Category Archives: travel

Dreams + Action = Reality

How often we have a dream of something…a place to travel, an advancement in career, weight loss, or a lifestyle change.  Often whatever that dream may be seems so far off in the distance that we feel it is unachievable.   The problem is that we fail to create a plan of action.  Without a plan the dream is impossible, because without action the reality of the dream will never be achieved.

Some people formulate plans in their head.  Other people, like me, make lists and cross things off as accomplished.  Some are able to just dive in and start working without a plan of action.  Whatever works for you is fine, as long as it works.  Too often when a task seems overwhelming it is easy to let it slide; even if you have the list you never act on it.  Other times set-backs can throw us off balance or cause a backwards slide.  When that happens get your footing and push forward.

The Distance between dreams and realityI am dealing with dreams in various aspects of my life, and the reality is I have been slow in taking action, but every small step I make gives me a feeling of accomplishment and the desire to push forward….I just need to start doing it at a faster pace!

Each of my dreams deals with a different part of my life.  Each has a different game plan.  Each will be worked on and accomplished at different speeds, and some may need to be put on hold while I push to accomplish others.  That is okay.  Even putting some on hold can be part of the overall plan of action.  The important part is to act on the plan.

So, what are my Dreams + Action = Reality goals?

Asset Control:  This sounds strange, but I have inheritance money and/or assets that have not yet been distributed to me and I need to take whatever steps necessary so that all items are under my control.  I also have property and a motor home that I want to sell and need to push stronger to get those sales accomplished.  Once I have achieved those things, my asset control goal will be accomplished and I will be able to better fund my investments for a higher yield, which has a direct effect on my retirement funds.

Downsizing:  I decided some time ago that I need to downsize, and I have talked about it quite a bit, but the “action” part has been slow in coming.  This is most likely because it will be a tremendous change.  I will have to get rid of an overwhelming  amount of items accumulated over a 34 year marriage, sell move from my 4-bedroom colonial with the plan to purchase a 2-3 bedroom ranch-style condominium.  I am finding the action part is both time consuming and somewhat emotional as I will need to part with numerous possessions.  However, after cleaning out my parent’s home following their demise and having listened to several friends also go through the same thing, I realize that the majority of this stuff is not anything my kids are going to want and is just taking up space.  This is my number one priority and the first “dream” I have to make a “reality”.

Retirement:  Being a widow retirement can be very close, within the next three years, or in the distant future.  My full-retirement age of 67 is still ten years away.  My goal is to land somewhere in the middle, around age 62-63.  I know I cannot afford to stay in this house once I retire, and so the push to downsize is a necessity as much as a desire.  The sooner I downsize the faster I can save more money toward my retirement dreams and/or another dream.

Travel:  There are a lot of places I have not been to but want to see, both in this country and others.  While working I want to start taking short trips and seeing a bit of the country.  Once I retire I want to be able to travel much more extensively.  I am even debating whether I want to go ahead and fulfill a prior dream my deceased husband and I had…full time RV.  A friend of mine just started on his adventure, and in helping him get ready to head out I felt the desire come back to hit the road myself.  I have learned that  there are a lot of women driving Class A motor homes and towing vehicles, living the full-time life all by themselves  If they can do it, why can’t I.  Time will tell.

Writing and Photography:  These are both things I do now, but my life has been rather hectic the past few years and I do not have as much time for either of these areas as I would like.  I hope that once I have downsized, and most definitely once retired, that I can devote a considerable amount of time to both of these areas.   I have a book started that I plan to finish and other ideas bouncing around in my head for additional books.

As you read this you may have realized that my dreams are related to each other.  I need financial control of all my assets to achieve my other goals financially.  I need to complete the downsizing prior to retirement.  I need to retire to obtain more time for writing, photography, and travel.  Dreams + Action = Reality.  I better get busy!

I hope that while reading this you have started to formulate dreams and plans for action in your head.  What are your dreams?  I would love to hear about them in the comment section below.

 

 

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Filed under assumptions, career, Cleaning, communication, decisions, Discoveries, employment, exploration, Family, habit, hobbies, home, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, mind, reality, time, travel, Writing

If I Received $10,000 That I Had to Spend on Myself…

I saw the thought proving statement, “If I Received $10,000 that I HAD to spend on myself I would…”    That got me thinking, what would I do with that kind of money if I absolutely had to spend it on myself, not save it, not pay bills, but spend it on just me, what would I do?

As my mind started tossing around the possibilities I realized that $10,000 is both a lot of money and only a small amount of money.  It would not purchase a house, a motor home, a boat, or a new vehicle.  On the other hand, if used with a bit of frugality, there is a lot that could be done with that type of “free” money.

I think I would take a few hundred dollars and re-work my wardrobe.    A larger selection and more splashy, bright colored, fun things to wear.  I might even splurge on some new shoes and a purse or two, as I tend to use mine until they are on their death bed, which I have a habit of doing with most of my clothes and accessories.

I might add a few pieces of quality jewelry.   I have some good jewelry, but I have a lot of costume jewelry and I would likely replace some of those pieces.

The majority of the money I would spend on travel.  I don’t know how far that money would take me, but I would think if I watched for bargains I could hit a few places I have never been or adventures I have never taken.    For years I have wanted to take an Alaskan cruise on the inside passage.  I have never been to the Grand Canyon, Yellow Stone, or Mt. Rushmore.   Scenic photos of Wyoming and the Dakotas capture my eye, as do many other places in both the U.S. and Canada.  I love places that are photogenic, so who knows what might grab my attention.

I have never been on a week-long cruise and that might be a wonderfTRAVELul way to kick-back and relax while seeing exotic places.  I would like to get back to Hawaii someday, and I’ve heard the Caribbean and/or other tropical islands are wonderful places to vacation.  I think it would be neat to travel in Europe, possibly visiting some or all of the countries of my heritage, those being Belgium, Germany, Poland, and Netherlands.   Others of interest are Ireland, Italy, Iceland, Greece, and Switzerland…and I’m sure there are more.  Of course there is always the possibility of a photo trip to Africa, or maybe Galapagos Islands.  The possibilities are endless.

Have I spent my $10,000 yet?  I’m sure I have.  I guess $10,000 may seem like a lot, but I’m sure I could handle spending it all on me if I had to.   Now if only that were reality.  Dreaming…..I’m only dreaming…..

 

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First Day of Freedom

Imagine six years of life where your movements are controlled, where you have no privacy, where you can make phone calls out but no one can call you, your mail is read prior to you receiving it, where you can never go visit, but must wait for people to visit you.   That is the life my son led from the time he was 24 years old until he was 30.

When he received notice in December that he had received parole he began counting down the days.  March 20th seemed like it was in the distant future for him.  For me it went fast.  I was trying to get things done prior to his release, and of course I made the six hour drive to pick him up.

Patrick was released from Newberry Correctional Facility in Michigan’s upper peninsula at 8:00 am March 20, 2018.  Although he is on a tether for the first six months of his two year parole, and he must abide by curfews that in the beginning are tight, it is considerably better than the spot he was at.  So how did Patrick spend his first day of freedom?

I picked him up at the correctional facility, we loaded his belongings into the car and than took our last two prison photos, a “selfie” of the two of us, and then one of him in front of the facility.  Every time I (and my now deceased husband) visited we paid to have photos taken of us together and one of Patrick alone, so this was our last prison photo shoot.

Our first stop was a gas station/McDonald’s combination where he got a McGriddle sandwich — also one of my favorites.  When he asked if he could have bacon added to the sandwich the girl responded “you can have whatever you want” and Patrick responded “those are words I’m not used to hearing.”

I had purchased him a cell phone, but phones have advanced considerably in the past six years.  He was on the phone talking as we were crossing the Mackinac Bridge and I heard him say that the water looked really cool with the ice on it and “if I wasn’t on the phone talking to you I could take a picture.”  He got instructions on how to stay on the phone and take a photo at the same time.

Two years ago my husband/Patrick’s father passed away, and I had obtained permission from the parole agent to make a few stops, Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly being one, where Patrick saw his father’s grave-site for the first time.

We then headed to Fort Gratiot, he did not have to check in with the parole agent until the next morning, and we had permission to go shopping at Kohls to get him some clothes and then out to dinner.  We ended up spending about three hours in Kohls.

