Tag Archives: books

Our annual Christmas fight

Every Christmas season it’s the same.  The hard-scrabbling fight for presents, the intense gleam in greedy eyes as we steal the gaily wrapped packages, the glint of green and red holiday lights on the dice as they clatter against metal.

Lights dim low in Nancy’s living room as we eight women sit cross-legged on the floor, like children, except for one of us who leans low from her chair to throw the dice.

We’re looking for sixes or ones to land face up.  If we throw the magic numbers, we get to choose a package.  We already know what lies wrapped beneath the gold and green paper, inside that elf stocking, under those dangling bright purple balls.  We know books lie within the package, for we’re at Book Club, our annual Christmas book exchange.

Tis the season...

Tis the season…

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In which Gulliver gets tied up and we eat green bean casserole

Ready, set, open your book!

Tonight six or seven or maybe eight of us will sit around living room chairs at Mary’s house to discuss our latest Book Club selection.

You want to know the exciting name of our selection?

Gulliver’s Travels.

Which yours truly did not read.

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Orphan, clock keeper, thief…

Hey kids!

Do I have a book for you to read during Easter break.

Don’t tell me you don’t have time to read.

In between swinging on trees in the woods, and maybe building a fort behind the house, and leading each other blind-folded through the ravine, I’m sure a rainy day will find you complaining there’s “nothing to do”.

We can read when you come inside, kids!

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Mama Bear Visits the City

Once upon a time there were four bears living in the woods.

Mama Bear, Daddy Bear, Brother Bear and Sister Bear.

The Bear Family lived happily in the forest.  They read hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of books when Brother and Sister Bear were wee cubs.

Can you recognize any of these books?

Mama Bear gathers pumpkins and ponders her visit to the City.

"Witches Four" (Witch boots on, tied up laces, frog eye soap to wash their faces...)

This is a Golden Book from Mama Bear's childhood. It is an old old book. However, Mama is not that old.


This is another old,old book. It must be from Daddy Bear's childhood.


Oh how the Bear family liked this book--Peter Spier's "Rain". What a wonderful book!

Until one day Brother and Sister Bear grew up, and decided to leave the woods and fly to the Cities.  Brother Bear flew to the West Coast and Sister Bear flew to the East Coast.  (The woods where Mama and Daddy lived was in the middle.)

But Brother and Sister Bear never stopped reading books.  They read dozens and dozens and hundreds and hundreds of books. 

One day Sister Bear invited Mama Bear to fly to New York City to visit her.  (Mama and Daddy Bear had already visited Brother Bear and his fiance a few months earlier.  Actually, Mama had visited Sister Bear two years ago in the Big City, so she’s not completely uncomfortable leaving the forest.)

On Tuesday morning Mama Bear will board an airplane and fly to one of the biggest cities in the US of A!  Will she know how to tip taxi drivers?  Will she know how to behave without looking like a country-bumpkin? 

But, more importantly, will she find a bookstore? 

Moral of the story:  you can take a bear out of the woods, but if they’ve been raised on books, they’ll never stop reading.

Mama Bear wants to know:  what were YOUR favorite childhood books?  Or the favorite books you read your own bear cubs?

Berenstain Bears "Too Much Birthday" (In honor of Daddy Bear who is celebrating his birthday tomorrow. Actually Mama and Daddy are celebrating his birthday today...)

P.S.  Mama Bear will not quit her day job any time soon to write children’s books.  :)


The boy who lost his pants on Main Street & other stories from a U.P. weekend

Love--in the bathroom of Carmalita's Restaurant in Calumet

 You guys are all waiting impatiently to see the picture of the teenage boy standing at the four corners in L’Anse after having–how do we put this politely?–dropped his pants, aren’t you? 

 I am sorry to say you will see no photos.   #1:  because Barry and I were so shocked to see the baggy pants fall down–you know the kind of pants–the kind most kids used to wear a couple of years ago where you could view the rear end of said youth if you so desired.  #2:  The car in which we sat was driving too fast through the four corners and there was no time to grab the camera as the baggy pants simply fell to the ground revealing a nice pair of jockey underwear and #3:  I could not have embarrassed the guy, anyway with a photo.  No.  Not me. 

 Since he will never–I am sure–find this blog–we’ll only tell his tail.  I mean tale.   

A flower in front of Espresso on Main Coffee Shop in L'Anse

 Yesterday was such a busy day.  Its busy-ness came from being married to a weekly newspaper reporter/editor.  He had three assignments spread across two counties here in the U.P.  (also known as the Upper Peninsula of Michigan).  Because we were aiming for an eventual lunch at Carmelita’s Mexican Restaurant in Calumet (maybe an hour away from Baraga County) I tagged along. Tagged along with my camera.  He took the official photographs.  At one point–when I was snapping photos yesterday–I murmured to the people with raised eyebrows, “Oh I’m just following him around taking pictures.”  They smiled and nodded, like that was expected behavior.  

