July Update

Well, I survived my solo trip to Colorado last month! The flights went smoothly, I met up with my friends in the airport, we grabbed a rental car and headed to our other friend’s home. It was a mixed emotions type of visit. I very much enjoyed meeting these ladies in person. Since we have known each other for over 20 years we were immediately comfortable around each other. I felt like I was hanging out with sisters. Since we were there for a passing of our friend’s husband there were many tears along with the smiles and hugs. By the end of our 3 days together our bond was even stronger and we are talking about meeting up again under happier circumstances.

I was only home for a week when my mother in law came to spend a few weeks with us. She has been a great house guest and we’ve enjoyed her visit. We’ve had unseasonably warm and humid weather during most of her visit. My hubby and I are miserable when it’s over 80 but she is loving it! She moved away from Michigan a few years ago and is used to summers in the south so our weather is comfortable by comparison. We’ve had quite a few beach days during the last month. Lake Huron is warming right up and the next 2 months will be even better swimming weather.

As mandated by our governor, our town is back to stricter COVID precautions. We wear masks when inside anywhere. If we are going into a restaurant/bar we wear them until we sit down and then put them back on when we leave the table. It’s a nuisance but I’m not going to let it stop me from enjoying my town and supporting out local businesses. We are supposed to wear them outside as well if we can’t consistently maintain a 6ft distance with people not in our group. That hasn’t been a problem for us as we are rarely among big groups of people these days. Even when we go to the beach bar we sit farther away than that from other people. Our summer has been full of smaller gatherings and that’s ok with us.

We FINALLY got our new living room furniture and are no longer using camping chairs for guests! It took 5 months between picking out what we wanted, waiting for the store to reopen and then waiting for the manufacturers to reopen and get caught up with their back orders. I LOVE IT though and it is so nice to have seating options. You don’t really appreciate something until you have to go without it for so long. Kinda like your favorite brand of toilet paper (which I am finally able to find in stores again!)

Next month we are going on a vacation with several other families. We do this each summer and it’s our time to catch up with each other and just get away from the rest of the world. We have cabins booked at a small lake right here in Michigan. Luckily we aren’t planning any major excursions as we have no idea what restrictions we may be facing come next month. Mostly we sit around visiting with each other, take naps, swim, have potluck dinners and end every night with a group bonfire. It’s the only time of the year my hubby doesn’t answer texts or calls after hours or on his days off. He is literally counting down the days.

One of our empty nest goals was to visit one new place every year. We didn’t get to go anywhere this spring. This fall we talked about Key West or San Diego. Given the current state of Covid we decided to hold off until we could travel and enjoy things normally. I hate to go somewhere new only to find most of the amenities are closed. I am really hoping by next spring the world is a more familiar place. I guess we are ALL hoping for that!

The rest of our summer will be filled with small groups of friends, plenty of beach days, day trips up the coast, quiet evenings on the balcony and taking care of our garden plots. Which are looking AMAZING by the way! I think we are starting to get the hang of this!

I was saving the BEST update for the last section. My grandson is ADORABLE! Probably the cutest, sweetest baby ever! He is 4 months old now and smiling and cooing. We’ve been able to see him 3 or 4 times now and I am headed to that side of the state to visit again tomorrow. The good news is that each visit has been multiple days since 4 hours each way is a bit much for a day trip. So we usually spend the night and get extra time with him, and his parents too ūüėČ ! My hubby and I love being “Gram and Gramps”. I highly recommend it.

So that’s what’s new with me. As always, I appreciate your support and thank you for taking the time to read this. I’m keeping all of you in my prayers and hoping we can just keep hanging in there with grace and compassion in our hearts. Things WILL get better again, I know it.

¬† Making s’mores on our balcony

   Oscoda 4th of July fireworks

  AuSable Harbor

  Lake Huron

   Sunset over the AuSable River

  River Road Scenic Byway 

 

 

 

Traveling On My Own

I recently received the news from a good friend of mine that her husband passed away unexpectedly. It was a shock, as many deaths are, and I was anxious to find a way to help. As she lives in Colorado, being there for her wasn’t as easy as I would’ve liked. I considered hoping in the car and driving out there but it’s a 24 hour drive without stops so that was a little problematic.

After talking to a couple of mutual friends, a plan was hatched.  We were going to fly out and comfort our friend together.  We all live in different states so we spent a couple of days figuring out the timing of flights as well as hotel and car rental accommodations.  For the first time, at 47 years old, I am going to travel all on my own!

