Tuesday, May 27, 2008


We are now heading into my very best time of year, which I call "there's enough water in the lake to get a boat out season." You may recall me complaining about how the lake was so dried up by the end of July last year that the dock was sitting on mud and the edge of the water was distant and unreachable. So the season is short and must be taken advantage of.

Jeffrey and I hopped into our canoe the other day and tried a little fishing. Not much fish action so we decided to practice our rowing and go for a tour of the perimeter of the lake. There are only a few houses that have property adjacent to this lake, and the three of them that are directly across from us are part of a neighboring subdivision called "Crestmoor," where they have a different approach to lake living. They have cleared out all of the trees and wetland vegetation and created their own personal beaches. They fertilize and insecticide their lush lawns and have docks with pontoons reaching out over the water that is there because they had the bottom of the lake dredged out deep beneath it. I had called the DEQ when all of this was going on and was told that they were issued permits based on the logic of "well once the first guy got away with it we had to let the others do it too."

So Jeffrey and I were bobbing on the glassy lake looking up at this spectacle, when my gaze zeroed in on something I hadn't noticed before. I rowed a little closer to look, because I couldn't believe my eyes. It was a pump. An electric pump, with a big white pipe leading down into the middle of the lake. This guy is pumping out our precious lake water so that he can save a few bucks when watering his lawn. Unbelievable. Jeffrey was aghast. "Call the police Mommy!" I told him that I didn't have a phone in the canoe. He looked closely and pointed out that the next house has one too.

This is upsetting to me. The water is already low due to a summer of drought and a broken dam in the system, this can only hurt the situation. I know that in theory it should make it's way back into the water table and therefore the lake, but there’s sure to be a loss along the way.

Meanwhile Jeffrey is demanding justice. I had to explain to him that they might not be doing anything that is against the law, I would have to look it up. So I went online and looked up the ordinances for both our local township and the State DEQ. Although they go on about protecting wetlands, could not find any wording specific to this. As soon as I got a chance, I made some calls. First to the township, where it was explained to me that ARTICLE IV. WETLAND AND WATERCOURSE PROTECTION is essentially unenforceable and was adopted just to show they care. Sort of care. But don't care about this. They referred me to the State DEQ.

The bored and bothered sounding man at the DEQ explained to me that there is no ordinance prohibiting this kind of pumping and therefore nothing that could be done to stop it. I persisted: “Even if the lake is IN CRISIS? Even if it is DYING? Even if the wetland habitats are being DESTROYED?” Even then.

So now I have to figure out what, if anything, I do next. Jeffrey, earnest and sure, is having difficulty accepting that someone would do something that puts others at a disadvantage unless he is a “bad guy.” I hate to have him learn already that so many people are just out to get everything that they can for themselves, and screw everyone else along the way. I have always taught my boys that if they come across a rare flower, you don’t yank it out of the ground to die in a vase on the kitchen table, you leave it there for the next person to come along and enjoy. Just because someone didn’t grow up with that lesson doesn’t necessarily make them “bad,” but I don’t want him to come out that way either.

Here’s what I have come up with so far:

1. Do nothing and stew about it.

2. Approach the owners personally and politely request that they discontinue using that new expensive pump.

3. Anonymously place a letter in their mailboxes a little less politely requesting that they discontinue the pumping.

4. Try to get my sub’s homeowner’s association to put together a letter requesting they discontinue this practice. It has no authority over them, however.

5. Petition to get pumping on small lakes for personal gain outlawed in my township. I doubt if very many people besides me would agree to this.

6. Form a lake association, and then get them to approve some bylaws that prohibit pumping. But the Crestmoor people would be voting members of it...

7. Rent out some heavy equipment and dredge out my side of the lake even deeper than his. The Herons and Cranes can go somewhere else for their fishing.

8. Build a super-long dock that stretches all the way across the lake to his side, and launch boats from there. Just a few cost and engineering issues to overcome.

9. Put up my own pump, with a pipe that stretches all the way to his side, that puts the water back by me.

10. Vandalize.

Unfortunately, there are flaws in all of the above. Suggestions?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Sanctimonious Fern

May is a beautiful month in Michigan, there are flowers on the trees, on the bushes, and popping up from bulbs planted in the ground. I just love it. Everything is finally green, and the sun, when it shines, is just sparkly. So I’ve been out there trying to enjoy as much of it as I can.

On Saturday afternoon I experienced the unusual alignment of circumstances where Tim was at the movies, Jeff was at a friend’s house, Larry was watching sports, there was nothing planned and I could do whatever I wanted. I hopped in my car and drove over to the new fruit market that just opened, and bought some hanging plants for just ten dollars.

I popped in at Alisa’s garage sale, and then headed over to the Flower Festival that was going on in downtown LO. There I ran into friends Gail, Liz, and Sharon, and got to gab about that new fruit market, its always a big convo topic when something new opens up in town.

Sharon and I walked around the festival a bit, and I picked up a flat of impatiens, not too exciting but good to add a punch of color around my shady yard. Then I saw a little tent where they were selling some larger plants in gallon containers. I need to replace a few things so we had a look in there.

