Archive for2006-06 to 09 – Summer Happenings

End of Summer – Getting Ready for Fall – But scroll to the bottom to START this category

Only about a week and a half and we’ll be on our way south to Florida.

Our normal trip (and we’ve been making a slew of them since Mom developed Alzheimers about two years ago), has taken us straight down I-75 to our destination. Since we’ve made the trip a half dozen times down and back, we figured a change of scenery is in order, so we’re thinking about going down I-75 through Kentucky, and then heading through Tennesse, North and South Carolina and into Florida before coming back to I-75 and to Sun City Center. Our diversion will add about 90 miles to our trip, but we’ll see the Atlantic (which I haven’t encountered).

We haven’t cancelled our reservation for an over-night in Macon, Georgia, and a fairly straight shot down, but we’re probably going the longer but diverse route.

Should be interesting to go through the Smokys and see some new sights.

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I’ve been neglectful

I’m sorry.. I got so busy at the Midland festival that I never found time to write down what was happening, and then we took off for a week of camping at Rifle River. That’s where we are now.

With it being Labor Day weekend, the campground is fairly crowded. We have a near perfect campsite. The back of our trailer is within a few feet of the riverbank. Weather is in the 70’s but cool at night (low 50’s).

the view from our campsite

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Saturday at the Festival

It’s been muggy and threatening all day, but at 2:10 p.m. it’s not raining, and we’re hoping that it’ll hold off. Workshops are large. I took a ukulele one that had 39 students! Margaret Loper has really arranged a bang-up line-up of talented instructors.

We miss some of our “regulars”: Jim Rathbun, Linda Foley, Dotty Decker, Judith Lindenau, are among the missing, but we have lots of new folks and it’s definitely a successful event!

Tonight I will be emceeing the Stage Show so I’ve been practicing up a couple jokes that I can use as fill-in if needed.

It’s a fun festival. John and Margaret should be proud.

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Great Attendance!

We’re at the Midland Dulcimer Festival. We arrived yesterday morning. It’s been busy and hectic. John and Margaret (co-chairs) are over-worked as usual. Nothing ever goes exactly as planned. The water coolers were late being delivered, the weather has been rainy, but music is prevailing.

Right now I can hear a dulcimer in the distance and the thump of a bass.

Folks are preparing for the big community potluck. It’ll start in less than an hour and the smells of cooking food have whetted our appetites.

Great news! We’ve passed the 115 mark in registered campers and 100 would have been considered a success.

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List Makers

I’m sure I’m not the only list maker.. I love lists. I love planning everything out in detail.

Next week we’ll be at a festival, the following week at a campground, and on September 17th, John and I will be heading to Florida to spend six weeks with my mother (who has advanced alzeheimers). I’m going through the list making process. I’m the best list maker you’ll ever run across because I’ve had more practice. But this time I’ve created a “universal” list.

My perfect packing list is nearly 200 items long and consists of multiple columns. There is a main “stuff to be packed” column which lists everything we need no matter where we are. We don’t take everything every time we travel. Some of the stuff only gets used at festivals, or only when we’re in the U.P. or strictly when we head to Florida. Following the main column are four columns: one for “Festivals,” one for “Camping,” one for “Going to the Upper Penninsula,” and one for “Florida.” If there’s an “x” in a column, the item must be packed for that trip. Some items have four “x’s” and some have only one. No matter where we’re headed that one packing list works. I can isolate only those items for any of the four types of vacations. I can continue to improve on it and groom it to perfection.

Of course next week, we go to the Midland Dulcimer Festival AND afterward go to Rifle River for a week (nine days) of camping. But I’ll be prepared. And when we get back, I’ll sort by the Florida column and start parking for our six weeks in the South.

I love our life. Yes, we’re busy, but it’s wonderful! And arriving with everything we need makes it that much more comfortable.

I’m sure glad my career was as a hospital planner. It qualifies me as a good list-making retiree.

….a few days later….
PS I’m writing this post script at the Festival and guess what, despite my wonderful lists, I forgot some stuff. My battery tester, replacement night light bulbs, and my extra hammered dulcimer hammers. Probably I’ll discover more stuff too. Ok, so I’m not perfect, but maybe by the time we head to Florida, I’ll have it perfected.

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The visit

Monday my two brothers met: my brother I’d known since he was born in 1949; and Jim, the brother I didn’t know existed until March of 2005.

