Saturday, September 24, 2022

Like A Drunken Sailor

Do they still use the expression, "spending money like a drunken sailor"?   Probably not, because although people themselves seem to get ruder and ruder with every social media post, popular expressions are mostly more careful and "politically correct" than they were when I was growing up.  Mostly that's a good thing, I think, and I certainly would not want to offend any of the drunken sailors out there.  I have been chastened by how many insensitive things I have inadvertently said over the years, which I learn about when my grandchildren learned to sit "criss cross applesauce," or when there is casual talk about the occasional friend's gender identity.   And I have been frankly horrified by how much history I was not taught.  

But I digress.   My most recent "drunken sailor" news is that we finally found some furniture to buy and, although it seemed too pricey when we first saw it before the pandemic, it looked like a bargain this weekend.  One of our local Amish furniture stores was having a customer appreciate day, where we were offered free coffee, donuts, and a 10% discount (which was enough 'saved money' in our case to justify buying another item).  We (reluctantly) skipped the donuts because we came straight from breakfast and couldn't eat another bite (although it was fun to see neighbors walking to the store JUST for the donuts!), but we made good use of the discount.  I will need to post photos once the things we bought are delivered, which will be whenever the store owner is able to arrange with someone who drives a truck for him when he has deliveries.   But we bought a roll top desk that Jack has wanted for years, a chest to store blankets in one of our bedrooms, a cabinet that Jack intends to use to hide our electronic devices while they charge, and a hutch for the kitchen that I hope will hold the many (many) things that are strewn around, waiting for storage.  

We also bought and carried home a roll top bread box that I hope will hide our variety of fruit and medications from view.  I haven't figured out quite where to put it yet since it has a plain back and should probably be against a wall, but wall-space is at a premium on our counters.  The store's furniture is hand-made and good quality and the family that owns the shop is lovely; in fact the owner ran out after us when we went to our car to tell us that he thought his young son might have accidentally overcharged us and asked us to come in so he could re-figure the discount.  Honesty, which used to be taken for granted, is a rare treat these days.  We also stopped at a new-to-us restaurant that has been on my list for a couple of years, so that, all in all, the day felt almost like a mini vacation.  My sweet friend Marie Louise has encouraged me to find ways to "get away," and I have been trying to take her advice to heart.  Today was a good beginning.

It is starting to get cold here in earnest, or at least I feel the threat of it growing.  I am still putting off turning on the furnace, so I am wearing two sweatshirts and a quilt inside the house, and drinking a lot of hot tea.  Outdoors, at least when the sun is out, is warmer by a bit.  It is perfect sleeping weather, and not bad for curling up with a book, but I am avoiding the shower (getting wet sounds like torture) and not sewing yet today.  But the chill has put me in mind of Christmas so I arranged for a family photo-shoot in November to use on this year's cards.  I  never sent many Christmas cards before I had photos to share, but it has become a fun tradition these past 3 years.  Baking special treats used to be one of my favorite things about winter, but several people in the family were diagnosed with diabetes this year, and my own little family is not that big on sweets anyway, so whatever I bake I am almost certain to eat so I will make careful choices.  I suspect we will scale down on gifts this year, too, since none of us needs or wants much anymore, so it is time to put on my thinking cap and come up with fun surprises to make our family time festive without sugar or excess.  Of course, with my now-proven "drunken sailor" spending tendencies, anything could happen between now and then!

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Connections

 Growing up as I did, long before the internet or home computers, I knew that making friends, and staying in touch with friends, got harder as I got older.  I carefully wrote down the phone numbers and addresses of people I knew, but I am not that well organized, and none of those slips of paper have survived my many moves.  Once in a rare while, over the years, I’ve had a brief reunion, by Facebook or letter, with someone I once treasured, but generally our lives had gone in such different directions that the thread of our friendship had disappeared and we were strangers once again.  As a result, I’ve lost touch with all my high school and college friends, and was in occasional touch with only one childhood friend until that friendship fell to the wayside as our political paths took extremely different directions just a couple of years ago.    I am not terribly outgoing, and have little patience for superficial conversation, and so I got used to an increasingly small circle of contacts as the years went by.  And the current political and pandemic climate has reduced that small circle even further.


And so, in the 15 years that I have been blogging, I have come to treasure my virtual bloggy friends, even though, on some level, they are not “real.”  In common with “real” friends, they have sometimes come and gone, but unlike the “real” variety, they exist only in the internet, with no physical presence.


Until this week!!


My bloggy friend Barb, from Cat Patches, came to town and she is a Real Person!  



We spent the day together.  I got to (briefly) see Smitty -- who it turns out is also a Real cat (and just as hunky as expected), but his cohort Sadie declined the opportunity.  I got to meet Barb's (handsome and friendly) husband Mike.  Although we didn't do anything special, I had such a good time.


