Category Archives: Writing

Treat Time Properly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Filed under communication, Coping, decisions, Discoveries, exploration, Life is a Melting Pot, mind, reality, Writing

Why Write?

I have always loved writing.  As a child I would make up stories and write them down.    I can remember standing and reading them to my mother.  I have no idea what happened to them, I wish I had them now.  I remember thinking how wonderful it would be to be an author someday.

As a child I participated in an activity that all writers do…I was an avid reader.  All writer’s read, and generally read in the genre in which they write.  I read a wide variety, but the majority of my reading is non-fiction and memoir.  Those are the categories in which I do the majority of my writing.  I also love reading travel, novels, drama, history, romance and mystery.  The only genres that I am not highly fond of are science fiction, fantasy and horror.

write - must read a lot and write a lot

When I was in my teens I thought about becoming a newspaper reporter and writing on-sight action news.  I wanted to be in the heart of whatever was going on, to put those stories into print.  Unfortunately I allowed my mother to talk me out of it.  She didn’t believe it was an appropriate career choice for a female.   Regrets, some.  But in a way my life is circling around to past dreams, just in a different direction.

As a young mother I took a correspondence class on writing magazine articles for children.  It was fun, interesting, and I l learned techniques and about the publishing world that could be applied to both adult or children’s literature.    Being married with a full-time job and two children, the writing got pushed to the back and was to a certain degree lost in the shuffle.  However during the years my children were young I wrote a “newsletter” for friends and family.  The “Grogan Gossip” was my reporting about the happenings of our life and activities of our children.  Except for the first one, I have every newsletter in chronological order in a notebook.  They are fun to go back and read.  Things long forgotten but saved permanently in the written format.  I still do the newsletter, but only once a year at Christmas in lieu of a Christmas card.

writing - articulating thoughts when speaking v writingWhen you are born a lover of the written word it never goes away, it just transitions over time.  Writing and literature go hand-in-hand.  My high school classes were filled with literature…classes in modern short stories, mysteries,  American literature, Advanced Grammar and Composition,   and more.  When I went back to college in 2010 one of my favorite classes was public speaking because I was writing whatever I chose to talk about.  It was fun!

I have difficulty expressing myself verbally, but I can easily put thoughts and feelings into the written word.  I have always been that way.  You simply bleed onto paper.  That is the way of a writer.   Once I start writing the thoughts just flow.  I can start out saying “I only have time for a quick note” and by the time I am finished I may have 3-4 typed pages.   Writing is as easy as breathing.writing - no time to write short letter so wrote a long one instead

While I have not yet worked my way into the world of published book author, I am writing a book about my family’s encounter with Child Protective Services that led to my husband and my attempt to become foster parents and apply to adopt our granddaughters.   It is a story that should be told.  Many of the injustices we encountered are a nationwide problem that most people are not aware of.  That is why I am writing that memoir.  It is with the hope that in reading our story others will be aware of the danger to family that Child Protective Services poses.  I also hope that maybe someday my granddaughters will encounter the book and realize they were very much wanted and were taken in an unjust way from family who loved them.

write what disturbs youI write in many formats.  I titled this blog Life is a Melting Pot because my life is a jumble of various activities and I like to write about whatever strikes me at the moment.  This blog is not the only regular writing I do.  For the past eight years I have held the position of newsletter editor of Bluewater Family Backgrounds, a publication of the St. Clair County Family History Group.  As the editor I gather content and put together the entire newsletter, writing some articles that go into it.  I have been writing a column called “Who AM I?” for the past five and one-half years for The Lakeshore Guardian, and local free publication.  The column is on genealogy.  I am in my fourth year as an opinion columnist for our local newspaper, The Times Herald.  I select my topics and how often I write a column, frequently selecting topics that can be a bit controversial.  Finally, my daytime job is that of Paralegal in which I spend my days doing legal writing.  All of the areas in which I write are slightly different and I enjoy each one.

writing - isn't about making moneyI belong to a Freelance Writer’s Group and at the meetings I see a variety of people with a wide range of interests.  The group includes people who write children’s stories, adult novels, travel columns, science fiction, non-fiction, memoir, and more.  We all have one thing in common…we love to write!  Writers are like any other type of artist, they are imaginative, creative, passionate about their art, well-read, self-promoters and self-starters.  Writing is something you do solo; you have to be motivated to write or you will never succeed.   Writers love words, language, and people watching.  Everything is a potential story or scene.  If you spend much time with a writer you may find yourself popping up in their stories, blogs, or columns.  You may not be there in name, but you will likely recognize a scene in which you have lived.

So why do I write?  Because it is something I love to do.  Because it is something I have always enjoyed.  I did it as a child and I can continue to do it throughout my life.  Laura Ingalls Wilder is my motivation.  She published her first book. Little House in the Big Woods in 1932 at age 65.  She completed the last book in her Little House series in 1943 at age 76.  Laura Ingalls Wilder died in 1957 at age 90, leaving behind incomplete manuscripts and her diary.  Some of those posthumous works were edited and published by her daughter, Rose.  Her legacy is my inspiration.  That is why I write.

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Filed under Activities, communication, decisions, employment, exploration, habit, hobbies, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, reality, Writing

Good Things

I’ve seen photos of these around New Years in previous years, thought they looked like a neat idea but never attempted it myself. This year I changed my mind. 2014 was a rough year, as I wrote about in Kicking 2014 Goodbye.  We also had a lot of good things that happened throughout the year, including a vacation to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and a weekend spent with my sister and two cousins we traveled with often growing up.  A granddaughter was born in December.  Those are the big things.  We all remember the big things, but I know there were a lot of small, minor tidbits of happiness that have long been forgotten.

Good Things Jar.  Photo by Grace Grogan 2015

Good Things Jar. Photo by Grace Grogan 2015

That is why this year I decided to start a Good Things Jar.  I purchased a large canning jar, typed up a label for it and placed it on our kitchen counter.  I then inserted several notes from the days that had already gone by since January 1st.  I started this when my husband, Ron, was in the hospital for his surgery.  I didn’t mention it to him, and now that he is home he hasn’t asked about it.  He can put things into it too.   I should mention it, because his good things may be quite different from mine based on the fact that he is quite often out shooting photographs all day while I am at work.

It will be interesting to see how full the jar is by the end of the year.  I have read about people starting these but then not keeping them up.  When you begin to jot down the miscellaneous good things that happen it is amazing how many things happen on a day-to-day basis that we don’t put emphasis on.  For example in my jar already I have the celebration of my grandson, Corbin’s birthday, which was done late so his brother could be there.  My daughter, Caroline and her boyfriend, Rob, came over and ran the snow-blower and cleared the front porch and sidewalk of snow while Ron was in the hospital.  I included the day of Ron’s surgery that the procedure was successful, and of course a note the day he came home from the hospital.

Some of these things I will remember at the end of the year, some would be forgotten.  It will be interesting on December 31st to dump out my jar of notes and enjoy the memories.  I have read where people frequently keep the jars so they can re-open and read the notes in later years if they choose.  I will take my notes at the end of the year and put them onto a scrapbook page and they will be permanently saved in a scrapbook.

The year is still new.  Maybe you should consider making a Good Things Jar.  If you have done this in the past I would love to hear your comments about it.  If you haven’t are you now considering starting one?  We should all focus on the Good Things in our lives.

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Filed under Activities, decisions, Family, habit, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, reality, time, Writing

Who Am I?

What defines who you are? Is it the job you hold, the hobbies you participate in? Does one define you more than others?

I work as a paralegal in a one-person law office.  I am also a photographer and a writer. Which of those things defines me? While I enjoy my full-time position, I don’t think that necessarily defines me as a person, but it definitely opens my mind to various subjects and allows me to look at things with an objective viewpoint.  When I see laws that have changed or situations that have a negative impact on people it inspires me to write and create public awareness of the situation, whether it be good or bad.Law is not legal it is logical

The two things that I feel best define who I am are my writing and photography.  Am I a writer who does photography or a photographer who writes?   This is a question that is difficult to answer.   I do not like publishing a post in which there are not at least some photographs or other images.  When I take photographs I often think of how I might be able to use them in my writing or what I may want to journal about in my scrapbooks.     When I write something my mind is wondering what photographs I have that relate to the post, because I want to include a visual image for the reader.  What I like about these two activities is that they both inspire people to think about something, what I am writing about, what I have photographed.  It may trigger a memory, inspire them to take action, encourage them to travel and visit somewhere different.  Writing and Photography are activities that draw in the reader and viewer so as to hopefully trigger some form of reaction.

