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.”

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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autumnal things

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Life has been a whirlwind of fall activities and general busyness, mixed in with angry cats still peeing on things, flu shots, hating Donald Trump, and wishing the weather were different. You know, the usual. The weather, at least, has finally started to cooperate, with rain and gloom (YASSSS!)  but it was unseasonably warm for several days and Miss L’s first pumpkin melted into slime on the porch. Luckily, one of our fall activities is our annual orchard trip with my brother and family tomorrow, so hopefully we can pick up another.

Other fall activities have included Girl Scout Core Camp (which I live tweeted – link in my sidebar), the book fair at school (I ran the cash register for a shift and realized how much happier I would be if I could get paid what I earn at Widget Central to do that as my real job), and preparing for Trunk or Treat next week. I’d planned on making all of Finn’s decorations out of crepe paper and construction paper and posterboard but who am I kidding. I can barely remember to take out the trash and I have a rotted pumpkin on my porch. I spent $20 on some preprinted cutouts on Amazon and Bob’s your uncle – done.

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After my recent running ennui, I am starting to get back into the rhythm of heading out for a few miles every couple of days or so. No pressure. No watch. Tricking myself into liking it again.

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the 5k that should have been a half. you can’t see him, but my dad is over on the left in that triumphant finish line pic, just out of the frame.

I’m also knitting a lot. My mom’s cowl is almost done and I actually knitted up a cute little Christmas tree decoration out of forest green alpaca. It was still on the needles waiting for bind-off when Sarge, one of the angry peeing cats mentioned above, rummaged in my knitting bag one day. He found it on it’s very attractive wooden needle and dragged it out of the bag, around the house until the needle fell out, the stitches unraveled, and he drowned what was left of it in his water dish. That was discouraging – not gonna lie.
He and his brother Emmett went to the vet last week for a checkup and a refill of their prescription. This was a traumatic experience for all of us. Getting two angry cats to the vet is no joke. They each had to have blood drawn…Emmett did fine, and then they took Sarge back. Miss L and I waited in the examining room without much concern. Sarge is pretty laid-back and during his last vet visit, he charmed all of the nurses. I assured them that he would be easy. After about five minutes, however, we heard a blood-curdling yowl that echoed through the entire cinder block office. Sarge came back with a walleyed nurse, gave us all a dirty look, sat down on the floor, licked his butt, and shook his paw until his pink bandage flew off. We got home, got everyone settled in their separate rooms, and the pharmacy called to advise me cheerfully that the chicken liver flavored feline Prozac is back ordered indefinitely. That’s just great, I thought. So for awhile longer, we live in chaos. The bright side of this is that I found a great recipe for stain removal on Pinterest.

So that’s the update. I hope things are well in your neck of the woods.

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october hunter’s supermoon as seen from gs camp and as photographed on my crap iphone camera.

labor day

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Although I generally hold a low opinion of humanity en masse, at times I can’t deny our basic sameness. It amazes me sometimes that the things that make me happy make so many other people happy, too; different backgrounds, values, personalities, cultures, and yet, this long weekend, we fought for elbow room in the same places to do the same things. We were drawn to blue sky and shimmering expanses of water. We were drawn to sunsets and the sight of the milky way over a cooling sand dune. We were drawn to shallow brown rivers warm under a bright sun.

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There’s some aspect of our humanity that is drawn to these things, that feeds off these sights and feelings and sounds, we’re similarly nourished by them even though we might not know why or even that we are; we just know we want to be close to them.
After this weekend, Up North will start to return to its off season. The crowds will dissipate and the hours of sunlight will decrease. The woods and the water will become cold and the seasonal businesses, the farm stands and ice cream parlors, will shutter for the long, drifted winter. I sat on the beach off Peterson Road and thought that it was almost unbelievable that in just a few short weeks, the hot sun will be gone. No more bright towels and dogs in the waves, toddlers with sand pails and adults drowsing under umbrellas – just a stretch of grey, icy shore under a slate grey sky, scoured by wind and snow. There’s something deeply satisfying about that cycle.

