Michigan -The Back of the Beyond?

For some reason Michigan has come up in conversation a few times lately, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to share some cool information about my habitat.

First, we’re known as the Great Lake State, and we’re as easy to find  on a map as Florida. Yup, we’re the state that looks like a mitten, although there’s a lot more to us than our resemblance to winter outerwear. Yup, we also have an Upper Peninsula. And to reach it, without taking the long way (via Wisconsin), or by boat, we have to travel across the Mackinaw Bridge…the third longest suspension bridge in the world. It is beautiful. It’s a masterpiece. And I hate it passionately. Mostly because I also hate heights, and I come close to having a panic attack every time I cross it.

I’ve never made a secret that I live in the country in a small community. So small, in fact, that the four small towns closest to me have a total population of 14,617. If you expand that to include the ‘big’ cities within thirty miles, that number jumps up to 188,358. Those thriving metropolises are Lansing (our state capital) and Battle Creek (home of Sugar Bear and Tony the Tiger).

I didn’t realize just how sparsely populated these areas are until I took a look at Detroit (706,985) – and  compared all of them to cities like New York City (8,244,910)and Los Angeles (3,819,702).

But Michigan is a totally cool state. We have a little bit of everything, even tropical weather. Surrounded by so much water, it can get super humid in the summer. Interesting fact: we’re never more than six miles from an inland lake or river – no matter where we are.

We do have surfing:

Did you notice the ice on that guy’s head? You have to be pretty hardy to surf in our lakes. And yes, I went with a video filmed in Minnesota, but only because they’re still surfing in OUR lake. And it’s a cool video. 🙂

And totally cool land formations:

Pictured Rocks is located in our coldest lake, Superior. If you remember the Gordon Lightfoot song, The Edmund Fitzgerald, this is the lake it sunk in.

Speaking of sinking:

Some experts believe that up to 10,000 ships have been lost in the Great Lakes through the centuries, and the location of about a thousand of them are known at this time. Divers come from all over the globe to see them.

Like Islands? We have some of those, too:

Six United States Presidents have stayed at the Grand Hotel. It is the largest ‘summer only’ hotel in the world. In addition, Somewhere in Time (Christopher Reeve/Jane Seymour) was filmed there.

Other claims to fame:

Okay, so maybe Da Yoopers are strictly a Michigan thing. We like ’em.

We are home to celebrities who are a little more well known: Francis Ford Coppola (uncle of Nicholas Cage), Tim Allen, Jeff Daniels, Bruce Campbell (my man Sam in Burn Notice), Taylor Lautner (feel free to swoon), Stevie Wonder, Alice Cooper, and Gerald Ford, 38th POTUS.

So anyway…there you have it. Just a few of the reasons I love the fact that I was born and raised…and very proud to say that I still live…in a mitten.

Well…here are a couple more reasons:

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February Writing Challenge

So I’m a day late in getting this set up, but a few of you expressed an interest in joining a writing challenge this month.  If you click on the ‘Challenge’ tab above, it explains things a little better than I’ll do here.

Wow. I think this is my shortest post ever. 🙂

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I Needed a Laugh…

…and Tim Hawkins can almost always provide one.

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I was hoping to get a few giggles from my spam folder, like Jenny Hansen enjoys, but alas, it’s the same old boring stuff.

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Through February 8, 2013, I’ll be giving away free copies of my short story, Someday…Maybe to anyone who would like to receive my newsletter . Just click here, fill the form out, and then confirm that you’d like to receive it when you get the email asking you whether you really want it or not. Upon request, I will send previous newsletters for anyone who wants to read the installments of Holding On To Yesterday.

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Bank Statments and Surprises

The Saturday afternoon mail delivery brought with it a surprise. Well, maybe to call it a surprise isn’t the most accurate way to describe what this was. A surprise generally involves something nice (unless it’s prefaced with ‘unpleasant’). This wasn’t exactly pleasant. Nope. It looked like some sort of tax statement, and it looked like they’d taken some money out of my account for federal income taxes.

Since banks aren’t open long on weekends, I had to wait until Monday to figure out that it wasn’t a tax, it was for ‘other income.’  The problem was, they didn’t know what it meant, and neither did I. So the woman I talked to promised to find out for me.

And she did.

The other income was actually an iPod they sent me after I opened the account last summer. My old bank flagged my account every time I ordered something two days in a row from Amazon (I buy a lot of books). I wanted a bank that wouldn’t do that.

The woman who set up my account didn’t mention an iPod. And she sure as shooting didn’t say a word about it being ‘income’ I’d have to pay taxes on. If she had, I’d have said thanks, but no thanks. If I wanted one, I would  go to the store and buy it.

My daughter was pleased as punch when it came in the mail several weeks later. She’s the reason I had resisted buying one in the first place. In two years time, three cell phones met their electronic maker in the wash/rinse cycles, and one was crushed beneath the tires of my van. I naturally assumed that if her cell phones had short lifespans, something an inch square didn’t stand a chance.

