Tag Archives: writing

For Now


“Only those with tenacity can march forward in March.”

~ Ernest Agyemane Yeboah

I am struggling, this winter, to continue moving forward. My exercise program has become anything but “regular.” My daily walk takes me, many days, no farther than to the end of the driveway and back. “Morning Pages,” three pages of stream-of-consciousness writing that I recommitted to last year, has fallen by the wayside, beyond a few occasional fits and starts.

This writing, too, has been sorely neglected this year. Since I committed to this blog post – now more than seven years ago – I have published at least one essay every week. I’ve taken on mini-challenges within the larger commitment: there were a few month-long challenges; I wrote a family history, in installments; I dedicated one day per week to a Timeout for Art post; I went through two books of weekly “List” prompts; and I published a blog post every single day in 2016.

It often seemed like I may have run out of things to talk about. I noticed my writing was often devolving into complaints, to-do lists, and an inventory of frustrations. I set a new goal this year. My plan was to work my way through each of the writing prompts in Natalie Goldberg’s Old Friend from Far Away.

Maybe it wasn’t the best idea. Or, perhaps, that task would be better suited for my private journal pages. Does anyone really want to read a ten-minute essay about jell-o? Or dishes? Or nuts? With doubts running through my mind, I contemplated leaving this year’s plan behind, but had no clear idea of what to replace it with. So, my default was to just neglect it altogether.

This morning when I got up, the temperature outside was 13 below zero. The view from any window is snow, snow, and more snow. Under the snow, there is a thick bed of ice, that will throw me off balance if I don’t watch my step. When the sun comes out, gigantic icicles form along the eaves of the house.

The dogs have forged a network of paths leading from the back door, to get to the places where they choose to do their outside business, or where they can bark at the neighbors. Bored with the pace of this cold season, they spend a great deal of time going outside and coming back in, just for the sport of it, and the possibility of a reward. Today, they are sprawled together on the bed, grumbling their displeasure.

The long term weather forecast promises better days. By next week, we should see temperatures in the 30s, and into the forties by the end of the month. Undoubtedly, spring will eventually come. St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner. That celebration brings big excitement and an influx of visitors to this Irish island. It won’t be long after that before the warm weather residents and tourists arrive.

With that assurance comes new frustration at all the things I have not yet gotten done. Though today’s weather might seem to contradict the statement, time is running short for all of my winter’s plans. It’s time to make the big push, while there is still time. That, along with my feelings about the quality of my recent posts, has brought me to the conclusion that it’s time for a different tack.

“Don’t settle: Don’t finish bad books. If you don’t like the menu, leave the restaurant. If you’re not on the right path, get off it.”

~Chris Brogan

I’m not giving up on this blog; I’m not going to quit writing. What I’m giving up are all previously conceived notions and obligations regarding it. I will publish regularly, but not on a pre-planned regular schedule. I’ll write whatever I feel like sharing, even if that happens to sound like complaints, to-do lists, and an inventory of frustrations. It may take a surprising turn, as I direct my attention more to my health, art, or my home projects. I don’t know yet, but the possibilities are exciting to me. For now, that’s good enough!

No, I Don’t Have a Cold



No, I don’t have a cold. Nor am I throwing dialect from other countries into my paragraphs. I’m not that smart. I took one Spanish class in college. I started to learn Russian through an on-line learning program. Neither went much beyond the basics.

The trouble is that my “N” key only works when seriously plunked on. If I am just typing away, without giving the “N” the attention it needs, my works fall apart. When “and” becomes “ad,” the sentence is still readable, but it sounds like I am suffering from a stuffy nose. Longer words take on a decidedly foreign appearance. “Enough” comes out “eough,” “anniversary” turns into “aiversary,” (“turns” becomes “turs” even as I write this!) and all “ing”s take on a decidedly east-European sounding “ig.”

On top of that, the “K” key goes on strike, too…but only occasionally, to surprise me. Then “like” becomes “lie” and “know” becomes “now” – or even “ow” if I forget to hit the “N” hard enough. These are not things that the spell checker picks up on! That means it’s up to me.

I’m a pretty good writer. I tell myself that I write like I talk, but it’s more true that I write like I would like to talk. When I’m in an actual speaking situation, I stammer and fumble for words. Things don’t always come out the way I’d like them to. I sound sarcastic or angry when I am neither; I sometimes sound much more agreeable than I feel. When I’m writing, though, I can fine tune all of those issues, so that – mostly – humor, sarcasm, anger and sadness come through only as I intend them to. I rearrange words and sentences as I plunk away, to get the best effect.

