Tag Archives: travel

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

A Year Of Changes

learn-free-to-be-meIf you have been a reader for a while you know that my husband, Ron,  passed away December 7, 2015 and since that time I have been adjusting to living on my own.  In reflecting on myself now, plans for the future and introspection of the past I have learned a few things.

I am capable of living alone, and doing it comfortably.  When I met Ron I was 19 and living at home with my parents.  I got married,  moved in with Ron and had never lived alone.  I originally found the idea of living solo terrifying but had no choice.    What I have learned is that living on my own has its benefits.  I can set the thermostat where I want and it stays there.  I can blast the radio at 2 am if I chose without having to worry about disturbing anyone else.  I can eat what I want when I want and not have to worry about anyone else.  I can re-arrange and hang photos and other artwork on the walls, removing things that were never my choice to begin with and adding new items that appeal to me.   I can move, add,  eliminate or change anything I chose without wondering if another person is going to like the change.

learn-to-be-happy-aloneAlthough I never paid attention to our finances and had no interest in knowing about them, I am perfectly capable of paying bills, applying for mortgage modifications, listing property for sale, and making decisions on financial assets.   I’m not blindly doing what Ron told me to do as he was dying.  I’m evaluating my own circumstances and making a decision that I feel comfortable with.   My goal for the future is to learn how the stock market and investments work, to understand how to diversify and what everything means  so I can make informed choices.  Hopefully  I will get a grasp on this within the next decade.  I’m really walking in uncharted territory here.

I can now run a riding lawn mower, a weed wacker, call a plumber, take vehicles in for routine maintenance, find and hire repair persons for things such as air conditioning. However I have no intention of learning to run the snowblower.  That thing is just too big.  I’ll kill myself shoveling first.  I even look at the Harbor Freight and Tractor Repair sales flyers now in case there is something I need.  Okay, I’ll admit my big purchase this year was two tarps, but we all have to start somewhere.  learn-dance-in-the-rain

One big surprise, I like to cook.  I know that sounds funny after 34 years of marriage, but I thought I didn’t like cooking.  I have been cooking for myself for a year now and I realize  that I like it.  For the majority of our marriage Ron did all the cooking.  Over the years I told people didn’t like doing day-to-day rush home from work an cook a meal, but I liked doing the larger family meals.  I recently said those words to someone but later in the evening it occurred to me that the statement isn’t true.  I don’t mind cooking for myself at all.  I love grilling entire meals in the summer months.  So why the change in my thoughts?

learn-something-newWhat I have discovered is that it wasn’t the cooking I disliked, it was that Ron always had a criticism of some sort and tended to hover, questioning why I did things the way I did, telling me I should do things differently than I did.  Nothing was ever quite good enough, there was always a “why didn’t you…”  Basically, he thought I should cook just  like him.  After a while I tired of the negativity and simply walked away and left it to him.  He cooked, I cleaned up, and it worked.

Since Ron’s passing I have discovered that I enjoy cooking.  I like throwing foods together to see what I like, mixing different combinations.  If they are all watching from above there are three cooks in heaven that are probably surprised at what they see.

I would say Ron is probably shocked at the things I fix; that I enjoy the cooking and especially like grilling.  My Mother-in-Law is probably happy to see me not measuring, just dumping in many instances.  I learned early in my marriage that if you called her for a recipe she didn’t measure, it was  “till it looks right.”  My father was a great cook.  When he saw me go into the basement and gather an assortment of ingredients, throw them into a pot and end up with a soup he was probably going “hell ya, that’s the way to cook.”  One of my greatest memories is when he cleaned out the refrigerator and made “chili” with the leftovers.  How many people have eaten chili with spaghettio’s floating in it?  I have!learn-who-you-are

When it comes to traveling alone I have mixed feelings.  It is nice because if I want to wander around and/or make frequent stops to take pictures I can do that without any complaints.  Ron and I were both photographers and did that all the time, but the average person does not take pleasure in such activities or delays.

On the other hand, traveling alone can be lonely.   If taking in a tourist attraction, such as wandering a museum or park, you are always alone.  No one to talk with, share discoveries with.   You are always eating alone, and so I always dine with a book.  There is no one sharing your hotel room, no one to sleep with. Maybe we shouldn’t go there.  Let’s just leave it at that.