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Patrick tries on a hat at Kohs

Patrick helped me pick out short outfits for my grandchildren’s Easter baskets, then we shopped for clothing for him.  He had changed sizes while incarcerated and had to try on a few things.  A pair of tennis shoes, four pair of jeans, a pair of shorts, one shirt (couldn’t find many he liked), some boxers, and socks and we felt he had a nice start.  I had already purchased him a nice pair of fleece pants, hoodie, polo, and a v-neck t-shirt prior to picking him up.  During our shopping Patrick had to exit the building and stand in an open area of the parking lot so the satellite could take a picture of him/his location.  He was told that happens frequently in large department stores or malls if in for a while.

Next stop was Red Lobster.  Lobster Fest is going on, and we had the same meal — two different kinds of lobster and green beans with mushrooms, and of course salad and biscuits.  The place was quiet, the service was good, the food was fantastic.

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Dinner at Red Lobster

We were on our way home when my daughter called and said her boyfriend had the truck torn apart and needed to pick up a hose to complete it, could I swing by, pick him up and take him around the corner to the auto store.  I went by her house, dropped off Patrick, picked up Rob and took him to the auto shop, then went back around and dropped off Rob and picked up Patrick and we came home and unloaded the car.

The evening was finished off with Caroline (my daughter) and her three kids coming over for a while, and then Patrick and I watched a bit of TV.  It was a wonderful day for me, and I’m sure a great first day of freedom for him as well.

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Filed under celebration, children, communication, Coping, decisions, Discoveries, events, Family, food, home, kids, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, parents, travel, Upper Penninsula

Cycle Through Life

As we go through life we develop habits, a way of doing things.  Some of them are our own, some of them are done to accommodate the likes/dislikes of those around us.  As we cycle through life those things change.

We develop likes and dislikes, ways of doing things, and personality traits from our parents, grandparents, siblings, other relatives and friends as we are growing.  Then we become adults and move away from those we have grown up with.  Some move away to attend college, some branch out on their own, living the single life, and others, like me, leave their parent’s home when they marry.   Each of those different events will impact the individual person and their overall personality.51bdc659e738f0ad63064c508af86513

I grew up in a small town far away from distant relatives, I left my parent’s home when I married just before my 21st birthday.  With my marriage I moved about two hours away from home.  The person I married was not controlling, but he was nine years older and had far more life experiences than I.  He had served overseas in the military, been married and had a child, and purchased a home.   Looking back I adapted to his way of doing things more-so than he adapted to mine.   He paid the bills, serviced the cars, did home repairs, and was the driving force in any major purchases.  I was more willing to keep things as they were, to more or less “make do” with what we already had.  That is how we lived for 34 years until he passed away in December 2015.

When he passed away I was living on my own for the first time in my life.  I spent a couple years in a bit of a vacuum, going through the motions of life without really experiencing it to its fullest.  I learned to do things I had never done before, such as yard work, getting cars serviced, and paying bills.  You could say in that way I grew during that period of time, but I didn’t really evolve, I simply functioned.

With the help of a friend I began to re-evaluate where I was at and what changes I needed to make.  I took a good look at the investments I had, and the company my husband had us with was not making me any money, in fact after paying the service charges I had lost money over the course of the two years since his death.  I’m not a math person, but I’m not stupid.  I needed a new financial advisor and I followed the recommendation of a friend and made a change.  It has been a good one and I feel my financial future has a more positive outlook.

What-you-dont-have-you-may-gainIn looking at my investments I also took a good look at my living expenses v. income and realized that while I am making my bills with the assistance of my husband’s life insurance, I can not really consider that “living in the green.”  Let’s face it, the life insurance savings won’t last forever, and living month-to-month is not the way I want to spend my retirement.  I also realized that I can not retire and continue to live where I am at.  The decision, I need to downsize.  Now there is a lot of stuff in this house that I must sort, decide what to keep, what to toss, and what to sell.  That will take some time.  I would like to be out in six months, a year is more realistic, and it may take beyond that.  However the longer it takes the more money I am spending on this house that I could be saving or using for more fun things.

Fun things.  I am going to do some fun things this year.  For the first time in about three years I am going to take a real vacation.  I have to admit, once I made the commitment, put down the deposit and booked my airline flights I had some difficulty sleeping for a couple nights, but now I am looking forward to it.  My first international flight on my own, I will be flying to Calgary, Alberta, Canada for the Calgary Stampede and spending 11 days out there.  I have a friend who will meet me in Calgary.  We will be staying in his motor home and taking in some of the scenic sights of the area, doing photography in addition to attending the Stampede.  It should be an awesome trip and I am looking forward to it.

I have a girl’s weekend planned in Mackinac City.  The weekend is a yearly event with my sister and two cousins, and we always change locations to keep it interesting.  There is also the possibility of another weekend trip into Canada with a friend, but that one is only tentative at this point.  59caa4c54b27d61f6a921ea8a3146eb4

So, where am I in the cycle of life?  I am in a growing stage.  I have broken free of the “me” that I was when married and becoming the “me” that I am as a widow.  I have started to walk around my house doing a visual inventory.  “That was him, it goes.”  “That is me, it stays.”  Sometimes it is “That was us” and with those items, some will stay and some will go.  When I move out of this house it will be a good, clean break and I will be continuing the ride as I cycle through life.

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Filed under Cleaning, Coping, decisions, Discoveries, exploration, Family, freindship, friends, friendship, habit, home, impressions, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, marriage, memoir, reality, time, travel, vacation

Maybe I’m related to Lucille Ball

It has been one of those weeks when you could take my life and drop it into an I Love Lucy sitcom and it would be perfect.  For those of you who are too young to remember, Lucille Ball was a wonderful comedy actress who stared in several shows that carried her name…I Love Lucy, The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour, The Lucille Ball Show, and Here’s Lucy. 

The fun part of watching a Lucy show was that you just knew she was going to do something goofy, create a catastrophe out of something simple, and the audience would find themselves laughing hysterically at her antics.  It was a type of “if anything can go wrong, it will” and everyone loved watching.

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Lucille Ball- photo found on internet

Now we take my week.  Sunday I was fixing dinner and blew a circuit breaker.  I went downstairs, reset the circuit, continued fixing dinner and blew the same circuit again.  Before I could make a bee-line for the door the Master Electrician currently residing in my house stopped me.  I couldn’t reset that breaker, he had to analyze the situation.  Never mind that dinner is in the oven and that oven is no longer heating because it is on the blown circuit, the analysis had to be done first.  Once he had analyzed the situation and made his determination I was free to reset the breaker and continue with meal preparation.  However there was a glitch.  I had lost track of how much time the food had been in the oven, and while I was getting a detailed explanation on his process the fish became quite overcooked and hard.   Lets just say that meal left a lot to be desired.

Monday comes and I walk into work.  The bottom of my shoes must have been wet from the snow and when I hit the tile floor of the kitchen area my feet flew out from under me and I went down hard on the tile floor, hitting the back of my head on the refrigerator as I went down.  My startled scream was loud enough it brought all three men who were in the building running.  Why can’t clumsy things happen when there is no one around to see them?  Then once I am again on my feet I open the upper cupboard door to fix myself a cup of coffee and in the process hit myself in the head with the cupboard door.  How could I not have enough sense to move my head out of the way?   I’m still recovering from the injuries incurred that morning.

Tuesday was hectic but I seemed to make it through the day unscathed.  I fixed spaghetti for dinner and decided to have a bottle of wine with it.  Only I could manage to get the cork stuck up inside the corkscrew…but with a bit of persistence I got it back out.  Only a moment to recover on that one.

Wednesday, hump day, shouldn’t I be on a roll to recovery now?  Oh heck no.  I was planning to take a second car I have into the dealership for service.  A friend of mine gets all the snow off it, I go to hit the unlock button and open the door.  The battery was so dead the car doors would not unlock.  We finally got the door unlocked by inserting the key, but it was frozen shut!  There is only one door on the entire vehicle with a key hole,  so only one door we could work with.   I called the towing service I have, but after about 45 minutes on the phone they informed me that until I got the door unfrozen and open they would not be able to assist me.   I called the dealership and they advised me to pour hot water on it.  Four gallons of hot water later the door seamed to be devoid of ice, but it still would not budge an inch.   I called the dealership again to explain my problem.   The gentleman from service came out and by the time he arrived the hot water had seeped far enough in that the door opened.  The battery was still completely dead and had to be jumped, but at least the vehicle is now at the dealership.  Between a recall, service I scheduled and a warning light being on, it will be there a while.