And the amazing thing was that, after communicating only by blog-comment and email for so long, we found that we really did know each other, and we really were Real Friends, or so it seemed to me.  As Barb pointed out, we have shared many things over many years, so it was no real surprise that it felt like we had known each other forever.  With all my bloggy friends, we tend to share things that don't often come up in the casual "real" friendships over coffee, where we are more likely to discuss the muffin flavor of the week.  And it was a nice reminder that it is the internal connection that really informs and even sometimes changes our lives.  It can certainly  make them better.  I value my "imaginary friends" so very much.   Spending the day with Barb was a lot of fun, but maybe more than that, it restored my faith in some way.  It reminded me that there really are people, real people in the world who share my beliefs and interests, even when it seems like there aren't.   We may not live close enough to share a glass of wine on a random evening, but it is a comfort to know that you exist, and to hope that someday our paths might cross, even for a little while.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

This and That

My life is pretty simple these days, and quiet enough that even a single scheduled task is enough to cause excitement around here.  So imagine the internal drama when one of my teeth broke on Friday — the top of it just fell off — while I was chewing.  It looked like the tooth had broken in half but, thank goodness, apparently it was a crown that I didn’t even remember getting; nothing recent, for sure.    I think if it had been the whole tooth it might have really hurt but, as it is, it doesn’t hurt and isn’t even sensitive.  But let me tell you, it sure looks ugly.  I am a walking talking no smiling zone.  When I finally got to see a dentist he decided that there was a teeny tiny barely there bit of decay (which of course I have no way to contradict) and that, rather than glue the old crown back on for a very low cost, he would need instead to redo the whole job for a couple thousand dollars.  I would like to have called his bluff and glued it on myself, but it is, after all, my health and tooth (and brain) at stake so I am scheduled to be back into his chair next week.  I am NOT a fan of dentists, important as they may be.  Frankly, I would gladly give him the money just to leave me alone, but it doesn’t seem to work that way.

(Actually our BIG excitement happened when my bloggy friend Barb came to visit, but she deserves her own separate post, so that will wait until tomorrow!)

The search and rescue group that I used to belong to, and where Jack is still active, have been called out a few times lately.  They are called out again tonight, in fact.  Michigan is not a good place to get lost, petty politics interfere too often.  I could go on for hours about the frustrations caused by ego and power grabs and turf wars that end up hurting the vulnerable, but of course this is probably not the best place for that.  The search volunteers, who receive no money for their services and are called out at all hours and in all weather, work their hearts out when they are allowed to do the jobs they are all trained for.  It’s hard work, tromping through rough terrain and keeping focus both on navigation and on the search itself.  Suffice to say, one of the people they found recently was out in the elements for so long that s/he may not survive, and it should not have happened that way.   


The weather continues to change, often cold and hot in the same day, but steadily moving toward the cold side.  Patches of leaves are turning.  Soon Jack and I will turn our chairs, which face the windows in the warm weather, toward the fireplace instead.  I will miss the summer, but I do love sitting by the fire, wrapped in my quilt and reading a book or writing a letter.    Still, before that happens, I am hoping for just a few more chances at summer.  I still want to get to Lake Michigan before snow flies.  



I have done a few little sewing projects and played around a bit lately with freestanding lace on the embroidery machine.  I have no idea what to do with the little designs now that they are done, but it is kind of fun to watch the magic happen.  


                                                            


When it comes to sewing, Jack is the more productive of the two of us, and has been making little shirts for the baby.  I love seeing the things he makes, he is just fearless once he gets an idea!

                                                                                

That's about it for the 'ordinary life' report - and it is past my bedtime so time to end for now.  But tomorrow I will write about my first  ever Blogger Sighting, and the day I finally met Barb, my long time imaginary friend.

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Summer's End

Labor Day falls on the first Monday in September, and it traditionally marks the end of summer.  In past summers, it would have been the end of school summer vacations, but this year the kids had already been back in class by then for a week or two . . . or three, depending on the school system.  My “school year schedule” has begun, although it is still somewhat in disarray.  Once the older grands sign up for clubs or other after-school activities, I will have a better idea of how often they will need me to drive to Saginaw to pick them up after school.  They often have complicated schedules, and both of them are busy during the school year, and I am glad and grateful to be available to help.  My kids sometimes apologize for the need, but I know very well that it won’t be long before the grands don’t need my help, won’t be very long before I am incapacitated or dead, so I am glad to have the chance to see them and listen to their day and just bask in my love for their company.  They both have their driving permits now, but neither of them really wants to drive, and I am (selfishly) not urging them along.

We watched baby George most of the summer, so although my bigger grands were home for the summer, George was still a full time job.  He started daycare a few weeks ago but between the provider’s holidays and his sicknesses, we have still had him some days in each week.  He seems to be never quite well, and we aren’t sure whether that is just the new normal now that people aren’t wearing masks and are mingling again, or whether it is cause for concern.  We had planned to take a weekend away right after labor day but I came down with one of the baby’s viruses and our plans had to be scrapped.  Now it is hard to tell when our next free time will fall into place.  I am so persistently tired these days that it hardly seems to matter.



We did get away for one overnight in the middle of the summer to Lavender Hill, a little farm that boasts the largest lavender planting in Michigan.   it was much smaller than I thought it would be but it was something different to do and a chance for a mini getaway.   I have also  taken time to stop at our local Dahlia Hill a time or two, just to stop and smell the flowers!




