Category Archives: celebration

Celebrating Independence Day

I want to wish everyone a Happy 4th of July — the celebration of the birth of the United States of America.  Many people today do not understand the significance of the holiday, nor how it came to be celebrated in the manner it is.

I write a column for The Lakeshore Guardian and for the July 2017 I wrote about the history of our celebration and the changes that have taken place since the very first time festivities took place in the year of our independence, 1776.  You can read the column by clicking on Celebrating Independence Day, which will take you directly to my column.  While there feel free to click on Articles by Grace Grogan which will take you to a 4-page listing of the columns I have done for that paper.  There is no subscription fee for the paper so feel free to view at your leisure.

If for any reason you have difficulty using the links above, I have scanned and attached the Celebrating Independence Day column below, which you should be able to click on and enlarge for easier reading.

Wishing you all a wonderful, happy, 4th of July Celebration.

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Filed under celebration, events, Festivals, genealogy, Holidays, Life is a Melting Pot

Cherish Surprises

It is easy to get wrapped up in the mundane routine of everyday life.  You get up, have breakfast, check your email, pack your lunch, drive to work, drive back home, and so on.  Your habits are routine, your interactions with others are routine.  It is all the same.

Don’t let monotony drag you down.  Even when each day is a repeat of the prior one, you can bring some variety into your life, or into the life of others.  By doing one, you create the other.  The end result is you will both probably benefit from the interactions.    surprise - momens seize us

Now if you are wondering what can you do to create surprise in someone else’s life, think about what things you find to be a pleasant surprise.  Moments you cherish.  It can be anything big or small.  It is something that creates a moment of pleasure, of surprise, it makes you smile and brightens your day.    At the same time, if you tend to overlook those moments when they happen to you, learn to cherish them.  What am I talking about?  Easy.

A phone call from someone when you least expect it, an impromptu opportunity to get together with a friend, finding a $5 bill in your coat pocket, an unexpected opportunity to travel, a handwritten letter in the mail, when a child brings you a bouquet of dandelions, a wild animal standing near the roadway, spotting a rainbow, and the list goes on.  There are no set rules, whatever makes you happy, whatever makes you smile, that is your surprise.

To cherish the surprises, you need to be alert to the small things in life that we often overlook.   Be more attentive.  Enjoy life and cherish surprises.

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Filed under celebration, exploration, flowers, freindship, friends, friendship, home, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, mind

Benefits of Hitting a Brick Wall

When I started this blog my intent was to begin building a reader base and to also write a book about the events that surrounded my husband and I attempting to foster and adopt our granddaughters.  We were denied contact, denied the ability to foster, DHS fought the recommendation in our favor on adopting the oldest child, and the girls were eventually adopted out to strangers, not family.  I wrote about it in Attempted Adoption: An Emotional Whirlwind three years ago.

I also began a memoir at the same time about the events surrounding that time in our life.  I got the first draft of the first four chapters written and then my life turned into a turmoil and I sat it aside.  I have had it tumbling around in my brain and do want to get back into the writing.

At the time I was working on those first four chapters I knew something didn’t seem right but I couldn’t figure out what it was.  I have just completed reading  The Truth of Memoir by Kerry Cohen and now know what was wrong.   I was writing when I was still angry at what happened.  If you write from an angry/frustrated viewpoint you do not treat the people in your book fairly.  I wanted to get back at Child Protective Services, Department of Human Services, Michigan Children’s Institute, the guardian ad litem, the judge…everyone who had a part in denying us our grandchildren.  There were other people who also frustrated me, such as my son’s ex-wife who was addicted to pain killers, which played a roll in the children being taken, and my son who was caught doing home invasions and went to prison for a lengthy enough period of time that his parental rights would be terminated.