traditions and history

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It was a hell of a week for me on just about every front. I had three significant presentations, a huge project due, a new lawyer starting in my department, my clothes dryer is on the fritz, and I had social obligations on top of it. Midweek, my hands and feet began itching and I noticed the beginnings of a rash climbing up my torso and so I stopped taking my antibiotic – just in time. Apparently the urgent care doctor was INCORRECT when he told me that he’d CHECKED my chart and ma’am you are MISTAKEN – you are not allergic to amoxicillin, you are allergic to azithromycin. This didn’t sound right but who am I to argue – besides, I was helplessly drooling on my Pumas to avoid having to swallow. I wouldn’t have cared if I puffed up like the Michelin man if it had cured my strep throat. Sorry Doc, you must have checked the wrong chart, because I narrowly avoided a full-on reaction.

Jax & I took our kids to the Spring Game at the Big House. I was really tired from my week and not particularly in the mood to battle Ann Arbor parking and traffic, but it was Miss L’s first time at a Michigan game (even though it was just the spring scrimmage).  I wasn’t a huge sports fan while I attended Michigan, but the years have made me fonder of the grand Michigan traditions, and football is one of them. Coming up the road and seeing the block M and the flags fluttering in the blue sky made my chest hurt with mingled pride and excitement.

The weather was chilly and blustery but the clouds parted for the game. It was somewhat under-attended compared to a real fall game – maybe only 30-40,000 in a stadium that can seat close to 115,000. With the comparatively reduced crowds, Miss L and I were able to do a lot of staring at this fella.

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There was even a guest rapper who warmed up the crowd with a stirring remix of a song he originally penned when Harbaugh was in San Fran. Who’s got it better than us? Miss L & I took great joy in bellowing the response “NO-BOD-EEEEE!!!” in every refrain. I think she’s a Wolverine for life now and I am satisfied.

This morning was a quick jaunt down to Detroit’s Riverfront for a Brownie troop field trip at our Department of Natural Resources Outdoor Activity Center. I really admire our troop leaders, who have selected some really fabulous trips and activities for us. Gleaner’s, the Parade Company in Detroit, Cranbrook Science Center, et cetera. I love to explore cool activities in our Motor City and surrounds, and in addition to giving Miss L great exposure to so many aspects of our community, I also learn something every time. For example, while the girls were earning their badges with the troop leaders, I wandered around reading placards and signs, and learned that the DNR Outdoor Activity Center occupies the old Detroit Dry Dock Company / Detroit Shipbuilding Company building.

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The building dates back to 1869 and was the construction site of many vessels, including railroad ferries and the steamers that are a fixture in the maritime history of the Great Lakes. My intrigue with the Great Lakes maritime history is shared among my family, especially my brother, and probably started with the old “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” song. Learning about the old freighters, steamers, wrecks and ghost ships is an itch that is never really fully scratched for me.

Henry Ford worked in the complex as an apprentice machinist. The buildings were closed due to the Great Depression between 1922-1929, and changed hands many times over the ensuing years.

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Many of the adjacent buildings in the complex were shuttered and demolished, which is always heartbreaking, but a pervasive problem in a city as plagued as Detroit. Luckily, a grant to the DNR helped save this building, and the Outdoor Activity Center was opened in 2015. The ribbon cutting was done by Nicole Curtis, a popular HGTV renovator and an advocate of preservation of historic buildings. She’s a Michigander herself and has done rehab / salvage work on a few historic Detroit properties, most notably the Ransom Gillis mansion.

We came home in a cold driving snow (yes, snow) and although I have more projects than I can count that could be constructively occupying my time, here I sit on the couch under a blanket, feeling sleepy and wondering if I can even stay awake to read a chapter of the new James Lee Burke novel I got from the library (“House of the Rising Sun”). It’s going to be a pizza, wine, & Netflix chill kind of night and I really couldn’t be more excited about it.

 

in which i like them apples

I don’t have any new pictures to post unless you want to see a pic of the cashmere sweater I just sold on Ebay (full price!! score!!!) — wait, I DO have this recently saved to my camera roll:

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In keeping with the disorganized theme of this post, here are a bunch of random things that I am too impatient to make full, well-written posts about individually so instead I will barf them up in no particular order here.

