Category Archives: exploration

Treat Time Properly

If you have been a reader for a while you know that I like quotes and sometimes use them as inspiration for my writing.  I stumbled upon the quote Self-help and in reading realized how well it fits me.  Self Help

How to stop time:  kiss.  This one shouldn’t need an explanation.  Lets just put it bluntly, kissing is a huge turn-on.  It can make time stand still or make it spin.  It is relaxing, comforting, exhilarating, exciting, enticing, enjoyable.  One of the best feel-good things there is.  Enjoy!

How to travel in time:  read.  Reading is a wonderful way to escape from the world.  Pick a subject, dive into a book and loose yourself as you travel to another world.  By selection of topic you can go anywhere, into the past, into the future, travel in outer space, get lost solving a crime or be entranced by romance.  The world is yours and the choice is yours on where in time you travel.  Pick a destination and explore.

How to escape time:  music.  Music has the ability to make you feel good and get the body moving.  It is energizing and relaxing, happy, and sad.  It can wake you up; it can put you to sleep.  It can create elicit memories of the past or help you dream of possibilities for the future.   There are no rules.  All you have to do is feel…enjoy the beat, sway to the rhythm, let the mind wander, escape reality, let the music flow as you escape in time.

How to feel time:  write.  I think this one is mis-labeled.  I don’t feel time when I write so much as I lose time, or rather loose track of time.   Anyone who is a writer, who truly enjoys writing, knows the feeling of becoming absorbed in their writing and not wanting to stop until all those thoughts that are in their brain course down through their arms, into their fingertips and onto paper.  Those thoughts must be put down and preserved.   If you want to lose time, write.

How to release time:  breathe.   How true this is, and how very important it is to understand.  You release time when you breathe.   When you breathe you release stress, refocus, re-energize, maintain balance.   You let time fade away and you regain your life.  To have a balanced, enjoyable life you have to allow yourself to breath and release time.

The answer to self-help is time.  Time to enjoy all the aspects of life.  Time to escape all the stress of life.  Time to be whatever you want to be.  Read something that exhilarates the mind.  Kiss with tenderness; kiss with passion.  Grab someone and sway to the music.  Breathe.  Relax. Enjoy.  Then put all those memories on paper.

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My Astrological Sign Causes Sleep Deprevation

I climb into bed at 12:30 am and lie there awake, tossing and turning, unable to sleep.  I look at the clock, it is 1:30 am, 2:15 am, 3:00 am, 4:30 am….I get up at 6:00, this is not good!  That is how I spent several nights in a row a couple weeks ago.  Every night, tossing and turning, the mind churning away.  Then I realized the problem, I am a Libra.

I can hear many of you going huh?  You are wondering how an astrological sign can create sleep deprivation.  I am a Libra, the sign is the scales of justice.  We like peace, fairness, everything in balance.  When the scales tip out of balance, or when a Libra personality thinks they may tip out of balance it is disturbing.

The part of the Libra personality that others often find very frustrating is that we are indecisive.  We want to weight all the options, keep everything in balance, and certainly don’t want to upset anyone else in the process.  When in a relationship the decision making process is easier because we can use the deferral method.

Anyone who has associated for long with a Libra will here “whatever you want,” “either one is okay,”  “What do you like?” “It’s up to you,” “I don’t care,” and so on.  Making a decision is so difficult we defer it to someone else.  This method works great as long as you have someone to defer to, but if you don’t the decision making process can be agonizing.Libra I Balance

That is what happened to me.  For the first time in my life I had to make decisions and in the process spend money…two things I am not good at.   Part of the problem is that I was making several decisions all in the same time frame and my mind went into a panic mode.   In the overall picture these were not major life-altering decisions, but in my Libra mind they had to be carefully weighed, checked, and then weighed again.  Heaven forbid something should go wrong.  And of course it did.

My cell phone was 2-1/2 years old and the battery wasn’t lasting.  I needed to replace the phone.  The question is which one to get?  For two weeks or more I analyzed them online, made lists, double checked features, and compared price.  I asked friends what they carried, I agonized over the decision, but finally I made a selection.  I go online to my cell phone carrier, make the selection, attempt to place the order, and the phone is not available and they don’t know when it will be available.     Back to the drawing board to make another selection, which I did and now have my new phone, but the decision making process was not easy.  To top it off I was also in the process of deciding to shut off my land-line phone and go to using only a cell phone.

So I had two decisions regarding phones causing my scales to wobble and tilt, and if that wasn’t enough I threw in another decision.  I had spent 1-2 months contemplating a trade-in of the car that had been my husband’s for a new car, something bigger.   The thought of trading his car that he had customized was hard, trying to decide whether I wanted to buy or lease, pick a color, pick the vehicle itself, and more were upsetting the harmonious flow through my brain.

