Thursday, August 30, 2012

the grain of sand in my shoe

"It isn't the mountains ahead that wear you out, it is the grain of sand in your shoe." author unknown

Judson Tower on the grounds of the Green Lake Conference Center. My goal this particular day was to climb to the top.

But first I had to climb these 70 steps. Wouldn't have been bad except that they were not spaced evenly. I was panting by the time I got to the top.

Here I am at the top of the hill of the Tower. Now I only have 120 stairs more to go.

When I got inside the Tower, it took me a minute to find the stairs. I was expecting wide cement steps.

But instead there was a spiral staircase encased in a cement. I realized that if I made it to the top I would be hyperventilating from claustrophobia and not from exertion.

Would it be worth it?

I think so. The view was fantastic, but it was still the satisfaction of having climbed to the top that made it worthwhile. Then I just had to survive the trip back down.  

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Our Exclusive Club

                 I roll out of bed. I stumble into the kitchen. The forecast predicts another warm July day, and as a ten year old girl living in the country miles from any kids my age, other than my sister, I expect this day will be as dull as the rest of the summer days.
                The morning sun shines through the window, and I’m surprised to see Dad at the kitchen table, still eating his breakfast. The smell of his oatmeal mixes with the aroma of his toast, done too dark for me. My sister Pat is at the other end of the table. From the sound of her metal spoon against the sides of the Corelle Ware bowl, I guess that she is almost done eating her Lucky Charms.  
                From behind Dad’s back, I point to him, the unasked question on my face. Why isn’t Dad at work? Pat, two and a half years my senior, just grins in reply, her mouth full. A trace of milk dribbles down her chin.
                Dad’s attire gives no clue. Every day since I could remember, no matter what was on the schedule, he was dressed in Dickies work shirt and pants, color Lincoln green. The only other thing in his closet was the black suit he wore to church on Sunday.
I rarely saw him in the mornings as he was gone to work at the paper mill in town before I crawled out of bed, whether I had to get ready for school or not. Once a year he took a week off so we could go on a family vacation. Any other leave he spent working around the house.         
                “Your dad took the day off,” Mom announces as she streams through the kitchen. “But I have to go to work, so the three of you better behave while I’m gone.”
                Before the car is out of the driveway, my sister and I stand on either side of Dad’s chair.
                “Does this mean what we think it means?” Pat finally asks.
                “Yep,” Dad answers, running a hand through his greying hair. He never was one to use many words. “So go get dressed.”
                Within minutes, Pat and I are back in the kitchen, in our t-shirts and shorts. I’ve even forgotten about my breakfast. We hear Dad struggling up the basement stairs with the ten-gallon crock, but are too excited to come to his aid.
                We make a mess of the kitchen that day, as we do for one day every summer throughout my childhood. Sugar is spilled on the floor. Root beer extract stains the counter top. We clean up as best we can as we go along. We don’t want to incur Mom’s wrath.
                With the metal antique bottle capper, a crazy contraption two feet high, Dad forces the caps onto the soda pop bottles, locking the metal caps into place. Over the years, Dad learned to move the production outside at this point. One or two of the glass bottles always break during the process.
                Over the next few weeks, as the filled bottles lay on their sides on an old quilt under our beds, several more bottles will explode from the pressure as the soda begins to effervesce. In the same manner, Mom will explode. Dad will just shrug, because he knows, as my sister and I know, that in the end it will be worth it for a bottle of homemade Root Beer. 
This is Dad in 1977 while we were on our vacation to the Grand Canyon. I'm still trying to find pictures of him in his Lincoln green Dickies. I wrote this piece while at the Green Lake Christian Writers Conference last week. I have wanted to write this story for a long time and I'm glad I had the chance to have it critiqued by an expert. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Green Lake Writers Conference Recap

Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. 1 John 2:7

Here I am sharing my devotion Wednesday night. I will probably post that here next week.

Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining. 1 John 2:8 

The members of my workshop. Myself, Jean, Mary, Jean and Rita in the back row. Eleanor (who turns 88 next month), Darlene and Barb in the front row.

