Tag Archives: Iron Ore Bay



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One week ago, I brought Darla home to Beaver Island. I didn’t want a second dog for my own sake, but rather to enrich the life of my little dog, Rosa Parks. I knew she could use more exercise; I felt she’d be happier with a dog that – being of the same species – would understand her better than a human could. One veterinarian explained to me that only another dog would have the same acute senses of smell and hearing, and so would be able to share their experience. It all seemed very sensible at the time.

Well, we are all getting used to each other. No matter about shared experience, it seems that both Darla and Rosa Parks think they’d prefer to be an only dog. They relate to me – the human – better than to the other dog; they both love me…but are still deciding whether they even like each other. They vie for attention whenever I’m around.

They do relate to one another, though. When one hears a sound, they both erupt into fits of mad barking. When one pees, the other one runs right over to pee on the same spot. Sometimes that goes on so long, I wonder where they continue to come up with the pee! When one finds an interesting smell, the other one rushes right over to investigate. When one needs to go outside, the other one follows.

Darla is obsessive about food. She is mild-mannered most of the time, but takes issue when edibles are in the picture. Rosa Parks is an instigator. She’ll bark to announce the invasion of a bird, snake or chipmunk, then sit back while Darla does the chasing. Together, when they are getting along, they seem intent on mischief. It’s as if they are a couple of teen-aged hoodlums, forming a gang.

At Miller’s Marsh they sat together on the shore, barking at a flock of geese in the water. At Iron Ore Bay, where the smell of fish is in the air, and the beach is covered with seaweed, they both developed acute deafness. Neither one could hear me call, when it was time to go. Yesterday, with Darla for back-up, Rosa ran right toward the road, intent on chasing a car. Rosa has never been a car-chaser!

Just like with children, a second one is not twice as difficult; it’s more like ten or twenty times harder. The whole dynamic changes. I think we’re going to be fine…eventually…but right now, we’re all still adjusting.

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Our New Lives

jen first grade

Jennifer (on the far left) with Sister Marie Eugene and her first grade class on the first day of school

The day after my daughters and I arrived on Beaver Island, in the fall of 1978, I had to get my oldest enrolled in the First Grade. The little community school was staffed mainly by Catholic nuns, who stayed in the convent during the school year, but were away when school was not in session. There had been no one there to help me with arrangements during any of our four visits to the island that summer, so it all had to be done right away.

I started with a telephone call to the convent. Sister Mary Rock, the principal, set a time to meet us at the school. Jennifer would be in Sister Marie Eugene’s room. For the first semester, grades one, two and three shared the teacher and the classroom. When the second semester started, the kindergarten class would be added. Though kindergarten was only one semester long, the students performed well. Jennifer had excelled in every area in kindergarten at Schickler School. Here, we found she was two readers behind. She was also going to have to catch up in Spanish, which they didn’t introduce at the kindergarten level in Lapeer!

Finished with the enrollment process, our next stop was the Shamrock Bar and Restaurant. I had secured a job there, and needed to let them know when I’d be available to start work. I was given a couple uniforms – two sizes too large and of horrid mint green polyester – and a schedule. Though I had never been a waitress before, no training was offered. “You’ll be fine,” the owner told me, “just keep smiling!”

Next, we stopped in to see Carol LaFreniere. She had agreed to take care of my girls when I was working and to see that Jen got to and from school safely. Carol was a pleasant woman with a keen sense of humor and three little red-headed children. My girls had met her on one of our summertime visits, so there were no surprises. I shared my schedule with her and discussed any possible problems. We were ready!

At the farmhouse, we walked the fields. I kept the lawn mowed. We ate our meals together at the big table in the kitchen. We washed our clothes with the wringer washer, and hung them out on the clothesline to dry. We read together every evening.

On warm days, we gravitated toward the water, that year more than any other. On the beach at Iron Ore Bay, the day before my husband was set to come to the island, we piled sand into giant letters that spelled out, “Welcome, Daddy!” After he arrived, on one beautiful October day, we went back there for a day-long outing. We brought picnic fare, and built a bonfire to cook fish fillets and vegetables all wrapped in individual foil packets. We wandered the beach, finding shells and stones. When the air, toward evening, was getting cooler, the water felt perfect. We all swam, at dusk, then wrapped up in towels and blankets around the fire. We drove back to the farmhouse under a sky full of stars.

Jennifer did well in the new school. She caught up quickly with the lessons; she made friends. Both Jen and Kate did fine at Carol’s house. My husband started work right away, and seemed to like it. As for me and the Shamrock, well…that’s a story all on its own!


House on Fire


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Yesterday, I had nothing to talk about; today there’s too much.

Today, it seems that everyone is speaking up, collectively expressing grief and horror at the tragic events in Paris.

It is comforting to not be experiencing this alone.

But I recoil at many suggestions for what should happen next.

I am ashamed at my lack of knowledge when it comes to world politics. I don’t know how this conflict began, how it escalated, who is right, who is wrong. I am unqualified to agree or disagree with any statement at that level.

Still, it makes me afraid.

Yesterday, unable to think of something to write about, I consulted the “WordPress Writing Prompts Page.” This November could turn into a very difficult month, if I can’t come up with topics for my daily posts! Many of the suggestions I found there would have taken more energy than I have in any given day:

If you could master any skill in the world, what would it be and why?

Invent a definition for the word “flangiprop” and then write a post using it.

What is the most time you’ve spent away from your favorite person; what did it feel like?

