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.

Mackinac Island Winter Update – Vol. 2 11/16/2011

Hello from H.O.T. Georgia.  85 degrees here today at Lake Blackshear, and nothing but 70’s and 80’s in the forecast for the next two weeks.  As I’ve said before, there have been many turkeys eaten in shorts, t-shirts and sandals at our Thanksgiving table in Georgia over the years, and I have a feeling this might be another one. But that’s ok – Ted and I are so looking forward to seeing children and grandchildren gather around for the holiday – who cares what anyone has on!

Two big news items on the island this week:  1)  Hunting Season began Nov. 15; and 2)  the Christmas Bazaar is right around the corner (Dec. 2 – Dec. 5).

A large number of the male (and some female) year-round residents are deer hunters who will try to come home with venison for the freezer over the next two weeks.  Hunting Season in Michigan is marked on calendars as a holiday, and a lot of businesses will close for a few days, knowing that their male employees will call in sick if they don’t.  Michigan hunters take deer season very seriously!  Most of the Mackinac Island men hunt on Bois Blanc Island and have had hunting camps there for years.  Jeannette Doud reported in her column in The St. Ignace News last week that “many small boats have been leaving for Bois Blanc, carrying men and hunting camp provisions and equipment”.  Snow would help with deer tracking, and around an inch is expected on Wednesday evening.  Here’s wishing lots of good luck to the hunters, and prayers are going up for everyone’s safe return home.

My friend, Liz, who teaches at the Island school, recently captured this beautiful scene. Liz's blog is all about arts & crafts and living on Mackinac Island.

Ah, the Christmas Bazaar!  One of these days I’m going to be on the island for this spectacular event . . . but not this year.  If you’re nearby and can attend, it would be a great way to do your Christmas shopping – there are wonderful items to purchase (a lot of them home-made).  Before the Bazaar begins on Dec. 2, there will be a rummage sale on Friday, Dec. 1st, in the fire hall, following the lighting of the Mackinac Island Christmas tree at 5 p.m. downtown on Main Street.  There will also be a book sale at the Mackinac Island Public Library following the Christmas Tree lighting.

One of the best give-aways at the Christmas Bazaar will be a brand-new snowmobile. Ted and I bought our tickets before we left the Island, and I'm thinking SURELY if we won, Ted will take me back up there because we'd have to find somewhere to store it for the winter (after we rode around on it for a few days, of course). The snowmobile is on display in Doud's Market until the winner is announced during the Christmas Bazaar weekend.

By the way, if you’re not on the Island, and you’d like to purchase chances to win the snowmobile, you can call Doud’s at 906.847.3444.  They’re open 7:30 a.m. – 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.  You DO NOT have to be present to win.  The proceeds from the Christmas Bazaar benefit Little Stone Church, Trinity Episcopal Church, Mackinac Island Bible Church, Ste. Anne’s Catholic Church, and the Mackinac Island Medical Center.

Other items reported by Jeannette Doud include:

  • A film crew arrived on the Island Oct. 28 to film at Fort Mackinac in preparation for the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812. (It will also be the 125th anniversary of the opening of the Grand Hotel!  Next summer promises to be full of special events to celebrate these two anniversaries.)
  • The Cottage Inn will reopen Dec. 1, after being closed for a month of renovations.  Just in time for Christmas Bazaar!
  • Pink roses are still blooming in the Grand Hotel’s Tea Garden.
  • Many Island business people are attending the gift show in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, purchasing merchandise for the 2012 season.

This next story is about a friend of Jill’s, who I met at the Grand Hotel a couple of years ago – Dan Dewey.  He worked on the island in the 70’s, and leads tours from the Grand Hotel during the Somewhere in Time Weekend each year.  This is the story from USA Today, penned by Andre J. Jackson.

“Dan Dewey’s dad, Edgar Dewey, sat in a chair with tubes pumping chemotherapy into his veins in the cancer treatment center of St. Joseph Mercy Oakland hospital.  But one Thursday morning in 2007, he told his son he’d like a cup of coffee. Before Dan Dewey left for a Starbucks down the street, they asked other patients in the room whether they’d like a cup, too.

