Time is Slipping Away

I just realized another week has passed and I should have posted a blog last night.  I am wrapped up in preparing for the burial of my husband, Ron, on March 4th and his Celebration of Life on March 6th.  I realized that is only four weeks away and it seems I still have so much to do.Time Management - find a way or an excuse

As we get older time seems to fly by.  Add a time-sensitive matter and time just goes on super-sonic.  As many of you know, my husband and I are/were both photographers.  Instead of a traditional funeral Ron wanted a Celebration of Life held at Studio 1219 with a display of his photography.  Preparation takes on a new meaning for something like this.I had to sort through what photos Ron had printed and ready for a photo show, then I ordered a couple canvas prints to go with them.  I still have to wire and label everything and it has to be at the studio before February 23rd for hanging.  This is also a Celebration of Live (memorial) so in addition to the standard photo show preparations I have the additional planning for that as well…guest book, paper and basket for guests to write memories, memorabilia, going through photos and creating a slide show, trying to guesstimate attendance and ordering food, flyers announcing the event, a Facebook event page, cards to have available for people to take at the event, and more.  Time Management - schedule our priorities

In the midst of all this I also work full time, have a 16-page newsletter for the family history group that is due for publication this month, I have to do our photography business records and file our sales tax this month, and I am still learning and juggling the things that Ron always handled, such as paying bills and doing the banking.

If you ask me if I’m doing okay I’ll tell you yes.  That wouldn’t be a lie.  I am doing okay.  I am also on an emotional roller coaster and am lacking self-motivation and seem to have depleted energy.  I assume that the lack of motivation and depleted energy are due to my emotional state.   I tend to be a positive thinker who doesn’t let things get me down.  This non-energetic state in which I lack motivation is new for me.  I don’t like it.  I am determined to beat it.  I have set what should be achievable goals for the month and will continue to work towards those goals.  I will focus on what needs to be done and move forward.   Positive thinking all the way!Time Management and Goal Setting

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What Creates Happiness?

I was recently having a conversation with someone who stated they rarely feel happy.  That surprised me.  I am in a period of adjusting to the loss of my husband of 34 years who passed just seven weeks ago, yet I do not consider myself unhappy.  I feel I am just in a temporary state of numbness that goes with the loss of a loved one.

What, I wondered, creates happiness in a person?  Why do some people go through life feeling satisfied with their life, while others are unable to pull themselves out of a state of depression, or rotating bouts of depression?

I believe that to a large degree happiness is created by attitude.  Positive thinking, the ability to adjust to whatever life throws at you.  This mind set contributes to a person’s ability to maintain happiness through life’s trials and tribulations.

Happiness-Quotes-concious-choiceBut what is happiness?  Happiness is created when a person has a deep sense of meaning and purpose in life.   A persons satisfaction with their life, how they feel on a day-to-day basis affects their ability to feel happy.  It is difficult for someone who does not struggle with the overall feeling of happiness to understand how others can lack a feeling of contentment that comes with being happy.

The best way I can determine for one to overcome their lack of happiness is to try to change their way of thinking.  There is a saying “fake it till you make it” that I think would serve a good purpose here.  Pretend to be happy.  Convince yourself that you are happy, that you will be happy.  Why?  Because it is what everyone wants, what everyone desires.  Convince yourself you are and it will come to be.

How do I know this?  Because that is how I live my life.  I have had numerous things thrown my way that can drag you to the bottom of an emotional pit, and yet I have succeeded in maintaining happiness.

What, you may ask, could I have dealt with that could be that bad.  I have had a granddaughter suffer severe brain trauma, not at the hands of her parents or my husband and I.  Child Protective Services removed her and her sister from the family and terminated parental rights.  Even though my husband and I applied to adopt, they were separated and adopted out to two separate families that are not relatives and we have no contact.  I have a son who let desperation get the best of him and is doing 6-22 years in prison for home invasion.   I was riding my motorcycle when a young driver ran the stop signs and broadsided me, causing severe and permanent injury.  Just when I thought I was healed my ankle began to deteriorate and I am facing more surgery at sometime in my future as a result.  My husband developed esophageal cancer and after battling it for a year, including surgery after which we thought he was cancer free, lost that battle on December 7, 2015.

happy_quote - Abraham Lincoln

I have encountered numerous events in my life that could have taken me down the path of negative thinking and left me in sorrow, and yet I prevail.  Why?  Because I am determined that I will.  I maintain a positive attitude.  I am determined to be satisfied in life.  It may be different.  It may not be what I originally planned or thought it would be.  I must accept those changes and look at them as my “new normal” in which I will succeed.

What Creates Happiness?  Perseverance.  Positive Thinking.  Acceptance of Change.  Determination.  All of those things, combined, create an attitude in which you are happy because you have the ability to cope with whatever life throws at you.  That state of satisfaction, contentment with life, gives you the confidence you need to move forward.  That is what creates happiness.

Happiness Quote 1

 

 

 

 

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Where is Spring?

Here in Michigan we had a very mild fall and early winter.  Temperatures in the mid 40’s and a very small amount of snow.  It was wonderful.  People did have trouble getting into the Christmas spirit.  It was hard to get into the shopping mode with green grass and wearing spring jackets when under normal conditions it would have been cold and normally some light snow.

Now the holidays are over and we are ready to break out the flip flops and head to the beach, but Mother Nature played a trick on us — well, actually tossed reality back at us.  It is now running 18 degrees, parts of the state are under heavy snow, and we have had to haul winter jackets and gloves out of the back of our closet.  winter - can I wake up and it be summer

Where is Spring?  It is hiding down the hill and around the corner.  It may peek at us now and then, just to remind us it does still exist, but is not going to spoil us and break out for at least another month or so.  April snow storms in Michigan are not unusual.

