Category Archives: Activities

Making Decisions

Life gets busy and we tend to let time move past without really analyzing where we are in life compared with where we want to be.  It is when we take the time to step back and re-evaluate our position that we are able to determine our next step in accomplishing our overall goals.    This applies to anything in life…employment, relationships, finances, hobbies, etc.

For the past twenty months since my husband passed away I spent time reducing some of my expenditures, rolling over investments without really paying attention to them, and learning to pay bills.  I initially developed a budget but I did it without a clear understanding of my overall financial situation.  I realized I wasn’t in the best of situations, yet allowed myself to float along for a while.   Decisions by successful people

One to two months ago I started taking a harder look at my budget, my overall financial standing, and where I am compared with where I want to be at retirement.   The process while a bit stressful was also very enlightening.  I enlisted the assistance of a trusted friend in reviewing what I had to see if my thought process was on track and solicited suggestions.   The realization was that I need to make some changes, and I need to make them faster than I originally thought in order to secure a better future for myself.

While parts of the decision making put pressure on me to accomplish some tasks faster than I originally anticipated, the completion of those things will put me in a better position both financially and mentally to move forward with my life.  The decisions to make major changes in ones life are not easy, but they can also be enlightening.  While there will be difficulties along the way, and some of my decisions will also impact others, once the dust settles down things should be better for me and others.

decisions2So what am I doing?  I am going to downsize by sorting my belongings and accumulations of the past 36 years into keep and sell piles, and I am going to downsize out of my home and into something smaller and more manageable for me, both in upkeep and cost.   I am changing financial advisors in the anticipation that my investments will provide me with better earnings for my retirement.   I am going to forgo some of my activities and/or volunteer positions so that I have less commitments and more time to devote to things that I need or want to accomplish, such as the downsizing, running my photography business, and my writing.

Life is always evolving, always changing.  If you have areas you believe need improvement or with which you are unhappy, take a hard look at things and make changes that will provide you with the lifestyle and overall happiness you deserve.

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Filed under Activities, assumptions, communication, Coping, decisions, Discoveries, exploration, habit, impressions, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, mind

Does nature know when school starts?

Summer has been rolling along nicely here in Michigan.  The temperatures have been a bit up and down, but for this state that is normal.  For the most part though it was summer weather, summer wear — flip flops, shorts, tank tops, and sunblock.

Then it became the last week of August.  The temperature turned cooler, people were in a variety of clothing styles, an indication they weren’t quite sure what the weather was going to dole out and were making their best guess.  You would see someone in shorts, then someone in pants, a tank top then a sweatshirt, sandals then boots.  Why?  Because even though it wasn’t “cold” it felt that way to some.

Does nature know kids are going back to school and that temperatures must drop to get children in the mood for school?  Is this a system of reminding parents that if they haven’t purchased that exhaustive list of school supplies they need to handle it now?  How did the school schedule get established in the September to June rotation so that children are attending during the coldest months of the season?

I have learned that our traditional September to June school schedule was established at a time when the United States was a farm-based society and children had to help with spring planting and fall harvesting of crops.  The September to June schedule with three months off in the summer best suited the needs of children being able to help in the fields during the main production period with as little interference as possible in their education.

Even though we are no longer a farm-based society and industrialization has ended the time of children needing to be taken out of school to help with farm duties, the schedule has held pretty close to the traditional rotation for decades.  My statement thank teachers

A number of states have tried to increase the hours of a school day, lengthen the period of time that students attend, and some have attempted a year-round school schedule.  What many places have found is that increasing the number of hours a student attends also increases operating costs for the school district and many can not afford the increase.

The level of learning, length of time a student spends in school, methods for teaching, and every other aspect of education in this country is constantly being evaluated and changes made.   The length of the school year is normally determined by a specific number of days or hours of instruction. One hundred eighty days (180) is the minimum required by many states, five states require more than 180 days, and five states require less than 175 days.  Here in Michigan students are required to attend a minimum 180 days.

So what this all means is that it is now September and for the next 9-10 months there are certain times of day when we may be delayed by a school bus.  We will see children carrying backpacks loaded down with books, lunches, and a number of other necessities for school.   The rotation of school sports, PTO meetings, parent-teacher conferences, homework, report cards, and school breaks is now in session.  Whether nature knows it or not, the school year has begun.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Activities, children, education, exploration, Family, farm, kids, Life is a Melting Pot, Michigan, nature, parents, school, summer, time, Weather

A Child’s Viewpoint

I recently had the pleasure of watching my grandchildren for a day.  Time with a 2-1/2 year old, 6 year old and 11 year old always brings a few laughs and simple pleasures.

The simple days, when at six years of age it is a tragedy when your younger sister won’t share her goldfish crackers.  Really?  She only has a couple dozen out of an entire bag, not like there aren’t more to put into a separate bowl for him.   The world is once again at peace, all thanks to a few crackers shaped like fish.

Why is it at 2-1/2 years of age you are capable of stripping all clothing off a doll more than a dozen times a day, but can never get them back on.  Of course once the doll is naked it must be dressed, but Grandma must do that.  The doll is dressed, life is good, until thirty minutes later when that doll is once again, for some unknown reason, naked.  And the hours pass by….

Planning for my future residence, Corbin (age 6) “It would be neat if you had a really big house with a space ship on top.”

Why, I ask, would I want a house with a space ship on the top of it.  The answer, according to Corbin, is simple.  “Because it would be cool!”

Okay, so there you go.  My retirement home floor plans are being laid out now.

When you don’t know how to respond to certain announcements, such as Austin (age 11), “Gunther is dead.”

Austin has autism, so comprehension is sometimes difficult, and he had just been dropped off after spending the weekend at his dad’s house, so with the same seriousness in which he expressed this loss I asked “who is Gunther?”

I received a very straight-faced, serious answer, “He is a Zombie.”

Sorry, I had nothing after that.  I guess the death of a zombie, or the creation of a zombie due to death, has a greater impact on some than it does on me.

Prior to the kids coming over and knowing I would have just Corbin and Alexandria for lunch I checked with my daughter to see what the best food choices would be and planned accordingly.    I had purchased the family size Velveeta Shells and Cheese, and let’s face it, as a general rule Mac & Cheese is a kid favorite.  Apparently sometimes this is not the case.

As he sits down to eat Corbin looks at the food and says “I don’t like macaroni and cheese.”

I responded that yes he does, his mother told me he eats it all the time.

Corbin — “Not today, I’m six and sometimes we don’t like things.”

Imagine that!  I thought six year olds were always logical and cooperative.  Guess I got that wrong.

Blowing bubbles, that wonderful outside activity that all children love to do.  The problem is Alexandria (2-1/2) simply doesn’t understand that it would be preferable if I moved the wand away from my body before she attempted to blow the bubbles right back at me.  Of course that is a toss-up with the other option of letting her hold the wand herself and trying to convince her that if she didn’t put her mouth on the wand to blow, she wouldn’t get the icky tasting soap on her tongue.  The results aren’t in on whether more bubble soap made it into the air as bubbles or if more ended up on our bodies due to Alex’s still to be perfected bubble-blowing technique.

Then there is the issue of cleanliness.  When I informed Corbin that he is supposed to flush and wash his hands after using the bathroom he said “you know, I washed my hands yesterday.”

Good to know, can we do it today as well please.  Of course this goes along with the request he wash his hands and him turning them back and forth saying “they aren’t dirty.”

Girls in that regard are so much easier.  I can say “Alex your face is dirty, let’s wash it.” and she comes and stands beside me waiting to get cleaned up.

A day with children is always entertaining, enlightening, and just plain fun.  Blocks, cars, trains, slides, bubbles, a messed up floor filled with toys.  Cracker crumbs, candy, spilled water, and more.  As the day wears on electronic pads filled with games are great for keeping children from killing each other off and/or driving an adult insane.

 

 

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Filed under Activities, children, Coping, Discoveries, exploration, Family, grandchildren, home, kids, Life is a Melting Pot, play, summer, time

Decompress a Boggled Brain

Let’s face it, some of us have this issue more than others.  It could be related to your lifestyle, age, career, family life, or just an occasional bumble in your normal schedule.  Sometimes it is a combination of all those things and is just plain hard to shake.

Maybe you’re like me and have a “to-do” list that seems like Mt. Everest x 3 and you feel like you’ll never get through it all.  When things seem overwhelming it can be hard to get motivated.   Sometimes you accomplish things but no one can tell.  If you spend 10 hours on paperwork, who is going to know except you?   That lack of visual accomplishment can make one feel as if they have nothing to show for their effort.

How do you prevent feeling overwhelmed?  When you want to throw up your hands and turn into a sluggish couch potato, how do you reverse the process?   You have to decompress your boggled brain.  Give it a break from life’s obligations.  Have some fun.