One example is a favorite quote of mine which hangs on my wall here at home.  Life if like a camera-1 In fact I wrote about this in my very first post for this blog titled Life Is Like A Camera.  Inspiration for photographs does not have to come from things I write, it can also come from things I read, such as the saying at left.

At the same time, photographs inspire memories, thoughts, and desires in lots of people.  Several people can look at the same photograph and have thoughts or memories that are very different.   For instance look at the photo below. Does this make you think back to a time when something happened and you ended up in a ditch or in some other form of accident?  Do you wonder why a photo was taken of this?  After all, it is nothing spectacular, just a jeep in the ditch…or is there a hidden story to tell?

Jeep in Ditch.  Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2010.

Jeep in Ditch. Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2010.

Did you notice, the jeep is backwards to the road and nose down, so now what are your thoughts?  This is where the photo needs the words to tell the story.

I was recovering from an accident and lacked mobility, so my husband would drive the vehicle across the lawn and up to the front porch to park near the steps so it was easier for me to get into the house.   Luckily I wasn’t with him when he left to go on an errand because the front lawn had iced up.  When he made the circle through the front lawn to go back to the driveway he lost all traction on the ice covered grass.  The jeep would not stop and would not turn.  Into the ditch he went.  The ditch is quite deep and was a wet, soupy mess and he was unable to back out.  The tires were sunk half way in a suction-like muck.  A tow truck had to be called to extract our vehicle from our own front yard ditch.    We were so glad I hadn’t been in the car because I would not have been able to leave the jeep and climb up out of the ditch.  I did take the photo.  I grabbed my camera after Ron came in to call the tow service and worked my way to the front door so I could shoot this photograph.  It was taken through the front door window  which is why it is not a properly positioned photo.  I was working around the posts on the front porch and a tree in the front yard.  Now you may ask, why are their bales of hay sitting there?    Because Ron was planning to spread the hay on the front grass to absorb moisture and help provide a little surface traction as the lawn thawed and froze.  So much for great plans!

So who am I?  Am I a photographer who writes, or am I a writer who takes photographs?   I would love to hear your thoughts.  I would also like to leave you with a few photos to inspire your memories and your thoughts — I hope you will share them with me.

 

Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2009

Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2009

Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2009

Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2009

Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2009

Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2009

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Preserve the Memories

Every person has moments that are uniquely memorable.  They are experiences that make you laugh, make you smile, and you think you will never forget them.  To a certain degree you don’t forget, but generally the memory is tucked away, filed in the back of your brain and rarely shared with anyone again. Memories - random memories that make me smile

Writers are the exception to this because they tend to put things in writing.  Journals, family letters, scrapbooks, blogs, articles and books all contain snippets of a writer’s memory.  The average person often looses those memories.  They may post them on a social media sight such as Facebook, but eventually the memory is lost and forgotten.    This is a sad loss, because your children, grandchildren and others should be able to someday enjoy the joy in whatever happened.

I recently flipped though a notebook of newsletters I have sent to family members over the years. Flipping through that notebook I was reminded of things not forgotten, but tucked away in my brain.    I encourage everyone to preserve their memories in written form for future generations to enjoy.  It doesn’t have to be something extraordinary, just a simple diary or journal will serve the purpose.  Years from now you can revisit those memories on your own, or your decedents can enjoy and treasure them.  You may be thinking, what kind of memories do I write about?    It doesn’t matter, it can be the mundane, everyday stuff or it can be a special moment in time.

When my daughter, Caroline, was about three years old she and a neighborhood girl followed the ice cream truck down the street in our subdivision.  They followed it for a long enough distance that the ice cream man finally gave them each a popsicle and told them to go home.  How do we know?  Because my husband and the other girl’s father were talking and discovered neither of them had made the purchase.    Speaking of ice cream trucks, I remember when I was a child my sister having saved up pennies and used them to pay for her ice cream.  I can still remember the look on that driver’s face when my sister handed him that baggie full of pennies.  Priceless!

My son, Patrick, came home one time and talked about he and a friend rigged up a “motor” to propel a boat they had down a canal.  When Patrick told me about it I thought he was making it up until a woman that lived on the canal happened to be telling a story about these two boys who devised a way to  propel their raft down the canal and she was quite impressed with their inventiveness.

Memories - a way of holding onto the things ou loveThe memories you record don’t have to be lengthy, just tidbits of life that reveal personalities, activities, and the joy of living living.    Small glimpses at life, such as Patrick calling me up at work and saying “I’ve got the eggs boiling, how do I double them again?”.  What he wanted was the recipe for making deviled eggs, but I could not convince him it was “deviled” because in his mind once you cut that egg in half, mixed in the ingredients and put them back together they were “doubled.”  To this day he loves “doubled” eggs.  Patrick also loves Fruity Pebbles cereal.  I have photographs of him eating it as a before bed snack, and as he got older the bowl got larger.  Why use a cereal bowl when a large Tupperware bowl that will hold half a box works just as well?  Patrick is now an adult, but a stroll down a cereal isle where Fruity Pebbles are on sale makes me smile because I know if he were still living with me I would be stocking up.

My daughter, Caroline, attended almost all the formal dances in high school and we usually managed to find her formals at very good reduced prices.  It was the most expensive gown we purchased that the spaghetti got dumped on.  Luckily it was a dark red/maroon dress and a quick stop at home to wipe it down between dinner and dance and no one was the wiser.  Then came senior prom.  Caroline was going to attend with her boyfriend but they broke up.  She then had someone else she was going with, but he had a death in the family and had to go out of state unexpectedly.  Caroline had tons of male friends offer to escort her, but she viewed them as friends not dates, so someone set her up with a blind date for prom.  The guy she got set up with did not look like her type at all, and the date flopped.  They attended the dinner, but shortly after he got ticked off about something and walked out, leaving Caroline stranded at prom.   Rather than get upset Caroline figured she was at her prom, knew plenty of people, and would be able to hitch a ride home when the time came, and she did.  Her analysis of prom – best formal she ever attended because once the blind date walked out she didn’t have to deal with any jealous boyfriend/date issues and was able to really enjoy the evening.

We have many family vacation memories as well.  Almost every vacation included playing putt-putt at least once because Patrick loved it, touring an historical home because I love them, and an amusement park.  I remember watching Caroline and Patrick come off an amusement park ride that my husband and I did not want to ride.  As they approached us at the same time we heard Caroline say “I’ll never ride that again” and Patrick  said “that was awesome, can I go again?”.   Patrick loves amusement parks.  Due to a rainstorm at Disney on our last day of vacation we almost missed a plane because Patrick wanted to ride the Mine Ride one last time (he was only four years old at the time).  None of us will ever forget the mad dash from rental car check-in to luggage check-in, through security, and a run down the hall towards the plane.  Once Caroline and Ron had boarded the stewardess came running down the hall at Patrick and I to assist with our carry-on bags, and as we stepped onto the plane the doors slammed at my back and she said “sit anywhere”.

Life is full of memories.  Cherish them.  Little things, like when I sat in the back seat during Patrick’s road test for his driver’s license and the tester’s leg kept getting in the way because he wasn’t used to having someone take their road test in a stick-shift vehicle.   Patrick passed the test.  Caroline having to repeatedly pull forward and try over and over to back the trailer down the boat ramp for the first time.  A huge line-up of boaters developed as they waited.  I had walked over and offered each an every one of them the opportunity to cut in and go first, but they all waited patiently, having at one time been in that same spot themselves.  When Caroline  finally dropped the jet skis into the water the crowd waiting to use the ramp gave her a massive round of applause.Memories are special moments that tell our story

I could continue to write memories for a long time.  Tidbits of life that are fun to remember, such as  my husband and I taking our motor home to a campground for the first time and he mistakenly putting the levelers down as far as they go so it felt like we were climbing into a tree house every time we entered.  Instead I am going to close by challenging each and every one of you to preserve your memories in a written format somewhere for you, your children and grandchildren to someday read and enjoy.    Those memories tell important stories about your life and personalities.  Don’t let them slip away.

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Filed under Family, kids, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, travel, vacation, Writing

Why didn’t I do it?