I consider myself a planner. It’s a role my friends and family have designated for me and I don’t mind. I enjoy figuring out logistics and having everything organized.¬† But this was a bit out of the norm for me.¬† I have flown many times, but it’s always been arranged by a travel agent or someone else.¬† This was the first time I’ve ever had to figure it all out on my own.¬† And in today’s COVID world there are a lot of extra things to keep in mind. But it was VERY important to me to be there for my friend and do whatever I could to support her.

I started looking at options and was immediately overwhelmed!  The closest airport to me is about 1.5 hours away but from there to Denver would require a lengthy layover in Atlanta, Minneapolis or Dallas! Or a flight leaving at 1:30am.  And it was several hundred dollars more expensive. None of those options made sense to me so I was stuck with the next closest airport, 3 hours away!  I was able to book a flight through Priceline (another first for me) on Frontier Airlines (never even heard of them) that was nonstop.

When I booked the flight I wasn’t given an option of picking my seat or adding any baggage options.¬† I have to tell you I was pretty nervous and just praying this whole thing was legit!¬† It felt pretty sketchy to me!¬† I was VERY relieved when I got my email confirmation and a link that allowed to be choose my seats and other options.¬† I’ve since discovered Frontier is a newer airline that offers “economy” tickets while allowing you to pay for extras if you want them.¬† So no free snacks or movies on this flight.¬† But I did score a window seat one flight and an aisle on the other.¬† And both are in an extra roomy row.

Did I mention that I haven’t actually MET 2 of these friends before in person? Our group of 5 has known each other for over 22 years now.¬† We met wayyyy back when AOL chat rooms were a thing.¬† We were all stay at home moms back then and have been though so much together.¬† Births, moves, graduations, new jobs, bad hair styles, natural disasters, loss of parents, weddings, grandkids and unfortunately now losing a spouse. Our technology has changed but we’ve stayed in touch all these years.¬† Like modern day pen pals. (I feel like this could make a good book!)¬†

So I am about to set off on quite the adventure. Is it strange that I feel accomplished and proud to be doing this by myself? I’m driving myself to the airport, navigating parking and the terminal on my own. Landing somewhere completely new to me, hopping in a car with 2 “strangers” and heading off to meet a third.¬† I wish it were under better circumstances and that the last member of our group could be there too.¬† But one day we will meet up again for something fun.¬† And I will know exactly how to make my own arrangements!

 

Where to go from here?

My last blog post was 2.5 month ago.¬† Back then I was frustrated and trying to come to term with my emotions after 3 weeks of “lock down”.¬† 3 weeks. NEVER did I imagine it would turn out to be a 3 MONTH shut down!¬† And we aren’t fully open or out of the woods yet.

I’ve been struggling with what to write about. There is so much to say, but so many great articles out there by people far more talented than I. I’m not an expert on grief, depression, or anger and I would never want to presume to give advice about those topics. There has been PLENTY of material out there for that type of reading.

My blog is not a “diary” style blog.¬† I don’t post about my day to day life and all the little details of what I’ve been up to,¬† I don’t rant or share my opinions about every topic, that’s what Facebook is for. I like to make posts once a week or so about interesting places I’ve been, new recipes I’ve tried, things I’m discovering about myself.

After 3 months of essentially being cooped up there wasn’t much of interest to talk about. If only I had been one of those people who used that time to their advantage. I didn’t learn a new language or take up a new hobby. I didn’t become a master chef or fitness guru.¬† I didn’t tackle any big home improvement projects or renovations. I didn’t write a book or even as you can see, keep up my blog.

There WERE some milestones along the way. I grieved the one year loss of my mom. I celebrated the arrival of my first grandchild. I mourned the passing of my father in law. I marveled at the fact that we have been doing this empty nest thing for a whole year already.¬† But writing about those things felt overwhelming.¬† How do I go about talking about those small,personal things while ignoring the BIG picture. It’s like there was this giant COVID cloud hanging over me every single day.¬† And every week that went by without a post it just grew more daunting, too much to tackle.¬† I just didn’t have the energy to try.

Life is looking up though. I’m back to volunteering and seeing my friends. Summer weather is here and I’m enjoying my garden and our local beaches. It’s time to get back to my blogging. While I can’t ignore what is going on in the world, I’ve come to the decision that the only way to get on with my blog is to let someone else write about the pandemic and protests and politics.¬† You can’t open social media or turn on the TV these days without being bombarded with this stuff!¬† I’m going to stick to my stuff. I’m simply going to be ME.

Empty nester, proud Michigander, amateur photographer, occasional blogger, wife, mom and now, Gram. Someone who is actively trying to better herself, enjoy life, be grateful for my blessings and give back to my community. I hope you’ll stick around and take the journey with me.

I have lots of ideas for upcoming blog posts.¬† Stay tuned, I’ve missed you.

