Category Archives: Weather

Does nature know when school starts?

Summer has been rolling along nicely here in Michigan.  The temperatures have been a bit up and down, but for this state that is normal.  For the most part though it was summer weather, summer wear — flip flops, shorts, tank tops, and sunblock.

Then it became the last week of August.  The temperature turned cooler, people were in a variety of clothing styles, an indication they weren’t quite sure what the weather was going to dole out and were making their best guess.  You would see someone in shorts, then someone in pants, a tank top then a sweatshirt, sandals then boots.  Why?  Because even though it wasn’t “cold” it felt that way to some.

Does nature know kids are going back to school and that temperatures must drop to get children in the mood for school?  Is this a system of reminding parents that if they haven’t purchased that exhaustive list of school supplies they need to handle it now?  How did the school schedule get established in the September to June rotation so that children are attending during the coldest months of the season?

I have learned that our traditional September to June school schedule was established at a time when the United States was a farm-based society and children had to help with spring planting and fall harvesting of crops.  The September to June schedule with three months off in the summer best suited the needs of children being able to help in the fields during the main production period with as little interference as possible in their education.

Even though we are no longer a farm-based society and industrialization has ended the time of children needing to be taken out of school to help with farm duties, the schedule has held pretty close to the traditional rotation for decades.  My statement thank teachers

A number of states have tried to increase the hours of a school day, lengthen the period of time that students attend, and some have attempted a year-round school schedule.  What many places have found is that increasing the number of hours a student attends also increases operating costs for the school district and many can not afford the increase.

The level of learning, length of time a student spends in school, methods for teaching, and every other aspect of education in this country is constantly being evaluated and changes made.   The length of the school year is normally determined by a specific number of days or hours of instruction. One hundred eighty days (180) is the minimum required by many states, five states require more than 180 days, and five states require less than 175 days.  Here in Michigan students are required to attend a minimum 180 days.

So what this all means is that it is now September and for the next 9-10 months there are certain times of day when we may be delayed by a school bus.  We will see children carrying backpacks loaded down with books, lunches, and a number of other necessities for school.   The rotation of school sports, PTO meetings, parent-teacher conferences, homework, report cards, and school breaks is now in session.  Whether nature knows it or not, the school year has begun.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Activities, children, education, exploration, Family, farm, kids, Life is a Melting Pot, Michigan, nature, parents, school, summer, time, Weather

Decompress a Boggled Brain

Let’s face it, some of us have this issue more than others.  It could be related to your lifestyle, age, career, family life, or just an occasional bumble in your normal schedule.  Sometimes it is a combination of all those things and is just plain hard to shake.

Maybe you’re like me and have a “to-do” list that seems like Mt. Everest x 3 and you feel like you’ll never get through it all.  When things seem overwhelming it can be hard to get motivated.   Sometimes you accomplish things but no one can tell.  If you spend 10 hours on paperwork, who is going to know except you?   That lack of visual accomplishment can make one feel as if they have nothing to show for their effort.

How do you prevent feeling overwhelmed?  When you want to throw up your hands and turn into a sluggish couch potato, how do you reverse the process?   You have to decompress your boggled brain.  Give it a break from life’s obligations.  Have some fun.

The time you spend decompressing the brain can be anything from a few minutes to a few days.  What I have found is that by taking a break I re-energize and am able to accomplish more than I would if I stayed on the straight-and-narrow work path.    It is easy to think “I shouldn’t be doing this” or “I should be doing this” because of that massive to-do list.   The trick is in the timing.Decompress - everyone needs time

I work full time as a paralegal.  I spend the majority of my workday at the computer writing pleadings, handling correspondence, and listening to people’s problems on the phone.  Very rarely is my to-do pile shorter than about 18″ in height, quite often it is more than that.  I do not leave the office at lunch; it is a one-person office and while eating I take calls or handle people as they walk in the door.  I decompress at lunch by skimming through Facebook and quite often spend time playing a game such as Candy Crush or Tetris Battles while eating.   Playing those games releases the brain from thinking.  Although the mind is active, it is relaxing.   I have found it to be a great way to re-power for the afternoon.