Car buying was something I didn’t do.  My husband was a Ford retiree, there is no negotiating, tell them what you want, get a value for your trade-in, and close the deal.  The process was not difficult, very simple actually.  But the mind rolls, should I have traded his car, did I get a fair trade-in value, did I make a good decision on my new vehicle, did I make the right choice in upgrading to 12,000 miles per year, or should I have left it at 10,000.   It was four days from when I stopped and looked at vehicles to when I picked mine up; four days of agonizing over and justifying my decision.

Libra over thinkerAfter several nights with no sleep I finally realized what the problem was.  I wasn’t used to making these decisions.  I had always left them to my husband, but now with him gone I had to handle these things myself.  Once I realized that my mind was playing tricks on me and keeping me awake needlessly over decisions that were reasonable to make I was able to once again resume normal sleep.

Why did the realization of the problem allow me to sleep?  Because they were good, well-thought out decisions.  They are choices that are good for me, no one else.  When I realized I was lying awake trying to analyze my own decisions I was able to re-balance the scale, stop it from tipping and upsetting my sleep patterns, and resume a normal routine.

Will I ever get out of balance again?  Of course.  I am a Libra.  We are notoriously indecisive and while I may have balanced a couple small decisions in the large scale of things it is logical to realize that things will come up in which the scale is tilted.   Just keep in mind that if you ask me to make a decision you may hear “I don’t care” or “whatever you want” rather than a true answer.  That is how I keep my scale in balance.

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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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Attitude Analysis

Your attitude, the way you think or feel, is generally reflected in your behavior.   Your own personal demeanor affects the way people view and respond to you.  The attitude of people around you has an impact on the way you respond and behave toward them.  I believe that temperament impacts people both emotionally and physically, and for that reason a positive attitude is important to a person’s emotional well-being.

attitude - focus on possibilitiesYour own personal attitude has a great impact on how you feel throughout the day and your overall outlook on life.  If you feel that life has thrown you the scrungy bone and you must gnaw away at it, you will likely make very little progress and will feel depressed, over burdened and uninspired about life.  Not only will your attitude leave you feeling low, but it will be portrayed in your dealings with others, and may leave them feeling oppressed by emotions as well.

Alternatively if you go through your day with a positive attitude, knowing that no matter what happens things are going to improve, your positive outlook will not only keep you emotionally stable, it will affect those around you as well.  Why?  Because with a positive mindset you maintain an emotionally healthy attitude, and that positive outlook is well received by all around you.  Attitude - how a man treats others

The attitude a person portrays has great impact on how others perceive them.  This is frequently most obvious when dealing with economic differences.  A person’s temperament  when interacting with those he/she perceives to be below their social class is one of the most obvious insights into a person’s character.  Stiffness, curt politeness, a lack of genuine friendliness or outright rudeness is evident in those who think themselves better than others.  Far greater is the person who realizes those differences yet treats all with kindness and compassion.

If you have the opportunity to take part in a gathering in which there are a wide range of economic levels sit back and enjoy the show.  People of money may snub those who they view as being below them.  Those who are of lower income ranges may be intimidated by the social status and obvious wealth of others.   The true judge of character in this type of setting is the person of wealth who treats those who are Attitude - how you react to itstruggling economically with consideration, kindness, and as an equal.  This is a person of great integrity.  They recognize that they have obtained wealth, but they do not fault those around them that have been unable to achieve that goal.

It is important that a person maintain a positive attitude as that is crucial to success, and the key to success is belief in one’s own ability.  This does not mean you will always achieve your goals.  The key to keeping positive is to always be striving for something.  Regardless of whether or not you succeed, attitude is at least 50% of the battle.  There is a saying, “Whether you believe you can or believe you can’t, either Attitude - the one you feedway you are right.”  That is how strongly attitude affects your ability to succeed in whatever you set out to accomplish.

As you go through life keep your attitude in check.  Think about how it affects your own emotional well being.  Think about how it affects the emotional well-being of others.  Don’t focus on problems, focus on possibilities.   Keep your integrity about you and let it guide you in how you handle interactions with others.  Think positive.  Believe in yourself.  Believe in others.  A positive attitude will take you farther than you ever dreamed possible.

 

 

 

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Happiness is…

love-is-side-by-sideI may be dating myself, but back in the 1970’s there were cute cartoon images, often portrayed by a little chubby couple, and quotes of “Love is…”  I was thinking of them the other day and it got me to wondering, what if we applied that formula to  happiness?  What makes a person happy?

I started jotting down things that make me happy.  There are so many simple things in life that bring pleasure.  I  suggest you make your own happy list.  You will realize how many wonderful things there are that bring joy to you every day.