Three Weeks In…

Three weeks ago I made a blog post about finding ways to keep yourself busy as we learned to deal with the newly coined termed, social distancing. To be honest, at that time I never thought we would STILL be worrying about this let alone having no end in site. As many of you did, I thought it would be a short lived mild inconvenience. Boy was I wrong!

My emotions are all over the place these days and I’ve been told that is normal.¬† They come and go without warning.¬† I’m not prone to anxiety or depression but these times are challenging for ALL of us.¬† I’ve read that what we are dealing with as a society right now are stages of grief and loss. I definitely believe that to be true. These are the most common emotions for me right now…

Sadness: 

I was not able to be there when my precious little grandson was born due to hospital restrictions. I was able to see him a few days later before our Stay Home order was enacted. It breaks my heart that it will be weeks before I get to see him again. Luckily he, my daughter and son in law are all healthy and keep me supplied with pictures and videos.¬† It’s not the same though.

I’ve seen the videos from nurses, doctors, first responders and they break my heart. I hear about peope dying alone in the hospital because their loved ones are forbidden to be with them.¬† Funerals that can’t be held. Seniors in nursing homes that have no visitors.¬† Seniors in high school that missed out on prom and graduation.¬† My 19 year old firefighter/ EMT son who lives on his own and had no one to hug him when he comes home at the end of a tough shift.

It makes me sad to see normally kind people say things online they wouldn’t ordinarily because they are scared. People are already turning on each other. This is the time to be our best selves, not our worst.¬†¬†

Anger:

I’m angry at the way our government is handling this situation. The blatant lies and misdirection. The things I hear people say during press conferences makes me want to throw things.¬† I’m not talking about all the spin reporters like to put on their stories on both sides of the aisle.¬† I’m talking about the things I hear for myself on live tv. I don’t need a reporter to point out the back pedaling and false statements, I can hear them myself! Normally I brush off politics because there is a lot of corruption in the whole damn government…but now I am just ANGRY.¬† This is NOT a time for patting your own back and thinking about your election strategy.¬† This is not about power plays, blame or ego.¬† This about is about saving human lives. PERIOD.¬†¬†

Frustration:

It’s been 3 weeks!¬† How long can we expect our businesses to go on like this before people start losing their homes, jobs, etc.¬† At what point are we just going to have to accept the risk and get back to work? Not everyone can stay home. Even with government help that may come eventually things are going to start getting really tough, really soon.

I don’t understand why the whole country isn’t following the same restrictions.¬† Why is our state closed down and our businesses suffering when other states just have suggested guidelines?

Why is it taking so long to get more tests and to start using them?¬† We can’t possibly get an accurate number of people infected so how will we actually know when we have flattened the curve?¬† There are so many people out there who are sick but told not to come to the hospital, they need to be tested too!¬† These numbers are going to get a lot worse before they get better.

Boredom:

I’ve spent the last three weeks reading, playing games and watching tv.¬† I have to get up every now and then to reposition myself and stretch out my limbs.¬† We go for walks everyday and as the weather turns warmer we will be able to stay out longer but it’s still pretty cold out there.¬† I’ve organized and cleaned and have no more projects that need to be done.¬† I am someone who needs to feel productive!

We downsized 9 months ago and we don’t have much space in our new home. It never felt small until now. We have an open living/dining/kitchen space.¬† If my hubby or I want to do different things one of us has to hang out in one of the 2 bedrooms.¬† We don’t have a yard. We do have a balcony and by the end of April will have the patio furniture out there and that will at least open up another living space.

I’ve lost all sense of time and days.¬† Without meetings or my volunteer gigs, I never have anywhere to be. 4 am and still awake?! No big deal. Not eating anything til 2pm..who cares ?!¬† I’m trying to get back into my normal sleep schedule but it’s a struggle. I’m considering setting my alarm in the mornings and forcing myself to get up just to try to get back to a normal sleeping pattern.¬†

Fear

I put this one last because honestly it the the one I feel the least.¬† I do worry about getting sick and I’m taking all the right precautions not to. If I get the virus it will suck but I’ll most likely survive it.¬† I’m a girl who grew up just outside of Detroit wearing second hand clothes, ate cheese that came in a big block and food that came in black and white boxes, shopping at Kmart and living in places where coming home to notices on the door were common place.¬† My mom was a “factory rat”¬† as were most of my friend’s parents, and we grew up dealing with the highs and lows of overtime, shut downs and layoffs. Those roots run deep and it takes a lot to scare me now.

If I allowed myself to I could be afraid of all of the “what ifs”.¬† But I am NOT allowing myself to go there.¬† I have survived this long by taking a deep breath, dealing with the problems one at a time and then letting it go.¬† We can’t live in fear.¬† That’s not really living.¬† We HAVE to be able to look towards the light at the end of the tunnel and focus on that.

