As the Angels Give 12/23/2011

Whoops!  Forgot to say that I’ll be taking a little blog vacation during the holidays.  We’ll be traveling some, so the next Mackinac Island Winter Update will be Wednesday January 4.  Please have a fun and safe New Year’s Eve, and I hope your holidays have been wonderful and filled with only good things.  I can’t wait to start a new year of blogging about our favorite island!  Love ya’ll


If instead of a gem, or even a flower, we should cast the gift of a loving thought into the heart of a friend, that would be giving as the angels give.  George MacDonald

In December of 2009, after our second summer on the Island, I wrote about a gift that Jane Kemp from Minnesota (a blog fan) had created for her mom for Christmas.  Jane and her mom loved Mackinac Island and visited as much as possible.  In an email from Jane that year, she explained:  “When I read you might publish a book from the blog, I thought, ‘I’ll make a blog book myself, and give it to mom for Christmas.‘”  Jane printed out page after page of blog stories and photographs and compiled it into a spiral notebook, with pictures of geraniums on the front cover.  She entitled it, “Mackinac Island Living Through Bree’s Blog….as blogged by Brenda Horton.”

In 2009, Jane emailed this photo of the book she created for her mom.

In the spring of 2010, when I was facing surgery, I received a scrapbook Jane made especially for me.  It is beautifully done and filled with photos from the blog and little snippets of what I’ve written over the years.

Jane’s note with the scrapbook read:  “Hi Bree. Hope this finds it’s way to you, and that I got the correct address . . Bear did say he lived on Flintside Drive, and I only found one Horton on Lake Blackshear!  As soon as you said you were having surgery, I had this idea . . for a little memory book to peek at while you make your recovery.  I hope you and Ted enjoy it – as you begin to make plans for another trip to the island.  Your friend in Minnesota, Jane.” 

This book is so special to me, and it travels back and forth with us to Michigan every summer so I can share it with others.

Last week, tired and grouchy from battling traffic and other shoppers in Albany, I was sitting on the den sofa feeling pretty sorry for myself.  I couldn’t seem to find any kind of Christmas spirit this year.  Even though I had lobbied for a small tree, every time I looked at it – bare underneath at that time – I wanted to cry.  “Where is my joy?” I asked myself.  I knew some of the problem, of course.  Christmas is always a time when I miss my parents the most.  I miss daddy’s fun-loving spirit and mama’s quiet smiles.  I miss walking into their house on Washington Street in Sylvester and smelling all the Christmas fixin’s – my mom’s dressing and sweet potato souffle’ and ambrosia.  I miss watching daddy carve the Christmas hen – yes, that means “chicken” (mom always claimed she didn’t know how to bake a turkey).   To say I was throwing myself quite a pity-party is an understatement.

It was then that Ted walked out to the mailbox (probably to get away from my grouchiness).

When he returned, he said, “You have a package from Jane in Minnesota.  Were you expecting something from her?”

Puzzled, I said, “No. In fact, I haven’t heard from Jane much this year.  What in the world could it be?”

I opened the card on the outside of the package.  It read in part:  “Hello Bree, and Merry Christmas to you and Ted from your blog follower – Jane in Minnesota!  I have been lax about leaving comments but have been a faithful reader – even tho my world has been turned upside down.  I lost my dear mom back in May.  Like you – I am an only child, blessed with loving parents.  She was my best girlfriend as well as ‘mom’; I miss her terribly!  Have been taking care of my dad – after 59+ years of marriage with mom, it’s been a big adjustment for him.  Anyhow – you may recall I had shared with you of my creating a ‘book’ of some of your earlier blog posts and other info on Mackinac Island (and Lake Blackshear too!) and giving it to her for Christmas as a gift.  She loved it and got much enjoyment out of reading your stories about our favorite island.  I know she would love you to have the book . . . I hope you get a kick out of reading your words – ‘book’ style!  Merry Christmas, Bree!”

Within the beautifully wrapped package was the book Jane created for her mom.  There is no way I can explain what seeing it meant to me.  The time Jane put into the development of her mom’s gift is a testament of her love for her ‘best girlfriend’. The book is over 150 pages and filled with copied photos, entire blog posts, comments from readers – including most of the comments and emails by Jane to me and my comments and emails back to her.  There’s also a section of blogs from the lake and posts from other Mackinac bloggers.

What a cherished gift – one that will travel with us, along with Jane’s scrapbook, to Michigan each summer.  Reading through it brought such wonderful memories – of times with friends, times in the quiet solitude of the Mackinac woods, time standing on the shores of Lake Huron and thanking God for the blessed life we have.