I am writing to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name. 1 John 2:12 

Our instructor Mary Pierce really liked the gift we got her. Mary is a wonderful teacher, writer, counselor and friend.
 And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. 2 John 1:5

This is a view just outside of our hotel at the conference center. That's Judson Tower, which I climbed one day. It wasn't the 120 stairs that got to me, it was the circular staircase within a cement tomb which almost shattered this claustrophobic's resolve. 
John seemed to do a lot of writing. He was called from God. I'd like to think that I am too.  

This log cabin was built in 1840 and is the oldest structure on the grounds of Green Lake Conference Center.
And now I suppose I have started something.
The Writers Feet.
I don't know sometimes what is in my head, but I guess you can at least see what's on my feet.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Taking a week off. Not really

As we pray to our God and Father about you, we think of your faithful work, your loving deeds, and the enduring hope you have because of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Thessalonians 1:3 New Living Translation

Today I head off to my third annual Christian Writers Conference at Green Lake. I’m so excited to reunite with the friends I have made thanks to the last two conferences, as well as looking forward to learning lots about the elusive craft of writing. The beautiful grounds of Green Lake Conference Center are also calling to me. I can’t stress enough to anyone living anywhere nearby that you need to go spend some time there for exploration and in quiet reflection. And don’t forget your camera.

While at the Conference Center I won’t have a regular internet connection. I know, really? Yes, really. So I won’t be checking my e-mail or social networks as frequently as usual, and won’t be blogging til next weekend. It’s time for me to seriously write.

Have a good week and may God bless your every breath.  
I call this picture "Writer's Feet", taken at the conference last year. Don't look too close for toe-jam. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Just don't admit defeat

“Being defeated is often a temporary condition. Giving up is what makes it permanent.” Marilyn vos Savant

 Some weeks I will write diligently and feel like I am making progress, then I have a week or two where I just don’t accomplish much. I reprimand myself and label myself a failure. I berate myself and tell myself that I will never be a writer. But then I rally and get back to the keyboard and do ok for a while.

Maybe it’s like smoking. I know so many people who have quit and so many of them who start up again. Granted, they should quit for good. Me? I’ll probably continue to quit writing on a regular basis, but as long as I go back to it, you can’t say that I gave up.

Until trees are growing through my floor boards, I have a chance. 
(I took these pictures last fall at a park in Minnesota. Sorry that I can't tell you the name right now, but too lazy to look it up. I know, I'm defeated once again.)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Oh, Lucy, I'm home

After jamming another four bags of green beans and wax beans into the freezer last week, I decided that like it or not, I had to clean out the deep freeze. There was no place else to go with all the produce my garden is producing.

I pulled everything out, clear to the bottom of the chest freezer and when I got to the bottom, I was kind of over whelmed. The containers dated 2010 I could keep or take. What’s two years at twenty degrees Fahrenheit? When I read the number “97” on one of the bags of strawberries, I finally had to admit defeat. Honestly I cleaned out the freezer within the last year or two. The frost wasn’t even built up that much. Where did this stuff come from and why did it keep crawling back into my freezer?

I needed reinforcements. “Honey,” I called up the stairs, “can you come down here.”

The hubby took one look at the mess I had made, at the various plastic freezer boxes and Ziploc baggies and announced, “Lucy, you got some 'splainin' to do!”

You’d think I had red hair or something. No, and I’m not blond either. My little Ricky Ricardo is just a pill. But he makes me laugh and lovingly deals with every mess I get in to. He told me in no uncertain terms that anything with a date of 2010 or older had to go, as well as anything with an inch of frost on it. What a guy, huh? I know, I never would have figured that out on my own
This stuff is all good, straight from Sam's Club, within the last six months. 
 I think most of this is good.

 You really think this should all get pitched? But strawberries and blueberries are so good for you. 
. There really ended up being a lot more room than this picture seems to show. Lots of room for beans!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

What can you give up?

"Simply put, if you're not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people, and kiss it good-bye, you can't be my disciple.” Luke 14:33 The Message 

Hopefully this will be last blog post about our vacation to Michigan’s UP this year. I really could tell lots more stories, but you are probably getting bored with it all. I can’t help it that I found so much inspiration there.

And I know I’ve shared a little bit about these guys before, but here is another take on them. The Jampot is that cute little shop that sells preserves and baked goods where the hubby has to stop at least twice each vacation. Here’s a hint – their Hermit Cookies are absolutely to die for.

