Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas, 2011

Christmas Eve day was the time we all congregated at Heidi and Chris' home in Davison to exchange gifts, eat our hearts out with a humungous amount of special treats and family traditional dishes, including: Kristin's famous deviled eggs; Heidi's cheese pies; brussel bombs; ham, and sweet potato casserole.

I was eager to see if the outfit I bought for Owen last December in Sana'a, Yemen would fit him and fit him it did. This will be his Halloween outfit this next fall.

Gifts were opened by one and all, and mostly in an organized fashion. Alex looked mighty dapper in his red shirt and Santa hat.

We had five of our six grandkids with us at Heidi's house, including McKenzie who isn't in this photo; her brother, Chase who has his grey shirt on and his back to us and then, the three McNamara kids who were wearing their "things" shirts from Amy, Kristin's bestest friend. They were: thing 1,thing 2 and thing 3. Kristin said she needed a shirt that says, "Mother of all things" to wear when the kids wear their special shirts.

Here are Kenz, with the long hair, Alex and Addison. Pat, Kristin's husband is kinda cut off. We had an hors d'oeuvres buffet prior to the official dinner later in the afternoon. We did not go hungry. Everyone brought a dish or two to pass, making it easier on the host and hostess whose house I am sure we trashed.

Here are the "McNamara things" in front of the fireplace at Heidi and Chris' house.

Chris' mom, Zee, came over to spend some time with us and share dinner. She is mending from her recent hip replacement and I didn't realize I didn't have her in any of my family photos.

Touching moments,Christmas 2011

Several years ago, I found some glitzy special Christmas boxes and began a family tradition of sending something special and significant from the giver to another family member, along with a note of just why this particular gift is so special and important. This year, Owen, Kristin and Pat's six year old, had the box and gave his Uncle Alex his special home made pillow that he has had for several years. He gave it to Alex to take back to Alaska with him to remember him by and to snuggle with. Note the silver box on Alex's lap. Next year, Alex will be tasked with sending a piece of his heart or soul to another family member in this box along with a special keepsake note.

The other box was gifted by Kristin, to her sister, Heidi. Kristin's note left not a dry eye in the room. Her gift to her sister, besides a note of many special times and places shared as we moved around the country was paired with her old...and I mean OLD Mickey Mouse comforter which is now about 35 years old and which has travelled with Kristin from home to home, in both good and bad times. It kept her warm when she lived in her car and has travelled the country with her, keeping her warm and reminding her of better times. This past year, Kristin had the comforter repaired and patched by her mother in law, who did a miraculous job with fabric so old.

As many of you know, Heidi has been experiencing tough times with seizures and coming to grips with what she now calls her, "new normal." Kristin gave her a snuggle blanket to keep her warm, while protecting and comforting her as she weathers these hard times.

Heidi will give someone a treasure of hers this next Christmas. These notes will last into history and the specialness of giving of self has been so wonderful amidst the commercial gluttony that has become Christmas. We stop and give thanks and sharing ourselves is so memorable and so cherished. Love traditions.

Jerky Making

One of our new friends, made here while in Caseville, is Dennis Sturtz, husband of my friend, Kat and an area chef and caterer. He and Richard got together the other day to make some duck and goose jerky, using an old recipe that a former employee, Barry Pratt, gave to Richard about 20 years ago. Dennis and Richard made the marinade and then, Dennis came back to our home the next day to get the meat strips into the smoker...and then, back he came for the final reveal and taste testing.

Richard checking the duck and goose strips to see if properly leatherized and toughened up for jerky eating. They weren't back they went into the smoker til the next morning.

And here we are with many, many strips of duck and goose jerky which family and friends are now enjoying.

Tough to see, but on th counter to th left of the meat is a tall, footed, canning jar which was a gift from some friends from Tegucigalpa days who remembered that I drink my wine out of jelly or canning jars. This is a Kerr canning jar, atop a pedestal and which came with canning lid and seal and a tag indicating that this is a "redneck wine glass." Love it. Another friend and neighbor up here, Kathy Harris gave me another is a footed candlestick holder which was delivered for my birthday with the same note on it. Now, this canning jar, unlike the candlestick holder...holds SOME wine!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The standing still!

I haven't been wandering much and feeling a bit anchored to my home here in Michigan. The good news is...I am meeting new people and encountering new experiences almost every day. And I am defying what I know and you all know about me in so many ways.

For example: after my workout and during lunch with Richard, I received a call regarding a need for a substitute at the Learning Center. This is a place for special needs kids and they needed someone fast for this 30 minutes from the time of the call which I could not do because I needed a shower, to dress and drive 30 minutes. NO sweat...they called back and asked me to come even if I would be a tad late which I did. The class...pre-school special needs kids. Only 8 in the classroom but all with special needs and issues. The good news...there were never less than 3 adults in the room with these kids and being a mom and grandma sure helped although I just don't know the rules which the kids were happy to share with me.

We played Candyland but I changed the rules because we wanted to practice taking turns, counting and our colors. It went well but one young man allowed as how the real Candyland game is much more fun than MY version. He is four!

I am not a patient woman. I have been in several classrooms where I have had to draw upon a reservoir of unused and untapped patience and I am enjoying these classes tremendously. One leaves feeling one has taught something necessary and needed. Today, I had a little guy who wanted to snuggle and hold my hand through the afternoon...he doesn't get many hugs where he lives, I was told.

On the way back home, I was thinking back to my public school teaching years in Virginia and remembered that, in those days, I taught basic, average and gifted middle school students. High school courses were organized like they are today. After my first semester with average kids, I demanded to ONLY teach basic (read that remedial) or gifted classes. Average was so...average. I loved working with those who had learning issues....they felt so successful and so did I when something was accepted and learned.

Now, I don't want to be smarmy. I could NOT do this on a daily basis and these teachers are way underpaid and under-appreciated. What they do, day in and out, is heroic. Yes, some are better than others but I haven't met anyone yet who isn't trying...against many obstacles.

I laughed and smiled a lot today and yes, I did wander the room. I worked at Candyland; at the play-doh table makin pretend cookies; at the vehicle box, counting the number of blue and red planes and then, helping to sort and count the big and small planes. Oh, and I helped my snuggler eat a baby carrot all by himself...he doesn't like crunching!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

Thanksgiving was lots of of the best was our littlest grandaughter, Layne, who will be two this coming week. Layne kept resting, playing and trying to fit herself and her babies into our dog bed which our neighbor just gave us this summer. Layne had the doggie blanket, which is Alex's baby blanket and then, she would pull her babies and her own pink blankie into the tiny bed and curl up.

We always have an adult table and a kids' table because we don't have a table big enough for everyone. This year, we didn't even have a card table for the kids, so we just used a nasty plastic yard table. Poor Kenz...16 and still at the kids' table. Poor Alex...he will be there at 22 this Christmas. Can't wait.

We do the holidays casually, as you can see. Pat is standing and Chris is the man in orange. Heidi is reaching for something Chris is passing and it looks like Kristin is playing with her boob. NOT sure. Richard is the bald man with grey hair.

Because the girls try to have holidays with their in-laws, and so we can get together, we celebrate when convenient. Richard and I don't care when, we care about who is with us. So, we decided to have the family get together the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Richard and I had a small pork roast with some roasted butternut squash...yummy. And then, Friday, Heidi and Chris and their kids arrived, followed by Kristin and Pat and their three kids' arrival on Saturday. Heidi brought the traditional cheese pies, but one had gone air borne, flying out of her fridge. Not to be deterred, she picked it up and brought it and that broken pie was dessert for our Friday night rib dinner. Pat brought his famous meatballs...pounds of them and I am still eating them. I was selfish and kept the leftovers for us!

