Tag Archives: Michigan

First Day of Freedom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Patrick tries on a hat at Kohs

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

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

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Dinner at Red Lobster

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

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

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

Cycle Through Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Show Me The Bottom Of Your Feet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Up and Back in a Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sleep In Old-Fashioned Elegance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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Being Obstinate

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Float Down Photo Copyright Grace Grogan

I am by nature a fairly easy going person, except when you challenge what I think is right, at which point I can become very obstinate.  This is the case with an article I just submitted to our local paper, The Times Herald.  St. Clair County has an “unofficial” yearly event called Float Down, which will take place this Sunday.

This is an event where people disembark from Lakeside Beach in Port Huron using rafts, floats, etc. and take with them beverages, snacks, and more for the 7 mile float down the St. Clair River to Chrysler Beach in Marysville.  This is an all-day event, the river is rapid, and even though the event is “unofficial” shipping traffic is generally slowed and/or stopped for several hours that day for safety reasons and the Coast Guard is on hand to carry out any necessary rescues.

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Float Down.  Photo Copyright Grace Grogan.

There are over 5,000+ participants in the float down, and it grows larger and larger every year.  In my opinion the participation increases because of the publicity it gets…not so much the positive publicity, but the negative.  The U.S. Coast Guard encourages people not to participate because it is a safety risk.  The officials of Marysville where the float ends keep trying to make it difficult for people to exit at their city by closing down roads and making it difficult for people got get picked up and exit the area quickly after floating.  Last year because they closed the road where people exit some floaters were stranded near a local restaurant until 10:00 pm.

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Float Down.  Photo Copyright Grace Grogan.

This is where my good-natured, always balanced Libra personality takes a turn and I become obstinate.  I am an opinion columnist for our local paper so I just submitted a column about the negative attitude of the City of Marysville’s mayor.  I said I hope all 5,000+ float all the way to Chrysler Beach just because of the mayor’s attitude.   I think the City’s negative attitude is why the float down has grown so large in the past few years.  Who doesn’t want to participate in an event that has a bit of controversy and provides a unique chance at one day of fun per year?  I know I do.  I may be babysitting my granddaughter this year so my daughter can float, but in a future year I will participate in a float down.  The Mayor of Marysville’s attitude has guaranteed that!

 

 

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Filed under Blue Water Area, decisions, Discoveries, environmental, events, Family, impressions, Life is a Melting Pot, Michigan, play, summer

Swearing at Your Deceased Husband is Okay

It has been seven months since my husband passed away and I am handling it very well, except for those times when I get frustrated and swear at him.  But that’s okay.  Keep in mind if anyone else did it I would probably kill them, at least verbally.  I lived with him for 34 years, I have exclusive rights.

Only someone who has ever lost a spouse can understand the roller coaster of emotions you deal with.  People will say they understand because they have lost a grandparent, parent, aunt, uncle, child, etc.  They may feel sympathy for you, but they can’t understand fully.  Losing a spouse is different.

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Ron and I approx. 1980

So why am I swearing at him?  Because it keeps me emotionally on track.  Because it relieves frustration.  Because it helps with mourning at unexpected moments.  Because it is my exclusive right and I sometimes utilize it as an emotionally stabilizing crutch to help me maintain focus.

What am I swearing at him about?  That depends on what I am doing at the time.  As I am riding the lawn mower around our backyard that has numerous things to go around, and then a tremendous amount of edging I have said on numerous occasions “dammit Ron, all I can say is I know you designed this thinking you were going to be taking care of it, not me.”    It helps me to focus on what needs to be done and set goals for getting the yard in order.   It helps me to remember that he never had any intention of me having to handle the yard work.  That was his area.

When I’m going through things he purchased at garage sales, estate sales, or scrapping and I look at the price tags on some of the items I say “dammit Ron, I hope you didn’t pay that price for this.” and “dammit Ron, why did you spend so much money on this stuff.”  I could have used the money more than the stuff, but I know he had a goal in mind of reselling those things in a booth at the Eastern Market (huge farmer’s market in Detroit) or at flea markets and that was his goal.  Everyone needs goals, and he had good intentions before the cancer took them and him.

