Throw Back Thursday – Maddie’s Musings 4/20/17

Personal Note:  Maddie’s very first blog!  First published June 23, 2009 – our first year as island summer residents.  ____________________________________________________________________

Hello – Maddie here.

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My favorite place – my Dad’s lap.

I hope all of you folks out there who read Mom’s blog are happy to hear from me – finally.  I think Mom told you that I had been working on this thing for some time (in between everything else I have to do around here to keep the premises safe).  Somebody has to make sure we aren’t going to be attacked by squirrels or chipmunks or snakes – and it sure isn’t going to be that big furball I am forced to share Mom and Dad with.  All he’s good for is to prance around and look good.  You should see him right now – lying at Mom’s feet with every long, golden hair in place.  Well, let me tell you something – he stinks!  I can’t wait till Mom takes him off island on Thursday for another bath and to get groomed.  I know he told you about that bath he had down at the horse shower.  Mom’s good at a lot of things, but bathing 90 lbs. of dog in a shower built for a Clydesdale in front of an audience is not one of them.  He smelled a little better (at least our company didn’t gag when he came around), but he needs to go to a PROFESSIONAL.

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This is me and my all-time favorite toy. Why is it my favorite? Because I cannot destroy it! Of all the toys I have had in my five years of life, this is the only one that has survived. I keep trying though – I will NOT give up!

OK – back to me.  Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat.  I am a dachshund.  I know that is hard to spell – even Mom has to look it up in that big book of words every time she uses it in this blog.  I am NOT a weinie dog, a weiner dog, a hotdog, or a doxie.  Do you think puffball would like to be called a GOLDIE?  He is a golden retriever.  I am a dachshund.  I have papers to prove it – maybe not as many papers as goofy, but papers nonetheless.

I have two houses to take care of – one in Georgia and one up here where it’s still freezing even in June – ok it’s not freezing, but I do not have 17 tons of hair like the monster does – I have very short, shiny brown hair that nobody has to professionally take care of – I am a very low maintenance dog.  A couple of baths a year (in the bathtub at home, not at a fancy, spancy salon) is all it takes to keep me looking good.

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Me in my cold weather sweater and faux fur cover-up. I JUST put these away this week.

In Georgia, we live on a lake, and the yard is fenced in, front & back.  Therefore, when the door opens, I am free to run around outside to my heart’s content.  I can chase squirrels and ducks and birds (wish I could fly!) and dig up moles and catch mice (Mom says I must be half-cat), and hunt for snakes.  I know Mom told you about me going after that copperhead in the yard in Georgia.  I had it handled, but Dad says he saved my life.  I still say I had it handled. 

Then there was that time when I was tracking that big black snake that lived in the bushes outside our front door (in Georgia).  I was barking like crazy (something I am not allowed to do up here because of the neighbors).  Mom came out and was trying to get me away from the bush (she doesn’t much like snakes), and that snake dropped right on her foot.  You should have heard her scream!  I jumped right in there and grabbed that snake (Mom said it was at least three times longer than me), and whipped it around my head like a lasso.  Then I threw it down as hard as I could (you are thinking I am making this up, but you can ask Mom).  We all thought it was dead, but it was only dazed.  It crawled off, and our good neighbor at the lake (who doesn’t care if I bark) came over and took care of him with this big stick that goes BOOM (Dad was not at home at the time).

Ok – enough about the lake.  Mom told me to write what I like about living on Mackinac Island.  So, here’s my list:  1) There are no poisonous snakes on this island.  So, when I spot a snake and go after it, Mom and Dad don’t worry so much.  2) There are chipmunks!  They look like little squirrels with shorter tails.  3)  There is a chipmunk AND a snake that live under the boardwalk at the condo, and I love to hunt for them – I have even named them.  The chipmunk’s name is appetizer, and the snake’s name is entree.  4)  There are the biggest squirrels I have ever seen here.  The one who lives in the tree outside our living room window is black – our squirrels in Georgia are gray.  The squirrel’s name is dessert.  5)  We have more “quality” time with Mom and Dad here because we go on walks.  In Georgia, they just open the door and let us out.  Here, because we don’t have a fenced in yard, we have to be walked so Mom and Dad have to go with us.

Here's me "running free".

Here’s me “running free”.

Now, here’s my list of things I don’t like about the island:  1)  I have to wear a straitjacket.  You see, when I walk on a leash, I like to pull because there are always things to check out.  With just a collar, I ’bout choke myself to death.  So Mom ordered this harness-thing that puts the pressure on my chest instead of my neck.  Looks like a straitjacket to me, but now at least I don’t turn blue on walks.  2)  I can’t run free (see above).  There are leash laws here, but I have a flash for you.  They let dufus walk around without his leash.  We live near the woods, and once they have us on a wooded path, they let him go.  Now they say they can’t do that with me because I would run away chasing everything that moves.  And I won’t come back when I’m called, like that crazy dog does.  I mean, look at what my options would be – chasing a rabbit vs back into the straitjacket.  What would you do?   The only time I am semi-free is when we go to Turtle Park.  It is this huge, open area, and they will let go of the leash handle and let me run around.  They think that leash and handle will slow me down enough that they could catch me if they had to – pleezzee!  I LET them catch me just to keep them from freaking out.   4) Walking downtown with Mr. Personality and Mom and Dad.  We can’t get three inches without being stopped by a crowd of folks saying, “Ohhhh, what a beautiful golden retriever!  Isn’t he gorgeous?  Isn’t he so well-trained?  Isn’t he just like ours at home?  Isn’t he just like the one we had when we were growing up?  Come on, big boy, give us a kiss!”  You know what I want to say?  “Yeah, go ahead and get those kisses all over your face, and then I will tell you what he just picked up off the street and munched on.”