Richard took the kids fishing on Saturday and they all caught some fish which they were pretty proud of...they weren't "keepers" but who cares? A fun time was had by all. And Kenz took the boys and Addison to a movie on Saturday evening, so we all had some quiet time. That girl is worth her weight in gold.

Oh, speaking of weight...I wore my skinny jeans that Kenz helped me pick out used at the Salvation Army. I was feeling mighty fine...skinny jeans, nice shell and sweater. Lookin good. Kristin leaned over and grabbed what I guess was a bunch o fabric that was hanging from my skinny jeans and suggested I get some that fit. I cried. Silly, but I was feeling good and they didn't notice. I was pretty embarrassed at my reaction but as the girls pointed out...I am still the overweight woman I was in my mind. I see fat. I feel fat. And when she grabbed me, I remembered my mother doing that to me when I was a pudgy kid. Instant flashback and it wasn't pretty.

All in all...we had a super time. Heidi has a new camera and took some great photos...not sure where they are but will add some as I can. My grandkids are a joy and they will all soon be too big to cuddle.

Oh, Logan, our oldest grandson called to let us know that he has been offered a great financial aid incentive package at Kettering, here in Flint. Am excited for him and hoping we will see him when Alex gets home from Alaska. Love this time of year. Big decision....where DO we take the grandkids for their grandma trips this year? The jury is out!

Now, the cheese pie dessert was the highlight of our Friday dinner. We decided to pass the pie plate around the table, with each person scooping up a spoonful of the pie as the plate passed. Yes, each had his/her own spoon and we decided to make the pie look like an hourglass shape and we thought we'd show Kristin and tell her that this is what happened when it came outta the fridge.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Our Christmas story.....

A photo of Alex with our dog, Luna, last Christmas. As a tradition, we read the following story, which Kristin, Alex's oldest sister wrote almost 12 years ago when Alex was a child. In less than a month, this young man will turn 22. He has, like many a young adult, amazed and appalled us but he has always cemented our family in a way that may not have occured if he had not been born.

Kristin's version of "Twas the Night Before Christmas" written just before Christmas, 1999

As we sit around the fir tree, reading the traditional, “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” I look around at my family with wonder. All of them bring to mind special feelings. My mother, who has been through several surgeries in the past few months, is smiling and sipping a small glass of white wine. My stepfather, Richard, still fairly new to the family after a mere 11 years of marriage to my mother, is oblivious to the goings on and is watching whatever sports program happens to be on at the moment. My sister, Heidi, her red hair flying, is chasing her two children around the room, trying to get them to listen to the story. And, my brother, Alex 10 years old, just a few days earlier, is listening intently as I finish the book that has been a staple for our Christmas Eves since I was a little girl. Alex has always held a special place in my heart and as I look at him this Christmas Eve night, I am in awe at the impact he has had on my life since even before he was born.

If I remember correctly, my Mom told us she was going to try and have another baby on a Thursday afternoon. I had come over to visit after work and Heidi had just gotten home from school. We were sitting in the kitchen drinking a pop and she blurted it out like she had been holding this decision inside for weeks.

“Girls, Richard and I have been thinking a lot about this and we have decided that we are going to pursue having another child.”

“You are kidding, right?” I said.

“No, I’m not. I’ve talked to a few doctors at the University of Michigan and it is possible to have my tubes untied so we can try and conceive a baby.”

“I cannot believe this,” said Heidi. “I’m probably going to end up babysitting this kid all the time.” She was 16 at the time and not too sensitive about other people’s feelings.

My Mom didn’t get upset about that comment, but just continued with her explanation of how the surgery was going to work. “The doctors have to do an ultrasound first. Then, they will determine whether or not they can even reconnect my tubes. If they do the surgery, there is only a 25% chance that it will work. So, don’t get upset about anything, yet, OK?”

I am the worry wart in the family, so I had to ask, “Are you sure this is safe? You are 38 years old.”
“Well, it is fairly safe. You know, there’s always a risk when it comes to surgery. But, I don’t think it is going to be a very big deal. I just won’t be able to do anything really strenuous for a couple of weeks.”
My mother did end up having the surgery. She was right. She didn’t move around much for a few weeks, but she did go right back to work. She did eventually start feeling better, though. In mid-April, which, if we didn’t live in Michigan, should be about the time the trees are budding and the flowers blooming, my mother asked me to go to with her to Meijer, a huge Walmart like store. I agreed. The day didn’t seem any different thn any other, but that soon changed.

We were walking through the Health & Beauty Aid section when my mother said, “Maybe we should pick up a test.”

“What kind of....oh my God!!!!” I screamed and gave my mother a hug. “I thought you were supposed to wait a few more weeks before you started trying to conceive?”

“I was feeling pretty good, so we tried a couple of weeks ago. And, now I need a pregnancy test, OK?”
“I can’t believe it. I thought there was a really small chance that this would work,” I said.
“It’s not positive yet,” my Mom said.
We got to the checkout lane and my mother started acting strange. “What is wrong, Mom?” “Could you buy the test? No one will believe it is for me anyway?”

I bought the test and we went to my mother’s house in Laingsburg. She took the test and it was positive. I joked, “Fertile Myrtle can only get pregnant one month out of the entire year!!! And you did it three times!!” My sister and I were January babies and it was apparent, that , by our calculations, this baby would be born in January also.

My mother’s pregnancy went fairly smooth until her fourth or fifth month. She did have some strange cravings, though. I don’t think I had ever seen my mother eat peanut butter in my entire 19 years, but when she was pregnant, she couldn’t get enough of the stuff. My stepfather started shopping at Sam’s Wholesale Club because he couldn’t keep enough peanut butter in the house. Upon reaching the beginning of her second trimester, she started having trouble. She had amniocentesis since she was over 35 and had a whole bunch of other tests to determine if the baby was healthy or not. I was at work when my mother called me into her office (she was my boss at The Lansing State Journal) to let me know the results of her testing. My mother was being very calm and it scared me.

“Mom? What’s wrong? Is something wrong with the baby?”

She said, “The doctors think the baby has ‘water on the brain.’”
“What does that mean?” I asked.

“That means the baby could have brain damage. Things started going wrong when I had the amnio. The puncture hold that the doctor made with the needle never closed up; so, amniotic fluid has been leaking for the past few weeks.”

“Is the baby going to die?” I asked as tears were flowing down my face.

“They don’t know yet. They are going to do more tests and we should know something by the end of the week. But, honey, there is something else you need to know.”
“Oh, no...what?”

“We are having a boy.”

At that point, we both burst into tears. No one in the family had ever wanted a baby boy. Girls are so much cuter and prettier and you can dress them up in frilly little dresses. We cried for about ten minutes and as we were holding each other, we started laughing. Little giggles at first. Followed by some tittering and, then, out loud laughs punctured by guffaws. We couldn’t stop. We went from one extreme of emotions to another in 30 seconds flat. At that moment, we both knew that everything would be OK, even if the baby did turn out to be a boy.

Everything did end up being OK. My mother was prescribed complete bed rest by her doctor for the remaining four months. This was unbelievably difficult for my mother because she is a workaholic and a perfectionist rolled into one mere mortal. She became more domestic than I had ever seen before. She baked, did crafts, prepared the baby’s room and did a multitude of other things that were not typical of her personality. Oh, she still went to work every day!!

