Monday, June 27, 2022

Half-Way Through The Year

This has felt light a rough year so far, but for no good reason.  Yes, I have been sick a lot more than usual, more than in the last many years, all piled into just a couple of months, but it was not serious sickness.  Just annoying.   And yes, I am more tired than I can remember being, craving more sleep and still not feeling rested.   And yes, I am crabby crabby crabby, quick to take offense, and feeling like the rock I push up the hill is waiting to be pushed again every morning when I wake up.

But really, I’m fine.   Don’t get up, as Dr. Cranky used to say.

Jack and I took a week off to drive from here in Mid-Michigan to southern Illinois for his brother Mark’s memorial service this month.  Mark, who died last winter, was the first of the seven siblings to be lost, and he was one of the youngest, so it hit especially hard.  This was the first long drive in one of our Teslas and I did all the driving.   In many ways it was more relaxing than being home.  We took two days down and two days back, so it was a ridiculously easy trip, and pretty much uneventful.  One nice surprise happened when, in one of our overnight towns, we stumbled by accident in Kankakee, Illinois, on the first Frank Lloyd Wright Prairie style homes, built next-door to one another by siblings.  Better yet, we had a chance meeting with the president of the board that maintains the houses, and he gave us a private tour of the main floor. What a beautiful place.   The next time we drive down to visit family we will try to arrange to tour the rest of the house, which is only open to the public two days a week.

Quite a few of Jack’s family members were at our final destination, with most of us staying in the same hotel, which is always an adventure.  There were about 23 of us; I was probably the oldest, at 72, and the youngest was 8 months old.  The general area was home to Jack when he was young, so we had to stop at the family favorite “Dairy Haven” (which has local fame for swirling sherbet with soft serve vanilla ice cream), make a bakery run for gooey butter cake, and drive past the world’s largest ketchup bottle.   Fun for me and a bit of nostalgia for him.

Jack’s sister Jill has 4-year-old twin granddaughters.  One of the girls informed me that her twin was taller than she was,  and I was the one who broke it to them that their grandma was also a twin, and that her twin was taller than she was, too.    The girls were not sure whether or not to believe me; although they are also fraternal twins, they didn't expect a boy-girl duo.  

The memorial service was sad, of course, but had its lighter moments, too.  Mark was something of a character, and so were many of his friends.  

Mark had traveled extensively and collected many handcrafted local items wherever he went.  He kept a large collection of wizards, and wood carvings, and dried frogs and lizards, among other things.  He was known for hard work and hospitality and spent several  years as a contractor.  We heard from a man whose mother was dying and indigent, and Mark took her in and cared for her until she died.  When the family asked the friends to share stories, after the usual awkward moment of silence, one woman raised her hand and blurted out, “He bailed me out of jail,” and added under her breath, “more than once.”  As the laughter died down, a man on the other side of the room called out, “let’s see a show of hands of everyone he bailed out of jail,” and more than  half the room raised their hands.  We heard about the huge barbecues Mark held on building sites, where he invited anyone and everyone, with no one turned away.   And about how he paid for people’s medical care or housing if they fell on hard times, always sharing with an open hand and heart.   Although it was an intensely sad time for Mark’s family, I loved hearing the stories since I had only met Mark a few times, and, although he was very welcoming, we had never had a serious conversation.  I felt like I got to  know him just a little bit, and wished I had known him more.

It also made me think about what my own memorial would be; certainly not as interesting as Mark’s.  I guess there is still a little time to change my ways, in order to create some interesting stories for after I’m gone, but I hope I won’t need to be bailing people out of jail to do it!

Back home again I have been able to spend a little, not enough, time with my nearly grown grands, and I've even gotten into the pool once this year, although I am not as active as my lovely Ray and Joseph's girlfriend Vanessa!

So really, despite being tired and cranky and often just done with the world, everything is fine.  Sometimes I just need to turn off the news and focus on my own little bubble.

