Flaika at the Window

April 12, 2014

FlaikaGracious Living Day by DayMy daughter Nena is a graduate student in Tuscaloosa, AL. This is Flaika, her cockapoo puppy, and her faithful companion.

Nena and Flaika are coming back home to Michigan in a couple of weeks to spend the summer here. I can’t wait. Nena reproaches me for looking forward to seeing Flaika more than I am of seeing her, my only daughter, but I pretend that isn’t true.

In Tuscaloosa, while Nena is busy studying, writing her stories and grading her student’s papers, Flaika spends hours looking through the living room window at the antics of their neighbors. Nena calls her the little mayor. It can get very hot when the sun is shinning straight at that window but Flaika is committed to her post.

I am already setting up a spot for Flaika by our dinning room window. What fun she’ll have looking at the back yard and all that goes on there: the birds at the bird feeder, the shenanigans of baby squirrels, the chipmunks, the woodchuck.

I can’t wait. And I’ll be very happy to see my only daughter as well.

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John In the Sun

April 11, 2014

Gracious Living Day by DayRosanna, my reader from rural Pennsylvanian, sent me this picture of her cat John.

Is there a lovelier way to spend a sunny spring day?

John in the sun

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First Day In the Garden

April 2, 2014

Gracious Living Day by DayI’ve managed to spend the winter hardly moving at all.

Other than shoveling snow and walking to and from my car, I hardly moved. I love to walk, but our streets and sidewalks were impassable for months. Covered with layers of snow, ice, then snow and ice again, they were slippery minefields, impregnable and treacherous. Many people fell and broke limbs. So I didn’t go for walks.

I hate gyms. I hate the smells and the manic activity and the idea of going to a place with no other intention that working out in a frenzy. I don’t mind gyms for other people, but I don’t like them for myself.  And even though I love to swim, I don’t like indoor pools. I like to swim outdoors, just like I like to walk outdoors. I am old-fashioned that way. And stubborn. I drive my family crazy.

So, last week when temperatures rose and the sun squinted from behind clouds in Southeastern Michigan, I was not in any great shape to take on major garden cleanup. But I am nothing if not tenacious.

favorite boots

On a mild Sunday morning I could not be restrained indoors one second longer. I put on my tall rubber boots, dug out a rake and a broom from the depths of garage debris, and set to work. I swept the front porch, and put away the snow shovel. I raked the front lawn and made tall piles of dead leaves, broken branches and windswept trash that winter storms had hauled in on those bitter nights when I lay in bed listening to the tempest outside. I picked up the piles and dumped everything into my compost bins. I swept the driveway.

I took out clay flowerpots and placed them on the front porch. It is too early to start planting but there they are, harbingers of things to come.

By lunchtime I felt tired and dizzy with hunger, and my muscles were sore. Also, huge blisters had started forming on each hand. But I couldn’t stop myself. Honestly I wanted to, but spring pulled me along like an automaton.

So, I moved to the backyard. I raked the leaves and the debris there. I pulled out wilted plants from the flower garden. I cleaned the picnic table. I cleaned the bird feeder. I cleaned the debris piles so the back-lawn looked cleaner than my living room carpet. I swept the screened-in porch. I dusted and washed the furniture there.

On a day like this I knew that we had to have a barbecue. So, I asked Sam to go grocery shopping and Jeff to barbecue. They said yes.

At the end of that day, as delicious aroma of grilled meat filled the air, I walked around my garden – tired, hungry and so sore that I could hardly stand straight. As I admired my work with silent satisfaction I spotted in the yellow grass the tiniest, sorriest-looking crocus I had ever seen. Miniscule and anemic it offered its misshapen petals to the sun.

And I felt what I feel every spring. There is hope in this world.

First crocus

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Another Spring

March 19, 2014

Spring arrives tomorrow. Spring. proleće, primavera… are there lovelier sounds in this world? Today the day is dark, overcast, stormy and rain is steadily whipping the window panes. The dirty snowbanks still clinging to the muddy ground don’t have a chance. Their time is over. This time last year we had just moved into our […]

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Playing Dice

March 5, 2014

March is here. It is still very cold, but the once pristine snow is getting dirty, the jagged icebergs along the roads are showing signs of wear, and the goodwill of the Olympic games is turning into a new cold war. I am so weary of winter. I am so weary of aggressive, arrogant, bellicose […]

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A Life

February 27, 2014

I just finished reading a biography (in Serbian) of Mileva Maric Einstein, the first wife of Albert Einstein. It was hard for me to read this book. I drove my family crazy talking about it relentlessly at the dinner table and even to myself I sounded angry and shrill. Here’s why. Mileva Maric was born […]

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Past the Middle of February

February 19, 2014

We are past the middle of February and even though the cold has been intense and the snow bounteous, there is a different feeling in the air. As I shoveled our driveway yesterday, I got so overheated I had to take my jacket off and work in a sweater. The ice patch in front of […]

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The Deep Freeze

February 6, 2014

More snow fell yesterday. Our driveway and path to the house are becoming deep tunnels. The temperature is consistently below zero. All around us stretches an expanse of clean whiteness. Long icicles hang from trees and roof-lines. The bird feeder is snowed in and the birds are nowhere in sight. The tips of the young […]

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The Great Divide

January 29, 2014

This cold, sunny morning I spoke via Skype with some members of my family in Serbia. Today is my cousin Maja’s birthday and a number of guests came to her home to visit and celebrate. And when they are all together like that, they like to call me so I, too, can feel like a […]

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Polar Vortex: Rerun

January 24, 2014

This is what my bedroom window looked like this morning: Our house is old and the windows are old, but still, I have not seen frost designs this intricate since I was a child. Outside, the thermometer registered -9 F. And this is not even the coldest it’s been this winter. The roads are slippery […]

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Cold Days

January 13, 2014

Dear friends, please forgive me for my long absence.  Many of you wrote wondering if I am healthy and well. I am  deeply touched by your concern and I thank you for it. I am well but I did have a difficult fall and a difficult winter. I wish I could tell you all about […]

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One of Those Weeks

September 19, 2013

My week started off with a visit to a dermatologist to check a couple of suspicious looking spots on my nose. I walked out of his office with a nose bandaged like a mummy. On the way home, I had to stop at a grocery store to pick up a roasted chicken for dinner. People […]

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Part of the Tribe

September 6, 2013

I don’t want you to think that all was sad and desolate in Banostor during our visit. Let me tell you what happened. We (my uncle Joep – my mother’s brother who has lived in Holland since 1964 – his son Nick, his granddaughter Sophie, Sam, Nikki and I) unlocked the gate to the deserted […]

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