Category Archives: Activities

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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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

Who Am I?

What defines who you are? Is it the job you hold, the hobbies you participate in? Does one define you more than others?

I work as a paralegal in a one-person law office.  I am also a photographer and a writer. Which of those things defines me? While I enjoy my full-time position, I don’t think that necessarily defines me as a person, but it definitely opens my mind to various subjects and allows me to look at things with an objective viewpoint.  When I see laws that have changed or situations that have a negative impact on people it inspires me to write and create public awareness of the situation, whether it be good or bad.Law is not legal it is logical

The two things that I feel best define who I am are my writing and photography.  Am I a writer who does photography or a photographer who writes?   This is a question that is difficult to answer.   I do not like publishing a post in which there are not at least some photographs or other images.  When I take photographs I often think of how I might be able to use them in my writing or what I may want to journal about in my scrapbooks.     When I write something my mind is wondering what photographs I have that relate to the post, because I want to include a visual image for the reader.  What I like about these two activities is that they both inspire people to think about something, what I am writing about, what I have photographed.  It may trigger a memory, inspire them to take action, encourage them to travel and visit somewhere different.  Writing and Photography are activities that draw in the reader and viewer so as to hopefully trigger some form of reaction.

One example is a favorite quote of mine which hangs on my wall here at home.  Life if like a camera-1 In fact I wrote about this in my very first post for this blog titled Life Is Like A Camera.  Inspiration for photographs does not have to come from things I write, it can also come from things I read, such as the saying at left.

At the same time, photographs inspire memories, thoughts, and desires in lots of people.  Several people can look at the same photograph and have thoughts or memories that are very different.   For instance look at the photo below. Does this make you think back to a time when something happened and you ended up in a ditch or in some other form of accident?  Do you wonder why a photo was taken of this?  After all, it is nothing spectacular, just a jeep in the ditch…or is there a hidden story to tell?

Jeep in Ditch.  Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2010.

Jeep in Ditch. Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2010.

Did you notice, the jeep is backwards to the road and nose down, so now what are your thoughts?  This is where the photo needs the words to tell the story.

I was recovering from an accident and lacked mobility, so my husband would drive the vehicle across the lawn and up to the front porch to park near the steps so it was easier for me to get into the house.   Luckily I wasn’t with him when he left to go on an errand because the front lawn had iced up.  When he made the circle through the front lawn to go back to the driveway he lost all traction on the ice covered grass.  The jeep would not stop and would not turn.  Into the ditch he went.  The ditch is quite deep and was a wet, soupy mess and he was unable to back out.  The tires were sunk half way in a suction-like muck.  A tow truck had to be called to extract our vehicle from our own front yard ditch.    We were so glad I hadn’t been in the car because I would not have been able to leave the jeep and climb up out of the ditch.  I did take the photo.  I grabbed my camera after Ron came in to call the tow service and worked my way to the front door so I could shoot this photograph.  It was taken through the front door window  which is why it is not a properly positioned photo.  I was working around the posts on the front porch and a tree in the front yard.  Now you may ask, why are their bales of hay sitting there?    Because Ron was planning to spread the hay on the front grass to absorb moisture and help provide a little surface traction as the lawn thawed and froze.  So much for great plans!

So who am I?  Am I a photographer who writes, or am I a writer who takes photographs?   I would love to hear your thoughts.  I would also like to leave you with a few photos to inspire your memories and your thoughts — I hope you will share them with me.

 

Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2009

Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2009

Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2009

Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2009

Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2009

Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2009

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Filed under Activities, employment, hobbies, Life is a Melting Pot, Photography, reality, work, Writing

World Wide Photo Walk

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

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

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

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

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


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

photographers on walk-1-2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Putting a Spin on Things

Flower Zoom by Grace Grogan

Flower Zoom by Grace Grogan

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

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

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

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

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

Coast Guard Boat zoom by Grace Grogan

Coast Guard Boat zoom by Grace Grogan

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

Flower zoom.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Flower zoom. Photo by Grace Grogan

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

Walk in the Woods zoom by Grace Grogan

Walk in the Woods zoom by Grace Grogan

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

Zinia flower zoom.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Zinia flower zoom. Photo by Grace Grogan

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

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

Uninhabited and Unconnected

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The dining area of the lodge.  Photo by Grace Grogan

The dining area of the lodge. Photo by Grace Grogan

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

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

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

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

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

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

Middle Island Lighthouse.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Middle Island Lighthouse. Photo by Grace Grogan

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

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

Sunrise over Lake Huron.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Sunrise over Lake Huron. Photo by Grace Grogan

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

Walking the trails on Middle Island.  Photo by Grace Groan

Walking the trails on Middle Island. Photo by Grace Groan

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

Middle Island Lighthouse.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Middle Island Lighthouse. Photo by Grace Grogan

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

 

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

Backyard Exploration by a 3-Year Old

Who's out there?  Photo by Grace Grogan

Who’s out there? Photo by Grace Grogan

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

Parking the car.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Parking the car. Photo by Grace Grogan

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

Down the Slide.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Down the Slide. Photo by Grace Grogan

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

Coming Out.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Coming Out. Photo by Grace Grogan

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

Walking the Edge.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Walking the Edge. Photo by Grace Grogan

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

What is in there?  Photo by Grace Grogan

What is in there? Photo by Grace Grogan

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

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

Blue Water Summer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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