Sunday, June 5, 2022


Life seems lately to be spinning, although I am mostly standing still.   In my head I am so busy, in reality there are way too many days when I accomplish nothing.  Sewing has fallen to the wayside, although my list of intended projects only gets longer.  I am 'working' on a separate journal for baby George, in case he doesn't get to know me well before I am 'gone', but only a few pages have been actually written.  Jack and I are talking about traveling next year, but here in my actual life my knees and feet are making even daily trips to the bathroom a struggle.  We have been in this house for almost three years, but instead of becoming more settled, it seems to fall further into chaos every month.  All of our energy is taken up watching the baby, still full time, but he is such a delightful burden that we can hardly imagine our lives without him.  

Jack and I have both been sick several times this year, almost constantly since March, an unprecedented amount of sick days between us.  We both had pneumonia, followed (and preceded) by a variety of unknown viruses.  In between, Jack has had bouts of dizziness, and I have wrenched my knee.  After years of feeling that we were both relatively healthy, we feel like we are falling apart.  I can no longer imagine getting into and out of a kayak, or sitting on the ground, or walking through the woods.  I was the most recent virus casualty, but now that this recent illness is over, I am hoping we can have some clear sailing for a bit.  As soon as I was mostly well, I went and got my second Covid booster,  hoping that will boost my immunity in any way it can.

Next week we will drive (I think mostly I will drive) to southern Illinois to celebrate the life of one of Jack's younger brothers, Mark.  We will spend several days with his large family and I expect there will be tears and laughter.  It will be our first time seeing them since shortly after we were married; the party we had, or tried to have, to celebrate our wedding with them was the last time we saw Mark.  The party ended when Mark collapsed and an ambulance was called.  He recovered but we all knew he wasn't taking good care of himself, so  his death was not as much a surprise as it might have been.  He left a mess of an estate for his siblings to untangle, and some of that work will be done while we are there, but the siblings who were local to him are carrying most of the burden.

My beloved older Grands have only a couple days left of school - final exams are this week - and I will try to see them both before we head south.  Being with them, hearing their ideas, is a tonic to me.  They, and my son and daughter-in-law are among my greatest joys and I do not see them nearly enough.  Hopefully this summer we will have a few good days together, I am even hoping I will be able to swim in their pool, although my failing knees are threatening to ruin that dream.  Climbing up and down the short ladder seems impossible at the moment.

Still, hope springs eternal.  The weather is warming, or at least showing signs that it will warm.  The trees are green and flowers are starting to bloom.  A few days of feeling well and a good night or two of sleep and my little world will seem manageable again.

Friday, February 25, 2022

Snow Day

Local schools were closed today because of snow.  Not so much snow as to make life impossible, but enough that it was difficult for the school buses to run and unlikely that all the kids would be delivered safely and on time.  

We have been watching the baby full time for a bit over a month; 8:45 to 5:30, Monday through Friday.  When I saw the announcement about the schools, I teased my husband by saying that most day care centers were also closed, so why weren’t we?   He is a jokester, but not generally a tease, but without saying anything to me, he called his daughter and told her that our daycare should be closed today, a snow day, because the schools were closed.    I do not know what she said to him, but what I thought was going to be a joke turned sour and then he rather stiffly responded that yes, we would be willing to take the baby for a few hours in the afternoon, from noon to four.   It seemed apparent that, whatever was said, they had hurt each other’s feelings.  By the time they hung up, he had made a comment about ‘not living in the real world,’ and responsibility to have a back up plan.

The little guy was dropped off without the usual visit or banter at noon.  He is adorable, and always so happy and excited to see us.  He is getting busier every day;  crawling and standing and climbing and touching everything he can reach; extremely active but still too clumsy to trust without constant attention lest he get hurt.  He and I are the best of pals and we had a lovely day; a lovely lunch, a lovely book and cuddle, several diapers, a lovely time of endless exploration, and a lovely too-short nap.  When his mother came to pick him up at 4:30, she and her dad had a tense conversation and I took the baby into another area to amuse him while they talked.  She told him that perhaps she and the child’s father would just put the baby in paid day care, full time.  My husband told her that he did not like the idea, with the pandemic still going strong, but that it was, of course, their decision.  She has not yet investigated or priced that option and I will be curious to see whether she does and what she learns. 

