometimes, eight hours in bed can seem like a very long time. After a couple hours of good sleep, I often find myself wide awake. I used to struggle to fall back asleep, concerned about what the following day would be like if I weren’t rested. It seemed the more I worried about it, the more sleep evaded me. Now, I just take a little intermission. I get a glass of water. I read a little bit, make a grocery list or write a letter. If I simply give in to the need for a pause, sleep comes easy.

Then there are vacations: magical breaks from normal life that shake up our senses and help us to see everything clearer. A change in environment or routine gives a basis for comparison, and helps to clarify what we know. With a little distance from the usual day-to-day sights and sounds, it’s easier to appreciate them, on return.

Most days, I enjoy whatever I’m doing. Still, I think every experience is made better by a little intermission!

 

 

Not Quite

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This is the season, it seems, for qualifiers. My birthday is almost here; I am not quite sixty-five years old. Summer is nearly over; fall is coming soon. It’s that “in-between” stage that begs for evaluation and invites plans. That’s where I’m at right now.

Summer. It came in slowly, with cold, rainy days through most of June. Even when it warmed up, it seems the hot summer days were often balanced by chilly nights or cool, windy or rainy days. Mosquitoes were never unbearable. I almost always slept under a light comforter.

I spent the early part of the summer getting my back yard reconfigured and my garden planted. Though it was a lot of work, it has pretty much taken care of itself since then, and has been a source of satisfaction and fresh vegetables for weeks now.

Most of my flowers are finished blooming, though the ones that are still offering their bright faces are more appreciated than ever. The low hedge of  “Autumn Joy” Sedum is healthy and bright green. Before long, its flat flower heads will be glorious bronze tones.

Aunt Katie’s illness dominated the summer season. When she was home, the goal was to buoy her spirits; the wish was to see her improve. “How are you today?” I’d ask whenever I stopped. “Not good,” she’d answer, discouraged. “I wish I had a different answer,” she once said, vehemently.

I brought her a large potted tomato plant, to grow on her kitchen porch. My cousin Bob planted a tub of salad greens just outside the door. His sheep grazed just behind the farmhouse. She watched them from her kitchen stool as he did her breathing treatment.

Morning Glories came up from seeds dropped in other years. Aunt Katie was never well enough to put up the rows of string for the flowers to climb; I never thought to do it for her. Now, in August, the vigorous  vines have tumbled over and formed a thick mound, reminding me of my neglect.

When she was getting care on the mainland – between two hospitals and a rehabilitation facility – telephone calls became a focus. There were calls to Aunt Katie’s room and to her cell phone. There were calls to the keyboard and to the nurse’s station. Because she was often out of her room, away from her phone, or unable to talk because something else was going on, and because the nurse’s station was poorly staffed in the evenings when I was able to call, I was usually frustrated. When I was able to get updates, I called family members downstate to spread the word. My cousin Keith changed his route to be able to visit with Aunt Katie on the way to and from his cabin. His phone calls were highly anticipated and welcome for the good information on her spirits and her progress.

When Aunt Katie finally came home, she knew – as we did – that she was coming home to die. Friends started calling, and stopping by. Dishes of food were dropped off. Family members altered their summer plans to get to the island. Though she was clearly weak, struggling, and in decline, I thought she’d be with us for a while. I packed a week’s worth of clothes, to bring to her house, and anticipated being there a month or more. That was not the way it worked out.

On, then to the services to honor my aunt. Bringing together many of her nieces and nephews and their families, islanders who knew and respected her and the contributions she made in her long life, and friends who wept openly at the dear heart we had lost. It was exhausting…and wonderful…as many events like this are, but a fitting send-off to a wonderful woman who has been a big part of my life.

The funeral was a sad start to the planned, week-long vacation on Beaver Island for my sisters and their families. Still, good company, fine weather, and lots of little children helped to bring perspective and joy to a transitional time. For me, especially this year, their presence was a blessing.

Work was the second major focus of my summer. Extended hours at the hardware store made for long, busy days. In addition, there was writing, event-covering and business to be taken care of for the news-magazine. Getting artwork where it needed to be – and myself where I was supposed to be to promote it – was another pull in yet another direction.

Though my diet and exercise plan went out the window less than two months into the New Year, I have somehow managed to lose about eight pounds. Walks with the dogs went from daily – as promised – to a couple times a week, as time and weather allowed. Our rides down to the Fox Lake were often foiled by other people and dogs on the shore. I only made it to the Lake Michigan beach a couple times this summer, and I never went swimming. That should be considered at least a venial sin in the evaluation of both my summer and my 65th year. I live on an island, for God’s sake!

So, as I look back over the year, and the summer season, I’d have to say it was not quite as successful as I would have liked. That’s okay. There was joy, and progress, and change. It was not quite a failure, either!

 

Pushing On

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So, what is it now, that has kept me away from writing? I’ve been busy, sure, and tired. There have been a lot of things going on here on Beaver Island, and in my life.

Saturday, for instance. I worked at the hardware store. It was our busiest – by far – day this year. The side of the building has become a nursery, with stacking shelves arranged under a sun shade for perennials and shrubs, annual flowers, vegetables and herbs. Folks were flocking in to our store for necessities for lawn and garden plans as well as all the usual painting, plumbing and home repair projects.

I had started the day loading art work in the car, so that I could drop it off at the Beaver Island Gallery, on its first open day of the season. I did that in the early afternoon, just before running out to attend the memorial gathering to honor my friend, Roy. I then ran to the point, to attend the annual shareholder’s meeting of the Beaver Island Boat Company. Then, back to the hardware to finish my work day.

