Archive forAugust, 2009

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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