“Plunk away” is an apt description, because I am not a good typist. I managed, in 10th grade Typing 101 with Mr Perkins, to work up to fifty words per minute with no errors and no peeking at the keys. Back in 1967, working on manual (non-electric!) typewriters, that was quite an accomplishment, and earned me an “A” in the class. Today, with word processors, that would be considered dreadfully slow typing. Even so, I’ve since lost the ability to type without looking at the keys, and I usually use no more than two or three fingers to press the keys.

If I try to type “properly,” my errors skyrocket. When trying to copy a paragraph from a book (thus looking at the book, not the keys), I often look up to see that the screen is filled with gibberish, with almost every word (or non-word) underlined in red by my spell-check program. Errors frustrate me, because I am not a good editor, either. If it is underlined in red (as “jibberish” was just a moment ago) I will – most often, but not always – investigate (ah, it’s “gibberish”) and make corrections. Words that slide through the system, however, often get by me, too.

So, if you see a sentence that reads, “My freids ad I really lied the etertaimet ad I ow the others did too,” don’t worry. I don’t have a cold. Eventually, I’ll notice, and make the corrections.

These Days



I took some time yesterday to update my bullet journal. Through the busy summer months, it had been kept up in just the most rudimentary fashion. Yesterday, I filled in the workdays and paydays, habits and activities to the monthly charts, based on the notes I’d jotted on the daily pages as I rushed through my days. I went through the long-term lists for home and garden, and highlighted the tasks that I’ve completed.


I made pretty good progress in the garden; in the house, not a bit. But, winter is coming, with more time to devote to painting and repair.

There is still plenty to do around here, no doubt. In addition to all the items on my list – many of which take money as well as the time that I seem to always be so short of – there are sorting, deep-cleaning and organizing tasks all through the house. There is – new to my household – the old footstool to reupholster. Soon, if the weather holds, I’ll have tomatoes to put up for the winter. The lawn needs to be mowed. On top of all that, I have big plans in the studio, with projects to finish and new skills to learn. And, the exercise program that I’ve neglected for so long. Every single new day, week and month, I think, “It’s time RIGHT NOW to re-commit to that!” There is plenty to keep me busy, but – these days – I do not feel overwhelmed.

I was recently able to pass on the Beaver Beacon, the bi-monthly news magazine that I have struggled with (as writer, editor, reporter-at-large, bookkeeper, distributor, bill-collector, and sometimes photographer) for the last two-and-a-half years, to someone more capable of the job. I have gone to press with my last issue, and expect it to arrive any day now. I feel like I’m learning to breathe again.  I’m remembering what it is like to wake up in the middle of the night without a sense of panic and a long list of things to do immediately. Now, there is no guilt and self-recrimination involved when I simply roll over and go back to sleep. These days, I feel like there is time, and that I will find the energy, for whatever life brings.


…on to the New Year



I’ve been looking over my blog entries for January 1st. It’s amazing how little things have changed in my life over the last several years, when it comes to aspirations for the new year. From 2013:

“Make new mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t  stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life. Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, do it. Make your mistakes, next year and forever.”

~Neil Gaiman

I’m sure I’ll have a list of new (old) goals and resolutions before the day is out. I’m big on fresh starts, turning over a new leaf, beginning again. As a child, I was the one – when things didn’t go as planned – crying, “Let’s start over!” Certainly there are encounters I wish I could re-do. Days that could have been better spent. Hell, there are entire chapters of my life I wish I could over-write! My list, I’m sure, will reflect all of that. More patience, organization,  devotion to heath  and heart and spirit, more letter writing…less sloth, mindlessness and temper.

For this moment, on this first morning of 2013, though, I want to sit here at peace with myself. I want to embrace this person that I am, with all of my short-comings and all of my flaws. I want to be comfortable with my mistakes, past, present and future. I want to love myself for the flawed, good-hearted being that I am, nothing more. Simple acceptance. May you find it, too!

Here I am, once again, at the desk. This will be my three hundred and sixty-eighth consecutive post. Whew! It has been quite a year. This has been quite a commitment, and one huge accomplishment in my life. I’m pretty proud of myself. Encouraged, too.

Though I try hard to give a different impression, I have always believed myself to be somewhat lazy, and kind of a quitter. Not so negative as it sounds, really, I just tend to have a lot of interests, am kind of scatter-brained, and spread myself way too thin. So, I don’t give things, generally, the time or attention they deserve, I get tired of doing things in a “half-assed” manner, so burn out, give up, or quit.

That wasn’t the case with this writing commitment. My goal was to put out an average of five hundred words a day. I worked at finding subject matter that would engage…me, mostly, so that I could write with honesty and feeling. It was a bonus when my topic struck a chord with others.

My “52 Lists Project” on Sundays, and “Timeout for Art” on Thursdays helped to project me through the week. Beyond those, I tried to stay away from the “cheats” of re-posting an old blog, or of posting just a poem or quote from another writer. I planned ahead for vacations, or times when I might not have access to a computer. I often sat down without a plan and struggled to get something written. At other times, I woke up with something to say, and couldn’t wait to get it down.