So learning about me happened by learning to live alone.  What a difference a year has made.  The good, the bad, the indifferent.  What have I learned? I had a fantastic marriage.  I will have a fantastic future.  Different than I planned, but that’s okay.  I have made decisions that a year ago I would not have made.  I have made changes in my life that a year ago I would not have made.  Life was different then.  I was different then.  I am happy with my life, and that is all that matters.  Whatever happens, whatever life throws in my direction, I am ready.  Bring it on!

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Filed under anniversary, Coping, death, decisions, Discoveries, exploration, Family, food, habit, home, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, marriage, Meals, memoir, mind, reality, time, vacation

Up and Back in a Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

funeral-whentomorrowstartswithoutmepoem

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

Sleep In Old-Fashioned Elegance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

My First Easter

It is funny how traditions with couples and/or families develop over years.  What is crucial to one couple is unimportant to another.  Being the  first year without my husband, people anticipate that certain dates may be hard, such as Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day.  However those were “Hallmark” holidays that Ron and I rarely paid attention to, so my first year solo on those dates causes me no emotional stress.

This is my first Easter alone.  The weekend looms ahead of me like some dreaded dark cavern.  Why?  Because that is a weekend Ron and I generally did things.  For years when our kids were growing up we would drive to Belle Isle and visit the Aquarium and Whitcomb Conservatory.   There were years we traveled, years we stayed home.  Generally we were out and about at least one of the two days taking pictures.   Once we had grandchildren we put together Easter baskets for the children and had an egg hunt inside our house.  Easter has always been a fun weekend for us.

This year I have no one to share those things with.  My daughter, her boyfriend and her three children will be over on Sunday for the kids to get their Easter baskets from me, but not until around 7:00 pm because her oldest son is spending the holiday weekend with his father.   I have contemplated driving down to Belle Isle, driving around my area to take photos, or just staying home to clean and organize.  To a certain degree weather and the condition of a sore ankle will play into those decisions.    I don’t feel enthusiastic about any of it.

Building a new life takes adjustment.  It means accepting change.  Maintaining tradition.  Letting tradition go.  Freedom to make changes.  Keeping things the same.  Doing things you’ve always done.  Doing things you never did.    Building a new normal.

As I spend my first Easter alone creating whatever will become a new tradition, a new normal, I hope all of you have a fun-filled weekend doing whatever it is that makes Easter weekend special for you and your loved ones.

HIPPITY HOPPITY HAPPY EASTER DAY!

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Filed under celebration, Coping, Family, habit, home, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, marriage, memoir, spring

Prepping for Vacation is Work

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

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

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

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

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

When Your Husband Returns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Indian paintings obtained in New Mexico

Indian paintings obtained in New Mexico

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

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Pinback Paradise

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

Life is Like a Camera.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Life is Like a Camera. Photo by Grace Grogan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who's out there?  Photo by Grace Grogan

Who’s out there? Photo by Grace Grogan

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

Reflections in Nature - Photo by Grace Grogan

Reflections in Nature – Photo by Grace Grogan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It All Began In The Cherry Capitol of the World

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

Its been 33 years, well sort of 34

Ron and I shortly after we first met, 1980

Ron and I shortly after we first met, 1980

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Filed under anniversary, Family, marriage, travel

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

Same But Different

After an 11-day vacation my husband and I arrived back home the evening of August 17th and I am still working on getting back into the swing of things.  Our trip was within our own state, but to an area that was very different from where we live.

Motor home and car.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Motor home and car. Photo by Grace Grogan

We began with a two-night stay in Boyne Falls, Michigan for a memorial service. We have a motor home and had booked into a campground there that is located on a country road. What we found, luckily after we had left the motor home at the camp and were driving only our car, is that the GPS does not distinguish between good country roads and seasonal, 2-track roads. We also discovered that it is possible for a GPS to get confused because after taking us down an assortment of roads it took us back down the same roads we had just come from. So much for a GPS being able to navigate from Boyne Falls to Boyne City — it couldn’t even find our campground!

Mackinac Bridge during Orange Barrel Season.  Photo by Grace Grogan.

Mackinac Bridge during Orange Barrel Season. Photo by Grace Grogan.

Our next destination was Iron Mountain, located in Michigan’s upper peninsula. Our drive from Boyne Falls to Iron Mountain was uneventful, unless you count orange barrels on the Mackinac Bridge an event. Of course all Michiganders know that summer is “orange barrel season” and why should a bridge be any different?  What we found during our stay in the UP is that although we were in the same state, the environment and way of life is very different.