It was astounding. Denny’s short and stocky, Jim’s tall and more slender. But they recognized the similarities: baldness!

Other than that I couldn’t see many features where they were the same:

Denny’s talkative.
Jim’s quiet.

But somehow they were immediately “brothers.”

We yacked. Denny and I talked and talked. Yup, I’m guilty of being a talker too.

But the best part of the evening was when Louise took me aside and told me how much Jim is enjoying the discovery of his new family.

Ok, so some of you have just stumbled on this part of the story. To read the whole tale, go to the entire narrative at:

It’s great!

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Monster Grill…

We’ve been pretty busy since returning from the Upper Peninsula.

This week we’ve been outfitting our deck with stuff that we have wanted for years but we hadn’t bothered to buy. The end of season sales are wonderful so we got a deluxe eight-burner grill, a small outdoor fountain, a nice table and eight comfortable chairs. We also bought some extra plants and we’re busy sprucing up things. We’ve lived in this house for over 20 years and for the first time we’re using the deck the way we envisioned using it when we built the house.

Here’s an observation: a six-foot grill is a bit overkill for two people. We cooked two hamburgs last night and a chicken breast tonight. Almost lost the meat on the vast expanse of our new grill. It’s grand. We could prepare a whole pig in it.

Monday we’ve invited company over. Wouldn’t ‘cha know it, with our wonderful new outdoor setting, the predictions are for clear skies until Monday, then RAIN!

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Steam on Lake Michigan

I’m sure if you look closely at this photo, you’ll see steam. It was so hot today! (90’s) We spent quite a bit of time in the water and at water’s edge. The lake’s really shallow in front of our place, and was so warm that it may has well have been bath water, but we survived the day and hopefully it’ll be cooler tomorrow.

Lake Michigan

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Saturday in the U.P.

Last night we had a severe storm hit this part of the U.P. (Upper Peninsula for non-Michiganders (and, yes, it’s Michigander NOT Michiganians – Michiganian is a new term that’s just shown up in the past few year years).

Yesterday was incredibly hot for this part of the country. It was in the mid-90’s with humidity as only Michigan can produce it. During the day we picked a few berries but most of the time we hunkered down inside in front of a fan since it was at least five degrees cooler inside than out. It was miserable. Late afternoon we headed to town in part because the truck was comfortably air conditioned. The Moose Club where we went for a fish dinner last night didn’t have A.C. (as is often the case up here), so we suffered through a hot dinner. When we got back home a major thunderstorm warning was out for the county. We got the edge of it and quite a bit of rain.

Today it’s much more comfortable.

We went to the beach to see if we could find a sandy area suitable for swimming. A few years back it was picture perfect here with a hard packed sand area that extended about 100 feet from the tree line. It was the best for swimming and enjoying the water that you could imagine. But the past six or seven years, with a drop in the Great Lakes levels, we’ve seen a major change. The beach is now weed infested and the edge of the water is mucky where some black alge stuff washes in. If we were here more often, we could probably clear away an area for swimming, but it’s hard physical work, and since we’re headed home Wednesday it hardly seems worth it. John is going to chop and mow some of the weeds this afternoon so we don’t lose any more ground, but it’s depressing.

Al Gore’s global warming predictions suggest that there’ll be a major melt that will raise water levels in the Great Lakes but we have seen the water table drop and it’s doubtful that in our life-time we’ll have the pretty beach we had ten years ago.

Even though tempertures are comfortable today, it’s muggy. Guess I’ll go read a book, or let the woodticks gnaw on me. Seems only right.

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Gettng Away

We’re heading up to our place in the U.P. The U.P. where it’s tranquil and lovely with mosquitoes at night that can carry you away and ticks that gnaw on you.

I’ve never quite figured out why we go north to this spot on Lake Michigan. It’s certainly not because of the accommodations. It’s just an old 1960’s vintage trailer. It’s not because of the beach, which has been non-existent the past couple of years due to low water levels. It’s not because of the wonderful fresh air smells because the trailer is old and musty. But nevertheless it is captivating. The view from our deck out to the water is lovely. The quiet is profound. We often go a week with no one around so it’s totally silent except for the wave and gull noises and the music that we make.

We have a swarm of humming birds that come out when we bring out the simple syrup and keep us entertained.

This should be raspberry season up there. We’ll crash through thickets to grab a few tiny berries but feel richly rewarded when we have enough for a dessert or addition to pancakes.

