Today’s My Ideal Day

[Bloganuary wants to know. It’s the WordPress blog prompt for January 13, 2022.]

Senior Dog

Today was my ideal day. I took what it gave me because thinking about what my “most ideal day looks like” would’ve taken more creative energy than I wanted to spend. Besides, no day is ideal. I cherish the days my sons were born, but labor was tough. I have fond memories of my wedding. But I spent seven hours with over a hundred people, and I had to talk to all of them. Lovely people, but I’m an introvert—I was exhausted.

So today had its blessings—

My senior dog didn’t wake me at 4:00 a.m. to go outside. Once or twice a week she knocks on my door. She wants to go outside and pee. She doesn’t have opposable thumbs, so I get out of bed and turn the doorknobs for her. But this morning she let me sleep.

I wrote a shitty first draft of an essay this morning. When I started to slow down and think too much about finding the perfect word or writing a better sentence, I went all Anne Lamott on myself: Write don’t revise, get the thoughts on paper—all the thoughts, on the paper, now! Regardless of spelling, grammar, punctuation. Without care for lyricism or flow or insight. When I finished, I had almost 1,300 words. I can’t have more than 500 for the piece I want to submit. But I’ve got a chunk of wood to carve into a sculptured essay. (I hope.) I saved the file, feeling a little smug about all the crap I had on my shitty draft. I gave myself permission to not think about the essay until tomorrow.

I talked to a friend, my mother, my sister, and my nephew. Four conversations with people I love, but who don’t live in my house. I talked to a clerk at Honest Dog Books and ordered a book. The bookstore is an hour and a half away, but sometimes I order books from there because the clerk remembers me. The staff writes a note to me and tosses in a couple of paper bookmarks when they ship my order. The book I ordered is being shipped to my nephew. He’s getting an autographed copy of Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. She visited Bayfield, Wisconsin, this summer, wandered into Honest Dog, and signed some of her books that were on the shelves. My copy of Writing Down the Bones is unsigned. But no day is perfect, not even an ideal day.

I put on a white turtleneck, a red winter-themed sweater, and a pair of garnet earrings someone gifted me. A couple of weeks ago, I decided I needed to stop wearing the same three turtlenecks my mother bought me in 2003. So, each day I find something in my closet that I haven’t worn for a while and I wear it. I do this even if I don’t leave the house, which is most days. Turns out I like dressing up a little to stay home. Reminds me of my nana wearing a house dress to do her laundry and scrub her floors. I did neither of those chores today. Those aren’t ideal-day activities.

I went to two coffee shops. Not to meet anyone. I don’t go inside places without a mask. I won’t eat or drink coffee in public spaces—I’m not removing the mask. I dropped off bookmarks and hung posters to advertise a writing contest. I bought two cupcakes to go in the first coffee shop, one for me and one for my husband. I ate mine as soon as I got home. I bought a mocha coffee to go in the second coffee shop. It paired nicely with my cupcake.

Wally

Wally, the brilliant squirrel who hacks my birdfeeders, stopped by to eat. He stood on the baffle, meant to keep him out of the feeder, and feasted on seeds. I washed dishes because it gave me an excuse to watch him steal bird food. Washing dishes isn’t ideal, but neither is looking at dirty dishes.

My senior dog needed to go to the vet for a shot. She’s had to go for a series of them. She wants to leave before we get in the door. But she’s always gracious to the vet and the assistants, who are kind and gentle with her and always say how much they love her.

I decided not to cook supper tonight. Leftovers are wonderful. But I made mashed potatoes for tomorrow’s homemade ham-and-bean soup that I’ll make in the morning.

Something I wrote yesterday made someone feel better. My husband loved the cupcake I brought home for him. My dogs enjoyed their evening walk.

It’s late and the house is quiet. I’m the only one up. The wind is howling outside, but I’m snug in my winter-themed sweater.

It wasn’t a perfect day, but it was my ideal day.

Day 30—A Gift of Kindness in Silver and Garnet

Today’s earrings arrived in the mail on November 4, 2021, otherwise known as “Day 11” in my series of blogs about earrings.

