Tamara's Journeys

Journeys as great as the destinations.

Sunday in Michigan

November 29th, 2015

Now that the Thanksgiving turkey is only a memory, the wreaths, ribbons and lights have been hung to signal its Christmas in Petoskey. To prove it, Santa Claus guided his sleigh through the streets during this weekend’s Downtown Petoskey Holiday parade. Hundreds of us lined the streets in the bitter cold to cheer the merry man along his way. Along with Santa there were marching bands, floats and plenty of holiday cheer to go with the coffee.

Small-town Christmas parades bring traditions that radiate a sense of community. I wish I had known this tradition in advance and brought a toy with me as members of the U.S. Marine Corps. were collecting new, unwrapped toys as part of the northern Michigan Toys for Tots program. Also a local grocery store collecting food and toiletry items needed to benefit families in northern Michigan who are unable to meet basic needs this season. That’s a wonderful way for people to give back to the community while becoming involved in the holiday parade.

And for many, it’s not just about the parade. I looked around to see people catching up with old friends and neighbors. It’s a chance for many spectators to reconnect with those they don’t get to see throughout the year while having fun. It was a great morning in Petoskey.

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May you find true holiday spirit wherever you are!

Friday Funnies

November 27th, 2015

Thanksgiving is a time for food, fun and sometimes frustration, but mostly Thanksgiving jokes. Whether smart or silly, they not only tastes great but are also less filling. You can consume all you want, and they won’t stick to your thighs or put you to sleep.

I heard my nephew said at the Thanksgiving table: I don’t eat pumpkin pie. It’s made from the guts of jack-o-lanterns, and that’s just spooky!

A woman in her seventies, cooking Thanksgiving dinner for the first time, called Butterball for help because her mother said she was tired of cooking and it was time for her to learn how to prepare the Thanksgiving meal. The Butterball Talk-Line staffer asked the woman what state her turkey was in (meaning how thawed was it) the caller responded with, “Florida.”

A young Yooper boy was sitting in his grandmother’s kitchen watching her prepare the Thanksgiving meal. “What are you doing” Landon enquired. “Oh, I’m just stuffing the turkey,” his grandmother replied. “Wow, that’s cool,” Landon remarked. “Are you going to hand it next to the deer?”

Wishing you abundant blessings, peace and laughter all the year through!

Seeing God across the Country: Florida Everglades

November 25th, 2015

I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. Psalm 40:1-2

Part of what makes traveling across the country so endlessly interesting is the mind-boggling diversity of landscapes. While North Dakota and Florida have very different climates, they share a vast, flat grasslands that I found familiar.

Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge in the Florida Everglades

Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge in the Florida Everglades

In the Everglades National Park of south Florida, visitors will encounter an environment that’s otherwise unique in a thousand ways … and has alligators. The park stretches across 1.5 million acres, providing a habitat for many threatened and endangered birds, mammals, large reptiles and nasty insects. The park in a valuable wetland to Floridians and is essentially the lower half of a vast watershed that eventually drains into the Florida Bay.

Wakodahatchee Purple Gallinule

Wakodahatchee Purple Gallinule

Very shy Least Bittern

Very shy Least Bittern

Wakodahatchee Alligator

Wakodahatchee Alligator

Wakodahatchee Pickerell

Wakodahatchee Green Back Heron

Wakodahatchee Green Back Heron

Those exploring the fringes of this expansive area at Loxahatchee in Palm Beach County can hike, canoe, camp and sign up for tram tours with my friend Bill. Palm Beach County offers numerous elevated wooden walkways, wheelchair-accessible to add even more opportunities to venture into this intriguing world. ( http://www.pbcgov.com/parks/nature/green_cay_nature_center/#.VlUBwjZdHIU)

If you were ever lost somewhere deep in the Everglades with night coming on, one thing you might highly value is some firm ground beneath your feet. A place to stand. A place to rest. For many people in our world looking for something true and sturdy and dependable, it’s hard to find a reliable place to stand. Contemporary culture teaches that there are no absolute truths, no ultimate values, no changeless rights and wrongs, and no God in heaven who will hold people accountable for their actions. For people trying to find their way through life, the footing is soft, squishy and sometimes frightening.

