Mackinac Island Winter Update – Vol. 1. 2/2/2012

Well, hi strangers!

If you could see my face right now, you would notice – right off the bat – that I am pouting.

“Why are you pouting, Bree?” you might ask.

I’m so glad you asked.  Here’s why . . . .

1)  The Mackinac Island Christmas Bazaar has been in full swing since Friday – and I’m not there.

2)  It’s been snowing on the Island – and I’m not there.

3)  There were about 50 items at the Bazaar I would have given anything – well, almost anything – to be able to buy as Christmas gifts – and I’m not there.


But – enough with the self-pity.  I’ve got pics to show and web links to share, and OH MY GOSH, I have missed ya’ll so much!

Before I go all overboard into the winter update though, I just have to share one last salute to Fall on Mackinac from  This is a totally awesome video, and even though I watched it only a couple of days after returning to Georgia, it made me long to return.  Then I remembered that it was snowing when we left, which meant the leaves were GONE from the trees!  Anyway, here it is, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did:

Remember me talking about the “save Our Statue” project just before we left.  Paul Wandrie, who is in charge of the fund-raiser, posted this a few days after Thanksgiving:  On November 28, 2012 Lady Liberty will be taken down to be shipped to Detroit for the winter. She will be in the capable hands of Venus Bronze Works, Inc., where she will receive a complete makeover. This work will take the winter, and she’ll be returned looking the way she did when first dedicated 62 years ago. We anticipate that she will be removed from the pedestal around 12:30 p.m. –  as long as we don’t run into any problems. Winberg Masonry, Belonga Excavating and Davis Construction, along with Venus Bronze Works, Inc. will be involved with taking her down. This is extremely exciting when you consider we just started our drive to repair the statue. Thank you to everyone for their generosity. Because of you this project is moving along. Please share with your friends. We are still in need of raising $52,412.18 to complete this project. We can use everyone’s help to complete this project.

Greg main posted this great video of the statue being carefully removed from the pedestal:


And here’s Lady Liberty standing on Main Street before being loaded for her trip to Detroit.  (Photo: Greg Main)

Winter Happenings from the Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau

Winter is such a beautiful time on Mackinac Island.  I’ve only visited there once during snow season, and those three days were so breathtaking, I’ve been trying to get up there again in the wintertime ever since.  Below is a list of events from now through March:

December 1-3, 2012 – Christmas BazaarSelected as one of HGTV’s Top Ten Christmas Towns, you can kick off the Holiday season and pick up unique crafts at the Christmas Bazaar.

December 31, 2012 – New Year’s EveThere’ll be some great parties and outdoor splendor as everyone rings in the New Year. There are great meals, great music and no one has to worry about driving.
January 1, 2012 – Baby New Year:  Father Time hands the year off to Baby New Year on January 1st, and the island celebrates with football parties at the downtown pubs.
February 1-3, 2013 – Mackinac Island Winter Festival:  Great Turtle Park will be a happening place with a bonfire cook out, sledding, snow golf, archery, snow volleyball and broom hockey.  Then you can help select the images at the school for the 2013 Mackinac Island Calendar.
February 16, 2013 – Great Turtle Chili Cook Off:  Hit the cross-country ski trails surrounded by snow falling on cedars, then make your way to the event of the winter. The annual chili cook off takes place at Cawthorne’s Village Inn Restaurant, where chefs and average Joes duke it out for the first, second and third place honors.
February 16-18, 2013 – Washington’s Birthday Bash:    President’s Day Weekend is a great time to hit the snowy trails for this extended weekend across America.
March 15-17, 2013 – St. Patrick’s Day Weekend:  Snow, Fog, Ice, Water . . . it all makes for a typical March on Mackinac Island. Revelers are invited to play Snow Volleyball and the Annual Jamie Bynoe Street Hockey Tournament downtown. Oh…and there will be plenty of Irish Cheer!
News Items
The old Grand Hotel stable is no more.  Don’t know what happened to the idea of doing some restorative work and using it as a storehouse, but friend Jeff Peterson snapped these photos the first part of November:
Lots of

Lots of equipment moved in early one morning . . .

. . . and by the end of the day, there was only an empty space.  So sad to see this historic building torn down, but its gorgeous replacement at Surrey Hill makes the loss a little easier.  (Photo: Jeff Peterson)

. . . and by the end of the day, there was only an empty space. So sad to see this historic building torn down, but its gorgeous replacement at Surrey Hill makes the loss a little easier. (Photo: Jeff Peterson)

News Flash!   Under the Radar – Michigan is a fast paced, modern, thirty-minute PBS program that explores the best of Michigan, and it was ON THE ISLAND this weekend to film a segment on the Christmas Bazaar and check out all the other fun things to do there in the wintertime!  The program will begin airing April 6, 2013.  Woo Hoo!