At the end of last week I reached a mental breaking point (won’t be the last I’m sure).¬† I couldn’t read one more political tweet, one more post debating whether or not people should head north to their cabin, or watch one more first responder video that made me cry.¬† I was obsessing and it wasn’t good for me.¬† So I began to limit my social media/ news coverage time.¬†

5 days later I feel more out of touch with the world but more in touch with my friends and family. I’ve taken to calling/texting a couple of different people each day.¬† I’ve also been mailing out letters/cards.¬† I’m trying to use this time to reconnect with people and focus more on those relationships.¬† I’m concentrating on my own little circle because it is too much to think about the entire planet right now. When I allow myself to dwell on it then I can’t control the emotions and that’s not healthy.

I can’t change what is happening out there in the world but I can change how I respond to it.

 

 

 

 

Making the Best of a Scary Situation

Unless you just woke up from a long winter’s hibernation, you have heard about the Coronavirus Pandemic that is sweeping the world.¬† If you are like me, it went from being something to keep an eye on to something dominating the news, social media and conversations with people on the street in just a few days.¬† Yesterday alone Michigan colleges cancelled on campus classes, concerts and parades were cancelled or postponed, the NBA postponed the rest of their season and other sporting events will be played in empty arenas. This is escalating on a local level very quickly!

You may recognize yourself as someone who believes in the idea of “flattening the curve”, someone who is stockpiling toilet paper,¬† someone who is sick of hearing about it, someone who thinks the media is making it too big of a deal or someone who is truly panicking right now.¬† We all cope with these type of things in different ways; reading every article you can find, ignoring it totally, preparing for the worst, debating on social media.¬† My personal method for coping with a scary situation is first to process it, and then try to “look on the bright side“.

You may have missed a chance to go to a parade, concert, basketball game, school event, etc.¬† You may be worried about an upcoming vacation, wedding or like me, being there for the birth of a grandchild.¬† We may not be able to control those things and worrying about them isn’t going to change that . My blog is titled “Simply Shannone” because when I started it 15 months ago my focus was preparing to move to a small town and simplify my life. With this in mind, I wanted to share with you my own ideas for getting through this.¬† Whether this time of “Social Distance” is a matter of weeks or months, keeping a healthy state of mind is vital!¬† This is a great time to take a step back and look at the simple things.¬† Things that in our normal hectic lives we may forget about.¬† We CAN survive without large, crowded events. It’s ok if we stick closer to home for awhile.

I offer you the following ways to make the best of out what is a scary time for a lot of people:

1- READ!¬† Chances are you have books sitting in a closet that you have been meaning to read but haven’t had time to.¬† If not then visit your local library.¬† You can even charge up your old e-reader and get books from your local library without leaving your house.¬† Start an online book club with some friends.¬† You can get audible books pretty easily these days too so maybe you would prefer to listen as someone else reads to you.¬† There are so many options today when it comes to reading, allow yourself to get caught up in a good book!

2- VISIT A STATE PARK! Of course Tawas Point is my local favorite, but there are 103 beautiful states parks in Michigan alone to choose from.¬† That’s not even counting all of our wonderful National Parks.¬† Take some binoculars and spend an afternoon bird watching.¬† Put on some hiking shoes and take a nature walk.¬† Sit on a blanket enjoying the sound of the waves and the feel of the wind in your hair.¬† I honestly believe fresh air cures just about everything so why not give it a try?

3- BUST OUT YOUR OLD GAMES!¬† Maybe you have an old gaming system that is collecting dust under the tv.¬† Break out some new batteries for those chargers and play some of your old favorite games.¬† Mario Kart, Sonic, Guitar Hero, Dance Dance Revolution.¬† Remember how much you and/or your kids enjoyed those games when they first came out?¬† Maybe you prefer board games or cards.¬† Chances are you have games sitting on a shelf that you haven’t played in a long time.¬† Now is your chance.¬† Invite a couple of friends over for a game of UNO or Monopoly.¬† ¬†Set up a card table and a jigsaw puzzle.

4- LEARN A NEW HOBBY!¬† Have you always wanted to learn to knit ?¬† Perhaps you’ve always wanted to try your hand at sketching or painting.¬† Take a trip to your local hobby shop and get some supplies.¬† I bet you have a friend that would be happy to get together and do it with you.

5- COOK!  This is a great time to make some of those recipes you have been collecting over the years on Pinterest. Stream cooking videos from the Food Network.  You could make a few new appetizers and have them for dinner . Or make a very fancy meal and serve it on the good plates.  I bet it will cost you less than a night out on the town.

