Rocks in Our Heads

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You know the old expression “You’ve got Rocks in Your Head”? Well, my friends, I believe my dear husband and I may actually have rocks in our heads.

 

We have been discussing taking up the hobby of lapidary. As far back as I can remember, I’ve taken to rocks. They don’t, necessarily, have to be shiny or semi-precious or even clean. I just have had an interest in looking at them and studying them. It’s not every rock that piques my interest, either. Today, I have stones and rocks that I’ve picked up in places that were “important” to me. I have one from my childhood home, a couple from Eagle’s Nest Mountain in North Carolina where we had a home until it burnt to the ground, and some good-sized specimens from our former home in Georgia.

One of the “Eggs”
(from the Smithsonian website)

 On a trip to Washington, D.C. when I was in grade school, we visited the Smithsonian. I was smitten by the Museum of Natural History. Yes, I saw the Hope Diamond, but what really got my interest (and I remember with great clarity) were two, carved, rock-crystal eggs. They were set in very simple, elegant stands Of course, when we went ruby mining in North Carolina when I was still quite young, I was in rock-hound heaven. I only remember going to a ruby mine once as a child. I have no idea what happened to the rubies, sapphires and garnets that we found that day at a small mine near Frankin, but I was hooked on the idea from that point on.

 

Fast forward nearly forty years, and I’m back at the flume with a wire tray in my hands shaking it in the fast-running water to clear the dirt away from my precious rocks. The best part of the whole thing is that my husband is sitting next to me, doing the same thing, and seemingly enjoying it as much as I was. We were at Gem Mountain near Spruce Pine, NC. We really hadn’t “planned” to go mining, but we were visiting in the area and decided it might be fun. Naturally, I was all for it with my memories of looking for treasure as a kid. Maybe there has always been a little “Boojum” in me. (Boojum? Go back and read a blog I did awhile back about Smokey Mountain legends: https://colmel.wordpress.com/2011/09/12/another-appalachian-tale-–-boojum-the-mystery-on-eagle’s-nest-mountain/ .)

 

That brings us up to today. In the past few years, we’ve gone to several “rock and mineral” shows in the area. We’ve talked about a hobby that we could be involved in – especially during the winter – and both enjoy. Many of the exhibitors at the shows we’ve visited have been couples. We decided to look into lapidary. We have already purchased our first equipment – a tumbler. Now, we have to get some rocks (other than the ones in our heads) and get started.

 

We thought that it might be prudent to go and talk to some folks at a local gem and mineral show which was held last weekend. This show was put on by the club that we were considering joining, and figured it would be a great way to meet some of the members, ask questions about some of the rocks we have, and find out more about the hobby. What a great idea it was!

 

When we first arrived at the Livingston Gem and Mineral Society (LGMS) show (which was held at the former high school which also houses the club), we were met by some wonderful, friendly folks. There was a silent auction set up and the final bids were to be called in only a very few minutes. I was astounded at the items that were available. (I must interject that the carving society was doing a sister show at the same venue, so they had combined the efforts.) We placed our initial bids and went off to start exploring the show, checking back intermittently to make sure our bids were still the highest. We were rewarded by having the winning bids.

 

One was this amazing totem, walking stick. Each segment of this piece was carved and painted by a different individual. Each is intricately carved in three dimensions. Most of the segments also turn. Obviously, this is strictly an ornamental piece, but what a find!

Another silent auction item we won was this, stone-inlaid, “lazy susan.” I can’t identify what all the stones are that are in it (hopefully, I will learn quickly), but it’s so beautiful, it really doesn’t matter. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

 

There were two distinct areas set up in the show. One area was where the retail sales and finished products were set up. There were quite a few vendors set up and they had some amazing things for sale. There were eggs and orbs that were fashioned from stone. There were carved animals, faceted gemstones, rough stones, tumbled stones, wire-wrapped jewelry, and even a globe where each country was shaped from different minerals.

