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What I Learned This Week – 9/7/14

Over the Labor Day weekend, my family and I took a vacation to Gettysburg. As early in our relationship as planning for our honeymoon, my husband had expressed interest in visiting Gettysburg. So, I figured maybe after 11 years of marriage I should let him go.

The first thing to know is that Gettysburg is in Pennsylvania. That is what YOU have now learned this week.

I saw many billboards for casino’s owned by Penn National Gaming, which is the company that also owns the Hollywood Casino, where I once had a job interview, and where my asbestos friend’s husband works. It dawned on me that maybe the “Penn” in the name means the company started in Pennsylvania. This made me feel smart.

Pennsylvania road signs

Pennsylvania road signs

As we drove on, through the great state of Pennsylvania, the interstate signs and license plates kept having a weird shape on them. At one point, I asked outloud, “Why does everything have that shape? It isn’t even the shape of the state! (Ohio signs have the shape of the state on them.)”

Then I realized the answer to my own question. Pennsylvania is “The Keystone State”. The shape must be a keystone.

And the only reason I even know what the hell a keystone is, is from a Thomas cartoon.

A scene from Thomas and Friends Blue Mountain Mystery, with the keystone missing

A scene from Thomas and Friends Blue Mountain Mystery, with the keystone missing

Then my husband and I wondered WHY it is called that. We had several theories. His was correct. He said because of Pennsylvania’s place in the creation of our country. Also, economically and geographically as well.

Our trip didn’t always go smoothly, but it was relaxing and memorable, including my son M’s first time camping. He did great…at that, anyway.

Here are a few of my artsy-fartsy pix to share with you today.

The "kids" in the backseat

The “kids” in the backseat

Monument for Jennie Wade. Super interesting story, look it up.

Monument for Jennie Wade. Super interesting story, look it up.

First night camping.

First night camping.

Meade's headquarters

Meade’s headquarters

Farm

Farm

The view from Little Round Top

The view from Little Round Top

I've never done one of these before, but I loved how it turned out...

I’ve never done one of these before, but I loved how it turned out…

R.I.P. Parker Jo Buhdoo (2002-2014)

The last known picture of Parker.

The last known picture of Parker.

A.K.A. Monsieur Parkere and Senior Porkchoppo

October 31, 2002 (estimated) – August 23, 2014

Parker Jo Buhdoo was a German Shorthaired Pointer picked up as a stray.  My husband and I found him at the Lenawee Humane Society, then going by the name of Archer.  My husband was very interested in owning a purebred sporting dog.  I looked at him skeptically and  replied, “You want THAT dog?!”

That is pretty much how our relationship with Parker went.

Parker ate many things.  Styrofoam, crayons, plush dog toys, string cheese wrappers, the seat off a child’s potty, bath soap, etc.  It made picking up his poop more interesting, I guess.

Parker, thinking about asking to go out to poo

Parker, thinking about asking to go out to poo

Parker could easily hold his urine for 8 hours in a stretch if no one was home.  If you were home, it was a different story.  He would whine and pace about every 2 hours to be let outside.  If he just drank the entire bowl of water, then he would need to go out again in 20 minutes.  If it was getting close to dinner time, he wanted to go out every 10 minutes in hopes of being fed when he was let back in.  If you called his bluff and refused to let him out, he would pee on the floor.  He once peed on our mattress right in front of me just because he was mad.  He peed on the floor probably at least once every two weeks, but sometimes 3 times in one day, for most of the  years we owned him.

Parker asking to go outside to pee

Parker asking to go outside to pee

He was an asset in a hundred year old house in our drafty bedroom in winter.  My husband and I worked different shifts, but Parker was a great source of heat and a good cuddler.  It was one of the only times he was not pacing the floor and whining.  Although he did occasionally howl in his sleep while dreaming.

Snuggles

Snuggles

Parker loved to run.  We had a special leash and harness to hook him up to our bikes.  My husband would always take Parker, because he was too fast for me.  He would literally pull the bike.  He would run until his feet bled.  He once did that when he ran away.  He ran away probably about 12 times in the 9 years that we had him.  The best investment we ever made was his dog tag.  The second best was when we extended our backyard fence to include the back door. Once, after a Pure Romance party at my house, he ran away.  My theory is that the products with the pheromones in them turned him on.  He usually ran away on cold, winter nights when it was freezing raining.  Once, on a hot day, he went for a swim in Lake Adrian.  He crossed 223 at least once.  I always expected him to return with a broken leg or worse, but he never did.  We only found him ourselves on one occasion.  We clocked him doing 18mph down the sidewalk.  Luckily, the smell of a nearby baby possum caught his attention long enough to slow him down.

