Archive forJuly, 2008

We’re here in “Paradise”..?????

John and I are up here at our place in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We arrived yesterday afternoon and will stay until Friday.

A friend send me a message that said something like, “Go sit in the beach and relax.”

It’s apparent that she’s never been up here.

Our “place” is an early 1960’s house trailer located on Lake Michigan not far from Manistique. We have about 185 feet of frontage on the water and the lot is over 700 feet deep. The trailer is 50 x 12 feet (two bedrooms, a bathroom with a real flush toilet and hot shower, living/dining/kitchen combination). Certainly nothing fancy. When we bought it we had no electric power so we used gas lights and a generator. It’s certainly better now. A few years ago, We added an off-set pole-barn type metal roof over it to protect it from the heavy winter snow, especially since the roof had leaked. The floor of the trailer is a bit spongy in a few places, the windows don’t close tightly, the furniture wouldn’t even be worthy of a Salvation Army re-sale place. It’s anything but fashionable. When we added the roof, we also added a nice 30 x 10 foot covered deck. The view of the water is spectacular. Sadly, up close it’s not as lovely.

When we purchased the property about 18 years ago, our beach was pristine. It was a broad expanse of white sugar sand and the lake bottom was sandy. We loved it. From our beach, we could view a sizable bay (about a mile of coastline from the southern most point to the northern most – we’re in the middle) which we had totally to ourselves. We spent our time walking the beach, appreciating the beauty and the solitude.

When it was hot, we’d move our lawn chairs into the water and would soak for hours.

But as the area was developed, the shoreline changed. Part of the change was due to the low water depths of Lake Michigan, but we also attribute the change to development which altered the way the water flows around the southmost point. That point’s shoreline used to be overgrown with lots of trees and undergrowth which encroached into the water. The undergrowth created a high velocity flow of water to those of us “in the middle.” As the area developed and the shoreline was “cleaned up” the water no longer churned around that point. The water in the bay became almost stagnant.

We no longer have the white sugar sand beach. The water’s edge is out about 75 feet from where it was back in 1990. The lower water table has created a stretch of land between us and the water that has overgrown with grass, cattails and brush. Some would say we own more property now since we’ve gained 185 x 75 feet, but it’s not an improvement!! What was lovely is now gone. Most disturbing is the muck. At the edge of the water is muck at least a foot deep so it’s next to impossible to get to the water. If we lived here, we could gradually clear it and make a narrow beach, but for a four-day visit, it’s not worth the work.

The beach used to be our sanctuary. Now we stay inside or sit in the deck. Any grassy areas are infested with wood ticks (not the lyme disease carrying ones, but nasty,) so we try to avoid those areas. Flies are always a problem.

This visit wasn’t really on our schedule. We heard from a U.P. neighbor that we had some downed trees and our TV antenna tower was a victim to the winter snow, so we had to come up to check on things.

When we arrived, we found three large trees blocking the driveway. It didn’t take John long to cut through with his chain saw. When we were able to drive in, we found that not only was our antenna down, but also a large tree had come down on the bedroom end of the trailer. It hung over from the back to the front. A decent sized dent in our “metal roof” was obvious.

The tree on the roof wasn’t going anywhere. We couldn’t get the truck in it’s normal parking area because the antenna was blocking the way. That seemed like the first thing to tackle. We were able to move it aside.

With no TV reception at all, John decided to see if we could get the antenna back up. Now we’re not talking about a small chore. The tower is about 30 feet tall with a gigantic antenna perched on top. A non-working rotor also adds to the weight. We tried. Little by little we got it up a few feet. We perched it atop a multipurpose ladder. We finally resorted in using the truck to pull and with ropes, we were successful getting it about 1/2 way to it’s upright position.

By then it was about 6:30 last evening so the mosquitoes were eating us alive. The tall grass was harboring those ugly ticks, and both of us were tired and cranky. I’d already picked two ticks off my legs and I wanted to quit.

I talked John into taking a break for dinner. It wasn’t too hard to convince him that we could leave things until morning. Shortly after we’d given up the idea of finishing our task, it started raining.

This morning, with new enthusiasm we tackled the antenna again. It took both of us and a lot of sweat and tenseness, but we got the antenna back into position. It’s not bringing in marvelous reception, but it never did.

The tree over the roof was easier. It came off without any additional damage. You can see what happened: roofdamage.JPG - 38452 Bytes

John’s taking a break now. I’m writing this.