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Ron and I October 2015

I could go on, but I think you get the point.  The biggest one though, is the one that is most important.  You see in addition to a huge accumulation of stuff I need to get rid of, my house is full of Ron…photos he took, photos of him, things that we did, things that we purchased…memories.  So, when something hits me and I’m having an emotional moment, I put my fingers on his chest/body on one of those photos and say “dammit Ron, why did you have to die?”

So now you now why it is okay to swear at your deceased husband.  As his surviving widow  you have the exclusive right to verbalize your frustrations at your new life, at the things you must now tackle, at the emotions that go along with the grieving process, at the frustrations over their death.  It is your exclusive right.  Enjoy it and use it to the fullest.  Your sanity depends on it.

 

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Filed under cancer, Coping, death, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, marriage, memoir

Traveling Solo

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Shall We Elope?

Life spins and churns, twists and turns, and in the process dreams are born, moments cherished, and desire becomes reality.  Such is the case with a friend of mine who after spending more than twenty years widowed and single married the man of her dreams.

Wedding wishes, preparation, anticipation, and anxiety all come into play when anyone gets married.  We are used to watching young people plan big, elaborate weddings, and there is excitement in that type of a “production.”   This was different.  It was two adults with children and grandchildren planning a small, simple, elopement with tidbits of details that added to the fun and uniqueness of this blending of their lives.

Planning to have an outdoor wedding in Michigan during the month of April is always gutsy.  They decided they wanted to get married on the covered bridge in Frankenmuth, a popular location that is a unique, small town atmosphere and also a popular tourist destination.  Being that it was two hours from home they needed to search and find a pastor to perform the service.  They checked on use of the covered bridge, booked a motel and made arrangements for early check-in, arranged for a second witness, and made plans for photo locations.

Then a week before the date the couple held their breath when snow crept over the state.  All was not lost.  The day of the wedding was warm and sunny, comfortable for the bride in her sleeveless dress, a bit warm  for the groom in his suit.  A perfect day, perfect weather.

Vicki held to tradition.  The morning of the wedding I received a text message asking if I had something she could borrow.  She had the something old, something new, and something blue.  She wore a bracelet that belonged to me for her something borrowed.    I attended the event and served as witness/matron of honor and photographer.

I met Mark and Vicki at their motel and after Mark dressed and I had taken a couple shots of Vicki helping him with his tie, he left to meet us at the bridge.   I helped Vicki with her dress, we took a few preparation shots, and I was shown a gift she had purchased for her new husband.  It was fun, girly, and relaxing all at the same time.  We arrived on location to find Mark chatting with the pastor and her husband.

 

Photos by Grace Grogan, copyright 2016

 

Vicki had been worried about finding an appropriate dress, but she did and made the purchase.  Then after reflection decided there was nothing wrong with her purchase, but it lacked the pizazz that one wants for their wedding day.  She kept looking and ended up with a lady-like, age appropriate, knock-him-off-his-feet dress.  How do I know, because I was walking with them and Mark looked over at Vicki and said “you look good, you look really good!”  He was right, she did.

Rather than use the bridge, which was dark and cool, for their ceremony they opted to stand near the water overlooking the bridge.  Prior to vows the groom, who is in a band, sang to the bride.  Vows were spoken, rings exchanged, and of course the traditional kiss.   The marriage license was signed, then they posed for a few photographs before we went to lunch.

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Fried Ice Cream Deluxe – Yum!  Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2016

When in Frankenmuth the tradition is to go for chicken dinner.  Traditions are made to be broken, and when you have a small elopement instead of a over-the-top wedding, plans can be adjusted on a moments notice.  How many brides and grooms do you know who have their wedding dinner in a tiny Mexican restaurant?  Well I know one, and it was great.  They were even presented with a huge, free fried ice cream because it was their special day.

After lunch we shot a few more photographs and then the happy couple went for a horse-drawn carriage ride around town.  The end of a perfect day leading into a perfect night, and the beginning of a perfect union of marriage.

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Their first adventure as husband and wife. Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2016

 

 

 

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Filed under celebration, decisions, events, Family, impressions, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, marriage, spring

Never Underestimate Small Towns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Human Trafficking – closer to home than you think

Often when we hear news about something that is tragic we turn the other cheek, for those horrible things often happen in areas that are not near us or are removed enough that we feel we are safe.  What happens when you find out that you and/or your loved ones may not be safe?  Your sense of well-being is disturbed.