Thankfully, God has given us His Word in the Bible. The psalmist wrote, “Your word, Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.” We do have absolute truths and promises we can stand on today and beyond. God’s Word and promises will never change, and we can stand (and rest) on that fact.

The word of God is a firm and elevated walkway through today’s swamp.

Sunday in Michigan

November 22nd, 2015

I’m spending this week in the Petoskey, Michigan with my brother and his wife for Thanksgiving. I visited them last year and learned a few interesting facts. Today’s blog is a replay while I play with my niece.

Did you know Ernest Hemingway spent his childhood summers at nearby Wallon Lake and used it as a setting for his Nick Adams stories.

And the name “Petoskey” is said to mean “where the light shines through the clouds” in the language of the Odawa Indians, who are the original inhabitants. The Petoskey stone and the city were named after Chief Ignatius Petosega (1787–1885), who founded the community and has a nearby campground named after him, that has very nice hiking trails.

Petoskey is also famous for a high concentration of Petoskey stones, the state stone of Michigan. And I found one while at the lake last month. The stone is a combination of fossilized coral and stone giving it a unique look. When they’re dry they look like any other limestone, but when polished the six-sided coral fossil emerges.

Petoskey was also the location where 50,000 passenger pigeons were killed each day in the late 19th century, prior to their complete extinction in the early 20th century. A state historical marker commemorates the events, including the last great nesting in 1878. One hunter was reputed to have personally killed “a million birds” and earned $60,000, the equivalent of 1 million dollars today. Crazy!

What happened in your area?

Originally established as a boys camp in 1920, Camp Petosega now encompasses some 300 acres and offers year round recreation to visitors.

Originally established as a boys camp in 1920, Camp Petosega now encompasses some 300 acres and offers year round recreation to visitors.

The Petoskey Historical Marker says: At one time North America's most numerous bird, the passenger pigeon was particularly abundant in the Upper Mississippi valley. The mature male was about 16 inches long. Less colorful and big was the female. In 1914 the last known survivor of the species died.

The Petoskey Historical Marker says: At one time North America’s most numerous bird, the passenger pigeon was particularly abundant in the Upper Mississippi valley. The mature male was about 16 inches long. Less colorful and big was the female. In 1914 the last known survivor of the species died.

Petoskey stone in shallow water.

Petoskey stone in shallow water.

Friday Funnies

November 20th, 2015

I didn’t get much sleep last night. Instead, the furnace went out TWICE as I layed awake listening for it to run … or not. After coaxing it to start this morning and taking another hot shower to get warm I decided the subject of today’s Friday Funnies was obvious. LOL

There’s an old joke about a chalet owner in Bessemer, MI whose furnace went out in the middle of the winter. He called the repairman who came over and went down into the basement. He carefully measured a certain distance down the ductwork. Then he opened his toolbox, pulled out a huge hammer and smacked the side of the duct.

“Try it now.” To the chalet owner’s amazement, the furnace came on.

The furnace repairman sent a bill for $10,000. The chalet owner who had watched the entire thing was naturally upset. “I want an itemized bill!”

The bill came back:

Hitting with the hammer………………………………..$5 KNOWING where to hit with the hammer…..$9,995 ———————————————————- $10,000


During a blizzard, a parishioner of a Marquette parish was in a bad accident near Ironwood.  The priest and nun from Marquette were driving to Grandview Hospital to visit their parishioner. As they were driving weather conditions got worse and worse. Finally they decided they would have to stay over for the night because the roads were so bad.  The only motel they could find was already full of stranded travelers.

The clerk told the priest “Since you are a priest and all, I will give you a room for the night, but I just can’t give you each a separate room, you will have to make do with two beds in one room.”