6- BINGE A GOOD SHOW!  What would we do without Netflix and Hulu?  Have you always wondered what all the hype about a show was about?  Now is your chance to find out!  There is almost an endless variety of programming out there. I highly recommend the Great British Baking Show and Queer Eye.  Feel good shows with people you want to root for.  There are plenty of true crime, sci-fi or horror if you prefer.

7- CLEAN!¬† I know it’s not a fun suggestion, but it really is a great feeling of accomplishment when you tackle a project around the house you have been putting off.¬† Maybe it’s cleaning out the cabinet under the sink or cleaning the oven.¬† You could go through your closet and dresser and donate things you never wear anymore.¬† Toss out old make up and beauty products.¬† Do you really want to use that half used 3 year old face mask on the back shelf with 1/2 inch of dust on it?

8- CONNECT WITH OLD FRIENDS!¬† Whether it is on social media, the phone or in person, now is the perfect time to reach out to someone you’ve lost touch with.¬† You don’t have to go far from home to make a connection with a friend.¬† Go for a walk or bike ride together. Have them over for a dinner party and games.¬† Maybe they are feeling cooped up or sad about canceled plans and could use someone to talk to.

9- TAKE A ROAD TRIP!¬† Fill up the tank and hit the road. Don’t make plans…just pick a direction and take off.¬† Stop at whatever catches your eye along the way.¬† Lighthouses, waterfalls, roadside parks, bridges, sunsets and sunrises.¬† You have an endless amount of cool things to see along the way.¬† Don’t forget some great music to play along the way!

10-CAMPING!¬† Maybe you are reluctant to make big travel plans.¬† If you are worried about your flight or cruise being cancelled, consider making camping reservations.¬† Spring is right around the corner and with it comes camping season.¬† There are GORGEOUS campgrounds all around our country.¬† If you have a car and a camper or tent then you are all set.¬† It’s less expensive than a fancy trip and easier to make adjustments if you need to.¬† There is nothing like a bonfire under the stars to bring things into perspective.

There you have it. Shannone’s guide to enjoying the simple things in an uncertain time.¬† Life will eventually return to normal, until then (and maybe even after) I hope this brings you a little comfort and ideas for how to make the best of this hand we have been dealt.

Remember: Wash your hands, don’t stress about things you can’t control, and enjoy the simple things.

Lake Huron Sunrise

 

 

Do You Karaoke?

First, some background.  When I was around 8 my mom gave me a box of her old 45s and a record player.  I spent countless hours alone in my room with the probably the most eclectic selection of music that ever existed. Monster Mash, Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini, Yellow Submarine, Half Breed, The Battle of New Orleans, Downtown, Twist and Shout, etc.  I was crushed when the albums were destroyed by being put too close to a space heater.

A couple of years later I started dancing all over my room singing into a hairbrush. You know you did too, you can admit it!¬† In the 80’s we had Prince, Michael Jackson, Pat Benatar, Joan Jett, John Cougar (before the name change) and Queen. Power Rock at it’s best! Later as a teenager we had the BEST hair bands…Bon Jovi, Poison, Def Leppard, White Snake. I may not have used a hairbrush as a mic at that point, but I sang along to every song on every cassette. I sat at my radio for hours at a time creating mixed tapes to play in my walkman.¬† And I took that walkman everywhere!

I also lived within 30 minutes of Detroit until I was 28 years old.¬† I grew up loving Motown and knew most of the songs better than my parents and their friends.¬† Motown songs tell simple stories that were easy to understand. You can’t help but turn the music up and sing along when one of the classics comes on. This is an obsession I still have to this day.

I was in choir class all through middle school and high school.¬† I moved around a lot as a kid but no matter how many times I changed schools, choir class was my constant.¬† I stumbled my way through sight reading and didn’t exactly enjoy the choir music selections.¬† I liked singing with the group but I was NOT a solo kind of person. The smallest group I ever performed with on stage was 6, and I was a nervous wreck.¬† I met my husband in 9th grade choir class and he was definitely a soloist and I was his biggest fan. From the safety of backstage!

All of the background history was to show you that I have a very diverse appreciation for music. All genres and eras. I like it all and I always have.¬† We’ve raised our kids to feel the same.¬† Our daughters took piano lessons, 2 of our kids were in band all through middle school and high school and the other in choir.¬† We’ve always been a musical family. We did community theater while they were growing up and our favorites were the musicals.¬† Other than one small part on stage, I was happy to be behind the scenes as a stage manager, making sure things ran smoothly and letting others be in the spotlight.¬† That was my comfort zone.

