Monday, August 24, 2015

Memorable Sunday without a Camera

Yesterday we biked some 30 miles, from 8 am to 11:15 on the Musketawa Trail from the Fruit Ridge parking lot through the little town of Conklin and on to Ravenna and back. What a beautiful trail that curved up and down hill through cornfields and tunnels of trees, an altogether lovely morning, and we got back before the rain. I commented to John at one point about how incredibly fortunate we are to be in such good health and enjoying exercise so much. That led to a biking discussion of the word fortune and fortunate and John's discourse on Carl Orff's musical composition Carmina Burana, the opening and closing movement of which is "O Fortuna." So when we returned home, I looked up the goddess Fortuna and learned among other things that she was seriously dissed by both St. Augustine and John Calvin. Sunday evening we drove out to Roselle Park in Ada and biked for most of an hour, stopping only to observe a bald eagle and a brilliant sunset against waves of goldenrod and a dark eastern sky. How I wished I had brought the camera along for both excursions. During the rainy afternoon, I made the final corrections on my next book, due to come out in February (Baker Book House).

Thursday, August 20, 2015

A Typical Summer Day

We usually arrive at the business before 9 am, and Carlton often stops by with Tank, his newly acquired dog who loves to race around on our pathways. John's been doing a lot of painting this summer, as is evident in Kayla's playhouse and  Breton Cottage, now my art studio, where I encourage parents and grandparents to do simple folk art with their kids. When we leave in the afternoon at 4:30 we often drive to a county park with a picnic supper and hike or stop at our favorite pocket park on the way home, John at the table with the waterfall in view.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Lazy Blogger

It's been a busy summer here at the Gardens and working with two publishers, though it's not an excuse for being a delinquent blogger. John writes in his journal every day, but this is the only picture journal we keep. Three weeks ago we were away for a Sunday/Monday trip, staying in Rodgers City, Michigan. The trip was somewhat spoiled by a bad fall I took while checking out upstairs lodging for the night. It was an old lodge and the hall was narrow and dark, with no marking for a sudden step up. I took a few layers of skin off my arm, and it's now mostly healed. Needless to say, we didn't stay the night, though the manager patched me up and gave us free dinners in the dining hall.  Not a good trade-off, but I suppose better than nothing. Here is John at Ocqueoc Falls, a much more pleasant aspect of that mini vacation.
Not much in the news these days about Confederate flags, and we assumed the issue related mainly to the SC state capitol. Here is what we saw ahead of us a few weeks ago driving through Muskegon. Below is John doing some coat-hanger repair on our Element with 270K miles, also snaps of both of us last Sunday at Ludington State Park where we hiked and biked on an absolutely perfect summer day.

Friday, July 17, 2015

A Birthday, a Lost Dog and Long-lost Friend!

I'm celebrating the big 7-0 today, though in dog years around 10. I actually feel a lot older than that, maybe around 49, but am proud to be 70. Three days ago, Carlton was driving 28th Street, the busy strip in Grand Rapids, and saw a dog caught in the middle with cars flying two abreast going both ways. He stopped traffic and got the dog in his car, no collar, no ID at all. So we started checking Craigslist lost and found and other cites, nothing. In the meantime, Carlton is falling head over heals for the dog. This morning he stopped by the Gardens and again "Tank" jumped out of his car and bounced around, always staying close to Carlton. Again I went in to Craigslist. Then I saw this new listing. Carlton was heartbroken. He called the number and confirmed that his dog was indeed Toulah. So he headed over to the house, a few miles from here, to return the family pet. In the meantime, I called the same number, telling the woman what a wonderful dog she had and how much my son loved it, asking if she might sell it. She said it was a family dog and couldn't. I asked if she had ever considered selling, and that is when she began crying, saying that yes she had thought of giving it away because they work and have a 2-year old son and another dog, and it's just too much. She said she would not sell but would give to a good home. I raved about Carlton, and told her how his out-of-town sales were now past and he was staying closer by overseeing all his properties. After I hung up, I caught Carlton before he got to her house. He was was choked up, could hardly talk----and shocked by what I was telling him. "You mean she'd give me Tank?" I said no; she won't give you Tank, but she will give you Toulah. So when he got there, Toulah stuck close to him and wouldn't even go to her. Carlton promised to stop by as often as she'd like. I had told her on the phone that when she comes to the Gardens there's a gift-certificate waiting for her.

