Thursday, July 13, 2017

Spry at 77

It's John's birthday today. Last week when daughter Laura was with us she remarked (as a compliment) that we were spry. I don't think she noticed that I winced. Spry? Seriously. Old people are spry---or they're not. How could she use that word on us? Well, maybe John's not so spry. He has a limp when he hikes, insisting the pain is only a 1 on a scale of 1-10. I know he's lying so I haven't let him get by with it, and right now he's at the lab getting an x-ray of his hip. That was a major coup on my part, telling him that we both would feel bad if he were unable to do his usual hiking at Big Bend National Park this coming January, for which we have already made reservations.

I ought to regard this day as his big day. It's not. It's my big day.  Forty-three years ago today I gave birth to a 9 lb., 12 oz. boy. It's a day when the memories come flooding back. On a dare, I rode my bike (with Randy alongside me) to the hospital a mile away and gave birth a few hours later. It was a Saturday night and my doctor (due to a previously planned social engagement) skipped out even though I'd called her in the morning and again mid afternoon telling her my contractions---3 days after due date---were for real. Three other babies were born that same evening at the little Woodstock, Illinois hospital, so I had three doctors I'd never seen before taking turns looking after me. And while I was in the process of delivering, the doctor caring for me was called away to his patient. Just as I was pushing Carlton's head out, another doctor came in and slashed me with a procedure called an episiotomy (which Mayo Clinic now warns against except in extreme situations). So Happy Birthday Carlton---and John. Next week, I'm 72, and Laura, should you be reading this, I'm 72 and spry!

Friday, July 07, 2017

Storm Damage at Carlton Gardens

A big storm rolled into West Michigan last night. No damage at our house be we found a real mess when we arrived at the Gardens this morning---so many limbs down that we couldn't get in the driveway. Amazingly none of our yard art was damaged except for one small item, but our Wisteria vine structure was badly damaged and a big limb came down near the chapel. I called Carlton and by 1 pm, he and John had cleaned up a lot and got the vine structure back up---about have the size it was yesterday. The power was out so we closed up and returned home and then drove out to Lake Michigan to hike----saw a lot of damage on the way out and back, some houses with trees crashed into them and heard on the news that a man in Grand Haven was killed when a tree crashed into his house. Here are a couple of pictures of our mess, which seems hardly worth noting compared to what happened elsewhere.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Summer Activities

Our summer is flying by with new projects going on at Carlton Gardens every week besides our extra involvement at Terrace Inn nearly three hours north of us, where we exchange free nights for yard art. The Inn is located in the Victorian community of Bay View, with wonderful biking along Little Traverse Bay, and it has turned into a very enjoyable get-away for us.

This past week was family reunion time with Laura and Bob up from Greensboro.Here we are with John's two daughters and son-in-law. The backdrop: Big Red at Holland State Park.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

An Eventful Week

This past Sunday and Monday we hiked and drove back roads of Leelanau County, visiting our old haunts and spending the night at Falling Waters Lodge in Leland. We stopped by our house north of Cedar and visited with the new owner for a short while and snapped pictures of poppies in the field next door. Here we are overlooking the beautiful blue Lake Michigan.
Tuesday night was granddaughter Ashley's graduation from high school---a fun celebratory evening, below pictured with her best friend and cousin Lindsay. Last night we went to Circle Theater to see Neil Simon's "Brighten Beach Memoirs"

Friday, June 02, 2017

Environment Matters

John and I contribute to several environmental organizations---mainly related to smaller west Michigan groups, always hoping that our little effort can somehow help the planet.  Last night I sent an email to our Grand Rapids Mayor, hoping to be one of many who contacted her. This morning we received a response from her assistant:
Dear Mayor Bliss,
We hope you will stand up for the Paris Climate Agreement along with other cities. As mayor we hope you will speak out immediately. As residents of Grand Rapids, we want clean air and water and an environmentally safe place to live.
We would hope that a bonus to our standing with other concerned cities would increase our convention business and tourism.
Please speak out on this soon.

Hello, Ruth and John.

Thank you for your email — we appreciate hearing from you. We also appreciate your engagement around climate change and the President’s decision to withdrawal from the Paris agreement.
Mayor Bliss signed on to the mayors statement this morning.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact our office. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Gender Identity

My gender identity corresponds with 
the shortest restroom line.

A few months ago while visiting Alex (our former business partner and cottage renter) in Wilmington, NC, we were walking along the river boardwalk park. We came upon 2 single restrooms, the women's with a line, the men's with a man walking out. So I went into the one with no line. As I came out an elderly man, yelled, "Why were you using the men's?" I responded, "I thought transgender people could use either one." He huffed and went into his gender appropriate toilet.

