Uninhabited and Unconnected

This past weekend I had the fun of staying on an uninhabited island with my sister and two female cousins. It is a unique experience, something everyone should do at least once in their lifetime.

There is something about being away from everything and unconnected from the world — no TV, no radio, no telephone (cell phones only worked down by the water, not in the lodge), no electricity, no indoor plumbing except for non-consumable water at the kitchen sink, no air conditioning, no street lights, no cars, no other humans on a 263 acre island.  There is an operating lighthouse and you may see ships and other boats passing in the distance  on Lake Huron.   It is a peaceful existence.

Captain Mike transports us from the boat dock to the island.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Captain Mike transports us from the boat dock to the island. Photo by Grace Grogan

Our journey began at a boat dock in Alpena, Michigan.  It is there that Captain Mike met us.  He loaded our luggage and coolers packed with food for the weekend onto a boat and transported us 2-1/2 miles out to Middle Island.   The Middle Island Keepers’ Lodge where we stayed is a former U.S. Coast Guard foghorn building that has been transformed into a beautiful and comfortable lodge.   The lodge is a 2/3 mile walk from the boat dock down a trail through the woods.  Captain Mike loads up and transports all luggage to the lodge for you.  If you are unable to make the walk you can hitch a ride in the small 4-wheel vehicle he keeps there for providing luggage transport.

Walking from the boat dock to the lodge.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Walking from the boat dock to the lodge. Photo by Grace Grogan

Ready to begin our adventure in true fashion, we all elected to make the walk.  On the journey we walked past a more rustic cabin that is also available for rent on the island, and another trail that leads down to where there is a sinkhole in Lake Huron.  The trail to the lodge is peaceful and quiet, the perfect beginning to our weekend.   Once everyone has arrived at the lodge and the luggage is unloaded Captain Mike gives a tour of the lodge and shows everyone how to operate the propane lighting inside the lodge and the propane heated shower out on the deck.    While we get settled in Captain Mike goes out to cut and deliver firewood to the campfire area down on the beach.    Captain Mike then leaves us on the island and will return on Sunday to provide us with the opportunity to tour and climb the lighthouse before transporting us back to the mainland.

The dining area of the lodge.  Photo by Grace Grogan

The dining area of the lodge. Photo by Grace Grogan

The lodge is roomy and comfortable with a large modern kitchen.  The range and refrigerator/freezer are powered by propane.  There is running water in the sink that can be used for washing dishes, bottled water is provided for human consumption.  The sink and shower water is pumped in from Lake Huron.  A comfortable dining area, a couch and two chairs, plus a bar area with four stools provides plenty of seating.

In the main area there are propane wall-mounted lights.  A small free-standing fireplace is there for use in cooler months, but there was no need to use it during our stay.  Large windows, a front door, back door and sliding door provide plenty of cross ventilation to keep the cabin comfortable.   For families there is a loft accessible by ladder that holds another table and chairs, a single bed and bunk beds, making this an ideal family retreat.  For eating and socializing there is a picnic table on the grass out the “back” door, a table and four chairs on the back deck, and a bench and washline on the main entrance deck where the shower is located.  Even the porta-potty just off the main deck area is clean and contains a battery operated light for nighttime use.

Sunset as seen from the fire pit area on the beach.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Sunset as seen from the fire pit area on the beach. Photo by Grace Grogan

As the golden hour approached we ventured down to the beach and fire pit area to light a fire and watch the sunset.  The beaches here are not sand, they are covered in limestone/shale rock.  As we watch the sunset over Lake Huron we notice that a huge flock of seagulls nest on a strip of land that juts out into the lake, and they periodically take off in large groups for a moment before once again landing on their nesting area.

As night falls we are able to watch the lighthouse come to life, with its beacon reflecting into the water.   Without the distortion of city lights the sky is pitch black and the stars are crystal clear.  A beautiful sight.    Our flashlights came in handy making the walk back up from the fire pit to our lodge.   When you are used to always having some form of unnatural lighting around it is amazing how absolutely pitch black nighttime is.

Middle Island Lighthouse.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Middle Island Lighthouse. Photo by Grace Grogan

You may think you sleep soundly, but when there is absolutely no sound except the distant sound of waves on the beach you learn how soundly you really can sleep.  I live on a state highway and am used to sleeping with the sounds of cars going by off and on all night, plus the vibration of ships going up and down the river and the occasional sound of their fog horns.  On Middle Island when you go to bed and there is no sound.  Quietness envelopes you into a deep and peaceful sleep.

Our first night on the island we stayed up late socializing, but Saturday night we made sure we went to bed at the reasonable hour of midnight and set an alarm to watch the sunrise Sunday morning over Lake Huron.  I am beginning to sound like a broken record, but that was a beautiful and peaceful sight as well.  The sun rose at approximately 6:08 am and there was only one lone sailboat out on the water at that time of morning.   A sight definitely worth rousting yourself out of bed early for.

Sunrise over Lake Huron.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Sunrise over Lake Huron. Photo by Grace Grogan

What do you do on an uninhabited island?  Spend time talking to people, really talking without the interference of tv, computers and text messaging.  Read a book or the newspaper articles that Captain Mike keeps on hand that tell about the island and special events that have happened there.  A small selection of games, puzzle books, and cards are on hand.  Read the journal books that people have written notes in talking about their stay on the island.  Everyone loves the time they have spent on the island and there are repeat visitors who have made journal entries over the years during each visit.  One thing is certain, everyone enjoys their time spent on Middle Island.  That was one of our Sunday activities, each of us wrote our own short paragraph about our stay on the island, and it was fun to read each entry.  Although the majority of our time was spent together as a group, our thoughts and experience the things that inspired us about the island, varied slightly.

Walking the trails on Middle Island.  Photo by Grace Groan

Walking the trails on Middle Island. Photo by Grace Groan

If you are physically able to do so do not miss out on walking the trail on the island.  Allow about four hours and take a water bottle with you.  If you have any physical challenges a walking stick or in my case, a cane are also important…and don’t forget to take your camera.  This is mostly a walk through the woods, but there are areas were Lake Huron is visible, and you will encounter nature in various aspects.  I personally could have done without walking my face into a few spider webs, or the large daddy-long-legged spider that I noticed crawling on my chest, but those things are minor compared to the beauty of nature experienced throughout the walk.  Huge butterflies, live snails, and spiders spinning webs were some of the things viewed.  The sound of birds singing up in the trees provided beautiful background music.  We were told that there are several deer on the island and did see their tracks but were not lucky enough to encounter any.  Nature has its own way of creating unique beauty, from gnarled upturned tree roots to wild daisies trying to take over the pathway. There was always something to capture our attention.

Middle Island Lighthouse.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Middle Island Lighthouse. Photo by Grace Grogan

Had someone told me I could survive and enjoy life without tv, radio, internet/computer, telephone, motorized transportation, electricity and indoor plumbing I would have questioned the intelligence of their statement.  What I found is that when eliminated from my life for the weekend I did not miss them.  A stay on Middle Island is the perfect getaway.  We are used to being connected at all times, we operate on a schedule and are always checking our watches, crowding activities into our busy lives.  A weekend on Middle Island eliminates those things from your life.  From Friday afternoon to the time Captain Mike picks you up on Sunday you are free to relax, not pay attention to time or schedules and enjoy the beauty of nature as it was created.  We all left certain that we will return again some day.

 

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Filed under Activities, birds, exploration, Family, friendship, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, Michigan, nature, Photography, travel, vacation

Why didn’t I do it?

Back when I was a kid I loved to write.  I would write long letters to my grandparents, I had several pen-pals in various countries, one I remain in contact with still, and I would write stories.  A class that many disliked in high school but I enjoyed was composition, and for my final writing assignment in that class I wrote an article on child abuse.  Horrifying information, but if I remember correctly I got an A on the paper.   I wanted to become an onsite news reporter.  Getting out and seeing what is going on in the world and writing about it.  Active, interesting.  Why didn’t I?Regret - our past makes us who we are

I didn’t go to college for journalism because I allowed my mother to influence my decision.  This was back in the 1970′s and equalization in jobs and society’s view on women and certain careers was still very negative.  My mother told me that journalism wasn’t a good career for a person who wanted to have a family because if I became an onsite reporter I would have to pick up and go at all the times, would never have a family, and I should go into a more stable career such as secretarial.    For some reason I let her thoughts on journalism as a career influence my decision and I went into clerical work.

Clerical work has served me well.  I have worked as a clerk typist, administrative assistant, secretary, office manager, and after returning to college am now a paralegal.  I like office work, but I have often times regretted that decision not to pursue my chosen career back when I was younger.  I have dabbled in writing over the years, though.

Back when my children were young I took a correspondence course on writing magazine articles for children and loved it.  Unfortunately I was also working full time as an office manger, held various volunteer positions and had two children who were also involved in extra curricular activities.  I never managed to find time to do the writing I wanted.  Then after my children were older I participated in a writing group at a local art studio for a while, but that didn’t provide the outlet I wanted.

In 2004 I moved to St. Clair County and became a member of the family history group.  A few years later the newsletter editor decided to give up her position and I took it over and still hold that title today.    As newsletter editor I select material for the newsletter, write some articles, layout the paper and handle the mailing.

In 2011 The Lakeshore Guardian, a local free newspaper, was looking for someone to write a monthly column on genealogy and my column  Who Am I? was born.  They recently developed an online access and some of my more recent columns can now be viewed on their website.

Writing - If a story is in you it has to come outMy husband and I have been trying to adopt our two granddaughters who went into foster care in 2010 and the parental rights were terminated in 2012.  We immediately applied to adopt and have been involved in a very frustrating situation ever since.  The youngest child was awarded to her foster care parents for adoption, a heartbreaking loss, and I did a Shutterfly book after she was lost to adoption called KAE-LEE JOY GROGAN:  Forever in our Hearts. We continue striving to obtain visits with and adopt the older child, Kiley Grogan, who has severe mental, physical and visual handicaps.  She is a precious little girl who we want desperately to be returned to our family.    I have discovered that our story is unfortunately not uncommon.  People have been waging similar battles for years and I have decided that the public needs to be aware and am in the process of writing a book that tells what has happened to us and our beautiful granddaughters.