Actually, I think the island is pretty neat.  I love going in the woods, even on a leash because there is so much to explore and so many new smells to check out – other dogs, horses (who last year I thought were big dogs until I challenged one and got to see close up the biggest paws I have ever seen – and their paws have iron shoes on them), all kinds of wild animals, different plants, different trees – everything is so exciting (even in my straitjacket).  I also love the ferries and the buggies.  When we are going off island, I get to sit in Mom or Dad’s lap so I can see everything (and don’t get in people’s way).  How cool is riding in a buggy behind a team of horses and pretending that I’m the driver!! 

Me and Mom on the ferry. This was one of those cold days when Cathie and Charlie were here.

Me and Mom on the ferry.

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Me and Dad on the taxi. I’m telling the driver which way to turn.

And, I have to admit it, sometimes downtown, stinky breath gets ignored and people lean all the way down and say to me, “Aren’t you the sweetest thing!  Dachshunds are my favorite dogs.  We have two back home, and we miss them so much!  You are so cute!  You are such a happy girl!”  So I give them kisses – and stick my tongue out at the big blonde dog.

Ok – I guess that’s about all I have to say today.  If you like my first blog, be sure and tell Mom, and she will let me know.  I have lots more I could tell you!   I hope I get more fan mail than bushy tail.  That would make me VERY happy!

P.S.  I forgot to tell you that Dad calls Bozo his “big-headed boy”.  He calls me his “precious, sweet little baby”.  What does that tell you, Goldie?

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Throw Back Tuesday – Have You Ever Had One of Those Days? 1/31/17

Personal Note:  For today’s Throw back Tuesday post, a goodie from May of 2009.  It was my first summer of blogging, and we were a few days from leaving for the island.  We were still in the process of decorating our condo, so we had much more stuff to carry than we could pack in the truck.

I love going back and reading these posts.  This one puts me right back at home in south Georgia, where we still have dear, dear friends we don’t get to see nearly enough.  Marianne and Cecil Lashley and Sally and Ed Feagin, this one is for y’all!

Header:  Kem and Ed Green, friends and blog readers from Iowa, are enjoying their first winter stay on the island this week.  They arrived on Sunday (no ferry on Sundays), so they flew over from St. Ignace.  Kem is sending lots of photos from their trip, and I’ll be sharing those in next Sunday’s blog.  And there will be a Throw Back Thursday blog on Feb. 2!

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First published May 14, 2009:  Yesterday we took all our boxes to the UPS store in Americus to ship.  We had five boxes, one rubber-banded together set of 7 golf clubs, and 4 pictures we had framed for the condo. We were going to have UPS package the golf clubs and pictures because we had cut a 50% off UPS packaging coupon out of the Sunday paper magazine section.

IMG_0074The young man who worked in the UPS store put one of the boxes on the scales and told us the box would be on the island on Friday,  and shipping would be $38.23.  I said, “We really don’t want it to be there Friday – we won’t be there by then.  We’d like it to get there Tuesday of next week.”  “Oh,” said young UPS man,  “then you can send it ‘guaranteed’, and that same box will cost $78.42.”  To which I replied sweetly, “Young UPS man, please explain how it can be twice as much to ship this box to arrive 4 days later?”  Bradley (I had looked at his name tag by then) said, “It’s because it’s GUARANTEED to be there on Tuesday.”  I said (still sweetly), “We don’t care if it is guaranteed, we just want it to not get there before we do.”  Bradley said, “Ma’am (it always ticks me off when a cute young man calls me ma’am), that’s the only other way it can go.  Either it costs $38.23 and gets there Friday, or it’s $78.42 and guaranteed to get there the following Tuesday.”

At this point my husband Ted, having lived with me for 20 years and recognizing the warning signs, stepped in.  Now Ted is the most tactful person who ever lived.  I mean if he were President, there would be peace throughout the world.  He says, “Bradley, why don’t you just package the golf clubs and the pictures for us, and we will take all of it to the post office to mail.”  Bradley said, “Sir that is an EXCELLENT way to ensure you won’t get them for at least two weeks.”  I said, “Which is exactly what we want, Bradley.”