I’ve always believed in the adage “It’s more blessed to give than to receive.”  But on that day last week, sitting on the sofa in our den, holding Jane’s love-filled gift to her mom – now passed on to me – I was blessed to receive not only her book, but my Christmas spirit as well.  I know God will bless Jane – who gives as the angels give.


The shopping is done.  The gifts are covered in holiday paper, tied with pretty ribbon, and they wait beneath our tree for Sunday morning’s hustle and bustle.  It will just be Ted, Blake and I to open presents on Christmas Day, but that’s ok.  Having our children or grandchildren with us is always a time of celebration, even if they come one at a time!  Jason and Blair will be coming in the day after Christmas, and later in the week Ted and I will leave for Florida to celebrate with Julie, Matt and the grandchildren.  That’s the “sunny and warm” trip I mentioned on Monday.  The “snowy and cold” trip will be in January when we’ll fly out to visit Blake in Colorado.  We’ll stay in Ft. Collins a couple of nights, then drive with him to Beaver Creek, CO (near Vail) to spend two nights there at a ski resort.  We’re hoping for tons of snow, but no blizzards to change our travel plans.  We are so excited about both trips, and I can’t wait to share them with you!

I pray your Christmas Day is filled with everything joyful – family, friends, good food and special gifts.  And perhaps, sometime during the day, there might be a quiet moment when all your folks can gather together and read the greatest Christmas story ever written.

Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David.

To be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.

So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered.

And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.

Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.

“For there is born to you this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:

“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

  We wish you a very Merry Christmas!

In Christian love,

Ted, Brenda, Maddie & Bear

Mackinac Island Winter Update – Vol. 5 12/21/2011

Snow on the Island!  Finally!  It fell overnight this weekend and covered the streets and the grass.  And lucky us – my friend Denise and her husband Mike (both with Carriage Tours), were on the island and captured it all!  Even though it’s all melted now, Denise covered all the fun while it lasted!

The south end of Cadotte. Snow is falling, adding atmosphere to the merry decorations along the fence that stretches all the way to Chambers Corner.

A festive wreath hangs on a streetlight. I love that on the Island even sawhorses are decorated with Christmas lights!

A beautiful angel "Harks the Herald" from this porch.

This is in the open space between Market Street and the first house on the right going up Cadotte Ave. The snow hasn't accumulated yet.

Santa looks all relaxed in his recliner! I guess on Christmas Eve morning he'll hop on that lighted bike and scurry up to the North Pole.

The Geranium Cottage on Market Street - always beautiful, but never more so than at Christmas.

Heavier snow now - on Main Street at the Iroquois Hotel. Even though the Iroquois is closed for the winter, the McIntyres have it beautifully decorated.

A quiet Main Street - through the snow.

Daybreak on Sunday morning - people awoke to a snow-covered island.

Looking west down Market Street toward Lake Huron. Even with the clouds, the Island looks beautiful covered in white.

I love the potted Christmas Tree beside the Mackinac Island Medical Center sign.

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree . . .

The Manger scene at the head of the Arnold Dock.

Denise found the one taxi operating during the winter, and one of its horses was REAL interested in what she had in her backpack!

They said hello to our friend George Wellington, the winter taxi driver. I love George!

The Arnold Ferry freight boat - the mighty Huron - complete with Christmas Tree on the forward deck.

A great shot of town.

If anyone is planning to be on Mackinac Island over New Year’s Eve, the following link can give you all the great restaurants that will open to serve you during that holiday – it even has the menus!!/2011/12/patrick-sinclairs-irish-pub-opens-for.html

I know there’s a lot of interest out there about why the webcam site is for sale.  I’ve really tried to get some info on that and will continue to try.  Since I’ve converted from Windows to the Linux operating system, I’ve been unable to access some streaming video sites, and is one of them.  I’m using the Chippewa Hotel site, which now has a webcam pointed toward Main Street ( and the Horn’s Bar site (  Neither of those are live streaming, but you can see what’s happening on the streets in fairly real time.

That’s all I have for tonight, but if you have time on Friday, come on back here for a special Christmas edition of Bree’s Mackinac Island Blog.  Until then – happy shopping, wrapping and caroling.  God bless.

A beautiful photo taken of a sunrise this week by the Mission Point Resort folks. The gazebo illuminated by the sun is one of the most-used spots on the Island for summer weddings.

Santa Bear

Mackinac Island Winter Update – Vol. 4 12/13/2011

Hello everyone!  I’m hoping you’re all a lot more prepared for Christmas than I am, but today I’m going to stop fretting about everything I haven’t done and talk about what’s happening on Mackinac Island . . . you know – the little island in Lake Huron that should at this time of year be covered in snow, all sparkling and white.  Not!

