Blog Bonus – A Perfect Quote

I recently posted Songs About Me in which I wrote about songs that relate to my life.  When I saw this quote about country songs, I felt it fits that previous post perfectly.Song Lyrics that explaine the situation

I also stumbled across this other quote regarding the emotional connections to songs.

Whatever you are doing, where ever you are, enjoy the songs and they way they connect with you and your life.Song that makes you emotional

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Filed under Life is a Melting Pot

World Wide Photo Walk

Photographers capture photos on the World Wide Photo Walk at Paint Creek, Rochester, Michigan.  Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2014

Photographers capture photos on the World Wide Photo Walk at Paint Creek, Rochester, Michigan. Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2014

Scott Kelby’s World Wide Photo Walk is an annual event during which photographers all around the world go out in groups on the same day and take photographs. This past Saturday Ron and I participated in the 7th Annual Walk.  It is always fun to see what other photographers capture when they are at the same place as you shooting.  The event is held in numerous cities with local walk leaders.  Each walker may submit one photo from the event to their local group.  The winner of the group photo submissions wins a prize, and then their photo is submitted into a world-wide main photo competition from which there are thousands of dollars in prizes available to the 10 finalists, and then of course a Grand Prize Winner.

Paint Creek, Rochester Michigan.  Photograph by Grace Grogan, copyright 2014

Paint Creek, Rochester Michigan. Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2014


The opportunity to meet other photographers while walking around taking photos of an area you may not normally explore and the ability to later view what other photographers decided to capture is interesting.  Several photographers can go into the same area and spot different subjects or photograph the same subjects but in a different way.   In any hobby or profession seeing what others do is informative and fun.

photographers on walk-1-2

Photographers prep to take photos along Paint Creek. Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2014

This year Ron and I decided to participate in the event held in Rochester, Michigan.  The main portion of the walk took place in a park where we have been numerous times for special events, but I had never visited on a normal day for a casual walk.  Even in what first may appear to be a limited subject matter if you open your eyes and look around you can spot many interesting photo subjects.    Unfortunately the fall colors have not yet come into full play, but there was still a bit of color here and there to enhance the effect.

Water flow over rocks, Paint Creek, Rochester, Michigan.  Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2014

Water flow over rocks, Paint Creek, Rochester, Michigan. Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2014

The park had three different bridges over the creek that provided interesting subjects.  There are various points in the creek where rocks create interesting formations of water, mini waterfalls and rapid effects.  Flower gardens, trees, benches, and a fountain are also items of interest.  I’ve included a few of the photos I took on the walk here.  If you would like to view more I have posted 57 pictures I took during the photo walk on our Facebook page, Times Gone By Photography – Quality Photographs and Photo Tips.

Pond at Paint Creek, Rochester, Michigan.  Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2014

Pond at Paint Creek, Rochester, Michigan. Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2014

Everyone is welcome to joint the annual photo walk event.  It is a great way to interact with other photographers, see new areas, and just enjoy a few hours out taking pictures.   Have you ever participated in the Scott Kelby World Wide Photo Walk?  If so I would love to hear about your experience, what City and Country you walked in and what type of camera you use.

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Filed under Activities, events, Life is a Melting Pot, Photography

Songs About Me

Everyone has songs they love, either because they relate to themselves personally, remind them of a previous time in their life, or make them think of someone they know.  There is a country song that contains the lyrics ” songs about me and who I am” by Trace Adkins.   That made me wonder, what are the songs about me?  Songs that I love, that make me think of people, that relate to my life.  There are many, and I’m sure after I’m done writing this post I’ll remember something i didn’t include.

I mostly listen to country now, but I love all kinds of music.  I was a teen in the 1970’s and I still love that old time rock and roll.  Whenever I hear that song by Bob Seger I have a hard time sittiing still, it just makes me want to get up and dance.  That song also holds another memory because when my children were in elementary school there were several roller skating parties each year, and I always skated at each one (on quads, I was a kid before roller blades existed) and at every roller skating party the principal of the school always had that song played.  That song moved me at a good speed on skates, and whipping around the rink was great fun.  That is, except when a young child fell right in front of me one time and I have no idea how I accomplished it, but I managed to jump him because there was no way I could swerve or stop.  I impressed myself and could never have done it again if I was trying it.a music

In 1975 the United Nations Government Assembly declared 1975 International Women’s Year in support of the women’s movement.  I was 15 at the time, and Helen Reddy’s song I Am Woman was released that same year.    It is a song that not only speaks of the era I grew up in and achievements that were being made, but it also fits my personality.    I can be very determined, and the lyrics state “You can bend but never break me, ‘Cause it only serves to make me more determined to achieve my final goal, and I come back even stronger, not a novice any longer, ’cause you depended the conviction in my sole.  Oh yes, I am wise but it’s wisdom born of pain, Yes, I’ve ‘aid the price, but look how much I gained.  If I have to I can face anything, I am strong (strong), I am invincible (invincible), I am woman.”    While I may not achieve the original goal, my determination to make something positive come of it can be a silent but effective form of revenge.

I grew up in Small Town USA, like the town portrayed in Justin Moore’s song.  Although I moved away and never went back, there are lots of people who never left, and others who did leave and go back.  There is something comforting about growing up in a small town where everybody knows everybody and what they are doing.  My sister still lives in that same town and many of her friends are people we grew up with.  It should be said that I now live in another small town where there are a lot of people who grew up in town and have strong roots and family heritage here.

When I was 19 I met the man that is now my husband in a bar when he asked me to dance.  Two weeks after we met I told someone I was going to marry him and 16 months later that goal was accomplished.  We recently celebrated our 33rd anniversary.  Whenever I hear Ann Murray’s song, Could I have This Dance I think it fits my husband and I perfectly.   “I’ll always remember, the song they were playing, the first time we danced and I knew,
as we swayed to the music, and held to each other, I fell in love with you.  Could I have this dance for the rest of my life, Could you be my partner
every night, when we’re together it feels so right, Could I have this dance for the rest of my life.”    While I don’t remember the song they were playing when we danced, I remember him staring at me from across the bar and several other bits of conversation throughout the evening.

That isn’t the song we used at our wedding, that was If, by David Gates, a popular song for weddings at the time. “If a picture paints a thousand words
Then why can’t I paint you?  The words will never show the you I’ve come to know.”

As time goes by and our children were growing older, there are songs that make me think of them, what they have been through, their personalities.    When I purchased a Lori Morgan album that contained the song “Skakin’ Things Up” I immediately thought of my daughter, Caroline.  That song fits her personality perfectly.  Unfortunately I was unable to locate a link other than the lip-sink one I linked to above.  The words are so perfect for her as both a child and an adult, “I’ve been told better safe than sorry and to look before I leap, To think about what I should say long before I speak.  I’m tired of holding back my true emotions, I can’t help but cause a little commotion.   I like shakin’ things up, I like pushin’ the boundaries, I like livin’ my life on the edge and chasin’ far-fetched dreams, I’m gonna feel young when I grow old, I’m gonna chalenge the status quo, when bein’ good just ain’t good enough, I like shakin’ things up.”   Anyone that knows here will agree, that is Caroline.

Now our son, Patrick, has always managed to find trouble.  Sometimes he started it, sometimes he didn’t.  Actually, the Rodney Atkins song “If You’re Going Through Hell” not only applies to him, but also all of us in our family at some point in time, rather my husband’s nasty divorce from his first marriage and battle with his wife repeatedly denying him visits with his daughter, the legal issues our son encountered growing up and as an adult, my recovery after my motorcycle accident, our attempts to adopt our granddaughters and the adversity we encountered from CPS/DHS, to our newest challenge with my husband having cancer of the esophagus, the song fits.   It is a good song to apply to anything you encounter:  “If you’re goin’ through hell keep on going, don’t slow down if you’re scared don’t show it, you might get out before the devil even knows you’re there.  When you’re goin’ through hell keep on movin’, face that fire walk right through it, you might get out before the devil even knows you’re there.”