The time you spend decompressing the brain can be anything from a few minutes to a few days.  What I have found is that by taking a break I re-energize and am able to accomplish more than I would if I stayed on the straight-and-narrow work path.    It is easy to think “I shouldn’t be doing this” or “I should be doing this” because of that massive to-do list.   The trick is in the timing.Decompress - everyone needs time

I work full time as a paralegal.  I spend the majority of my workday at the computer writing pleadings, handling correspondence, and listening to people’s problems on the phone.  Very rarely is my to-do pile shorter than about 18″ in height, quite often it is more than that.  I do not leave the office at lunch; it is a one-person office and while eating I take calls or handle people as they walk in the door.  I decompress at lunch by skimming through Facebook and quite often spend time playing a game such as Candy Crush or Tetris Battles while eating.   Playing those games releases the brain from thinking.  Although the mind is active, it is relaxing.   I have found it to be a great way to re-power for the afternoon.

I am a photographer, and for the past three years I haven’t done much in the way of shooting pictures.  That is for a combination of reasons including working on cleaning out my parent’s home after they passed, a bad ankle that I finally had surgery on this past fall, and my own husband fighting cancer, a battle he lost 20 months ago.  I wasn’t going out and shooting because not only was it was physically painful to walk, but I also felt I have so much to do here at home that I should be here working, not out having fun.

So what did I realize?  I had lost my motivation.  I was here and getting things done, but not to the degree that I used to several years ago.   I lacked motivation and my productivity was down, which compounded my feeling of being overwhelmed.  I decided it was time to get out and participate in a few more things this year, attend more festivities and do more photo shooting.

Fun - give yourself permissionI will admit it was hard.  However forcing myself to get out and do things has been beneficial.  I am more physically active, which increases metabolism and energy.  I discovered I am happier by being once again out and about partaking in different activities.  The result is that I am more productive than I was when spending the entire weekend at home.  Why?  Because I have decompressed my brain so I am more relaxed, my energy level has increased, and therefore I am more productive.

When you are feeling sluggish, overwhelmed, ready to throw in the towel and call it quits take some time to decompress the brain.  You’ll be glad you did.

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Filed under Activities, career, communication, Coping, death, decisions, Discoveries, environmental, events, habit, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, lunch, Meals, mind, time, Weather, work

My Life is a Murphy’s Law Comedy Drama

Murphy's Law - one line quoteAfter reading that title you are probably going huh?   If you think about it you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.  Murphy’s Law — if anything can go wrong it will.  Comedy — finding the humor in anything and everything.  Drama — something serious and/or with conflict.  Put those altogether and what do you have?  My life this past week.

Picture Lucille Ball, Home Improvement, and Grace Under Fire all wrapped into one and you’re probably coming close.  Of course it all didn’t seem comical at the time, there were some pretty good moments of stress, but overall you just have to roll with the punches.

Monday actually started the week off pretty good.  I was busy at work, but afterwards spent a nice evening at home.  Maybe that should have been an indication that all good things must come to an end.

Tuesday evening about 7 pm my phone rings.  “What are you doing?”

“I’m in Rochester at a my Freelance Writer’s meeting, why?”

“Oh shoot, that won’t work.  We were on our way to Ann Arbor and Rob’s car just died on us, we’re in Detroit, but you’re too far away.  We’ll call his mom.”

My daughter, her three young children and her boyfriend, stranded more than an hour from where I was.  I wasn’t really familiar with the area they broke down in, but let’s face it, stranded in Detroit is not a good thing.  She is 32 and capable of handling things on her own, but as a mother and grandmother you worry.  I received a text that Rob’s aunt, who lives in Detroit, went and picked them up right away because the area they were in was a bad section.  Rob’s mother was on the way to pick them up from the aunt’s house and transport them back home.  At least I knew they were safe.

Before they left the vehicle the first time Rob told Carrie to gather up absolutely everything out of the inside of the car, and she was smart enough to even empty the glove box so there was no revealing information about their residence or anything left.  When the aunt took Rob back to the vehicle an hour later it had been trashed – windshield smashed, battery stolen, and inside destroyed.  He popped the trunk and retrieved the diapers and other items they had just purchased and left the vehicle there overnight.  Not worth repairing, the next day they borrowed a friend’s car hauler and towed it to the junk yard, where they got a whopping $168 for it.  Now he is looking for something used, affordable and able to transport him and kids.  In the meantime he is driving my single-cab pickup truck my husband used to use for scrapping.

Caroline came to my house and picked up my extra car, a Ford Fiesta, later that night to borrow because her SUV was in the shop.  Wednesday afternoon I get a call,  “Mom, your car has no oil in it!”

“What do you mean it has no oil?   I just had it changed two weeks ago, drove it home from the dealership and it has been sitting in the drive ever since.”

“The oil lights came on and it made a funny sound, I pulled over and checked the oil, there is nothing in it.”

I called the dealership, they didn’t think it made sense but said not to drive it, they would send a tow truck.  I called my daughter to let her know what was happening.  Okay, moment of emotional breakdown here — my daughter’s SUV was at the dealership having repair work done on it for the third time, which was the reason she borrowed my car after her boyfriend’s car died, my Ford Fiesta she was borrowing is now being towed, my 2-year old granddaughter was at a day care approximately 25 miles from home, my daughter was going to be without any vehicle except for my pickup truck.  It wasn’t looking good, two adults each with jobs in totally different areas, three young children and down to a single cab pickup they were borrowing from me.

Her voice cracked, “Mom, I have no car to drive.”

I took a deep breath to hold it together.  “Where is Alex’s day care center?  If needed I’ll  leave work early and go pick her up.  Am I on the list?”

Stress, Stress, Stress.

The good news — my daughter’s SUV was done and ready for pickup by the time she and the tow truck arrived at the dealership.  The next morning I received a call that my car was fine, they forgot to hit the reset button when doing the oil change and the synthetic oil is clear so it can not be seen.  My daughter had put a quart of oil into it, thinking it was empty, so it was now over filled.  The dealership flushed it out and re-filled, no charge to me.

Thursday I get a call from my daughter’s boyfriend, “Was there a warranty on the brakes for the pickup when Ron had them done?”

“I don’t think Ron had the brakes done, and if he did I have no idea where he had them put on.”

As it turns out, the pickup, which is used mainly for gathering and hauling metal scrap, went quickly from the brakes seeming fine to showing they needed to be changed.  How bad?  Rob pulled into a shop to look into purchasing a set and before he could do that one fell off.  It had rusted off!  He purchased brakes, borrowed tools and changed that particular one right there in the parking lot.  The other one he did later that evening at home.  Good to go, maybe?

The next day Rob was driving the truck about 60 mph when the hood suddenly pops open, comes back and hits the windshield.  The hood latch had rusted through and given out, so now a new hood and new windshield are needed.  They are on a junkyard search for a hood.  Windshield will get replaced.  Did I mention I had just purchased new plates/tabs for that vehicle on Wednesday and this happened one day later?  Ever feel like your life is moving as if you’re on a steep hill standing on sheer ice?

What the heck, might as well finish off my Thursday mowing the lawn, which is on a riding mower so old it is Montgomery Ward brand.  No grass catcher, so it always leaves a nice trail of mowed grass and doesn’t get super close to the garden borders and fence so a lot of areas that always need to be trimmed, but not enough time to do that all in one night.   Hence I finish off my Thursday with a mowed lawn containing rows of mowed grass heaps and a fringe of long grass along all the raised borders, fence, etc.  plus other areas that the rider can’t go into that are still long because they must be done with either a push mower or weed wacker.  Just call my lawn Hillbilly Haven.

So I’ve verbally dealt with brake endangerment and/or replacement, the mowing of a lawn, and decide to take a well deserved rest in the hot tub.  I wear my new bathing suit, one of those tankinis.  Normally I’m a one-piece wearer, but I figured the look of a one-piece, convenience of a two piece, what could go wrong?  Little did I know.  Removal of a bathing suit top in a dressing room v. when it is wet are two different things.  When wet the back of the top feels like it is suctioned to my body and won’t let go.  So here I am in my bathroom trying desperately to extract myself from a bathing suit top that seems to be attached to my body with glue and I’m trying to figure out how to raise the back for removal without destroying the thing.   I can only imagine I must have looked like a really bad contortionist trying to remove myself from the grips of spandex.  I was about ready to break a sweat when I finally got that thing to let go of me.

Friday, sweet Friday.  Buried at work so I stay until 8 pm getting things done, run home and grab a quick dinner than head up to boat night — a huge event in Port Huron every year.  It is the downtown party on the eve of the Port Huron to Mackinac sailboat race.  Upon my arrival I decided to “go live” on Facebook for the first time ever.  Shouldn’t that come with an instruction manual?  Watching the video later it was pretty comical.  I thought I was pausing the “live” part but apparently I wasn’t.  We have the phone being moved erratically, complete darkness when I put it into my pocket for a short period of time. and a view of everyone’s feet walking around.  Guess I should have looked around for an 8-year old to give me instruction before publishing that lovely documentary.