All I really know is that we did miss our little grand when he was not here this morning, but also that we were grateful for an extra cup of coffee and time to do a chore or two, and that we were exhausted again when he left, even on this shortened day.  We sat this evening by the fire, with no energy to talk or plan or do much of anything, as we have done each evening for the past few weeks.  We are grateful these days, for the first time in years, when finally it is Friday.  Saturday is our only real day off, and it will be spent on laundry and shopping and errands and chores; Sunday is Dominoes Day when I will need to clean and cook for our company.  We are feeling our ages, and taking a regular dose of ibuprofen.   We love our littlest grandbaby; we give him all the energy we have during the day, and he and we are happy to be together.  There is no crying at Grandma’s house, but it takes a fair amount of work for that to be true, especially since our house is not built for babies, with hard floors and many steps.    It is hard enough when there are two of us here, but it is often the case - with doctor appointments and other individual obligations — that only one of us is with the baby.   And it takes a toll on our old bodies.  Part of that toll is physical, because our day is spent in constant following and lifting and cleaning and entertaining.  But part of it, too, is caused by the feeling that the effort we give is easy, expected and somehow owed.  And perhaps we are just needy because, while surely what we do must be appreciated, it sometimes feels like it is not appreciated quite enough.

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Happy New Year, Please.

We celebrated Christmas and kissed 2021 goodbye by having a lovely dinner of Indian carryout and chocolate fondue with my son, daughter in law and the two older grands.  I love our fondue tradition, I love those people!,  but it is clear that things are on the verge of change again.  It took a "grown up" to suggest that we open gifts, and we totally forgot to do the Christmas Crackers before Ray left early to go to a party with friends.  The grands aren't babies anymore and so they naturally will continue to be pulled away by friends and circumstances as they find their own lives, just as they should.   It is possible that the fondue tradition will continue for a few more years before its next pause.  It is even possible that it will circle around again, as it did when  my son left home and created his own life and his own family.   But whether it continues any distance into the future isn't within my control, and that's okay.   I have gotten so much more value out of a tradition that started with a cheap chocolate bar and a little bit of fruit than I ever would have imagined.  More evidence that the seeds we plant, often by accident, sometimes take on a life of their own.

Jack and I were talking this morning about what we would like to accomplish in 2022.  I told him I was formulating a "Hope List," which he mis-heard as Hopeless.   At this point, of course, we have a blank slate so it could go either way, I guess.  What we really wanted to talk about was travel, but it is so hard right now to imagine what kind of travel options we will have in 2022; day trips only?  Visits to other states?  A tour of another country?  We just don't know.  So  the conversation quickly turned into a ToDo list for things that need doing around the house.  That led, naturally, to talk of the Covid-19 progression and then to the realization that a virus and a corporation seem to have many of the same goals -- to grow and prosper, even at the expense of others, but not completely destroy the host.  Since my Hope List had by this point gone further toward Hopeless than either of us wanted, we thought it best to stop there and revisit 2022 goals sometime later.

We know for sure that some practical considerations are on the list.  The house needs to be repainted or sided, if we can find available workers this year who are competent to do the job.  Last year local businesses complained that their usual workers were not available much of the time.  We had our crumbling porch repaired last year because it simply had to be done but, although it is pretty, the workmen did not do a competent job; the center of the porch is uneven and gathers water when it rains or snows, and the porch is unlikely to last as long as it should.   Not surprisingly, talk about house repairs led to talk about how long we should expect to continue to live in a house that is many times too large for us, and where we will move when it all becomes just too much.  Which led to a brief conversation into the political situation and the weather concerns and the connection of both to climate change.  We quickly walked away from that conversation and into our respective sewing rooms, where we found it nearly overwhelming to just tackle our own post-Holiday mess, much less the mess of the world.  I set my timer of 15 minutes and managed to clear out one small box before I came back to my laptop to rest up before returning to another 15 minutes of productivity.  I am hoping to regained some sort of order before next week, when I will take down the Christmas decorations and need to create some pretense of order out of that.

