Archive for2009-0614 to 2009-1213 – Summer to December in Michigan

The Eve of Discovery

I always think of our trips south as “adventures.” It’s fun to pack up the dog, the bird, and 3/4’s of our possessions and hop in our comfortable GMC truck with Florida as a destination. I love the time shared in close confines with my sweet husband. We rarely turn on the radio or music, although sometimes, when John gets sleepy or feels he needs a diversion, I’ll “crank it up.” Mainly, we talk and share observations. It’s a very pleasant time.

Of course, I’m not doing the driving so I can feel relaxed. John probably feels differently. Buy I try to help using my GPS by providing directions. It’s not like back-seat driving. I will point out that we’ll be approaching our exit in 12 miles (or whatever is accurate). I’ll tell him which lane we’ll need to be in and which direction we’ll be heading after we exit. It makes the trip easier on him. We’re a team. I rarely read because reading puts me in another world and John would prefer that I stay “with him.” I sometimes work on the computer. This time I hope to spend the time revising

And I’m always trying to get my email. It’s a challenge and it’s getting harder and harder to find the connections which used to be common-place. John’s computer running Windows XP still has the ability (but mine runs on Vista so it won’t work). The system uses a cable connection with our cellphone to make totally free digital connections using the “Quick to Net” system (free internet). It’s grand when it works, but fewer and fewer areas have connections to Quick to Net which was an early system we were fortunate to get with an old “pay as you go” cellphone and we now have grandfathered-in-status. We hang on to that cellphone because we know it is rare to get anything for free, especially a free digital connection to the internet. Of course it’s snail slow, but sometimes I can connect and if I’m patient enough, I can use my site-based text email system to pull in my messages. I wouldn’t try websites, because graphic images would slow the download beyond what I am patient enough to wait for. When I receive an email it’s a major accomplishment. I keep a listing of the mile markers where it works as we go south on I-75. Every trip I lose a few areas, but it’s still fun to try. Eventually I’ll give up and get an I-phone or other state-of-the-art phone with 3G or 4G mobile broadband.

Our plan is to depart at 8:00 a.m.. We should pull into London, KY, about 5:00 p.m. after 498 miles of driving. Day two will be slightly shorter, if we stay in Macon, GA (we actually have two different choices that evening about 2 hours apart). The third day (Wednesday) we’ll arrive at our destination at about 3:00 in the afternoon. We’ll take about an hour to “unload” and hopefully be able to go to the pool.

Thursday evening we’ll enjoy re-establishing connections with our friends at Rockin’ Rondezvous.

Can’t wait.

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Talk to me

I just added a new feature to my dulcimer sales site:, it’s a live “chat area” so I can answer the questions folks have.

But if you want to say “Hi” (provided I’m on line) I’d love to have you try it out. Just go to the link above and click on the Chat feature.

Of course it only works when I’m on line, and we will be gone this evening (Saturday) and Sunday during the day, then we head South. So if you don’t reach me, don’t be surprised. But it’ll be nice when folks have a question and I am available.

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Packing Problems

John had a major problem with a carboy of wine. I won’t go into it, but we lost five gallons of premium stock we were planning to take with us.

Also we looked hard for, but can’t find an “over-night” sized gym bag which we both lost track of several years ago. (It was a gift so we know we had it, but where it is, is the big question.) John would like to use it during our trip South. It is burgundy nylon and much too nice to have tossed out. Since our house isn’t that big, it has to be here somewhere, but we can’t find it. So today was frustrating.

John got up early (before 8:00) and headed out to have an “after fasting” blood test for his Pulmonologist. He then stopped to have the truck tires rotated. He also got a prescription for Willow, and picked up so last minute groceries.

I was busy changing doctor appointments, making lists, packing, and making sure everything is ready. I think we’re in good shape.

I just hope the rest of the packing process goes more smoothly than today. I hope maybe tomorrow or Sunday we can stop at a Walmart or Meijers and buy John another gym bag for his clothes while traveling. Someday we’ll find the burgundy bag which we both know is “here” but missing.

At least the weather isn’t going to be teasing us with wonderful “pool conditions” so instead of sunning ourselves, we can go get our mail, our Christmas tree, and re-stock our refrigerator before we feel the urge to hit the pool.

We will arrive on Wednesday, so the Thursday night (the 17th) “Rockin’ Rondezvous will be a “must-attend.” That’s the time when we all assemble in the South Clubhouse for some “adult beverages” and munchies. We enjoy the dancing and the friendships which are plentiful.

On Friday the 18th a friend of ours (Marcille Wallis) will be presenting a concert at the Methodist Church. I really want to be there.

Sunday, the 20th, we’ve been invited to a dance and holiday party. The 24th, Christmas Eve, we have a house party my mom’s old neighborhood. They’re super folks.

Then comes Christmas.

One problem: We don’t have plans for New Year’s Eve. But maybe we can have a party at our place.

Before we decide, I need to do some holiday decorating It’s hard to think of a holiday party without the decor. Once I get my Christmas Tree up and make the place look festival I’ll feel like entertaining. We’ll arrive on Wednesday and I’d love to buy and have a Christmas tree up by Friday or Saturday plus wall-to-wall holiday decorations.

I keep going to Walmart’s website:, to see if they have decent artificial pre-lit trees but it’s hard to tell what’s still available in the stores. That’ll be one of the first places we head when we get to Sun City Center. (We have only two choices: Walmart or Home Depot.) I know I want a tree with lots of branches, about 7 feet tall, with about 1200 clear lights. Probably what I’ll find will be 4.5 ft. tall with 150 lights and lots of bare spots.

Then maybe we’ll extend some invitations for New Year’s Eve.

Before then we have to get down there.

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Down to the Wire

I’m busy getting stuff ready for our departure Monday. Since Saturday and Sunday we have extra commitments, I really need to do everything possible today and tomorrow. (Stuff like food can be packed last minute, but anything I can do now will help avoid the last minute rush.)

Yesterday John went to his pulmonologist and his urologist. Today he’s at the dentist. Both of his doctors yesterday had good news. He did better on his breathing test and everything was fine with his urologist. So he’s been given the go ahead to leave town. Tomorrow he has one more blood test and then the truck gets a check-up, tires rotated, and new wiper blades.

It’s really windy today so the waves are fairly high on little Lake Cecil in front of our house. At least it’s “open water.” I don’t like the stillness of ice. Even with the sun out, the snow is blowing hard horizontally but there’s little on the ground and what’s coming down is going to end up in the next county.

We don’t have any plans for New Year’s Eve. I’ve been trying to get tickets for a party in Sun City Center, FL, but I should have purchased them weeks ago. I doubt that they’re available now. It’s not bad planning, I just didn’t want to jinx John by purchasing non-refundable tickets before he was “cleared to go.”

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An “Old” Techie Geek

Yup, I’d describe myself as an “old” techie geek.

When left Saginaw Valley State University in late 1981, we had only one computer on the campus and I got to use it once. But it wasn’t long after I started working at St. Mary’s Medical Center in Saginaw, that they got me my first computer to use.

Early computers had no hard drive, the OS (operating system) was usually booted from one floppy disk, which was then removed and replaced by another one containing the application. Some machines using two disk drives (or one dual drive) allowed the user to leave the OS disk in place and simply change the application disks as needed, or to copy data from one floppy to another. That’s the kind of computers we had to begin with. When our 30 megabyte hard drive was installed, the technician told us we’d “never fill it up.”

By the mid 1980’s I got my first “home” computer. It had a 30 megabyte hard drive, a 5 inch “floppy drive” and an “amber” monitor. It ran IBM’s Dos 1.1. I was “state of the art.”

Following that first off-brand computer, I found a used IBM, then a Dell, then I had one built for me, then an HP laptop, followed by a Sony Vaio and now another Sony Vaio. Each one was faster with a bigger hard drive. The same was true of my “work computers.” Because I was responsible for more and more data, my computer was always the best that was available, and I tried to stay abreast at home too.

I ran only two main programs: Lotus 1-2-3 (versions 1.0-3.0) started me out. I also learned Symphony which was by Lotus but it had database features built in. For word processing, we started with a free program until we up-graded to Word Perfect which was wonderful. With Lotus 1-2-3 and Word Perfect I was able to do most everything necessary but often slowly and with greater difficulty. Nevertheless, it was my area of expertise and I learned to “write programs” although I had no computer background. I used the “macro” feature of Symphony to write the first scheduling program for our hospital. I was able to “think through” to create solutions for which I received some notoriety (two awards through the Lotus magazine for winning national competitions solving computer “problems” with macros.

Just how do today’s speeds and sizes of hard drives compare?

Here’s a chart:
The nearest binary number to 1,000 is 2^10 or 1,024; thus 1,024 bytes was named a Kilobyte. So, although a metric “kilo” equals 1,000 (e.g. one kilogram = 1,000 grams), a binary “Kilo” equals 1,024 (e.g. one Kilobyte = 1,024 bytes).

bit = 1 bit
byte = 8 bits
Kilobyte = 1024 bytes
Megabyte = 1024 kilobytes
Gigabyte = 1024 megabytes
Terabyte = 1024 gigabytes
Petabyte = 1,048,576 gigabytes Kbr>
Exabyte = 1,073,741,824 gigabytes
Zettabyte = 1,099,511,627,776 gigabytes

I remember what an up-grade it was when we got our first HD 3 1/2 inch diskettes which held 2MB!

If you look at the comparative chart above, you can do the math and figure that the first computers were incredibly limited in their capacity.

I now have a thumb drive that holds 4 gigabyte. If I figured correctly that’s more than 136 times more than my 30 MB computer and my thumb drive doesn’t weigh an ounce.)

I remember the historic days when Dos came in 1.0 and 1.1 versions, when Excel and Word hadn’t been invented, when “Windows” didn’t exist, and we’d go on a break while our computer ran computations because they were so slow.

I’m an old “techie geek.” and proud of it!

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Hard Water

John and I are fortunate. We have three residences and a farm (which we rent out). Our residences are: our Saginaw home on lovely Lake Cecil in Thomas Township; our condo in sunny central Florida in Sun City Center (Kings Point gated community); and a very old trailer with about 185 feet of frontage on Lake Michigan in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

It wasn’t really our choice to become “property poor” but the economy has locked us into holding on to our “investments” well past the time we’d like to divest ourselves of our rental unit (the farm) and our U.P. property. We’d prefer to only own our home in Saginaw and our Florida condo, and when the real estate values turn around, that’s our aim. We were just unfortunate enough to think that real estate was a good investment.

But for now, our the three residences have something in common: lovely water views.

spring view of Lake Cecil

Residence #1 (above) – our Lake Cecil, Thomas Township, Michigan home view

view from our Florida Condo

Residence #2 (above) – view of ponds from our Florida living room

view of Lake Michigan from our trailer deck

Residence #3 – view from our old trailer – (above) – looking east as the sun rises over Lake Michigan.


The water view is lovely at all three locations, but a month from now in Michigan the water will have frozen over. There is quite a contrast between the moving, reflective surface of blue water with the stark whiteness of ice (covered by snow). When it freezes over, things become totally still. During Spring, Summer and Fall, the landscape constantly moves and changes. The trees cast shadows, there are reflections, fish jump, geese fly in and out. It’s an ever-changing view. Ice makes it still and unmoving.

Recently we’ve noticed a critter swimming in the lake in front of our Lake Cecil home. He seems to have taken up permanent residency. I snapped this picture of him. We called him “Nessy, our Lake Cecil Lockness Monster.”

Lake Cecil's Monster

We don’t know what he is. He’s not a beaver (tail’s wrong), not a muskrat (wrong size and not the right tail), maybe he’s an otter, or possibly a mink…?? He seems to live in the lake. (He has only been seen in the water.)

I wonder what will happen to our “monster” when the lake freezes over. Personally I don’t like “hard water.” Much more interesting when it’s flowing freely like it is now.

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Playing music

John and I presented a “lunch and learn” at the historical museum yesterday. I discussed the history of dulcimers especially as the history pertains to Michigan. Today Sub-Strings played for Catholic Federal Credit Union at the Double Tree Hotel in Bay City. We had a group of 25 musicians playing for about 300 diners. We had arrived early and everyone helped us set up the stage (which is no easy task when there are six big hammered dulcimers and lots of musicians with chairs and music stands). Our members enjoyed a lovely lunch in our own dining room prior to our performance.

Tomorrow John and I will play for the Symphony Orchestra’s Christmas House Walk in one of the lovely homes which with be open for touring. We’ll be there from 12:30-2:30. We’ve done this for many years. It’s generally an easy performance.

Next week we have a few commitments – most are non-music playing: John goes to his pulmonologist on Wednesday, his dentist on Thursday and on Saturday we have his family’s Christmas dinner. Our club will play music for Wescourt Senior Residence Sunday, the 13th. Since we leave Monday, December 14th, for Florida, most of next week we’ll be tying up loose ends and packing.

Today’s performance was fun. We played well and some of our audience even gave us a standing ovation. Comments were very favorable!

We have such nice people in our club. It’s like being with your favorite relatives. They are loving and kind. Can’t think of any place I’d have rather been.

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Mental exhaustion

Most of today I’ve been trying to upgrade my website.

I purchased a template in hopes that I can be prepared to help my friend Diane come up with a classy site for her art work. It’s not “hard” but very time consuming, especially when I’m working with an “already developed” site and I’m trying to use the info which has already been written.

I have to edit photos and figure our java scripts, which are pretty new to me.

It’s going smoothly but there’s lots more to do.

You can check it out at

One of the neat things is that there are 23 choices of colors schemes. By inserting the color I want in one file and up-loading it, I can switch the whole scheme. I’m trying to get the menu updated. It is fairly complex so it’ll take a while, and I’m in no hurry.

I worked too long and too intently today. I’m brain-dead right now!

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Two weeks from Monday we’ll be taking off for Florida.

I’m famous for my lists and this is when my obsession really makes things easier. I have a list of “stuff to do” so that everything works. Without lists I’d be lost. Things like remembering to forward our mail, turn off our newspaper and our Wall Street Journal delivery, insure our Florida car, switch our phone service to Florida, re-set the house thermostat (and change the battery in it so the furnace will work while we’re gone). My list keeps growing. I also prioritize the items so I know when I must do stuff. Some of it is critical, and other things just make life easier.

My packing list is being perfected too.

I just crossed off “bring a live Christmas tree”. I had thought we would take a Michigan tree to Florida and put it up as soon as we got down there. Now, thinking about it, I’m realizing that neither John nor I should be around live trees. I have severe allergies to spruce trees and with John’s IPF he doesn’t need the exposure to molds and allergens. So I’ll see if it’s possible to buy an artificial tree and decorations when we get down there. A week before Christmas, prices should be low, if I can still find what I want.