About 3 years ago we discovered karaoke.  Now I know this has been around for a long time.  We even had a little karaoke machine we broke out for parties. However, I had only been to a public karaoke place once and I did not sing.  We were staying at a hotel here in what would later be our new home town, when we walked into a bar that was doing karaoke.  We sat down and watched and had a few drinks.  I begged my hubby to get up and sing but he declined.  I wore him down though and the next time we went he reluctantly sang one song.  It took me right back to high school! For the rest of that year that was our routine when we visited.  I would ask him to sing and he would, eventually working his way up a few songs a night.

By the end of the year, after many shots, I got up the courage to try it.¬† I asked Mac (the best DJ and now a dear friend) if he would please put me towards the end, hoping there wouldn’t be as big of a crowd.¬† But it was December and everyone was having a great time and not leaving. I was shaking as I got up there and sang Santa Baby. I remember staring at the screen and not making eye contact with anyone.¬† It felt like the longest song EVER.¬† But I did it, and just like that I was hooked.¬† For the next year I still needed some liquid courage to stop the nervous feeling.¬† After 3 years though I finally feel comfortable up there. I appreciate my karaoke family and have made some great friends. It doesn’t matter if I didn’t hit the high note or was slightly off key. It’s just karaoke and no one is getting a recording deal out of this!

One of my FAVORITE parts of these nights is watching the crowds. You’ve got the Girl’s Night groups that comes in and sing Shania Twain songs as a group and have a great time doing it.¬† They don’t care what anyone thinks, they are in it for the fun of being together.¬† You get the quiet ones you can barely hear, the ones so loud they have to be turned down. The ones that think no one can do it better than them, the ones who shake because they are nervous. The people who sit at the bar judging everyone but never try it themselves. The couples that sing duets while gazing into each others eyes. The reluctant ones encouraged by their friends. The people who sing from the table and have a great time without leaving their seat and sometimes someone who is amazing without even trying.

We go almost every week now. Sometimes my hubby and I like to sit at the bar, just the two of us, and focus all of our attention on each other.¬† Sometimes we have friends or family join us.¬† Most of my out of town friends have gone with me by now, though most of them don’t want to sing.¬† We’ve made lists of songs we can sing and add new ones occasionally. Mac has the lists now so he can pick songs he things a particular crowd will enjoy.¬† Sometimes we play karaoke kamikaze and blindly choose random songs for each other, though that game DOES still take a little liquid courage!

For me, karaoke isn’t about wanting to be a star or needing attention.¬† It’s about facing your fears. Being nervous about doing something but doing it anyway.¬† Trying out a new song knowing that someone may be judging you but still being brave enough to try. Encouraging each other to take a chance and give it a shot. It’s about having fun, letting go and seeing where the night takes you.

If you are ever up in my neck of the woods and want to experience it for yourself just let me know.¬† I’ll save you a seat and bring you the song book.

Baby Shower Weekend!


We drove out to Holland yesterday for our daughter’s baby shower. As I’ve mentioned, our middle daughter is due with our first grandbaby next month. It was a beautiful day for a drive. I rode out with our oldest daughter since my husband was driving a moving truck loaded with a new couch for our mommy to be.

Baby girl #1 and I listened to music, talked about family stuff, laughed about silly memories.  I love road trips with my kids!  Being trapped in a car together gives you time to catch up in a way you can’t experience from a phone call or text.

We arrived late afternoon and when baby girl #2 walked out of her apartment I instantly got teary eyed.  I haven’t seen her since the beginning of January and seeing her in a maternity dress looking like she swallowed a basketball really took my breath away.  MY BABY GIRL IS GONNA BE A MOM!

We delivered the couch, removed the old one and visited a bit.  I was inpressed at the way my son in law went out of his way to make sure our mommy to be didn’t do too much and was comfortable.  We got to see their work in progress nursery.  Seeing baby girl #2 in full nesting mode and her excited hubby really drove home how real this is.  They are going to be parents and I’m gonna be a grandma!

We all went out to dinner together along with a friend and her daughter.  I felt very happy as I looked around the table.  My daughters were laughing together, glad to have sister time. Baby girl #2 didn’t like her dinner and her sweet hubby traded plates with her, giving up a meal he was enjoying.  They seemed more in sync than ever and at that moment I could visualize what good parents they will be. Our friend had driven 3 hours to share this special time with us and it was very much appreciated. I wished that moment didn’t have to end.  It was easy and the conversation flowed pretty naturally with everyone.  When you live a few hours apart you really appreciate things like a shared meal!

After dinner baby girl #2 came back to our hotel room for awhile to visit and I got to feel my grandson moving around under my hand. It brought back memories of my own pregnancies and how young and nervous I was the first time around. Don’t you wish you knew then what you know now?

