February 13, 2019

Valentine From Mom

It's been a little bit of a tough winter for me. Some of you know, but I lost my mom last fall. She had a terminal cancer so we expected death, but not like that. The year before her death, she was in and out of the hospital several times then had a stroke in August. A month later she passed away from an unknown reason.

I knew she would die. I knew she would die sooner rather than later. Given all of her illness that last year, I suspected we would loose her sooner than anticipated. The night before she passed though, I had her out to dinner and had a lovely night with her. I would not guess that by 2:00 the next day she would be dead. That was the difficult part.

My birthday passed, then the holidays and finally her birthday. It likely did not help that we had little to no sun in January either. I thought I did well, but still felt her loss deeply.

I can't be the only person who has lost a parent, that talks to that parent. In fact, in mentioning that, I found out that most people talk to their deceased parent. I talk to her mainly when it is quiet, and when I am alone. Like when I talk a walk at night or when driving alone in the car. 

In the last couple days though, there have been several times where I just wanted to pick up the phone and talk to mom. I wanted to share a little story about my daughter or share my son's latest accomplishment.

So this weekend when I had to go to Port Huron for Boy Scouts, I went to where her childhood house on the river used to be. My grandpa was the commercial fisherman/bait guy where the Port Huron Coast Guard station now sits. There is a small park there, across the street from my great-grandma's house, so I walked for a bit to talk to her. I walked and told her everything.

 I still had several hours to kill before getting my son and his friends, so I went in search of rocks. Thanks to my grandfather, I am a rock-hound. Much to the dismay of my husband and children, I can easily spend hours siting and sifting through rocks on the beach. Taking the opportunity to walk along the beach, without anyone else sounded divine.

I stopped at three beaches between Port Huron and Fort Gratiot. The first one is across the street of my childhood home, and the other two were ones I have visited many times when I was a child. There was still a small ice shelf on the beach, but the sun was peeking from behind the clouds and there was little wind, making it a nice winter day.

I know what to expect in searching those beaches. Horn coral, small petosky stones, chain coral, favosite fragments, red jasper, unakite, perhaps some beach glass and maybe a puddingstone. For the first time ever I even found a puddingstone!

I was almost out of time when I visited the last beach. Although I had already found several nice Petosky stones, I asked my mom if she would help me find a really nice (big) Petoskey or puddingstone. That's when it happened. I looked down and found a tiny puddingstone with a small red jasper heart. 

I could not believe the little beauty staring back at me. I immediately picked it up and thought perhaps someone had painted the heart on a tone and left it to be found. I was right. I was painted by God and left for me to find. It was a sign from my mom that she was listening and was sending her love to me.

February 3, 2019

Free Fishing Weekend and Ann Arbor Ice Fishing Derby's

Photo courtesy of the Scheel family
I don't know why this has been top of mind this year. Maybe it is the lakes being mostly frozen...  Perhaps it is my desire to learn new skills or filling my bucket list. At any rate, I really want to try ice fishing. I don't want a new hobby or anything, I just want to try it once. It's a good thing that Michigan offers a free fishing weekend free fishing weekend this month! Now I can try ice fishing.

On February 16-17, Michigan has their free fishing weekend. Families can certainly find friends to take them out, however sometimes pre-planned programs are the best way to try out ice fishing. The closest free fishing weekend events are an Ice Fishing Derby at  Seven Lakes State Park (14390 Fish Lake Road, Holly) on February 16, 10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. There will be loaner equipment available, as well as refreshments, prizes and a warm fire!

I also found an Ice Fishing for Beginners program at Kensington on February 16, 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. Come test the waters and take advantage of Free Fishing Weekend on the beautiful Kent Lake. The program will begin indoors at the Nature Center to learn about the basics of ice fishing which will include various aspects of ice safety, proper technique for drilling your hole in the ice, and how to attract the fish. Participants will then head outside and hit the ice so you can try it yourself. If possible, bring your own ice fishing rod (inexpensive and available at many sporting stores). Dress to be outside, waterproof boots are highly recommended. If you want to have a seat while waiting for your big catch, a 5 gallon bucket is a great choice. Bait will be provided. Ages 6 and older. The cost is $5 and please preregister, (810) 227-8917.

If that weekend is not convenient for your desire to try ice fishing, Independence Lake will be holding their annual Ice Fishing Derby. The  annual Washtenaw County Parks & Recreation program is being held February 10 from 7:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. on February 10. Participants can catch and release Northern Pike, Bass and Crappie. Gift cards and other prizes will be given to contest winners. You will however need to bring your own bait. The cost for the event is $10 for kids (12 & under)/ and $15 for adults which includes lunch. There is a discount for pre-registration.