I am a photographer, and for the past three years I haven’t done much in the way of shooting pictures.  That is for a combination of reasons including working on cleaning out my parent’s home after they passed, a bad ankle that I finally had surgery on this past fall, and my own husband fighting cancer, a battle he lost 20 months ago.  I wasn’t going out and shooting because not only was it was physically painful to walk, but I also felt I have so much to do here at home that I should be here working, not out having fun.

So what did I realize?  I had lost my motivation.  I was here and getting things done, but not to the degree that I used to several years ago.   I lacked motivation and my productivity was down, which compounded my feeling of being overwhelmed.  I decided it was time to get out and participate in a few more things this year, attend more festivities and do more photo shooting.

Fun - give yourself permissionI will admit it was hard.  However forcing myself to get out and do things has been beneficial.  I am more physically active, which increases metabolism and energy.  I discovered I am happier by being once again out and about partaking in different activities.  The result is that I am more productive than I was when spending the entire weekend at home.  Why?  Because I have decompressed my brain so I am more relaxed, my energy level has increased, and therefore I am more productive.

When you are feeling sluggish, overwhelmed, ready to throw in the towel and call it quits take some time to decompress the brain.  You’ll be glad you did.

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Filed under Activities, career, communication, Coping, death, decisions, Discoveries, environmental, events, habit, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, lunch, Meals, mind, time, Weather, work

My Life is a Murphy’s Law Comedy Drama

Murphy's Law - one line quoteAfter reading that title you are probably going huh?   If you think about it you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.  Murphy’s Law — if anything can go wrong it will.  Comedy — finding the humor in anything and everything.  Drama — something serious and/or with conflict.  Put those altogether and what do you have?  My life this past week.

Picture Lucille Ball, Home Improvement, and Grace Under Fire all wrapped into one and you’re probably coming close.  Of course it all didn’t seem comical at the time, there were some pretty good moments of stress, but overall you just have to roll with the punches.

Monday actually started the week off pretty good.  I was busy at work, but afterwards spent a nice evening at home.  Maybe that should have been an indication that all good things must come to an end.

Tuesday evening about 7 pm my phone rings.  “What are you doing?”

“I’m in Rochester at a my Freelance Writer’s meeting, why?”

“Oh shoot, that won’t work.  We were on our way to Ann Arbor and Rob’s car just died on us, we’re in Detroit, but you’re too far away.  We’ll call his mom.”

My daughter, her three young children and her boyfriend, stranded more than an hour from where I was.  I wasn’t really familiar with the area they broke down in, but let’s face it, stranded in Detroit is not a good thing.  She is 32 and capable of handling things on her own, but as a mother and grandmother you worry.  I received a text that Rob’s aunt, who lives in Detroit, went and picked them up right away because the area they were in was a bad section.  Rob’s mother was on the way to pick them up from the aunt’s house and transport them back home.  At least I knew they were safe.

Before they left the vehicle the first time Rob told Carrie to gather up absolutely everything out of the inside of the car, and she was smart enough to even empty the glove box so there was no revealing information about their residence or anything left.  When the aunt took Rob back to the vehicle an hour later it had been trashed – windshield smashed, battery stolen, and inside destroyed.  He popped the trunk and retrieved the diapers and other items they had just purchased and left the vehicle there overnight.  Not worth repairing, the next day they borrowed a friend’s car hauler and towed it to the junk yard, where they got a whopping $168 for it.  Now he is looking for something used, affordable and able to transport him and kids.  In the meantime he is driving my single-cab pickup truck my husband used to use for scrapping.

Caroline came to my house and picked up my extra car, a Ford Fiesta, later that night to borrow because her SUV was in the shop.  Wednesday afternoon I get a call,  “Mom, your car has no oil in it!”

“What do you mean it has no oil?   I just had it changed two weeks ago, drove it home from the dealership and it has been sitting in the drive ever since.”

“The oil lights came on and it made a funny sound, I pulled over and checked the oil, there is nothing in it.”

