Introducing Tina

When we moved to Michigan we knew only two people and both of them were almost 200 miles away. One day I happened to read in our local newspaper about the TimeBank and decided to join. A TimeBank is “a community of people who support each other. When you spend an hour for an individual or group, you earn one Time Dollar.” I figured it would be a great way to meet people. It didn’t turn out to be exactly what I expected; I envisioned making lifelong friends where we would share our days and common interests. While it looked different than I thought it was going to, it gave me one particularly lovely connection.

Here’s how it went down: Sue, an elder lawyer and a member of the TimeBank, saw my offer to visit people that are homebound. She has a working relationship with Tina and thought I would be a good match. Each time I visited Tina, Sue would pay me one hour.

Tina is 96 years young. She’s sharp as a tack and a great conversationalist. She’s a little hard of hearing and almost completely blind. She loves to talk about her kids and things she did when she was younger. She grew up in Michigan but has traveled all over the world. In fact, she tells me the best strawberries she’s ever eaten were in Switzerland. I’ve learned that her husband was a doctor and I’ve also learned that he wasn’t the nicest guy in the world. Being a doctor’s wife, she has known riches. Being a divorcee with three children, she has known lack. Even still, she might be the happiest person I have ever met. She tells me, “Life is so beautiful” every single time I meet with her. And she doesn’t like to say “goodbye”. Instead she says, “Ciao, Baby.”

When Sue didn’t have any more hours to pay me, I decided that I wouldn’t stop visiting Tina. In the five short months that I had known her, I had grown to enjoy our visits. Sure, like anything else, there are some days I just don’t feel like going. Sometimes I’m having a lousy or lazy day and would rather stay on the couch and watch TV or lounge around the house. But that’s so selfish. So I go anyway. And I promise that when I leave Tina, I’m in a much better mood. Works every time. Funny how doing something for someone else gets your mind off your own problems or worries or “pressing” schedules.

These are Tina’s sweet hands. These are the hands that raised three children. The hands that baked countless batches of cookies and crocheted untold amounts of scarves and hats. The hands that now have to do the “seeing” for her failing eyes. The hands that reach out and hold mine. While Tina doesn’t have the youthful beauty that society tells us we all must have, she’s so very beautiful. I’m so privileged to have met her and look forward to many more visits.

Tina black and white

Ciao, Baby!

 

So very Wright

Before heading back to the real world we decided to check out the cute little city of Oak Park (thank you, Teresa!). Frank Lloyd Wright lived and worked in Oak Park. In fact, Oak Park contains the largest collection of Wright-designed properties in the world. He spent the first 20 years of his 70 year career (!!) in Oak Park. You can actually take walking tours of the area but we didn’t have time (this time) so we spent just a little while taking our own tour around the neighborhood where his studio and many of his designed homes are situated. And we drooled the entire time. So much talent in one man.  IMG_1291 copy

 The above property (Edward Hills House) also includes an original ticket booth from the 1893 World’s Fair:

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IMG_1295 copy This house, the Moore-Dugal house, was actually built twice. From the plaque outside the residence: 

“Completed in 1895, this is Frank Lloyd Wright’s first independent commission in Oak Park after Wright left the offices of Adler and Sullivan in 1893. On December 23, 1922, at 2:24am, a spectacular fire destroyed the third and fourth floors of the home. Wright immediately returned to Oak Park in 1923 to redesign and rebuild the home for a second time.
‘A porch on a half timber English tudor, that never happened before.’ Frank Lloyd Wright”

So not only is this house designed by Wright, he built and designed it twice!

And now my favorite house in the neighborhood. I just couldn’t take my eyes off it. I imagined what it looks like inside. What stories could it tell? Who lived there now? How could I peek inside? (OK maybe I didn’t really try to think of a way to peek in the windows, but oh how I would have loved to!)IMG_1306 copyThose windows! That arch! The lines! Even the simplicity of the yard with the two huge planters is so brilliant.

After we came to the conclusion that we probably couldn’t afford to purchase this house (not that it was for sale) we agreed that it was time to head home to our boys. Thanks, Chicago. Thanks, Oak Park. It was a delightful weekend and we shall be back. You can count on it.

Oh, the places we’ve “Bean”

Once upon a time, two kids fell in love. After a few years of dating, they got engaged. They had the most magical wedding ever with lots and lots of guests. And after living happily together for 19 years, they decided to celebrate with a trip to Chicago. This is the story of our little weekend get away.

I try not to make you guys think that my life is perfect. But this weekend came pretty darn close. The weather was sunny, warm (well, warm-ish) and it was an all around delightful weekend.

