Monday Morning Musings

Last Monday I promised I would recap my vacation and book tour, and I try not to break promises, so here is the first installment. Our youngest daughter, Dany, the graphic artist and Web designer, went on the trip with me, and it was great to spend that time together and not have to drive alone. Plus, she was such a big help at the signing events. I can’t thank her enough for taking the time to go along.

Me and my mother

On a professional level, the book tour was very important, but on a personal level the visit with family meant more to me. In fact, it was a desire to visit my mother and sister that spurred the idea to drive 3,000 miles in two weeks. Yikes, written like that makes me tired all over again.

My sister, Juanita

It took three days to get to Lake City, Michigan where my mother lives with my sister and her husband. I hadn’t seen my mother in two years and I wasn’t sure what to expect from a lady 92 years old, but she looked much the same as last time. A little slower to move around, but there is nothing slow about her mind. She is still very sharp and missed little as conversations flowed around her.

Mother with Katy

We spent a week with the family in and around Lake City. I have two nieces and a nephew there, as well as some great nieces and nephews and I got to see them all. Katy, the oldest great niece, graduated from high school. I didn’t realize it beforehand, but her graduation was the same day – and time – as my signing event at Horizon Books in Cadillac. She came over to the bookstore after the ceremony so Grandma-Great, which is what they all call Mother, could see her.

Mother Sketching

A visit up north always involves a day at the lake and Mother was up for going again, although strolling the beach is no longer an option. In the past we have spent hours walking along the water looking for shells and rocks. This year, we sat in the pavilion with our sketchbooks. We always like to draw, and one time when we went to the Grand Hotel on Mackinaw Island, the waiter asked if we were famous artists. Mother remembered that and we had a good laugh.

Going to the farm that my niece and her husband own is also on our list of “must do” when going up north. They have a beautiful old farmhouse, barns, and this year baby calves that, Jacob, their five-year-old son couldn’t wait to show Aunt Maryann.

My nephew, Dayle, who works with his father in the construction business and farms, had to check out the hay meadow while we were there.

Oh, I almost forgot the spa day when we all painted our nails with funky crackle polish and did tattoos. Even mother got into the spirit of it all and got purple crackle polish and a rose tattoo.

One of the best things about going back is the chance to connect with old friends, and I saw one of my best friends, Flo. She drove up from Coldwater, MI to spend several days with her family in Cadillac, but also to visit with me and my family. I first met Flo right after high school when we both worked at the same restaurant. She was the first one to introduce me to the Cadillac area. long before my sister met and married a man from McBain.  Flo and I used to drive from the Detroit area to spend weekends up north.

I hadn’t seen Flo in twenty years and the first thing she said to me was, “God, you’ve gotten old.” Like she hadn’t. Mother enjoyed seeing Flo again, too, and reminded her of when she used to come to the house and stir Mother’s fish bowl. “Just giving the little fishes a ride,” Flo would say.  When she stopped coming over, the fish died.

Flo is still funny and fun, and offered to sign books for me if I needed to take a break.

Michael, Me, John

After leaving Lake City, we drove “downstate”, as the folks there like to say, and went to visit my brother, Michael,  in Lapeer, where he lives with his partner, John. The visit was short, just an afternoon and overnight, but we had a nice time. John is a wonderful cook, so we had some good food and a pleasant morning in the garden. John is a landscape artist, as well as a potter and sculptor.

We also got to visit some more nieces and nephews, and I got to put on my editor’s hat for a moment and help a great-nephew with a paper he was writing for school. He was hesitant at first, but his mother talked him into bringing the paper out and it was quite good.

Sarah, Pam, Emily, Paul Van Gilder

The last few days of the trip took us to Bloomington, IN for a signing, then on to Memphis to visit my brother Paul and his family. While we were there, we went to the animal shelter to help them pick out a new puppy for their daughter, Sarah. Paul and his wife, Pam, thought Sarah could benefit from having a companion dog, and there was this darling puppy at the shelter that really needed a home. I discovered, again, that I should not visit shelters. Had we not been two days from home, there might have been a few kittens in the car.

From Memphis, Dany and I went to Hot Springs, AK, to take advantage of the bath houses there. I’ve never been much for that kind of pampering, but Dany convinced me that a massage and some time in the mineral waters would be a great way to end the trip. She was so right. And I even got to do a little research for a book that is set there in the 60’s that I hope to finish this summer.

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