When I started the book I felt it important to tell our story, to help people realize that this is a corrupt system and it is a nationwide problem.  At the same time I was out to make those I felt treated us unfairly look bad.  While their behavior may have been deplorable, I still need to treat them with fairness in the book, meaning I need to stress that it is my viewpoint.  I also need to make allowances for the fact that these people were doing their job, and recognize that it can be a pretty horrid job to be involved in.  While emotion is important to a memoir, so is understanding and fairness.

Memoir - not about blame or hurtSo what do I do now?  I pick up where I left off and keep on writing.  When I have completed the first draft I will go back and re-work, edit, and tweak every chapter.  From a legal standpoint I have to determine for which persons I will use real names and which people will have their name changed.  As I work my way through the writing and editing process I may on occasion share a small section here as a post.

My brick wall was life, but in the end it was a good wall to hit when it came to my writing.  I have had time to process the events now.  While I may not agree with the process and outcome, I can now deal more fairly with each person in my memoir.  The benefit of hitting that wall is that my writing will now be better because of it.

 

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Filed under Adoption, celebration, Child Protective Services, children, Coping, CPS, Department of Human Services, DHS, education, Family, Foster Care, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir

Keep the Magic

Think back to when you were a child and the magic that Christmas held.  The excitement and anticipation of a visit from Santa.  The traditions that went with the season.

Remember getting toy wish books?  Once they arrived my sister and I would pour over them for hours, looking, looking again, and writing out lists of what we wanted for Christmas.  Inevitably the list was lengthy and mom would say we needed to shorten it down…the agony of it all!  children-become-a-child-at-christmas

Traditions of the holiday stand out in my mind.  Making Christmas cookies and decorating them, followed by eating them for breakfast as we opened gifts.  Decorating the house was always fun.   In the early years we would trudge through the snow at a Christmas tree farm to find the perfect tree, which Dad would then saw down.  Of course they always looked smaller in the woods then they did in the living room.  One year Mom kept saying the trees were too small.  The “perfect” one had to be sawed considerably shorter after Dad brought it in the house, not to mention the fact that it was so big around it stuck out about one-third of the way into the living room from the corner where it stood.  It was huge!

Dad would put the tree into a stand and then we would have to let it sit for 24 hours to let the branches “drop” as the tree warmed up.  After that the decorating could begin…lights, ornaments, garland, and icicles.  The tree decorating was usually stretched out over several days, as we were in school and Mom also worked during the day.  Evenings were spent viewing the tree, seeing a spot in need of an ornament and then finding the perfect one to fit that area.    magic-of-christmas-when-children-are-around

When Hallmark began their dated ornaments Mom started a tradition of purchasing a dated ornament for my sister and I every year.  Those were wonderful to have as we got married and moved out and many of those oldies hang on my tree every year.  When I had kids I kept the tradition, purchasing each of them a dated ornament every year…something I continue to do even now when they are 28 and 32 years old.  Of course I also purchase one every year for each of my grandchildren.  My daughter has also tried to maintain the tradition with her children.

Christmas morning when growing up was always fun.  The discovery of wrapped gifts under the tree.  Going through our Christmas stockings to see what small hidden treasures were there.  Then of course spending the rest of the day playing with new games, reading new books.  Enjoying a day of family fun.

Over time childhood moved into teen years, and we no longer believe.  Gifts become more useful.  Then we become adults and Christmas is nice, but something is missing, at least for a while.  All good things come to an end…or do they?

magic-light-in-a-childs-eyeEventually we get married, have children, and the fun starts again.  This time we hold the magic and enjoy watching a child’s eyes sparkle with excitement when they talk about their Christmas wishes, Santa Clause and the fun of the holiday activities.  We relive the magic through the eyes of our children.

Too soon our children grow, become teens, grow into adults and move out on their own and Christmas once again lacks the magic, at least for a little while.  Then the grandchildren are born and the cycle begins again.

No matter how old you are, keep the magic.  If you have no children or grandchildren, go where there are children.  Watch the lines for Santa, volunteer at organizations that cater to children, work at a toy give-away,  contact charity organizations and volunteer your services.   Keep the magic alive.