I was just accepted to a position as an opinion columnist for The Times Herald, a local newspaper.  Me along with with five other new columnists were announced in their June 26th edition and my first column was published on July 9th, Michigan Gun Owners Deserve a Measure of Confidentiality.  Being an opinion columnist is a new and exciting adventure and I am looking forward to the challenge.

When I started writing the book mentioned above I found a freelance writers group that deals with the business end of writing.  One of the first things I heard in that group is that writers should have blogs.  A blog helps you connect with people and gets them familiar with your writing style.  That was the reason I began this blog.  I did have a hard time with it though, because so many blogs deal with one topic or area of interest, and I like to write about all kinds of things and didn’t want to be locked into one format and at the same time didn’t want to juggle numerous blogs.  That was how I came up with the name of my blog “Life is a Melting Pot.”  That title leaves me free to write about anything and everything, including my other interest as a photographer, for which I manage a Facebook page Times Gone By Photography and have a website of my photos on Fine Art America, Times Gone By Photography:  Grace Grogan.  Writing - desire to write grows with writing

What I have found is the more I write, the easier and more enjoyable it gets.  When I look back now at my desire to become a journalist when I was making career choices in 1977/78 I think “Why didn’t I do it?”   I can’t go back now and do it over, but it is never to late to start a writing career.   While I no longer desire to be an on-sight breaking news reporter/journalist, one thing always on my mind is that Laura Ingalls Wilder was in her 60′s when she began writing the Little House books.  Her mid to late life start is an inspiration and has played in the back of my mind for years.

Now to my writing…..

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under career, decisions, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, time, Writing

Backyard Exploration by a 3-Year Old

Who's out there?  Photo by Grace Grogan

Who’s out there? Photo by Grace Grogan

Our 3-year old grandson, Corbin, was recently at our house and I decided to go out and take some photos while he was playing in the backyard. It is easy to forget how active and intrigued with the little things a 3-year old can be. Warning — don’t watch them play if you aren’t feeling energized, because just watching that continuous movement can wear you out.

Parking the car.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Parking the car. Photo by Grace Grogan

Up the slide, down the slide, over to the next slide, up and down. Jump in the Little Tikes car, park and get out, go in the Little Tikes house, out of the house, open the windows, shut the windows. Look outside to see who is there. Get back in the car and move it a bit, on the other hand why drive, easier to get out and push. Oops! I haven’t gone down the slide in a few minutes, better take another run at that before walking the ledge around the flower garden.

Down the Slide.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Down the Slide. Photo by Grace Grogan

Hey, there is a hill over there to can roll down, and some exposed dirt to pick up chunks of and throw. What can I see down the water drain? I know you’re supposed to sit at the picnic table, but much easier to play King of the Mountain if standing on it. Wow, Grandma and Grandpa’s big table has a hole in it, wonder what is down there?

Coming Out.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Coming Out. Photo by Grace Grogan

Back and forth, over and over, the activities continued, rotating from one end of the yard to the other over and over again. It never even occurred to me that he was paying any attention to the small windmill we have out there, which was turning at a good clip due to a nice breeze, until the wind stopped. Never underestimate the ability of a child to know what is going on around them.

Walking the Edge.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Walking the Edge. Photo by Grace Grogan

Corbin stopped, pointed to the windmill and said “uh oh, what happened? Turn it back on”

What is in there?  Photo by Grace Grogan

What is in there? Photo by Grace Grogan

Ron blew on it a bit to show Corbin that wind makes it go, not an on/off switch. Of course Corbin didn’t worry for long. After all he had to re-park the car, see what was going on inside his house, and take a few more runs down the slide. Life is a whirlwind of activity when you are three years old.

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Filed under Activities, backyard, children, exploration, Family, grandchildren, kids, Life is a Melting Pot, Photography, play

Blue Water Summer

Fireworks as viewed from Palmer Park in St. Clair.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Fireworks as viewed from Palmer Park in St. Clair. Photo by Grace Grogan

As we approach the 4th of July weekend many towns across the United States will be having fireworks, festivals, parades, and other ways of celebrating our Nation’s freedom. The Blue Water Area is no exception. What I find a bit disappointing is that so many cities hold their fireworks on days other than the 4th of July, and I am pleased that where I live, St. Clair, Michigan, fireworks are still held on the 4th of July over the St. Clair River each and every year. What is even more wonderful about this area is that all summer the Blue Water Area is filled with a variety of things to do all summer.

Soldiers take a break during the Feast of the St. Clair in Port Huron.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Soldiers take a break during the Feast of the St. Clair in Port Huron. Photo by Grace Grogan

The summer kick-off is the Feast of the St. Clair, held every Memorial Weekend in Port Huron. This festival has been held for thirty-four years and is a living re-enactment of 18th century life.  During the event Pine Grove Park is home over 100 colonial star camps and has more than 600 re-enactors who participate.   Attendees can visit four different periods of Blue Water history, Native Americans, French explorers, British traders and American Revolutionaries.  Battles are re-enacted and period life is demonstrated, including cooking, crafts, and children’s games.   The re-enactors actually camp in the park during the event, cooking their own food over an open campfire, sleeping in authentically styled tents and dressing in period costume.

The new River Walk in Port Huron located on Desmond Landing.  Photo by Grace Grogan

The new River Walk in Port Huron located on Desmond Landing. Photo by Grace Grogan

After the Feast of the St. Clair, you are never without something to do in the Blue Water Area.  Be a Tourist in Your Own Town lets both locals and tourists visit a wide variety of museums, the lighthouse, take a cruise on the Huron Lady II, and participate in numerous other activities, with transportation between locations provided by the Blue Water Trolley.  Whether riding during the event or at any other time, you can sit back and for your ten cent fare enjoy a one-hour tour of various attractions and historic sites in Port Huron.  Well worth the investment!

The BW Sandfest is a professional sand sculpture event conducted by The Sand Lovers and is held on the grounds of the Fort Gratiot Lighthouse in Port Huron.  Photo by Grace Grogan.

The BW Sandfest is a professional sand sculpture event conducted by The Sand Lovers and is held on the grounds of the Fort Gratiot Lighthouse in Port Huron. Photo by Grace Grogan.

It doesn’t matter when in the summer you visit, there will always be something to do.  Art Fairs are held a various times in Lexington, Port Huron, Marysville, St. Clair, New Baltimore and Algonac.  Fishing is a popular sport and you will find things such as the Salmon Steaks in St. Clair or the Pickerel Tournament and Festival in Algonac.

If you are into cars or antique boats you will not be disappointed.  Many car shows and cruise nights are held including the Port Huron Cruise Night and Car Show, The St. Clair Classic Car Show, Antique Boat Show in St. Clair, and the Antique Boat Parade in Algonac.  Marysville hosts two car shows back-to-back with Rumble in the Park featuring hot rods, custom and muscle cars followed by The Past and its Wheels featuring cars built before 1959, including the Wills Sainte Claire cars that were built between 1921 to 1926 in the Marysville Factory.  The Wills Sainte Claire Museum is open the second and fourth Sundays of the month August through September and is one of many area museums.   Other local museums include the Carnegie Center, Thomas Edison Depot, Huron Light Ship, Bramble, and many small local museums in the various towns along the waterfront including New Baltimore and St. Clair.

Port Huron Float Down and Bramble Museum.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Port Huron Float Down and Bramble Museum. Photo by Grace Grogan

Don’t leave yet because we have more fun activities for you to attend.  The Bay Rama Fish Fly Festival is held every year in New Baltimore is now in its 50th year and is the only Fishfly Festival in the world.  It includes a carnival midway, live music, and various family activities such as pie eating contests and various games.  Maritime Days in Marine City is an annual three-day event that includes music, food, fun and a parade.  A new event, now in its second year is the Blue Water Sand Fest, voted by USA Today as one of the top 10 in 2013, its first year here in the Blue Water area.  The event is held on the grounds of the Fort Gratiot Lighthouse and features professional, advanced amateur and amateur sand sculptures.

Offshore Racing on the St. Clair River between Michigan and Canada.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Offshore Racing on the St. Clair River between Michigan and Canada. Photo by Grace Grogan

Events surrounding the water abound.  In St. Clair you won’t want to mist River Fest and Offshore Classic Racing.  The event features a carnival, spectators can visit dry docks, wet docks, and of course watch the offshore powerboat races on the beautiful St. Clair River.

Port Huron also hosts an Offshore Powerboat Race event and the famous Bayview Port Huron to Mackinac Sailboat Race.  This sailboat race is a popular event in Port Huron, featuring a carnival midway and various activities downtown and along the waterfront.  Walk along the Black River to view the boats that have arrived to participate in the race, live manikins,  food and fun abound.  Thursday is family night, and Friday is boat night, a huge celebration the night before the race.  Saturday morning line up along the Black River to view the boats as they parade out of the river and onto Lake Huron to begin the race.  An annual event on the water that draws thousands of participants and spectators is a free event, the Port Huron Float Down.  Participants climb into inner tubes, rafts and any other type of floating device at Lighthouse Beach just north of the Blue Water Bridges and then float down to Chrysler Beach in Marysville.  A fun event for all whether floating or watching.

Boat Night in Port Huron takes place the Friday before the Bayview Port Huron to Mackinac Race.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Boat Night in Port Huron takes place the Friday before the Bayview Port Huron to Mackinac Race. Photo by Grace Grogan

As the summer winds down into fall, an event you won’t want to miss is Whistles on the Water in St. Clair.  This event features antique steam whistles from lake freighters and passenger ships and is one of the largest gatherings of large steam whistles in the world.   The whistles are attached to one of the largest portable steam boilers on earth specifically designed to blow whistles using a fire-tube boiler that generates steam pressure to blow the whistles.  Free ear plugs are provided to visitors as when the whistles blow it is really loud!  A fun activity for children is a set-up on the waterfront of smaller whistles where the children can pull the cord to sound off one of several whistles.    The event is combined with “Chalk the Walk” which allows both adults and children the opportunity to color the walks of the St. Clair Mall with drawings using sidewalk chalk.