I arrive home from Boat Night about 11:00 pm.  As I’m walking into the house I feel something hit my head.  Hopefully not a spider — they tend to inhabit my front porch at night.  I walk into the bathroom and there on my head is a lime green creature.  It resembles a grasshopper with very long skinny legs and antennae.   I grab a tissue and try to grab it, but miss.  It must fly.  I located it on the wall behind me.  It doesn’t hop, it crawls.  Rather bizarre creature.  Guess I should have taken a picture, but at that particular moment I didn’t think of it.   I grab it in the tissue, throw it in the toilet, and flush.  End of bug….or not.  The next morning I go into that bathroom and guess what — the green bug is dead but floating in the toilet.  I use the facilities, flush and walk away.  A few hours later I go in to again to use the facilities and everything flushed down the toilet, but the green bug is back and floating in the bowl.   This happened at least three times.  It was the dead bug that wouldn’t go…it was haunting me!

Saturday went well, probably because I stayed inside doing paperwork all day.  Not too much tragedy when one is firmly planted in a chair — except when you sit too long and the tendon in your left arm tightens up and your foot falls asleep.  I must say the advantage of living alone when you are hobbling along on a foot that is asleep while trying to straighten and shake out your left arm is that no one is there to witness or video the moment.   I had the movements of a monster in a horror film.

Sunday, sweet relaxing Sunday, a day of rest and leisure.  Who am I kidding, my Sunday was far from that.   I spent several hours doing paperwork, then went outside to work on weed-wacking and raking the lawn.  Well, the batteries for the weed wacker only run about 30 minutes each, and one for some reason died after about 15 minutes, so didn’t get a lot done.   I still have a lot of fringe around the edges of my lawn.

It has been so hot I decided to see if some tree branches that fell in the spring and didn’t get cut up were dry enough I could break them into pieces to put in a lawn/leaf bag for collection.  They were, so there I was He-Woman breaking those limbs down with my small, garden-gloved hands and shoving them into the lawn/leaf bag.  Some of the larger ones required a bit more, so I would stand on one end and bend the other end up toward me attempting to break it off.  Only lost my balance a couple times but with some wild karate chop maneuvers managed to regain my balance and stay on my feet.  Poked myself in the stomach with the end of a branch once, and didn’t scream when I almost grabbed a spider off the ground.  Maybe there is hope for me yet.

So I’ve wacked the weeds, bagged the branches, and now I’m ready to gather the grass.  I like hot weather but it is no fun when trying to rake and sweat is running off your forehead and into your eyes, which makes your eyes sting.  By the time I got to the backyard I wanted to get it all into one bag and be done with it.  It was one very full paper lawn and leaf bag.  No room to roll the top over.  I pushed the grass down as much as I could, but it still was full right to the top.  It wasn’t heavy to carry from the backyard to the end of the drive, but it was awkward because I had to be careful so I didn’t trip and spill it.  Hopefully no one was watching as I did a waddle-walk with the bag gripped between my hands in front of me as I walked the length of the drive.

I decided to sweep off my front porch.  Spiders come out at night, so I am constantly sweeping and/or spraying away the webs.  I’m walking along, sweeping the porch and walked right into one of those fine spider webs you can’t see, all over my face.  Ugghh!  It feels like you have this sticky substance on your face and you just want it off.  There I am, wiping my face with my hands frantically trying to get this web substance off me.   Why in the world must spiders build there webs where people intend to walk?  Can’t they stay away from houses and leave us humans alone?  Apparently not.

Those aren’t all the things that went wrong during my week.  I’ve only blessed you with the highlights.  So how did I get through a Murphy’s Law Comedy Drama week without falling apart or killing someone?    I look for the humor in each situation.

Picture a favorite comedy show character and/or show….I Love Lucy, Tim the Tool Man, Grace Under Fire, Sienfeld, or any other show.  Picture the main character in one of the above situations.   When reality is not reality but a comedy show it is funny.  When you’re having one of those weeks and living the reality, look for the humor in each  situation.  Try to relax, go with the flow.  It won’t be a Murphy’s Law Comedy Drama week every week.  At least I hope not!

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Filed under Activities, backyard, bugs, Cleaning, Coping, home, insects, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, reality, spiders, summer, Weather, work

Childhood Cravings

I was grocery shopping recently and had a craving for a childhood snack — graham crackers with frosting on them.  I purchased the box of crackers and grabbed what I thought was standard chocolate frosting.  Imagine my delight when I popped open that little container and discovered chocolate mint — double yum!

That got me to thinking about some of the simple things from my childhood that kids today don’t have the opportunity to experience.   Back when I was a child life was more simple.  Summer was spent playing outside.  There weren’t any arranged play-dates set up by parents, we weren’t in day care centers, and our parents did not have us participating in scheduled activities.  childhood - chinese jump rope

We got up in the morning and walked or rode our bike to a friend’s house, rang the doorbell and asked if they could come out and play.  When was the last time a child did that?  Today’s children probably wouldn’t know how.   We didn’t have video games, cell phones, ipads, or any of the other technology that kids today rely on.  So what did we do with our time?  We had fun!

A field behind the house could be trampled down into “rooms” in which we could roll out our baby carriages and play house.  We would lay on our backs and look at the clouds, making determinations on what they looked like.  We played Ring-Around-The-Rosie, Duck-Duck-Goose, Mother May I, Red Rover Red Rover, Tag, Kick-the-Can, and hide-and-go-seek.

We only had three TV channels, and cartoons were a Saturday morning specialty.  Every kid sat in front of the TV watching their favorites.  Between Saturdays we had our comic books to read.   My girlfriend and I would put our comic books into the saddle baskets of our bikes, then read our comic books as we rode our bikes down the street no-handed….and we weren’t even wearing helmets!

childhood - jacksWe would sit on the porch playing jacks.  At one time I was able to handle pick-ups of 20 jacks at a time.  We played a lot.  Do kids play jacks anymore?  Are they even available to purchase?  Ours were tiny metal jacks with a small red ball.    What about hula hoops and pogo sticks?  With a swing of the hips your hula hoop could be forced up to the neck or down to the knees and back to the waste.  Regular jump rope, Chinese jump rope, and hop scotch kept us busy.

I lived in a small town.  We would ride our bikes downtown and go to the library and the dime store.  I did a lot of reading.  Nancy Drew was my favorite, and so was Alfred Hitchcock and Agatha Christie as I got older.   We bought pop in glass bottles out of a vending machine.  Everyone chewed Bazooka bubble gum, and we all loved the little tiny comics that came inside.  Gum wrappers were used to make chains…what we did with those chains I don’t remember.

We looked for 4-leaf clovers.  Flower petals were pulled off one-by-one saying “he loves me, he loves me not.”  Dandelions were held under the chin to see if your chin shone yellow, but I don’t remember why.  If we found a dandelion gone to seed, a “wisher,” we were thrilled….but our father wasn’t if he saw us blowing those seeds out into the lawn.

childhood - pogo stickBack then most people did not have air conditioning.  Windows were open, fans were used.  One strong childhood summer memory does not involve me but my father.  He would mow the lawn and then afterward watch the ball game on TV.  One of my favorite scents and sounds of summer is the combination of fresh mowed grass and a baseball ball game on the TV or radio.

What are some of your childhood memories?  No matter how old or young you are, if you are an adult I am sure things have changed since your childhood.   Do you have childhood cravings?  Do you wish your children and/or grandchildren could experience life as it once was, not as it is now?

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Filed under Activities, backyard, children, Discoveries, environmental, exploration, Family, flowers, freindship, friends, friendship, home, kids, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, play, reality, summer, time

Matthaei Botanical Gardens

This past weekend I had the opportunity to visit Matthaei Botanical Gardens in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  If like me you enjoy taking photographs of flowers and/or nature, this is a wonderful place to visit.

Matthaei has several options to fit everyone’s needs or desires.  There are several trails that are open sunrise to sunset seven days a week, plus the conservatory, garden store, lobby and display gardens are open from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm.  Admission is free; they do have a donation box inside the conservatory, and there is a reasonable parking fee of only $1.50 per hour or a maximum of $5.00 per day.  With the size of the venue I opted to pay the daily rate immediately._DSC6631

I arrived at 8:30 am.  It was quiet, with only a few people quietly walking out onto some of the trails.  I grabbed my camera and tripod and decided to walk the Sue Reichert Discovery Trail, which circles Willow Pond.   This trail is only 4/10 of a mile, which they estimate to be a ten minute walk.  I meandered slowly, taking pictures and stretched it into almost an hour, taking time to sit down a couple times on benches that were available.

The difference in time is whether you walk like the average person or walk like a nature photographer, skimming the area for possible subjects to photograph.  Doing so can make a fast walk take quite a while and is why I prefer to partake in such places either alone or with other photographers who understand the time frame needed to fully enjoy the area.

I decided to do the outside gardens first, and in looking over the map not only did I not go up into the Children’s Garden, but I also missed the Perenial Garden, Grower’s Garden, MiSo House and Bonsai and Penjing Garden.  I started in the Gateway Garden, a relaxing spot with benches, rocking chairs and fountains.  I took photographs of flowers there, in the Marie Azary Bock Garden and in the Sitting Gardens before meandering down the Commons, which are bordered by two other gardens on the east and bench seating on the west.

The commons leads you into the Alexandra Hicks Herb Knot Garden.  Here you will find chipmunks scampering back and forth amongst the plants and sometimes climbing up on them as well, but trying to capture them in a photo is difficult.  They are quick little guys!  Once I completed my photo rounds of the herb garden I strolled between that and the perennial garden and went through a vine/plant covered tunnel which led to the opening of the children’s garden.  I had the option of going up into the children’s garden or taking a nature trail around the children’s garden.  What I opted to do was take a short trail not shown on the map into the Oak Openings Garden.