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree!
Cloverland Electric - putting the final touches on the preparation for lighting the Christmas tree.(Photo: Mission Point Resort)

Cloverland Electric – putting the final touches on the preparation for lighting the Christmas tree.
(Photo: Mission Point Resort)

Beautiful!  (Photo: Mission Point Resort)

Beautiful! (Photo: Mission Point Resort)

Winter Photos!

Chambers Corner (at the corner of Market and Cadotte) - all decked out for Christmas and just waiting on some of the white stuff.  (Photo: Jeff Peterson)

Chambers Corner (at the corner of Market and Cadotte) – all decked out for Christmas and just waiting on some of the white stuff. (Photo: Jeff Peterson)

Same corner - this past weekend.  (Photo: Cottage Inn)

Same corner – this past weekend. (Photo: Cottage Inn)

The Cloghaun is a beautiful place in the summer - abloom with one of the most spectacular gardens on the Island.  In the winter, it is still beautiful - softly lit, resting up for another fun-filled tourist season.  (Photo: Greg Main)

The Cloghaun is a beautiful place in the summer – abloom with one of the most spectacular gardens on the Island. In the winter, it is still beautiful – softly lit, resting up for another fun-filled tourist season.  This was taken a few days before the first snow – amazing to still see flowers blooming!   (Photo: Greg Main)

Lots of street hockey gets played during a Mackinac Island winter! (Photo: Greg Main)

Lots of street hockey gets played during a Mackinac Island winter! (Photo: Greg Main)

The Mission Church fits perfectly into this scene of a cold, starry n Mary McGuire)

The Mission Church fits perfectly into this scene of a cold, starry night (Photo: Mary McGuire)

Gotta have gas for those snowmobiles, which came out of their hiding places as soon as the first dusting of snow covered the ground.  (Photo: Orietta Barquero)

Gotta have gas for those snowmobiles, which came out of their hiding places as soon as the first dusting of snow covered the ground. (Photo: Orietta Barquero)

A snowmobile's eye view.  (Photo: Heather May)

A snowmobiler’s eye view of Market Street.  (Photo: Heather May)

A beautifully decorated Cottage Inn.  (Photo: Cottage Inn)

A beautifully decorated Cottage Inn. (Photo: Cottage Inn)

Cawthorne's Village Inn has reopened, and will be serving from their yummy menu for the rest of the winter.  (Photo: Village Inn)

Cawthorne’s Village Inn has reopened, and it looks like business is very good! (Photo: Village Inn)

Mayor Doud's brightly lit home on Cadotte.  (Photo: Cottage Inn)

Mayor Doud’s happily  decorated home on Market Street.  (Photo: Cottage Inn)

A Horn's Bar webcam shot Friday night after the tree lighting ceremony.

A Horn’s Bar webcam shot Friday night – after the tree lighting ceremony.

Blissful photo of the moon setting over the West Bluff last Thursday morning.  (Photo: Liz Burt)

Blissful photo of the moon setting over the West Bluff last Thursday morning. (Photo and Header Liz Burt)

Santa arrived by firetruck on Mackinac Island this weekend.  Here he waves to the children from the porch of the Grand Hotel.  Looks like the weekend snow is almost gone now.

Santa arrived by firetruck on Mackinac Island this weekend. Here he waves to the children from the porch of the Grand Hotel. Looks like the weekend snow is almost gone now.

Update on Chris Ann

First of all, a huge thank you from Chris Ann for all the beautiful, heartfelt comments and prayers you wrote to her.  Chris Ann has read every one, and checks back each day to see if there are more.  Since that post, Burton (her husband) and their family have gone into action and are determined to make the rest of Chris Ann’s life on this earth one of beauty, family,  friends, and memory-making.

Chris Ann and Burton are now back in Michigan, staying with one of their daughters and her family.  The word has gone out, and friends and family from all over the U.S. are flocking to visit and share memories.  I always thought I had some inkling of what “dying with dignity” would mean, but Chris Ann is truly writing a whole new chapter on that term for all of us who know and love her.  Please, Lord, if ever faced with similar circumstances, let me be just 1/10 as courageous, giving, gracious and loving.

Hospice has provided Chris Ann the meds she needs to be comfortable, and she remains the most positive person I have ever met.  I told her the other day that it seems she has acquired a “glow” that is becoming more noticeable with each photo.

Before Chris Ann and Burton left Florida, her family gathered at a hotel near their home, where Chris Ann and Burton joined them for the weekend. She rapidly discovered that in the water (especially the hot tub) she was virtually painfree. So that is where she spent most of her time. The Starbucks note on her forehead? Chris Ann is probably the coffee chain's #1 customer and fan!