We load all EIGHT boxes back into the truck (packaging had only cost $33.22 with the coupon), run by a hardware store and get a couple of house keys made, go to Wal-Mart, and head back to the lake, planning to stop at the post office close to home and mail the boxes.  We are about 2/3 of the way home when I notice the truck is slowing down.  I say, “Honey, why are we stopping?”  Ted says, “I have no idea, I’m not touching the brakes.”  We coast down a hill with no power and pull off on the side of the road.  Ted tries to crank the truck – nothing.  Ted looks under the hood – nothing out of the ordinary.  Ted calls AAA and is told it will be 45 minutes before the tow truck gets there to take us BACK to Americus to the dealership.

IMG_0086Here’s what happened over the next 3 hours:  We called Sally to come pick ME up to go get my car from the house so I could go get Ted in Americus if they had to keep the truck.  Sally, following Ted’s directions I might add, couldn’t find us.  When she didn’t show up, we called Cecil who passed Sally going in the other direction.  I called Sally, who told me she had been looking for us for an hour.  I told her never to listen to directions from Ted again.  The tow truck arrived, we unloaded our boxes into Cecil’s truck (who had no trouble finding us going by MY directions), and Ted and tow man started back to Americus with the truck.  Cecil said, ” Since the boxes are in the back, why don’t we stop at the post office and get them mailed?”  Wonderful!

The Cobb post office is a wonderful facility.  The building is a modular home sitting practically on top of a railroad track and is a total of maybe 200 square feet.  Inside is the nicest postmistress in the world.  Cecil and I walk in with 8 boxes.  She puts the first box on the scale and says,  “This box can be on the island on Friday for $13.26.”  Can you see where this is going?  I say, “Don’t want it there Friday, want it there Tuesday of next week.”  Nice postmistress says, “Well, for $11.46, it will be there in 10 days to 2 weeks.”  I grin really big and say, “That’s perfect.”  While the boxes are being labeled, Ted calls and says, “The truck will have to stay overnight, you need to come get me.”  I say, “I’m in the process of paying the $125.78 it costs to get eight boxes to the island in two weeks, and I still haven’t gone home to pick up my car.”  Ted doesn’t laugh.  Cecil volunteers to take me back to Americus to pick up Ted instead of taking me home to my car.  I say, “OK, but can we stop by that Mexican restaurant on the way into Americus and get a couple of shots of tequila?”  I’m just KIDDING!!!!!!  We pick up Ted, Cecil takes us home, and our one hour trip to ship boxes is finally over 5 hours later.

springatlakeThe redeeming part of this story is the truck did not wait to break down on Saturday when we were in Kentucky or Tennessee or Ohio on Interstate 75, with two dogs on board and no friends anywhere within 700 miles.  God is so good.

For Bear 5/15/16

In one of my favorite books, The Gift of Years by Joan Chittister, there is a chapter that asks the question, “What am I when I am no longer what I do?”  In the book, Chittister is referring to retirement and how we define ourselves in the world when we are no longer “the moneymaker, the boss, the councilwoman, the teacher, the parent-in-residence, etc.”

It only took a year of retirement for me to become defined by two new designations.  I became Bree the Blogger, and I became Bear’s Mom.

As if it was yesterday I remember going to look at young adult dogs at Bearabella Golden Retrievers in Peach Tree City, GA.  I’d been researching Goldens for a couple of weeks, following the passing of our Chocolate Labrador Retriever, Bud.  The ad was in the Atlanta Journal – three puppies out of a mom and dad who were both national champions.  The two brothers and one sister were 13 months old.  Along with their other siblings, all three dogs had been tried in the show ring, but for one reason or another – after a few competitions – their breeder knew these three were not meant for the ring.

I knew I wanted a male, so upon arrival, we only glanced at the pretty female.  Ted immediately went for the red brother – the one running around the yard like a crazy dog – jumping, barking, tongue lolling out of his mouth with the pure joy of running free outside.  “This is the one!” Ted exclaimed excitedly.

But I was already in love with his sibling – a big, beautiful, blonde male sitting quietly inside his opened outside kennel door – just watching everything that was going on with a slight smile on his face.  I walked over, snapped a lead on his collar, and led him out of his kennel.  He walked beautifully, a little ahead of me on the left side – not a perfect heel position, but a “show heel” as he’d been taught.  No pulling, no trying to break free, just a happy walk alongside the person who he probably already knew was taking him home.

And so I became Bear’s mom.  His registered call name was Valentino, and we laughed at thinking about a “river dog” with that name.  And so he became Bear, a name his breeder had included in the name of her kennel because she thought her dogs’ heads resembled bears’ heads.

I couldn't wait to get him home and get out my camera. This is the first photo I have of him - sprawled majestically on our back deck at Lake Blackshear.

I couldn’t wait to get him back to the lake and get out my camera. This is the first photo I have of Bear – sprawled majestically on our back deck at Lake Blackshear –  and probably wondering what on earth he’d gotten himself into. 

He loved the lake house. A big yard to play in . . . .

He loved the lake house. A big yard to play in . . . .

. . . a pontoon boat . . .

. . . a pontoon boat for lazy afternoon rides . . .

. . . and miles of dirt, country roads to run up and down, with the occasional sprint into the woods after a squirrel or rabbit.

. . . and miles of dirt, country roads to run up and down, with the occasional sprint into the woods after a squirrel or rabbit.

