Monday, September 11, 2017

Family Together in Spooner

We all met at the home place this past weekend---the 5 of us "kids," plus spouses and friends. We range in age from David, soon to be 78, Jeannine, 75, yours truly 72, Jonnie 70, and Kathy, 63. We're all in good health and feel younger than we are.

John and I arrived early which gave us a chance to get out to the farm, where I spent a bit of alone time sitting in a camp chair writing some memories of childhood. After a time John came up behind me and snapped this picture.

Below is the front of the barn, with brother Jonnie's cords of wood. There should be a high barn behind these buildings, but it has fallen in on itself, as seen from the back.

dinner at the riverside picnic area
largest tree on the farm
ride with Jonnie on ATV

five siblings from oldest to youngest
family, minus Ginny snapping the pic

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Remembering the 100-Year Flood

With the terrible flooding in Houston and elsewhere in Texas, I'm reminded of the Grand River flood in the spring of 2013. Of course, there's no comparison. Even without flood insurance, we managed okay, doing most of the repair work ourselves. But many people in Grand Rapids lost almost everything---especially poorer people whose homes had never before flooded. They were made vulnerable (as were many in Houston) because box stores and high-rise buildings with huge parking lots did not have proper drainage. Such folks are sitting ducks when the torrential rains come. Here are some pics showing the front of our house, the side yard, and John hard at work. And here are 20 photos collected by the Grand Rapids Press, titled "20 most dramatic images from the historic Grand River flood." Scroll down six to see John and me kayaking down Abrigador Trail

Monday, September 04, 2017

Reflections on a Good Life

This Labor Day 2017, we are conscious of all the troubles is this country and around the world. We've had our own share of troubles but in this season of our lives we are conscious every day of the good life we're enjoying. We work hard almost every day at the Gardens, and here is John standing in front of his latest creation---a "cabin" toward the back of our expanded woodland. We play hard as well, yesterday sucking up the beautiful weather as we biked our traditional Labor Day weekend 35-mile ride through downtown Grand Rapids and 4 large parks. There was too much beauty along the way to even try to capture it, but I snapped this wonderful floral display inside the burial grounds of President Jerry and Betty Ford. After we returned I did laundry and was bummed out to discover our drying rack was downtown at our condo, so I did the next best thing with river-rat drying. The remaining pictures were taken this morning as we headed upstream from the Rockford Dam on the Rogue River. I managed to snap a swan in the midst of a wetland island.

Monday, August 28, 2017

A 13th Anniversary and Anti-Semitism

Today marks our 13th anniversary, and what a ride it has been. He is the best husband I ever could have snatched---everything and more I could have dreamed of having in a husband. Here he is, as so often in the evening, enjoying a beer and a back-lit sunset. We were up in Bay View again yesterday and today enjoying this big airy room we were upgraded to for no extra cost.

Below is the story of anti-Semitism.

We took our Sunday morning bike ride on the trail heading northeast, and this time decided to take a little detour through the small town of Oden on Route 31 along Crooked Lake. We discovered a half-mile-long sidewalk along the lake bordered by beautiful homes. Then we noticed this massive tree trunk and a woman in the yard walking her dog. So we asked about the tree, which is a story in itself. But the bigger story is that the whole community along the lake (pictured below) was established by Jewish residents who were not permitted to reside in the very upscale community of Harbor Springs on Little Traverse Bay several miles away. So this little community was settled by default on the basis of ugly bigotry. Harbor Springs is truly a spectacular town---with a shameful history---where we often sit in the park eating our lunch. We'll never look at that beauty with the same eyes again.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Was he fired, or did he resign?

This evening I was reading Slate Magazine online and was amused  by Daniel Politi's article titled, "Sebastian Gorka Worked Hard to Make it Sound Like His Firing Was a Resignation." It's such a typical reaction to being fired.

I always think back to my being fired from Calvin Theological Seminary. I was given a terminal appointment---meaning I was terminated, in other words, fired. However, after I went public with my story, quoting from documents that proved I was fired, the administration went public claiming I resigned---that I quit. What a crock!

I wish more people would step up to the plate and state publicly that they have been fired---especially those who have been fraudulently fired---fired on false charges. Likewise, I would think that anyone fired by Trump should regard it a badge of honor.