  • It’s snowing again. Actually, it started with rain, and when I went out to the parking lot my Camry was encased in ice. Given our school district’s antipathy towards educating our children when there is even any HINT of inclement weather, I suspect a snow day for Miss L tomorrow. Please note: It was over 60 degrees on Saturday. #puremichigan #nowonderweareallsickallthetime
  • I was standing around waiting for a meeting to start today (I was early) and idly chatting with some other (prompt) meeting participants and I noticed that two of the heavy grey leather chairs in our commons area were just…gone. There are usually two groupings of four and they are too large to be dragged around to serve as supplement seating for meetings. Plus, oddly shaped and not functional. I mentioned it and HR got a little interested and looked around and yup, NO CHAIRS. Who took them? And why? And is my job really so boring that I actually care?
  • During this same pre-meeting idyll, one of the Finance guys said bitterly, “Kids today are SOFT. We NEVER got snow days when WE were kids. If the f-ing buses couldn’t run – you had to WALK. Or your parents had to take you. Now – two inches and it’s a SNOW DAY.” See my sarcastic commentary about the dedication of our district to keeping schools open – I agree with him. We live in MICHIGAN. We should not be closing schools for anything other than a genuine polar vortex. And I want Jim Cantore over here to authorize it as such.
  • I so, so wish I could tell you all of the odd happenings with my work and my dating life. I really wish I could tell you about my shady former lawyer boss, She of the Sitting In the Parking Lot in Her Mercedes Very Very Late for Meetings Putting On her Makeup In the Rearview Mirror, and about the time one of my dates turned his car into his parking space at his modest rental community and SENT A COLONY OF ENORMOUS RATS SCATTERING INTO THE BUSHES WHERE THEY HAD SET UP A HUGE NEST. But I really try to keep things anonymous and kind over here, I seek not to embarrass anyone or call my work integrity into question, and I don’t always know who reads my blog (hi Mom) – but DAMN I wish I could tell you some things. I can, however, tell you that I am currently interviewing attorneys who will likely serve as my boss. When I tell them firmly that I am NOT a lawyer, and I speak to them forcefully and with complete frankness, I can see them receding into a tight-lipped shell of “WHO DOES SHE THINK SHE IS”. Yes, I inform them, I am not a lawyer, I will likely be reporting to you, and yet I get a say in whether or not you get to come work here. I usually do not add “HOW DO YA LIKE THEM APPLES” but today, interviewing the Donald Trump lookalike with a name like an Edgar Allan Poe novella about a casserole, I almost couldn’t restrain myself.
  • Currently reading: “Career of Evil”, Robert Galbraith – love this series, truly I do.
  • Currently watching: “An Idiot Abroad” which is just wrong. I really shouldn’t laugh myself off the couch when watching it. It’s just – wrong. But I do and I keep coming back.
  • Weather update: Still snowing. Time to go make dinner. Stay safe and warm out there. And if you are in a warmer clime than Michigan, I don’t want to hear about it but feel free to tell me “HOW DO YA LIKE THEM APPLES” because that’s just karma. xoxo

in which i don’t tempt fate

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I have only two goals today – pet store,  before Emmett chews my face off, falsely believing that he is starving, and library, since I’m finally almost done with the seemingly never-ending ‘Eye of the World’ (not a bad book by any means, just LONG, and in tiny tiny type that made it seem even more arduous) – and both of them involve leaving my driveway. This could be a problem – see below.

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In typical Michigan fashion, the snowplow came by and tossed up a wall of snow at the bottom of my driveway, which froze overnight and is now as dense, heavy, and impenetrable as ice boulders. I gunned my Camry over it twice (this was not well-thought-out) but I fear a third time, my luck would run out and I would leave my axle or some other important car part amidst the Great Wall. So, hopefully it melts a bit. In the meantime, I will just sit inside and eat Girl Scout cookies and watch the below over and over and over again.

Happy weekend. xo