I drove baby girl #2 back home, just a couple miles from the hotel and we sat in the car for another 10 minutes talking.  That’s how it is with us.  When we are on the phone we say goodbye and then keep talking and repeat a couple times. When she comes to visit us for a weekend we say goodnight and then stay up talking for another half hour. We never seem to run out of things to talk about and I love every minute of it.

The shower was a success thanks to all the help we had. (It’s not easy to plan and throw a shower from the other side of the state!) Everyone seemed to enjoy the cute decorations, silly games and time spent together.

It was hard to leave, knowing the next time I see my baby girl she will most likely be in labor, about to hold her own baby for the very first time. It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was rocking her to sleep, singing her lullabies.  It goes so fast! 

So while I was emotional this weekend, I was also very happy to have spent this special time with my family.  We may live in different parts of the state but we ARE a super close family still. We pick up right where we left off when we are together. It’s obvious that there is love and laughter and a bond nothing can break and that is all a mom can ask for.

Warm up with this Crockpot Recipe!

It’s Michigan, it’s winter and it gets cold! Making this my favorite time of year to use my crockpot. There is no shortage of cookbooks and online recipes to search through. I thought I would share one of my favorites with you and save you the trouble. This recipe will feed 5-6 people, depending on the people you are feeding. Sometimes I even have leftovers when my teenage kid isn’t around!

Crock Pot Sweet Garlic Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 4-6 chicken breasts
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup 7-Up or Sprite
  • 2-3 Tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons corn starch
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • Red pepper flakes (optional)

1- Place washed and trimmed chicken breasts in a crockpot. Mix together brown sugar, vinegar, soda, garlic, soy sauce, and pepper together and pour over chicken. {You can spray the crockpot with Pam first to make it easier to clean later. I’ve never tried using one of those crockpot liners.}

2- Cook on low for for 5-6 hours or high for 4 hours.¬† You can tell it’s done when it starts to fall apart.¬† Gently remove chicken and pour the remaining juices into a saucepan.¬†

3- Mix the cornstarch and water together in a small bowl and add to the saucepan with the juices.  Whisk over high heat until well blended. Let the sauce come to a boil for 2-3 minutes until it starts to thicken and looks like a glaze. {It will thicken up a little as it cools.}

4- Top the chicken with the glaze and optional red pepper flakes. {I like to pull the chicken apart a little, but not as much as when you do shredded chicken/pulled pork. My favorite way to serve it is over white rice but you can do mashed potatoes or serve it on a hoagie style roll if you prefer.}

5- ENJOY !!

Where is the snow?

We started hearing about a big, scary winter storm promising lots of snow heading our way about 5 days before it hit. As a Northern Michigan girl who loves snow, I was pretty excited. Images of snowball fights, building snowmen and sipping cocoa while walking along a snow covered trail danced in my head. THAT is winter to me. Not this gray/brown post holiday dreary landscape we’ve become all too familiar with.

On Friday the forecast called for freezing rain and then 6-11 inches of snow, beginning overnight on Friday. Our little town was buzzing about it and stocking up for a Snowpocalpyse. If the lines at Walmart were any indication, people were taking this warning seriously! It was very warm and humid that afternoon and almost 50¬į. I had doubts then about the amount of snow we were expected to get.

An updated forecast pushed back the storm from Friday night through Saturday night to Saturday afternoon though Saturday night. We woke up Saturday morning with a little ice on the deck and some gusty winds. At that point they had changed the snow total prediction to 3-7 inches. As a lifelong Detroit Lions fan, I am used to disappointment but I couldn’t help but be bummed. Where was the snow I had been promised?!?!

My poor friends downstate were dealing with heavy rains and flooding. There were pictures of people kayaking in their neighborhood streets! And I was a few hours away, still hopefully watching the skies, waiting for the storm to start. The wind picked up through the afternoon. There were big, powerful waves on Lake Huron that undoubtedly caused damage to an already suffering shoreline. We didn’t get all of the freezing rain that had been predicted, which WAS a good thing. But we also didn’t get much snow.

Saturday evening I watched the scene unfold from my cozy little perch in town. The heavy winds blowing the powdery snow around made it look worse than it was. Some local businesses had decided to close up early for the safety of their employees and customers, which I can appreciate. We however, decided to venture out for dinner. The roads were snowy but we didn’t have any problems. The attitude among the other diners seemed to be “bring it on”. By that point no one seemed too concerned. A band was going on soon and it was just another Saturday night in town. We stuck around for a couple hours and then headed back to our retreat where I was still hoping for the snow to really start falling and take us by surprise {a Lions fan, remember}.

