Michigan Visit: A New Baby and a New Book

My busy self had to take a week off and visit my new grandson in Michigan and see how new Mama and Daddy were faring. It was my first born’s first born, so I was thrilled to finally get a chance to hold him in my arms. Meet Carter Jeffery Schultz:

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What a warm cuddle butt he is. With his little round head and bottom and wiry arms and legs, I had to nickname him Mr. Peanut. There is nothing that touches a grandmother’s heart quite like holding a newborn grandchild.

My favorite picture of father and son.

My favorite picture of father and son.

With Daddy working weird hours, Mama and me got to do a little sightseeing. We had lunch at Fireflies on the water watching the canoers paddle by and baby was such a good child. It was his first excursion to a restaurant and did very well. Helped Mama’s confidence to get him out and about, also. She’s such a good little mama.

Another day, when Daddy was home, we went to a wine tasting at a place they now call The Commons. This was my kind of place.

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It’s a historic 1884 hospital complex now a sprawling shopping & dining spot with arboretum & hiking.

The Traverse City State Hospital of Traverse CityMichigan has been variously known as the Northern Michigan Asylum and the Traverse City Regional Psychiatric Hospital. It is the last Kirkbride Building of Michigan’s original four left in the state. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978 and designated a Michigan State Historic Site in 1985. It was a deary day with sprinkling rain when we went which lent a more mysterious feel to the place…almost haunting.

One little tid-bit I learned while visiting is that roughly 80% of the women there from the 1930s-60s were menopausal or post-meopausal and thier husbands had mistresses younger than them…hmmm.

Northern Michigan Asylum was established in 1881 as the demand for a third psychiatric hospital, in addition to those established in Kalamazoo and Pontiac, began to grow. Lumber baronPerry Hannah, “the father of Traverse City,” used his political influence to secure its location in his home town under the supervision of prominent architect Gordon W. Lloyd, the first building, known as Building 50, was constructed in VictorianItalianate style according to the Kirkbride Plan. The hospital opened in 1885 with 43 residents.

Arial View of the complex

Arial View of the complex

Under Dr. James Decker Munson, the first superintendent from 1885 to 1924, the institution expanded. Twelve housing cottages and two infirmaries were built between 1887 and 1903 to meet the specific needs of male and female patients. The institution became the city’s largest employer and contributed to its growth. In the 1930s three large college-like buildings were constructed near the present site of the Munson Hospital parking deck and the Grand Traverse Pavilions.

Long before the advent of drug therapy in the 1950s, Munson was a firm believer in the “beauty is therapy” philosophy. Patients were treated through kindnesscomfort, and pleasure, and beautiful flowers provided year-round by the asylum’s own greenhouses and the variety of trees Munson planted on the grounds. Restraints, such as the straitjacket, were forbidden. Also, as part of the “work is therapy” philosophy, the asylum provided opportunities for patients to gain a sense of purpose through farming, furniture construction, fruit canning, and other trades that kept the institution fully self-sufficient. The asylum farm began in 1885 with the purchase of some milk cows and within a decade grew to include pigs, chickens, milk and meat cows, and many vegetable fields. In the 1910s-30s, the farm was home to a world champion milk cow, Traverse Colantha Walker. Her grave is at the end of the dirt trail between the farm and the asylum.

While the hospital was established for the care of the mentally ill, its use expanded during outbreaks of tuberculosistyphoiddiphtheriainfluenza, and polio. It also cared for the elderly, served as a rehab for drug addicts, and was used to train nurses. Kinda creepy, huh?

I was most interested in the tunnels that honeycomb the undergrounds. These were used during winter months when there was eight to twelve feet of snow on the ground so the patients could wander around and the caretakers could get from one building to another without freezing to death. (BTW…they are filled with spiders.)

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The inside of the buildings are room after room of quiant upscale boutiques, coffee shops, and eateries. The upstairs are condos where people live year ’round or summer over. It was both fun and interesting on many levels. Much nicer than the tunnels, but I don’t know that I could live there.

Inside The Commons

Inside The Commons

There was a wonderful restaurant inside, called Stella’s, and we had a lovely dinner of veal sweetbreads, thinly sliced fried pig ears, fried artichokes and a cheese tray for starters. That was followed by entrees of wild boar, lamb and scallops and topped off by a decadent chocolate desert with a crispy cookie and creamy mousse with whipped cream and shaved chocolate…oh yes, we did have another delicious bottle of Cab-Sav. A nice glass of Taylor Fladgate port rounded off the meal.

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While touring the buildings and the grounds my mind wandered back to the 30s-50s when patients lived and worked there. As any good author, by the time I left I already had the makings of another book in my head.