Heather May captured what little bit of snow fell a few days ago - not even enough to think about cranking up the snowmobiles. The Christmas decorations sure look festive though!

The annual Christmas Bazaar was a great success last weekend.  According to Jeannette Doud’s column in The Town Crier (our Christmas edition arrived on Monday), “the doors to the Community Hall opened on Friday, and at 1 p.m. sirens could be heard in the distance as Santa arrived on the new Fire Department ladder truck.  He came into the hall and wished everyone a Merry Christmas.  Santa then went over to the fire hall, where he heard the wishes of the little children, who were so excited.  Santa told them all to be good and then left for the North Pole.  He will return Christmas Eve.”

Santa didn't let a little rain stop his arrival! (Photo: Jennifer King)

I’ve received so many great photographs from island friends – and blog readers who have been to the island in the last couple of weeks.  I couldn’t wait to share them today!

Rainy weather didn't stop shoppers either when the doors to the Community Hall opened for Christmas Bazaar. (Photo: The Island Bookstore)

The entire Community Hall was filled with items like these. Some could be purchased outright, some went at silent auctions, and there was also a spirited auction for some major items, led by friend Mike Carley as auctioneer. (Photo: The Island Bookstore)

Wow! I would have loved to have been there to Christmas shop! (Photo: The Island Bookstore)

A little Christmas magic from the good folks at the Chippewa Hotel. And . . . .

. . . not to be outdone, right across the street from the Chip, Doud's windows and flowerboxes are aglow with twinkling lights.

The Lilac Tree has garlands of lights, and they'll be open for New Year's Eve! And did you notice the window in the lower right-hand corner? That's Nicole Doud's Little Luxuries of Mackinac Island.

Since Nicole lives year-round on the island, she can open the store anytime she wants during the winter season! (Photo: Nicole Doud)

Shepler's Christmas tree on their St. Ignace dock.

Sue and Andrew (blog readers we met last summer on the Island) from Vicksburg, MI were on the Island for Christmas Bazaar and emailed some great shots to me last week.

Andrew thought I might want to see what Anne's Tablet looks like without leaves on the trees. I've never seen it in the winter. Sure looks cold though!

They pretended to be locals and attended a basketball game at the Island school.

Andrew and Sue loved this "wreathed" horse at Chambers Corner (the corner of Market and Cadotte). I love him too - in fact, at the very first Festival of the Horse, Jill took a photo of me sitting on him (he was wearing a saddle then).

Oh my gosh! They've come a long way on the new Grand Stable being built up near our place! It's supposed to be ready by the time the Grand opens in April.

The brightly lit Christmas tree in the middle of Main Street. The beautiful tree is very tall and very well-shaped. It came from the yard of Rosie Charnes, a neighbor of ours up in the Village. I love the Manger scene that is always there at the entrance to the Arnold dock. Thanks so much Andrew and Sue for these great shots.

More Christmas Tree Photos

Even on a rainy day, that tree is pretty darn majestic. (Photo: Mackinac Mommy, who also has a Mackinac Island blog at

A view of the tree from the Chippewa Hotel web site.

The gathering for Christmas carols, just after the lighting of the tree - quite a crowd!

Before I close for this week, I just wanted to remind everyone – if you still need to order books for someone on your Christmas list – or anytime AFTER Christmas – please consider supporting an independent bookseller – The Island Bookstore.   They offer discounts too – just like the big guys!  Check them out at

Michael Forrester shared this great painting of Round Island Light on his Facebook page this week, and I just had to share it with you.  It was painted by Virginia Souza and was featured on the cover of the December, 2010 issue of Lighthouse Digest.  I love it!  The picture is available for purchase (Mike has one) at

See you back here next Wednesday when it will almost be Christmas!!  Have a wonderful week, and let’s all hope up some snow for Mackinac Island.  God bless.

More Sad News 12/7/2011

Updated:  12/9/2011

Next week – hopefully – we’ll return to our regular Island winter updates and talk about Christmas trees and maybe even some snow on the ground.  But not this week.

The plane crash that took the lives of Tom Phillips, a Mackinac Island summer resident, and Joey Pann, a pilot with Great Lakes Air, was not the only tragedy for the Island this weekend.  Already numb from that news, we heard of the death of another Mackinac Island summer resident.

On their way north last Saturday morning, Steve Vanderboegh and wife Bobbi pulled over on the side of the road near Cheboygan to aid a couple whose car had spun out on black ice.  They asked the couple into their car to wait – out of the cold – for emergency vehicles to arrive.  While waiting, a tractor trailer driver, attempting to switch lanes, lost control of his vehicle on the icy roads.  The truck hit Steven and Bobbi’s car, killing Steven instantly and injuring Bobbi and the other two passengers.  Steven was 48 and leaves behind a son Alex and daughter Ashley, who Ted and I know from her working at the Cannonball for two summers and at Doud’s this past summer.