If it weren’t for the fact that the guy waiting on you is wearing a plain brown robe and has a beard practically down to his waist, you might forget that these guys are monks. Sure it’s easy to think that they are up here in the middle of nowhere running a business just like anyone else, but they have turned their lives completely over to Jesus Christ. They live a simple life, they own nothing of their own, they stay at their monastery on the shores of Lake Superior all through the dead of winter with more snow than you can even imagine. And through those long dark cold winter months, they spend most of their time in prayer and reflection. 

I’ve always wondered what that kind of a life would be like. Dismissing the fact that I’m not Catholic, I’ve tried to imagine what it would be like to be a nun. Do I have to go to any of those extremes to give my life to Christ? Nope, not unless He calls me to do something that drastic.

For now, I will try to live a life which honors my Savior, read my Bible, connect with other believers, encourage non-believers, write a weekly inspirational blog. And continue to support the monks at the Society of St. John in Eagle Harbor, Michigan. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

"There will come soft rains"

“There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound.” Sara Teasdale, 1920

I first read this poem when I was in high school and never knew why I was drawn to it. I didn’t learn until many years later that it was about war and the extinction of mankind. No wonder Ms.Teasdale committed suicide.

When we were in Michigan camping in July, we had beautiful sunny weather, until Wednesday morning, when it rained for four hours. You know how I am about taking pictures, so I had to go out and document some after-the-rain shots to go with the pictures I had taken on Monday.

After just so little rain, I found it amazing that the rivers had gone up this much. It makes me feel even more sympathetic towards those living in areas of our country affected by drought. You would think that in this great land of ours in the year 2012 we could ship them enough water to make a difference.

Hmm? Read all of Sara Teasdale’s poem sometime. In the world we live in now, let me know what it has to say to you.   

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


Back in the day, when mining was king, Calumet, Michigan, boasted a population of over 4,500. Today that total stands just under 800. Driving the streets of Calumet during our vacation in July, it didn’t seem like a ghost town, but statistics look a little grim. What a shame. There is a lot of history here. 
And so now I am going to do something I never do on this blog. I am going to copy and paste information straight off the internet, telling you about these places. At the end of each blurb is the website which I borrowed from, but the pictures are all mine. 

In 1900, Calumet was a booming town in the center of Michigan's copper mining industry. The largest company in the region, Calumet and Hecla, operated its works between the villages that became Calumet and Laurium.

Mines drew a diverse population, including Cornish, Scots, Italians, Finns, Swedes, Croatians, Slovenians, and French Canadians. French Canadians, under the administration of Reverend J. R. Boissonault, built a church dedicated to St. Anne. The architectural firm of Charlton, Gilbert and Demar designed the structure, built of red sandstone from the Jacobsville quarry.

Many of the building’s details derive from the flamboyant of rayonnant style of the late Gothic period in France, reflecting the heritage of its congregation. The sandstone is cut in square and rectangular shapes and randomly laid. The stones of the piers, water table and window surrounds are smoothly finished at the edge and hammer dressed toward the center. Stepped lancet arches of the portals show indications of horizontal tooling on the vertical faces of the arch.

Deconsecrated by the Catholic Church in 1966, the building housed a flea market in the 1970s and 1980s and was the scene of a horror movie early in the 1990s. Over three decades, the building was vacant or underutilized. From 1966 to 1994, the building received no maintenance. Beginning in 1994, efforts to rescue the building began. Volunteers, donations and grants have reversed the pattern of neglect that nearly doomed one of Calumet’s most significant and dominant structures. ( )
(I couldn't find this church on the internet and I can't remember which church it was or even if it still had its church name, as I think it has been empty a long time.) 
 (A lot of the buildings downtown were vacant and up for sale. Got any ideas for a business you'd like to start up in the far North?)

At the turn of the twentieth century, the threat of fire was constant in what was then a prosperous mining town.[2] The construction of the fire station was started in 1898 and completed in 1899, using plans made by architect C. K. Shand.[4] Although the station was built by the village of Calumet (then "Red Jacket"), the lot on which it sits was leased from the Calumet and Hecla Mining Company until 1910, when the company deeded it to the village.[4] The total cost of the building at the time was just over $20,000, including architectural work, stonework, and carpentry.[4]

In 1964, the fire department moved to the town hall building.[2] The building was used in various ways, including rooms for summer repertory performers at the nearby Calumet Theatre.[4] It now houses the Upper Peninsula Fire Fighters Memorial Museum.[3]

The Village of Calumet was incorporated in 1875 when it was the center of the copper mining industry in North America. As the community grew, the Town Hall was built in 1886; and in 1898, with a huge surplus in the treasury, it was decided that an opera house was needed to serve the community. At that time the village had a population of approximately 4000 and more than 30,000 lived within walking distance.