“He’s treating. I’ve got his wallet, and the nurse is holding him down,” Dewey recalled saying at the time.

One cup became several. And now, Dewey’s weekly order consists of 20 or more drinks, depending on how many patients are at the cancer center when he arrives.  He is there every Thursday morning, even though his dad died in 2008.

“We love Dan,” said Kathy Courtney, oncology nurse and unit manager. “He’s here rain or shine; blizzard or tornado. No matter what’s going on out there, we know at 10 o’clock, he’s going to be here.”

Everyone knows to expect him: the staff and patients at the hospital, as well as the folks at Starbucks, where workers have come to fill Dewey’s orders so efficiently, they rarely get complaints from customers anymore.

But every now and then, someone wonders why that guy in white shorts and a gray sweatshirt is holding up the line buying so many cups of lattes, cappuccinos, espressos, strawberry smoothies, and, oh yeah, somebody wanted hot chocolate. When the complainers find out, well, they fall silent. And some put money down to help cover the costs.

Dan Dewey, 65, used to pay for the drinks — averaging about $50 a trip — out of his own pocket before a Starbucks staffer stepped in.

One of the baristas, Valerie Edgington, 46, of Waterford, Mich., decided last year to create a special debit-like card through which people can donate money for coffee runs. People can put money on the card in person via or a Facebook page she set up. She also made T-shirts that sell for $20 and stickers ($5) to help spread the word and encourage contributions.

“He never asked for anything special,” Edgington said. “He just came in every Thursday ordering all these different drinks. Finally, I asked him what he was doing, and I wanted to help.”

The doctors and nurses say there may be something therapeutic about Dewey’s visits.  “It’s definitely a mood-lifter, and a positive attitude is beneficial for any patient going through cancer treatment,” said Kathy Courtney, oncology nurse and unit manager.

Oncologist Rajan Krishnan, the doctor who treated Dewey’s dad, said the visits remind him of times gone by in his native India when people stopped by simply to share a cup of tea or coffee. Doing so showed people they mattered.  Patients such as Mechelle Burdette, 45, an Eastpointe, Mich., resident with five brain tumors and a spot on her lung, appreciate that.  “It’s so special it brings tears to your eyes,” Burdette said of the coffee visits. ” It gives you to the strength to make it through, just knowing the kind of people who are out there. “

Her aunt, a cancer survivor, said she offered to tip or pay Dewey, but he refused. “He said, ‘Oh no. No money touches my hands.’ I don’t think he’s a man. I think he’s an angel.”

Dewey said bringing coffee isn’t just about honoring his dad’s wishes. It makes him feel good, too.

“If anyone doubts why anybody would do something like this, all you have to do is see these people smile,” he said.

Dan’s story touched my heart so much I emailed Brian Williams of NBC News and suggested Dan’s story be featured on their nightly “Making a Difference” segment.  No word back yet, but it certainly would make a great addition to those stories.  One person – doing a relatively small act of kindness – what a difference he is making!


A full moon hovers over the Community Stable before the last horses left the Island. Photo by Leanne Brodeur.

A beautiful fall day on the Island. Photo by Heather May.

Out for a buggy ride with Blaze, before he left the Island for the winter. Photo by Leanne Brodeur.

Frankie and Hershey - the morning they and Jill were leaving the Island.

Photo by Smi Horn: The newly reconstructed Mackinac Island Airport was officially opened for daytime only air traffic on Nov. 15.

Barbara Metting caught this great shot of a freighter passing by the deserted Mackinac Island Marina from the Island House webcam on Nov. 15.


One of the beautiful Victorian cottages along the Boardwalk on the west end of Main Street.

Ste. Anne's Catholic Church in the moonlight.

One of my favorites of all time from Steve. At first I thought it was a painting, but it's real! The romantic gazebo at Mission Point Resort - the site of many, many summer weddings.

Another of Steve's beautiful night shots.

Steve’s photo of Trinity church featured last week will be used on the church’s web site soon.  The church requested permission, and Steve graciously said yes.  Thanks, Steve, for all you do to capture the Island’s beauty and magic!

That’s all for this week!  I know you’re all busy preparing Thanksgiving day menus and starting to get your shopping done.  That’s what we’re doing too!  See you next week on the Wednesday BEFORE the big day – Thanksgiving Eve!  God bless.

