Monday, December 31, 2012


December is almost over and that only means one thing at our house. Jacob has turned sixteen and can now legally drive on his own.

This month has been hectic, as usual. I shopped. I wrote cards. I wrapped. Jim and Adam came to town. We were invited to parties - a birthday bash, several holiday get-togethers, and even a graduation celebration thrown in for good measure. We attended the Jersey Boys play at the Fisher Theater. (Loved it!) The world didn't end. Christmas came and went. It snowed - yay!

Then the 27th arrived. We woke up bright and early on the big day in order to get to the Michigan Secretary of State office as soon as it opened. After filling out and signing what seemed like an overabundance of forms, we were on our way back home with our brand-new, legally-licensed driver in tow. Jake has only driven a few times on his own so far, but I suspect he will be doing a lot more of it, and I feel perfectly comfortable when he goes off by himself. By the way, we also enjoyed what has become somewhat of a tradition - open bowling on Jacob's birthday. This year ten bowlers and four spectators showed up for the festivities at Oak Lanes.

Tonight we will gather at Wayne and Carol's house for their annual New Year's Eve party. Happy 2013 to all!

Sixteen candles.
We made an early morning trip to the Secretary of State office to pick up Jake's long-anticipated and coveted license.

Thursday, November 29, 2012


I can't believe that another month has just zipped right on by! It is almost December, Christmas is right around the corner, and before we know it 2013 will be here. Really, where did November go?

Jim came to town the week before Thanksgiving and Adam flew in the Friday prior. It was wonderful to have the whole family together for the holiday. Thanksgiving Day was fun and festive, as usual. Twenty-six of us gathered at Nancy's house and enjoyed the yummiest turkey & fixings ever. The day was actually very warm - I think the high was at least 60 degrees - and some of the group spent time at the park. Jacob even wore shorts! We had another spirited game of guys vs. girls Taboo, with the guys pulling out a (lucky) victory at the very last minute.

On Sunday, the 25th, we celebrated the November birthdays at our condo. Adam turned 24 and Nancy turned 60-something. In between all the partying, we shopped for and bought some new living room furniture. In order to make room for it, we had to haul our old couches down to our tv room, and that included descending two sets of stairs while negotiating several tight twists & turns. It is a good thing that the delivery guys carried in our new sectional because Jim and I are getting way too old to be moving furniture. (To be honest, I didn't do anything except open doors. Jim, Adam, and Jacob did all of the heavy lifting.) Jim went back to work in Texas and Adam jetted off to Colorado earlier this week. Before long, though, they will be back for Christmas vacation!

My first-born is 24!
The birthday duo. They had quite the pile of presents this year!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Riders on the Storm

Jim, Adam, Jacob, and I just spent an exciting weekend being windswept and bounced around by Hurricane Sandy on land, in the air, and at sea. A few weeks ago, I made reservations for a three-day cruise out of the Port of Miami knowing full well that it was nearing the end of hurricane season. There had not been any tropical systems in south Florida this year, so, really, what were the odds that something would develop for the few days that we would be there? Pretty good, as it turned out.

The four of us planned to meet in Fort Lauderdale on Thursday evening - Jake and I were coming from Detroit, Adam from Denver, and Jim from Houston. Adam's flight was scheduled to leave at 1 a.m. MDT. He drove to the airport in a snowstorm and departed two hours late due to deicing issues. Despite the fact that he missed his connecting flight enroute, Adam arrived in Florida a few hours before the rest of us. The hurricane was offshore when we all flew in and it made for bumpy landings in 45 mph crosswinds. Our ship embarkation on Friday was delayed two hours due to the storm, but we were delighted when we finally got onboard and underway.

I assumed that Sandy would quickly head north and our sailing would only be in rough waters for a very short time. Bad assumption. The ship was really rocking on Friday night, and the wind & waves only increased on Saturday. Passengers were getting sick all over the ship. Even though the crew placed throw-up bags in strategic places, we saw people vomiting everywhere - in the buffet, on the stairs, in public restrooms, even in their own hands. And, though Jacob has been on eight cruises, he began to feel queasy and had to take some motion sickness meds for the first time. (Which worked well, he was fine after a couple of hours.) The dining rooms were almost empty and the showrooms were only half full. The captain announced that he changed our course and purposely cruised south towards the Florida Keys since the forecast there was for 20 knot winds. The Norwegian Cruise Line meteorologists were very inaccurate as we encountered 50 knot winds (59 mph) and 20-25 foot seas. The ship bobbed up & down and listed side to side in these conditions for the first 36 hours of our cruise, lifting the bow up high and then crashing it back down into the ocean with a loud thud. I honestly never felt unsafe, though, and I was happily surprised that my stomach was actually fine & dandy the entire time.