The other day I saw a convoluted version of the above quote. I am claiming this quote as my own. Pass it on.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Kayla's Facebook Pictures

We're so proud of our granddaughters (and sons). Here's Kayla, now working as news editor of the school newspaper at Grand Valley State University. Below: she and Ariel, her fiance' and beloved by all of us. We used to see her often, but even though she lives nearby, our busy schedules go in different directions.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Tucker Benchmark Diet

Hey, guaranteed to work.

In March I was waiting at a pharmacy and sat down for a quick blood pressure test. I've always had low blood pressure but this time it was elevated----not alarmingly so but enough to scare me big time. Mom had high blood pressure and was on a walking regimen and diet, having lost more than 25 lbs.  I think she would have lost much more had her life not been cut short in an auto accident.

So I had to figure out how to get more exercise and lose weight. A diet was the hardest part, but then I invented my own. I eat the same meals I had eaten before, but I always keep in mind the benchmark of what I was eating March 12 and before. I began consciously eating less except for certain occasions. So I could say I sometimes cheat, but there is no cheating on this diet----unless I were to eat just as much as I used to all of the time. If I were to follow this diet even half the time (or a third of the time), I'd still be losing weight, and now I follow it without thinking.

For example, John and I have a variety of different h'ordeuvres that I fix almost every day when we arrive home from the Gardens. Today this was my plate:

Less than half the lime chips, Swiss cheese, salsa,  cream cheese, and olives that I used to have on a larger plate. And I'm perfectly satisfied.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Quick Trip to Detroit

It's been years since we've been to Detroit, so yesterday we left early and explored the downtown of our state's largest city and had a very nice time at Belle Isle, especially spending time in their wonderful conservatory that is free to the public. We headed north in the afternoon and visited one of our favorite Michigan small towns, Owosso, and then went north further to pick up a load of yard art for the Gardens.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Busy Family Days

Two graduations, 2 graduation celebrations, 1 wedding, concerts, and much more. Friday night was Kayla's graduation from Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of 4 out of the large graduating class chosen to carry a banner---2 leading the students in and she and another leading the faculty, administrators and and board members. In fact, her name was the first name announced as the ceremony began. We're real proud. Afterwards Carlton threw a party at Pizza Hut for hers and Ariel's family. Great time!

Last evening we went to Sarah's Bach Chorale concert, where I chatted up two of my former Seminary colleagues. As we get into May we have Ashley's big party with her graduating cousin at a local park pavilion and then in June,her graduation from Calvin Christian High School. It's a busy spring with a lot of extra work at the Gardens with all the heavy rain we've been having.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Starved Rock State Park and River flood

 We spent Sunday and Monday at our favorite Starved Rock State Park on the Illinois River, southwest of Chicago, spending the night at the historic CCC-built lodge. Sister Kathy and her friend Ginny came from Madison and joined us on Sunday with two good hikes separated by lunch on the Lodge outdoor patio in view of the Rock. The rock formations and the Virginia Bluebells were spectacular. Two weeks earlier we were flooded at the River, this photo taken as we kayaked down Abrigador Trail---our cottage, now with new owners. I'm sure it wasn't a pleasant time for them, though the water level was well below the floor of the house.


Thursday, March 16, 2017

5 Days in Beautiful Biloxi

Every year we stay in the same wonderful Quality Inn overlooking the Gulf between Biloxi and Gulfport---at a super weekday discount rate. This is the coldest it's ever been for us down here, but sunny and not too cold for great hiking and biking. Yesterday John forgot to bring along our bagels for lunch so this is what I ended up with---a half avocado, cream cheese and tomatoes. It was a winner, and today we ditched the bagels as we will from now on---a perfect lunch after a long hike or bike ride. We've been snapping pictures at our favorite parks, including one at the Davis tract of the Gulf Coast National Seashore featuring a very large alligator.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Ashley as Ida

Last night we enjoyed seeing granddaughter Ashley do a splendid job as the leading lady in the musical Honk, a stage version of Hans Christian Anderson's "The Ugly Duckling." She was Ida, Ugly duckling's mother. She had all the right moves and expressions, singing and speaking her lines without a hint of nervousness. She's a natural onstage and the full house adored her. Needless to say we were mighty proud.  She's a high school senior and raring to get on with life. She's in the middle wearing the green striped dress and white apron.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Florida and More

We've been 9 days on the road, heading first to Apalachicola for a night and then on to our favorite Florida State Park at Suwannee River; after that up the coast to Savannah and on up to visit our friend Alex (business partner and cottage renter until last October), then home through Greensboro for a night to see Laura and Bob and a long day driving home from there.
Inside door at Apalacholia River Inn
Outside door same place

John's on walkway at Suwannee River S.P.
Hiding in the flowers, Savannah
Wilmington, NC, John and Alex

Monday, February 06, 2017

Hiking the West Michigan Winter

We hiked for a couple of hours on Saturday at Seidman Park and Pickerel Lake; Sunday afternoon at Rogue River Park, and this afternoon hiking the trails and walkways of Fredrick Meijer Gardens. We've had a string of wonderful February sunny days. Here is John on the boardwalk across the shallow Pickerel Lake; most of the hike is through the woods with two more boardwalks along the way.