Still, I have no serious complaints.  If things have been better at other times in my life, they have most certainly also been worse.  Most of Jack's kids are out of work, but they are healthy.  The baby is thriving.  My son and his family are coping and, even if the pandemic has caused some havoc with their school and work lives, and even if the kids' high school experience is not what any of us expected, and even if everyone's future seems somehow unsettled, they are all healthy.  Jack and I are cozy and very well fed and happy to be together, at least most of the time.   There are times when we crave company, and times when we think we would be fine if we never saw another person.  So all in all, we are content.  If we can have another year with no larger problems, I dare not be disappointed.   To paraphrase the Leonard Cohen lyrics,  although the pretty woman in her darkened door might cry out to me, "why not ask for more," I am more akin the the beggar leaning on his wooden crutch who says "don't ask for so much."   I hope to embrace every bit of goodness that comes my way.  

Whatever you hope for, I hope you get it.  Happy New Year.

Friday, December 31, 2021

The End of The Year

Today ends another year.  I recently saw a meme on Facebook where 2021 was depicted as a dumpster fire.   It made me laugh but truly, it has not been a terrible year for me.  Our family has remained mostly healthy, we all got vaccinated, baby George joined us, and we have had a ton of time with him, and I have had some pretty regular time with  my older Grands.  I plan to finish the year tonight with chocolate fondue with my son, daughter in law and the older Grands -- in person again!   Jack is not sure he will join us, Covid concerns and worry that he might not be able to see the baby if he does, but I would not miss it for the world.   Dominoes season is just around the corner.    It's all good, or at least good enough.   And yes, I am aware that it looks like it might get all bad again, because the Covid variants, Omicron at this writing, courtesy of the anti-vax people, continue to spread and change.  I worry about the baby, who is not old enough to be vaccinated.  I worry about so many of us who are at risk despite our vaccinations.  I worry about the ones of us who cannot seem to find work and wonder how long we can carry them all.  The political universe, our own democracy, are in upheaval.  But for the moment, in my little world, I am cozy and safe, and it is a happy end to the old year.

I can't claim to have been especially productive this year., but I wasn't a total slacker either  I can't prove it because my new laptop is not sure yet that it wants to be my best friend, but that will work itself out and I will surely have photo access again sometime soon.  My Secret Santa was happy with the gifts I sent to her, and that was gratifying.  I completed a few quilts in 2021.  I had my adorable new Featherweight to play with -- I pieced one small crib quilt on her.  I have a bunch of projects lined up for next year, including a planned quilt for Jack's oldest son, some larger quilts to put away for future gifts, and a number of small kits and projects to sew on the Featherweight.  Only my own laziness stands in my way.  

I hope to post again later with photos.  But whether I do or not, I wish us all a healthy, peaceful new year.  Please come in gently, 2022.

Friday, December 24, 2021

Not A Creature Was Stirring

Jack and I expected to spend a very quiet Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  My son and his family have flown to San Francisco -- a few years ago they decided to try a new tradition of being away as a family for Christmas.  Their school breaks overlap, the only vacation time of the year when they are all free, and when they are here in their home state, they are pulled in a million directions during  Christmas break.  They didn't travel last year because of Covid-19, and made this year's plans when it looked like we were over the worst of it.  Of course, this week we are hearing scary stories about the newest variant, and they thought about cancelling but decided to go ahead since they are all vaccinated and so is the friend they will visit there.  I am happy and excited (and of course a little bit worried) for them.  We will have our Christmas get-together, and our traditional chocolate fondue, on New Year's Eve after they get back.  Jack's younger son and daughter in law are busy both days with her family, and his older son is working.  We thought that his daughter would enjoy her son's 1st Christmas with her little family.   But her boyfriend decided to go to Florida to visit his mom and grandpa over the holidays, so we got bonus family time, and we are delighted.  Now instead of just two grumpy old people on Christmas Eve, Grandpa gets to be snuggled down this afternoon, and just as the poem promises in The Night Before Christmas, not a creature is stirring.  