Naughty dog

Naughty dog

Right when my husband and I were both returning to the workforce after lengthy bouts of unemployment, Parker managed to skewer himself on a metal fence post in our yard.  The vet was concerned that he may have punctured his lung, but he didn’t.  She said he was close to nicking his main leg artery, in which case he would have bled to death before I could have gotten him there.  The vet’s office sewed up the wound twice.  He popped the stitches twice.  We made bi-weekly trips to the vet.  He still went on to fully recover from that wound.

What did I do to myself?!

What did I do to myself?!

Parker was so excited to go for a car ride that he was not a very good passenger.  After one incidence where he saw a wild animal and tried to crawl out the window that was rolled halfway down, we learned to only give him a few inches to sniff.

On a family camping vacation to Port Clinton, that bird dog went crazy when he saw an ostrich at the drive thru safari park zoo.

He was such a difficult dog that our best friends could no longer stand to dog sit for him.

Parker was a challenge every day, in every way.

I have a theory that Parker may have been a cat reincarnated as a dog.

Here are some excerpts from Sunday’s post:

Yesterday was our 11 year wedding anniversary. The day started by us saying our first goodbye to one of the furry children of our union, Parker. We think he suffered a stroke a number of months ago, could be going blind, and has exhibited a change in behavior. We had him in our lives for 9 years. I have always hated that dog. Now I hate him for making me cry at his absence.   He was such a challenge to live with in every way. Although, I have to believe that maybe he was sent to us to prepare us for the trails that M, our son, would present to us. Maybe Parker was the opening act.

Parker

His velvety head

It was so hard yesterday, to pet Parker knowing it was the last time. Knowing we would never feel his velvety brown head again, or his short hair, that was course when it was dirty and soft when it was clean. I am sure I will continue to find it stabbing me in the cups of my bras though. It was easier yesterday when he was gone. But then harder again this morning. Yesterday he was still in our lives, that stupid, miserable dog. Today will be our first full day without him in our home. I am sad that it seems empty. But I am comforted in my belief that no other family would have put up with his whining and peeing on the floor consistently for 9 years. And it is a much more peaceful and calm atmosphere already, without having to fight with the Parker over everything.

We always theorized that he was previously owned by an elderly couple.  He liked older people, and people in wheelchairs.  He hated thunderstorms, and always sought refuge in the bathroom.  We thought maybe the old couple kept him in the bathroom a lot.  We figured one person died, the other would go off to the nursing home.  Then the kids would come and just open the door, and Parker would run.  Because that is what he did best.  Always.  Even with stitches in his leg.  Then they wouldn’t have to try to find him a new home.

Running.  Always running.

Running. Always running.

Maybe he needed more obedience classes.  Maybe he needed more exercise.

Rest in Peace, Parker.  You definitely made yourself an unforgettable part of our lives, and our family.

Just sleeping here, not dead

Just sleeping here, not dead

What I Learned This Week – 8/24/14

The last six weeks or so have been very trying in my life. There were events that others would be able to take in stride. There were events that would have crippled other people more. I have done the best that I could. I am still here. I tried to control my anxiety with exercise and, when I couldn’t manage to get more than a few hours of sleep on my own, sleeping pills occasionally. I read that lack of sleep actually makes anxiety worse. I tried to balance all factors.

My manager at work left. This created a full-time opening with a raise in pay that I could not pass up interviewing for, even though I find interviews highly stressful. I didn’t get that position. But another full-time position became available, so then I had to interview for that. And the decision-making process took longer. I had to plan several weeks of my life duly as “if I get the job” and “if I don’t”. I learned that I got the job. I enjoy it, although it has not all run perfectly smoothly.

WEEK-anxiety

This meant I went back to work full-time after 3 years. I had only ever worked full time when my son was 3-9 months old. My husband had been home with him then. M is now 3 1/2 years old. We had to enroll him in preschool daycare, a new experience for all of us. I have the same hour long commute that I used to have. But, I can no longer just roll out of bed a half hour before my departure time and hop in the shower, then run out the door. I have to pack lunches the night before. In the morning, I have to get myself ready, then wake up a boy who does not wish to be awakened. I have to get him to use the potty, wash his hands, and let me change his clothes. Then he wants to eat breakfast and drink. And I have learned that Sagittarius children cannot be rushed. (At least that is the case with mine.)

