Sweet Surprises


Jennifer lives about 30 miles away and called on Saturday to say she had a surprise for me, “Come to Brighton.”   An hour later I was lunching at Panera Bread with my daughter and her steady, Will.   I cleverly worked them both over for clues and hints.  Shamefully, I tried blackmail.  “If you don’t give me a clue, I’m going to write about you in The Painted Post.”

We slurped the last of our tomato soup and piled back into the car.  Will headed eastward.  I’m thinking…Novi?

Then it dawned on me…THE NOVI PET EXPO!

Nailed it!

It was so sweet of them to think of me and make an outing of it together.    We spent an afternoon watching dogs jump into a 35′ long swimming pool, run agility courses, and saw all the critters who found their forever homes.  It was a special day.

Back at home, I went upstairs to change clothes.  On the bathroom counter, our housekeepers had left this note.  Another great surprise!



Photo Riff


My rooster-man is in love.  With me.  It started last week.  What a shameless display he puts on when I walk outside.  He races as fast as he can to my side and if my hands are down, he lovingly pecks my palms to see if I have food. He’s a boot licker.  If I turn sharply, I might step on him; he is that close.  He never leaves my side.   We’ve advanced to the petting stage and by next week I think he will sit in my lap.  For those of you who know roosters, you know why they call them cocks.  They are  Nasty Creatures.  You can’t trust them.  But MY rooster-man, he loves me so I gave him some pie.

Take a look at my goats.  This is why we can’t have nice things.  Once all the flowers and bushes exhaust themselves and the weather turns frosty, I let my goats out of their pen to do “yard work”.  They clean up on leaf piles, brush, and do a fine job of trimming.  This year, however, they crossed the line when they gorged on my big pumpkin.   They broke the skin and ate the flesh and the chickens stood at the ready to peck out all the big seeds.

The doorbell rang and standing on my porch was a Vietnam Vet who lives up the road.  He brought me a beautiful basket of garden goods he canned along with a sample of some of the herbs still surviving his winter garden.  In exchange, he asked if he could gather wood on our property to heat his home.   He and I made a deal:  we are going to trade the basket each month.  Next month I’m bringing him some homemade breads, cakes, and noodles and we are going to help him with the wood project.

Went down to “The Joe” to see the Wings play.  It was 60 degrees the day before.  It was supposed to be “a little cooler” on game day.  When we got to our cars after the game…there was a thick frost glaze on the windshields,  I needed a crowbar to get the driver’s door open, and it was snowing.   Thanks a lot.    The apple trees are loaded this year and bow down to the ground.  That doesn’t have anything to do with hockey, but is part of this riff.



Warm Weather is For Wussies


 3rd Annual Airbiscuit Anniversary and Chili Cook-Off

Airstream Rally in Wellington, Ohio

So what if the highs each day barely hit 50 degrees with wind gusts to 30 mph and the lows each night froze our noses and toes.  We saw it as an opportunity to sport our winter flair.  There were bedazzled Stormy Kromers and lots of buffalo check flannels on display.  When it comes to keeping warm, we’re professionals.   Hence, the necessity of the Chili Cook-Off contest.

Folks from far and wide hauled their heavy, black iron dutch ovens filled with spices, mystery meat and those stinkin’ beans to the camp pavilion for the judging.   A sea of buckskin colored Carhartt jackets and insulated overalls swelled back and forth, shifting from foot to foot to keep warm.   The wind blew the heat from the pots right up our noses until our eyes watered.  Trophies were handed out and then the real tasting began.

One of my favorite things about this rally was the “magic” pillowcases that we made.

Watch this on youtube.com!  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MrYWCma9wgM

These are great for shut ins, children, charity events and as Christmas gifts for people of all ages.  I made mine for my Grandma Vargo who just turned 100 years old on June 5, 2013.  She loves butterflies and gardening so it made my heart happy to sew something special for her.



The campground did a great job of decorating, and sponsored a trick or treat hour for children to walk up to each camper for candy.   Our group had a Halloween decorating contest, a BIG raffle, a HUGE pot luck dinner, a heated party tent, several group breakfasts on a GIANT griddle , and cowboy coffee each morning.  Our rally hosts did a fabulous job with the swag bags and planning!  It was great to see some rally friends from the past and to make many new ones.

When I saw the skeletons in the canoe and the two by a campfire, I texted my cousin, Sandy (like the beach) and said, “OMG…San, that’s us until the end of time!”




Dream On

Could there have been a better time to be a teenager than when Aerosmith’s Toys in the Attic album came out?  The Nuge wasn’t far behind with Stranglehold and ballads by Elton John killed the charts.  Candle in the Wind…they don’t write them like that anymore.  Then there was the Zeppelin movie.  Robert Plant sang and Jimmy Page played.  Mix in a little Jimmi Hendrix and Eric Clapton.  Boy, was I lucky to see these standard artists when they were up and coming.

We were the generation after the 50′s fins, when stripes and powerful engines ruled the streets.  My boyfriend had a Mustang Cobra and it was the bomb.   I smoked cigarettes, drank Boone’s Farm Strawberry wine, skitched behind cars in the winter, and cussed like a sailor.  I was 17, young and dumb and full of fun.

Memories are what makes getting older worth it.   What I wouldn’t give to go back and see a Farrah Faucet poster hanging inside a boy’s school locker or mood rings for sale on a gas station counter,  or (too much) blue eye shadow.  Yes.  I said it.  Blue eye shadow.  We were all too cool for school.   Smoking in the boys’ room, ditching classes, and drag racing was about as naughty as it got.  We wore bell bottoms and skin tight tops that snapped together at the crotch.  Our hair was big, our dreams were big, and Elvis was still in the building while John Travolta made the white polyester suit famous.

