Category: Family


Since coming home, we’ve all been busy unpacking, finding documents, getting documents, licenses, registering to vote, etc.  During this busy time, whenever I start to feel a bit stressed, I am able to step out onto the back porch (if home), or look out the window while driving, at some of the most beautiful horizons I’ve ever known.  It is a constant reminder of why we came back even as the temperatures quickly slide to near-freezing.  

In particular, I’ve missed the sound of wind in the trees.  How I love that sound; a song that brings the spirit of the woods to life.  And while in Elk Rapids the other day, I went on a search for wind-chimes – something I’ve missed since selling our house and packing up our old set.  After a number of stores failed to carry the larger style chime, I walked into a newer novelty store in town that looked hopeful.  The woman who greeted me was new to the store and told me she hadn’t seen any chimes, but motioned over to a side door with a sign overhead that read, “Bargin Basement” and said, “You may find them down there.”

I thanked the clerk and began walking down the steep stairs.  The basement was long and narrow and not terribly well-lit.  I stood at the bottom of the stair surveying the numerous articles sent to the seasonal discount bins to wait out the long winters replaced by fluffy white sweaters with sparkly letters spelling out “Elk Rapids, MI.”  The thought had just crossed my mind that I might not easily find a set of wind-chimes amongst so much stuff, when suddenly I heard the sound of chimes coming from one corner of the room.  

As I walked toward the sound, I was startled to find a set of smaller chimes swinging wildly on their own. The clerk began walking down the stairs and I met her at the bottom, “Are you doing that?”  I asked.

She saw the chimes swinging wildly.  “No,” she answered and held her hands out around the swinging pendant to see whether unseen breezes might be at fault.  “No wind,” she confirmed.  We both stared dumfounded and assumed it must be some shift in the building or movement from the nearby street, but secretly I hoped for something more mysterious.  

Today, as I sat wrapped up in a blanket beneath my new set of chimes with little wind to move the heavy pendant, I couldn’t help but move them just a little as I had just stopped the girls from doing moments earlier.  As they made their music, I watched leaves flickering in the forest and and smelled the faint scent of cedar on the air mingling with the rich, earthy swamp smells.  I pushed the pendant again.  

As the sound flattened to inaudible tones, another sound took over.  It began as a hushed low rumble and moved through the swamp in a swarm of leaf-flapping fury until it touched the pendant and spun it along each bold note so they sang in unison.  I actually *giggled* with delight.  What I pixy I’ve become returning to Michigan.

Advertisements

Chef Popo

As part of school, the Popo is learning to cook.  I print out simple instructions, lay out measuring utensils and we name off the ingredients together as seen in the above photo.  Anything hot or dangerous is still done by me, but the rest of it is solely up to the Po.  While I put together some chili for dinner last night, Popo made us cornbread from scratch:  

PoPo’s GOLDEN CORNBREAD

Preheat Oven to 425 degrees F. 

Sift together:

·      1 Cup Med Grind Cornmeal

·      1 Cup Whole Wheat Pastry Flour

·      ½ (Half) Teaspoon Salt

·      4 Teaspoons Baking Powder

·      1 Tablespoons Sugar

 

Next add,

·      1 Cup Milk

·      1 Egg

·      ¼ (Quarter) Cup Butter

Combine and blend well.

Pour into greased 8-inch square pan and bake for 20-25 minutes.   ( Serves 6-8 )

Today we visited the Riverbank Zoo in Columbia, SC. The girls rode ponies and saw a hatchling flamingo.  They also sang with monkeys, fed goats, petted tortoises and heard a tiger MEOW.  (And I even had the opportunity to see several leopard sharks up close and personal).  The zoo is also somewhat self-sustainable with massive gardens full of veggies and herbs.  

This was our first visit in the daytime to the neighboring city to the south and I was impressed with how tropical it felt.  In only an hour and 45-minutes, we went from the mountains to a place that felt much like Florida with its native vegetation unlike anything I had seen before, as varied and bountiful as the tropics (there was a tree with leaves far larger around than the length of my hand).

The all-time cutest exhibits were the koala bear and meerkat habitats.   The koalas were napping and had curled themselves up comfy into the arms of tree-branches.  One meerkat took a fascination with me and I swear behaved as if we were doing a Vogue photo-shoot.  

When asked what the girls enjoyed most, for the older two it was the pony trail-ride (although milking the fake cow was right up there).

Our littlest giggled when the goats literally climbed the fence to eat out of her hand.  They were sweet-natured and beautiful goats with shaggy colorful coats.  And what personality!  

We crossed a bridge over the Saluda River (Columbia marks the convergence of the Broad and Saluda) and saw the old stone foundation of a bridge that was burned during the Civil War.  In the peace and shade on the other side, we rested (and remembered the automatic features of my camera).

Afterward, we visited the elephants, giraffes and the sea-lion a little boy emphatically suggested we see.  I was certain the elephants were Asian elephants for their size, but through the crowds, I read something about Africa on the signs.  We were on some kind of deck above the enclosure, so perhaps the elephants appeared smaller.  Regardless, they were gorgeous creatures caught red from bathing in the Carolina clay.  