Back when I was a kid I loved to write.  I would write long letters to my grandparents, I had several pen-pals in various countries, one I remain in contact with still, and I would write stories.  A class that many disliked in high school but I enjoyed was composition, and for my final writing assignment in that class I wrote an article on child abuse.  Horrifying information, but if I remember correctly I got an A on the paper.   I wanted to become an onsite news reporter.  Getting out and seeing what is going on in the world and writing about it.  Active, interesting.  Why didn’t I?Regret - our past makes us who we are

I didn’t go to college for journalism because I allowed my mother to influence my decision.  This was back in the 1970’s and equalization in jobs and society’s view on women and certain careers was still very negative.  My mother told me that journalism wasn’t a good career for a person who wanted to have a family because if I became an onsite reporter I would have to pick up and go at all the times, would never have a family, and I should go into a more stable career such as secretarial.    For some reason I let her thoughts on journalism as a career influence my decision and I went into clerical work.

Clerical work has served me well.  I have worked as a clerk typist, administrative assistant, secretary, office manager, and after returning to college am now a paralegal.  I like office work, but I have often times regretted that decision not to pursue my chosen career back when I was younger.  I have dabbled in writing over the years, though.

Back when my children were young I took a correspondence course on writing magazine articles for children and loved it.  Unfortunately I was also working full time as an office manger, held various volunteer positions and had two children who were also involved in extra curricular activities.  I never managed to find time to do the writing I wanted.  Then after my children were older I participated in a writing group at a local art studio for a while, but that didn’t provide the outlet I wanted.

In 2004 I moved to St. Clair County and became a member of the family history group.  A few years later the newsletter editor decided to give up her position and I took it over and still hold that title today.    As newsletter editor I select material for the newsletter, write some articles, layout the paper and handle the mailing.

In 2011 The Lakeshore Guardian, a local free newspaper, was looking for someone to write a monthly column on genealogy and my column  Who Am I? was born.  They recently developed an online access and some of my more recent columns can now be viewed on their website.

Writing - If a story is in you it has to come outMy husband and I have been trying to adopt our two granddaughters who went into foster care in 2010 and the parental rights were terminated in 2012.  We immediately applied to adopt and have been involved in a very frustrating situation ever since.  The youngest child was awarded to her foster care parents for adoption, a heartbreaking loss, and I did a Shutterfly book after she was lost to adoption called KAE-LEE JOY GROGAN:  Forever in our Hearts. We continue striving to obtain visits with and adopt the older child, Kiley Grogan, who has severe mental, physical and visual handicaps.  She is a precious little girl who we want desperately to be returned to our family.    I have discovered that our story is unfortunately not uncommon.  People have been waging similar battles for years and I have decided that the public needs to be aware and am in the process of writing a book that tells what has happened to us and our beautiful granddaughters.

I was just accepted to a position as an opinion columnist for The Times Herald, a local newspaper.  Me along with with five other new columnists were announced in their June 26th edition and my first column was published on July 9th, Michigan Gun Owners Deserve a Measure of Confidentiality.  Being an opinion columnist is a new and exciting adventure and I am looking forward to the challenge.

When I started writing the book mentioned above I found a freelance writers group that deals with the business end of writing.  One of the first things I heard in that group is that writers should have blogs.  A blog helps you connect with people and gets them familiar with your writing style.  That was the reason I began this blog.  I did have a hard time with it though, because so many blogs deal with one topic or area of interest, and I like to write about all kinds of things and didn’t want to be locked into one format and at the same time didn’t want to juggle numerous blogs.  That was how I came up with the name of my blog “Life is a Melting Pot.”  That title leaves me free to write about anything and everything, including my other interest as a photographer, for which I manage a Facebook page Times Gone By Photography and have a website of my photos on Fine Art America, Times Gone By Photography:  Grace Grogan.  Writing - desire to write grows with writing

What I have found is the more I write, the easier and more enjoyable it gets.  When I look back now at my desire to become a journalist when I was making career choices in 1977/78 I think “Why didn’t I do it?”   I can’t go back now and do it over, but it is never to late to start a writing career.   While I no longer desire to be an on-sight breaking news reporter/journalist, one thing always on my mind is that Laura Ingalls Wilder was in her 60’s when she began writing the Little House books.  Her mid to late life start is an inspiration and has played in the back of my mind for years.

Now to my writing…..

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under career, decisions, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, time, Writing

LIFE ALTERING IMPACT

I open my eyes, drop ceiling?  I glance to the right, hospital?  I look to the left to see my husband, Ron, sitting on a chair.

“What happened to us?”

Ron looks up, “You were in an accident.”

Ron had been at the hospital for three nights, waiting until I was awake and aware of what was going on before leaving to go home.  By the time we had the above conversation I had already undergone two of three surgeries.  My third surgery would not be for about another week.  This was the beginning of what would be a long recovery and adjustment to a “new normal” that to this day, four years later, is still changing.

May 29, 2010 was a warm and sunny day.  I was a college student and rode my motorcycle to Baker College in Auburn Hills for class that morning, over an hour away.  After I returned home to St. Clair Ron and I rode to The Feast of the St. Claire, an annual re-enactment event held every Memorial Day weekend in Port Huron.   We were on the way home, riding side by side down Electric Avenue, the one way southbound portion of M-29 in Port Huron.  As we approached the 16th Street intersection Ron slowed for a second to look at something and I continued forward.  That is the last thing I remember until I woke up in the hospital.

As I was going through the intersection a vehicle that had been on Military Street, the northbound portion of M-29, cut across 16th street (about two lots wide), failed to stop and hit me full force.  The driver was young, 17 years old with his girlfriend in the car.  He told my husband and the police he was sorry, he didn’t know he was supposed to stop.  Months later when I looked at the intersection I was baffled by his claim.  He missed two stop signs (on on the right, one on the left), plus a hanging red blinking light with a stop sign attached to it.    Ron told me there were no skid marks at the scene.  The accident happened so fast Ron panicked when he heard it and looked forward, locked up his brakes and hit the back end of the car, rolling on the pavement and was later treated for road rash.  I was unconscious on the scene.  My motorcycle had continued on a southbound path while my body had flown in a northerly direction, what I was later told is a sign of a severe impact.

I was transported by ambulance to Mercy Hospital.  After about two hours they informed Ron that they were unable to handle my injuries at that location and that I might loose my leg.   I was flown to the trauma center at Hurley Medical Center in Flint, where Ron and our daughter arrived just in time for him to sign the permission slip for my first surgery.  They were told I might loose my foot.  Due to the skill of two phenomenal surgeons I have both my leg and my foot.  At one of my first check-ups after I was released from the hospital I was looking at the x-rays and made a comment that my leg was a mess when I arrived at the hospital.  One of the surgeons looked at me and said “You were a challenge.”

When you suffer a severe trauma the life altering impact is instant and ongoing.  While in the hospital my injuries prevented me from being able to even lift the cover off my meals when they were delivered.    Prior to my third surgery the ankle surgeon visited me in the room and placed an X on my left foot with a magic marker indicating the side for surgery.  I laughed and told him I would think the huge wrap-around brace on my left leg that ran from my thigh down the entire leg and included the foot would be indication enough.

Photo taken June 21, 2010, only four days after my transfer from the hospital to Medilodge.

Photo taken June 21, 2010, only four days after my transfer from Hurley Hospital to Medilodge.

Eventually I was cleared to leave the hospital and a list of rehabilitation facilities, which are basically combination nursing homes and medical rehabilitation, were provided.  Ron made phone calls and had a hard time finding a location to accept me.  Some considered me non-rehabilitative because I was non-weight bearing on three limbs, others considered me too young.  Finally Medilodge in St. Clair agreed to take me as a patient and I was transported there by ambulance.  The start of recovery.

Medilodge assigned appropriate occupational, physical, and speech therapists to work with me.   The speech therapist was not because of any difficulty talking, but I had suffered a slight Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and as a result was having difficulty with some cognitive processing.  I also was non-weight bearing on three limbs, my right arm had suffered a severe dislocation and was in a brace that immobilized it, and we later discovered the right shoulder was also fractured.  My left hand was in a cast for what was called a game-keepers fracture near the thumb.  As such both arms were non-weight bearing, I couldn’t even wheel my own wheelchair.   My other injuries included a fractured rib, fractured left hip, and my left leg had three breaks, the left ankle had two breaks.   My three surgeries were for the purpose of doing titanium implants from my left hip ball across to the center leg, then down the leg to just above the knee, from below the knee to the ankle, and then two plates and numerous screws in the ankle.

It is amazing what you can learn to do when challenged.  One of the first things my physical therapist started me on was stomach crunches, with my arms across my chest so I would not be tempted to use them for leverage.  By building my abdominal muscles I was soon able to stand up and balance using my right leg only, no pressure or assistance from my arms and no weight on my left leg.    Hold your left leg slightly off the ground, do not touch the arms of your chair and stand up and maintain your balance using only your right leg.    In a chair of the appropriate height I can still accomplish this today.  As for the stomach crunches, the last time I tried I did 25, but at one time I could easily do 50-75 non-stop.