Sun City Center is NOT a shoppiing mecca. We have a Walmart Super Store, two dollar stores and Beall’s (where they have great clothes), but that’s about it. There’s shopping just south of us in Ellenton (where there’s an outlet mall), and north of us there’s Brandon with a huge mall, but the traffic there is horrid year-round so I can’t imagine what it would be like a week before Christmas. Guess we’ll take our chances.


I found a lovely artificial Christmas Tree today and would have bought it, but it was a Goodwill and there was another lady who wanted it badly. I saw it first, and it was mine, but in the spirit of the season, I let the other shopper buy it. Sometimes I wish I could be pushier because now I wish I’d bought it! It was 7 1/2 feet tall, spruce with some artificial snow on the branches. The box was marked $200. It was like new. The price was $45. I won’t find another deal like that.

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Drama at the Vet’s

Willow hasn’t been well for several weeks. We’re concerned that we might lose her.

Today, although we’re in Saginaw, we called our Florida vet because he was the last to see Willow. Her symptoms didn’t sound good. He suggested that we take to to her Saginaw vet. We got an appointment and took her in to see her doctor.

I should mention that we have two really caring veterinarians for Willow: Dr. Waldy in Ruskin, Florida, and Dr. Hegenauer in Saginaw. Both go the extra mile to care for our beloved 14-year old small chihuahua.

Willow’s no longer really lovable. She’s always been feisty but now she’s not even “friendly” with John or me. She’s old, her left eye is blind, and she has a severe heart condition and she appears to be rather arthritic.

We continue to give her the best care possible. She’s been a good dog and just because she’s old and her “end” is approaching, doesn’t mean that she doesn’t deserve the best we can provide for her. John and I have talked about her condition, and we agree that when she gets to the point where we can’t keep her comfortable, or she has a condition which makes her life unbearable, we’ll do the humane thing. But that time isn’t now.

We took her in to the vet because for about three or four days she hasn’t eaten at all. When we got to the veterinarian’s office, she was weighed. In January she had weighed 5.3 pounds. She’s now 4.2 pounds. She’s lost over ONE POUND…. 25% of her weight!

She isn’t running a temperature, but there are indications that she has a bladder infection so she’s on antibiotics. We are giving her dietary supplements.

But a very distressing thing happened as we were going into the vet’s office. A shabby guy with a large, obviously injured dog, asked me to move aside so he could get past me. The dog had a large wound on his side.

The man was really distraught. He said, “A neighbor stabbed him in my yard, right in front of me.”

We overheard the man explain that he had no money. It was obvious from the way he was dressed and his demeanor that he was really poor. This was a man who had nothing. I wanted to do something, but what can you do when you don’t really know the story? Do you stick your neck into a situation which might be violent?

Instead I asked our vet, as he was working on Willow, if the dog who had been stabbed was being cared for and he said, “Yes, we couldn’t send a dog away in that condition.” What a relief. I would have offered to pay for the dog’s care had it been necessary, but I guess, not knowing the parties involved, we had to stay out of it. When we left, the dog was in surgery.

I commend Cole Veterinary Clinic, on Schust Road in Saginaw, for their compassionate care.

I wish I’d felt free to step up and volunteer to help with expenses. He obviously wasn’t the kind of person we’d normally approach. It was his attitude and his demeanor that said “stay away.” It was a situation where we couldn’t get involved because he looked really threatening and who knows what the whole story was, but it sure wasn’t the fault of the innocent dog and it haunts me. Should I have asked if he needed help?

I’m still shaken.

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For years I’ve had a mental list of all kinds of projects which I planned to work on “someday.” I love hand arts: crocheting, knitting, tatting. Many of my “mental list projects” involve these time-consuming skills.

Back in the 1970’s and early 1980’s, I purchased most of the crochet cotton stock from a Frankenmuth store when they closed. I also purchased the stock from Jacobson’s when they eliminated their crochet department. My horde was growing and so was my list of future projects. I had in mind bedspreads, clothing, doilies, and more and more projects.

Sometimes I’d get in a sewing mood, and buy up material for suits, and dresses. My list of projects grew.

In the early 1990’s I purchased a knitting machine and with it materials for knitted projects.

My list of proposed projects always justified the purchases of more materials because I’d need that stuff when I got around to working on them.

Back about ten years ago, I discovered eBay. Folks would sell their hordes of crochet materials and I’d buy them up .. always cheaply .. always in volume.

I have at least three plastic bins (the big ones) filled with balls of crochet/tatting cotton. I have hundreds of balls .. yards and yards .. all sizes (thicknesses) of crocheted cotton. I have cones of yarn .. yards of fabric .. shuttles, hooks, needles, books, patterns, more books, more patterns… Well, you get the idea.

I’m now 67 years old. If I got busy and worked night and day on all the projects I’ve dreamed of, I could never put dent in my list of projects. I couldn’t even scratch the surface.

I probably should start selling my horde. It no longer brings me comfort. In fact it’s become an unfinished blight. I no longer think of the mental list as “do-able.” Maybe it’s time to purge.

I’ll have to put that on my list of proposed “projects.”

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Today in Frankenmuth at Fischer Hall

John and I just returned from a wonderful day with our Saginaw Subterranean Strings Hammered Dulcimer Club. We had the “annual dinner” today.  Approximately 35-40 folks enjoyed a huge dinner.  The club bought chicken from a catering service (Kern’s).  John and I brought mashed potatoes and gravy.  We organized the day.  We had the members bring a dish to pass.  Linda Conklin brought a huge pan of her wonderful dressing.  We had everything you could wish for.

We ate from 12:00-1:00 then played wonderful music from 1:00-4:00.  Although we hold our event in Frankenmuth (which is Michigan’s largest tourist attraction) we didn’t expect much of a crowd but we had a nice sized audience all afternoon.  We have a box near the door where people make “contributions” to the historical society which owns the building.  We probably didn’t collect any fortune, but it was satisflying and our folks had a great time. 

We played a lot of holiday music to get us ready for the Christmas season.  I invited Diane Rostollan to sing “Oh, Holy Night.”  It was so incredible that some in the audience were in tears.   She also did some selections from a new CD she just finished.  She sang a hymn from the CD “Come Thou Font.”  It was really lovely.

We always end up with “Amazing Grace.”  We do it several times through.  We start out with a solo whistle (George), then we all played it, next we let Diane sing it through, then we had the audience join in, and we ended up with a solo whistle.  The whole thing was grand.  What a wonderful day.

Our club members were so supportive. They all pitched in. They are like family and we really appreciated their involvement and support.

Life is too short. We need to cherish each day like today that is filled with really nice friends who are like family.

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Midland Dulcimer Festival

Margaret Loper, John and I resigned this week from the Midland Dulcimer Festival management team.  (John and Margaret aren’t well enough to continue, and I couldn’t do anything helpful without involving John and creating stress for him that he doesn’t need.)

The Folk Music Society of Midland board is meeting on December 9th to decide if the festival will continue and who will be the chairman and do the workshops. 

Finding somone who will organize the workshops won’t be easy, and no one wants to “be in charge.”  Personally we feel that the festival would be better ending than disappointing attendees but that will be determined at the December meeting which we don’t plan to attend. It’s in their court.

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Working with Websites

I’ve promised some of my Florida friends that I’ll help them create a website when I finally get down there.

One lady, Diane, a super artist, is especially interested because she needs a gallery type site to display her work. She also wants to do one for the “art league.” I’ve located a template website which has several possible formats. I’m really impressed with the quality of their offerings. I’m thinking about upgrading using this template:

Possible Template

The butterflies will be replaced with photos of our festivals.

If I work with the site prior to helping Diane, I’ll be in a much better position to assist her. It’s not cheap to by the template, but I figure it’s a business expense, and learning to use the “Allwebcodesign” templates should give me a lot of tools to use with my site. I can include a gallery, frequently asked questions area, and even a paypal shopping cart for It comes with 23 different color possibilities. I’m seriously considering it. I love the challenge of learning a new program/technique.

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I’m still limping around. Still haven’t tried wearing shoes (figure another few days without them will make it easier). If you wonder what I’m talking about, read the earlier posting.

We have a performance and Frankenmuth Dinner performance on November 21st. On the 30th we’ll practice. The rest of the month is fairly quiet. In December, we have a huge performance in Bay City on the 2nd with our club, and on the 3rd for just the two of us. Then we go until December 13th when we have our last performance before we head south.

So the number of plays isn’t huge, but we need to practice and get ready for them.

So I’m hoping that within the next few days I’ll be able to go out wearing shoes. Right now, it’s hard to contemplate.

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Lost Stuff and More Toe Trouble

I lost John’s medical records this week.

Our house was a disaster during the time when everything was moved out from our great room, dining room, and master bedroom so the flooring could be installed. I remembered relocating John’s important medical records from the dining room table where they’d been for several weeks. I wanted to be sure they wouldn’t get lost. I planned to put them in the portable file case which we drag back and forth to Florida. But when everything was back in place, I went to look for them in the case, they weren’t there.

It took me more than a day to locate the records and the DVDs of his CT scans, etc. When I found them it was one of those “Of course” moments. It all came back to me crystal clear. I remembered I couldn’t reach our portable file case. Everything had been stowed in the hot tub room and it was really really cramped and crowded. I remember standing at the door of the hot tub room and realizing I couldn’t reach the file case so I slipped them in my laptop’s computer case. As soon as I saw the case, I remembered that they were safe.

It’s awful when you get old and forgetful.

Toe Trouble – OUCH!

sore toesWhen it comes to Toe Trouble, I’ve had more than my share. If you’ve followed this blog you know I have frequent “Sore Toe Problems” (as indicated in this 2007 blog posting).. Today I was changing the bedding and I tangled my foot in the blankets which had been pushed to the floor at the end of the bed. When I caught my right foot in the blankets, my poor toe caught the hard corner of an oak chest of drawers. I doubt that it’s broken, but it’s sure bruised, swollen, and sore.

Add that to my bad back, which I’ve been suffering from for a couple of weeks, and I’m pretty miserable.

I know I should have done a pedicure before posting a photo of my toes. I will haul out the polish before I go to Florida because I know when wearing sandals they’ll show, but here, in Michigan, legs, underarms and toes are all ignored by us old married folks when it gets cold and those areas are hidden.

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Our Michigan home looks grand and we have very little to do until the 21st of November when we put on the Subterranean Strings annual dinner at Fischer Hall in Frankenmuth.

We found out today that McBrite Manor, where we have played with Subterranean Strings for more than a dozen years for their Christmas Open House, will not be hosting a December event due to the flu risk. With John’s health problem, I’m just as glad.

We are gradually backing away from our music “commitments.” It’s not easy to say “No, we can’t do it,” but with John’s illness, he really can’t continue at the tempo he’s maintained for so many years. It’s just not possible. I’m sure there will be some people who won’t understand and will feel we’re abandoning the music community, but I’m watching him try to stretch his breathing resources. He just can’t continue to push himself.

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Sadly I did it!

I just marred our new hardwood floor! It’s not ever 48 hours old and I did it!

I extended the foot of the recliner where I was sitting and the recliner mechanism squeezed down on the power box thingie of my computer forcing it into the floor. A deep dent resulted. It’s lucky that I didn’t leave two because there was a transformer box from the phone also under the recliner but it was smaller. At least it’s hidden under the edge and will never show but I feel awful! The installers told us that the advantage of wood is that you can always take out a board and replace it. If this was out in the open, I’d definitely be calling them to do it. It’s that bad.

But in the overall scheme of things, this is not a crisis. Bad health creates a crisis. This is just a pimple.

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Before and After

Before and After our Flooring project
John’s dream was always to have hardwood in our great room. We selected an “exotic wood,” Brazilian Cherry. The boards are 3/4″ thick and tongue and grooved. The installers were fussy which shows. (If you look carefully out the right photo, you can see the little lake we live on.)

I still have a lot of stuff to put away. The carpeting from the living room was installed in our bedroom. It is lovely there, but in order carpet the walk-in closet, we had to take all of our clothes out. I’ll be busy today sorting through everything. Only the stuff I am certain I will actually wear again will be put back in the closet. The rest will go to charity. I figure there’s no way I’ll ever live long enough to be able to wear all the clothes I’ve squirrelled away, even if I change my outfit several times a day. And let’s face it, I will probably never again be a size 4 or 6. I’m getting rid of about 1/3 of the stuff.

The rug in the “after” photo (above) is just a temporary solution until we can find the right area rug. I want a light colored one that’s about 8 x 5 1/2 which will provide a nice accent. Eventually I want to go with a different color scheme, so I want something neutral.

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Florida Fashion

I’m watching the Today Show and they’re featuring fashions for this winter. Everything is in dark rich colors and knee high boots are a big “must have” fashion item.

I have a pair of those boots which are perfect. I can be “right in style.”

But in December, we’re heading to Florida. In Florida, the only people who wear dark colors are northerners. They “stand out” like a sore thumb.

Florida folks wear resort wear year-round. Capris and bermudas are always popular. Pastels and white are appropriate even the middle of their “winter.” I’ve never seen anyone wear boots but sandals are big year-round.

At least that’s how it’s been the past few years. But maybe this year it’ll be different. Should I drag along my black high leather boots?

I always think of that locale as more “style conscious” than here in Michigan. But admittedly in Florida they have their own look. It’s not 5th Avenue, it’s “Florida style.”

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Lookin’ Good!

Our flooring project is looking good but it’s still not completed. The flooring contractor started Thursday and worked long days Thursday and Friday but today was shorter. They’ll be back Monday and Tuesday.

The stairs area has had the final touches but only about 3/4’s of the great room is done so there’s some along the east and the west walls yet to be completed. Plus, once the furniture for GR room is moved from the dining room, they’ll need to start doing the dining area. (And the baseboards will need to be reinstalled too.) It’s much slower than I’d envisioned but they’re doing a beautiful job. The wood is lovely.

With NO FURNITURE in the great room, we’re still stuck in the balcony room for the next few days, but it’s comfortable and we really don’t have any complaints.

We didn’t give out Halloween candy tonight. Normally we’d have close to 200 doorbell-ringers yelling “Trick or Treat” but we didn’t know when the flooring guys would stop working plus we figured that with the H1N1 virus so prevalent, we really didn’t need them coming to our door. It’s always an exhausting couple of hours since I run to the door every few minutes. With us using the living area upstairs, it would have been even more tiring to run to the door.

John’s doing much better. Monday we go back to Dr. Indira, his pulmonologist.

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Our home improvement project!

This morning at 7:30 our contractor arrived to start on our flooring project Brazillian Cherry hardwood will be installed in our Great Room, Dining Room, foyer, and stairway, plus the carpet in our bedroom will be replaced.

He brought a crew of three and they worked all day.