This is what happened when I found out about human trafficking in Michigan.  I feel safe in the area where I live and was shocked to find out that human trafficking is a very real concern for this area due to our close proximity to the border.  We always think something may happen to someone else, but not us.  Horrible things happen in other countries, but not ours…at least that is what we want to believe.

I was shocked to learn that Michigan is one of the top spots in the United States for human trafficking.  What was even more surprising was to learn that Michigan ranks no. 2 in the country for human trafficking in the sex trade. No. 1 is Nevada. Two of the things that make Michigan a primary spot is our close proximity to Canada and our waterways. They help make the exploitation of vulnerable persons in this state a lucrative business.

Human trafficking is modern day slavery. Force, fraud, and coercion to control are used to elicit commercial sexual acts, labor or service. Sex is conducted through brothels, escort services, fake massage businesses, and strip clubs. Labor is used in domestic work, small businesses, large farms and factories.

Human trafficking takes place in all fifty states and Washington DC. It is a highly lucrative trade. There are high profits and it is low risk. It is one of the most profitable criminal industries worldwide. As of June 30, 2015 there were 2,084 cases of sex trafficking nationally, and an estimated 1.5 million total victims of human trafficking in North America.  The going rate for humans on the global market is $90.00. Humans are sold and re-sold, yielding a nice profit for those in the business.

Labor trafficking is found in agriculture, manufacturing and construction jobs. Victims work in fields, factories, are denied their rightful earnings and live and/or work in deplorable conditions. Sex trafficking is found at Michigan truck stops, hotels and special events.  Victims are offered as sex toys at temporary brothels, sporting events, conventions, and large gatherings.

Teens and runaways are especially vulnerable. They are often enticed by promises of love, affection, and gifts. Guerilla tactics are also used, meaning violence, threats, and consequences if they do not comply with orders.   We must protect our youth from becoming victims of this crime. Educate them on the risks. Make sure they are aware of the tactics used to lure them in. This is a very real crime taking place in our own backyard. We need to take control and eliminate the risk to save our youth.

The National Human Trafficking Resource Center is open 24 hours per day, 7 days a week and can take calls in over 200 languages. They can be reached at 888-373-7888 or traffickingresourcecenter.org.

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Filed under children, communication, decisions, Life is a Melting Pot, Michigan, mind, parents

Boom! Then The Walls Caved In

Implosion. Photos by Grace Grogan, Copyright 2015

Implosion. Photos by Grace Grogan, Copyright 2015

The anticipation, are you going?  Where are you going to watch from?  As the time grew shorter, the inquiries became more frequent, planning more intense.  It filled conversations, Facebook posts, the newspaper.  The much anticipated implosion of the DTE Power Plant in Marysville, Michigan.

Marysville Power Plant, Copyright 2015. Photo by Grace Grogan

Marysville Power Plant, Copyright 2015. Photo by Grace Grogan

The plant was built along the St. Clair River, an international waterway and shipping channel.  My husband and I decided the best vantage point would be from the Canadian side of the river.  We were not alone in our thinking.  Both Canadians and Americans lined the roadway to watch the event.

It was scheduled for 8:00 am on November 7, 2015, and it is one of the few activities I have ever attended where 8:00 am meant exactly that.  At 8:00 am you could see lights flash in several spots, the boom as explosives went off, and then watch the building go down in a matter of seconds.  Definitely worth getting up early to see.

Dust and smoke billow out across the St. Clair River.  Copyright 2015.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Dust and smoke billow out across the St. Clair River. Copyright 2015. Photo by Grace Grogan

Immediately following the implosion a huge, billowing cloud of smoke and/or dirt rose up and started to roll out over the river, eventually hitting the bank and coming up onto the Canadian soil.  Then, in a few minutes it was clear again and you could see the huge pile of rubble left where a building had once stood.

Aftermath - Ron Grogan takes down his camera and tripod as the cloud of dust rolls in.  Copyright 2015. Photo by Grace Grogan

Aftermath – Ron Grogan takes down his camera and tripod as the cloud of dust rolls in. Copyright 2015. Photo by Grace Grogan

Then the traffic jam started.  You know how it is when you are trying to leave a large event, bumper to bumper traffic moving at a slow pace.  The problem was, the authorities had not really anticipated the amount of vehicles that would be there and had no one directing traffic to clear it out quickly.  We didn’t even attempt to enter traffic for at least a half hour or more.