Mackinac Island Winter Update – Vol. 1 11/09/2011

Hello from Georgia!  We’ve been home a little over a week, and we’re slowly settling into our “lake house” routine.  It seems strange to say “we need milk” and then have to get in the car and drive a few miles to the nearest store, instead of jumping on a bike and riding down the hill to  Doud’s Market  But, we’re adjusting, and the good thing about that is . . . we don’t have to ride the bike back UP the hill!

The weather here has been absolutely gorgeous – with temps in the high 60’s and low 70’s – and sunny, blue skies.  Ted and I are catching up with lake friends and enjoying our sun porch on the water.  It’s good to come home to my roots . . . . and to Georgia friends, porch swings, gnats (yes, they’re still here), and a yard already sporting dozens of deep holes Maddie has dug to dispose of all the moles that took over during her absence.  Those moles don’t stand a chance now that Madame Terminator is back.

So – what’s been happening on Mackinac Island since we’ve been gone.  Quite a lot!

  • Leanne Broder, the director of the island Recreation Department, escorted the last of the 4-H horses off the island last week to their winter home in Mackinaw City.  Now is the time to think about sponsoring one of these horses for the year.  A full year’s sponsorship is $2,500, but they will gladly except any amount donated.   Donations cover winter boarding, vet bills, shoeing costs, blankets, feed, supplements, and trailering.

Jody Barna stands with Blaze on the ferry ride over. On her left is Grey, with owner Trish Martin, and on her right is Wingdingo. another 4-H horse.

Prancer is a 4-H horse also. Here he and Blaze check out their new digs.

Little Gingersnap (on the right) is a 4-H pony who has been in Mac City a few months this summer, recovering from a digestive problem. Her pasture mate there has been Tom, the big brown Belgian cross in this pic. Here Prancer (on the left), who was Gingersnap's pasture mate on the island, came over to say "hi". Tom was having none of it, protecting his little charge from a horse he didn't know - even though Gingersnap did! Horses are such wonderful creatures!

  • As mentioned a couple of posts ago, McNally Cottage was in danger of being demolished, and this week it happened – and it happened fast.

A few days before "D" day, the island Fire Department practiced drills at McNally Cottage . . .

. . . and on Monday, in a matter of hours, the cottage was gone. I haven't seen the renderings for The Bicycle Inn, which will stand where McNally was, but Mary Slevin with the Tourism Bureau said in an interview it will be a beautiful building, in keeping with Main Street's other architecture.

Several days after the cottage came down, and during the excavation of the site, an ancient burial site was uncovered, and three almost complete human skeletons were discovered. Interlochen Public Radio interviewed several people on Mackinac Island concerning this discovery, and you can listen to or read the interview here: Very interesting!

The big news just before we left the island was the opening of the Lilac Tree Suites for New Years!  Ted and I have tossed around the idea of returning for that holiday, but right now no definite plans have been made.  For those of you looking to ring in the New Year on the island (hopefully snow-covered by then), you’ll have several choices for reservations:  The Lilac Tree, The Cottage Inn, Pontiac Lodge, Bogan Lane Inn, Harbor Place Studio Suites and Mission Point Resort. Of those, Lilac Tree and Mission Point are only open for that one holiday; the others are open year-round.  Year round restaurants are the Mustang Lounge and Cawthorne’s Village Inn, opening under new management December 1.

Two Photos of the Fort by Mary Slevin

Mary snapped this photo the afternoon of Halloween from Marquette Park. Boy, would Bear like a chance at those geese!

Mary threw in some special effects here and turned Fort Mackinac into something resembling a postcard from Ireland.

There’s a small chance that the island will see it’s first snow of the winter season later this week, but no accumulations are expected with this fast-moving storm.  I can just about promise you though that everyone who owns a snowmobile has already gotten them out of storage, tuned them up, and they are sitting on ready!  Come on, snow!!

That’s all I have for this week, friends  I’ve been saving some wonderful, beautiful, magnificent, awesome photos of Steve Fridley’s to use during these first updates.  Here’s three to end this post – the last one is today’s header.  Thank you, Steve!