There is already so much in my head, I don’t know if this lifetime will grant me what is necessary to finish such a piece, but it’s worth a try.

Right now, I’m focused on marketing my zany little Florida regional crime novel with Richard and Brandi which is on pre-order HERE with the paperback available HERE.

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Perhaps Richard and Brandi can go back with me to Traverse City and use those tunnels to uncover some heinous crime that occurred there. I’d jump at the chance to revisit for more research.

Who Was This Young Man That Love Healed? What Was His Story?

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Gabriel was nine months sober and waiting three more months to stand up and tell his story. He won’t be able to now, so I am going to tell his story the best way I can. I may not get all the facts straight, but this is what I know. It is a long story, and it is with a heavy heart that I share it. It’s also the most important story I’ve ever written.

He was thirty-four, born February, 17th, to a Mexican father he never came to know. He was raised by his mom and step-dad. His struggles with his step-dad were intense and, in part, due to his drugging behaviors. His mom and step-dad loved him dearly. He also had a sister and a brother.

What it was like: 

In his early twenties, he started working in construction, making really good money and many “friends.” Even though he had seen the troubles his step-dad’s drinking had caused, he felt much pressure from his friends to drink and drug. The drinking was social and he always felt he had it under control, but the drugs made him feel powerful, invincible. Making good money, more and more of his earnings were spent on his drugs of choice, which were amphetamines, cocaine and pills.

Along with the drugs came risky behaviors. In his heart, he knew he was wrong, but the persuasion of the drugs was greater than his conscience. I won’t give you his drug-a-log or his drunk-a-log, suffice it to say, there were many instances where he had put his life or the lives of others at risk.

His family had tried everything in their power to alter his behavior, but he wasn’t ready to make any changes. He started living from pillar to post, burning bridges as he went. His life became harder, less manageable.

At age thirty, or thereabout, he and a friend walked into a Best Buy and walked out with a large screen TV. Right through the front door, they carried it, and were promptly arrested. At this time, he had more than $1000.00 in speeding tickets, willful and wanton reckless driving charges, and had a long history of theft by taking for which he had never gotten caught. Though he had driven all over the countryside, he had never taken the driver’s tests. He knew it was his turn to serve his time and the judge was not lenient on him, giving him three years in prison. During his time out, he had led his brother astray and felt much remorse for that.

What Changed:

Losing his freedoms and his rights, he saw that he was heading down the wrong road in life and knew he had to make changes. He had eaten enough black beans and rice, and pinto beans, to know he never wanted to return to prison, and the only way he could avoid that was to stay clean.

He first started a 12-Step recovery program in the jail and when he got out was absolutely convinced he needed to get a sponsor right away and work the steps. My husband, twelve years sober, has never protected his anonymity, he’s always hoped his openness might help someone else to see they, too, can stay sober. Gabriel, too, wanted people to know how the program had changed his life. Attraction, rather than promotion, is their motto, and he felt people needed to know it could be done. You could stay sober. He chose my husband as a sponsor.

Everybody had a hand in keeping Gabriel on track. It takes a village. He had many friends in the program and though offered a job back in his hometown in construction with his old friends, he knew he couldn’t go back to that environment. He started working for landscapers and loved the sense of freedom of being outside, working hard and making things beautiful.

His employers bragged on his work ethic and his drive. He was smart, fast, knowledgeable, and skilled. He could work every tool properly with care and took great pride in producing results. He also had a great sense of humor and kept them laughing through-out the day. He was a funny guy who worked hard but tried not to take life too seriously. His customers looked forward to his visits.

His first employer also became his first landlord and he paid half his wages in rent, but the guy had a drinking problem and his work ethic was not as strong as Gabriel’s. There was some major conflict between them. Then, Gabriel hurt his foot when a piece of metal pierced his shoe and drove into his foot. Unable to work and pay rent, he and his landlord had a major falling out. He found himself homeless, jobless, and injured…but he was set on working his program to stay sober. No matter the obstacles in his path, he kept coming back to meetings, worked his steps, and talked to his sponsor every day.

Even with his hurt foot, he was walking the neighborhoods looking for work, sleeping where he could, but making all the meetings he could attend. My husband talked to me about the possibility of Gabriel coming to stay with us for a couple of months until he could get back on his feet, literally. He had only sponsored Gabe for about four months and I had some reservations having dealt with addicts and alcoholics in the past. I feared the drama that might enter our lives, but conceded to have him come stay with us.