I had just received a promotion at work and was starting my first day on my new job. As I was walking into the building from the extremely icy parking lot, my previous supervisor stopped me and told me that my mother had gone into labor. This was quite a shock considering that she was not due for another month yet. I felt like pending fatherhood was upon me. I became a babbling, klutzy, frantic person that neither I nor my co-workers recognized.

“What do you mean she is in labor?” I exclaimed.

“Calm down, Kristin. Your Mom called and all she said was that we needed to let you know that her water had broke and for you to go to work and she would call when anything more happened.” What mom hadn’t told anyone was that her water broke at work and her boss was crazy worried.

“Krstin, I told you all that she told me, “said my colleague. “You know your mother. She will let you know what is going on when it suits her needs.”

Knowing exactly what my co-worker meant, I decided I had better go to work, considering it is not a good practice to call in sick on your first day. I told my boss that I may have to leave, depending on what was happening at home. They understood, which I was very grateful for, because my mother had been working at her current job for the past seven years and everyone knew her.

I called my sister, Heidi, at approximately noon to find out what the status on the baby’s arrival was currently. “Hi, Heidi. How is mom?”

“She is fine. She is at Meijer right now. Why?”

“Why?! Because she is in labor, that is why!!”

Heidi then told me the most amazing thing I’ve ever heard. “That’s not even the worst of it, Kristin. This morning at 7 a.m. she called Richard and told him that her water had broken. Richard started freaking out and wanted to call the doctor. She told him she had some things to do because Christmas wasn’t going to not come just because she was having a kid.”

“What did she mean by that?” I asked.

“She meant that she needed to get some last minute Christmas gifts and then, she needed to finish the grocery shopping for Christmas dinner.”

“She IS nuts, isn’t she?”

“That’s not even the worst of it,” said Heidi. “I asked her how she thought she was going to get around with having contractions and all, and she said, “No problem, you’re going to help me.’ Kristin, Mom made me help her get ready and drive her to the mall.”

I started laughing hysterically. “You mean, Mom was walking around the amll having contractions?!”

“Stop laughing at me!! She was so embarrassing. We would walk about 20 feet and then, she would have to stop so she could ‘do her breathing.’ People kept coming up to us and asking if there was anything they could do to help. I was mortified!”

“I feel so bad for you, Heidi. How long were you at the mall?”

“Thank God, we were only there for about an hour and a half. Then, she wanted to go to Meijer, but I told her she better have Richard go with her. Richard came to the mall to pick her up and he found her sitting inside the doors, on the floor, breathing deeply.”

“Well, I have to go back to work, but let me know if anything happens.”

I ended up working a full day. No one ever called me to tell me how my mom was doing. At 5:30 p.m., as I was getting home, the phone began ringing. I grabbed the phone and it was my mother, acting very calm, almost too calm.

“Hi, honey. How was your first day at work?”

“Fine. Why aren’t you at the hospital yet?” I yelled.

My mother very calmly said, “I’ve had two other kids and this one is not going to mess up my Christmas schedule any more than he already has. I had shopping to do and now, it is done. I was calling to let you know I am on my way to the hospital right now.”

My mother and stepfather arrived at the hospital around 6 p.m. My best friend, Amy and I arrived shortly thereafter. My mom acted as if she was there for some allergy shots. This was not a big deal to her. Just another birth, kind of at an inconvenient time and day.

We waited, talked and visited with my mom for about three and a half hours. Then, Amy and I decided to go to the cafeteria to get some food. As we were walking down the starkly lit hallway in the basement, a wonderful location for a cafeteria, we were discussing the wonder of my mother at 39 giving birth. We were giggling about all the things I could buy for him and do with him, when all of a sudden, a huge figure jumped out in front of us. It was my stepfather, Richard, all out of breath and looking extremely frantic.

“Your to come...upstairs....right now.”

“Why? Is something wrong?”

“No. You know how we had decided that it would just be us in the delivery room? Well, your mother has decided just now that it would be a wonderful experience for you to see your brother’s birth.”

“Wow! OK, let’s go!”

Amy said she would wait in the waiting room, but Richard, who is not a very outgoing fellow, told her to come along also. He said one more person in the room at this point wasn’t going to make much of a difference and besides, Amy was planning to be a nurse.

We all followed Richard into the delivery room, where, just as we walked in, I saw my brother’s head emerging from my mother’s body. I gasped.

“Oh my God! Oh my God! OH!”

“Shut up, Kristin, I’m trying to concentrate,” came my mother’s response to my wonder and awe.

My mother pushed for about 10 minutes and at 10:08 p.m. my baby brother, weighing 4 lbs. 15 oz., was born on December 22, 1989. He was very little. In fact, he was too little to take home.

My mother came home on the 23rd in the late afternoon. It was kind of weird talking about Alex and not having him there to hold or coo over. We had a surprise on Christmas Eve, though. Mom had gone to the hospital to see Alex and the doctor said he had gained enough ground to go home. Imagine our surprise when my mom walked into the house carrying Alex in her arms. We all started crying and hugging and thanking God for letting us all be together on this special holiday.

So, as I sit here looking around at my whole family, I have to thank my brother. Before Alex, we were a family, but we didn’t have cohesion. My mom, sister and I were a family and Richard was an addition that Heidi and I could have done without. After Alex, however, is a whole different story. He has allowed our family to become a unit. He is my half brother biologically, but emotionally, he is my whole brother: heart and soul. Although he is only 10 as I write this and my little brother, he is also my friend, confidante and spiritual advisor. I don’t even think he knows how pivotal he has been to our family. Maybe someone should tell him.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The day from hell....

Began when I decided to open up all of the Christmas gift bins from Florida and Michigan and put the gift items on our king sized be. The result was this horrendous pile o'stuff collected from around the world for people I love and for whom I wanted great and unusual surprises. Well...surprise I got. This is two bins worth of stuff and there were three more bins to unpack, sort through and decide...ummm, just who did I have in mind when I purchased x item and was it for Christmas or was it a birthday item?

Disasterous...and I seriously sat down and thought that what was needed for Teresa, NOW, would be a 12 step program similar to that offered to alcoholics and drug users. I am addicted to gifting but I forgot that I had to actually wrap it all and make sense of the chaos. Out of chaos will arise Christmas, 2011 plus Alex, Layne and Pat's birthdays!

The day from hell actually began with the smoke detectors going off at 7 a.m. for seemingly no reason. Wood burner had been opened at 5:30 when I let the dogs out and was refilled with no excess smoke escaping. Everything as usual...except the screeching which occure at 7 a.m. followed immediately by Paco, Luna and Chica howling and racing around the house. I finally called my neighbor to see if Bob could figure this out...Richard was in the Upper Peninsula deer hunting. Bob was asleep but Trish came over and after we two could not get it to stop, she threw the fuse switch and silence was regained. NOW, the issue was...what if I had an issue with a fire after the switch was shut off? Think I would be able to sleep that night?

After I finished my usual pot of coffee and showered, I began baking because I do work ahead what with two holidays fast approaching. Around 10 a.m. I realized I hadn't seen Luna in awhile and called for her. She cried but I couldn't tell where she was. After looking in every closet, under beds, chairs, outside on the decks, I was stymied. She wouldn't bark but her soft crying was getting to me. Finally, in our bathroom, I realized her little whimpering was coming from behind the shower door which I had closed when cleaning. Poor baby.

By now, the wash was almost done and I had a load of doggie blankets getting spiffed up for the holiday. Chica's yellow blanket disintegrated and I had yellow fluff bound to my black yoga pants, flying out of the washer and soon, the dryer vent onto the grass, the deck, and into the laundry room. What a mess and really, said I, what else could go wrong?