Whistles on the Water is held in St. Clair, Michigan.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Whistles on the Water is held in St. Clair, Michigan. Photo by Grace Grogan

This is just a brief overview of various activities in the area and you may want to check Discover the Blue  travel guide to get a more complete lineup of everything there is to do in the beautiful Blue Water area.    You won’t want to miss taking a walk along the boardwalk in St. Clair, the longest freshwater boardwalk in the world.  Stop by Desmond Landing in Port Huron to visit the Boat Nerd and stroll the new River Walk you will find there, walk the pier in Lexington, stroll under the Blue Water Bridge along the Thomas Edison Parkway in Port Huron, or walk the boardwalks in Marine City, New Baltimore and Algonac.

I love living in the Blue Water area, which to me is small town living with all the advantages of a tourist town.   It is a Melting Pot of things to do, with something for everyone.  If you’ve never visited the Blue Water area, put it on your next vacation itinerary, you won’t be disappointed!

Blue Water Trolley - It only costs a dime to ride!  Photo by Grace Grogan

Blue Water Trolley – It only costs a dime to ride! Photo by Grace Grogan

The beautiful St. Clair River as viewed from Palmer Park in St. Clair, Michigan

The beautiful St. Clair River as viewed from Palmer Park in St. Clair, Michigan

 

The Thomas Edison Depot Museum sits under the Blue Water Bridges on the Thomas Edison Parkway in Port Huron.  Photo by Grace Grogan

The Thomas Edison Depot Museum sits under the Blue Water Bridges on the Thomas Edison Parkway in Port Huron. Photo by Grace Grogan

 

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Filed under Activities, Art Shows, Blue Water Area, events, Family, Festivals, Lake St. Clair, Life is a Melting Pot, Michigan, spring, travel, vacation

TALLER, FASTER, STEEPER

We live in an age when amusement parks are constantly striving to have the biggest, fastest, and steepest roller coaster or other thrill ride in the country and/or world. As I watch year after year each new addition is taller, steeper and faster than the ones before it.  I keep wondering when we will exceed the limit and some horrible disaster will occur.  Maybe I’ve gotten too old, maybe I’m a skeptic.  I used to be a lover of thrill rides, including the roller coaster, but now I look at many of the new rides and say “no way.”

Carousel at Crossroads Village.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Carousel at Crossroads Village. Photo by Grace Grogan

What I find amazing is that what used to be a thrill ride, the carousel, is now a meek and mild ride.  In the early 1900′s carousels turned at a very fast rate of speed.  There are still a few of those antique carousels that travel at original speeds, or even at lowered speeds that are still very fast.    I rode one at the Herschell Carousel Factory Museumin North Tonawanda, New York.  The ride had been slowed down, but because it was designed as a thrill ride it was still very fast.  The fastest carousel in Michigan is located at Crossroads Village and Huckelberry Railroad.  This antique carousel goes so fast it is hard to capture in a picture at full speed, but photos shows how fast it is moving.   Carousels in modern times go up and down at a much slower pace, but other amusement park rides are constantly being built to move at extreme speeds, with the main focus on roller coasters.

Carousel at Crossroads Village and spectators.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Carousel at Crossroads Village and spectators. Photo by Grace Grogan

My greatest fear is that a mechanical failure on one of these mega coasters is going to cause an horrific accident.  Anything mechanical experiences breakdowns, and roller coasters are no exception.   Anyone who frequents amusement parks knows that roller coasters get stuck, need repairs and have breakdowns.  While modern tracking systems are far safer than the old original tracking system, I still fear we are pushing the edge and disaster will eventually strike.

What inspired me to write this post was a video I watched of Gravity Max, the “Vekoma Tilt Coaster” located at Discovery World in Lihpao Land in Taiwan.  On this ride the roller coaster  climbs up a hill, then is locked into a section of track that is at the top, after which the entire track and train tilt 90 degrees forward and down where the track then locks into the next piece of track before being released.  As I was watching the video, which gives you a rider’s perspective, my first thought was “what if the brakes fail on that flat piece of track?”.  The coaster and track is tilting down with nothing to hold the coaster in place, other than the brakes, until it joins the next piece of track and is securely locked into place.  If the brakes fail during the tilting down process the coaster would slide right off the track and free fall.  Maybe I’ve gotten chicken over time, but to me the chance of failure and injury is greater than the thrill of the ride.

I was raised in a time when the Gemini and the Corkscrew coasters at Cedar Point were considered big and scary.  That isn’t to say I haven’t enjoyed a few developed since then, but in the past ten-fifteen years, they have extended beyond my desire.  Magnum XL-200 was one of the first that I decided was too high for me to find fun.  This was the first roller coaster to top 200 feet in height and travels at a speed of 72 mph.    Then Top Thrill Dragster came out and I couldn’t believe the steepness of the drop.  When you go from zero to 120 mph in less than 4 seconds and are traveling 420 feet straight up and then straight back down within 17 seconds, my mind can not find the fun and excitement in that kind of terror.  Now coasters have gone beyond that.

Unfortunately my fears somewhat became a reality in July 2013 when Rosy Esparza told park employees at Six Flags in Arlington Texas that she did not feel secure in her seat on the Texas Giant.    Rosy was assured by a ride operator that as long as the restraint clicked she was fine.   The horror of this story is that Rosy was riding with her two children, who witnessed their mother fall to her death when her restraint came undone and she flew out of the ride.  The Texas Giant is, or at least was at the time, the world’s tallest steel-wood hybrid roller coaster, traveling at a speed of 65 mph and has a 153-foot high lift and a bank of 95 degrees, one of the world’s steepest drops for a wooden roller coaster.

While we don’t hear of accidents on a regular basis, it is important to realize that amusement parks regulate themselves and when the accident occurred the investigation was conducted internally.  There is no “big brother” watching to make sure that the rides you get on are properly maintained.  Without federal regulations each state sets its own standards, so in many ways the level of rider safety is subject to the integrity of the amusement park.  Following the accident in Texas Massachusetts Senator Edward J. Markey stated “A baby stroller is subject to tougher federal regulation than a roller coaster carrying a child in excess of 100 miles per hour.”    Six Flags over Texas was in compliance with the states requirements at the time of the accident.   When planning your thrill seeking trips keep in mind that the amusement park industry is self-regulated and if a park or ride does not appear to be well-maintained than you may want to use discretion on whether or not to ride.

Not to dampen the fun and excitement of thrill seekers, of which I have one in my family, I am sure many readers out there think I am nuts for being cautious or fearful of the the advanced height and speed that rides now have.    I have a son that has always loved the bigger, higher, and faster roller coasters and other thrill rides and I am sure that if he visits an amusement park in the future he will be seated on some of those same rides which absolutely terrify me.    I bid all of you thrill seekers a safe and fun ride.  As for me, I think I’ll go check out the 1920′s carousel.

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Filed under amusement park, carousel, cedar point, Life is a Melting Pot, roller coaster, six flags, thrill rides, vacation

WHERE HAVE ALL THE SPIDERS GONE?

Spider on a webIt isn’t that I miss them, and I really don’t care if they never return, but I am curious.   We moved into our home ten years ago, and for the past nine summers as soon as it got warm the spiders took over the front porch.  At dusk they would suddenly appear, building webs, sitting on the siding of the house, lurking on the ceiling of the porch.  Then come morning they would be gone, leaving only their webs to show of their prior nights invasion until they reappeared again that evening.

I am not favorable to spiders so it took some adjusting to the fact that if you arrived home after dusk you were walking up onto a porch with lots of spiders on it.   If we forgot to turn on the porch light and came home after dark it was worse because then you couldn’t see where they were.  One night that happened and I was first to the front door.  When I opened the screen door I felt a web go across my head.  I hurried into the house, flipped on the lights, was doing the wild karate hair shuffle with my hands while saying to my husband, Ron, “Is there a spider in my hair?”.Spider Web results in Karate Master

Being a typical man, he remains on the front porch, looking around and says “There are a lot of spiders out here.”

“I don’t care what is on the porch, is there one in my hair!”

Ron enters the house calmly, looks at my hair and replies “no.”

Whew!  That moment of panic when I didn’t know if I was wearing one of the darn things ended with one simple word.

This summer is strange.  There are no spiders on our front porch.  They should certainly be there by now, and after all these years I assumed they were permanent residents.  So here we are in our tenth summer in the house and I am wondering what happened to the spiders.  Did the bitter cold winter freeze them out?  Will they suddenly realize summer has arrived and do a late invasion?  Will we be given a summer of reprieve and then be invaded again next year?    Only time will tell, but for now I am happy that I can walk across my front porch in the dark, or sit on it reading until dusk, without having to worry about whether a spider is happily building its web above my head or across my front door.   I must admit, as adverse as I am to spiders, I continue to look at my front porch every day and wonder “Where have all the spiders gone?”

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Filed under environmental, Life is a Melting Pot, Michigan, nature, spring

YOU ARE A GUARANTEED WINNER

You are a guaranteed winner of $5,000.00 every week for life  if you return the winning entry number.  I have been receiving notifications of that type Enter to Win can-stock-photo_csp15992545since I turned 18 and I have always taken all the steps to submit my entry.  It occurred to me the other day that this is a type of mind-control on the part of the sweepstakes company.    With as many entries as I have submitted in the past 35 years, shouldn’t I have won something by now?  Is this a ploy to get me to purchase something from the mailing?  While it says no purchase is necessary, is there a difference in what pile my name goes into since I haven’t made a purchase?  Would I have won if I were purchasing things like 100% Egyptian Cotton Bath Sheets, 3-Piece Magnifying Sets or Floral Fantasy Bangle Watches?