There was nothing to attract my photographer’s eye in the Oak Openings Garden with the exception of wild strawberry plants that had begun bearing fruit.  It was the bright red of the fruit that grabbed my eye as I looked down to scan the ground for photo subjects.  I followed the trail through the Upland Woodland Garden and across into the Wet Woodland Garden.  Unfortunately the hot weather we had been having left nothing  wet, it was, on that day, better termed a dry woodland.  Nothing caught my eye for photographs, so I proceeded into the Great Lakes Garden, which led me into one end of the Prairie Gardens, then the Coastal Gardens and back up where I started in the Gateway Garden.   Unfortunately a group was there partaking in the rocking chairs or I would have grabbed one for a nice relaxing break.

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By now I had been wandering for a few hours and decided to take a snack break before visiting the Conservatory.  One thing to keep in mind, the conservatory does not sell meals, only a limited selection of snack food, candy and beverages.  If you plan to be at Matthaei Botanical Gardens for several hours you may want to consider packing a cooler with beverages and lunch or snack food.   I had not planned that far in advance, so I purchased a small trail mix and flavored water.  There are one or two small tables where you can sit inside to consume your snack, and there are also tables available outside on the deck.  Food and beverages are not allowed inside the conservatory.

The Conservatory has three main areas, the Tropical House, the Temperate House and the Desert House.  Here you will find many plants and blooms to view and/or photograph.  On this day there was a water Lilly in full bloom, Cocoa trees, pineapples growing, sausage trees with their “fruit” hanging in abundance, and numerous other flowers and plants.  The Desert House has the majority of their cactus growing in raised display beds, making it easy to enjoy and photograph the wide variety.  I’m sure this was also done to preserve the fingers of little ones who may be touring with their parents.  Some of those cactus spines are pretty long and wicked looking!

I spent about five hours touring the trail, gardens and conservatory, and I didn’t see it all.  Keep in mind I was walking slow, took several rest breaks on the numerous benches that are available throughout the property, and was taking photographs.  The average person might tour it at a much faster pace.

I would like to go back and walk some of the trails I chose to skip, plus with anything growing outside the gardens and trails are a constantly changing canvas with growing seasons and weather.  If going they do recommend appropriate footwear for walking the natural areas and that you stay on paths due to poisonous plants such as poison sumac and poison ivy growing in natural areas.  The Massauga rattlesnake also inhabits the area.  I did not encounter any slithering reptiles, but did enjoy the “music” of unseen frogs as I walked around the pond.

If you are in the Ann Arbor area I highly recommend a visit to University of Michigan’s Mattaei Botanical Gardens.

 

 

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Filed under Activities, birds, Botanical Gardens, bugs, Discoveries, education, environmental, exploration, flowers, insects, Life is a Melting Pot, Michigan, nature, nature center, Photography, spring, summer, tourism, travel, vacation

A Murphy’s Law Week

There is a saying “If Anything Can Go Wrong It Will” that is referred to as Murphy’s Law. This past week has had an assortment of bumbles that were not of major proportion and actually had positive outcomes.  When talking to my son on the phone about one of them his response was “so basically you did it all wrong but it was still good.”  Murphy's Law - If anything can go wrong it will

Murphy’s Law #1:  I cut a recipe out of a magazine that I thought sounded good.  Thinking I had all the ingredients except broccoli, which I purchased at the store, I pushed ahead with preparations.  A good plan…or so I thought.  The recipe called for Hillshire Farms smoked sausage; I had their Polska Kielbasa so I used that instead.  Next 2 cloves of garlic crushed, I substituted minced garlic.  A large red bell pepper, I had green so the dish wasn’t as colorful but the flavor is equal.  One package of frozen broccoli; I had purchased fresh.  The fresh seemed like a huge amount so I guesstimated how much to throw in.    Tomato sauce, didn’t have any of that either so I measured out an equivalent amount of condensed tomato soup.  No mozzarella cheese in the refrigerator so I used my taco cheese.  On a positive note I did have the instant rice, olive oil and one yellow onion.

The Benefit:  Despite all the substitutions it tasted great and I had leftovers to use for lunch at work and dinner when I got home late.  My son asked me if I wrote down my substitutions so I could make it the same way next time.   It might be easier to re-write the entire recipe!

Murphy’s Law #2 happened when my cable TV box stopped working and my provider informed me it would be $35-$70 to have a service call.  This was the second time the box went out and I told them I wasn’t paying for a service call, I would bring in the box and decide then whether to replace or turn in and cancel TV.

The Benefit:  They could suddenly provide me with a free service call and have the technician call me about one-half (1/2) hour before arrival so I could leave work to meet him at the house.    That led to Murphy’s Law #3.

Murphy’s Law #3:   The day I was to have the service call on my cable TV I received an automated call at work giving me a two-hour block for arrival.  I held for a live person and was informed that they do not make personal phone calls, only the automated system does it.   I explained what I had been told on the phone originally and she said tech’s can’t make calls.  I responded that was not what I was told, that no one would be at the house unless I received a call, and if it doesn’t get handled I will bring in the box and cancel the service, at which point I hung up.

The benefit:  Ten minutes later the service tech called and said he could meet me at my house. That lead to Murphy’s Law #4.

Murphy’s Law #4:  The cable technician and I both anticipated this being a quick 20-30 minute service call/repair.  He ended up at my house working four (4) hours to resolve all issues.

The Benefit:  Numerous problems were discovered which resulted in the replacement of all cables coming into my house, replacement of weird splits to the cable when it was run in the basement, adjustment of the bundle of cords behind the TV putting too much weight on the HDMI TV input and causing problems, replacement of the TV box twice.  My original wasn’t working and was extremely hot, and the first replacement didn’t work.  Four hours later the TV and internet were both working faster and smoother.

Murphy’s Law #5:  I received a telephone call confirming my post-op surgical follow-up appointment, but the time they gave me was an hour later than I scheduled.  The girl found where they did give me the 10:30 slot, but they had keyed it into their computer as 11:30, so she confirmed me for 10:30.  A few minutes later someone else called and said that they had keyed it into their computer wrong, but were heavily booked and if I came in at 10:30, I might not get called until 11:30.  I had booked the appointment six (6) weeks in advance and was not happy.  I asked about coming in earlier, which they were able to do.

The Benefit:  I arrived for a 9:15 am appointment and my name was called almost immediately.  I had X-rays taken, saw the intern doctor, saw the surgeon, and was out the door and on my way to work by 9:40 am.

Murphy’s Law #6:  After analyzing and contemplating for over a week I made my decision on which cell phone to upgrade to and went onto the Verizon website to order, only to find that although it is listed on their website it is not available and they do not have an anticipated availability date.  I didn’t want to wait indefinitely so checked to see if that phone was available elsewhere.  It was, but I either had to pay for it upfront in its entirety or pay interest if I financed it and then it would have had to be serviced through them instead of my cell phone provider.  Ugghhh, back to Verizon’s website I went.

The Benefit:  I decided to get the same brand, just one step down, which was a savings.  The only feature I lost in doing so was the shatterproof shield.  It came with free 2-day arrival and I had it shipped to my work location.  Added Benefit:  It arrived one day earlier than anticipated.

Murphy’s Law #7:  I had shopped and planned several meals to prepare throughout the week, but didn’t get them made due to getting home from work late and not wanting to cook at 7:30 to 8:00 pm.

The Benefit:  I made everything over the weekend and ended up with a batch of leftovers:  stuffed peppers, spaghetti, and chicken noodle soup to get me through the following week.

Murphy's Law - the full versionMurphy’s Law #8:  It has been a crazy couple of weeks at work.  Friday was like a triple Monday.  Throughout the week things had come up that took priority and pushed other things back.  I ended the week feeling burned out and more buried then when the week began.

The Benefit:  I work for someone who understands the pressure and commented that we have both been going crazy, are staying afloat but both need to plan vacation time or we will both burn out.  Added Benefit:  I like to take time off in small blocks and have some short outings/trips planned over the next few months.

Murphys’ Law #9:  I went from an IPhone to a Droid, which results in a learning curve.  First problem was when I was trying to make the transfer from one phone to the other.  I got the IPhone shut down and the Droid on, but it told me it couldn’t be used until I completed some set-up steps and I couldn’t get the steps to work.  I ended up spending 1-1/2 hours on the phone with tech-support to complete the steps.   Thought all was okay, but ran into a problem at work when I couldn’t figure out how to answer the phone.  Then on the second day every time someone posted on Facebook or sent any type of message my phone was playing music really loud, and I couldn’t get the notifications to stop or sound to go lower.  Embarrassing!

The Benefit:  I like the new phone and features not available on my previous model.  I am still on a learning curve but will figure it out eventually.