Let me share the next of the dogs kept puking by the back door. I had taken them out but one threw up on the hall runner. No sweat...cleaned it up. An hour later, another puke spot on the green rug in the laundry room. Cleaning it up again. A bit later, another blob found on the mat in front of the, I am NOT stupid. I was watching to see which doggie had issues and was also taking them out more often than usual. NEVER found out which was the culprit but around 2 p.m. the puking stopped. At 10:00 a.m. I seriously wanted a glass of wine and I NEVER drink that early. I didn't but I wanted it badly! Thankfully, I did sleep and the wood burner chugged away. NO issues the next day but really, what more could have happened?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Learning moments....

I wrote about some teaching moments the other day and thought it fair to share some things I have learned from the kids. One young man was telling me about his farm work on the weekends when he has to hook up the wagon to the tractor and pull some containers into town to fill up on water. I asked if the farm didn't have running water and he said they use a well...well, said I, can't they fill the tanks from the well? He laughed and indicated they could but very quickly, the well would run dry. They go into town and buy 1400 gallons for $9. and this is used for the animals and the crops.

And as to why there are tons of sugar beets on the road some days and not on others...the weather determines how many tons of beets are harvested. They won't keep very long in warmish 50 degree weather so the sugar factories put out a call for x tons to be delivered from area farms. It has gotten much colder in the past few days so the sugar factory in Sebewaing has sugar beet mountains and I must have passed 50 trucks hauling more to dump.

I subbed in architectural design/drafting and here are a couple of Murphy's Laws, applied to that discipline:

You will always forget at least one critical dimension on your drawing.

The smaller the circle being drawn, the greater the chanceof your cmpass point slipping off dead center.


A young Bad Axe graduate, 21, is in a coma and has been since accident night. One young man had gone to see this patient with his older brother who was the accident victim's best buddy for years. The kids talked about what went wrong from the moment the kid made his first mistake: drinking and getting into a car with another drunk. He didn't put his seatbelt on but the driver did. The driver is out of the hospital, facing charges, car totalled and his buddy possibly never regaining consciousness. The kids were open, honest, cried, and hugged each other. In these small communities, everyone knows everyone else OR is related to them.

Interestingly, I had one of the teachers come hunt me down in another room to ask if I would come back to his class this Monday. I agree and he made it happen and the principal came into my criminal justice 1/2 day program to ask if I had any special plans for the afternoon. I didn't, so covered another class. Nice that they appear to enjoy me as much as I am enjoying this school. I am reminded why I loved to teach.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Teaching moments.

I have been primarily substitute teaching the past couple of weeks at a vo-tech school that serves the whole Thumb area. Really like the admin staff, the teachers I have met and the students who are feisty but respectful in most cases. As I mentioned before, what goes on in schools these days is very different than when I taught. However, so much is the same...a few examples:

In the electrical shop, a young man asked, "can I go to the bathroom?" My response, "At your age, I am sure you CAN. Did you want to ask, "May I go to the bathroom?"" After the third time with this exchange, another lad asked correctly to the hooting and amazement of his classmates.

Same day, different class, a young man indicated he had heard about me from the day before. I enquired what he'd heard and he said, "You have special skills." Hmmm...I bit, asking exactly what those skills might be. It seems the kids were a bit amazed that I could learn their names in 15 minutes and his buddy had been in my marketing class of about 20 kids or so.

I laughed and took attendance. 15 minutes into the class, the young lad called a "time out" so I could exhibit my special skills for them. Remember, subs are supposed to be big babysitters and anyone different, is suspect and worth trying to stump.

This class had 19 kids, all boys. So, I pointed to each, in no order and told each his name. I missed one only to find out that he'd come in after I had taken attendance and was back at the teacher's desk and didn't notice his entrance. Usually, I am lousy at names, but way back in the old days when teaching, I knew I had to know each kid's name on day 1. So, not being good with names, I connected the kid's face to what s/he had on: Cody in the white hoody; second Cody in the blue Abercrombie shirt etc. And, then ran them through my head until I had face with clothing and the next day, I would have the face with new clothing and eventually...just the face was enough.

I told them how I did it and about 20 minutes later a boy came around an electrical wiring cage and said, "I took off my shirt...who am I?" There was no longer a boy in the room with a red sweatshirt on so he had to be Justin. Kids thought I was "awesome."

Because most of these kids won't go on to college but will become construction workers, beauticians or child care workers, reminding them that they will need recommendations to get that first job makes for quick reversal of any questionable behaviour. Had one young man spit out a "fu*k" and I asked what the fine was for that infraction? Much glancing around and another kid said, "0.25. How did you know?" Love stumping them...kid paid up and even told me where to put the money and where to leave the note about who said what. Told him I would write that I assessed the fine but would pretend I didn't know WHO said it...just that he had paid up!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Why we are still in Michigan...or so we dare to believe~

The past few weeks have been filled with family and fall adventures. I made my first stuffed pumpkin which was easy to make and delicious. This pumpkin was donated to the cause by my grandson, Owen, who was on his way to Florida and wasn't going to be able to carve this goody he received on his field trip. I stayed over at Kristin and Pat's home the night before they left so they could head out very early and not disturb Layne, who will soon be two. She stayed home so her sister and brother could enjoy Disney World.

While at Kristin and Pat's, I was able to meet "noche" their black cat. Pat wasn't sure I knew what that word meant in Spanish and Kristin and I just chuckled. I asked why they didn't call the kitty "negro" and he was appalled. He couldn't call his cat NE-GROW and I suggested the pronunciation was Neg-ro and meant black in Spanish. Pat remembered having a childhood pet, whose name was negro and pronounced NOT the Spanish way...they shortened that name to make it even less desireable. We all agreed NOCHE was a much better name all around. NO confusion. NO opportunity to laugh or make fun or be disrespectful.

Despite the crappy weather, I have been enjoying our kids and grandkids. Although, stupid me...when I went to Owen and Addison's jazz and hip hop dance classes the afternoon before they left...I did not take my camera. I did laugh my ass off at all these kids earnestly trying to dance and execute moves that really were not happening. Kristin asked if I remembered when she danced...I did. She was a beautiful and accomplished dancer until she realized her boobs would only continue growing. She did not enjoy the blossoming which was all too apparent in her leotards and stopped dancing.

I did make it to an outdoor soccer game of Chase's and here he is as goalie. Six year olds are fun to watch and I was reminded of Alex's first soccer team. One of the Indian boys on his team grew weary and sat down mid-field and picked dandelions. Very fun.

Made it also to one of Kenz' soccer games. She is the young lady far to the right with ponytail a flyin and wearing the bright orange shoes. She is a very gifted player and hopes for either an academic or sports scholarship...both of which are serious possibilities. This girl is talented, focused and organized. Oh, she is my grandaughter and her mother's child. Aren't I proud??

Chase is blessed to have many grandparents...besides the biological ones. Here are grandma Rosie, grandpa Dar, parents of a friend of Chris' who served with him in Iraq. I am the bundled up mess with a purple hat, and green blankie. Froze our asses off. Heidi is laughing her butt off at how horrid of a picture she knows this will be. Yup...loving being near my kids.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Going out on the town....

My birthday week has turned out to be so much fun...but one filled with lunches and dinners out, which is NOT good for the diet but great for the soul. I had a luncheon with two Caseville friends, followed by a lunch with an old friend I worked with at The Flint Journal. Dianne and I laughed and reconnected. Then, last night, I met David, our stock broker and his wife, Lonnie at Cranberries in Goodrich for dinner. My plan had been to wear this black sweater and black pants but the shirt I brought was my "pinch me, squeeze me and make me whine" shirt I bought during sisters' week in Pigeon Forge and NOT what I wanted to wear out to dinner.