Iron Mine Tour.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Iron Mine Tour. Photo by Grace Grogan

Iron Mountain is on the south side of the UP very close to Wisconsin and about midway across.  It is home to one of the world’s largest ski jumps, and if you drive to the war memorial there it will take you up to where the jump is located for a beautiful view of the area.  We enjoyed a tour of the Iron Mine in Vulcan, where they take you approximately 425 feet below the earth’s surface into the mine.   Mining has not been conducted there for years but it is interesting to learn the conditions under which they worked and the tools used to drill in the mine.

Iron Mine Tour Photo by Grace Grogan

Iron Mine Tour
Photo by Grace Grogan

Our main objective of the trip was to photograph waterfalls, lighthouses and nature.  We were disappointed that although we passed several Moose Crossing signs the moose were not being cooperative and we never saw one.  We did see several deer, wild turkeys, and what we believe were a couple coyotes.    We found that while some waterfalls are well known and have a lot of visitors, others are secluded, hard to find, and require driving down narrow county dirt roads that are only slightly wider than a car width and you will only find the waterfall if you are lucky because they are not well marked.

Walking to a waterfall.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Walking to a waterfall. Photo by Grace Grogan

Driving down county roads can be interesting.   We came across lumbering areas where we stopped to take photographs, and discovered that semi-trucks coming at you on those narrow dirt roads drive at a pretty good rate of speed.  Don’t forget to roll up your window because you will be engulfed in a smog of dirt after they pass.    Much of the UP is National Forest, so you are driving those narrow dirt roads with huge trees on both sides.  We commented on how beautiful they must be during the fall color season.

Bond Falls.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Bond Falls. Photo by Grace Grogan

Part of the UP is Eastern Time and the other portion is Central Time, and as we drove to our various locations we were constantly bouncing from one time zone to the other.  The solution, leave your wrist watch on Eastern, set the microwave on Central, and your cell phone will automatically change for whatever time zone you are in.    Although this did not have a massive impact on our vacation plans, you do have to keep that in mind when considering the hours a place is open or when you make reservations.

Lighthouse - Marquette  Photo by Grace Grogan

Lighthouse – Marquette
Photo by Grace Grogan

Two of the lighthouses we visited are private and can only be seen by tour.  We luckily stumbled upon them at the correct time to take part in the tours and learn about life at those locations.    The job of lighthouse keeper was a lonely existence for both the keeper and his family, as they were often in places that were located out and away from other civilization.  Climbing a lighthouse that is part of a home is an easier, shorter climb for a great view.   By the time you begin your climb up the spiral staircase to the lantern room you are already on the second floor of the home and only have a bit farther to go.

Iron Mountain View from War Memorial.  Photo by Grace Grogan.

Iron Mountain View from War Memorial. Photo by Grace Grogan.

I have given you a few details on our trip, but the question you may have is why did I say it is “Same But Different?”  Because it is.  I live in Michigan’s lower peninsula in the thumb just south of Port Huron.  When you cross from the “mitten” into the UP in some ways you take a step back in time and into a small town existence.  A “big city” has a Walmart and a KMart, and some fast food establishments, there aren’t many big cities in the UP, Iron Mountain, Marquette, Munising and St. Ignace are those that come to mind immediately.    The rest of the UP has small towns, no fast food, and the towns have long stretches of roadway between them.  Of course you can always find a restaurant serving pasties wherever you travel, something you will not find in lower Michigan.  A pastie is meat and potato with maybe a couple other veggies in a crust.  They were carried by miners down into the mines to eat for their lunches.

Walking to a waterfall. Photo by Grace Grogan

Walking to a waterfall.
Photo by Grace Grogan

We traveled Highway 2 several times and it is a long road of forest and very few cars.    You spend a lot of time driving in the Ottawa National Forest or the Hiawatha National Forest.  The UP does not have “rest stops” like we are familiar with where you have a nice modern building, vending machines and bathrooms.  When you travel in the upper peninsula there are Roadside Parks with picnic tables and the bathroom facilities are actually outhouse toilets.  Did you want to wash your hands?  If fussy about that you better carry some hand sanitizer.    We noted that most vehicles on the road are clean without any with damage from accidents or rust.  When living in an area where you have to drive for miles between cities without any other cars, homes or businesses between having a well maintained vehicle is a must.  While there are miles and miles of desolate area there is no litter.  Here in the lower peninsula you find litter everywhere, but not in the UP.  We never once saw so much as a gum wrapper on the ground – clean and natural as it should be.  Uppers take pride in their environment and it shows.

