Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Chance Encounter

A few weeks ago we were dealing with a seemingly endless stretch of high humidity and even higher temperatures (rather unusual in the upper peninsula) which had sent us all indoors to air conditioners or kept us permanently entrenched at the beach. Finally, the temperature and humidity had come down some on Friday, allowing us to finally open windows and venture outdoors without fear of heat exhaustion. Clay had left for a weekend golf tournament and I am lying awake in bed, unaccustomed to the night noises after the steady drone of the air conditioner for so long.

I glance at the clock seeing it read after four in the morning, listening to the soft breeze rustle the leaves outside my window, and wonder what had woke me. The ceiling fan stirs the summer air around the room, and I get up deciding to check on Isabelle next door. I find her tangled in her white sheet, arms spread wide, bleached blonde hair a smear across her pillow in that carefree, puppy-like way that only children sleep. I do the mother-thing and place a light hand on her chest to feel her steady heartbeat strong inside her chest and place a kiss upon her forehead before slipping out the door of her room. For some reason I wander into the office, the furniture in shadow, as I step to the open window and look out on the front yard. And then I see her.

She is laying with her legs neatly tucked underneath her in the middle of my large flowerbed of myrtle, which encompasses six full size oaks. Like a queen on her dais she slowly lowers her delicate brown head to the lush green plants to nibbles off leaves and then raises it to survey the subdivision with her liquid black eyes. The doe's body is large and well-formed, paired with a graceful long neck, tapering into two elongated ears that are flickering back and forth, catching all of the tiny night noises. A slight gleam is coming off of her coat where it reflects the glare of the tall street light just slightly down the way.

I catch myself holding my breath, frozen in place, gazing at this lovely, wild creature which is such a common sight at my camp but more out of place, laying in my very public front yard. But these a.m. hours are a time when the human world and the animal one overlap and blur more easily .... when the neighbors we don't see venture out. And so a chance meeting.

Suddenly the doe shifts her gaze looking directly at the window I am standing in, and I realize I must have made some sound to give away my presence. We both look at one another for a full minute, not moving, before I back away and leave her. After all, this is her time. I crawl back into my bed, where the sheets feel slightly cooler against my skin, and doze off feeling somehow privileged to have met my nighttime visitor.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

I Love Where I Live

Now I know many of you think I am nuts, but I love where I live. By all accounts it is a miserable day by most people's standards ... 15 degrees outside, several inches of snow on the ground, and roads sloppy with slush and snow. Every car I see is covered with a combination of dirt, grime, salt, and grey snow, muting their shiny paint jobs into something nondescript and dismal. We all trudge through an inch or two of new fallen snow from last night which has yet to be shoveled, most with our chins tucked into collars of jackets. And the kids are bundled in head to toe snow gear for the playground at school.

It is the time of year when I cannot keep my kitchen floor clean because some foolhardy builder did not see fit to place a mudroom coming in off of the garage and so one enters my house directly onto said kitchen floor. Despite my best attempts to have my family remove shoes in the garage this does not always occur, and I continually wage war with the outside mess that comes with winter. This combines with having no ideal place to put all of the wet clothing a five year old inevitably will bring indoors and promptly fling all over. Sigh.

Nevertheless. I love where I live, and this was demonstrated to me again in various little ways today as I went about my weekly errands. Like driving next to Lake Michigan with all the rugged ice shacks dotting the frozen bay, fisherman already sitting snug inside, while big, fat white flakes swirled around in the sky. I will never get tired of that view. Or perhaps pulling into the store parking lot in time to see a gentleman rescue a woman from what would have been a nasty fall in the slippery parking lot, by quickly grabbing her arm. I shared a laugh with them as I got out of my car and exchanged a few quips about "skiing at Walmart" minus the hill. Later, as I pulled out of the same parking lot I watched as another man, who had just pulled in, got out of his car, walked over to another and proceeded to open the door of a neighboring truck. To steal it? No, to shut off the headlights which must have been left on by its owner. Smiling to myself I watched as he anonymously did his good deed, shut the door, and walked into the store.