All three of the men lost this weekend were husbands and fathers – Joey so very young, and Tom and Steven in the prime of life.  Anyone who has lost a cherished loved one knows the hurt each of their family members is experiencing today.

Please continue to remember the Pann, Phillips, and Vanderboegh families in your prayers.

Funeral services for Joseph “Joey” Pann, Jr. will be Thursday, December 8 at 1:00 p.m. at Curtis Baptist Church in Curtis, MI.  Memorials may be made in Joey’s name to an educational fund for his three-month-old son, Axel.

Memorial and funeral service information for Tom Phillips is available through the family.   Donation information: Fulcrum Foundation, National Ski Patrol, Seattle Children’s Hospital, The Arthritis Foundation

Funeral services for Steven Vanderboegh will be Monday, December 12, 2011 at 1:00 p.m. at the Crandell Funeral Home – Fremont Chapel, Fremont, MI. INTERMENT : Mackinac Island Protestant Cemetery. MEMORIAL CONTRIBUTIONS : Ashley and Alex Vanderboegh Education Fund.

Header Photo:  Heather May

A Tragic Loss 12/5/2011

Saturday night Tom Phillips and Great Lakes Air pilot Joe Pann left the St. Ignace airport around 8 p.m. for the 4.5 mile, six-minute flight to Mackinac Island aboard a single-engine Piper Saratoga.  Tom and his family are summer residents on the Island, and live in Washington State during the winter.  It’s not known at this time what went wrong, but when the plane did not reach the island as scheduled, calls went out, and local and Coast Guard searches began on land and on the water.  The searches continued all night and until the plane was located early Sunday afternoon.  It had crashed about 100 yards from the shoreline of Lake Huron, just north of St. Ignace.  Both men lost their lives in the crash.

I did not know Tom Phillips, but I do know his wife Sandy as a lovely and gracious lady.  Joe Pann was a much loved pilot who almost daily flew Mackinac residents and visitors back and forth from St. Ignace to the Island.  This tragedy strikes to the hearts of all of us who call Mackinac Island home.  Our prayers go out to Sandy and her family and to the family of Joe Pann.

A special thanks to the men and women of the Mackinac Island Fire Department, Police Department, and EMT Service and to the U.S. Coast Guard for their tireless efforts in locating Tom and Joe.

Header photo: Heather May

Mackinac Island Winter Update – Volume 3 11/30/2011

Hi everyone, and happy “Week after Thanksgiving”!  Ted and I enjoyed the most wonderful holiday with all the children and grandchildren at the Georgia lake house – except Blake, who spent Thanksgiving with friends in Denver, CO.  He’ll be home for Christmas though – can’t wait!

What better way to start this week’s update than with our first newsletter from Greg Main!  Thanks so much, Greg, for allowing me to share your wonderful words about life on the island during the winter months!

     “As we near the end of November, with the winter months just around the corner, there are changes in store for those of us still on Mackinac other than the weather.  Actually, these changes will also affect those of you who will be returning. 

     So far, we’ve experienced little in the way of winter-to-come, with only a few flurries in the air one afternoon and temperatures falling a few nights into the upper 20’s.  Typically, gray days, cool temps and rain forecasted every few days is a November we expect. 

     An expected change – one which was generally not wanted among this community – is the destruction of McNally Cottage.  Gone for good is yet another of the island’s historic structures.

     Another expected change, this one scenic in nature, was the removal of all the remaining mature maples lining both sides of Cadotte Avenue.  Their spindly replacements will take some time to get used to, as will the ‘new’ view looking up and down that street.  Hopefully, a few decades from now, future generations will be able to enjoy the same canopy-covered, photogenic street many of us will fondly remember.  One drawback (personal opinion, here) to the new plantings was the placement of one tree directly in front of Little Stone Church, making it impossible to get an unobstructed photograph of the church head-on.  However, it was the same way with the old trees.

     One of the unexpected changes is the change in management of the Village Inn.  After 28 years, Ron and Mary Dufina will no longer be leasing the building, as owner Dennis Cawthorne decided to let the Grand Hotel give it a go.  The new name, as I’m told, is something like ‘Cawthorne’s Village Inn, a Grand Hotel restaurant’,  but don’t officially hold me to that name. All of the kitchen equipment was removed a couple weeks ago for remodeling, and a lot of painting and other remodeling has been taking place in the bar and restaurant areas since the first of this month, with a December 1st re-opening still being anticipated.

