Saturday, December 31, 2022

A Fondue Fairwell to 2022

We ended 2022 with our traditional chocolate fondue, as we have done so many, many times before.  This time we warned everyone that they would have to leave before midnight because Jack and I were scheduled to leave early the next morning for our train trip down to New Orleans.  But no year is complete without a sweet chocolate ending, at least not if we can help it!    It pleases me no end that what started as a single chocolate bar and whatever was on hand - an apple or graham cracker - has lasted all these years.  I never would have expected it to endure past my own children's childhoods, but it went on through their teen and young adult years, and now into the teen and young adult years of my grandchildren, with all of us still looking forward to it each year.  I watch with wonder and hope we have more years of this fun and delicious tradition.   It is something I hope will outlive me, my family enjoying time together and somehow connecting memories of me to the sweetness of it all.





We shared pizza beforehand, and did the "saran wrap ball' game for the first time, along with the more traditional Christmas "crackers" or "poppers."  There is not much better than corny jokes and paper crowns!

                                

2022, like most years, has been a mixture of fun and sadness, but we have no complaints.  Every year I become more grateful for every minute.  Let's hope that 2023 will be even better for all of us.

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Ho Ho Holidays!

Christmas Morning we had brunch at our house with my family, a flurry of food and gifts.  I made ornaments for the Grands and offered my family "first dibs" on my stack of quilts, warning them that anything they didn't choose would be given elsewhere.   I really thought they were probably 'quilted out' because I have given each of them several, but they seemed excited to be able to choose their own and the pile pretty much diminished to a few baby quilts that I will hold onto anyway, just in case.  I was happy to have a baby quilt on hand this past month when we received news of a bonus grand niece that we didn't know we were expecting, so I will try to keep a small selection of those always on hand.  I have to admit, it felt really good to have my family cherish the unexpected quilts.  In the course of things I learned that all four of them use my quilts frequently and that my grandson uses only my quilts on his bed instead of any other blankets, and that touched my heart.  I think I might  make this a  new tradition; instead of making a quilt for a specific person, I will just bring out the year's production for them to choose from again next Christmas.    I don't know why, but that makes me want to quilt more than ever, after months of not having any sewing mojo!

Jack made socks for everybody -- family, friends, even our mailman and his family.  Jack asked for fleece fabric for his birthday and I bought him a lot, at least 20 yards and maybe more since I kept finding new patterns and adding them to the gift bag.  He started sewing on his birthday, right before Christmas, and had to go out to buy MORE in order to make socks for everyone on his list.  My family group put theirs on right away -- we are glad for new socks this time of year because it is cold!

For our brunch I made quiche (vegetarian), and egg bake (meaty), almond pastries, cookies, hash browns (with and without cheese), along with fruit and cheese and homemade eggnog and juice and coffee.  Jack's daughter and little George joined us to eat and having so many of us together was the best gift of all for Jack and me.  

Our weather was typical of winter here -- slippery and snowy, but nothing unusual.  My brother's area in Grayling was hit by a blizzard over the weekend, though, and although he had intended to join us for Christmas,  he was snowed in.  He had snow drifts of 4 feet or so in his driveway, made worse by the wind and the hard working snow plows that had been up and down his road, forming ice dams at the end of each driveway.  We all agreed that even if he could get out to the roads, they were too dangerous up there to drive on.  We were both sorry about that and hoped we will be able to get together for an alternate Christmas before Jack and I leave for our week in New Orleans.  I missed him and he was sad to miss the crowd and chaos,  since his life is pretty quiet, but he comforted himself with the knowledge that there would be football all day on television.  He said he considered it a win-win situation, either time with family or lots of football to watch.

Since my brother Bill wasn't able to come to stay at our house, Jack and I exchanged our gifts on Christmas night.  We don't have any traditions yet around the holidays so we are sort of just doing whatever fits in, and that is likely to be our ongoing method since it suits both our styles.  I guess 'light' must have been the theme of the year for us since I have him a variety of lights to use at his sewing station and he gave me diamonds!

Christmas with Jack's family was the following Tuesday, two days after Christmas, designed around their work schedules.  The plan was that Jack would make the turkey, his kids would make the sides, and I would make whatever I felt like (which turned out to be a salad and yeast rolls).   There was no gift exchange, but we planned for lots of food and a good time together.  Unfortunately, one of his sons ended up working and the other got sick, so it was a much smaller group than we had hoped.  Still, the food was good and having baby George around makes any gathering a party!