It is these little acts of kindness that are all around me on a daily basis that I love the most about living here. The fact that when I walk around my grocery store I exchange "Good Mornings" with over a dozen people even though I don't know any of them by name because people are just that friendly. Or that I can teasingly argue with the guy who bags my groceries about the upcoming Packers/Steelers Superbowl game and half the people around us will join in on the conversation. It is a wonderful community and perhaps nicest of all it reminds you that despite all of the not so beautiful news we see and hear all too often in the media, most people are good-hearted, honest souls. And couldn't we all use that reminder every now and again?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Joy

With only a few days left until Christmas I remarked to my father just last night that it was quite possible Isabelle's head might just explode right of off her shoulders from all of the excitement contained therein. The child has been something akin to a loaded stick of dynamite for the entire month of December, her little body a time bomb, bursting with enough positive energy, joy, enthusiasm, and Christmas mania to power a small city.

I have often thought if people who are sad around this time of year or live alone could just "rent" a kid for a couple of hours to remind them what a thrill it is this time of year before the big fat man arrives, then no one would be depressed. For instance, I just returned from my grocery shopping today armed with carrots, as my daughter requested, for after visiting with Santa at her school last week, she informed me the reindeer could not possibly eat anything else. Why you ask? "Because Mom, Santa said that candy and sugar will make the reindeer do loop-de-loops with the sleigh." (this said with a very serious and solemn face). So, this house will be leaving carrots out for the reindeer this year.

As another pocket on the advent calendar is opened, I try to remind myself not to let the days just slip by unnoticed, to not get lost in the business of wrapping and baking and rushing that comes with the holidays. All too soon this Christmas will be behind me and Isabelle will be another year older. Although, if Isabelle is like me at all, old St. Nick will always be magical to her, regardless of how grown-up she becomes. Merry Christmas everyone.

Monday, October 11, 2010


My fall days have a certain rhythm and color to them. Blaze red is the dominant hue, fitting for fall, but for me the color of September and October because it is the shade of my kitchen cabinets in our camp, and I am in the process of finishing them. The base cabinets are installed and done, the countertop is ordered. The upper cabinets are scattered on the floor of my garage... six doors on saw horses, shiny with their third and final coat of semi-gloss Blaze red, the cabinet boxes sprawled around them like wounded soldiers, covered in their primer coat which is, funnily enough, pink. Next for them will come sanding, vacuuming, and three coats of red. And still, six more small doors, wait stacked in a corner as yet, untouched.

When Isabelle is in school I am there, brush in hand, radio perhaps playing in the background, watching the paint flow from the brush, back and forth in smooth motions, witnessing how the doors change from rough wood to something sleek and glossy. I like how the wood grain still shows through, letting you know that you can dress it up, but it is still going to be what it always was. Something solid to hold onto. Something that lasts like a memory. Hopefully, like our camp will be for our family.

I do not know what it is about painting, but it has always possessed a zen-like quality for me, even now when I am getting heartily sick of it, after painting all of the rooms, interior doors, and even a set of closet doors for camp this summer, it still quiets my mind. Perhaps because it is simple... at the end I look around and I see what I have accomplished. There is satisfaction in seeing what your hands have done. Perhaps because so much in this world is not black and white, done or not done. I relish the fact that in this instance I have an achievable goal, and even more wonderful, I know what the final product, the outcome, will be. So, I seek my solace in painting when all life's what if's and everything I cannot control become too much. For now, I will narrow my focus to painting the most beautiful blaze red upper kitchen cabinets anyone has even seen.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Train

There are train tracks that run not too far from our house and down the hill (what the entire local population calls the Bluff, for it is, actually, just that, which stretches all along the shore of Lake Michigan) from our little neighborhood. At the bottom of the Bluff is the rail yard where sometimes in the summer, when the windows are open you can hear the train cars clang together. Train whistles are common and, because of this often go unnoticed, even in the early morning hours, for as with anything you adjust to your surroundings.

