hello, it’s been awhile

Hello friends. If I haven’t been here in awhile, it’s because I’ve had a really nice summer. I grew wildflowers instead of vegetables, except for a couple of tomato plants that seem listless in their containers. I’ve added more birdfeeders which the deer love, regularly emptying them at night – Sarge and I caught them once, in the first light of dawn, capering and kicking with ghostly grace through my backyard. I got back to running, although I am much slower than I ever have been, and don’t really care much being competitive.

It’s been a summer in which I made a new friend and said ‘yes’ to almost every invitation. I went to a baseball game and watched fireworks on the rooftop of the Detroit Athletic Club. My friend and I enjoyed drinks and small plates in trendy metro Detroit spots. We listened to live music in town squares and had a picnic on the lovely grounds of Cranbrook and watched classic cars on Woodward Ave.

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I spent time with Miss L and my brother and his family, riding rollercoasters at Cedar Point and our traditional trip to the Hudsonville carnival just this past weekend. L and I also went to Mackinaw Island with her Girl Scout troop and she got to spend a few days with my parents up north, beach time and freighters and lighthouses. My brother and father and grandfather and I fished for trout and salmon on Lake Michigan, just in sight of the Point Betsie light.

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Unfortunately summer draws to a close and there are already hints of scarlet in my front-yard maples. My summer friend has a new job and will be moving on in a few weeks and neither of us are certain what will happen next.

Labor Day approaches and I need firewood, I have knitting projects lined up and a long Netflix queue. Miss L has piles of school supplies and a new backpack for her fourth-grade year and every time I look at her she seems taller, with feet and hands the same size as mine, almost.

I hope that you and yours have had an equally wonderful summer and are growing ready for the hibernation time.  xoxo

 

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good kitty.

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This picture came up in my “one year ago today” feature in Facebook and it was timely because Emmett just got a brand-new Kitty Holster and can (hopefully) enjoy going outside a bit more, with safe supervision. He’s always loved going outside – he’s the type of indoor cat that, if I make a move to the front door, will rush for it with crazy yowls and be out on the front porch in a flash. He doesn’t go far (because we’re always there to grab him) but he does love to chew on a stick or two. (Sarge could care less – he likes his nice comfy house and will watch, nonplussed, from the front hall as Emmett rolls around ecstatically on the brick walk.) Unfortunately, although his pet-store harness was cute – it had a little skull & crossbones on it – it was also no match for him. He quickly learned how to sunfish out of it and lead us on a merry dash (once into the neighbor’s garage).

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I bought the Kitty Holster from Amazon and although we’ve only used it a couple of times, I see a big difference. It’s much more substantial – more like a wrap. It firmly fastens with wide Velcro strips around his tummy and chest, and although he doesn’t like being so contained, I can tell he won’t be able to wriggle out of it very easily.

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We have to be very careful with his outings, as the neighbor has a dog and there are two horrible neighbor cats who frequent our yard, but I am hoping that at some point Emmett can enjoy being out with us on the front porch or back patio, maybe with a long leash. We shall see.
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the simple, the plain, the ordinary life

So I was one of the 800,000+ people who lost power in Southeast Michigan’s windstorms last week. I was, however, lucky from the word ‘go’ that despite the gale force winds, ALL of my old trees stayed firmly planted, as did my roof and siding, as many of my friends and neighbors were not so lucky.

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My neighbor, who has frequently throughout my tenure living in this house, berated me for the tall pine trees that border my property (because they “make her yard too shady” – never mind that they are thirty years old if they are a day, and have been here long before either of us bought our houses, and which I shall NEVER EVER CUT DOWN) was unfortunately the recipient of a downed pine tree. Not one of mine. No damage to her house or any of her property, but dare I say, karma?

I was out for just about 72 hours. The timing on Mother Nature’s side couldn’t have been worse, because despite the unnaturally warm winter we’ve mostly experienced, the power outage was concurrent with an extreme drop in temperature, into the teens F. for 2 of the 3 nights I was out. Fortunately, Miss L’s dad and stepmom had power, and immediately took her, so I didn’t have to worry about her safety and comfort (can I say again how lucky I am?)  I had many offers of shelter, showers, charging places, wood, etc. but I had nowhere to take the cats. Plus, I stubbornly wanted to be in my house to make sure the pipes weren’t freezing and bursting. I was ready to go down with the ship, like Royal Tenenbaum’s ideal epitaph.