Murphy’s Law #10:  Saturday I was going to the drive-thru at the bank so wore a sweatshirt and no make-up assuming no one would see me.  I decided to drive through the lot at the car dealership and see what they had in the models I was considering, thinking the dealership was closed on Saturdays.  Wrong!  I got out of the car and was looking at one car when a salesman walked up.   He must have figured any female standing in the rain looking at a vehicle was likely interested in buying.  So there I was in an old sweatshirt, no makeup, hair frizzy from the rain, pricing out vehicles and test-drove one while my vehicle was being appraised for trade-in.

The Benefit:  I got a good trade-in value on my car, was able to lower my monthly payment by leasing instead of buying, and now have a larger vehicle with more room and more perks.

Remember:  If anything can go wrong it will, but if you look for the positive in each situation you will find it and reap its rewards.

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Filed under Activities, Coping, decisions, Discoveries, exploration, habit, Kitchen, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, Meals, nutrician, vacation, work

Why Write?

I have always loved writing.  As a child I would make up stories and write them down.    I can remember standing and reading them to my mother.  I have no idea what happened to them, I wish I had them now.  I remember thinking how wonderful it would be to be an author someday.

As a child I participated in an activity that all writers do…I was an avid reader.  All writer’s read, and generally read in the genre in which they write.  I read a wide variety, but the majority of my reading is non-fiction and memoir.  Those are the categories in which I do the majority of my writing.  I also love reading travel, novels, drama, history, romance and mystery.  The only genres that I am not highly fond of are science fiction, fantasy and horror.

write - must read a lot and write a lot

When I was in my teens I thought about becoming a newspaper reporter and writing on-sight action news.  I wanted to be in the heart of whatever was going on, to put those stories into print.  Unfortunately I allowed my mother to talk me out of it.  She didn’t believe it was an appropriate career choice for a female.   Regrets, some.  But in a way my life is circling around to past dreams, just in a different direction.

As a young mother I took a correspondence class on writing magazine articles for children.  It was fun, interesting, and I l learned techniques and about the publishing world that could be applied to both adult or children’s literature.    Being married with a full-time job and two children, the writing got pushed to the back and was to a certain degree lost in the shuffle.  However during the years my children were young I wrote a “newsletter” for friends and family.  The “Grogan Gossip” was my reporting about the happenings of our life and activities of our children.  Except for the first one, I have every newsletter in chronological order in a notebook.  They are fun to go back and read.  Things long forgotten but saved permanently in the written format.  I still do the newsletter, but only once a year at Christmas in lieu of a Christmas card.

writing - articulating thoughts when speaking v writingWhen you are born a lover of the written word it never goes away, it just transitions over time.  Writing and literature go hand-in-hand.  My high school classes were filled with literature…classes in modern short stories, mysteries,  American literature, Advanced Grammar and Composition,   and more.  When I went back to college in 2010 one of my favorite classes was public speaking because I was writing whatever I chose to talk about.  It was fun!

I have difficulty expressing myself verbally, but I can easily put thoughts and feelings into the written word.  I have always been that way.  You simply bleed onto paper.  That is the way of a writer.   Once I start writing the thoughts just flow.  I can start out saying “I only have time for a quick note” and by the time I am finished I may have 3-4 typed pages.   Writing is as easy as breathing.writing - no time to write short letter so wrote a long one instead

While I have not yet worked my way into the world of published book author, I am writing a book about my family’s encounter with Child Protective Services that led to my husband and my attempt to become foster parents and apply to adopt our granddaughters.   It is a story that should be told.  Many of the injustices we encountered are a nationwide problem that most people are not aware of.  That is why I am writing that memoir.  It is with the hope that in reading our story others will be aware of the danger to family that Child Protective Services poses.  I also hope that maybe someday my granddaughters will encounter the book and realize they were very much wanted and were taken in an unjust way from family who loved them.

write what disturbs youI write in many formats.  I titled this blog Life is a Melting Pot because my life is a jumble of various activities and I like to write about whatever strikes me at the moment.  This blog is not the only regular writing I do.  For the past eight years I have held the position of newsletter editor of Bluewater Family Backgrounds, a publication of the St. Clair County Family History Group.  As the editor I gather content and put together the entire newsletter, writing some articles that go into it.  I have been writing a column called “Who AM I?” for the past five and one-half years for The Lakeshore Guardian, and local free publication.  The column is on genealogy.  I am in my fourth year as an opinion columnist for our local newspaper, The Times Herald.  I select my topics and how often I write a column, frequently selecting topics that can be a bit controversial.  Finally, my daytime job is that of Paralegal in which I spend my days doing legal writing.  All of the areas in which I write are slightly different and I enjoy each one.

writing - isn't about making moneyI belong to a Freelance Writer’s Group and at the meetings I see a variety of people with a wide range of interests.  The group includes people who write children’s stories, adult novels, travel columns, science fiction, non-fiction, memoir, and more.  We all have one thing in common…we love to write!  Writers are like any other type of artist, they are imaginative, creative, passionate about their art, well-read, self-promoters and self-starters.  Writing is something you do solo; you have to be motivated to write or you will never succeed.   Writers love words, language, and people watching.  Everything is a potential story or scene.  If you spend much time with a writer you may find yourself popping up in their stories, blogs, or columns.  You may not be there in name, but you will likely recognize a scene in which you have lived.

So why do I write?  Because it is something I love to do.  Because it is something I have always enjoyed.  I did it as a child and I can continue to do it throughout my life.  Laura Ingalls Wilder is my motivation.  She published her first book. Little House in the Big Woods in 1932 at age 65.  She completed the last book in her Little House series in 1943 at age 76.  Laura Ingalls Wilder died in 1957 at age 90, leaving behind incomplete manuscripts and her diary.  Some of those posthumous works were edited and published by her daughter, Rose.  Her legacy is my inspiration.  That is why I write.

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Filed under Activities, communication, decisions, employment, exploration, habit, hobbies, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, reality, Writing

Looking Back: A Facebook Review

Every  morning around 7 AM I receive a notification from Facebook that there are memories from previous years on that date.  I look forward to reviewing those memories, looking back on what I was doing or sharing in previous years.  Some of those memories I skim over,  some I share again.

We go about our day-to-day lives and don’t realize how we change over time.  I notice that the type of information I consider relevant has changed.  Postings about day-to-day life have changed.  It is fun to see what I was doing in college a few years ago, how many days I would go without being on Facebook because I was busy, or even the activities I was partaking in on any particular date or year.

I have shared a lot of pictures over the years.  When those pop up on my memories feed it is fun to see how my grandchildren have grown, or the changes in the appearance of my kids, myself and my husband.  Places I have visited, events I have attended, and more are shared through photographs on my personal page, as well as the Times Gone By Photography page I have.

Another fun thing I discovered in looking back is the notes I have posted on my Facebook page.  For several years now I have shared a challenge where you try to read 52 books in a year, and although I have never made it to 52 I have those “notes” from every year where I listed each book I read, the author, whether fiction or non-fiction and the number of pages.  I recently came across a couple other postings I did, one answering questions about how well you know your spouse, and another where you list 25 things about yourself.  I may do that one again, because things have changed.  I am now in the processing of printing off some of the things I discovered and saving them in a scrapbook or notebook for future look backs by myself and/or my children and grandchildren.

We live in a digital world.  Everything is handled electronically and people, young people especially, do not keep things in a printed, paper format.  Give consideration to printing off and saving in a notebook some of the things you share electronically.  Make it a scrapbook of you.  Future generations will be glad you did when everything you have done is lost in the cyber world.

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Filed under Activities, Discoveries, exploration, Family, genealogy, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, reality, Scrapbooking

When Lifes Gets Stressed Crush Candy

Why is it life rolls along smoothly, then suddenly anything and everything that can go wrong does?  The stresses of life never seem to spread themselves out over time so you can deal with them individually.  Instead challenges pile up on you at one time like a massive pyramid.

That is what has happened to me in the past couple weeks.  Individually everything would have been frustrating, but piled together has created stress.  I went into the secretary of state to transfer vehicles into my name, only to find out that on there is a form to fill out and an assortment of information needed such as proof of registration or current plate number, pay-off letters, and mileage.  Not a problem, right?  Wrong.  I have to look for a pay-off letter on my car.  The key to the motor home broke in half when trying to gain entry and I have been trying to find someone who can remake a key from broken pieces.  The company through which there is one car loan is making me jump through more hoops to assume the car loan than my mortgage company did renegotiating my mortgage.  In the midst of all this the IRS is auditing the deductions we took on 2014 taxes,  and the battery was dead in the pickup when my daughter tried to use it.

So what does one do when life stresses them out and they need to relax?  Some people exercise, some people drink, some people take medication.  Me….I play Candy Crush.  I know, it was a craze for a while and that seems to have died down.  Actually I hadn’t played in several months.  Then one day with everything going on I needed to relax, to de-stress, and I clicked on the game.  It is a good one to play when life is hectic because you only have five lives and then you have to quit for a while.  It offers some challenge, but doesn’t require intense mental concentration.  It allows me to decompress when life is chaotic.  My advise to you, when life gets stressed crush candy.