The priest thanked him and payed for the room.  During the night the heat went out. Luckily there were a lot of blankets in the closet.  After a while, the nun called out, “Father, Father, I’m cold”, and the priest got another blanket and put it on her.  After a while longer, she said “Father, I’m cold, can you get me another blanket,” so he did.  After a while, she again asked for a blanket.  This time the priest responded “I think in the situation we should pretend to be husband and wife in order to keep warm.”

The nun was stunned and didn’t think it was appropriate, but he was the priest, so she really couldn’t argue.  She said “O.K., father, if you are sure it’s proper we can pretend to be husband and wife” to which he responded: “SO GET YOUR OWN BLANKET!”



Seeing God Across the Country: North Dakota

November 18th, 2015

When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord; He brought me into a spacious place. Psalm 118:5

What’s it like in North Dakota? That’s what I’m usually asked when I tell people I graduated high school in Jamestown, North Dakota. Short answer: it’s a spacious place. With a landmass of 70,762 square miles, North Dakota is a large, mostly flat treeless state with massive amounts of room to roam. It’s the third least populated state in America and has the fewest visitors. I haven’t returned to gaze upon the giant cement buffalo.

World's Largest Buffalo, built in 1959 out of sixty tons of concrete, keeps its unblinking eye on the Jamestown grain elevator.

World’s Largest Buffalo, built in 1959 out of sixty tons of concrete, keeps its unblinking eye on the Jamestown grain elevator.

But it does have a wide variety of wildlife, is rich in natural resources, a very wide unobstructed horizon and the lowest crime rates and unemployment in the nation. In North Dakota, the American buffalo still roam the prairies. So do bighorn sheep, deer, elk, moose and pronghorns, though you don’t see them too often. The state’s human population isn’t significantly higher than it was one hundred years ago.

A recent oil and natural gas boom has created jobs and brought prosperity back to North Dakota. Even so, visitors will find mile upon mile of uncluttered roads and trails, ample peace and quiet, along with plentiful hunting, fishing, camping, boating and cross-country skiing because it’s too flat for downhill skiing.

Less than a tenth the size of North Dakota, the land of Israel was never a very big place. But when David was running for his life from King Saul and his army, it seemed smaller than ever. Everywhere the young fugitive turned, someone would recognize him and give him away. But then David cried out to God and found a spacious place where he could breathe easy for awhile. It was a rest and peace of soul that God brought to David right in the middle of his distress.

The fact is, most of us know how it feels to be pressed in by circumstance, deadlines, job pressures, or health concerns. Like the apostle Paul, we could say, “We are hard pressed on every side…”But even when we’re up to our ears in the pressures of life, there’s a refuge in God’s wide sheltering arms where we can find rest. A rest better than any destination vacation to a spacious land can offer.

Sunday in Michigan

November 15th, 2015

Time for new beginnings as I finish my contract in Ironwood and it’s time to start anew. Time to do laundry, clean the refrigerator, pack and find a new home. Again. The process is one I’ve been through since childhood.

Moving far away from family and friends can be tough on a child. In hindsight it has its pros and cons. By moving frequently I learned at an early age how to adjust to new ways of life. We had to get used to new schools, climates and homes. We enjoyed having new museums and parks to explore. The act of moving became a way of life and was an experience that shaped the path I’ve taken. It taught me how to deal with change and how to adjust by looking at change as an adventure. It shaped me from a young girl into a grown woman.

The day my family left Ohio, and each time I’ve moved since, a lot of mixed emotions have gone through my mind. As I take a last look at my home, I remember all the fun times spent with family/friend I had there and want to stay even though I know there are blessings ahead for me.

I drive, looking out the window wondering what my family and friends are doing. Wondering what lays ahead with a mixture of excitement and anxiety of the unknown. During these transition times I can hear my mother’s voice speaking to me as a child reassuring me that everything will be alright, that I will make friends and find things to love about my new town. Life will be different and that’s alright because it will also add to my life. That makes me strong again.

Adjusting to new people and environment had its ups and downs. People talk different, and thought I talked strange, but I adjusted. I was never popular, but I was fine with that. Adjustment to a new lifestyle is a slow but rewarding process.