I began blogging about my earrings because I was having a blue day on October 25. I decided I needed to do something like I did before the pandemic. That something became earrings. I often wore earrings before the pandemic, so I decided for thirty days in a row, I’d wear a different pair each day and blog about them.

Wearing the earrings did make me feel better. Blogging about them gave something to write about. Having a friend proofread my blogs provided camaraderie.

Some stories came together easier than others. Some days I babysat my grandkids and other days I didn’t. I’d like to say that on the days my grandkids weren’t here, I wrote my blog faster and finished it earlier, but that wasn’t always the case. Sometimes it’s difficult to find the words to tell a story and have it say what I want it to mean. And the stories were about more than earrings.

On Day 11, I received a surprise in the mail. A small padded envelope with a bulging middle rested in the letterbox, lounging with junk mail.

I recognized the name on the return address; the envelope was from a writing buddy. Inside, wrapped in tissue, were a pair of silver and garnet earrings. Beautiful. Old fashion. A style from a time when women wore long dresses that flounced along their feet. A movie still of Jane Seymour from Somewhere in Time flashed through my mind. I’ve never seen the movie but that image of Seymour with her hair swept up at the back of her head and a pair of Victorian earrings dangling from her ears, is filed in my memory bank.

What made these earrings special was the note that came with them. My writing buddy wrote that these earrings had belonged to her, one of the many pairs of garnet earrings she had been given over the years for her birthday. And these were a pair that she had especially loved. She wanted me to have them. She had been reading my earring blogs, and they had moved her.

It’s a gift from the heart when someone gives you something they’ve cherished. I started to cry. She gave me beautiful earrings, and she gave me a piece of herself, her history.

I saved her gift to wear for today’s final blog about my earrings because I can wear them tomorrow and every day through Thanksgiving. I don’t have to pick a new pair of earrings tomorrow.

I’ll wear them through the holiday and often because I’m thankful for her act of kindness and generosity.

A good thing came in small package—on a day when I thought nothing interesting would arrive in the mail—to bring me joy and adorn my ears.

Day 25—Grand Marias Earrings

Today’s earrings are silver with Thomsonite stones, which are found in Minnesota.

Over the years my mother and I have trekked to Grand Marias every June. We like to eat at the Angry Trout as soon as we get to town. If the weather is nice we eat outside, but last time we ate inside because it was cold. June is capricious in the Northland.

After lunch we visit small art galleries, walk along Lake Superior, and shop at the Lake Superior Trading Post. Mom bought these earrings for me at the Trading Post in June 2019, the last time she came to visit. June 2020’s visit didn’t happen because of COVID-19 lockdowns. And this year’s visit was on-again-off-again, as COVID cases rose and fell, and we all got vaccinated. Ultimately, this year’s visit was canceled too. Instead my husband and I went to see Mom in July.

One year Mom and I took my sons, about 13 and 8, to Grand Marais for a few days. We stayed in a small hotel on Lake Superior. The boys had their own room with a TV and a remote control. They thought that was big stuff.

We started each morning with a hearty breakfast at the Blue Water Café, a cozy diner that both locals and tourists enjoy.

The first day Mom and I dropped my sons off at a small lake to fish. Flies were the only thing that bit. The next day we booked them an afternoon outing on a charter fishing boat on Lake Superior. They came back with a lake trout, but I don’t remember who caught it—maybe the boat captain. While they fished, Mom and I walked around town. She and I weren’t baiting hooks or cleaning fish.

For lunch one day, we gave them some money and sent them to Sven & Ole’s Pizza while Mom and I ate at a charming old home that had been converted into a restaurant. Grand Marais has a little something for everyone.

Mom had wanted to take us to Disney World, but I’m glad we went to Grand Marias instead. I liked our quiet vacation in a small town surround by natural beauty. I liked letting the boys fish and eat pizza and have a hotel room to themselves.

I like my Grand Marais earrings. They look good with that gray, white, and pink hand-me-down sweater Mom gave me.

I miss Grand Marais.

[To learn about Thomsonite stones click here.]

Day 23—Earrings and Necklace Combo

“I like your earrings,” a kindergartener said while I tried to get his sixteen classmates to hang up their coats and line up along the wall.