I called the dealership, they didn’t think it made sense but said not to drive it, they would send a tow truck.  I called my daughter to let her know what was happening.  Okay, moment of emotional breakdown here — my daughter’s SUV was at the dealership having repair work done on it for the third time, which was the reason she borrowed my car after her boyfriend’s car died, my Ford Fiesta she was borrowing is now being towed, my 2-year old granddaughter was at a day care approximately 25 miles from home, my daughter was going to be without any vehicle except for my pickup truck.  It wasn’t looking good, two adults each with jobs in totally different areas, three young children and down to a single cab pickup they were borrowing from me.

Her voice cracked, “Mom, I have no car to drive.”

I took a deep breath to hold it together.  “Where is Alex’s day care center?  If needed I’ll  leave work early and go pick her up.  Am I on the list?”

Stress, Stress, Stress.

The good news — my daughter’s SUV was done and ready for pickup by the time she and the tow truck arrived at the dealership.  The next morning I received a call that my car was fine, they forgot to hit the reset button when doing the oil change and the synthetic oil is clear so it can not be seen.  My daughter had put a quart of oil into it, thinking it was empty, so it was now over filled.  The dealership flushed it out and re-filled, no charge to me.

Thursday I get a call from my daughter’s boyfriend, “Was there a warranty on the brakes for the pickup when Ron had them done?”

“I don’t think Ron had the brakes done, and if he did I have no idea where he had them put on.”

As it turns out, the pickup, which is used mainly for gathering and hauling metal scrap, went quickly from the brakes seeming fine to showing they needed to be changed.  How bad?  Rob pulled into a shop to look into purchasing a set and before he could do that one fell off.  It had rusted off!  He purchased brakes, borrowed tools and changed that particular one right there in the parking lot.  The other one he did later that evening at home.  Good to go, maybe?

The next day Rob was driving the truck about 60 mph when the hood suddenly pops open, comes back and hits the windshield.  The hood latch had rusted through and given out, so now a new hood and new windshield are needed.  They are on a junkyard search for a hood.  Windshield will get replaced.  Did I mention I had just purchased new plates/tabs for that vehicle on Wednesday and this happened one day later?  Ever feel like your life is moving as if you’re on a steep hill standing on sheer ice?

What the heck, might as well finish off my Thursday mowing the lawn, which is on a riding mower so old it is Montgomery Ward brand.  No grass catcher, so it always leaves a nice trail of mowed grass and doesn’t get super close to the garden borders and fence so a lot of areas that always need to be trimmed, but not enough time to do that all in one night.   Hence I finish off my Thursday with a mowed lawn containing rows of mowed grass heaps and a fringe of long grass along all the raised borders, fence, etc.  plus other areas that the rider can’t go into that are still long because they must be done with either a push mower or weed wacker.  Just call my lawn Hillbilly Haven.

So I’ve verbally dealt with brake endangerment and/or replacement, the mowing of a lawn, and decide to take a well deserved rest in the hot tub.  I wear my new bathing suit, one of those tankinis.  Normally I’m a one-piece wearer, but I figured the look of a one-piece, convenience of a two piece, what could go wrong?  Little did I know.  Removal of a bathing suit top in a dressing room v. when it is wet are two different things.  When wet the back of the top feels like it is suctioned to my body and won’t let go.  So here I am in my bathroom trying desperately to extract myself from a bathing suit top that seems to be attached to my body with glue and I’m trying to figure out how to raise the back for removal without destroying the thing.   I can only imagine I must have looked like a really bad contortionist trying to remove myself from the grips of spandex.  I was about ready to break a sweat when I finally got that thing to let go of me.

Friday, sweet Friday.  Buried at work so I stay until 8 pm getting things done, run home and grab a quick dinner than head up to boat night — a huge event in Port Huron every year.  It is the downtown party on the eve of the Port Huron to Mackinac sailboat race.  Upon my arrival I decided to “go live” on Facebook for the first time ever.  Shouldn’t that come with an instruction manual?  Watching the video later it was pretty comical.  I thought I was pausing the “live” part but apparently I wasn’t.  We have the phone being moved erratically, complete darkness when I put it into my pocket for a short period of time. and a view of everyone’s feet walking around.  Guess I should have looked around for an 8-year old to give me instruction before publishing that lovely documentary.

