Thursday, March 15, 2018

As the Minutes of our Lives Tick Away....

It is Sunday and I've been pondering for days now, what do I take for granted? This is not a randomly arrived at concern. It is a topic for my writing class. The more I think about it the more puzzled I am.

Do I take things for granted? I'm sure I do, but since I take it for granted I'm at a loss to identify it. I try NOT to take things for granted; to be grateful for health and family and a roof over my head, but I still assume they will always be there.

While I ponder, I sit at my computer and play Solitaire. I love Solitaire. I always have. I remember watching my grandmother, sitting in the sun at our dining room table, playing solitaire all afternoon and wistfully wishing I could just play Solitaire all day. She assured me that when I was her age, I would be able to do just that, but by then it would have lost some of its charm. It hasn't, although I'm not quite her age yet.

I also spent the afternoon ensconced on the couch watching the NASCAR race. I love Nascar, too. There is a special thrill about being at the track as the train of cars go roaring past you, the engines vibrating through the stands, the rumble fading off as they enter turn 2, and exit turn 3. Today, I am mesmerized as I watch the cars go around and around. (It's a thing, I know. You either love it, or you stare at it in a brain fog. I love it.) As I stare, something is ticking away at my brain. It's beautiful out. Shouldn't I be out there, enjoying the afternoon? Or doing something else, like writing how I take things for granted?

Probably, but the race is on and I'm glued to it as I check the whereabouts of my favorite drivers. Besides, I've been trying to figure out a certain word on the Words with Friends game I'm playing with my daughter. I can do that while keeping an eye on what's happening on the track. "There", I think. "Two birds with one stone! I'm not really wasting time. I'm just allocating it."

The race is over, dinner is cleaned up and I'm checking Facebook one more time before I sit down to write about taking something for granted. As I scroll through the links, the shares, and the photos posted by friends, one stands out.

"Don't Blink. You never know when your life can change in an instant."

And there it is. Truth. Right in front of me. What do I take for granted? The fact that tomorrow my life will be the same as today. That when my husband and I go to bed at night, we will wake up tomorrow and go about our daily routines. But daily, I am surrounded by evidence that a fire, an accident, a diagnosis, .... could change my life..... In An Instant.

I look around the room at the projects I intend to do some day. The photos I want to sort, and make into an album for my kids, the stories I want to get into a book, the books I want to read, the sewing projects I want to create. My haven, just waiting for me to dive in and get busy as soon as I stop procrastinating and playing solitaire.

I don't regret all of the ways I waste time. I really do enjoy watching NASCAR races, so if I want to sit and watch, that's fine. But my grandmother was right. Solitaire can wait until the time when that's all I can do. If life were to change, and my time was no longer my own, I would be wishing I had time to do all sorts of things, the very things I take for granted that I can do tomorrow.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Let There Be Light!

It's been dreary here the last few days. It is the downside of living in a cabin in the woods, especially on a rainy day. And it has rained for two days straight. The lake is rising, the streams are full, and the mourning doves that scour the ground for food have begun gathering twigs. I think they've decided to build a raft.

Normally, on a gray day, I turn on all the lights in the house. This is much easier when Larry isn't around to wonder aloud if the Power Company had a sale on electricity. There is another issue, however, with the lights that helps to keep me in the dark. Four days ago, the kitchen light quit. Just like that. It is one of those LED lights that is guaranteed to work for 50 years. I think it lasted about 15 months.

When we bought our little cabin, there was an ugly fluorescent light with an opaque puff cover over it. It provided ample light, but was, quite simply, UGLY. I wasn't sorry when it died. When Larry and I checked our local Home Depot we studied the assortment of overhead lights suitable for a kitchen, and came home with one we thought would fit our small space. A cute little chrome number with 4 directional LED lights.

This is a good time to mention, I have few 'Designer' skills. And it became apparent as soon as we installed it in the kitchen that it was a poor choice. It was modern, sleek, bright enough to land aircraft and completely out of sync with cabin décor.

For the first few months, every time we turned it on in the morning we had to shield our eyes. I'm pretty sure it would have given a blind man sight. I told myself I liked the bright light, but as time went on I admitted more and more how much I didn't like the overall effects. The light was just wrong for the room.