Michigan takes a beating on its weather.  A popular saying in our state is “If you don’t like the weather wait ten minutes, it will change.”  This is very true.  Michigan weather is unpredictable and because of that putting your faith in a weather report is suicidal.  However there is one thing to be said for Michigan.  We rarely have true natural disasters.

While Michigan is not completely immune, it does not normally have news breaking weather like so many states do.  Tornadoes, forest fires, hurricanes, mud slides, floods, earthquakes, and massive life-stopping snow storms are not the norm.  What temperamental weather we get can generally be dealt with and resolved within a day or two.  Some Beach Somewhere

So, as much as I would love the warm sunshine of a hot summer day, I know that is still in the distant future.  For now I will trudge through the skiff of snow, scrap the frost off my windshield, and drive with my car set to defrost more often than heat.  Yep, it all sounds good, but I do have one final question….Where is Spring?

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Numbness in Life

The new year has begun and I am determined to make it a good one.  I will conquer whatever challenges I encounter and move forward as a widow, a single person, whatever you want to call me.

I appear to others to be adjusted, back to normal.  However there is a numbness in life that I am aware of.  I haven’t quite gotten a grasp on this new normal for me.  That may be due to not having completed the final steps in Ron’s passing yet.

The final steps, I think, will be picking up Ron’s ashes and flag from the cremation society, making the arrangements for and completing his burial, and the Celebration of Life which is scheduled March 6th.  I believe that those steps will bring to a culmination the reality of his passing.

I have started to do some  cleaning out around the house, but not of a personal nature.  I have eliminated foods that Ron ate and I didn’t, rearranged some things to my liking rather than a compromised liking.  However Ron’s wallet still sits on the charging station where he always left it, the collection of his stuff on the master bath counter that I always found irritating when he was alive remain there.  I have not yet unpacked the duffle bag of clothes that I took to hospice for him.  I have not downloaded the pictures from his camera of his last photo shoot.  I still wear my wedding rings every day.    life - where you are headed is bigger than where you have been

Those things, and the fact that our house is a mixture of him and I, leave the feeling that this is all a dream and he will one day return.  Realistically I know that is not true.  Emotionally it is a security blanket.

It has only been one month since Ron passed on December 7, 2015.  In some ways it feels like it just happened, in other ways it seems like it has been ages ago.  That just goes with my feelings of Numbness in Life.

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Good Things and Goals

We rang in 2016 about 48 hours ago.  As goes with this time of year, many out there have posted their New Year’s Resolutions, and most will falter on completing them.   Why make resolutions when you can commit to Good Things and Goals?

In January 2015 I decided to do a “Good Things” Jar.  This is a jar that whenever something nice happens, it can be something as simple as a beautiful sunset to something much more complicated, but whatever it is it is something good that happened to you.  Jot it down on a piece of paper, date it, and drop it into the jar.  IMG_1574

The official instructions tell you to open the jar on New Year’s Even and read all the notes that you have in it, then put them back into the jar and save it so you can always pull those notes back out in the future if you choose.  I did a modified version of those instructions.

I filled my jar with lots of good things, which was a double bonus because it was also the last year my husband was alive.  What I did is on New Year’s Day I opened up my jar and took out and re-read all those notes and attached them to scrapbook pages with a few photos to add points of interest.  I am now re-using my empty jar for 2016.

IMG_1567I also decided that rather than have New Year’s Resolutions I am going to have monthly goals.  I will re-set my goals each month, and they can be repeating goals or things that are new.  What this does is provides short-term focus, mini accomplishments and the ability to re-evaluate the goals on a monthly basis to assist with motivation.  DSC_4892

My start-up goals for the month of January are to follow my diet beginning on Monday, January 4th, work on organizing my house at least three times a week with a minimum of two hours each session.  Clear the area around my exercise machine so I can use it, read at least three books per month and work on photographs (processing, uploading, etc.) at least once a week, and work on the preparations for the Celebration of Life in honor of my husband at least two times a week.

 

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Reflections at Christmas Time

This year will be different.  Christmas will be eighteen days after my husband, Ron, passed away.  I am still adjusting but overall have my head wrapped around it and am gradually moving forward with what will now be my “new normal” life.

I’m not having a problem, at least not now, with the idea that Ron will not be with us on Christmas day.  That day will play out almost like normal.   Time will tell, and the times when people aren’t here may be more difficult than when I have people here as a distraction.   In the meantime preparations have kept my mind distracted, decorating, wrapping gifts, and planning meals.

What I am finding is it is the little things you hear, or find, that can really hit the emotions.  Two or Three weeks before Ron passed two boxes arrived that said Precious Moments, I am a collector.  Ron told me not to open them, they were for Christmas.  He put them up in our bedroom closet and that is where they sat.  I went to get them and place them under the tree.  I will open them on Christmas Day and see what is in them.  I knew they were there so it was not an emotional situation, at least not until I saw a green plastic bag containing a box on top of them.  I looked inside and Ron had purchased a Christmas ornament while out west that he probably planned to give me at Christmas.  It was hand crafted metal works in the design of a motorcycle.  Ron knew that even now, five years after my accident, I still miss riding.  Discovery of the ornament and the emotional connection of his understanding that I still feel the loss of an activity I enjoyed came through that one Christmas ornament and hit me.

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A motorcycle ornament Ron purchased out west and had hidden with Christmas gifts. 

Little things impact you, and make you wonder why.  I put both pair of Ron’s eyeglasses into their case.  Then I stood there holding the case and had a hard time walking it over and tucking it onto the desk.  Why boxing up his glasses had such an emotional impact one can only wonder, but it did.