 

It was in this area that we found a couple of beautiful, rough Petoskey stones (the Michigan state stone). They’re wet because the fossils show better when the stones are wet before they are finished and polished.

We also found this pretty heart made from snowflake obsidian. Obsidian is not native to Michigan. It is a rock which is formed from cooled magma. It has been used since prehistoric time for arrowheads and sharpened tools, among many other uses. This little heart was so pretty, and the price was so reasonable, we bought it. I had thought to make a piece of jewelry out of it, but I think I might just keep it as a “worry stone.”

I found my first piece of jewelry made from snowflake obsidian at a roadside market in the mountains of Arizona near Sedona. Some Native American women had set up tables and were selling their handiwork. I, naturally, gravitated to the rock jewelry. My purchase that day was a snowflake obsidian arrowhead made into a necklace with elongated beads.

 

The second room was where the LGMS meets. There were all kinds of wonderful machines there for shaping, grinding, and buffing stones. This work-room and all the machines are available for the use of the membership. There were several members working on projects in the workroom. They were demonstrating different specialties. One lady was making wire-wrap jewelry. A silversmith was working, and another lady was making semi-precious gemstone beads.

 

One gentleman was demonstrating copper wire weaving. What exacting work that is! I was mesmerized by the intricacy of each wrap. I couldn’t help but buy this necklace and earring set after seeing the amazing amount of work that goes into each millimeter.

 

As we were winding down, we found a gentleman who has been working in lapidary for nearly 30 years. I would guess that he is nearly our age, so he’s been a hobbyist since he was a very young man. He explained cutting the stones, using the equipment in the workroom, finishing and polishing different stones, and he, also, told us all about club membership. With people like him (and all the other members we met), we feel very comfortable that we could learn quite a bit and greatly enjoy membership in the organization.

On our way out, I noticed a piece of polished rock on the workbench of our new friend (Bob). It had bits of quartz in it along with several other colored minerals; however, what really caught my attention were the brilliant flecks of copper. It turns out, there were actually two pieces. Bob had found this rock in an old copper mine in the UP (Upper Peninsula of Michigan). He had cleaved it in half and polished the faces. I guess they are supposed to be bookends, but we decided to put them on our mantle with both of the polished sides facing out.

 

So, stay “tuned.” I hope that, before too terribly long, I’ll be sharing photos and stories of our new hobby.

 

Up Next: A Spinning Rant

 

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Skin Cancer – A Personal Battle

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I usually talk about places I’ve been, people I’ve met, or things I have done. It’s usually not about things that are truly personal. Like I said in my last post, I like to entertain and (maybe) educate. Personal impressions are a far different animal than personal, intimate experiences.

 

So why am I making an exception? I’m doing this in the hopes that at least one person reading this blog will make a more informed decision or influence someone they care about to think twice. I want to talk about my battles with cancer – skin cancer.

 

I have had two instances of basal cell carcinoma. Basal cell cancer is one of the least virulent forms of skin cancer, but it is cancer, nonetheless, and must be treated seriously. In both occurrences, the cancer has been on my face. It couldn’t have been in a more obvious place. Both times, it was right in the middle of my right cheek.

 

The first occurrence was in 2005. I found a small, pea-sized lump on my face. I was blessed with relatively clear skin – even in my teens, so I knew it wasn’t a blemish. My dermatologist took a biopsy, and, sure enough, it was cancerous.

 

I got a referral to an incredible dermatologist with a specialty in Mohs surgery. Mohs surgery is basically micro-surgery. They remove the cancerous area and check all the margins under the microscope. I was lucky the first time. They got all of the cancer and the margins were clean. My face was stitched up and I got to go home. Let me tell you about the incision. It went from about one-half inch below the inside corner of my right eye, followed the “smile lines” around my nose and ended up at the level of the corner of my mouth about an inch away. Basically, it was a lazy “S” shape.

 

At first, I was horrified! My eye was all squinchy. (I know, that’s not a word, but you know what I mean.) I had to drive home like that (my husband was working out of town) – barely seeing out of one eye, with a numb face. I was probably drooling, too! At work the next day (yes, I am a glutton for punishment), I was given the moniker “Blinky.”