On the twilight of the second day of this new routine, my vehicle of 10 years decided to die. It was its time. I was not angry. Just, well, lost as to what action to take. My husband let me use his vehicle for a week and a half. But we had to car shop and get a new car. That meant less time for household chores and a few late nights getting to bed so that we could test drive and sign loan paperwork after work at the car dealership. I had to contact my insurance agent to switch over the policy.   Rediscovered how difficult it is to get anything done when you are unavailable at work 7:30AM-6:00PM Monday through Friday.

New Car: 2011 Jeep Patriot

New Car: 2011 Jeep Patriot

Speaking of which, we also had to get a new checking account, switch two direct deposits, and close the old checking account.

I had to clean out my old car, post a classified ad, then meet with people who bought it. We live in the city. They don’t take kindly to junk cars sitting unattended for very long.

I also had to postpone, then cancel a dentist appointment for my son.

I am still taking my mom grocery shopping every Wednesday night. Now we don’t leave til 7:00PM. My son and I don’t make it to bed until well after 10:00PM, which makes it very hard to get up come Thursday morning.

Parker

Parker

Yesterday was our 11 year wedding anniversary. The day started by us saying our first goodbye to one of the furry children of our union, Parker. We think he suffered a stroke a number of months ago, could be going blind, and has exhibited a change in behavior. We had him in our lives for 9 years. I have always hated that dog. Now I hate him for making me cry at his absence.  (A fuller obituary will come this week.)  He was such a challenge to live with in every way. Although, I have to believe that maybe he was sent to us to prepare us for the trails that M, our son, would present to us. Maybe Parker was the opening act.

My husband left with Parker. M, Dave (our other dog), and myself were in the backyard. When I went to go back into the house, I realized my husband, with other things on his mind, had locked us out. So then M & I had to walk the half hour to my mom’s apartment to pick up the spare key. I was fortunate that I could leave water with Dave in the backyard, and that the stroller was on the porch. It could have been worse. It could have been raining or snowing (this is Michigan, afterall…). It also could have been better. I just got off of 4 days on my feet at work doing manual labor to prepare for an event. I WAS SORE. And I had had no ibuprofen or caffeine yet for the day. My mom was able to provide keys and caffeine. By the time I got home, my husband had already returned.

It was so hard yesterday, to pet Parker knowing it was the last time. Knowing we would never feel his velvety brown head again, or his short hair, that was course when it was dirty and soft when it was clean. I am sure I will continue to find it stabbing me in the cups of my bras though. It was easier yesterday when he was gone. But then harder again this morning. Yesterday he was still in our lives, that stupid, miserable dog. Today will be our first full day without him in our home. I am sad that it seems empty. But I am comforted in my belief that no other family would have put up with his whining and peeing on the floor consistently for 9 years. And it is a much more peaceful and calm atmosphere already, without having to fight with the Parker over everything.

Yesterday we also attended our niece’s 6th birthday party. That was fun. I especially liked where I got to sit on my butt and rest. Then my husband and I went to dinner to celebrate our anniversary. We had alcohol and steaks. My son had a slight meltdown, so we went home after that. I then watched a NASCAR race on TV, which I almost never get to do anymore. I went to bed.

I was awakened at 11:30PM by Dave barking, my husband on the phone, and a police searchlight shining in our front window shortly thereafter. It seems a drunk guy couldn’t find his way home, so he decided to sit on our porch and smoke, try to flag down cars, then lay down on our deck. My husband called the cops. They took the guy home.

Finally. Our totally weird anniversary day was done.

And also, hopefully, our messed up last few weeks.

Then this morning, we find the dude’s cell phone. It was dead, so we put it on our charger. We checked his contacts. We snooped through his Facebook and found out his name. My husband was almost about to call the number for “Mom”, when the guy called his own phone from his friend’s phone. He came to pick it up. He half-assed apologized. Apparently, if my husband and I REALLY wanted to celebrate our anniversary, we should have been at the same bonfire that dude went to.