Long story shorter, I’m going to pay $15.00 – $20.00 in income tax on that iPod. Sales tax would have only been $3.90. I’ll grant you that we’re getting it cheap, all things considered, but I’m still offended.

They assumed I opened the account because they sent a flyer through the mail, letting people know about the ‘gift.’ Unfortunately, in my house, if it looks like junk mail, it goes directly in the waste basket.

I wasn’t really awful, but I let the woman know that by not informing me about the iPod/other income/income tax when I opened the account, they not only made an assumption they had no business making, they denied me the right to decide whether I wanted their ‘gift’ or not.

The woman said she would let someone know, and I thought the matter had been dealt with.

Nope. Someone else called about two hours after I finally fell asleep yesterday morning. And this time I really wasn’t happy. Partly because I’d only had eleven hours sleep out of the past forty-eight, partly because I was tired of talking about it.

She just wanted me to know that, because of my experience, they were now going to require anyone wanting one of their ‘other income gifts’ to bring the flyer in with them. And all employees setting up accounts will have to explain that anyone accepting the gifts will have to pay income taxes on it, and not sales tax (which is a whole lot less).

So something good has come of it. At least no one else will wind up with a gift they neither asked for, nor wanted…and then have to pay for it.

Yes, this was a bit of a rant. Have any of you had an experience like mine? If so, what was your reaction? I know that even if the tax bill is $20.00, it isn’t going to make or break my budget, it’s just the principle of the thing.

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The Joys of Sleep Deprivation

As is too often the case, sleep is an issue with me again. Or rather LACK of sleep. Insomnia sucks. So does a stomachache. Yup. Which is why I figured it was time to drag myself out to the kitchen and mix up a small glass of what works for me. That would be organic apple cider vinegar, baking soda, and a little bit of water. It works better, and faster, than any antacid I’ve ever tried. It’s kind of nasty, but I can handle a bad taste…IF something works.

Well…also if I don’t have to have too much of it.

Anyway, as is also the case when I desperately need sleep, funny thoughts tend to come to mind. Trust me, there isn’t a whole lot that’s amusing when it comes to vinegar and baking soda.

Unless you happen to be running late for a meeting, and you have a bit of indigestion and decide to save  1/100 of a second…by skipping the water.

Yup. I poured about two tablespoons of the vinegar in a small glass, added half a teaspoon of baking soda, swirled it around a couple of times and tossed it all  back like a cowboy chugging a shot glass of whiskey in Miss Kitty’s saloon (Gunsmoke reference for those who don’t have a clue what I’m talking about).

I’ve never tested this theory again. Probably because I intend for the first experience to be the last experience. But I found, at least in that instance, that baking soda doesn’t really dissolve in vinegar.

And I know this because I had half a teaspoon of wet baking soda in my mouth.

Now half a teaspoon of baking soda isn’t that much. Not really. Unless it’s wet, and unless it happens to in your mouth. Then it feels like…oh…maybe two cups.

Because it gets everywhere. I must have gulped a quart of water to get that gritty stuff rinsed out.

And moral of this story is… Two tablespoons of organic apple cider vinegar and half a teaspoon of baking soda will get rid of nearly every case of indigestion. But only if you use a little water with it.

Of course if you’d like to prove me wrong, have at it. Maybe I didn’t swirl it in the glass long enough. If you try it, let me know how that works for you.

I’m going to try to get some sleep now.

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I Really Blew It That Time

This post made it’s first appearance way back on July 5, 2011 (Happy belated Birthday, little sis!). But since I had a grand total of about zero readers then, I decided it might be time for a rerun. Why? Because my son was out here a few minutes ago, trying to talk me into buying an ‘egg flipping pan’ he just saw on an infomercial. If this confuses you, read on…

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To explain, my son is autistic. High functioning, but autistic nonetheless. He tends to get enthused about things that, frankly, don’t enthuse me much at all. Take cartoons. Clearly there is something not quite right about a mom who has no interest in them. We have the same issues over things like infomercials, something he absolutely loves. The following is an almost word-for-word conversation we had a while ago…

Saturday night my boy came peeling out of his bedroom extremely excited over an infomercial he’d just seen. About a knife set, of all things. Unfortunately for him, I didn’t get very excited about it.

“You get a LOT of knives, Mom! Stainless steel knives that won’t get dull no matter what you do with them. You can cut cans, you can cut wood…all for just three easy payments of $13.33.”

“That’s cool, son, but I don’t spend a lot of time cutting cans or wood.”

“But Mom, you get a lot of knives. And it comes with not one set of steak knives, but two, in case you have a lot of company.”

“Sorry,  but if we had that much company we’d be having Sloppy Joes – and you don’t need any knives for those.”

“But Mom! That’s eight steak knives, all for just three easy payments of $13.33.”

“I’m sorry but we don’t need more steak knives.”