Daily writing did become a habit, over the course of the year. It got easier, as time went on. I got better at it, too. I’d like to think my writing skills improved, and maybe they did. Mostly, though, I got pretty good at just sitting down and doing it. The follow through, and successful completion of a commitment, is what I am most pleased with. It opens up a lot of other possibilities. I have more confidence in my ability to set a big goal, and finish it. It’s a good way to start this new year.

In order to give quality time to other things I want to pursue, I won’t be writing every day in 2017. However, I also don’t want to fall back into the “two or three times a week…or when I really feel like it” habit. To keep up the discipline of a writing habit, I’m going to commit to three days a week: Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Thursdays will still be devoted to art, and I’m planning to have new and exciting work to talk about. One day will be devoted to a memoir-writing project that author (and friend) Mary Blocksma is sponsoring. The third day will be devoted to my usual nonsense.

That’s it, though, for reflection, self-congratulation and plans for the future. Now, I want to take the advice of my 2013 self, as I look forward to 2017:

I want to sit here at peace with myself. I want to embrace this person that I am, with all of my short-comings and all of my flaws. I want to be comfortable with my mistakes, past, present and future. I want to love myself for the flawed, good-hearted being that I am, nothing more. Simple acceptance.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday: Exercises in Writing #14


june2016 312

During all of my adult life, until her death five years ago, my Mom sent me a twenty-five dollar check for my birthday. Always with a card, sometimes with a note to get myself “something special.” I always tried to keep it out of the general fund, and get myself a meaningful gift with it. Still, around the time of my birthday, with my mother in mind, I pick out something special, “from Mom.” This year, I have a brand new source for writing ideas.

The Writer’s Idea Book by Jack Heffron is actually a compilation of three of his books, none of which I was familiar with before. From his introduction:

Writing is an act of hope. It is a means of carving order from chaos, of challenging one’s own beliefs and assumptions, of facing the world with eyes and heart wide open. Through writing, we declare a personal identity amid faceless anonymity. We find purpose and beauty and meaning even when the rational mind argues that none of these exist.

The book includes more than eight hundred writing prompts, all within lessons and discussion about particular aspects of writing, from forming the habit to developing characters and editing. I’m pleased to see that I have already worked through many of the ideas about delving into my personal history. I’m also happy to see that the author devotes one category to “Joy and Gratitude;” Those are things important to my mother, and ideas I’m working on in all areas of my life right now.

Write about a time when your creativity flowed…Try to describe the feeling. Describe, too, the circumstances…try to get to know your creative self a bit better.

My husband used to fall asleep right in the middle of an argument. It was the stress that caused it; sleep was his escape. You can only imagine the frustration it caused, and how he was made to regret not being able to keep his eyes open. Still, he didn’t seem able to change.

My escape – and often my salvation – is my creativity. When I am embarrassed or humiliated…when I am sad…when I see no way out of or around a bad situation, that is the rope that I cling to. I may go to the studio to immerse myself in paints and papers until all outside grievances are diminished. Or, I will write it out.

When I’m emotional – sad or frustrated, hurt or mad – the words flow. Old journals carry page after page of my righteous indignation at some affront; words and pictures outline every heartbreak. When I – in the middle of getting a divorce, my life upside-down already – received foreclosure papers for my little piece of property, I quickly whipped out a twenty-five page reply. When I was passed over for a raise at work, the first draft I wrote was eight pages of anger and recrimination that may have cost me my job if I had sent it without a drastic edit.

A few years ago, an unfortunate encounter at work resulted in a tearful middle-of-the-night writing spree that I published as a blog. It was widely read, and I received tremendous support and sympathy from all corners of the globe. However, it was also hurtful. I outlined the thoughtless behavior without mercy. Because I alone held the pen, there was no other viewpoint, no defense. Writing should never – at least not in the context that I do it – be used as a weapon. I’m more careful now.

I don’t know if it’s a good thing that my most creative outbursts are driven by life-shattering events, but there it is.



july2016 128

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!


Monday…the Possibilities are Endless!


july2016 239

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.


Monday Morning


april2016 138

It’s a gray, rainy day on Beaver Island this Monday morning. It’s cold, too, and the wind makes it feel even colder. Though I was willing to gear up for a wander around the yard with my little dog, Rosa Parks declined the offer.

The electricity has already gone out twice this morning. Each time, I lost the work I was doing on the computer, and had to start over. Two telephone calls, three pauses to refill my coffee cup and several stops to give Rosa Parks a belly rub or a good scratch behind the ears rounded out the list of interruptions.