Also, my asbestos friend, who is like family, has lost her dad a few weeks ago. Her family (who is like family to me) had a car accident last week. Their car was sadly totaled. Since they were just across town, I went and gave them a ride home. I would have anyway, but I figured I could use all the karmic pay-it-forward I could get. (It worked. My mom had not yet gotten in the shower when I knocked on her door for my spare key yesterday.)

What I Learned This Week(s):  I have to admit, in the long run, everything is probably working out for the better. It is just not always easy to see that at the time it happens. And, can I have peace and quiet now, please? Can I have some sense of a schedule and normal?

Oh wait, next week we are only working/daycare for a few days, because then we will leave on vacation. And, of course, screw up our internal clocks so that we will be all off schedule by the time we return. Oy.

My 4-H Project

I might not be stalking you, but I am in my backyard taking pictures of my dog’s poop.

Yes, you read that right.

4H-poop

I recently went to the county fair where I was reminded what a tragedy it was that I was never involved in 4-H. I didn’t know much about it at all when I would have been of an age to actually participate. I think my mom told me it was just for kids who lived in the country and had a barn to raise pigs and chickens. I should have pushed harder, especially since I was living in the country with a barn at the time.

It wasn’t until I was older that I realized it involved crafts. CRAFTS! I LOVE CRAFTS! I could have rocked crafts!

Then when I was at the fair this year, I realized their are TONS of categories:

Duct Tape Crafts
Photography
Scrapbooking
Wood Burning
Lego Scenes
Cupcake Decorating
First Aid Kids
Design Your Own Chicken Coup
Make Your Own Music/CD
Research History of Rock’n’Roll

There was just building after building of it! All these projects from wonderful creative minds!

And then there were some that you could tell had just Googled “easy cupcakes” and found how to put a half a Twinkie on top of a cupcake to make a minion. There were several on the table.

Or the ones who Googled “melted crayon collage”. There were even more of those.

So, when our Pointer recently ate around 30 of M’s crayons, I still had these 4-H ideas bouncing around inside my skull. I am on poop duty at my house because, well, it would not get done otherwise. As any good dog owner does, I look at my dog’s poop to make sure it looks healthy.

No, not with a microscope or anything!

Just a quick glance when it is on the end of the scoop shovel is plenty. I have two dogs. I can tell their poop apart by consistency and drop pattern. The Pointer has solid poop and walks around as he does his business, making it a pain to pick up. The Lab/Chow mix…Let’s just say she picks up her own.

I have seen some pretty crazy stuff in my Pointer’s poop. Once there was a plastic eye from a dog toy staring back at me. Once there was an Old Navy cloth tag, just sticking out of his poop (from yet another dog toy, I assume).  There was Styrofoam as well.

When the crayons started coming out, I had a brilliant idea! I took pictures of his poop! In all the colors of the rainbow!

Taste The Rainbow

Taste The Rainbow

It is my 38 year old 4-H project. Think of it as a cross between raising an animal and a melted crayon mosaic. Except these have been chewed rather than melted.

I could call it:

TASTE THE RAINBOW:
How a Dog’s Digestive System Processes Crayons
*A Photo Mosiac*

Do you think the Skittles people will mind?

R.I.P. Baby Car (2003-2014)

Bad Ass Forever

Bad Ass Forever

My 2004 Pontiac Aztek, sometimes affectionately called Baby Car, was officially put to rest today, with an odometer reading of 226,793. My Aztek was purchased on September 22, 2003 from Underwood Chevrolet Buick Pontiac Oldsmobile in Clinton, Michigan. All my miles.

I sold it to someone for a rock bottom price, as the cost of towing and repairs to get it running again will be steep.

My Aztek has served me well. It never left me on the side of the road (although once the battery did die in the insurance agency’s parking lot. But at least I was within walking distance of home.)

My Aztek once held my husband, myself, mother-in-law, sister-in-law, my dog, a wheelchair, and all the supplies my MIL was taking home from her camper for the season. It is a feat other, larger SUVs could not handle.

I loved that the rear seats could be removed completely. My Aztek was once loaded floor to ceiling with 25 years of my crap as I took it to my sister-in-law’s garage sale.

We once took a trip and camped back there, using the optional tent package. On another trip, we were able to take 2 bicycles along with us by just taking off the front tire and popping them in the back.

My Aztek hauled our belongings to our first and (so far) only house. It carried drywall to redo our ceilings. It carried our first dog, then our second dog as well. It has carried my mother and MIL to many doctor appointments and grocery stores. It hauled me to all my doctor’s appointments when I was pregnant with my son, then hauled him to his many doctor appointments for his first year, everywhere from Toledo to Ann Arbor.