Did he really like my earrings? They do dangle and shimmer. Or did he sense that I was frustrated and needed a compliment? I was frustrated. Is a kindergartener that insightful? Perhaps, or perhaps not. But he validated my choice of earrings for the day.

“Thanks,” I said, then returned to organizing seventeen children. I subbed in his classroom today—my first day of subbing since March 2020. After being vaccinated and getting my booster shot, I felt ready.

I chose today’s earrings based on a necklace I always wear with a pale gray top with three-quarter sleeves and a large cowl-like neck highlighted with three pewter-colored buttons. I bought the top and necklace at The Little Gift House in Solon Springs, Wisconsin.

Before the pandemic started, an old friend and I would meet there for lunch, conversation, and a little shopping. The gift shop’s variety of goods is eye candy for adults. They have delicious food, and their desserts, coffee, and smoothies are scrumptious. They’re still open for business.

I bought the earrings at Lotus on the Lake in the Fitger’s Building in Duluth, Minnesota. I bought them to wear with my necklace. Lotus on the Lake closed in January 2021. I don’t know why they closed. My mother and I liked the store and always shopped there when she came to visit.

Today’s earrings may seem bland compared to the festive necklace I pair them with, but that’s by design—the necklace is the star. People compliment the necklace, never the earrings. But today a kindergarten boy said, “I like your earrings.” The earrings shouldn’t get smug about this because, having just come inside from recess, my coat covered the necklace.

It was good to be at work today, even if it felt like trying to ice skate after a long absence from frozen waters. The outfit and jewelry I wore made me feel good—gave me fortitude to face a day with energetic kindergarteners.

But I still needed a nap when I got home.

Day 18—Moonstone Earrings and Necklace

Today’s teardrop earrings are moonstones set in sterling. I bought them in December 2018, at Northgoods located in Petoskey’s Downtown Gaslight District.

Northgoods is my favorite gift store in Petoskey, Michigan. Most of the goods in the store are made by artists and craftspeople. The store is art gallery meets craft show. When I visit the store, I walk through it twice because there is so much to see.

Northgoods carries Petoskey stones and many products made with the stones. Polished Petoskey stones are beautiful, but I don’t own any jewelry made with them. I’ve never found a pair of Petoskey stone earrings that appealed to me, but I keep looking. That’s how I found the moonstone jewelry. I was only going to buy the earrings, but the setting on the necklace with the pale blue crystal set above the oval moonstone is elegant, so I bought it to keep the earrings company.

Today I’m wearing the moonstone earrings and necklace with a pale gray, floral sweater trimmed at the sleeves and V-neck in pale pink. The sweater is a hand-me-down from my mother. She gave it to me on one of my many trips to Petoskey.

I’ve been going to Petoskey for almost thirty years to visit my mother, who was at first a seasonal resident but now resides there year-round. Lake Michigan and the cities and towns near its shores are woven into my life. My husband and I make two trips there a year, and I often go a third time.

Since the pandemic lockdown ended, the only travel I’m comfortable with is driving to see my mother in Petoskey.

When they were young, I took my children to Petoskey in the summers. Now my husband and I take our dogs there. Life changes. Sometimes my husband and I talk about the time to come when we’ll no longer go to Petoskey.

Day 17—Earrings without a Story

I don’t remember where I bought these earrings. They have no special story. I didn’t lose one of them. They aren’t connected to a family member or a friend.

I bought them about five years ago, from a place I don’t remember, for no particular reason.

I wore them today because they don’t have a story, so I hoped to write this blog quickly.

I’m a quilter, and a quilting teacher once told me, “Honey, I’m not trying to offend you, but if you had to sew for a living, you’d starve.” She had worked in a garment factory in the South before the garment industry moved overseas and she moved north.

I wasn’t offended. She was correct. My sewing machined hummed a slow tune, never a fast jig. Her philosophy applies to my writing. If I had to produce words for a living, I’d starve. My writing, like my sewing, is slow and measured. After sixteen days of producing a blog piece every day, I have new respect for writers who do this every day.

I need to write today’s blog quickly because I have my four grandkids today, and in the evening, I have a two-hour writing class. I had my grandkids yesterday, then I had a board meeting for a nonprofit that I serve on. Time is scarce. I provide daycare for all four of them, ages three to ten, and homeschooling for the oldest two. At the end of the day, my brain is worn thin like an old T-shirt.