Before Chris Ann and Burton left Florida, her family gathered at a hotel near their home, where Chris Ann and Burton joined them for the weekend. She rapidly discovered that in the water (especially the hot tub) she was virtually pain-free. So that is where she spent most of her time. The Starbucks note on her forehead? Chris Ann is probably the coffee chain’s #1 customer and fan!

Cuddling with grandchildren . . .

In Michigan – cuddling with grandchildren . . .

. . . and with Burton.

. . . and with Burton.

Chris Ann said this is how you entertain grandchildren without getting up off the couch.  I call this "making memories this little girl will never forget".

Chris Ann said this is how you entertain grandchildren without getting up off the couch. I call this “making memories this little girl will never forget”.

And the glow . . .

And the glow . . .

. . . shines with more serenity every day.

. . . radiates with more serenity every day.  I love you, Chris Ann.


That’s the first Winter Update of the season, and it has turned my thoughts north as always happens when I’m in Georgia and writing about Mackinac.  A big thank you to all the friends lucky enough to be on the Island and kind enough to share your photos!

See you back here next Sunday evening for Update #2.  SO GOOD TO BE SHARING WITH YOU AGAIN!

Ho-Ho-Ho-ping you know there are only 23 more days until Christmas!

Ho-Ho-Ho-ping you know there are only 23 more days until Christmas!

A Thanksiving Top Ten 11/27/2013

Hello Everyone!

On Thanksgiving our table will be set for 8.  All of our children, bonus children and grandchildren are joining us – coming in the day before Thanksgiving and staying through the weekend.  Can’t wait to see them all and sit around our dining room table – making new memories.

We’ll also be remembering those who are celebrating the holiday in Heaven, and in spirit they will take their places at our Thanksgiving table.  We are all here because of them.

This will be the second Thanksgiving I’ve reposted this blog –  “A Thanksgiving Top Ten”.  There have been some changes since last year because – well, that’s what families do – we change as time passes. 

I’ll see you back here on Monday, December 2!

P.S.  For those of you who picked Thanksgiving as the day I’d show up again – you win!


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’ve been to enjoy summers in Michigan and winters in Georgia.  When telling strangers about our life-style, we often heard the phrase, “You have the best of both worlds!”  It was true, and we’d give thanks every day.  Selling our condo on the island was a painful, but needed event this year. Double-nesting will soon become a blessed memory, but the changes we are anticipating for the coming year are exciting!  Mackinac will always be a magical place we will return to in the summer for at least a couple of months – for respite from the “real” world. 

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, and now she’s my best friend forever.  I love you to the moon and back, my sweet friend!

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’d long to get back to when we were away.  In a perfect world, I would have hauled them all back and forth with us each year.  Practicality prevented that, of course, but it sure would have made 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 1500 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.  Although we lost Charlie this summer, after a courageous health battle which would have taken a lesser man many years ago, he will always be such a blessed memory to me.  We’ve added him to the list of those celebrating this holiday in Heaven. 

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, called 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.  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 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, and Happy Thanksgiving!

For Chris Ann

I met Chris Ann Nelson the first summer we owned our condo on Mackinac – before I knew a soul there and before Bree’s Blog (which I started the next summer) was even a thought in my mind.  I walked into Sutler’s Store at Fort Mackinac looking for bed linens for our master bedroom.  I didn’t have a clue where to go back then to find things like that off the Island, and I’d heard the fort store had a pretty good variety of spreads and quilts.  I found the perfect queen-size coverlet and pillow shams, but needed another coverlet in a twin to bring home with me to Georgia to have a window treatment made that would match.  When I approached the lady behind the check-out computer, she looked up with a dazzling smile and said, “Hello! How may I help you today?”  I’m smiling as I write that because I really don’t remember what her words were.  But I sure remember the smile.

I told her my dilemma, and she spent a few minutes phoning the store at Fort Michilimackinac in Mackinaw City.  They were busy and would have to call back.  I gave this kind lady my cellphone number, and she promised to call as soon as she knew something – which she did that afternoon.  I saw her often that summer because I was in and out of Sutler’s on several occasions, and we always chatted like old friends.  Me – being me – told her my whole life’s story, and she shared with me about her wonderful, huge family and her love of Mackinac Island.

Fast forward to the next spring – May, 2009 – I began Bree’s Blog.  On May 11 (two or three days after the first post) I received a comment from a Chris Ann Nelson saying that she would be following our journey back north, and I replied my “thanks” to her.  Then she commented, “I am anxious to follow you on your island journey. My husband and I have traveled to the straits for over 50 years, and in 1970, when we married, we chose Mackinac as our ‘short’  honeymoon. We found our home in Mackinaw City in 2004, while making our annual anniversary trip to the Island. We live in Pine Island Florida part of the year, but Mackinaw is our HOME. We always thought that we would retire to Mackinac Island, but when this place became available we jumped on it. We went to the island yesterday for Mothers Day, and I often work at the fort there for the park service. More later – we are shopping in Petoskey right now.”