Life at Medilodge became a daily routine of learning things, building my strength and as soon as one task was accomplished, beginning to work on the next.  Once my left hand was cleared to bear weight I learned to operate my wheelchair with my left hand and right foot.  Then my right arm was cleared and I could now do two-handed wheelchair operation.  I had enjoyed the sedate life enough, and if the hallway was clear I would roll my wheelchair as fast as I could to the end, then grab the wheels quickly to slow enough to make the corner.  Small thrills in an environment where most people were at least thirty years older than I was.

Once both arms were able to bear weight I was taught to use an old fashioned metal walker, hopping while holding my left leg up and not putting any weight on it.  The leg was in a full brace that weighed 5 lbs.  How do I know this?  Because my therapist had her hand under my foot and thought I was putting weight down.  I told her it had to be the weigh of the brace so we had me sit and put my foot portion on a scale – 5 lbs!   Once I had mastered climbing platform steps with the walker and could go a fair distance down the hall with the walker it was time to evaluate me going home.

The therapists that worked with me did a home inspection where they noted changes that would have to make so that it was safe for me to come home.  Ron had to build several platform steps 4″ high and large enough for me and my walker to hop up and down going in and out of the house.  All throw rugs had to come off the floor and furniture had to be rearranged to allow my wheel chair and walker to traverse through various parts of the home.   Our over the range mounted microwave was considered unsafe for me to operate so  counter top microwave was purchased for me to use.  A hospital bed was ordered for our front room because I was not yet weight bearing on the leg and unable to climb the flight of stairs to our upper level bedroom.    These are just a few of the adjustments that were made to the home to accommodate my needs.  Once I got home additional re-arranging was done so that my computer, printer, and various other items I used on a regular basis became fixtures on our kitchen table and counters.

Photo taken September 11, 2010, about three weeks after I was discharged from Medilodge.  Much improved but still a long way to go.

Photo taken September 11, 2010, about three weeks after I was discharged from Medilodge. Much improved but still a long way to go.

I left Medilodge and returned home August 17, 2010, but my recovery was still not complete.  I would have another year of physical therapy, doctor appointments for my leg and ankle, and a ENT for vertigo that developed as a result of the accident.  In September 2010 I was cleared to put weight on the leg as pain tolerated.  By January 2011 I was walking “heavy” on a 4-prong cane.  It was not until April 2011 that I began slowly climbing the steps to our upper level, and it was also April 2011 that I began driving again.  By spring 2012 I was completely off the cane.  During the period of my recovery Ron handled all household duties, assisted in my wound care, drove me to all my doctor and therapy appointments, plus drove me to college twice a week,  staying all day and coming to the room at the end of each class to transport my books from location to location.    An accident does not just alter the life of the person injured, it also alters the life of those around them who assist in their care.

Even with all those challenges, I managed to graduate Summa Cum Laude from Baker College with my Associates Degree on schedule , and was also awarded the honor of Outstanding Student.   The internship I had to do to complete my degree evolved into a full time Paralegal position that I continue to hold today.  This is now the four-year anniversary of my accident, and it is only in the past few months that I have had a harder time accepting the impact the accident is having on my life and abilities.

I had continued to improve physically until the summer of 2013 when I began having trouble with my ankle swelling severely, sometimes bad enough to require the use of my cane.  A trip to my ankle surgeon revealed that from the severe impact of the accident my ankle has developed degenerative arthritis, meaning that it will continue to deteriorate and at some point will become severe enough to require an ankle fusion.  The reality is that I will never again be able to spend hours on my feet at special events, amusement parks, the zoo, or other similar locals without ending up with severe swelling and pain.  I can’t make mad dashes in the pouring rain from building to car.  I have to ascend and descend steps one step at a time, not in the normal left-right stepping motion.  These and many other things that people never really think about as they live their day-to-day lives will never again be the same for me.  Will I continue to make improvements?  I assume that in some areas I will.  I will also have more challenges and limitations over time.   On the positive side, such a life altering event can affect your outlook on life, what is important, what isn’t, and you learn to be adaptable to whatever challenge you face.

Why do I tell this story?  Because I hope to impress on people that even a moment of not paying attention can have a severe and permanent life altering impact on someone else’s life.   Please stay alert and focused.

 Have you or someone you know had a life altering experience?
Please feel free to share your experience in the comment section.

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Family, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, Uncategorized, Writing

Magee Marsh Bird Trail

Photo by Grace Grogan

Entrance to the Bird Trail – Photo by Grace Grogan

Photo by Grace Grogan

This little bird spent a lot of time hopping from tree to tree, keeping all entertained with his antics. Photo by Grace Grogan

This past weekend my husband and I decided to drive to Magee Marsh in Ohio to take photographs of birds.   Located on the southern side of Lake Erie, this is where North American Warblers gather during their spring migration, making it a prime spot for both bird enthusiasts and photographers.  People travel from all over the United States and other parts of the world to visit during the prime migration time, which is the last weekend of April thru Mid May.  A birding festival is held during the highest point of migration.   We visited after the festival had ended, but there were still a large number of bird watchers and photographers visiting and we were able to enjoy both the sound of the birds “singing” and the ability to capture them on camera from various points along the boardwalk.

Photo by Grace Grogan

Sitting on a limb enjoying the sunshine and showing off his plumage. It was almost as if he knew I was taking many photographs of him. Photo by Grace Grogan

Although the boardwalk is only about a mile long, Ron and I spent approximately six hours making the walk.  In addition to the birds there are also other items of photographic interest, as this is a nature preserve and nature holds its own beauty.  There are two distinct differences between the photographers and the bird watchers.  Photographers are obviously carrying cameras, often with huge lenses and on tripods.  Their primary focus is to capture hundreds of shots of the birds which they will later sort through, choosing the best and identifying them as they do their photo processing.  The bird enthusiast are usually carrying binoculars, bird books and note pads in which they meticulously record the birds as they see them.   While you will see some bird watchers with cameras, I don’t recall seeing any photographers with binoculars, as your camera and lens serve the same purpose.   Because bird enthusiasts are used to spotting these small creatures they were a handy resource, a groups of bird watchers with their binoculars all pointed in the same direction

Photo by Grace Grogan

Taken from the top of the viewing platform. Photo by Grace Grogan

generally meant a good place to direct your camera lens as well.

The Magee Marsh boardwalk is well maintained, with periodic benches where you can rest if needed.  There is also a raised viewing platform and other side trails you can take for additional viewing.  The birds are frequently quite close to the boardwalk, so even with a small camera lens or point-and-shoot camera you have a good chance of capturing a nice photograph.  Camera’s click in rapid succession, people scribble notes on their pads of paper, and everyone enjoys the view.  Photographers and Birders are friendly, enthusiastic groups of people.

If you haven’t been to Magee Marsh and love nature, birds, or photography, this should definitely be on your list of places to visit.

Photography by Grace Grogan

Photography by Grace Grogan

Photograph by Grace Grogan

Photograph by Grace Grogan

Photograph by Grace Grogan

Photograph by Grace Grogan

Peek-a-Boo!  Photograph by Grace Grogan

Peek-a-Boo! Photograph by Grace Grogan

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Photograph by Grace Grogan

Photo by Grace Grogan

Photo by Grace Grogan

Photo by Grace Grogan

Photo by Grace Grogan

Photo by Grace Grogan

Photo 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

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

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Filed under birds, friendship, Life is a Melting Pot, nature, nature center, Photography, spring, travel, Uncategorized, Writing

THE CRYING INDIAN

Back in the 1970’s there was a commercial with an American Indian standing beside a highway as litter was thrown from a car.  A close-up of the Indian’s face showed a tear coming down because the American landscape was being destroyed by such careless action.  That is what came to mind this past weekend as I walked along a nature preserve on Harsens Island.    For those who may not be familiar with the Blue Water Area, Harsens Island is accessible only by boat or car ferry.  There are a lot of natural areas on the island along with residential and commercial property.  We were parked on a dirt road that runs between two nature preserve areas taking photographs.