At the Keweenaw Bay Kids Fishing Derby

 We went EVERYWHERE.  Who can remember all the places we visited in six or seven long hours?  Here are the three official assignments where we had to take pictures.  I mean where he had to take pictures.  #1  The Farmer’s Market in downtown L’Anse.  #2:  The annual Keweenaw Bay Kids Fishing Derby and #3 a baseball game played up in Hancock.

 Many of my photos basically turned out Just Awful. This doesn’t happen too often.  Usually I can find six or ten or twenty photos that I like. Some that are liked a lot.  But not yesterday.  Err…  The sky was too gray.  The sweet dear loving little Sony CyberShot didn’t compensate like she was supposed to.  Or she didn’t focus clearly enough.  We’re having relationship issues…  

Kids' shoes

 Barry and I surely did have fun, though!  There must have been 300 kids (or more) at the fishing derby.  They all looked like they were having a grand old time casting in the ponds behind the Sand Point Lighthouse.  You had to park half a mile away from the activity.  That’s how many folks mingled about.  It was good to see so many happy kids.  

Elvis? Coming to da Copper Country?

 After that we did our weekly shopping, bought organic vegetables, found supplies like eye drops and Q-tips, and meandered up to Carmelita’s for lunch.  I brought my camera in the bathroom again.  Sigh.  It’s unavoidable behavior, apparently.

 What do you think of the Elvis Presley sign?  The romantic couple?  Isn’t it wonderful when a bathroom can be so entertaining?  (As for the rest of the photos in Carmelitas–the Sony CyberShot was sticking its tongue out at me and refusing to produce anything but blurs in the dim light.  I started talking to Barry about the possibility of one of those fancy cameras.  You know, with a birthday coming up and everything…)  

Eat, sleep, read. Is there anything more to life, really?

 We stopped at the North Wind Bookstore in Hancock just before we headed home.  I was looking for the second book in the Conrad Richter Awakening Land trilogy, but alas.  No Conrad Richter.  So I bought a different book called “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet” by Jamie Ford.  A New York Times Bestseller  about a Chinese American boy who falls in love with a Japanese American girl back in the 1940′s before she’s sent to an internment camp.

 Yep, the book is already read as of 5 p.m. Sunday afternoon.  I can’t help devouring books like they’re exquisite full course gourmet meals.   Yum, yum, yum.  Eat, sleep, read.  Yep, that sounds like THE life!

Better than losing one’s pants.  ;)

A normal person wouldn’t blog tonight

My blogger friend Pamela from Dog Ears Books

A normal blogger wouldn’t be blogging tonight.  Not after traveling for over twelve hours.  Not when feeling this exhausted.  Not when feeling like you need to prop open your eyes with toothpicks to stay awake. 

But…I can’t help it.  I am a Passionate Blogger. Insatiable, almost.  So am drinking a cup of green jasmine tea in my brother’s cottage in Bellaire, overlooking the most glassy beautiful lake in the World and starting to feel revived simply from sitting at the computer and allowing the creative juices to play.  (Always remember, dear reader, to feed your passion and creativity!  Even when you’re sometimes tired…)

Books everywhere!

Right up front I want to say something.  It shouldn’t take a person twelve hours to travel a four and a half hour drive.  No.  It should take maybe five or six hours if you’re being leisurely.  But I LOVE to meander.  And meander I did across the beautiful Lower Peninsula of Michigan.

First, visited two cemeteries.  But you will have to wait until another post to hear graveside gleanings.  Visited coffee shops, restaurants, shopping centers, and heaven knows what else.  Whatever engaged the eye and heart and spirit.  Then came the strangest meandering of all.

I was over near Kalkaska, headed for Bellaire about 3 p.m.  A reasonable hour, right?  When suddenly the car steered in a different direction!  It headed over toward Traverse City!  And then I knew.  It was going to visit P.J. Grath at Dog Ears Books up in Northport, maybe one to two hours away.  My heart beat fast for at least ten minutes at the craziness of this idea! 

I also hoped to meet up with Kim Schneider over there in Suttons Bay.  She had interviewed me about last year’s outdoor blog earlier this year.  It appeared in seven daily papers in Lower Michigan.  You can read http://upwoods.wordpress.com/2010/02/04/blogs-awestruck-in-the-spotlight/ if you’re interested in that story.

I was afraid that neither Pamela nor Kim would be around and my trip to Northport/Suttons Bay would be bust.  I was already writing a blog about that possibility.  “The Failed Blogging Detour…”

However, upon discovering the bookstore…THERE WAS PAMELA!  It looked like her, although you never know.  She didn’t quite recognize me at first, either.  Even though we’ve been blogging buddies for a while now and had viewed pictures of one another.