The temptation to pitch the envelope into the trash as a lost cause and waste of time has occurred on more than one occasion.  There have been a few I didn’t return on time or did throw away, but then the mind questions the intelligence of that decision.  What if that was the one mailing with the winning entry number?  Did I just toss my opportunity to have a substantial weekly income into the trash?

I tried to reason the throwing of those envelopes away by commenting to my husband that had I not wasted all that money on postage I would probably be a lot wealthier now.  He didn’t help.  He pointed out that at the most I probably had spent maybe $100 in postage.  When I started doing this in 1978 first class postage was only 0.15, now it is 0.49.  Using today’s rate of 0.49 if I mailed in six entries per year for the past 35 years my total investment is only $102.90, and we know based on the variations in postage over the years that is a high estimate.   Figuring this out simply gave legitimacy to my investment in time and postage.  Is it worth losing the chance at millions if I fail to invest a few minutes of time and a postage stamp?

Realistically what are the chances I will have my doorbell ring and find a prize committee standing on my porch presenting me with a huge check?  I would say next to none, and yet there I sat on Sunday morning painstakingly attaching entry labels to a form, searching the sales flyers of the mailing for the appropriate entry pieces and attaching little stickers to the combination code on the back of the entry-order form.  Then after making sure everything was appropriately attached to the entry form placing it into the “official reply envelope” so that my official entry number shows through the little window, attached a postage stamp and mailed in my entry.

Winning NumberWhy do I continue to take the time to follow the steps and submit my entries?   Because I have been warned that “Many winning number holders lose out on big sums of money for not entering as instructed.” and that “Failure to reply within specified time will result in loss of any prize monies that could be won from response to this notice.”   The mailing contains a notice that the transfer of weekly prize checks will take place if I timely return my entry number and it is selected as the valid matching winning number.

The power of persuasion has locked me into this mind game.  After 35 years I cannot escape its power.  Who wouldn’t like to win huge amounts of money so they can spend, travel, share, and enjoy the rest of their life without giving it a thought?  While some underlying desire to win pulls me in, I know I am not alone.  It is a powerful mind game that has probably locked in thousands, more likely millions of others like me.  How do I know I am not alone?  Because if I was the only person submitting those sweepstakes entries I certainly would have won something by now.

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Filed under habit, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, mind, Uncategorized

VACATION PLANNING

Guildwood Park Walkway, Canada

Guildwood Park Walkway, Canada. Photo by Grace Grogan

Whenever my husband and I plan a vacation one of the first things I do after we book a reservation is start reading about things to see and do in the area.  I lay out a day-by-day itinerary so we know each day where we are going and as a result we see and do lots of things in the course of a week.    Over the years I have had friends and co-workers laugh at my intense planning, and was recently told that we are on vacation and need to relax.  Of course those same people tend to say when we get back “wow, you guys see a lot when you go somewhere.”   Absolutely, the planning insures that.

Pointe Benzie Light Station.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Pointe Benzie Light Station. Photo by Grace Grogan

What type of vacationer are you?  Do you go somewhere, lay around the pool or at the beach reading, or do you fill your days taking in the sights and sounds of the area you are visiting?  For years we stayed in hotels when we traveled, but about three years ago we purchased a motor home and now stay at campgrounds, using the RV as our own mobile hotel room.   We aren’t “campers” though.  We get up in the morning, have breakfast and then head out for the day to see the sights and take pictures.   We usually get back to the campground and fix a late dinner and then set up our laptops to download and view the photos taken that day.  We were recently informed that we are missing the fun of hanging out at the campgrounds all day and then around a campfire socializing.  We aren’t unfriendly, we chat with our neighboring campers, especially those that are there for the same length of time we are.

Rock Glen Falls - Ontario, Canada.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Rock Glen Falls – Ontario, Canada. Photo by Grace Grogan

People have different views on relaxing and enjoying a vacation.  Ron and I are not they type of people to hand around a campground all day.  To us travel is for the purpose of seeing and doing as many things in the area we are visiting as possible.  The planning of our daily itinerary guarantees that will happen.  Our vacation this summer is to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  We are photographers, and the possibilities are endless.  The UP has 300+ waterfalls, 40 lighthouses and numerous nature preserves, historical sites and more.  So far I have five different counties on our itinerary to do in that many days.   While we won’t come close to seeing and doing all the UP has to offer, we will definitely see and do a large number of things and will each take several thousand photographs in the nine days we are there (seven days if you disregard the day we travel up and the day we travel home).

Comment Request:

Have you traveled to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and have a suggested “must see” location?  Please share what it is. 

What type of vacationer are you , itinerary planner or sit by the pool and relax?  Why do you feel that is the best way to vacation?

 

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Filed under Family, friendship, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, Photography, travel

LIFE ALTERING IMPACT

I open my eyes, drop ceiling?  I glance to the right, hospital?  I look to the left to see my husband, Ron, sitting on a chair.

“What happened to us?”

Ron looks up, “You were in an accident.”

Ron had been at the hospital for three nights, waiting until I was awake and aware of what was going on before leaving to go home.  By the time we had the above conversation I had already undergone two of three surgeries.  My third surgery would not be for about another week.  This was the beginning of what would be a long recovery and adjustment to a “new normal” that to this day, four years later, is still changing.

May 29, 2010 was a warm and sunny day.  I was a college student and rode my motorcycle to Baker College in Auburn Hills for class that morning, over an hour away.  After I returned home to St. Clair Ron and I rode to The Feast of the St. Claire, an annual re-enactment event held every Memorial Day weekend in Port Huron.   We were on the way home, riding side by side down Electric Avenue, the one way southbound portion of M-29 in Port Huron.  As we approached the 16th Street intersection Ron slowed for a second to look at something and I continued forward.  That is the last thing I remember until I woke up in the hospital.

As I was going through the intersection a vehicle that had been on Military Street, the northbound portion of M-29, cut across 16th street (about two lots wide), failed to stop and hit me full force.  The driver was young, 17 years old with his girlfriend in the car.  He told my husband and the police he was sorry, he didn’t know he was supposed to stop.  Months later when I looked at the intersection I was baffled by his claim.  He missed two stop signs (on on the right, one on the left), plus a hanging red blinking light with a stop sign attached to it.    Ron told me there were no skid marks at the scene.  The accident happened so fast Ron panicked when he heard it and looked forward, locked up his brakes and hit the back end of the car, rolling on the pavement and was later treated for road rash.  I was unconscious on the scene.  My motorcycle had continued on a southbound path while my body had flown in a northerly direction, what I was later told is a sign of a severe impact.

I was transported by ambulance to Mercy Hospital.  After about two hours they informed Ron that they were unable to handle my injuries at that location and that I might loose my leg.   I was flown to the trauma center at Hurley Medical Center in Flint, where Ron and our daughter arrived just in time for him to sign the permission slip for my first surgery.  They were told I might loose my foot.  Due to the skill of two phenomenal surgeons I have both my leg and my foot.  At one of my first check-ups after I was released from the hospital I was looking at the x-rays and made a comment that my leg was a mess when I arrived at the hospital.  One of the surgeons looked at me and said “You were a challenge.”

When you suffer a severe trauma the life altering impact is instant and ongoing.  While in the hospital my injuries prevented me from being able to even lift the cover off my meals when they were delivered.    Prior to my third surgery the ankle surgeon visited me in the room and placed an X on my left foot with a magic marker indicating the side for surgery.  I laughed and told him I would think the huge wrap-around brace on my left leg that ran from my thigh down the entire leg and included the foot would be indication enough.

Photo taken June 21, 2010, only four days after my transfer from the hospital to Medilodge.

Photo taken June 21, 2010, only four days after my transfer from Hurley Hospital to Medilodge.

Eventually I was cleared to leave the hospital and a list of rehabilitation facilities, which are basically combination nursing homes and medical rehabilitation, were provided.  Ron made phone calls and had a hard time finding a location to accept me.  Some considered me non-rehabilitative because I was non-weight bearing on three limbs, others considered me too young.  Finally Medilodge in St. Clair agreed to take me as a patient and I was transported there by ambulance.  The start of recovery.

Medilodge assigned appropriate occupational, physical, and speech therapists to work with me.   The speech therapist was not because of any difficulty talking, but I had suffered a slight Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and as a result was having difficulty with some cognitive processing.  I also was non-weight bearing on three limbs, my right arm had suffered a severe dislocation and was in a brace that immobilized it, and we later discovered the right shoulder was also fractured.  My left hand was in a cast for what was called a game-keepers fracture near the thumb.  As such both arms were non-weight bearing, I couldn’t even wheel my own wheelchair.   My other injuries included a fractured rib, fractured left hip, and my left leg had three breaks, the left ankle had two breaks.   My three surgeries were for the purpose of doing titanium implants from my left hip ball across to the center leg, then down the leg to just above the knee, from below the knee to the ankle, and then two plates and numerous screws in the ankle.

It is amazing what you can learn to do when challenged.  One of the first things my physical therapist started me on was stomach crunches, with my arms across my chest so I would not be tempted to use them for leverage.  By building my abdominal muscles I was soon able to stand up and balance using my right leg only, no pressure or assistance from my arms and no weight on my left leg.    Hold your left leg slightly off the ground, do not touch the arms of your chair and stand up and maintain your balance using only your right leg.    In a chair of the appropriate height I can still accomplish this today.  As for the stomach crunches, the last time I tried I did 25, but at one time I could easily do 50-75 non-stop.

Life at Medilodge became a daily routine of learning things, building my strength and as soon as one task was accomplished, beginning to work on the next.  Once my left hand was cleared to bear weight I learned to operate my wheelchair with my left hand and right foot.  Then my right arm was cleared and I could now do two-handed wheelchair operation.  I had enjoyed the sedate life enough, and if the hallway was clear I would roll my wheelchair as fast as I could to the end, then grab the wheels quickly to slow enough to make the corner.  Small thrills in an environment where most people were at least thirty years older than I was.