Note the black duct tape on the window.  I used blue until I could no longer find it in my house.

Note the black duct tape. I used blue until I could no longer find it in my house.

The Aztek has been a wonderful car for me. Sure, things started to break off or stop lighting up in the past few years. And there was the recent issue of having to duct tape the passenger window shut. But, I rode it hard for a lot of years. (Huh-huh. That sounds dirty.) It drove a daily commute of 74 miles for most of its lifetime. Never had a tune-up, because, well, when you get to a certain point, you have to go with “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

I was so proud when I reached 200,000 miles. My new goal instantly became to take it to 300,000 miles. Plus, well, it would be good for my wallet to not have a car payment for a few more years.

But, alas, it began to overheat on the 2 minute drive home from the grocery store, with all signs pointing to a blown head gasket. You have to love a car that waits till you pull in the driveway to heave its last sigh.

While I am happy that it did not go to the junk yard to rot and rust, it is almost as painful to think of someone else owning my baby.

The Aztek will never be forgotten. It will always hold a special place in my heart.

The End

The End

What I Learned This Week – 8/10/14

This week I learned that the going rate for used cars these days in Southeastern Michigan is around $10,000 for 100,000 miles.

Considering I was looking for a car with less than 100,000 miles and had no money, I found that rather disconcerting. I also wanted a car newer than 2004, and that sat high.

As many of you know, my dream has always been to own a Jeep. At the first dealership we visited, there was a Jeep! A CJ-5. That was manual. From 1975.  And not for sale. It turned out it was the salesman’s car. We still somehow scored a ride in it from him around the parking lot. He implied his virility many times by mentioning all of his numerous kids and grandkids. He also showed my husband the battery in his back for pain management (T.M.I.!).

Next we ended up test-driving an H3. I think they look better than the 4 door Jeep Wrangler. When I drove it, I felt powerful. I kept growling and making Tim Allen macho sounds. My husband liked it a lot more than I thought he would. But the sticker price was too high. And I couldn’t even imagine the cost of new tires for that thing!

The H3 that we test drove.

The H3 that we test drove.

There were lots of Ford Explorers and Escapes on the lots. I thought I might end up with one of them. I was really only interested in the Explorer for its movie cred–Ford Explorers were the vehicles in Jurassic Park. I credit that movie with starting the sales boom in SUVs in the 1990’s. If it can outrun dinosaurs, imagine what it could do in a volcano eruption or zombie attack…

So what did I end up getting?

Well, it IS a Jeep. Just not my red Wrangler that I dream of. Not yet, anyway.

It is a 2011 Jeep Patriot. It is newer with less miles than I had thought I would be able to find. A pleasant surprise.

2011 Jeep Patriot that I took home.

2011 Jeep Patriot that I took home.

It is sooo weird to have a new car after almost 11 years.

You know what you have to do when you get a new car, right? You have to take a trip with it.

My Love of Lighthouses – Part 2

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For Part 1 of this post, please visit: http://imnotstalkingyou.com/2014/08/05/my-love-of-lighthouses-part-1/

Pretty standard picture you will see on postcards and mugs of Point Betsie Lighthouse.

Pretty standard picture you will see on postcards and mugs of Point Betsie Lighthouse.

After the first two excursions, my mom, and later my husband, would feed my enthusiasm for lighthouses of the Great Lakes. Whenever there was one on the way to our destination (which can happen surprisingly often when traveling in Michigan), they would let me stop. I also got a book that listed all the Michigan Lighthouses and how to reach them. This was very handy in the days before the Internet and Google.

That is how my future husband and I managed to find Point Betsie, one of the most photographed lighthouses.

I wondered how it could be the most photographed when it is not the easiest to find. We had to turn down a little unmarked road. Where we turned, we could not even see that Lake Michigan was ahead of us. Point Betsie was still active and run by the Coast Guard when we visited in 1998. This meant there were no signs screaming “Hey, must see tourism attraction here!”, because the Coast Guard didn’t want any. The road ended at the lake, where a make-shift sand parking lot had been created from all the lighthouse buffs driving over and killing the sea grass.