The yard is still in need of mowing, there is still patching to be done to the roof. John fixed a the hot water heater’s vent which was laying on the ground. (That may have been a victim of the ice, not the tree, since it wasn’t close to the tree damage.)

We have yet to “go to the beach” or whatever you want to call the mucky area at the edge of the water.

Nope, this is definitely not a vacation. The trailer will survived. Hopefully it’ll last through the winter of 2008-2009.

I even took some time to sit on the deck and view the scenery for a while, but the flies chased me indoors.

The hardest thing to cope with was that we forgot to bring coffee. There was a little left up here in a can from who knows when. It barely tasted like coffee but we made do. It’ll be nice to be home instead of on this “vacation.”

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Preparing to Head North

Tuesday we’re going to our place in the U.P. It won’t be a pleasure trip. We were notified by a neighbor up there that our two big trees have come down and are blocking our driveway and our TV antenna came down over the winter. We need to get up there and make sure everything is ok. It’ll be our only visit this year. The wild raspberries should be ready for picking.

Tonight I bought airline tickets on Expedia for June 2nd, 2009. It’s almost a year from know but I know I’ll want to visit my mother in Florida then.

I had been watching for the date to come up because you can’t book ahead more than about 11 months out. I was able to get reasonably priced seats by booking ahead, but I almost made a big mistake.

With my mother’s health I feel it’s necessary to buy flight insurance. Afterall I may not have her in a year.

When I was booking the flights, I was trying to run a huge up-load on my computer. It was using all my computer’s resources, and a couple of times my screen froze so I had to refresh the page. When I completed the booking, I thought I had included the travel insurance but I hadn’t.

I didn’t realize it until I was reviewing the confirmation. I quickly called Expedia, but they said they couldn’t do anything. I was stuck. It wasn’t until I mentioned that I had JUST booked the flights that the service agent said he’d be able to cancel the reservation and re-book it with no fee. What a relief.

I guess I’m just superstitious enough to feel if I buy the insurance, hopefully I won’t need to use it because my mother will be fine. (It’s like when you bring an umbrella, it never rains, but if you don’t bring it, you’re bound to get wet.)

This trip is becoming routine for me. I flew down there until from early to mid-June. Now I’m planning to go back on in a month (August 26-September 9th). I will only be there for 16 days. I’m anxious to get down there and see Mom. September 11th, John and I will take off to drive down and stay until the end of October. We’ll be home in Michigan until the end of January. We’ll drive back down on January 26 or 27 and stay until mid-April.

Between now my next flight on August 26th, our schedule is really full! Tomorrow we’ll enjoy a family dinner in Owosso. We’ll be up north from Tuesday until Friday. We have two friends’ birthday party next Saturday (the 2nd) plus John performs that night. We go on a camping/performing weekend with our music club for Gladwin’s Carriage Days August 6-10. Another friend has a birthday party on August 16th. On the 17th we’ll have a family reunion. On August 20th, we’ll move to the Midland Fairgrounds for the Midland Dulcimer Festival. That night, we’ll have a concert at Haithco and we’ll be busy with the festival until the 24th. I leave to fly back to Florida on the 26th. Whew!

Hectic as it is, I love our life.

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Still Exhausted!

It’s taken all week to recover from our Evart experience. Maybe it’s been the overwhelming load of stuff we needed to catch-up on when returning home. It feels like we’ve been spinning our wheels. There’s a lot yet to do. The trailer’s still a mess, I need to upgrade websites and upload photos and videos taken at the festival and pay some bills for my mother. I finally finished up the laundry today, but the house is a disaster. If I sound a little frazzled, I am.

But I’m also feeling really good about how folks have responded to my resignation. Not one person has felt I was wrong. They all seem to see my point of view. Amazingly one lady of our local club even came up to me and said she was “Proud” of my stand. I hoped no one would would think it was some personal vinetta. My wish is that the September meeting of the ODPC will resolve the problems that I’ve pointed out (in my previous posting), and hopefully things will be better for everyone. (My complaints have had nothing to do with the way I’ve been treated. I have no complaints about my treatment. It’s the mistreatment by those in charge of performers, handicapped, and others who attend our event.)

I want to continue doing the workshops, the website, the hosting, etc. but I can’t support an organization that doesn’t listen to the complaints of those we are serving. Hopefully there will be major changes and everyone will be in-tune with our guests at the ODPC Funfest. To achieve this will be a big jump and maybe it’ll require new people to replace those in place, but whatever it takes, we need to be responsive to those who attend our wonderful event! I can be flexible with whoever is in charge, but I’m rigidly supportive of those who come to our event and I won’t tolerate mistreatment. It can’t be allowed to continue. It’s gone on too long!!