The next day, to our surprise, my brother Bill showed up so we were able to give him his presents, share a meal and visit for a couple of hours before he drove back home.   It was a nice visit; I cherish my relationship with my oldest brother.  We have only become close in the last several years and that feels like a gift.

Now we have a day or two to gather our wits, get whatever 'dippers' I still need for the chocolate fondue, and pack for our getaway.   I normally take my decorations down on 3 Kings Day, January 6, but this year we will be gone that day.  Since I want to leave them up for our New Year's fondue, I guess they will stay up until we are home.  I like to leave a clean  house when we travel, so I am still wrapping my mind around that!  But it's all good.  Aside from a few scheduling issues and a couple of us who were under the weather, it's been a good holiday, and now we are looking forward to celebrating the new year.    In years past I would have made a list by now of goals, sewing and otherwise.  This year I am happy just to be here!


Monday, December 19, 2022

December

Our busy social schedule, or what now passes for a busy schedule, has continued into December.  Jack and I took his daughter, boyfriend, and baby George to a charity cookie decorating event to start out the month.  It was so much fun!  As quickly as a decoration could be placed on a cookie, George carefully removed and ate it.  His diet does not generally include sugar, so he was definitely in a Sweet Spot that day.  It will be another year or two before I will even think of trying to actually make cookies with him, but he really enjoyed this day of picking off the sprinkles, one at a time.  Best of all, the decorating/un-decorating event took place away from my own kitchen, so I didn't have to clean up the sugar that must have been everywhere once everyone was finished!  Prizes were given for the best decorated cookies -- for some reason, we didn't win anything!



On December 8, Jack and I quietly celebrated our 4th Anniversary.  We cannot imagine life without the other and are grateful for our lives.  The next week I went to hear my grandson's high school band -- he is a senior this year and I will miss these concerts.  Joseph plays tuba in the band, which is quite a difference from the orchestra, where he plays cello, but I enjoy both so much.  Time has flown by as I've watched him grow into a young adult.
The next week Jack and I entertained our first dinner guests - aside from family - since the beginning of the pandemic.  I was a little nervous about everything -- getting the house clean (after 3 years of the more casual approach that being alone created), cooking for people I don't know that well -- but it was a truly fun evening.  These years of social isolation have left a mark on all of us, I suspect, and it felt good to take our first baby step back into the world we used to know.

Jack's birthday is in three days, which we will celebrate with dinner out and gifts.  I am trying to focus on that but his birthday marks the beginning of the Christmas Craziness, so the back of my mind is a turmoil of lists and chores that need to be done.  The next two weeks will be full of activity, and I am looking forward to every bit of it!


November - Thankful For Family

I have been Covid-isolated for so long that it takes very little for me to feel overwhelmed with activity.  And this last month or so has seemed CRAZY busy because we have had as many as -- imagine! - one or two things a week on our schedule!  When I think of how busy my life was not that many years ago, I barely recognize the slow moving tired old woman that I've become.  But whatever, the last few weeks have been a treat.  November was family month.  Both Jack's  family and mine got together to have our annual family photos taken.  Jack and I like to have a picture of the whole group, which we use on our Christmas card.  One the "business" photo is taken,  Karen Fordos, our photographer and friend, takes any photos that any of the family want for themselves.  It is always fun and we follow up with dinner for the whole group at our house.  This year Jack's son Zack got the idea to have us all pretend to be a band, with whatever instruments we could scrape together.  We laughed a lot that day.

A few days later we all celebrated Thanksgiving -- my son and his wife cooked on Thanksgiving Day, and about 20 of us gathered at their house -- my family accounted for about half the guest list.  They are so well organized and prepared a huge feast, accommodating both the carnivores and the vegetarians among us with a long table filled with food.  No one went hungry that day!  

The very next day, my siblings and some of our extended family gathered at my brother Bill's house in Grayling, Michigan for a "paprikash cook off," where 3 versions of our traditional chicken paprika (as well as one vegetarian version) were prepared and voted on.  My sister Marilyn, to no one's surprise, won the competition since that has long been one of her signature dishes.



The day after that, Jack's kids came over to our house for yet another Thanksgiving feast!  Jack prepared the turkey that day and his kids brought dishes to share, so it was very little work for me, and I could get used to that!  I put up the Christmas tree (which fascinated George, of course) and cleaned the house, but that was about it.


We finished off the  month with my 73rd birthday.  I used to feel anxious about my birthdays but as I get older, for sure, I am more grateful every year to have one.