What it is like now:  

He moved in with us in March. Gabriel quickly found work with a landscaping company. His foot heal fast and he was back at it. His work ethic was so strong, he would be up at 5:30 am making coffee for all of us every morning. He would work from 6:30 am till 2-3 pm in the hot sun, come home, shower, nap an hour and go out into our yard to work some more. He was never asked, but sprayed for weeds, weeded gardens, pressure washed the pool deck, sidewalks, and driveway. He trimmed trees and shrubbery, dug up stumps, worked with my husband on the boat and other vehicles, swept and mopped my floors, cleaned bathrooms, emptied the dishwasher, cleaned the pool, kept his room and laundry tidy and did everything possible to earn his keep and insisted on paying money toward his food.

He made us laugh every day and brought much joy into the family. He cracked jokes and played pranks. He had the most likable personality and my grandkids grew to love him and called him Uncle Gabriel. He played in the floor with them when they would come to visit. We trusted him to house/dog sit for us when we went away and he never let us down. We took him on vacation with us when we went. At the end of the last day, we went out on a sand bar at Big Pass overlooking the Gulf to watch the sunset. We had had a glorious day fishing and touring my husband’s old stomping grounds. He had caught the only keeper trout of the day. We had dined waterside at one of the best seafood spots on Sarasota Bay. Gabriel said those were the best scallops he had ever eaten. At the end of the day, he walked way out on the water and I snapped his picture. Later, when I posted that picture on my blog with his permission, I asked what he had been thinking about out there alone. He said, “I was praying prayers of gratitude for the beautiful day.”

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Every day was beautiful to him, and he radiated happiness, and his presence brightened our days. In a short while, he had become like a son to us. He had served his prison sentence, paid off all of his debts, the tickets he owed, he had guided his brother back into the fold and away from a bad situation. He had reconciled with his parents. He had studied his Big Book, character defects (temper, impulsiveness, unwillingness to admit when he was wrong), made his amends, and took ownership for his part in things. He had cleaned up his side of the street. He worked his program diligently and attended all the meetings he could squeeze into a day, getting my husband involved in taking a meeting into a homeless shelter on Wednesday nights, as well as attending meetings with him a couple of other nights a week. He attended several different random meetings around town introducing himself to new people on weekends. He had started going to church with one member every Sunday morning. He made a decision to turn his will and his life over to God as he understood Him. He was living a beautiful life.

He had studied for and passed his written test to get his driver’s license back. He was set to get his driver’s road test done this morning. He had short and long term goals and his plan was to buy a truck and trailer and start his own landscape business. He had just started working with a new boss a couple of months ago who had more work for him to do than his old boss. He had saved up money toward the truck and was making real progress toward his goals.

Friday, July 8th, he came into the house around 2 pm. I asked if they were knocking off early. He smiled his big smile and grabbed a couple of sodas and told me, “Nah, we’re working right down the street. I’ll be back in a little while.” They had a couple more yards to do.

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What Happened:

He didn’t come back in a little while. We really became worried at suppertime. We didn’t even know his new boss’s name. He picked him up at the front door every morning and dropped him off every afternoon. We were concerned that he might have gone back out to drink or drug. It was a logical thought. That’s what had happened with all of my husband’s prior sponsees. He was convinced Gabriel was different. We started calling hospitals, looking up inmate records. We had no numbers for his family or his boss. We spent the night at the computer, and went to bed in the early morning hours with his dinner plate still on the table and his supper still on the stove, hoping he would drag in at some hour.

He never did. That morning, we looked up highway patrol records and saw the only accident reported was a fatal motorcycle crash in Ethan’s Glenn, a subdivision near us. We dismissed it because he didn’t have a motorcycle. His family, mother, sister and two nephews and a niece came by around 2 pm to tell us he had been involved in a dirt bike accident in Ethan’s Glenn that snapped his neck and he was dead. I was devastated.

I was home alone at the time and my husband was at a local café with his sponsor. I called them to come home immediately and invited the family inside. They did and we talked a long while with his family as they collected his personal effects. Although we had been listed as emergency contact, once he was declared dead, they had to notify next of kin.

Gabriel had inherited a pocket watch from his grandfather who had died while he was living with us. The only reason his mom knew our address was because she was preparing to send him the watch and he had shared it with her. He had never even told his mom his sponsor’s name. She had felt he was doing so well, he deserved to take possession of the watch. He had called her every day to report on his progress and ask how she was doing. Sometimes speaking with her three or four times in a day. His sister said he had always loved dirt bikes, ATVs and three-wheelers…anything that would go fast. The temptation of the adrenaline rush was too great.

His boss came by Sunday to return his cell phone and tell us how things happened. It gave some sense of closure, but certainly didn’t lessen the pain.