The plant man was talking to some other people about these ferns he had, he said they grow good in low light, don’t spread too much, and are native to Michigan. I could use a fern like that by our patio, I have this great idea to create a tropical look to compliment the Tiki Bar just inside the doorwall. Sharon helped me juggle my purse and flat so that I could pick up the fern and buy it from the plant man.

He told me that it was harvested from the Leelanau area up north, where they were putting in a new road pass and it would have been destroyed. A rescue plant! I get a nice leafy shrub and to feel all virtuous about it too. For fifteen bucks, I think that’s a very good deal.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Piece of Cake

Every family has their ways of celebrating. In mine it has always involved cake. Just about every time our family gets together there is a cake present. We usually take a picture of it. One time my scrapbooking friends noticed that most of the pages in the album I was working on featured a cake in some way, they thought that was so funny and started calling me Mindy-cakes. We celebrate every birthday, with cake. There's always a bunny cake on Easter. When I was a baby my first cake had my face on it. I can remember my Grandparents often showing up at our house with a white box containing a torte cake from the bakery, layers stacked high with fruit filling in between. When my kids came along and we had to deal with their allergies, that just meant that more cakes had to be home-made with egg replacer and soymilk. I have made a cake in the shape of a car, a caterpillar, a baseball and a music note, to name a few.

For mother's day this year we obtained what is generally acknowledged to be the "mother" of all cakes, the very best one of all: Sanders Bumpy Cake. For those of you who don't know, Sander's is local to Michigan, it used to consist of little shops all around in mainstreets and malls, where you could go and buy fancy candies, or sit at the counter and get a hot-fudge cream puff, or a sundae in one of these special stainless steel cups lined with a paper cone...or buy a bumpy cake. Well the company was sold out a few years ago but they have kept the name alive by offering a few of the products for sale in grocery stores, such as that fudge (straight from the jar with a spoon, baby) and the cakes.

The box for our Mother's Day cake said "Original" in the lower left corner, but in the upper right it said: Now Even Better! What? How can you improve on perfection? We tasted the cake, it had all the elements, cake part, white bumps, fudgy frosting...but....nowhere near like the original. You used to be able to peel off that fudgy frosting. The bumps were higher, the cake moister, this just wasn't that good. It wasn't the kind of good where you would sneak to the empty pan and scape off every last bit of the "edges" that were left stuck there, and snarl at any unsuspecting just-married-into-the-family who might make moves to dispose of the box before it had been licked clean. (Not that I would ever have done that, y'know) It just wasn't that good. So our party conversation centered around the woes of the decline of the bumpy cake, and therefore the decline of Western Civilization and the world as we know it.

Then my younger sister, Marie Antoinette, sighed heavily and proclaimed with despair: "Now I have to find a new favorite cake!" Things are already looking pretty bad in the state of Michigan, with $4 gas, the auto industry in the tank, home prices free falling, the great lakes drying up, and now THIS.

So I ask you, dear readers, in this time of need, to recommend a new favorite cake. And while you're at it, tell me what YOU do when you gather with your extended family members, if not to gather around a sugary confection, and sing to it, take pictures of it, eat it and talk about it. Drink beer and watch sports? I can't even imagine.

Please help, leave a comment about your fav cake:

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Shirley and Mauve

The tulips that I planted last fall are up:
Happy Mother's Day!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Hurdler

You may recall from the post about the shoes, Timmy had made the snap decision to join his school's track team. I kind of wonder if this had more to do with his interest in getting a cell phone than in sports. You see, he's been wanting a cell phone for just about his whole life, and recently our excuse for not getting it has been along the lines of: "Well, it would be different if you needed to call us about being picked up somewhere." Once practices started it did become necessary to communicate and so the boy got his phone. He loves it.

And he has continued with the track team, which has been quite an experience. In addition to that first pair of shoes we have purchased another pair with screw-in metal spikes, and a uniform, a sweatshirt and pants, and a long-sleeved T-shirt with the team logo. The cost of this is starting to rack up, but I'm not complaining about that because I do believe this is a good thing for Tim to be doing. It's gotten him away from the computer and outside exercising, being with other kids, and part of "the team" which purportedly has many developmental benefits for children.

This is my first experience with an official school sport. Our boys have been involved in recreational sports such as soccer and baseball for years, but now that it's 7th grade it's a part of the school. I had never participated in a team sport in all my years of education. I was a member of the high school math team (hey! We had T-shirts with equations written on them!) but nothing even remotely athletic. This might have something to do with how the noncomplimentary phrase "runs like a girl" could have conceivably originated with an image of me trying to catch the bus. I was always skinny and weak and just never ever considered doing anything like that. I have thus become opinionated about how much of the school budget seems to go towards athletics when not every child gets to benefit from them. (Did you know coaches get PAID?) So now that my child is partaking I can back off of that a bit.