We look for wild flowers. Our nearest up-north neighbor, Helen, is an expert and presented us with a book where she’d carefully marked those we could expect to find. We try to be prepared by scouting out all those in the vicinity, and like successful pupils, we recite our discoveries when we see her.

The tempo of life up north is different. We don’t wear a watch, we get up whenever we feel like it, we eat when hungry. It’s a lazy life.

We could do the same thing at home. We could set on our deck and watch the water because at home we live on a lake. We would be more comfortable and this weekend cooler (it’s supposed to be in the mid-90’s), but we’re on our way north. And as the familiar landmarks indicate that we’re getting closer, we’re just a tad more relaxed.

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I had these great plans to keep up my blog while at Evart. But when I got there, the time was so limited and I was so over-worked, that it was impossible to keep it up. But now I’m home and I can reflect on this years’ 2006 Evart Funfest.

It wasn’t great. It was a lot of work, and little pleasure. Maybe other years’ high energy successes have set the bar unrealistically high, but I’m sure that’s not the whole story.

It just wasn’t as much fun as other years.

We understand there is an undulating flow of good times (the really highs) and low points. Not all years are equal. We don’t expect every one to be the best. But this was definitely the “lowest.” My daughter commented that it’s “burn out” but I don’t think that’s it. I really think it was caused by situations beyond our control.

I only hope that next year returns to the fun time we’ve enjoyed every other year previously.

So what was the difference? After analysis, it seems like it was the problems of our friends.

John and I have never felt better, nor been closer, but so many of our friends were suffering: health problems, deaths, traumas. There were festival political arguments where I hadn’t noticed them before. Lots of complaints and bickering.

The year that John lost both of his parents in a two month period from May-July, was horrid, but somehow this year was more disappointing. When his parents died, we anticipated that things would be bleak. We had our friends to pull us through it and the festival part of our lives didn’t suffer.

This year, we went into the festival optimistically anticipating the grand time we have always had, but it was different.

As I said, it wasn’t our pain or our misery. It was that of friends we care about: heart attacks and strokes, cancer, other illness, parents dieing. Horrible things to deal with. It seemed that every day it was a new challenge for them and ultimately for us. Yes, we probably take on more than we should with the workshops, the one-on-ones, the program, the website, etc. but that’s all stuff we know we can handle. We know we can produce good results in those areas, but we can’t fix health, deaths, pain and misery. So we suffered with our fiends.

And the heat made it all intollerable. We were miserable!

That’s not to say that there weren’t some wonderful fun experiences. Early in the week, there was a sweet jam with Marcille Wallis and Chuck, Chuck had a beautiful slow jam Wednesday night, there was the list reception, and the wonderful feeling when I realized Judi had written a fun tune with my name in the title. There were crowded classes, and inspiring one-on-ones. A great feeling of success in that area! There was my “new” brother, Jim, and his lovely wife, Louise coming to the festival Saturday night and the time we spent together. There was some fantastic music like the tunes played by Bill Robinson (I love his new one) . There was fun girl-time when we all chatted in the pool, and got better acquainted, but all in all it wasn’t what we had hoped for. It was a disappointment.

In the past, the wonderful times filled all the days and evenings. This time, those memorable experiences were fewer.

But we have the Midland Dulcimer Festival August 24-27. A popular concert planned for next Wednesday. In less than a week, we’re heading to the U.P. to pick raspberries and get away from it all.

And in just about a month and a half, we take off for Forida for six weeks to be with Mom. Life is great! No complaining. Who has it better than me? No one I know!!

Are we going to be depressed? Heavens no! Life’s too short. There’ll be a festival in 2007 and optimistically we’re expecting it to be better’n ever. Betcha’ it will be.

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Leisurely Pace

The fun at the festival is still at a manageable pace. It’ll get bumped up to a higher intensity by Thursday. These days are my favorite. I love the chats and the “sit-around” time. The music is less frantic and things are less chaotic. There’ll be time for high-energy, wear-you-out playing when the actual festival starts, but now’s a lazy period.

pre-festival jam in workshop leader rest area

Here’s a photo of a small jam taken before last night’s rain.

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At Evart

We’re here at the wonderful hammered dulcimer event, the ODPC Funfest. It’s our favorite destination. We love the folks, the music, the whole Evart experience.