It’s been a lifelong process that has changed me for the better. I’m happy with where I am in life. I’ve learned to relax and just be myself, and people respect that. I’m grateful for the lessons I learned while moving and adjusting as a child. Those experiences laid the foundation for my career as a successful traveling PTA.

I’m currently working in Michigan, but I feel homesick and want to go back to Florida. My family supports my work as do my friends back home. We’ve all learned to adjust to using modern technology to keep in touch while I’m traveling.

What’s next? Quality time with my family. I can’t wait to spend time with each of them. It’s been too long since we’ve spent time laughing and talking together. Then I’m returning to Ironwood in December. Can you believe it? I’m not sure I can. It’s not Florida, but I might take ski lessons.


November 13th, 2015

As I near the end of my contract, I must confess I fell in love with this wondrous Superior Peninsula. I learned to appreciate the Yooper’s concerns about what the future may bring to the region. Putting aside my good natured jokes about the local culture, I kindly ask my fellow visitors:

Please don’t come to the Upper Peninsula and try to alter the local way of life or set out to change the area into the area you just left (or fled). This is a special place rich in history and humor, you know ey?

Besides, they like it the way it is. Instead, approach this beloved north woods with reverence and awe. Let IT grow on YOU like it did me over the course of seven months. I’ve grown fond this summer playground. in spite of the lack of salt in their sea, I’ve grown fond of the solitude.

Now please excuse me. It’s a winter wonderland this morning and I need put on my boots and shovel a path to my car. Lovely.

Veteran’s Day

November 11th, 2015

In the 1950’s President Eisenhower signed legislations changing the official name of Armistice Day to Veterans Day. This change would allow for recognition of those serving in uniform in the future as well as the past.

For those who died, we must never forget. For those who were wounded, we are duty bound to help them return their lives to as smoothly as possible. And for the rest, those who served but were fortunate enough to come home unscathed, we sincerely thank them for their service.

Join me today, Veterans Day, to thank him or her for their service when you meet a veteran. Without them, the freedom which we take for granted would have disappeared under tyranny long ago. Thank you Woodrow Cox (Pa), Terry Cox, John Squire Drendel, Glen Constantine, Barry Constantine, Mike Paschkes, Nick Kunynskyj, John Ott, John Salton …

Let’s pray for our Veterans:

Oh Lord, Thank you for the thousands of men and women who have accepted the call to serve their country in our Armed Forces.

For those who have departed, bless their souls and keep their memories alive within us so that we might always remember their contributions to our freedom.

For those who remain with us, help us to always honor them and respect their courage and devotion to duty.

Further, dear God, help us to always give special tribute to those who were killed or wounded on our behalf and for us to use their example to maintain our commitment to our faith in God and our freedom to follow God’s will. May we always have the courage to fight for freedom and dignity, no matter how difficult and costly the struggle.




Sunday in Michigan

November 8th, 2015

Littered on the bottom of the Great Lakes are the remains of more than 6,000 shipwrecks gone missing on the Great Lakes since the late 1600s when the first commercial sailing ships began plying the region, most during the heyday of commercial shipping in the nineteenth century. Unpredictable weather makes them some of the most dangerous waters in the world. I wanted to learn more as I attended a presentation on two of the most famous shipwrecks on the Lakes.

I first became aware of the Rouse Simmons last February when I arrived in Munising and read the book “The Christmas Tree Ship.” The Rouse Simmons is an enduring story that has inspired poems, songs and paintings for over a century.

The Simmons was a 132 feet long schooner that sailed under different owners from different home ports through the years, but her specialty was always lumber. Captain Schuenemann was a member of a sailing family and a veteran of the lakes. He had an end-of-season specialty significantly more profitable than cut lumber. Weeks after other skippers had called it a year, he carried Christmas trees from the Upper Peninsula to market in Chicago.

With boughs in her rigging and trees lining her rails, the “Christmas Tree Ship” was a picturesque symbol of Christmas for thousands of Chicagoans. These were U.P. open-grown forest trees, not the pruned and pampered products of today’s tree farms. Although they were scrawny by modern standards, the choicest living-room specimens sold for one dollar and the ceiling-scrapers ended up in Chicago churches or hospitals. Those families that couldn’t afford the $1 would be given a free tree by the Christmas loving captain.