Two weeks ago Tim had his first track meet. He has decided to do hurdles as his "event." I cannot ever recall him jumping over anything but whatever. Because it was a busy day we decided that Larry would go to the meet and I'd take Jeff to his swimming class. Well, as he went to go over the very first hurdle of his very first meet he went smacking into it and fell hard onto the ground, bruising his leg and scraping himself bloody all over. He then got up and finished the rest before a paramedic rushed to the field to have a look at him. THEN his father showed up.

The next meet happened to fall on Bring Your Kids to Work Day and we had it all planned so that he could still make it back to school for the meet, but he complained of a bad stomachache and ended up not competing. I worried that he was traumatized from his first meet experience.

So the third meet was at a faraway school but I was determined to be there for my brave son and therefore went over my own set of metaphorical hurdles to make absolutely sure I was sitting on those cold hard metal bleachers shivering in my too-thin professional work clothes in time to see him try again. I felt so proud just to see him enter the stadium with the rest of the team, looking so official in those expensive matching uniforms. He's at an age right now where he alternates in flashes from looking like the cute little boy he once was to a glimpse of the man he is about to become. I perched on my bleacher watching everyone mill about in apparent chaos until I saw his group go up to where the hurdles were. Another group of kids went first and I marveled as they glided across in mere seconds. Then it was Tim's turn.

I'll never know what it is like to compete in a school team sport, but I now know what it feels like to have my own heart exit my body and float in a sine wave before my eyes for 13.46 seconds of anxiety before flying back in with a swell of joy and relief. He did it! He made it over every hurdle with nary an injury nor stumble. And he has continued to improve his time in the consecutive meets . So now he has spent 55.07 seconds competing in a sport. That's almost one whole minute. My son the athlete! I am beaming with pride for him. Beaming.

Thursday, May 1, 2008


I was going to plant some pansies in our front landscaping when I spotted something moving by the bushes. It moved again and I screamed, but once I calmed down I saw that it was a white bird walking around in the mulch. It was right by me and was acting like it didn't notice me at all. It didn't look sick or hurt, but it wasn't flying away when I moved toward it like all the other birds do around here. I called into the house for my family to come out and look. We talked about what kind of bird it might be.

"A dove?" I asked. It kind of reminded me of the kind of bird that magicians use.

"No, too big and it has some gray stripes on it's wings."

"Is it a seagull?"

"No, wrong beak and too small."

"Wait, I know what that is, it's a pigeon!"

We looked closer to see if it had a band on it's leg but nothing. It didn't look like the kind of pigeon you see in the city, it looked cleaner and brighter than them. We weren't sure what to make of the thing but it kind of hung around for a couple of days, sometimes flying away but then coming back to sit on our roof or windowsill, and peek in.

When I went outside to pull weeds it tottered around in the mulch right by me, and I talked to it. I named it "Whitey" and kept saying the name so he would learn it. I had this vision of it becoming our outdoor pet, kind of like a mascot. We could tell people, "We're the house with the white bird on it!" when they ask for directions.

When I went to the backyard Whitey flew over the roof and met me there. He went into the garage for a while, and even tried to fly into Larry's van. He would let us get very close to him but if we reached out to try to touch he would just shuffle away a bit, as in: "oh was I in your way? Is this better?"

We got out our bird book and tried to find out what he might be. There is something called "Rock Dove" but I think he might have been a racing pigeon or something that they let out for weddings, or someones pet.

It was just the weirdest thing, and I kind of felt like it was some kind of strange sign. Is there some symbolism behind a pigeon, or a dove, or the color white? Something about peace, or messages? What could it be? It would reveal itself to us over time, I decided.

Well yesterday when I came home from work a little early before picking up Jeff, I spotted some stuff on the lawn. When I got closer I saw that it was white feathers. Kind of a lot of them, big ones and small ones. Oh, no. The neighbor's cat? (The vampires next door let their black cat roam around outside. Missy was safely locked in the house like always.) Maybe a hawk? When the boys got home and saw this it made them sad. Jeffrey was encouraged by the lack of any blood or bones at the crime scene. We're still half hoping that a partially naked white bird is out there somewhere, but it's been a day now and we haven't seen him.

So I'm backing off on the "it's a sign" idea because what I originally thought might be a message of peace, or hope, now seems to symbolize something like: if you are pretty and gentle and friendly then you will be targeted for an attack. Dang. Sometimes Nature isn't very nice at all.


Whitey lives! He has been spotted around the subdivision. He can fly just fine and you can't even tell he's missing all those feathers. My faith in goodness and hope has been restored. Life can go on happy as before.

Whitey likes to come into our garage and have a look around. Here he is with someone (Missy!) looking back at him from inside the house.

Okay, one more Whitey story. I was going to go to the store, and as I got my keys I could hear Larry in the garage shouting and clapping his hands. I came out, and he was trying to shoo Whitey out. I told him we should be nice to Whitey but I did need to get in the car so he did the clapping/shouting thing and Whitey flew out and over the driveway....then did a U-turn and landed on top of my car. So I got in. I could see him up there through the sunroof. I pulled the car down the driveway with Whitey perched up there like some kind of crazy ornament. He stayed until I started to go down the street, when he took off and flew straight back into the garage, and looked up at Larry.