After work, his boss was going to drop him off at our house as usual. Gabriel, who had been to his boss’s home before, offered to help him unload his equipment. They had to move the dirt-bike out of the garage to get the equipment inside. Gabriel had begged him to let him ride the racing bike in the past. His boss had told him it was a powerful bike, but promised him that he would take him out to the dirt track to ride some weekend when they weren’t working, as it wasn’t a bike to ride on the street. He was getting ready to sharpen his blades with his back to the garage door when he heard the bike crank up. He turned to see Gabriel flying down the street on the bike. Gabriel came into a curve and never braked.

When he hit the palm tree, his boss ran down expecting Gabe might have a broken arm and was yelling at him for his stupidity. When he arrived, he saw it was far more serious. The home owner had come out and they had to call 911 because the guy was hysterical and distraught. He could not believe the reality of what had just happened. They were doing CPR and took Gabriel away in the ambulance. The Florida Highway patrol arrived and pretty much said one passenger vehicle with one driver involved, and assured him they would contact us as we were listed as emergency contact on his phone. They never came.

His boss, eight years sober, had lost his little brother to drugs. Having taken him under his wing when his parents were forced to push him from the nest, his brother had been arrested. On Christmas Day, the jail called their father to say he had hung himself in the jail. We didn’t know this man, but we had heard these stories in the rooms, time and time again.

Gabriel’s story was different. He had made it. He was doing all of the next right things, one day at a time.

One bad decision. An impulse. A self-acknowledged character defect. And gone.

He went doing something his sister said he loved to do.

He will be cremated. His ashes given to his sister, brother and mother. His mom plans to sprinkle the remainder in a memorial garden where a memorial plaque will be erected. A service in his hometown will be held the 23rd or 24th.

I hesitated to be the one to tell someone else’s story. It’s not my place. But I also know how eagerly he anticipated the day that would come at one year sober when he could pick up his year chip and tell his story. We had spent many an evening on the lanai talking about the things he wanted to say. He was ready. There were times when he felt unloved. There were times when he couldn’t love. But he was loved by many. He had learned to love and be loved. In sobriety he found love.

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 He wanted everybody to know love heals.

A fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength & hope with each other to solve their common problem & help others to recover.

Leaving the World Behind

Nothing is more satisfying than getting away from the rush and crush that is city and deadlines. Most of my deadlines are self-imposed, but the pressure is heavy just the same. My best inspiration comes from getting out into the spaces that are quickly being overrun by modern society.

We took off with the boat for the Gulf Coast.  There’s a certain sort of serenity and peace that sweeps over you when you find yourself miles away from civilization and surrounded by nature that is usually unseen and often taken for granted. Like this huge sand bar at Big Pass off the coast of Siesta Key.

Our friend, Gabriel walking on water.

Our friend, Gabriel, walking on water.

My husband spent his teen years here on the Key and it was pleasantly nostalgic for him and for me to share in his history there. We netted a few dozen soft shell blue crabs, which are in season now. They are scrumptious when lightly battered and deep fried. This next pic is the $10,000,000.00 house that was built on the lot that his father’s old house was bulldozed off of…funny thing is…you don’t need a ten million dollar house for the same glorious views you can get if you have a boat. There are a few 1950s hold-outs tucked between the $20,000,000 mansions here and there.

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The RS told us stories of his youth, streaking across his college campus, making the front page of the local paper and becoming airborne in his VW bug when topping a hill, only to fine the cops sitting at the foot of the hill when he landed. Willful and wanton reckless driving was the charge (following a few dozen more) that suspended his license and had him riding a bicycle to college, thirty-six miles round trip, for the rest of the semester.

Many days he pulled his little skiff out to the sand bar and spent time alone absorbing the splendor of spiritual moments in tune with greater aspects of our universe…internal and external.

A couple enjoying the view and some quiet time on Big Pass Sand Bar

A couple enjoying the view and some quiet time on Big Pass Sand Bar

We’re hoping to be able to leave Central Florida and move closer to the Gulf Coast when the RS retires. We try to spend as much time as possible over that way. There have been some nice stays in top-of-the-line resorts, but our favorite thing to do is to find a little affordable waterfront hotel with no dress code and a quaint dockside marina where we can park the boat and chill for a few days with no worries.

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Meeting up with a good friend for lunch at Star Fish Company Restaurant 

I look forward to days when the grandchildren are a little older and we can take them out and share the splendor of the area before it’s all spoiled. It’s getting harder and harder to find such places in Florida. Old World Florida is slipping away beneath the concrete of condos and high dollar establishments as New World Florida smothers the best the area has to offer.

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People pay big money to leave the massive condos for dinner tours to watch the sunset, and it’s becoming more challenging to find a spot to watch it undisturbed by all things modern and convenient.