The port of Nassau was open for us to visit on Sunday despite the fact that the hurricane had passed near it and did leave some minor damage behind. We went on a fun tour of the city on Segways, then did some shopping. When we got back to Miami on Monday morning, the storm was far to the north and ready to make landfall in New Jersey. The hurricane wind field was huge, however, and was affecting flights up & down the east coast and inland as far west as Michigan. Luckily, even though the winds were high in Detroit, the airport stayed open. Our 757 was tossed around in 45 mph crosswinds during the last 30 minutes of our flight, but we landed on time.

Now I am ready for these winds to calm down because, among other things, my hair has been a horrible mess ever since last Thursday.

Our ship, the Norwegian Sky.
I love the pretty blue water of the Bahamas.
This was Adam and Jacob's cabin. Jim and I had the connecting room next door.
My favorite towel animal.

The four of us on our Segways.
Jacob and Jim standing on the back deck. The stern of the ship is up on a wave crest, the bow is down.
I am standing in the very same spot. Now the stern is down and the bow is up. Up and down. Up and down. I wish I had a movie camera!

Sunday, September 30, 2012


It has been busy, busy, busy around here the past few weeks. Jacob began 10th grade on the 4th of this month and has already been bogged down with homework almost every night. We have had to completely readjust our bedtime/wake-up schedule to accommodate the hideous early-morning start time of our local high school. Ugh.

Two weekends ago, Jacob and I spent Friday and Saturday nights up in Kaleva with Nancy and Irma. While we were there, we visited a unique store named Punzel's that had an eclectic collection of Scandinavian items, in addition to an outdoor pathway filled with hand-carved trolls & gnomes. The place definitely had a different atmosphere, but I found it very interesting nonetheless. Last week, both Jim and Adam flew to town to join the family for the monthly birthday shindig. It was great to have all my boys here, especially because, among other things, we were celebrating my big day. We had a fun weekend!

Unfortunately, we have also had a couple of vehicle issues this month, beginning with a flat tire on the CRV. After a few attempts to fill the flat using an air pump & an entire can of Fix-a-Flat, we eventually ended up just buying four new tires. We also ran into a dilemma when the front passenger tire of the Jeep rolled over an errant skunk who scampered unexpectedly into our path on Ann Arbor Road last week. The resulting stench was overwhelming and is taking forever to fade away despite our numerous efforts to clean it. We have had to leave the Jeep out of the garage in order to keep the smell from seeping into the condo. Pretty gross. I figured that driving around and splashing through some puddles would hasten the de-stinking process, but, naturally it has not rained since our skunk encounter.

I ripped out all of my impatiens from the front yard already, not because there has been a frost (although we have come close to 32 degrees a few nights), but rather because some sort of critter had been walking or jumping on them and had smashed & broken them all. I replaced the flowers with some hardy fall mums that haven't actually proven to be all that hardy. I never have had a green thumb. Bring on the winter and the snow! I'm ready for that instead!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Waiting Rooms

Other than traveling this summer, I have spent much of my time accompanying Irma to numerous doctor appointments - internists, a neurosurgeon, and several different specialists. While she is pretty healthy for an 88-year-old woman, she does complain about a myriad of small issues and always insists on seeing a physician whenever she discovers a new ache or pain. What I find unsettling is that even though Irma always has appointments, her doctors never see her at the prearranged times. Ever. And the latest excuse that these professionals give for being tardy is that "there was an emergency earlier in the day." I have heard this line so many times lately that I realize now that it is the standard explanation used in the medical field whenever a doctor is simply running late.

Last week, Irma and I sat in her gastroenterologist's office for two hours waiting to be called back. The receptionist apologized over and over that the doctor was running late due to "an emergency." When we finally did go into the examining room, we waited for another 30 minutes before the doctor came in. He was friendly and chatty for three whole minutes before he declared that Irma was fine and that we could leave. Two and a half hours of hanging out just to talk to the guy for three minutes! In July, after sitting for an hour in Irma's neurosurgeon's overcrowded waiting room, we were chatting with each other about the delay. Some other patients chimed in that the standard wait at this particular office has always been about three hours. Three hours? Really? Other physicians that we have visited this summer have been just as bad. What in the world has happened to promptness? Or even almost-on-time-ness?