Well, THAT story certainly sounded familiar!  I quickly wrote back, “Are you the Chris Ann who works at Sutler’s and helped this Georgia girl out last summer?”  And she was – one and the same.

Our friendship grew from that moment.  We saw each other sporadically over the next four summers, and she was always the same – a joyful blend of smiles, kind words, bright laughter, and the peace that shows through in people of great faith. When the state park decided they needed Chris Ann more at Fort Michilimackinac than Fort Mackinac, we didn’t get to see each other as often, but we still found ways to keep in touch.  We met for lunch on the Island a few times, she and Burton would come to Shepler’s to welcome us back when we’d arrive at the dock in Mackinac City, we’d see them on the Island when they’d come over to watch their children or grandchildren run races, and last year they spent the night with us at the lake on their way back to Michigan from Florida (they always arrive up north earlier than we do).

Chris Ann and Burton – welcoming us back to Michigan at Shepler’s Mackinaw City dock.

Chris Ann and I love volunteering for Shepler’s. Here we are finishing up a full day of welcoming ladies to a Winsome Women’s Conference. That’s Captain Bill Shepler (the patriach of the business) giving us a little thank you hug.

Those of us who know Chris Ann – and there are many around the world –  knew little of what was happening with her over this past summer – except for an occasional word that she didn’t feel well and was in some pain.   But now we know Chris Ann knew something was very wrong, and she was almost positive what it was.  She had fought cancer before, and she had won.  She found out this week, with a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer that has spread to her major organs, that this time she will win again – but in an entirely different way.

I knew a teacher once who was diagnosed with breast cancer.  She told her students that she would be ok either way.  If she beat the cancer, she got to stay here and live with her family and friends.  If she didn’t, she got to go live with Jesus.  To her it was a win-win situation.  I believe that’s the way Chris Ann looks at it also.

Chris Ann posted her diagnosis on Facebook yesterday.  She has Hospice care now, and she said, “If any of you have any memories you’d like to share with me, I’d love to read them.”  And I thought to myself, what an amazing idea!  Her Facebook page is filled with memories now, with more being added by the hour.

When I look at my most recent photos of Chris Ann, I see them differently.  Our time together with the Harlem Globetrotters, the Shepler’s Lighthouse Cruise in September, and the day in October she came to the Island, thinking she would spend the day, but having to leave after only a few hours because she was so tired.  What I see in these photos now is not pain – what I see is a glow.

Camping it up with the Globetrotters.

Ready for our cruise!

Hanging onto the pilot house wall in rough seas.  She would not sit down, and  I remember thinking, “She is having such a good time!”

Tinkering with her smart phone.  Chris Ann LOVES technology!

Arriving in her Halloween sweater at the Carriage Museum the first part of October – that beaming smile!

One of Chris Ann’s favorite news anchors from 9 & 10 News was covering a story on the new Grand stable the day she was there, and Chris Ann wanted a photo.

Chris Ann and Burton left their cottage in Mackinaw City at the foot of the Mackinac Bridge a little early this year.  Ted and I were going over to help them with a few outdoor “closing” things, but the morning we were to go over, the weather was terrible.  We were walking out the door to catch the ferry when Chris Ann called and said, “Don’t come out in this.  We’ve got it handled.”  She talked me into not coming, and I let her do it.  I can’t tell you how much I regret that now.  Because I know – if the situation was reversed – she would have ignored me and come anyway.

Chris Ann is one of the most caring people I know.  I cannot remember how many times she’s offered to let one of our children stay at her house in Mac City if their plane was arriving after ferries stopped running.  She’s offered to pick them up at the airport and take them back – anything to help.  It didn’t matter if she was having 30 folks arrive for a family reunion the next day – she had time!  God, I wish I was more like her!

All of it – her joy for life, her love for friends and family, her heart that won’t quit giving – it all comes from her faith.  Without being preachy or the least bit judgmental, she carries her faith with a peace and calm  – and glow – that radiates for all to see.

The winter of 2010 my Georgia friend Dawn and I, along with Mike Forrester and Jill, flew to Mackinac Island in February for Winter Festival.  While we were there two ladies were accidentally killed on their snowmobile.  The night they went missing Mike and Jill spent a couple of hours going into the restaurants and taverns open on Mackinac during the winter and asking if anyone had seen the two ladies.  The morning after the accident the four of us flew off the island and before we started our trip to the Flint airport, we stopped in Mac City, and I called Chris Ann.  With tears in her voice she told me this story:  She had received a call that morning from a friend of hers who works for the state park who knew she knew me.  For a brief time the evening before, because of Mike and Jill’s inquiries into the whereabouts of their “friends”, it was thought that it was Dawn and I who were missing.  When news came early that morning that the two ladies had been found, there were some who still thought it was us, and one park employee called Chris Ann to tell her we were gone.