Once both arms were able to bear weight I was taught to use an old fashioned metal walker, hopping while holding my left leg up and not putting any weight on it.  The leg was in a full brace that weighed 5 lbs.  How do I know this?  Because my therapist had her hand under my foot and thought I was putting weight down.  I told her it had to be the weigh of the brace so we had me sit and put my foot portion on a scale – 5 lbs!   Once I had mastered climbing platform steps with the walker and could go a fair distance down the hall with the walker it was time to evaluate me going home.

The therapists that worked with me did a home inspection where they noted changes that would have to make so that it was safe for me to come home.  Ron had to build several platform steps 4″ high and large enough for me and my walker to hop up and down going in and out of the house.  All throw rugs had to come off the floor and furniture had to be rearranged to allow my wheel chair and walker to traverse through various parts of the home.   Our over the range mounted microwave was considered unsafe for me to operate so  counter top microwave was purchased for me to use.  A hospital bed was ordered for our front room because I was not yet weight bearing on the leg and unable to climb the flight of stairs to our upper level bedroom.    These are just a few of the adjustments that were made to the home to accommodate my needs.  Once I got home additional re-arranging was done so that my computer, printer, and various other items I used on a regular basis became fixtures on our kitchen table and counters.

Photo taken September 11, 2010, about three weeks after I was discharged from Medilodge.  Much improved but still a long way to go.

Photo taken September 11, 2010, about three weeks after I was discharged from Medilodge. Much improved but still a long way to go.

I left Medilodge and returned home August 17, 2010, but my recovery was still not complete.  I would have another year of physical therapy, doctor appointments for my leg and ankle, and a ENT for vertigo that developed as a result of the accident.  In September 2010 I was cleared to put weight on the leg as pain tolerated.  By January 2011 I was walking “heavy” on a 4-prong cane.  It was not until April 2011 that I began slowly climbing the steps to our upper level, and it was also April 2011 that I began driving again.  By spring 2012 I was completely off the cane.  During the period of my recovery Ron handled all household duties, assisted in my wound care, drove me to all my doctor and therapy appointments, plus drove me to college twice a week,  staying all day and coming to the room at the end of each class to transport my books from location to location.    An accident does not just alter the life of the person injured, it also alters the life of those around them who assist in their care.

Even with all those challenges, I managed to graduate Summa Cum Laude from Baker College with my Associates Degree on schedule , and was also awarded the honor of Outstanding Student.   The internship I had to do to complete my degree evolved into a full time Paralegal position that I continue to hold today.  This is now the four-year anniversary of my accident, and it is only in the past few months that I have had a harder time accepting the impact the accident is having on my life and abilities.

I had continued to improve physically until the summer of 2013 when I began having trouble with my ankle swelling severely, sometimes bad enough to require the use of my cane.  A trip to my ankle surgeon revealed that from the severe impact of the accident my ankle has developed degenerative arthritis, meaning that it will continue to deteriorate and at some point will become severe enough to require an ankle fusion.  The reality is that I will never again be able to spend hours on my feet at special events, amusement parks, the zoo, or other similar locals without ending up with severe swelling and pain.  I can’t make mad dashes in the pouring rain from building to car.  I have to ascend and descend steps one step at a time, not in the normal left-right stepping motion.  These and many other things that people never really think about as they live their day-to-day lives will never again be the same for me.  Will I continue to make improvements?  I assume that in some areas I will.  I will also have more challenges and limitations over time.   On the positive side, such a life altering event can affect your outlook on life, what is important, what isn’t, and you learn to be adaptable to whatever challenge you face.

Why do I tell this story?  Because I hope to impress on people that even a moment of not paying attention can have a severe and permanent life altering impact on someone else’s life.   Please stay alert and focused.

 Have you or someone you know had a life altering experience?
Please feel free to share your experience in the comment section.

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Family, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, Uncategorized, Writing

Letter v. Email

Letter v. Email

I recently had a blog on letter writing, Everyone Loves a Letter, and when I saw this joke I thought it was appropriate and wanted to share. Call this a Blog Bonus!

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May 24, 2014 · 10:58 am

Magee Marsh Bird Trail

Photo by Grace Grogan

Entrance to the Bird Trail – Photo by Grace Grogan

Photo by Grace Grogan

This little bird spent a lot of time hopping from tree to tree, keeping all entertained with his antics. Photo by Grace Grogan

This past weekend my husband and I decided to drive to Magee Marsh in Ohio to take photographs of birds.   Located on the southern side of Lake Erie, this is where North American Warblers gather during their spring migration, making it a prime spot for both bird enthusiasts and photographers.  People travel from all over the United States and other parts of the world to visit during the prime migration time, which is the last weekend of April thru Mid May.  A birding festival is held during the highest point of migration.   We visited after the festival had ended, but there were still a large number of bird watchers and photographers visiting and we were able to enjoy both the sound of the birds “singing” and the ability to capture them on camera from various points along the boardwalk.

Photo by Grace Grogan

Sitting on a limb enjoying the sunshine and showing off his plumage. It was almost as if he knew I was taking many photographs of him. Photo by Grace Grogan

Although the boardwalk is only about a mile long, Ron and I spent approximately six hours making the walk.  In addition to the birds there are also other items of photographic interest, as this is a nature preserve and nature holds its own beauty.  There are two distinct differences between the photographers and the bird watchers.  Photographers are obviously carrying cameras, often with huge lenses and on tripods.  Their primary focus is to capture hundreds of shots of the birds which they will later sort through, choosing the best and identifying them as they do their photo processing.  The bird enthusiast are usually carrying binoculars, bird books and note pads in which they meticulously record the birds as they see them.   While you will see some bird watchers with cameras, I don’t recall seeing any photographers with binoculars, as your camera and lens serve the same purpose.   Because bird enthusiasts are used to spotting these small creatures they were a handy resource, a groups of bird watchers with their binoculars all pointed in the same direction

Photo by Grace Grogan

Taken from the top of the viewing platform. Photo by Grace Grogan

generally meant a good place to direct your camera lens as well.

The Magee Marsh boardwalk is well maintained, with periodic benches where you can rest if needed.  There is also a raised viewing platform and other side trails you can take for additional viewing.  The birds are frequently quite close to the boardwalk, so even with a small camera lens or point-and-shoot camera you have a good chance of capturing a nice photograph.  Camera’s click in rapid succession, people scribble notes on their pads of paper, and everyone enjoys the view.  Photographers and Birders are friendly, enthusiastic groups of people.

If you haven’t been to Magee Marsh and love nature, birds, or photography, this should definitely be on your list of places to visit.

Photography by Grace Grogan

Photography by Grace Grogan

Photograph by Grace Grogan

Photograph by Grace Grogan

Photograph by Grace Grogan

Photograph by Grace Grogan

Peek-a-Boo!  Photograph by Grace Grogan

Peek-a-Boo! Photograph by Grace Grogan

DSC_0215-2

Photograph by Grace Grogan

Photo by Grace Grogan

Photo by Grace Grogan

Photo by Grace Grogan

Photo by Grace Grogan

Photo by Grace Grogan

Photo by Grace Grogan

Scared the heck out of me as I was zoomed in to take a photograph when he started straight at me.  Photograph by Grace Grogan

Scared the heck out of me as I was zoomed in to take a photograph when he started straight at me. Photograph by Grace Grogan

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Filed under birds, friendship, Life is a Melting Pot, nature, nature center, Photography, spring, travel, Uncategorized, Writing

THE CRYING INDIAN

Back in the 1970′s there was a commercial with an American Indian standing beside a highway as litter was thrown from a car.  A close-up of the Indian’s face showed a tear coming down because the American landscape was being destroyed by such careless action.  That is what came to mind this past weekend as I walked along a nature preserve on Harsens Island.    For those who may not be familiar with the Blue Water Area, Harsens Island is accessible only by boat or car ferry.  There are a lot of natural areas on the island along with residential and commercial property.  We were parked on a dirt road that runs between two nature preserve areas taking photographs.

Litter CollageAs I strolled down the road looking for items to photograph I was appalled at the amount of trash that had been thrown into the water filled “ditch” between the road and the nature preserve.  Not only is litter unbecoming to the landscape, but plastic, paper, and other pieces of trash can be harmful to wildlife if swallowed.   I feel that if you are capable of transporting the cups, wrappers, bottles, etc. from where ever you acquired them,  you should be able to transport the remaining packaging or wrapper back to an appropriate trash container.  It was at that time that I decided to take photographs of a small portion of the litter I saw and create this blog on littering.

Over the years penalties and fines have been enacted for those caught littering.  There is a considerable amount of variation from state to state on the penalties and fines which are based on the amount of litter that was thrown, the type of litter, and where it was left.  States also vary on the criminal charges imposed, with everything from a civil infraction to a felony charge with prison time.    To find out where your sate rates visit The National Conference of State Legislatures.

Many of these changes that have happened over the years can be accredited to Pollution Prevention:  Keep America Beautiful, an organization that in working to bring awareness to how pollution damages the environment aired an advertisement for the first time on Earth Day in 1971.  That ad featured Native American actor Chief Iron Eyes Cody and had the tagline “People Start Pollution.  People can stop it.”    Chief Iron Eyes Cody became known as “The Crying Indian.”

That one advertisement created by Keep America Beautiful was named one of the top 100 advertising campaigns of the 20th Century and Chief Iron Eyes Cody has a star bearing his name on Hollywood Boulevard’s Walk of Fame.   The ad campaign resulted in a reduction in litter of approximately 88% in 300 communities, 38 states and several countries.   It is sad to think that now, 43 years later, littering remains a problem.   Whether a small isolated island, the expressway system or city streets, people throw their trash on the ground rather than wait until an appropriate receptacle can be located.    The problem is significant enough that companies and organizations adopt sections of roadways where they perform regular cleanup of trash left behind.  Hopefully someday we will reach the point where this is not necessary, where people take pride in their land and littering is no longer an issue.    If you are a person that litters, please reconsider your actions.  If you are a person that does not litter, thank you for your care and consideration of the environment and landscape.