Sunday, November 13, 2022

A Grand Weekend

This was a grand weekend, indeed.  Which is to say, it was a weekend filled with Grands.  On Saturday we watched George, who really just delights us.  (He was baby shark for halloween.  He loves that song!)

George is 19 months old now and cute as a bug.  He will suddenly stop what he is doing to run and give me a hug, which of course just melts my heart.  And lately he rummages through the box where we keep his books and brings them to me, one after another, to be read.  This is a fairly long process because we have a lot of books.  In this house we do a lot of singing and sound effects, and George is an extremely appreciative audience.  The big winner this weekend began when we were reading “Open The Barn Door,” a book that matches animals with their sounds.  We’ve read it a thousand times, but this time George noticed the small pictured flies in the backyard of a pigpen scene and pointed at one of them.   I told him that it was a fly, and that its sound was Buzzzzzzzzzzzzz, making the sound up against his neck.  He laughed out loud and then pointed to each and every fly on the page, again and again and again.  When his father came to take him home, George made it clear that he preferred to stay and discuss entomology.   On an ordinary day, I would have gladly indulged him, but on this particular day Jack and I were in a hurry because our Saturday night adventure was to go and see my granddaughter Ray’s school musical!


Ray’s school performed the musical “Beauty and the Beast” this weekend.  As you would expect from 6th to 12th graders, the talent and engineering were mixed.  As you would also expect, Ray was fabulous in her role as Cogsworth, who, under a spell, had been turned into a clock.  She has a lot of talent, a ton of courage and presence, is smart as can be and a genuinely nice person.  Of course I love her to pieces but seriously, who wouldn’t?   It was so much fun to watch her perform - she really is the whole package, a fearless actor with a lovely voice —  and maybe even more fun to watch her afterwards as she mingled with her friends on the cast, praising their performances.  Ray will have one more year of high school after this and I can’t wait to continue watching her blossom.  She’s lovely, of course, but also a very competent artist and an honor student like her older brother, but seems so much more mature and down to earth than I was at her age (or ever).  She delights my soul.



On Sunday we went to hear the Saginaw Bay Youth Orchestra, where my grandson Joseph is currently the first chair cellist.  (Ray is one of the first violins in the youth orchestra, but missed this concert because the final performance of the musical conflicted.)  Joseph was a featured soloist in one of the pieces that was performed, and that made it even more special. I love listening to my grandchildren play.   It just amazes me, having listened to them play from their very first lessons years ago, how really good they are.  Joseph is currently working on his college applications, hoping to study math and music composition, which require a series of taped auditions and submissions of music compositions.  He reminds  me of his father at that age, so smart and yet never acting like he thinks he is anything special, always eager to help, a natural teacher.  He is slammed with work in his high-pressure math and science intensive high school, as well as with his extra-curricular activities  in orchestra and school clubs, but he is always attentive and takes time with other people.  From the time he was little, even other kids have remarked on what a kind person he is, and it is true.  I was in New Orleans when Joseph was born, saw him minutes afterward and took his first photo.  Time sure does fly.  But I have adored him every minute of his life.



It’s been a pretty good month so far. This is my birthday month and again this year Jack has been having flowers delivered every week.  He is a romantic at heart, although he hides it as well as he can.  


This weekend, of course, the focus was on the Grands.  And next weekend we are having our family photo taken to use as a Christmas card again this year, with dinner back at our house after the “shoot” is done.  Family time is always the best, and I can’t wait for more of it.

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Good and Ordinary

Into each life some rain must fall, they say.  And rain it did.  I talked Jack into a very spontaneous trip when we found out that we had a couple of days with no scheduled tasks.  I thought we should go to an area in Michigan that we've never visited before.  He opted for Ludington, where we've gone a lot.  I thought we should try a new hotel or B&B, he lobbied for the old Stearns Hotel, a partly refurbished 1920's hotel in Ludington.  I didn't feel strongly enough to push my own uncharted and therefore uncertain ideas, so Ludington it was.  During breaks in the rain, the 2-hour drive there was beautiful.  The trees seem to be at their peak of color, and there were areas where both sides of the road were lined with red and orange as far as the eye could see.  There was so much rain that we thought for sure we would be eventually rewarded with a rainbow, but no such luck.  When we reached lake Michigan, the wind was so strong that it was nearly impossible to get out of the car.  Actually, after seeing that it was nearly impossible for Jack to get out of the car, I didn't even try.  In the end, both of us stayed under cover to take a few photos before moving a block or so farther from the water and from the worst of the wind.


