A Different Kind Of Park

2017-06-20 Prairie Wolf Park Tree growing almost sideways panoramis

What’s your definition of a park? A playground with lots of swings and slides for the kids, and one of those merry-go-rounds that makes you sick? Picnic shelters with lots of tables, and some grills to roast hotdogs on? A place with curving cement sidewalks to roller-blade on?

I visited a very different kind of park today. It was the outdoors in its natural condition, unchanged by manicured landscaping, pesticides, herbicides, or play equipment. It was just… nature. There were several asphalt walkways near the entrance to the park, but then it changed into paths made by a lawn mower. It was like stepping back in time to what Michigan looked like before it became civilized. There were huge fields of wildflowers with butterflies and grasshoppers and bugs.

2017-06-20 Prairie Wolf Park Black-eyed Susans Daisis panoramic

From sunny open fields, the path veered off into wooded areas with a variety of trees. Occasionally a tree would have a sign by it for identification:

2017-06-20 Prairie Wolf Park Black Cherry Tree

We passed a green scuzzy pond that looked like something out of a fantasy tale.

2017-06-20 Prairie Wolf Park green scum pool

Most of the park was in its natural state, with the exception of the occasional bench to sit and rest on, and the unusual sight of some stone blocks in the distance.

2017-06-20 Prairie Wolf Park Strange Block Formation panoramic

We hiked up the hill, through lumpy ground riddled with mole holes, but found no answer to the question of the stone blocks.

2017-06-20 Prairie Wolf Park Daisies and wildflowers

So we continued on, past prairie grasses nearly as tall as we were, trees whose branches grew almost sideways, and stagnant water pools with frogs and crickets. Then back to the car, back to traffic and noise, back to present day.

2017-06-20 Prairie Wolf Park Tall grass field panoramic









The Pigeon Wants To Know

2017 pigeon hey what are you reading

I found this bookmark in a library book, and had to smile. Ah, that lovable pigeon! The one that wants to drive a school-bus. The one that refuses to go to bed. The one that’s dying to have a puppy. The one trying to avoid the nightly bath.

The Pigeon Wants A Puppy

So what ARE you reading this summer? If you shrugged and said “I dunno”, start off by picking up one of the Mo Willem’s pigeon books and reading it aloud to a child. That’ll put you in a happy state of mind, and you’ll start looking for another book to read. And that, my friends, is the pigeon’s sneaky plan…

Argos Book Shop

2017-06-14 Argos Book Shop b

I thought it was about time to try out a used bookstore I hadn’t been to before. My internet search led me to a little shop in a mostly-residential neighborhood. My first obstacle was to find a place to park my car. There was a small lot a few doors down, but it was unclear whether it was private or public. As I had no desire to have my car towed away, I drove down some side streets, circled around, and found a spot not too far away.

2017-06-14 Argos used bookstore hardy boys


Once inside, the place seemed deserted, until I spotted a man slouched down behind the counter, his head hunched over a computer. He said nothing, so I just started quietly exploring. The area nearest the door was the neatest, with collections of comic books organized in boxes and individual slip covers. There were also a lot of classic youth series, like “The Hardy Boys”, “Nancy Drew” and “Cherry Ames”.

2017-06-14 Argos used bookstore music section

The farther in I went, the messier it got. There were bookshelves so high they could only be reached with a ladder, as well as books lying on the floor. As I looked up, I could see what had once been an elegant ceiling, but was now in disrepair. There was only one chair in the entire shop for customers to sit in, which seemed odd. I passed by fiction, mystery, presidents, history, music, and other non-fiction sections. The prices, which were hand-written inside the front cover of each book, were a tad high.

2017-06-14 Argos used bookstore messy

The science fiction/fantasy area was quite large. I was impressed (although it isn’t my typical reading preference). Then I found the 50 cent bookshelf! There were hundreds of old yellowed paperbacks from many decades ago that beckoned me. I picked out a half dozen of them and brought them to the counter. The man behind the computer rang them up with little enthusiasm, and I walked out the door and back to my car.

2017-06-14 Argoes books I bought

Based on my experience, I would give this used bookstore a “C”. With bookstores going out of business left and right, kudos to the owner for keeping it open. But if you want people to keep coming in, you need to have a welcoming smile, a cheerful hello, and a willingness to help your customers find at least one great book to take home.

When The Water Heater Goes

2017-06-08 water heater leaking along seam

Today was the day our 19-year-old water heater decided to retire. I had lugged the dirty laundry down to the basement, and noticed the water on the floor. I called the gas company, as we have a service contract with them that covers our natural gas furnace and water heater. They said the soonest they  could have someone out to look at it was tomorrow.

2017-06-08 Herm examines water heater seams

Then my husband came home, unwrapped the insulation wrap from the water heater, and could plainly see the water sliding out the seams of the metal. This is not fixable, he said. We called the gas company back, and they said they didn’t actually install new water heaters, just diagnose problems and do repairs. (So this service contract isn’t really much good, is it?)

2017-06-08 Water heater warrantee and energyguide

I looked at the warrantee; it had expired nine years ago. The energy-efficiency tag was also in the basement, showing our water heater to be, well, not very efficient. Considering that it was a budget model the builder installed before we bought the house, it actually did pretty good.