I will never forget what Chris Ann told me she said to that person.  She said, “Brenda’s faith was so strong.  I know she was ready for Heaven.”  Those words impacted me so much, and to this day, I hold them in my heart  and try to live up to them with every breath I take.  I usually fail miserably.

But today, I echo those words back to Chris Ann.  “Your faith is so strong, my friend.  I know you are ready for Heaven, and I know what a great celebration there will be when you get there.”

Chris Ann, you are one of my biggest heroes.  You make me want to be a better person, a better wife, a better mother, a better friend – a better Christian.  When I think of you in the years to come, I will remember your smile, your joy for life, your peaceful nature, and your love for Burton, your family, your friends and your Lord.  I will remember you, not with sadness – though I will miss you greatly – but with the steadfast knowledge that I will see you again.

“In my Father’s house are many mansions.”  I hope ours are right next door to each other.

I love you, my friend.  I love you.

The Burton reunion at their cottage in Mac City this fall. What a wonderful legacy.

We’re Home! 11/4/2012

We’re HOME!

We arrived this afternoon around 1:30, after staying Saturday night in Atlanta with Jason, Blair and Blake.

It was so good to spend a few hours with these three. Jason and Blair will be joining us at the lake for Thanksgiving, but Blake won’t be back south until Christmas.  I herded them all practically from bed to the front porch for a pic, but they were good sports about it.

It’s about 130 miles from Jason and Blair’s to the Vienna exit where we get off I-75.  From there we’re about 20 minutes from home – mainly on country roads – where we were greeted by harvested cotton fields and big cotton clouds.

Hay has been rolled and covered and placed in the shade of pine trees.

When we started to cross the Flint River the familiar “thump, thump, thump” of the truck’s wheels hitting the partitions in the roadway brought Maddie and Bear to full alert.

“Hey, Mom! That water doesn’t smell like Lake Huron. It smells like Lake Blackshear!  Are we in Joy-Ja?””

By the time we turned onto Flintside Drive, Bear had wedged his entire body – except his back feet – into the front seats of the truck.

Oh. My. Goodness. Home surely did look awesome!

As I write this a little after 6 p.m., it is 76 degrees outside, 43 degrees warmer than it is on the Island right now.  I’ll be honest and say it feels pretty darn good to have traded my sweater for a short-sleeved blouse, and the only reason I haven’t changed into shorts is I haven’t unpacked them yet.

We were expecting our lake water to be way down when we arrived (they do that every other year so folks can work on their docks), but the “outflow” is going slowly, and the water lapping gently against the seawall is only down a few inches.  Another week and we will have beach out past our boat house.  They only leave the water down for a month though, so it will be back up to normal by the first or second week in December.

We had a good trip home – well, as good as it could be with a sick hubby.  Bless his heart, Ted started feeling yucky the day before we left the Island, and he’s had to drive practically the whole way  – because I tend to drop off to sleep behind the wheel after only an hour or so.  Tonight he seems to be losing his voice.  Hopefully, the warm weather – and being home – will cure him in a day or two.

It’s really nice to come home to our “new” kitchen – the one we tried to remodel for six months when we were home before and that only was finished a few days before we left.  It’s practically like walking into a new house!

Unpacking is proceeding slowly, and I just discovered I left my cosmetics bag at Jason and Blair’s.  I immediately called to see if they could put it in the mail to me tomorrow (I won’t be able to go out in public until it arrives).

Maddie has toured the entire yard, and I can see her wondering what happened to all the holes she dug in the spring.  We’ve had the yard treated for moles while we’ve been gone, so it will be interesting to see if they’re gone or if the digging will commence again in the near future.  They’ve both settled right into their normal nap places.

Nice naps after a long two days on the road.

I guess that covers everything from here except to say thank you, thank you for all the safe travel prayers.  It’s always good to know, when you’re speeding down the highway, that you’re covered by the prayers of friends.

I’ll see you four weeks from today – on December 2 – at (Bree’s Lake Blackshear Bog).  Please make sure you click on that link and then on the “follow” button, so you’ll get email notification when I post.

Have a wonderful month, enjoy your Thanksgiving holidays, and remember to thank God for all your answered prayers – whether they were answered with a “Yes” or a “No” or a “Wait”.

Love and hugs and God bless.

Wish Granted 11/2/2012

All right, all right, all right.

I know I’m not supposed to be blogging this month, so don’t consider this a blog post – consider this my “happiness postcard” to all of you who wrote such lovely comments last night . . .