Now, my other birthday gift. My long-lost friend Steph from Black Earth, Wisconsin, emailed yesterday saying she and her daughter decided on a last-miute drive to  enjoy the west coast of Michigan, and would like to come to Grand Rapids to see us (where Steph lived for 4 years). What an absolute delight to see her. It's been 4 years or more, and we picked up where we left off as though we've never parted. I love her to death!! Here she is with daughter Chelsea in the wonderful hat.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

When the System Works and When it Doesn't

 Two checks came in the mail this week, one for $7500, the other for $264.64. We were most pleased with the latter. The first was, as I knew right away, "another obvious mistake," quoting my editor in an email to the person in charge of cutting the check. I'm supposed to send it back. Turns out it was for a woman whose last name is Tucker and first name begins with R. The second one is repayment for theft, the fourth and by far the largest payment we've gotten. Back in the day, some years ago when we owned a houseboat, and kept it at the Hardy Dam Marina, Justin Richard Opper decided to steal a bunch of marine batteries from the sterns of our boats. Good news is he got caught and per a law suit "People VS Justin Richard Opper," he's been paying back. We didn't get everything he owed us, but far more than we ever expected, especially when you consider lawyer fees. Hope you've learned a lesson Justin Richard Opper! Here's the old boat, now belonging to new owners.

Friday, July 10, 2015

July 7, 2015

The day held a lot of mixed emotions. July 7 was the day we said our final farewells to Mom Kraker (mother of Myra, John's second dearly departed wife). Visitation the night before and again before the 11 am funeral, then lunch in the church basement and finally to the nearby cemetery. It's always good to see out-of-town family, and Mom had been in hospice for weeks, so she was ready to go and we celebrated her 97 years of a full life.

Following the cemetery service we went to the Rest Home, where we celebrated Mom Worst's 100th birthday. It was a big doings with a lot of people, and Mom was happy though not fully aware of the significance of the day. She still has her sense of humor, however. When youngest great-grandson Zach came up to greet her, she remarked about his height and insisted on getting out of her wheelchair to stand next to him to see if he'd outgrown her. She could easily stand under his raised arm. Oh, how she laughed at that!

Bob and Laura came up from NC and stayed with us for several days, so it was an unusually busy week.

Below is what we wrote up for classified ads in the church magazine. We thought we were going to have to pay regular price, but 100th birthdays get free space---except for the above picture, which we gladly paid for.

Frances Vander Male Worst, long-time member of Creston CRC in Grand Rapids, celebrates her 100th birthday July 7 with her children John, Jim, Steve, Mary and her extended family. Her warmth, good nature and clever quips are legendary, especially appreciated by staff and residents of Christian Rest Home, 1000 Edison Ave NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Yesterday: Beautiful Day for a Wedding

I wasn't present at the wedding, but the pictures show they're having a wonderful time, and Kayla is the maid of honor. After almost 19 years of being a single mom, Melissa (Kayla's mother) took the plunge. We've met her new husband John and think he's a great guy, and Carlton gets along with him just fine. Melissa is more beautiful today than she was April 20, 1996, and she looks as happy in the picture as she is in person. We wish the bride and groom a joyous life together until death do them part.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Grandson's Graduation

He's headed for high school, our handsome Zach. With a look like that, he looks like he's almost ready for law school---and a personality that gives the girls goosebumps! He's the baby of the family. Ashley is headed for her junior year in high school, and Mitch is our college man. He doesn't like his picture taken, but I caught this profile before he realized what was happening. He's now sporting a little goatee.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Rainy-Day Pictures