There are so many songs I can relate to, after all, “I’ve Got The Music In Me” because “I’m never frightened or worried, I know I’ll always get by
I heat up, I cool down, When something gets in my way I go around it, Don’t let life get me down” and I am Proud to be an American, “where at least I know I’m free, And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me.”   The country I call home, It’s America — “It’s a high school prom, it’s a Springsteen song, it’s a ride in a Chevrolet.  It’s a man on the moon and fireflies in June and kids sellin’ lemonade.  It’s cities and farms, it’s open arms, one nation under God, It’s America.”

My wish for all who read this is that “you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean, Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens,
Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance, And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance,  I Hope You Dance.”

When my life it over, I hope it reflects Garth Brooks, “I’m glad I didn’t know  the way it all would end, the way it all would go, our lives are better left to chance, I could have missed the pain but I’d of had to miss The Dance

Please Share/Comment:  What are the songs that reflect you and your life?

 

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Filed under Family, impressions, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir

Attempted Adoption: An Emotional Whirlwind

Kiley Grogan, our granddaughter we are trying to adopt.

Kiley Grogan, our granddaughter we are trying to adopt.

I have been contemplating when to post this, actually having originally written it about six weeks ago, but not wanting to interfere with the process and at the same time wanting to share the frustrations we have endured trying to adopt our grandaughters.  We lost Kae-Lee to adoption when she was awarded to the foster care parents rather than us.  Since then we have been working on adopting the older grandaughter, Kiley, and have been trying to obtain answers as to why DHS is against us having even supervised contact with her.  Over the course of the past two years we have been dealing with this quietly, waiting patiently and expecting that the professionals involved would do their jobs appropriately and efficiently.  However our patience has not paid off and the situation continues to grow more frustrating as time goes on.

0014 Kae-Lee-1

Kae-Lee Joy Grogan

In August of 2012 my husband and I applied to adopt our two granddaughters, Kiley Grogan and Kae-Lee Grogan, who had been in foster care since June 2010. At the time they went into foster care we had applied to have them placed in our home and DHS denied our request. After the termination of parental rights in 2012 we applied to adopt. Our application packet was turned in within a month of receiving it from the adoption agency.  It took Ebony Armstrong, adoption worker for Bethany Christian Services, seven months to write her report and submit it to MCI in Lansing.  William Johnson is the one person at MCI who makes the decision on adoption for every child who is a state ward in Michigan.  During the entire time the girls were in foster care DHS denied us any access to our granddaughters, and the adoption agency continued to withhold our contact.

After waiting for seven months during which we were lead to believe they were going to recommend we adopt our two granddaughters together, the adoption agency advised us that they had talked with MCI in Lansing and based on Lansing’s instructions they were going to recommend the youngest child, Kae-Lee, be adopted by her foster care parents, who had also applied to adopt.  Their reasoning was that Kae-Lee had bonded with them, not with us.   Of course this had happened, we had been denied all access!   After Kae-Lee’s adoption went through, to strangers so we have no contact, I created a photo book  Kae-Lee Joy Grogan:  Forever in our Hearts.

Kiley Grogan's photo posted on MARE.org

Kiley Grogan’s photo posted on MARE.org

Bethany Christian Services did recommend we adopt the older granddaughter, Kiley, who had suffered severe brain trauma at seven months of age and is visually, mentally and physically handicapped.  We also discovered that Kiley had been listed on the MARE.org website, incorrectly stating that she has no siblings when she has a full-biological sister and a half-sister who had also been placed into foster care, plus she has another half-sister by a different mother.  Although they never indicated she had been matched with us, her biological grandparents, almost immediately after the adoption agency indicated that another family was “interested” Kiley’s Status on MARE.org changed to “My name is KILEY and I was matched with a recruited family on Friday September 19, 2014.”   The original MARE.org listing is shown at the bottom of this posting.  As of this date we have never received an official denial from William Johnson regarding our application to adopt Kiley.

Kae-Lee Grogan July 2012 taking during a sibling visit to which we were not invited.  Kae-Lee was lost to adoption.  We wanted to adopt our two granddaughters together and raise them as sisters, but Kae-Lee was awarded to her foster care parents so we have no contact.

Kae-Lee Grogan July 2012 taking during a sibling visit to which we were not invited. Kae-Lee was lost to adoption. We wanted to adopt our two granddaughters together and raise them as sisters, but Kae-Lee was awarded to her foster care parents so we have no contact.

It was approximately four months after Bethany Christian Services submitted their report to Lansing before William Johnson, Supervisor at MCI in Lansing, issued his recommendation.  Because DHS in St. Clair was objecting to our adoption William Johnson stated that we needed to receive supervised visits with Kiley so he could make a determination on our ability to provide for her care. The visits were set up to begin but the day before the first visit took place a hearing to which we were not invited nor notified of (Ebony Armstrong, adoption worker, refused to provide us with information regarding hearings after the termination) was held and our visits were suspended.  We were contacted after that hearing by Ebony Armstrong, adoption worker, who informed us that Rory Ayotte, DHS Foster Care Worker had objected to our receiving the supervised visits and that the Honorable Elwood Brown had suspended the visits. We were never given any notice, any opportunity to respond to whatever accusations were made, and when Ebony Armstrong told us she had a court order that we not receive the visits she refused to provide us with a copy of that order, and no order has ever been provided to us by anyone.  I find it extremely upsetting that a foster care worker who was not involved in the case after June 2011 (a new DHS Foster Care Worker was involved from June 2011 through the termination in August 2012 and was favorable to our adopting) was allowed to make objections and that Judge Brown issued an order without giving us the opportunity to appear in court and respond to whatever those objections may have been.

That happened in November 2013, and we were told by the adoption worker that William Johnson was going to order transcripts and talk with Samantha Lord, guardian ad litem, about resolving the issue. We have repeatedly emailed William Johnson over the entire course of the adoption process and stated that if he had any questions to feel free to contact us. No one ever has — not William Johnson, not Samantha Lord, and not the DHS worker who made the objections.

Kiley Grogan - the granddaughter we are trying to adopt.  Photo taken in 2012 during a sibling visit to which we were not invited.

Kiley Grogan – the granddaughter we are trying to adopt. Photo taken in 2012 during a sibling visit to which we were not invited.

We realized that Kiley was due for a re-check with her pediatric cardiologist this year. She was born with the center wall of her heart being too thick and was on a compounded heart medication the first two years of her life. When she was removed from the heart medication at age two the pediatric cardiologist informed the parents that she needed to come back five years later for a re-check and ultrasound of the heart. We advised Ebony Armstrong, adoption worker at Bethany Christian Services of this both verbally and in writing and sent a copy to the guardian ad litem, Samantha Lord.  When we notified Ebony Armstrong, Bethany Christians Services,  verbally she  kept saying “the pediatrician said she is fine,” discounting the need for a specialist to re-check her heart. The foster care worker from Bethany Christian Services stated that Kiley’s insurance has been changed and it wouldn’t be covered and then that the pediatrician would not be able to refer her back to her pediatric cardiologist (I had provided them with the contact information).  The foster care worker did eventually say they could check with the pediatrician , but that the pediatrician would not be able to refer her back to the original cardiologist.