When certain folks don’t realize that denying handicapped folks a ride in a golfcart across a hot fairgrounds is WRONG then maybe the wrong folks are in place. (Yes, I know they’ve changed their stance on that issue now, but the fact that they couldn’t see how wrong it was bothers me. It took pointing out that they were “legally” in trouble before they changed their position.)

I hope you agree, but if not, I’ll listen to your position. I’m very flexible and tolerant. I just want folks to receive the treatment that everyone should be able to expect.

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Addressing the issues…

I’ve kept fairly quiet (in writing) about my recent resignation from my role as workshop chairman/coordinator. But I’m sure folks, who only heard rumors, are wondering what happened. Let me explain:

Thursday went by without incident.

Early Friday I was informed by two ODPC officers (the president and the treasurer) that I had violated ODPC golf cart rules Thursday.

I should explain that last year this was also an issue, but I was told by both Don and Herb in 2007 to “do things my way” because it made sense.

Here’s the problem. The rules for golf cart usage state that I can’t give rides to anyone except when it’s for official ODPC business. I contend that if the ODPC is renting these vehicles, they should be used however and whenever we can best utilize them. And using them to promote good feelings of welcome is part of our role.

(Everyone should realize there are rules for golf cart usage in the by-laws that are being ignored and other arbitrary rules have been created by the Board.)

I loved giving Kathy Cook a ride the first year she came to the festival. I’d keep a list of the newcomers who contacted me about the festival. I’d find them and offer the “tour.” I loved that welcoming gesture.

I also found myself frequently giving rides for folks who had handicaps. I’d sometimes seek out old folks who couldn’t walk far and show them what they were missing in the corners of the fairgrounds. I loved it. So did they!

Despite a rule that stated “no under 18 passengers,” I also used the cart when Tommy (my 11 year old assistant) would help me pick up the supplies from the workshop areas at the end of the day. Tommy had been helping for TWO previous years so this was his THIRD year helping me with job that was mainly legwork. He loved it. So did I because I could see he felt “valued.”

I was told to find someone else over 18. I couldn’t do that to Tommy.

I was told those things I was doing had to stop. I was in violation.

I could have understand if there was a risk, so I asked, “Do we have insurance?” I found that we are amply covered.

But the response was, “Yes, but we don’t want to use it.”

I was shocked. I wasn’t risking Tommy. I wasn’t doing anything that would put either of us in a bad position. Same holds for handicapped transportation (and in fact I could see a greater risk if we DIDN’T give them a ride).

I had been told by three of our handicapped members that they had asked for rides on Thursday (when it was hot) and they’d been turned down. I couldn’t go along with that.

So when I was told I was wrong about my use of the carts, I said, “I guess you better find someone else to do workshops.”

It wasn’t for me, but folks need to wake up! Folks need to realize that every person is important if they’re 11 or handicapped and 62 or 82. It doesn’t matter. They are all valued and need to be given anything we can give them. I don’t deserve to ride more than they do.

So I quit. I figured if the ODPC had lost it’s heart, it was time to remind them or step aside because I don’t want to be in a position to support such an organization.

But an even bigger issue had bugged me. I was upset because, over the past three years, I have brought to the attention of the Board that there are many performers who are ticked off!! I spend dozens of hours each year listening to them. They feel the ODPC treats them shabby. I had begged the Board to review their policy of advising folks at 4:30 p.m. on the day of their stage appearance if/when they will be on stage. Nothing had happened despite stage folks coming to the board meeting and speaking up saying “There’s a problem here.”

It’s totally absurd to have folks with talent that they bring to Evart not being treated with proper respect. They need to know BEFORE the festival if they’ll have a spot and WHEN/IF they’ll be on stage. 4:30 on the day they’re on stage doesn’t do it. There isn’t time to find back-up and make a band. There isn’t time to be prepared. Ladies want to look nice, do their hair, get their costume ready. It’s just too short notice. Folks want to tell their friends and the students in their workshops. But the line-up isn’t ready until 4:30. (In fact I looked high and low for a list of acts on Saturday night about 7:30 and ended up going back stage to find out when folks would be on.)

I have been told that the fairgrounds is questioned by publications/newspapers/media who want to know who is coming. We could use this information in advance to promote the event. Afterall, attendance isn’t growing. We could stand a boost.