Happiness is…

…a long weekend
…a cup of coffee and a good book
…a child’s laughter
…the smell of freshly mowed grasshappiness-is-a-family-vacation
…getting together with family
…a sunny day
…a day shooting pictures
…good friends
…the smell of lilacs
…a day scrapbooking
…time with grandchildren
…art fairs and craft shows
…children in costume yelling trick-or-treat
…singing and dancing to the radio
…planning a trip
…visiting somewhere you have never been
…traditions
…a warm summer day
…an old-fashioned country fair
… listening to a child’s viewpoint on life
…kettle korn popcorn and caramel apples
…time with your spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend, significant other
…the glow of a fireplace
…creating Easter baskets and watching the kids go through them
…the beauty of freshly fallen snow
…carnations
…watching a parade
…the sound of water along the shore
…snuggling under a warm blankethappiness-is-a-warm-blanket
…front porch sitting
…handwritten letters
…peanut butter on a spoon
…walking a nature trail
…relaxing in a hot tub
…the glow of a Christmas tree
…historical and cultural events
…memories
…discovering and learning about your ancestors
…doing RAKs (Random Acts of Kindness)
…unexpected surprises
…a feeling of accomplishment
…seeing my byline on writings
…writing, writing, writing

This isn’t the end.  The more I think, the more I realize a lot of things make me happy, bring a smile to my face.  I hope you have lots of things to put on your own “Happiness Is… ” list.

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Remember The Good Ole Days When People Talked To Each Other?

Have you ever looked around at people when out in public?  Have you considered your own conduct when socializing with others?  What about the way you make and maintain friendships?  We have become a society in which a large portion of our social interactions are electronically based.

I think there is both a positive and a negative to this development.  Social media…blogs, Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, Google+, Stumble On, etc. are all great places for exchanging information and keeping in touch with others.  Social media is especially helpful in allowing families to stay in touch when they reside in various spots around the country and/or world.  I spend a fair  amount of time on Facebook and Pinterest so I am not at all opposed to it, but I do have some concerns.social-interaction-pay-attention-on-twitter

People are losing the ability and/or willingness to deal with people on a personal level.  They are unable to tuck their cell phones away and simply have a meal or conversation without repeatedly checking their phone.  Not because they are receiving phone calls, but because they are viewing their media feed, texting, posting articles, or other such activities.

I will admit to on occasion doing the “check-in” post letting my friends know where I am at and/or what I am doing.  Pictures of meals, selfies of people and who they are dining with have become common place.  People don’t sit at a table and converse with each other, they sit across from each other, each on their phones a/k/a social media.

social-media-strap-phone-to-foreheadA couple years ago my husband and I were in a restaurant that was quite busy and we had to wait for our table.  I was looking around the restaurant and I  mentioned to him that he and I looked very out of place.  The reason being we were the only two people in the entire restaurant, both the dining and bar areas, who were not on our phones.  We were talking to each other instead!  That is sad….people are losing the human connection.

It has gone so far that some restaurants have pads attached to the tables for games, order placing, paying bills, etc.  No human interaction.  What kind of message is this sending to our youth, and what will the overall affect be on society?

There is nothing on social media that cannot wait.  If your family really needs to reach you they will call.  The jokes, posts, news articles, photographs, and more that are posted on a regular basis do not have to be reviewed every ten minutes, thirty minutes, or hour.  If you miss a few the world is not going to come to a screeching halt.  Heck, people have become so self-absorbed they probably won’t even realize you are missing.

So what should you do instead?  Take a break.  Go to dinner, have a conversation, go for a walk, and don’t check your phone and/or post for at least an hour or two.  At first it may seem difficult, depending on how much of an addict you are.  However I would be willing to bet that you will find it refreshing and strive for more unconnected periods of time.  You may end up like me, wondering why people can’t just step away at least a few hours a day.  social-interaction-human-more-important

Look at it this way.  Life is meant to be experienced live, not through the power of electronics.

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A Year Of Changes

learn-free-to-be-meIf you have been a reader for a while you know that my husband, Ron,  passed away December 7, 2015 and since that time I have been adjusting to living on my own.  In reflecting on myself now, plans for the future and introspection of the past I have learned a few things.

I am capable of living alone, and doing it comfortably.  When I met Ron I was 19 and living at home with my parents.  I got married,  moved in with Ron and had never lived alone.  I originally found the idea of living solo terrifying but had no choice.    What I have learned is that living on my own has its benefits.  I can set the thermostat where I want and it stays there.  I can blast the radio at 2 am if I chose without having to worry about disturbing anyone else.  I can eat what I want when I want and not have to worry about anyone else.  I can re-arrange and hang photos and other artwork on the walls, removing things that were never my choice to begin with and adding new items that appeal to me.   I can move, add,  eliminate or change anything I chose without wondering if another person is going to like the change.

learn-to-be-happy-aloneAlthough I never paid attention to our finances and had no interest in knowing about them, I am perfectly capable of paying bills, applying for mortgage modifications, listing property for sale, and making decisions on financial assets.   I’m not blindly doing what Ron told me to do as he was dying.  I’m evaluating my own circumstances and making a decision that I feel comfortable with.   My goal for the future is to learn how the stock market and investments work, to understand how to diversify and what everything means  so I can make informed choices.  Hopefully  I will get a grasp on this within the next decade.  I’m really walking in uncharted territory here.