Small connections with people or comments they make can take you by surprise.  A a dental appointment last week a couple of the dental hygienists asked how Ron was doing.  One of them,. Patty, got teary eyed when I told her Ron had died.  Patty has been cleaning Ron’s teeth since around 1974 when he got out of the service and his mother told him to schedule a dental appointment because there was a cute new hygienist there.

There are other people I have talked to who when told of Ron’s passing said he used to talk about me all the time, that he was proud of me, that he was always talking about what I did, if I outscored him on photo competitions, and more.  I never knew he did that all the time.  People he had no need to share that with.    Then my mind questions whether I did equally as well for him.  Did I support him as well as he supported me?  I hope so, but the mind still ponders over it.

I am learning to do things I’ve never done, or rarely done in 34 years because Ron always handled them.  I have done the banking, paid bills, called the CPA for advise, and will be meeting the financial adviser for the first time ever.  I have done minor things such as take the trash out, bring in the mail, change a light bulb, and clean out the frig.

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Ornament given to me by Blue Water Hospice after Ron passed.

I know in the future I will encounter additional challenges, things I have never done.  If something breaks down I will have to call a repairman, when the cars need oil changes I will have to schedule appointments and get it taken care of.   I know furnaces need to have their filters changed, but when and how?   I don’t even know how to change the gas tank on our grill.  My “new normal” is a learning experience.  I hope I live up to the challenge.

So as we approach Christmas Day I reflect on the past.  Christmases of the past, New Year’s of the past, trips we have taken, traditions we held.   I will continue to hold those things dear as I forge ahead into building a new, different, life for myself.

 

 

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Going Through the Motions

It has now been ten days since my husband, Ron, passed away.  Life goes on, and while I appear to be functioning on a normal level, I am numb.

I get up, go to work, come home.  The holidays are a distraction.  I have my daughter and her kids coming here on Christmas day and my sister and her family on December 26th.  I had to decorate, at least to a certain degree.   I got my tree up, some decorations out in that room and my kitchen, and called it done.  It wasn’t fun this year.  It was just a process that I did, a duty I performed.

My granddaughter, Alexandria, had her first birthday, and as is our tradition my daughter came over with cake and we had a celebration here at the house.  Except Ron wasn’t here to see Alex turn one.   She will never remember him on her own.  My grandsons are trying to understand death, heaven, what it means when a person is gone from their lives.  Both were extremely close to Ron.  They know something has changed but haven’t quite grasped what it means.

I am trying to do what is normal, what we have always done.  I attended a Christmas potluck at Studio 1219 where we both have our photography, have been members for years and have done a lot of volunteering.  I was fine when I arrived, until I walked into the room where everyone was, all those familiar faces, and had to take a couple deep breaths to get control of my emotions.

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Alexandria’s First Birthday

Tonight I am going to the Christmas party / meeting of the Blue Water Shutterbug Camera Club, another organization Ron and I have both been heavily involved in for the past eleven years.  I am closer to this group of people than to those at the studio.  It is a fun group.  Hopefully I can keep a grasp on myself and get through tonight without a problem.

So I got to work.  I try to remember to do things here at home, such as bring in and open mail, that were always handled by Ron.  I make calls to notify life insurance, pension, and others of his death.  I wrote his obituary.  I prepare for the Celebration of Life that will be held in March.

I go through the motions of life, but inside I feel numb, empty, lonely.  It is a process.  An adjustment.

 

 

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We Turn The Page

Last week I wrote about my husband, Ronald Grogan’s battle with cancer.  We were informed on the 1st of December that the cancer had spread, there was nothing they could do.  We began living the rest of our marriage day-by-day.

Those days were numbered more tightly then I realized.  On Thursday, December 3rd Hospice contacted me and at that point I told them I didn’t need them to do the intake appointment until the following Monday or Tuesday.  By the next day, Friday, Ron’s condition had worsened to the point where I decided to call and have them come out that day to get him set up.

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Ronald and Grace Grogan

The intake appointment was conducted Friday at about 4:00 pm, and we were told that because it is a lot of information to absorb they would send out an on-call nurse Saturday to check on Ron and answer any questions.

Saturday at around 2 pm the visiting nurse arrived.  Ron was very weak, hadn’t eaten anything and said he almost fell when using the restroom early in the morning.  After some discussion Ron made the decision that he should be transferred to the Blue Water Hospice House immediately.

2324 - Ron and Grace-  Leelenau Peninsula - North 2015

Ronald and Grace Grogan

I got Ron checked into hospice around 6:00 pm on Saturday, stayed with him until 8:00, and then went home for the night, telling him I would be back on Sunday.  I went home, made phone calls to inform family, and found out that my sister and her husband, my sister-in-law, and my brother-in-law all planned to visit the next day, as did my daughter, her boyfriend and her three children.

Sunday was a busy day with all the visitors coming and going.  As we approached evening and everyone except my sister-in-law had left, the hospice nurse, Holly was chatting with us.  I had made a comment about going home to sleep and stopping in the next morning on my way to work.  I live and work about 3 minutes from the hospice house, so I thought that was reasonable and convenient.

0197 Ron taking photographs-1Holly didn’t question my thought process so much as ask me questions that steered me into making a better decision.  She asked me, in my opinion, on a scale of 1-10 how much I thought Ron’s condition had worsened since I had checked him in 24 hours earlier.  I said about a 6.  Holly then looked at me and asked if I was sure I wanted to go home that night, and was I sure I wanted to be at work, because two minutes could make the difference in being there or not being there when he passed.  I made the decision to stay and my sister-in-law, Cathy, said she would stay with me.

Cathy and I made a quick run out to pick up sandwhichs for dinner and a run to the house for me to grab my glasses so I could remove contacts, then back to the hospice house for the night.