He and Maddie made a big game of chasing our resident squirrels up the crabapple tree in the back yard. They never came close to catching one, but they sure had fun trying!

He and Maddie made a big game of chasing our resident squirrels up the crabapple tree in the back yard. They never came close to catching one, but they sure had fun trying!

Even before I found Bear I knew I wanted to participate in Paws Patrol in Albany.  They were a dedicated group of pet therapy teams who visited hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living homes and schools.  After only a few weeks with Bear, I knew he’d be perfect as a therapy dog, so we signed up for the orientation classes, took all the tests (which HE passed with flying colors – I had to repeat one test), and started four happy years of service.

Bear loved our work days. As soon as I took out his vest and bandanda, he would stand solidly still while I "dressed" him.

Bear loved our work days. As soon as I took out his vest and bandana, he would stand perfectly still while I “dressed” him.

One of his favorite things to do was to listen to children read to him. Middle school students gravitated toward the "big yellow dog", and he always patiently listened to every word.

One of his favorite things to do was listen to children read to him. Middle school students gravitated toward the “big yellow dog”, and he always patiently listened to every word.

He was the perfect size. He could put his head on a hospital bed just where a patient's hand could reach him or lay his head in the laps of wheelchair patients. I don't think there was ever a person who put their hand on him who didn't say, "He's so soft! What do you bathe him with?" But, it wasn't the shampoo - it was just Bear.

He was the perfect size. He could put his head on a hospital bed just where a patient’s hand could reach him or lay his head in the laps of wheelchair patients. I don’t think there was ever a person who put their hand on him who didn’t say, “He’s so soft! What do you bathe him with?” But, it wasn’t the shampoo – it was just Bear.

One of our pet therapy groups outside an assisted living facility.

One of our pet therapy groups outside an assisted living facility.  All of these dogs blessed – and some are still blessing – so many lives.

After his knee surgery and our move to Florida, I let his certification lapse.  But Bear never stopped “working a crowd.”  Any room he entered and any group of people he encountered was fair game for Bear’s “leaning into them” or putting his head in their lap.  In his mind, he never stopped being a therapy dog.  Never.

Bear was never more excited than when he was on Mackinac Island for the summer!  He loved the cooler weather (like his mom).  And he loved the woods . . .

His happiest moments were racing full-speed through the trees and up and down the nature paths. I would lag behind while Ted, Maddie and Bear walked ahead. Then I'd hide. Ted would turn and not see me. Then he'd say to Bear, "Where's your mama?" And Bear would come tearing down the trail, screeching to a halt beside the tree I was hinding behind. He never once ran past me . . . he always zeroed in with that nose of his before he ever reached me. And he'd bark and jump around like he hadn't seen me in months.

His happiest moments were racing full-speed through the trees and up and down the nature paths. I would lag behind while Ted, Maddie and Bear walked ahead. Then I’d hide. Ted would turn, not see me, and say to Bear, “Where’s your mama?” And Bear would come tearing down the trail, screeching to a halt beside the tree I was hiding behind. He never once ran past me . . . he always zeroed in with that nose of his before he ever reached me. And he’d bark and jump around like he hadn’t seen me in months.

He turned more than a few heads on taxi rides. He assumed he was supposed to ride on a seat, not on the floor . . .

He turned more than a few heads on taxi rides. He assumed he was supposed to ride on a seat, not on the floor . . .

 

. . . and he usually got his way.

. . . and he usually got his way.

He also loved our new home in Beverly Beach . . .

He loved our new home in Florida too, especially the beach on cooler days.  He had a blast retrieving stuff Ted would throw into the waves – as long as he didn’t have to wade in past his knees!  He never quite conquered his distrust of the water.

The photo above is from his last day – a Saturday.  He ran around and chased stuff on the beach that morning and generally had a grand ole time.  After breakfast Ted and I settled down on the deck with our second cup of coffee, and Maddie and Bear settled into their usual spots.  A little while later Bear got up and came and put his head in my lap, something he had never done at that time of day or while we were on the deck.  I put my hand on his head, and asked him, “What’s up, sweet boy?”  He stayed there another moment, looking at me with those soulful eyes, and then went back and laid down.  I think he knew then what was happening.  A little over 12 hours later he was gone.

So many have asked about Maddie, and I think she misses Bear most at walk time.  Ted would always be putting on her halter and lead as I was putting on Bear’s collar and lead.  For the first few days she’d look around as we’d go out the door like, “Isn’t Bear coming with us?”

When I brought Bear’s ashes home this week, they included a little bag with locks of Bear’s hair.  Tears streaming down my face, I opened the bag and called Maddie over.  She took one sniff, and her little tail went into overdrive – wagging so fast. 

As the days have passed, Maddie is settling into the new normal, just as we are.  Ted is still her favorite cuddle buddy, but she’s begun to grace me with a few hours of her presence in my chair on some evenings.  As I type this, she’s curled up at my feet.

