Friday, March 8, 2013

Becoming More Self-sufficient

As usual, we've been so busy over the past month that I haven't had any time to sit and blog. Sorry about that. And as it is, I'm actually taking a break at work to create/post this one.  :-)

A lot has been going on with us this winter, which isn't a bad thing because it's kept us busy, and has also made my least favorite season of the year go by quickly. Spring is on its way, woo hoo!

Tom and I have taken time recently to re-evaluate our quality of life, rearrange some priorities and make plans/goals for moving forward, and we hope to put these into practice in the next month or so. I think that it's important for each of us to sit down every so often and take a look at our lives in order to find areas for improvement and personal growth so as you get older, you don't get bored with life and your brain doesn't turn to mush. (Which is how mine feels quite often these days! LOL)
Part of our growth process, we both decided, is to learn new things. Continuing education is important! And after years of Tom and I feeling that our lives were stagnant and not going anywhere, we've started reading helpful how-to books and are excited again for our future.

OK. So what is all this mumbo-jumbo garbage I'm talking about? Well, you'll be happy to know that one of our new goals DOESN'T have to do with planning a trip to a nude beach in Jamaica anytime soon!  (Dang, that's a SCARY thought!) But we do have some new goals, so I figured I'd jot them down here so you can see how our new thought patterns are working. (Yep... our thought patterns...the idea of these is almost as scary as the idea of us parading around on a nude beach!)

Tom's diabetes has been out of control (even with insulin shots) for 2 or 3 years now. He knows he needs to change the way he eats, and he needs to exercise. And I need to do the same. Thanks to his sister, Jeanette (Net on the Net blog), and with encouragement from me, he has begun reading the "Wheat Belly" book. It has been an eye opener for him as far as learning what today's wheat, and gluten in a diet, can do to people, especially someone who is a diabetic. Over the past two weeks, he has cut his wheat/gluten intake down by probably 70%. He has lost 5 pounds, and his sugar levels have been perfect! He's even been able to dial down his insulin doses. He has more energy now, no body aches, and is feeling so much better! It's like a miracle. (Thanks, Jeanette, for sharing your What Belly thoughts and experiences with us!) Tom and I plan to start taking daily walks once it warms up a little more, the snow is gone, and I get me a new pair of tennis shoes. My old pair has been hurting my feet since the day I bought the stupid things a year ago, and I look forward to throwing them out ASAP.

A girlfriend of mine bought me Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover book last fall. She even had it shipped to my house because she read it, she and her hubby are doing what the book says, they are slowly getting out of debt, and she wanted US to get out of debt too. Since I received it, the book has basically sat on an end-table in my living room collecting dust. But not anymore. I read the entire thing in 2 days last week, highlighting important ideas and instructions as I went along. I felt like I was in high school again. It was great! LOL

Tom and I have been struggling, financially, the past few years as we've had to help support Angela, her fiancee and their baby. To make matters worse, I haven't had a raise since 2006, Tom's raises have been small, the prices in this economy have increased threefold (especially in the areas of food and gasoline), and then to top it all off, EVERYONE lost income because of the tax changes that started this year. We lost $200 per month because of those changes! Ouch!

So we have begun Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover. First, we are selling our newest vehicle with the most debt (a 2011 Ford Focus) in order to gain some "wiggle room" in our extremely tight budget. We already have a buyer for it. Next, my brother, an auto mechanic and lawn maintenance business owner, is working to find me a great-running vehicle for 2k or less. (I think he's already found one for me.) Next, we will use the extra money not spent on our monthly Focus payments and insurance to catch up on any bills we're behind on (thankfully, just a few small ones). After that, we'll be creating an Emergency Fund by socking away $1,000 into our savings account. (I honestly think the $5 that's been in there for the past three or four years won't know what to do with the company!) Then, we'll begin to pay off our debts, lowest balance to largest, by making the minimum payments on all but the debt with lowest balance. We'll put every extra dime we find into that lowest bill until it's paid off. Then we'll apply any extra money we have, PLUS the monthly amount we were paying on the littlest bill to the next-lowest balance amount. And so on until all our bills are paid off except our mortgage.