We've had rain here but nothing like the terrible flooding of Texas and Oklahoma, and the Grand River is relatively low so we have no worries. I finally saw a PA about my ear problem; she was really good and gave me some nasal spray that will hopefully solve the problem so that I won't have to get tubes in my ears, and I'm still not back to a full energy level. We've been working hard at the Gardens and at home---the usual spring clean-up and gardening. We love the wildflowers next door to our house that remained after the house was taken down late last fall, the other pics are taken here at the Gardens: yellow water irises on the pond, golden butterfly arch that John just completed and his lovely white pergola. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Pleasure of Books

My cold hangs on. Went to my physician a week ago; he says my ear problem and hearing loss is beyond his ability so referred me to a specialist---ear/nose/throat. Problem is that no one in that large conglomerate is available until late June. I agreed to see a physician's assistant in the same building, hoping that at least something will finally be determined. My family doctor said, after spending some time checking me out, that I might have to have tubes in my ears. Anything to get my hearing back---though I'm certainly not deaf (though John must think I am). I did some gardening today and worked hard at the business on Saturday---the busiest day so far this year---wishing I were back up to full strength. Carlton joined us for church yesterday and then came to the house with a nice meal and we had a good Mothers' Day.

My loss of energy has not meant less reading. I just finished The Rapture of Canaan, a novel by Sheri Reynolds. It was in many ways similar but also very different from the book John read to me over the last few weeks, over 600 pages but it flew by quickly: The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall. Both books are about cultic groups. Canaan about a very abusive and extreme Pentecostal commune. The story is told by a young girls who is questioning the awful things perpetrated by her grandfather, the religious leader. It was difficult to identify with many of the characters who go along with the dictates of the leader, but a very interesting book.

The much better book is Lonely Polygamist. Brady Udall is part of the big LDS Udall clan, though he is half-hearted at best. No Mormon in good standing could have written this book and gotten by with it. He tells a very thoughtful story of a polygamous family of a generation ago. Golden is the main character and he is navigating life with his 4 wives who more-or-less get along with each other but are all struggling in their relationship with him. The story goes from funny to heart-breaking within a matter of paragraphs. And in the end you feel like you know this family and you care about their struggles but are not really seeing them as wierd at all. They're normal people with a lot of difficulties and sadness. The book unfolds with more twists and turns than any other book I can remember reading. Udall, as one reviewer wrote, has written the "great American novel." I envy his skill as a writer.

John is now reading to me Hissing Cousins: The Untold Story of Eleanor Roosevelt and Alice Roosevelt Longworth. We're enjoying it thoroughly. We've long loved Eleanor and are now just getting to know her crazy cousin Alice, daughter of President Teddy Roosevelt.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Can't Get Over a Bad Spring Cold

It just seems like this cold will never end. For most of 2 weeks I've been dragging myself around, always thinking I'm turning the corner, only to realize that I'm huffing and puffing and coughing again, hardly able to walk as far as the mail box.

I keep reading, however. The best book I've ever read on marriage is Love and War: Twenty Years, Three Presidents, Two Daughters and One Louisiana Home by Mary Matalin and James Carville. I used to watch them spar with each other, Mary being the rabid Republican, and James equally rabid on the other side. I often wondered how their marriage could possibly last. The book is as funny as it is tender and honest---not hiding their difficulties in marriage. It helped a lot when they moved out of the Beltway and down to New Orleans, where they both work on projects designed to bring the city back to where it was before Katrina.

I found this picture of them online. I love it. What I would give to sit down in their New Orleans home for a couple of hours and just talk.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Michigan Bunny

Some weeks ago we sent daughter Laura, who teaches fifth grade in Greensboro, a box containing this bunny basket. It was still cold and winter back then---even as it is today. The basket contains a little jingle I wrote. She said the kids in her class got a kick out of it.

The shivering Michigan Bunny
         a-hoppin’ through the snow
reckoned it not so funny
         to head for Greens-bor-O.

All the other rabbits
         laughed until they burst
but the one with healthy habits
         joined the classroom of Miz Worst.