 

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Filed under environmental, Life is a Melting Pot, littering, nature, nature center, pollution, spring, Uncategorized, Writing

Yesterdays Bar Pick-up

As I sat with my co-worker and other conference attendees I looked across the room.  There was a man standing at the end of the bar who appeared to be staring at me.  I resumed talking to the women I was with and then looked back and he was still looking in my direction.  Each time I looked in his direction he was still staring at me.  This was Friday, May 9, 1980 and I was sitting in Yesterday’s Bar at the Southfield Sheraton.   I was there for work, assisting at a conference.  Although it was a hotel bar, Yesterdays was obviously a popular spot.  The bar was crowded, the dance floor was full, and when I had stepped out of the bar to run back to my room for something I found a line going down the hall with people waiting to get in.

Ron and I shortly after we met -- notice the camera in his hand

Ron and I shortly after we met — notice the camera in his hand

I don’t know how long I sat there talking and glancing back at the bar, each time to find the man at the end staring in my direction.  Then I looked and he was gone.  I hadn’t seen him walk away and had no idea where he had gone.  About that same time someone asked me to dance and I took them up on the offer.  Big mistake!    I felt as if I was dancing with a chicken trying to shake the feathers off it’s wings.  As soon as the song ended I gave a quick “thanks for the dance” and escaped back to my group.

I didn’t sit for long because when the next song started I was again asked to dance, this time by the man from the bar.  Dark, nicely styled hair, full beard and mustache, wearing glasses.  I don’t know what songs were playing or how long we danced, only that the rest of the evening was spent with him.  At some point he asked how old I was and when I replied “19, how old are you?” his response was “too old.”  Ron was 28 years old.   I remember he asked me to go somewhere but it was fairly soon after we met and I refused to leave the hotel.  We ended up sitting on a couch in the lobby talking.

We were still sitting in the lobby when the bar closed down and my co-worker walked by and said she was going out to breakfast with someone she met.  Ron responded that I wouldn’t go anywhere with him, to which I replied that wasn’t true.  He asked if I had ever been to Belle Isle.  I didn’t even know what that was but I was game for an adventure.

Ron

Ron 1980

Ron drove an F150 pickup and he had to clear junk off the floor of the passenger side for me to get in.  I thought ‘ugh, messy car’.  I still say that when I get into his vehicle or when I get into mine after he has driven it.  We drove down to Belle Isle and sat along the water in his truck talking.  At some point he asked for my phone number and I presented him with a deposit slip from my checking account, giving him name, address and phone number.   I got back to the hotel at 6:00 am and had to be on the floor working at 8 AM, then made the two hour drive home from Southfield to Eaton Rapids after working the conference.

I had mentioned to Ron what time I anticipated arriving home on Saturday.   About 30 minutes after I arrived home the phone rang.  Such began daily conversations by phone.  Ron had planned to drive up to visit on Friday but unexpectedly arrived a day earlier, on Thursday.  He came over to visit (I lived with my parents), and then left to stay at a hotel somewhere even though my parents offered to let him sleep on the couch in our family room.  Friday evening Ron picked me up and we went out to the bar dancing and that night he slept on the couch at our house.  Saturday we attended to the Art Fair on the Michigan State University campus in Lansing.

Me (Grace) 1980

Me (Grace) 1980

From that point on our schedule became one of weekday phone calls and weekend visits.  Sometimes he would come up to visit, sometimes I would drive down and stay with him, and sometimes we traveled.    Ron was a photographer even back then and I slowly learned to take photos with a Nikon SLR rather than my Kodak Pocket 110.  We attended art shows, festivals, nature areas, and occasionally traveled.  Ron took tons of photos of anything and everything.  It has been 34 years since he asked me to dance.     What are we doing now?  Attending art shows, festivals, nature areas, and and traveling on occasion, and we both take tons of photos of anything and everything.   All because of Yesterdays Bar pick-up.

 

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Filed under Family, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, Uncategorized, Writing

Running Out Of Time

I realized it was time for me to post another blog and I had not prepared anything.  Where did the time go?  I ran out of time!  Those are phrases that are frequently heard from people everywhere.  It made me think, how is it in this time of modern technology that we are constantly running short on time.  Of all generations, we should have more free time available to us than our ancestors ever did.  Those are phrases I rarely heard people say when I was growing up in the 1960′s and 1970′s.  I really don’t remember them being said very often as little as 25-30 years ago when my children were young.

Image

Running Out of Time

One thing that has not changed is that we still have the same 24-hour time frame per day.  Going back in history people  had to endure more time consuming chores on a daily basis.  They had to care for livestock, cook on wood burning stoves, travel by horse-drawn carriage or on horseback, wash dishes by hand, sew and mend their own clothes, and although wardrobes were smaller then, washing was done on a washboard and hung out to dry.    When they arrived home from a destination they couldn’t simply hop out of the car and run into the home.  It didn’t matter what kind of weather they were traveling in, warm and sunny, pouring rain, or snow storm, they had to take their horses to the barn and groom, feed and water the animal before walking from barn to house.

Once inside the home they couldn’t pull frozen food from the freezer and throw it in the oven or microwave.  They had to prepare it from scratch, light a fire in the stove for cooking and/or in the fireplace for heat.  Once done eating they couldn’t just throw the dishes into the dishwasher, they had to be washed and dried by hand.  If it got late there were no electrical lights to flip on, kerosene lanterns had to be lit.  Once all this was done the women could relax by the fire to mend socks/clothing or other similar tasks while the men could possibly play a little music by hand for entertainment.  This was after a day spent laboring in fields with horse-drawn plows, harvesting crops, cooking, cleaning, or other such labor intensive tasks.

When I was growing up some women worked outside the home, some did not.  While there were more modern conveniences such as automatic washers and dryers, most homes had a wash line in the backyard for hanging clothes out to dry rather than using the automatic dryer.  The fresh scent of air dried clothing is wonderful.  By the 1970′s most families had two cars.  People socialized with all their neighbors on the block, women gathering during the day and couples/families in the evenings.  Many women purchased patterns and fabric to make home-sewn clothing for themselves and children.  The microwave was invented, people enjoyed the convenience of having a deep freeze in their home for food storage, and although the convenience of packaged food was available the majority of meals at home were prepared from scratch.  Children were sometimes involved in an extracurricular activity such as band, theater or sports, but for the most part children were home after school unless they were of an age where they might hold an after school job.  Families had a TV, but only one.  I don’t recall hearing our parents complain about a lack of time to get things done, life seemed more relaxed.

Now we have far more conveniences to make our lives easy, but at the same time we seem to have complicated our lives to the point where people are more stressed and complain about a lack of time.  Our children’s lives are scheduled with a multitude of extracurricular activities, both parents often work outside the home and there are many more single-parent families.  Grocery stores carry a wide variety of selections, in the summer farmers markets can be found in abundance, and yet people eat more fast-food, restaurant food, or frozen/processed food at home then in the past.  We drive vehicles that allow us to do quick-stop oil changes, automatic car washes and other maintenance that requires very little time.  We have microwaves, automatic dishwashers, washers and dryers, and permanent press wrinkle free clothing for easy maintenance, not to mention larger wardrobes than any of our ancestors ever did.  People still socialize, but not to the level that they did in the past.  We have numerous modern conveniences to free our time and yet we are constantly complaining that we are unable to get things done.  Why?

While we have many modern conveniences designed to save us time, we also have many that cause us to waste great amounts of time, easily several hours on a daily basis.  If you are stressed to get things done analyze how you are spending your time.  How much time do you spend in front of the TV?  Check the time you spend online surfing the web or on social networking sights.  Hours can easily be lost as the interaction with online friends is constant.  Even when out of the home many people now carry smart phones that allow them to constantly check their social networking sights, do email, and play games while out and about.  We are at the immediate beck and call of anyone who wants to reach us because of our cell phones.  Then there are the video and/or internet games.  You can become attached to one or many of those and also loose valuable time trying to achieve the next level or outscore your friends.

Something I haven’t done but could prove interesting would be to to keep track of time wasted sitting in front of the TV and time spent on the computer in non-productive activities such as social networking or game playing during a one week period.  My assumption is I would be shocked at the amount of time I spend participating in those activities.  That is a challenge to any of you who hear yourself constantly saying you have run out of time, have no time, and don’t know where the time went.  Log the time you spend per week on such time-wasting activities and see if you can find some additional time that can be regained into more productive tasks.

If you take part in my challenge to analyze your wasted time, I would love to have you come back to this blog and share your findings.  It will be interesting to see if my thoughts are correct.    I look forward to hearing from all of you in the near future.

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EVERYONE LOVES A LETTER

I was thinking the other day about how everyone loves to receive a letter in the mail.  Not email, but good old fashioned brought by the postal worker in an envelope mail.  Society has become so technology based that the idea of sending someone written correspondence rather than an email is just not thought of or used very often, but it should be for the sheer pleasure it brings.

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Country Mailbox Photo by Grace Grogan

What do we love about birthdays and holidays?  The cards that we receive in the mail.  That old fashioned, someone took the time to get a card, sign it by hand, write out an envelope and mail it.  That personal touch means something more than an email or Facebook posting.  It means a person cared enough to put a little extra time and effort into sending their wish.  You don’t necessarily have to write it out by hand, but that does add an additional personal touch.  A letter or card that stands out from the stack of bills brings everyone a bit of pleasure.

Back when I was a child/teenager I had pen pals.  These were people of the same age as me that I had never met, but we had all contacted an organization looking for pen friends in other countries and were connected.  At one time I had several pen friends in countries around the world.  I am still in contact with one friend, Waana, who lives in New Zealand.  Unfortunately we don’t correspond by “snail mail” anymore and are connected on Facebook, but somewhere I have all the letters I ever received from her packed away.  It was a special friendship, a connection that could not be had elsewhere.