Girls confab resulted and McKenzie and Heidi decided I could try this top of Heidi's which Kenz had worn to school yesterday. It is a size medium and I have NEVER worn that size...well, maybe when I was 12. So, they had me pop it on and we were laughing so hard. I just whipped my t-shirt off in the living room and Kenz helped me put this skinny thing on. We liked it and so off to dinner I went. They accessorized my outfit by popping a bracelet from Costa Rica. Looked not so bad for an old girl.

Now this fashion production followed our shopping trip to the Salvation Army where Kenz watched me try on about 8 pair of jeans to see if they looked appropriate or not. Bought two pair which are two sizes smaller than those Kenz helped me buy at the same Salvation Army store in Davison three months ago. Feeling good for an old fart! What would I do without great women in my life???

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Last Sunday...Charity Island

Mike Quinn, the island cruise pilot invited us to go on a last cruise for fun. He used to camp and hike on the island when a young man and he has wanted to hike around the island one more time. Richard and I went and we invited a new friend, Kat Sturtz to also go with us on our day trip and probably the last day we had this season that was gloriously sunny and 80 degrees.
When we were working, there was no time to see anything other than the lighthouse. So, the hike was to be an adventure and it was. Unfortunately, Mike hadn't that there are no paths on the we hiked through brush and walked over slippery rocks coated with muck or fungi. That Mike knows the island was helpful and we aimed for the "inland lake" which he knew from past experience. Here is it..mucky and with low water level but framed by colorful fall foliage.

Kat and Richard are found here slowly picking through the rocks. They found some gorgeous geodes and some rocks with mica, granite and who knows what else.

This is the best of the brush we walked through and that it was fall made the trek better than what we would have experienced in June or July.

At some point in the circumnavigation, Richard suggested we hike through the island's it is and it was easier to hike and beautiful.

Miles later, we got back to the dock. Great day spent with good folks and I am looking forward to next season on the boat!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The past weekend: one of wandering

This past Saturday, I went for a walk here in Caseville and met up with Captain Mike, pictured here. We went for about an 8 mile hike around Caseville country roads. Danay, the young lady you see here was someone I also worked with on the Charity Island Cruise boat this summer, but she does not play a role in my wanderings this past weekend. So, Mike and I were walking on Crescent Beach road along the shoulder and a car came screeching behind us slamming across the road, narrowly missing us. Mike jumped down into a culvert. I didn't. The car was trying to avoid a tiny white dog that was in the road with two little girls fast on his tail. Moron driving the car did not even stop. Doggie was not hit but went running down the road. I picked him up, waiving at the girls to stay on the other side of the road.

When I got to the girls, I asked, "is your mommy or daddy home?" "Mommy left and daddy is at work," I was told. "Any other adult here?" "No." These girls are maybe 6 and 4 and I was concerned that they were alone with wild lose doggie. So, I took them to the porch, looking for a rope or a chain for the dog and a woman tore out of the back door yelling. She had heard the car screeching and my voice yelling at the girls and came to check. This was NOT mommy or daddy...I had asked the wrong question. And she wasn't an "adult;" rather she was the "old lady" who takes care of them. Am betting she was 40 and was dying to ask the older girl how she would describe ME!

All were fine and the hike continued but I had worn my new tennis shoes and when I left home, my plan was for a short two mile hike. Oh well...gorgeous fall day.

Sunday, Captain Mike and I were taking the cruise boat over to Charity Island and Richard, seen here and Kat, a new friend of mine, went along. Richard actually piloted the boat most of the way back...and he had a ball. I have done this but only with the pilot wheel bungy corded in place by Mike. Richard can do this the officially sanctioned way. I cannot navigate! More on the Sunday adventures....later.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Second day...subbing, and learning so much!

My second school work day was a surprise from the moment I arrived. The teacher I was subbing for was in her room and the first period, I was sent to a math/social science teacher's class. He was also in his room and wasn't "feeling" like math right then, but he could switch social studies to that period and catch up on math later. So, he/we decided to go out into the hallway where there is a huge map and I told the kids where I had been working these past couple of years and they picked a country for me to discuss and for them to hold a Q&A with me.

They chose Iraq, which was one of my favorite countries and we discussed education, women's rights, the difference between the freedom in the north amongst the Kurds and what is happening in the south. These 7th graders thought in one country, everything should be the same. So we discussed differences that they have experienced, seen, heard of that are unique, different between our southern and northern states. Eye opening, that discussion!

I went back to the original English classes but at noon, my teacher brought me a new plan. After lunch, I was to go relieve a 1st grade teacher. YUP, 1st grade...6 year olds. Much to share here. And the next period was with 5th graders who were studying the US, its climate, geography and regions. Then, back to middle school English. A hoot of a day.

1st graders are apparently creatures of habit and are forced into learning their days and stopping all of the afternoon time they had as half day kindergardeners. One little girl told me her tummy hurt and she was going into the loft. She was dead asleep in 2 minutes and two others wanted to join her. Apparently, these little guys miss their naps! I taught adding and I want you to know that one does NOT say, "1 plus 1 equals 2." Nope...we do it this way: 1 AND 1 are 2. No deviations from the norm. They played math games, and completed a math worksheet which I asked them to hold on so we could correct it together. NOT something we do. One little guy told me, very politely, "that is not normal." Normal is to place the completed work in a bin, which we did. Snack time was very serious because two boys had to go get the mile from the cafeteria, but math boys were slow at completeing their worksheet. Silly me...I suggested two other boys go. Calm turned chaotic in 30 seconds. We waited. Now, we count snacks ahead of passing them out and the girl who was sleeping was the snack girl. I decided to not upset the basket and wait til the next day for her to pass out her snacks. Everyone, even without a snack thought that was a good decision!

5th graders were a hoot. They had read a chapter on the US, its climate, environment, physical landmarks and features and had questions to answer. Some were open what features would you expect to find in the coastal lowland areas? One young girl pointed to the map and shared that she had no idea...she had never been to those states.

Next class, a special ed teacher came in, listened to the assignment I had been left and she decided to take one young man out of the room. She thought it would go better for him and for me. Had him later in my last period science class and was wishing someone would come get him and a couple of his buddies. Behaviour and control of one's mouth, whether talking, singing, rapping, mumbling is apparently not something taught at home. I could tell what was "the norm" because no one looked askance or said anything. Unusual...much for me to learn.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Values and setting priorities

The teacher I subbed for the other day had an interesting values exercise for a high school English class which was tied, in some way, to an assigned reading. First step...take 12 listed values and quietly, prioritize them for yourself. Do you think world peace is more important than a clean environment or a healthy, happy family? The list was a good one and the kids finally got that they could put whatever they wanted and we discussed who put love as their number one value and why? Various told their first, their fifth, their twelfth and why in that order for them. Finally, one student raised his hand and said, "Mrs. C, what are the right answers?" That stymied me because it indicated at least one person didn't get that this is personal and individual. Furthermore, this must not have been a topic addressed in his family or maybe not earlier in school. Not sure, but surprising....and I don't believe the kid was convinced when I told him there is NO one answer to this. I loved the exercise and so wanted the homework assignment to be to write a paper defending their values and the priorities they gave to each. That would have opened a window into their hearts and their lives. I am remembering why I loved teaching!

Culture shock...times have changed!