Keep the Spirit * Keep the Magic
Look at Christmas through the eyes of a child

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Filed under celebration, children, events, Family, grandchildren, Holidays, kids, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir

Thanksgiving Solo

Thanksgiving is traditionally a time when people gather with family or friends, enjoy a football game, a parade, fellowship and of course, food.  Over the years I have participated in large family gatherings, small family gatherings, dined with friends, or gone out to a restaurant.  This year, for the first time ever, I am doing Thanksgiving solo.  That was my choice.

A year ago I cooked a Thanksgiving dinner and had my daughter, her three children and her boyfriend over to join my husband and I.  Ron was battling cancer; a battle he lost eleven days later.  Ron didn’t feel well; he didn’t want my daughter and the grandchildren here but I insisted on having Thanksgiving with them.  Why?  Because I knew the boys, who at that time were 9 and 4, needed it.  Thinking back it may have been the last time they saw him.  thanksgiving-pumpkin-pie

So now we move forward a year.  I had surgery on my ankle a week ago, so I informed my daughter that I would not be preparing Thanksgiving dinner this year.  I let her know that my intent is to stay home and crash.   As it turns out my daughter has to work long hours on black Friday, so she and her boyfriend decided to stay home and do their own turkey.   Why am I not joining them?  For one I can’t get into their house.  Secondly I can’t go anywhere without a chauffeur.  Third I don’t want the hassles of the mess that comes with cooking, cleanup and three children in the house.   I prefer to go the quiet, solo route, at least this year.

So what will I do?  I purchased a stuffed chicken breast and will fix that with some sweet potatoes for myself.  It isn’t a turkey, but at least it is poultry!   I will read, do paperwork, write, or just put my feet up and watch the Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV.  Time will tell as the day unfolds.

I hope all of you have a very Happy Thanksgiving, complete with turkey, stuffing, and of course pumpkin pie….in fact, eat an extra piece of pie for me!

 

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Up and Back in a Day

This past Saturday was emotional, enlightening, fun, and exhausting all rolled into one.  A couple weeks ago I wrote about my cousin losing her husband after a lengthy battle with cancer in Feeling Their Pain.  The funeral was set and I debated for a week whether or not to go.  I wanted to go, but I have a lot going on and I was juggling the loss of an entire Saturday to travel and attend v. being able to get things accomplished around home.  I didn’t want to later regret not going so I went.

It was a beautiful fall Saturday in Michigan.  The visitation was scheduled for 10:00 am, funeral for 11:00.  I set my alarm for 4:00 am and was on the road at 5:15 am for the four hour drive.  I watched the sunrise through the passenger side of my vehicle as I traveled north on I-75.   A quick fifteen minute stop in West Branch gave me the opportunity to re-fuel the vehicle and myself by way of coffee and pumpkin donuts.  I was in Traverse City at 9:30 am.  death

The funeral was held at the Reynolds Jonkoff Funeral Home in Traverse City, the same place my Grandmother’s funeral was held years ago.  A beautiful, historical home that lends itself to comfort for memorial services.  Photo boards and memorabilia of Charlie’s life were on display, and a slide show of photos played on the screen.  Always smiling, always clowning around and being silly, that was Charlie.

I was greeted by family I rarely see and met some I have never seen.  It is hard to maintain contact with extended family when we all live so far apart.  Facebook is a blessing in that regard for helping people to stay in touch.  Charlie’s widow, Michelle, and I had not seen each other since we were children, but we recognized each other immediately.    It had only been six days since Charlie passed and Michelle was struggling emotionally.  We held each other and cried together, Michelle because the pain was new, me because I was reliving the pain through the memories this setting brought on.  I left her a card in which I enclosed the poem I read at my husband Ron’s burial, If Tomorrow Starts Without Me (see below).