This is extremely frustrating. A child that was removed from the parents in 2010 for alleged medical neglect (they were giving her a recommended break from her physical therapy) is now being denied medical follow-up because DHS and/or the adoption agency has changed her insurance and it probably won’t be covered. If you take responsibility for a child you assume all their medical needs and expenses, regardless of whether or not you were careless about the kind of medical insurance you put her on. Kiley was on medicaid that covered those needs when she was placed in foster care, and she should still be on medicaid so it is a rather poor excuse for their negligence.

While we were not invited to sibling visits, the biological mother's family was allowed to attend.  This photograph is a niece of the biological mother, in yellow is Kae-Lee Grogan, lost to adoption, Katlyn Hosang, half-sister to Kiley and Kae-Lee and who is being adopted by her step-grandfather, and in the stroller is Kiley Grogan, who we are trying to adopt.

While we were not invited to sibling visits, the biological mother’s family was allowed to attend. This photograph shows a niece of the biological mother in the pink shirt, Kae-Lee Grogan is in the yellow top and is the granddaughter lost to adoption, Katlyn Hosang, half-sister to Kiley and Kae-Lee is being adopted by her step-grandfather, and in the stroller is Kiley Grogan, who we are are still trying to adopt.

This entire adoption process was supposed to be a rather easy process, where everything just flowed into place and instead it has turned into an absolute nightmare.  We desperately want answers on what DHS has against us, we want to make sure Kiley receives the needed medical follow up, and we want to adopt her. She is a beautiful little girl who deserves the love and care of her grandparents, not living in a foster care home.  Even though someone has now applied to adopt, the excuse that she cannot bond with us is weak…we are her biological grandparents and had a bond with her prior to her being placed in foster care.  How can Rory Ayotte, Samantha Lord, and Judge Brown believe that she is capable of bonding with total strangers but not us?  It makes no sense, but than nothing in this case does.

We had some difficulties finding an attorney that handles adoption and was willing to drive to St. Clair County.  We were able to obtain one through Ford Motor Company’s legal benefits, and after the attorney attended an August 18, 2014 hearing with us she was also baffled.    The attorney had filed an appearance on our behalf, but Judge Brown was short with her and instructed her to go beyond the rail, even though attorneys are allowed to stand inside the rail, even if it is not their case.  Neither Samantha Lord nor the adoption worker and foster care worker from Bethany Christian Services brought up Kiley’s medical needs, so the judge is not even aware of those.  Both Ebony Armstrong and the foster care worker did inform our attorney that they are still favorable to our adopting Kiley, but it is DHS, the guardian ad litem and the court that has caused the breakdown of that process.   The court refused to allow our attorney to look at the file and she was refused a copy of the court order in which Judge Brown allegedly ordered we not receive visits.  She did say she would attempt to obtain a copy of that order for us and contact William Johnson regarding the situation at hand, but to date we have not received any additional information from her.  What the attorney did tell us is that in a weekly meeting at her firm she advised the other attorneys of what had happened in court and the Judge’s conduct towards her and they all agreed that there is something strange with this case.  It appears DHS and/or the Court are attempting to hide something.

This situation has been an emotional whirlwind for us for four years now.  Kiley, Kae-Lee and Katlyn were separated from each other and placed in foster care by DHS in June 2010.  We have tried to be patient and allow the professionals to conduct themselves in an efficient and appropriate manner.  They have failed our granddaughters and it is time to stand up and take action.  If nothing else, their refusal of our adoption application has provided me with the time to engage in making people aware of the tragic conduct of DHS/CPS, the adoption agencies they hire and the Courts that support such conduct by supporting the destruction of families and ultimately, the destruction of the emotional well-being of children.

If you have lost children or grandchildren, whether temporary or permanent, because of the bad behavior of workers employed by Child Protective Services and/or the Department of Human Services please let me hear from you.  I know this is a country-wide problem and I would like to communicate with others who have had similar experiences.  We need to unite to strive for changes to the laws of this country to put an end to such disgraceful mishandling of our children and enact appropriate sanctions for those workers who misuse their power and cause emotional trauma and suffering to children under the claim that they are protecting them.

Kiley Ann Grogan - MARE.org listing

Kiley Ann Grogan – MARE.org listing

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

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

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Filed under Adoption, Child Protective Services, CPS, Department of Human Services, DHS, Family, Foster Care, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, MCI, memoir, Michigan Childrens Institute

Blog Bonus – Spiders

Spider tipping hatThis is a Blog Bonus – a posting that is not on my normal schedule, a little something extra.  In my last post  They’re Back I talked about the return of the spiders to my front porch, something I am not thrilled with.  My 3-year old grandson, Corbin and 8-year old grandson, Austin, seem to view the event differently.  Corbin thought they were spiderman, and Austin thought I had a “cute little spider” and they both stood on the porch the other night when the spiders were out and said goodbye to the spiders before leaving.  Guess it is all in perspective.  I would love to say goodbye to the spiders, but on a permanent basis and it would be them leaving, not me.

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Filed under backyard, bugs, children, Family, Life is a Melting Pot, nature, spiders, spring

They’re Back

It keeps you on your toes when things are constantly changing.  A couple weeks ago I noticed they started appearing again, just a few, but the number has grown and their size has grown, and unfortunately they have returned, but I don’t really understand why that would happen now.

Back in June I wrote a post Where Have All the Spiders Gone? about the spiders that have taken up residency on my front porch every spring since our move here in 2004.  This year for some reason they never arrived.  They weren’t putting forth an appearance every evening on the sides and ceiling of my front porch, and we didn’t have to worry about walking through a web if we arrived home after dark and the front light wasn’t on.  Over the course of the summer I enjoyed not having them here.  I could sit out on the porch reading in the evening and not have to worry about them stringing webs above my head if I read past dusk.   It was wonderful, until now.Spider on rope

They are back!  Why would they come back in mid September?  Don’t they know fall is here, that the temperatures are going to get colder?   Do they have to cover my porch with their webs now, after all this time?   Don’t they know I have grown accustomed to their absence?  Could I be so lucky as to have a frost this fall kill them all off once and for all?

I really shouldn’t complain, after all they stay outside.  In all these years I have never had a problem with them invading the inside of the house.  I don’t have a problem with mosquitoes, most likely thanks to spider consumption.  Maybe they have done me a favor.  I used to be the type of person that would freak at the sight of a microscopic sized spider, now I can walk in with them all over the porch and not go into a state of panic.    That isn’t to say I don’t try to come in as quickly as possible to prevent the possibility of one landing on me, but I am able to walk calmly into the house without looking like I’m trying to escape a mass murder.   In fact I have grown to enjoy the comical, panicky entrance of those who are freaked out by them.  That still does nothing to satisfy the questions that now perplex me.  Spider - Bringed you a fly

My mind is even more curious than it was a few months ago.  Why were they here for nine years beginning in the spring and staying through fall, then this spring never arrived?  Where have they been all summer?  Why are they suddenly making their appearance now?  Will they be back next spring?   The great spider mystery, it just adds to the craziness.  I think it may become a cold case, never to be resolved.

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Filed under backyard, Life is a Melting Pot, nature, spring

Impression v. Reality

We all have an impression in our mind of what certain people should look like or behave like. Impressions that are imbedded in our minds from past experiences, misconceptions or any other wide range of factors. When we meet someone who does not meet the criteria our mind has set forth the reality is quite shocking. Chances are everyone who is reading this post has either been the subject of or subjected someone else to impressions that do not match reality.

Photo found on the internet that depicts the writer's impression of "grandma"

Photo found on the internet that depicts the writer’s impression of “grandma”

When I think of the term “grandmother” I picture my own grandmothers, grey haired ladies who did their hair with pin curls, wore full length aprons, never worked, never drove a car, and were great cooks.  That is the image that always comes to mind for grandmother, but I and numerous friends are the living reality that that is not the case now.  Modern day grandmothers work full time, drive cars, travel, are involved in activities, and although some of us may be great cooks we do not wear aprons.   So why can’t I shake the image in my mind of what a grandmother should look like?   Because that is what my grandmothers looked like and it is most likely what most grandmothers looked like in that era, but it is no longer the reality.