At that point, there are further instructions in Dave Ramsey's book to follow, but these early steps are the hardest and most important, so I'll stop here. The thought of selling our newer Focus has been scary. But I'm not a person who gets really attached to "stuff" anyway, so it is what it is, and we'll watch someone drive off in it knowing we are on our way to achieving a greater goal.  :-)

The current state of our country angers and worries me. The middle class people are becoming more and more broke (we know because we're one of them), and making a decent living is becoming ridiculously harder due to the increased prices in goods and services. I now absolutely HATE grocery shopping because I've noticed that food prices have been rising steadily every few months over the past 3 years with no end in sight. Things seem to be getting worse, not better in our country, and lately I've been thinking, "Enough is enough for my family. The buck stops here. Now. Period."

Each of us is responsible for our own health--physical, financial, etc. And we can't rely on our government to help us out in these areas. I mean, who knows if Social Security will even be around when Tom & I retire at age 102? (Because in our present economy, that's how long we'll probably have to work in order to be able to retire!)  LOLOL

And so we are making plans to become more self-sufficient. We already had a backyard garden last year that gave us all the tomatoes, cukes, zucchini and beans we needed for salads. But those are summer crops, and we had no home-grown food over the winter. Hence, I've decided to expand our garden from a 3' x 16' area around our deck, to a larger, 10' x 16' garden in our back yard (which is almost 1/4 acre), and to also build a self heated "hoop house" over the beds in the fall so that we can enjoy home-grown food all winter long.

Toward that end, I have been voraciously reading about how to do this in an organized and inexpensive way. Growing "organic" is also important to us. I have been following the website of Eliot Coleman--a well-known writer, successful backyard organic crop grower, and proponent of winter hoop houses--who lives in Maine, as well at Brett Markham--of similar renown and talents--who lives in New Hampshire. Both men live in "cold" zones, and yet their backyard hoop houses provide their families with a plethora of healthy vegetables all winter long. Their hoop houses aren't heated, and yet they stay at temps in the 50's with a nice amount of humidity in them. Eliot and Brett also sell their extra crops at area farmers' markets, and to their CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) customers, and make quite a bit of extra cash from that.

Anyway, Eliot Coleman's book, "Four Season Harvest" should arrive any day, and I plan to devour it just like I did Dave Ramsey's book. Throughout my research, I'm discovering things like: how to make home-grown compost, how to measure the pH in soils and know which products to add to balance it out, which plants you can and can't put next to each other, natural ways to prevent weeds and garden pests, inexpensive watering ideas, etc. Again, it feels like I'm revisiting high school with all this learning I'm doing, but it feels GOOOOOOOD to use my brain for something constructive for my family, and I'm truly enjoying it!

Our expanded summer garden this year will contain a good variety of vegetables--potatoes, celery, large onions, carrots, tomatoes, zucchini, cukes, a garlic plant, corn, pole beans, lettuce, etc.--and a few fruits--strawberries and raspberries. For our winter hoop house, we'll switch over to cold-hardy plants like various leaf lettuces, broccoli and more. I also plan to plant two young fruit trees in some large pots and keep them on our deck which gets a lot of sun. Eventually, we can transplant them into our backyard, but in the meantime, through creative pruning, we will still be able to enjoy some of their fruits as they grow from year to year. I also plan to learn how to do canning so we can store some of the excess food for the remainder of the year. I have an aunt and a 2nd cousin who can both help me with this learning process.

Have I put you to sleep yet? LOL Tom & I would also love to have 2 or 3 chickens for fresh eggs, but I don't think our township will allow that. In any event, I do plan to check with them about it.

Down the road, as our debts become paid off, we want to add solar panels to the roof of our house--as many as we need to try to get off the electricity grid. And, if we can't have chickens in our township, perhaps when Ang & Jason move out on their own, we'll consider selling our house and paying cash for an acre or more in a more agricultural township. We could always pay cash for a $3k trailer on the property until we could buy a larger, used mobil home, or build our own, smaller house (with a fireplace so we could help cut down on winter heating bills). The point is to move toward these "way of life" changes while paying cash for what we need, and not incurring any additional debt.

Geez, I ended up writing my OWN book here. So sorry about that, friends. It's just that we're excited about some of these new ideas we've come up with.

Regarding our grandbaby, he's 10 months old now and is doing just great. We love him to pieces! Below are a few photos of him that Tom took last night. We just can't stop smiling whenever he's around.