During the ceremony the Obituary of Charlie Jokinen was read.  Charlie grew up in grew up in Bobcaygeon, Ontario and the stories shared by his best friend from childhood were filled with humor; good memories of a wonderful person in his youth.   Michelle’s daughter, Nicole, talked about what a wonderful, accepting person Charlie was when he came into their lives, and how despite his struggles with cancer always attended her sporting events, concerts, and other activities of youth.  I learned that Charlie and my husband, Ron, were very much alike.  Both loved photography, being active, loved life and family, and were always smiling.   It was a wonderful testimonial to a life well lived and a person well liked and loved by all.

Following the ceremony was the procession to the Memorial Gardens where Charlie was laid to rest beside my Uncle Lee and Aunt Jesse Hilts, who were laid to rest beside my maternal grandparents, Ralph and Grace Hilts.  They are all located not far from the graves of my paternal grandparents, uncle and parents.  After a short grave side service during which Michelle lowered Charlie’s ashes into the ground, we proceeded to the Grawn Baptist Church for a luncheon and fellowship with family members and friends.

About 2:30 I hugged Michelle goodbye before getting on the road.  We promised to stay in touch and get together for a weekend.   We now have a common bond not shared by our siblings or other cousins.  I did manage to accidentally announce my departure rather loudly.  As I was walking across the lot to my car I somehow managed to activate my car alarm.  Nothing like a bright red car with the horn blasting and lights flashing to signal the end of a memorial luncheon.  I glanced around, thought I was safe from anyone having witnesses my blunder and got into my car.  Then a grey pickup pulled in next to me, it was my cousin, Iva, and her husband Milt.  I rolled down the window and Milt congratulated me on adding a bit of humor to the end of the day.

I took the more scenic, leisurely route across the state on my way home.  This served two purposes.  It allowed me to enjoy the beautiful northern fall scenery with an occasional stop to take photographs, and the climbing in and out of the car into the cool air helped to keep me awake as I drove.

It was not until I got on US-10, an expressway, that the length of the day made me drowsy.  I know that if I keep busy it helps me to stay awake and the singing and dancing in the car while driving wasn’t doing the trick.   I finally made a stop and picked up a highly nutritious snack at Speedway gas station of a spiced pumpkin cappuccino and a small bag of crunchy Cheetos.  I know, individually they sound yummy but as a combo it sounds horrid.  Remarkably it wasn’t, so go ahead and give it a try sometimes.  It did work in keeping me awake as I stretched that bag of Cheetos all the way to I-69, which marked only an hour more to go on my route.

I arrived home around 7:00 pm.  A tiring day but I am glad I went.  It was good for Michelle to have me there.  It was good for me to be there.

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Filed under cancer, celebration, Coping, death, Family, Illness, Life is a Melting Pot, marriage, memoir, travel

Shall We Elope?

Life spins and churns, twists and turns, and in the process dreams are born, moments cherished, and desire becomes reality.  Such is the case with a friend of mine who after spending more than twenty years widowed and single married the man of her dreams.

Wedding wishes, preparation, anticipation, and anxiety all come into play when anyone gets married.  We are used to watching young people plan big, elaborate weddings, and there is excitement in that type of a “production.”   This was different.  It was two adults with children and grandchildren planning a small, simple, elopement with tidbits of details that added to the fun and uniqueness of this blending of their lives.

Planning to have an outdoor wedding in Michigan during the month of April is always gutsy.  They decided they wanted to get married on the covered bridge in Frankenmuth, a popular location that is a unique, small town atmosphere and also a popular tourist destination.  Being that it was two hours from home they needed to search and find a pastor to perform the service.  They checked on use of the covered bridge, booked a motel and made arrangements for early check-in, arranged for a second witness, and made plans for photo locations.

Then a week before the date the couple held their breath when snow crept over the state.  All was not lost.  The day of the wedding was warm and sunny, comfortable for the bride in her sleeveless dress, a bit warm  for the groom in his suit.  A perfect day, perfect weather.