Litter CollageAs I strolled down the road looking for items to photograph I was appalled at the amount of trash that had been thrown into the water filled “ditch” between the road and the nature preserve.  Not only is litter unbecoming to the landscape, but plastic, paper, and other pieces of trash can be harmful to wildlife if swallowed.   I feel that if you are capable of transporting the cups, wrappers, bottles, etc. from where ever you acquired them,  you should be able to transport the remaining packaging or wrapper back to an appropriate trash container.  It was at that time that I decided to take photographs of a small portion of the litter I saw and create this blog on littering.

Over the years penalties and fines have been enacted for those caught littering.  There is a considerable amount of variation from state to state on the penalties and fines which are based on the amount of litter that was thrown, the type of litter, and where it was left.  States also vary on the criminal charges imposed, with everything from a civil infraction to a felony charge with prison time.    To find out where your sate rates visit The National Conference of State Legislatures.

Many of these changes that have happened over the years can be accredited to Pollution Prevention:  Keep America Beautiful, an organization that in working to bring awareness to how pollution damages the environment aired an advertisement for the first time on Earth Day in 1971.  That ad featured Native American actor Chief Iron Eyes Cody and had the tagline “People Start Pollution.  People can stop it.”    Chief Iron Eyes Cody became known as “The Crying Indian.”

That one advertisement created by Keep America Beautiful was named one of the top 100 advertising campaigns of the 20th Century and Chief Iron Eyes Cody has a star bearing his name on Hollywood Boulevard’s Walk of Fame.   The ad campaign resulted in a reduction in litter of approximately 88% in 300 communities, 38 states and several countries.   It is sad to think that now, 43 years later, littering remains a problem.   Whether a small isolated island, the expressway system or city streets, people throw their trash on the ground rather than wait until an appropriate receptacle can be located.    The problem is significant enough that companies and organizations adopt sections of roadways where they perform regular cleanup of trash left behind.  Hopefully someday we will reach the point where this is not necessary, where people take pride in their land and littering is no longer an issue.    If you are a person that litters, please reconsider your actions.  If you are a person that does not litter, thank you for your care and consideration of the environment and landscape.

 

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Filed under environmental, Life is a Melting Pot, littering, nature, nature center, pollution, spring, Uncategorized, Writing

Yesterdays Bar Pick-up

As I sat with my co-worker and other conference attendees I looked across the room.  There was a man standing at the end of the bar who appeared to be staring at me.  I resumed talking to the women I was with and then looked back and he was still looking in my direction.  Each time I looked in his direction he was still staring at me.  This was Friday, May 9, 1980 and I was sitting in Yesterday’s Bar at the Southfield Sheraton.   I was there for work, assisting at a conference.  Although it was a hotel bar, Yesterdays was obviously a popular spot.  The bar was crowded, the dance floor was full, and when I had stepped out of the bar to run back to my room for something I found a line going down the hall with people waiting to get in.

Ron and I shortly after we met -- notice the camera in his hand

Ron and I shortly after we met — notice the camera in his hand

I don’t know how long I sat there talking and glancing back at the bar, each time to find the man at the end staring in my direction.  Then I looked and he was gone.  I hadn’t seen him walk away and had no idea where he had gone.  About that same time someone asked me to dance and I took them up on the offer.  Big mistake!    I felt as if I was dancing with a chicken trying to shake the feathers off it’s wings.  As soon as the song ended I gave a quick “thanks for the dance” and escaped back to my group.

I didn’t sit for long because when the next song started I was again asked to dance, this time by the man from the bar.  Dark, nicely styled hair, full beard and mustache, wearing glasses.  I don’t know what songs were playing or how long we danced, only that the rest of the evening was spent with him.  At some point he asked how old I was and when I replied “19, how old are you?” his response was “too old.”  Ron was 28 years old.   I remember he asked me to go somewhere but it was fairly soon after we met and I refused to leave the hotel.  We ended up sitting on a couch in the lobby talking.

We were still sitting in the lobby when the bar closed down and my co-worker walked by and said she was going out to breakfast with someone she met.  Ron responded that I wouldn’t go anywhere with him, to which I replied that wasn’t true.  He asked if I had ever been to Belle Isle.  I didn’t even know what that was but I was game for an adventure.

Ron

Ron 1980

Ron drove an F150 pickup and he had to clear junk off the floor of the passenger side for me to get in.  I thought ‘ugh, messy car’.  I still say that when I get into his vehicle or when I get into mine after he has driven it.  We drove down to Belle Isle and sat along the water in his truck talking.  At some point he asked for my phone number and I presented him with a deposit slip from my checking account, giving him name, address and phone number.   I got back to the hotel at 6:00 am and had to be on the floor working at 8 AM, then made the two hour drive home from Southfield to Eaton Rapids after working the conference.

I had mentioned to Ron what time I anticipated arriving home on Saturday.   About 30 minutes after I arrived home the phone rang.  Such began daily conversations by phone.  Ron had planned to drive up to visit on Friday but unexpectedly arrived a day earlier, on Thursday.  He came over to visit (I lived with my parents), and then left to stay at a hotel somewhere even though my parents offered to let him sleep on the couch in our family room.  Friday evening Ron picked me up and we went out to the bar dancing and that night he slept on the couch at our house.  Saturday we attended to the Art Fair on the Michigan State University campus in Lansing.

Me (Grace) 1980

Me (Grace) 1980

From that point on our schedule became one of weekday phone calls and weekend visits.  Sometimes he would come up to visit, sometimes I would drive down and stay with him, and sometimes we traveled.    Ron was a photographer even back then and I slowly learned to take photos with a Nikon SLR rather than my Kodak Pocket 110.  We attended art shows, festivals, nature areas, and occasionally traveled.  Ron took tons of photos of anything and everything.  It has been 34 years since he asked me to dance.     What are we doing now?  Attending art shows, festivals, nature areas, and and traveling on occasion, and we both take tons of photos of anything and everything.   All because of Yesterdays Bar pick-up.

 

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Filed under Family, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, Uncategorized, Writing

Running Out Of Time

I realized it was time for me to post another blog and I had not prepared anything.  Where did the time go?  I ran out of time!  Those are phrases that are frequently heard from people everywhere.  It made me think, how is it in this time of modern technology that we are constantly running short on time.  Of all generations, we should have more free time available to us than our ancestors ever did.  Those are phrases I rarely heard people say when I was growing up in the 1960’s and 1970’s.  I really don’t remember them being said very often as little as 25-30 years ago when my children were young.

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Running Out of Time

One thing that has not changed is that we still have the same 24-hour time frame per day.  Going back in history people  had to endure more time consuming chores on a daily basis.  They had to care for livestock, cook on wood burning stoves, travel by horse-drawn carriage or on horseback, wash dishes by hand, sew and mend their own clothes, and although wardrobes were smaller then, washing was done on a washboard and hung out to dry.    When they arrived home from a destination they couldn’t simply hop out of the car and run into the home.  It didn’t matter what kind of weather they were traveling in, warm and sunny, pouring rain, or snow storm, they had to take their horses to the barn and groom, feed and water the animal before walking from barn to house.

Once inside the home they couldn’t pull frozen food from the freezer and throw it in the oven or microwave.  They had to prepare it from scratch, light a fire in the stove for cooking and/or in the fireplace for heat.  Once done eating they couldn’t just throw the dishes into the dishwasher, they had to be washed and dried by hand.  If it got late there were no electrical lights to flip on, kerosene lanterns had to be lit.  Once all this was done the women could relax by the fire to mend socks/clothing or other similar tasks while the men could possibly play a little music by hand for entertainment.  This was after a day spent laboring in fields with horse-drawn plows, harvesting crops, cooking, cleaning, or other such labor intensive tasks.

When I was growing up some women worked outside the home, some did not.  While there were more modern conveniences such as automatic washers and dryers, most homes had a wash line in the backyard for hanging clothes out to dry rather than using the automatic dryer.  The fresh scent of air dried clothing is wonderful.  By the 1970’s most families had two cars.  People socialized with all their neighbors on the block, women gathering during the day and couples/families in the evenings.  Many women purchased patterns and fabric to make home-sewn clothing for themselves and children.  The microwave was invented, people enjoyed the convenience of having a deep freeze in their home for food storage, and although the convenience of packaged food was available the majority of meals at home were prepared from scratch.  Children were sometimes involved in an extracurricular activity such as band, theater or sports, but for the most part children were home after school unless they were of an age where they might hold an after school job.  Families had a TV, but only one.  I don’t recall hearing our parents complain about a lack of time to get things done, life seemed more relaxed.