We will definitely go back to the UP for another vacation.  It was relaxing, has great photo ops, nature, and requires a lot more time to explore than we allowed.  If you want to go somewhere that is the “Same But Different” take a trip to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

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Filed under environmental, exploration, Life is a Melting Pot, Michigan, nature, travel, Upper Penninsula, vacation

Blue Water Summer

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

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

As we approach the 4th of July weekend many towns across the United States will be having fireworks, festivals, parades, and other ways of celebrating our Nation’s freedom. The Blue Water Area is no exception. What I find a bit disappointing is that so many cities hold their fireworks on days other than the 4th of July, and I am pleased that where I live, St. Clair, Michigan, fireworks are still held on the 4th of July over the St. Clair River each and every year. What is even more wonderful about this area is that all summer the Blue Water Area is filled with a variety of things to do all summer.

Soldiers take a break during the Feast of the St. Clair in Port Huron.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Soldiers take a break during the Feast of the St. Clair in Port Huron. Photo by Grace Grogan

The summer kick-off is the Feast of the St. Clair, held every Memorial Weekend in Port Huron. This festival has been held for thirty-four years and is a living re-enactment of 18th century life.  During the event Pine Grove Park is home over 100 colonial star camps and has more than 600 re-enactors who participate.   Attendees can visit four different periods of Blue Water history, Native Americans, French explorers, British traders and American Revolutionaries.  Battles are re-enacted and period life is demonstrated, including cooking, crafts, and children’s games.   The re-enactors actually camp in the park during the event, cooking their own food over an open campfire, sleeping in authentically styled tents and dressing in period costume.

The new River Walk in Port Huron located on Desmond Landing.  Photo by Grace Grogan

The new River Walk in Port Huron located on Desmond Landing. Photo by Grace Grogan

After the Feast of the St. Clair, you are never without something to do in the Blue Water Area.  Be a Tourist in Your Own Town lets both locals and tourists visit a wide variety of museums, the lighthouse, take a cruise on the Huron Lady II, and participate in numerous other activities, with transportation between locations provided by the Blue Water Trolley.  Whether riding during the event or at any other time, you can sit back and for your ten cent fare enjoy a one-hour tour of various attractions and historic sites in Port Huron.  Well worth the investment!

The BW Sandfest is a professional sand sculpture event conducted by The Sand Lovers and is held on the grounds of the Fort Gratiot Lighthouse in Port Huron.  Photo by Grace Grogan.

The BW Sandfest is a professional sand sculpture event conducted by The Sand Lovers and is held on the grounds of the Fort Gratiot Lighthouse in Port Huron. Photo by Grace Grogan.

It doesn’t matter when in the summer you visit, there will always be something to do.  Art Fairs are held a various times in Lexington, Port Huron, Marysville, St. Clair, New Baltimore and Algonac.  Fishing is a popular sport and you will find things such as the Salmon Steaks in St. Clair or the Pickerel Tournament and Festival in Algonac.

If you are into cars or antique boats you will not be disappointed.  Many car shows and cruise nights are held including the Port Huron Cruise Night and Car Show, The St. Clair Classic Car Show, Antique Boat Show in St. Clair, and the Antique Boat Parade in Algonac.  Marysville hosts two car shows back-to-back with Rumble in the Park featuring hot rods, custom and muscle cars followed by The Past and its Wheels featuring cars built before 1959, including the Wills Sainte Claire cars that were built between 1921 to 1926 in the Marysville Factory.  The Wills Sainte Claire Museum is open the second and fourth Sundays of the month August through September and is one of many area museums.   Other local museums include the Carnegie Center, Thomas Edison Depot, Huron Light Ship, Bramble, and many small local museums in the various towns along the waterfront including New Baltimore and St. Clair.