When my Chocolate Lab Bud died I had him cremated, and now his ashes and Bear’s are sharing a spot on our dresser.  Years ago, when Bud died, someone asked what I was going to do with his ashes, and some have asked the same about Bear’s. My answer is the same now as it was then:  I’ve tried to think of places Bud and Bear loved so much they would like to be there (in a physical way) forever.  But, with both Bud and Bear, the one place they loved being more than anywhere else . . . was with me.  So, family members know that my ashes and Bud’s and Bear’s are to be scattered together in the places we all loved being together the most – at the lake in Georgia and on Mackinac Island.  Some may find that very weird, but those are my wishes.

To each of you who wrote such loving words to me over the last couple of weeks – thank you from the bottom of my heart.  I have read and re-read them, and they have brought such comfort because they tell me how much one of God’s four-legged creatures can touch so many hearts.  I want to share two of those notes here:

From Sarah Sielbeck in Red Wing, MN:  I can’t begin to tell you how sorry I was to read that you lost Bear over the weekend.  The email with your blog post showed up on my phone just as I sat down for a pre-concert rehearsal and after reading it I decided to dedicate to Bear (in my heart) yesterday’s St. Croix Valley Symphony concert.  It was a lovely concert of Americana and bluegrass music, and as I played I pictured him running the wooded trails of Mackinac.” 

And from Jason (the other Jason) Bergeron in San Antonio, TX:I have no words to describe how sorry I am for your loss.  Though Bear was not the traditional working dog I was used to dealing with, he still selflessly served in the communities in which you lived.  Whether it was therapy or having children read to him – that in my book makes him a working dog, a true hero and champion in his community.  Bear answered the highest calling only special dogs like him can – which was to make a difference.  Though I never had the pleasure to meet him, I’ll never forget him.”

I know this has been long.  It’s taken me several days to get it done because I’ve been unable to see the keyboard through my tears.  I’ve stopped and started many, many times.  But . . . writing it all down is healing in its way.  My tears have gotten fewer and my crying spells further apart.  I know, with time, I will remember more than anything that Bear was a special, special dog – loved by everyone whose hands ever touched him.  He was the best.  He did make a difference.

He was my sweet boy.

 

NOTE FROM THE RAINBOW BRIDGE

Hey!  Bear here!

I guess you didn’t think you’d be hearing from me again, but I got special permission from the Rainbow Bridge Keeper to write this note (yes, I already have the Bridge Keeper wrapped around my paw).

First of all . . . . I am fine.  In fact, I am better than fine.  I am awesome!

My last memories of earth were of running on the beach Saturday morning and having a wonderful time.  Later on in the day I didn’t feel good, and as the day went on, I felt even worse.  I remember two trips to the vet – the last one in the middle of the night. At the vet’s I remember mom and dad being with me, rubbing me all over, and telling me how much they loved me.  I remember mom leaning into me with her whole body and holding me and whispering in my ear that I was the best dog that ever lived.  I remember Mom and Dad were both crying, and I wanted to lift my head and tell them it was all going to be ok, but I was so, so sleepy.

I remember taking a breath and letting it out.  And on my very next breath I was awake! Up, and running across this huge field of long grass.  The wind was blowing my hair, I felt wonderful (no more achy joints), and there were trees and flowers everywhere.  It was the most beautiful place I’d ever seen – even more beautiful than Mackinac Island!

Really, it is!

There are dogs everywhere here!  Not long after I arrived, dogs started coming toward me, stopping, and introducing themselves.  Because . . . . HERE dogs can TALK!

First I met Lucky, Tyler, Shotzie, Gretchen and Bud, who told me they’d been mom and dad’s dogs before me and Maddie.  Then here comes Beyla!  And oh my gosh, she had four legs again and was so darn beautiful!  And then – oh joy!  There was my friend Hershey, running toward me like she was young again.  Because – she was!

And then, all these other dogs came up to me and explained they were dogs that belonged to mom’s friends and readers and relatives before they came to the Rainbow Bridge!  I wish I could remember all their names for you, but a few of them are Boomer, Sally, Brinkley, Cassie, Fiona, Petey, Herbie, Ginger, Buster, Barnabas, Maggie, Bentley, Tasha, Morgaine, Tiffany, Brandy, Belle, Buster, and Charlie.

Oh my gosh, we are having so much fun here.  We’re all well and happy and well-fed.  There’s water to splash around in, and I’ve even ventured in UP TO MY CHEST!  All the other dogs tell me to just take it a little at a time, and soon I’ll be swimming with the rest of them! 

And there is so much love here that we never feel lonely.

But . . . the one thing that will make our lives the very best is when we see YOU coming across that big grassy field toward us.  That’s the day we’re all waiting for.  Because then . . . we’ll run to meet you and smother you with kisses and feel your hands on us again.  And everything will truly be . . . just perfect.

And then, we’ll cross the Rainbow Bridge together into Heaven.

Bear . . . out.

Till then . . . . . you’ll be my first thought when I wake each morning and my last thought when I go to sleep at night.  I love you Mom, Dad, and Maddie.  Bear 

 

 

 

 

Coming Full Circle 1/3/2016

Thank you, Stephen Blair Kopacki, for the amazing header photograph!