     For the first couple weeks this month, the noxious odor of hot asphalt wafted downhill from the airport, intermittently invading the olfactory senses of anyone outside in the downtown area.  With that aspect of the airport job now nearly finished, the runway is once again open, although only for daytime flights until the new lighting installation is completed. 

     Our town Christmas tree was set up on Main Street, donated by Rosie Charnes from her property in the village.  This tree is strikingly different from the norm, it being much larger in height and girth.  It is a great looking tree, and we’re all looking forward to the official lighting.

     Just as we’ve been getting used to the continued running of Arnold Transit’s fast ferry, the announcement was posted today that the Chippewa, or ‘the slow boat’ to many of us, will be put into service beginning Saturday.  Shepler’s ferry is still running also, per the ferry ordinance, but there have been more empty or near-empty ferries coming and going every day between here and St. Ignace this Fall than I have ever seen before. 

     Mackinac Island’s first annual ‘Turkey Trot’, a 5k/3.1mile run/walk/ dog/walk/ bike/ whatever will take place Thanksgiving morning at 11 o‘clock, beginning at Doud’s Market, route unknown to me at this time.  It’s a just-for-fun event, untimed, unsanctioned.  Perhaps a good way to work off some calories before packing them back on later in the day.  

     Freighters remain an everyday sighting in the Straits.  It seems busier this November than most that I recall.  Maybe this is a sign of good things to come, economically.

     I’m getting started with these missives a bit later than usual this year as most of my week has been tied up with working.  It’s rehab time at the Island House Hotel, and every room is gone through, painted, patched and primped.  Five days per week there leaves little time for me to wander about, gathering ideas, mustering opinions or to chat with people in order to sit at this keyboard on a semi-regular basis and pass along things I might deem interesting . . .hopefully.

     It is that time of year when quiet returns.  The daily parade of dump trucks loaded with McNally site excavation dirt and gravel rumbling through town notwithstanding, traversing the bluffs, east and west, the Annex roads, interior trails and even circling State highway are a welcome contrast to the noise and hubbub of the all-too-brief summer season.  It isn’t so much that island wildlife is more abundant or noisy at this time of year, it’s the lack of human distractions which enable one to pause now and then, noticing an interesting architectural feature on a cottage, listen to the distinct, myriad warbles and trills of those non-migratory (or procrastinating) birds or to simply walk or bike slowly, taking in the newly-created vastness of the masses-free areas all over the rock.  It’s a good time to be here if you like the transition phases of Mackinac living.  We quickly fall into daily routines which, themselves, change little as winter approaches, sets in for a spell, then melts away a few months from now.  It can be a busy time for some, a relaxing time for others.  For those of us who like being busy with a day now and then to relax, it is, again, a good time to be here.

     This first offering will be rather short until I get myself into a routine sometime after the holidays, after which I can ‘settle in’ to hopefully have more to write each time along with new photos as often as possible.  Until the next time, I hope all is well with everyone wherever you are.”  Greg Main

As I’ve mentioned before, November is a slow month on the Island, with a lot of men off hunting.  November is also the month when many store owners are off the Island traveling to “market” and purchasing all the goodies we’ll want to buy next summer!

The St. Ignace News is a winter source for a lot of what I learn about the Island in the off-season, and this week’s issue was brimming with information.

  • In a story by Matt Mikus:  The skeletal remains of at least four humans found at the excavation site of the demolished McNally Cottage (believed by Cecil Pavlat, Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians repatriation specialist, to be of Native American origin) may be reinterred in a memorial burial mound on the Island.  Pavlat stated at the Mackinac City Council Meeting on Nov. 16 that this would be a culturally acceptable means of repatriation and would help bring awareness to Native American history on the Island.  Pavlat plans to contact the Mackinac Island State Park Commission to find a possible location for the burial and the monument.  If the state park commission is unable to fulfill the request, there is also the possibility of a private landowner donating a plot of land.  In response to a question my council member Anneke Myers, Pavlat said the 400 yards of earth removed from the site could probably be contained and interpreted on a plot of land 200 feet square.
  • From Jeannette Doud’s Mackinac Island column:  1)  Folks are getting anxious about the lack of snow – snowmobiles are ready to go, but first that white stuff has to fall from the sky!  2)  The Island hosted its first Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day.  It was a 5K, 3.1 mile walk, run, or bicycle ride, and dogs were allowed.  The race wasn’t timed or sanctioned – it was just for fun.  3)  Christmas Bazaar December 3-5.  4)  Christmas tree lighting Dec. 2 at 5 p.m. (you can watch on the Island web cams at!)

Shepler’s “fast” ferry will continue to run through December 2 – and possibly longer, depending on weather conditions.  The Felicity is pulling the extra duty, with other Shepler fast ferries out of the water for the winter months. Although all the ferry companies now run only from St. Ignace, the Mackinac City Shepler Dock is decorated for Christmas.