Vicki held to tradition.  The morning of the wedding I received a text message asking if I had something she could borrow.  She had the something old, something new, and something blue.  She wore a bracelet that belonged to me for her something borrowed.    I attended the event and served as witness/matron of honor and photographer.

I met Mark and Vicki at their motel and after Mark dressed and I had taken a couple shots of Vicki helping him with his tie, he left to meet us at the bridge.   I helped Vicki with her dress, we took a few preparation shots, and I was shown a gift she had purchased for her new husband.  It was fun, girly, and relaxing all at the same time.  We arrived on location to find Mark chatting with the pastor and her husband.

 

Photos by Grace Grogan, copyright 2016

 

Vicki had been worried about finding an appropriate dress, but she did and made the purchase.  Then after reflection decided there was nothing wrong with her purchase, but it lacked the pizazz that one wants for their wedding day.  She kept looking and ended up with a lady-like, age appropriate, knock-him-off-his-feet dress.  How do I know, because I was walking with them and Mark looked over at Vicki and said “you look good, you look really good!”  He was right, she did.

Rather than use the bridge, which was dark and cool, for their ceremony they opted to stand near the water overlooking the bridge.  Prior to vows the groom, who is in a band, sang to the bride.  Vows were spoken, rings exchanged, and of course the traditional kiss.   The marriage license was signed, then they posed for a few photographs before we went to lunch.

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Fried Ice Cream Deluxe – Yum!  Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2016

When in Frankenmuth the tradition is to go for chicken dinner.  Traditions are made to be broken, and when you have a small elopement instead of a over-the-top wedding, plans can be adjusted on a moments notice.  How many brides and grooms do you know who have their wedding dinner in a tiny Mexican restaurant?  Well I know one, and it was great.  They were even presented with a huge, free fried ice cream because it was their special day.

After lunch we shot a few more photographs and then the happy couple went for a horse-drawn carriage ride around town.  The end of a perfect day leading into a perfect night, and the beginning of a perfect union of marriage.

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Their first adventure as husband and wife. Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2016

 

 

 

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Filed under celebration, decisions, events, Family, impressions, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, marriage, spring

My First Easter

It is funny how traditions with couples and/or families develop over years.  What is crucial to one couple is unimportant to another.  Being the  first year without my husband, people anticipate that certain dates may be hard, such as Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day.  However those were “Hallmark” holidays that Ron and I rarely paid attention to, so my first year solo on those dates causes me no emotional stress.

This is my first Easter alone.  The weekend looms ahead of me like some dreaded dark cavern.  Why?  Because that is a weekend Ron and I generally did things.  For years when our kids were growing up we would drive to Belle Isle and visit the Aquarium and Whitcomb Conservatory.   There were years we traveled, years we stayed home.  Generally we were out and about at least one of the two days taking pictures.   Once we had grandchildren we put together Easter baskets for the children and had an egg hunt inside our house.  Easter has always been a fun weekend for us.

This year I have no one to share those things with.  My daughter, her boyfriend and her three children will be over on Sunday for the kids to get their Easter baskets from me, but not until around 7:00 pm because her oldest son is spending the holiday weekend with his father.   I have contemplated driving down to Belle Isle, driving around my area to take photos, or just staying home to clean and organize.  To a certain degree weather and the condition of a sore ankle will play into those decisions.    I don’t feel enthusiastic about any of it.

Building a new life takes adjustment.  It means accepting change.  Maintaining tradition.  Letting tradition go.  Freedom to make changes.  Keeping things the same.  Doing things you’ve always done.  Doing things you never did.    Building a new normal.

As I spend my first Easter alone creating whatever will become a new tradition, a new normal, I hope all of you have a fun-filled weekend doing whatever it is that makes Easter weekend special for you and your loved ones.

HIPPITY HOPPITY HAPPY EASTER DAY!