Now we have far more conveniences to make our lives easy, but at the same time we seem to have complicated our lives to the point where people are more stressed and complain about a lack of time.  Our children’s lives are scheduled with a multitude of extracurricular activities, both parents often work outside the home and there are many more single-parent families.  Grocery stores carry a wide variety of selections, in the summer farmers markets can be found in abundance, and yet people eat more fast-food, restaurant food, or frozen/processed food at home then in the past.  We drive vehicles that allow us to do quick-stop oil changes, automatic car washes and other maintenance that requires very little time.  We have microwaves, automatic dishwashers, washers and dryers, and permanent press wrinkle free clothing for easy maintenance, not to mention larger wardrobes than any of our ancestors ever did.  People still socialize, but not to the level that they did in the past.  We have numerous modern conveniences to free our time and yet we are constantly complaining that we are unable to get things done.  Why?

While we have many modern conveniences designed to save us time, we also have many that cause us to waste great amounts of time, easily several hours on a daily basis.  If you are stressed to get things done analyze how you are spending your time.  How much time do you spend in front of the TV?  Check the time you spend online surfing the web or on social networking sights.  Hours can easily be lost as the interaction with online friends is constant.  Even when out of the home many people now carry smart phones that allow them to constantly check their social networking sights, do email, and play games while out and about.  We are at the immediate beck and call of anyone who wants to reach us because of our cell phones.  Then there are the video and/or internet games.  You can become attached to one or many of those and also loose valuable time trying to achieve the next level or outscore your friends.

Something I haven’t done but could prove interesting would be to to keep track of time wasted sitting in front of the TV and time spent on the computer in non-productive activities such as social networking or game playing during a one week period.  My assumption is I would be shocked at the amount of time I spend participating in those activities.  That is a challenge to any of you who hear yourself constantly saying you have run out of time, have no time, and don’t know where the time went.  Log the time you spend per week on such time-wasting activities and see if you can find some additional time that can be regained into more productive tasks.

If you take part in my challenge to analyze your wasted time, I would love to have you come back to this blog and share your findings.  It will be interesting to see if my thoughts are correct.    I look forward to hearing from all of you in the near future.

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Filed under Family, freindship, genealogy, Life is a Melting Pot, time, Uncategorized, Writing

EVERYONE LOVES A LETTER

I was thinking the other day about how everyone loves to receive a letter in the mail.  Not email, but good old fashioned brought by the postal worker in an envelope mail.  Society has become so technology based that the idea of sending someone written correspondence rather than an email is just not thought of or used very often, but it should be for the sheer pleasure it brings.

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Country Mailbox Photo by Grace Grogan

What do we love about birthdays and holidays?  The cards that we receive in the mail.  That old fashioned, someone took the time to get a card, sign it by hand, write out an envelope and mail it.  That personal touch means something more than an email or Facebook posting.  It means a person cared enough to put a little extra time and effort into sending their wish.  You don’t necessarily have to write it out by hand, but that does add an additional personal touch.  A letter or card that stands out from the stack of bills brings everyone a bit of pleasure.

Back when I was a child/teenager I had pen pals.  These were people of the same age as me that I had never met, but we had all contacted an organization looking for pen friends in other countries and were connected.  At one time I had several pen friends in countries around the world.  I am still in contact with one friend, Waana, who lives in New Zealand.  Unfortunately we don’t correspond by “snail mail” anymore and are connected on Facebook, but somewhere I have all the letters I ever received from her packed away.  It was a special friendship, a connection that could not be had elsewhere.

As I was writing this blog I did a search online and discovered International PenFriends, an organization that exists today for the purpose of joining people from different countries who will correspond by postal mail.  If you do a Google search for Pen Pal Organizations you will find several with different criteria including international, domestic, and even prisoners who desire pen pals.  You may wonder why one would want to write to a stranger, someone they have never met, when they have enough hustle and bustle in their world.   The reason is simple, writing to someone and sharing aspects of your life is rewarding.  Once you get into the habit you will likely find pleasure in sending out those letters, including photos and other trinkets that represent your life or the area where you live.  You will also get to experience the joy of opening up the mailbox and finding a letter from someone that is personal, a sharing of their life with you.

Handwritten letters are treasured.  Think of how exciting it is when you find letters or cards that were written by parents, grandparents or others who are now deceased.  You treasure those items.  Written personal correspondence takes you back to a time when things were more relaxed.  When that letter arrives you are not sitting in front of a computer screen with it one of many in your inbox, you are holding the envelope in hand, look at the stamp, if handwritten notice the stationary,  sit back in a chair and enjoy the pleasure of reading a letter written on a piece of paper.

Venture out into the world of writing to someone, even someone who is not likely to respond such as an elderly relative or someone suffering from disease or illness.  Your letters or cards will bring that person joy, give them hope and something to look forward to.  In giving to others you reap the rewards of satisfaction providing another person with the happiness.    If you receive a card or letter in return then you will know the pleasure such acts bring.  Enjoy!

 

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Filed under Family, friendship, Life is a Melting Pot, Uncategorized, Writing

WILD WEATHER PAST AND PRESENT

0441 Eagle in Nest-1

Bald Eagle, photo by Grace Grogan

Ice Jam, photo by Grace Grogan

Ice Jam, photo by Grace Grogan

Bald Eagle, photo by Grace Grogan

Bald Eagle, photo by Grace Grogan

 

This past winter the United States experienced some wild weather, as have other parts of the world.  Here in the thumb of Michigan the ice coverage on the water resulted in a large number of eagles being seen on the river to the extent that they were written about in local newspapers.  The ice on the great lakes will help raise water tables that have been low for years while it has negatively affected the shipping industry as the ice cutters were unable to keep the shipping channels clear.  Bitter cold, snow and ice were encountered at unusual levels all across the country.

I recently watched a special on TV that dealt with the affects of global warming, the melting glaciers, and claimed this wild weather may be our new normal and may become worse.  Flooding, mud slides, earthquakes, hurricanes, could all progressively increase as the glaciers melt and our earth adjusts to the changes.  While I don’t discount scientific studies or the fact that industry and resulting pollution contribute to the changes, I also know that wild weather has been going on for centuries, prior to when modern industry existed.  Our ancestors encountered it without the modern means of communication to provide them with warnings or obtain assistance.  No telephones, automobiles,  or satellites, just the surprise of whatever happened and human determination to rebuild their lives after disaster.

It was April 12, 1934 when the weather observatory in Mount Washington, New Hampshire recorded a wind speed of 231 mph, but it was all the way back on January 22, 1885 when the temperature dropped to 50 degrees below zero at that same location.  Fifty below zero was also recorded in East Portal, Utah on January 5, 1913.  That was when the primary means of travel was horse and buggy and homes and homes were heated by fireplace or wood burning stoves.   Imagine traveling in an unheated carriage or having to go out and gather wood to heat your home in those temperatures.   Over the years bone-freezing temperatures have made their mark on history.    The coldest temperature in the 48 contiguous states was 70 below zero in Rogers Pass, Montana on January 20, 1954, but Prospect Creek, Alaska sets the record for the coldest temperature in the United States with 80 below zero on January 23, 1971.

Extreme temperatures on the positive side have also occurred in history.  It was way back on July 10, 1913 that Death Valley National Park was the world’s hottest place at 134 degrees.   It was surprising to learn that Fort Yukon, Alaska was 100 degrees on June 27, 1915.  There were several dates in the mid 1930’s that cities in the U.S. recorded temperatures at 118 degrees or higher, but it was way back on July 20, 1898 and August 10, 1898 that the towns of Prineville and Pendleton, Oregon reached 119 degrees.  As if that wasn’t hot enough on its own, that was before air conditioning or even electric fans.  Combined with the suits that men wore or the long sleeved, high-necked dresses with multiple layers of underclothing that women wore and you can only imagine how horribly uncomfortable it must have been for everyone.

Temperature certainly impacts our lives on a daily basis, but natural disasters have also occurred throughout history and at times when the modern warning systems, means of communicating a need for help or quick and easy transportation did not exist.   Imagine living in Johnstown, Pennsylvania in May 1889 and the fear, devastation and horrendous work of clean up after ten inches of rain fell in under 24 hours causing a dam to break.  Try to envision a 30-foot high wall of water traveling 40 mph  towards town and the residents unaware of what was bearing down on them.  That day more than 2,200 people were killed.  Just the need to get that many bodies buried before disease and the stench of decay set in would have been emotionally and physically exhausting.