If that wasn’t enough I had a meeting to attend Wednesday night, and without anything major happening I did manage to call a green frog orange and a woman named Donna I referred to as Phyllis.  I think because she has such a funny personality I was thinking of Phyllis Diller…..that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

So today is Thursday and I didn’t have any disasters, just fumbles.  I was sitting at breakfast talking when my friend says “are you going in to late work today?”  Crap!  I made it…barely!  Then when fixing dinner the potatoes were a bit under-cooked and the seasoning on the salmon wasn’t bad, just something we weren’t particularly fond of.  The bagged salad turned out great!  I think I need a vacation.

Wait!  That is what I forgot about.  I booked a vacation, a real 11-day vacation including airline flights.  Then as I was reading the airline confirmation it said that you should check and make sure you don’t need a visa for the country you are traveling to.  I knew I don’t need a visa, but I clicked on the button anyway and discovered that when traveling to Canada by air they require you to have a passport that does not expire for at least six months after your last flight.  Mine expires five months after my last flight.  I thought I was good, only to discover I have to renew my passport.

Now mind you I have plenty of time, but it did not do the mind and stress level any good.  I found out I can renew by mail and located a local CVS that does passport photos.  I went there after work to have it done, but the girl taking the photos was short and the first two didn’t turn out right, then the camera battery died, then my eyes were looking off to the side.  It was the fourth or fifth photo before we got a good one.  I didn’t think I was ever going to get out of there.   So I now have the application completed and ready to take to the post office tomorrow.  Lets hope that goes as planned.

Tomorrow is Friday and I hate to speculate on what could possibly go wrong.  Hopefully nothing.  With any luck it will be a no-excitement, ho-hum boring day.  I wonder if Lucille Ball ever had an uneventful, boring day?

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Matthaei Botanical Gardens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Show Me The Bottom Of Your Feet

A step that I completed three times this past weekend.  Having done it for the past five years, I really don’t need any instruction, I now know it is required.  That is only one of the things that must be done when you visit a prisoner.  Those who are familiar with the routine don’t give it a thought, but it is discomforting to someone who visits for the first time.

Knowledge is the main key to a successful visit.  Visiting a prison is not scary, it is just different.  Security measures and dress codes must be adhered to.  Your freedoms are also restricted to insure the safety and control of all inside those doors.  Prisoners in a visiting room are not horrible people to be terrified of, they are just people who made a mistake at some point in their life.  They are in that visiting room spending cherished time with friends, their parents, spouse, children, grandparents.  Anyone who is on their visiting list and has been cleared to visit.

So what is involved in visiting a prisoner?  While I can only speak for Michigan, I would presume that other states have similar practices and requirements.  Step one is the prisoner has to fill out a visitors list, putting on it the people who will or may visit him.  Before a person can go inside a state prison to visit they must fill out an application and submit it to the prison, then wait to obtain clearance.  Once you have received clearance it “moves” with you if the prisoner should be transferred to another location.

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My son, Patrick, and I during day one of my visit during Memorial Day weekend

Once approved you are free to visit the prisoner during that prison’s designated visiting times.  Information regarding each prison’s visiting hours and other important information can be located online.  You may want to call the prison to verify whether their vending machines use cash or if you have to purchase and load a vending card.  You will need quarters for a locker where you will be required to store your car keys, jackets, or any other items you carry in but are not allowed to take into the visiting room.  Keep in mind that most prisons do not allow you to bring your cell phone, beeper, pager, or any other similar devise inside the building.  Those items must be left in your car.

The easiest way to go about this is to take in the cash you plan to use for vending (some prisons require quarters only in a clear plastic bag and limit the dollar amount per person), your vending card or funds to load one, your picture ID, and your car keys.  You are not allowed to wear anything, such as a watch, that contains a battery or is electronic, but other jewelry is allowed.  An inventory of all jewelry, belts, glasses, and medical items, such as an ankle brace, will be noted at check-in, and then verified that it is still with you at check-out.  That is not because they think someone is going to steal it off you, but to make sure that a visitor has not transferred contraband to a prisoner.  Prisoners are also searched/patted down prior to the visit and again go through a “shake down” after the visit.

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Patrick during day 2 of our visit — this photo has been cropped, which I do with most photos taken at the prison.

Keep in mind that clothing should be conservative — no short shorts, low-cut or revealing clothing such as skin tight leggins, no hoodies, no jackets/coats in the visiting room.  The only thing you are allowed to carry into the room is your funds or vending card and your locker key.

So, you’ve done your preliminary steps, you have been approved, you know when to visit, how to dress, how to bring in funds for vending machines.  Now what?  If possible, it is best to advise your prisoner in advance the date and anticipated time when you plan to visit.  This allows the prisoner to be properly clothed for a visit and to be where his Commanding Officer can quickly locate him.   My son knows the estimated time of my arrival and is able to see me drive by from his bunk window.  When he sees my car go by he walks up by his C.O. and awaits the call from the visiting room so he can be released for a visit.  This helps to shorten the time you have to wait before the visit begins.

When you arrive at the prison take in only the limited items mentioned above and lock everything else in your car.  You will need to complete a sign-in sheet where you fill out your personal information, including your name, address, birth date, the license plate of your car, the prisoner’s number, and your relationship to the prisoner.  You will need to present picture ID, which they will hold until you leave.  They will note any jewelry you are wearing:  2 earrings, one ring, one pair of glasses, etc.  The desk will call back to the prisoner’s bunk and advise the C.O. that the prisoner has a visit.

If your prisoner sent anything up to the desk for you to take home you will receive it from the visitor’s desk, will be instructed to sign that you have picked up.  It is always a good idea for the prisoner to let you know ahead of time what they have sent to be picked up so you have some knowledge of what to expect.  Items they send to the front for pickup are only held for thirty days.  At my most recent visit I had to pick up a large envelope, a very heavy box filled with paperwork and books, and a huge plastic bag filled with numerous items my son had crocheted since my prior stop.  I have a small hand cart I take with me which helps in transporting the items going home from the building to the parking lot.

Make sure you have the appropriate money and/or vending card purchased and loaded before going back to the visiting room.  It is also a good idea to use the restroom prior to your visit, as bathroom visits are limited, require you to be escorted out by a guard, and also require another complete search and pat-down prior to re-entering the visiting room.

Once your prisoner arrives in the visitor area (you will not see this, he will arrive through a separate entry), he will be patted down, enter the visiting room, and be either standing at attention near the doorway until you arrive, or be already seated at an area he was instructed to use by the visiting room officer.   Once he is in the visiting area you will be called and taken back.

You will walk through a scanner, then be told to remove your socks and shoes and show the guard the bottom of your feet.  If it is warm enough, sandals make this step much easier.  You will then put your footwear back on.  You will be asked to open your mouth and raise your tongue.  You will have to stand with your back to the guard, legs spread, arms raised, and be patted down.  You will have to pull out your pockets so they can be checked.  If you are wearing a shirt with rolled up sleeves, they will have to be unrolled so they can be checked.  All of these steps are to prevent contraband from entering the prison.  The search and pat-down are done by a guard of the same gender as the visitor.  Your hand will be marked with a black light pen and you will be then taken to the visiting room.

Patrick May 2017 adjusted 077

This photo of Patrick shows how prisoners are required to dress, in their striped uniform and prison issue shoes.  This also shows the way most photos are taken before the mural and is why I crop most photos

Visits in prisons are contact visits.  This means you are in the same room with your prisoner and with all other prisoners who are having visits.  Be aware that prisoners are not allowed to converse with each other in the visiting room.  A cordial greeting is okay, but beyond that they can not congregate and or hold conversations with each other.  When you enter the room you will spot your prisoner and go to where ever they are located.  You are allowed to hug your prisoner upon greeting and upon leaving.  There are usually cards and other games available on a shelf to use during the visit if you choose to, and also some toys for children.  There are vending machines to purchase beverages, snacks and sandwiches.  Keep in mind that this is usually food the prisoner is unable to get during their day-today life and so this is a special treat to be able to eat and drink items such as burgers, burritos, candy, and pop.  They have limited items available in their commissary, but not all.  I normally purchase the photos tickets and food for my son, only having a light snack myself during the entire day I am there.  I go out to dinner after the visit.  I generally go for about 8-9 hours per visit and spend between $25-$35 in vending per day.