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Filed under Activities, Coping, habit, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, play, reality

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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Filed under Activities, children, habit, hobbies, Holidays, Life is a Melting Pot

Labor Day Past and Present

Labor Day - Celebrate the labor that built this countryLabor Day, always the first Monday in September, is a holiday that here in America we take for granted as providing us with a 3-day weekend, but does anyone really give thought to what the holiday’s significance is.  Labor Day was created by the labor movement and is dedicated to social and economic achievements of American workers.

The First Labor Day - September 5, 1882

The First Labor Day – September 5, 1882

In the 19th Century Americans started a tradition of having picnics, parades and various other celebrations to support labor issues.  Then on September 5, 1882 a pivotal event occurred when a parade of unions and massive picnic took place in New York City.   The labor movement had been gaining popularity and several unions proposed joining together for a monster labor festival.  The Central Labor Union, which was comprised of members from many local unions, proposed the event on May 14, 1882.  They selected Wendel’s Elm Park as the location to host the massive festival,   Tickets to the event were sold, and proceeds went to each Union selling them.  By June 20,000 tickets had been sold and in August the Central Labor Union passed a resolution “that the 5th of September be proclaimed a general holiday for the workingmen in this city.”  The day of the event arrived.  Workers participating had to lose a day’s pay to participate, but that did not deter people.  An estimated 10,000-20,000 marchers participated in the parade, and everyone continued to celebrate with food, music and fireworks.

Labor Day Parade - Jackson Michigan - September 4, 1911

Labor Day Parade, Jackson, Michigan September 4, 1911

Labor Day was not initially recognized as a national holiday.  In 1885 and 1886 municipal ordinances provided the first recognition of Labor Day.  Then Oregon passed the first law on February 21, 1887, followed by Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York a year later.  Popularity continued to grow, with more and more states adopting the holiday until in 1894 Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each an every year a legal holiday.Labor Day - What it Means

So today as you are enjoying your picnics, family gatherings, traveling, or what ever activity it is that you do on this holiday that has come to signal the end of summer and beginning of school in many states, remember those men and women who lost a day of pay to promote the working man so that you could today enjoy the fruit of their efforts.

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Swallow Big and Plunge Forward

Life is tricky.  Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out it will throw a curve ball at you.  Then in the midst of dealing with one dilemma another pops up.  Not huge, the type that makes you say “Seriously?  Why can’t people deal with this?  Why can’t people just take on one small task?  Why are they leaving it for others to handle?”

That is the point where I took a big swallow, plunged forward and said what I thought.  I think my comments shocked a few people, but in the end I achieved the results I was striving for.    I don’t know if it was the stress of what I was already dealing with on a personal level that made me plunge forward, or if it was frustration over people who have already taken on duties trying to juggle more while others sat in limbo doing nothing.

Our Secretary had said if no one volunteered she could try to handle the job, but secretary in itself is a monthly obligation and I thought that was ridiculous.   I am Vice President, Newsletter Editor and Webmaster (although I fail drastically at the last one), and our President has taken over numerous committees as the chairs left and no one volunteered.

That is when I swallowed big and plunged forward with my thoughts on the situation.  I stood up and said that it isn’t right that every time a board position or committee chair position opens up no one volunteers and the existing board members end up adding it to their own list of duties.  We have a sufficient amount of members and if no one is willing to step up to the plate than maybe we should just dissolve the club and be done with it.

I think I shocked more than a few of the members with my announcement.  No one knew I intended to do that except for the exiting treasurer.  It was like pulling teeth.  When no one volunteered the Secretary said she would take over as Treasurer if someone would volunteer to be Secretary.

Again no one volunteered, so I said that I would take over as Secretary if someone would take the Vice President’s position.  The position of VP is one of the easiest, as your only obligation is to run the meeting if the President isn’t there (which has never happened in the 11 years I have been a member) , and putting together a collection of all committee reports for our Annual Report once a year.  Not only did no one volunteer, but one member went so far as to keep pushing forward with reasons no one should take my Vice Presidency job!

It took a bit of coercion, but a fairly new member agreed to take on the job of Treasurer, so the Secretary and I retained our current positions.  Was I nervous about announcing we should dissolve the club if we couldn’t get volunteers, especially when I had not discussed that thought with other board members?  Absolutely!  Am I glad I pushed forward and got the job done?  Without a doubt.

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Boat Week

I love Boat Week.  There are numerous activities working up to the main event, the send off the sailboats on the Port Huron to Mackinac sailboat race.  Boat Week is fun and energetic.

Fireworks at Vantage Point.  Copyright 2015 Grace Grogan

Fireworks at Vantage Point. Copyright 2015 Grace Grogan

The kick-off is actually on a Wednesday night with the Rotary Parade.  This is an event  I have never attended, but those who do attend the parade really enjoy it.  That is followed by Family Night on Thursday, where families can walk up and down the Black River and view the boats, visit the midway, ride the zip-line, climb aboard the large Ferris wheel, enjoy some great food from vendors, check out the live manikins, and participate in many activities especially designed for families.  The night is topped off by fireworks.

Friday night is Boat Night.  This is a party night, and the later it gets, the more crowded it gets.  Many of the same activities available on Family Night are repeated on Boat Night.  Beer tents let attendees celebrate, bands play on stage, and the walk along the Black River gets more and more crowded as the night rolls on.  This is the party before the Saturday morning send off of the sailboats.

Boat Night in Port Huron.  Copyright 2015 Grace Grogan

Boat Night in Port Huron. Copyright 2015 Grace Grogan

Saturday morning starts with the Boat Parade.  As the boats head out of the Black River and onto Lake Huron for the start of the race they are out on their deck, waving at the hundreds of spectators lining the river.  We normally watch the parade, but this year we were on a press boat to take photos of the start of the race, so in a sense we were part of the “parade” trying to maneuver out of the river.

Port Huron to Mackinac Race.  Copyright 2015 Grace Grogan

Port Huron to Mackinac Race. Copyright 2015 Grace Grogan

The starts are timed for several hours, with the smallest boats starting first and the largest boats being the final ones to start.  This year was great with spinnaker starts and a boat captain that put us into some great positions for photographs.  As the day wore on the boat owners were watching the reports of a incoming storm and we could see the black clouds moving in.

Racing to Beat the Storm.  Copyright 2015 Grace Grogan

Racing to Beat the Storm. Copyright 2015 Grace Grogan

As soon as everyone had taken all the photos they needed of the final race the captain had everyone sit down on the boat as he announced we were going to make a fast paced ride back in an attempt to get off Lake Huron and into the St. Clair River before the storm hit.  It was a fast ride with a bit of rocking and rolling as the storm moved closer, and we were in good company as numerous boats were running the same race we were.  The rain started to hit just north of the Blue Water Bridge.  We made it safely back to dock.

A fun-filled week of activities and an exciting ride back to put an end to it all.  Actually the activities for boat week end Saturday night with a Lighted Boat Parade, which we did not attend.  If you are ever in the Port Huron area during Boat Week, I hope you take the time to enjoy at least some of the activities, if not all.

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Treasures from Trash

You drive down the road, passing the bins and bags of trash people have set out for the next day’s garbage collection.  Have you ever wondered what great things might be in those bags?  Have you ever thought about people you see going through someone else’s trash and what items they find?

Treasures recently found while scrapping

Treasures recently found while scrapping

It is amazing what valuable items people throw out.  I often wonder why such valuable stuff ends up in the trash instead of being donated.  However each person that chooses to toss instead of donating can be a benefit to me.  My house is filled with items that people threw out as trash.  My computer printer sits on a small 3-drawer wood dresser, picked up from someone’s trash.  My family room contains a Little Tikes Bookcase filled with books, Large Little Tikes toy chest filled with toys, and a Little Tikes car track table for hot wheels, all picked up from someone’s garbage.  My kitchen contains a large decorative bowl on my table, dinnerware, some bake wear, and miscellaneous other items picked up from someone’s trash.   We have vases and figurines, baskets, bags, antique cameras, stuffed animals, and a metal twin-size bed, all picked up out of someone’s trash.  There is a bookshelf, 2-drawer solid metal filing cabinet, 2-drawer wood filing cabinet, 4-drawer fire-proof filing cabinet and a Lifestyler CardioFit machine.  I have numerous holiday decorations including a lighted, moving carousel that plays your choice of Christmas or other music.  I even have shelves of brand-new hardcover books. In my backyard you will find a Little Tikes Coupe, Little Tikes Slide, Little Tikes Tree House/Swing combination, Little Tikes Pool, Little Tikes Picnic Table/Sand Box combination, and  Little Tikes House.  All Picked Up From Trash!

IMG_0658

Ron home from picking up his new scrapping truck – complete with scrap in the back

 How did I obtain all these items?  Because a few years back my husband, Ron, got into scrapping — the process of driving around, going through people’s trash looking for scrap metal.  He runs different routes different nights of the week, and can take apart sofa sleepers, washers, dryers, water tanks, fans, and numerous  other items to separate out the various types of metals, wires and motors.  In the process of looking for scrap he comes across tons of valuable items that he brings home.  We have provided entire Christmas gatherings with “white elephant” gifts picked up when he was scrapping — and even wrapped them all in Christmas wrap he had picked up.