3557 Ron and Tripod after implosion

Aftermath on an implosion – Ron Grogan takes down his camera and tripod as the cloud of dust rolls in. Copyright 2015. Photo by Grace Grogan

I was informed that it is okay for me to get in bed with Ron and sleep with him, they encourage that.  At 8 pm I layed down in the bed with Ron for what I thought was a few minutes.  It turns out I fell asleep and was there for about two hours.  I got back up, but then later that night went back into the bed with him, which is where I slept all night, holding his hand, covering him up when he got cold, listening to his breathing.   At 6:20 am I got up for the day.

Ron was still responsive at that time, but shortly after stopped responding to questions.  Our son called and I held the phone to Ron’s ear while Patrick talked.  Cathy and I made a quick run out to pick up breakfast and lunch. In the early afternoon Cathy went over to the family room to lay down and rest.  My daughter, Caroline and her boyfriend stopped in with just the baby.  The nurse had come in, checked on Ron and said time was getting close.

I was sitting on the bed, holding Ron’s hand, talking to him.  His breaths were getting more distant, but every time Alexandria  made a sound he struggled for another breath.  I told Caroline I thought he was hanging on and wouldn’t let go till Alex was out of the room, so Caroline, Rob and Alexandria left.

Memories - a way of holding onto the things ou loveIt was only minutes.  I told Ron that it was okay, I would be okay.  Ron took two more breaths with a wide space between and was gone.  When I realized he was not going to take any more breaths I hit the nurses call button.  When they heard me crying over the intercom one of them came in and rubbed my back as I lay there crying.  It was so close they tried to catch Caroline in the parking lot but couldn’t.

I don’t know how long I lay there, my guess is about ten minutes before I asked if one of them could go across the hall and advise his sister.  We both called family members to let them know.  The people at hospice left me alone with Ron until I was ready for them to clean him up.  They contacted the National Cremation Society and made arrangements to have his body picked up.

Ron was wheeled out of the Blue Water Hospice with an American flag over his body because he is a Veteran.  He will be buried in the National Cemetery in Holly, Michigan.  We will have a celebration of life for him in March where his photographs will be displayed.

2009So now we turn the page.  It has been only two days since Ron passed.  I am learning how to come home to an empty house.  To move through my days without him here.  I am adjusting, slowly.

 

 

 

 

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Living Day by Day

We all live expecting life to continue as it always has.  We dream, make plans, say we’ll do things tomorrow.  What if tomorrow never comes?  What if you find out your tomorrows are limited?  That is when you begin living day by day, one day at a time.

Ron-1

Ron approximately 1980

If you have been a reader for a while you may remember when I wrote in January about my husband’s Slippery Surgical Stress where due to a large tumor and cancer he had a transhiatal esophagectomy in which they removed his esophagus then raised his stomach up and attached it where the esophagus once was.  The surgery went well, he had a speedy recovery and it was believed he was cancer free.

Then at Ron’s three month post-op checkup they found cancer in his lung, which they related to the esophagus cancer.  He began a round of chemo, wearing a chemo-pack for 48 hours every two weeks.  After that round they did another scan, the cancer had gotten worse and they changed the type of chemo and he did another round, which he completed on November 19th.

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Life is Like a Camera. Photo by Grace Grogan

Ron had a CT Scan on Monday, November 30th.  The cancer has spread.  Chemo is not working.  Treatment is being stopped.  Ron is down to 99.6 lbs and is unable to eat or drink much.  He is very weak and exhausted all the time.  We inquired as to whether it would be beneficial to have him hospitalized and put on a feeding tube to get nutrition into him.  The answer was devastating.  A feeding tube will not provide him with an increase in energy and will not enhance his quality of life, instead it could deplete it due to potential complications.

So, I took my husband home and we take it day by day.  The oncologist will have hospice contact me.  We plan for his passing.  I pray he makes it through Christmas.   Once we hit Christmas, the next goal is our grandson’s birthday in January.  We will set goals one-by-one.

Emotionally this is very trying.  I have spent more time in tears in the past 48 hours than I have in years.  I feel horrible that he and our son (who is in prison), only have telephone contact or letters for contact during this time.   They are very close and this is hard on both of them.   I feel crushed that our youngest grandchild, who will have her first birthday on the 12th of December, is too young to remember her grandfather.  I worry about my two grandsons, ages 4 and 9 who are very close to him.  I could be a fly on the wall, it is always “where’s Papa?” when they come through the door.

So, this has been a rough year,  but it has also been a good year because when Ron got the diagnosis that his cancer was back he took a positive approach and lived like he was dying.  He took 2-1/2 weeks and drove west to Sante Fe, New Mexico and back, making numerous stops along the way and doing things he had never done…a hot air balloon ride, a glider ride, and more.  The two of us flew to Albuquerque and attended the International Hot Air Balloon Festival.  We drove north and toured the Michigan State Hospital, went up into the UP and visited our son.  Ron walked the Mackinac Bridge on Labor Day, and old tradition of ours.  He drove to Tennessee and checked on property we own there, taking a side trip to Nashville where he had never been.  Ron attended his 45th Class Reunion, we went to a BBQ where he saw some of his old high school friends.  He took pictures, he planned for the future.  He spent this past  year the best he could.

I am trying to maintain as normal a routine as possible.  Friends and family have been supportive.  We have people scheduled to come visit him.    I dread the day he is no longer here.  In some ways it feels lonely already.

I have adopted the motto of my teenage nephew, who a few years ago was battling cancer and facing imminent death.   His motto was “Every Day’s a Bonus.”  I’m borrowing that motto.  Every day that I have Ron here with me is a bonus.

 

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Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a day when we traditionally gather with family or friends and enjoy a large meal.  The Thanksgivings of my childhood are different than those I have now.