I can now run a riding lawn mower, a weed wacker, call a plumber, take vehicles in for routine maintenance, find and hire repair persons for things such as air conditioning. However I have no intention of learning to run the snowblower.  That thing is just too big.  I’ll kill myself shoveling first.  I even look at the Harbor Freight and Tractor Repair sales flyers now in case there is something I need.  Okay, I’ll admit my big purchase this year was two tarps, but we all have to start somewhere.  learn-dance-in-the-rain

One big surprise, I like to cook.  I know that sounds funny after 34 years of marriage, but I thought I didn’t like cooking.  I have been cooking for myself for a year now and I realize  that I like it.  For the majority of our marriage Ron did all the cooking.  Over the years I told people didn’t like doing day-to-day rush home from work an cook a meal, but I liked doing the larger family meals.  I recently said those words to someone but later in the evening it occurred to me that the statement isn’t true.  I don’t mind cooking for myself at all.  I love grilling entire meals in the summer months.  So why the change in my thoughts?

learn-something-newWhat I have discovered is that it wasn’t the cooking I disliked, it was that Ron always had a criticism of some sort and tended to hover, questioning why I did things the way I did, telling me I should do things differently than I did.  Nothing was ever quite good enough, there was always a “why didn’t you…”  Basically, he thought I should cook just  like him.  After a while I tired of the negativity and simply walked away and left it to him.  He cooked, I cleaned up, and it worked.

Since Ron’s passing I have discovered that I enjoy cooking.  I like throwing foods together to see what I like, mixing different combinations.  If they are all watching from above there are three cooks in heaven that are probably surprised at what they see.

I would say Ron is probably shocked at the things I fix; that I enjoy the cooking and especially like grilling.  My Mother-in-Law is probably happy to see me not measuring, just dumping in many instances.  I learned early in my marriage that if you called her for a recipe she didn’t measure, it was  “till it looks right.”  My father was a great cook.  When he saw me go into the basement and gather an assortment of ingredients, throw them into a pot and end up with a soup he was probably going “hell ya, that’s the way to cook.”  One of my greatest memories is when he cleaned out the refrigerator and made “chili” with the leftovers.  How many people have eaten chili with spaghettio’s floating in it?  I have!learn-who-you-are

When it comes to traveling alone I have mixed feelings.  It is nice because if I want to wander around and/or make frequent stops to take pictures I can do that without any complaints.  Ron and I were both photographers and did that all the time, but the average person does not take pleasure in such activities or delays.

On the other hand, traveling alone can be lonely.   If taking in a tourist attraction, such as wandering a museum or park, you are always alone.  No one to talk with, share discoveries with.   You are always eating alone, and so I always dine with a book.  There is no one sharing your hotel room, no one to sleep with. Maybe we shouldn’t go there.  Let’s just leave it at that.

So learning about me happened by learning to live alone.  What a difference a year has made.  The good, the bad, the indifferent.  What have I learned? I had a fantastic marriage.  I will have a fantastic future.  Different than I planned, but that’s okay.  I have made decisions that a year ago I would not have made.  I have made changes in my life that a year ago I would not have made.  Life was different then.  I was different then.  I am happy with my life, and that is all that matters.  Whatever happens, whatever life throws in my direction, I am ready.  Bring it on!

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Filed under anniversary, Coping, death, decisions, Discoveries, exploration, Family, food, habit, home, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, marriage, Meals, memoir, mind, reality, time, vacation

Mentally Strong Habits

I recently came across an article online titled “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do” by Dr. Travis Bradberry and wondered where I fall in the realm of things.  Do I fit the mentally strong?  Am I stumbling along at a pathetic rate?  While articles such as this can be great for self-evaluation, sometimes you just don’t want to know the answers.

Curiosity got the best of me and I forged forward in my quest for knowledge.  Depending on how far back you reflect, I can easily say the past six years have been stressful, but I feel I am doing well emotionally.  I just keep trudging along and don’t think about the conglomerate mess my life has been.

Six years ago I was in a bad accident when I was hit by a car while riding my motorcycle,habits-of-successful-people landing me in a trauma center for seventeen days, rehab for two months, and then a year of physical therapy and medical follow ups after that.  Two of my granddaughters were taken by Child Protective Services and put into foster care.  My husband and I applied to foster them and were denied, we later applied to adopt them and again CPS fought us and we lost.  Both girls have been adopted by strangers.