In my opinion, doctors that continually make patients wait for hours and hours to see them are just inconsiderate. In the case of a true "emergency," I think that receptionists could call patients to let them know that there may be a lengthy delay. After our repeated experiences this summer, I have come to the conclusion that physicians - and particularly Irma's physicians - are always going to be extraordinarily late. I don't agree with this practice and I certainly don't like it, but I have come to expect it. Sad that this is normal for so many doctors.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Yellowstone in Pictures

Last week, Jim and Richie flew to Colorado to join me and Jacob at Adam's apartment. On Wednesday, the five of us set off to visit Yellowstone National Park. We had a fabulous time! There were dazzling landscapes & wild animals galore! (Everything except bears. Where were all the bears?) We stayed until Saturday night, then returned to Adam's place for a couple more days of playing tourist out west. Here are some photos from our trip.

 On our way to the park, we stopped at an auto parts store in Wyoming so Jim and Richie could use some special goop to fix a chip in our windshield. A truck traveling in the opposite direction on a two lane highway in Colorado rudely shot some rocks up at our Jeep.

 We arrived last Wednesday evening.

 There were tons of waterfalls throughout the park.

 We hiked a lot. The scenery was stunning everywhere we looked.

 We saw herds of bison.

 Sometimes the bison would walk along the road. This fella caused quite a traffic jam.

 We were only about ten miles from Idaho, so we went to see what the potato-growing state was all about. We also passed the Continental Divide about fifty times on this trip. The roads were very winding.

 Our hotel was in West Yellowstone, Montana. It was a nice, little western town. It was warm during the day, but the temps dipped into the 30s at night.

 I especially liked seeing the geysers in the park. They gurgled and erupted all around us. We were advised to always stay on the walkways because the ground in the area had a "thin crust." We made a lot of pizza jokes.

 Old Faithful lived up to its name.

 On our way back to Michigan, we stopped by Mt. Rushmore. We walked along a trail (a "strenuous" trail with 250 steps, I might add) and found ourselves up close & personal with the presidents.

While cruising past Battle Creek on the drive home, we saw a gazillion hot air balloons. Apparently there was some sort of festival in progress.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Perseid Meteor Shower

Last weekend was the peak of the annual Perseid Meteor Shower. During this event, meteors supposedly appear at a rate of over 60 per hour! I know that the best viewing conditions are away from city lights, and even though I am usually in a well-lit area, I spend time outside each August hoping to catch a glimpse of a meteor. Year after year I am disappointed.

On Sunday night, Jacob and I were on the road traveling from Houston to Fort Collins. We knew that we would be in a perfect location for meteor spotting after the sunset - in rural, pitch black southern Colorado. We were heading north on I-25 from the New Mexico border towards Wyoming from 9 p.m. until 1 a.m. As expected, there were few lights to be found, the sky was clear, and the stars were out. I was beyond excited that I would finally see some Perseids. Probably many. Maybe even one hundred. Our situation could not have been more ideal. I never thought that we would actually see one meteor every minute, but I was confident that we would most likely witness ten or more per hour. We carefully scanned the sky for 260 miles. Guess how many meteors we counted?


I have no idea why I have such bad luck when it comes to meteor viewing, but if you ever want to enjoy a meteor shower, do not hang around me. I do hope that someday my luck will change and I will be fortunate enough to catch some Perseids because I sure was dismayed that I missed out on them again this year.

Thursday, August 9, 2012


On our drive from Michigan to Texas last week, Jacob and I detoured off the freeway in Memphis long enough to visit the home of Elvis Presley. The Graceland admission price included tours of the mansion, an automobile museum, and the King's two private airplanes. The house would certainly not be considered a mansion by today's standards, but Jake and I both had a wonderful time wandering around the 70s inspired rooms while our audio headsets explained everything in detail. I knew that Elvis was buried somewhere on the Graceland estate, yet I was surprised when we were allowed to view his grave. After checking out the 13+ acre property, we were shuttled across the street to see the cars and planes. The automobile collection was funky & interesting and the airplanes were impressive. Overall, Jacob and I really liked our tour of Graceland, and we are both happy that we finally decided to stop in Memphis.

Jacob stood on the front steps of Graceland.

We checked out the King's pool.

The "Lisa Marie."