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Filed under celebration, Coping, Family, habit, home, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, marriage, memoir, spring

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

I hope everyone has a wonderful St. Patrick’s Day, whether you are going about your normal routine, decked out in green, drinking green beer, or having a bit of Irish Stew.  However it is you spend St. Patrick’s Day, make it a good one.

As for me, I’ll be going to work just like normal, and depending on the weather I may or may not wear a shirt with a bit of green in it.  I don’t wear true green because whenever I do everyone asks me if I feel okay, so not only is green apparently not my color, but it must make me look horribly ill in the process.   My only concession to the holiday may be drinking a bottle of beer I have in my frig, which is a German beer,  but what the heck, at least it is a beer.

May the Luck of the Irish be with You!

St. Patrick's Day - may You always walk in sunshine

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Filed under celebration, events, Holidays, Life is a Melting Pot

What Creates Happiness?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

happy_quote - Abraham Lincoln

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

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

Happiness Quote 1

 

 

 

 

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Filed under assumptions, celebration, Coping, death, decisions, Family, Life is a Melting Pot, mind, reality

Reflections at Christmas Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Filed under celebration, children, Coping, decisions, Discoveries, Family, Festivals, habit, Holidays, Life is a Melting Pot, marriage, reality

We Turn The Page

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

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

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Ronald and Grace Grogan

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

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

2324 - Ron and Grace-  Leelenau Peninsula - North 2015

Ronald and Grace Grogan

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

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

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

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

3557 Ron and Tripod after implosion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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Filed under cancer, celebration, Coping, death, Family, home, Illness, Life is a Melting Pot, marriage

Happy Thanksgiving

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under celebration, Family, Holidays, Life is a Melting Pot, nutrician, travel

Happy 34th Anniversary

This past Saturday, September 12, 2015, was my husband, Ron, and my 34th Anniversary.  We typically do not celebrate anniversaries or our birthdays, but this year we both had gifts for each other.  Possibly because Ron is currently battling his 3rd round of cancer and you look at things differently.

I had decided while Ron was away on his trip west, which I talked about in When Your Husband Returns, to make him a video of photographs of us as a couple over the past 35 years (from when we met to now).  I gathered the photos into a folder, found the song I wanted to use, “Grow Old Along With Me” sung by Glen Campbell, and began putting together the presentation.

First problem arose when my daughter found me the song I wanted and obtained it as an MP3 on her phone, then emailed it to me.  I couldn’t figure out how to download it, but someone showed me how and that was fine.  Then I put the slideshow together in a PowerPoint presentation, figured out how to convert the MP3 to a WAV file for imbedding into the PowerPoint and then used the drop-down menu to convert to a video.  When I played back the video version it had an echo and played the music twice in an echo format.  Not good!  The PowerPoint played fine, but I wanted to be able to share it with family and friends on Facebook which required a video conversion.

I questioned a friend who does not live near me, and after a series of questions he asked me to email him the file so he could attempt to remove the music file from the video.  Unfortunately he was unable to do that, so I had to download a free video slide show program and re-build the presentation.  I got it re-built in a slightly different version and it played well, I was able to upload it to YouTube and then share on Facebook on the appropriate day.

I next purchased a flash drive, which I saved the original PowerPoint presentation on and placed that into an Anniversary card for Ron.  Then after midnight the night before our anniversary I switched the YouTube version from private to public and shared the link on my Facebook page, tagging Ron, in Happy 34th  Anniversary.    Everyone enjoyed viewing the video, and I have also taken all the photographs and built a Shutterfly book with them, which will be arriving here soon.

Now Ron also had gifts for me this year.  I received a sapphire necklace (my birthstone) and an amethyst bracelet (my favorite color).   We spent the day together visiting an art fair we enjoy attending every year and then going out to dinner.  A great 34th Anniversary.

Sapphire Necklace

Sapphire Necklace

Amethyst Bracelet

Amethyst Bracelet

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Filed under celebration, Family, Life is a Melting Pot, marriage