We’re truly impressed by their courtesy and consideration. Example: He asked, and we said he could park his work trailer loaded with our hardwood in our driveway over-night. He was so grateful. He said we were being “so accommodating.” (?? – heck he’s working for us – why wouldn’t we be?) He also thanked us for “putting up with them” today. In case he hasn’t noticed, we’ll get a big bill when the project is complete and we’ll pay it. We’re not putting up with them. We’re sure we’ll be pleased.

It was noisy, dusty, and incredibly loud. I had no idea the noise of a planer taking down the high spots on the sub-floor would be so loud. I finally used an “ear plug” because I couldn’t tolerate the noise. It was overwhelming. And it didn’t help that the crew played loud rock radio all day. But it’s silent now! Yea.

Today Willow and I “moved” upstairs to the balcony room since the workers are occupying the first floor. It’s comfortable up there. There’s a comfy couch with two recliners, a full bathroom, a flat screen tv, a view of the area where they are working, phone and hi-speed internet. We could sleep in the guest room tonight (up here), but I think our bedroom is in good shape (downstairs) and we’ll head down when it’s time to turn in (early) because they’re coming back at 7:30 tomorrow.

They worked today (Thursday). They’ll be back tomorrow. And they plan to be here all-day Saturday. If there’s still more to be done, it’ll be finished up Monday.

Can’t wait to see the results. (You’ll be able to see the before and after pictures here.)

Note: Why now? Because we’re trying to live life to the fullest. The hardwood floor is something John has always wanted and with his frightening diagnosis we realize that it doesn’t pay to postpone plans. Life is too short. If it’s something he’s dreamed of and it’s possible for us to do, then we should do it now so we can both enjoy it.

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d. Great Grandma Brophey (My Inspiration)

GrandmaThe other day, as I frequently do, I mentioned Grandma Brophey to John. He said I should write down my thoughts about her. She was the most influential person in my life. Someday no one will remember she even existed. She was special and deserves to have her story told.

Grandma Brophey was 77 years old when she died in 1963. Her full name was Clara Ann Chamberlain Brophey. Those 77 years represented a life that was remarkable.

The Chamberlains were one of the “founding” Midland families. As first settlers in the area, Grandma’s grandfather had preached to the Indians.

She married Patrick Robert Brophey, about 1906. Grandpa had been married previously and had a daughter, Elizabeth. Elizabeth (aka Betty) was my father’s mother. That meant Grandma Brophey was my father’s step-grandmother. (Once, when I questioned her about not being related, she said she may not be related “by blood” but she was “by heart” which was much better.)

When my father was three, he came to live with his Grandma and Grandpa Brophey. She couldn’t have children, so they raised my father as their son. At that time, they were well-to-do with a successful business and investments. They owned the biggest share of a city block in downtown Midland plus a couple of houses.

Grandma and TammyBut the stock market crash of 1929 changed their status. Their problems were magnified because Grandpa Brophey was an alcoholic and a gambler. By the time I was born in 1942, they had lost their businesses and houses – most everything.

Grandma supported the family by doing sewing alterations. She would sew late into the night for the wealthy ladies in town. Once they’d been her peers (financially) but they’d lost all that. Nevertheless she had pride and was definitely “a quality lady” who earned the respect of all.

Everyone who knew her called her “Grandma.” She was the kind of caring person who listened to a child, and spoke words of wisdom worth the attention of the most mature.

She took in unwed mothers and let them stay with her at a time when they were shunned. Grandma was a babysitter for the first black couple who moved into Midland (an unpopular role in a town that was 99.999% white). She was very involved with the Presbyterian Church, making their choir robes, teaching Sunday school, and sending “birthday cards” to every youngster in the congregation. She started a re-sale shop at a senior citizen residence facility (the Kings’ Daughters). It’s still on-going.

In the 1950’s she was “adopted” by a Chinese couple so their children would have a grandmother in their new country. (I learned that I had to “share” her during the holidays so she could spend some time with those children too.)

Until I was a teenager, she made all of my clothes (and as a child, I had a complete wardrobe for my dolls long before a Barbie wardrobe was a requirement for a young girl). I was the best dressed youngster you can imagine. As an example, I remember a soft blue wool suit, lovely cape to match, and a navy tam to complete the outfit. (There are several pictures of me when I was about four wearing suits which I recall were all lined.) I remember being asked to “turn around” and display my ensemble by Mrs. Dow (of Dow Chemical Company).

Even with her limited finances, Grandma provided food and necessities for those with less. She was the best example of charity and giving.

I don’t know how she did it financially, but she’d take me to Detroit once a year and we’d stay in the Tuller Hotel on Grand Circus Park so I could see and experience the “big city.” That was always the highlight of my year. She’d bake lovely big sweet rolls (with fresh orange zest) which she’d pass out to the house-cleaning people at the hotel in lieu of a tip. I remember struggling to carry the suitcase from the “bus station” to the Tuller. It probably wasn’t far, but it sure seemed like we walked forever and paying for a taxi was out of the question. While in Detroit, we’d go to Bob-Lo Island and visit the Vernors plant. I got to explore Hudson’s glorious shopping mecca, and we’d dine at the Bonjo Grill.

One Mother’s Day she was named “Mother of the Year” by the Midland Daily News. Yet this was a woman, who’d never given birth.

She was a caring, loving tiny lady; a beautiful white-haired fashion plate, who knew style and was ahead of her time.

She loved me more than anyone in my life and was always there for me to praise when I deserved it, or to show disapproval when I let her down. I remember when I was two or three and I’d spit toward another child. She gave me a minor swat at my rear end. I was shocked. Grandma had never raised a hand to discipline me! I was more surprised than hurt. We both cried.

She tried to teach me to tat, to crochet, to sew and I learned all of those crafts because of her instructions. Any good qualities I possess were probably because of her example.

The summer of 1956, she found a lump in her breast and had a very invasive mastectomy (back then, chemotherapy wasn’t known). In late 1961, she had a heart attack and the cancer returned in 1962.

She passed away in 1963.

I still miss her and I still need her approval.

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Gray Weather and Football

Today will be a day of football for John.

I have a lot I need to do. The flooring installer and his crew should be coming early next week to lay the new flooring. I need to find places for all the stuff that “sits out” so the guys can move the furniture.

I hate gray weather. I really don’t handle dreary days very well.

Our yard is knee deep in leaves. The trees were really pretty a week ago, but the rain and wind are stripping them of all the foliage. It’s wet so the clean up will have to wait until they dry out. John has a riding lawn mower which allows him to bag the leaves without a lot of heavy work. He’s anxious to get started, but today will be an inside day.

Last night we missed the Picks and Sticks concert in Midland. Maybe we overly cautious but the H1N1 flu virus has hit the Midland area hard and it didn’t seem worth the risk to John’s health. He hasn’t been able to get the shot for H1N1 yet. (We have both had the seasonal flu shot.) With our luck someone with the bug would have sat close to us and John’s pulmonologist said that you really aren’t safe up to 50 feet from someone who has it.

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Where will we be Dec. 14, 2:13 p.m.?

On December 14, at 2:13, we hope to be heading into Kentucky (give or take a minute or two and with the hope that the weather cooperates).

I’ve been having fun working with a new (2010) version of Streets and Trips, my GPS program. I have the detailed route planned for our southbound trip to Florida in December. Of course something could change our plans and I try always to stay flexible, but that’s our intention at this point.

I know it’s my quirk. I love “planning” things out precisely. You can see my Michigan to Florida three-day route here:

December Trip Plan.

I don’t just do trip plans. I also do packing lists, to-do-before-we-leave lists, want-to-do-when-we-get-there lists, need-to-remember, etc. etc. Ok, so I’m a little quirky but I worked for 23 years as a hospital planner, and I guess somewhere along the way I caught the “planning bug.”

But we have way too much clutter. We’re NOT “organized.” Maybe my lists keep things arranged in my mind.

Who knows??

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When I thought we’d be heading to Florida in September, I had my bags packed.

Actually I hadn’t really unpacked after I returned home June 13th (after my solo trip south). Since then, I had left a majority of my Florida clothing in the suitcase.

I’ve already duplicated most of the non-clothes items so there are doubles of many items in Florida as well as Michigan (printer, phone system, jewelry cleaner, hair drier, etc.), but my favorite clothing items have been dragged back and forth repeatedly.

In September, when we had to postpone/cancel the September-November trip to Florida because of John’s illness, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, I started looking at things very differently. I realize how fragile life is and how you need to protect your health assets. You also need to be prepared for whatever comes along.

I want to preserve my husband’s energy. I would definitely like to see us start “flying” rather than driving that long trip. Of course we can’t do that as long as we have our little dog, but sadly we know she isn’t well and probably won’t be with us much longer. Flying would be a lot easier on John and that should be our primary consideration. I don’t drive the truck at all (it scares me and I’d be a nervous wreck in the traffic), so all of the driving is on him while I navigate. It’s nearly 1,300 miles but at least we do it at a leisure pace over three days. There have been times when airline tickets were actually cheaper than driving and staying in motels but that shouldn’t be the deciding factor.

We have a car down there, so we’d just have to have a shuttle or friend take us to and from the airport.

Since I’m now thinking along those lines, I am revising what I’ll be taking to Florida in December and definitely what I’ll be bringing back with me when we return in April. I’m going to try hard to divide my clothes and leave things in one location or the other. I’m starting by leaving my Michigan clothes for next spring and summer. I dress differently in Florida anyway, lots more capris and dressy casual attire. A lot of “party-type dresses.”

When we bought our Florida condo last October, I told John the condo was like an “insurance policy.” Since I’m younger than John and women generally outlive their spouses, I said, “If I am ever alone, I would want to live in Florida.” I would have a hard time handling the chores around our Saginaw home but the condo would be easy for me. Our condo community, Kings Point, even has shuttle service and bus trips for residents who no longer want to drive. The neighborhood is friendly, a perfect place for an individual or an older but limited couple.

Our friends, Jim and Sissy, just sold their up-north house and are now full-timing in Florida. Part of the reason is because Jim has Parkinsons and they feel it will be easier on him to only have one place to worry about.

I doubt that John will be ready to give up our Michigan home anytime soon, but maybe someday, since his disease is “progressive,” he’ll realize that our home is too much work and he needs to conserve as much of his energy as possible so he can stay as well and enjoy life without the responsibilities of a big house. That may be a long way off, but then again it may not. No one can tell how long the medication he’s on will keep the fibrosis (scarring of his lungs) at bay. He’s doing so good now, that I can be hopeful that it’ll never be an issue, but I still want to be prepared. It’ll be easier to start by setting us up to be able to go back and forth without bringing every piece of clothing I own.

So I’m going through the stuff I had planned to bring back to Florida and I want to get used to “traveling light.” What I take down there won’t be coming back with me. (Or at least most of the stuff.) If I find I don’t have something I need and it’s in the other location, I’ll replace it.

With this mind-set, I will be doing a lot of things differently. My husband’s comfort and health is my primary concern. He is definitely able to drive it now, but who knows how he’ll be next year. We may end up with six months here and six months in Florida: April-September in Michigan and October-March in Florida. Whatever is best for John.

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A new dress

I just ordered this dress to wear to the Kings Point Dance Club annual dinner dance we’ll be attending in February. It is perfect (or I hope so). Now I need to get the body toned up to show it off. for Dinner Dance

I also recently purchased a pretty jade two piece crocheted dress for a special evening, the Michigan Club Dinner Dance. It was held at the end of January last year and was a lovely event. The dinner was spectacular and I’ve never seen decorations that were any more beautiful. (They had rented live potted palm trees decorated with small white lights which completely surrounded the huge ballroom.)

I really miss the social life in Kings Point, where we have our condo. Hopefully we’ll make it back for a house party Christmas Eve and a New Year’s Eve party. (We have a couple to choose from.)

In January, we already have several events on our calendar including a dance and a dinner dance.

February should be fun too. Hopefully Brenda and John will have their fun Super Bowl party again. February 16th is the dinner dance where I’ll plan to wear my new dress.

Most of the events are casual, with the exception of New Year’s Eve, some of the dances. Sometimes it’s fun to get dressed up and feel like the evening is special. Several times a month we attend some kind of a potluck or get together and every Thursday there’s the fun Rockin Rendezvous at the South Club House.

John will look special too. He bought a new suit in April (which he hasn’t worn yet). Hopefully it’ll still fit. He’s lost a lot of weight because of his health problem. He may have lost it, but I’ve found it!


NOTE: One week later (Friday, October 23rd) the dress arrived. I was horribly disappointed. The “gems” on the front were gaudy and ugly. When I put it on, it was huge!! I had ordered medium. I am about a size 8 and the measurements definitely said I should wear a medium. John and I could have fit in the dress together. The underarm gapped out a good six inches. It was 8″-10″ too long, but that would have been easy to fix. It’ll be going back. And no, I won’t be reordering it in a small because I doubt that even a small would be flattering.

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Another Doctor Appointment

John had his one month follow up from his biopsy today. Everything looks good. Dr. Maresca said that his lungs sound much better and he can see the difference in the way John breaths when he walks. It’s the Predisone. Dr. Maresca also has a health problem and said he was on Prednisone for a lengthy time. He said, although there is no conclusive proof, when he was on Prednisone, he read up on ways to avoid the side-effects and found there was a recommendation for additional vitamin A. (Which we bought on the way home.)

I’m hopeful and so is John. And it’s hope and optimism that are critical for staying ahead of the disease.


Yesterday one of Mom’s sisters, my Aunt Betty Jean died of emphysema. We went to the funeral home. Aunt Betty was a heavy smoker. She continued to smoke, even after the emphysema was so bad that she was on oxygen 24/7. We were looking at a bulletin board of photos of Aunt Betty Jean’s life. One of the pictures showed her, with my Aunt Ruth, and Aunt Ruth’s husband. The three of them have died. All three had emphysema. All three were smoking in that photo. Sad.

And John’s problem isn’t emphysema, but it’s a lung problem. He didn’t smoke. It seems so unfair!!

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On order

The flooring was ordered yesterday. The installer should be able to start the job before the first of next month. Can’t Wait.

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Doing the floor

Today the second “wood floor guy” came to give us a bid on the installation of hardwood flooring in our great room and dining room. It’s a good-sized area (782 square feet!) The flooring we’ve picked out is lovely (solid 3/4″ Brazillian cherry). It’s a decent sized so both companies have drooled as we told them what we want.

I think we’ll go with the local installer. The other company we called was the floor-covering giant Empire. I’d rather go with a small local business and besides they’re charging less.

I can only imagine what it’ll look like with that lovely flooring, two new small white accent chairs, new white area rug, several white throw pillows and a new black and white wall-hanging with a splash of red. We’ll keep our charcoal leather loveseat and couch and maybe add some red accents. It’ll all be grand and totally fashionable. I hope we can get started tomorrow!!

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First signs of winter

There was ice in the bird bath when we got up this morning. The leaves are starting to change to vivid reds but they are still firmly clinging to the trees.