Remember, everything in a prison is limited and controlled.  The prisoner is not allowed to get up and walk around, they are not even allowed to approach the vending machines or area where games are stored.  You will have to get everything on your own.  Food items must be removed from their package and put on a paper plate before taking it to the table where you and your prisoner are seated.  There are microwaves available in the visiting room for heating foods.

You will be able have photos taken of your prisoner solo and/or with you.  Photo “tickets” are purchased either at the front desk as you check in or are cards that are purchased from the vending machine.  The cost is very reasonable, $2.50 gets you two 4×6 prints of the photo, one for you to take home, one for the prisoner to keep.  At some point during the visit you will be called up to have your photo taken before a mural in the visiting room.  Photographer is one of the jobs that prisoners can hold while they are incarcerated.   This is the one time when the prisoner is allowed to get up, walk over to have his photo taken, then return to his seat.  The other is if he is going out for a restroom visit for which he is escorted out by a guard.

If you as a visitor need to use the restroom you will have to advise the guard at the desk.   You will then go back to your seat and wait until another officer comes into the room to escort you out.  They will sometimes make an announcement asking whether any additional women and/or men need to go, but sometimes it is not announced, so keep your eye out.  It is often easier to go out when a group is going then have to wait later.  Bathroom trips are limited and keep in mind you will again have to go through the metal detector, remove shoes, get patted down, etc. depending on how far outside of the visiting room you have to go to use a restroom.

If a visiting room becomes crowded some visitors may be asked to leave.  The general rule is first in, first out.  Some prisons base who is asked to leave first on the distance traveled to visit.  If visitor one was in first but traveled 300 miles and visitor two only traveled 100 miles, visitor two may be asked to leave before visitor one.  Generally they will make an announcement and ask for volunteers to leave prior to selecting who must go.  I have only had to leave earlier than intended 2-3 times in the past five years, Father’s Day being one of them.  For that reason I now avoid visiting on that holiday.

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Patrick and I during day 2 of my Memorial Day weekend visit. 

When you are ready to leave you must advise the desk overseeing the waiting room, then go sit back down and wait.  An officer will arrive in the visiting room to escort you out.  Keep in mind that it may take some time before you are actually allowed to exit, and  the wait may be extensive if it is during shift change or count.  Your prisoner can advise you on when those things occur.  You may hug your prisoner before departing, and if photos were taken you would have received two copies of each picture — one to leave with the prisoner, one to take home.

During the exit process you will be asked to pass your marked hand under a black light, they will verify you are wearing the same jewelry you entered with, and your drivers license will be returned to you.  Retrieve your items out of the locker and you are free to go.

You have now survived your first prison visit.  A simple walk in the prison.  Nothing scary.  Perfectly routine.

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Up and Back in a Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

funeral-whentomorrowstartswithoutmepoem

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

Sleep In Old-Fashioned Elegance

I arrived a few minutes past the designated check-in time.  Even though I was late and had to ring the bell I was greeted by Frank with a smile and friendly hello.  He gave me a set of keys to my room and the front door.   There was no pressure to immediately produce a credit card or sign paperwork.  I was told that would be handled at check-out.

Frank gave me a tour of the house so I would know where to find amenities such as a refrigerator, microwave, coffee and tea, and a plate of home baked cookies.   He pointed out a buzzer on the main floor that could be used to alert he and/or his wife, Cheryl, that assistance was needed.  Frank then carried my suitcase up the steps and showed me my room and bathroom.  Because my room had a private bathroom down a hall, plush robes were hanging in the closet to use if needed.

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MacLeod House features a large front porch with seating and group of apple and pear trees in the side yard.  A spacious back yard in this country setting provides a peaceful atmosphere for relaxing or sleeping.  Photo copyright 2016 Grace Grogan.

Cheryl came out to meet me before I left for dinner.  She provided me with the time range for breakfast, told me what she was planning to serve each of the days, and inquired as to whether I had any dietary restrictions and if the planned menu met with my approval.  It was friendly, relaxed, courteous.   There are no frazzled workers, elevator waits, loud kids or drunken patrons navigating the halls at 3 am.  It was peaceful, quiet, relaxing.

The home is decorated in antiques.  Furniture, photos, bedding, lamps, decorations, all reflect a bygone era.  It is as if you have stepped back to a time of elegance and beauty.  The old-style lamps in the bedroom give it a relaxing ambiance that no modern light will ever provide.  I enjoyed relaxing in one of the chairs in my room each night, munching on a cookie and reading for a bit.  When I was ready to climb into bed I flipped on the TV for a bit before dozing off.  There is no street noise, no traffic.  The quiet took me into a deep slumber.

Morning greeted me with a bathroom stocked with home-style towels, washcloths, bath rugs, and shower gel.  None of the harsh white, hotel style bath accessories and cosmetics carrying a hotel logo here.  On a table on the second floor landing are  brochures of local attractions and a basket of toiletries in case a guest is in need of something.

Once I was showered and dressed for my day I headed down to the dining area for breakfast.  I found one couple there enjoying their meal.  Another couple joined us a few minutes later.  Cheryl prepared our breakfasts as we arrived.  French toast with creme cheese and peaches, served with sausage links on day one, omelets and thick toast with jams on the second.  Coffee, tea, orange juice and water were available, as were breakfast breads.    It was pleasant talking with other guests, learning where everyone was from, how long they plan to stay, where they have dined in the area, and sights they have taken in.  A nice pleasant way to start the day.

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By now you may realize that my stay was at a bed and breakfast, more specifically MacLeod House in Newberry, Michigan.  This was my first time staying at a B & B and I loved the experience.  I will definitely look into this type of lodging when traveling in the future.  Being a solo female traveler, I felt so much more secure in this environment than I do in a hotel or motel.    No large parking lots, elevator rides and long hallways to navigate alone.  It is a cozy, friendly atmosphere.

When I made my reservations I was told that I would need to change rooms from one night to the next due to a prior reservation.  It was handled easily with me packing up my bags before I left in the morning for my day out.  When the rooms were cleaned my bags were moved to the new room.  This turned out to be a wonderful opportunity because it allowed me to stay in two different rooms, each with their own unique decorating scheme.   My first night I was in the Rose Room, which I found cozy and inviting.  This room had a private bath down a small hall; room amenities included plush robes to use if needed.  My second night was in the Gold Room, which was a bit larger and had a private attached bath with a footed tub shower.  They also offer a suite, which I did not personally view.  I have no idea which room I will select the next time I visit that area, as each is unique and inviting.

Newberry is near many local attractions such as Taquamenon Falls, Oswald Bear Ranch, Ste. Saint Marie, and Pictured Rocks.  I highly recommend checking them out the next time you are traveling in Michigan’s upper peninsula.

MacLeod House
6211 County Road 441
Newberry, Michigan  49868
Phone:  (906) 293-3841
Email:  fcicala@up.net
Website:  Macleod House Bed and Breakfast

 

 

 

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Filed under Life is a Melting Pot, Michigan, reality, travel, Upper Penninsula, vacation

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

Never Underestimate Small Towns

I grew up in a small town, which beat out another better-known small in a Michigan’s best small town popularity poll run by the Lansing State Journal.  It only won by six votes in the final round, so definitely a tight race.

I haven’t lived in Eaton Rapids, Michigan since I married and moved away in 1981, but I have family there and have spent a considerable amount of time there over the years.  While I prefer my current residential location, Eaton Rapids does have a historical, small-town appeal that many love.

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G.A.R. Island City Park in Eaton Rapids.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Before I delve into my hometown too deeply, let me give a thumbs up to the runner-up, Charlevoix, Michigan.  I have always loved Charlevoix from the first time I went there.  Charlevoix is bordered by Round Lake on one side, Lake Michigan on the other.  Grab a whitefish dinner “to go” at Terry’s Restaurant, then walk across the street to sit in the park and eat overlooking Round Lake.  A great, relaxing stop in northern Michigan.