Once again, I desperately wanted to go inside. But there were signs posted all over stating “Coast Guard Property. No Trespassing.” It made it more difficult to bear by the fact that Coast Guard employees seemed to be living in the keeper’s house and coming and going.  How great would it be to LIVE in a lighthouse!  (Nowadays I mean, where the work is minimal.  I wouldn’t have wanted to schlep oil up and down the stairs on a cold Michigan night.)

My future husband knew this was killing me. He knew I would never disobey the signs. Not on my own, anyway. So, he went over to the lighthouse first. He stood by the tower. I took pictures of him. He kept egging me on until I stood by the tower so that he could take my picture. All the pictures you ever see of Point Betsie (postcards, calendars, mugs, etc.) are from the south side. But I have some from the north side, that totally prove my guilt beyond a shadow of a doubt. But it was so much fun!

The naughty, totally trespassing side of Point Betsie.

The naughty, totally trespassing side of Point Betsie.

And Point Betsie really is a beautiful lighthouse. But I still think Marblehead is more picturesque.

My husband so let me indulge in my lighthouse obsession that I turned our honeymoon into a lighthouse tour of Michigan. Not only did I make him stop at every other lighthouse (and even a few range lights) on the way to the Upper Penninsula, but we actually spent three nights at the Big Bay Point Lighthouse, which was one of only two lighthouses in Michigan at the time that served as a bed and breakfast.

Big Bay Point Lighthouse, Big Bay, Michigan.  My husband and I stayed on the second floor, in the window on the left in this pic.

Big Bay Point Lighthouse, Big Bay, Michigan. My husband and I stayed on the second floor, in the window on the left in this pic.

It was awesome!

It still an actual working beacon maintained by the Coast Guard. But you can crawl all over the tower and lamp room. The first night my husband got to see the Aurora Borealis from the tower. I stayed in our room because I was too exhausted to climb all those steps and the tiny rung ladder again.

To this day, I still have not seen the aurora borealis :(

From the front.  Most publicity pics are from the side.

Big Bay from the front. Most publicity pics are from the side.

It was so cool to know that a working lighthouse was beaming out across Lake Superior as we slept. The second night, it was too foggy to see much at night. The third night, we could almost make out the surrounding lighthouses flashes in the night. One night we sat in the parlor/library with some of the other guests. My husband drank coffee, I had hot cider. While other people took normal books off the shelf to browse, I selected the giant white binder on lighthouse preservation. The whole first half of the book was about how to stabilize your structure and prevent further damage from the elements and vandals while you tried to get funding to restore it.  I felt like I had found secret insider information that I was not meant to see as a paying guest.

During our stay, my husband and I also got a couple’s massage in a screened hut on the edge of Lake Superior. The waves crashed below us against the cliff. It was awesome.

I could go on and on about lighthouses. I would love to make a whole page of my blog be photos of lighthouses I have been to. But that would probably eat up too much storage space. But that doesn’t mean I still won’t do it someday.

Looking at the book I have, Michigan Lighthouses by Penrose, published in 1996, it strikes me how the authors are lamenting over structures that have been ignored for decades and are about to crumble when the next seagull perches. But, interest in lighthouses has only increased. The cries of the Penrose family, and others, has indeed raised awareness in recent years.

When my husband and I stayed in Big Bay Point Lighthouse, it was a rare opportunity. Nowadays, it is becoming common. I mentioned that when I visited Point Betsie, it was a Coast Guard residence. Now you can rent the whole place out for yourself. The keepers house for the Charity Island light was literally being ripped apart piece by piece for firewood by campers. It has since been rebuilt and is also a rental.  There are more towers open to the public to climb as well.

To the best of my recollection, this is a list of the lighthouses that I have seen firsthand:

LAKE ERIE
Marblehead Lighthouse*
Old Port Clinton
Turtle Island
South Bass Island

LAKE HURON
Tawas Point
Old Presque Isle*
New Presque Isle*
Presque Isle Front Range
Forty Mile Point
Cheboygan Crib
Bois Blanc Island
Round Island
Round Island Passage
Old Mackinac Point*

LAKE SUPERIOR
Whitefish Point Light and the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum
End of the Road Front Range
End of the Road Rear Range
Munising Rear Range
Munising Front Range
Marquette Harbor Light
Presque Isle Harbor (Marquette)
Point Iroquois**
Big Bay Point*

LAKE MICHIGAN
St. Helena Island
Old Mission Point
Grand Traverse*
Charlevoix South Pier
Manning Memorial
Point Betsie
Frankfort Breakwater
Ludington North Pierhead
Holland Harbor
Manitowac

LAKE WINNEBAGO
Fond du Lac*

ATLANTIC OCEAN
2nd Cape Henry
1st Cape Henry

* Tower climbed.
** Tower climbed while I was pregnant. That should totally mean extra bonus points.