Ted told me before we went to bed that it was snowing, and Bear came in from his last potty break with a few flakes of snow in his fur.  I didn’t think much of it because we’ve had a few flakes flying in the last few days, and they never amounted to anything.

Then Ted woke me up this morning with, “You need to go look outside.  You got your wish!”

Oh. My. Goodness.

From the master bedroom deck.

We didn’t have time to take it all in because we were scurrying around with last minute details, waiting on the 8 a.m. taxi.  Once on board I tried to snap away as we rode down Cadotte, but I was having to take pics in between the weather flaps.  But still . . . .

Little Stone Church.

Cadotte and Market Street.

Market Street – It was still snowing like crazy!

The marina from the Arnold dock.

Does this look cold? It WAS cold!

Lots of folks leaving this morning, but most were just going off-island for groceries or appointments. Everyone was VERY surprised by the snow and hoping it was a good omen for what the winter would bring. Me too!

The Iroquois Hotel and one lonely tree on a beach of snow.

The Island House and East Bluff cottages.

St. Anne’s, as we pulled away from the dock.

Last glimpse . . .

. . . then we turned out toward Round Island Light.

I can’t believe it.  I’ve waited five years to see a snowfall before we headed south, and even though it came on our leaving day, I couldn’t have been any more excited.  I don’t think I stopped grinning until we got to Gaylord!

We’ve stopped in a little town in Ohio – Wapakoneta – at a very nice and clean Best Western that is pet friendly.  On to Atlanta tomorrow, then home on Sunday.

I just had to share the snow . . . .

Georgia On My Mind 11/1/2012

Here we are.  Last post of the season.  How can that be?

This can’t possibly have been 5 1/2 months ago!

Ted and I went downtown this morning to ship a box home.  Can you believe it – I only had one box to ship – of course it weighed 33 lbs and 4 ozs (no, that is not a made-up number).

I should have come right back up to the condo with Ted, but instead I spent about an hour walking around, snapping photos, thinking about the summer behind us and all the fun we’ve had, the people we’ve met, the friends we’ve become closer to.

There are very few taxis running now, and soon there will only be one – driven by George.  I even had to make advance reservations for our taxi for tomorrow morning!    I did find two smiling drivers downtown I knew – Anna and Alyssa.  They’ll be spending the winter on the Island this year –  but not as taxi drivers.

There were less than five businesses open downtown, and one of them was Doud’s – open all winter . . .

. . . and making sure year-round residents will have fresh supplies of meat and produce through rain, wind, sleet and snow.

I bought a few raffle tickets for this snowmobile – to be given away at the Christmas Bazaar in December.

The Pink Pony and the Chippewa Hotel are closed, but there were workers inside, and the door was open. Sure looked different than it did a few nights ago!

Even the beer taps were covered!

I shot this one through Joanne’s window. The big copper kettle used to cook all that delicious candy was turned upside down on the marble table.

The Lilac Tree was all shut down, including the mall area beneath it where the Island Bookstore, the Great Turtle Toy Store, and Peace Frogs is housed.

Loved this sign in the Chuckwagon’s window!

There are no awnings anywhere – they’ve all been taken down and put into storage for the winter . . .

. . . and furniture inside most of the hotels (like here at the Windermere) has been covered in white linens.

Fort Mackinac’s flag is still flying.

Just like me, good friend Jeff Peterson was making one final pass through town before leaving the Island.  Jeff was a great Shepler’s employee this summer on the Island dock!

There were several trucks downtown today – all with special permits to be here a certain number of days for a specific job. Lots of work going on next to Cawthorne’s Village Inn.

Here’s another one – coming down Cadotte.

The kids were all in school today – high on candy, I’m sure. We sure had a good number stop by our place last night!

The Grand Lady on the Hill today – all closed up for winter. She always looks so lonely without her flags and geranium boxes.

A Few More Pics From This Past Week

The back of the Carriage Museum – cold and wind-swept.

What’s missing? If you said the ivy carriage and horses, you are correct! They’ve been taken off island to reside in a greenhouse downstate for the cold months.

Almost packed!

Doc Al offered me a ride home the other day, and after he dropped me at the boardwalk and turned around, Molly, a friend who drives private tours, pulled up to chat.  Guess what was in her bag!  One of her passengers enjoyed her tour so much that she’d left a message for Molly to stop at the Grand to pick up something she’d left for her.  It was a Somewhere in Time vintage dress and hat!  Molly was so excited!

Great friend Frankie and sweet Hershey.

One of the last sunset’s from a Shepler ferry this season.

Grand Hotel moving day. (Photo: Kellie Lawrence)

A dray run on a cold fall day. (Photo: Mission Point Resort)

Leafy pathway. (Photo: Mary McGuire)

An almost-winter sunrise. (Photo: Mission Point Resort)

So again.  Here we are.

