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

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Five Days at Big Bend

John at Window, a long walk below Lodge
Tomorrow we head home after 5 wonderful days of strenuous hiking at the tip of Texas. We're staying at the Basin Lodge, and every spare minute I spend writing on another book. The final decision to offer me a contract came by email on the second day we were here. I emailed back that I was willing to accept the advance they offered and the deadline date. I was expecting the contract offer and had been working on the computer as John drove most of the way down. Here are some pics of us in the Park.

Lunch on our 9-mile hike up to the Meadows and Boot

Well worth the arduous hike--the BOOT!

John studying the petroglyphs out at the Chimneys

Frost along the roadway

Mid-morning break at Mule Ears Spring

Beaver enjoying a meal at Santa Elena Canyon

Remains of an old ranch house near the Canyon

Yours truly at Balanced Rock

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

A Sad Day

The news of the terrorist attack on a newspaper office in France, killing 12, prompted a slew of tributes---all over the internet. Here is one from my dear friend Sarah McIntyre, a Brit, and a noted cartoonist.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

A Week of Family Gatherings

Last Friday evening we met Sarah, John and the kids at Meijer Gardens for their Christmas event and ate together in the cafe; the weather was good and we had a great time walking around the grounds and along the boardwalk. Then on Monday afternoon we drove to Saginaw to see my brother David, Sharon, their kids and families on the occasion of the death of Sharon's mother. On Tuesday, after John visited his mother and mother-in-law, he went to another funeral home to pay his respects to his brother-in-law on the death of his mother. Today, we visited John's mom, and this evening had dinner with Kayla and Ariel preparing chicken and fixings at the condo. Carlton joined in. On Saturday, we will be going to John's first in-law's family for a late Christmas gathering, and next week we will be hosting John's sister Mary and taking grandson Mitch out to dinner to launch him on his second semester of college.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Three Super Grandkids

Mitch and Zach are great looking guys but WOW what a looker is ,our Ashley. I first knew her at 5, Zach 3, and Mitch, now a college freshman, was 8. Ashley, heading for sweet 16, was assistant stage manager for her fall high school drama performance. She'll be on center stage this spring playing Darla Jane. Zach loves sports every season of the year. Mitch says he's studying real hard at the university, working part-time at his uncle's business painting walls.