Motorcycle Gear - a photo of my friend Vicki dressed to ride.  Photo obtained from her Facebook page.

Motorcycle Gear – a photo of my friend Vicki dressed to ride. Photo obtained from her Facebook page.

My husband and I participating in a poker run.

My husband and I participating in a poker run.

What does a biker look like?  Back when I was in physical therapy following my motorcycle accident, one of the other patients asked what happened to me and when I told her she responded “You don’t look like a biker.”     She thought that people who rode motorcycles were always dressed in their leather vests, coats and biker boots.  I explained to her that people who ride motorcycles only dress that way when they are riding, but they are ordinary people who hold a variety of jobs, doctors, lawyers, salesmen, etc. and they wear normal, everyday clothing suitable to their profession.   When I was riding I did encounter people who treated me differently when I was dressed in my motorcycle gear, to the extent that I would say some were nervous.    What was funny was had I approached them without the leather vest or jacket they would likely have treated me the same as they were others.  Regardless of my clothing I was the same person.  People allow their minds to cloud reality and the impression they have set in their minds can cause them to prejudge.

handicap parkingI recently read a person’s letter to the editor in a newspaper in which the writer was commenting on a person who entered the McDonald’s he was at and voiced an objection about a non-handicap marked vehicle being parked in a handicap spot.  The writer was the person who had parked in that spot, did not have the state-mandated handicap tag but was on crutches and parked there.  In referencing the person that had objected to the spot being taken, the writer stated he “seemed to have nothing wrong with him other than being a bit overweight.”    What classifies a person as being handicapped?  They do not have to have an obvious physical disability that stands out and screams “I am handicapped.”  Persons who have obtained handicap markings for their vehicles have to obtain a doctor’s note specifying why they need handicap designation and then that document goes to the Secretary of State to obtain the appropriate tag for the vehicle.   Most people who do not know me do not realize that I have been in an accident and have a handicap parking designation on my vehicle.  I worked very hard to not have a limp after my accident, so when I walk into a building people do not realize that under my slacks I am wearing a compression sock and either a leather boot that supports my ankle or an ankle brace and that my ankle almost always has some level of swelling.    I have mastered the technique of getting in and out of my car so that people do not realize that to exit my vehicle I have to be able to open my car door all the way to put both feet firmly on the ground before standing up or that to get back into the vehicle I have to open the door all the way to get my left leg in a specific position to sit down.    My disabilities are for the most part not detected by the general viewer.  Therefore the impression of what a handicapped person is and whether or not they should be using a designated handicap parking tab and the reality of what may qualify a person for such a designation can be very different.

A wedding ceremony.  Photo by Grace Grogan

A wedding ceremony. Photo by Grace Grogan

I recently photographed a wedding in which I was shocked when I realized who the minister/pastor  was.  My impression of a clergyman is someone who is conservative, soft spoken, and always uses a traditional version of the bible.  Wrong!  The pastor/minister that conducted the ceremony was a very nice person, but did not fit my mind’s impression at all.    He was tattooed, had some piercings and used an electronic pad instead of a traditional bible.   I was very surprised when I realized he was the person officiating the ceremony and not a guest.   Had I met him on the street I would never believed he was a minister/pastor.  The combination of the handicap posting and my surprise at the minister/pastor’s appearance at the wedding is what led to the creation of this post.

Impression v. Reality can be a fun experience if you accept that what you mind thinks is correct may not be accurate.  The experience of learning how the mind plays tricks on you can be very enlightening.   If you have experienced the surprise of Impression v. Reality please share you experience here.

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Filed under assumptions, decisions, handicapp, impressions, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, mind, reality

Its been 33 years, well sort of 34

Ron and I shortly after we first met, 1980

Ron and I shortly after we first met, 1980

When do you start counting?  My husband and I celebrate our 33rd Wedding Anniversary today.  We were married September 12, 1981, but is that when you start counting your years, or should we include the time from when we met on May 9, 1980?  I suppose you officially count from the wedding, but we still have the memories from the beginning.

I wasn't a cook, but Ron was, and for our wedding he gave me the book "How to Boil Water" that he purchased at a garage sale.

I wasn’t a cook, but Ron was, and for our wedding he gave me the book “How to Boil Water” that he purchased at a garage sale.

In 33 years we have certainly experienced a lot — lots of fun, lots of ups, and of course some downs.  Life is rather like a roller coaster, chugging along in those climbs to the top, then the thrilling ride as you top the hill, a fast speed race to the bottom, and then you whip around a curve and the next hill approaches.

When I met Ron he was only a couple weeks into his divorce, which was a nasty one.  His ex-wife disappeared with their daughter (an infant) and we spent months locating her and then years trying to get visitation, including a full-blown custody trial.  Over the years we have had periodic ventures in court with a son that seemed to find trouble and/or get into trouble on a regular basis and is currently serving time in prison for home invasion.    Our daughter’s husband committed first degree child abuse against our son’s daughter, Kiley, when she was only 7 months old.  Nate, our son-in-law at the time,  went to prison and my daughter divorced him, but CPS became involved with both families and the rest is a horrendous story that is the subject of a book I am writing.

We have enjoyed many fun vacations over the years.  My first trip to Niagara Falls was in the  winter when it was under ice, and that was where we also  honeymooned.   Niagara Falls, Canada is one of my favorite cities and we used to travel there frequently for weekend trips.  The summer before our marriage Ron and I did a road trip to Hershey, Pennsylvania and down the Blue Ridge Parkway, where Ron was climbing on rocks to take pictures and sprained his left ankle.  His car was a stick, so I then did the majority of the driving, except when I couldn’t see coming down the mountain in the fog and he took over.  He was driving faster than I could see, which made me nervous.  That night I had repeated nightmares that we plunged off a mountain cliff, and each time the car started to fall I woke up, got up to use the bathroom and rammed my head into the wall mounted TV that stuck out just before the bathroom door.  Ron was exhausted and slept like a log and the next morning he commented that I had never arisen to use the bathroom all night!

Ron and Grace - Art Hop CroppedOver the years we took many family vacations, including a few trips to Florida where we once spent eight days at Disney and almost missed our flight home due to a thunderstorm on the final day that delayed out ability to exit the Magic Kingdom as quickly as we wanted.  Nothing like having the stewardess come running down the hall at you to assist with your carry-on luggage and then the doors slamming at your back as soon as you step onto the plane.  We also did trips to Universal Studios, Daytona, and a 2-night cruise to the Bahamas where we swam with dolphins.

With two kids who love amusement park rides we took numerous trips to Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio over the years.  I’ll never forget Patrick’s first ride on the Blue Streak.  He was just of qualifying height to ride and as we topped the first run of hills and were rounding the curve at the top in preparation for the next run I realized he had slid way down in seat.  I quickly said “sit up” and as soon as Patrick pulled him self back up fully into the seat I stuck my hand down on the seat between his legs to act as a brace and we made the next run.