My Love of Lighthouses – Part 1

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Old Presque Isle Lighthouse, Presque Isle, Michigan

Me at Old Presque Isle Lighthouse, Presque Isle, Michigan.  See how excited I am!?

I had never given much thought to lighthouses. I had never seen one, and had no desire to.

Then when I was eight my mom took us on a trip Up North (that is how people from southern Michigan refer to any point north of Grayling). Our destinations included Mackinaw City, Sault Ste. Marie, and Tahquamenon Falls. But we also were stopping anywhere along the way that caught our eye. We were heading north at a leisurely pace on US 23, which hugs the Lake Huron shoreline.

We had just passed through Alpena (a town whose name still makes me giggle) and were headed up to Rogers City. (How nice. Roger has a whole city all to himself.) On the way, we saw an old, weather-beaten billboard alongside the road that boasted tours of a real lighthouse. We made the quick decision to check it out.

We drove on a tiny winding road through the woods for what seemed like forever. Every turn did not bring us to a great lake or tall light, only more trees. It felt we were in an episode of Scooby Doo. I expected a green monster in ratty clothes to step out of the thick woods in front of us at any minute. Except we were not in a multi-color van, but a silver Chevrolet Chevette 2 door hatchback. If we had hit one of those monsters, it would have destroyed our tiny car.

The Creeper from Scooby-Doo

The Creeper from Scooby-Doo

There were a few turns that were not well marked, but we must have gone the right way because we eventually came to a parking lot. Instead of yellow lines marking out the spaces, there were trees between the cars. You had to park just right, so that you could still get your doors open. The cool day must have warmed by that point, because I changed out of my jeans and into my shorts while we were still in the car. There were other cars there, but no people at the moment. My mom acted as a look-out. We were still under the dark cloak of the forest. But the sun could be seen to the south of us.

We walked toward the light. We found ourselves in a big grassy clearing, with Lake Huron stretching out to the east. Between us and the great lake, lay a brick house painted white. Next to it, a white stone tower. That would be the first time I would ever lay eyes on a lighthouse.

Inside there was an elderly man and woman who seemed to be running the show. They had a few souvenirs for purchase, and collected any money required to go up into the tower, details that I cannot remember. The man was also giving out rocks from the beach. He stamped them all so that they said “Old Presque Isle Lighthouse”. The rocks were free. I found him a little scary at the time. I grew up with very few males in my life. Even though he looked old and grizzled, he kindly showed me where my rock had a tiny fossil on the corner (If rocks can have corners).

Then I went up in the tower. It was a relatively short lighthouse, standing only 30 feet tall, but one of the oldest surviving lighthouses on the Great Lakes. And it was plenty tall enough for the view to be impressive to an eight year old.

View in the Old Presque Isle Lighthouse, return visit 2003.

View in the Old Presque Isle Lighthouse, return visit 2003.

While not a big fan of history, from that day on I was hooked on lighthouses. I wanted to see all of them that I could, but I also wanted to climb as many as I could. I didn’t even know at that time that I could do better than that.

Only after we got back home, did we discover there was an even taller New Presque Isle Lighthouse just a mile down the road. Although I would take many more trips Up North, it would take me almost 20 years to get back and climb the 113 foot tower of New Presque Isle Lighthouse, tallest lighthouse on the Great Lakes that can be climbed by the public.

In the years since, I found out that the elderly gentleman, George Parris died in 1991, and is said to haunt the Old Presque Isle lighthouse. I saw the story on a PBS special. It is kind of cool to have met someone who is now a ghost. Maybe I was on to something with my earlier Scooby Doo analogy.

Marblehead Lighthouse, Marblehead, Ohio

Marblehead Lighthouse, Marblehead, Ohio.  The most beautiful lighthouse I have ever laid eyes on.

My mom and I also went with my grandma to Marblehead, Ohio to see the lighthouse there. Marblehead Lighthouse looks the most like the idyllic lighthouse you will ever see. When you are in a souvenir shop and see light switch covers or hand towels with a generic lighthouse on them, I guarantee you that they will bear some resemblance to Marblehead. It has very classic dimensions. It is a white tower, with green doors and a red roof and railing. It is is the oldest lighthouse in continuous operation on the U.S. side of the Great Lakes.