Thanks to all the readers who “snagged” a photo off the webcams of the Christmas Tree going up in the middle of Main Street and emailed them to me.  The two I’m posting are from Smi Horn, who lives year-round on Mackinac and got a great shot from a different angle than the webcams –  and a shot at sunset tonight, Nov. 29, from Nicole Doud of Little Luxuries.

As Greg mentioned in his newsletter, this is a really BIG tree. Can't wait to see it glowing with lights this Friday night!

Nicole added this sunset shot of the unlit tree to her Little Luxuries Facebook page just tonight.

The Mackinac Island Tourist Bureau has a new site where Island videos are being posted.  This is the one I chose to highlight (about horses, of course, and with some great music), but once you’re there you can click on all the others.  Thanks to Mary Slevin for this snazzy new resource!

I’ll close with a few more photos from Steve Fridley . . . . . .

Mission Church on the east end of Main Street, before you get to Mission Point. If you've never been inside, please make a point to drop by on your next trip to the Island. Its peaceful simplicity will draw you in and bring a moment of calm to a busy day.

Marquette Park. Street lights. Full moon. Peek-a-boo clouds. Sigh.

A quiet fall evening downtown.

Fort Mackinac - with fall color!

Can’t believe when we talk next Wednesday it will be December, and we’ll all be in the middle of the Christmas hustle and bustle.  Let’s not forget, during all that craziness, to celebrate the true meaning of the season – the birth of the baby Jesus.  Love to you all!

God bless.

Shared by a friend - too, too cute!

A Thanksgiving Top Ten 11/22/2011

Happy Thanksgiving Week!

I’m posting a day early this week because we have children and grandchildren coming in on Wednesday, and I’m sure all of you are either cooking too –  or traveling.  This is the same post I wrote for the Lake Blackshear Blog that posted yesterday, so if you read that one, no need to go further – well, unless you want to read it again!

I’ll see you back here next week on Wednesday, November 30.  Have a blessed holiday!


Not being a regular television watcher, I don’t keep up with much on the small screen (or the big screen, as so many of them are these days), but I do know David Letterman has a “Top Ten” list for just about anything of relevance in today’s world.  Sitting on the sun porch this morning, sipping coffee and watching our birds happily munch away at “Horton’s Fine Feathers Cafe”, I conjured up my “Top Ten” list of blessings.  Here’s what I’m thankful for – from cherished to most cherished.

Number 10:  Sunrises, Sunsets – and Everything In Between.  Whether in Georgia or on Mackinac Island, I pretty much miss sunrise each morning, choosing instead to snooze right through it unless I have an early morning appointment somewhere.  Thank goodness there are others less lazy than I who bound up, ready to tackle the day and verify for all of us late risers that the sun does indeed come up each morning – signaling the end of night and the start of another day that the Lord has made – just for us.  Between the sunrise and sunset, I’m thankful for every single moment I’m given – to love deeply and to live fully.  As I’ve grown older, the need to cherish each moment God grants me has grown.  The whirlwind of younger days has been replaced with an appreciation of the finer things in life – sun sparkling on water, trees budding in the spring, the kaleidoscope of leaves in the fall, the long stretch and curve of dirt roads in the country, the clip-clop of horses hooves on Mackinac streets, the natural wonders of the woods in the South and in the North, the song of birds.  My comforts now lie mainly in what God has made, not in the man-made, rapidly replaced “stuff” we invent for our pleasures.  Sunsets herald the end of another day, the peace of slumber, and the hope that the daytime hours were well-spent – and at least somewhat pleasing to our Maker.

Number 9:  The Joy of the Double-Nest.  Ted and I both know how blessed we are to enjoy summers in Michigan and winters in Georgia.  When telling strangers about our life-style, we often hear the phrase, “You have the best of both worlds!”  It’s true, and we give thanks every day.  There may come a day when what we do is no longer practical – or possible – but for now it keeps us looking forward to every minute of every day.  When we returned home a few weeks ago and went to our doctor for annual physicals, he said to each of us separately, “I predict the six months you spend on that island will add years to your life.”  All our blood work, our x-rays, our EKG’s – everything was perfect.  No cars equals more exercise.  Note to self in Georgia – drive less, walk more.

Number 8:  Retirement.  What a wonderful time of life!  When I was very young I once said, “We do it all wrong.  We should be free to enjoy life when we’re young – maybe from college to age 35 – then go to work and work till we die.”  Oh, the stupidly of youthful thoughts!  How could I have possibly imagined the joy that would come from having worked and done a job well, while my brain was clear enough to handle it.  As a young person, how could I possibly have known the joy of the “light at the end of the tunnel” that would flicker more brightly with each year – something to look forward to.  Retirement – the joy of free days to do nothing if that is my choice, the joy of volunteering, the joy of grandchildren, the joy of being old and feeling good and NOT having to go to work.  I sure am glad the system works as it does – not as I once thought it should.