OK, gang. Debbie's monthly report is now finished! Over and out until next time!  xoxo


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Birthday Bracelet

Well, my birthday came and went last Saturday. Another year older--53 to be exact. Not much I can do about it because the alternative is to be dead, right? LOL
Tom and I spent the early part of the day going to visit my father-in-law (Jeanette's dad) who was in the hospital. He'd had knee replacement surgery the previous Tuesday, but ended up having a few complications, and so needed to stay in the hospital a few extra days. He's now at a rehab place recovering and receiving rehab exercises. We continue to keep him in our prayers. He's in his 80's now, and recovery is taking a bit longer than expected.
We also brought baby Dante with us to see him. Dad was thrilled to have a "little visitor" in his hospital room. We were there about an hour. Dante was a good boy the entire time.
The second half of my birthday was spent with my family at my brother's house. What a blast. We also celebrated my brother's 2 sons' birthdays, and wished a hearty bon voyage to my sis and her family as they'll be going on a cruise (from Tampa, FL to Cozumel, Mexico and back) on February 16th. We enjoyed great conversation, lots of laughs, delicious hors D'ouvres (or however you spell it), and pizza/salad for dinner. Our daughter, her fiancee' and Dante also showed up, and Dante was the hit of the party. He was flirting terribly with my nephew's girlfriend and just being a total cut-up. He had me laughing so hard I was crying. What a nut. And he's only 9 months old! I can only imagine how silly he'll grow to be as he gets older!
My sister-in-law, Leslie, surprised me by giving me the bracelet you see on my arm below as my birthday gift. We weren't supposed to get gifts for each other. But she's just like that--a sweetheart, always. She makes bracelets like this--using Swarovski crystals--and often sells them to her friends, co-workers, family, etc. This particular bracelet she calls the "Red Wings" bracelet as the colors are that of Detroit's hockey team, the Red Wings. I absolutely love it, and decided to wear it to work today which is where this photo was taken. Thank you, Leslie! And thanks for having everyone over to your house. I had a fantastic time!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Through the Holidays and into the Icebox!

Well, my goodness. Here it is, a frigid night in January, and it's been 1 month and 20 days since my last post. (Hey, but who's counting? LOL) Where DID the time go?

Let's see if I can include a short list (which would be a first for me as I tend to be Miss Gabby when I write) of what's gone on between now and then:

The virus I had over Thanksgiving started coming back in mid-December. No waiting on treatment this time! Went to see the doc. He said I had a sinus and ear infection. Put me on anti-biotics and that seemed to do the trick. At least I wasn't sick for Christmas, thank goodness!

We ended up buying a tree off a lot instead of cutting one down, which turned out just fine. Didn't have the time or gas money to drive up to the tree farm. Our tree only cost $40 and it was SO beautiful. Nothing huge...maybe 6', and it lasted until well after New Years. Heck, it's still in our tree stand on the back deck, and is STILL alive! Oh, and the cats totally ignored it, by the way, which was great!

Dante enjoyed his first Christmas. He got lots of goodies--clothes, toys a new car seat (since he's outgrown his baby car seat), etc. He loved watching all the lights on our tree, and he had a blast seeing so many family members over Christmas week (he's a social butterfly like his mommy and grandma).   :-)

Our Christmas was nice all the way around. We enjoyed time with both our families and the food was just delicious everywhere we went!

We decided to stay home for New Year's this year. That's not uncommon for us though. Tom never has liked being out on the road with all the crazies on that night. At midnight, we kissed each other, said, "Happy New Year!" and were in bed by 12:05 a.m.  LOL  We lead very exciting lives, don't we?

Dante turned 8 months old on January 10. He's getting SO big! He has 4 bottom teeth, and 2 coming in on the top. He can stand up if WE stand him up, but can't raise himself into a standing position yet. Once he's standing he can hold onto the couch and stay like that for a while. That kid has some strong legs. He hasn't shown any inclination to crawl yet. This week, he started waving "bye-bye" back to us, and he'll also raise his palm to you when you say, "Give me five!" so you can high-five him. He just LOVES his daddy, and when he sees Jason come into a room, he smiles and giggles with delight. Jason just eats that up. Dante also started saying, "Mama" today, but we don't know if he means Angela, or if that's just an easy word for him to babble with. Time will tell.