There’s been something strange about this summer for me, but I can’t put my finger on what exactly, and that bothers me a bit.  In thinking back, I’ve boiled it down to a few possibilities:

1)  It was so . . . busy.  With the warm weather beginning practically when we arrived in mid-May, the fudgies came in droves.  Because of that, I went downtown less during the day (crowds have never been my favorite thing).  Now don’t get me wrong.  I was SO happy to see business booming for the merchants, hotels, and restaurants.  Businesses have had some lean years lately on Mackinac, and this summer it really seems as though we’ve made the turn-around back to good times – or at least “much better” times.  But hey – I can go downtown early in the morning or after the day-trippers go home!

2)  It was so . . . warm.  I laugh when I write that.  Compared to what?  Certainly not Georgia, where the 100 degree mark was reached too many days to think about this summer.  I’d gotten used to the cool weather of our first four summers in Michigan, and when we reached the mid-80’s several days a week there for a stretch, the heat really  . . . . well, it annoyed me.    But hey – I admit to being spoiled rotten by Mackinac’s usually perfect weather – I can adapt or buy more fans!

3)  It was so . . .  busy.  Yes, I know I’ve already said that.  But this busy has nothing to do with the crowds.  This busy is personal.  Someone told me this summer that I’ve gotten “too” involved on the Island, and maybe they’re right.  The blogs, volunteering, all the activities to attend and photograph and write about.  There have been times I’d find myself thinking wistfully back to those first couple of summers when all there was to do was to savor this magical place – to stop and smell the roses (and the geraniums), to spend half an hour at Anne’s Tablet just watching the boats come in, to wander around in the woods listening to the birds and hoping to spot one of the huge pileated woodpeckers.  I’ve lost the time to do some of that . . . . and I miss it.

4)  I’ve been so . . . tired.  Sleep apnea is a strange malady.  You’re not sick.  You don’t feel bad.  But you do stay tired.  I came north this summer without my sleep apnea machine.  I was sick and tired of trying to deal with it, and I rationalized I didn’t need it up here (I exercise more; therefore, I’d sleep better).  That hasn’t been the case.  I know when I get home I have to re-evaluate the whole machine-thing again and try my best to use it.  This summer has been an eye-opener on how not sleeping at night can affect my attitude, my health, and my spirit. 

Right now though – sitting at my little desk in our bedroom, tapping away on the laptop keys – all I’m thinking about is leaving this place I love so much and traveling south to another place I love just as much.  I’ve spent five summers trying to figure out which is my favorite place to live, but now I’ve given up on that because it’s like comparing apples and oranges.

Mackinac Island in the grand state of Michigan and Lake Blackshear in the grand state of Georgia are as different as night and day.  Mackinac Island is a moment frozen in time, and living here we’re able to suspend ourselves in a world of almost-fantasy, where the buzz and pop of the outside world makes little headway into our daily lives.  The fact that we rarely turn on a television here is evidence that we guard our little fantasy world pretty closely.

Lake Blackshear is southern living at its finest.  We live on the water, we enjoy watching nature’s daily show right from our sun porch, we visit by boat, and our bodies become tuned to the slow rhythms of our lives in the country.  Our Georgia drawls become more syrupy after a month at home, and Michigan friends who call have trouble understanding our words.  We are home in Georgia – only in Georgia.

It’s going to be a while before I make a decision on what next year on the Island will bring as far as Bree’s Blog, but I know I will continue to write as long as there are folks like you out there who love to read about this beautiful place.  I just never seemed to get in sync this summer – something I noticed even if you didn’t.  I want to rectify that next year – I’ve just got to figure out how to do it.  Maybe it just goes back to that “busyness” factor.  We’ll see.

Winter.  I plan to continue to write the weekly Winter Updates to Bree’s Blog – I enjoy them as much as you do.  As in years past, friends here have graciously agreed to send photos of the Island to me, and – if it’s a really a good snow winter – I may even come up myself for a few days.  I’d love that!

Right now though, after almost four years of continuous writing, what I think I need is a little break; and I can’t think of a better time to take one than during our transition back to Georgia.  We’re going to Florida soon after our return to see Julie and Matt and the grandchildren.  For Thanksgiving, Jason and Blair and the Sumner (my daddy’s) side of the family will all gather at our house for dinner.  We’re excited that we’ll be seeing all the cousins, their spouses, their children and their spouses, their grandchildren – well, you get my drift.  After that, Frog (Charlie) and Cathie are coming for a little visit on their way back to New Orleans from Thanksgiving in Atlanta. 

Along with everything mentioned above, November will also be filled with doctor visits, and just plain “settling in” chores.  Bear and I want to get back into our therapy visits, and I’ve taken on the responsibility of writing blog posts for our Pet Partners group website (I’ll post that address later, if you’d like to read it).

