Category Archives: Holidays

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.

Celebrating Independence Day001

 

Celebrating Independence Day002

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Rhetorically Resolving Resolutions

Every year thousands of people make New Years resolutions which they ultimately give up on within the first month or so.   The act of making the list is rather rhetorical, as the majority know that they will never accomplish those resolutions.  The list is made out of tradition, not with the intent to succeed.   new-year-resolution-fatter-and-lazier

A resolution is an action taken to resolve a problem.  Who wants to start the new year thinking about a list of problems they must tackle?  A New Year’s resolution is a cumbersome burden no one wants to bear.  Just the sound of it is overwhelming.

Throw those resolutions out.  You are not going to accomplish them anyway.  Instead list your goals for the new year.  Think positive, dream big.  These are things you want to accomplish over the course of the next twelve months.

new-year-goal-setting-6-steps-to-successAhhh you say, isn’t that the same thing as a resolution?  Well, sort of, but it is a mind game for motivation.  Which do you want to do?  Which makes you feel that success is possible?  You can only pick one of the following:

* List your resolutions for the new year — those problems you intend to resolve.

OR

* List your goals for the new year — those things you want to achieve.

Which phrase encourages you to take action?  Which phrase makes you go uggghhh?  Do whatever provides you with the most motivation.  If taking a slew of problems you have resolved to correct inspires you, then by all means go for it.  If setting forth a list of goals to complete inspires you, then take that route.  new-year-goals

The desired outcome, whether you choose to set resolutions or goals, is to cross those items off your list one-by-one as you complete them.  Every item you cross off the list provides you with a feeling of accomplishment.  The more things you cross off your list, the more encouraged you will be to keep working on that list.

What are my plans for 2017?  I have made a resolution to resolve problems by setting forth a list of goals to accomplish within the next year.

Happy New Year!

 

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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

belive-in-the-magic-of-christmas

 

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

Reflecting on the Reasons

On Thanksgiving Day my cousin, Michelle, who lost her husband to cancer about a month ago, had a post on Facebook stating how Charlie had loved Thanksgiving, had been the main meal planner, did the shopping, cooking,  and eating.  Not only was she grieving the loss of her husband, but their family tradition every year involves going around the table and each person saying what they are thankful for.  Michelle posted that she wasn’t sure how she would answer this year because every year she always said the same thing…her family, her job, the love of her amazing husband and that he continued to kick cancer’s butt.

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  Michelle and Charlie – Photos “stolen” from her Facebook Page

This year Charlie didn’t kick cancer’s butt, it kicked him.  Hard.  He was still working about two weeks prior to his passing.  He went down fast.  When I read her post I didn’t even hesitate, I just started typing.  My comment to her was:

“I know what you are thankful for, it is the same thing I am thankful for.  Neither Charlie or Ron are sick, nauseous, in pain, or in any way suffering from that horrid disease.  Maybe they have found each other in heaven and are getting acquainted by trading photography tips and stories.” 

After I posted the above response the reality hit me.  I may have used my ankle surgery as an excuse for choosing to spend the holiday solo, but the reality was I didn’t want to do the meal preparations alone, at least not this year.  Ron and I had always prepared it jointly.  I stuffed the bird and baked the sweet potatoes.  Ron did the potatoes, sometimes re-baked, sometimes mashed, sometimes both.  Ron made the fruit salad.  I did the green bean casserole.  One of us made the gravy, and the list goes on.

Last year I did it all alone, but that was different.  Ron was too sick to participate in the preparations in 2015, but he was still here.  He came to the table, had a few bites of food, and went back to the couch.  Austin (our 9-year old grandson) spent most of the day sitting next to Ron.  Eleven days later Ron was gone.

I realized that regardless of how well I have adjusted there will be moments when things hit me, and sometimes I won’t realize it at the time.  What I posted to Michelle in the comments is true.  I am glad that Ron is no longer struggling to swallow, weak, or sick from the combination of chemo and the disease itself.   I have moved on with my life, I have made the adjustment to being alone.  How do I know?time-dont-rush-anything

Another question that Michelle had posed to me a week or two earlier was how I handled going through Ron’s belongings.  She was struggling with that step.  My answer, you will know when you are ready, because it will be just another task, not an emotional roller coaster.  I only recently started cleaning Ron’s clothes out of the closet.   I told Michelle that I hadn’t unpacked the bag of Ron’s clothes I brought home from hospice the day he died until a few weeks ago.  That bag had been in my closet unopened for 11 months.  I was finally ready.  No emotions, just clothes to put away.

Everyone is different and processes loss at different levels.  From time to time there will probably be something that triggers a memory or an emotion.  We are, after all, human.

So in answering my cousin’s post in an effort to help her cope with her loss, I gained insight into my own reasons for being so adamant about not preparing the meal this year.  Next year will be different.  If I don’t have people here I will be gone and doing something.  Possibly volunteer at a kitchen that provides meals for the needy.  Home alone will not become a habit of mine, of that I am certain.

 

 

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Filed under cancer, Coping, death, decisions, Family, Holidays, Illness, Life is a Melting Pot, Meals

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

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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Good Things and Goals

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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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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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Labor Day Past and Present

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

The First Labor Day - September 5, 1882

The First Labor Day – September 5, 1882

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

Labor Day Parade - Jackson Michigan - September 4, 1911

Labor Day Parade, Jackson, Michigan September 4, 1911

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

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

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Celebrate Independence Day

St Clair Fireworks 2

Photo by Grace Grogan; copyright 2014

Wishing everyone a safe and happy 4th of July.  I am glad that I live in a city that still believes in having their 4th of July Fireworks on the appropriate day, so on Saturday evening I will be enjoying bursts of color shot from a barge over the St. Clair River.   With Ron and I being photographers, we watch with cameras on tripods to capture the event.