My son was sentenced to 6-22 years in prison for home invasion; his earliest possible parole date is in March 2018.  Two cousins passed away, as did a 19 year old nephew who had brain cancer.   Other deaths in the family included my father-in-law, brother-in-law, both of my parents (18 months apart), and my husband.  I spent about 1-1/2 years traveling back to my old hometown to work on cleaning out the house my parents had resided in since 1966.  While this was going on my husband was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, had surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy as he fought the disease for about 15 months before the cancer won and he passed away.   I am now scheduled for surgery on my ankle due to residual deterioration from my accident and am once again facing a lengthy recovery.

habits-things-to-give-upI look at the list of things I have handled in the past few years and in my opinion have coped well with everything life has thrown at me.   I have often felt that I have strong coping mechanisms but don’t really know why.   I am baffled when people have one issue on their plate and are falling apart at the seams.  I delved into the article hoping to discover what it is that makes one person successfully juggle a plethora of issues while another crumbles under the slightest amount of pressure.

What the article explained is that mental strength is a matter of emotional intelligence.  The article stated  “Emotional intelligence is the ‘something’ in each of us that is a bit intangible.  It affects how we manage behavior, navigate social complexities, and make personal decisions to achieve positive results.”

The article consisted of a list of thirteen things emotionally intelligent people avoid.  This piqued my curiosity as I don’t conscientiously avoid much of anything.  What I found is that of the thirteen items listed, I do eleven of them naturally / subconsciously.  Two items I falter on, but what the heck, we all have areas needing improvement.

The two weakness I have were actually the first two items listed:

  • They don’t stay in their comfort zone
  • They don’t give in to fear

I feel these two areas are related and to a certain degree overlap.  While I don’t totally avoid these two behavior patterns, I don’t follow them 100% either.  I tend to operate on a certain level of caution which prevents me from venturing two far outside my comfort zone.  Fear is not a physical fear but an emotional fear of doing something, such as public speaking.   While I have taken on the challenge of completing  numerous things this past year that I never have in the past, the combination of my comfort zone and fear of unknown territory has also prevented me from fully tackling a few others that should have been addressed sooner and more frequently than they have.  My weaknesses, the areas I need to work on.

I was happy to discover that the other nine items listed are all areas where I meet the criteria for having emotional intelligence:

  • They don’t stop believing in themselves
  • They don’t beg for attention
  • They don’t act like jerks
  • They don’t hold grudges
  • They don’t hang around negative people
  • They don’t feel sorry for themselves
  • They don’t feel entitled
  • They don’t close their minds
  • They don’t let anyone limit their joy
  • They don’t get eaten up by jealousy and envy
  • They don’t live in the past

If you tend to let the stress of life get you down, if you are unable to roll with the ups and habit-secret-to-success-if-in-your-daily-routinedowns of life and have difficulty coping you may want to read 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do.    Explore the areas you need to tackle so your life can move forward in a more positive direction.

If you are like me and feel you easily cope with the stresses of life, I still suggest you read the article in its entirety.  You may find areas in which you can improve.  As for me, I’m working on alleviating my fear and expanding my comfort zone.  Look out world….here I come!

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Filed under Coping, decisions, exploration, habit, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, mind

What is a Vacation?

You may consider my title a strange question, but I think it is worth exploring.  I was recently reading a posting from my Facebook memories feed about the planning of my itinerary for a trip my husband and I were planning to go on.  One of the comments on the post was that I needed to relax, it was a vacation.  That got me thinking, what is a vacation?Vacation - go someplace you have never been

According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary a vacation is a period of time that a person spends away from home, school, or business usually in order to relax or travel.  That sounds simple enough, but is it?    People vacation in a wide range of ways, and the trick is to find people who like to travel and relax in the same manner you do.  It also may mean you need to make adjustments to the way you travel in order to accommodate everyone’s desires and interests.

My husband, Ron, and I always traveled with an itinerary.  I read tourist books and mapped out our trips.  I knew what we were doing each and every day, and quite frequently we were up with an alarm clock to make sure we arrived at places when they opened to get a jump on the day.  That is how our kids grew up.    There were many people that thought we were nuts, but then those same people would say “wow, you saw/did a lot on your trip.”  Well yes, that is the result of planning and being on the go.

We would hear people talk about their vacations, traveling somewhere and then spending a good portion of their time sitting around a pool, or on the beach, sleeping in late and doing a lot of nothing.  People would go camping and spend the majority of their time sitting around the campground, chatting with other campers, sitting around bonfires, etc.  When Ron and I heard vacations such as those being described we would think “how boring.”

Vacation - Life is a TripSo which is the proper vacation?  They both are.  A vacation should be whatever you want it to be.  Do what makes the days fun-filled and relaxing for you and your travel companions.   People are unique and everyone has their own set of needs.  What is good for you may drive me bonkers; what is right for me may leave you feeling stressed and exhausted.