And then it quit. Boom. First a flicker, then a brown out, then..... nothing. This time I decided to exercise patience, and forethought. We checked the local light store and found fantastic Farm House style lights, Cabin lights, cool looking rustic lights.... great lights. I went home and studied the space. And I realized the ugly 4' fluorescent style was actually the best fit. For some unknown reason the light fixture is not centered in the ceiling and all of those cool looking lights would hang in the wrong place. A wide spaced, flush mounted, unobtrusive design is what works best.

This morning I awoke up to another dark, dreary, damp day. I can't function in the dark. I would shrivel into a Styrofoam peanut if I lived in Alaska. I was ready to turn on all the lights in the house but there was still a large dark corner in the one place I needed to see what I'm doing. Today, we went to Home Depot and picked out another flush mounted, non-obtrusive ceiling light with LED lighting.
Is it just me, or does this look as though a UFO is settling in our kitchen?

Once again we can bring sight to the blind. I suspect even the Space Station has detected a new glow emanating from somewhere in the North Georgia mountains. That's ok. This time I am ready.

Let there be LIGHT!

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Writer's Block

Writer's Block: When your imaginary friends won't talk to you. 

"You can't think yourself out of a writing block. You must write yourself out of a thinking block." John Rogers
Image result for clip art writing


I love that first line, but it's the second one that holds truth. It's been months since I've written. Not just here. I haven't written anything since October. Our usual Christmas letter became a Photo Card. I enjoy doing a Christmas letter and try to put a personal twist into it. In the past I've described the signs of the season in Florida (foggy mornings and strawberry fields being prepared for planting). I've re-written the lyrics of a Christmas song. One year I made our kids write their own paragraph and sign it. This year, I had no imagination, and reeling off a recap of the year just didn't work for me.

I've looked inside to see what was the matter, but I really don't know. In my experience, people start to withdraw from communication when they are dealing with stress. It may be emotional stress, such as the loss of a loved one, or the end of a relationship. Sometimes the actual work of living our daily lives become so time consuming there is no time to reach out to friends. We just go through the day, putting one foot in front of the other, doing whatever has to be done next. Illness also has a way of separating us from people.

I've looked at all of that, and nothing rings true. I could feel myself detaching last fall when we were traveling. I enjoyed each day as it happened and felt little need to share it with the rest of the world. True confession leads me to admit we were dealing with some health issues that definitely impacted my need to Blog, but I'm still not sure that was it.

At first I wondered if anyone would notice. People were pretty quiet. but recently, a few have started asking when I was going to start writing again. In talking it over with a fellow writer she gave me some encouragement. "Taking a break is often a good thing," she said. "You'll know when you're ready."

The other day I checked my blog and noticed a couple of drafts that were never completed. I felt a new spark. The winter is over and spring is beginning. I think it's time to pick up the pen, or in this case, tap away on the keyboard and start sharing new thoughts.

I hope, dear reader, that you're ready!

Food for thought: Have you ever experienced a season of life where you pulled away from people in an uncharacteristic way? What was it? ..... if you don't mind sharing, post it in a reply.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Lakenenland Junkyard Art


Exploring our vast country leads to neat experiences and unexpected surprises. One of our favorite things to do is just drive. Once we reach a destination area, Larry will start really exploring to see what he can find.

It was on one of those "drive-abouts" along M2  in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, between Marquette and Munising that we passed an unassuming, but interesting sign for a Sculptured Art Park. We were back and forth in that area hitting all the important spots on our itinerary and had passed it several times. One afternoon with some time to kill, we decided to take a look.

What a Surprise!

There is a history to Lakenenland. Tom Lakenen was a construction worker who liked to play around with scrap metal from his job sites to see what he could create. He had no training as an artist or a sculptor, but his natural eye and skill turned out some pretty amazing pieces which he put in his front yard.

Until the local authorities started complaining.

So he put it in his back yard. But they still complained.

He bought some property along the highway and created this park. You can read more about the story, here, and it is really interesting. The feud with the authorities continued for years.

Upon entering the park the first thing we noticed were a number of signs.... One large one said FREE

But there were these signs as well.



The park was Free of Charge to all--except the local authorities who had harassed him for 8 years. They were charged a fee of $5,000.00 per day! One got the impression, there were some hard feelings!

In spite of the signs, Tom is in reality a very giving and generous person, who just enjoys creating art and sharing it with anyone who wants to see it, as you can read in the link I referenced above.

We parked and walked the path, but it was clear that visitors were welcome to walk, drive the half mile route, or ride their bikes. We walked.