If you ever visit Galveston, Texas you can tour the Moody Mansion, the only building left intact after a category 4 hurricane struck the island town on September 8, 1900.  With winds reaching 130 to 140 miles per hour and a storm surge of 15.7 feet hitting the island where elevation was only 8.7 feet, the hurricane destroyed 3,600 buildings and killed between 6,000 to 8,000 people, including 90 children from St. Mary’s Orphans Asylum.   Isaac’s Storm by Eric Larson brings the story of this attack by nature to life.

We watched what we considered to be unusual winter storm weather move across the United States this year.  In some ways history was repeating itself, but with our modern technology we were able to avoid the disastrous results such weather caused in the past.  It was March 11 and March 12, 1888 that 40-50″ of snow fell on Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York resulting in the death of over 400 people and causing 200 ships at sea to sink.   On  February 11, 1899 snow fell beginning in Florida all the way up the eastern seaboard, in one day dumping 20″ of snow in Washington DC and 34″ in New Jersey.    The book The Children’s Blizzard by David Laskin is a gripping tale of the blizzard that took place on January 12, 1888 in the Dakota Territory and Nebraska.   The storm came up fast and unexpectedly, dropping temperatures from above freezing to a 40 below windchill and leaving adults and school children stranded and lost, sometimes only a few feet from shelter.  A total of 235 people died in that storm.  Those who live in the Blue Water Area of Michigan are familiar with the Storm of 1913.  This blizzard, called a White Hurricane, took place on the great lakes November 7, 1913 sinking ships and killing many.

We now have exited winter and are approaching the season for tornadoes.  Hopefully history will not repeat itself with more natural disasters such as the May 7, 1840 tornado that hit Natchez, Mississippi killing 317 people.  There was no warning system of TV, radio, internet to warn those in its path.  There were 317 reported deaths from the tornado, but slaves were not counted and so the death toll was likely much higher.   St. Louis Missouri had a massive tornado rip through the downtown area on May 27, 1896 killing 255 people and injury about 1,000 others.  Over 8,800 buildings were damaged or destroyed.  St. Louis also experienced another massive hit on September 29, 1927 when a tornado tore apart more than 200 city blocks in a period of about four minutes.    The deadliest tornado in the United States took place on March 18, 1925 covering between 219 to 234 miles and leaving 695 dead and 2,027 injured.   This tornado traveled from southeastern Mississippi through the southern portion of Illinois and then into southwestern Indiana.  The tornado lasted for over three and a half hours with an average width of 3/4 of a mile and a speed of approximately 62 miles an hour and destroying approximately 15,000 homes that were in its path.

Looking back in history it is easy to determine that the wild weather of today may be of extreme proportions, but it is not new to this decade.  Massive storms have been happening for centuries and people have been enduring the hardships of destruction and recovery throughout history.   Wild weather can be found in the past, present and most likely will continue in the future.

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Filed under birds, genealogy, Life is a Melting Pot, Uncategorized, Writing

DELIGHTFULLY DRAB

Here in Saint Clair County the weather has reached that delightfully drab level where the temperatures are of a moderate level, the snow has melted, the trees are bare of leaves and the grass is a lovely blah beige.   This past Sunday my husband and I went for a walk at the Lake Saint Clair Nature Center.  While the average walker will find no purpose in hauling a camera into such a lackluster location, photographers abound and are always on the lookout for something to capture.

Leaves and shells captured in ice on a pond.

Leaf and shells captured in ice on a pond.

When out for a stroll watch anyone with a camera, they will draw your attention to the small, unusual, and difficult to find items of beauty in nature where there appears to be nothing.  Moss on a tree, items floating in water, leaves curled on stumps, reflections in the water, or an unusual curve of a tree stump are all items that can be captured and enjoyed.    Look up, look down, look left, look right, and don’t forget to turn around and look behind you.  Just a few steps one way or the other can open up possibilities.

Red Wing Blackbird strolls down a twig floating on on the water.

Red Wing Blackbird strolls down a twig floating on on the water.

While strolling over a foot bridge I leaned over the rail and looked down.  That is where I found the leaves and shells trapped in a piece of ice that remained on the water.    The majority of people walking over the bridge that day likely missed what I saw because it required leaning over the rail.  Small treasures can be found in the most unusual places.

Watch for movement in the water.  Although I didn’t move fast enough to capture the muskrat swimming in the water on my camera he was there.  I could hear the frogs croaking away in the marsh but couldn’t find them.  A red wing blackbird was happily moving down a small twig floating in the water, and while it is likely he was searching for food the impression was that it was amazed by its own reflection in the water.  Being mating season male birds were also calling out and ruffling their feathers in display, attempting to attract females.  Birds were also easy among old weeds on the waters edge.  Walk quietly and enjoy the moment.

Reflections in Nature

Reflections in Nature

Although the bare trees do not appear to be attractive at first glance, don’t underestimate their appeal.  Look up and notice the unusual displays bare branches create against the sky.    Watch how they reflect in the water and the interesting angles those reflections create.  Beauty is found in unexpected places, you just have to look for it.

It is so easy to walk by beauty and never realize it is there.  Remember that even if if you have walked that path numerous times, changes happen in nature constantly and new things can be found daily, often within a few minutes or hours.

Ice Patterns

Ice Patterns

A frozen trail of water is melting, and as it does patterns form in the remaining ice.  Look at them, notice their unusual beauty, their uniqueness.  Enjoy what is there today for tomorrow the movements of nature may take it away, and you will have missed the moment.  Learn to walk with a photographers eye and you will catch the beauty of nature that can be found in the delightfully drab.

 

               I welcome your thoughts and comments on this and all previous posts

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Filed under birds, Lake St. Clair, Life is a Melting Pot, nature center, Photography, spring, Uncategorized, Writing

EVOLUTION OF THE CLERICAL WORKER

Gregg Shorthand Used for taking dictation

Gregg Shorthand was used for taking dictation Click on the photo for a clearer view

One day this past week I was working at the computer and after juggling three phone calls in a row a client in our waiting area said “I wonder who had the first secretary.” It was an interesting thought. How far back does the use of office personnel go? While the answer to the question is interesting, the fun part of this was reminiscing about my own 35+ years in the clerical field and the changes that have occurred in that time.

Today the title of secretary is not commonly used. Administrative assistant, office manager, and executive assistant are some of the current positions held by office personnel.  Regardless of title the basic duties have not changed but the way they are performed has through advances in technology, education, and gender roles in the workforce.

It is believed secretaries existed prior to the establishment of the Roman Empire. Referred to at the time as “scribes” the position was held by educated men. As time progressed members of nobility and those who were wealthy and powerful used secretaries to serve as advisors, take dictation, handle correspondence, keep a schedule of appointments, and maintain accounting records.  By the late 1880s technology was advancing and office work required the ability to handle such modern conveniences as telephones, typewriters, and adding machines. It was during this time that women began to enter the work force and adapted well to handling of secretarial duties.  There was no equalization of pay and women were paid at about half the wage that a man earned for the same work. This made women financially beneficial to the employer. For men the position had been a stepping stone to higher, more prominent positions. Women were not considered capable of handling higher ranking managerial positions and were unable to advance beyond the clerical position. The employment of women in clerical positions expanded from approximately 2.5% of the work force in 1870, around 53% by 1930 and almost 80% by 1980. Since 1980 there has been no change in the number of women holding administrative support (clerical) positions.

My first office job was as clerk-typist for the Michigan Chapter, NASW, a position I obtained shortly after high school. In the 35+ years since I have worked for a variety of firms and my official title has included secretary to the president, administrative assistant, office manager, and paralegal. The required education for doing clerical work has changed and what was previously taught at the high school level is either obsolete or requires a college education.

When in high school I took clerical classes including Gregg shorthand, advanced typing, and “secretarial block,” an all-inclusive class designed to advance our office skills. We learned to operate a variety of business machines including the 10-key adding machine, the stencil machine, and worked to build our shorthand and typing skills.    Still a gender-based world, we were taught how to properly stand so as to appear attractive if taking dictation from a standing position.  Another element of the class included following our instructor at a fast pace down the halls as she gave dictation, so that we could follow an executive who was too busy to sit behind a desk when dictating.  I never encountered such an executive, but the training did make us accurate with our shorthand.

My training actually goes back to when I was in grade school and was one of 3-4 other female students selected to run the school office while the secretaries were at lunch, answering phones and running the ditto machine. If you are familiar with that piece of equipment, you know I am referring to the late 1960’s to early 1970’s. Shall I date myself? I learned to type in 8th grade on a manual typewriter, and when we moved to high school we were thrilled to be able to type on the electric IBM Selectric typewriter. Copies of correspondence were done by placing a piece of carbon paper between the letterhead and a piece of onion skin paper. Typewriter errors were corrected using correction tape or liquid paper.