Which is how I always know when I am more agitated or stressed or worried. I start hearing the train that comes through sometime during the 6:00 a.m. hour. Even when the windows are closed against the sudden chill of fall air, the sound pierces my slumber. The engineer has to blow his whistle at the one road crossing to warn any potential cars, and I swear he gives a shorter blast then typical on account of the early hour (as if apologetic to all of us still abed) and the very light traffic the road receives, but I awaken all the same.

Yet my mind is also like a freight train these days (heck, all summer) in keeping with our pace as we work on finishing the interior of our camp, attempting to stay afloat with all the day to day minutiae of running a household, and now with Isabelle starting kindergarten. My emotions have run the gamut that all parents do .... happy, proud, and a maybe a tiny bit sad to know one phase is over, but mostly anxious.... anxious because it is in my nature to worry and because I want her to above all be happy and content and to do well ..... what EVERY parent wants for his or her own child.

But we get on many new trains during the course of our lives so, we climbed on board our new one this week and Isabelle went off to elementary school and had a fantastic first day as we told her she would despite her own jitters. And despite my over-active mind, and the six a.m. train whistle I keep hearing I too, am going to enjoy this ride just like I have enjoyed all the others. Sometimes you just have to get used to the sound of the wheels on the tracks.

Monday, August 9, 2010

This and That and Everything Else

Whoever invented the phrase "the lazy days of summer" has not been living my summer. Is it fall yet? Holy cow! Holy Whah! (That is Yooper phraseology for you clueless types) Holy Batman! ( I just like to say that one, and I have no idea why). In a whirlwind of mowing lawns, taking Isabelle to soccer, running errands, working on camp, painting various parts of camp, visiting family, going on play dates, cleaning house, teaching Isabelle to ride a bike with no training wheels (yes, big girl now!), going to the beach, and did I mention being a slave to working on camp? It has been an INSANELY busy, chaotic,summer. Mostly in a good way, mind you.

Camp is looking fantastic. We have walls.... and they are even painted now, thanks to me. We have a bathroom floor, a toilet that works, and beautiful red interior doors that are also installed. Today we had carpet laid in the bedrooms courtesy of a good friend. I am currently painting closet doors for the large bedroom, but it has been so hot and humid I have been dreading going in the garage to do more. We have had a few gatherings out there now with family and friends, and it has been wonderful and fun and makes us more excited for the future when we truly have it up and running.

Isabelle's soccer went well, although I think she was more into picking flowers in the field then being overly aggressive and going after the ball. Although, suddenly in the last two weeks or so something seemed to click with her, and she really started participating in the games more. Skill-wise she is very good and had strong ball control for a five year old. And hard to believe but we are not far away from the start of school. I already started getting her school supplies together and am checking what she needs as far as clothes for this year. Gulp!

I have mowed some serious lawn this year and have become quite adept at wielding the machine. My next house will not have such a big hill, I can tell you that! And a riding lawn mower would be appreciated, although my legs probably look better then they have in years, so I should not complain, right? In a cruel twist of irony we have had one of the rainiest summers in many years, so the grass is growing a ridiculous amount, making the lawn mowing outings very frequent..... too bad I do not get paid, huh?

We also sat for a professional family photo last week (just the three of us as well as my parents and my brother's family). This was no small undertaking, considering the large amount of adults in my family (myself and Clay included) who strongly dislike having our photo taken, but as it was a gift to celebrate my parent's 40th wedding anniversary we "sucked it up" and figured we had better get some shots of just the three of us as well, since the likelihood of us doing this again was slim at best. Of course, the most breath-taking shots were of the children (Isabelle and my niece and nephew) running on the beach at the end of our shoot. Holding hands, with pure joy etched across their faces, the sunlight glistening off their hair, our photographer, Jake, captured them forever in a stolen moment of bliss where the world was perfect. Years from now I wonder if they will look back at those photos and recall how that memory, that moment, felt. If they will remember? I hope so. Watching them, I know we all will.