If SOME (not all) of the acts were pre-scheduled, we could still save some slots for those we discovered on the grounds who want to go on-stage last minute.

Paul Van Arsdale came to Evart this year. He loved it. But it is embarrassing to say to someone like him (a major talent) who is coming and wants to be part of the festival that they won’t know if they can go on stage until the last minute. He asked, but I had to explain that he’d have to “sign up” at 4:00 and then return at 4:30 to get his time on Saturday afternoon, if he wanted to be on-stage on Saturday night.

Because of this policy, fewer people are volunteering to go on stage. Therefore at the festival they’ve put all comers on stage, but many of the “big” talents we have previously don’t attend any more. They aren’t going to drive across the country on some vague “maybe”.

So my stand with the two board members was also because of that issue. In fact, the lack of “listening” by the Board to those performers/workshop leaders/vendors was definitely more crucial than the golf cart issue, but both showed the same weakness. People/volunteers weren’t being “valued.” They were being mistreated.

I finally said, “NO!!!!”

Please understand I’m now working with Don to see if there’s a way. If my departure hurts the festival, that’s the last thing I want. I want to have folks “LISTEN.” I don’t want a thing more for me. I just want the performers I encourage to come to be valued and treated appropriately.

After my resignation, the golf cart issue was finally straightened out. (When I pointed it out, they checked and found they were violating the law.) NOW I CAN GIVE YOU A RIDE IF YOU ARE HANDICAPPED. I can also offer my 11 year old assistant a ride when we’re WORKING!!! I was even told that giving “rides” to guests who are suffering from age or health problems can be viewed as part of my role as a Board member (which was my position all along).

Now if I can get the practice of waiting until 4:30 to invite stage show folks to be on stage changed so they’ll know before they come to the festival, I’ll be happy. Or maybe I’m wrong and the solution isn’t to pre-plan the stage show. But if that’s the case and if the other side of the position is freely discussed and folks “LISTEN” I’ll still feel satisfied. Folks just have to start opening the lines of communication. That hasn’t been happening. Folks complain and no one responds.

I know it seems like I’m a spoiled kid who stomped her foot and wanted her way, but look at who I was fighting for? Those I am in awe of because they’ve inspired so many with their talent, Those who are young, or handicapped. I wasn’t asking for me.

So that’s the story.

If they can fix things at the September Board Meeting I would love to continue to serve you all. If they don’t, I am sure someone else can do my job. I’m not the only one who loves this event.

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It’s Over — whew!

We’re home from the ODPC Funfest. It was a wonderful time with friends. There were many wonderful memories created over the nearly two weeks we lived in our fifth wheel in the hot dusty, often wet and rainy, Osceola County Fairgrounds. Lots of little things happened which will be discussed in other postings when we have time to recover.

The highlights (in no particular order) included:

    The dinner parties before the festival.
    John winning the hammer throw.
    Listening to Dee Dee Tibbits play anything!!
    Watching the joy and energy from Regina Edgar (the fiddler).
    Meeting Paul Van Arsdale.
    Enjoying the hot jams with Bill Robinson.
    Being mesmerized by the talent of so many.
    The music!
    Renewing and establishing great friendships.

There were some unpleasant times too:
Martha Kuch took a bad fall and ended up being transported by ambulance to the hospital. Luckily she’s just banged up.
I found it necessary to resign from my position as workshop leader chairman. That will be discussed later but I want folks to know that I truly appreciate their support. Everyone I talked with seemed to understand where I was coming from. I was so flustered and I felt I had no choice. Maybe those problems which concerned me will be resolved, but what came though more than anything was the concern and love of dozens of you who are supportive.

All and all the festival was one of the best.

As I said, when I’m more rested I’ll explain the resignation and how things stand, but right now I’m still digesting everything, and in wind-down mode.

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Report from Evart

Five days ago we arrived here in Evart, MI, for the ODPC Funfest. Today is Monday. The festival doesn’t start until Thursday, but we’ve been enjoying the company of some of our best friends and the nicest people you can imagine.

This pre-festival time is a time to get re-acquainted over long chatty dinners. We stop and “sit a spell” with folks who share their past year and life’s experiences. Stories are fascinating as we get to know these people better.

Last night we had a typical Evart jam session. The music was still going strong when I went inside at about midnight. The intensity of the music was unbelievable. We had about a dozen hammered dulcimers plus fiddles, guitars, bass, and mandolins. It was fun beyond description. I made some recordings as well as videos and plan to add them here or on (my website which features the festival.)