Folks who have previously attended will be amazed at how the fairgrounds looks. It’s now surrounded by a very attractive white fence. There is an area across the street on Recreation Blvd. that has some new camping areas. The new restroom looks great (although we haven’t really checked it out.)

As far as the camping, there’s been a shift.. folks who want to stay cool when it’s hot, aren’t heading to Thompson Park. Instead they’re finding sites with 30 or 50 amp wiring so they can run their air conditioning units and most of those are in the main campground area. As someone said, if it gets “hot” we won’t see anyone around those units. They’ll all be inside.

Thompson Park is nearly empty. There are a few of the die-hards but it’s down to only a handful.

This is going to be a great festival. I can feel it!!

I need to take some photos, which I’ll post. Check back!

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We’re Here!

Feels like “home” when we get to the Funfest in Evart, MI. It’s the world’s largest hammered dulcimer festival. We arrived mid-afternoon and established our campsite. We haven’t put up the big canopy yet for the workshop leader rest area and only one other unit is located in Tent City, but the rest of the fairgrounds is surprisingly full.

I’ll be posting lots of photos of this haven. We love it here!

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This and That

Stuff continues to happen – good and bad.

Our Wednesday concert was great fun. We had 150 in the audience and 21 musicians, despite cool weather, showers and forecasts warning there’d be a major storm.

Our good friend, Wayne Conklin, is in the hospital with heart problems. It’s always sad and scarey when folks you care about have health problems. He’s one of my workshop leaders, so I’ll need to replace him, but more important is his health. I just want him well!!

Today our small group (Live Music) played for a wedding in Bay City. It was hot and storms were predicted. It dripped a few drops mid- day, and a bird “dumped” on John’s dulcimer, but things worked out and we did fine.

Wednesday, at our concert, I had an exciting experienced. My brother, Jim, showed up with his family. So what’s the big deal about a brother? Well, until a year ago, I didn’t know he existed. Under the main heading “Links” on the right side of this screen (there’s a link to “family”) you can read the wonderful, unbelievable story. Or go directly here:

“Family Matters”

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AHHHAAA it feels good!

It feels so good to have the Evart workshop program in the hands of the printer. (I’m the workshop chairman and organize the 221 workshops into a 20-page three-day program.) From the time I ask the leaders to start submitting their classes, in December, I feel a high level of stress. I know I need to get the information organized – it’s always hanging over my head. Ideally, I’d do it as the classes come in, but generally I end up organizing it when I have about 80% of the necessary number of classes (so that is about May). The last minute ones fill in the slots that are open.

Nevertheless, it’s been over six months of preparation and worry about what needed to be done. Now everything is complete. It’s time for a breather. (I figured out my time, and it took roughly 70 hours since mid-May to get the program ready.)

Tonight John and I will be playing at Subterranean Strings Haithco Concert. It’s a fun group of friends so we always look forward to getting together. Each summer since 1993 we have hosted these concerts. We host one per month during June, July and August. Audiences are generally the “white haired” set. We love ’em. Unfortunately it looks like rain. If so, we’ll move the event to Wescourt senior residence facility. Either way, it should be a fun evening.

Saturday afternoon, our small group called Live Music (four of us) will be playing for a small wedding. It was a last-minute hire, so we have had to really hussle to get our music ready. There’ll be another practice tomorrow.

Our packing for Evart has barely started. I figure once we get the concert and the wedding out of the way, there’ll be time (Sunday-Tuesday). We’ll leave for the festival Wednesday a.m.

So I’m still stressed, but compared to the period before the Evart workshop program goes to the printer, this is heavenly.

I’ll let you know how the concert goes.

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Preparing for Evart

You start by going to each room, and clearing it out. (That’s how I pack for Evart.)

My reputation of “being the person at Evart who you can go to for anything you need” means that I bring along things no one else even dreams of. In addition to the stuff I use in my role of Workshop Chairman, like boxes of programs, felt tip markers, sound equipment, and push pins, I also drag along a commercial type copy machine, 10 reams of copy paper, and my computer with a colored printer. But I also go around the house looking for other stuff people might need: fans, extra outdoor coffee pot, extra chairs, office equipment (staplers, hole punch, clips). We bring along bandaids, scissors, sewing supplies, extra batteries and light bulbs.

We used to bring along an extra tent (just in case) and a cot, but we ran out of space.