Tom has come down with a cold this week. Not unusual as so many folks this winter have been sick with colds and viruses, sometimes REPEATEDLY. I CANNOT wait until winter is over with and the warmer weather comes again. This cold weather and sickness can take a hike!

I got a Christmas card from a girlfriend/ex-coworker who had moved to California with her husband and kids in the late '80s, and it said she'd be in town last weekend. Wanted to know if we could get together. Once she arrived in Detroit, we talked on the phone a few times, but it had been 25 years since her family had seen her, so it only made sense that she spend her time in Detroit with them. She & I weren't able to get together, but it sure was nice talking to her and now we're hooked up on Facebook, so we'll be able to catch up that way.

On the other side of the Facebook coin, I sent a friend request to a gal who I thought was my next door neighbor when I was 8 or 9 hoping to get in touch with her. While waiting for her to accept my request, I checked out her Facebook page, photos, who she was friends with, etc. Turns out she WASN'T the "Karen" I was looking for, but was the ex-sister-in-law (also named Karen) of that Karen who used to get off at my bus stop after school instead of her own in order to bully the kids at my stop, push us down, hit us, etc. She was bigger than us (maybe a year older?) and I was terrified of her. I couldn't stand her because she was so mean, and I found out many years ago that she ended up marrying MY Karen's brother, Richie, who had anger issues, was mean and cruel, and who also used to pick on the neighborhood kids. I remember at the time thinking, "Well that marriage won't last long. I wonder which one of them is going to kick the other one's butt first?" LOL Sure enough, several years and 3 kids later they ended up getting divorced. Her Facebook page shows that she remarried in 2009 and is happy now. I wonder how many times she's punched her new husband since then?  LOLOL  OK, OK, that was bad, I know. Anyway, I told her in a FB message that I was looking for the other Karen, I apologized for bothering her, and undid my Friend Request. I seriously doubt she has any idea who I was because I only lived in that neighborhood 4 years before my family moved, but I'll certainly never forget her!

And on that note, I'll post this and get ready for bed. Stay warm, everyone, and have a wonderful rest of your week!  Hugs!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Christmas Preparations

I happened to come in early today here at work, and thought I'd squeeze in a quick blog update before I start at 9 a.m.

Thanksgiving wasn't a whole lot of fun at our house this year because our daughter, grandson, and I were all sick! We had to stay home, and we totally missed all of the festivities including 2 family dinners. Darn it. At least my hubby was able to attend both meals and was kind enough to bring us all home plates full of the Thanksgiving fixins so we could enjoy them too. Thankfully, the 3 of us are feeling better now, and we're certainly hoping we'll be able to enjoy the upcoming Christmas family gatherings!

I can't believe it's December already. Only 3 weeks left until Christmas. This year has certainly flown by!

It seems like only yesterday that our grandson was born in May of this year, and now he'll be 7 months old on December 10th. We are truly enjoying watching him learn new things every day and he brings so much joy into our lives. :-)

Tom enjoyed his hunting trip in mid-November, but he didn't get anything. His oldest brother got one though. I don't know how anyone can shoot a Bambi. They are just such gorgeous animals.

How are all of you doing on your Christmas shopping? We haven't even started yet, but that's par for the course for us. Seems like we always have to wait until December 15 or later for some extra money to roll in. Or maybe it's not extra. It's more like we put off a couple of bills until January so we can have Christmas money. LOL Yep, that sounds more like us.

We'll be going to cut down our Christmas tree on December 9 at a tree farm about 1.5 hours north of our house. Jason, Angela & Dante will be going with us. A friend recommended this place as they have beautiful trees (all firs) that are really affordable--all trees only $40. This will be the first time in probably 3 years we've put up a tree as we've always been too worried that our 3 cats would knock it over. We're still worried about that now, but with a grandson in the picture, we want him to experience seeing a decorated and lit tree in our house. Also for him to find his gifts beneath it on Christmas morning. We'll just have to tie some twine to the walls or ceiling in order to keep the cats from knocking it over.

That's the latest news at our house! Hope things are going well at yours!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Dante Meets a Calf

OK. It's been a quite a while since I've had time to sit here and post again, darn it. Sorry about that. Life can get pretty busy when you have 4 adults and a baby living in the same house, and all of the adults work (and we are short 1 vehicle). Lots of communication and compromise occurring on a daily basis, that's for sure!