Eaton Rapids, although not on any large bodies of water, is an Island City, the the G.A.R. park is an island within the island.  The Grand River flows in and around the city, and everywhere you drive you are crossing bridges.  Home of Miller Ice Cream, I grew up in a subdivision just down the street from Miller Farm #1, which is now a small historical village with an ice cream parlor and beautiful flower gardens to stroll.

0257 Flags on Main Street - Eaton Rapids June 7 2014-1

A Patriotic Display on Main Street, Eaton Rapids, Michigan.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Eaton Rapids is also home to the VFW National Home, the only one in the United States.  The town’s latest claim to fame is the hosting of an Urban Air event, when vintage Airstream trailers line main street for a long weekend.  I have not yet attended this event, but am putting it on my calendar for this year.  Hopefully no conflicts arise, because I really want to visit during that time.  Downtown, small-town features include an old-fashioned telephone booth that actually works, a river walk, the Island City Park, and several great eateries, including patio dining at Darb’s.

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VFW National Home – a view down one of its many streets.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Congratulations to both my hometown of Eaton Rapids and another favorite, Charlevoix for being the best two small towns in Michigan.

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Filed under Family, home, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, Michigan, travel

Happy Thanksgiving

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

 

 

 

 

 

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

Touring The Insane Asylum

Touring the The Traverse City Commons.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Touring the The Traverse City Commons. Photo by Grace Grogan

This past weekend I toured a beautiful, spacious, historical sight located in Traverse City, Michigan.  When I was growing up the Northern Michigan Asylum / Traverse City State Hospital was still operational.  Lack of funding eventually closed the facility and those remaining patients were turned out and onto the streets with nowhere to go, nowhere to live.

The 63-acre site and its buildings of beautiful architecture deteriorated and were almost destroyed.  Word got out and those desirous of preserving such a beautiful historical location stepped in and renovations continue today.  Now called The Village at Grand Traverse Commons, it is one of the largest historic preservation and adaptive reuse developments in the country.

The eateries and shops of The Commons.  Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2015.

The eateries and shops of The Commons. Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2015.

Former historic buildings have been transformed into an indoor marketplace with a variety of gift shops, professional services, artwork, offices, eateries, condos, and a restaurant.   The location is alive with activity.  Outside there are walkways and lawns to explore on 480 aces of preserved land.  The restoration of historic barns and a botanical garden are underway.

If you really want to learn about the history of this asylum for the mentally ill, take a guided tour.  This two hour tour takes you into buildings that are in the process of being renovated and provides you with a vast amount of information regarding the lifestyle of those in residence there, the way they were treated, and how innovative this facility really was.

The underground tunnels.  Photo by Grace Grogan, Copyright 2015

The underground tunnels. Photo by Grace Grogan, Copyright 2015

Our tour guide was very informative with a a great personality and sense of humor that was constantly wound into his presentation.  You know you are in good hands when before the tour begins he announces that people should use the restroom and then says “sorry, its the mom in me”.  The tour is two hours of walking, both inside and out.

Visiting patient rooms.  Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2015

Visiting patient rooms. Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2015

The information provided is interesting and informative.  Not only about the architecture and design of the buildings themselves, but also about Dr. Munson, who designed the facility, and his “Beauty is Therapy” theory on providing treatment for the patients.  The facility was very innovative in that it treated patients as if they were thinking and feeling humans, not something to be thrown away.  He gave them incentive and pride by providing them with jobs on the facility.  Working in the kitchen, creating tile, woodworking, working on the dairy farm, and more.  Residents enjoyed their lifestyle and took pride in their “home”, which is what the facility was to them.  Furnishings were luxurious and comfortable, dining was on the equivalent of a fine restaurant with table clothes, fine china, and fresh flower center pieces.

Touring the Traverse City Commons.  Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2015.

Touring the Traverse City Commons. Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2015.

The tour includes a short period of walking outside in which you learn about some of the buildings before proceeding inside.  You will enter an non-renovated historic building, a renovation in process, and learn about the purpose in the way the architecture was designed, how the patients were housed, and then finish the tour with a walk through a brick steam tunnel built in 1883 and a visit to an area of The Commons where offices are located.

Photo by Grace Grogan

Photo by Grace Grogan

Once the tour is complete make sure you visit a few of the shops and eateries.  Books, gifts, ornaments, T-shirts and more await the shopper.  I purchased three books while there, Traverse City State Hospital is a pictorial history, Beauty in Therapy is a memoir, and Training School for Nurses is a guide of the training that nurses underwent to work at the Insane Asylum.  I look forward to reading and learning more about this unique place.

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Hot Air Rising

Mass Ascension at International Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Photo by Grace Grogan, Copyright 2015

Mass Ascension at International Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Photo by Grace Grogan, Copyright 2015

My husband and I flew to Albuquerque, New Mexico October 2, 2015 to attend the first three days of the International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta.  If you have never attended, it is a must see.  It is hard to explain the feeling of standing amongst hundreds of hot air balloons as they inflate for lift-off, and then turning in a circle and everywhere around you and above you are over 500 hot air balloons in a mass ascension.   They have a “main street” area with food vendors, craft vendors, stores, buttons, and various types of merchandise to shop and enjoy.

Morning Patrol Life-Off at Albuquerque International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta. Copyright 2015, Photo by Grace Grogan

Morning Patrol Life-Off at Albuquerque International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta. Copyright 2015, Photo by Grace Grogan

We spent the first day there from beginning to end, arriving at the park around 4:30 am and leaving as the fireworks were being shot off that night.  A long day, but we experienced it all.  The second day of the show we left after the morning lift-off and spent the afternoon driving up to Sante Fe to visit a botanical garden.  We found we enjoyed the morning glow and dawn patrol lift-off more than the evening glow.  It could have been the so-so weather on the night we stayed that left us with that feeling, because the night glows are one of their most popular events.

Inflating a Balloon. Copyright 2015, photo by Grace Grogan

Inflating a Balloon. Copyright 2015, photo by Grace Grogan

If you have been following my posts for a while you know that my husband visited Sante Fe and Albuquerque during his trip west a few weeks ago, which I talked about in When Your Husband Returns..
This was my first trip to New Mexico, and here are some quick thoughts about the trip:

  • When booking a nice, early morning flight, don’t forget you have to be at the airport 1-2 hours before flight time, meaning a 6:00 am flight requires being at the airport by 4:00 am.
  • Don’t book your layovers too tight.  We had a one hour layover in Dallas, but by the time we were able to exit the plane and walk to our departure terminal, making only a quick restroom stop, we arrived at our departure terminal two minutes before boarding began.
  • New Mexico is a dry heat, so you don’t notice the heat like you do in more humid areas, be sure to wear sunblock.
  • The hottest (spiciest) food in Michigan is mild compared to “normal” food in New Mexico.
  • Chillies are used in a lot of food (they were even offered in Chinese fried rice), it you don’t like spicy food, ask before ordering.
  • A two-hour time difference can work to your advantage when you have early mornings planned
  • It is worth getting out of bed to be on the Balloon Fiesta Field at 6 am for the ,morning glow and dawn patrol lift-off.
  • Old Towne Albuquerque is a wonderful place of interesting architecture and great shops.  Don’t miss Sculpture Park on the east side of Old Towne.   They also have a fantastic pizza shop, fresh pizza on a light and airy crust.
  • If you want to take the Tramway in Albuquerque to the top of the mountain, plan for it to be a several hour excursion.  We waited in line two hours only to have it shut down due to high winds.  The next time we arrived 20 minutes after they opened in the morning, but already the line was longer than the day we waited two hours, plus there were five tour buses there already.
  • Sante Fe is a photographers dream; be sure to visit the Museum Hill Botanical Gardens.
  • When doing all carry on luggage, be wary of what you purchase.  Packing for the return flight can be tricky.
  • Plan to visit the Fiesta and New Mexico again, because it is an awesome, breathtaking, unique, cultural, event and location well worth the trip.