I also visited both Michigan siblings, my oldest brother who is 100 miles north of us and my little sister who is about 130 miles south.  I don’t see either of them nearly enough, but of course I do see them lots more often than our brother in Seattle!  He says he is coming here for Thanksgiving, but it’s too early yet to know for sure how plans will shake out.  We tried to set up a visit to my 97 year old aunt in the Traverse City area but she is so confused that she kept changing the dates until the visit became impossible.   We will try again before snow flies.   Although we are still having some warm spells, the days are getting darker and colder way too quickly.  

Friday, July 8, 2022

Summertime Complaints

My husband thinks I over-react when I find a bug in the house.  I have patiently explained over and over that bugs and I have an understanding.  I don’t mind bugs, as long as they stay outside.  They have the whole world; I have my house.  So when I found an ant in my bathroom last week I reminded it of the rules and flushed it down the toilet.  Today, for just a moment, I wondered whether my husband was right, after I stomped and stomped (and lectured) what turned out to be a piece of lint.  I decided, though, that it wasn’t an over reaction at all, just a symbolic act for any other bugs that watched me kill them all in effigy.  Hopefully now they will listen.

We are not seeing much wildlife again this summer, we have not seen much since the flood over a year ago.  Deer still come by, but not as many and not as often, and we haven’t seen a raccoon in over a year.  The chipmunks, however, are thriving and increasingly resent our presence.  I might soon be giving them the bug lecture before they get any ideas.

My body and brain feel exhausted.  I went to a medical appointment today, ready and right on time, only to discover that I was there a month early.  My doctor says I’m fine, so this might be the new normal.  

I am still not sewing, although I have a stack of projects ready to go.  I know for sure that my first project will be to make a sunglass hanger for my husband, so that I can reclaim the little machine-embroidered hanging I made and that he took over this spring, to hang his sunglasses on.


Now that the weather has improved, in keeping with my generally crabby attitude, I am starting to chafe at undone projects.  There are SO many things we intended to do to the house when we moved in 3 years ago, and very few of them have been done.  My husband insists on trying  - again - to repair the old dishwasher after the top rack collapsed again this week, breaking his favorite scotch glass.  It’s not a question of money, and I agree with him in principle that it’s better to repair than replace.  But this is not the first repair attempt on this old appliance.  On the other hand, it is just such a hassle to find anything new in a timely fashion, and the quality seems so much worse in everything we do buy, as we learned with the new freezer that broke after 3 months and could not be repaired, so it’s a frustrating choice.  Our kitchen is not set up for hand washing dishes, but that is on my list to do next.  It is the simplest solution until a permanent solution can be found.

We haven’t replaced the hallway carpet that was a ‘must do’, and haven’t turned the screened 3-season room into anything usable.  Both are unsightly.  It has been all but impossible to find contractors or materials.   Although supply chains have gotten a little better lately, the availability of workers has not. 

Thank goodness the roof was completed by the beginning of the pandemic.  But having the house painted will continue to wait.  After I called a dozen painters for an estimate only one responded and he said he can’t take any more jobs until late next year.   We thought siding might be an option but none of those contractors have returned my calls.  We still don’t have any of the furniture I thought we would get when we moved into this larger house.  First the stores were closed.  Then, every time we looked, we were told that the items were not available and no one knew when they would be.  Just lately we have sometimes gotten a slightly more hopeful answer, only several months wait on furniture made here in Michigan.  We have come so close,  only to get home and discover that the available item would be too large or too small.  I don’t have the knack of picturing things where they belong, even with measurements in hand.   I sometimes think about getting an interior designer but that seems so over the top to me that I resist the idea.  Apparently I would just rather complain.

I tell myself that it would be nice, once before I die, to have a thoughtfully designed home, but the odds are looking slim, and I also tell myself it doesn’t matter; we are getting by without.  Besides, we have not had anyone other than family inside this house since we bought it and the pandemic cancelled our intended ‘housewarming’ gathering.  We had so many plans back when we thought we knew people we would like to socialize with, but somewhere along the line we seem to have lost interest, we learned so many things about our social circle as a result of the political struggles.   I suspect my irritation at the undone tasks is really reflective of other issues.  In this crazy political climate, decorating - and entertaining - seem like the least important things in the world.

The weather here is cool again, but a lovely kind of cool with sunshine and a light breeze.  The daytime temperatures are in the 70s and I cannot imagine more perfect weather anywhere.  Despite the increasing viral loads that are ignored by more and more people, the house task-list that just gets longer, and the deteriorating political world we live in, there is much to be grateful for.   Thank goodness for family; thank goodness for grandchilden.  My older ones are starting to look seriously at colleges - where has the time gone?! — and are two of the nicest and most interesting people I know.  The baby is walking and talking more and more, entering that delightful age when he wants to control his own person and universe.  Although my body often feels like it is falling apart, and although I sometimes overflow with complaints, at its core my life is privileged and my heart is (mostly) content.




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

Whirlwinds

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.