I thought we could try a couple of new-to-us adventures while we were there, but all the things on my list were closed; either closed (as of the day before!) for the season, or closed on the two weekdays we were there.  So we had our usual breakfasts at our usual places, and dinners at places we had been before, and it was all just fine.  On the way home, we stopped at the same quilt store where we always stop, and that was fine, too.  

The one fly in the ointment happened when we stopped at a little hole in the wall shop where a local man, Walter, smokes local fish.   We have stopped there before and there is always a story, because Walter is something of a character. The shop was closed but we phoned and Walter came right over.   Jack was delighted when Walter said he had whitefish on hand and he bought out the whole bunch of it, 6 boxes in all.  Walter babbled on about the different laws in Michigan and Texas, and complained that Texas gives 30 more days before they consider the fish 'expired,' and that makes no sense to him.  I didn't hear it all because I stayed in the car with my  heated seat; I am not a fish person so I felt no obligation to sympathize.  We bought the fish on October 17, and Jack intended to give a box of it to each of our kids, and keep one for himself.  When we got home, we discovered that the "expiration" date stamped on the boxes was October 13, and Jack realized that Walter was really saying that this fish was not lawful in Michigan, but would be just fine if he were in Texas.   So now my freezer if full of food I will not eat.  Jack is eating (and so far enjoying) the fish, but I am not letting him give it to anyone else unless they insist (as one of Jack's sons already has).  I suspect Michigan might have some reasons for its food safety laws, and I have no way to confirm (or care) how Texas handles things.  Walter was one of our favorite Michigan 'gems', and I was disappointed to find him so tarnished.  

We arrived back home in time for a last-minute opportunity to watch George, whose day care was unexpectedly closed because the provider's child was ill.  George also had a runny nose and was a bit under the weather, but we had about as much fun as could be had anyway.  He is more and more Grandpa's boy, and Grandpa is loving it.

It was not a bad thing to have a change of scenery, but it was good to get home.  I got to see my granddaughter, one of my rays of sunshine, and do a few errands.  Back by my fireplace, with a pot of chili on the stove.  It doesn't get much better.

Sunday, October 16, 2022

October's Mid Point


It is truly and fully autumn here now.
  The trees are beautiful.  We had about a week of deer visitors, coming more than once a day right into our yard, before bow hunting season began and they disappeared again into the woods.   We didn’t think we would see them again for another month or so, but a doe and 3 fawns stopped by yesterday.  The doe was anxious and tried to keep out of sight, but the fawns were right up in the yard and not at all concerned about baby George pounding on the window.  We enjoy watching them so much.  It surprised me to learn that people can apply for permits to hunt them with bow and arrow even here within the city limits.  I am not opposed to hunting in theory, but I am feeling very protective of “our” deer!


It has been cold and damp this week and I am piling on the clothes.  Already we can see that our heat bill will be significantly higher than last year — and it isn’t even cold yet! —  so my stack of quilts and fleece is welcome.  I know I would stay warmer if I were more active so that can be one of my goals going forward into the really cold weather that is still ahead of us.  
    

After months of procrastination, I spent a couple of hours (literally a COUPLE of hours) in my sewing room this week and finished off two quilt tops that had been pushed off to the side.  It is shameful how much energy I put into avoiding work that is so quickly and easily done.  Chauffeuring and other duties took most of the week, which I do not mind a bit, but I hope that I will get my going going again in the next few days.  I keep planning projects, no matter how few I do, and they are stacking up.  I am close to the tipping point so it’s definitely time to get some projects finished and off the list!


I am still feeling a bit sleep deprived.  My daughter has had some extra struggles lately, with her own health issues and her partner in the hospital for cancer treatment; we are trying to figure out what we can do to help, and I am waking up nightly with questions and ideas.  The long distance between us complicates things, of course.  I am reminding myself that this, like all times, will pass, but so far that hasn’t helped me sleep through the night.


My older grands both had homecoming games and dances this month, and it is such a joy for me to see how they have grown up when I can get them to send me photos (which, so far, only one of them has done)!  They seem to be taking advantage of all the fun things their schools have to offer, and I enjoy it all vicariously.  I never went to any of my “special” school events, and watching them feels a little like a second chance, so I guess they are my Fountain of Youth!   But truly, never in my life did I look so elegant and grown up as they do.  I hope they are all as confident and comfortable with themselves as they appear, I can think of no better gift as they go forward.





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.