            Compliments of
            the Worst family in Grand Rapids

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Back Home in Sunshine and Cold

Tradition: bagel, cream cheese, avocado, tomato
We arrived home from Biloxi and are back to our regular routine. Sorrow of the past week is beginning to shift into routine for everyone most affected, and there is certainly nothing wrong with routine. John and I love to travel and get away and see new sights, but we are most comfortable when we are in a daily routine. Biloxi is now tradition for us. We argued about that----how many times do we have to do something for it to be tradition. We go to Biloxi for a week every March (though this was only our third time). Does that now count for tradition? And when we go there we always do our traditional things, eating at the same restaurants (though we found a cool new one this year), biking in the same places, taking the same walks at night, picking up trash at the same park, and having our same picnic lunches. Here are some pics to prove it.
Tradition: same picnic park

Same turtles on same log

Same alligator every year

Same old trash

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Very Sad Days in Biloxi

Saturday afternoon we hit the road for Biloxi, arriving mid-afternoon on Sunday. We've biked, worked on the book, enjoyed wonderful seafood and have had beautiful sunny warm weather the entire time. We have 2 mothers, 97 and 99, so we are always conscious that a phone call may call us home early. The phone call came, but it was the last thing we ever could have expected, and much more devastating. Carlton called. His best buddy since high school had called him while Carlton was on his way to his house, telling him not to come, to go to the hospital instead. Carlton and he are like brothers, both best man for each other, and his kids are like Carlton's own; they are Kayla's younger brother and sister (their mother living at a distance and not terribly involved with them). We dearly love them. She, 13, had been air-lifted to the closest ER, having been stabbed multiple times by brother, 15. It's been all over the local news. She was in intensive care for 3 days and is now, at least physically, on the mend. He is in custody; charges against him are pending. Both kids were doing well at school; she's a champion soccer player, her dad the coach. The whole school community is devastated. My heart is breaking. I held them as babies (in fact, was at the hospital hours after she was born), ran after them as toddlers, have enjoyed seeing them grow up, and loved their bear hugs: Hi Mimi, how are you? Last year when we were in Texas in January, we had flooding in the basement at Carlton Gardens. Alex called, not knowing what to do. Both kids dropped everything to come and help, and, in fact, big brother, got right to the clogged drain and then as the water receded he helped get things up off the floor. How dearly I love those kids. Everything we do down here, every mile of biking, every walk on the beach, every meal, is clouded by the tragedy back home. Carlton and Kayla have been at the hospital almost around the clock, Carlton having canceled a work-related trip to California. There's nothing we could do if we returned home, though we will be leaving a day early, heading back first thing in the morning.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

St. Paddy's Day Decor

After we took down our Valentine's display with our 2 commodes, we decided to do honors to St. Patrick. Now that the snow is gone John decided to remove the commodes, commenting that it all looked real tacky. Imagine that! He didn't entirely prevail, however. The gnomes, flags, shamrocks, and flying pig are still on display.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

A STAR is born!

On Thursday night we were in the front of an auditorium for a high school performance of "Run for the Money." Granddaughter Ashley did a superb job. In fact, comparing her with last year, she has made drastic improvement. She's so natural, loose as a goose, as though there's no audience at all------and funny! She really gets into it. We were all proud as peacocks.

We can't take snaps during the performance, so the only pics we got are these. My, what a beautiful young lady she is. NYC first and then Hollywood!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Giuliani Amusement

John and I are amused by the anti-Obama remarks by former NYC Mayor, Rudy Giuliani. They come at the very time that John is reading aloud  Lincoln by Pulitzer-Prize winning author David Donald. We are now on page 540, plowing through every detail of the 1864 campaign, waiting to find out if he wins. What is so shocking is the almost-unrepeatable anti-Lincoln rhetoric---horrible things said about him---and that from his own party, even after his nomination as the Republican candidate. So here we are in 2015 getting all up tight about a former mayor's rather ho-hum remarks about the president. What's new about Obama being a communist or not loving America? Didn't we all already know that! What has upset me most was to learn this about our President: "He doesn't love you. And he doesn't love me." It's very  painful to process this. And the truth is that I do trust the mayor. I actually mean that sincerely. He was the only one running the country for most of a week after 9-11, everyone else high in government having gone into bunkers.