As I write this, the homeschooled grandkids are reading science and history stories in the back room. The three- and five-year-old grandkids are playing with blocks in the front room where I’m writing. They’re steeped in a world of imagination, their voices giving life to the stories they’re creating with blocks and Little People characters.

Soon I will stop writing this story to make breakfast, then begin lessons with the older two kids.

In between lessons, I will

settle disputes between the younger two kids

help the three-year-old with potty training

let the younger two play with Play-Doh

dole out hugs to anyone who gets an owie

make lunch

let my dogs in and out a bazillion times

read to the little ones

clean up after Play-Doh

serve water

sweep the floor

wash dishes

correct lessons

and revise and edit this blog story.

This Saturday, three of my grandkids will get the first of their COVID-19 vaccines. After Christmas they will be fully vaccinated and return to their classrooms. Another step toward pre-pandemic normalcy.

But the three-year-old will still keep me company when his parents work. And he doesn’t nap anymore.

By the way, I like these earrings, even if they don’t have a story.

Day 8—Beach Glass Earrings

Today’s earrings are made from green beach glass and surrounded by silver. The earrings are fraternal rather than identical twins. You take beach glass as you find it—the surf will never spit up a pair of matching smooth frosted pieces of glass.

Beach glass fascinated me when I was a child. I had a stash of several green, white, and brown pieces in an old cardboard cigar box that held other small treasures. I liked tiny treasures—the kind of stuff my mother didn’t like cleaning out of my pockets or the washing machine.

I sometimes wonder where all the tiny treasures from my youth went.

I bought these earrings in early 2020 at the Dovetail Café & Marketplace in Duluth, a couple of months before the COVID-19 lockdown. I had recently discovered the Dovetail and enjoyed meeting friends there for coffee or lunch. I even read a story at one of their open mics then enjoyed a wonderful evening listening to other storytellers and poets.

These days I mark a lot of events as either before or during COVID.

I’m looking forward to adding after COVID.

Day 7—Earrings and Associations

Today’s earrings came from my mother. She received them as a gift from a friend who’d taken a trip to Fiji. My mother wore them a few times, but they’re not her style.

My mother, her friend, and I have spent time together, going to Mackinac Island, eating meals together, watching fireworks from a deck on Lake Michigan. So, a few years after my mother received these earrings, she gave them to me.

I haven’t worn them since the pandemic started in 2020. They aren’t wear-with-a-pair-of-blue-jeans-and-a-T-shirt earrings. But today I think I pulled it off. I wore a navy-blue turtleneck, a pale blue sweater and blue jeans. And when I left the house in the afternoon rain, I wore a dark-blue rain jacket with a sophisticated yet subtle tone-on-tone print. The earrings and rain jacket could be soulmates. (If you’re wondering, Anna Wintour never worries when I talk fashion.)

These earrings remind me of a ride in the backseat of a rented midsized sedan from Kohler, Wisconsin, to Milwaukee in July 2010.

I sat in the middle of the backseat because it was my turn to sit in the middle. And because no one cared about my moderate claustrophobia.

As I slid into the center of the seat, I remembered a surgeon’s advice before I had an MRI: “Close your eyes before you enter the tube and don’t open them.”

My mother drove out of the parking lot. I tilted my head back and closed my eyes. I asked my sister-in-law, who sat to my right, to tell me about her scuba diving trip to Bali.

I asked why she wanted to learn to scuba dive. She has lived in Arizona all her life.

I asked her how she learned. Pools were involved.

I asked her about the dangers. There’s a lot that can go wrong on a dive.

I asked her about the world under the waves.

For fifty miles, a blue-green ocean teaming with exotic fish, coral reefs, and scuba divers screened on my eyelids. For every question I asked, she wove a narrative taking me out of the middle of that backseat. I kept my eyes closed.

These earrings remind me of Fiji, my mother, and her friend.

These earrings remind me of Bali, my sister-in-law, and fifty miles of scuba diving adventures.