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Filed under events, Life is a Melting Pot, travel

Prepping for Vacation is Work

My husband and I are taking a long weekend to attend the Hot Air Balloon Festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I’ve come to the conclusion that preparing to take a trip is exhausting.  I want to get my desk caught up at work because I will be off Friday and Monday, so I’ve been getting up and going into work an hour earlier than normal each day this week, and then staying 30-45 minutes longer than normal.

Then once I get home I have other prep to do.  We are doing strictly carry-on luggage, so had to pare down our camera gear considerably to make sure we could get that in.  Of course packing for 3-4 days in an airline regulation size bag is tricky, but I think I’ve got it workable.  Then of course the bag to go under my seat with a book, travel vouchers, camera, camera gear, etc.  Could it get any more complicated?

Yes it can, our flight time is so early in the morning that I realized we are going to have to get up and on the road around the time I normally go to bed.  I’m excited, but I have a feeling it is going to be an exhausting trip.  Being photographers we don’t want to miss any photo ops so will be up and on the field bright and early when it opens, and then be shooting all the way through the event.  I’ve discovered I can’t fit my tripod into my carry on luggage, so I’m bummed about that as there will be fireworks each night, but I’ll manage somehow.

So, is travel worth it if you have to wear yourself out in the preparation?  Yes, It always is, and it will be this time as well,  However as I sit here typing this post and realizing how tired I am from this screwed up week I truly do believe that Prepping for Vacation is Work!

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Filed under Festivals, Life is a Melting Pot, travel, vacation

When Your Husband Returns

A sketch done of Ron, the artist was Europeon and didn't want his glasses on because she wanted to see his eyes.  Not my favorite, but he likes it.

A sketch done of Ron, the artist was Europeon and didn’t want his glasses on because she wanted to see his eyes. Not my favorite, but he likes it.

My husband, Ron Grogan, is battling his third round of cancer and decided that he wanted to take a trip west to Sante Fe, New Mexico, because he read that it is a photographer’s paradise.  He is retired (I work a full-time job), so he packed up his car and left on the 7th of August, delaying his next chemo round until August 26th.

Ron had a great time, I believe he said he took something like 11,000 pictures.  He visited Sante Fe, Albuquerque, Oklahoma City, Carthage, Missouri (home of the Precious Moments Chapel, I’m a collector), and Hocking Hills, Ohio.  He took a jeep photo tour, train ride, hot air balloon ride, and a glider ride.    Ron attended events, estate sales, auctions, and anything else that captured his eye.

When Ron pulled in on Monday at approximately 11:00 pm his car was loaded…trunk, back seat, and passenger seat and had newly tinted windows, another thing he had done while gone.  He didn’t even start to unload until the next morning as I was leaving for work.

Some of the items Ron acquired at estate sales and/or auctions.

Some of the items Ron acquired at estate sales and/or auctions.

So, now my house is overrun with items we have to figure out where to put.  A huge box of vinyl records…why?  I don’t know.  About 8-10 books he purchased for me, plus 3-4 for himself.  Neat paintings of male and female Indians, plus an Indian blanket we are going to use as a bedspread/comforter on our water bed.    Antiques he got in auctions, including an antique train book, two antique ice buckets and a wine/champagne chiller, vases, cruets, train cars, accessories, and I believe a model train to add to his set-up, plus a large box of Precious Moments figurines he purchased for me, and much more.

11 New T-Shirts for Ron.  Photo by Ronald Grogan

Eleven New T-Shirts for Ron. Photo by Ronald Grogan.

Before leaving for his trip Ron had approximately 115 T-shirts.  I was constantly having to re-stack them to fit them onto the shelves in the closet.  He came home with eleven (11) more.  Now I will admit some of them are very cool, but where the heck am I going to fit them?

Indian paintings obtained in New Mexico

Indian paintings obtained in New Mexico

So ladies, be aware.  If your husband is retired and takes a trip which you don’t participate in because you are still working, you have no idea the things they will bring home.   Fun for him, clutter for me.

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Pinback Paradise

When someone suggested I start a blog I found it a bit of a daunting challenge.  That was mainly due to my misconception of what a blog required.  When I realized that I don’t have to post on a daily basis and that I don’t have to stick with just one narrow topic I knew I was up to the challenge.  Now all I had to do was pick a title for the blog.  I wanted my title to fit my life, and because my Life Is Like A Camera I needed something to fit that description and so Life is a Melting Pot was born.

Life is Like a Camera.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Life is Like a Camera. Photo by Grace Grogan

I can’t believe it has been 10 months and 50 posts since it all began.  I have written about fun topics, emotional issues, vacations, and life in general.  Hopefully you have all gotten to know me a little better over the past few months.

When it comes to my life, It All Began in the Cherry Capitol of the World, but Yesterday’s Bar Pick-up tells the story of how I met my husband.  We have enjoyed many activities over the years, vacations, having kids, boating, jet skis, mopeds, and motorcycles, accidents and cancer.   It’s been 33 years, well sort of 34 takes a look back at our marriage and Life Altering Impact after a car ran a stop sign and broadsided me when I was on my motorcycle.

As I was completing high school I did not follow my true career interest, Why Didn’t I do It?  Instead I became a secretary, which caused me to reflect on the Evolution of a Clerical Worker.  Now I wonder Who Am I? as I take on the roles of paralegal, writer and photographer.  Of course everyone has many aspects to their personality, and that is why I love Songs About Me and found a Blog Bonus – A Perfect Quote that I shared with everyone, even though I soon found myself Caught in a Tornado

Patrick and his girls - Kiley, Katlyn, Kae-Lee

Patrick and his girls – Kiley, Katlyn, Kae-Lee

With The Power of Emotion I dealth with the loss of one of our granddaughters, Kae-Lee Joy Grogan, who we were trying to adopt but instead was awarded to her foster care parents for adoption.  I dug a little deeper into that story when I talked about Attempted Adoption:  An Emotional Whirlwind.    That story has yet to end.

In the meantime life moves on, and let’s face it You are a Guaranteed Winner when you experience the Backyard Exploration of a 3-Year Old and enjoy a Thanksgiving that includes Tossed Turkey and Dog Food.    Let’s Get Prepped for education because although we all have a Haunted Past we can enjoy a bit of nostalgia because Everyone Loves a Letter.  Modern technology makes us realize the benefits of  Letter v. Email and how with all our modern conveniences we should not be Running Out of Time. 

Who's out there?  Photo by Grace Grogan

Who’s out there? Photo by Grace Grogan

We should all Preserve the Memories of our lives because Looking Out My Front Door at snow on leaves that have not changed color makes you realize the the Wild Weather Past and Present is not something new, but something you may want to remember.  After all, Putting a Spin on Things can help you take an artistic, creative look at what might at first glance appear to be Delightfully Drab.   That is why I enjoy participating in the World Wide Photo Walk and a passion of mine is strolling through old burial grounds doing Cemetery Shooting.    It is important to enjoy the beauty around us everywhere, keep it beautiful so we never again have The Crying Indian. 

Reflections in Nature - Photo by Grace Grogan

Reflections in Nature – Photo by Grace Grogan

Life is never dull in My Crazy Week where I have been known to wonder Where Have All the Spiders Gone then dissapointed to find out They’re Back after which I felt the need to enjoy the amusement of a 3-year old and 8-year old saying goodbye to them in Blog Bonus-SpidersHowever those creatures are not the only ones to enhance our property, after all, we have Master Bath Guests.

I’m not what I would call a political person, but wondered if my thoughts about undocumented children being brought into this country were Cold Hearted and Cruel or Realistic.  I know that first impressions of people are not always accurate and discussed Impressions v. Reality while not hesitating to Toot My Own Horn about a column I had published on problems with the foster care system.

As I traveled this summer I found that my decision to finally invest in a smart phone challenging but in the end realized that I’m Hooked when it allowed me to take movies and post pictures instantly during our vacation.  I love a Blue Water Summer  but have to admit that Vacation Planning is something I enjoy doing and can lead to a wide range of adventures and learniing how things can be the Same but Different, including a weekend on an Uninhabited and Unconnected Island or a spring day on the Magee Marsh Bird Trail. 