More books. Cozy corner, yes?

First, she introduced me to her dog, Sarah.  Hi, Sarah!  You are a pretty dog, aren’t you?  Good dog.  So soft. So sweet.

Hello Doggy Sarah! Nice to meet you...

Pamela brewed us some coffee and I looked for books.  (I love, love, love bookstores, don’t you?)  People wandered in and out.  I asked Pamela to recommend a book…but no sooner had the words left these lips…when a customer chimed in with a suggestion.  Conrad Richter’s The Trees.  The book club in Northport had read it.  She waxed poetically about the book’s merits until I had to purchase it.  Found another spiritual goody tucked on one of the back shelves.

Then Pamela and I sat down to talk.  We didn’t have a lot of time, but we covered some of the basics during our hour together.  She seems like a lovely person and I sure wish she (and her bookstore) were closer to the Upper Peninsula.

You are so sweet, Sarah!

Am hoping this blog makes sense.  The tiredness keeps washing over me in waves.

It was probably a good thing that Kim wasn’t available.  Heck, I probably wouldn’t be at the cottage yet!  And this blog surely would have remained unwritten.

The exterior of Dog Ears Books

Heading home for the last seven hour stretch tomorrow.  I promise to go straight to Marquette.  Well, mostly promise. Have to stop at a gas station and somewhere for coffee.  But no sitting down in coffee shops!  At least until Marquette.  You’ll hold me to it, won’t you?

What the lake looks like tonight in front of the cottage.

Ahh, now for bedtime.  Pamela, it was so great to meet you!

Goodnight, dear reader.  Someday we may meet, as well.  Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

P.S.  the spell-checker just told me I failed Blogging 101 tonight.  Don’t you know how to spell?  it said.  Try to spell better tomorrow night.


Dolphins leaping!

Relaxing by the pool

Hello readers!  I am so excited to tell you what happened this morning.  Really early.  My mom and I were sipping coffee flavored with hazelnut creamer when the Most Amazing Thing happened.  I wandered out on the lanai and saw…are you ready for this??…Leaping dolphins!

In all the years I’ve visited Florida, I have never seen such a show.  We can’t decide if it was one dolphin leaping over and over and over again, or many dolphins.  It arched maybe six feet in the air. Maybe nine feet in the air.  It leapt with grace and spirit and beauty.  Up it arched and down it dove.  Again and again and again.  At least a dozen times.  Maybe two dozen! No time to look for the camera.

The dolphin leaped and we gasped in awe and amazement.  I said, “Look at the dolphin!  It wants to be on the blog.”  (My mother, I’m sure, rolled her eyes.)  But you never know.  The dolphin maybe did want to say hello to all you blog readers.

These photos are all backwards.  I like to usually start at the Beginning of the Day and then progress toward the end.  Tonight I’m starting in mid-afternoon (with a lounge by the pool) in about 78 degree temperatures.  Sunlight appeared after a day of wind and gray and threatening rain.  It was lovely.  I brought my new book down to the pool.

It’s the story of a woman deciding whether to become a Buddhist nun or finding true love with a man.  Which would you choose?  I’m thinking she’ll choose the guy.  But you never know. 

Woman and dog run along the Gulf

Now let’s back up. After a lunch of leftover seafood salad, my parents had to attend a condominium annual meeting.  So they dropped me off about 2-3 miles from “home”.  “Find your way back,” they instructed.  (Just kidding!  They didn’t really say that.  There’s really no way you can get lost on the island.)

Man on bike

I walked on the white white sand and thanked the Universe for the ocean, the sand, the sun, the warmth, the seaweed, the people, and sixteen other things.  Tried to walk very very slowly appreciating everything. 

Kids with pails

The beach featured some seaweed–not enough to challenge swimmers–but enough to notice.   I kept looking closer and closer, until their beautiful patterns and colors revealed themselves.  After about five minutes of peering at seaweed, I was in love with its patterns.  You could do an entire blog photographing seaweed. 

Red seaweed

The wind blew fiercely. So fiercely that I looked like Einstein’s niece upon arriving back at the condo.  You needed a hat to hold your curls in place.  The seagulls sat motionless, almost asleep, the wind attempting to blow them airborne.  They allowed me to approach rather closely and did not fly up.  The wind was too much for even them.

Gulls snoozing in the wind

Very few sun-bathers lingered along the shore on the rented cabanas.  The sun-bathers were waiting for the sun.  Almost all the green cabanas below were empty.

Long line of green cabanas. Anyone want to rent one?

I like to look in places most people ignore.  The storm sewers looked fascinating.  The leaves, the reflections.  This one looked like a work of art.  Do you agree?  Or do you think it looks only like a storm sewer?