Ken found our place on airbnb.com. If you’ve never tried it, I recommend it. You rent accommodations from regular people all over the world. You can rent a whole house, a floor in a house, a room, a tiny house (some of these look enchanted) or even an artists’ flat (that’s what we did). We stayed in a house built in the 1880s in the Historic Pullman neighborhood in Chicago. George Pullman built the town and the row houses for the employees at his railroad car company. He charged them rent and even established behavioral standards that his employees had to meet in order to live in the area. After a depression in 1893 the demand for his rail cars declined and the company laid off many workers and changed many other employees to pay-per-piece work. Even though the company went through these cutbacks, rent was never reduced for employees. After Pullman’s death the state of Illinois told the Pullman company that they had to sell the town since it was operating outside the company’s charter. And within 10 years the company sold the houses to its occupants (seemed to me that was a long time coming). Since that time, the town has gone through many changes (including being absorbed into Chicago) and was almost demolished for an industrial park! The residents were responsible for saving their neighborhood and I’m so glad they did.

This is the outside of the house. Charming, isn’t it?

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The owner is an artist and you can see his touches all over the house. I could have stayed there for a month!IMG_1113 copy"IMG_1109

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I love how he left the lath and plaster still visible inside the medicine cabinet.

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And then we were off to the city. We were walking distance to the train station and it was a short 15-20 minute ride and there we were. The city was in bloom all over the place. It was a perfect Spring day. Our first stops were Millennium Park and the Bean:

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And of course, we did our jump/levitation photos:

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We had lunch at one of our all time favorite places:

"IMG_1202Hey, it’s our anniversary and we’ll celebrate how we see fit, thankyouverymuch.

After lunch, we walked all around the city, went to the top of the John Hancock building:"IMG_1216 Navy Pier, along Lake Michigan and to Lincoln Park to theeee best pizza place I’ve ever been to, Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co. It’s a tiny place in Lincoln Park that has the best only pizza pot pie I’ve ever had. Yes. Pizza.pot.pie. There’s the cutest little old man who doesn’t keep a host ledger. He remembers your face and comes to find you when your table is ready. Even if there are 10 other parties ahead of you he will remember your face. It’s amazing. If When you go, I suggest you get the Mediterranean bread, the chef salad (and try both the sour cream/garlic and sweet and sour poppy seed dressings) and the meat lover’s pizza pot pie. You will not be disappointed. After we had finished stuffing our faces, we decided that the walk to the train station was too far so we took a bus there instead. We’re such the city folk. Well, ok, maybe the real city folk don’t get excited about taking a train, bus and walking all over the city. But I can pretend.

It was the perfect day in such a great city. I wouldn’t have changed a single thing. The next day we got up and drove to Oak Park. Can’t wait to tell you what we saw there!

A pick-me-up from me to you

Am I the only one that needs a pick-me-up now and then? A while ago, I started a little “movement” (it’s really not all that grand but I couldn’t think of a better word) to give random strangers a little pick-me-up. I’m not sure I want to spill all the details since it’s sort of an anonymous thing I do and if I tell all of the internet world…then it’s not so anonymous, now is it? Sometimes I feel that I need to give myself the same pep talk I give to strangers. When I stop to think about it, life isn’t all that terrible (That’s what we all think when we’re having a bad day, isn’t it). As I was walking a neighborhood dog today, I started thanking God for all the things I’m thankful for (ok, maybe not all of them but I had quite the list going). I started off with the big things: family, health, etc.

But when I really started thinking about it, I’m thankful for the little things, too:
a dishwasher (Those of you who know me and my house from Florida will know how much thankful I am for that.)
the sun (Moving from Florida to Michigan will make you appreciate the perfect sunny days.)
the silly weeds that look like flowers (So maybe the homeowners may not appreciate them, but I like to smile at them as I pass them. By the way, my boys call them hobo flowers.)
social media (How else would I keep in touch with my friends that are 1200 miles away??)

I tried to tell myself to not get caught up in the little annoyances of the day and to stop being so hard on myself. Like that time when iTunes wouldn’t sync my playlist to my iPhone and I could not, for the life of me, figure it out. And the time I was responsible for the misinformation in the church newsletter (sorry again, Chris). Or the time I did some sales training role playing at work with my boss’ boss and it didn’t go as well as I had hoped. (Two things: #1 Yes, I’m a working girl now and #2 “working girl” and “role playing” in the same paragraph don’t mean when you think they mean.)

So, let’s enjoy life even when we make mistakes. Let’s enjoy the little things and the big things, too. I’m sure if you look around, you have a lot to be thankful for. Just don’t be too hard on yourself. Have fun. Don’t let life pass you by. Stop looking at the small picture. 