The path took us through a variety of sculptures from funny to serious. The shadows made the lighting difficult for our cameras to photograph, but here are a few of our favorites. All the sculptures were made from scrap metal.

Whimsical



 Creative
Junkyard Band
This was one of my favorites. In front of the band were metal figures, dancing away to the beat only they could hear.


Woodland Sunflowers


Commentary
 Just fun
OW!!!

Jumping through Fire

Mr.Bones

One Armed Bandit

Mirror Image--look closely. He is combing his hair.

And an important Memorial
A close-up of the towers reveals the inside.

This is part of a re-creation of the Shot Point Iron Mine that was important to the area. Tom Lakenen came from a line of iron workers, and his art included the mine, office, iron workers, miners and the rail cars that carried the ore.



Lakenenland is open to those who like to create, as well those who like to view art. Along with the sculptures there is a shed where people can build their own projects. Just off the parking lot is a picnic area with a playground for the little ones, a performance center, with a small stage, sound system and lighting, and a fire pit. The message is clear. Lakenenland welcomes visitors.

Group seating

A small but lovely performance stage
This is the fanciest outhouse I've ever been in; complete with a little table with hand sanitizer, air freshener and tissues.

We can't express how impressed we were with this beautiful, and extensive place... all for free.

If you are ever on M2 near Marquette, Michigan, in the winter, stop in. There's a good chance Tom will be there handing out hot chocolate -- free, of course.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Michigan Musings


Note: Edited 8/29/17--(because I was too tired the night I originally posted it to think of adding photos. oops!)

Michigan!

After spending two weeks exploring the state of Michigan I wanted to share some of our favorite observations. Some are trivia facts. Some are things perhaps I should have known, but didn't. And some are just things that caught our attention.

My Top 10.
Pasties: a Yooper Favorite.
10. What is the favorite regional food where you live? If you live in Michigan, it is Pasties, a meat and potato pie served hot or cold, with gravy or without. The one Larry tried was huge, hot, drenched in gravy and served on a plate, but I'm guessing some can be held in your hand. It is a staple in the U.P. Every roadside stand, food truck, diner and restaurant had big signs outside: PASTIES!!

9. A local commercial I heard one morning claimed that everyone in Michigan lives within 5 miles of water: lake, stream, or river. There is a lot of water in Michigan!
       But it made me wonder what is the average distance people live from a body of water? Since most communities are built near water, I would think that even in the desert, people live near a water source. So I Googled it. (God Bless the Google Creator--or maybe God is the Creator of Google too. It can do everything!) One survey/report says that 50% of the world's population live within 3 Km (1.8 miles) of water, but 10% live within 10 Km (6.2 miles). That is your Trivia Fact for the day!

8. Michigan is home to the Hiawatha National Forest, and the Land of Gitche Gumee, immortalized in the "Song of Hiawatha", by Henry Wordsworth Longfellow. He was a professor at Harvard and a poet who lived in New England, not Michigan. I probably should have known that Gitche Gumee was the Indian name for Lake Superior, but somehow I missed it way back in high school.  We saw many signs and motels named Gitche Gumee. I didn't miss it this time.

7. In 1975 an American Great Lakes freighter, The Edmund Fitzgerald, sank in a storm on Lake Superior, taking the entire crew with her. She is still the largest ship Superior has claimed. Gordon Lightfoot's song, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, refers to 'the big lake they call Gitche Gumee'. I remember the song well, but I still never connected Gitche Gumee to Lake Superior!

6. SAND! It's not just for Ocean City, Florida, California and Hawaii. Lake Michigan has tremendous, beautiful sand dunes. Road signs warn of Sand on the Highway. We had to sweep the RV daily to keep up with the sand inside. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Shoreline was beautiful, but we saw sand dunes in many shoreline areas.

5. Residents of the Upper Peninsula are called Yoopers. As a friend said, "Beats being called UPee,r's!

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore on Lake Superior
4. Michigan is bordered by 4 of the 5 Great Lakes! Superior, Michgan, Huron and Erie. The only one it doesn't touch is Lake Ontario. I missed that in my Geography classes. (Another Trivia Fact)

Parallel Parking a la Mackinac Island style
3. Most people know there are no cars on Mackinac Island. (pronounced Mackinaw). A few cars were brought onto the island in the early 1900's, but they scared the horses so a law was made banning cars. The law stands today, with the exception of a few emergency vehicles: an ambulance, a fire engine, and a police car.  The island has the shortest state highway, a perimeter road of 8.2 miles. There is only one campfire allowed on the island; at the Boy Scout camp and with the Fire Chief present. With one fire engine and few roads, fire is a real risk.