The Theatre opened on March 20, 1900 with a touring Broadway production of Reginald DeKoven's The Highwaymen. In the ensuing years, the Theatre's marquee read like a Who's Who of American Theatre: Madame Helena Modjeska, Lillian Russell, John Phillip Sousa, Sarah Bernhardt, Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., Lon Chaney, Sr., Jason Robards, Sr., James O'Neill, William S. Hart, Frank Morgan, Wallace and Noah Beery, and Madame Schumann-Heink, to name a few.

With the decline of copper mining and the local economy, and the advent of motion pictures, stage productions became less common in the late 1920s. From the depression through the late 1950s, it was almost exclusively a movie theatre, operated by several different local interests over the years. Summer stock returned in 1958, ran for nearly 10 years, and then came back under the auspices of Michigan State University in 1972.

The auditorium was renovated for the village's centennial in 1975, and the exterior was restored in 1988-89. The technical and code improvements and backstage reconstruction have just been completed.
The Theatre annually hosts 60-80 events with a total attendance of nearly 20,000. Nearly all of the performing arts disciplines are represented, including symphony, folk music, jazz, opera, theatre, dance, and community events, as well as public meetings and guided tours.

The Calumet Theatre is a National Historic Landmark. ( )

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Where will you be going next?

This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live. Deuteronomy 30:19 New International Version (NIV)

I don’t know why I am so fascinated with cemeteries. I suppose part of it is because I can envision an entire life around each headstone, making up stories in my head as to how this person died or how that person lived. Also, the headstones are sometimes works of art, as well as the other adornments throughout the older cemeteries.

Vacationing in the Michigan’s UP last week, we visited a few of these old cemeteries. The old graveyards seem to have a lot of fences around each family plot. I’ve been researching on line all week to discover the history of these fences, or borders as they are called. I thought that I read once somewhere that they were meant to keep bad spirits out or good spirits in. Pretty much all I found in my internet search is that one purpose the borders served was to discourage grave robbers.

(I also read that grave robbing was a popular crime at the start of the last century. Not the life of crime I would ever resort to.)

I think we are all curious about what happens after we die. As a Christian, I believe I will go to heaven, and don’t much care what happens to my body or where or how it is disposed of (I just don’t want grave robbers digging me up). The thought of my body lying in a casket buried under six feet of dirt really doesn’t do it for me. Yet I’d still like a headstone in a cemetery somewhere, a reminder to generations to come that this person lived from this date to this date and that she had a sometimes boring, occasionally interesting life in between.

Lord, thank you for giving me this life. I know that I complain about all sorts of things, but in general I am content with where I am. Guide me through the remaining years of my life and let whatever I leave behind be good. Amen  

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Win just one - for who?

“Some time, Rock, when the team is up against it, when things are wrong and the breaks are beating the boys, ask them to go in there with all they've got and win just one for the Gipper.”

As most men and women, my husband and I have different views on how to enjoy vacation. We agree on quite a few things, but one of my favorite vacation activities is looking at old buildings. This is a pastime which I think the hubby could take or leave, so I hate to overwhelm him with it and try to rein myself in.

On vacation in Michigan’s UP last week, I found a map of historic Laurium. I thought it would be awesome to walk those residential streets and identify all the old houses and businesses. The hubby, I could tell, saw little entertainment value in that idea. Until I asked him who George Gipp was.

“Look, it’s the Gipp Memorial,” I said, pointing to the city map. The hubby is a huge trivia buff and especially delights in sports trivia. I suspected who George Gipp might be, but thought the hubby would relish biting this one off. He didn’t let me down.

As it turns out, George Gipp was a football player for Notre Dame from 1917 through 1920. He played several positions under the famous coach Knute Rockne. The movie “Knute Rockne: All American” featured a young Ronald Reagan playing George Gipp, who recited the now immortal words above.

There is a lot more to the story. Hmm? Too bad it has already been done, but I bet I could find something there to use some day.