A year ago, we were moving into our “new” Florida condo. It was an exciting time filled with the promise of a wonderful future in Sun City Center. I’m still very glad we bought the place. The two of us haven’t been able to go back since last April, but we’re hoping to be back down there before Christmas.

I went through my posts to this blog last night. When I was looking over what I wrote last year, I found a post which talks about how COLD it was in Florida at the end of October 2008. This year the temperatures down there are HOT. It appears that by the end of next week, it’ll cool from the mid 90’s (where it is now) to the 80’s but that’s certainly different than the 60 degree high we had on October 28th a year ago.

I realize that when we arrive in mid-December, two months from now, we may be faced with chilly temps. After we arrive it may get even cooler since January is the coldest month of the year down there with occasional frosts. I’m just hoping all the warm days aren’t used up before we head south.

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I love this!

Man Song Lyrics

John even laughed and agreed. (John’s a gem!)

Today we shopped for hardwood flooring for the great room, foyer, and dining room and I think we have picked out what we want. It’s a pretty very hard hardwood called Brazillian Cherry. A lovely warm color.

We’re ready to do it, but we are waiting for the installer to tell us when he can start. We’ll have the carpet ripped up and put it in our bedrom. We’ll also (probably) put wood on the stairs to the upstairs since they are visible from the living room.

The next project will be the kitchen granite counter top and then new flooring in the kitchen, 1/2 bath, and utility room. We aren’t sure what we want to do with those floors. I’m leaning toward ceramic. John would like wood at least in the kitchen.

The great room project is enough for now. One project at a time.

We would like to get it done so we can enjoy it some before we head to Florida in December.

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Interest in!

I don’t understand why people enjoy this site. I know some folks read it regularly while others stop by only occasionally (or when they wonder what we’ve been doing).

Last night I went to the statistics area of my domain. I use a recording system called Webalizer and it computes how many “hits” the site has had. It tabulates them monthly.

I have several sites listed below in no particular order: my biggest and most popular website. my sales website. for the large, popular Flint-based, four-string banjo club. our Saginaw hammered dulcimer club. the Folk Music Society of Midland’s website. site for the popular, talented Dee Dee Tibbits. site for one of my favorite performing music groups. a duo of Celtic musicians. for the festival offered by the FMSM. the club that sponsors the ODPC Funfest. this website.

This collection of websites I design and host, keeps me busy.

Last night, when I reviewed the statistics, I was surprised at what I found. Obviously the biggest, most popular site is It gets nearly 2.5 million hits a year. There’s a wide gap between it and the other sites on the list. The number two site in popularity is a virtual “tie” between my sales site and THIS SITE, Both the sales site and this blog have over 205,000 hits annually. The fact that this site is so popular shocked me.

Why would anyone read this blog? Our lives are dull. I have a tendency to ramble. Sometimes it reads like a diary as a way of recording what we’re doing. Other times, it’s a wish list. Sometimes it’s just narrative of something that intrigues me.

On a personal level, I’ve told the story of how I found my brother (which you can find on the side bar under the heading “family matters.” ) It’s been a travel site when we went out West in 2006. Recently I’ve been following the drama of John’s health crisis.

This site is much too self-involved and there are those who probably see it as an ego trip, but in fact, for most of my life I’ve kept a “journal.” This blog has taken the place of a private journal. It helps keep family and friends up-to-date with what we’re doing, and it lets me record our life so I can go back and review occasionally. Like you, I enjoy re-reading the stuff we’ve done and how I felt about it at the time.

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Florida Doctor

Today I spoke with the Florida Pulmonary Specialist’s office (we haven’t met him, but he was suggested by my Florida internal medicine doctor) and explained how we are hesitating to come to Florida because we want John to have the advantage of Dr. Indira’s treatment plan before we leave for the south.

After talking to that office and thinking about it, I realize that we may be giving John a unique opportunity.

Here in Saginaw it would be an affront to visit another Pulmonary Specialist to get a second opinion, but since we’ll be in Florida, we’ll have the advantage of a second physician reviewing everything without it being a “challenge” to the first physician. So everything Dr. Indira in Saginaw is doing will be reviewed by Dr. Graves in Sun City Center. He’ll confirm the treatment plan or suggest a revision. Therefore we’ll have two doctors working on John’s problem instead of only one.

The doctor in Sun City Center is used to working with a “northern” doctors. He’ll be accustomed to blending his treatment with that of another doctor. But we’ll also have the advantage of having a second doctor review everything so we can be sure John is getting the best treatment for his condition.

John agrees that it sounds like an excellent plan. So hopefully we can leave on December 14th. If Dr. Indira feels she needs another week or two, we can revise our schedule, but we figure that if she knows when we are leaving, she’ll make it work.

I’m feeling much more optimistic.

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John went to his pulmonary specialist today. She reviewed John’s condition and although she sure didn’t make promises, she said all the right things to keep his spirits up. She told of having a partient with John’s same diagnosis who is still living and WORKING as a teacher. He was diagnosed about seven years ago. Obviously John was glad to hear what she said. She also said he is responding well with Prednisone. His lungs are sounding better.

I am optimistic. His doctor (Dr. Indira) is cautiously hoping to wean John off Prednisone, but it’ll depend on how he does. John has a slight inflamation at the site of his surgical procedure. She wants to wait two more weeks before cutting back on the Prednisone and starting him on Imuron. She wouldn’t start him on the other medication until the inflammation is gone because she didn’t want to take a chance that he’d develop an infection if she moved him to the other medication. And if she just cut back the Prednisone, he’d lose what he seems to have gained. So he will stay on this medical schedule for two more weeks and then we’ll see.

I had my list of “questions” for her. She could tell I’ve been doing my homework, and I think she appreciated my efforts on John’s behalf.

We do need to be sure that we have a doctor lined up in Florida. She said she couldn’t see any reason why he won’t be ready to head to Florida in December, but we may need to hold off so the medication schedule can be adjusted. We will do whatever needs to happen for John. That’s the primary focus.

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Cool, Rainy, Miserable

I have always claimed that the rainy fall days in Michigan are my least favorite time of year in our beautiful state. I hate the pervasive chill and the dreary skys. It can also be that way in the Spring, but it seems that Fall is always more rainy and in the Spring know that nice weather will soon be coming. In Fall, the weather that’s coming will be even colder.

Today was that kind of too cool, dark day.

I know my moods are weather dependent. Give me a lovely sunny day, and I’ll feel up-beat. If there’s gloom in my world with skys that are dark, that’s what you get from me.

I guess that’s why I so love Florida. January and February are generally cool, but by cool I mean 70’s. March-June it’s becoming very warm with temps 80-90. July and August it’s dern hot: 90+ degrees. September you’re back into the 80-90’s and by December it’s cooled down to the low 80’s or 70’s. But through it all, there never seems to be a really gloomy period. Yes, we’ve had to endure a week or two of rainy cool temperatures, but I can take that. In fact, it’s been rare when we haven’t been able to go to the pool and soak up some rays any time of the year.

How can I combat the problem? Pray for an early winter. Surprisingly when winter truly hits with white snow which sparkles, I generally cheer up. But when it’s like this, I have a rough time.

So today I looked forward and did what I could to plan for the future. I’ve been going through my packing list, and making sure I know just what I need to do before we take off in December for Florida. Of course, with John’s health so shakey, it’s possible that we’ll have to postpone or even cancel our trip. If we find that we just can’t go to our condo this year, I’ll make the best of it. I’m actually very “flexible” and I’ll take it all in stride.

But I hope we know by mid-late November for sure that we are going (or not). That way I can organize my Christmas plans. At this point, I think we’ll be in Florida for nine days before Christmas Day. It would be fun to plan a holiday party about the 23rd. We’d need to decorate for the season. Figure out some good food, and have a bottle or two of wine.

I left most of my favorite holiday decorations in Florida last year.

Actually I’d love to take a small “real” tree with us from Michigan down there, but I’m realizing that with my allergies it’s probably not wise. (My eyes burn horribly when I’m in the same room with a real tree.) I wouldn’t mind buying a quality artificial tree to have in the corner of our condo living room. I don’t know how John would feel about that, but one-way or the other, I want us to enjoy a Christmas tree this year.

Here are the average numbers for Florida’s temps:
Month; high; low; precipitation; record high; record low
Jan 72°F 49°F 2.79 in. 86°F (1990) 18°F (1981)
Feb 74°F 50°F 3.13 in. 90°F (1961) 24°F (1996)
Mar 77°F 54°F 3.02 in. 92°F (1961) 29°F (1996)
Apr 81°F 59°F 2.05 in. 95°F (1968) 36°F (1987)
May 86°F 64°F 2.98 in. 98°F (1962) 41°F (1999)
Jun 89°F 70°F 7.09 in. 101°F (1985) 51°F (1984)
Jul 90°F 72°F 7.57 in. 99°F (1968) 62°F (1978)
Aug 90°F 72°F 8.67 in. 101°F (1998) 64°F (1984)
Sep 89°F 72°F 7.45 in. 99°F (1998) 57°F (1991)
Oct 85°F 65°F 2.78 in. 97°F (1959) 43°F (1964)
Nov 79°F 58°F 2.31 in. 92°F (1959) 25°F (1970)
Dec 74°F 52°F 2.25 in. 89°F (1961) 20°F (1962)
Sun City Center, FL Weather Facts:
The average warmest month is July.
The highest recorded temperature was 101°F in 1998.
On average, the coolest month is January.
The lowest recorded temperature was 18°F in 1981.
The maximum average precipitation occurs in August.

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Friday… where is time going??

I did the Sub-Strings newsletter and website today. That’s our music club. I also accomplished several other time-consuming chores. John was gone.

I had some bills to pay, some items to prioritize. It all takes time.

Within the past couple of days, I’ve spoken with some of our close friends in Florida to let them know our return has been delayed.

There’s always stuff that needs to be done. I’m still behind.

I enjoy website creation, but it sure is time-consuming.

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Nothing special – just Tuesday

Today we were busy but nothing outstanding was accomplished.

John had to re-do his welding on the pipes for the master shower.

I tried to get our Christmas tunes ready for our dulcimer club’s October 16th practice. In the spring, when we came home from Florida, I intentionally left our Christmas tune book and all my autoharp chord cards down there because I figured that’s where we’d need them. So today John borrowed a copy of the tune book we play from, and I started re-creating what I’d left at the condo. It took the afternoon, but that’s cheaper than a trip to Florida.

John went to Home Depot and did a little shopping. When he got home he was exhausted.

He tires so easily. I am so worried about him!

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Why I adore John?

My sexy husband, John, played today with George’s pick-up bank at a St. Charles, MI, community event. John was on banjo and he was reallllllllly good. He kept his beat and played the correct melody so when everyone else got lost, he was their beacon.

But that’s not why I adore him. He’s a genuinely nice guy. He is in a weakened state, so he let me “carry” much of the sound equipment but he was reluctant. I insisted, and we got him all packed up.

They started playing at noon. I showed up about 1:30 and he glowed when I walked in (that’s why I love him). He winked at me. He let me know he was glad I came, and he made me proud.

What more could an old lady like me ask for?

I’m 67. I’m no babe. I’m waaaaay over the hill, but he makes me feel that I’m a sexy, young hot lady. I sure love that guy!

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A “tiny” project – HA!

Our master bath shower has been dripping for some time. It’s really become annoying because there’s no way to stop the drip and it’s close to our bedroom. When the house was quiet, the loud drip – drip – drip was enough to drive you crazy. (The only way not to hear it was to close the door, but when the bathroom door was closed it was hard to see your way to the bathroom without turning on a light.) John determined that the shower needed a new washer or something like that in the “handle” part of the shower, but we also wanted a new shower head (one of those disk types). We bought the shower head a couple of days ago in preparation. (The literature with the shower head said it would be a 15 minute job.)

So this morning, armed with determination and the new shower head, John started what we both felt would be a tiny job: the washer first and then the shower head install.

Unfortunately over the 24 years since it was installed, the handle action had frozed up and there was no way to replace the washer. In the process of cranking on it, a pipe broke, making it necessary to replace the whole handle assembly.

And since the shower didn’t have a shut-off of its own, all the water in the house was shut off for the duration of the project.

A hole had to be cut through the wall of the front hall closet (which shares a wall with the shower) so we could work on the problem.

John drove to Home Depot and got the parts he needed.

He had to weld the parts with a welding torch. The fire alarm kept going off because the torch would put out sooty smoke. It was therefore a very loud, dirty job. The oily soot got all over everything. (I’ll be cleaning it up for a long while.)

But we were making head-way when the acetalene ran out. The only supplier was about 15 miles away (30 round-trip). John had already over-done it, so I insisted on going after the stuff and he stayed home to rest.

When I got back, he looked a little better and we completed the job. It took from about 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.

Never say something is a “tiny” project.

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He’s on a treatment plan

John’s diagnoisis of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (usual interstitial pneumonitis) doesn’t have a lot of treatment options, but Dr. Indira, John’s pulmonary specialist, has him on a steriod (Prednisone). Apparently it has lots of side effects that mess up ones digestive system, so he’s taking a second pill to combat that effect.

Dr. Indira sounds optimistic that she can stop the deterioration of his lungs for a while. If she can halt the problem at this stage, he said he can live with the lung volume he has left. We’re hoping that such a remission would be long-lasting but you just don’t know.

He’ll return to her office in two weeks to see if there’s any improvement.

She also uses a second medication. She’ll wean him off Prednisone and onto the other med at the end of the two weeks. I guess the Prednisone is more powerful, but once the lungs become stabilized, she’ll switch him over to the other to avoid the side-effects of Prednisone.

I’ve joined a couple email lists that are support of people with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (usual interstitial pneumonitis) or their caregivers.

It sounds like we have a real fight against this disease on our hands.

John doesn’t want to talk about the possibile outcomes because he’s very hopeful that he can lead a long, productive life. I think that attitude is the only one which will help him at this point. We will NOT discuss it at this point, and there’ll be no hint that the prognosis is not good.

So if you know John, and if you have read scary stuff on line which would indicate otherwise, please DO NOT share it with him. Please be optimistic and realize that’s what will help him the most. If you wish to understand more, there is an article which describes his form of I.P.F. fairly concisely.

I can’t believe that as many people die each year of pulmonary fibrosis as die from breast disease but no one knows about it.

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December is soon enough

I was so anxious to get back to Florida, but my whole attitude has changed. (Isn’t it funny how your priorities change when faced with a crisis.)

We have put our Florida plans on the back-burner. At this time, we are thinking that we’ll head down there sometime between December 14th and the 19th. I’d like to have time to decorate and make our condo feel Christmas-y. I’d hope we can make it for Dale and Trudy’s Christmas Eve party and I’d like to be sure to buy New Years Eve tickets.