Number 7:  Pets.  What would we do without them!   Bear and Maddie and all those before them . . . Bud, Shotzie, Calico, Whiskers, Tyler.  They fill our days with undiluted happiness, even when they are at their most annoying.  They bring us unconditional love while they live and heart-wrenching sorrow when they leave us.  Our lives would not be as joyful without them, and when my final hours on this earth approach, I pray I will spend them surrounded by family – and with a good dog’s head resting under my hand.

Number 6:  Friends.  I believe you can have only one BFF (“best friend forever” – for those not into the modern initials of the texting world) –  mine is Helen McCorvey.  I don’t mention her often, but she knows she’s the sister I never had and always longed for.  She’s there for me always, knows all my secrets . . . and loves me anyway.  We don’t talk or see each other nearly enough these days; but I know – and she knows – that a phone call would bring us running to each other to help with anything.  Helen taught me English when I was a Junior in high school, and one day she praised something I wrote for a special assignment.  That praise planted the seed for what I do today.  Over the years she’s been my teacher, my boss, and my mentor.  Now she’s my best friend forever – and when I finish this sentence, I’m going to get up and call her.

Close friends come and go throughout our lives, and I’m thankful for each and everyone.  The ones who stick through all the ups and downs are the ones I remember and the ones who hold such a special place in my heart.  They’re the ones I call when I need a pep talk or want to brag about my children or grandchildren.  They’re the ones, although I don’t see them for months – or talk to them for weeks – don’t hold it against me, and pick up the next conversation as though we only spoke yesterday.  In the close-knit communities of the lake in Georgia and the little island of Mackinac, it’s those close friends I long to get back to when we are away.  In a perfect world, I’d haul them all back and forth with us each year.  Practicality prevents that, of course, but it sure would make both our “nests” pretty much perfect.

There’s another group that must be mentioned in this friend “thankfulness” list – those of you who have become networked together through these two blogs – one in Georgia and one on Mackinac Island.  You’re such a loyal group – over 1200 strong in Michigan and over 700 strong in Georgia.  I’m thankful for each of you.  A few years ago, none of us knew each other, and most of us will never meet face-to-face or even speak on the phone.  Nevertheless, we are friends.  We care for each other through our mutual love of a place.  I think that’s pretty doggone special!

Number 5:  Family.  Family is everything.  As an only child I always longed for sisters and brothers, and loved spending time with my first cousins (most of my aunts and uncles had large families).  Life being what it is, we’ve all ebbed and flowed into each other’s lives at different times over the years, and it is only since the deaths of the uncles and aunts that we’ve really become close again.  I’m so thankful for that, and I love each of them with a love born from the blood that courses through our veins.  We are kin.  They are my roots.

Cousins are very important in Ted’s family also, and I’m so thankful for Cathy and Charlie, who come to see us each summer.  Another cousin from Ted’s family came into our lives in the last few months.  After almost 30 years, Ted reconnected with a first cousin in Ft. Thomas, KY, and I am so thankful they’ve found each other once again.   Jan was one of the the children he played with at his grandparents cottage in the Les Cheneaux Island in Michigan – during long. lazy summers spent fishing and playing in the woods of the U.P.  I have yet to meet Jan, but we’ve spoken on the phone.  What a blessing to reconnect with family after such a long time apart.  We’re hoping to visit with each other next summer, and what fun it would be to have Cathie and Charlie, and Jan and her family all in Michigan together after all these years.

Number 4:  Parents.  Mine were the best.  Tom Brokak called them “the greatest generation”, and I whole-heartedly agree.  As young marrieds, my mom and dad knew all about pinching pennies, and whatever they had was earned with long hours and lots of toil.  When daddy went off to war, mama went to work – and when the war was over, daddy came home and jumped right back into earning a living for his family.  My childhood was filled with love – but not the kind that spoils.  There were many “things” I thought I would truly die if I didn’t have – but I didn’t get them, and I’m still here.  We went to church together, and they taught me – through demonstration – their work ethic, which I’ve tried to emulate.  They loved me unconditionally, and of all the things I miss about them since they’ve left this earth, it is that unconditional love I miss the most.  I think about them dozens of times a day and talk to them all the time – just like they are here.  I will see them again, and what a joyous day that will be!