We attended the International Collectible Show near Chicago, Illinois for several years and did road trips that included stops at Indianapolis Speedway, St. Louis Arch, Hannibal, Missouri (home of Mark Twain), and visits to the Precious Moments Chapel in Carthage Missouri.    We flew to Houston, Texas for a week long vacation one year enjoying many sights there.  Another road trip took us to Hershey, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, New York, and Niagara Falls where we enjoyed a helicopter ride over the falls.  Most vacations included a few “regular” things including an amusement park, playing putt-putt, visiting an historical home, and when available visiting a cave.   We have done America’s only cave where they drive you all the way through by tram in Springfield Missouri, the only cave where they take you through by boat in Pennsylvania, and the Mark Twain Cave in Hannibal that was featured in the books Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer.  Mark Twain actually played in that cave as a child and the tour guide explained to us the procedure for making sure all the children were back out of the cave each night.  2008 - Stephanie Burnham and Justin Fickles wedding

Ron and I also took a few trips without the kids over the years.  We spent a week in Hawaii around 1990, we spent a week in San Francisco in 2005, and one year Ron drove to Florida to see his daughter, Patricia, from his first marriage graduate high school while I drove to New York to see our niece graduate from West Point.   We have taken road trips up the east coast and west coast of Michigan to photograph light houses, and this summer spent a week in the upper peninsula of Michigan with the main focus being to photograph waterfalls.  NOvember 2008

I almost forgot to mention the “toys” of which we have had a few over the years, beginning with a Laser sail boat when we were first married.  This is a small sail boat in which you literally hang off the side and your butt most likely gets wet dangling in the water.  Ron’s thing, definitely not mine!  When Caroline was about 2 years old we purchased a 19-foot Baja boat, a bow rider which I loved.  I drove the boat and pulled Ron on skis.  We spent a lot of time on that boat for several years, and then as the kids got older we took it out less and less and eventually sold it.  We purchased a dirt bike for the kids to ride when Patrick was about 4 years old, Caroline 7.  We then got a moped, and when that one got totaled we purchased another.  We bought a set of jet skis and spent quite a bit of time using those.  The kids were older then, and they would frequently drop a car off to me and pick up my truck so they could tow the jet skis to the dock and take them out.  Then Ron and I got motorcycles, he got his in 2004, I got mine in 2005.  I was the motorcycle lover, frequently riding 35 miles one-way to work, 50 miles one-way to college, and loved taking rides to relax in the evenings.  On the weekends we would ride to activities/events we were attending, and also participated in poker runs.  We spent a lot of time out riding until one day on the way home from an event a car ran the stop signs and broadsided me, bringing our days of riding to an end.  I still miss the feel of the wind in my face and how relaxing it is to ride.  Ron spent over a year taking care of the house and me as I went through recovery, and then we purchased our latest “toy,”  a 35-foot motor home.

Photo with our Son, Patrick and Daughter, Caroline, at her wedding.

Photo with our Son, Patrick and Daughter, Caroline, at her wedding.

I have only lightly touched on the ups and downs we have encountered over the years.  We have deaIt with our granddaughter being severely and permanently brain damaged while under the care of who was, at the time, our son-in-law.  We have experienced the loss of a grandson born premature who died shortly after his birth.  We have no contact with one of our granddaughters whose mother has not always been cooperative about allowing our son parenting time, and the loss of two granddaughters at the hands of CPS/DHS workers who withheld contact, lied to the court, a guardian ad litem who lied to the court, and a judge who rather than seek the truth and require them to substantiate their claims ruled against us.  The youngest granddaughter, Kae-Lee, has already been adopted by her foster care parents even though we wanted to adopt and raise the two sisters together.  The judge has refused to allow us the visits that the director of the Michigan Children’s Institute said he needed to finalize his decision on adoption of the older granddaughter, Kiley, who had suffered severe brain trauma, leaving her status in limbo.

So now here we are after 33 years of marriage. We have encountered numerous bumps, mountains and valleys and will likely continue to do so as time passes on.  We are now empty nesters, both photographers, and enjoy travel when time permits.  So whether we count it as 33 years from marriage or 34 years from meeting, it has been a lot of fun and good times.  Here’s looking forward to another 33.

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Filed under anniversary, Family, marriage, travel

Let’s Get Prepped

Corbins First Day  of Preschool September 3, 2014

Corbin ready for preschool. Photo by Caroline Kelch.

This week as the children in Michigan returned to school I was thinking about how the more things change, the more they stay the same.  There were numerous Facebook postings of children on the first day back at school.  Photos were posted of my grandsons.  I don’t remember my mother taking the “first day” photographs every year, but I did take them of my children and that seems to be a popular modern activity.   In reflecting on back-to-school preparation and school routines there are generational similarities that may or may not be an improvement.

Austin and Corbin ready for school.  Photos by Caroline Kelch.

Austin and Corbin ready for school. Photos by Caroline Kelch.

I was of elementary school age in the 1960’s.  Back-to-school preparation involved getting 2-3 new outfits, new shoes, tennis shoes for gym class, new pencils, an eraser, a box of crayola crayons and a notebook and loose leaf notebook paper, and of course your metal lunch box, carefully selected with your favorite TV show on the outside and a matching thermos to carry your beverage.  There were no book bags or backpacks.

If you lived in town you walked to school, if you lived in the country you rode a bus.   There is a home movie of me and other students walking to school my kindergarten year on the shoulder of a road.  There were no sidewalks and we walked with cars driving past us on the roadway.  My first grade year we moved to the small town where I grew up.  Subdivision streets did not have sidewalks, so again we all walked on the side of the road.  Somehow we all managed to survive the hike each way without anyone getting killed or kidnapped.   Today’s parents would most likely cringe at the thought of sending their young children out to endure such a walk on a daily basis.

In the classroom each student had a desk with a lift up top so you could store all your supplies inside.     School started at 9:00 am with the Pledge of Allegiance, and then class instruction began.  There was a 15 minute recess in the morning,  and another recess in the afternoon.  A hot lunch could be Back to School Desk 1960spurchased or students could pack there own, and there were no restrictions on what could or could not be brought to school to eat.  Lunch was a one-hour period in which students sat wherever they wished in the cafeteria and once done eating would get up and go outside to play for the remainder of the lunch period.  If it was cold weather this involved walking back to your classroom area, unsupervised, to put on your hat, boots, etc. and then exit onto the playground.    School was dismissed around 3:20 pm.  Latch-key did not exist, everyone went home after school.    While some kids had extracurricular activities, for the most part the time after school was open for to play with friends, watch TV or do chores.  Elementary level students rarely had homework.

When my children were in elementary school in the early 1990’s shopping for school included several outfits, shoes, gym shoes, backpack, folders, spiral notebooks, pens, pencils, crayons, colored pencils, Kleenex, glue sticks, highlighters, red pencils,  lunch boxes, thermos, and other items I have since forgotten.    If you lived within a mile of the school your child was a “walker”, but the majority of the parents drove their children to school.  There was always a long line of vehicles going in and out of the school parking lot.  School began with announcements over the intercom system and each classroom then had the option of saying the Pledge of Allegiance.  When my oldest child was in third grade the district we lived in eliminated recess and it was Back to School Suppliesnever restored.  The only physical outlet the children had was gym class once a week, and art class.  Children who could not sit still or pay attention for extended periods of time were diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and medicated.   At lunch time students had assigned tables, sat with their classmates, and had to remain there until lunch was over.  Lunch was a quick affair, only 20-30 minutes to get your food and eat.  If a child forgot their lunch money or lunch they were offered a free peanut butter and jelly sandwich.    With most children coming from two income families, many children went to latch-key after school or had other organized activities in which they participated either immediately after school or in the evening.    My kids were no exception, participating in cub scouts, girl scouts, Awana, Karate, dance, and probably a few other things I have forgotten.