Scared the heck out of me as I was zoomed in to take a photograph when he started straight at me.  Photograph by Grace Grogan

Scared the heck out of me as I was zoomed in to take a photograph when he started straight at me. Photograph by Grace Grogan

As the year wound down we enjoyed New Life with the birth of our newest granddaughter, Alexandria Louise, enjoyed a Merry Christmas and ended the year by Kicking 2014 Goodbye as we started the new year with Slippery Surgical Stress and are now looking forward to Good Things in 2015.

With that we end this Pingback Paradise reflection of my first 50 posts to this blog.  I hope you have enjoyed this glimpse back, maybe linked into some of my old posts and enjoyed a read you may have missed during the past 10 months.

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Filed under career, decisions, Family, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, Photography, travel

It All Began In The Cherry Capitol of the World

From the Cherry Capitol of the World to the place with the world’s highest ski jump, a quick stop in Portage Michigan, then to an Island City, from there to a home where the city name changed three times and finally the place of the world’s longest board walk on a very busy shipping channel.  Have you ever thought about the places you have lived in your lifetime?  That first sentence gives a brief overview of mine.  I was thinking about it one day.  I have lived in some pretty interesting and unique places in my lifetime.

Traverse City Cherry Trees an Grand Traverse Bay in the background.  Photo obtained online.

Traverse City Cherry Trees an Grand Traverse Bay in the background. Photo obtained online.

The Cherry Capitol of the World, Traverse City, is where I was born. My genealogy includes the Lautner family who were some of the original settlers of the area.    My paternal grandmother was a Lautner, she grew up on part of the original Lautner Settlement on M-72 in a home built by her father when she was six years old.  She lived in that same home until her late 80’s when she placed herself into assisted living.  When I was growing up we traveled to Traverse City often, staying with my grandparents and visiting other relatives.  We rarely did any of the tourist stuff, the one exception being the National Cherry Festival, which happens every July in Traverse City.  Special parades every day,carnival, and of course farmers selling fresh cherries in small stands everywhere you go.  If you have never visited the Traverse City area I recommend you spend some time there.  From the lighthouses on Old Mission Peninsula and Leelenau Peninsula, the Casinos, Grand Traverse Bay, and more, it is a beautiful area.

This past summer I visited the town where my parents moved to when I was a toddler, Iron Mountain, Michigan.  Located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula about midway across, this small historic town sits right on the border of Wisconsin and is home to the word’s highest artificial ski jump.  Pine Mountain Ski Jump has a scaffold that is 186 feet high and the length of the slide is 381 feet.  You can climb the stairs to the base of the jump or drive a winding road to the top of the hill for a spectacular view.   This is also the location of the Upper Peninsula Veterans Memorial Site, dedicated in 2006.  This memorial honors those from all 15 counties of the Upper Peninsula who served in Vietnam, Lebanon-Granada, the Gulf War, Korea, World War I and World War II.    Space has been reserved to honor those who have served in the war taking place in the middle east.   There are many things to do in the area, but one thing to remember is that the city’s name comes from the valuable iron that was found and mined in the area and a few minutes downthe road in Vulcan you can tour the Iron Mountain Iron Mine.  The mine tour lets you experience the conditions under which men worked at a time when there was no modern technology.  What they accomplished is amazing.

Pine Mountain Ski Jump, Iron Mountain, Michigan.  Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2014.

Pine Mountain Ski Jump, Iron Mountain, Michigan. Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2014.

The next stop on my list of places I have lived is Portage Michigan.  I was still young at the time, it is where I attended Kindergarten and began first grade.  Portage is close to Kalamazoo, the home of Western Michigan University and is located less than 30 miles from Battle Creek, the cereal city, home to both Kelloggs and Post cereal companies.  In preparing for this posting I learned that Portage is home to the Air Zoo which houses over 60 rare and historic aircraft.  The Air Zoo also offers indoor amusement park style rides, interactive exhibits, flight simulators and a 4D theater.    We only lived a short time in Portage before making the final move of my childhood.

In 1966  we moved to The Only Eaton Rapids on Earth, an island city located south of our state’s capitol, Lansing.  This is the town I consider my home town, residing there from the time I was six years old until I married and moved away just before my 21st birthday.  It is a unique small town with lots of local history.  Home to Miller Ice Cream, the VFW National Home and was once a booming tourist area due to mineral springs.  Eaton Rapids was founded in 1838, became a city in 1881, and is named after the youngest member ever to join the U.S. Senate, John Henry Eaton.  That and the presence of rapids in the nearby Grand River created the towns name.  It is referred to as an island city because the downtown area is completely surrounded by water.  If you pay attention when driving around town you are constantly crossing bridges everywhere you go.  Not only that, but if you live in the town you know that going to “the island” refers to an island park located near the downtown area.  The island itself is one of many Michigan Historical Sites in the town.   Another historical sight is the VFW National Home, created in 1924 when Corey J. Spencer donated a 472 acre farm to be used as a home for widows and orphans of veterans of the wars of the country.  It is the only home of its kind in the country and is still in operation today.  As a final note on the town’s second nickname, E.E. Horner, while President of Horner Woolen Mills, was on a trip to England and wrote home with an address of only  “Eaton Rapids.”  The postcard arrived at its proper destination and the town became known as “The Only Eaton Rapids on Earth.”

Eaton Rapids Island Park as viewed from Hamlin Street foot bridge.  Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2014.

Eaton Rapids Island Park as viewed from Hamlin Street foot bridge. Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2014.

When I married I left Eaton Rapids and moved to Utica, Michigan, which is where my husband and I built our first home in 1983.  The area we built in was experiencing a lot of growth and over the years city boundaries were adjusted and changed so that our house began as part of Utica, became part of Mount Clemens, then Macomb.

Utica is located in Macomb County and was originally platted in 1829.  The city suffered fires in 1905 and 1906 so only has a few buildings prior to those dates.

Mount Clemens is also a town in Macomb County and was first surveyed in 1795 by Christian Clemens.   Christian Clemens and John Brooks platted the land, built a distillery and the area was incorporated as a village in 1851 and a city in 1879.  Mount Clemens became the county seat of Macomb County in 1818.  Mount Clemens was once a booming town well known for its mineral baths from 1873 to 1974.   Surburban expansion in the area continued and we were notified that the area we lived in was once having a city name change from Mount Clemens to Macomb.

The change to Macomb occured in the 1990’s, but the growth was so substantial that between 2000 and 2008 the population increased by 48%.  Macomb Township has no incorporated villages but has three unincorporated commnities:  Meade on the northewast portion of the township, Waldenburg in the central portion of the townships and Macomb, where we lived, in the northwest part of the township.    You may think that Macomb was created during the period of growth, but the Township of Macomb was officially approved by the legislative council on May 7, 1834 and is named in honor of General Alexander Macomb, a highly decorated veteran of the War of 1812.    A variety of factors, including the rapid expansion of the area in which we lived let us to St. Clair, Michigan.

In 2003 we left Macomb behind and purchased a house in St. Clair, Michigan.  This is a very scenic and historical area in which to vacation or reside.     The city has an extensive history and its name is believed to have been derived from three different sources.  One of those is that it honors Patrick Sinclair, who purchased land on the St. Clair River and in 1764 built Fort Sinclair.  In addition to the longest freshwater boardwalk in the world located on the beautiful St. Clair River, a busy shipping channel that runs between the United States and Canada and has more shipping traffic than the Suez Canal and Panama Canal combined, the town is home to Cargill Salt (formerly Diamond Crystal).  Diamond Crystal began operation in 1887 of a large solution salt mine and evaporation facility.  This is the only salt plant in the United States that produces Alberger salt, a special fine salt used on products such as potato chips, fast food french fries, etc.   The history of St. Clair industry is extensive, including the sawmill industry, shipbuilding, and in the late 1800s became a well-known resort with luxurious hotels offering mineral baths with passenger steam ships stopping at hotel docks on a daily basis.    Today St. Clair offers a Marina, Palmer Park, Alice Moore Center for the Arts, Alice Moore Woods, Michigan Historical Sites and a museum.   A unique place to visit and live.

Palmer Park boardwalk and St. Clair River, St. Clair Michigan.  Photo by Grace Grogan.

Palmer Park boardwalk and St. Clair River, St. Clair Michigan. Photo by Grace Grogan.