Although the tradition was romantic, maintaining it was hazardous. The Great Lakes are notoriously rough late in the year. On Nov. 22, 1912, the Rouse Simmons left Thompson, Michigan carrying 550 trees bound for Chicago. The winds began to wail. At mid-afternoon on Nov. 23, a lifeboat was dispatched from Two Rivers. In the days following rain, snow, sleet and fog hampered rescue efforts. Despite valiant search attempts, the Simmons could not be found.

The news was received with genuine sadness in Chicago. “The Christmas season didn’t really arrive,” wrote one of Capt. Schuenemann’s contemporaries, “until the Christmas Tree Ship tied up at Clark Street.” The 1912 holiday was muted for hundreds of Chicagoans and somber indeed for the families of those who had lost their lives.

The Captain’s wife, Barbara Schuenemann and their eldest daughter, Elsie, with pain still fresh, expressed determination to bring Christmas to Chicago out of loyalty, and began weaving Christmas wreaths and making plans to dock a borrowed ship in the Chicago harbor to sell salvaged trees picked up along the beaches of Lake Michigan.

It was her cargo that set the Rouse Simmons apart. She carried Christmas trees for only three years, but that was enough. In a dark and dangerous season, the Simmons was bringing light and life to a people in need of both. The message still continues a century later, in the season when we welcome, as we may, a child of light and life. http://christmasship.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=frontpage&Itemid=1

Capt. Schuenemann became a legend on the lakes. His Christmas Tree Ship had been talked about, argued about, and sung about for so many years that only one casualty of the gales of November was more famous: the Edmund Fitzgerald. The other shipwreck discussed today.

It’s been called the “Titanic of the Great Lakes” and ranks among the most famous shipwrecks in American history. Nearly 40 years after the “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” the legend lives on and many Americans of a certain age remember the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald on Lake Superior.

This is very personal for the families in the communities bordering Lake Superior. The 40th anniversary of the Edmund Fitzgerald’s sinking is Tuesday and the passage of time hasn’t lessened the famous shipwreck’s legacy. I have two co-workers at the rehab touched by the tragedy. And today there was a dozen family members and past crew members of the Fitzgerald present at the 40th anniversary memorial presentation.

Even for those too young to remember the 1975 Michigan maritime disaster, Gordon Lightfoot’s haunting ballad immortalized the Nov. 10 tragedy when “the gales of November” came early and the massive freighter sank in Lake Superior with all 29 crewmen aboard.

The sudden disappearance of the 729-foot ore carrier still confounds experts four decades later. The Fitzgerald was held in awe everywhere she went. She was a tourist attraction, especially when she sailed through the Soo Locks. Yet, despite a flood of official reports, underwater investigations and theories it’s still a mystery though I heard a few ideas from crew members today. It’s widely accepted that the ship was damaged when waves caused it to bottom out on a shoal.

There will be a 40th anniversary ceremony at the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point, located 17 miles from where the ship rests in its watery grave 535 feet below Lake Superior’s surface. The Fitzgerald’s restored bronze bell, retrieved from the shipwreck in 1995, will toll 29 times for the missing crewmen plus a 30th time to honor all the estimated 30,000 mariners lost on the Great Lakes.

And as Gordon Lightfoot wrote, “the legend lives on, from the Chippewa on down.”

Friday Funnies

November 6th, 2015

Well, if it’s amusement parks a person is interested in, they should head to Orlando or the Wisconsin Dells. If you’re interested in outdoor and/or cultural entertainment, the Upper Peninsula has everything from mine tours to museums. Or you could attend a local Yooper festival, such as: a pasty-throwing contest, a dog sled race or even a powwow.