In April of 2009 I wrote the first post to Bree’s Mackinac Island blog.  I began it on a whim and as a chance to satisfy a life-long desire to write.  I’d always heard the easiest thing to write on was something you were passionate about, and Mackinac Island sure fit that requirement!

Over the past almost-seven years, that first blog morphed into four other blogs: Bree’s Lake Blackshear Blog (when we were off the island at our home in south Georgia), the VERY short-lived Dog-Eared Page Blog (about the dogs of Mackinac Island), Bree’s Connecting the Dots Blog (the transition from Mackinac Island and Georgia to our new home in Florida), and recently Bree’s To Be Clay Blog (about living in Florida).  To those five blogs I’ve posted a total of 1,227 stories.  That’s pretty much one story every two days – for approximately the last 2,340 days.  To those five blogs, and over that same time period, readers took time out of their busy schedules to post 20,124 comments.

Our sweet little cottage at Lake Blackshear in the Spring.

Bree’s Lake Blackshear Blog:  Our sweet little cottage at Lake Blackshear in the Spring.

The Dog-Eared Page: Maddie and Bear playing with Buddy, an island friend.

The Dog-Eared Page: Maddie and Bear playing with Buddy, an island friend.

Connecting the Dots - this mound of dirt eventually became part of the foundation for our new home in Sunset Inlet.

Connecting the Dots:  This mound of dirt eventually became part of the foundation for our new home in Sunset Inlet.

To Be Clay: The good life in Beverly Beach!

To Be Clay: The good life in Beverly Beach!

So – where am I going with all this.

As I do every year about this time, I’ve taken the last few weeks to think about how I can continue to write something interesting – or whether I want to continue writing at all.  And every year I come back to two truths.  I love to write, and I love my readers.

This year I’ve had to dig a little deeper though.  With age and with some health issues, I find the need to focus on the things I love to write about most. And – surprise! – that is still that tiny island sitting in the Straits of Mackinac.  In studying the comments, the statistics, and the overall feed-back on all my blogs, I know – without a shadow of a doubt – that same tiny island is also what you most want to READ about.

My latest blog – To Be Clay – has an average of 400 readers for each post.  Most To Be Clay readers are Mackinac Island fans who have followed me almost since that first island blog in 2009.  They have been my loyal “core” family, and I love them with all my heart.  They’ve continued to read whether I’ve been in Georgia on the lake or in Florida across from the Atlantic Ocean.  They are the reason I’ve continued to write for this long.

But – when I traveled to Mackinac in December to write for Original Murdick’s Fudge – my reader average jumped to almost 1200 a day.  That number continued throughout my stay there.

What that tells me is that ultimately “Mackinac Island” is what you want to hear about – what you want to see photographed, what you want to learn more about.  Just as when I first starting going to Mackinac and would search everywhere for news about the island, I know there is a group out there right this minute doing the same thing. I know there are those who already love the island – and harbor a dream of maybe one day living there.  You are constantly soaking up every single fact you can find about how to make that happen.  I want to help with that.

So – as of right now – there will only be one place I’ll be writing.  Right here on Bree’s Mackinac Island Blog – the first and the most loved – is where you’ll find the Hortons.

The content won’t really change.  I’ll be sharing our lives here in Florida, sharing photographs and news from Mackinac when we aren’t there, and – good Lord willing – taking y’all with us in July when we travel north for three months on our favorite island.

And hopefully, in between all that, there may be some visits to other places!

And hopefully, in between all that, there may be some visits to other places!

Instead of going back to the future, we’re going forward to the past. Bree’s Mackinac Island Blog is where it all began.  I’ve got stories to tell, photographs to share, people to meet. It makes me feel both excited – and quietly content – to come full circle.

Woo Hoo – we’re off!

St. Anne's by Tom Chambers.

St. Anne’s by Tom Chambers.

Where to Find Bree Now 12/5/2013

Bree’s Mackinac Island Blog and Bree’s Lake Blackshear Blog have been combined.

You can keep up with the Horton clan by clicking on Bree’s Connecting the Dots http://bree1948.wordpress.comCome on over . . . . and don’t forget to click on the “follow this blog” icon at Connecting the Dots so you’ll get a notice when posts are published.

Love ya’ll!

And the Decision is . . . . . 12/1/2013

Header:  A not-quite-ready Thanksgiving family photo taken by bonus son Matt.  

I’ve been sitting here staring out the window for at least 20 minutes, wondering where and how to start this post.  There are so many things to tell you, so many trips taken, so many ideas born and buried, and so many decisions prayed over and made.  When I signed off in October I mentioned how tired Ted and I were – both mentally and physically.  Physically, we’re better now.  Mentally, this last month was at least, if not more, draining than October was.

Because there’s so much to tell I’m going to just stick with one subject tonight, and it’s probably the one you are most interested in.  As the weeks and months go by, I’ll fill in some of the blanks, but tonight I’ll hit the high spots on where our month of soul and house searching has brought us.