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Sometimes giving up conveniences is just the prescription you need to get your head and your heart in order. But I have to admit, it’s nice to have a well tricked out boat with GPS and a depth finder.

Twenty-One Things That Made My Childhood Wonderful

This was inspired by a meme. It made my heart glad to remember.

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  1. Time spent shelling peas with my grandmother.

  2. Picking up pecans with my grandfather.

  3. Digging for bait.

  4. Getting paid twenty-five cents a row for pulling weeds.

  5. Watering flowers for hours.

  6. Walking in the woods alone.

  7. Feeding the cats.

  8. Making jelly from blackberries I’d picked.

  9. Building forts with bales of hay in the barn.

  10. Gathering eggs.

  11. Skinny dipping in the pond with my cousins.

  12. Listening to the night sounds.

  13. Mama reading stories at bedtime.

  14. Leaving on my bike at dawn and returning at dusk.

  15. Vacations at the beach.

  16. Churning homemade ice cream.

  17. Jumping in piles of raked leaves, then setting them on fire.

  18. Chopping and stacking wood till my hands were blistered.

  19. Picking, peeling, and drying apples (fanning for flies) for fried apple pies.

  20. Water-skiing with Daddy in the river from sun up till sunset.

  21. Sewing my own clothes.

Funny, after my list was completed I read it and didn’t see one toy on there, except the bike.

I did enjoy playing video games with my own kids. But I hated playing Barbies with my sister. It felt like punishment.

Watching television didn’t do that much for me either.

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Happy Birthday Baby

We had a lovely party for youngest granddaughter yesterday.

It was her first 🙂

But my favorite pic is the one of Mama being Mama and swooping her up during an escape attempt out the door behind someone. She was staying on top of things. She threw a great party and I’m so proud of her.

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The Comfort of That Faraway Sound

Sleep has not come easy for me for the past couple of weeks. There’s a lot happening on the home front. We have vacation coming up in a couple of weeks. There will be fifteen of us from around the nation gathered in a six bedroom house over in Bradenton near Anna Marie Island. We’re taking the boat, so there has been lots of prep work involved. A friend from Texas is flying in to our place a few days early and I’m really excited about this get-together. It’s an online group making this Odyssey and none of us have met in person. So this should be fun.

We have a young man staying with us temporarily. He will be house and dog sitting for us. He’s already pressured washed my pool deck, driveway, sidewalks and front patio, pruned all the palm trees, weeded my gardens, hauled off old lumber, washed all the ceiling fans on the lanai and cleaned out my pool twice…all while working a full-time job. He’s volunteered this work without us asking. He’s certainly earning his keep.

This evening we have the grandkids coming over while mama and daddy have date night. They love my chicken with rice and mushrooms and steamed green beans, so that’s what’s on the menu. The little one of the three just started walking. This should be interesting. They’ve all spent the night over together before and we survived. I’m just praying date night doesn’t get too jiggy. Not sure if I could handle four.

I spent nights over with my grandparents. They were my saving grace. Even after foster care I spent weekends there. After moving into The Ethel Harpst Home, we still came “home” on Holidays and summers. My mother’s mother lived in the small town in Georgia near the countryside where I raised my kids, until she fell ill and moved in with my Aunt. We bought her house and renovated it.

pmtn05dtpmThe town is divided by a railroad track. Grandma worked as a tailor at a little shop on one side of the tracks and she lived on the other side. She used to joke that she had her hands in the pants of every man in town. It’s amazing how we were trusted to walk from the shop to the house and back as such small children, crossing two busy highways and the tracks. We would get out and walk the tracks picking blackberries for something to do while she was working. We knew to get off the tracks when we felt them rumble, long before we heard the train or saw it. We ran all over town unsupervised, playing with the rabbits and kittens at the feed and seed store, watering the shop owner’s flowers, sliding down ice slides in the old ice house on hot summer days. We carried her deposit envelope to the bank every afternoon, never thinking about getting robbed. I couldn’t imagine giving my grandchildren such free reign in the city today.

Train passing through Pine Mountain in front of bank.

Train passing through Pine Mountain in front of bank.

At night, lying beside my grandma in her big feather bed, I would toss and turn unable to sleep, my head spinning with the day’s events. She would tell me to listen to the night sounds; the rain on the rooftop, the dogs barking, the mockingbirds, cats fighting and, without fail, the sound of the train passing through town.

My late mother and my grandson share the same birthday, March 26th. He’ll get his presents from us tonight. Last night, I lay restless in bed thinking of her and what she would think of her grandchildren. The faraway whistle of the train was the last thing I heard.