Multi-color lights illuminate the Mackinac Bridges, and the town is bathed in the soft lights of evening.

Trinity Church under a blanket of fleecy clouds.

Just breathtaking.

Have a great week, and see you back here on Wednesday, Nov. 16.  God bless.

We’re Home at the Lake! 11/04/2011

(Big sigh)  . . . bags are all unpacked.  Two shipped boxes have arrived and been emptied.  Hanging clothes are in closets, and folded clothes are in dresser (all of that needs pressing, but that’s not happening this week).  Ted and I have not stopped for a single second during the day (or so it seems) since we arrived home, but we’re now able to say, “We’re home!” and really smile about it.

Our trip from Michigan to Georgia was the smoothest we’ve ever had.  We left Mackinaw City at 8:32 Sunday morning (ice on boardway and ferry docks) and drove to Richmond, KY.  We were out of there by 8:10 the next morning and home around 5:30 on Monday afternoon.  Smooth sailing the whole way – even through Atlanta!

Although the fall colors had peaked, there were still a lot of burnt orange, golden yellow, and rusty red leaves clinging to the trees in Kentucky.

And once we crossed over into Tennessee and the Great Smoky Mountains, there were even more miles of late fall color to enjoy.

When the skyline of Atlanta came into view, it meant we were only 3 1/2 hours from our front door . . .

. . . and we cruised through Atlanta without ever once slowing down - a minor miracle!

I wanna talk!  I wanna talk! 

Hello – Bear here.

When mom and dad got all those storage things out of hiding and packed them for days and days, Maddie and I knew something was up.  We stayed pretty close that whole week – never letting them out of our sight.  We knew a trip was coming – we just didn’t know where.

Maddie slept in mom's lap practically the whole trip, but I was dad's co-pilot (since mom slept the whole trip too, somebody had to be alert!)

As soon as we turned off that big path with all the cars and trucks and bunches of lanes, even Maddie woke up.  Suddenly the air just smelled different, and we finally knew where we were going . . . . HOME to the LAKE!

When dad turned on our street, Maddie and I just went crazy! Maddie was whining so loud mom fussed at her, and I was running back and forth from window to window in the back!  Just when we thought we couldn’t stand it another minute, we turned INTO OUR DRIVEWAY!

When mom opened the truck door and the fence door, I just fell to the ground and started rolling, saturating my body in good ole Georgia grass smell . . . .

Lemme tell it!  Lemme tell it! 

Hey – Maddie here.

As soon as I hit the yard I thought to myself, “Dang it!  You go away a few months, and the moles just take over!”  So . . . .

. . . . I did what I had to do. Mom and dad were so busy carrying in stuff they didn't even notice - well for a little while anyway.

I’m back now – sorry about that – sometimes you just have to let ’em talk.

As smooth as the trip was, we should have known there would be a few little problems when we got here.  Here’s the short list:

  1. My car battery was deader than the first mole Maddie caught.
  2. My laptop wouldn’t connect to the internet, although Ted’s notebook and our old iMac connected perfectly fine.
  3. I spent 4 hours (no exaggeration) on the phone with a tech person in Lord knows where while he talked me through a thousand and one “things to try” – none worked.
  4. Ted made an appointment for me to take my car to the Ford service center in Americus for a new battery on Wednesday morning and an appointment with our internet provider to send someone to our house Wednesday afternoon.
  5. Ted jumped off my battery and was following me to Americus when his cell phone rang.  It was our alarm company saying our house alarm was going off.
  6. Ted turned around and went back to the house – false alarm.
  7. Battery installed, groceries bought.
  8. Internet person arrived and figured out what was wrong . . . .  YEAH!!!
  9. Maddie ate too many moles and got sick all over the carpet . . . UGHI

There was already a Girls Night Out planned on Wednesday night at Booger Bottom, and I was determined to go.  The theme for the night was “Sell Your Gold”, and a jeweler we all knew was there to buy any old gold and silver jewelry anyone wanted to sell.

Sally - waiting for the dollar value of what she was selling.

Lake Ladies - so good to see them all again!

My turn again, mom!

Maddie and I hung around while mom and dad unpacked all their stuff - making sure things were coming OUT of those bags instead of going IN!