What you don’t know is for our last two weeks on Mackinac, Ted and I spent days discussing whether we should buy something else on the island.  We weren’t ready for our condo to sell – in fact, I think that last month we were truly shell-shocked to find ourselves without a place to live.  As we frantically searched for something to lease next summer, we also began to explore houses for sell on the island.  We found nothing fitting our criteria.  Next we looked at lots and seriously considered building a home in Trillium Heights.  We had the site picked out, and we found plans we loved.  But . . . just before letting our hearts take over and make the emotional decision for us, we stepped back and said, “We really, really need to get away from the island before we take this path.”  Our goal of being near our grandchildren and being near the beach would not be realized by building on Mackinac.  If we took that step, the house there would have to be our permanent home.  We would be further from the grandchildren for even longer periods of time.

After less than two weeks at the lake, we left for Florida.  On the way to Ormond Beach, we stopped in and toured a new boating community at Beverly Beach called Sunset Inlet.  Ted had seen it on-line and was intrigued by the homes having ocean views from one side and Intracoastal Waterway views from the other.  We both liked Sunset Inlet a lot, but it was our first stop.  We traveled on to Ormond Beach, where we spent time with Julie, Matt and the grandkids.  While they were at work and at school, we rode with a realtor for two days to look at houses we had called him to set up.  When we left there for Amelia Island, we had one home at the top of our list – an almost-on-the-ocean bungalow built in the 50’s that we both really loved – except there was no garage or even carport (NOT a good thing to be without in the salt air), and there was not room to build one.

We arrived on Amelia Island early enough to spend a few hours before dark with our realtor there.  We had lots of houses lined up, but the only one we were really interested in was directly on the beach.  We fell in love with it.  It was our dream to be ON the beach, and here it was.  But . . . it was only a little over 1,000 sq. ft. and it was a townhouse – which meant sharing a wall with someone else.  After five years in a condo, we had adamantly decided “no more shared walls”.  And once again, for the price, this would become our permanent home.  Could Ted and I spend months and months together without any space to occasionally get away from each other.  To be blunt, no.  We looked at houses all the next day, some with views, some without.  And then we went back and looked at the townhouse on the beach.  Could we make it work?  We left there undecided and started our trip back to Ormond Beach to watch Matthew play in his championship football game.

On the way back we passed once again through Beverly Beach, and we stopped again at Sunset Inlet.  We toured the model home once more, talked to the builder, and called our realtor out to act as our agent.  All of us were impressed with the quality of the homes (our agent said they were built like bunkers).  The windows could stand the impact of 140 mph winds without storm shutters, and the entire home is built above hurricane building standards.  But when we left for the lake the next day (Matthew’s team won!), we still had not made a decision.

Way back in the beginning of this process – in May – I said we’d be praying for God to open the doors He wanted for us and close those He didn’t want.  What WE wanted, of course, was a house on the beach on Amelia Island.  We loved that place, and one of the main reasons was it reminded us so much of Mackinac Island – a small community that swells in the summer and retreats in the winter back to the locals, a wonderful downtown, a historic district – even horse and buggy tours!  But, after we returned home and talked with our Amelia Island realtor, doors began to shut rapidly.  No, we probably couldn’t enclose the underneath parking or fence in the yard – or if we could, it would be difficult.  No, there were no single family homes on the beach in our price range.

At the same time, each conversation with the developers at Sunset Inlet ended in “Yes, we can do that.”

With all that said, last Friday we sent our signed contract in to Sunset Inlet to build a two-story home, which should be ready about the time we’d normally be leaving for Mackinac Island.  Beverly Beach is two miles north of Flagler Beach, two miles south of Palm Coast, and 30 minutes for our grandchildren.  We’ll have a new house, views of the Intracoastal Waterway and the ocean, and a boat dock.

Our house will look like this - minus the third floor.

Our house will look like this – minus the third floor.  This is the back side, which looks toward the Intracoastal.  The front looks across A1A to the ocean.

Nature walk at the back of Sunlet Inlet that leads . . .

Nature walk at the back of Sunlet Inlet that leads . . .

. . . to the fishing pier on the Intracoastal Waterway.

. . . to the fishing pier on the Intracoastal Waterway.

Our house plan.

Our house plan.

Aerial view of Sunset Inlet

Aerial view of Sunset Inlet – between Atlantic Ocean and Intracoastal Waterway.

IMG_0276.2

Our beach – cinnamon colored sand created by crushed coquina shells (something I admit I will have to get used to).

Site concept.

Site concept.

While all this was going on, I was having one heck of a time accepting that Mackinac Island was not going to be a big part of my life anymore.  I can’t tell you how many times Ted said, “You really don’t sound very happy about any of these places in Florida.”  I would reply, “I’m getting there, but it will take some time.”  As days went by, and with me not totally on board, I realized that Ted couldn’t let himself get nearly as happy as he should have been – it’s hard to be happy when your partner isn’t.  Since that realization, I’ve really begun to try and think more positively.  I know that Mackinac will always be with me, whether I have to enjoy it through memories or through periodic visits.  I’ve even come to terms with the fact that unless our lake house sells quickly, we might not get to Mackinac at all this summer, although Ted has promised he’ll get me there somehow – even if it’s only for a short visit.  I know that once the lake house sells, we’ll be on the island – as planned – for at least two months every year.