Well, I suppose I'll get over it. I've simply got to get a grip on reality. Obama doesn't love me.

Here is the best book ever written on Abraham Lincoln. John is convinced he should be re-elected. I am not. We've had more than one dust-up over the issue. Now all we can do is wait and see.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Frigid Weather and a Mystery

On Sunday, despite the deep freeze and wind, John and I took a hike up-river, making our own path along the frozen wetland and woods. There is still open water, as is evident in front of our house, John looking out to the river. Yesterday afternoon when we got home from work, we bundled up and went back, taking clippers with us and cutting our way through the brush that had grown over since we had done it a couple of years ago. So now our hike extends further, and we'll keep taking our clippers. We've simply determined that we won't hide out in the house during sub-zero temps. What I like most about this winter is the sunshine, reminds me of childhood in northern Wisconsin.

The mystery relates to the snow man out on the ice. How did anyone dare to walk out there? Maybe the person slipped through thin ice and the body will turn up near Lake Michigan in the spring. Hope not.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Valentine's Display

So Carlton is installing some new commodes for  his rentals and he leaves 2 old ones out front in our yard at the house---a nice surprise when we arrived home on Saturday. He always thinks we have a use for what he is throwing out. Fortunately we have a large trash container that gets picked up every week, so some of his stuff goes there. As to his latest gift, we brought them to the Gardens and set them out front, and as I told our partner Alex, VERY TASTEFULLY DONE.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Odds and Ends

Hard to believe that we've been home from Texas 2 weeks, the days flying by always with too much to do. Last week I got word from my editor that the book I had submitted on the last day of December does not have proper citations. I think the publisher is being way too picky for a non-academic book, and I tried to argue that no one doing a Ph.D. dissertation is going to use my volume as a source. But my opinion doesn't necessarily count for much when it comes to putting out the final product.

We went to see the movie Selma last week, thought it very good and a valuable history lesson. Then this week went to the Civic Theatre downtown to see Mousetrap. John and I had both seen it in London some 30 years ago. Who knows, we could have been at the same show.

Yesterday afternoon when we arrived home, we found a package in the mail from a former colleague of John's at Calvin. What a nice surprise---a CD of the faculty quartet some 4 decades ago (known around campus as 3 johns and a sink; Carl's last name is Sinke). It was a real treat for me since I'd never heard John sing high tenor, and he came through so clearly in his great-voice days. My only disappointment was that these were all fairly sober songs. He tells me they did bang-up harmony on "Elvira" and some of the other old country and pop tunes, but this CD was from a chapel service, though it did feature some lively gospel.

It's been a cold month around here but not much snow. The best news is that the river is near a record low for this time of year. We're not getting giddy yet, but certainly hope that this might point to a year without a flood.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Good Bye Big Bend, Hello Abilene!

Even though it was cold and cloudy much of our stay, this was our best time ever at the park, mostly because we stayed 5 nights and hiked 6 days, though today only until noon. A chance remark to a volunteer ranger yesterday afternoon led to a discussion of a remote area we had never before visited, and this morning we got up early, packed the car and drove the 35 miles to Ernst Tinaja. What a spectacular canyon and pools. We also did some hiking at Boquillas Canyon along the Rio Grande River. We left as the weather was turning warm, promising to be back again next year. Tonight we're staying at a nice Quality Inn in Abilene and hope to make it home by early Sunday afternoon. The stranger in this pic is Barb, a real inspiration to us. We met her at Balanced Rock yesterday. She's 75 and has a serious lung disease that she contracted from cleaning the cages of her late husband's racing pigeons. She hadn't realized that the dust was getting into her lungs, and now has to carry oxygen with her, but refuses to quit hiking---had come to Big Bend all the way from Utah.

Here I am at the pool of Cattail Falls

At Ernst Tinaja
John at Ernst Tinaja