Then I started wondering how my vacation plans may be affected by the fact that my husband has passed and I am now alone.  Ron was always a morning person — his feet hit the floor and he was off and running.  I like to get up and see and do a lot, but I frequently start my day at a slower pace than he liked.    I think I will find a balance for myself that is similar to what I have always done, but maybe a bit more relaxed.  Whatever I end up doing, it will be the same.  It will be different.  It will be me.  That is what a vacation should be.

 

 

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Filed under Cleaning, exploration, habit, Life is a Melting Pot, nature, play, summer, travel, vacation

Traveling Solo

Memorial Weekend was not the first time I have ever traveled solo, but it is the first time I have done so since the passing of my husband in December 2015.  It was a good trip.  It was a fun trip.  It was a relaxing trip.  It was a lonely trip.    Rather than elaborate in paragraph form, I decided to do a list of bullets, highlights various activities, thoughts, and observations.

 

  • Destination Sault Ste. Marie via Newberry, Michigan.  For those who do not know, these cities are in Michigan’s upper peninsula and are a 5-1/2 to 6 hour drive from my home.
  • Even though I set the cruise control at 74 instead of my normal 85 I still made the trip in the projected six hour time frame going to Newberry on Saturday morning, and that included two stops along the way.  I made it home from Sault Ste. Marie in 5-1/2 hours on Monday with three stops along the way.
  • For those of you who do not know, I have a son in Newberry Correctional Facility and was going to visit him.  I was very surprised to find that it was not busy at all with visitors.  I had anticipated a wait due to the holiday weekend, but was pleasantly surprised to find I could get in right away.
  • Stopping along a two-lane road near a wooded area in the upper peninsula to shoot, from a distance, a large group of trilliums results in an attack of nats, no-seeums, or baby flies (I was told they were all three of those things).  The invasion was so intense that just getting in and out of my car resulted in a large quantity inside, which I was then rolling down the window and trying to shoo out as I drove away.  Maybe it would have been better had I not been wearing perfumed lotion?

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    Trilliums along roadway. Photo by Grace Grogan, Copyright 2016.

  • Drinking a margarita with my meal resulted in me going from being a good tipper to an exceptionally generous tipper, but I’m sure the waiter was happy.
  • Having a GPS in the car is great, especially when it tells you your hotel is in one spot, which is a hotel under construction.  After placing a phone call you find out your hotel is about 1/2 a mile farther down the road and on the opposite side of the road.   However it did have a handy landmark – across the street from Walmart, and next to the State Police post.  Hmmmm, I never once saw a State Police vehicle the entire time I was there.
  • No-leak ice pacs will create a puddle in your fabric insulated lunch box if they thaw completely and will leave a stream behind you when you attempt to carry it.
  • On Sunday morning all the country music stations, actually almost all the radio stations in general, are either talk shows or church sermons/music.  I found a rock station out of Traverse City/Kalkaska playing music, so of course I had to crank it up and dance my way from Sault Ste. Marie to Newberry for my second day of visiting with Patrick.
  • My favorite place for breakfast in Newberry had several new books by local authors, but I only selected and purchased one.  That is what I most often buy when I travel, books written about the area in which I am visiting and/or by local authors.    I also purchased a book in a gift shop in Sault Ste. Marie by another local author.  DSC_9246
  • It is great to discover that your cousins from the Traverse City area happen to be visiting Newberry as well and you are able to get together for an impromptu dinner and chat for a couple hours.
  • I am a chicken when it comes to setting up my tripod and taking photos in the dark on an unlit street when by myself in an area with which I am not familiar when by myself.  I never gave it a thought when Ron was with me.
  •   The International Bridge looks awesome at night lit up in red, white, and blue, but I have no pictures (please refer to my previous post above).
  • At America’s Best Value Inn an accessible room is truly accessible.  When I am staying at a location where I am unsure on whether or not they have elevators I will book an accessible room to make sure I am not climbing stairs alone with my suitcase, etc.  (I have a very bad ankle).    Usually “accessible” is a room that is on the main floor or not far from the lobby or elevator, but beyond that nothing unusual.  The one in Sault Ste. Marie was wheelchair accessible, had a wooden floor, a fully wheelchair accessible shower, and a raised toilet seat.   Of course the best part was a king size bed, which I had all to myself.
  • I greatly overestimated how much time I would have in the room to read and/or write and packed way more items than needed.
  • The Tower of History in Sault Ste. Marie provides a nice view of the entire city and locks.  There is a small museum on the main level.
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Tower of History.  Photo by Grace Grogan, Copyright 2016.