But if those plans fall through, we’ll adjust. At this point, none of that feels important.

I’m sure we both suffer from seasonal affective disorder (S.A.D.) when we winter in Michigan, but we will make any situation work!

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John’s Home!

He was released this afternoon. He looks great!

After talking with the physician assistant, John is feeling very optimistic. His diagnosis is Pulmonary Fibrosis, but she told him it’s a chronic condition he can live with. It’ll require some changes in how he does things, but he’s upbeat because of things she said.

And I’m feeling much more hopeful. I had read numerous reports on line (including some by the Univ. of Mi.) that scared me to death. But the PA said that he has a good chance of responding to treatment (not being cured, but slowing the progression of the disease.) I believe believe that. It sure doesn’t do any good to think the worst. I want him around for a long while.

We have a friend, Nan Boody, who has survived over-whelming odds with Type 1 diabetes. She’s in her 70’s and is still healthy and well.

John figures he can learn to “live with” pulmonary fibrosis, and I believe that if anyone can, he can.

John told the P.A. about his father who was still going strong at 91. She said, “You’ll beat him.” I believe it too. No matter what obsticles are in John’s way, he will make it. I’ve never met anyone who could make me believe in anyone like I believe in John. We just all have to pray for him and he’ll do the rest! I figure we’re good together for at least 30 more years! (John’s 71.)

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Another Tomorrow

John’s return home has been postponed until tomorrow (Monday). He’s been in the hospital for a full week. He was disappointed by some of the care and the room was tiny tiny especially since two patients occupied it. The fellow in the next bed’s wife was there all day each day so there were three of them in the room most of the time. (Of course I was there a lot too, but only stayed a couple hours at a time.) Finally about 5:00 his roommate was discharged. He thought he’d have the room to himself but they moved someone else in this evening.

He finally got his diagnosis which we don’t totally understand so we’re waiting to have it interpreted by a physician.

I miss him! Tomorrow morning he’s hoping to leave. He is anxious to see the doctors. I’ll see if I can get him in tomorrow.

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Tomorrow? Tomorrow?

Tomorrow John is scheduled to have the tube removed which is in his lung. If it goes well, he was told he can probably “get outta there.”

He’s ready. But today he enjoyed lots of football games since the hospital has full cable access. Had he been home, he would have missed the Michigan game because it was only on cable and we only have through the air reception.

I have been having good luck finding sports games on line, but it’s definitely NOT guaranteed.

I kidded him that I was sure he’d want to stay through the football season, so he wouldn’t miss any games. See, there are perks to being in the hospital.

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Being Optimistic Didn’t Work

Here it is Friday, five days since John had his procedure, and he’s still in the hospital. His lung hasn’t healed sufficiently and is still “leaking air.” A LPN took time to show us the indicator on “the pump” which shows if there’s still a “leak.” We could clearly see the bubbles that indicate that air is escaping. At least now John won’t get his hopes up because he can see for himself that it’s still “bubbling.”

I visited him for awhile this afternoon. After I left, Dr. Genco, his surgeon, stopped in and said that except for the leak, he looks fine. He said he can’t explain why the surgical site on the lung closes up faster on some folks than on other. He shut off the “suction” on the pump which has been pulling fluid from his lung. It’ll continue to collect the fluid, but it’s just being gravity fed into the discharge container. Dr. Genco seemed to think the “pull” could be delaying the healing process.

John wasn’t as up-beat as yesterday. He is ansy and uncomfortable. He just wants to go home and feel better. I know he has to be as frightened as I am of the possible diagnosis.


On a more light-hearted topic:
Last night, I spoke on the phone with two of our Florida neighbors (Linda and Geri), very nice ladies.

Geri mentioned that another nearby neighbor, had a pipe burst in their condo while they were “up north.” There was a lot of damage since no one had checked the condo for some time so the problem went unnoticed. She volunteered to look in on our place today. I called her this evening and everything is just fine. It’s reassuring.

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Today John felt MUCH Better!

Johnn will probably come home tomorrow. (He is optimist that he will.) He needs an x-ray tomorrow to confirm that his lung isn’t “leaking” and they’ll discharge him.

He was talking about heading to Florida on schedule – leaving next Saturday. I am befuddled. It’ll depend on what the doctor says, but he really sounds like he’d like to take off tomorrow. He seems to think he’ll get the go-ahead.

I’m not pessimistic, but I don’t want to plan on anything until the doctor gives him an all-clear. Waiting until December would be easier on both of us. There’s no reason to rush and risk his health. Going to Florida now seems totally unimportant. There’s only one concern, getting him the best care possible.

But his optimism is wonderful. He sounds so up-beat. I’m sure we won’t make any firm decision until after he gets input from his physicians, but I do love his attitude! Everything has been so hard on him lately but he’s bouncing back. I sure have one heck of a great guy! (Either that, or the meds they had given him put him in a really happy state.)

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Alone with LOTS to do!

Without John here, I’m feeling overwhelmed by the stuff that is required to keep up the house. John usually does more than his share of the work around here. I’m guilty of letting him.

John’s complains about the time I spend “on line” and he’s correct that I spend hours every day on my computer but a lot of that time is taking care of my web-based business and maintaining the household accounts. Those jobs can’t be ignored and he appreciates that they are done flawlessly.

Because of the economy, my business has been slow this year. For some reason, this week it’s changed. I’ve had more inquiries for sales in the past week than I’ve had since the holiday season. Folks seem to be “buying” again, or at least thinking about it. Yeah! But responding to those inquiries takes time.

I’m finding it challenging to get all the stuff done that needs to be done and run back and forth to the hospital.

Sharing the chores sure makes life easier.

I don’t know how much of his old routine he’ll be able to assume when he gets back home. I have a feeling that life is changing for both of us.

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Waiting to Leave will be better

I’m certain that John and I should and will wait to go to Florida until December. We had originally planned to leave on September 12th, but when we realized that wasn’t possible because of John’s surgery the 14th, we decided, as long as we could leave by October 1st, it would still work. The trip would merely be delayed a couple of weeks.

Now I can see that there’s no way that John will be ready by October 1. In fact, he may not even be able to drive for SIX WEEKS!

It really don’t feel it’s an option. I wouldn’t want to do anything else. John’s my only priority. He’s what’s important.

I had justified wanting to go by convincing myself that he’d do better in the sun down there; he would relax and heal. Here he over-does it every day. He works too hard. I can’t slow him down. But maybe, when he gets out of the hospital, he will be forced to move at a slower pace.

I have been making lists of things I need to do to put our trip on hold until December. At this point, it looks like we could leave for Florida on December 14th.

His Saginaw doctor needs time to set up a treatment plan. I can see that pushing us to leave is absurd. In fact, if we’re not ready in December, we’ll adjust to that too.

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Missing John

Yesterday John had his lung biopsy. I just spoke with him on the phone and although it hurts like !@#* when he coughs (which they’re asking him to do), he said he’s doing ok. He’s had his breakfast and was pleased that he was able to get his must-have banana. (He feels he con’t survive without a daily banana.)

Willow, our tiny old dog, is miserable without him. I was able to get her to take her heart medicine, but she’s not eating her main meal. She’s John’s shadow and his absence is really bothering her.

She usually wakes John up, and this morning she stood by the side of the bed barking, even after I was up, (She’s too small to see into the bed and I think she figures he’s hiding there.)

But Willow’s not the only one missing John. He does so much around here. I need to increase my share of the load. Of course his condition now will require that I do more.

Driving home last night seemed strange. It’s been years since I’ve done any night-time driving.

But we’ll get by until he is released from the hospital, and then I’ll baby him and feel fortunate that I share my life with him!

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Nothing Accomplished Today

Spent most of the day today answering emails, revising my, “sales” website and trying to figure out why John’s computer wouldn’t connect to the internet. (I was successful fixing things.) I also changed our motel reservations to the weekend of September 26-28. It all took more time than I had imagined, but nothing of substance was accomplished.

Yesterday was more of the same. Lots of sales inquiries to answer and other non-productive time-consuming chores.

I did sell a hammered dulcimer to one of my customers because of the stuff I wrote yesterday and today.

I’m hoping we can leave for Florida two weeks from yesterday. If we can’t, I will try not to be disappointed. That will give us seven weeks before we head back home for Christmas performance preparation.

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Monday’s the day

Monday John is scheduled again (for the third or fourth time). If he’s cancelled this time, our plan is to go to the Emergency Room and get action. We won’t leave the hospital until he has the procedure.

But at least he’s scheduled. It’s only taken two weeks of being “on-call”.

I spent the afternoon dealing with the accountant who is doing the final IRS report for my mother (who died last year). I also had to submit a couple of reports to the ODPC. It was one of those work-on-the-computer days.

Tomorrow is the huge garage sale held in our sub-division at about 1/2 of the homes. We’ve participated in the past, but it takes time and energy which we don’t have. This year it will intrude on us, since we have no vested interest and there’ll be thousands of folks invading our space. But we realize it’s fun for other neighbors.

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My dear husband, John, is so discouraged.

It wasn’t easy convincing him that he had to go with the doctor’s suggestion and have this lung biopsy. Now he’s been stalled TWO WEEKS. Each day he gets more discouraged and flustered. It seems to him that everyone else is more important. No one returns calls, he waits hours for some word. They set him up with promises of “tomorrow” and then it falls through. Last Tuesday he was supposed to have had the procedure. Then it was Tuesday of this week, then Thursday, then Friday, and now.. who knows?

He’s lost another five pounds.

I spoke with the surgeon’s scheduler this morning. (She isn’t the one to blame.) I told her we were supposed to have left for Florida today. And now we’re on hold with our plans and we don’t know what’s happening. She said she’ll try to get John on the schedule, but we doubt that it’ll happen. Maybe next week, she said. Maybe? This is absurd.

So I called the surgeon’s nurse. I spoke with her at length about my concerns and fears. I explained that we are willing to pick up John’s CTs, test results, and blood work, and head to Florida or somewhere… Mayo, Johns Hopkins, etc.

The results have been the same… even to get his tests, we need to wait until Monday.

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Hap-hap-happy Anniversary

Today’s our 24th anniversary.

Although we had hoped John would have had his procedure by now and he’d be in the hospital, he’s still home. (Maybe tomorrow? Maybe Monday? Who knows?) We’ll probably go out for a nice dinner.

We will probably go to Heatherfield’s at Bay Valley. I’m all for a filet mignon (probably petite) with a nice salad.

Hopefully we’ll hear from the doctor today we we’ll know what’s happening with John’s procedure. Yesterday the word was that it’ll be either tomorrow or Monday. Hopefully it’s tomorrow. We’ve been stalled for nearly two weeks of re-scheduled dates. That’s inexcuseable!

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John was bumped

Open heart surgeries trumped John’s lung biopsy, so he didn’t have his procedure done today as we’d hoped. We were called last night and warned that the doctor was over-booked. They had us wait at home and at noon decided to cancel it for today. The doctor was tied up with emergency open heart operations. Tomorrow it probably won’t happen (he needs to fast for 12 hours) and he hasn’t been scheduled yet, but hopefully Thursday or Friday we’ll get back on the surgical schedule.

He played the “We’re-waiting-to-leave-for-Florida” card today and that seemed to get folks moving. At least they’re saying they’ll really try to get him in this week. (Of course that’s what they said about having it done before Labor Day which didn’t happen.)

Today I discovered that we’ll lose a free night at our favorite Red Roof, if we don’t use our free coupon before November 13yh. So that’s a little extra incentive to go down there.

And tonight John admitted that if he was in Florida, he’d probably feel lots better. He’d be living the “good life” and relaxing more.

So we hope he’ll have the procedure by Friday. We’d definitely like to get outta here by the end of September. If he goes in this week, he’ll be out about Monday. That would give him almost three weeks to finish up here, and hopefully get on a treatment plan with his pulmonary specialist.

But nothings in stone. We might have to wait until December.

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Labor Day and Looking Ahead..

We just received an invitation to go over to our friend George’s house this afternoon for a cook-out.

Eating together seems to be all that our social life consists of in Michigan.

By contrast, in Florida, we go to dances, house parties and socialize at the Club House, walk the beach and go places (like Busch Gardens) I do miss Florida!

When John gets out of the hospital with the results from his biopsy, we’ll make the decision about when we’ll head South. Right now weather here is so perfect, that there’s not much incentive. I predict when the temps drop 50 degrees, the lure of Florida will be much greater!

We have options. If we can get away by the end of the month, I’m all for heading to Florida. That would give us six weeks before we have to drive back to be with our club for their holiday performances. But if we are still here into October, we might as well stay in Michigan until our last holiday gig which will be mid-December.

We haven’t been in Michigan during the fall since 2004. We have obligations here that we can fulfill (the ODPC board meeting and our music club practices, lawn clean-up, and working on the house) but the stuff we do in Florida is tons more fun.

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Nice Visit

John’s daughter, Audra, came over this afternoon with her “significant other” Dave. He’s quiet but seems like a very nice guy. I can see why they’re a couple.

We talked and talked. Early evening John fired up the grill for burgers, corn on the cob, lots of chips of various types, fresh tomatoes, and homemade apple pie. Everything was great.

I know John was pleased to have such a nice visit. Hope she comes more often. She’s lovely.

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John’s procedure will be September 8th

We finally got word that John will be admitted Tuesday, September 8th. (That’s the day after Labor Day.) He’ll have to check in at about 9:00 for a 12:45 surgery.

He couldn’t get into St. Mary’s (where I’d have had pull) but instead he’ll be at Covenant Medical. They’re a good facility but we’d have preferred going to St. Mary’s.

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Last Wednesday John went to the surgeon who evaluated all the tests that have been run since May when he realized he had a health problem. His two CTs and blood work were taken into consideration as well as his computer lung function tests. It was definitely decided that John needs a lung biopsy.

We suggested that it be anytime after Tuesday of this week. With John’s commitment to the festival from Thursday through Sunday and a day to rest up, we felt that would be best.

We expected to hear from the doctor’s scheduler Monday. It’s now Wednesday and we have yet to find out when it will happen.

I’ve called them three times – the last time was this morning. Most of the time I only got voice mail, but this time I guess I showed that our patience is wearing thin. The office person did call back and said she hoped to get back to me this afternoon with a date. She said the surgeon who will be doing the procedure has been out of town. She still hoped that it would be before Labor Day.

But now another day as passed. It’s nearly 6:00 p.m. so we won’t hear until tomorrow at the earliest. That means it’ll be Friday before he can go into the hospital. After the procedure, he’ll be staying four days.

I’m worried. I’ve been reading the statistics. If it proves to be pulmonary fibrosis, that’s a life-threatening disease. I am so scared!!

We also have a scheduling problem. A couple months ago, we promised to do a luncheon performance at the Castle Museum Tuesday (the 8th) at noon – the day after Labor Day.