Now, it’s eleven o’clock. I have yet to get out of pajamas, in to the shower, dressed and ready for my day. I haven’t had breakfast. I have a full day ahead.

The writings that I’ve spent the morning transferring to a printable document will have to be Emailed as an attachment to me, so that I can access it and print it when I get to town. I’ll take it, then, to the radio station at our Community Center, to record my little “Island Reflections” radio broadcast. I have a meeting at 2PM. I have to get to the farmhouse to clean my aunt’s floors before the afternoon is out. I hope to have time to fit in an interview. If there’s time, I have another meeting covering advertising, tree work and other issues.

Home, I have notes to type up into one article, letters to request permission to use photographs for another article, writing to do in several other directions along with an editorial. I have a stack of correspondence to answer, including that difficult letter I’ve been sulking over for a week. I’m torn between a simple, curt, “Thank you for your input,” to a motherly scold of the “If you don’t have something nice to say…” sort. I have one change of address and three up-dated subscriptions to enter into the database. If there is time (and there won’t be time!), I still have to write out invoices for the classified ads.

I have clothes in the dryer that need to be folded, and towels in the washer that need to be transferred to the dryer. The plate, fork and glass from last night’s dinner are waiting in the sink and the pan used to warm it is still sitting on the stove.

Since I started this little essay, I’ve received three more telephone calls. I now have one new advertiser, an article on trees coming for the next issue, and an invitation to have dinner at my cousin’s house.

This is my Monday!

Here’s the Thing


september2015 132

This is just another Saturday.

Nothing momentous; nothing special.

This is the one-hundred and eighteenth day in a row that I have posted a blog. Now, I wish I’d thought to write about it when I could have said “100!” or that I could hold off until I could say “125!” But no, today is the day when I bring it up, because, frankly, I have little else to say.

I could, if I had more time, move on to the next address and tell about the apartment in McCafferty’s Hotel and all the things that happened there. It happens, though, that I have been very close to being on time to work for two days in a row now…and I’d like to make it three. If I take the time to find photos to scan and download, and start wading through old memories, I will surely be very late this morning. It can wait.

I could tell about all the frustrations that filled my day yesterday (don’t we all look forward to those conversations!) and how discouraged I was by the end of the day…how sad I felt, and how unable to make anything better. I should mention that a lovely, long talk with a friend helped to ease my discouragement and lifted my mood, so that my worries were eased by the time I went to bed.

I could go into detail – if there were more time – about the book I’m reading, and what a pleasure it is. I didn’t know much about Pat Conroy until after he died, but I’m learning a great deal about him now. Currently, his My Reading Life is entertaining me and hugely expanding my list of books I want to read, authors I want to know.

But it’s late. The remaining snow is diminishing every day, and will be gone before the week is out. Temperatures are mild. The sun shining in through the east window woke me up this morning, and made me think it was much later than it was. Sunshine, already over the treetops, at six forty-five! Trees are holding on to that special shade of green that they show only until the leaves open up. The floor of the woods is brightening with the wild onion-smelling ramps, trout lilies and tiny spring beauties. Tulips and daffodils are getting ready to bloom in my yard. The serviceberry bush and the forsythia are in bud. Lilac and snowball bush won’t be far behind.

This is Saturday.

Nothing momentous.

Everything special.


Thinking Ahead


march2016 093

I’m doing okay.

Having started this daily writing commitment on December 31, 2015, I haven’t missed a day. I celebrated in a blog when I reached the forty-day mark, then let day sixty and day eighty go by without a mention. More than eighty days in a row, that’s what I’ve done! As I managed to get a little wordy in some of my reminiscing, I am now averaging about five hundred words a day. Whew!

While dwelling on that self-congratulatory idea, I decided to do the math. How many words would I have written when this year is done? The answer (without a calculator, thank you!) is 183,500 words. Approximately. Maybe I should have been writing a book, rather than a simple, navel-gazing blog. Surely, at 183,500 words, I could have written War and Peace, or some lesser equivalent. Well, not exactly.

It turns out, the English translation of War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy, has, by some estimates, just over 590,000 words. Even more surprising, it doesn’t even make Wikipedia’s list of the 27 longest books. Of those, I recognized only a few: …And Ladies of the Club by Helen Hooven Santmyer has upwards of 600,000 words; Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand clocked in at 645,000 words; Les Miserables by Victor Hugo has 655,000 words. All of them were soundly beaten by the King James Version of the Bible, which has over 788, 200 words!

So, that’s discouraging! If I manage to continue this (not easy!) commitment for the rest of this year, I will have the satisfaction of having written the equivalent of a mass market paperback. Possibly a mystery story , a romance novel or some vampire tale for young adults. I’d might as well just continue on with my own self-indulgent daily ramblings!