Things were going well until about a year ago when Ron’s scrapping truck diedat the scrapyard.  So he did what every good scrapper does – he scrapped it!  Then began the search, looking for a truck of decent quality but not too expensive to use for scrapping.  He found one about a week ago.  A 2007 Chevrolet Silverado with an 8-foot bed.

Scrapping Finds 2

Ron’s truck after his first night of scrapping

Ron claimed he wasn’t going to get into scrapping again, but I believe once a scrapper, always a scrapper.  Last Monday he picked up a piece of metal scrap on his way home from picking up the truck.  Then my daughter called and told him where a couple items had been set out in our town and he went and got them.  On Saturday Ron asked me if he used to run a route on Sunday nights and I confirmed he did.  On Sunday he announced that he was going to go scrapping that evening.  Do you think I was surprised?  Not at all — and he came home with the truck over filled.  He also went out a couple other days during the week.

Ron's scrapping truck painted by graffiti artists

Ron’s scrapping truck painted by graffiti artists

Ron's Truck

Ron’s truck in the process of being graffiti painted

Now all we have to do is get his truck graffiti painted like his old one.  It was an eye-catcher, and everyone knew where he was.  But for now, it is just an ordinary white pick-up, and will most likely have something in the back end at all times.

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Filed under Activities, Blue Water Area, Life is a Melting Pot

Checkbook Challenged

Checkbook cover

Checkbook image obtained online.

Often we hear comments about how technology challenges the older generations.  Have you ever considered how challenging some basic, long ago established tasks that are not technology based can be to younger generations?  A prime example I recently encountered was the basics of using an everyday standard checkbook.

A gentleman I know who is in his mid twenties recently started his own business and decided it was time to get a checking account.  Sounds pretty simple doesn’t it?

Challenge No. 1:    He approaches me with checks and checkbook cover in hand, he couldn’t figure out how to get the checks into the checkbook cover.  I showed him how to slide the back of the checkbook pack into the plastic holder inside the checkbook cover, then advised him that the register goes into the other side.

His Response:  Register?  I wondered what that weird empty book was for.  Thought it looked rather useless and threw it in the drawer.

Challenge No. 2:    He approaches me with the register and checkbook cover.  The register and the plastic slip on the other side of the checkbook cover is slightly different from that of the checks.  How are you supposed to do this?  I put the register in and advised him that as the register gets written into, to make access to your current page easy use a paperclip to block open the pages.  Don’t you love the amazing technology involved in that step?

Challenge No. 3:   Things now appear to be going well.  Then his next question:  Is there a way to get deposit slips pre-printed so I don’t have to write them out all the time?

My Response:  Look at your pad of checks, all the way to the back.  Imagine his Surprise!  Deposit slips right there, pre-printed the entire time and he didn’t know it.

Realization:  He had asked the bank to bring him deposit slips because he didn’t have any (or so he thought).  They probably wondered why he wasn’t using the pre-printed ones.

Challenge No. 4:  First check written gets returned for not being properly filled out.  Why?  He used regular numbers on the amount line and didn’t sign the check.  Why didn’t he sign the check?  He didn’t know what that line at the bottom was for, it wasn’t labeled.    Why didn’t he write out the amount in word format?  He didn’t know he was supposed to.

How to Write a Check image obtained onliine.

How to Write a Check image obtained onliine.

Lesson Time:  How to properly fill out a check.  Numbers on the number line.  The amount written out in long form.  Example:  One Hundred Forty Dollars and 40/100’s.  Why can’t you just write out the words for the cents?  You could, but it may take too much space, and proper format is fraction form.

Now we are on a roll.  Deposits going in, checks being written in their proper format.  Check register being properly filled out.  What else could there be?

Discovery Time:  Grace!  Do you know you can write a check to yourself and then deposit it into your other bank account?  Umm, yes, but if it is at the same bank it is easier to just do an electronic transfer.

Transfer of information from check to register obtained online.

Transfer of information from check to register obtained online.

Realization:  Sometimes it is the little discoveries in life that make you happy!

Final Tip:    I asked him if he knows that once a month when the statement arrives you are supposed to balance the checkbook.  What does that mean?  You take the statement the bank sends and check off all deposits and checks that have cleared the bank.  Then write the “balance” from the statement down, add any deposits that have not cleared the bank, subtract any checks that have not cleared the bank, and the bottom line should match the balance on the statement.

His Response:  That sounds like too much work.  I just watch the balance through the month to see if it seems right.

Conclusion:  The old-fashioned way of doing banking by maintaining a physical checkbook, check register and handwritten checks lacks the technology required for students today to learn this basic life skill in high school, which is where I was taught.  In this automatic, fast-paced world the way in which something so basic was and is done amazes today’s young adults in a unique way and challenges them with having to handle a task without a computer, iPad or cell phone.

LET ME HERE FROM YOU:   Have you encountered challenges by not knowing how to do something the “old-fashioned” way?  Have you met someone who was facing challenges trying to deal with a non-technology based task?  I would love to hear what products or tasks have created a dilemma for the younger generation.

 

 

 

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Filed under Activities, assumptions, career, employment, Life is a Melting Pot, reality, technology

What Makes a Volunteer?

What is it that causes some people to volunteer repeatedly?  They are active in everything, always jump in to lend a helping hand, and juggle several volunteer positions, full time jobs, and other obligations.

Why is it some people never volunteer?  They will joint an organization, but never go beyond the membership stage.  Even when the organization is in desperate need of assistance, they refuse to lend a helping hand.

I have been a volunteer in a variety of organizations over the past 30+ years.  If you belong to several organizations you find that it is always the same people that volunteer, always picking up the slack while others sit idly by.  What is it that causes this difference in people’s willingness to give.  Why is it some people can juggle huge loads and always take on something else, while others are overwhelmed with one or two things?

This has been on my mind for several reasons.  I belong to the St. Clair County Family History Group.  A few years ago our treasurer passed away unexpectedly, and no one was willing to step up and fill that persons shoes.  After a year one person said she would do it — the only reason she hadn’t volunteered before is because that is the type of work she does for a living, she held other committee positions, and was hoping someone would step up to the plate and take the position.  No one did, so Sue stepped in and has done a phenomenal job for years.  Sue made an announcement in May 2014 that she and her husband were planning to retire and move to Michigan’s U.P. within 1-2 years and that she would no longer be able to handle the position of treasurer.  She announced early so that if someone wanted to take over and have her handy to answer any questions and walk them through the steps while she was still in the area, that would make the transition easy.  No one volunteered.  She has now submitted her “formal” written resignation to the president.  I am wondering, actually doubtful, if anyone will volunteer.Volunteer - Make  a Life by What we Give

Now you may wonder why I don’t take the position.  The reason, I already hold a board position as Vice President, plus I am Newsletter Editor for the club.  I also try to manage the website, a position that was emptied and no one took over.   I am not good with the website and have been asking for about four years for someone to take it over, but no one has.  I announced a year ago that I was willing to hand over the VP position, which only requires you to run the meeting in the event the President is absent, which has never happened in the past 11 years I have been a member, and once a year you put together the Annual Report – a booklet of all the committee chairs annual reports.  No one volunteered and so I continued in that position.   In the same club we have another member who is moving out of state and has announced that her board position and committee chair position will be vacant.     That means we now have two board positions that need to be filled and two committee chair positions that need to be filled immediately.   I have my doubts that there will be anyone who steps up to the plate and takes on the openings, because we have other committee positions that have been vacant for years.

I am also a member of the Blue Water Shutterbug Club and have held various positions over the years, the most recent was as Member at Large — a board position that is relatively easy to have.  The Vice President of that club is moving out of State and had announced that his position would be vacant and someone would need to take over.  Every month before the meeting begins the VP walks around and solicits three members who have had the training to serve as part of a 3-judge panel for the photo competition that month.  The person also has a short 30-60 minute commitment once a week to pre-judge the photos submitted, making sure they are suitable for the categories they have been submitted into.  A relatively easy position with low commitment.  I was not going to be at the meeting in which the elections were taking place, but let the leaving person know that in the event no one volunteered I would take over.  Need I mention that I am now Vice President of the BW Shutterbugs?

I have spent most of my adult life volunteering in various organizations.  When my kids were young I was active in the PTO, serving as secretary for 6-7 years, chairing a committee that gathered and added grocery receipts from a particular store to raise money for the school, chaired a prize committee for the annual carnival, chaperoned field trips and volunteered in the classroom from time to time, all while holding down a full-time job.  I also was co-leader of the girl scouts, leader of the Tiger Cubs, secretary for a collectible club, and in addition to my full-time office position sold Tupperware.  My kids were involved in karate, scouting, AWANA and dance. Oh, I almost forgot, I volunteered in the nursery at the church we were attending.  If I could do that with two young children at home, why can’t people who are retired and have no young children at home dedicate some of their time to an organization?

This past weekend I attended a workshop where the purpose was to handcraft items that will be placed in gift boxes.  Those boxes are donated to hospitals to be presented to parents who give birth to stillborn babies or whose babies die shortly after birth.  They include gowns for the baby to be buried in, tiny stuffed animals, blankets, hats, etc.   A very important and much needed item so I dedicated my Saturday, from noon to 9 pm to help out.  While I was at the workshop someone asked me what I do in my free time.  I guess when you put it all in a list, it overwhelms some people.