I woke up Sunday morning to a calm, gray sky. No heavy winds, just the sound of plows and snowblowers. It’s tough to say how much total snow we received, I haven’t heard anything official. The high winds caused a lot of drifting. I would guess 4-5 inches. Enough to at least cover the brown. It certainly wasn’t the foot of snow I was hoping for. There will be no snowman or snowball fights from this one. Maybe next time.

2019 in Review, A Year of Extreme Highs and Lows

My emotions were all over the place this year. I think I cried more than I ever have before, but also smiled more. I clung to memories from the past while also making new ones I could treasure. I said goodbye to people I loved and also welcomed new people into my life.

The first 4 months of 2019 were about spending as much time with my mom while she was in the hospital and then hospice as I could. I was also recovering from knee surgery and trying to pack and downsize a 3 story family home into 3 smaller places that we could soon be moving into. It was a busy start to the year! As hard as it was to be with my mom so much and to know we were going to lose her, it was also a blessing to have that time. We had some wonderful talks and I feel like I was able to bring her some comfort and peace. The last couple of weeks were especially hard and emotionally draining. But I don’t regret a single moment.

We lost her in April and it was brutal. Thankfully I was so busy that I had a lot to keep my mind occupied. We packed and reduced our belongings by about 2/3. A lot went to our son and daughter who were each moving into their own places and the rest went to those who needed it more than we did. I also spent a solid week going through 50+ photos albums and thousands of loose pictures and scanning them into online albums. I don’t wish that job on anyone! I don’t think we were able to eat in the dining room/kitchen that whole week.

The next few months were busy with helping our daughter get settled into her new house and with our son’s senior year activities including his graduation and party. Again my emotions were running high as we watched our son walk across the stage and then helped him move into his own place. I still picture him as a 4 year old in denim overalls and a fireman’s hat. Now he is all grown up and a real life firefighter!

Shortly after that it was on to the next chapter for my husband and I; our move north to East Tawas. Luckily we were pretty much settled into our new place since we had spent the previous 15 months furnishing and making it feel like home. We had spent so much time here already. We only had a couple carloads of clothes and odds and ends to unpack. This was a very exciting time for us, we had been planning and preparing for this moment for over 3 years! We settled into our new life, made new friends, took lots of walks, planted a garden, spent time at the beach and listened to street bands from our balcony. I remembered what it was like to cook for only 2 people and we realized we had a lot more freedom. We could skip dinner if we wanted in favor of going to the beach, we could spend a whole weekend sipping drinks by the water and listening to live music. We were definitely in a 2nd honeymoon phase and loving it. We also enjoyed having our friends come up and spend weekends with us.

It was during one of these visits at the end of July that we shockingly lost one of my best friends to a blood clot. None of us were prepared and I STILL struggle with this loss. Nothing snaps you out of your perfect little bubble like losing someone you have known since kindergarten. The next couple of weeks were a blur, but my family and friends pulled together to mourn and try to move forward.

The 3 months that followed were about appreciating what you have while trying to honor those we had lost. Trying to remember them and smile and laugh instead of cry. Life continues. We took a nice, relaxing vacation in the U.P with a great group of old friends. We enjoyed having our kids spend weekends with us. We looked forward to the arrival of our first grandchild. We spent more time we with new friends and enjoyed community events. We took road trips. I started volunteering more and settling into a regular routine. Life moves on and you have to move with it.

The year wrapped up with the holiday season. I did get sad at times thinking about my mom. Thinking about Becky’s girls and their first Christmas without her. Wishing I was able to see all 3 of our kids at the same time more than once or twice a year. But I also very much enjoyed having those quiet moments with my husband. We decorated our tree without the kids, baked cookies on our own, spent many nights enjoying dinner with just candles and holiday lights shining. We held hands, bundled up and went for walks, drove around to look at Christmas lights. It was our first Christmas morning on our own in 26 years and it was great. We had a leisurely morning drinking coffee and hot chocolate and watching the town wake up from our downtown perch. We exchanged gifts and had a cozy, quiet day at home.

We will be bringing in the New Year in a completely new way, at a New Year’s Eve party! Normally we stay home and play games with the kids/friends, but this is a time for starting new traditions. This year we are getting dressed up and going out to celebrate the end to this year and to toast to what will hopefully be a brighter new year. I know 2020 will have it’s challenges too, that is life. But I feel a little better prepared to deal with what may come.

From the bottom of my heart I thank all of you for being part of this year with me. For your comments, likes and shares. For your heartfelt messages and words of encouragement. For your incredible acts of generosity. I am truly blessed. I hope the New Year brings you peace, happiness and the strength to deal with whatever may come your way.