But it comes with kitchen scissors, so you can cut up chickens and other stuff, Mom. And the first knife they showed is guaranteed, so if it gets dull they’ll replace it. But only the first knife. The rest of them aren’t guaranteed.

“We don’t need knives! 

“But you can have them all for just three easy payments of $13.33!”

No!” (by this point he is getting extremely annoyed with me)

“Those knives sell for $840.00, and you can have them for just three easy payments of $13.33!”

“I don’t really care. I’m not buying them.”

“That’s just stupid, Mom! You’d waste $800.00 when you could have had those knives for just three easy payments of $13.33? That’s just stupid!

“Well, I’m not wasting $800.00 on any set of knives, so you don’t have to worry about it.”

(Now he’s walking back to his room muttering…)

“That’s just stupid. You could have had all those knives for just three easy payment of $13.33….”

And he actually said the phrase, “three easy payments of $13.33″ all those times. I should have written the company to let them know they could have a new spokesperson for their knives. All for just three easy payments…

Now back to the subject that sent me searching for that old blog post-

This ‘egg flipping pan’ is similar to the one I bought six or seven years ago. However, mine wasn’t green, and there was a good inch and a half gap between the pans…meaning all the eggs I tried to cook wound up on the top of the stove. Every time. No matter how fast I flipped the pans. In fact, the faster I flipped them, the faster the eggs flew out.

Looks like someone fixed that design flaw. No matter though, I’m still not buying another one. Spatulas work fine for me. Poaching works even better.

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It’s Like Riding Bicycle My Foot!

I can’t think of another ‘old saying’ that is more wrong than this one. If you learn something, no matter how much time has passed, you never forget…because it’s just like riding a bike. Yeah.

Not.

When I was a teenager, I rode my bike everywhere. I’m talking year-round, if too much snow and/or ice didn’t keep me from it. There’s no way to even guess how many miles my trusty two-wheeled transportation and I covered, but it was hundreds.

Then life happened. Kids, jobs…and a multitude of other excuses, so fast forward about twenty years.

The kids were at a 3-day Special Olympic event. For those that don’t know it, my son is autistic, and my daughter went along to help out. Missing them, and wanting them to come home to a nice surprise, I had a wonderful idea. I’ll buy us all…bikes. We’d been wanting them anyway, and it would be good way to get my video game addict son out of the house.

Were the kids surprised? Yup. But I was even more so. First, these were ten speed bikes, and the gears and braking system meant I actually had to read the manual. Not too far into it, I decided I would never understand the gears, so I would just play around with them until pedaling was comfortable.

The brakes, on the other hand, were a different story. Two sentences stood out above the others. Always apply the back brake first. Because, if you didn’t, if you applied the front brake first…you could flip your bike.

Okay, so I was going to make very sure I remembered which side the back brake was on.

Time to ride. My daughter and I went alone that first trip. I’m sure it’s an experience she’ll never forget.

First, I found that my bike was too big for me. Even after lowering the seat as far as it would go, it was still too high (no, I wasn’t smart enough to try it out in the store). How humiliating to have to stand on the bottom step of the porch to mount the darned thing…

But that, I discovered, was the least of my worries. I wobbled almost as much as I had when my dad taught me to ride at five years old. After a couple of minutes though, I kind of got the hang of it again, and off we went. Sort of. My daughter took to it like a duck to water. I, on the other hand… Well, let’s just say that I’m sure anyone driving past us thought I was drunk…

The second problem came about a block and a half later, when my daughter zipped around the corner. Which side of the handlebars was the back brake on? I thought I was doomed at that point, but I made it. Whew!

The third problem arose as we approached the next intersection…and she stopped her bike!

What are you DOING?” I shouted, nearly running into her back tire as I tried to remember which side the stupid brake was on (my memory sucks when I panic).

Turns out she kind of had to stop…for the car that speeding down the road. Of course that meant I had to stop, too. It also meant I had to drag the bike to the curb so I could get back on the too high seat.

It was then I started to wonder why they make the seat so hard. And WHY were there bumps on each side of it? Big bumps. Shouldn’t a seat be pretty flat?

Let’s just cut a long story short. I didn’t fall off the bike. Not even once. I did, however, look like an idiot. And I was never so glad to get home as I was that day. As I dismounted the torture device, making use of the porch step of course, I wasn’t sure I’d ever get on it again.

For one thing, I had forgotten how to ride a bicycle. And for another, a certain part of me felt like someone had strapped me on a metal folding chair, to which they’d taped a couple of walnuts…and then driven down ten miles of  washboard dirt road really fast.

I’m not even going to mention the next few trips with my son – who seemed to see an invisible target on me and my bike…

I was going to add a funny video about other graceful cyclists, but turns out they weren’t funny at all, so after some searching, I remembered one of my favorite songs. Bikes play a big part in it…

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If you’d like read my new novelette series, Holding On To Yesterday – before it’s published, don’t to sign up for my newsletter. Just click here, fill the form out, and then confirm that you’d like to receive it when you get the email asking you whether you really want it or not.

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