It’ll be an easy play. I’ll do most of the talking – describing the history of hammered dulcimers. But John is necessary. He does the playing. If we don’t hear by tomorrow, I’ll call and cancel out. I have warned the lady who invited us that we may have back out. We’ve never missed a performance before. At least this one is only for a handful of folks (probably under a dozen), but we still feel badly. There’s still a faint chance because maybe, with the holiday, he won’t be scheduled until mid week.

So we’re waiting…. and waiting….

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Home with lovely weather!

Wouldn’t you know it. This week is going to be lovely!!

I’m glad, but it sure would have been nice if we’d had more pleasant weather for our Midland Dulcimer Festival. It was really cold and very wet!

I can’t say that it affected the spirit of the musicians. They seemed willing to play regardless. There was no shortage of wonderful music flowing in our bedroom window after we’d turned in. But I did notice that folks went inside earlier. I know the nights I tried to stay out, my feet were cold, and others said that their fingers froze.

We turned in earlier most nights than usual because of John’s health problem. It didn’t seem sensible to push our weary bodies to the wee hours. We were tired at 11:00 so we went inside. Everyone knows that the Skaryds welcome folks who continue playing all night. When we go inside, it doesn’t signal the wrap up of music. We love it and complain only when it ends too soon. The latest night was Friday when the tunes continued until about 2:00. It wakes us up when there’s silence. We grumbled because it didn’t go on longer.

But back to the weather. This this week it will be perfect (mid to high 70’s). We were a week early!

Of course this weekend is Labor Day, so many folks will enjoy their last summer fling.

We’re waiting to hear when John will be going to St. Mary’s of Saginaw for his lung biopsy. We were fairly sure it would be tomorrow, but we haven’t heard anything. The surgeon’s office is supposed to call us today. I have a hunch they’ll stall until after Labor Day.

John’s grapes haven’t ripened yet anyway. Maybe in the extra week they’ll be ready for picking.

We had originally planned to head to Florida on September 12th, but now we’re aiming for the 19th. Even that date is definitely flexible.

Both of us have long-awaited physician appointments scheduled for Tuesday, September 22nd in Florida (which we requested last April). We’d like to make it by then, but we may have to change those dates. We will defiinitely be flexible. with our departure. John’s health is paramont.

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Music Warms Things

Last night there was music ’til the wee hours in the canopy outside our trailer.

John had enclosed our canopy on three sides with tarps so it was as warm in that enclosure as you could hope for while allowing listeners to enjoy. We were actually pretty cozy.

A good size jammin’ group gathered fairly early. They made high-spirited, lively music. There were maybe ten hammered dulcimers, a half dozen back up. They played until about midnight. Early in their jam, it was fun to watch the layers of clothing shed as folks warmed up up-beat music tempo.

For about a 15 minutes, the area was empty and then Picks and Sticks moved in. They played great music. In fact, I enjoyed it so much, I found myself listening and not wanting to go to sleep.

For the earlier part of the evening, we had a break in the rain, but it started up again sometime while the music was being played.

Today there’s a 40% chance of rain. The high today will 66.

It really doesn’t make much sense. They say 40% chance of rain, but it’s raining now. (To me that means there’s a 100% chance.)

Today the festival schedule shows workshops starting at 9:00 a.m. At 2:00 the afternoon stage show will begin and it’ll end about 5:00. We will have a dinner break from 5:00-6:15. From 6:15-6:35 Jolly Hammers (the host dulcimer club) will take the stage. Announcements will be made from 6:35-6:45. The evening show will begin at 6:45. The show should be over by about 10:00. Looks like a great line up.

While the shows are going on in the Gerstacker Building, there’ll be lots of jamming in the campground.

Hopefully everyone stays dry and warm. I’m going to wear multiple layers topped off with a warm sweater and jacket. Glamour is out the window.

I emcee the 6:45-10:00 stage show, so I suppose I should think about washing my hair this afternoon, but I am sure think the audience will accept me as I am… dirty hair and all.

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Rain in Midland

Right now the Midland Dulcimer Festival goers have been dodging raindrops. It’s rained for the past couple of hours but it seems to be clearning up. Despite the lousy weather, we have a wonderful crowd and in fact we’re running out of admission ribbons.

Folks are smiling and seem to be having a great time.

We’d all prefer sunny skies and balmy temps, but we’re making the best of the lousy weather.

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If it’s Thursday, it must be the first day of the Festival

All the days have run together and are a blur. I guess today is Thursday. That means that tonight we’ll have a huge potluck and the festival will officially begin.

Last night we had our Haithco Concert/Jam and it was a ball! I don’t know why some nights are more fun, even with the same people. Last night was spontaneous and giggly.

Tonight we will jam, I’m sure. A bunch of good players are here and even if it’s cool, I predict great sounds from the canopy in front of our trailer.

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Tonight’s the Haithco Concert

John and I are in Saginaw for the afternoon, having left the management of the Midland Dulcimer Festival in Margaret’s capable hands and with the able assistance of the Conklins and others.

John has a couple of doctor appointments, and I’m trying to clear out my email by using some hot-spots.

Tonight at 7:00 Sub-Strings and friends will gather at Haithco Park for the third in our series of summer concerts. It’s always fun. If you need a map to the Haithco Park, or to the rain location (which is at Wescourt), you can find it at

Hope we have a huge crowd.

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At the Midland Fairgrounds

We temporarily “live” at the Midland Fairgrounds. At least this week.

We’re presenting the Midland Dulcimer Festival Thursday-Sunday and arrived today to get stuff organized. It’s a huge undertaking.

The festival is always fun but exhausting. We will see good friends and play lots of great music.

I probably won’t be sending many messages from the fairgrounds. And my plan to have a VoIP phone won’t work, since the wifi access isn’t working.

But I figured I’d take advantage of a decent connection right now and post.

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Our old dog, Willow!

Willow was born in 1996 June. We’ve had her since 1997. She’s been a good dog. She’s a long-coat chihuahua of astrocratic breeding. Cute as a button but never loveable to anyone but the two of us (and sometimes not even me).

But now she’s getting old. She’s still cute but blind in one eye and has a major heart condition. Nevertheless, she has a comfortable life and seems to enjoy her existence. But tonight, when she was getting her bath so she’d be ready for the Midland Dulcimer Festival, she fussed at John when he tried to blow her dry. Previously being blown dry was something that Willow loved. She would complain when the warm air was shut off, but tonight she fussed and complained because John was blowing it at her.

I guess we have to admit our sweet dog is a cranky old lady. She never liked anyone, but now she bitches at us at any excuse.

We realize she’s not any spring chicken. She is slow to move around and she complains often when she needs to move. We want her to be comfortable and we think we’ve accommplished that, but I’m worried about her. She’s not as good as she was about using her paper (she’s always been extremely well trained but occasionally now the paper in the Utility Room is just too far away for her so she misses it.) She is bitchy. She limps around and sometimes can’t even get up.

Yup, she’s just about like her owner.

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One more packing day

Tomorrow we’ll finish filling up our trailer. I’ll run the vacuum and make up the bed with fresh bedding, the refrigerator will be packed, I’ll go through our “must pack list” and Monday a.m. we’ll take off for the Fairgrounds where the Midland Dulcimer Festival will be held.

John’s having another breathing test at his pulmonary specialist’s office in Saginaw Monday at 12:45 p.m. so after we arrive at the Midland Fairgrounds about 9:30 a.m. and drop off the trailer, we’ll quickly drive back to the Saginaw doctor. We’ll also use the opportunity to pick up the copy machine. We should be back to the Midland Fairgrounds by about 4:00 p.m..

I look forward to Monday (late afternoon), Tuesday and early Wednesday to “settle in.” I plan to get everything in place so we’re ready for the onslaught of activity from Thursday through Saturday.

I know the Midland Festival is extremely exhausting and this year John can’t tolerate a lot, so I’m planning to protect him.

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We’ll have a house phone at the Fairgrounds

Next week, at the Midland Dulcimer Festival, we should be able to receive our phone calls using the same phone number we use at home, and we’ll have unlimited phone service. It may sound like I’m just talking about “forwarding to a cellphone,” which is nothing unique, but I’m talkig about having our wired “land line phones” working within our trailer. At least that’s my plan.

If I have access to high speed internet through Boingo, it should work. Boingo’s website shows they provide high speed wireless which is compatible with VOIP. That’s what we’ll need from the Midland Fairgrounds. (Boingo is a $9.95 monthly service that is available most everywhere.)

John and I use a fairly complex but very cheap phone set-up for our landline(s). By cheap, I mean under $24 for two phone lines with unlimited service.

Our cellphone service is an old $15 a month pay-as-you-go plan which only gives us about an hour a month. Last year, although I tried to watch our phoning, I spent considerably more than the $15 on cellphone calls during the festival, and this year we’ll be there for two additional days.

Our main house phone line is through Vonage with the number 989-781-0849. Vonage uses a device (a small box) which plugs into most high speed internet modems and then a “cord” phone is plugged into that device. Using Vonage gives us our 989-781-0849 number which rings either in Michigan or Florida, depending on where we have the Vonage box plugged in.

But we also have a second phone number. It’s a Hillsborough County, Florida area code (813-398-4135). Anyone living in Hillsborough County can call us as a local call at no charge. We purchased that number and the service to support it for $99 for five years, but now it’s even less. The service is called MagicJack ( MagicJack subscribers can pick out a phone number using the area code where you want the phone to originate. We use it as a second line.

We forward the MagicJack to the Vonage, or the Vonage to the MagicJack. Whichever the situation requires.

Most of the time we have MagicJack set so that our Florida phone line (813) “forwards” to our Michigan home phone system (989). Those calling us on either line, see 989-781-0849 on the caller I.D. Calling either of our phone numbers (989 or 813) is just a “local” call for people in either area.

I’m hoping to use the MagicJack while at the Midland Fairgrounds using Boingo as the high-speed service. Our home phone number can be set to forward to MagicJack. The caller I.D. will show the 813 number.

If it works, we’ll have regular phone service (in fact two phone lines) at the fairgrounds – A price tag of less than $24 monthly for both.

How cool is that?!!

Stop by and see how it works.

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Midland Dulcimer Festival

2008 Midland Dulcimer FestivalNext week we’re moving to the Midland Fairgrounds. We’ll live in our fifth wheel from Monday until Sunday. John’s a co-chairman of this event. I’ll play hostess, manage the copy machine and act as Saturday night’s stage show emcee. We’ll both be exhausted when it’s over.

Generally we draw a nice crowd. Let’s hope the economy doesn’t impact attendance.

Margaret Loper, the other co-chairman, organizes the workshops and, like John, works hard keeping everything flowing. It’s a great event!
The evening jams are always lots of fun. The photo (above) shows a 2008 jam outside our trailer.

I wish we had John’s diagnosis. He always over-does it at this event. It would be so much better if we had some answers.

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No real news but at least no bad news

John went to a pulmonary specialist today (Dr. Indira). She ran tests on him for more than an hour. It’s obvious that his lungs aren’t working correctly. A CT scan had been done in May but apparently at that time they were looking for a blood clot and there was none, but they didn’t tell him that the scan results showed severe damage. His new pulmonary doctor, Dr. Indira, has ordered another more detailed scan tomorrow as well as additional blood work.

He has scar tissue and calcium deposits in his lungs. He has very limited lung capacity. He showed a score of “1” but Dr. Indira said that score has to be wrong because he wouldn’t be walking around if he really has such limited lung capacity.

There are several things that could be causing these problems. She (the doctor) mentioned asbestosis or a fungal infection, but there are other reasons for these kinds of problems that cause the lungs to cease functioning. She may do a biopsy to determine what is causing the problems. Apparently folks can function fairly well with lung capacity that’s below normal (normal should be about 75.) But when it gets down below 50 the problems become apparent. When it drops below 50 they really feel it. That could have been what happened to make him feel it “came on all of the sudden.”

At least his doctor is taking his condition very seriously. John and I knew it was serious without her confirmation, but now someone else is concerned.

There are two things which have been “ruled out”: heart problems and cancer. Cancer was my fear but she is fairly certain it’s something else. She said that the sooner she can find the cause and start the treatment the better John’s chance of gaining back some of his lung capacity (which her tests showed is extremely extremely limited).

The news wasn’t good, but I was so afraid that it would be even worse, that I’m feeling great relief. The doctor is taking a very pro-active approach. I am certain she’ll get the answers which will help improve his health.

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Hotter than Hot

Today our car thermometer read 99 degrees when we left John’s family reunion. There’d been no A.C. in the hall and with about 75 folks and lots of hot food, we sweltered. Thank heavens we had more than a half-dozen large floor fans which kept the air circulating.

John and his siblings organized everything. We’d been assigned the responsibility for the cold beverages (in addition to our potluck dishes). We brought lemonade, iced tea (made from real steeped teabags), and lots of 2 liter bottles of carbonated soft drinks. We returned home with more than half of what we’d taken but it was a nice dinner. I’m still so full I don’t think I ever want to eat again!

We got home late afternoon, watched Tiger Woods lose the PGA tournament, and relaxed. It’s hard to think about doing anything outside when it’s so hot. John mentioned that since we live on a lake we should take a “swim” but Lake Cecil (where we llive) is a better lake for paddling around in a boat. Swimming isn’t all that great with a clay bottom and a drop off. Instead we enjoyed the cool interior and relaxed.

Tomorrow John goes to the pulmonary specialist. I hope he gets some answers. I’m praying for a diagnosis that can be cured so he’ll soon be his old self. His symptoms: feeling lousy, no stamina, extreme shortness of breath, weight loss and taking a deep breath results in a cough. Heart problems have been ruled out. He’s had a CT scan of his lungs. He’s been treated for asthma but there was no change. Sure hope prayer helps.

A week from tomorrow we leave for the Midland Dulcimer Festival. Four weeks from tomorrow, we should arrive at our place in Florida.

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Counting Down

Four weeks from tomorrow we are scheduled to leave for Florida. Of course it all depends on John’s health. He goes to the pulmonary specialist Monday and hopefully we’ll know more.

There are home improvement projects which definitely won’t be completed, but they’ll wait.

The biggest pending job is re-siding our house with vinyl. We had just nicely gotten started when we realized we had some of the wrong materials. We’ve had to wait two weeks for our order for the missing stuff to be shipped. We’d like to complete the side we have been working on, but the rest can wait. Since we picked siding that matches exactly the old vertical stuff that is on the house, when we stop, it’ll look complete. In fact, we’ve been asked if we are using the cedar shake wall as an accent. Eventually we’ll do the whole house, but it would have worked to just do the one wall.

If John’s health isn’t up to such a huge project, we’ll hire someone to complete it. It kinda feels like we’ve bitten off more than we can chew. He’s determined, but I’m not much help and doing it alone will be more than he can handle. As he has pointed out, it doesn’t matter when we finish the job, but eventually it will look grand.