Now zoom forward to the 2010’s.  I  have grandchildren who are in elementary school.  Clothing and shoe requirements are about the same as they were when my children were young.  Backpacks are a must and children ride the bus to school even if they live in town.  My daughter deals with a lengthy list of required school supplies.  Many schools have supply lists available in advance at major stores so people can stock up.  You are not purchasing supplies for just your child, some items are shared with the entire classroom.  Required supply lists include notebooks, paper, folders, pencils, pens, highlighters, markers, glue pens, erasers, scissors, Kleenex, hand sanitizer, and snacks to share with the class.  Young children often have a lunch box as well.  Schools are managed tightly for security, teachers meet the youngest grades outside as they exit the bus, and escort them back to their buses at the end of the day.  Entrance to the school is only possible through the main entrance, all other doors are locked to prevent entry from the outside.  Most schools have eliminated the Pledge of Allegiance because of its reference to “One Nation Under God” and the fact that this reference might offend some people.  Classrooms have a mid-morning snack time using food provided by students.   Classrooms and/or schools may have restrictions on certain food items due to other children having allergies, with peanuts and/or peanut butter being a frequent restriction.  I believe there is limited recess time for the children to go outside and play and do not know what the arrangements are for lunchtime seating but assume it is a controlled and organized system.  Many children are scheduled with after school activities.Back to School Bus

What I question is whether things have improved over the generations.  Things were far more relaxed in the 60’s and 70’s than they are now.  There was less structure giving children more  opportunities to make their own decisions and they had more unscheduled free time.  More time was allotted for play/recess during the school day which allowed students to expel excess energy and learn social skills such as how to resolve conflicts on their own.  You rarely heard of children being medicated for disorders, allergies were practically non-existent, and violence such as stabbings and shootings in schools were extremely rare, basically non-existent.  If children got into a conflict or fight they may have been sent to the principal’s office, but suspensions from school for such conflicts were not common.  If our parents worked we went to a friends house after school or by around age 11 were allowed to let ourselves into the house and stay there alone until our parents came home.  Actually many of us were babysitting other children by the age of 11 or 12.    Parents of today may read this and wonder how we survived without having our lives properly organized.  The answer, we learned how to cope with boredom, how to socialize and resolve conflicts without violence and how to take care of ourselves so that we were well prepared to go out into the world and be productive members of society.

School - How do you turn this thing onChildren that grew up in the 80’s, 90’s and the 2000’s have led a much more structured lifestyle.  Their time has been mapped out for them with activities, video games and TV to prevent boredom.  School days are organized with where to sit, who to socialize with at lunch, and any physical or verbal conflict results in suspension due to “zero tolerance” policies.   Children do not learn how to conquer boredom, resolve conflicts or care for themselves because their time and care is mapped out for them on an hour-by-hour basis.  In my opinion this has resulted in increased violence amongst young people who are frustrated, angry, over-scheduled, and have never learned coping mechanisms for boredom and conflicts.  While not all children demonstrate these symptoms and many are successful, there are also a high number who are unable to adjust to the realities of adult responsibilities.

While it is doubtful that things will ever change back to what they were in prior generations, I think it is important to look at the overall affect our lifestyle is having on our children and try to make whatever adjustments we can to make sure that they learn all the skills they need to be successful academically and socially in school and later in their adult years.

I welcome thoughts on what you think on this topic.  Whether you agree or disagree, an active discussion is a great way to open minds and consider different viewpoints.

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Filed under children, education, Family, grandchildren, kids, Life is a Melting Pot, school

Preserve the Memories

Every person has moments that are uniquely memorable.  They are experiences that make you laugh, make you smile, and you think you will never forget them.  To a certain degree you don’t forget, but generally the memory is tucked away, filed in the back of your brain and rarely shared with anyone again. Memories - random memories that make me smile

Writers are the exception to this because they tend to put things in writing.  Journals, family letters, scrapbooks, blogs, articles and books all contain snippets of a writer’s memory.  The average person often looses those memories.  They may post them on a social media sight such as Facebook, but eventually the memory is lost and forgotten.    This is a sad loss, because your children, grandchildren and others should be able to someday enjoy the joy in whatever happened.

I recently flipped though a notebook of newsletters I have sent to family members over the years. Flipping through that notebook I was reminded of things not forgotten, but tucked away in my brain.    I encourage everyone to preserve their memories in written form for future generations to enjoy.  It doesn’t have to be something extraordinary, just a simple diary or journal will serve the purpose.  Years from now you can revisit those memories on your own, or your decedents can enjoy and treasure them.  You may be thinking, what kind of memories do I write about?    It doesn’t matter, it can be the mundane, everyday stuff or it can be a special moment in time.

When my daughter, Caroline, was about three years old she and a neighborhood girl followed the ice cream truck down the street in our subdivision.  They followed it for a long enough distance that the ice cream man finally gave them each a popsicle and told them to go home.  How do we know?  Because my husband and the other girl’s father were talking and discovered neither of them had made the purchase.    Speaking of ice cream trucks, I remember when I was a child my sister having saved up pennies and used them to pay for her ice cream.  I can still remember the look on that driver’s face when my sister handed him that baggie full of pennies.  Priceless!

My son, Patrick, came home one time and talked about he and a friend rigged up a “motor” to propel a boat they had down a canal.  When Patrick told me about it I thought he was making it up until a woman that lived on the canal happened to be telling a story about these two boys who devised a way to  propel their raft down the canal and she was quite impressed with their inventiveness.

Memories - a way of holding onto the things ou loveThe memories you record don’t have to be lengthy, just tidbits of life that reveal personalities, activities, and the joy of living living.    Small glimpses at life, such as Patrick calling me up at work and saying “I’ve got the eggs boiling, how do I double them again?”.  What he wanted was the recipe for making deviled eggs, but I could not convince him it was “deviled” because in his mind once you cut that egg in half, mixed in the ingredients and put them back together they were “doubled.”  To this day he loves “doubled” eggs.  Patrick also loves Fruity Pebbles cereal.  I have photographs of him eating it as a before bed snack, and as he got older the bowl got larger.  Why use a cereal bowl when a large Tupperware bowl that will hold half a box works just as well?  Patrick is now an adult, but a stroll down a cereal isle where Fruity Pebbles are on sale makes me smile because I know if he were still living with me I would be stocking up.

My daughter, Caroline, attended almost all the formal dances in high school and we usually managed to find her formals at very good reduced prices.  It was the most expensive gown we purchased that the spaghetti got dumped on.  Luckily it was a dark red/maroon dress and a quick stop at home to wipe it down between dinner and dance and no one was the wiser.  Then came senior prom.  Caroline was going to attend with her boyfriend but they broke up.  She then had someone else she was going with, but he had a death in the family and had to go out of state unexpectedly.  Caroline had tons of male friends offer to escort her, but she viewed them as friends not dates, so someone set her up with a blind date for prom.  The guy she got set up with did not look like her type at all, and the date flopped.  They attended the dinner, but shortly after he got ticked off about something and walked out, leaving Caroline stranded at prom.   Rather than get upset Caroline figured she was at her prom, knew plenty of people, and would be able to hitch a ride home when the time came, and she did.  Her analysis of prom – best formal she ever attended because once the blind date walked out she didn’t have to deal with any jealous boyfriend/date issues and was able to really enjoy the evening.

We have many family vacation memories as well.  Almost every vacation included playing putt-putt at least once because Patrick loved it, touring an historical home because I love them, and an amusement park.  I remember watching Caroline and Patrick come off an amusement park ride that my husband and I did not want to ride.  As they approached us at the same time we heard Caroline say “I’ll never ride that again” and Patrick  said “that was awesome, can I go again?”.   Patrick loves amusement parks.  Due to a rainstorm at Disney on our last day of vacation we almost missed a plane because Patrick wanted to ride the Mine Ride one last time (he was only four years old at the time).  None of us will ever forget the mad dash from rental car check-in to luggage check-in, through security, and a run down the hall towards the plane.  Once Caroline and Ron had boarded the stewardess came running down the hall at Patrick and I to assist with our carry-on bags, and as we stepped onto the plane the doors slammed at my back and she said “sit anywhere”.