Thanksging - Grandma and PieAs a child we would travel “up north,” which meant to grandma and grandpa’s house in Traverse City.  The men (my dad, uncles, adult cousins) would go deer hunting and then come in from hunting for the meal.  The women did the preparations which included turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and of course pumpkin pie.  I remember my grandmother also having mincemeat pie.  I tried it as a child, hated it and have never been able to bring myself to try it again.  I don’t even know what is in it, I don’t like the appearance and I remember hating the taste.

When I got married my husband and I would juggle from year to year traveling to either my parent’s home in Eaton Rapids or my in-laws home in Boyne City.  At the home of my parents the meal was similar to what I had grown up eating except my mother would have 2-3 fruit pies in addition to the pumpkin, but no mincemeat.  The gathering would be my parents, my husband and I with our kids and my sister, her husband and their kids.  family - telling story of ffamily

When we traveled to my in-laws in Boyne City the size of the gathering could vary greatly depending on how many of the kids were coming home.  My husband was one of five and there were eventually 13 grandchildren so the gathering could be quite sizeable.  My mother-on-law was a wonderful cook and baker, so the meal had all the traditional foods plus duck, and she always made both the pumpkin and pecan pies.

My introduction to the family was the first Thanksgiving after my husband and I started dating.  Quite a few of the family members were home.  My father-in-law was at the end of the table and asked to have a roll passed to him.  My mother-in-law, who was seated at the opposite end, picked one up out of the basket and threw it to the end of the table.   I was shocked.  My family was much smaller and never did those type of things.  Now don’t get the wrong impression.  These were very well mannered people enjoying an informal family setting.  It was fun and relaxing whenever they gathered for any holiday or event.

Now I’m the one that does the cooking.  Our parents have all passed away, and our children come with our grandchildren to spend Thanksgiving with us, though they only have to travel a mile down the road, not several hours.  The meal has the traditional turkey and stuffing, plus mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes with pumpkin pie for dessert.

thanksgiving - 8 servings of pieMy Thanksgiving meal differs from that of my childhood or those prepared by my mother-in-law.  I don’t have a regimented menu.  I mix it up a bit from year to year.   I don’t do everything from scratch.  My pies are generally purchased pre-made, my rolls are sometimes from a mix, sometimes brown and serve.  This year my three main side dishes are being prepared in a triple crock pot to keep it simple.

However you do Thanksgiving, I hope it is a happy one.  Enjoy time with family and friends.  If you are on your own take yourself out to a restaurant and enjoy a traditional meal or look for a soup kitchen to volunteer at.  Enjoy the day regardless of whether you are with family and friends or making someone else’s day a bit better for them.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

 

 

 

 

 

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When Emotions Surprise You

When my mother passed away May 24, 2013 my dad asked my sister, Carol, and I to go through and clean out mom’s things.  We had started working on it but had not yet completed the task when our Dad passed away on December 3, 2014.

It was in January or February that I started making the 2-1/2 hour drive to their home so Carol and I could work together going through their belongings, sorting things out, taking what we wanted.  They had moved into the house in 1966 when I was six years old.  The accumulation was massive.Emotion - memories taken for granted

Throughout the process we found things that made us go “why?”, such as boxes and boxes of health-care books.  We found things that were funny, items we could use in genealogy, photographs that were fun to flip through, collectibles, and numerous other things.  One of the neatest discoveries was four boxes labeled “treasures” that were filled with family heirlooms and lists typed by my mother on an old-fashioned typewriter giving the information on each “treasure”, such as how the family acquired it, who had owned it, etc.  Those four boxes were a genuine, exciting surprise.  Finding Treasures was definitely fun.

It was an exhaustive process and when we finally reached the point where we had sorted through and removed everything we wanted, it was time to call a company for an estate sale.

Emotion - when something breaks your heartThe estate sale was Wednesday and Thursday this week.  It was rainy, windy,  and cold, but the street was a busy flow of cars and people were making purchases.  Everything was under control when I arrived to see how things were going.

What surprised me was the emotional impact it had on me when I entered the home.  I never expected it to be that difficult.  I was glad to be done with the sorting and cleaning, glad that I now longer have to spend all my weekends there.   When I walked through the door and saw strangers digging through my parent’s  belongings, walking around in the house I had grown up in, it was hard.   I was swallowing and blinking my eyes to keep from crying.  I maintained my control, walked through the house, and didn’t fall apart until I got back into my car.Emotion - smile, hold back the tears and walk away

Then I tried to analyze why I had such a hard time.  Was it because it felt like a personal invasion to have strangers going through their belongings?  Was it because it was the house I grew up in and soon would be out of our hands?   It is hard to explain.  It could have been one of those things, it could have been a combination, I will probably never know.  I was shocked at my own emotional reaction.

Emotion - upset specific to those who careI did go back to the house later and again the next day and did not re-experience that initial emotional hit.  The sale is now over.  We sold a ton but have lots of things left.  Now we have to figure out how to get rid of as much as possible.  Life is never dull….Life is a Melting Pot!

 

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Boom! Then The Walls Caved In

Implosion. Photos by Grace Grogan, Copyright 2015

Implosion. Photos by Grace Grogan, Copyright 2015

The anticipation, are you going?  Where are you going to watch from?  As the time grew shorter, the inquiries became more frequent, planning more intense.  It filled conversations, Facebook posts, the newspaper.  The much anticipated implosion of the DTE Power Plant in Marysville, Michigan.

Marysville Power Plant, Copyright 2015. Photo by Grace Grogan

Marysville Power Plant, Copyright 2015. Photo by Grace Grogan

The plant was built along the St. Clair River, an international waterway and shipping channel.  My husband and I decided the best vantage point would be from the Canadian side of the river.  We were not alone in our thinking.  Both Canadians and Americans lined the roadway to watch the event.