Today some of the back-ordered materials arrived, but by the time we picked up the order and returned home, the temperature was in the mid-80’s and since we’d be working on the west side of the house, we knew it would be too hot. We’ll try tomorrow a.m.

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Snowfest 2010

Since 1994, John and I have organized the popular Snowfest Concerts. This event has been held in Frankenmuth, MI, at Fischer Hall the same weekend as the National Ice and Snow Sculpting competitionss which bring massive crowds to that tourist community. The concerts have benefited the Frankenmuth Historical Museum.

We’ve presented this event 15 of the past 16 years! It’s been an incredible run. We have attracted standing room only crowds every year. It’s been lively fun, and the music has been phenomenal! The format has always included large “jams” and fabulous showcase acts (professionals who donate their time).

In 2010, the Snowfest weekend will be January 30 and 31. Although we have loved playing host, it’s time for someone else to take the reins. It’s been harder and harder to ask our dulcimer club (Subterranean Strings) to provide the necessary support. It’s been exhausting for everyone.

The concerts have a really wonderful reputation. It took all of our energy plus the whole club to do it the way it was formatted. And over the past few years, our club membership has been made up of about 50% “snowbirds” who also head to Florida. Therefore, it’s been harder to pull together the necessary manpower from the club’s membership. Last year, we cut it from a two-day event to only one SEVEN-hour event. But our folks aren’t getting any younger and SEVEN hours is just too much to ask of them or us.

We realized John and I could no longer do it. But we wanted to be sure that the wonderful acoustic music, which has been the signature of the Snowfest Concerts, continued.

We have found the perfect replacement event for that Saturday, January 30th. Dee Dee Tibbits is going to organize an event which will fill Fischer Hall with wonderful music. It will be totally different than the event which we presented over the past 16 years.

The museum management is supportive of whatever format this event follows. It’ll be up to Dee Dee to decide just what will be offered. Knowing her wonderful talent, it will be grand. She plays dulcimer, whistle, harp, hurdy gurdy, and many other instruments. Her group, Sonas, which is a polished Celtic trio will help her with the day.

So mark your calendars for a wonderful music event in lovely Fischer Hall, Frankenmuth, MI. The 2010 Snowfest Concert on Saturday, January 30th, is going to be awesome!

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90+ degrees – Humidity 98%

This summer has been the coldest on record but today it’s extremely humid and over 90 degrees.

Some nearby areas reported as much as 6″ of rain yesterday. It doesn’t look like we got that much here in Saginaw, but Gladwin, where we were camping, probably got 3″ and it was a muddy mess!

This weekend’s event was Gladwin’s Carriage Days. Our club played for three days and stayed at the fairgrounds in the camping area. This morning we entertained a historic encampment. At noon we were the guests of a local assisted living residence facility where we enjoyed lunch, and then played for them. We were back at the Gladwin fairgrounds by about 2:00. We packed up and headed home. We’re both tired. It’s not easy on us “old folks” to break down a campsite and stow the stuff away when it’s that HOT.

We left Charlie (our cockatiel) home alone. He was safe and well fed, but when we walked in the door, he was really glad to see us! He’s been chattering non-stop. (His vocabulary is limited, but he does a great “Hi, Charlie!” and “What’s happening?”) We don’t normally leave him home alone, but since it was just an extended weekend, we thought it would be easier on him. He sure missed us.

This upcoming week will be spend here at home. We don’t perform and don’t have any commitments. We’d like to work on our siding project, provided our materials come in. I have an appointment to get my hair cut Thursday. Other than that, nothing is demanding our attention. Next Sunday is John’s family reunion.

Five weeks from today we should be half-way to Florida. I say that optimistically because it all depends on John’s health. He has an appointment a week from tomorrow and hopefully he’ll get some answers.

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Gladwin Rain

This weekend, Saginaw Subterranean Strings has been playing at the Gladwin Fairgrounds for Gladwin Carriage Days. We had a good performance yesterday afternoon, and we’ve enjoyed our time with the folks who are members of the club. Our members are here in about 10 camping units. A few have driven in for the day, so we had a good sized group.

Unfortunately today it’s raining hard. We had planned to fix a waffle breakfast for the crowd, but the rain has caused us to postpone our plans.



I lost my connection so I couldn’t finish my “report.” We did have the breakfast about 10:00. We fed 18-20 folks. It rained the whole time, but it’s now nearly 11:30. At 2:30 we play in the dining room.

This weekend has been a fun get-together of friends. It’s still raining, but we’ll make the most of it.

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Worrying about John

I’m a caring wife. I love my husband and want him to be well. He isn’t up to par now and that’s bothering me.

Like a mother bear protecting her cub, I went to bat for John the other day. When the doctor he had been referred to was going to stall him for two months before seeing him, I got on the phone and found an excellent doctor who would take him on the 17th. It helps that I worked in the healthcare environment for over 23 years! But even waiting two weeks is too long!

I watch him trying to keep up with day to day chores. It’s a struggle for him to “keep going.” That’s not my husband’s style. He needs to find out what’s wrong.

I am upset with the local doctors. He’s had several appointments with the doctor who has been directing his care. It’s not his primary care physician but that doctor has been treating John’s skin condition for a couple years and is an internist. Since John had been to see that doctor every few weeks, he explained his problems to that physician. Correctly he was sent for a lung CT scan and then other tests. But no one seems to really care. Where’s Dr. House when you need him?

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Short Summer

During an on-stage performance at the Evart dulcimer festival, a performer mentioned that he had observed that Michigan has very short summers — ONE day. (That week it was only comfortable on Wednesday or maybe it was Thursday, and after that we froze.)

He’s close to being accurate about this whole summer. It’s been unseasonably cool. Temperatures have rarely gotten even into the mid 70’s, and the 60’s are a lot more common.

This morning it’s rainy and in the mid-60’s. We understand it might get to 80 over the next few days.

We have a camping weekend with our club starting Thursday, so hopefully it’ll warm up and dry out before then.

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Together Alone

In my last blog entry, I mentioned out neighborhood get together last night and how we felt that we didn’t know anyone.

Our friend, Diane, said it’s not us. And it’s not our neighborhood. It’s the whole mind-set in this part of Michigan. She and I talked about it in May. She doesn’t live very close to us. (They are near Auburn.) She told me how she and her husband (Bob) have attempted to make friends in their church, where they’re very active, but all the folks they’ve approached are busy with families.

She suggested that we should get together, and I agreed. But Bob and Diane live nearly 45 minutes away and they’re often out of town visiting their family. So we haven’t gotten together with them. They’re a nice couple, I’d like it, but somehow now, it would feel forced.

Florida is different. In Florida we get together several times a week with friends. We usually meet and talk at the pool and then suggest a get-together. It’s a fun, relaxed way of life. Someone will say, “We’re going out to dinner. Want to join us?” Things happen. We rarely feel bored and certainly never lonely.

I love Michigan. This area is lovely. But we’re alone … together but alone.

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Neighborhood Party

We had a neighborhood get-together tonight complete with live entertainment: a very good country vocalist/keyboardist. Everyone brought a dish to pass. It was nice talking with neighbors but sadly we know very few folks here on our little lake. I guess part of it is because many are younger than us. They have families. Maybe it’s just the way things are. It seemed like we were among strangers, yet we’ve lived here for over 23 years! I did get to chat with our nearest neighbor. She seems very nice and friendly.

The weather was lousy (rainy and cool). The setting was lovely but we were getting wet. John ended up putting up some of out tarps to keep the rain and wind out. It cut down the view but everyone welcomed them and the temperature was noticeably warmer.

We had lots of positive comments about our siding project. We didn’t realize everyone noticed.

I came away wanting to fix the place up even more than I did before.

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Siding our House

to be covered up
A couple of weeks ago (just before we went to Evart), John ordered nearly $6,000 worth of siding to replace the exterior of our house. We’ve lived here for 23 years and the siding has always presented problems. It was what’s called T111 siding. It is basically plywood and looks like vertical siding. It may have been ok back in the late 1980’s when we built the house, but it’s required plugs (where the siding had knots), and painting/staining. Another real problem has been that woodpeckers love the bugs that hide out in the channels under the main layer. Therefore we have little holes in rows going horizonally across our house. It’s almost like a row of machine gun shots. John’s filled them, but that results in an unappealing stripe. Also the paint on the siding has faded creating dark panels. You can see the discoloration in my photo above.

This early summer, John converted a small covered porch behind our garage to a storage area. At that time, we needed to match the siding on the addition to make it look like it really fit the house. But putting more of the T111 siding just didn’t sit well with us. We hated it. Not only that, but T111 siding wasn’t availabile any longer.

the siding project
So we decided to go with vinyl 9″ shakes (in natural clay). Now our small project has become a project that involves the whole house.

It’s a big investment but we think it’ll add value to our house. We’ve already replaced the roof with roofing shingles which should last through our lifetime and once we finish this, we plan to revamp the kitchen completely and add hardwood floors in great room, dining room, kitchen and half bath. We may even re-do the master bath and enlarge our closet. When all projects are complete, we want our house to be what we want. (Besides life is best when you have things you’re “looking forward to.”)

So today we started installing the siding.

When John said he needed help, I went to assist him and we worked together. The temperature of the siding was 130 degrees, so you can tell how hot it was where we were working, but we stuck with it until we got through the first half of a square (half of 10 x 10 foot).

It really looks nice! I’m so glad we went with what we really wanted and didn’t compromise.

By adding new vinyl siding, the house will be maintenance-free. (A huge selling-point, if we ever decide to put our place on the market.)

I’ll be happy if it’s complete by next year at this time. As I said, we have other jobs waiting in the wings. I will show before and after photos here when we get more finished.

We want to re-do our chimney too. (It is now a wooden “chase” which means it’s boxed in with T111.) Our plan is to use synthetic stone to match the real field stone that we used on the front of the house. That should be a nice touch. At least we’re trying to make improvements.

Note: For many of you who follow this blog, you probably wonder why I’m showing our “siding project.” It’s not especially exciting, but this blog is a way I show stuff to my daughter (Kelly) who lives in Florida. So the blog includes the fun stuff, and the dull. It’s all part of our life.

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Paper Trail

Today I spent much of the day on line writing reports, emails and letters. It seems that I can’t catch up.

When I pass on, they’re going to find that the whole world can re-grow forests because I won’t there to use up paper. (Of course today most of my correspondece was digital.)

John is planning to re-side our house. He’d been advised by the local Menard’s home improvement store but they advised him incorrectly and he special ordered a lot of stuff that he has now found won’t work. It’ll take another week and a half to get the correct starter strips. So he re-ordered and I help with on-line searches. Stuff like that always takes lots longer than one would think. Seems we were tied up most of the afternoon.

I also completed my financial report for the ODPC funfest, wrote my workshop leader article for the newsletter, and resolved our financial/banking reports. It was a busy day, but there’s little to show for it.

Jim, my “new” sweet brother (read “Family Matters” to the right at the top of this blog) contacted me to tell me that he’s now a grandfather of William John (who will be called Will). He was so excited and I was so glad to hear from him!

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John’s health

I’m worried about my sweet husband John’s health. He hasn’t felt well for several months. He’s been to the doctor numerous times and had a CT scan of his chest and an echo cardiogram Thursday. So far no answers. I’m scared for him. He has no stamina. It’s not a normal condition for him. He’s lost a lot of weight and he feels yucky. He has a cough. It’s obvious that he has some kind of respiratory/pulmonary problem.

My fear is that it’s asbestos related because he was exposed to asbestos for the first five or so years of his working life.

I’m scared. I have looked up pulmonary problems on-line and many are very serious. I know he is concerned.

But we’re continuing to try to find answers and we won’t give up until he’s well.

We have so many chores on our platter: performances, camping weekend, house projects, yard work. Because of severe allergies I am very limited in what I can do to lighten his load outside but I’m darned good protecting him.

I just hope they determine what’s wrong with him so we can get him on a treatment plan so he’ll soon be back to his active self.

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Bullet Story Over-Shadows Our Festival

Cadillac News Bullet Story (link)

The story about the stray bullets hitting the fairgrounds where we were holding the 37th Annual ODPC Funfest (aka Evart Dulcimer Festival) has been more talked about than the wonderful time which was had by all.

The festival was grand. We had 564 campers, about 5,000 attendees, 203 workshops, fun that was not able to be measured but exceeded our expectations.

We’ve re-hashed the tale of those three stray bullets every which way. We’ll all be surprised if there wasn’t even more damage done. Folks may not realize they have a hole in their trailer or vehicle roof for some time.

John and I are still tired today. It takes longer and longer to recover.

I just spend about 45 minutes on the phone with the IRS. I’m still trying to get the refund from my deceased mother’s 2008 taxes. I need to get it straightened out so I can close out her accounts. It all needs to be done before the end of August since that’s when her fiscal year ends. (Her refund check was cut and sent in May, but it went into someone else’s account (because Mom’s accountant put the wrong account number on the return for direct deposit). We’re now trying to get the IRS to get it back and cut the check for Mom’s account.) I’ve spent dozens of hours trying to get this problem straightened out. At least we know where the money is.

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Home and TIRED!

We’re back home. We were at the festival for about ten days.

The weather didn’t cooperate. It was a tad rainy, and felt more like November than July. We froze while watching stage shows, and didn’t play much. Part of the reason we didn’t play was because John wasn’t feeling well, and I was glad to just spend time with him listening, or even turning in early.

We had huge crowds! Everything purred and we couldn’t have been more satisfied.

But yesterday it was really scary. There was a target range about two miles from the fairgrounds. Apparently the owner obtained a permit to shoot off some large caliber ‘munitions. We were annoyed by the noise rom before noon through the afternoon.

About 3:15 one of the ladies came running up to me. A bullet had gone through a trailer and had taken out the window. The damage was only a window and a hole in the ceiling, but it could have been so much worse.

As it turned out a truck was also damaged with a bullet hole, and a bullet was found after it had hit the ground.

The president of the ODPC, the fairground administration, and law officials are involved. Hopefully they’ll make sure nothing similar ever happens.

But the rest of the festival was a grand event. We had all positive comments. Everyone was really satisfied.

I’ll be posting photos, but for now you can check out those I’ve posted at

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We’re Here in “Hammer Heaven”

We’re here at the world’s largest gathering of hammered dulcimers. Right now the festival is still four days away so lots of folks have yet to arrive.

Hammered Dulcimer
It’s held at a the Osceola County Fairgrounds in the north central part of Michigan’s lower peninsula. About 8,000 people show up for this event which is truly unique. Hammered dulcimers “rule”.

I just found out that the National Taiwanese Yangchin champion. (The Yangchin is the Far East version of our hammered dulcimer.) She is coming to Evart to learn the hammered dulcimer. She’ll also be on stage Friday night to perform for us.