I recently read this quote by Anne Lamott. I’m not sure what else she’s written but this excerpt really struck a chord with me. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Stop it. Right now. Stop being hard on yourself and start enjoying this great big life that you’ve been given…

“…Oh my God, what if you wake up some day, and you’re 65, or 75, and you never got your memoir or novel written; or you didn’t go swimming in warm pools and oceans all those years because your thighs were jiggly and you had a nice big comfortable tummy; or you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life, of imagination and radical silliness and staring off into space like when you were a kid? It’s going to break your heart. Don’t let this happen. Repent just means to change direction—and NOT to be said by someone who is waggling their forefinger at you. Repentance is a blessing. Pick a new direction, one you wouldn’t mind ending up at, and aim for that. Shoot the moon.”

Beautiful, no? Now, stop reading this and go enjoy your life. It’s waiting to be lived. And it’s amazing out there (as my weather app likes to remind me every time I open it)!

Chasing fall

Do you ever feel like you just cannot wait for fall to arrive? Do you ever feel like you can’t wait for it to come to you so you decide to just go chase it down? That’s just what we did when my mom came to visit. On Saturday we went Up North to find fall. As it turns out, the best color was found off our beaten path. Is it that way with just us or do you find that happens to you as well? Our trip was originally only going to take us to the tunnel of trees on M119 (you can read about this beautiful drive here) but when we stopped for lunch about 1/2 way we changed our plans a little, thanks to hashtags and a very nice gentleman at Bear’s Den Pizzeria in Grayling, MI. If you’re looking for a yummy pizza with super friendly people, this is your place. All morning we had been joking about hashtags and how they’re getting out of control. (And if you know anything about my family, you know we beat that dead horse for hours and hours.) Before I go any further, if you haven’t seen Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake poke fun at the hashtagging phenomenon, then do yourself a favor and watch this:

Back to my story. I went to Instagram, put hashtags to work for me and happened upon a picture from Deadman’s Hill (for you Michiganders, this is near the Jordan River Valley). One of the employees heard that we were trying to find it and was so kind to come back with written directions. Talk about going above and beyond! After devouring the pizza, we were off! Here are some photos I snapped on our way…My mom has become quite the Instagrammer!
This is the view from the scenic overlook. Beautiful, isn’t it?I need your opinion. The overlook is situated on a hill. Should this photo stay as is and have a wonky fence and straight horizon…

OR should the fence be straightened and the horizon become crooked?
Which one looks better? Obviously, I think both are perfect since this hottie is in them. By the way, he has lost over 40 pounds this year and I think he looks simply looks amazing. 

After some more picture taking, we were back on the road.I’m pretty sure I could live here:It was a great day and I’m so glad my mom was able to see some color. Hopefully next year my dad can come along, too! And since it’s been a while, I made a movie of my mom’s visit.

How do you like them apples?

Can’t have fall without apples, right? I convinced Ken to visit an apple orchard over the weekend. It took some work but he ended up admitting that it was fun. Last year the apple crops were devastated due to some crazy weather back in the spring so many of the orchards weren’t even offering U-pick apples. This year is suspected to be the biggest harvest in decades. The weather was perfect and the apples were abundant.

I had to battle the light coming in from the trees and other people getting into my photos. That made for some interesting light on my subjects. But I think they’re cute anyway.However, that pesky light gave me images like this:

My mom is coming in a couple weeks and I plan to take her back with me. Now all I have to do is eat this 1/2 bushel of apples. Have a favorite recipe? I’ve already made a German Apple Cake (thank you Steffie) and I have a recipe for applesauce. What else do I need to make with these beauties?And, of course, what adventure isn’t complete without jumping pictures?

So…bring on those apple recipes! 

Heading north to Up North

When my parents came to visit in August we finally made it “up north”. When we first moved here people would always ask, “Have you been up north yet?” My response was always, “Wait…we just drove I75 north for 1,200 miles…isn’t THIS up north?” Now that we’ve been there, I totally understand why everyone asked.“Up North” actually starts at the middle of the state. Confused yet? See this article for further explanation.

Today I’m going to show you pictures from our trip to the Upper Peninsula. We started the day off at the Mackinac (pronounced mak-in-aw) Bridge. 

There’s a beautiful lighthouse in Mackinaw City. (And no, I don’t know why the city is spelled Mackinaw and the bridge is spelled Mackinac. You’re on your own for that one.)

And here’s the cutest boy taking a picture of said lighthouse:

And here is said boy’s picture of said lighthouse (yeah, I know…”said, said, said”):

From there we drove two hours to take a boat tour of Pictured Rocks which are situated on Lake Superior. Simply breathtaking is the only thing that describes it. Let me introduce you to Lake Superior. Gee, I wonder how it got its name:

See the tree up there on that lone rock? Well, it’s only there because the roots are reaching across to the island. Here’s a closeup: 

So there you have it. I have a few more pictures in my flickr account if you’d like to peruse them. I figured I wouldn’t bore you with all my vacation pictures here (go here for the Pictured Rocks flickr set).