A local hardware and plumbing store I called said it normally takes about two weeks to schedule a water heater replacement, but since ours was leaking water onto the floor, they would squeeze us into tomorrow’s schedule.¬† Hooray! They’ll disconnect the old one, get the city building permit, install a replacement that meets the current housing code regulations, and haul the old leaky one away. But until that happens, no hot showers or warm hand-washings. And the trusty tornado mop will stay nearby.

2017-06-08 leaky water heater mop fire extinguisher

I’m thankful for things like washing machines and water heaters. No way do I want to go natural, AKA, back to the “good ole days”. Things like leaky water heaters remind me that we are blessed in a hundred little ways every day.

No, I’m Not A Counterfeiter!

2017-06-05 conterfeit 20 bill.jpg

This morning I stopped by my neighborhood bank to deposit some cash that I figured didn’t have to be sitting around our house. The teller greeted me cheerfully, and started counting the cash. Then a pause. She recounted, stopping at one particular bill. A frown. She stuck the bill under the purplish light that checks for bad bills. Then she showed it to the teller in the next chair. Nope, don’t think that’s a good bill, she said. Both women held it up to the light and squinted at it. People were beginning to accumulate in the line behind me.

The teller asked me to look at the bill in question. Oh my, it certainly was off-center, as if it had been through a bad print job. She said they couldn’t accept the bill because it appeared to be fraudulent. About that time a third employee, I think the manager, walked by, took a look at the bill, and concurred with the two tellers. Wow, I said, I never noticed how off that bill looked. Honestly, I’m not manufacturing fake money in my basement (attempting to add a little humor). To which she replied, no I don’t think that, don’t worry, this just happens sometimes.

Then the teller had me initial the bill in one corner, and put her initials next to mine. I noticed a notebook on the counter behind her labeled “fraud book”. I said, well I guess this is going in your fraud book. No, she replied, this is going to the FBI. No kidding, I said. Hey, can I snap a picture of the bill before you send it off? She was staring at her computer screen, and didn’t say anything. I took that to be consent, or at least that she really didn’t care what I did, so I snapped a quick shot of the bill on the counter (see photo above).

As the teller typed on her computer, I asked if she was adding some notation to my account. No, she said, she was getting it ready for the FBI. Then she asked to see my ID again. She’d already seen, but she needed to see it again. Next it was my telephone number. At that point I started getting a little freaked out. Is the FBI going to call me? No, the teller answered, they turn it over to the Secret Service. The Secret Service – really? Do you have any idea where the bill came from? No, I do not, as it’s been sitting around my house for who knows how long. She said that’s what she figured – most people have no idea.

I left the bank feeling totally paranoid – like the FBI would be watching my bank account, monitoring my phone calls, looking at the bank video footage, etc. But hey, we’re already under constant surveillance. Everything is recorded, stored on servers, and preserved for future reference. It’s “1984” and so much more…


2017-05-29 Rest Lawn Cem Jesus baby and mother in Babyland

Yesterday was the first day of the Memorial Day weekend. Since it looked like the only day it wouldn’t rain, I set out for the cemetery with my mother and granddaughter. Finding my father’s grave, we decorated it with begonias and callalilies, then read the inscription: “I know that my Redeemer lives.” Sadness washed over each of us as we contemplated the loss of a wonderful, gentle man who was a husband, father, and grandfather.

Then we went on to the cemetery where my baby brother, who died at just ten days old, was laid to rest in the Babyland section. Oh, so many babies, some without even names, just “Baby Smith”. It was heartbreaking. We found my brother’s tiny heart-shaped gravestone, wept over it, and left a bouquet of sweet daisies there.

Just beyond the trees by the baby section is the sculpture in the picture above. It’s Jesus, cradling a baby on his lap and holding the hand of a young mother. The sculpture says it all. While we grieve and ask “why”, Jesus is right beside us, holding us gently. I know that my dad and my little brother are with Jesus – and we will be together again some day.


2017-05-23 eye doctor waiting room

Endings are part of life that I’d rather do without. Like when our dear eye doctor, who has taken care of our eyes, our sons’ eyes, and our grand-kids’ eyes, announced he was retiring, after talking about it for several years. He’s been an eye doctor for over 40 years, but because of his dedication to his patients, kept going longer than intended. But the time has finally come. Patient records have already been transferred to another office with doctors he has known for years. The “for sale” sign is out front, and he is only in the office for people to pick up their orders of eyeglasses or contacts.

I felt the need to have my glasses adjusted one last time. As I walked into the waiting room where I’d sat so many times with wiggly kids, I noticed that the same books and magazines from years ago were under the coffee tables (Uncle Arthur stories and Highlight magazines), as well as the handmade wooden puzzles that our boys loved. Doctor V greeted me in his usual cheerful manner, and as he adjusted the glasses told me about his retirement. I had brought some fresh bagels and cream cheese for him, a too-small gift for his years of excellent care. After laughing and reminiscing for a bit, I left and went home.

That’s not the only ending. A few days ago we helped our son move out of our place, as he is recovered from the most recent surgery he had. There will be one more surgery at some point in time, but that is a ways off in the future. Then there is the end of the school year coming up. The morning shuttle of grand-kids to school, as well as time volunteering in the school library, will end.

Well, there is time and a season for everything, even endings. But for every ending, God sends a beginning.