The festival costs $3 and is a three and a half day experience. Admission includes attendance any (or all) of the 205 workshops, the stage shows (which are plentiful), and access to everything going on on the grounds.

Right now I’m listening to two lovely harps play a duet (Chuck Boody and Martha Kuch).

Next door there are five or six hammered dulcimers, and just a few trailers the other direction from us, a lively “fast” jam featuring the Kaiser Family and Jim Rathbun are playing spirited fiddle tunes.

This morning John invited everyone over for a waffle breakfast. Others brought eggs, sausage, juice, fresh pineapple, orange juice and of course lots of coffee. We had about 35 folks attend. It was a pleasant way to start the day.

Today it’s a tad cool (about 68) and very windy. We’re not complaining. Too many years it’s been nearly 100 without a breath of air. We’ve attended for about 18 years (I’ll have to look up the exact date). I do know this is my 14th year to be in charge of workshops.

It’s a time to be with friends. We all go away with an “over-load” of dulcimer music, vowing to improve our own playing skills.

I’ll write more later this week. We’ll be here until next Sunday (a week from today).

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Tomorrow we “move” to Evart

Our 5th wheel
The trailer’s almost ready to go. It’s after 9:00 p.m., we’ve been at it all day. What a chore. It’s like moving. We bring everything: chairs galore for the workshop leader area, munchies and food, clothes for any weather, lots of office supplies, sewing and first aid emergency kits, books, software, musical instruments. The list goes on and on.

I hate the packing process, but once we’re in our fifth wheel, it’s really comfy. For a trailer, it’s nice. It’s definitely not new a new one, but very attractive and roomy. We’ll live in it for the next ten days.

We always forget something. One year it was the extra toner cartridge. One year it was a tent we’d promised to loan to friends. Those times we had to drive back home (it’s about 85 miles one way) to get the forgotten items. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen this time but we’ve given up hope that we will remember everything. Even with my huge list.

We’ll camp two more times this summer (at Carriage Days in Gladwin, MI, and at the Midland Dulcimer Festival, Midland, MI.) Those times it’ll be easier. We will leave everything possible in the trailer from now until we pack for Florida in September (and even then, much of the stuff will stay in the trailer over the winter). Today was tough and I’m tired. Tomorrow, when we’ve arrived and we have our campsite organized, it’ll all be worth it.

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Brakes Broke

We were originally planning to go to Evart today, but instead we decided to leave early Friday.

This morning we took our 2004 GMC truck to pick up all of the boxes of programs and the rented copy machine. Of course that’s the truck which we use to pull our fifth wheel.

John noticed the brakes on the truck were acting weird. An alarm started sounding and a warning light came on. A quick check of the owner’s manual had a warning that this was SERIOUS. John stopped at Meijers and checked the brake fluid level. It was low so he bought a quart of fluid and filled up the reservoir. The warning light went out, everything seemed fine and we continued on our shopping.

But after we’d spent some time in a store, we came out to find a puddle of brake fluid under the truck. The warning light came on again. John put more in the reservoir and we headed to a garage to have the brake lines replaced. Our vehicle won’t be ready until tomorrow.

If we had been heading to the festival, we would have had our problem in a remote area on our way to Evart and there wouldn’t have been a convenient, familiar garage to do the repair. Thank heavens we were always safe.

We have the workshop programs. They look great. Next year, my goal is to do a revamp of the front cover, but this year, with all of the changes, we wanted to keep things the same.

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Fun 4th

Last year, we had another couple stop over for the 4th of July celebration, but tonight will be very cool, so we decided it’s best that it’s just the two of us.

We’ll bar-be-que a lovely steak dinner on the deck with baked potatoes, corn on the cob, and lots of wine. Then we’ll enjoy fireworks.

We spent the day on the deck, taking in the pleasant weather and relaxing.

deck facing east

deck facing west

our lake on 4th of July

Our Michigan home is on “Lake Cecil” in Thomas Township (about 12 miles from Saginaw, 7 miles from St. Charles, 3 miles from Swan Creek, 7 miles from Hemlock). To make it simple, we’re out in the country west of the “Thumb Area” in Michigan. The man-made lake was named for Cecil Sepanski who dug and developed the subdivision around this 23-acre lake/pond. It’s 20 feet deep at it’s deepest, with two small islands. No power boats are permitted so it’s lovely and quiet. The subdivision is called “Dude Estates” after his son, Dude.

This afternoon we watched workers plant launchers in the island right in front of our property so they can shoot-off fireworks tonight.

Florida is lovely, but this time of the year, I prefer our home here where the temperature was only 73 today and a nice breeze kept things very comfortable.

Here’s a photo from 2009’s fireworks display on Lake Cecil.


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Departure Date Changed

Looks like we’ll wait until the 10th to head to the festival grounds. We’ll leave next Friday early in the day.


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Another Toe Tale

I seem to be prone to breaking my little toe(s). It’s been a couple of years since I did it, but two winters ago, I broke them twice within a month. I ran into the base of a ladder, the first of the two times. Actually I dislocated (or broke it) it to the point that the toe was a right-angles to the one next to it.

This time it may just be bruised. It’s sore and I’m limping around but it’s not as bad as it’s been when I hurt it before.

Two years ago, my friend Dr. Doug confirmed that it was undoubtedly broken. It took a couple months to heal. At his suggestion, I wore sandals most of the time after it happened. At least it’s summer this time. Sandals work.

Today I was walking from the kitchen to the dining room, trying to avoid Willow, our small dog, who moved suddenly. I caught the corner of the doorway with my left little toe. Ouch!!

A glass or two of wine will help sooth away my pain — guaranteed.

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Our many projects

John and I married in 1985. In 1986 we moved into our lovely home on Lake Cecil. It’s a small (26 acre) man-made lake in Saginaw County. The house we had built for us has been perfect. It’s not huge, but has a soaring two-story living room with a real split field stone fireplace. We have a lovely view of the lake, a room off our bedroom with a hot tub, three bedrooms and three baths, a sorta finished basement and many other lovely features.

But, for the past few years, we’ve felt our place needed to be up-dated. The exterior is T1-11 siding which is basically a form of plywood that looks like board and batten siding. (I’ve hated it from the beginning and recently the wood peckers (destructive birds) have loved to peck rows of holes across it.)

We have also found we had a shortage of storage space for John’s “work toys”. Things like the snow blower and the lawn mower no longer fit in the extra space in our limited 2-car garage.

We have decided that an under-utilized covered porch off the back of the garage could have walls added and it would be a nice (10’x7′) storage space for lawn equipment.

In June, we also replaced the roof with shingles which will last longer than we will.

When we started the covered porch addition project, we knew we would have to extend the garage siding to make it match. But as we got closer to the point where the siding needed to be added, we realized that we hated the old stuff and adding it to the new space wasn’t a good idea. So we went shopping.

We’ve evaluated all kinds of vinyl siding. We want something that is totally maintenance free. We’ve finally decided that a rough sawn look that replicates cedar shakes would look nice. It’s pricey but we love it. The color will match what is currently on our siding (called “natural clay”). We like the looks of the “rough sawn shakes.” So that’s currently the plan. The siding is expensive, but the installation is the costly part. John is firm about doing the job himself. (I’d rather hire a contractor.) He feels it can be done is stages. If he starts with the garage side, it’ll tie-in the new covered porch addition. We’ll then go to the front. The lake-side and the east end will be last but we’ll buy all the materials at the beginning to save a significant discount which we’d get if we buy it all now.

I’m sure it’ll be grand. It’ll really add to the value of our home and since the exterior will be virtually “maintenance free” the house will be much more appealing, if we ever decide to sell it.

The next project which is waiting in the wings is a total kitchen re-do. Once we finish the kitchen, the flooring in the dining room and living room will be changed to all hard-wood.

It’ll be lovely when we complete it all.

As I said, my John wants to do most of the work. I would rather see it done sooner by hiring a contracor, but he loves the challenge. So whatever he decides will be the way it’ll be done.

Oh, and then, after the siding, and the kitchen, and the hardwood floors, the next thing will be adding a stone chimney to match the front of the house.

(We have real field stone across the front of the house (as well as on the fireplace inside). The chimney chase which shows above the roof is currently just wood (T1-11 siding). Adding fake field stone to match the real stone would really make the chimney out-standing. It may not be the same material as the front, but no one could tell. Once everything else is done, when we add a fake field stone chimney, it’ll it’ll look awesome.

We just took life expectancy tests. John is expected to live to be 100. I have a 106 life expectancy. (We’re 71 and 67 respectively.) So we have close to 30 years to go. I wonder if we’ll finish our many projects?

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It’s in the can!

Or I guess you could say, “It’s a wrap.” Either phrase describes a completed project.

I FINALLY, have the Evart ODPC Workshop Program ready to go to the printer tomorrow. Whew! What a relief.

About three festivals ago, a lady stepped forward and volunteered to assist me by proofing the program. Her name is Nancy Basford and she’s been a God-send. She comes to the festival from Oak Ridge, TN, so all of our communication is done on line. She has a keen eye which is tuned to detail. She patiently corrects my many errors. She’s easy to work with and a genuinely nice person.

Before she came along, John and I would “read” the program to each other to verify that it was accurate but it was a challenge, and I know many things slipped through. I can’t begin to tell you how stressful it was on the two of us. John is not a detail person, and it drove him crazy to have to look for tiny errors that I felt were important. He has enough to do and the time it took drove him crazy, therefore much of the proofing was done just by me. It’s really hard to spot your own mistakes.

I tell everyone that Nancy saved our marriage. Although that’s an exaggeration, it does make for a much happier household.

The 2009 festival program is now completely ready. It is available for download at I just hope I don’t discover any errors after it goes to the printer. When it’s too late to do anything about problems, I don’t even want to know that I’ve made a mistake. (Ignorance is bliss.) We can always put a notice on the bulletin boards around the fairgrounds, if it’s something that makes it difficult for the attendees to understand or misdirects them.

So today I feel a real load lifted. Now I can start packing for the festival. We leave in 11 days and there’s lots to get ready.

Thanks again, Nancy, for making the job much easier.

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Hot time

Last night our Subterranean Strings Hammered Dulcimer Club played at Haithco Park for the first in our 2009 series of three summer concerts. We’ve put on these concerts since 1993 and we usually attract 300+ audience members and about 25 performers. We got the performers, but had only about 110 in our audience. The reduction in numbers was probably because the Saginaw News is no longer printed daily so the news about local entertainment doesn’t get out, but also last night was truly HOT. Sweltering!! Definitely the hottest concert we’ve ever performed at that venue. It was 97 degrees when we arrived at the park at 6:30 p.m. and it had only cooled to about 92 at 9:00 when the concert was over. We nearly melted. A light breeze kept us upright, but we were hot and dehydrated.

I also experienced an allergy attack and by the end had almost lost my voice.

So it was an evening that was uncomfortable, but we nevertheless had a good time. How could that be? I can’t tell you. It was fun. We saw old friends, got lots of hugs, had lots of thank-yous, and were really over-joyed being there.

Time is fleeing as the summer passes by. Life is like that. I wish it would slow down.

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Two weeks ’til we head to Evart

Lots to do!

We haven’t used our fifth wheel since last August so we need to get it cleaned up and checked out.

On July 8th, we’ll drive up to the Evart fairgrounds and live there for 12 days. The festival doesn’t actually start until July 16th. It’s over at noon Sunday so we get home by the evening of the 19th.

It’s the most fun we have all year. We see old friends and meet new ones.

Last year’s event was filled with strife, but this year I’m hoping the whole festival will be even more fun since it’ll be managed by new folks who are excited and up for the challenge of putting on the best festival possible. They are listening to folks and trying hard to satisfy them. (If I have any concern, it’s that the new management is “trying too hard.”)

Can’t wait.

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Practice and Party

Tonight we held our June Subterranean Strings Hammered Dulcimer Club practice.

Sub-Strings, as we’re known, got the name because, when the club was started, it seemed that all of our practices were held in “basement” locations. The name stuck. We used to take the summers off, but this year since we’re the leaders and we’ve been in Florida so much, the club has been on a “break.” Now we need to get our tunes polished up to performance quality for several gigs coming in July.

So we worked hard starting 6:45.

Jane and Bill Kuhlman

The last part of the evening featured a surprise event for our dear friends Jane and Bill Kuhlman and everyone was in on it but them. They are a lovely 91-year-old couple who celebrated a special anniversary on June 17th. They had no idea we had a party planned to honor them. At 8:20, I suggested that we practice another tune, “Anniversary Waltz.” It was a ploy. As we played, they were presented with a large cake which said “Happy 70th Anniversary Bill and Jane.” They were totally surprised.

My John had made home-made ice cream and the banana cake was beautifully decorated from the best bakery we could find…. really tasty. We also served lemonade, punch, soft drinks and coffee.

Jane and Bill's Cake

About 35 members of our club including some spouses were present.

Everyone seemed to enjoy it. We were tired at the end, but several members pitched in and helped with clean-up. They’re a good group!

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This part of Michigan is predicted to experience several days of rain. I guess we need it, but I had hoped to soak up the sun today. Instead we’re stuck inside.

I guess I shouldn’t complain. We had perfect weather for the Bavarian Parade. Both John and I rode on the Flint Banjo Club float. (John played and I was the best “waver” of the bunch – I can rile up an audience and get folks dancing, singing, waving, and clapping along.) The past few days have been flawless with pleasant breezes and moderate temperatures.

Our roof was replaced last week while I was in Florida. Weather could have been a big factor, but it wasn’t an issue.

John has been building a storage area behind our garage (enclosing a covered porch) but that can wait. He’ll finish it in good time, but it’s not something that creates a crisis.

I sure don’t want to have rain interfere with the outdoor activites we have planned for the rest of the summer: the big Evart Funfest in July, the three summer concerts on the fourth Wednesdays of June, July and August, and the Midland Dulcimer festival. We also have a camping weekend planned with our music club the second weekend of August. And we have a week scheduled for the U.P. at the end of July.

So considering all that, today’s as good a day as any for rain.

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Lost another friend

Denise Stein, (only 48 yrs. old,) one of my popular workshop leaders at the ODPC Funfest passed away this morning from leukemia.

She had been fighting the disease for about three years. She was tough, but it won.

She had a lovely voice and a spirit to match. Her voice fit the “folk music tradition.” If you’d like to hear her, you can by clicking here: Foxfire with Maggie and Denise

What a loss!

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Back home..

Yup, I’m back in Michigan. I got home last night.

Today we’ll be going to Frankenmuth for the Bavarian Festival Parade. John will be playing banjo with the Flint Banjo Club. Sometimes they have the wives ride along so fill-up the float. I don’t know if that’s the case this year, but I’ll go prepared to be a banjo lady.

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