The downed power plant.  Copyright 2015.  Photo by Grace Grogan

The downed power plant. Copyright 2015. Photo by Grace Grogan

Was it worth it?  Absolutely!  Would I attend an implosion again if the opportunity arose?  Definitely!  Watching a building come down in only a matter of seconds is a sight to be experienced in person.  It can not be explained.

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Touring The Insane Asylum

Touring the The Traverse City Commons.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Touring the The Traverse City Commons. Photo by Grace Grogan

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

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

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

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

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

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

The underground tunnels.  Photo by Grace Grogan, Copyright 2015

The underground tunnels. Photo by Grace Grogan, Copyright 2015

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

Visiting patient rooms.  Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2015

Visiting patient rooms. Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2015

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

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

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

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

Photo by Grace Grogan

Photo by Grace Grogan

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

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Filed under Michigan, travel

Labor Day Past and Present

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

The First Labor Day - September 5, 1882

The First Labor Day – September 5, 1882

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

Labor Day Parade - Jackson Michigan - September 4, 1911

Labor Day Parade, Jackson, Michigan September 4, 1911

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

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

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Filed under Activities, Holidays

Bear of a Week

Photo taken at Oswald Bear Ranch.  Copyright 2015 Grace Grogan.

Photo taken at Oswald Bear Ranch. Copyright 2015 Grace Grogan.

I hope everyone had a fun, relaxing 4th of July and are rolling into what finally feels like some summer weather here in Michigan.  My life has been a whirlwind.  I haven’t processed the photos from our trip north to Newberry, in Mchigan’s upper peninsula, where we visited Oswald Bear Ranch and Tahquamenon Falls.I’m including a couple teaser photos in this post just for fun.

Tahquamenon Falls.  Copyright 2015 Grace Grogan.

Tahquamenon Falls. Copyright 2015 Grace Grogan.

Of course we had 4th of July last weekend, and now I am only working 1/2 day on Thursday (July 9th) and then heading straight from work to Grayling, Michigan for a girls weekend with my sister and two cousins.  It should be a fun, relaxing weekend and I am looking forward to it.     Here’s wishing everyone a great week.

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Filed under Family, vacation

Trilium Trek

          The trillium is a delicate, small, wildflower that blooms in the spring.  They can be found in white, pink, red, and the very rare painted variety.  Since 1980 the only sightings of the painted trillium in Michigan have all been within a 30 mile area of St. Clair County.
          Knowing that they were in bloom, my husband, Ron, and I went out on a search for painted trillium a couple weeks ago.  They are located in a wooded nature area.  Although I have not used bug spray in years, when you open the car door and the mosquitoes are coming inside you know precaution is needed.
          When you haven’t used bug spray in a while, there are a few pointers to remember.
          1.  When misting your face make sure you keep your mouth shut — that stuff does not taste good!
          2.  Spaying the majority of your body does not prevent mosquitoes from finding the spot you missed.
          3.  You will find out you forgot to spray an area at a most inopportune moment, such as when bent over taking a photograph and one decides to bite you on the backside through your jeans.
          4.  Evidence of a poor spray job may not become evident for hours, such as when you look in the mirror and realize the small section on the back of your arm from you elbow to wrist is covered in mosquito bites — 27 of them to be exact.
          Not that I’m admitting to any of the above, but knowledge does come from experience.  Of course a pain-endured labor does have its just rewards.  We found all three kinds of trillions, a slug, a toad, and a few other items to photograph.  A pleasant morning photographing nature.

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Filed under bugs, flowers, nature, Photography

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

Chicken Coop Captive

Bundled up in insulated overalls and a winter jacket, Lucinda lifts the gallon size bucket.  The water sloshes back and forth as she trudges across the yard, head bent down against the bitter cold and wind.  The walls of the chicken coop provide little refuge from the cold as she pours water into containers for the chickens.

WHAMP!  The entire building shakes as the door to the coop slams shut, dropping the latch closed in the process.  Lucinda tries to open the door and realizes she is trapped.  Chicken coop doors latch from the outside, not the inside.