So – here’s the plan.  We leave on Friday for home, spend that night in Kentucky probably, then spend Saturday night in Atlanta at Jason and Blair’s.  We just found out that Blake will be in north Georgia on business this weekend, and he’ll be at his brother’s also.  So we’ll get to see all of them!  Blake won’t make it home from Colorado for Thanksgiving this year, so this worked out perfectly.  We’ll be at Lake Blackshear, good Lord willing, on Sunday, Nov. 4.
I’ll post here on this blog Sunday evening to let you all know we’ve made it safely (safe travel prayers are so appreciated).

After that I’m going to take the month of November off  – well, off from blogging (maybe November will become my “vacation from blogging” from now on).  I’ll start back up at (Bree’s Lake Blackshear Blog) on Monday, Dec. 3 (or Sunday, Dec. 2 – you know how that goes). If you’re not familiar with that site, you need to click on the link, then click on the “follow” button, so you’ll get an email notice when I publish there.  I should have the first Mackinac Island Winter Update ready about that time also, and that will be published, as usual, at

There are never enough words – or the right ones – to thank you for visiting with me each summer through this blog.  Writing is so much easier when I know you are all out there – loving Mackinac Island right along with me.  I’m beginning to meet more and more of you in person, and I hold your faces in my mind when I write.  Our little blog family continues to grow, and we just continue to draw closer.

I hope you’ll follow me home to Georgia for the winter and check in on the Winter Updates from the Island.  I don’t want to lose touch with any of you.  Feel free to comment during November.  I WILL be reading comments, and I will respond.

As I said, I’ll check in Sunday evening when we reach home, then I’ll be back on Dec. 3.

I love each and every one of you.  God bless you all.

Heading home . . .

. . . to the ri’vah.

Beauty and the Beasties . . . . 10/31/2012

Happy Halloween!

Hope you’re all stocked up on goodies for all the little munchkins who’ll come trick-or-treating tonight!  We stocked up a week ago ourselves, even though Ted knows very well not to do that.  Brenda-the-grown-up-munchkin figures if chocolate is in the house, it’s meant to be eaten – so we had to stock up again yesterday.  Ted hid it this time – the old scrooge!

I want to catch you up on the Somewhere in Time photos tonight, and since it’s Halloween it’s also the perfect time to show you a few costumes from this weekend’s downtown parties.

I apologize in advance for having so few photos of Somewhere in Time this year.  I rushed into the Grand at 5:30 Saturday afternoon on my way downtown to the costume party.  I’d been snapping pics for five minutes before I realized that everyone in the hotel was DRESSED UP – not just for Somewhere in Time, but for a cocktail reception planned for hotel guests (I wondered why I was getting so many strange looks).  I was the only – the ONLY – person in the Grand in blue jeans, sweater, and loafers.  Good grief, get me out of here!  So – not many pics.

I knew I would forget names here, but the sweet lady on the left recognized me and came over to say hello and introduce me to her friends. We had met a couple of years ago in the Fort Cemetery at the Memorial Day ceremony, and she’d been reading Bree’s Blog ever since. So good to see you again!

Love, love, love the hats! Two beautifully dressed Victorian ladies!

I think I photograph this lady every year. She is always so elegantly dressed, and her hats are to die for.

Sweet couple taking a little rest from all the festivities.

It was here that I made the discovery about how I should have been dressed. As I dashed out the door, I saw Robin Dorman, Executive Director of the Mackinac Island Community Foundation, and asked him to pose. Then I was out of there!

It’s hard to make the transition from Somewhere in Time elegance and gentility at the Grand Hotel to costume party in the Pink Pony, but work with me here.

We were sitting in the corner of the Pink Pony by the front window. I held the camera up over my head, pointed it downward, and clicked. This gives you a small glimpse of how many people were packed in there.

From the town of Bedrock . . . Fred, Wilma, Barney, Betty, Pebbles, and Bamm Bamm!

A server with two heads . . . wonder if you were supposed to tip both of them?!

The Pink Pony staff were all dressed in Prohibition era costumes. This is beautiful Erin with Ted.

Justin – one of our favorite bartenders and a Detroit Tiger fan.

A bunch of Super Heroes . . .

. . . and Batman!

Little Bo Peep kept losing her sheep . . . but looks like they’ve all come home.

Mr Ed?

King Kong? Gorilla in the Mist? Jason?

Don’t know who this is supposed to be, but she sure is pretty!

Three of the Seven Dwarfs – never saw Snow White.

People spilled out of the Pony into the lobby of the Chippewa Hotel. It was packed everywhere that night!

I. Have. No. Clue.

Myk Rise, a regular entertainer at the Pony during the summer, closed out the evening with some good tunes.

I can’t believe I’m about to write this next sentence.  See you back here tomorrow for the last post of this season.