I was just thinking earlier that our living room now looks like a kid's playroom. It's dimensions are 12' x 22' and 1/2 of it looks like a living room; the other half is so full of Dante's toys, bouncy chairs, rockers, swings, etc. that I can hardly reach the chains on our door wall blinds to close them. We need a bigger house! No, wait. We need our house back to ourselves. Yeah...that's the ticket. We need to go back to being empty nesters! I can't see that happening before next summer, but I DO know that if/when the kids move out, we will miss baby Dante to pieces. That kid just lights up our lives. :-)

Speaking of the little squirt...he turned 6 months old yesterday. I can hardly believe it. And that kid is ROCK SOLID too. Not fat, but just plain solid. He can already stand up with us just keeping our hands at his sides (so he doesn't lose his balance and topple And he still smiles ALL THE TIME. It's amazing. You just talk to him and he lights right up. He even laughs when either of our dogs walk by him. He just LOVES those puppies! We can see he is going to be an animal lover just like his mamma (and grandma and grandpa).

And speaking of animals...Angela has been at her new job for 7 weeks now, and still loves it there (and they love her too). FINALLY! Yay! Her bosses have met with the vet/owner a few times and told him how she's doing a wonderful job, and pretty much has everything down pat already. We have yet to hear her say a bad word about the job or any of her co-workers, and that is HUGE. They are all so nice to her. And her anxiety isn't an issue at this place either as she is so much calmer now. Woo hoo!

Nothing is new with Tom's job. He still has almost no work to do, so we're waiting for the hammer to fall. It would stink if they laid him, and others, off right at Christmas, wouldn't it? Still, in this economy, it wouldn't surprise us.

So what have we been up to lately? Lots of family time (as usual)--my side, Tom's side, the river family and our church family. There's always something going on.

The third weekend in October Tom, Dante & I met my brother and his wife and kids at a cider mill that was almost an hour away from our house. (There are closer ones. I have no idea why my brother wanted to go to this particular one.) We enjoyed the usual donuts and cider, and inside one pole barn there was a pretty good band playing. The best part was watching Dante interact with all the animals. My fav pic is the one below as he reaches out to the baby calf, and the calf stretches her neck out to reach him. (I told ya he loves animals!) Of course, he was so shocked to see such a big "DOG" walk up to him that he instantly dropped his pacifier in the grass, and then the calf put her tongue under the fence and tried to eat it. LOLOL

I've also posted a pic of Tom & me (below) taken at the cider mill. All I can say in my defense is, the wind was blowing quite strongly; hence my bangs are standing straight on end. Enough said. :-)

The last Saturday in October my family got together for a pizza dinner/potluck to discuss Thanksgiving plans and draw names for the Christmas gift exchange. My family has gotten into the habit of celebrating Thanksgiving on the Saturday after Thanksgiving so that none of us have to try to eat 2 dinners on Thanksgiving Day (since we are all married and have in-laws' houses to visit on Thanksgiving Day).

I worked as a cashier for kitchen concessions during our church's Craft Show/Bake Sale the weekend before last. That's always a good time. Tom & I also worked before and after the Show to set up tables, then take down and clean up. The Show seemed to be a success.

Tom & I got together with our river family last night just to hang out and catch up with each other. Each couple attending usually brings something "hors 'deouvres-y" which results in some yummy after-dinner munchies. The conversation was great, and we all laughed so hard that at times my face was starting to hurt. Those people are crazy!!! LOL The nice thing is they're all about our age (50's and 60's), so we can relate to quite an array of topics.

This afternoon, Tom's family got together at a local Catholic church as the newest member of his family--baby Anthony Michael--was baptized. Seven children in total were baptized, and they all looked so adorable in their baptismal and "Sunday best" outfits. Baby Anthony didn't cry at all when the water was poured over his head 3 times. Afterward, we all went back to Mike & Sarah's (the parents') house for a meal. Mike & Sarah are the niece and nephew who purchased that 100-year-old white farmhouse I wrote about last year. Anyway, there was a nice mix of family members from both Sarah & Mike's side and the food was really good too! Sarah's family had come in from places like Connecticut (her home state) and Florida to be with them on this special day, and to see Anthony for the first time.