When I could finally relax, I assumed my favorite sleeping position at our Georgia house - on my back, neck turned so I only have to open one eye to see what's happening, and one leg anchoring myself under the couch cushion (mom would have a fit if I did this to the couch in Michigan).

I've said hello to that big dog that never moves on the back porch - it's too bad he doesn't get to travel with us, but I don't think he would fit anyway. He's not very friendly either - didn't even say "welcome home".

My turn!

I've laid off the moles for a while - everything in moderation, you know. But since we've gotten home, I like to sit on the back porch and make sure everything is as it should be. Mom and dad depend on me for that.

Bear and I have been waiting for the squirrels to come back, but mom says it will take a little while. Dad put up the bird feeder yesterday, and as soon as the birds and squirrels smell all that seed, they'll be all over the place again. The great furry one and I LOVE to chase squirrels!

Ok – maybe I can finish now.

Is it good to be back?  Oh my goodness, yes.  I told someone last night at Girls Night Out that what we do is a different way to live.  We really have two lives, each of them wonderful, with marvelous friends in both places.  The magic of Mackinac Island will always call me back, but the joy and peace of returning to my roots is special in a totally different way.

Our homes aren't big or fancy in any way. But they both fit us perfectly and offer us water and woods - the two things we love about nature the most.

Our first morning back Ted stood on our dock and took a photo of our house as the sun rose (the header photo is from that morning also).  The sun’s light was reflected in our windows, turning each of them golden, and when I saw his photograph, I thought “We have magic here also.”

It’s good to be home.

I’ll begin posting the Mackinac Island Winter Updates on Wednesday, November 9, to this site.  I hope you’ll return here each week to find out what’s happening on our favorite rock.  We’ll try and get through the snow season together, and we’ll be returning for spring on the island before you know it.

See you Wednesday from Mackinac – through the eyes of the lucky ones who remain there, and I hope you’ll join us for winter in Georgia at

God bless.

I’m Hurrying. I’m Hurrying! 11/03/2011

Horton Update:

We’re home, but definitely not settled.

I’ve just today (Wednesday) been able to get online with my laptop – and believe me, that story is a post in itself!  Combine that with still trying to get unpacked and get everything else working like it should.  So . . . . this Friday I’ll post the same blog on both the Mackinac Island Blog ( and the Lake Blackshear Blog sites ( – you can find it either place.  After that, the Lake Blackshear Blog will be where you’ll find the Horton clan.

EXCEPT (there’s always an “except”) . . . beginning Wednesday, Nov. 9, I’ll start the Mackinac Island Winter Updates (on Bree’s Mackinac Island Blog site –  I’ve decided to do those on WEDNESDAYS this year, instead of Mondays.  Are you totally confused now?  If so, here’s the schedule – as it stands right now – and subject to change at any second.

Bree’s Lake Blackshear Blog:         Each Monday and Friday

Bree’s Mackinac Island Blog:        Each Wednesday

I’m off tonight to Girls Night Out at the famous Booger Bottom, and I can’t wait to see all the ladies of the lake.

See you Friday with all the happenings from Joy-Ja!

I’m so excited to be back online!  I’ve missed ya’ll!

Header:  Sunrise over the lake Wednesday morning (photo by Ted).

We’re Home!

Hello from Georgia!

We arrived home around 5:30 this afternoon, and this is the first time I’ve taken a second to sit down.  Having trouble getting online with my laptop, so I’m posting from Ted’s tiny notebook – therefore, you know this will be short and sweet.

Thank you all for your safe travel prayers.  We had an amazing trip with no problems whatsoever – we even zipped through Atlanta in record time!

I’ll write more when I figure out what’s wrong with my laptop (seems to always happen when we change houses).  That might be tomorrow, but could be a couple of days.   I won’t change over to the lake blog until I’m up and running on the laptop, so keep clicking on Bree’s Mackinac Island Blog for now.

Got to go get some more unpacking done and eat some of a delicious looking shrimp and grits casserole Ed and Sally made for us.  The header is the sign they’d placed on our gate, so it was the first thing we saw when we drove under the carport. 

It’s great to be home!  Talk with you tomorrow or the next day!