I arrive home from Boat Night about 11:00 pm.  As I’m walking into the house I feel something hit my head.  Hopefully not a spider — they tend to inhabit my front porch at night.  I walk into the bathroom and there on my head is a lime green creature.  It resembles a grasshopper with very long skinny legs and antennae.   I grab a tissue and try to grab it, but miss.  It must fly.  I located it on the wall behind me.  It doesn’t hop, it crawls.  Rather bizarre creature.  Guess I should have taken a picture, but at that particular moment I didn’t think of it.   I grab it in the tissue, throw it in the toilet, and flush.  End of bug….or not.  The next morning I go into that bathroom and guess what — the green bug is dead but floating in the toilet.  I use the facilities, flush and walk away.  A few hours later I go in to again to use the facilities and everything flushed down the toilet, but the green bug is back and floating in the bowl.   This happened at least three times.  It was the dead bug that wouldn’t go…it was haunting me!

Saturday went well, probably because I stayed inside doing paperwork all day.  Not too much tragedy when one is firmly planted in a chair — except when you sit too long and the tendon in your left arm tightens up and your foot falls asleep.  I must say the advantage of living alone when you are hobbling along on a foot that is asleep while trying to straighten and shake out your left arm is that no one is there to witness or video the moment.   I had the movements of a monster in a horror film.

Sunday, sweet relaxing Sunday, a day of rest and leisure.  Who am I kidding, my Sunday was far from that.   I spent several hours doing paperwork, then went outside to work on weed-wacking and raking the lawn.  Well, the batteries for the weed wacker only run about 30 minutes each, and one for some reason died after about 15 minutes, so didn’t get a lot done.   I still have a lot of fringe around the edges of my lawn.

It has been so hot I decided to see if some tree branches that fell in the spring and didn’t get cut up were dry enough I could break them into pieces to put in a lawn/leaf bag for collection.  They were, so there I was He-Woman breaking those limbs down with my small, garden-gloved hands and shoving them into the lawn/leaf bag.  Some of the larger ones required a bit more, so I would stand on one end and bend the other end up toward me attempting to break it off.  Only lost my balance a couple times but with some wild karate chop maneuvers managed to regain my balance and stay on my feet.  Poked myself in the stomach with the end of a branch once, and didn’t scream when I almost grabbed a spider off the ground.  Maybe there is hope for me yet.

So I’ve wacked the weeds, bagged the branches, and now I’m ready to gather the grass.  I like hot weather but it is no fun when trying to rake and sweat is running off your forehead and into your eyes, which makes your eyes sting.  By the time I got to the backyard I wanted to get it all into one bag and be done with it.  It was one very full paper lawn and leaf bag.  No room to roll the top over.  I pushed the grass down as much as I could, but it still was full right to the top.  It wasn’t heavy to carry from the backyard to the end of the drive, but it was awkward because I had to be careful so I didn’t trip and spill it.  Hopefully no one was watching as I did a waddle-walk with the bag gripped between my hands in front of me as I walked the length of the drive.

I decided to sweep off my front porch.  Spiders come out at night, so I am constantly sweeping and/or spraying away the webs.  I’m walking along, sweeping the porch and walked right into one of those fine spider webs you can’t see, all over my face.  Ugghh!  It feels like you have this sticky substance on your face and you just want it off.  There I am, wiping my face with my hands frantically trying to get this web substance off me.   Why in the world must spiders build there webs where people intend to walk?  Can’t they stay away from houses and leave us humans alone?  Apparently not.

Those aren’t all the things that went wrong during my week.  I’ve only blessed you with the highlights.  So how did I get through a Murphy’s Law Comedy Drama week without falling apart or killing someone?    I look for the humor in each situation.