It was scheduled for 8:00 am on November 7, 2015, and it is one of the few activities I have ever attended where 8:00 am meant exactly that.  At 8:00 am you could see lights flash in several spots, the boom as explosives went off, and then watch the building go down in a matter of seconds.  Definitely worth getting up early to see.

Dust and smoke billow out across the St. Clair River.  Copyright 2015.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Dust and smoke billow out across the St. Clair River. Copyright 2015. Photo by Grace Grogan

Immediately following the implosion a huge, billowing cloud of smoke and/or dirt rose up and started to roll out over the river, eventually hitting the bank and coming up onto the Canadian soil.  Then, in a few minutes it was clear again and you could see the huge pile of rubble left where a building had once stood.

Aftermath - Ron Grogan takes down his camera and tripod as the cloud of dust rolls in.  Copyright 2015. Photo by Grace Grogan

Aftermath – Ron Grogan takes down his camera and tripod as the cloud of dust rolls in. Copyright 2015. Photo by Grace Grogan

Then the traffic jam started.  You know how it is when you are trying to leave a large event, bumper to bumper traffic moving at a slow pace.  The problem was, the authorities had not really anticipated the amount of vehicles that would be there and had no one directing traffic to clear it out quickly.  We didn’t even attempt to enter traffic for at least a half hour or more.

The downed power plant.  Copyright 2015.  Photo by Grace Grogan

The downed power plant. Copyright 2015. Photo by Grace Grogan

Was it worth it?  Absolutely!  Would I attend an implosion again if the opportunity arose?  Definitely!  Watching a building come down in only a matter of seconds is a sight to be experienced in person.  It can not be explained.

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Happy Veterans Day

Veterans Day - Happy Veterans DayThe only purpose of this post is to give recognition of those who provide service to our country, protecting our lands both here and abroad.  Those who have served in the past and continue to serve now.  THANKING ALL VETERANS FOR THEIR SERVICE.

Veteran - What is a Veteran

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When the Lights Go Out

Internet went downA week or so ago I was finally home for a Saturday, the first one in weeks, with a long to-do list.  At 10:30 am there was a glitch — we lost our power.  Washer and Dryer both stopped mid-cycle.  Dishwasher stopped mid- cycle.  I’m not used to this.  In the eleven years we have been in this house we have only lost power 3-4 times – why now?

It was rainy and gloomy outside, which means even with the blinds open it is dark.  I managed to get the small load of clothes out of the dryer and hung them to dry.  Then I stood in the house looking around.  What could I do that would allow me to be productive with only the light from the windows?

The CD’s on our shelves had all been taken down and needed to be reorganized, and there was a window nearby.  Not a very exciting project, but at least it was something.  Rather blah sorting music CD’s when you can’t even pop one in the player to listen to.  At least it was something to do.

Life without power is challenging.  Walk into the bathroom close the door and realize as you flip the switch that there is no light.  You are standing in a pitch black room because it has no window.  Exit the room and go look for a flashlight to use.  As you are looking for the flashlight you walk into a room and instinct comes into play…you hit the light switch out of habit, and again nothing happens.  Then you feel like an idiot….why would you be looking for a flashlight if the lights worked?

The coffee maker went off with the power, so now you want to warm up a cup of coffee, but the microwave won’t run.  The internet also went down with the electricity, so you try to surf using your phone, but due to lack of power the cell lines are tied up and nothing is loading.   Figure out lunch with items that do not require cooking.

It was around 4:30 that our electricity came back on.  Lights flashed on, lights that had been on when the power went down sprang to life.  However the internet was still out.  We have a package plan, internet, phone and TV, so nothing worked.  Predicted connection:  11:30 pm.   You feel like you’ve been stripped of contact with the world!  Now what will I do.  I have lights, but no TV, phone or internet.

Losing power, even for a short time, is a wake-up call to how dependent we are on technology.  Our ancestors lived without all these modern conveniences and did quite well without them.  Yet loose the for a portion of the day now and you find yourself lost, unable to function, because everything relies on electricity and/or internet connections.

Try going for a few hours without any lights, electricity, internet, TV or telephone.  Get back to the basics of life.  It will give you an appreciation for all you have, and for how your ancestors lived very happy, content lives without all our technology.

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If I Could Write A Letter To Me…

I was recently listening to an old Brad Paisley Song, “Letter to Me”    The song talks about writing a letter and sending it back to yourself at age 17, reflecting on the past.  That started me to thinking about what kind of advise I might give myself if I were to reflect back on my youth.  I thought it would be easy, but it isn’t.     What would I change if I could?  What would stay the same?

I would probably tell myself to have more self-confidence, not be so timid.   Although the popular crowd seems desirous to be in as a teen, they are all just people and having one or two good friends that last and you can trust is better than having a lot of casual friends.  a.youth

I started working at age 14.  While this was good experience, I would tell myself to do more extracurricular school activities and work less.  You are only young once and have a whole lifetime to be committed to a job and making money.  Try out for a play, join a club, enjoy the high school experience.

If you skip school less and spend more time on your homework you would have a higher GPA.  But then again, you did have fun, and an A-B average through high school isn’t bad.

Don’t start business college the same month you graduate high school.  Take the summer off.  Enjoy life.  You may have not gotten frustrated and/or burned out on school if you had at least taken a summer break.  Push to go away to college, experience living on your own a little.  If not college, get an apartment with a friend.  Experience single life without being under the shadow of your parents.

Follow your dream career, not what your mother thinks is safe and/or proper.  Although her advise led you to solid jobs throughout your adult life, you will never know what you may have been because you didn’t fulfill your own personal career dream.

That boyfriend you have been with off and on for years is not the one you’ll marry, but he will eventually become a good friend.   The experience, both the good and the bad, helps you to form the person you become as an adult.

a.youth2Follow your gut instincts about people and situations.  Regardless of what others think, you have good instincts, use them. Never regret standing up for your own safety and your moral standards.  They will serve you well.