My second office position in the early 1980s was for an importer, and my dictation was frequently transcribed onto a telex machine. A message was typed onto the machine using shortened words, eliminating vowels and other unnecessary letters to reduce the cost of transmission. The message was then sent overseas to suppliers and we would wait to receive a telex response, which printed out on paper for reading.   The use of computers and email communication did not yet exist.  By the time I was in my third office position the fax machine was a new device that required dialing a number on a regular telephone, then once the connection was made activating the fax machine and hanging up the telephone.  We also had new “word-processing” typewriters on which you could read one line of text on a small narrow screen located on the body of the typewriter and make corrections before it printed onto your paper.   We were thrilled to have such technologically advanced machines.  Eventually one computer was purchased and put in a central location to be shared by all six clerical workers.

Workers entering the clerical field today think nothing of having their own computer, internet connection, communicating by email and having access to fax machines and copy machines. Most have never used a typewriter and have no idea what Gregg shorthand is. While I would never give up the modern conveniences of today, it is fun to remember the joy and excitement of each new technological advancement and the ease each has added to the clerical workload.

 

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Power of Emotion

This past weekend I underwent a task that was both emotionally satisfying and upsetting.  As I experienced emotional swings I wondered what it is that causes people to experience different emotions for similar activities, or why one person will ride a roller coaster of emotion over the course of time related to only one activity.  What is it that caused me to swing from happy to crying in a split second just by reviewing the photos that were the subject of my project.  Emotion can break people down or build you up.  With me it does both.  There was emotional satisfaction in creating a Shutterfly book of a grandaughter torn from our family by CPS.  My husband and I were stripped our of our relationship with her by DHS and the adoption agency who refused to allow us contact during the time she was in foster care and even after parental rights were terminated and we applied to adopt.  That lack of contact was then used against us in the adoption process and the foster care parents were awarded the consent to adopt rather than us.    There were times when the process of creating the book was emotionally upsetting.  It is hard to understand the process and reasoning of destroying a family when there are biological relatives willing to take in a child and raise her as their own.

Emotions can tear you apart or they can heal.  The emotions that accompany the experience of losing Kae-Lee to another family have resulted in an emotional determination.  There are weak moments, such as during the creation of my photo book, but overall they have left me determined to do something to right a wrong that is done to families all across the country or at least let people know what is happening, that everyone is at risk.  That is the reason I have begun writing a book about our family’s experience in dealing with CPS, DHS and adoption.  Writing is a healing process. It gives me focus.  It allows me to analyze all that happened, to understand where the biological parents failed and where the system failed.  Neither is perfect.  However, the destruction of a family, the ripping of a child from its biological family and giving it to strangers rather than relatives is something I find extremely disturbing and difficult to accept.  Writing is my way of fighting back.  I want people to know what happened to us and that similar situations are happening to families throughout this country.  It isn’t right.  It isn’t fair.    That is how I deal with the emotional trauma of this situation.  Writing about what happened gives me focus and provides satisfaction in knowing that I have not sat back and let the situation swallow me emotionally.  I am stronger than that.

The Shutterfly book is an assortment of what little photographs we have of Kae-Lee from the time she was born in March 2010 through the termination in June 2012, and a few photos we were lucky to obtain taken by others in the year since the termination.  There will be no more.  We have no contact with the foster care family that adopted her.    When you are looking at photographs of a beautiful baby with her family and remember how she was torn from your life, it is an emotional roller coaster.  That Shutterfly book of photographs is the only thing we have left of her, plus the traditional newborn memorabilia that every parent saves and the yearly Christmas ornaments we have purchased for her.  Maybe someday she will come looking for her biological family and we can be reunited with her and share those items.

If you would like to view the book of photographs I created you can click this link:  Shutterfly Book.  I welcome everyone’s comments on this blog and/or the book.

 

0145 - Patrick and Kae-Lee-1

Patrick on Kae-Lee

Kae-Lee photo(20)

Kae-Lee – photo taken by foster care worker

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

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

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Filed under Family, Life is a Melting Pot, Scrapbooking, Uncategorized, Writing

MY CRAZY WEEK

0801 Bathroom Shots 2014-1

This has been a whirlwind week with meetings on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings for three different groups I am involved with.  While at first glance the three activities appear to be different, in my life they inner-mix and blend so that each has a connection with the other.  If this happens in my life, it most likely occurs in the lives of everyone. 

 The family history group’s main focus is genealogy.  I am a member of the board and also newsletter editor of Blue Water Family Backgrounds.   As newsletter editor I spend time reading old articles and books for inclusion in the newsletter or as research for articles I am writing.  I also take photographs of historical sites and activities the club does for the newsletter.  My involvement in the club is what led to me writing the column Who Am I? for The Lakeshore Guardian.  The column provides readers information on doing family research. 

In addition to the writing the genealogy column and serving as newsletter editor for the history group, I am working on a book regarding my family’s involvement with Child Protective Services, foster care and my husband’s and my attempt to adopt our granddaughters.  This is an ongoing battle which has not yet ended.  I am learning the battles we have encountered are a huge and common problem across the country.  As a result of my writing activities I began attending a Freelance Writer’s Group.  The Freelance Writer’s Group is the reason I began this blog.  I learned that writers/authors typically have blogs so readers can get to know them and their writing style.  Each blog I write is accompanied by a photograph taken by either me or my husband, another interest and activity.

My husband and I have a photography business, Times Gone By Photography and are members of the Blue Water Shutterbug Club.    We take photographs of nature, events, and travel and have them available for sale at local art studios and on Fine Art America.  We photograph art shows and opening events for Studio 1219 in Port Huron, Michigan for which I write a promotional clip that we post with our photographs on the Studio’s Facebook page.  Our photographs have also appeared in an annual vacation magazine for the Blue Water area and a photo taken by me is currently on the cover of the local yellow pages phone book.   Photography also is important to my scrapbooking hobby. 

Scrapbooking ties in with genealogy.  I have a scrapbook of historical family photos and scrapbooking itself involves the recording of family events for future generations.   In addition to that I do an annual Christmas newsletter for family and friends and have saved copies of each for close to thirty years, a written history of our family and our children’s lives growing up. 

All of these interests — family history, freelance writing, and photography tie together in a unique blend, mixing together and supporting each other in my life.  Just as my lifestyle is a melting pot of various activities that swirl and blend together, yours most likely is as well.  When life seems to be a jumbled mess of meetings, activities, and work take a look at what you are doing and how they inner relate to each other.   Stir up the blend and enjoy the results, because after all, Life is a Melting Pot.

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Filed under Family, genealogy, Life is a Melting Pot, Photography, Scrapbooking, Uncategorized, Writing

LIFE IS A MELTING POT

I recently attended my first meeting of a Freelance Writers Group during which I learned that it is important for writers, especially those who write or plan to write books, to have a blog.  Anyone who knows me will tell you that when it comes to putting words on paper I do not have a problem.  However, the idea of writing a blog  was almost overwhelming.

When I see blogs they are generally topic specific.  Each posting is always on one general subject, but what should I write about?  I am a writer, newsletter editor, and am working on a book.  My husband and I have our own photography business, Times Gone By Photography, and spend a lot of time out shooting pictures.  I am a scrapbooker, enjoy reading, attend a wide variety of local events, enjoy traveling when I can, work full time in a law office, and am a mother and grandmother.  Which of those subjects should I choose?  That was my dilemma.

My life is a melting pot of various activities. Everyone’s life is a melting pot.  That is how I developed the theme, or title of my blog.  This blog is about  life and will cover all the various aspects of it.   The good, bad, serious, and funny.    Hopefully everyone finds something they can relate to in each post, because after all, Life Is a Melting Pot.

Image

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Life is Like A Camera

Life is Like A Camera

Over the course of our marriage my husband and I, as well as our children, have experienced many ups and downs. Somehow we always manage to pick up the pieces and keep going. Ron and I are also photographers so when my best friend saw this saying she ordered it for me to put on my wall. The photos below it relate to the saying itself: Develop from the Negatives = me during recovery from an accident; Focus on the Good Times = our daughter, Caroline, and son, Patrick, at Caroline’s wedding; and when things don’t work out, take another shot = we were motorcycle riders, and when I was in a bad accident and the bikes were totaled, we purchased a motor home to use instead of motorcycles.

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March 12, 2014 · 5:46 am