As I was writing this blog I did a search online and discovered International PenFriends, an organization that exists today for the purpose of joining people from different countries who will correspond by postal mail.  If you do a Google search for Pen Pal Organizations you will find several with different criteria including international, domestic, and even prisoners who desire pen pals.  You may wonder why one would want to write to a stranger, someone they have never met, when they have enough hustle and bustle in their world.   The reason is simple, writing to someone and sharing aspects of your life is rewarding.  Once you get into the habit you will likely find pleasure in sending out those letters, including photos and other trinkets that represent your life or the area where you live.  You will also get to experience the joy of opening up the mailbox and finding a letter from someone that is personal, a sharing of their life with you.

Handwritten letters are treasured.  Think of how exciting it is when you find letters or cards that were written by parents, grandparents or others who are now deceased.  You treasure those items.  Written personal correspondence takes you back to a time when things were more relaxed.  When that letter arrives you are not sitting in front of a computer screen with it one of many in your inbox, you are holding the envelope in hand, look at the stamp, if handwritten notice the stationary,  sit back in a chair and enjoy the pleasure of reading a letter written on a piece of paper.

Venture out into the world of writing to someone, even someone who is not likely to respond such as an elderly relative or someone suffering from disease or illness.  Your letters or cards will bring that person joy, give them hope and something to look forward to.  In giving to others you reap the rewards of satisfaction providing another person with the happiness.    If you receive a card or letter in return then you will know the pleasure such acts bring.  Enjoy!

 

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WILD WEATHER PAST AND PRESENT

0441 Eagle in Nest-1

Bald Eagle, photo by Grace Grogan

Ice Jam, photo by Grace Grogan

Ice Jam, photo by Grace Grogan

Bald Eagle, photo by Grace Grogan

Bald Eagle, photo by Grace Grogan

 

This past winter the United States experienced some wild weather, as have other parts of the world.  Here in the thumb of Michigan the ice coverage on the water resulted in a large number of eagles being seen on the river to the extent that they were written about in local newspapers.  The ice on the great lakes will help raise water tables that have been low for years while it has negatively affected the shipping industry as the ice cutters were unable to keep the shipping channels clear.  Bitter cold, snow and ice were encountered at unusual levels all across the country.

I recently watched a special on TV that dealt with the affects of global warming, the melting glaciers, and claimed this wild weather may be our new normal and may become worse.  Flooding, mud slides, earthquakes, hurricanes, could all progressively increase as the glaciers melt and our earth adjusts to the changes.  While I don’t discount scientific studies or the fact that industry and resulting pollution contribute to the changes, I also know that wild weather has been going on for centuries, prior to when modern industry existed.  Our ancestors encountered it without the modern means of communication to provide them with warnings or obtain assistance.  No telephones, automobiles,  or satellites, just the surprise of whatever happened and human determination to rebuild their lives after disaster.

It was April 12, 1934 when the weather observatory in Mount Washington, New Hampshire recorded a wind speed of 231 mph, but it was all the way back on January 22, 1885 when the temperature dropped to 50 degrees below zero at that same location.  Fifty below zero was also recorded in East Portal, Utah on January 5, 1913.  That was when the primary means of travel was horse and buggy and homes and homes were heated by fireplace or wood burning stoves.   Imagine traveling in an unheated carriage or having to go out and gather wood to heat your home in those temperatures.   Over the years bone-freezing temperatures have made their mark on history.    The coldest temperature in the 48 contiguous states was 70 below zero in Rogers Pass, Montana on January 20, 1954, but Prospect Creek, Alaska sets the record for the coldest temperature in the United States with 80 below zero on January 23, 1971.

Extreme temperatures on the positive side have also occurred in history.  It was way back on July 10, 1913 that Death Valley National Park was the world’s hottest place at 134 degrees.   It was surprising to learn that Fort Yukon, Alaska was 100 degrees on June 27, 1915.  There were several dates in the mid 1930′s that cities in the U.S. recorded temperatures at 118 degrees or higher, but it was way back on July 20, 1898 and August 10, 1898 that the towns of Prineville and Pendleton, Oregon reached 119 degrees.  As if that wasn’t hot enough on its own, that was before air conditioning or even electric fans.  Combined with the suits that men wore or the long sleeved, high-necked dresses with multiple layers of underclothing that women wore and you can only imagine how horribly uncomfortable it must have been for everyone.

Temperature certainly impacts our lives on a daily basis, but natural disasters have also occurred throughout history and at times when the modern warning systems, means of communicating a need for help or quick and easy transportation did not exist.   Imagine living in Johnstown, Pennsylvania in May 1889 and the fear, devastation and horrendous work of clean up after ten inches of rain fell in under 24 hours causing a dam to break.  Try to envision a 30-foot high wall of water traveling 40 mph  towards town and the residents unaware of what was bearing down on them.  That day more than 2,200 people were killed.  Just the need to get that many bodies buried before disease and the stench of decay set in would have been emotionally and physically exhausting.

If you ever visit Galveston, Texas you can tour the Moody Mansion, the only building left intact after a category 4 hurricane struck the island town on September 8, 1900.  With winds reaching 130 to 140 miles per hour and a storm surge of 15.7 feet hitting the island where elevation was only 8.7 feet, the hurricane destroyed 3,600 buildings and killed between 6,000 to 8,000 people, including 90 children from St. Mary’s Orphans Asylum.   Isaac’s Storm by Eric Larson brings the story of this attack by nature to life.

We watched what we considered to be unusual winter storm weather move across the United States this year.  In some ways history was repeating itself, but with our modern technology we were able to avoid the disastrous results such weather caused in the past.  It was March 11 and March 12, 1888 that 40-50″ of snow fell on Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York resulting in the death of over 400 people and causing 200 ships at sea to sink.   On  February 11, 1899 snow fell beginning in Florida all the way up the eastern seaboard, in one day dumping 20″ of snow in Washington DC and 34″ in New Jersey.    The book The Children’s Blizzard by David Laskin is a gripping tale of the blizzard that took place on January 12, 1888 in the Dakota Territory and Nebraska.   The storm came up fast and unexpectedly, dropping temperatures from above freezing to a 40 below windchill and leaving adults and school children stranded and lost, sometimes only a few feet from shelter.  A total of 235 people died in that storm.  Those who live in the Blue Water Area of Michigan are familiar with the Storm of 1913.  This blizzard, called a White Hurricane, took place on the great lakes November 7, 1913 sinking ships and killing many.

We now have exited winter and are approaching the season for tornadoes.  Hopefully history will not repeat itself with more natural disasters such as the May 7, 1840 tornado that hit Natchez, Mississippi killing 317 people.  There was no warning system of TV, radio, internet to warn those in its path.  There were 317 reported deaths from the tornado, but slaves were not counted and so the death toll was likely much higher.   St. Louis Missouri had a massive tornado rip through the downtown area on May 27, 1896 killing 255 people and injury about 1,000 others.  Over 8,800 buildings were damaged or destroyed.  St. Louis also experienced another massive hit on September 29, 1927 when a tornado tore apart more than 200 city blocks in a period of about four minutes.    The deadliest tornado in the United States took place on March 18, 1925 covering between 219 to 234 miles and leaving 695 dead and 2,027 injured.   This tornado traveled from southeastern Mississippi through the southern portion of Illinois and then into southwestern Indiana.  The tornado lasted for over three and a half hours with an average width of 3/4 of a mile and a speed of approximately 62 miles an hour and destroying approximately 15,000 homes that were in its path.

Looking back in history it is easy to determine that the wild weather of today may be of extreme proportions, but it is not new to this decade.  Massive storms have been happening for centuries and people have been enduring the hardships of destruction and recovery throughout history.   Wild weather can be found in the past, present and most likely will continue in the future.

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DELIGHTFULLY DRAB

Here in Saint Clair County the weather has reached that delightfully drab level where the temperatures are of a moderate level, the snow has melted, the trees are bare of leaves and the grass is a lovely blah beige.   This past Sunday my husband and I went for a walk at the Lake Saint Clair Nature Center.  While the average walker will find no purpose in hauling a camera into such a lackluster location, photographers abound and are always on the lookout for something to capture.

Leaves and shells captured in ice on a pond.

Leaf and shells captured in ice on a pond.

When out for a stroll watch anyone with a camera, they will draw your attention to the small, unusual, and difficult to find items of beauty in nature where there appears to be nothing.  Moss on a tree, items floating in water, leaves curled on stumps, reflections in the water, or an unusual curve of a tree stump are all items that can be captured and enjoyed.    Look up, look down, look left, look right, and don’t forget to turn around and look behind you.  Just a few steps one way or the other can open up possibilities.

Red Wing Blackbird strolls down a twig floating on on the water.

Red Wing Blackbird strolls down a twig floating on on the water.

While strolling over a foot bridge I leaned over the rail and looked down.  That is where I found the leaves and shells trapped in a piece of ice that remained on the water.    The majority of people walking over the bridge that day likely missed what I saw because it required leaning over the rail.  Small treasures can be found in the most unusual places.

Watch for movement in the water.  Although I didn’t move fast enough to capture the muskrat swimming in the water on my camera he was there.  I could hear the frogs croaking away in the marsh but couldn’t find them.  A red wing blackbird was happily moving down a small twig floating in the water, and while it is likely he was searching for food the impression was that it was amazed by its own reflection in the water.  Being mating season male birds were also calling out and ruffling their feathers in display, attempting to attract females.  Birds were also easy among old weeds on the waters edge.  Walk quietly and enjoy the moment.

Reflections in Nature

Reflections in Nature

Although the bare trees do not appear to be attractive at first glance, don’t underestimate their appeal.  Look up and notice the unusual displays bare branches create against the sky.    Watch how they reflect in the water and the interesting angles those reflections create.  Beauty is found in unexpected places, you just have to look for it.

It is so easy to walk by beauty and never realize it is there.  Remember that even if if you have walked that path numerous times, changes happen in nature constantly and new things can be found daily, often within a few minutes or hours.