Friday, February 03, 2017


I don't do twitter and hardly even Facebook, but I do sometimes follow what's trending on twitter. As is true most days, the tweets mock stupid statements of the Trump administration. The other day the Administration thought it could get millions of Americans joining on the hashtag #thanksdonald, but ordinary people took over with sentences like #thanksdonald for not paying taxes, cheating on your wife, stiffing contractors.

Yesterday the biggest trend on twitter was #bowlinggreenmassacre, the massacre Kellyanne Conway referenced to defend Trump's ban on Muslims. That is the same Conway known for recently coining the term "alternative facts"---though for many years the Republican Right had been liberally utilizing such facts in their fake news. So Twitter lit up with such tweets as: "where were you when you first learned the Bowling Green Massacre didn't happen" and "Brian Williams won a Purple Heart for his service at the Bowling Green Massacre." One of the best tweets defended the term, insisting it actually happened last September when OSU massacred Bowling Green 77-10.

If I had joined the twitter trend yesterday, I might have tweeted about a little-known massacre that, unlike the Bowling Green Massacre, actually occurred---in this instance in Comstock Park 2 years ago---carnage that took the lives of several attic-dwelling raccoons and squirrels. The details are too horrific to put in print, but trust me, Kellyanne, this story, if it had been accurately reported, would not have depended on "alternative facts." Unfortunately, the liberal lame-stream media didn't even cover it.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Last Day at Big Bend

Tomorrow morning we plan to leave the park early and head for home, hoping to avoid "ice pellets" predicted for parts of Illinois on Saturday. We've had 5 fantastic days of hiking, with one last hike to go late this afternoon and a short walk tonight under the Big Bend full moon. The park is big in every way----except for water. The 2 pictures here show John near Mule Ears Spring, thus the green vegetation, and the one below along the canyon on the Rio Grande.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Big Bend National Park

It's our 12th year together down along the Rio Grand on the border of Mexico. Here are some snaps that will help us remember 2017, the warmest we've ever experienced here and leaves us exhausted after desert hikes up and down through deep ravines----always worth the effort though. Besides the heat we're struggling with very poor internet service this year. I tried posting last night---no luck.

Friday, January 06, 2017

Spending the Night in Abilene, Texas

It's early January so as usual we're on our way to Big Bend National Park for several days of hiking. We stayed just south of Little Rock last night---heavy traffic much of the way but the roads were mostly clear. Below is the content of an email I just sent to daughter Laura in Greensboro:

We drove through cold weather today (in the teens and twenties), and then going south around Dallas/FW, the wind and snow combined spurred those TX drivers to figure that it was as good a time as any to have a crash------and for no good reason; the pavement was dry and all you had to do was slow down for the swirling snow. Anyway we were delayed for most of 2 hours with flashing lights and long back-ups every several miles.

Okay, I have a QUIZ for you. Identify the pic below. I'm sure you don't need any hints, but I'll give them anyway-----below the pic.

Hint: Dad is talking with a National Park ranger. Got it? Scroll down.

Hint: We stopped by to restore our hope after this awful election season. Keep on scrolling. 

Hint: Birthplace of a man whose scandalous behavior made a prosecutor famous---so famous that he was named president of my alma mater, Baylor University---recently having to resign due to his own cover-up of scandalous behavior of football players.

Birthplace of the man who should have been the nation's first gentleman, that title, as we learned today, snatched away by Putin.

You probably stopped reading even before the first hint. But it was fun restoring our Hope in Hope, AR.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Kayla on Blue Bridge

The Blue Bridge is a Grand Rapids icon, and it was the perfect spot for Ariel to pop the question to granddaughter Kayla. They've been dating for more than 3 years---nevertheless, a surprise. Also a surprise was his brother jumping from behind a snow bank to snap the picture. Ariel had gone to both Melissa and Carlton separately asking for their blessings, which they gave with great joy. We all absolutely love Ariel and and are delighted that he is now officially part of our family. No date for a wedding anytime soon.

Friday, December 09, 2016

New Owners!

After having our wonderful cottage on the market since the second week of October, we closed this week. Photos are available here online (after clicking "hide this form"). We miss Alex our renter and part-time business partner for more than 5 years, but have promised to visit her in her new home in Wilmington, NC this spring.