Number 3:  Ted.  When Ted and I married, my boys were 16 and 12.  What could he possibly have been thinking – marrying me when part of the “package” included two hormone-pumping teenagers!  But marry me he did, and we’ve never been sorry.  Ted brought a man’s 24-hour-a-day perspective to our home, and my young men thrived on it.  Even to this day, when we’re all together, I’m told of something that happened “back in the day” that Jason and Blake went to Ted with – not to me.  Does that hurt me?  Not one bit.  I thank God every day that we’re together.  Ted loves me, loves my children, laughs with me, cooks every night, volunteers because he wants to give back to the community, and is the most fair, unprejudiced person I’ve ever known.  He’s also the most stubborn man I’ve ever known and sometimes the most annoying.  I love him.  He is my rock.

Number 2:  Children and Grandchildren.  Our friend Chris Ann from Michigan calls her daughters- and sons-in-law “bonus children”.  I’d never heard that term before, but Ted and I immediately claimed it – for in-laws AND each other’s children.  Julie, Ted’s daughter, is my bonus daughter, and my children are Ted’s bonus sons.  Sounds so much better than step-children, doesn’t it!

Jason and Blake are my heart, and God must have thought I was pretty special to bless me with these two.  Are they perfect?  Oh, please!  They caused every single gray hair I have to spend hundreds of dollars a year covering up.  But, as my parents loved me, so I love them.

Jason’s unflinching love of everything life has to offer partially rubbed off on me in my later years.  It was Jason who first pulled me onto a plane when I was well into my 40’s.  He couldn’t believe I’d never flown, and practically man-handled me into a tiny sea-plane in Panama City one summer.  The flight was almost half-over before I ever opened my eyes, but from that day on, I’ve loved to fly.  He can make me laugh even in the worst of a bad mood.  One of the happiest days of my life was when he married beautiful Blair.  She compliments him perfectly, as he does her.  They are a great team, and I thank God they found each other.  Jason is my favorite oldest son, and I am so proud of him.

Blake is the strong, silent type – until you get to know him.  Then he’s strong, and not-so-silent.  He is serious about his faith in God, has an abiding patience with life I wish I had, and can bring calm to most any storm.  He seems to care not a whit for creature comforts, preferring to live with a few necessities and go with the flow.  His years serving in China taught him a deep appreciation for other cultures, but he loves the United States and is so enjoying being back here.  Whether he will ever know earthly wealth is something only God knows, but even now he is one of the richest people I know.  Blake is my favorite youngest son, and I am so proud of him.

Julie – my bonus daughter.  If I had carried a daughter within me for nine months, I could not have asked for one more beautiful or sweet or loving than Julie.  She is a constant amazement to me.  I’ve watched and listened over the years as she and and bonus-son Matt have raised our precious grandchildren, Jordan and Matthew, and often wondered, “Where did she learn all this stuff?”  I think she could write a best-selling book on mothering, and I’d be glad to be her agent. Together, Julie and Matt also make a great team.

Number 1:  God.  When I was nine I joined the First Baptist Church of Sylvester.  I was caught up in the annual revival meeting, and it seemed to be the “right thing to do” at that time in my childhood.  I was baptized the next Sunday, and my parents were so happy.  Did I have a clue what I was really doing?  No.  Oh, I called myself a Christian from that time on, but as years went by, I took all of it for granted.  Church was someplace I was expected to be on Sunday mornings, but when I left my parents’ home for marriage, other things became more important.  Children brought me back into the church because I knew they should be there.  Divorce took me away again.

Many years later, on a lonely road between our lake house and my job in Albany, early one morning in March as the sun was rising over a cotton field, I pulled over to the side of the road.  Blake had gone to China for the first time months before, and I could not stop worrying about him.  My every thought seemed to be for his safety, and it was affecting my whole life – my relationship with Ted, with friends, with my mother, with my job – everything.  One of the things I promised myself I would do when Blake left was to read the Bible straight through, and I started that process on January 1.  The more I read each morning, the more I realized my relationship with the Lord was not as it should be.  I knew I hadn’t made Him first in my life in years, and I knew I was miserable.  That morning, sobbing on the side of the road, I asked forgiveness for the sins of my life – naming them, at least all the big ones, and putting all the others under “and everything else I’ve ever done that I shouldn’t have” phrase.  I asked Jesus to come into my life that morning for the very first time – at least fully knowing what I was asking.  My next prayer was for Blake’s safety in China, and even before I could say “Amen”, a peace unlike anything I’d ever known filled me.

Do I still struggle with sin?  Oh yes.  But I know for sure now that when Christ died on that cross, he was dying for me – so my sins would be forgiven.  I know one day I will meet Him in Heaven, along with all the loved ones that have gone before. God is my anchor, and with Him, all things are possible.

God bless.