What do I do?  I am Vice President and Newsletter Editor of the St. Clair County Family History Group, Vice President of the Blue Water Shutterbug Club, I write a genealogy column for The Lakeshore Guardian, I am an opinion columnist for The Times Herald, I have a weekly blog, I am writing a book about our families dealings with DHS and trying to adopt our granddaughters, my husband and I have a photography business, Times Gone By Photography and we both have photos in a local art gallery, for sale in a local hospital, for sale at a couple local stores and we both have websites on Fine Art America, plus a business Facebook page, Times Gone By Photography.    In addition to that I work full time as a paralegal, and my hobbies include scrapbooking, reading, photography, and genealogy.

When people say I should relax, eliminate some of those items, I respond “Why?”   If you don’t have a wide range of interests and activities life becomes boring.  I don’t want to reach my old age and have nothing to look back on, regrets that I didn’t do things, or be bored in retirement because I have no hobbies or interests to keep me busy.

Now don’t get me wrong, I can do the couch potato in front of the TV just like everyone else.  Then I realize that the things I want to do are sliding away and I get busy again.  My “chill time” gets me re-energized for the next round of activity.

What makes a volunteer?  Why are some people willing to plunge right in wherever needed and others always spend their time on the sidelines, observing but never fully participating?

Are you a volunteer or an observer?  What are your reasons for the position you take on volunteering?

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Filed under Activities, events, friendship, hobbies, impressions, Life is a Melting Pot, mind, time, work

Good Things

I’ve seen photos of these around New Years in previous years, thought they looked like a neat idea but never attempted it myself. This year I changed my mind. 2014 was a rough year, as I wrote about in Kicking 2014 Goodbye.  We also had a lot of good things that happened throughout the year, including a vacation to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and a weekend spent with my sister and two cousins we traveled with often growing up.  A granddaughter was born in December.  Those are the big things.  We all remember the big things, but I know there were a lot of small, minor tidbits of happiness that have long been forgotten.

Good Things Jar.  Photo by Grace Grogan 2015

Good Things Jar. Photo by Grace Grogan 2015

That is why this year I decided to start a Good Things Jar.  I purchased a large canning jar, typed up a label for it and placed it on our kitchen counter.  I then inserted several notes from the days that had already gone by since January 1st.  I started this when my husband, Ron, was in the hospital for his surgery.  I didn’t mention it to him, and now that he is home he hasn’t asked about it.  He can put things into it too.   I should mention it, because his good things may be quite different from mine based on the fact that he is quite often out shooting photographs all day while I am at work.

It will be interesting to see how full the jar is by the end of the year.  I have read about people starting these but then not keeping them up.  When you begin to jot down the miscellaneous good things that happen it is amazing how many things happen on a day-to-day basis that we don’t put emphasis on.  For example in my jar already I have the celebration of my grandson, Corbin’s birthday, which was done late so his brother could be there.  My daughter, Caroline and her boyfriend, Rob, came over and ran the snow-blower and cleared the front porch and sidewalk of snow while Ron was in the hospital.  I included the day of Ron’s surgery that the procedure was successful, and of course a note the day he came home from the hospital.

Some of these things I will remember at the end of the year, some would be forgotten.  It will be interesting on December 31st to dump out my jar of notes and enjoy the memories.  I have read where people frequently keep the jars so they can re-open and read the notes in later years if they choose.  I will take my notes at the end of the year and put them onto a scrapbook page and they will be permanently saved in a scrapbook.

The year is still new.  Maybe you should consider making a Good Things Jar.  If you have done this in the past I would love to hear your comments about it.  If you haven’t are you now considering starting one?  We should all focus on the Good Things in our lives.

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Filed under Activities, decisions, Family, habit, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, reality, time, Writing

Haunted Past

Buffy from the TV show Family Affair and her doll Mrs. Beasley.  Photo located online.

Buffy from the TV show Family Affair and her doll Mrs. Beasley. Photo located online.

Haunted happenings are everywhere. Halloween has changed since I was a child, even since my children were young. The holiday has grown in popularity and activities leading up to it have stretched out.  This is no longer a one-night event.

I grew up in a small town. You purchased a few pumpkins and carved them with a basic jack-o-lantern face. One year my dad decided to dress ours up by using markers to paint around the carvings. I didn’t like having jack-o-lanterns that weren’t “normal” but everyone coming to our house to trick-or-treat thought they were great.

Typical costumes from the 1960's.  Photo obtained online.

Typical costumes from the 1960’s. Photo obtained online.

Costume Vinatge pic from 1960s

A vintage photo from 1960’s showing students in costume. Photo obtained from the internet.

Store bought costumes were a simple “cover” over the clothing and a plastic mask that covered the front of your face and attached with an elastic band.   As we got older costumes might be more of the self-made type.  I remember one year my sister went as Mrs. Beasely from a popular show called Family Affair.  I don’t know why that one costume stands out.  I don’t even remember what I dressed up as most the time.    There was always the school party and the parade of costumes throughout the school.   Then everyone went home and anticipated dark so they could go out trick-or-treating.

Trick-or-Treating was of course done on the appropriate night regardless of whether the weather was good, rain, or snow.  Someone always stayed home to hand out candy and the other parent took out the kids trick-or-treating.   The worst part was my mother was very cautious and so we were never allowed to eat our candy for several days.  This was back in the 60’s and 70’s when people did things like slip razor blades or needles into fruit or candy, or sometimes use a needle to shoot drugs into candy.  She always checked every piece of candy over carefully to see if it appeared to have been tampered with, and then we had to wait a few days to see what type of tampering made the news.  It was a horrid wait, but eventually we got the go-ahead to eat whatever we wanted.    People were generous with their hand-outs so we always had way more than we could eat anyway.  As I got older there was the occasional Halloween party or haunted house, but those were not huge parts of the holiday for us.

Caroline and Patrick carving pumpkins.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Caroline and Patrick carving pumpkins. Photo by Grace Grogan

By the time I had children things had changed a bit, plus I had moved away from the small town and lived in a much more populated area.    Costumes were more detailed and many times people designed their own at home.  My son’s first Halloween I dressed him up as a pumpkin and he “helped” me hand out candy while my husband took our daughter out trick-or-treating.  One year when she was small I made her a clown costume and have a photo of her looking at herself in the mirror, entranced with her painted on red nose.    As the holiday approached we made trips to the cider mills and pumpkin patches.  We purchased pattern books and usually spent several days carving elaborate designs into our pumpkins, and of course the seeds had to be roasted.    My daughter always enjoyed Halloween, but my son has always loved it so it was a big holiday at our house.   As they got older we attended haunted hayrides, and as teens they would go to the large haunted houses.  As adults they still love all those activities.

The school parties were much as they had been when I was a child with treats and a costume parade. Parents attended taking photos of the little ones all dressed up.  One year there was an announcement over the PA for all the Batmans to meet the principal in the cafeteria for a photograph.  The school principal had dressed up as Batman, a popular costume that year, and there were so many Batmans in the school that he decided to have a group shot taken with them.

Patrick and Kiley Trick-or-Treating.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Patrick and Kiley Trick-or-Treating. Photo by Grace Grogan

Grandson Austin dressed for Trick-or-Treat.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Grandson Austin dressed for Trick-or-Treat. Photo by Grace Grogan

Nighttime trick-or-treating was done with a pillowcase to hold all the loot.  The streets were packed with parents and children going door to door.  Most years I stayed home and handed out the goodies and my husband made the rounds with the kids.  On occasion I would go out, and it is always fun to see the little ones in costume whether coming to the door or trudging down the streets.    My husband started with our kids a tradition they had in their family — putting out sheets of newspaper for each kid to dump and sort their candy on — basically an inventory of the goods collected and a great time to trade.  A must in our house – I got all their Butterfinger candy bars!

Patrick and his girls out trick-or-treating.  Photo by Grace Grogan 2009.

Patrick and his girls out trick-or-treating. Photo by Grace Grogan 2009.

Austin and ceramic pumpkin 2009.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Austin and ceramic pumpkin 2009. Photo by Grace Grogan

Now my children are grown with children of their own.  Trunk-or-Treats are held everywhere leading up to the big day, and there are plenty of other events related to the holiday as well.  Haunted hayrides, trips to the cider mill, trips to the pumpkin patch, and of course traditional trick-or-treating are still alive.  I no longer live in a sub division so my only trick-or-treaters are my own grandchildren who are brought by in costume to trick-or-treat at our house.  Some things never change, and one year my daughter, Caroline, told Austin, my grandson, that he had to give his Butterfinger to me.

I do not miss the expense of having to purchase several bags of candy to hand out, but  I do miss having the children coming to the door all dressed in costume yelling trick-or-treat.   In some ways I miss the lengthy carving of the pumpkins, but not the mess it created.    I still go to the cider mill, but that is an event everyone should enjoy several times a season.

What are your Halloween Traditions?

 

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Filed under Activities, children, events, Family, Holidays, kids, Life is a Melting Pot, school