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I have a woodstove that kept the house in the ’40’s during the outage, which was sufficient to sustain life and keep the pipes from freezing. I also have a gas range so I could boil water, and do a little cooking. But all in all it was a miserable and dehumanizing experience. The cats crouched and stared at me accusingly, and the three of us burrowed into sleeping bags and fleece blankets on a pad in front of the fire at night. Dirty, stressed, sleep deprived from feeding the glowing-sided baby chunks of wood throughout the night, refrigerator full of rotting food with no way to effectively clean it. Where I once loved the smell of woodsmoke, I began to thoroughly detest it on my clothes and greasy hair.

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I read at night by flashlight, made coffee in the mornings in the French press, and rigged the garage door so I could manually open and close it. At night, I pulled Finn in; in the mornings, I pulled him out so I could sit in the driveway with the engine running to charge my phone and check the DTE outage map. It never seemed to change. I didn’t receive any estimate on when my power would go back on, no responses to my emails. When I called to check my status, I was informed by a robotic voice that they could not match my phone number with my account even though I was looking right at my account with that phone number on my mobile app. I know that they had linemen working around the clock to bring people back up, and they brought in many crews from other states to assist – I don’t blame them for the outage. But it would have been nice to have a bit of an idea as to when I could expect power back. For a few bad moments, I was pretty sure I was going to run out of wood.

I did pretty well for the first 48 hours or so but the last night & day, it really took its toll on me. I realized how quickly the situation brought me down. I imagined I was living in “Dr. Zhivago”. I’d wake at night and see the moon hanging in the branches of the willow tree and feel entirely alone, with no connection to the outside world (except for regular messages from my brother, who has bottomless loyalty and empathy, and never failed to make me laugh). It made me think of the poem “The Moon and the Yew Tree”:

The moon is no door. It is a face in its own right,
White as a knuckle and terribly upset.
It drags the sea after it like a dark crime; it is quiet
With the O-gape of complete despair. I live here.

I probably could have made it another 24 hours, getting down to the last of my woodpile; I was at Home Depot buying batteries and Envirocare logs, which my brother had suggested, when I got the notification that my power was back on. I didn’t believe it; the app had told me the same thing several times while I was actually sitting in the freezing house, staring at it as it cycled back towards “OOOOPS OUR BAD, YOUR POWER IS NOT ACTUALLY RESTORED!! LOL”. I drove home quickly; the dentist next door was still running his generator. I ran up the steps, greeted Emmett in the foyer with a head scratch, and flicked the light switch. Nothing. I sagged with disappointment and then girded myself for another dark, cold night. Then I heard a beep from the kitchen and the grinding noise of the furnace waking up in the depths of the basement. I flicked the switch again and stared at the miracle of modern electricity.

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I guess the upside to a few days of inconvenience is the realization of how blessed I am to live the life I do. It humbled me and made me ashamed at how many people live without the daily blessings that I take for granted; power. Heat. Water. The knowledge that I have safety and a roof and the ability to take care of myself, my child, my pets.

I cleaned the house, vacuumed, ran the washer and dryer, took a blistering hot bath perfumed with lots of scented bubbles; slept ten hours in my own bed, with the humidifier and the heated mattress pad cranked up to the max, and woke in the morning stretching and sighing in utter bliss. I had coffee while catching up on my Internet tasks. I picked a Sarah Blondin meditation before going to fetch Miss L (and take her dad and stepmom a dozen donuts to say thank you) – and the meditation was perfect:

“to the wealth that waits for me to turn my gaze toward it; to the simple, the plain, the ordinary life I get to live, I would like to say thank you; I would like to share my most sincere gratitude and love and appreciation to the simple, the plain, the ordinary life I get to live. I would like to say a most sincere thank you for all of the glory that waits for me to turn my gaze toward it. I thank you. I love you. I thank you.”

murder, malpractice, arson, harassment, and thin mints.

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This weekend didn’t feel much like a weekend, except for the relaxing evening I spent binge-watching old episodes of Forensic Files on Netflix. I think I’ve spoken about my love of true crime before, and my addiction to a variety of true crime podcasts. What can I say? It started young. I had a biography of Ed Gein on my bookshelves in high school. I’m sure the woman behind the counter at our town bookshop (“The Printed Word”) thought I was ’round the bend when I slapped that baby down on the old-timey glass topped counter (probably along with the current rolled-up paper horoscope and the latest “Seventeen” magazine). So anyway. My brother & I were DM’ing and I sent him a pic of a screenshot and then of course Facebook did that thing where it puts together a slideshow of your photos with a suggested title in case you want to share it and no lie, it was a picture of my cats and this screenshot of the creepy Forensic Files mad bomber that I’d sent to my brother and the suggested title, in purple neon, was “Big Friday Night!” I had to laugh. Fuck you Zuckerberg.