I had an experience yesterday that reminded me that what I know intellectually is NOT necessarily accurate or real. Walking into a real classroom in 2011 carrying preconceptions based upon classroom teaching experiences from the 1980's was a shocker. Now, my son-in-law teaches and I have heard him discussing his classroom antics, difficulties and issues with behaviors, but again, this isn't the same as feeling or smelling...yes, smelling a classroom today.

Let me share a few of my more humorous experiences here. I mention smelling because I had a young man who had serious issues expelling gas during the period...quietly, but violently. He left to use the bathroom and took care of business, I am sure. However, even with the window open, when the next class arrived, they looked askance at the new sub, wondering, I am sure, just what MY issue was. Everyone walked in squinching up their faces and noses.

The teacher I subbed for had outstanding organizational skills with everything in folders, numbered and copied. And, the directions were clearly outlined and I was able to follow them fairly well given that I had forgotten that these days teachers have classes mixed with kids who are both behaviorally and academically challenged. Though I tried to move around the classroom asking if any help or assistance was needed, it wasn't until we were through a period that I realized...hmmm, x boy or girl maybe had special needs. I am sure teachers cannot leave info on who the issues may be or what could be done for x or y student IF z occurs. I will ask but I left, having had a great time, learning and relearning some lessons but also feeling I maybe should have done a, b or c, differently.

Another young man left the class and his classmate told me to not be surprised if he returned and told me what he had done in the bathroom: number 1 or 2! He opened the door and announced exactly what he had one responded or laughed, and he sat down and got to work. A surprise for me...obviously de rigour for everyone else.

Several teachers talked fairly openly about their challenges and while one day does not an expert make, nor does it make one fully informed, I heard them differently than the chat one hears from fellow parents and grandparents. I didn't realize how many years I have been outside of a classroom...even as a parent of a now 21 year old, we haven't been connected personally to all of the education conversation, debates, arguments hitting the airwaves and newspapers. I am listening and watching anew.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The new normal....

---is really, really aggravating me and I am needing to construct a more vibrant life here in the country. I am finding that I have landed in a rut...a healthier rut than I had been in before but nevertheless, a rut. Life has been spiced up recently...met three new ladies last night and went out to dinner and to see the movie: The Help, which I highly recommend. Workouts at the gym are improving and I find I am making healthier choices...not so much chocolate and red wine these days. Miss them but not as much as I would have expected. Now, to be honest, the bag of M&M peanut candies that Richard bought to surprise me when I got back from Florida, lasted less than one whole day. Yup...ate the whole bag of candies. Well, I did share some with Richard but not very many.

Each day tends to be a mixture of exercise, healthy eating, a tad of housework and some interaction with a couple of people. I am awaiting calls for substitute teaching and found out last night that there is a local food bank so will try to get involved there. Weather is tedious...cold, windy, blustery and grey which is somewhat of a downer. Noticed today as we drove into Caro to do the big bi-monthly grocery shopping trip that the fields are all turning brown just as the trees are turning glorious shades of red, orange and yellow. What I am NOT doing is something nice for other people like I was doing with Hope Hospice. Just was sent a project to do for them and that will be good...but solitary. Needing more interaction.

In Caro, we checked out a few of the stores we hadn't been to in the past and checked out what possibilities there are there for restaurants and places to go. Pumpkin Festival here in Caseville today and tomorrow and I forgot about it...need to check the website and see when the bands are playing. IF they are as good as during Cheeseburger that will be great fun...IF the weather holds. Whining, aren't I?

Oh, the neighbors who are feeding the feral cats found one of the kittens that were part of the group which were abandoned in our wood pile. Ours are dead but they had one, now named Beauregard, which they found under their porch and which is now being bottle fed in their home. Beau is about three weeks old and soooo tiny. At least he hadn't been eaten and bitten like ours had. Issue: this guy most likely will be let out to go wild and he will be causing an increase in the wild cat situation going forward. These neighbors don't like pets but I am tickled they salvaged this little guy. Had a fast moment when I thought...maybe we could adopt him but not going to happen...three dogs and one kitten. NOPE

Enjoying the fall foods up here. Trish, our neighbor is selling apples so I have a huge amount of them and am making apple cake and tonight, for dinner, we are having a pork roast, cooked with apple cider, ginger, a bit of brown sugar, cored apples and potatoes. Smells heavenly in the house. Oh, making pumpkin muffins tonight....pumpkins everywhere. One of the ladies I met last night had pumpkin pancakes for dinner and that surely is something I can make soon for the family. Why is it that cold weather brings on the cooking jag?

Saturday, September 24, 2011


Had the road trip from hell my second full day on the road from Florida...left Danville, Ky., where I stayed overnight with my sister, Cyn. Had a great visit and we went to dinner at a new Mexican restaurant in town. Besides the food serving's being delicious, inexpensive and enormous, I was able to speak Spanish which I miss terribly. Sadly, I was unable to connect in person with my friend, Sandy, with whom I worked in Tegucigalpa. Needed to be coming through on a weekend because he couldn't get off work. Talked with him on the phone English and Spanish. His being in the USA, working, and now, being engaged to an American he met in Tegus is helping his English. Must get down to try to see him soon.

The trip from hell? Well, I drove in a monsoon for over four hours in traffic that was in, I was squnching (yes, a new word!) my sphincter tightly and white knuckling the wheel as I was passed by semi-trucks going 75 mph on both sides and all around. They apparently did not understand that smaller vehicles might be inundated by spray, rain and fog, causing difficult and dangerous driving conditions. OR they may have wanted to notice the butt load of accidents all along I-75 which they passed without moving over per the law. Traffic slow downs outside of Cinci and Dayton took time, but the real nutcruncher was on I-75 just short of Saginaw, Michigan. I rounded a corner and all six lanes were stopped ahead quite a ways from where I was at the moment.....what caught my attention, in the rain, was that while the cars were lined up and stopped, they were off completely. Off meaning there were no tail lights shining except for those approaching the miles of stopped cars. These cars were sitting and waiting and obviously were not moving even at a snail's pace.

I immediately pulled over to the right shoulder and decided to back down the shoulder, (YES on I-75) because I had just passed the exit for M-81, the road that cuts through Caro, about 30 miles from our cottage. So, with flashers flashing, and with traffic rounding the corner, approaching at 70 miles an hour, I backed up about a city block's length. I was praying...outloud, I might add, that no one would hit me because I really had people to see, doggies to pet and other things on my mind other than dying. I also was very concerned that some cop might approach and I was pretty sure there must be some law about backing down the interstate. I was guessing. Actually, my key motivation for backing up was that I had to pee like a race horse and couldn't sit and wait for whatever.

So, I managed the backing up with not too many one finger salutes being thrown my way and got around the poles blocking quick egress onto the off ramp, which was being used by those who also were alert and wanted off I-75 THAT minute. I loosened up the sphincter, stopped and did my business and was promptly called by my neighbor, Kathy, who wondered if I was home and could I let out China, their dog. I told her where I was and she asked if I had gotten caught up in the I-75 semi-truck's explosion? Apparently, earlier in the morning, about 7 hours before I came through, there was a huge fire and explosion and that is why the traffic was dead stopped. NO way I could have sat there waiting that long with no porta potties! On the news, it was mentioned that people actually left their cars to go get food and drinks because of the severity of the damage and the inability to remove it all. Exciting and I missed it all but found a way to add some interesting experience to my wanderings.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


My middle sister, Linda, has turned 60 today and she is not liking that at all. My 60th year, which we overlap by a month has been an interesting and full one. Praying she enjoys the start of this newest decade. We are becoming old farts!