A few of the ideas grabbed my attention, though.  One, called “Burning down the House” suggested this scenario:

Your house is on fire. You can save only five items. Assuming that all humans and animals are safe, tell what you would grab, and why.

First, I had to expand the “humans and animals” to include my houseplants, so that I wouldn’t be getting charred while debating which plants were most deserving. After that, it was easy.

It would be easy, too, because all of my choices are within a few steps of the back door. It would be just a few quick underhand tosses, and Rosa Parks and I would be out and safe.

  1. My big purse, handily hanging on the back of my desk chair. Because we all know how hard it is to replace driver’s license, credit cards and the like. The purse holds those, along with my cash and checkbook, a few dog treats, my camera, a couple shopping bags and – when I’m lucky – a bit of candy.
  2. An old photograph of my sister Brenda and myself, taken when we were maybe two and three years old. We have matching dresses and matching haircuts. Brenda mugs for the camera; I shyly look down and away. That represents a big step for me. In all the rest of my baby pictures, I am gazing adoringly at Brenda; in this one I am – albeit very meekly – asserting my independence. This picture has traveled with me from house to house; it always hangs where I can see it every day. I treasure it because I still adore Brenda, and because it reminds me of where I started out.
  3. A framed photo of my daughters, when they were three and six years old, running in the sand along the beach at Iron Ore Bay, here on Beaver Island. Of all of the ways I define myself, the most important, to me is “mother.” That’s not a designation I practice in my day-to-day life, now that my children are grown, but it’s still a big part of me. My little girls in the sunshine, arms all akimbo, with the waves and sand of this island…I’d have to save that picture.
  4. My computer. Because I’m taking this writing business seriously. With as many of the cords and connections as I can toss out with it. I’m counting both laptops and my laptop-sized scanner all together. Just one small stack…out the door. Because I am a writer.
  5. Poems by Emily Dickinson.  This well-loved, well-worn hardcover book, of all my books, would be most likely to bring me comfort after devastating loss. Turn to any page:

Had this one day not been / Or could it cease to be – / How smitten, how superfluous / Were every other day!

Lest Love should value less / What loss would value more / Had it the stricken privilege – / It cherishes before.

That’s my list…if my home were on fire.

As I look at the items I chose, I can see that they  each – in one way or another – hold the essence of my identity.

It’s not a bad exercise.

As we move forward in light of world events, I hope we are careful in our response. When the world is falling down around us, it’s most important to hold on to our identity. In reacting to inhuman acts, I hope we don’t leave behind the crucial essence of who we are.








These words all describe my grandson, Brandon.

I saw him first when he was only a few hours old.

It’s hard to believe that was seventeen years ago!

Moments stand out:

The first time Brandon and his older brother came to stay with me for a week on Beaver island, he was only 10 months old. Wiggling toes in the grass was as wondrous as wiggling toes in the sand! I got as much pleasure out of everything he saw and experienced as he did. He was such a joy to watch!

For many years, the boys came every summer.

We’d start our days at Iron Ore Bay. For me, a thermos of coffee and a book. For the boys, hours digging in the sand, making bridges and trenches and rock walls, finding stones and feathers and shells. Breakfast scraps were thrown to the gulls. When we were too hot, or too sandy, the water was right there.

We walked every day. My arsenal included sunscreen and insect repellent, and plastic bags to be fashioned into waterproof capes in case it rained.

We worked in the yard and garden. The grape arbor was transformed into a fort each year. The compost bin often harbored garter snakes. The big toad, George, could be observed most evenings on the kitchen stoop. Moths would gather on the windows at night.

Evenings, we’d fix dinner together, play cards, read or watch a movie before bed.

I know it wasn’t perfect. There were hassles and arguments and tears folded in among the good times. It lives in my memory, though, as an almost perfect time.

As I watch these boys grow up, with all the issues that go along with that, I hope they, too, have good memories to sustain them, when things get hard to deal with.

Tomorrow, my grandson will be seventeen years old.

Happy Birthday, Brandon!




A few conversations that are keeping me smiling:

Patrick: “Yuck, Grandma Cindy, I think I just got mosquito repellent in my mouth!”

Me: “Yuck!”

Patrick: “Will that kill me?”

Me: “No!”

Patrick: “It says don’t get it in your mouth!”

Me: “Well, it tastes nasty, doesn’t it? A little bit is not going to hurt you, though. Any side effects wouldn’t be noticeable until you’re a very old, old man.”

Patrick: “Oh, so Grandma Cindy, you don’t have to even worry about it, right?”

Me: “I guess (thinking, “sure, at my age I could eat the stuff for breakfast!”)”

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Tommy: “Why are those butterflies stuck together?”

Me: “I think they’re having sex.”

Patrick: (with extremely pained expression) “Ugh! Oh, gross, Grandma Cindy, you should just say BREEDING.”

Tommy: “What is BREETING?”

Patrick: “It’s BREEDING. It means they’re having sex.”

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Madeline: (on seeing a photo where Tommy had given her “horns”) “Oh, I wish he hadn’t done that. That’s really unfortunate. I’m going to have to ask my Mom to photo-shop that out of there” *

* Later, when I saw photos my daughter took of the kids on the way here, I noticed that Madeline was giving her little brother, Tommy, “horns” in almost every single picture!

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Madeline: “Well, this is all okay, Grandma Cindy, but I think next year when I visit, I’m going to come all by myself.”

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Tommy: (In the big waves at Iron Ore Bay) “Grandma Cindy, this is AWESOME!!!”

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I agree…the entire week with them was awesome!