A real favorite among locals that I attended, is Trenary’s Annual Outhouse Classic. (www.trenaryouthouseclassic.com) You read that correctly: annual outhouse classic. Imagine teams of grown men and women pushing decorated outhouses down the ice street of the VERY small town of Trenary. If you can’t quite imagine that, think about the hundreds of deranged spectators who travel for hours to line the street in sub-zero temperatures to watch this spectacle dressed in all their finest furs. It was a furry feast for the eyes! http://emiling.com/photos/trenary-michigan/

This could be why some refer to the U.P. as a theme park for the desperate and culturally challenged. I get it, it’s an acquired appreciation. I mean, while driving by one of these festivals, you might get caught up in the spirit and end up pushing (or riding in) the winning outhouse.

They lined the outhouses up outside the town co-op

They lined the outhouses up outside the town co-op

Tourist bureaus fills colorful brochures enticing potential tourists with the idea of fresh water sports. While it’s true that the U.P. is surrounded by three beautiful Great Lakes and has hundreds of inland lakes, much of the year they are covered with ice and snow. And when they aren’t, they’re freezing cold! Which is why ice fishing is popular. I’d rather line a street watching outhouses race by than sit for hours in a cold, dark shack watching a dark hole cut in the ice. But that’s just me.

What about the U.P. nightlife? There are some rather seedy taverns. I personally stumbled into one in Grand Marais to find a ladies room before hiking to the Au Sable Lighthouse. When I entered, all conversation stopped and heads swiveled to see what foreigner had invaded their space. There was a nearly ominous pause while the snowmobile cowboys looked over my bright pink North Face hiking pants.

I couldn’t quite hear it, but I think one muttered to the bartender: “What do that troll (someone from downstate) want? Soon she’ll be whining that her fancy cell phone don’t work this far north and we don’t have shopping malls.” I imagine the bartenders response went like this, “Take it easy Leon. Remember, they’re not just trolls below the bridge, they’re income.”

It might have been easier to grab a slice of cherry pie in Traverse City. But then I would have missed everything that makes the Upper Peninsula so special.

Seeing God across the Country: Bar Harbor

November 4th, 2015

No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light. Luke 8:16

Bar Harbor, Maine, has been a national treasure on our Atlantic coast for generations and a must-see for anyone visiting Maine. Years ago, this small coastal community on Mount Desert Island became a fashionable retreat for wealthy families seeking to escape hectic city living. Several stately “cottages” and grand hotels still remind visitors of Bar Harbor’s lavish past. Life dramatically changed when a devastating wildfire swept through the town in 1947. In a little less than three hours, the fire razed 170 homes, dozens of cottages and five historic hotels.

Today the restored town is filled with visitors like myself, drawn by the scenery, shops, the famous lobster rolls, hotels and Acadia National Park. One of the most popular attractions is a lighthouse boat tour along the majestic coastline, giving visitors an up-close look at whales and the area’s five historic lighthouses. My personal favorite among them, Bass Harbor Head Light, was warning sailing ships away from the rocks as early as 1858.

Bass Harbor Head Light is a 32-foot lighthouse that would warn mariners of the Bass Harbor Bar at the eastern entrance to the harbor and to mark the entrance to Blue Hill Bay.

Bass Harbor Head Light is a 32-foot lighthouse that would warn mariners of the Bass Harbor Bar at the eastern entrance to the harbor and to mark the entrance to Blue Hill Bay.

The image of a lighthouse with its bright beam cutting through darkness and fog, has always been a compelling metaphor of the Christian life. And Jesus has called us to be messengers with light in our eyes. Because we’ve experienced forgiveness from sin, companionship with God and the hope of heaven, we ought to be the most joyful, lighthearted men and women in all the world. Messengers with light in their eyes are those with news they can’t wait to tell others.

The world we occupy today has all the disappointment, cynicism and negativity it can bear. What I want people to see in me is a messenger filled with light so that I might somehow bring hope into their day.

To view my visits to beautiful bar harbor click the links: http://emiling.com/photos/bar-harbor-acadia-national-park  http://emiling.com/bar-harbor-and-acadia-national-park and http://emiling.com/sunday-in-maine-2

Tamara's Journeys

Journeys as great as the destinations.