I have been in Florida for several days...several more than I had planned because I somehow hurt my back. I ended up literally sitting on the toilet at 2 a.m. scared to death...there I was, not able to stand up and my cell phone was downstairs and there was no one else here at home with me. How long would it take before someone would come rescue me...asked I of myself? I figured a long long time, so crawled down and to the bed. Next morning, I called my neighbor, Deb, a Hospice nurse to see which hospital ER I should go to. She suggested Lee so did that. While there, they assured me I had not herniated anything and that good drugs and modern medicine would cure my would NO picking up kids or stuff. So, I suggested to the PA and the orthopedic doctor that I had consulted my neighbor, a nurse to see what I should do, where I should go etc. He told me I should consult only a "medical professional" which is what I thought I had done. When I have an issue, I either call my sister, Linda, a nurse or Deb, my neighbor the nurse to find out and diagnose what next. They ARE my medical arrogant some doctors are.

So, I came down to the Florida house to get the Christmas gifts I have bought all year long from interesting countries and to pack up clothing I can wear while substitute teaching. I had NO password to get into the sub database because my digital fingerprinting I did in July, which I paid for, now had to be manually handled. for the processing only to be told the manual process will take 6-8 weeks after they check my file...NOT 6-8 weeks after I had the fingerprinting. I hate bureaucracy!!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Tifton, Georgia

Many of you know that I had to make an emergency trip to our home in Florida to pick up work clothing and get the Christmas gifts I have been stowing away throughout the year. Just before entering Florida, I stopped at Tifton to get some gas...and I was filled with gas quite quickly. I stopped at station number one and the pump would not read my debit card so I went inside and was asked by a non-native English speaker, "how many?" many gallons or how many dollars? I didn't get an answer back but the woman waived me outside saying, "start." So, I assumed she meant to start pumping and I would pay when done. Unfortunately, the pump didn't work but she was waiving me to move my car to another pump. Gas forming in my belly.

I moved to gas station number two where the card reader did not work and another guy pumping gas told me to just go inside...the machinery was malfunctioning. I did...second non-native speaker told me to give him my credit card. Really? I did and went out to fill up and then came in to pay and he held up four credit cards. Guess I could choose which one I wanted to charge my gas to. I decided to be honest and use my own card...gotta wonder if everyone else chose my card over theirs? Anyway, I couldn't use their bathroom which was more disgusting than the go in the hole in the floor bathrooms I used in Baghdad so I went on to another station nearby. Did I mention I had serious back pain and all of this stopping, starting and getting out of the car was hurting me like all get out?

After using the facilities at station number three, I decided I needed a coffee. So, I poured a large one, filling it half with vanilla cap and one half with the regular coffee. The clerk asked what I had and I told her I had 1/2 of the specialty and 1/2 of the regular. She immediately told me I, "could not do that." I offered her the cup and told her to pitch it and she allowed as how I had to pay for it. OK...I can not do this or I can pay. I decided I would pay and take the coffee. The labor pool must be very limited in Tifton.

By the time I got to Ft. Myers, my back was so whacked I could only rest. Went to the emergency room early in the a.m. where I was given good meds and within a couple of hours, I could tell that I would: sleep soundly, smile readily and possibly be able to pick up my underwear off of the floor in a day or two. Am mending.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The North Star...working the cruise

This is Mike Quinn, the captain of the North Star, the boat which takes passengers to Charity Island and which I work upon, a couple of days per week. Duties? Serving drinks, cheesecake, and dinner and chatting up the clients. Love being on the water and meeting lots of interesting folks. Wishing I could spend more time improving upon the business but not my job. The owners are interesting folks and the lighthouse adjacent to their home is in need of repair but isn't their property.

We have had some incredible sunsets on the dinner cruises and one evening with very rough waters which resulted in puking customers. We had NO barf bags so I used ziplock bags which isn't the best...because when folks see puke, they also puke. We are all set for the next time, though. The cooks on the island are amazing and I have eaten the best beef tips and perch ever. Worth the trip out.
Posted by Picasa

Cheeseburger in Paradise, 2011

Cheeseburger was quite the festival with approximately 20 guests sleeping over at our home this year. Alex, viewed here with the Munger Potato queen and her court was home from Alaska for the festivities and we enjoyed him, his buddies, Heidi and Kristin's families and, for once, we were able to have Logan up here with us where he "played" with the older young men.
We took in many of the bands around town and here is Richard looking comfy in his Alaska shirt that almost looked at home with all of the Cheesy shirts the men were wearing. Loved having everyone up and were very happy to regain the quiet.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Summer 2011

Summer has flown by this year because we have been busy with family, friends, doggies, some work and much cooking, baking, canning and freezing of food items. Seems like every day is an adventure and I am enjoying the diversity a lot....diverse activities, nothing diverse about Caseville. This young lady and her pet, Samson the boa made my day. She and her buddy were sitting in our neighbor's yard, uninvited, I might add and she was just so happy to be able to show off her pet. Yup, boas can be dangerous but she pointed out, very maturely, that this is like a pet dog vs. a feral dog. Pets are friendly and so was her snake!

Luna, pictured below has had a traumatic summer after jumping off of Kristin and Pat's dune buggy and breaking her leg. She has now had five leg casts and still is facing another two months in a least.

She is taking this all in stride and the vet says is very agreeable about having the cast changed. Apparently, some dogs need to be put out for the process. Without exception, she is stylin!

We have had continuous company during the summer, with enough space in between to clean, launder, bake and enjoy the quiet. Our big event was Cheeseburger week...a Jimmy Buffet celebration which highlights his music and features a cheeseburger making competition, parade, dancing, and costumes. Photos coming. We had, at one point 20+people with us and we were fortunate to have both girls, their families and Alex, who was home from college in Alaska. Some of his buddies, from St. Pius X days were able to join in the festivities. Great to see these young men, growing into responsible young adults.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Camping with the boys

Preparing for this camping trip was something else. We used to camp a lot but haven't at all since we bought our Caseville cottage. We broke out the camping bins and cleaned everything up; hunted up lanterns, flashlights, sleeping bags and all things needed and related to camping. Had to combine the boys toys and suitcases into one so we could manage to get everything into the Nissan. And we decided to kennel Paco and Chica here in Caseville and Luna went to Kristin's house which was a help with cost. Because we had the girls' kids, we made sure we had all of the relevant insurance info just in case something went wrong...and of course, we didn't need any of that, thankfully. Had we been on our toes though, we would have purchased animal insurance to cover any doggie issues we might have.

Picture this...we get a call from Kristin our first night camping and the call begins, "The good news is...Luna is fine. The bad news is...Luna has a broken leg." Why one might ask is this 6 pound doggie now with a broken leg? brilliant daughter, whose IQ is higher than mine, decided to take Luna on their quad. Luna wanted off. So, here is my baby, Luna. I love that they put on a bright pink cast. She hobbles along looking at us with these huge eyes as if to ask, "Why didn't you leave me with Paco and Chica?"

The camping trip with Owen and Chase started and ended in Caseville. Here we are enjoying "baby" ice cream cones at the ice cream store in Grindstone City. These one scoop cones are to die for and are twice the size of a normal two scoop cone. We made this a final pit stop before leaving for Lansing to deliver Owen home and leave Chase til Heidi and Chris returned from a much belated honeymoon in Jamaica.

While on the trip there were many many opportunities for bonding and togetherness and here, Owen and Chase are side by side on one of the many hiking trails we explored while in Tawas and the surrounding areas. The boys did not complain once about all the walking and steps being taken to see the sites found around the Au Sable river.