Of course, Evart is a music festival. We’ll bring three dulcimers, an autoharp, tenor banjo, whistles, tenor guitar and harmonicas, but no upright bass this year. (Last year ours never left it’s case and it’s a pain to deal with.)

Preparation/packing is a PAIN. We’re leaving in one week and four days. Between now and then we have a lot to do: Program needs to be mocked up and prepared then delivered to the printer; the copier needs to be picked up; we’re attending a family dinner, we’re performing at a wedding; we’re hosting a major concert; and most of all we’re packing for a two week time away from home.

Does it sound like I’m complaining? Not at all!! I love our life. We’re so fortunate. We’re healthy, comfortable in every way, and we have this fun (sorta wacky) hobby/lifestyle/diversion/obsession.

Countdown to Evart is nearly complete!

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Bringing You Up-to-Date

Time to catch you up on what’s been happening since we returned home from our cross country trip on May 10th.

It felt good to be home but there was very little time for relaxation. The grass was in need of attention. The grapes and apple trees needed spraying and the garden planting was overdue. So John got busy. He also had a major banjo performance on May 13th with the Flint Banjo Club at Banjorama.

I was busy inside.

Before we’d left on our trip, I’d confidently thought that I’d be able to organize the hundreds of ODPC Workshops while on the road. But the wonderful scenery we encountered as we drove across the country added to my responsibilities as navigator took my full attention, so when we got home, nothing was complete. It took more than two weeks of solid work before I had the schedule ready to post. I finished the program and bragged that it was ready. Wouldn’t ‘cha know it… the next day I had several cancellations so I had a lot of reorganizing to do. (I now believe it’s ready, but the program won’t go to the printer until next Monday, so there could still be changes.)

Click here to see the Evart Workshop Schedule


Over Memorial Day weekend, our dulcimer club (Sub-Strings) played at the Lumbermen’s Festival in Frankenmuth. It was a hot but enjoyable weekend.

Sub-Strings play for Lumbermen's Festival

June 9, 10, 11, we were at Lake of Dreams Campground near Merrill, MI, again with Sub-Strings. We had great weather and a wonderful turn-out. The food was also spectacular.

That brings us about up to date. On June 15th, we headed to the Upper Peninsula. We have a place on Lake Michigan which is very remote.

Where you'll find our place

We had closed it up on August 5th, 2005, so we needed to look in on it.

This is the view from our deck toward Lake Michigan.

View from our place to Lake Michigan.

Every season up here has it’s features. In the spring, it’s smelt runs in Dead Horse Creek. In early summer the ground is covered with flowers including dwarf lake iris and lots of violets. In late summer, we enjoy wild raspberries. This time of the year, we have a clump of the most beautiful showy lady’s slippers. These are protected, delicate, rare, wild orchids.

You can see how they grow here (notice several are in full bloom):

Our patch of Showy Lady's Slippers.

But what do they look like close-up?

Showy Lady's Slipper

Most of the summer months we also endure wood ticks. They’re crawly ugly creatures that love waist bands, socks, cuffs, and places you can;t easily reach. When you go through tall grass you can expect to find at least a tick or two crawling on you. And they aren’t easy to do away with. They won’t squash easily like a mosquito or fly. These aren’t the ones which carry lymes disease, but they can cause an uncomfortable infection if they “dig in.”

Wood Tick on John's leg

We’re heading back home today. We only have about two weeks before we leave for Evart and there’s lots to prepare beforehand.

We’ll be back here in the U.P. on July 27th.

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I Couldn’t Stay Away

We’ve been home a little more than a month and I’ve been hearing lots of comments about my 6,000 mile travel blog. I was amazed that so many liked following our trip. And I have to admit it was great fun writing my “on line” diary. I enjoyed documenting our travels probably more than you enjoyed reading them.

Now I’m finding that I’m suffering from blog withdrawal. So I’ve decided to resurrect my blog..

You can find our travel chronical under the “West Coast and Back” category. Now I’ll be adding current day to day stuff. It may not be on an every day basis, but fairly often. As time goes by, some postings will be travel documentaries. (We go to Florida twice a year.) And I have a feeling, since our last trip went so well, we’ll head out on another major trip within the next year or two. We go camping, we head to the U.P. We have concerts, we have family drama, and music stuff. Maybe you will find it boring. Maybe I’ll be the only one reading it, but that’s ok.

Just how interesting can the life of a 64 year old woman be?? We’ll find out.

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