Here are three other Trump Administration examples of being fired---or resigning: 

Steve Bannon "told others the decision was entirely his; while senior administration officials said he was ousted." Similar situations with Reince Priebus and Anthony Scaramucci. They all should man up and publicly say they've been fired.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Cool Biking

This morning at 8:30, shivering in the chilly breeze, we headed north on the nearby White Pine Trail to take a thirty mile trip in preparation for our traditional 35-mile ride to Millennium Park on Labor Day. As we approached Cedar Springs, we lost track of mileage partly due to some storm damage with limbs apparently obscuring the mile markers. So we went beyond the town, John insisting that we must have already passed the 15-mile marker. I accused him of trafficking in wishful thinking, a character flaw that is not becoming. He retorted that I trafficked in linguistic eccentricities and exaggeration. As we were arguing about our respective characters, we both at the very same time spotted mile marker 17. We turned around and headed back to Cedar Springs. Here he is in front of one of his favorite breweries. Below, I'm posing alongside a front yard I can only envy.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Home Away from Home

Yesterday was the fifth Sunday this season that we spent at Terrace Inn in Bay View which borders on the beautiful Little Traverse Bay of Lake Michigan. We trade yard art for lodging and have loads of fun working with Patty the owner. Below is our room. Also a pic of John before dinner sitting on the back patio facing the sign we spent a lot of time restoring and butterflies that we brought from the shop. We always bring our bikes and ride both morning and evening, yesterday clocking some 28 miles. The trails are beautiful and offer nice surprises along the way. When we arrived in the little town of Alanson just before noon, we wondered what was going on with the crows of people. Turns out it was their annual River Festival. We were treated to a lively concert presented by the Petosky Steel Drum Band, 30 talented and barefoot high school kids making music and dancing---a lot of old favorites. On the way home today, I asked John to turn around so I could snap a picture of an artsy tall shoe tree. Sometimes we fear we're having just too much fun.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Hometown Team

Last night Carlton, Kayla and Ariel joined us for a birthday baseball game at the Fifth Third ballpark just a mile from our house. Both Carlton and John have July 13 birthdays, and this was a late celebration. Great fun. And what a game it was, as is noted below. Over 9,000 fans, game tied 9 to 9 in the 9th inning. Then due to lightening, the game is called. 

COMSTOCK PARK, MI - Inclement weather foiled the finish of a tight contest in front of 9,360 fans between the West Michigan Whitecaps and Great Lakes Loons Thursday night at Fifth Third Ballpark as the 9-9 tie was suspended after nine innings of play.

After Great Lakes broke out the offense in the early innings and took an 8-1 lead, the Whitecaps came storming back with a comeback highlighted by a game-tying grand slam by Chad Sedio - his second of the night.

This good news from an hour ago:

The Great Lakes Loons were unable to maintain their momentum from Thursday evening's suspended game, falling to the West Michigan Whitecaps, 10-9, in 11 innings on Friday. 

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Hiking the Dunes

We left early Sunday morning for Leelanau County and the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. We discovered the Cottonwood Trail along the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive a few weeks ago but did not have time to take the full hike. The trail overlooks both Lake Michigan and Glen Lake and has a lot of scrub trees growing along the hard pack trail---though there is also a lot of deep dune sand in places. Yours truly on the hard pack trail; John looking over Glen Lake and an hour later eating at a picnic area also along the scenic drive. Below John is reading the Sunday paper and snacking in a camp chair beside a flower garden park in Frankfurt.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Time Flies!

We have retired friends who struggle to fill up their days, always on the lookout for a new restaurant or for a free concert to attend. Retired people come to Carlton Gardens wanting nothing other than to spend an hour talking. I had to walk away from a guy yesterday and warned John about him. We simply don't have enough time for what we want to do. We've been making changes at the Gardens recently and are having so much fun doing it, but the days end to quickly now that we close at 4 pm. I try to keep up on my writing and painting but never have enough time, especially since we prize "free time" so much. On Monday after work we took our kayaks up to the Rockford dam and kayaked up the Rouge River for an hour and then floated and paddled back. On Tuesday evening we biked for a couple of hours on the White Pine Trail; on Wednesday went to an absolutely wonderful performance of "Chorus Line" at Circle Theatre. And the list goes on. Right now, late Sunday afternoon, I'm sitting on the back patio at Terrace Inn in Bay View, where we will spend the night. We left home early and arrived in less than 3 hours, went biking and stopped at our favorite fish hatchery where we viewed from one point a very close up Great Blue Heron and at a distance a bald eagle and some otters at play. What a show. Tonight and tomorrow we will bike again; then on the way home stop to purchase more yard art at a mom & pop little "factory," then make my monthly chaplain visit to a boy incarcerated at the Muskegon River Youth Home. Tuesday morning, the rat-race begins again.

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.