Port Huron Float Down and Bramble Museum.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Port Huron Float Down and Bramble Museum. Photo by Grace Grogan

Don’t leave yet because we have more fun activities for you to attend.  The Bay Rama Fish Fly Festival is held every year in New Baltimore is now in its 50th year and is the only Fishfly Festival in the world.  It includes a carnival midway, live music, and various family activities such as pie eating contests and various games.  Maritime Days in Marine City is an annual three-day event that includes music, food, fun and a parade.  A new event, now in its second year is the Blue Water Sand Fest, voted by USA Today as one of the top 10 in 2013, its first year here in the Blue Water area.  The event is held on the grounds of the Fort Gratiot Lighthouse and features professional, advanced amateur and amateur sand sculptures.

Offshore Racing on the St. Clair River between Michigan and Canada.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Offshore Racing on the St. Clair River between Michigan and Canada. Photo by Grace Grogan

Events surrounding the water abound.  In St. Clair you won’t want to mist River Fest and Offshore Classic Racing.  The event features a carnival, spectators can visit dry docks, wet docks, and of course watch the offshore powerboat races on the beautiful St. Clair River.

Port Huron also hosts an Offshore Powerboat Race event and the famous Bayview Port Huron to Mackinac Sailboat Race.  This sailboat race is a popular event in Port Huron, featuring a carnival midway and various activities downtown and along the waterfront.  Walk along the Black River to view the boats that have arrived to participate in the race, live manikins,  food and fun abound.  Thursday is family night, and Friday is boat night, a huge celebration the night before the race.  Saturday morning line up along the Black River to view the boats as they parade out of the river and onto Lake Huron to begin the race.  An annual event on the water that draws thousands of participants and spectators is a free event, the Port Huron Float Down.  Participants climb into inner tubes, rafts and any other type of floating device at Lighthouse Beach just north of the Blue Water Bridges and then float down to Chrysler Beach in Marysville.  A fun event for all whether floating or watching.

Boat Night in Port Huron takes place the Friday before the Bayview Port Huron to Mackinac Race.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Boat Night in Port Huron takes place the Friday before the Bayview Port Huron to Mackinac Race. Photo by Grace Grogan

As the summer winds down into fall, an event you won’t want to miss is Whistles on the Water in St. Clair.  This event features antique steam whistles from lake freighters and passenger ships and is one of the largest gatherings of large steam whistles in the world.   The whistles are attached to one of the largest portable steam boilers on earth specifically designed to blow whistles using a fire-tube boiler that generates steam pressure to blow the whistles.  Free ear plugs are provided to visitors as when the whistles blow it is really loud!  A fun activity for children is a set-up on the waterfront of smaller whistles where the children can pull the cord to sound off one of several whistles.    The event is combined with “Chalk the Walk” which allows both adults and children the opportunity to color the walks of the St. Clair Mall with drawings using sidewalk chalk.

Whistles on the Water is held in St. Clair, Michigan.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Whistles on the Water is held in St. Clair, Michigan. Photo by Grace Grogan

This is just a brief overview of various activities in the area and you may want to check Discover the Blue  travel guide to get a more complete lineup of everything there is to do in the beautiful Blue Water area.    You won’t want to miss taking a walk along the boardwalk in St. Clair, the longest freshwater boardwalk in the world.  Stop by Desmond Landing in Port Huron to visit the Boat Nerd and stroll the new River Walk you will find there, walk the pier in Lexington, stroll under the Blue Water Bridge along the Thomas Edison Parkway in Port Huron, or walk the boardwalks in Marine City, New Baltimore and Algonac.

I love living in the Blue Water area, which to me is small town living with all the advantages of a tourist town.   It is a Melting Pot of things to do, with something for everyone.  If you’ve never visited the Blue Water area, put it on your next vacation itinerary, you won’t be disappointed!

Blue Water Trolley - It only costs a dime to ride!  Photo by Grace Grogan

Blue Water Trolley – It only costs a dime to ride! Photo by Grace Grogan

The beautiful St. Clair River as viewed from Palmer Park in St. Clair, Michigan

The beautiful St. Clair River as viewed from Palmer Park in St. Clair, Michigan

 

The Thomas Edison Depot Museum sits under the Blue Water Bridges on the Thomas Edison Parkway in Port Huron.  Photo by Grace Grogan

The Thomas Edison Depot Museum sits under the Blue Water Bridges on the Thomas Edison Parkway in Port Huron. Photo by Grace Grogan

 

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Filed under Activities, Art Shows, Blue Water Area, events, Family, Festivals, Lake St. Clair, Life is a Melting Pot, Michigan, spring, travel, vacation

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.

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