Will I someday reside in other places?  I can not be sure.  My husband and I purchased property years ago on a mountain in Tennessee, but for various reasons have determined that we will not be moving there and have put the property up for sale.  At one time we planned to become full-time RV people, living and traveling the country in our motor home.  Again, life brings changes and it is debatable whether that will ever happen.  As for now, we are residing in the beautiful Blue Water Area and enjoying our spare time as photographers, capturing everything the area has to offer and making our images available for sale at local art studios, Mercy Hospital in Port Huron, and on Fine Art America.

Where have you lived in your lifetime?  How many times have you moved?  Please share in the comment section.

 

 

 

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Filed under children, decisions, Family, home, kids, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, Michigan, parents, time, travel, Upper Penninsula

Its been 33 years, well sort of 34

Ron and I shortly after we first met, 1980

Ron and I shortly after we first met, 1980

When do you start counting?  My husband and I celebrate our 33rd Wedding Anniversary today.  We were married September 12, 1981, but is that when you start counting your years, or should we include the time from when we met on May 9, 1980?  I suppose you officially count from the wedding, but we still have the memories from the beginning.

I wasn't a cook, but Ron was, and for our wedding he gave me the book "How to Boil Water" that he purchased at a garage sale.

I wasn’t a cook, but Ron was, and for our wedding he gave me the book “How to Boil Water” that he purchased at a garage sale.

In 33 years we have certainly experienced a lot — lots of fun, lots of ups, and of course some downs.  Life is rather like a roller coaster, chugging along in those climbs to the top, then the thrilling ride as you top the hill, a fast speed race to the bottom, and then you whip around a curve and the next hill approaches.

When I met Ron he was only a couple weeks into his divorce, which was a nasty one.  His ex-wife disappeared with their daughter (an infant) and we spent months locating her and then years trying to get visitation, including a full-blown custody trial.  Over the years we have had periodic ventures in court with a son that seemed to find trouble and/or get into trouble on a regular basis and is currently serving time in prison for home invasion.    Our daughter’s husband committed first degree child abuse against our son’s daughter, Kiley, when she was only 7 months old.  Nate, our son-in-law at the time,  went to prison and my daughter divorced him, but CPS became involved with both families and the rest is a horrendous story that is the subject of a book I am writing.

We have enjoyed many fun vacations over the years.  My first trip to Niagara Falls was in the  winter when it was under ice, and that was where we also  honeymooned.   Niagara Falls, Canada is one of my favorite cities and we used to travel there frequently for weekend trips.  The summer before our marriage Ron and I did a road trip to Hershey, Pennsylvania and down the Blue Ridge Parkway, where Ron was climbing on rocks to take pictures and sprained his left ankle.  His car was a stick, so I then did the majority of the driving, except when I couldn’t see coming down the mountain in the fog and he took over.  He was driving faster than I could see, which made me nervous.  That night I had repeated nightmares that we plunged off a mountain cliff, and each time the car started to fall I woke up, got up to use the bathroom and rammed my head into the wall mounted TV that stuck out just before the bathroom door.  Ron was exhausted and slept like a log and the next morning he commented that I had never arisen to use the bathroom all night!

Ron and Grace - Art Hop CroppedOver the years we took many family vacations, including a few trips to Florida where we once spent eight days at Disney and almost missed our flight home due to a thunderstorm on the final day that delayed out ability to exit the Magic Kingdom as quickly as we wanted.  Nothing like having the stewardess come running down the hall at you to assist with your carry-on luggage and then the doors slamming at your back as soon as you step onto the plane.  We also did trips to Universal Studios, Daytona, and a 2-night cruise to the Bahamas where we swam with dolphins.

With two kids who love amusement park rides we took numerous trips to Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio over the years.  I’ll never forget Patrick’s first ride on the Blue Streak.  He was just of qualifying height to ride and as we topped the first run of hills and were rounding the curve at the top in preparation for the next run I realized he had slid way down in seat.  I quickly said “sit up” and as soon as Patrick pulled him self back up fully into the seat I stuck my hand down on the seat between his legs to act as a brace and we made the next run.

We attended the International Collectible Show near Chicago, Illinois for several years and did road trips that included stops at Indianapolis Speedway, St. Louis Arch, Hannibal, Missouri (home of Mark Twain), and visits to the Precious Moments Chapel in Carthage Missouri.    We flew to Houston, Texas for a week long vacation one year enjoying many sights there.  Another road trip took us to Hershey, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, New York, and Niagara Falls where we enjoyed a helicopter ride over the falls.  Most vacations included a few “regular” things including an amusement park, playing putt-putt, visiting an historical home, and when available visiting a cave.   We have done America’s only cave where they drive you all the way through by tram in Springfield Missouri, the only cave where they take you through by boat in Pennsylvania, and the Mark Twain Cave in Hannibal that was featured in the books Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer.  Mark Twain actually played in that cave as a child and the tour guide explained to us the procedure for making sure all the children were back out of the cave each night.  2008 - Stephanie Burnham and Justin Fickles wedding

Ron and I also took a few trips without the kids over the years.  We spent a week in Hawaii around 1990, we spent a week in San Francisco in 2005, and one year Ron drove to Florida to see his daughter, Patricia, from his first marriage graduate high school while I drove to New York to see our niece graduate from West Point.   We have taken road trips up the east coast and west coast of Michigan to photograph light houses, and this summer spent a week in the upper peninsula of Michigan with the main focus being to photograph waterfalls.  NOvember 2008

I almost forgot to mention the “toys” of which we have had a few over the years, beginning with a Laser sail boat when we were first married.  This is a small sail boat in which you literally hang off the side and your butt most likely gets wet dangling in the water.  Ron’s thing, definitely not mine!  When Caroline was about 2 years old we purchased a 19-foot Baja boat, a bow rider which I loved.  I drove the boat and pulled Ron on skis.  We spent a lot of time on that boat for several years, and then as the kids got older we took it out less and less and eventually sold it.  We purchased a dirt bike for the kids to ride when Patrick was about 4 years old, Caroline 7.  We then got a moped, and when that one got totaled we purchased another.  We bought a set of jet skis and spent quite a bit of time using those.  The kids were older then, and they would frequently drop a car off to me and pick up my truck so they could tow the jet skis to the dock and take them out.  Then Ron and I got motorcycles, he got his in 2004, I got mine in 2005.  I was the motorcycle lover, frequently riding 35 miles one-way to work, 50 miles one-way to college, and loved taking rides to relax in the evenings.  On the weekends we would ride to activities/events we were attending, and also participated in poker runs.  We spent a lot of time out riding until one day on the way home from an event a car ran the stop signs and broadsided me, bringing our days of riding to an end.  I still miss the feel of the wind in my face and how relaxing it is to ride.  Ron spent over a year taking care of the house and me as I went through recovery, and then we purchased our latest “toy,”  a 35-foot motor home.

Photo with our Son, Patrick and Daughter, Caroline, at her wedding.

Photo with our Son, Patrick and Daughter, Caroline, at her wedding.

I have only lightly touched on the ups and downs we have encountered over the years.  We have deaIt with our granddaughter being severely and permanently brain damaged while under the care of who was, at the time, our son-in-law.  We have experienced the loss of a grandson born premature who died shortly after his birth.  We have no contact with one of our granddaughters whose mother has not always been cooperative about allowing our son parenting time, and the loss of two granddaughters at the hands of CPS/DHS workers who withheld contact, lied to the court, a guardian ad litem who lied to the court, and a judge who rather than seek the truth and require them to substantiate their claims ruled against us.  The youngest granddaughter, Kae-Lee, has already been adopted by her foster care parents even though we wanted to adopt and raise the two sisters together.  The judge has refused to allow us the visits that the director of the Michigan Children’s Institute said he needed to finalize his decision on adoption of the older granddaughter, Kiley, who had suffered severe brain trauma, leaving her status in limbo.

So now here we are after 33 years of marriage. We have encountered numerous bumps, mountains and valleys and will likely continue to do so as time passes on.  We are now empty nesters, both photographers, and enjoy travel when time permits.  So whether we count it as 33 years from marriage or 34 years from meeting, it has been a lot of fun and good times.  Here’s looking forward to another 33.

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