Friday, August 3, 2012

Welcome to Houston

The Airbus 380 is the world's largest passenger airliner and it has been flying commercially for less than five years. No American airline owns one, so the only time an A380 is in the U.S. is when a foreign company uses this behemoth on a routing between their country and ours. Six airports in the United States have runways that can handle the jumbo jet, and I had heard that Lufthansa German Airlines planned to start using one of their A380s daily between Frankfort and Houston. I had no idea when this service was scheduled to begin until Jim informed me on Wednesday morning that Lufthansa's inaugural A380 flight was going to arrive at IAH that very afternoon and that the airport was hosting an "A380 Houston Party." Luckily, I was in Texas, and I knew that I just had to zip over to the airport to watch the plane land there for the very first time. Jacob agreed to accompany me and we got to the staging area about 40 minutes before the flight was due in. There were thousands of other airplane geeks waiting on the grassy field just north of runway 26 right, which totally surprised Jake, who was sure that there would only be about five or six people there. Naturally, the weather was hot and humid, and we stood around sweating under the blazing Houston sun while listening to a local band play German music. Eventually, the Airbus 380 came into view, the crowd cheered wildly, the wheels touched down, then the aircraft taxied slowly to its gate. It was an impressive sight for me to see, though not quite as exciting for Jacob. I think I may head back over to IAH sometime soon to watch the giant plane land and take off again.

The huge jet has an upper deck that spans the entire length of the aircraft.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Jim and I joined 21 friends and family members last Thursday for our annual camping trip. We all met at the Kaleva farm this year, set up tents, built a campfire, and proceeded to have a great time. I ordered a port-a-potty to be delivered to the property for the weekend because - despite valiant efforts by Richie, Steve, and others - the water pump in the old house would not work. The toilet rental company promised that the unit would be "aesthetically pleasing and enhanced with a mountain breeze fragrance," and they did not disappoint! One thing we noticed, however, was that as the days wore on, the "waste" piled up higher and higher in a hill directly underneath the toilet seat, while fresh, blue water stayed empty on the sides. Cobra and I joked that port-a-potties should come equipped with some sort of shaker, or at the very least a stirrer stick, to more evenly distribute the "waste" in the bowl.

Our group spent Friday at a beach on Lake Michigan soaking up the sun. Some of the more hardy souls actually ventured into the not-so-warm water to swim. During a walk on the "back forty" of the farm in the evening, eleven of us encountered a neighbor's growling dog and I, for one, was quite intimidated. At night, Marilyn's boyfriend, Pat, raced their car at the Northern Michigan Dragway near the farm. Always looking for ways to be thrifty, a bunch of us were able to view the competition for free from a deserted country road at the end of the race track. On Saturday, most of the gang opted to go canoeing, which ended up turning into a (very popular!) kayaking trip instead. Some of us watched a fireworks display in town at 10 p.m., and then we rounded off our busy night by sitting around the campfire until the wee hours.

Jim and I, along with our passengers, Cobra and Charlie, had to leave the farm at 10:30 on Sunday morning so that we could drop Jim off at Flint's airport in time for him to catch a 3:30 p.m. flight back to Houston. While we were tooling down M-115 south of Cadillac, Jim abruptly pulled the CRV over to the side of the road and casually announced, "The roof box just blew open." Cobra immediately burst into a bout of laughter and Charlie worriedly inquired as to whether any of his belongings had been riding in the "Rocket Box." Our huge, green tarp and an old blanket had flown up & away, and were distant blobs in the center of the highway behind us. I hopped out to fetch our stuff, happy that most of the items in the roof box had been heavy enough to stay put. Fortunately, there were only a few other cars whizzing by and I was able to grab the tarp and blanket off the pavement while Jim secured the box shut - this time properly. Luckily, we had built in some extra travel time in case we ran into traffic jams enroute to the airport, and we got Jim to FNT with time to spare. And, just as I predicted to Cobra, when Adam heard about the roof box mishap, he assured me that there was no chance that any of his things would ever be transported up there again.

Jim and Jake shared a kayak.

People sat in the shade a lot because it was so hot.

Jim posed at Arcadia beach.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Here and There

Jim, Jacob, Irma, and I cruised home from the Upper Peninsula on Monday. Adam continued his vacation with his friends, stopping at Mackinac Island & the Sleeping Bear Dunes on his way back to the condo. We all had a wonderful time up north, especially Irma, who at 88-years-old kept up with the rest of us just fine. And, by the way, after five fruitless trips to the Calumet cemetery, our sixth was not in vain, as we finally found the elusive grave of Irma's friend who had passed away in April.

Jim flew to Houston on Tuesday morning and Adam arrived back in Colorado on Thursday after putting some 8,000 or so miles on his Jeep during his 4-week-long road trip. Jacob and I are hanging out in Michigan this week, searching for and preparing the gear for our upcoming camping trip.

 Look at the gas prices we found in Tennessee two weeks ago!

 Jim, Jacob, and cousin Dave teed it up at the Calumet Golf Club. 

Jacob made a hole at the beach. We forgot to bring shovels from home, so we borrowed the ice bucket from our hotel to use for digging. It worked just fine.

Adam hid his face from the sun - or maybe he just didn't want to look at us?