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Yesterday I was asked back to “role play” at a workshop for prospective mediators-in-training. I took this course two years ago and really enjoyed it (and actually it’s not only where I learned to mediate, it’s where I was exposed to meditation, seriously, for the first time). The past two years I’ve been asked back to role play during 4 test mediations and I really enjoy it, even if it means giving up a Saturday. I was a grieving widow, the amputee victim of medical malpractice, a young female victim of sexual harassment and retaliation, and an insurance adjuster investigating an arson claim. I prepare for all my roles and really get into it.

Miss L is in the thick of Girl Scout cookie season so this morning it was up and at ’em to another cookie booth. It was the last one this year and hopefully by the grace of God I can someday shake the nickname of the “Pusher” around Widget Central. (Pronounced “POOOOSHER”. As in – “you want cookies? Go see the POOOOOOSHER in Legal. She’ll hook you up.” *sniff* *furtive glance* *wipe nose* *slink off*) And if you haven’t already, try Breyer’s line of Girl Scout cookie ice cream. The Thin Mint ice cream goes right to the vein.

Hope you all had a lovely weekend of whatever it is you like to do. xo

Betsie Bay Frozen 5k & warm snap skiing

Over the long President’s Day weekend, Jax & I loaded the kids (Miss L and his 2 teenagers – well, one is almost a teenager) into Finn (my Subaru Outback) and went north. There were running shoes in our bags and skis in the luggage box on the roof and we made good use of them over the weekend. On Saturday morning, Jax & I and his son B ran the Betsie Bay Frozen 5k. This is a great little event that supports nonprofits in the Frankfort / Elberta area, aka my happy place. A February event in the Betsie Bay area is typically snowy and arctic, but this year’s weird winter made it a perfect springlike run, with temps in the mid to upper ’40’s.

The event starts about halfway up the steep hill to the Elberta bluff, which overlooks Lake Michigan. It’s a perfect pre-race photo opp, with the lake, the Frankfort lighthouse and dunes in the background. Because parking is limited up on the bluff overlook, runners pick up their packets at the Frankfort American Legion hall and are bussed over to the start. It’s such a fun way to meet other runners and I hadn’t ridden on a school bus in years.

The first 100 meters or so is a sharp downhill, which is the perfect start for a race as far as I’m concerned (although I don’t know how they manage it during a normal winter – I could envision a pileup of runners at the icy, snowy bottom!) I’m a slow start runner so anything that forces me to go out at goal pace warms me up faster and usually improves my overall time. Next, you run through small Elberta, past the Cabbage Shed restaurant (the owners were outside with signs advising us that after the race, we’d more than earned a pint or two of Guinness) and out onto M-22, where you cross over the mouth of the Betsie River and wind down onto Main Street in Frankfort. The course is fairly flat after the initial downhill, and the locals come out to cheer you on, and the bus drivers that dropped you off are passing you on the road, honking and yelling their support. I surprised myself with a 27.18 finish, not a PR but a strong performance for me in a mid-winter event when my training has been spotty (I still got schooled by a lady in her 60’s and another lady pushing a stroller!! This event is stacked). Jax & B harbored secret hopes of placing, but had to content themselves with placing in their age groups only, as the event was chock full of Traverse City Track Club runners who blew everyone’s doors off. This was actually disappointing as there were tons of raffle items and little prizes for the top places. More so than any event I frequent, the local merchants and businesses donated a lot of cool swag and I was a bit deflated to walk away with nothing but my swag bag (not even my shirt – it was too big so I gave it to B).

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Miss L watching me come through the homestretch. She ran me in from here. ❤

 

On Sunday, we enjoyed skiing at nearby Crystal Mountain in 50-degree temps. Rather, Jax & his kids skiied while Miss L took her first-ever lesson and I sat on a hay bale in the sunshine, knitting and feeling happy to watch her joy. I’d paid for a 2-hour group session, but the warm temps had apparently diminished the attendance levels, so Miss L had a ski instructor all to herself. Midway through the lesson, they took a snack break for hot chocolate and L stripped off her jacket and finished the lesson in her shirtsleeves. She was a quick study and as I sat there watching her, I thought that few things in life are as pleasing as watching your child learn something new, have adventures, and accomplish things.

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The face of a happy mom.

After her lesson, Jax and his daughter took L on some of the easy hills so she could get good use out of her new skills. I knitted away and after an hour or so, Jax came down the hill, followed by a little pink streak who swooshed by me and came to an expert stop a few feet away.

 


Yup, Miss L is a natural on skiis, and reminded me of Little My in “Moominland Midwinter”, learning to skate on table knives and toboggan on a silver tray, wrapped in a tea cosy.

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we are hope, despite the times

These are unprecedented times – the combination of a very controversial and highly charged political atmosphere and instantaneous information via social media. It feels like there’s no way to step away and if I do step away, I’m failing in my duty to remain alert, informed, and supportive of the political causes that I support.