I know Fiji is not Bali. My sister-in-law hasn’t met my mother’s friend. These earrings didn’t exist in July 2010.

Doesn’t matter. Neurons forge our networks of memories.

Every time I wear these earrings, I return to my happy place in the waters of Bali among fish and reefs and divers—a place I’ve never been.

Day 6—Traveling Teardrop Earrings

I bought these earrings in Tucson, Arizona, in 2003. I went with my husband and sons to visit my mother and stepdad in Phoenix and my father and siblings in Tucson.

These earrings have traveled to Rhode Island, Iowa, Illinois, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana, Hawaii, and Canada. These are hockey earrings. They’ve seen my youngest son play lots of hockey games in many cities. I have a rule about jewelry when I travel—only one pair of earrings and one necklace. These are the earrings that almost always made the cut.

I’ve worn these earrings more than any other pair of earrings I own, so maybe that makes them my favorite pair. As my mother would say, “You can wear them with blue jeans or an evening dress.”

I wore this pair to Winnipeg, Canada, to a hockey tournament. On Saturday morning, I was waiting in the car for my husband to come out of the hotel, so we could head to the rink.

After he got in the car, he said, “Do you feel naked?”

“What?” I hadn’t forgot to put on my pants. (This was long before COVID-19 and pants-less Zoom meetings and endless jokes about people forgetting to wear pants.)

He laughed and asked again, “Do you feel naked?”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

He extended a closed fist toward me then opened his fingers. Nestled on his palm were my teardrop earrings.

“I thought you might want these, so you didn’t feel naked,” he said.

“Yes, thanks.” I lifted my earrings off his palm and leaned over to kiss him before dressing my bare earlobes.

He had remembered that I had once said I felt naked if I forgot to wear earrings when I left the house.

I’ve never forgotten that he remembered.

Day 5—Sleepy Thoughts on COVID and Earrings

I almost didn’t write today’s post about earrings. I received my COVID-19 booster yesterday evening at 5:15, and today I had aches, low-grade fevers, and major fatigue. Last March when I had my second shot, I was so tired for two days that even getting out of bed to go to the bathroom was exhausting. Today was better than last time, but I still needed four substantial naps. I tried to imagine what it would feel like to have a serious case of COVID.

I chose today’s earrings this morning but didn’t put them on until 6:15 this evening when I started writing this blog. I can’t wear earrings when I sleep.

Today’s pair are Black Hills Gold, a pink-colored rose encircled by golden leaves. I bought them around 1990 with birthday money my father gave me. Every year he’d send me birthday money, and I’d buy something for myself. I couldn’t tell you what else I bought over the years, but I remember thanking him for these earrings.

My father passed away in September 2016 from a heart attack, but dementia had begun to stalk him. If he were alive, he’d be in a nursing home and probably isolated by surges of COVID.

My dad, me, and my cousin’s baby, May 2005

Yesterday on my way to the vaccine clinic, I listened to a story on public radio about sailors who are stuck on cargo ships that can’t get into port. And when they finally do, the sailors aren’t given shore leave because they aren’t vaccinated. The nightly news reports on hundreds of ships stalled in the ocean, but I haven’t heard them talk about the sailors on the ships.

The public radio journalist interviewed a maritime chaplain who comforts crew members stranded on ships. These people can’t see their families, can’t get off a ship to wire money home, can’t walk down a sidewalk. I’m embarrassed to say, I never thought about the people on those ships. One sailor’s wife is divorcing him because she hasn’t seen him in so long. These sailors don’t have the freedom to get off the ship, and they don’t know when they’re going home. I remembered a history lesson about the impressment of American sailors being one of the causes of the War of 1812. I wonder how little a sailor’s life at sea has changed over the last few hundred years.

When I arrived home, I told my husband, “I can’t believe I never thought about the people on those ships. How could I not think about them?” The focus is always on the cargo.

Today was a difficult day. Feeling lousy makes me feel blue, and I spent the day—when I was awake—close to tears.

But . . .

I’m thankful for my vaccines.

I’m thankful I remember the earrings I bought with birthday money from my father.

I’m thankful public radio aired a story about sailors stuck on ships.

I’m thankful that my biggest worry about COVID is being laid low by a vaccine.