Sunday, July 31, 2011

keeping house 1945-style

We spent the past month at our cottage in northern Michigan. (My daughter Katie insists it's a cabin; only bright, cheery places at the beach are called cottages. To me, a cabin has little more than cots and a screen door and we have more than that. Ha!)

Anyway. Built in 1945, the cottage has undergone very few changes. Some might describe living here as indoor camping. No microwave, air conditioning, or washing machine. We do without a disposer and TV, too.

The fridge is at least 50 years old and still hums along. Katie, Jenny and Jill say it's "so cute." It would be cuter if I didn't have to defrost it!

Running the kitchen with this fridge isn't so bad with just two or three of us, but if there's a crowd to feed, it becomes more challenging, as you might imagine. I got by with just one defrosting this month. I remember my mother having to defrost our fridge in the 1960s and it wasn't a pretty sight.

Now for laundry. About once a week, we run to the laundromat in town. But if I'm down to a last pair of underwear, my old Girl Scout camp skills kick in. Bucket (metal wash pan), soap, water and clothesline. It's a good life skill and humbling, too: washing out your underwear by hand.

Dishwashing really isn't a big deal. When I consider loading, running, and unloading a dishwasher, I'm not sure much time is saved: we get it done in a jiffy in our ceramic sink and dish pan.

It isn't the Hilton. But then it's so much more. The call of loons every morning. God's power in a storm bearing down in the night as we rush to close windows, rain spraying our faces. Wind softly rustling the pine and birches. Time to read, pray, talk together, and just come away from the mindless noise and distractions of everyday life.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


It all started about a week ago when Ellie came into the cabin from her wanderings, emitting a slight but distinct “eau de skunk.” We tried to ignore it for a day, and especially denying the possibility that a skunk might have taken up residence on our property.

But Ellie’s continuous trips out to the “guest house,” eagerly sniffing and pawing around pretty much told us without a doubt that we indeed had a skunk. And he had a fine access under the building: a handy hole beside a water valve at ground level.

What to do? For obvious reasons, neither of us would entertain thoughts of coaxing, pulling or trapping a skunk. So we consulted our neighbor Roy, the man with answers to most of our questions. He, a virtual expert on all things lake/northern Michigan and us, the virtual clueless city slickers.

“Skunks are nocturnal, so go out past 11 o’clock and cover the hole with rocks,” Roy said. "By then he should be out for the night, and will find a surprise when he returns."

Sensible enough. Except when Bill headed out with his flashlight at 11:15 p.m., he and Mr. Skunk spotted each other, and skunk scurried back under the guest house. That was plan A, night one.

Plan B, night two. “Skunks hate moth balls and ammonia,” said Roy. I refused to go the moth ball route. “Jam some ammonia-soaked rags into those smaller holes,” advised Roy. "Then, sprinkle some flour around the bigger hole, so you’ll know when he leaves by his footprints. Then you can cover his hole with rocks." This was sounding more like detective work to me.

Out we went last evening, about 9:30, armed with rags, ammonia, and a bowl of flour and followed Roy’s directions. Problem was, at 10:30 it started raining and we figured skunk’s trail would be tainted. So, was skunk in or out? We certainly didn’t want to trap a live skunk under the building, but if he had moved on, we certainly DID want to cover the hole. What a quandary!

This morning, day three, Roy inspects the set-up. “Let’s prop some small sticks in front of the hole. If he goes in our out, we’ll know by the sticks.”

Meanwhile, Ellie received a thorough bathing in the lake with a homemade potion of baking soda, hydrogen peroxide and soap, thanks to a recipe by Dove, our neighbor at home. Ellie smells much better. Thanks, Dove!

And now she’s lost interest in the skunk hole. So we’re left to wonder if she’s sick of detention and baths and has learned her lesson, or if the skunk has moved on to greener pastures. Bill thinks he’s gone for good.

We don’t know. But we sure feel skunked!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

the climber

At this juncture, Ari has no interest in posing for photos.
She's constantly moving or doing or looking for action and is an
especially strong and accomplished climber.
So I caught this little of trio of photos to illustrate her busy-ness.
She makes me laugh!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

(grand) mothering

Oh, how the memories of mothering two little ones had dimmed. The tiny sweetness of two babies ... their constant needs that utterly exhaust mom and dad … the days and nights that mesh together without end until at last some semblance of a schedule starts to take shape.

As a young mother, I needed a schedule badly and my little ones did, too. The perpetual-motion toddler and nursing newborn took every ounce of my fortitude. But they also helped me tap a previously-unknown depth of love and devotion from inside myself. And it was wonderful.

And so, as a grandmother now to two little ones, those memories of wondering how I’d make it through another day come rushing back as I chase an impish Ari and snuggle a sleeping Ashlyn. I exert only a fraction of the energy I see in my son and daughter-in-love, but how I cherish this time.

Thank you, God, for this chance to be with babies again: at once familiar but also so new.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


kitchen window



boathouse door

and just in case.

 Rope's a good thing to have!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

the smallest airport

One ticket counter, two self check-in kiosks, a miniature security 'gate' with two TSA officials, a waiting area with about 40 seats, two vending machines, and restrooms. The Alpena County, Michigan Regional Airport, I've been told, is the smallest airport in the country that offers commercial flights. Here's the terminal ...

I arrived at 5 a.m. on Wednesday for my flight to Detroit, then on to Charlotte. It was actually a bustling place, but the crowd felt more like a group sending kids off to camp than an airport. People didn't really line up for check-in, but rather waited in a huddle for the next kiosk or place at the counter.

Once through the 8-foot long security line, we waited in an area about as big as my kitchen. And when that filled up, a door was opened and we filed out onto the tarmac. As we all admired the stunning sunrise, an airport official with a clipboard checked our names against his list.

Then we climbed the stairs up into the turbo-prop, just like the old days of airline travel, before long tunnels from airport to airplane. How I love standing on the tarmac, like a real aviator!

To sum it up, if you put your local large airport in a shrinking machine, out would come the tiny Alpena Airport. You'd have everything on a smaller scale. Well, except fora Starbucks.

Monday, July 4, 2011

day's end

Now the day is over,

night is drawing nigh ....

shadows of the evening steal across the sky.

Dusk on Grand Lake, Michigan. July 2011