And how difficult it must be for a giraffe to eat grass when it feels so inclined!  We saw first-hand how they do it.  

We concluded our day with a visit to Erick’s uncle’s 18th century stagecoach house where the girls enjoyed tractor rides around the property while we sat on the front porch sipping iced-tea.

 

I’m so sick of being treated like a lesser woman because I’m not gainfully employed while working as a mother to three children.  I’m not a SOCCER MOM (what the hell does this mean, really?!), or a STAY AT HOME MOM (I get out of the house plenty to walk the dog, get groceries, a walk in the park, etc.), or UNEMPLOYED (for tax-purposes only – if I were paid for the job I do, I’d be making six-figures), I used to write STUDENT as my profession because I was embarrassed to say MOTHER.  

When you get right down to it, what career is more important than motherhood?  We’re shaping the future.  Of course, I am not going to ask women not to work outside the home, but I would appreciate some RESPECT for the work I do as both a mother and person.  

I mean even those women labeled “soccer moms” whomever you are – I can only picture an AYSO soccer bumper-sticker on the back some mini-van – are individuals first before they fall under some broad-umbrella title.  We all share the same concerns over our children’s future; we all worry about things like global climate change, dental health, schools and education, crime-stats, time and yeah, even stuff like soccer schedules.  

Anyway, I just needed to vent.  I’ve not experienced much of this in Charlotte.  Actually quite the opposite!  A man behind me in line practically balled me out the other day when I apologized for taking too long getting my bags out of his way.  He said, “We should be helping you!  You’re the one balancing six bags of groceries and three children.”  No, I didn’t check for a ring.  🙂

It was a strange afternoon.  We drove down to visit Erick’s aunt and uncle in Columbia and enjoyed some time in the country talking about the future of energy and transportation in America.  The countryside was quiet without a single train passing until the very last moment, when we were about to leave and we heard the loud, long horn off in the distance.  I jumped off the porch, leading the pack of train-happy folk, down the narrow gravel road where Celli leapt ahead of me, tongue a flyin’ and hell-bent on scaring off whatever it was we were all chasing and woo-hooing about.  Suddenly, I became aware of a more immediate and urgent chase as my beagle was heading full-speed in the direction of a blind corner where the 200-ton engine was approaching at full speed.  

I called after her, but the engine roared and its horn blared and I could only see Celli’s mouth moving as she barked in cadence with her every step.  As the train emerged out of the woods she crossed one set of tracks and met it full on coming within in a few inches of the massive steel wheels.  I stopped and turned away; a sob caught in my throat.  I thought she was gone.  When I looked again, she was running away from the tracks and over to the road where I stood.  I scooped up her frame and sat down forgetting the enormous freight passing.  

Erick and his uncle informed me that as Celli reached the train, where the low oil tankers were passing, the larger box cars following emerged from the shadows and startled her in time to stop her from biting the wheel.  I’ve never been so grateful for boxcars in my life.  I love this beagle.

We had only been driving a few minutes on the interstate when I felt something akin to a bee-sting along my spine – right in the middle of my back where my reach was clumsy.  “Erick I think there’s a bee in my dress,” I said calmly; assuming it wouldn’t get any worse.  I was wrong.  A few minutes later, the lone and very pissy hornet was making cross-stitch patterns all the way down my back and my butt.  Erick pulled over and I jumped out of the truck doing a little dance as I tried frantically to find the angry little hornet.  I found him as he stung me one last time and flew off into the cab, where Erick smacked him off Celli’s head and smushed him under his shoe.  

The pain has subsided for the most part, but the image still stuck in my head is of that scene from Nothing to Lose where Tim Robbins leaps out of the car with the gigantic spider on his back and does that dance.  You know the dance.

Today I drove out to Lake Norman to see a house for rent.  The house was beautiful, but moreover, seeing the lake got me thinking about something Erick said about Lake Norman being the largest fresh water lake other than the Great Lakes.  It’s an enormous sprawling lake with roads crossing at various points.  In fact, I believe it’s the only site in the US where a fatality occurred when a boat came out of the water and hit a moving car.  

Erick had to work late, so I drove to the house with the girls and brought Celli in place of him.  He asked me why I like taking the dog whenever he’s not in the car and I explained that while I’m driving, she leans back into the seat sideways and spends half her time concentrating on the road and the other half giving me kisses or puppy-dog eyes.  Who could ask for more?

On the way home, as I pulled onto Moorehead, I saw a man holding a cardboard sign on the side of the road.  In grim economic times, we see a lot of men asking for work, but this man’s sign read simply, “God bless you.”

I’m not religious, but it felt good to know someone believes in something enough to stand on the side of a dirty and dangerous road with such a simple message.  

I thought if I were to dedicate an afternoon to a message, my own sign would read, “You are loved.”

Click here for the last lecture.

Old-fashioned fun

I was thrilled to discover recently they still make Sylvanians, only under a new name: Calico Critters.  They are plastic (boo) and they are made in China (not-so-great), but they’re still one of my favorite child-hood toys and since the girls have been so good about being miles from home with very few toys, I thought it might be a nice treat for them to get a set of critter families along with the house.  And despite being produced overseas and being constructed of plastic, the toys are remarkably durable.  I still have my houses (albeit packed away in MI) from when I was a little girl.