Home, I changed clothes, doused up with mosquito repellent, and headed for the garden. I’ve been forcing myself to get in at least an hour of work out there every evening, no matter how much I want to collapse. Saturday, I raked, dug stubborn weeds, hauled away another wheelbarrow full of roots, and assembled a raised bed for my strawberry plants, before coming in to shower. I ate dinner in my pajamas, and was in bed not long after.

In addition to long and busy days, I’ve had a few side-line inconveniences that have further complicated my life. I picked up a tick, while working in the garden, and didn’t discover it until it was firmly embedded in the skin of my inner thigh, and fairly well engorged with my blood. That was the most traumatic (and gross!) thing that has happened to me in quite some time! A trip to the medical center, a dose of strong antibiotic, a few instructions about prevention and how to handle it should it ever happen again, and I was on my way…though the nightmares continue.

My car is in the shop for repairs. That has caused me to be using vehicles that I’m not familiar with (Oh! No cup-holder? And where is the knob for windshield wipers?), changing one car for another, begging rides from here to there, and sometimes walking. It’s not a big deal. It will all be over soon, and I’ll have my own dusty, messy car back, with a nice fat repair bill to boot!

Next, my little dog, having worked herself into a frenzy over having her nails clipped, managed to get out of my grasp…and bit me. By the next morning, redness and swelling made another trip to the medical center necessary. “It was an accident,” I explained, “she was trying to bite the vet.” My tetanus vaccine was still good; another dose of antibiotic, and I was finished. All dog bites have to be reported, so next came a visit from the deputy. My dogs are up to date on all of their shots. Still, according to standard protocol, Rosa Parks had to be placed in quarantine (“House arrest,” I told her) for ten days. No rides to visit the inland lakes; no walks down the Fox Lake Road. “That’s what you get,” I tell her, without sympathy.

Yesterday, it rained. That put all yard work on hold. After coming home from work, I took a lovely, long nap. I got up in time to feed the dogs and make my own supper, then went shortly right back to bed. Today, I feel rested, and like I just might make it. The sun is shining. The grass is desperately in need of being cut. The dogs and I could all use some outdoor time. That’s where I’ll be, then, for the rest of this day.

 

Long Day, Late Night…

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Yesterday was a long, hectic day at work. Freight days always are. Even when there are few customers needing service, there is plenty to do. Often, it involves heavy lifting, climbing up and down ladders and running up and down the aisles. There were plenty of customers needing service yesterday, too: keys to make, pipe and conduit to retrieve from the high storage area and paint to mix. It kept me busy!

Near the end of the day, I got a dinner invitation. As I’d been eating nothing but chocolate-butterscotch treats all day, it was an invitation I couldn’t refuse. I rushed home after work to pick up the dogs, who were invited, too, their dinner, my bread dough and baking stone, and headed out again.

To complement my friend’s offerings of an asparagus and pasta salad flavored with yogurt and lemon, homemade tabouli  and hummus, I made fresh pita bread. We also had wine. And ice cream. We watched an excellent movie. The dogs chased chipmunks. It was a lovely evening!

I am not, however, accustomed to having anything to do outside of my own home after work. A dinner out is a big change in my routine. Even if I get home at a decent hour, which I did, it takes a while to wind down after a night out. So, sleep came late. Morning comes early, always, no matter what. And work is waiting. So there you have it.

Asleep, Awake

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My mind works overtime. When I’m trying to fall asleep, no matter how exhausted my body is, my brain is busy. I run through all the things I should have done and yet need to do. I make lists and plan schedules. I have imaginary conversations. Busy, busy, busy. Until I get out of bed, determined to accomplish enough of something to put my mind to rest.

Then, I’m tired. I can’t think. I can’t focus. I am overwhelmed by the number of things there are to do. Impossible to tackle them all. What one thing can I get done, so that tomorrow, there will be one less thing to face? What will be enough of an accomplishment to make up for the sleep I’m missing? These are my nights.

Sometimes, with a cup of herbal tea, I do some writing. Maybe just a list to help organize my thoughts, or a bit of correspondence, always overdue. Sometimes I’ll tackle a news article, an essay or a blog post, though I’m rarely an inspired writer in the middle of the night. Other times I’ll take on bookkeeping. I may balance my checkbook and pay some bills, or work on the never-ending record-keeping that goes along with the Beacon. Sometimes, I clean.

Too often, I turn on the computer under the guise of working, and instead just waste time. I’ll check the news, then the weather. I’ll see what’s going on in social media. I’ll play a computer game…or two. No matter how unproductively I spend my time, though, it is still not actual rest. The next morning I am tired, with little to show for my lack of sleep.

At night, I am worrying and working over in my mind all the things I need to do. In the daytime, I am fog-brained, sluggish and less productive than I could be if I had gotten a good night’s sleep. This is my dilemma.

 

Running Late

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Yesterday was a long, hard day.

At the hardware store, I was up and down stairs, on and off of ladders, and carrying heavy gallon jugs from the back of the store to the front. I took a break in order to run down to the Community Center to do a recording. Home in the evening, I wandered the property to get the ripe blackberries. By the time I was ready to come in for the night, I was exhausted. Too tired to read, to write, or even to think.

In case today goes the same way, I thought I’d better get my writing done before I leave the house. Still, there’s hardly time. After getting up three times in the night to let the dogs out, I hit the snooze button on the alarm clock a couple times too often this morning. I wandered around the yard with the dogs while the coffee brewed. I showered as soon as I came in. I sat down here with my first cup of coffee, intending to write. I had a few ideas to choose between and expand on…until I noticed the time.

Already, I should be in my car and on my way to town. Instead, I am sitting here in my bathrobe. I still have to dress, pack a lunch, pack a thermos, prepare my little dog’s medicine, and give both dogs a treat before heading out the door.

I’m late. Again!