So, here is to the "lazy days" of summer, insanity and all.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Mama Said There Would Be Days Like This

Sometimes I think God must be up there in heaven just laughing his "you know what" off at my expense, as he watches me try to negotiate this path called motherhood. I recall begging, pleading, praying, and practically offering to sell my soul, if I could just have a child during those couple of years of trying and failing with pregnancies. So, it seems to me it must have been humorous to the big guy to be able to give us our most-spirited Isabelle and say, "You want a child so bad? Here you go! Let's see what you got!"

Not that my child is like the Devil Incarnate or something because such is not the case (and do not misundersatnd me, I would not trade her for any amount of money!) but she is definitely a kid we could all classify as .... more in the "challenging" category of child-rearing. (Either that or I truly am completely an idiot mother, perhaps a topic for another post, as on many days I feel like one). Ironically, most of the personality-traits that are driving me absolutely insane at the moment (stubbornness, strong-will, assertiveness,) will be assets as an adult. The problem lies in that they need to be paired with self-control and respect. And why is it, can please anyone tell me, that a child who has never been given anything EVER when she whines STILL continues to whine when she wants something, needs something, doesn't get her way, or in general is just not happy? Whining has not worked for five years! Does she think that now, suddenly in the midst of the fifth, I might finally break?!

But this is the life and the two sides of my five year old right now for better or worse. Example One: My darling daughter threw a mad, full-on tantrum over (wait for it) what sandals she could or could not wear on a bike ride through the neighborhood. (In case you are wondering a full tantrum these days consists of yelling, stomping feet, screaming, and lots of general unhappiness). However, pair this with the same child, who in the store shopping is a perfect angel, helping put groceries in the cart, smiling at customers, even telling one lady that she "liked her shirt" and wished they "made that shirt in kid size." As we walk away from the same woman, she whispers to me (rather loudly so the woman overhears), "Mommy, wasn't she pretty?" I answer in the affirmative, and as I turn out of the aisle, catch a glimpse of the woman grinning from ear to ear, and I know that Isabelle has just made her day.

Example Two: Isabelle has a rather explosive tantrum over putting on a new four-wheeler helmet (in front of all four grandparents, no less, and do not lose it people; the helmet is for riding WITH an adult on the four-wheeler) after which I am left questioning my parental skills. Picture red-face screaming hysterics like I am scarring the child for life because I asked her to try on a helmet and protect her skull from harm. Yet, ten minutes later she puts the helmet on of her own volition, and it is all okay. (Mind you, she NEVER would have put that helmet on if I had not forced the issue to begin with.... I have been down this road many times with my daughter. Even though I am certain I looked like some kind of evil Nazi dictator at the time!) A day later she suddenly decides it looks cool and is decorating it with her stickers. But again, pair this evil behavior with the same child, who on her field trip to Public Safety, was the only child in her class totally not shy around the police and fire fighters and according to her teachers said to one of the officers, "Thanks for keeping our world safe," and shook the officer's hand.

Yes, there you have it. On one hand, you have the tantrum-throwing, temper-flaring, cannot be reasoned with, near out of control child, who at times acts more like she is three rather then five. On the other, you have a well-spoken, polite and incredibly helpful and thoughtful child who seems to be every bit the five year old. If I did not know better I would say I had two identical twin girls or that I was in some weird version of the "Twilight Zone," but I digress.

So, what do I honestly take from Isabelle's extreme mood swings? That she is a schizophrenic? Possibly (ha, ha), but more likely she is just five, and while I am alternating between pride and exasperation, joy and frustration, laughter and tears at her antics, I try to remind myself, she too, is negotiating through her own still developing emotions, and they are a lot to handle. And part of my job is to teach her how to handle them. So, I ask God to swallow his chuckles as I fumble my way through this and grant me PATIENCE and GUIDANCE and perhaps still even more patience. Isabelle and I will both survive her childhood (I just might be in a padded room when all is said and done!).