You have a lot going for you, even though you think the things you are dealing with now are critical, they don’t even begin to delve into what life is all about.   Enjoy your youth.  You will met someone and marry, have kids and grandchildren of your own.  You’ll move away, build a life and as an adult look back on this day and realize that what you have now are some of the easiest years of your life, but the best is yet to come.

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Touring The Insane Asylum

Touring the The Traverse City Commons.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Touring the The Traverse City Commons. Photo by Grace Grogan

This past weekend I toured a beautiful, spacious, historical sight located in Traverse City, Michigan.  When I was growing up the Northern Michigan Asylum / Traverse City State Hospital was still operational.  Lack of funding eventually closed the facility and those remaining patients were turned out and onto the streets with nowhere to go, nowhere to live.

The 63-acre site and its buildings of beautiful architecture deteriorated and were almost destroyed.  Word got out and those desirous of preserving such a beautiful historical location stepped in and renovations continue today.  Now called The Village at Grand Traverse Commons, it is one of the largest historic preservation and adaptive reuse developments in the country.

The eateries and shops of The Commons.  Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2015.

The eateries and shops of The Commons. Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2015.

Former historic buildings have been transformed into an indoor marketplace with a variety of gift shops, professional services, artwork, offices, eateries, condos, and a restaurant.   The location is alive with activity.  Outside there are walkways and lawns to explore on 480 aces of preserved land.  The restoration of historic barns and a botanical garden are underway.

If you really want to learn about the history of this asylum for the mentally ill, take a guided tour.  This two hour tour takes you into buildings that are in the process of being renovated and provides you with a vast amount of information regarding the lifestyle of those in residence there, the way they were treated, and how innovative this facility really was.

The underground tunnels.  Photo by Grace Grogan, Copyright 2015

The underground tunnels. Photo by Grace Grogan, Copyright 2015

Our tour guide was very informative with a a great personality and sense of humor that was constantly wound into his presentation.  You know you are in good hands when before the tour begins he announces that people should use the restroom and then says “sorry, its the mom in me”.  The tour is two hours of walking, both inside and out.

Visiting patient rooms.  Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2015

Visiting patient rooms. Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2015

The information provided is interesting and informative.  Not only about the architecture and design of the buildings themselves, but also about Dr. Munson, who designed the facility, and his “Beauty is Therapy” theory on providing treatment for the patients.  The facility was very innovative in that it treated patients as if they were thinking and feeling humans, not something to be thrown away.  He gave them incentive and pride by providing them with jobs on the facility.  Working in the kitchen, creating tile, woodworking, working on the dairy farm, and more.  Residents enjoyed their lifestyle and took pride in their “home”, which is what the facility was to them.  Furnishings were luxurious and comfortable, dining was on the equivalent of a fine restaurant with table clothes, fine china, and fresh flower center pieces.

Touring the Traverse City Commons.  Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2015.

Touring the Traverse City Commons. Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2015.

The tour includes a short period of walking outside in which you learn about some of the buildings before proceeding inside.  You will enter an non-renovated historic building, a renovation in process, and learn about the purpose in the way the architecture was designed, how the patients were housed, and then finish the tour with a walk through a brick steam tunnel built in 1883 and a visit to an area of The Commons where offices are located.

Photo by Grace Grogan

Photo by Grace Grogan

Once the tour is complete make sure you visit a few of the shops and eateries.  Books, gifts, ornaments, T-shirts and more await the shopper.  I purchased three books while there, Traverse City State Hospital is a pictorial history, Beauty in Therapy is a memoir, and Training School for Nurses is a guide of the training that nurses underwent to work at the Insane Asylum.  I look forward to reading and learning more about this unique place.

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Hot Air Rising

Mass Ascension at International Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Photo by Grace Grogan, Copyright 2015

Mass Ascension at International Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Photo by Grace Grogan, Copyright 2015

My husband and I flew to Albuquerque, New Mexico October 2, 2015 to attend the first three days of the International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta.  If you have never attended, it is a must see.  It is hard to explain the feeling of standing amongst hundreds of hot air balloons as they inflate for lift-off, and then turning in a circle and everywhere around you and above you are over 500 hot air balloons in a mass ascension.   They have a “main street” area with food vendors, craft vendors, stores, buttons, and various types of merchandise to shop and enjoy.

Morning Patrol Life-Off at Albuquerque International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta. Copyright 2015, Photo by Grace Grogan

Morning Patrol Life-Off at Albuquerque International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta. Copyright 2015, Photo by Grace Grogan

We spent the first day there from beginning to end, arriving at the park around 4:30 am and leaving as the fireworks were being shot off that night.  A long day, but we experienced it all.  The second day of the show we left after the morning lift-off and spent the afternoon driving up to Sante Fe to visit a botanical garden.  We found we enjoyed the morning glow and dawn patrol lift-off more than the evening glow.  It could have been the so-so weather on the night we stayed that left us with that feeling, because the night glows are one of their most popular events.