I hope all the people I know are as lucky as we are, and also having a peaceful Christmas Eve, with people you love.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Still Thankful

It has been a long time since I last posted.  Somehow, when George came to town, either I got busy or having a baby around sucked the energy out of me just like when my own were little.  We have been entertaining him several times a week and we love it.  He is a serious little guy and seems to be carefully evaluating - and judging - the world, but he always always has a smile for his grandma.  He is at an age when he doesn’t like it a bit when  his mother leaves  him with anyone else, but he is fine if I am there, which is a sweet feeling for me.  He reaches for me and hugs my neck when I pick him up; nothing could be sweeter.

Meanwhile, this year I have finally, finally been able to see the older grands a few times a week, too.  Although they are much too big now for me to pick up and cuddle, they also always have a smile for their grandma.   I love our conversations, I love hearing what they are thinking about, and I am amazed at how much smarter and more perceptive and creative they are than I was at their ages, or maybe ever.   And   all of this makes me very happy, if a bit worse for wear.   I am amazed lately at how quickly I tire. 


Meanwhile, we all getting older.  We were sad to get the news that one of Jack’s  younger brothers died. Our last photo of all 7 siblings together was taken at our post-wedding celebration 2019, and we knew then that Mark was in poor health, but we had hoped he would be with us for many more years. 

In more ordinary news, I’ve sewn an assortment of things since last I posted.  Jack bought me an early birthday present of a 1937 Singer Featherweight.  She had a single owner, someone’s Aunt Esther, who recently died at 94, and that is the name I have given her.   I got her over a month ago and by now, the week before my birthday, I’ve learned to maintain her and have already made a little crib quilt top and a few odds and ends.  At only 11 pounds, she is so small that I am able to bring her into the living room and then carry her back to the sewing room when I am done.  Sewing in a different location has been kind of fun and what they say about these machines is true — she sews a beautiful stitch.   I’ve been happy to have her because my “good” machine, the Solaris, has broken down again and Babylock took her back to the factory because the dealer has already replaced every replaceable part and she still refuses to cooperate.   She is too expensive to have been this much trouble and has been an ongoing frustration.   

Today is Thanksgiving.  We will have dinner at my son and daughter-in-law's house today and I need to get going to make the mushroom lasagna I am contributing to the meal.  We will have another Thanksgiving, with Jack’s kids, on Sunday, here at our house.  Christmas is just around the corner!  Jack's kids are all local and we plan to spend time together over the holidays but have decided not to exchange gifts this Christmas, so I will put away the things I’ve made for them until their birthdays instead.  My son’s family will be busy on Christmas, but we will get together before or after for our exchange.  My daughter is in Louisiana, where she continues to struggle with her personal challenges; we wish we could visit her but pandemic numbers continue to make that seem unwise.  So it will be a fairly quiet holiday for us.  Maybe next year we will finally be able to visit and travel and gather in larger groups again, but at least this year we are able to have small visits with our local vaccinated loved ones.

For the first time ever, I decided to “rush the season” and not wait until after Thanksgiving to put up the Christmas tree.  Jack thinks it is too soon, but this year I feel like I need as much Christmas as I can squeeze out of the year.  Between the seemingly endless pandemic, my 72nd birthday next week, and the sad loss of Jack’s younger brother, I see no reason to limit the simple things that bring me joy.   Oddly enough, those sparkly lighted trees fall into that category.

Life seems a bit bittersweet these days, but there is always much to be thankful for.  Our young ones are healthy, Jack and I have both gotten the Covid booster shots, and our own home is comfortable and peaceful.  Life is always changing, but it is good.