Picture a favorite comedy show character and/or show….I Love Lucy, Tim the Tool Man, Grace Under Fire, Sienfeld, or any other show.  Picture the main character in one of the above situations.   When reality is not reality but a comedy show it is funny.  When you’re having one of those weeks and living the reality, look for the humor in each  situation.  Try to relax, go with the flow.  It won’t be a Murphy’s Law Comedy Drama week every week.  At least I hope not!

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Filed under Activities, backyard, bugs, Cleaning, Coping, home, insects, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, reality, spiders, summer, Weather, work

The Dog Ate My Homework

It was spring, sunshine streaming down, making everything warm, drawing me outside.  The smell of freshly cut grass made me stop, pause and breath deeply, enjoying the clean scent.   Someone had their windows open, I could hear a baseball game blasting on a TV.

My left arm wrapped around my textbook, American Government.  The page of questions to answer, sheets of loose-leaf paper and a pencil lay on top of the book.  At least I could enjoy the beautiful weather while I did my homework.

I saunter through the grass, enjoying the feel of it on my bare feet.  I pick a spot under the weeping cherry tree, its branches full of pink blossoms flow back and forth in the breeze.

I let go of the book and supplies in my arm and they drop to the ground, disturbing the green grass around them.  Not having been mowed yet, the blades of grass bend and curve around the folder and paper.

I cross my ankles and plop down beside my homework, landing in the grass in a cross-legged “Indian style” position.

I flip open the book and begin answering the questions…Name and define the branches of government.  What are the fundamental goals of political parties?  What is the Due Process Clause?  On and on through twenty questions.

I throw my pencil on top of my answers, lay back on the grass and stare at the sky.  The warm sun envelopes me and I slowly relax, closing my eyes.    I feel the breeze grow stronger, I hear the papers in the grass beside me rustle.  I open my eyes and sit up just as a gust of wind whips by, grabbing the sheet with my homework and whipping it up into the breeze.

I spring to my feet but I’m not quick enough.  A dog goes running by and before I can move he catches my homework paper in his teeth as if it were a toy and continues running!  homework-in-dog-mouth

That little homework thief runs like mad, zig zagging down the road, through lawns, around bushes, dodging my attempts to catch him.  Panting, I stop to catch my breath and so does he, just far enough down the road that he can make another get-away when needed.   He watches me as if to say “ha-ha, beat you!”

I take a step toward the dog and he immediately takes off again.  Entering the park he continues at a full run until he gets to the edge of the river.  Dropping my homework at his feet, the dog stands guard over it, tongue hanging out as he pants.

The wind swirls around us, the paper flutters then lifts and before the homework thief could snatch it back I watch it fly out over the river, floating on the breeze.  The speed of the wind slows, the paper drops toward the water, then by luck it lands on a log floating down the river.

As long as the homework stays on the log and I can figure out a way to catch it and retrieve the paper it will be saved.   I walk along the water’s edge, keeping my eye on the log, watching it carry my homework farther and farther down river.

I hear a humm, and it is getting closer, louder.  Oh no!  This is not going to be good.  No, not that!   Hmmmmmmm, and sure enough, two jet skis come flying up river full throttle, zipping back and forth, creating a huge wake.  The water sloshes back and forth, rocking everything in its path.

The log that is transporting my homework rocks back and forth under the pressure of the rolling river water.  The log spins, twists, and my homework flies off the log and floats down into the cresting waves.  Soaked with water, it spins and twists in the beating waves, slowly sinking into the water until it is no longer visible.  Gone forever, wrecked and sunken at the bottom of the river.

So, that is why I don’t have my homework.  It was caught in the wind, stolen by a dog, carried to the river’s edge, blown out over the water and onto a log that got caught in the tossing and turning wake of jet skis and then sunk to its death in the bottom of the river.

The teacher looked at me in disbelief.  Eyebrows raised, lips pursed, and a grin slowly kept across her face.

“That story is so farfetched it has to be true.”

Now what do you think, did this really happen or do I have a very vivid imagination?