Ice Patterns

Ice Patterns

A frozen trail of water is melting, and as it does patterns form in the remaining ice.  Look at them, notice their unusual beauty, their uniqueness.  Enjoy what is there today for tomorrow the movements of nature may take it away, and you will have missed the moment.  Learn to walk with a photographers eye and you will catch the beauty of nature that can be found in the delightfully drab.

 

               I welcome your thoughts and comments on this and all previous posts

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EVOLUTION OF THE CLERICAL WORKER

Gregg Shorthand Used for taking dictation

Gregg Shorthand was used for taking dictation Click on the photo for a clearer view

One day this past week I was working at the computer and after juggling three phone calls in a row a client in our waiting area said “I wonder who had the first secretary.” It was an interesting thought. How far back does the use of office personnel go? While the answer to the question is interesting, the fun part of this was reminiscing about my own 35+ years in the clerical field and the changes that have occurred in that time.

Today the title of secretary is not commonly used. Administrative assistant, office manager, and executive assistant are some of the current positions held by office personnel.  Regardless of title the basic duties have not changed but the way they are performed has through advances in technology, education, and gender roles in the workforce.

It is believed secretaries existed prior to the establishment of the Roman Empire. Referred to at the time as “scribes” the position was held by educated men. As time progressed members of nobility and those who were wealthy and powerful used secretaries to serve as advisors, take dictation, handle correspondence, keep a schedule of appointments, and maintain accounting records.  By the late 1880s technology was advancing and office work required the ability to handle such modern conveniences as telephones, typewriters, and adding machines. It was during this time that women began to enter the work force and adapted well to handling of secretarial duties.  There was no equalization of pay and women were paid at about half the wage that a man earned for the same work. This made women financially beneficial to the employer. For men the position had been a stepping stone to higher, more prominent positions. Women were not considered capable of handling higher ranking managerial positions and were unable to advance beyond the clerical position. The employment of women in clerical positions expanded from approximately 2.5% of the work force in 1870, around 53% by 1930 and almost 80% by 1980. Since 1980 there has been no change in the number of women holding administrative support (clerical) positions.

My first office job was as clerk-typist for the Michigan Chapter, NASW, a position I obtained shortly after high school. In the 35+ years since I have worked for a variety of firms and my official title has included secretary to the president, administrative assistant, office manager, and paralegal. The required education for doing clerical work has changed and what was previously taught at the high school level is either obsolete or requires a college education.

When in high school I took clerical classes including Gregg shorthand, advanced typing, and “secretarial block,” an all-inclusive class designed to advance our office skills. We learned to operate a variety of business machines including the 10-key adding machine, the stencil machine, and worked to build our shorthand and typing skills.    Still a gender-based world, we were taught how to properly stand so as to appear attractive if taking dictation from a standing position.  Another element of the class included following our instructor at a fast pace down the halls as she gave dictation, so that we could follow an executive who was too busy to sit behind a desk when dictating.  I never encountered such an executive, but the training did make us accurate with our shorthand.

My training actually goes back to when I was in grade school and was one of 3-4 other female students selected to run the school office while the secretaries were at lunch, answering phones and running the ditto machine. If you are familiar with that piece of equipment, you know I am referring to the late 1960’s to early 1970’s. Shall I date myself? I learned to type in 8th grade on a manual typewriter, and when we moved to high school we were thrilled to be able to type on the electric IBM Selectric typewriter. Copies of correspondence were done by placing a piece of carbon paper between the letterhead and a piece of onion skin paper. Typewriter errors were corrected using correction tape or liquid paper.

My second office position in the early 1980s was for an importer, and my dictation was frequently transcribed onto a telex machine. A message was typed onto the machine using shortened words, eliminating vowels and other unnecessary letters to reduce the cost of transmission. The message was then sent overseas to suppliers and we would wait to receive a telex response, which printed out on paper for reading.   The use of computers and email communication did not yet exist.  By the time I was in my third office position the fax machine was a new device that required dialing a number on a regular telephone, then once the connection was made activating the fax machine and hanging up the telephone.  We also had new “word-processing” typewriters on which you could read one line of text on a small narrow screen located on the body of the typewriter and make corrections before it printed onto your paper.   We were thrilled to have such technologically advanced machines.  Eventually one computer was purchased and put in a central location to be shared by all six clerical workers.

Workers entering the clerical field today think nothing of having their own computer, internet connection, communicating by email and having access to fax machines and copy machines. Most have never used a typewriter and have no idea what Gregg shorthand is. While I would never give up the modern conveniences of today, it is fun to remember the joy and excitement of each new technological advancement and the ease each has added to the clerical workload.

 

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Power of Emotion

This past weekend I underwent a task that was both emotionally satisfying and upsetting.  As I experienced emotional swings I wondered what it is that causes people to experience different emotions for similar activities, or why one person will ride a roller coaster of emotion over the course of time related to only one activity.  What is it that caused me to swing from happy to crying in a split second just by reviewing the photos that were the subject of my project.  Emotion can break people down or build you up.  With me it does both.  There was emotional satisfaction in creating a Shutterfly book of a grandaughter torn from our family by CPS.  My husband and I were stripped our of our relationship with her by DHS and the adoption agency who refused to allow us contact during the time she was in foster care and even after parental rights were terminated and we applied to adopt.  That lack of contact was then used against us in the adoption process and the foster care parents were awarded the consent to adopt rather than us.    There were times when the process of creating the book was emotionally upsetting.  It is hard to understand the process and reasoning of destroying a family when there are biological relatives willing to take in a child and raise her as their own.

Emotions can tear you apart or they can heal.  The emotions that accompany the experience of losing Kae-Lee to another family have resulted in an emotional determination.  There are weak moments, such as during the creation of my photo book, but overall they have left me determined to do something to right a wrong that is done to families all across the country or at least let people know what is happening, that everyone is at risk.  That is the reason I have begun writing a book about our family’s experience in dealing with CPS, DHS and adoption.  Writing is a healing process. It gives me focus.  It allows me to analyze all that happened, to understand where the biological parents failed and where the system failed.  Neither is perfect.  However, the destruction of a family, the ripping of a child from its biological family and giving it to strangers rather than relatives is something I find extremely disturbing and difficult to accept.  Writing is my way of fighting back.  I want people to know what happened to us and that similar situations are happening to families throughout this country.  It isn’t right.  It isn’t fair.    That is how I deal with the emotional trauma of this situation.  Writing about what happened gives me focus and provides satisfaction in knowing that I have not sat back and let the situation swallow me emotionally.  I am stronger than that.

The Shutterfly book is an assortment of what little photographs we have of Kae-Lee from the time she was born in March 2010 through the termination in June 2012, and a few photos we were lucky to obtain taken by others in the year since the termination.  There will be no more.  We have no contact with the foster care family that adopted her.    When you are looking at photographs of a beautiful baby with her family and remember how she was torn from your life, it is an emotional roller coaster.  That Shutterfly book of photographs is the only thing we have left of her, plus the traditional newborn memorabilia that every parent saves and the yearly Christmas ornaments we have purchased for her.  Maybe someday she will come looking for her biological family and we can be reunited with her and share those items.

If you would like to view the book of photographs I created you can click this link:  Shutterfly Book.  I welcome everyone’s comments on this blog and/or the book.

 

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Patrick on Kae-Lee

Kae-Lee photo(20)

Kae-Lee – photo taken by foster care worker

Patrick and his girls - Kiley, Katlyn, Kae-Lee

Patrick and his girls – Kiley, Katlyn, Kae-Lee

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MY CRAZY WEEK

0801 Bathroom Shots 2014-1

This has been a whirlwind week with meetings on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings for three different groups I am involved with.  While at first glance the three activities appear to be different, in my life they inner-mix and blend so that each has a connection with the other.  If this happens in my life, it most likely occurs in the lives of everyone. 

 The family history group’s main focus is genealogy.  I am a member of the board and also newsletter editor of Blue Water Family Backgrounds.   As newsletter editor I spend time reading old articles and books for inclusion in the newsletter or as research for articles I am writing.  I also take photographs of historical sites and activities the club does for the newsletter.  My involvement in the club is what led to me writing the column Who Am I? for The Lakeshore Guardian.  The column provides readers information on doing family research. 

In addition to the writing the genealogy column and serving as newsletter editor for the history group, I am working on a book regarding my family’s involvement with Child Protective Services, foster care and my husband’s and my attempt to adopt our granddaughters.  This is an ongoing battle which has not yet ended.  I am learning the battles we have encountered are a huge and common problem across the country.  As a result of my writing activities I began attending a Freelance Writer’s Group.  The Freelance Writer’s Group is the reason I began this blog.  I learned that writers/authors typically have blogs so readers can get to know them and their writing style.  Each blog I write is accompanied by a photograph taken by either me or my husband, another interest and activity.

My husband and I have a photography business, Times Gone By Photography and are members of the Blue Water Shutterbug Club.    We take photographs of nature, events, and travel and have them available for sale at local art studios and on Fine Art America.  We photograph art shows and opening events for Studio 1219 in Port Huron, Michigan for which I write a promotional clip that we post with our photographs on the Studio’s Facebook page.  Our photographs have also appeared in an annual vacation magazine for the Blue Water area and a photo taken by me is currently on the cover of the local yellow pages phone book.   Photography also is important to my scrapbooking hobby. 

Scrapbooking ties in with genealogy.  I have a scrapbook of historical family photos and scrapbooking itself involves the recording of family events for future generations.   In addition to that I do an annual Christmas newsletter for family and friends and have saved copies of each for close to thirty years, a written history of our family and our children’s lives growing up. 

All of these interests — family history, freelance writing, and photography tie together in a unique blend, mixing together and supporting each other in my life.  Just as my lifestyle is a melting pot of various activities that swirl and blend together, yours most likely is as well.  When life seems to be a jumbled mess of meetings, activities, and work take a look at what you are doing and how they inner relate to each other.   Stir up the blend and enjoy the results, because after all, Life is a Melting Pot.

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