My hubby and his brothers and nephews all leave for deer hunting this Tuesday. He won't be back home until Saturday or Sunday. They hunt in the same area each year (about 4 hours northeast of our house) and stay in the same rental mobile home while there. They don't often get any deer, which makes me think they just go up there to sleep, drink, scratch, fart and whatever else they do in the name of male bonding. LOLOL In any event, it's a good way for them to blow off some steam and relax. In the meantime, my sister-in-laws usually get together for a "hunters' widows" dinner at a nice restaurant the Friday night that the guys are gone, and they are doing that this Friday. Angela usually gets off work at 5 on Friday nights, so I'll see if she wants to go with me to the dinner since the gals don't meet at the restaurant until 6:30 or 7.

Alrighty then! I think that brings my blog up to date! Hope you all have a wonderful week, and since the temps are supposed to drop quite a bit, try to stay warm too!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Iargo Springs

This is part 2 of our pictures from last weekend's day trip to northern lower Michigan...

Iargo Springs is located inland from the little town of Oscoda by maybe 15 miles or so. Although I'd grown up in Oscoda, I'd never visited the springs, so I was glad for the opportunity to pay them a visit. The friends that we went up there to see had also wanted to see the springs badly. We certainly weren't disappointed!

The Springs lay alongside the banks of the Ausable River. The banks in this area are very steep, and rise almost straight up at least 500 ft. or more above the water. You can definitely see the work of glaciers-of-old in this area. In the old days, when Indians traversed the Ausable River regularly, they would meet at the springs and hold pow-wows there because they believed the water from the springs held magical powers.

The parking area is at the top of the high bank. Then you have to descend 294 stairs downward in order to see the springs (3 or 4 of them) and walk the man-made boardwalks that criss cross the little streams that are created by the springs. These little streams drain into the river, and they have expanded the width of the river here greatly by pouring sediments out along the shoreline. These have formed a large delta.

I figured walking down a lot of stairs would be easy. I mean, you're going DOWN, right? How much energy can that take? But after the first 200 or so stairs, the muscles in the front of my upper legs started to burn a bit. It was the same for all our friends too (so at least I didn't feel as However, we made it to the bottom and were glad we did!

The forest floor was a lush, green, moist canopy of glorious beauty. Our Forest Service had placed large logs in front of 3 of the springs years ago, and this made for beautiful waterfalls. The sound of the water dancing over the falls, and then over the rocks in the streams below them, was wonderful--like hearing a child laugh. The boardwalks meandered all over the place. There had to be at least 6 of them winding their way to the delta, and each one ended right at the delta. The water in the delta was crystal clear. You could see all the logs beneath the surface, and there were no waves or ripples in the water at all.

Goiiiinnng down!

The delta in the foreground; the actual river in the background.
The delta at the shoreline.

One of the springs flowing over a man-made barrier.

A second spring.

An island in the middle of the Ausable River.
The start of the 294 stairs back to the top.
Lumberman's Monument--a beautiful park that includes a brass statue erected as a tribute to the early loggers in the area.

Foot Dam was definitely flowing pretty hard. Fishermen fishing for salmon and steelhead are in the foreground.
This guy was only too eager to show us the steelhead he'd just caught.

The lights of Oscoda City Beach as seen from the end of the pier stretching out into Lake Huron.
 Of course, we all knew in the back of our minds that at the end of our adventure, we'd have to climb back up the 294 steps to the top. However, we took our time doing that, and made sure to take advantage of the many landings with park benches on them to rest so we wouldn't get over-taxed. It worked. We all made it to the top safely without doing too much huffing and puffing. LOL I mean, we are all in our 50's now!

The day ended as nicely as it started. The 6 of us stopped at an overlook area and took more pics, then visited the last dam on the river (Foot Dam) and checked out the fishermen along the shore. We then ate dinner at a Mexican restaurant nearby where the food was really good. When dinner was finished, we drove into downtown Oscoda were we all walked out into Lake Huron on the new boardwalk/pier the city had just built. Then, following several hugs, the 6 of us parted ways--they back to their campground for one more night, and us for our trip home. Before we got on the road,  Tom & I decided to drive 2 blocks to where I'd heard a childhood friend of mine was working. She and I hadn't seen each other in at least 15 years, during which time her hubby had moved them around the country several times, had several affairs on her, and finally told her earlier this year that their 28 year marriage was over because he'd found someone else. They have 2 kids in their late teens. My friend and her daughter moved back to Oscoda where a lot of her family lives, and her son stayed with his dad in California. My friend had to pick up her broken life and start over again. I know this year has been especially tough for her, but it appears she's picked up the pieces of her life and is standing on her own 2 feet again. We gave each other several big hugs (she was shocked to see me!), and she finally got to meet Tom. It was only a 15 minute visit, but there was so much emotion there. She gave me her phone number, and I plan to stay in touch with her now that she's in Michigan again.