We’ve also been eating and eating and eating some more. Food never tastes better than when shared with friends. Three couples who had arrived early shared the meal preparing duties for the first couple of days, but past three days or so we’ve been going “out to eat” but there’s always a whole crew of folks who ride together. Yesterday afternoon we had eight of us for pizza and last night five of us went to the local “drive-in” which was a throw-back to our youth. The tray on the window, root beer floats, and burger baskets brought back memories of our teen days.

During this pre-festival period, we have been really relaxed, but over the next few days we’ll be working. We’ll need to set up the workshop areas (I’m the workshop coordinator) for the festival, and get everything ready. Someone commented that they saw me last year during the festival and I was “a blur.” We do have to hustle to keep everything flowing smoothly.

I’ll try to write more later, but it’s hard to find time.

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We’re Here at Evart

Evart, MI, is the site of the world’s largest hammered dulcimer event. We arrived Tuesday. It’s now Friday. Folks have been coming in but we have a feeling this year gas prices may impact attendance.

Since our arrival, we’ve been enjoying the company of the Conklins and Jill and Bob Rowland. Last night Cindy Simmons and Paul Goelz came in as well as Nan and Chuck Boody.

Yesterday the canopy outside our door went up with the help of Charlie Johnson and others.

But in this pre-festival period the best part has been conversations. We’ve gotten to know these nice folks better than before. This melting pot brings folks together from across the country: the Rowlands are from California, the Boodys from Minnesota, the Johnsons are seasonally in either Florida or Ohio.

The music is a constant. Since officially the festival doesn’t start until the 17th but music was being made when we arrived and is a huge part of every day.

In this pre-festival party we’ve been fixing group meals. John’s making waffles for everyone in about 45 minutes. Following the meals we’ve all hung out at the table for lively discussions.

I’ll try to find time to add updates to this blog, but it does get hairy.

Oh, yes, and yesterday I received the paper work to start a lawsuit on my mother’s behalf for an incident at the assisted living/special-needs/alzheimers-unit where she has lived until recently. Actually the accident occurred on the facility’s bus and was the result of a violation of their own rules. (Mom was left in her wheelchair (against Florida law) and when the bus stopped suddenly, she was thrown out of the chair onto her face. She had about 25 stitches in her face and a broken nose. That fall has hastened her decline.) But the forms that I received have me concerned. In Michigan, contingency cases are cut and dried… 1/3 for the law firm, 2/3 for the victim. This law firm wants 40% and wants to be able to bill for all expenses additionally. If we lose the case, we could be responsible for the facility’s attorney fees. It sounds like, instead of helping my mother, I could lose her nest egg for her. I need legal advice before I sign any contract with this law firm but I can’t think about that now. When I get home, I’ll read everything in detail.

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Glorious 4th

Last night was the 4th of July.

George and Judy Horny came over about 6:30 p.m. for a “cook-out.” George is my husband, John’s best friend. (You can imagine what happens on our audio caller i.d. when a call comes in from George. It speaks and cites last name then first name.)

It was a terrific meal (beef shish kebabs with lots of veggies; a great salad with mandarin oranges, tomatoes, walnuts, and low-cal raspberry vinegrette; sweet potato fries; homemade apple pie).

After we ate, the guys went fishing. (We live on a small lake called Lake Cecil). George caught a 16+ inch small-mouthed bass, while John kept hooking catfish. Judy took a nap (she hasn’t been well).

The neighborhood fireworks started about 10:00 and lasted until nearly midnight. They were fantastic. Equal to a big-city display. The last volley was awesome.

Unfortunately the humidity locked in the fireworks residue and smoke making it hard to breathe. It really bothered my eyes so I had to head inside.

But what a beautiful night! We had tiki torches lit around the yard and everything reflected in the water. At many of the other homes (there are about 35 residences on the lake), there were large parties. One party featured a bagpiper which carried across the water beautifully.

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Preparing for fun

Next Tuesday we’ll be on our way to the Evart (MI) Fairgrounds where we’ll live in our fifth wheel until the afternoon of July 20th. The huge ODPC Funfest (the largest hammered dulcimer event in the world) will be held July 17-20.

The workshop program, which is my responsibility, is at the printers now so I’m feeling that a weight has been lifted from me. (I opened registration by the workshop leaders to submit the classes they would be willing to instruct in early December.)

It’s like “moving” when we go to the festival. We pack up EVERYTHING and take it along.

But it’s great fun to spend time with our friends and enjoy terrific music.

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