Down through the sewer grate

Almost back to the condo, I had to sneak oh-so-carefully up to a rented condominium to photograph the flower photo below.  I shot a series of about ten photos of the flowers framed in white, but for some reason really like the simplicity of this one.

Oleander? Bougainvillea? Looks like art!

Tonight we ate dinner at South Beach in the Santini Plaza.  It was the best meal ever!  I ate glazed salmon (with some horseradish sauce) and my mom ate parmesan-encrusted tilapia and Dad opted for crab cakes.  All the meals were absolutely gourmet.

Actually, it was a gourmet day.  From dolphins leaping to swimming in the pool to glazed salmon…ahhh…  Bring on Day #2.

The kindness of friends, family & blog-readers makes me cry…

A kind gift

I am amazed that so much kindness exists in the world.  So much giving.  So much opening the hands and heart…so much outpouring of love and friendship and joy into a world that sometimes seems too cruel, too violent, too painful.

Kindness seems to come almost every day, in some form, if we keep our eyes and ears open.  Kindness comes in a phone call from beloved parents, daughter or son.  Kindness comes in a smile from a stranger at the grocery store.  It arrives most unexpectedly every day, usually unbidden, usually without thought.  It arrives and showers our day with deep joy.

If we’re alert to notice the dozens upon dozens of times it visits us during the day.  If we’re awake enough to realize that this kindness is a gift.

And perhaps we can be alert enough to allow our own kindness to express itself through the mornings, the afternoons and the evenings of our day.  A hundred opportunities exist!  (Even if we’re simply being kind to ourselves–that is a start–and how often does our cup runneth over when we’re feeling good about ourselves?)

On Tuesday afternoon, gifted with Mike’s aerial photos of the ice forming on Lake Superior, while writing a blog about it, the telephone rang.  I scurried to answer it.  Guess who?

It was Jane, a neighbor who lives across the bay, maybe ten miles away (less if you’re a raven flapping across the waves and trees).  She’s a reader of this blog and has a delightful one of her own.  We haven’t officially “met” yet, but that will surely happen soon.  Click here to visit her blog.

Guess what Jane is calling about?  Her voice sounds merry and excited.

“What are you doing?” she asks.

“Umm….writing a blog…” I say. (What else would I be doing?)

“Go check your mailbox!” she announces.  “There is something in there for you.”

Check my mailbox?  Something that isn’t work-related?  What is she talking about?  I must have been momentarily speechless because she said,  “Don’t worry, it won’t bite you!”

“Watch out what you say,” I joked, “Anything you say can and will be used in a blog…”

After hanging up the phone, I pulled on my boots and winter coat and sprinted to the mailbox.  What could it be?

What's in the mailbox?

I chortled in glee, attempting to untie the knot of the plastic bag which protected the gift..  (Nope, couldn’t even wait until walking sedately back to the house like a proper grown-up!)  It felt like Christmas!  A package wrapped in lovely lavender cellophane presented itself.

Upon arriving at the house, I set it gently on the half-shoveled front porch and snapped a photo or six.  Unable to wait any longer, I opened the gift…

Sometimes kindness is so generous

Look at this!  That’s about when the tears formed.  When the shivers of happiness struck.  The envelope was addressed to “upwoods” and here are the presents:

1)  Mrs. Chard’s Almanac Cookbook Hollyhocks & Radishes by Bonnie Steward Mickelson (A unique look at a little known corner of America, Michigan’s beautiful Upper Peninsula, where the simple values of life…family, friends and the good earth and the good food it produces…still abide.)  WOW!

2)  Pencil Dancing by Mari Messer.  “New ways to free your creative spirit.”  YES!

3)  National Audubon Society Field Guide to North America Birds.  (There will be no guessing about bird species from this household this year…)

4)  Call of the Northwoods by David Evers and Kate Taylor (with a free audio CD of wildlife calls.)  You will be undoubtedly hearing quotes from this book for a long, long time.

5)  A packet of French Vanilla Cocoa with a small wire whip. (Which I am sipping now.  Yum…)

6)  And the most beautiful hand-quilted little pillow with the Eastern Woman gazing serenely from amidst beautiful greens and blues and oranges and reds.

…Thank you so much, Jane.  Your kindness and sharing is unbelievable.  It may seem like a simple gift to you–giving from the abundance of your hearth–but to me it feels like a deeper faith in humanity, in our capacity to give of ourselves.

So cool!

And thanks once again to the many other family, friends and blog readers who share and share and share of yourselves daily.

Life is so much sweeter because of your kindness!

P.S.  And don’t any of you fret because I set those books on the half-shoveled deck. They rested in the teeny bit of snow for maybe five seconds before they were whisked into the house.   They didn’t even get wet.  Promise!