I came across two very good quotes today – one by Sarah Dessen in her book What Happened to Goodbye, and I’ll paraphrase it:  “Home isn’t a set house, or a single town on a map. Home is wherever the people who love you are, whenever you are together. Not a place, but a moment, and then another, building on each other like bricks to create a solid shelter that you take with you for your entire life, wherever you may go.”  The other is by Tad Williams: “Never make your home in a place. Make a home for yourself inside your own head. You’ll find what you need to furnish it – memory, friends you can trust, love of learning, and other such things. That way it will go with you wherever you journey.”

I know that’s what I have to do now.  I have to take all the memories from all the places I’ve loved and called home and put them together inside my head so I’ll always have them all.  To those, I’ll add what will be our Florida home at the beach – a place I know I will come to love with a passion over the years to come.  

So – what about this blog?

From the thoughts stated above I’ve realized I can’t continue to write a blog exclusively about Mackinac Island. To do so is to set myself up to never let myself completely love our future home.  The same is true about the lake blog.  When our house here sells, I will have to put it together in my “head home” with Mackinac, where it will live forever.

So here’s the plan.  Sometime in the next week or so, I will post a link here to a brand new blog – title undecided as yet.  In it I’ll continue to write about our family, our dogs, our new home and our old ones.  When we visit Mackinac, it will all be recorded, as will any other trips we take – for however long.  I’ll also continue to update you with photos from the Island (both winter and summer), but on this new blog – NOT on the Mackinac blog.  Both the Mackinac AND the Lake Blackshear blogs will remain on-line forever, and can be read in their entirety by new readers (and old) whenever they/you wish.  I do this with the full knowledge I’ll lose some readers who come here because of their love of Mackinac, and I am deeply saddened by that.  But hopefully many of you will continue to tag along with the Hortons as we start this new life adventure at the beach.  Surely there have to be a few beach lovers among you :)!

So there it is.  The decision is made.  I thank each of you who lifted prayers for this decision, even if the answer wasn’t what you prayed for.  To be honest, it wasn’t what we prayed for either.  But we do think it’s God’s next plan for us, so how can it possibly not be right.  Love and hugs all around, and I’ll be back in a few days with a link to the new blog with Horton Thanksgiving pics and winter pics from Mackinac!  

God bless.

 

 

Home Sweet Home 11/1/2013

Hello from our sweet little home on Lake Blackshear in south Georgia!  Never has a place looked so good as this one did when we arrived this afternoon around 5:30.

We woke in Richmond, KY to sunshine and had great weather until we were past Atlanta.  Then the skies opened and we were in heavy rains again.  But we didn't care - we were almost home.

We woke in Richmond, KY to sunshine and had great weather until we were past Atlanta. Then the skies opened, and we were in heavy rains again. But we didn’t care – we were almost home.

About five miles from the house we stopped at Stripling's (You Never Sausage a Place) for some supper provisions.  For the first time since getting in the car this morning, Maddie looked interested in where she was  . . . . .

About five miles from the house we stopped at Stripling’s (You Never Sausage a Place is their motto) for some supper provisions. For the first time since jumping in the car this morning, Maddie looked interested in where she was . . . . .

. . . and by the time we turned down our road, her eyes were focused straight ahead.  Bear had it figured out when we crossed the river bridge and was bouncing off the doors and ceiling in the back of the truck.

. . . and by the time we turned down our road, her eyes were focused straight ahead. Bear had it figured out when we crossed the river bridge and was bouncing off the doors and ceiling in the back of the truck.

Home Sweet Home!

Home Sweet Home . . .

. . . with a Welcome Home sign taped to my car and a casserole, hotwings and brownies waiting on the porch - compliments of sweet friends Ed and Sally.

. . . with a Welcome Home sign on my car and a casserole, hotwings and brownies waiting on the porch – compliments of sweet friends Ed and Sally.

It’s almost ten now.  We’ve been unpacking since we arrived, except to stop and eat that great meal the Feagins left.  We still have a few bags to go, but they will wait until tomorrow.  Oh, and then there are those 17 boxes we shipped home – unpacking will continue for a while!

It’s so good to be here, but we’re so tired it will be a while before it really sinks in we’re home and that we are no longer also residents of Mackinac Island.  I can’t tell you how many times Ted or I one has said – in the last few hours – “We keep the utensils in the right-hand drawer in the condo”; or “I like the dishwasher we have in Michigan better than this one”; or, “No recycling at the lake like we do at the condo.”  And then the other one will say, “It’s not our condo anymore.”

On Sunday night, when I can make a little more sense, I’ll write another post,  Then – like last year at this time – I’m going to take a little break from blogging for the rest of the month of November.  Ted and I both are pretty worn out – physically and emotionally – and we want to rest up and get ready for a wonderful Thanksgiving with the whole family.

There’s no way I can thank all of you enough for your prayers over the last two days for our safe travels back home.  You are such good friends, and I’m so blessed by each of you.

I’ll be back Sunday evening.  Love, hugs, and God bless.