That's the end of Part 2, and the end of our trip up north. Next time, I'll post some pics from our visit to an area cider mill last Sunday. We took Dante with us, and he was a lot of fun!

Monday, October 22, 2012

A Saturday Visit up North!

Well, Tom and I made it home safely from our "up north" day trip Saturday. We had a blast with our friends up there and got in A LOT of exercise too.

(NOTE:  Those of you who are Facebook friends with me have probably already seen the photos in this post. But at least here on Blogspot, I can add additional background information and comments, so please bear with me.)

The first half of the day was lightly raining and misting, which didn't bode well for our lighthouse tour, but undaunted, we took the tour anyway and really enjoyed it. The first lighthouse constructed on Tawas Point in 1852 was 3/4 of a mile inland from where the current lighthouse stands. At the time it was built, it was located on the water's edge of the Point. However, due to sand piling up and extending the Point into Lake Huron, the current lighthouse was built farther out in 1876. At that time IT was also at water's edge, but today, due to the same sand build-up, it is 1/2 mile inland from the point of this ever-lenghtening peninsula. The Coast Guard stopped using the current lighthouse to warn mariners in 1946.

The current lighthouse is located in Tawas State Park on the Tawas Point Peninsula.

The view from the top of the lighthouse on a gray, misty day. Notice how far out the water is in Lake Huron.

Our tour guide was dressed in a pirate's costume and had a stuffed parrot on her shoulder. To the right is the current lighthouse light, which runs on electricity now.

Looking up the lighthouse tower. There were 84 tiny, spiral stairs to the top!

Surrounding the lighthouse were lots of Halloween decorations including a large, spooky cemetery, costumed locals, children's games in the "big tent" and other festivities. Like us, the locals and visitors were undaunted by the light rain, and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.

"I'll get you, my pretty! And your little dog, Toto, too!" LOL

Tom (on the right, just in case you weren't sure) having fun with a bony friend.

The second half of the day was dry and somewhat warmer and as we left East Tawas, we made our way to Oscoda where I used to live when I was a kid. It was great to see the town again and also our old house. Then we headed to Harrisville where 2 of our "river family" couples were camping in trailers at Harrisville State Park. It was a beautiful park with lots of trees and fall color still left. Our friends had secured side-by-side campsites at the end of a road right alongside Lake Huron. The park wasn't crowded, and Tom and I enjoyed walking along the beach with them, and on the way back, walking through the campground. Then we all gathered in 2 vehicles and headed inland to do some sightseeing almost an hour from the campground.

Having fun at Harrisville State Park beach on the Lake Huron shoreline.

I fell in love with this Cedar tree located on the site next to our friends' trailer. Yes, this is ONE TREE. Apparently, more and more new trees kept growing right out of the center of it until it looked like this. Really cool! All the trees you see in this shot are part of the same root system!

Our first stop as a group was at Five Channels Dam on the Ausable River. There are a total of 5 dams on the Ausable River between the cities of Gaylord and Oscoda, which is where the river empties out into Lake Huron. That afternoon, we got to see 4 of the dams, and the scenery was gorgeous (way hillier than we expected!).  Some of the dams were barely pumping any water; others had water gushing out into the river! Five Channels dam as seen below, wasn't pumping out much water at all.

Five Channels Dam

I think I'll publish what I've posted so far, and continue with additional stories and pictures from the second half of our trip later on this week. I surely don't want to overwhelm anyone with my consistently lengthy posts. (Me? Talk a lot? Why, surely you jest! LOL)

NEXT POST: the biggest tour attraction of our trip, Iargo Springs, Mother Nature's magical, peaceful, crystal-clear, water flowing wonderland. (And all you had to do was descend a measly 294 stairs to see it, and 294 stairs to get back to the top!)