Traveling through the Soo Locks in Sault St. Marie
2. The Soo Locks, connecting Lake Superior to the other Great Lakes via the St. Mary's River, is free to all boat traffic. There are no tolls or fares collected. (Your third Trivia Fact.)

Lakenland Junkyard Art
1. After paying out for pretty much every thing we did, (Pictured Rocks, Soo Locks, Ship Museum, Lighthouses,--all excellent sights) we passed Lakenland Junkyard Art and decided to take a stop. We expected to go in, take a look, and move on. Which we did-- an hour and a half later. That place was great! Beautifully maintained. Artistic. And Free! In fact, it was so neat my next blog will tell you all about it.

Michigan was fun. We enjoyed the state, the beaches, the lakes, the sights. I wonder where we will head to next!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Frog and Toad and Dead End Roads

Oops, We did it again.

The saying goes that in the north there are two seasons: Winter and Construction.

Well, we're deep into Construction Season. We've bumped our way over many roads that need an overhaul and wound our way through plenty of orange barrels.

Then, there is the morning local traffic report.

The TV was on as we were eating breakfast and packing up, catching glimpses of the weather and traffic reports, but not paying much attention. There was something about an accident, some road was closed.... Perhaps we should have listened more closely, but it was turning into one of those mornings.

We left later than hoped, stalled by phone calls and a malfunction in the Leveling System, which kept wanting to drop the jacks. It's really hard to move forward when the jacks that keep the camper level are on the ground. Finally, Toad was hooked, jacks were up and phone calls were ignored. We were on our way.

Ten miles after we got on I-70 traffic came to a standstill. I pulled out my phone to see what MapQuest could tell me. A black line outlining the highway was punctuated by a circle with a line through it. A section of the interstate was closed. Humph. Annoying. We were stuck in a long line that was finally funneled off onto a side road. A police officer stood at the end of the exit directing traffic; some to the left, some to the right. We wanted to go right. He took one look at us and pointed left. In hindsight, I suspect he was trying to tell us we were too big and we needed to stay on the main roads.

I grabbed the Road Atlas and started searching. OK, I told Larry. Stay on here and we can pick up US-40 and take it to Washington and get back on I-70.

Our GPS didn't like the plan. Turn left in 1/2 mile, she said. "Don't!" I said.

Larry was heading away from where he instinctively felt we should be going.

Finally, 'she' convinced him there was a better way. The road she wanted us to take did indeed go to I-70, further west from where we had exited. I didn't like it, but Larry really wanted to get back on I-70. We turned onto a ..... yes, of course.... a narrow road. A half mile in a sign warned us of lots of curves ahead. Well, we couldn't turn around. We kept going, and going, .....A car coming our way pulled over as far as it could and came to a full stop. I could imagine the driver inside sucking in his breath and leaning as far away from us as he could, as if that would make more room. We inched past.

And then we saw a Semi ahead of us! We took that to be a hopeful sign. If he could make it, we'd be ok. Hopefully. He was leaving a trail of leaves as he drove under low hanging branches, but he wasn't clearing the path completely. Tree branches whipped and snapped at us as we drove under trees not accustomed to big rigs. We kept going, and going.... Finally I-70 began to show up on my iPhone map. I was just starting to relax when we rounded a bend in the road.

There was the sign: Road Closed 1500 Feet Ahead.

?*&!@$%!!!(More Unprintable language)

Seriously, We had no where to go. We weren't facing steep cliffs, but we took up most of the road we were on. It was forward or backward.

We passed a house and crept around another curve to see two semi's stopped at the bottom of a hill at a cross road. The good news was the dreaded barrier blocking our way was on the other side of the intersection! The bad news was the turn was too tight for the semi's to make. We stopped. Thankfully, they were quite a ways ahead of us, but it was obvious they were trying to figure how to make the turn from one narrow road onto another. We had just passed a small house and I was ready to get out, disconnect Toad so we could back into their yard, and get out of there, but we watched the trucks to see what they figured out.