Life is full of memories.  Cherish them.  Little things, like when I sat in the back seat during Patrick’s road test for his driver’s license and the tester’s leg kept getting in the way because he wasn’t used to having someone take their road test in a stick-shift vehicle.   Patrick passed the test.  Caroline having to repeatedly pull forward and try over and over to back the trailer down the boat ramp for the first time.  A huge line-up of boaters developed as they waited.  I had walked over and offered each an every one of them the opportunity to cut in and go first, but they all waited patiently, having at one time been in that same spot themselves.  When Caroline  finally dropped the jet skis into the water the crowd waiting to use the ramp gave her a massive round of applause.Memories are special moments that tell our story

I could continue to write memories for a long time.  Tidbits of life that are fun to remember, such as  my husband and I taking our motor home to a campground for the first time and he mistakenly putting the levelers down as far as they go so it felt like we were climbing into a tree house every time we entered.  Instead I am going to close by challenging each and every one of you to preserve your memories in a written format somewhere for you, your children and grandchildren to someday read and enjoy.    Those memories tell important stories about your life and personalities.  Don’t let them slip away.

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Filed under Family, kids, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, travel, vacation, Writing

Same But Different

After an 11-day vacation my husband and I arrived back home the evening of August 17th and I am still working on getting back into the swing of things.  Our trip was within our own state, but to an area that was very different from where we live.

Motor home and car.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Motor home and car. Photo by Grace Grogan

We began with a two-night stay in Boyne Falls, Michigan for a memorial service. We have a motor home and had booked into a campground there that is located on a country road. What we found, luckily after we had left the motor home at the camp and were driving only our car, is that the GPS does not distinguish between good country roads and seasonal, 2-track roads. We also discovered that it is possible for a GPS to get confused because after taking us down an assortment of roads it took us back down the same roads we had just come from. So much for a GPS being able to navigate from Boyne Falls to Boyne City — it couldn’t even find our campground!

Mackinac Bridge during Orange Barrel Season.  Photo by Grace Grogan.

Mackinac Bridge during Orange Barrel Season. Photo by Grace Grogan.

Our next destination was Iron Mountain, located in Michigan’s upper peninsula. Our drive from Boyne Falls to Iron Mountain was uneventful, unless you count orange barrels on the Mackinac Bridge an event. Of course all Michiganders know that summer is “orange barrel season” and why should a bridge be any different?  What we found during our stay in the UP is that although we were in the same state, the environment and way of life is very different.

Iron Mine Tour.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Iron Mine Tour. Photo by Grace Grogan

Iron Mountain is on the south side of the UP very close to Wisconsin and about midway across.  It is home to one of the world’s largest ski jumps, and if you drive to the war memorial there it will take you up to where the jump is located for a beautiful view of the area.  We enjoyed a tour of the Iron Mine in Vulcan, where they take you approximately 425 feet below the earth’s surface into the mine.   Mining has not been conducted there for years but it is interesting to learn the conditions under which they worked and the tools used to drill in the mine.

Iron Mine Tour Photo by Grace Grogan

Iron Mine Tour
Photo by Grace Grogan

Our main objective of the trip was to photograph waterfalls, lighthouses and nature.  We were disappointed that although we passed several Moose Crossing signs the moose were not being cooperative and we never saw one.  We did see several deer, wild turkeys, and what we believe were a couple coyotes.    We found that while some waterfalls are well known and have a lot of visitors, others are secluded, hard to find, and require driving down narrow county dirt roads that are only slightly wider than a car width and you will only find the waterfall if you are lucky because they are not well marked.

Walking to a waterfall.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Walking to a waterfall. Photo by Grace Grogan

Driving down county roads can be interesting.   We came across lumbering areas where we stopped to take photographs, and discovered that semi-trucks coming at you on those narrow dirt roads drive at a pretty good rate of speed.  Don’t forget to roll up your window because you will be engulfed in a smog of dirt after they pass.    Much of the UP is National Forest, so you are driving those narrow dirt roads with huge trees on both sides.  We commented on how beautiful they must be during the fall color season.

Bond Falls.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Bond Falls. Photo by Grace Grogan

Part of the UP is Eastern Time and the other portion is Central Time, and as we drove to our various locations we were constantly bouncing from one time zone to the other.  The solution, leave your wrist watch on Eastern, set the microwave on Central, and your cell phone will automatically change for whatever time zone you are in.    Although this did not have a massive impact on our vacation plans, you do have to keep that in mind when considering the hours a place is open or when you make reservations.

Lighthouse - Marquette  Photo by Grace Grogan

Lighthouse – Marquette
Photo by Grace Grogan

Two of the lighthouses we visited are private and can only be seen by tour.  We luckily stumbled upon them at the correct time to take part in the tours and learn about life at those locations.    The job of lighthouse keeper was a lonely existence for both the keeper and his family, as they were often in places that were located out and away from other civilization.  Climbing a lighthouse that is part of a home is an easier, shorter climb for a great view.   By the time you begin your climb up the spiral staircase to the lantern room you are already on the second floor of the home and only have a bit farther to go.

Iron Mountain View from War Memorial.  Photo by Grace Grogan.

Iron Mountain View from War Memorial. Photo by Grace Grogan.

I have given you a few details on our trip, but the question you may have is why did I say it is “Same But Different?”  Because it is.  I live in Michigan’s lower peninsula in the thumb just south of Port Huron.  When you cross from the “mitten” into the UP in some ways you take a step back in time and into a small town existence.  A “big city” has a Walmart and a KMart, and some fast food establishments, there aren’t many big cities in the UP, Iron Mountain, Marquette, Munising and St. Ignace are those that come to mind immediately.    The rest of the UP has small towns, no fast food, and the towns have long stretches of roadway between them.  Of course you can always find a restaurant serving pasties wherever you travel, something you will not find in lower Michigan.  A pastie is meat and potato with maybe a couple other veggies in a crust.  They were carried by miners down into the mines to eat for their lunches.

Walking to a waterfall. Photo by Grace Grogan

Walking to a waterfall.
Photo by Grace Grogan

We traveled Highway 2 several times and it is a long road of forest and very few cars.    You spend a lot of time driving in the Ottawa National Forest or the Hiawatha National Forest.  The UP does not have “rest stops” like we are familiar with where you have a nice modern building, vending machines and bathrooms.  When you travel in the upper peninsula there are Roadside Parks with picnic tables and the bathroom facilities are actually outhouse toilets.  Did you want to wash your hands?  If fussy about that you better carry some hand sanitizer.    We noted that most vehicles on the road are clean without any with damage from accidents or rust.  When living in an area where you have to drive for miles between cities without any other cars, homes or businesses between having a well maintained vehicle is a must.  While there are miles and miles of desolate area there is no litter.  Here in the lower peninsula you find litter everywhere, but not in the UP.  We never once saw so much as a gum wrapper on the ground – clean and natural as it should be.  Uppers take pride in their environment and it shows.

We will definitely go back to the UP for another vacation.  It was relaxing, has great photo ops, nature, and requires a lot more time to explore than we allowed.  If you want to go somewhere that is the “Same But Different” take a trip to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

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Filed under environmental, exploration, Life is a Melting Pot, Michigan, nature, travel, Upper Penninsula, vacation

Putting a Spin on Things

Flower Zoom by Grace Grogan

Flower Zoom by Grace Grogan

For a change of pace we are going to put a spin on things, literally, and focus on a new photo technique I have learned and have been working to master – the zoom and spin.