Photo of Marblehead Lighthouse from 1885.  Later, they would add another 10 feet to its height.

Photo of Marblehead Lighthouse from 1885. Later, they would add another 10 feet to its height.

It was a very dreary day when we visited. The sky was the same gray as the sheets of marble that the lighthouse rests on. I enjoyed climbing on the uneven stone. It really frustrated me that the lighthouse was unmanned and locked up. I was like a reverse Rupunzel. I desperately wanted to get INSIDE the tower. But it would be years later before the State of Ohio would realize its full tourism potential and started offering visitors a chance to go inside of it.

Return visit to Marblehead, 2002

Return visit to Marblehead, 2002

It turns out my lighthouse memories are very long-winded. For more stories on the lights of the Great Lakes and a complete list of lighthouses that I have personally visited, come back by on Thursday.

How Living With A Pointer Is Like Living With A 2 Year Old

Posted on
I present, the POINTER

I present, the POINTER

1. You do things for “their own good”, but they cannot comprehend that.

2. They cover their eyes when you turn on a light while they are sleeping.

3. They snore.

4. They pee on the floor if not wearing a diaper.

5. They have selective hearing, and sometimes choose to ignore you.

6. They have no regard for their personal safety.

I present, the toddler

I present, the toddler

7. Don’t understand how lucky they are to be alive.

8. Both don’t realize that whining about something only makes you angrier and makes you want to withhold the desired item more.

9. Both will be entertained by walking through my bathroom with the two doors while I am using it. Over and over again.

10. Both respond to treats.

11. Both have NO patience.

Partners in Crime

Partners in Crime

Has my 2004 Pontiac Aztek reached the end of the road?

Posted on
My Aztek

My Aztek

Tuesday morning I drove my car to work. Tuesday evening I stopped off at the grocery store before I came home.

When I started my car at the store, it started rough. I gave it a “What the hell.” I looked at the temperature gauge, and it was all the way at “Hot”, which never happens. I only had 2 minutes to go down the road to head home. In that time, the fan came on and the needle went lower down. When the fan turned off, it would pop back up to “Hot” again. The car was still running rough, which I would later learn is due to that it automatically reduces how many cylinders it is running on when gets too hot.

My husband and I checked the coolant. There was very little in it, and it was way gross looking, so we took his car to Walmart and bought some more coolant. When we got home, he headed out to add it to the car. It was very low. He added it straight to the radiator, and then the reservoir. By this time it was getting dark, but he started it and drove it around the block anyway. He said that the temperature gauge headed right back up to “Hot”, and it was, quote, “douching white smoke out the tailpipe.”

I haven’t had a professional look at it, because I am afraid it may overheat before I get there and get stuck. I don’t really want to pay the price of a tow if I don’t have to, as now the car sits in my own driveway.

Maybe Dave could help...

Maybe Dave could help…

And, I have little hope of reviving Baby Car from the dead. It still starts and runs. But the most likely internal coolant leak, rim of milkiness inside the oil cap, overheating, and white smoke from the tail pipe all lead me to believe that I have a bad head gasket. At over 10 years and 226,000 miles, I don’t think anyone would be surprised by this. I have talked to my pseudo dad, Mr. Goodwrench, on the phone about this twice. His questions and advice kind of lead me to the same conclusion. I tried researching on the Car Talk website, but that just sort of overwhelmed me with information.

I am wondering at this point if my husband might want to do a compression test on it. I also read where I could try adding sodium silicate to the coolant to seal the leak. But this would require changing the oil and filter and flushing the coolant system. All things that my husband would have to do. I don’t see where throwing money at it with professional labor would be of much benefit to me. At this point, if it can’t be fixed, the only monetary value of my car would be for a push/pull trade-in offer.

Baby Car has been a good car. I will compose a full obituary and post at a future date.

Believe it or not, I actually had other events going on this week that were stressing me out even worse than an end to my car that I have probably spent around 6,000 hours of my life bonding with. I can’t even let myself begin to think about my uncertain transportation future. I would just curl up in a ball on the floor and never get up.

Even if we do find a short-term fix, I don’t think it will see 300,000 miles, which was the new goal after I hit 200,000 miles.

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