Homework: Bring Your Kitty To School.  'My dog ate my homework.'

Author’s Note:  I received a writer’s prompt in my email, which is something designed to get your creative juices flowing.  Usually they don’t inspire me because I am normally a non-fiction writer, but this one intrigued me and I thought “why not?”  After all, it is a well-known excuse and the challenge was to come up with an elaborate story as to what happened to your homework because the teacher didn’t believe the typical “my dog ate my homework” excuse.  A fun break from my normal type of post.

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Filed under children, communication, kids, Life is a Melting Pot, school, Weather, work

Trigger Indicators

The same feeling can be triggered by different stimuli in different people.  It can be a memory, likes, holidays, smells, or just a date on a calendar.  What is your trigger indicator for spring?

Michigan is known for temperamental weather.  It can be 70 degrees today and 40 tomorrow, so is temperature a good indication of spring?  Here in Michigan you may be hunting Easter eggs under snow.  Is it spring when the weather is consistently above 60 degrees?  Is it spring when the tulips have bloomed but are then covered in snow?  Can we rely on the weather to tell us it is spring?

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Trilium – Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2015

Maybe your trigger that spring has arrived is when the daffodils or tulips bloom.  Could it be newborn birds chirping in a nest, or a tiny bunny hopping across the front lawn?  Spring is a time of rebirth.  What about the smell of lilacs blooming on a tree?  The smell of a fresh cut lawn?   Scent is a very real trigger for memories.  Has what indicated spring to you as a child changed now that you have become an adult?

What about Easter?  It arrives with easter egg hunts, bunnies, spring dresses and special worship services.  Does the arrival of Easter mean spring has arrived?  The problem with Easter is it arrives anywhere from late March to sometime in April.  Easter is a mental trigger for many that spring has arrived, but should it be?  The weather doesn’t adjust itself to Easter’s arrival, so not a true indicator of spring.

Has spring arrived when a trip through the store includes displays of seed packets, seedlings, soil, mulch, rakes, shovels, and other items needed for gardening.  What about the season opening of the local farmer’s market selling flowers and plants?  Do these items trigger the feeling that spring has arrived?

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Ship on Lake Huron, photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2016

The trigger indicators that spring has arrived are different for every person.  They are brought on by things we have experienced in our lifetime that instills in us that degree of freshness,  newness, that spring evokes in all of us.  For me, one of the number one triggers that spring has arrived is when the shipping resumes on the St. Clair River.  The vibration of ships as they go up and down the river, the sight of their lights at night as they pass by, the sound of fog horns in the morning.  For me, shipping season means spring has arrived.  What triggers the arrival of spring for you?

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Filed under Blue Water Area, Discoveries, environmental, events, habit, impressions, Life is a Melting Pot, nature, spring, Weather

Doing the Michigan Dance

Yes, this past couple weeks we have been going through the steps of what I am going to term the Michigan Dance.  What is it?  If you live here you should know, it is the back and forth, two steps forward, one step back, motion of our weather.

We have had a bitter, cold winter with plenty of snow.  Then 2-3 weeks ago the weather warmed up.  The sun was shinning, people started getting out and riding bikes, walking paths, cleaning yards and other spring activities.  Our grass has turned green and the trees and bushes have started to bud out.  Spring has arrived — or has it?

Weather - sunburn and frostbite in same weekA couple days ago the temperature dropped, winds picked up, and it was cold again.  Not freezing, but cold enough that some people went back to wearing winter coats.  This morning when I got up there was a skiff of snow on the ground.  Not massive proportions, and I assume by midday it will all be gone, but the point is, it is there.  We are on the one-step back motion of the Michigan Dance.

I am tired of winter, tired of the cold.  I want spring to hit us full-force and move into a heat-blasting summer.  I want to move this Michigan Dance from a slow moving waltz to a fast-paced polka and spin forward around the dance floor several times in a row.  Is that too much to ask?

What am I thinking….I live in Michigan.  Nothing is predictable, especially the weather.  Two steps forward, one step back.

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Filed under spring, summer, Weather