The whole family will enjoy the outing, so bundle up and get pumped to try your hand at ice fishing. You can find alternative February free fishing weekend options for ice fishing at the DNR website.

Photo courtesy of Scheel family.

February 1, 2019

Visiting the Sugarbush: Maple Syrup Events for the Family

I love real maple syrup. It's yummy on pancakes and waffles and even used as an ice cream topping! I even love making homemade maple syrup with the family, it's easy to do and yields wonderful results. If you don't want to make your own though, in Washtenaw County and close to Ann Arbor, there are several places where families can go to learn about maple syrup, it's history and how to make your own maple syrup!

March 23: Visit Belleville for Maple Sugaring Through the Ages (10:00 a.m., 2:00 p.m.) at the
Oakwoods Metropark Nature Center (17845 Savage Road, Belleville, MI 48111). Learn about the methods used to collect maple sap and how the maple tree sustained early Americans. Preregister at (734) 782-3956.

Starting February 24 on weekends at the  Hudson Mills Activity Center (8801 N. Territorial Rd., Dexter) families can Journey to the Sugar Bush on a guided tour traveling back in time to experience how maple syrup has been made over the years. While you are there, enjoy an all you can eat pancake and sausage breakfast served from 9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. The guided tour (10:00, 11:00 a.m. and noon and by appointment) is $5/Adult or $3/Children  Breakfast (additional):  $6/Adults or $4/Children.  Please pre-register at (734) 426-8211

Starting February 23, Arbor families can take a short drive to visit learn "Maples Sweet Story" at Kensington Metropark (2240 W. Buno Rd., Milford). Tours are given every half hour from noon until 3:00 p.m. where families can learn about maple sugaring. Stop in for a hot breakfast from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the Farmhouse Grille, and then head on a guided tour to the sugar bush to see the maple sugaring process, including tapping trees and boiling down the sap. You might even see some Native American re-enactors telling the tale of the sugarbush!  For more information call 800-477-3178800-477-3178. A Metroparks vehicle entry permit is required to enter any Metropark in addition to a small fee of $3/adults and $1/seniors and children 3 to 12 years; kids under 3 are free.

Real maple syrup is very much worth the effort and worth checking out, so if your children would enjoy trying something a little different, be sure to check out the full list of Metroparks Maple Syrup programs and events around Ann Arbor in the coming month! Or if you feel up to the challenge try your hand at making maple syrup with your family, it's really easy to do.

January 12, 2019

Events: Celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Black History Month in Ann Arbor

In Ann Arbor, the celebration of the life of Martin Luther King Jr. provides families with several free and educational programs. From library events to musical performances to speeches and other free events; there will be several well-run programs for everyone in the family to enjoy.

MLK Celebration for the whole family will be held at YDL-Michigan (229 W Michigan Ave, Ypsilanti, MI 48197) and YDL-Whittaker (5577 Whittaker Rd, Ypsilanti, MI 48197). On Monday, January 21 at 1:30 p.m., honor the memory by sharing your dreams. watching Selma or participating in many special events to celebrate the day.

Through March 16, the Ypsilanti District Library is also hosting a national traveling exhibit, The Power of Children. It highlights the lives of three children who changed the course of history: Anne Frank, Ruby Bridges, and Ryan White. At the age of six, Ruby Bridges became the face of school de-segregation as the first African American child to attend a previously all-white school in New Orleans. Her confidence, optimism, and pride gave hope to a nation, giving energy to the Civil Rights movement as it dismantled Jim Crow laws. The exhibit is free and open to the public, and is on display in the Community Room at YDL-Whittaker whenever the library is open.

At YDL-Whittaker, families can learn more about African American Genealogy. On Saturday, January 19, 10:30 am - 12:30 pm, learn about the different resource or technique to help you discover your family history.

Families can get Free Admission to Henry Ford Museum (20900 Oakwood Blvd. Dearborn, MI 48124-4088 ) on January 21 to honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  Come to The Henry Ford Museum for live music, dramatic presentations, make and take activities or sit in the seat that Rosa Parks did. Thanks to the generosity of Target, admission to the Museum and parking are free. Activities include live musical performances, make and take activities and free giveaways!

The annual MLK Day for children and youth in Ann Arbor is being held at the University of Michigan at the Modern Languages Building (812 E. Washington, Ann Arbor). The full day event (8:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.) allows participants a day of free activities filled with fun, creativity, dialogue and entertainment. While early registration is closed, youth can still be registered at walk-up.

The Ann Arbor District Library (343 S. Fifth Ave., Ann Arbor) is hosting an MLK Day Concert
with the Biakuye Percussion Group at 1:00-2:00 p.m. in the Multi-Purpose Room. The free event is intended for grade K-12.