One driver was out talking to the other driver. Truck number two backed up a bit, so truck number one could back up. Finally, the first truck maneuvered his way around the turn, and semi number two was able to do the same thing.

It was our turn. We ventured forth, swung wide, and rumbled down the road; I-70 a few miles ahead. A few more turns, much bumping and banging over pockmarked highway, and a whole lot of construction barrels later we found ourselves back where we wanted to be. It was almost noon. We hadn't yet gone 50 miles. It was going to be a long day.

But I had a new mission. I'm not allowing him to take anymore unknown detours. From now on, it's interstate or Principal Highways as designated by our road atlas.

I've also realized taking the Grands on a trip in the RV wouldn't be a good idea...unless they are wearing earmuffs.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Frog and Toad Get Stuck

There is one fear that most RV drivers live in fear of--the dreaded dead end; that place where there is no way out except to turn around. RV's pulling a car (TOAD) can not back up. Period. RV's can make U-Turns but a 35' one takes 4 lanes to do so. Getting stuck on a narrow mountain road with a sheer drop-off on one side and a steep hillside on the other that ends in dirt road heading off into the woods is the things nightmares are made of.

So is the dreaded Gas Station.

Gas stations are full of pitfalls. Is there room to pull in without blocking off everything else? Can I get in and get out? Can I drive around the islands without Toad knocking a gas pump off it's base? And of course a busy one is a pain because at some point you ARE going to block someone from something.

One tool we have is our travel bible: The Next EXIT. This book lets us know what gas stations, motels, restaurants, and grocery stores are available at each exit, so it's a great tool for any traveler. But it's claim to fame for RV'ers is the amenities highlighted in RED, which means they are RV accessible.

Usually.

Except for Exit 146 on I-79 in West Virginia. (RV'ers take note! Unless you are diesel, DO NOT GET GAS at the Pilot at EXIT 146 on I-79 in West Virginia! Also note, that is the only thing at Exit 146. Just keep driving.)

We knew we were in trouble when we pulled in and the sign said "ENTRANCE/EXIT" and the word CARS was visible, but RV was missing. However, we saw another lost soul and took heart. While Larry is navigating the lot, my job is to peruse it for the way out, the best pump with the most turning space, etc.

Me: "Look! There's an Airstream at that pump. Get in line behind him."

Larry: "How do we get out?"

Me: Hmm. Well, the parking lot goes back behind the building. That must connect to the truck lot and we can get out there. See, the Airstream is heading that way."

At this point I start to get out of the RV so that I can guide Larry into the pump. But as I do, I see the Airstream has stopped. And then he begins to back up.

Uh-oh! This is not looking good. Larry starts to pump gas and I go to investigate.

The Airstream occupants get out and are looking... well... it's that combination of confused, worried, anxious, annoyed...

(I will avoid dialogue here, because most of it is unprintable in polite company, and perhaps around sailors.)

We are stuck. We have found ourselves in The Nightmare. There is no way out, except the way we came in. Then it gets comical. The pumps are set up so that all traffic will exit right and make a right turn at the last pump to get back out. Good luck. WE are in the last pump. At this point, cars can still get out, but there ain't no way WE are getting out that way. To make matters even better, our 'RV Brake' monitor has just informed us that Toad's battery has just died, but that's a story for another time. Even if backing up was an option, once we disconnect Toad, we have to get a jump start to move Toad. Can it get any better?

There was really only one answer.

I ventured into the store and 'gently' informed the attendant in the store there were two campers stuck in his lot that weren't getting out until he blocked some pumps.

Which he did.

While one attendant blocked pumps and re-directed traffic, another, very helpful employee came out and directed Larry as he turned the RV, very narrowly missing a truck parked there. The driver of the truck came out as we were blocking him. He was not thrilled with the situation and had to wait until they could clear the pumps of cars and get us through. He made his thoughts known when he could finally escape. We heard the squealing tires all the way down the highway.

After several seemingly endless minutes we made our escape with much thanks, and apologies, although we couldn't have done much else. The Pilot station was also along that much dreaded narrow road with no place to turn around.

We waved goodbye to the helpful attendants and the Airstream guy who was still wondering when he was going to get out.

Larry was still hyperventilating and "F"ing everything in sight as we headed back north on I-79.

And then we opened our Travel Bible and crossed out Exit 146 on I-79 in West Virginia with big letters NO! written over it.

Some days, the adventure is just more than you hoped for.