Archie Bunker ruled the airwaves, microwave ovens were given away by banks as incentives to open savings accounts, and the pill was new on the market.  Dolly Parton was a regular on the Johnny Carson Show and Saturday Night Live premiered.  Starsky and Hutch solved crimes, Fantasy Island was on every Friday night, and long distance phone calls were still expensive and rare.

This past weekend my mom came over from Chicago, with my two aunts and cousins.  We sat around the table, talking about family, old times, and shared grandma stories about grandmas who left us too soon.


I’m feeling nastalgic and grateful to have these women to share my life and memories with!






Hands without wear on them

Wrote them

And those same hands, 

Now torn and lined with age, open them.

My  heart skips a beat thinking about the past.   It has been almost 35 years.

What was written and preserved?

…Through love letters written by hands without wear on them?

Throughout the course of our marriage, the births of our children, our successes and disappointments, an old box of love letters has sat by, quietly, watching and waiting for the right time; a time when life slows down, memories become sweeter, and the wish to be young and so in love again surges and swells.

The letters were neatly stacked and rubber banded in chronological order by a college football player who attended school in Big Rapids, Michigan.   (He has been known to over achieve.)  They were written by his girl, me,  an 18 year old who had just graduated high school in Elmhurst, Illinois and was holding down two jobs to support herself, make a car payment, and get a head start on life.

 We met at Long Chevrolet, a car dealership I was working at.  He was a college intern and I was the customer relations specialist who routinely received cat calls when walking through the shop. We dated from 1979 until June, 1981, when we married.

Our generation may be the last lovers

to write long-hand letters of longing,

hope and dreams.

 As an act of bravery, I decided to open this neglected, old box of letters that John saved when our love affair was new and everything glistened.  I’ve never opened it in all these years.  There is a part of me that is curious and hoping I wrote of my family life with my parents, of the times and new inventions, and included the names of friends I have forgotten.  There is a part of me that is terrified of being disappointed or that I won’t recognize my true self in them.  Silly, isn’t it?



Fall Migration

June 2011 7241


Each summer of nearly all of my summers, I’ve spent time fishing and camping in Crystal Falls, Michigan.   As a child, my folks made the six hour ride from Chicago with my brother and I packed in the back on top of the luggage and squeezed between the camping gear.   We escaped the city sun and heat for two weeks of heaven each July.   Woody and I swam in a remote Yooper paradise, diving off the pontoon dock into orange stained water and “going under” to keep the horseflies from biting us.  When we weren’t swimming, we were spending our quarters in the tavern or gathering driftwood for the fire.  Each night we would wade out under the stars to shine for crawdads.  (I held the flashlight and made Woody catch them and pile them in a bucket where they would be our captives until the next morning when our mother made us let them all go.)

Our grandparents would camp out with us on The Island without electricity or running water for a week at a time.   We were professionals.  Our skin turned brown.  Our shins got scrapped up and our ankles were all bitten up by mosquitoes.  The pads of our feet toughened up on the colored rocks. There was no television, telephones, or going back; video games and microwave ovens were not invented yet.  Texting and cell phones would take decades to appear (and work up there).  Instead, we fished all day for perch and walleye and fried them up by a toasty fire at night.  Always too soon it would be time to pack up, load up, and make the 350 mile trek back home.

These days I feel a migratory pull on my heartstrings to spend time in this place I love the most; the place that helped raise me.   Now I see geese flying in the sky with beating chests and I understand them and know why.  This place holds my childhood memories and much  happiness.  As I went on to marry (a man from Michigan!!), we brought our own children up to Crystal Falls and continued camping and fishing, watching another generation discover our secret spots and figure out the hard way where the drop off is.  The kids and cousins got to go fishing with Grandpa and Grandma.  Now our trek is 460 miles up I-75, across the Mackinac Bridge, to beautiful U.S. 2, along the picture perfect Lake Michigan shoreline and I don’t mind the extra miles.  It is all eye candy.

This month is the first time I’ve ever gone back up in the fall.

My mom and my cousin, Sandy (like the beach), met me up there and we spent more time leaf peeping than reeling in fish.  The woods were on fire with colors so bright they made us squint.  The air was crisp and the bugs were gone.  The sun was out.  The night sky was littered with sprinkles and twinkles of stars.  Sandy and I (we sharpies) took a canoe trip in 35 mph winds down the river and almost drowned.  Almost.  Ok, not really, but it was tough sledding the whole way; another memory maker for sure.  My mom and I played dominoes and sat on The Point catching the last rays of hot sun for the season.    After the first bottle, Sandy and I gave up wine glasses and drank from our own bottles by the fire.  Real classy.  The big question every night was, “Is it big enough?”

The deer were loading up on winter wheat so we were able to see and photograph a lot of them.  Bow season opened up  and every gas station offered bulk carrots and cabbage.   $$Five Bucks$$    Wild turkeys were everywhere and the only good thing I can say about them is that they were all hens so we didn’t have to listen to those awful gobblers.

Our next trip is already planned for August, 2014.   Until then, I’ll pass the days looking at all the pictures we’ve taken through the years and try to stop myself from checking weatherbug.com to see what the highs and lows are for the day up there and watching the Crystal Falls radar.








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