On Monday, February 5, 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Ann Arbor District Library Downtown branch, families can stop in for I Am Making History. Where poets and performers from Ann Arbor’s Neutral Zone, will showcase their talents but also the importance of having a voice in the community. Then on February 9, 3:00-4:00 p.m. at the AADL-Westgate branch, listen to local residents talk about their experiences in the Living Oral History project by AADL. Residents from Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti discuss their experiences on topics like faith, education, race and how they related to the African-African community.

On Monday, February 11, 6:30 pm - 7:30 pm, at the YDL-WHittaker, Dr. Theresa Saunders of EMU’s College of Education explores the gaps in funding and support that have widened the achievement gap for students of color in Michigan, and what needs to change.

The youngest residents of our community will enjoy watching the Wild Swan Theater production of 
Under the African Sky running February 21-23 at the WCC Towsley Auditorium. I saw this production a few years ago with my sons class and really enjoyed it. In all, four shows will run. The production, a collection of fun tales taking place in Africa is full of colors, music, drumming and drama, and gives audiences a taste of delightful storytelling.

December 8, 2018

A Historic Change in Scouting: Girls in Scouts BSA

The scouting movement is about building confidence, strong self-esteem, learning important life skills and leadership skills, team building, outdoor adventure, and most importantly it is about FUN! Scouts learn to make good choices and take responsibility for their actions so that they are prepared for life. Whether you think this sounds like being a Girl Scout or a Boy Scout you are right. As of February 2019 though there will be a new opportunity for young women ages 1-18. That is when the Boy Scouts of America launches Scouts BSA. Today's bog is about why scouting is important to me and why my daughter will be part of this historic change.

Above is the sticker on the back of my car window. It does not read "Girl Scout" or "Boy Scout." Not because I do not support either, but rather because I support BOTH. It's no secret that I am active in both youth organizations. Both of my children are in the organizations and soon my daughter can join both. I am a leader in both. My parents were leaders in both. My grandparents were leaders in both.

I was a Girl Scout and my brother was a Boy Scout because at that time that was the only options we had. I wanted to be a Boy Scout and do the things my brother was able to do. As a tomboy, I felt more tuned into activities that my male friends did. My daughter, is also a tomboy.

The Strength of Scouting

I am proud to be a scout, and prouder still that my kids have chosen that route. Each program has its strength. Girl Scouts has strong financial literacy and entrepreneurship programs. Boy Scouts has offered my son some stellar leadership options and more than 130 merit badge options. Did you know that many men have their adult hobby or career because of a merit badge they did as a Boy Scout?

As a leader I use the best tools to work within my Troops. I try bringing in the stronger financial literacy aspect to my son and boys I work with, so they understand what they are spending money on. I also try very hard to bring in much of the Boy Scout program to the girls I work with, whether that is through camping or an activity that is non-badge specific. Starting in February however, I will be ending my role as the Scout Master of my sons troop to start a new Scouts BSA Troop for my daughter.

My Decision

The decision to start the new troop was really born as a result of my daughters desire to join Scouts BSA. She wants to earn her Eagle Scout rank like her brother did and her Papa did. It's something that is in her blood. I considered simply finding a new troop, but I knew that my experience as a Scoutmaster would be invaluable in the new troop. I do enjoy scouting and have camped many times without my son, but since he is not camping as frequently, I thought it would be good to support my daughter too.

Ready for the Change?

Not everyone in the United States is ready for the change. The Girl Scouts recently filed a lawsuit against the BSA and many social media posts I have read bash those who are progressive enough to accept the change. I have some good friends who do not support the change, but I will never condone them for their beliefs. The World Organization of the Scout Movement has only a handful of scouting programs that are for "boys only" including Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Botswana and Pakistan.

When the announcement was made about girls joining the Scouts BSA I have read, and personally faced a lot of backlash. I have seen many overly-negative comments about not supporting the Boy Scouts now that girls an join. To not support the organization the scouts though is to not support tomorrow's leaders. We want these youth to gain  leadership skills, give service to their communities and grow up with a strong moral compass. While I recognize that some girls will flourish in Scouts BSA, some will also flourish in Girl Scouts and some will flourish in both. Technically my daughter is ALSO gaining leadership in 4H and although she is joining Scouts BSA, she will remain a Girl Scout so that she can continue with some of the programming they offer.

So the next time you read an article about girls joining the Scouts BSA, please try and stay open minded. These young women will already be sent through the ringer. They are making history. For years I have had my scout Troops - My Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts camp together, cook together and do service together and the world has not ended. These kids are fantastic and I cannot wait to see where Scouting will take them.