Lucinda peers out the window toward her house.  Andrew is inside watching the football game on TV.  Surely he will realize she is gone longer than usual and come looking for her….or will he?  It is a good game and he isn’t likely to leave his chair until it is over.  This could be a long wait, the game isn’t due to end for over an hour.  Chicken - Crazy Chicken Lady

Thankful she had at least put on warm clothes, Lucinda contemplates her options as a captive in a chicken coop.  There is the small hatch door that the chickens go in and out.  Maybe she could slip out of the coop that way.  It could be kind of tricky.  Should she go feet first or head first?  Slide out on her stomach or on her back?  So many decisions when planning an escape.

Of course the size of the hatch could prove a challenge.  What if she gets partway out and gets stuck?    How long would she have to remain there, wedged half in/half out of the coop before Andrew discovered her?  Would the two of them be able to free her?  Would they have to call and wait for a rescue team?

If a rescue team has to be called, would the local news pick it up on a scanner and arrive to capture the live story of the chicken coop captive.  Good grief, would she ever live such a news story down?  The stupidity of the human race is always great for human interest articles.  Maybe the hatch escape idea isn’t such a great one after all.  Maybe some good solid female bonding with a brood of chickens is the better option.

WHAMP!  A blast of arctic air somehow managed to dislodge the latch and blew the door back open.  FREEDOM!  Lucinda decided to make a break for it.  After all, the opportunity might be short lived.  The chickens were  quite hospitable during her short visit, but the idea of an extended stay was not on her list of things to do on a Sunday afternoon.

Closing the door firmly behind her as she enters the warmth of their home,  Lucinda looks at her husband, still relaxing in front of the TV.  Didn’t he realize she had been gone longer than normal?  How long would he have waited before coming to check on her?

Andrew contemplated Lucinda ‘s experience as a chicken coop captive before he responded “Oh, I would of figured out something was wrong when the chicken (for dinner) was done and you were not back inside.”

Chicken Coop - Miss Him Sometimes.Typical man, the brain goes to food and a growling stomach would have finally keyed him into the fact that his wife was missing in action.  Better not go out to tend the chickens immediately after consuming a meal, the wait for a rescue could take hours!

Safety Tips for Chicken Coop Care:
1.  Wear insulated outer wear to protect yourself from the elements.
2.  Carry a cell phone to call for assistance as needed.
3.  Go at a time when your husband may become hungry and realize you are missing.
4.  Make sure you tell your friends and family about any mishaps so they can later share your story with others.

This is based on a true story, names of the couple have been changed to protect their privacy. 

 

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Filed under backyard, birds, Family, farm

It All Began In The Cherry Capitol of the World

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

Looking Out My Front Door

Photo Copyright Grace Grogan 2014

Photo Copyright Grace Grogan 2014

As I sat down this morning and looked out my window I had the contrast of a tree in my front yard that is still full of leaves, and they haven’t even changed color, but the trees across the street are bare of any leaves at all.   Then I have shrubs with snow on them, and a neighbor across the street running his large snow blower in his drive.

Photo copyright Grace Grogan 2014

Photo copyright Grace Grogan 2014

The contrast of these items shouldn’t come as a surprise — I live in Michigan. We have a saying here, if you don’t like the weather wait five minutes, it will change. However where I live, in the thumb just south of Port Huron, I am not used to snow on the ground until January or February. We still wear spring jackets in November, people ride their motorcycles, we haven’t found our ice scrapers yet.  I am not a winter person, I took these photos standing inside my house, through the screen.

Photo copyright Grace Grogan 2014

Photo copyright Grace Grogan 2014

An arctic blast has moved across the country, dumping cold and snow everywhere.  Buffalo, New York has taken a major hit.  Given what is going on elsewhere, I really can’t complain about what I am dealing with here in the thumb….well, yes I can.  I’m still not happy, just recognize it isn’t as bad as it could be.  There is snow coming down as I write this.

In April I wrote Wild Weather Past and Present because we were also having strange weather this past spring.  If you didn’t get a chance to read it then, check it out.  It shows that bizzare weather has been going on for hundreds of years.  The advantage is we now have homes with furnaces, cars with heaters, snow blowers, plow trucks, and tons of modern conveniences that our forefathers did not have when dealing with wild and bizzare weather.

Photo copyright Grace Grogan 2014

Photo copyright Grace Grogan 2014

Stay Warm.  I am trying to look on the positive side:  It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere we go.

 

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Filed under backyard, Blue Water Area, environmental, Life is a Melting Pot, Michigan, nature