The house is way cool and the girls have spent the last two days playing, telling stories and enjoying their new toys.  It’s amazing to me how much they’ve settled down; I hadn’t realized how important toys are as a way to express what they’re feeling day-to-day.  Anyway, Moms, I wanted to share.  

I made the mistake of reading the news yesterday.  The article on the genocide in Bosnia did not sit well with me as it should not with anyone.  I emailed some aide organizations to see what they were doing to help families in the former Yugoslavia, but have not heard back.  So, I emailed my cousin – a man who has travelled the broken country, speaks the languages and knows our history.  I asked him how it affects him to hear of the violence that occurred in the early 90s and of the tensions still present today.  He wrote that his teaching position was cancelled when the war broke out and he watched on CNN as the Yugoslav army rolled into Dubrovnik and began shelling – He described this moment as “one of the most painful and sorrowful” days of his life.  

I’ve never been to the region (I’ve never even been overseas) and yet, I feel ties to the country.  I hear in their voices my own grandfather’s accent.  The same man who sat beside me once and ate an entire apple; core and all.  When I asked him why he ate the whole apple, he just smiled and in his smile I recognized, even as a child, something older; a feeling more primitive than anything I had experienced in my young life.  His smile was a veil protecting me from ever knowing hunger.  “I hope you will never understand,” he said.  

Though I knew him only briefly, when my grandfather spoke, I clung to the rich sounds of every word.  He called me “Samantrah.”  I felt like a princess the way he said my name.  

So my dear cousin who, after hearing the above, refers to me now as Lady Sam, reminded me this last email, that the pain suffered in our homeland is very real.  That the crimes are severe and atrocious and appear at once unforgivable.  But he also reminded me that for the most part, “people are good and kind, if ignorant and unpolished.”  He also used the word “plemenit,” the Croatian word meaning generous, noble, gentle, refined.   It’s a word that means chivalry – a good-natured kind of word encompassing those solid traits to which we may all aspire.  

We may feel helpless thousands of miles away from a land where our ancestors learned the meaning of this word, but we do not need to abandon hope.  For the lesson my cousin learned in all of this was that we are not helpless.  We can continue to draw from our lineage – from those lessons carried on through generations of tolerance, patience, forgiveness, and peaceful resolutions.  We can make a more peaceful homeland right here wherever we are just as our ancestors would have done.

Today and everyday please battle the unconscionable acts of this world with acts of kindness and tolerance to others.

Our vacation home to Michigan went well, though it was cut short by a week do to unforeseen circumstances.  The above photo was taken from a tin-type and features Erick’s great*4 grandparents (the small woman center and man just to the left of her) in front of their home once located at the corner of Seven Hills Rd. (Peninsula Dr.) and Kroupa.  The rear end of the house still stands and is now used as a shed.  

Christy and Liz threw a party for me at the Old State Hospital (GT Commons).  We enjoyed homemade chocolate pie, coffee and a walk around the grounds.  I gave the girls my “ghost-hunting” equipment and they uncovered several haunted areas.  Even my shirt was haunted!

After walking and talking, we decided to take the kids over to the Civic Center for some play-time and for us, it represented some much needed chill-out time.  

I have girlfriends who really are super-women.  They made it a point to get us out and about town.  The following afternoon was spent at Grass Lakes swimming and playing with clay.  Christy and Liz worked on teaching the girls how to swim.  The following afternoon was spent trying to teach our oldest how to ride a bike.

And then there was the slip-n-slide.  Erick made it look easy and eagerly (and gingerly) showed everyone the proper jump-slide technique.  All modesty went out the window that afternoon. 

The girls loved having the freedom to play outdoors all day long and especially enjoyed Grandpa’s extended driveway on which we created a chalk roadway for them to navigate complete with stop-signs and cross-walks.

We brought new meaning to the phrase “dog-tired,” didn’t we Celli-Belle?

And lastly, my parents threw me a second 30th birthday party in Elk Rapids where my cousin, Medora, made a surprise visit.  Dori and I are the only grandkids on my mom’s side and we’re just a year apart.  She got the looks, as you can tell.  Dori has three boys to compliment our three girls.  Her father, Craig, and I shared the same birthday.  For my birthday, my mom gave me a note my father had written the morning before my birth.  It was for my uncle and it directs him to the maternity wing.  On the back, it reads, “Happy Birthday!”

And that concludes this batch of vacation photos.  Greetings from Michigan!

Leaving MI

Some events Friday lead us to conclude it was a good idea to depart MI early so Erick could return to work tomorrow.  We’re now back in Charlotte and I’m as homesick as ever, but there’s plenty to do here to distract me from the immediate homesickness.  

The thing I miss most right now is Shetler’s milk in the glass bottles, seagulls and Lady dogs, friends and family and the opportunity to meet new friends with similar interests.  We didn’t see the dunes or Lake MI, nor did we visit the islands, but we did enjoy our visit very much.  So much so we thought it might keep us from ever leaving for Charlotte.