But I also believe that no one can win arguments online and there is a hysteria / mob mentality online that ratchets everything up to panic mode. I don’t have any answers about how to deal with this situation and I don’t have any answers about how we mend the divisiveness in the country right now. I’m forced to step back every so often, take 24-hour Facebook & Twitter detoxes, and do other things. (I also really want to try to understand why people feel the way they feel, but you can’t ask anyone their opinion on Facebook or Twitter without getting into an argument; this week I read articles like this and this.) I don’t want to fight anyone or hate anyone but I also don’t want to see anyone else discriminated against or hassled on the basis of their skin color, ethnic background, religion or gender. It seems simple to me, live and let live, but it’s just not.

I knew I needed to take a breather when I had an intense dream that Donald Trump was our new boss at work and coming to each of our offices to grill us. It was especially vivid and I woke up startled. So this week I got some new books piled up on my bedside table (“At Home in the World by Thich Nhat Hanh, “Jerusalem Book 1” by Alan Moore – which is quite bizarre – and “The Happiness Equation” by Neil Pasricha – I’m trying to read more nonfiction books this year on a variety of topics). And I hung out with my faves. Miss L was “Leader of the Week” at school so I left work (where, contrary to my subconscious musings, Donald Trump was NOT) to bring her a special Panera lunch and eat with her in her cafeteria. And last night we went back to my alma mater to check out the Michigan women’s gymnastics team’s win over Nebraska!

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Tickets are really inexpensive and the meet was fun – great music, constant activity, and Miss L – whose attention span can be short if she’s not constantly engaged in the proceedings, or well equipped with snacks – was entranced. She got her poster signed by a few members of the team after the meet and you know I don’t usually share pics of her in this forum but you can take my word that she was on Cloud 9. Afterwards, we had a girls’ dinner at Casey’s in Ann Arbor, across from the Amtrak train station – it was hopping! We had burgers and root beer and it was a welcome refuge from a week of angst.

The boys are doing really well, their Prozac has taken effect and although I keep them separated when I’m gone for longish periods of time – when I’m at work, or at Jax’s – when I’m home or just running errands they’re out together and there haven’t been any incidents of violence.

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This week I was watching a documentary on Netflix about trappers who live in the Russian Taiga and Sarge was dead asleep in one of his favorite places.

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On the documentary, the trapper’s dog began barking and snarling and digging at a hollow log to dislodge a sable. The sable burst forth hissing and chattering and Sarge came bolt upright, his eyes wild. The dog and the sable began an epic battle and Sarge jumped down off his chair and rushed to the TV. He was riveted to the scene even after the dog subdued the sable (it was actually kind of gross) and sat there for the longest time.

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I’ve only had one other cat that watched television and it was crazy tiger striped Salem who loved the leopard in “Bringing Up Baby” with Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant.

I hope wherever you are this Sunday you are enjoying yourselves and your loved ones and staying sane in this crazy time, no matter which side of the fence you are on.

xoxo

christmas + obligatory cat pictures

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Happy Boxing Day! I hope everyone out in Readerland had a relaxing and peaceful holiday, whichever one you personally celebrate. For us, it’s Christmas. Lily and I drove home from the beautiful North on Christmas Eve. As I’ve alluded to in the past, I am blessed to have an amazing relationship with Lil’s dad and his partner Miss K. They are celebrating their Christmas later this week with his family, so they had no problems letting me take Lily on both Christmas Eve and Christmas morning. I won’t see her for over a week now, but I know she will be having an amazing time with her grandparents and with her dad and Miss K. I could not be luckier or more appreciative when it comes to all the loving and generous people in Lily’s life on both sides of her family. I don’t know how it all happened, how we forgave each other and moved into a new phase, but I know that Miss K has a huge heart and has been instrumental in it, too.

Jax and his family are traveling this week, so I am essentially on my own. I’ll work a few days – the office is extremely quiet during this time, so it’s a “wear jeans and come and go as you please” kind of atmosphere, with all of the Executive Shirts out. I plan on doing a lot of knitting this week and finishing up the Karl Pilkington oeuvre on Netflix, as well as the American Horror Story: Coven that I started. I plan on making a couple of warming dishes – white bean and ham soup, and a One-Pan Mexican Quinoa which I’ve made before, and I just love. I will hit up the gym and stock the fridge and freezer and get a jump start on my January detox with some smoothies and supplements. I have a special night out planned later this week, and then Jax and the kiddos and Izzy the Dog will be back for a cozy New Year’s Eve with pajamas, lasagna, and snacks. (Maybe some wine for me before aforementioned January detox…)

Enjoy your week! xoxo

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