Horse rider competition tracking and zoom combination.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Horse rider competition tracking and zoom combination. Photo by Grace Grogan

This is a technique developed by Randy Heath, a fellow photographer and with his instruction I am slowly mastering the skill it takes to capture a quality photo in this manner.  It is fun and puts a new spin on subjects, giving them a unique, abstract look.

What I am finding is that bright colors work best, and it is best to take a lot of photos of the subject when shooting because you will get a lot of really trashy photos and only a few quality ones.    I have also found that some subjects lead better to this technique than others, and by adjusting the starting point of the zoom and how fast you rotate the lens you can achieve a variety of looks.

Coast Guard Boat zoom by Grace Grogan

Coast Guard Boat zoom by Grace Grogan

When you spin the lens slower you are more apt to capture a bit of your main subject in focus so that viewers can determine what it was you were shooting.  A faster zoom gives a more abstract appearance.  I have also tried some moving subjects, which puts a unique “spin” on it, because you have the combination of the spin of the lens doubled with the speed of tracking your subject.

Flower zoom.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Flower zoom. Photo by Grace Grogan

To capture this look you need is a DSLR camera and a zoom lens.  Set your camera to anywhere between f22 and f40 — play with the settings until you achieve the look you want.  Zoom in tight on your subject and push down enough to focus, then spin your lens as the same time you are completing the shot.  If you have your camera set on continuous shooting you can spin in and out several times and capture several photos at different points.  You can also vary the final outcome by changing the starting point at various levels of zoom, and zooming in and/or out while taking the shot.

Walk in the Woods zoom by Grace Grogan

Walk in the Woods zoom by Grace Grogan

One thing to remember is that this is a technique that takes a bit of practice, so don’t be surprised if the first few times you get a lot of pictures that look like major camera shake rather than an intended abstract.  Once you master the skill you will enjoy the ability to add variety to your picture taking.

Zinia flower zoom.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Zinia flower zoom. Photo by Grace Grogan

If the subject is something you want to make sure you capture a good photograph of I would suggest capturing a few good, quality photos first, then playing with this technique later as a fun addition to your photo collection.

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Filed under Activities, exploration, Life is a Melting Pot, Photography

Cold Hearted and Cruel or Realistic?

I am typically not what I would consider a political person, I am more human interest, and usually if a news item captures my interest it is because I feel things are being handled in an unjust manner.  As I contemplate an issue that concerns children, I have to wonder am I cold hearted and cruel or realistic?

What I am referring to is the issue that has been making the news about all the undocumented children from El Salvador, Guatemala, the Honduras and Central America being brought into this country as refugees.  While I can feel compassion for the fact that these children are coming from a bad situation, I also feel it is inappropriate to take in children from other countries when we have children in our own country who are living in poverty, hungry, and growing up in areas where gangs and violence prevail and the quality of education is lacking.  Why can we provide federal funding to support another country’s children before we have used that funding to provide for our own American born children?

There are approximately 30,300 children that have been placed with sponsors in the United States since January 2014.  That number does not include the status of approximately 2,500 children from Central America being housed on U.S. Military facilities in several states, and the Defense Department has agreed to house an additional 5,000 at other facilities.    The undocumented children that are being brought into this country are going to be classified as refugees and the procedure as an “humanitarian crisis.”    Why can’t the legislators recognize that we have children and adults in our own country that deserve such treatment and to provide them with the equivalent services would help to rise them out of their situation would be a humanitarian gesture?

What am I referring to?  Although these children are being dispersed throughout the country, their care is being financed by the Federal government.  The children range in age from six (6) years old to seventeen (17) years old and will be provided with educational classes and the cost of their medical care will be covered by a federal health care program.  I guess it is supposed to make the American citizens feel better because their individual states aren’t paying for it, but in reality it is our Federal tax dollars at work providing care to members of a foreign country.

Each undocumented person that is brought into this country must have an immigration hearing, but when will that be?  As of this month there are approximately 375,000 cases before the immigration courts.  With such a backlog already in existence it is possible that in places such as California immigrant children could wait three years or more for their hearing, and the situation is likely to become worse.  Immigration lawyers and judges are said to be setting hearings for 2017.

What does this mean?  Thousands of immigrant children are being brought into this country to protect them from a life of poverty and violence, with our own government providing them with not only an education and medical care, but our tax money is paying for the court staff, judges, court recorders, and attorneys are handling cases on a pro bono basis to represent these children.

Please let me make one clarifying point, I have no objection to people who immigrate into this country in a legal manner, and many of those who do so are very well educated, productive, members of our society.  What I have an issue with is providing financial aid and services to those from another country before we make sure that our own American born citizens are taken care of.

What is your opinion?  Am I cold hearted and cruel not to want to take in thousands of children?  Am I being realistic in thinking that we should take care of our own American children and families before we take on those from another country?  I would love to hear the thoughts of many on this subject.

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Filed under children, Family, kids, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot

I’m Hooked

I’ve battled it for years, refused to convert, held to the old ways, but now I am hooked.  How did this happen?  I have allowed myself to be influenced by those around me and finally decided to take the plunge and although still encountering some rough water, I am keeping myself afloat most of the time.

What am i referring to?  The scary and dangerous transformation from a traditional flip phone to a smart phone.  In my case, I went with the Apple IPhone.  After I made that decision and proudly announced my conversion I had some people tell me I should have gone with an android or a windows based phone, but being it is my first, I am doing okay and seem to have made a wise choice for me.

What I have found is nothing makes you feel dumber than a smart phone.    Everything you do when setting it up requires a password, and trying to type on a tiny screen keyboard can be challenging at best.  Finally discovered the pinky finger serves that purpose best, only to discover that those darn automatic fill-ins for words can make for some weird messages if you aren’t paying attention.

A major challenge — my ringer has no sound.  I was baffled.  It worked when I got the phone and for several days after, then suddenly gone.  I checked and I had the volume on high, the ringer tone selected for all features, calls, text messages, etc.  When a message or call came in I received a vibration but no sound, nothing.  I can play a video and it has sound, so I know the speakers are working.  My daughter has a smart phone, android based, and she stopped over so I had her try to help me figure it out.  We checked menus, verified settings, made test calls, but no sound.  In walks her boyfriend, looks at the phone and flips a slide button on the side of the phone and what happens – the ringer now works!  An unbelievable neat feature that turns the ringer sounds off with the slide of a button had dumbfounded me and my daughter for more than 30 minutes.    Nothing makes you feel dumber than a smart phone!

One of the fun advantages is the built in video and camera that allows you to take a shot and immediately post what you are doing to Facebook….and who can deny the fun of a “selfie.”   Fun, Fun, Fun!    Although I always said I had no desire to be connected on a regular basis to everything and everyone, I find myself glancing at the news feeds that come in from the local TV station and newspaper, and I do occasionally glance at the update run of Facebook postings without opening the actual website.    I have found that scanning Facebook or playing a game of solitaire while watching TV is a handy form of multi-tasking, making me at least feel somewhat productive while in a stagnated couch-potato state.

I do however have unexplored territory and ongoing challenges.  I have seen those little squares you are supposed to be able to take a photo of with your phone to access additional information, I have taken pictures but get no info.  What is the trick to that?  I have never used Face Time, have no idea what Safari is, and wonder if I will someday use all the features that are on my screen.  Why is it when I want to place a call or send a text message I get a list of all my email contacts, not just my phone contacts?   While I’m looking at things I accidentally call someone when I had no intention of doing that.  I don’t have to butt dial anyone, I can do it with the phone firmly in my hand and still not know what is going on.   Little challenges that I will hopefully tackle over time.

Life is a Melting Pot of unexplored territory, new adventures and technology.  I have adventured into the smart phone world and can guarantee I have no interest in turning back now.    If I could only feel smarter than the phone, that is the challenge!

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Filed under Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, Photography, technology

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