Inflating a Balloon. Copyright 2015, photo by Grace Grogan

Inflating a Balloon. Copyright 2015, photo by Grace Grogan

If you have been following my posts for a while you know that my husband visited Sante Fe and Albuquerque during his trip west a few weeks ago, which I talked about in When Your Husband Returns..
This was my first trip to New Mexico, and here are some quick thoughts about the trip:

  • When booking a nice, early morning flight, don’t forget you have to be at the airport 1-2 hours before flight time, meaning a 6:00 am flight requires being at the airport by 4:00 am.
  • Don’t book your layovers too tight.  We had a one hour layover in Dallas, but by the time we were able to exit the plane and walk to our departure terminal, making only a quick restroom stop, we arrived at our departure terminal two minutes before boarding began.
  • New Mexico is a dry heat, so you don’t notice the heat like you do in more humid areas, be sure to wear sunblock.
  • The hottest (spiciest) food in Michigan is mild compared to “normal” food in New Mexico.
  • Chillies are used in a lot of food (they were even offered in Chinese fried rice), it you don’t like spicy food, ask before ordering.
  • A two-hour time difference can work to your advantage when you have early mornings planned
  • It is worth getting out of bed to be on the Balloon Fiesta Field at 6 am for the ,morning glow and dawn patrol lift-off.
  • Old Towne Albuquerque is a wonderful place of interesting architecture and great shops.  Don’t miss Sculpture Park on the east side of Old Towne.   They also have a fantastic pizza shop, fresh pizza on a light and airy crust.
  • If you want to take the Tramway in Albuquerque to the top of the mountain, plan for it to be a several hour excursion.  We waited in line two hours only to have it shut down due to high winds.  The next time we arrived 20 minutes after they opened in the morning, but already the line was longer than the day we waited two hours, plus there were five tour buses there already.
  • Sante Fe is a photographers dream; be sure to visit the Museum Hill Botanical Gardens.
  • When doing all carry on luggage, be wary of what you purchase.  Packing for the return flight can be tricky.
  • Plan to visit the Fiesta and New Mexico again, because it is an awesome, breathtaking, unique, cultural, event and location well worth the trip.

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Filed under events, Life is a Melting Pot, travel

Everyone Makes Mistakes

Everyone Makes MistakesWhen I saw this quote I knew I had to write about it.  It seems like today’s society is unwilling to forgive those who step outside the boundaries.  This happens to children when they are still very young and impressionable.  Even at a very young, vulnerable, age adults in their lives, usually teachers, adult family friends, members of their church, etc. will berate them if they falter.

A child’s mistake can be anything from forgetting to put on socks, messing up the freshly cleaned family areas of the home, getting into a fight at school, or committing some type of crime.  The child makes a mistake, deals with the consequences, and at this point life should go on, but it doesn’t.

The next time something goes wrong other children blame that child, because they know he/she will be an easy target.  If they faltered once, the adults will believe they have done it again.  The sad part is, when that repeatedly happens the child begins to feel they can do nothing right.  If a child is continuously blamed for everything that goes wrong, then eventually they will learn that no matter how hard they try, it simply isn’t going to matter because everyone will blame them for anything that happens anyway.

When a child, teen, or adult realizes that no matter what they do they will never be able to dig themselves out of a hole in which they are continually assumed to be at fault, they will eventually give up trying.  In addition to trying, they may begin to live up to the expectations of failure that are continuously being placed on them.

Now think about society.  People have lost their compassion, their value of human life.  Teens and adults become frustrated and take that frustration out by using guns to create mass murders.  It isn’t the gun’s fault, and maybe it isn’t even the child/teens fault.  It could be that society’s attitude has put that child/teen into a bad place, created someone that is unable to cope and feels like a failure.

Society needs to change.  People need to learn how to show compassion and understanding, how to give forgiveness.  People need to learn to accept those who are different, forgive those who falter, and move forward with a positive approach to everything.  That is how we fix what has gone wrong within our society.

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Prepping for Vacation is Work

My husband and I are taking a long weekend to attend the Hot Air Balloon Festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I’ve come to the conclusion that preparing to take a trip is exhausting.  I want to get my desk caught up at work because I will be off Friday and Monday, so I’ve been getting up and going into work an hour earlier than normal each day this week, and then staying 30-45 minutes longer than normal.

Then once I get home I have other prep to do.  We are doing strictly carry-on luggage, so had to pare down our camera gear considerably to make sure we could get that in.  Of course packing for 3-4 days in an airline regulation size bag is tricky, but I think I’ve got it workable.  Then of course the bag to go under my seat with a book, travel vouchers, camera, camera gear, etc.  Could it get any more complicated?

Yes it can, our flight time is so early in the morning that I realized we are going to have to get up and on the road around the time I normally go to bed.  I’m excited, but I have a feeling it is going to be an exhausting trip.  Being photographers we don’t want to miss any photo ops so will be up and on the field bright and early when it opens, and then be shooting all the way through the event.  I’ve discovered I can’t fit my tripod into my carry on luggage, so I’m bummed about that as there will be fireworks each night, but I’ll manage somehow.

So, is travel worth it if you have to wear yourself out in the preparation?  Yes, It always is, and it will be this time as well,  However as I sit here typing this post and realizing how tired I am from this screwed up week I truly do believe that Prepping for Vacation is Work!

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Be Happy

I think this quote by John Lennon is an excellent way to view life.  As an adult you will encounter all kinds of people as you go through your day-to-day life.  There are those that seem to be going through the motion of life, but not really living it and have an unhappy demeanor.   Then there are those who don’t seem to have anything positive in their life, but they appear to be at peace with everything.  They have a friendly, positive attitude.

I believe that attitude is everything.  Your attitude about anything and everything you encounter affects the way you feel and affects the way you are perceived by others.  If you encounter difficulties and feel doomed, like you aren’t ever going to achieve anything in life because of whatever it is you are dealing with — a low-paying job, unhappy instructors, difficult children, etc., then you have a negative outlook on life and that negativity will radiate from you and to those around you.  If your attitude is to believe in yourself and your ability to overcome whatever obstacles are put in your path, regardless of what you encounter, you will be at peace with yourself and at peace with the world.  Those around you may be amazed at your positive attitude.

Whatever you are facing in life, health problems, pain, injury, or any other challenge, stay positive.  Believe in your own ability to rise above whatever it is you are battling.  Take life as it comes, accept its challenges, and most importantly, decide that whatever life throws at you to maintain a positive attitude and to Be Happy.

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