  • There is an island, Sugar Island, that is accessed by ferry that would be interesting to explore on a future trip.  It is inhabited by a small amount of people and also houses some businesses, but is also supposed to have nature areas.
  • It is hard to access and walk the areas near the water and locks when downtown.  The park where the locks are located is gated, has a security entrance, and closes at 9:00 pm.  The park itself is quite large and features two stories of viewing platforms for watching ships/boats go through the locks.  Unfortunately I missed seeing any go through.
  • Lockview Restaurant has very good fresh whitefish that can be ordered done in five different methods.  I chose broiled and it was very good.
  • Patrick informed me that Street Outlaws is an awesome program.  Monday night was a season premier that was two hours long.  I did enjoy the parts I saw, but unfortunately fell asleep and missed a good portion of the races.  It was rather cool that they were racing Detroit in that episode.
  • My ankle is impacting my decisions on what I do or do not do, which means it is affecting my day-to-day quality of life.  If it does not improve by fall I think I will need to go in for a consultation with my surgeon and likely have an ankle fusion done over the winter.  As someone who is terrified of surgery, that statement and acceptance of the likely need is huge.
  • I am a much more conscientious spender when traveling alone than I was with Ron.  This does not mean I was previously a spender by nature, quite the contrary.  I was and am more likely to put off doing things, whereas Ron was always more likely and willing to buy or do whatever he or I wanted and figure out how to pay for it later.  I guess he was either a good influence or a bad influence, depending on how you look at it.
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    Sault Ste. Marie and International Bridge.   Photo by Grace Grogan, Copyright 2016.

  • I need to plan a longer stay to do and see some things I want in Sault Ste. Marie.
  • Buying a bag of fresh on sale at the fudge shop is good.  Munching on it to stay awake all the way home and in the process eating the entire bag is not.  I had a miserable stomach ache later to remind me not to make that mistake again!

Overall I had a fun time this weekend.  I managed to traverse the city at night without getting myself horribly lost.  I forgot to take my book with me for the times I was dining, so utilized social media to keep myself entertained instead.   My first weekend trip as a widow was fun.  It was relaxing.  It was lonely.    The next one will be better.

 

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Filed under decisions, exploration, habit, handicapp, Holidays, impressions, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, Photography, travel, Upper Penninsula

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

Trying to Juggle but Falling Behind

I have always been a fairly organized person.  Someone who gets involved in clubs and takes on a board position and/or committee chair person.  I commit to things and meet my commitments.  Busy is Better!

Lately I was struggling to get things done, and found some items on my to-do list week after week.  What happened?  Why was I suddenly falling behind, not juggling my life the way I always have?  Then there was that moment, the flip of a switch, the lightbulb came on and I figured it out.

I am no longer juggling just my responsibilities.  I am also juggling those of my deceased husband, plus the additional phone calls and paperwork that have to be done to get everything transferred into my name, his name removed from things, etc.  Then of course there is the learning curve in which everything he did takes me a considerably longer amount of time because I don’t have a full grasp of it yet.  That is improving, but it is a process.

Every process, every learning curve has its bumps in the road.  There are frustrations that come with everything.  The frustration of living in a computer generated world in which computers rule what happens and people follow the computer rather than thinking and using logical, common sense.  The aggravation that is felt when all the appropriate steps have been taken, only to find out the company didn’t do what they should have and so you have to take further steps to correct things.

I applied for a mortgage modification and got approved, but they never told me not to make a payment, so I have made them all, but in the meantime they are holding my payments in “suspense” while they complete the change over and are repeatedly sending me delinquent notices, including by certified mail that I had to go sign for.  When I called I was told those are computer generated notices and I will continue to receive them until they get everything rolled over.  And how long will that take?  Oh, about two more weeks.

I drove over 35 miles to a main cell phone store to switch the account from my husbands to my own name.  I gave them all my information, told them to remove my husband’s phone and two pads he had.  Put the account in my name, leave my daughter on as a manager.  The phone and pad did get removed, but when my daughter called to get assistance with her phone the pass codes I gave them weren’t working.  As it turns out that is because they never made the switch.  They still had the account in my husband’s name, had me as a manger, which I had been before my husband’s death, and removed my daughter as a manager.    Then I had to wait and call back on a weekday, because this I found out on the weekend.  When I called I informed them it was rather incompetent being I had stood in their store with a death certificate and yet they left my husband on as the owner of the account…a dead man has no responsibility to you to pay the bill!  Got that one fixed.

That is only two in a long list of situations that have created chaos in an already chaotic situation.  Then of course there are the regular duties of paying bills, service on motor vehicles, and lawn mowing that my husband always handled.  My daughter commented that she knows she needs to come over and mow my lawn.  I told her instruction on use of the riding lawnmower would allow me to handle the task myself.  Seriously, I have driven boats, jet skis, motorcycle and moped, I should be able to handle a wild and crazy lawnmower!

So, when I got to really thinking it about it I finally realized, the reason I am trying to juggle but falling behind is because I am handling everything that was previously handled by two, and I haven’t gotten the process down yet.  On a positive note, I am improving.  It is a process.