My weekend is kicking off with a visit from my best friend, Vicki, who lives four hours away.  We haven’t seen each in several months.  She and her boyfriend are taking a motorcycle trip along the eastern coast of Michigan this weekend and are stopping in for the night.

Fireworks as viewed from Palmer Park in St. Clair.  Photo by Grace Grogan  Copyright 2014

Fireworks as viewed from Palmer Park in St. Clair. Photo by Grace Grogan Copyright 2014

The Blue Water Area is full of things to do on this weekend.  The Blue Water Sandfest, an amateur and professional sand sculpting event is being held at the Ft. Gratiot Lighthouse, Algonac is having their Pickerel Festival, and there are numerous other events throughout the area as well.

Wishing Everyone a Safe and Happy 4th of July.

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Merry Christmas

My Christmas Tree.  Photo by Grace Grogan

My Christmas Tree. Photo by Grace Grogan

Wishing Everyone a Merry Christmas.

This year we had family Christmas with my sister, her daughters and grandchildren on the 21st of December, followed by Christmas with my daughter, three grandsons and daughter’s boyfriend on Christmas Eve.  All previous years Caroline came

Caroline with her three children, Alexandria, Corbin and Austin; Linda with her two Children, Aiden and Marney.

Caroline with her three children, Alexandria, Corbin and Austin; Linda with her two Children, Aiden and Marney.

over with her kids on Christmas Day after they had opened gifts at home, but this year we had to make different arrangements.

Our oldest grandson, Austin, was leaving at 9 pm Christmas Eve to spend the rest of his Christmas vacation at his father’s house. This created a bit of a dilemma as my daughter’s boyfriend, Rob, had to work the morning of Christmas Eve, so it raised a problem with when Santa should arrive. The solution – Santa came to our house, left a note explaining why all the gifts were here and not at their house.

Corbin and Austin

Corbin and Austin

Once Rob was out of work they all came over to our house, arriving around 2 pm for pizza and gift opening. This worked out perfect as Austin was then able to go home and play his new and #1 gift wish, Skylander, before leaving to go to his dad’s for the rest of his Christmas break. Corbin, who will be 4 on the 30th of December, was thrilled with his Thomas The Train tracks, his fire engines and cars.  He is a kid that likes anything with wheels, but his number one love is trains.  Alexandria, just born on the 12th of December slept through the entire event.  She looked adorable in her “Baby’s First  Christmas” shirt sleeping away.

Ron and I waited until the gang had left before we opened our main gifts for ourselves — new Nikon D750 Cameras and gear.  Since we had no children in the house or gifts to open on Christmas morning, we were able to spend the time figuring out our new cameras and getting them programmed the way we wanted.

I hope all of you had a fun-filled Christmas celebration.

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Tossed Turkey and Dog Food

This year our Thanksgiving meal was unique.  We had tossed turkey and dog food.  I know, not everyone can enjoy such unusual holiday fare, but then it takes a special talent to come up with such things.

When I removed the turkey from the oven it was a picture perfect golden brown, the stuffing displayed in a perfect mound between the legs and I knew it was done because the little plastic thermometer had popped.  I asked my daughter to steady the pan while I lifted out the bird.  All was going well until the darn thing fell apart as I was lifting, so I only had half a bird as I moved it over the serving platter.  Then the inevitable happened.  Before I got the 1/2 bird placed on the platter it too fell apart, flipping around in mid air and landing upside down on the platter with its two winds spread as if in flight and displaying its ripped apart belly.  Caroline and I were laughing hysterically as I stabbed and managed to flip the bird back over.  We then tried to remove the remaining half a bird from the pan, but everything kept just falling off the bone so the other half of the platter was a jumbled mess of turkey and a mound of stuffing.  Of course everyone knew we were having a bit of an issue so when my tossed turkey was placed on the table, it was good for a laugh.  Little did we know the best was yet to come.

Corbin, who is 3 years old, took one look at that mound of stuffing on that platter and said “Dog Food, No!” and went to the other end of the table.

That announcement of his impression of my cooking got me to laughing so hard I was choking.    How can you argue with the observation of a 3 year old?  You can’t.  No matter what we said, no matter who ate what, Corbin was not going to be fooled by anyone and he was not going to eat that dog food, nor was he going to eat any meat that had been placed on the same platter as the “dog food”.  It just wasn’t happening.

Although they would never have won a Betty Crocker award for appearance, the turkey and dressing were tasty.  The mashed potatoes and gravy were a bit on the lumpy side but everything else was fine.  When the meal was over my daughter, Caroline, and her boyfriend, Rob, left Cobrin with us while they went out to begin Black Friday shopping at 4 pm on Thanksgiving Day.  While I was tackling the kitchen cleanup Ron and Corbin both fell asleep on the couch for a nap.

I knew this Thanksgiving would be a little different.  This is the first time my 8-year old grandson, Austin, would be with his father for Thanksgiving and not our family.   My husband, Ron, has been undergoing chemo and radiation for cancer of the esophagus and it has reduced his tumor enough that he was actually able to consume a small bit of dinner.    No elegant table cloth, elaborate center pieces or fancy clothes.  Just a tossed turkey and some dog food, but nonetheless a fun, memorable Thanksgiving.  Hope yours was memorable too.

 

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Filed under children, Family, food, grandchildren, Holidays, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir

Haunted Past

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

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

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

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

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

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

Costume Vinatge pic from 1960s

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

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

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

Caroline and Patrick carving pumpkins.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Caroline and Patrick carving pumpkins. Photo by Grace Grogan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Austin and ceramic pumpkin 2009.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Austin and ceramic pumpkin 2009. Photo by Grace Grogan

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

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

What are your Halloween Traditions?

 

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