The woods were gorgeous if not filled with tons of squirmy flying bugs of one sort or another. While hiking down to the natural spring's waterfall, Owen was heard to say, "This is the best day of my life." We were tickled that they enjoyed the outdoors as much as we did. To ensure that the soccer ball and baseball bat and ball were played with, mean grandma declared a moratorium on the DS playing. One day and a half was spent with NO electronic toys of any sort and they didn't miss them and were quite surprised when I reminded them to collect them so they would have them for the trip home.

We visited the Lumbermen's Memorial to those who felled the logs which built up the Midwest. This is situated on the Au Sable and there are 222 steps down to the river...we took them and returned only to visit the natural springs waterfall where there were 272 stairs up and down. Worth it!

Our home away from home served us well. However the opening of this Eddie Bauer tent was a planner's nightmare. One had a zipper going from left to right and then in a curved direction which one had to lean into to complete. Then, because the zipper didn't go from bottom to top, one had to remember to step up 18 inches to climb in...nevertheless, we slept well and were dry and bugless.

On our way up to Tawas, we stopped at McDonald's, which Chase called "Old McDonald's" and the kids got to play in a playplace which I NEVER want to visit again. They had fun and this is grandpa "monken" with the fire so we could grill out. Each day, we went into the forest and picked up or cut dead wood which we brought back to camp. The kids liked picking the wood up and helping to place it in the vehicle. Note the ever present bottle of wine. I needed it a lot during these days.

Our first day at Tawas Point, we visited the lighthouse and climbed to its top where we learned how it worked and how people knew they were off course or on course. The boys liked the windy stairs and for the most part, followed directions to HANG ON to the railings.

Each night, the boys looked forward to having S'mores and a bonfire built with their own wood. And, I must admit, I looked forward to getting them settled into bed each evening so Richard and I could enjoy the quiet near our fire. 6 year olds never shut up. I forgot about that. Had a ball...would do it again.

Inside the lighthouse keeper's home there were examples of how the house had looked. The kids thought this heater was a weird looking one...they were looking for vents in the floor. That is how their house is heated!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Summer: heating up!

After sister's week, my sisters began coming to visit us here at the cottage in Michigan. Sheryl, her husband and their daughter arrived only to leave and be replaced by my sister, Linda who is here holding ONE of the many Walleye she and Richard caught one day while boating. Linda's husband, Ned and I stayed home and yacked and enjoyed a day without our mates.

For those of you who have never eaten Walleye, it is one of the best fresh water fish ever eaten. Mild, tasty and we are pigging out on it frequently. Linda no more than left than Richard's buddies, Mike and Barry came up and they did what men do...fished. Bunch more fish in the freezer.

While Lois was up visiting, we went to meet my friend, Peggy, who has a drum circle going on Friday evenings. Last year, my nephew helped these ladies with their flutes and their drums and one of the ladies I do not know mentioned they needed to get that young man from last year back. Laughingly, I told them that he was my nephew and wasn't coming this summer to our home. Nice group of ladies and Lois, below began shaking her instrument and is now thinking about reconnecting with her love of the flute.

Had lots of laughs with Lois and while she was here, we went out to Sandpoint to visit our friend, Barb, who had had back surgery and who wasn't feeling so perky. Took some chili and had lunch with her and went to see "weed man" and his work on his new house. Lots of laughs...miss the friends we made at The Flint Journal where Barb, Lois and I worked together.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Caseville a whole different world. Makes travelling in Third World countries seem sane and plausible. Take grocery shopping...prices are three times what could be expected. Asparagus can, and often is more than $3.99 per one pound bunch. Did I mention that these fruit and veggies which are outrageously priced are also grown here locally? And then, the store (only one grocery store in town with the next closest 7 miles away) never has more than one check out line open even if there are twenty people waiting. Now, the best is when one gets behind a woman, as I did yesterday, who had over $100 worth of groceries and she waited til the total appeared on the screen to begin looking for her charge card. She couldn't find it...only has one, apparently, and then, couldn't find her checkbook. Of course, there is no way she would have that much the digging continued. Finally, the clerk, probably against all customer service protocols, indicated that some people plan ahead and have their method of payment ready to go so they don't hold up the rest of the customers. Had to laugh...imagine someone saying that at your grocery store!

We visit the local store and then, drive to Pigeon to purchase whatever we don't have or whatever is of a lesser price. These stores compete so it is always fun to look at the flyers each week...something I NEVER do in Florida.

The good news is, Richard has been catching a bunch of Walleye so we are feasting on fish which is not only less expensive, to quote him, but also much healthier for us. Now, if one calculates the cost of the gas to run the boat to catch the fish, I am thinking each pound costs about $20. He doesn't see it that way, though.

And in Caseville, the post office, besides being a place where you can fall and hurt yourself badly is also a place where one has to calculate when to visit to collect one's mail. Richard went today to mail some things and collect our mail, only to realize the PO was closed...they shut the window down during lunch, early on Fridays, late on Mondays and who knows when else.

Generally, the daily irritations get to me while up here but I must be acclimating to the city (Caseville was a township but has been elevated to city status!) which is scary. I just laugh and continue on my way. Am I settling or just getting old?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Sisters' Week...Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

This year, we went to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee and stayed at one of Sheryl's time share properties which was luxurious. We had lovely amenities, a pool and hot tub as well as a gym. The ladies went tubing one afternoon...I had to sit it out due to my fall a couple of weeks earlier which rendered my arm useless.
I walked along the river, watching the ladies get stuck on the rocks. Like any good Boy Scout, Sheryl took control and helped the older sisters out of a tough situation. My youngest sister has been a Boy Scout leader since her days at MSU and is still an outdoorsy kinda gal. Here, Lyn, with hand on her butt and Cyn, have had to stand up and walk on the slippery rocks to navigate down river.

After the tubing, we decided to try to find a restaurant and ended up finding a cluster of shops that were closed...but this place with the cool wood carving, Sister Cats Cafe, was open. The owners and cook were sitting on the porch and we were their first customers of the day. The restaurant held four tables and all were full within 30 minutes of our arrival. We ate the most scrumptious sandwiches, delivered by the cook to our table, cut in fourths so we could each share the other's choice.

This week was very appeared to be an outdoorsy, healthy event. Lyn had lost a lot of weight at Weight Watchers and Sheryl brought us belly dancing belts and a DVD to show us how to shake our booty. That and the hula DVD made us laugh ourselves silly but they were difficult...we followed that by trying the Biggest Loser Challenge DVD which we all said we would purchase and do at home so we could all do the whole thing next year together.
Exercising in the room was a huge hit...notice Sheryl in her long dress/nightie which she exercised in. The rest of us had shorts or work out togs...but Sheryl preferred the dress. Go figure. Lyn's behind is in black and Cyn is in the purple. I couldn't do the push ups or the kneeling exercises due to knee issues but was super good at all of the leg kicks and the running in place. Did lots of walking also.

And truly, this is how we all looked every day, every hour of our time together. We laughed our butts off about this or that.

Very fun was the day we got home after two hours at the gym and hot tub to find our front door was open. Nothing was taken but we were very concerned. Sheryl's computer and more were in the room and just as we were calling, someone slammed a near by door and our door popped open again. Repair men came quickly and no other issues.

For those of you who never met my she is times four. Funny how we have started to look like mom and each other. Even our hair styles are merging. Cyn embroidered beautiful shirts for each of us which we wore one day...kinda looked strange but then, people in Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area are not the most cosmopolitan. We fit in...scary.