 

 

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Filed under Coping, death, decisions, exploration, habit, home, Life is a Melting Pot, marriage, reality

In a Squirrel’s Mind

Photo by Grace Grogan, Copyright 2014.

Photo by Grace Grogan, Copyright 2014.

I was sitting at my desk this morning when I looked up to see a young squirrel hopping across my front yard and up onto a raised bed surrounding our tree.  He then perched on the wall for a moment, turning his head looking around before he scampered up the tree and onto a bottom limb,  Mr. Squirrel then sat on the limb, facing the road, watching traffic go by.

What was his reason for going to the tree and stopping first on the wall and then sitting on the branch?  What was the purpose of this observation?  Was he looking for someone, meaning another squirrel?  Was he contemplating the safety of venturing out and crossing the road?    Was he just enjoying the morning view, something to do for a moment?

After a few minutes he scampered back down the tree and without hesitation hopped off the raised flower bed, onto the lawn and ran back from the direction in which he had originally come.    What was his next destination?  Why was he going there?

We will never know what was going on in that squirrel’s mind.  What his purpose or goals were at the moment.  In our hectic, fast-paced world it is relaxing to contemplate for a moment what is going on in the mind of an animal that appears to take action that in some form or another had a purpose, we just don’t know what that purpose was.

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Filed under backyard, environmental, exploration, habit, Life is a Melting Pot, nature

Cemetery Shooting

Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2014

Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2014

The quietness envelopes you. A light drizzle of rain can add to the atmosphere. The headstones are old and weathered, some no longer can be read. Some are sinking into the ground, barely visible but still maintained by loved ones of the modern day with flowers or flags beside them. Ancestors who are not forgotten but are sinking into the ground forever.  There are headstones with elaborate carvings, statues signifying the importance of the person or an affluent  family.

Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2014

Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2014

Grave of Chester Haight.  Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2013

Grave of Chester Haight. Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2013

Look at the dates. One hundred years ago, two hundred years ago, walking on ancient burial ground. What were their lives like back then? What was the ceremony like that layed the person to rest at this location? What was the reason for their passing? Life spans were not as lengthy back then. What did they accomplish in such a short time on earth?

Crawford Settlement Burying Ground.  Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2013.

Crawford Settlement Burying Ground. Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2013.

The most heart wrenching are the baby plots.   Infants, toddlers, and children laid to rest at such a young age. What caused them to pass before their life had begun? Was it childhood diseases that no longer exist? An accident? Why do so many children die at such a young age?

These are the things that go through the mind as you wander old cemeteries. That is why I love shooting pictures at cemeteries. They are peaceful, calming, and are wonderfully interesting places to take photographs.

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Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2013

I like to stop at old cemeteries when by myself.  Most people think I’m a bit crazy to enjoy wandering a cemetery for an hour or more taking photographs, only to leave that one and drive to another. I have visited as many as four cemeteries in one day, each one with something different to offer.

I hope you enjoy my cemetery photographs. If you ever want to take a peaceful walk, stroll an old cemetery. Don’t go to a modern one, they lack  personality. Pick an old one with ancient, tall headstones, weathered with age, and enjoy a relaxing stroll.

Photo by Grace Grogan, Copyright 2013

Photo by Grace Grogan, Copyright 2013

Photo by Grace Grogan, Copyright 2013

Photo by Grace Grogan, Copyright 2013

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Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2013

Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2013.

Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2013.

 

Almost lost but not forgotten.  Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2013.

Almost lost but not forgotten. Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2013.

 

 

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

Same But Different

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

Motor home and car.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Motor home and car. Photo by Grace Grogan

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

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

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

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

Iron Mine Tour.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Iron Mine Tour. Photo by Grace Grogan

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

Iron Mine Tour Photo by Grace Grogan

Iron Mine Tour
Photo by Grace Grogan

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

Walking to a waterfall.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Walking to a waterfall. Photo by Grace Grogan

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

Bond Falls.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Bond Falls. Photo by Grace Grogan

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

Lighthouse - Marquette  Photo by Grace Grogan

Lighthouse – Marquette
Photo by Grace Grogan

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

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

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

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

Walking to a waterfall. Photo by Grace Grogan

Walking to a waterfall.
Photo by Grace Grogan

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

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

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

Putting a Spin on Things

Flower Zoom by Grace Grogan

Flower Zoom by Grace Grogan

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

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

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

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

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

Coast Guard Boat zoom by Grace Grogan

Coast Guard Boat zoom by Grace Grogan

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

Flower zoom.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Flower zoom. Photo by Grace Grogan

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

Walk in the Woods zoom by Grace Grogan

Walk in the Woods zoom by Grace Grogan

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

Zinia flower zoom.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Zinia flower zoom. Photo by Grace Grogan

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

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

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