 

After several months, I realized what a magician my surgeon was. The scar was barely discernible. Today, even I can’t find it most of the time. Truly a “work of art.”

 

Fast forward 5 years. It’s 2010, and I find another suspicious bump. This time, I know what it is even before going to my regular dermatologist. It’s confirmed. I had been warned that 50 percent of the time when people have one basal cell carcinoma, they will have at least one more. I’d been expecting the diagnosis.

 

This time, I was smart and lucky enough to have my husband as chauffeur. I knew, immediately, that I would go back to the surgeon who removed the first lump. The second occurrence was a little larger and required a little more area to be removed because the first margins weren’t completely clear. This time the incision was much more involved. They called it a “Mercedes” incision. If you look at the photo below, you can see why.

My “Mercedes”

Now it’s been two years. So far, I haven’t found any more lumps or bumps. I am very hopeful that I won’t have to go through this again.

 

Why am I baring my soul (and face) like this? It’s because these cancers were entirely preventable. As you can tell from my photos, I’m a very fair-skinned individual. I grew up in Florida during a time when we weren’t as aware of skin cancer and the damage that too much exposure to the sun could do. All my friends were continually tan. I wanted that, too! Pale skin was shunned as “unhealthy.” Funny thing, now we know that the less burning and “tanning” we do, the better.

 

Sadly, being tan is still the look that most young girls want! Heck, what prompted this blog post was an adult friend saying she needed to go to the tanning booth because she was starting to look “pale.” Even photos on the news of people who have spent too much time in tanning booths and lying in the sun hasn’t dissuaded these folks (mostly females, but we all know of men who do it, too) from putting themselves at risk by baking in the sun or going to tanning booths.

The “Tanning Lady”

I have to smile when I remember my maternal grandmother trying to get me to carry a parasol to keep the sun off my skin. (Yes, she did!) I know her concern was wrinkles because we didn’t know as much about too much sun exposure causing cancers at the time. If I could turn back time, would I go back and carry a parasol? No! I would not – even knowing what I know now. I would, however, buck the trend and wear sun SCREEN instead of baby oil with iodine, and maybe a hat. I surely would not just go out with the only reason being to try to “tan.”

This is NOT attractive

 

Up Next: I LOVE Autumn! Do you?

 

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Looking forward to “seeing” you here on Colmel’s Blog!

Remembering

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Heretofore, I have studiously avoided any topic in my blog which might be construed as controversial. I like my blog to be like the movies I enjoy – entertaining, and, sometimes, a little educational. However, I am going to make an exception today.

(Photo from web)

Today is the 11th anniversary of the blatant attacks on all of us by members of Al Qaeda. Don’t think for one moment that these attacks were just on New York City or Washington, DC. They were the targets because that’s where the planes were going and those were symbols of America and Americans. Those attacks were targeted on all of us – every last one of us. The color of our skin, our politics, what schools we did or didn’t attend, even our religious beliefs made no difference. The reason for the attacks – we’re Americans.

 

This day will reside in our collective memories. Those of us who were alive when President Kennedy was assassinated vividly remember where we were and what we were doing. (I was a child in elementary school.) There are other memories that will never subside – the Oklahoma City bombing, the Challenger explosion – but those all were either individual attacks (a president, an institution) or a terrible accident. The attacks on September 11 were choreographed attacks on the entire of the United States of America.

 

No, I’m not doing my normal blog because I’m angry. I’m still very angry. I’m angry because we Americans are vulnerable. That’s something I’ve known ever since I was a VERY small child. I grew up in St. Petersburg, Florida. At the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, MacDill Air Force Base was the home of the United States Strike Command. We all knew – even as very small children – that MacDill would likely be one of the first targets should Cuba use their missiles. We learned “duck and cover” in daily drills. We also ‘knew’ in our hearts that if we ever heard the sirens – other than during a drill – we were all dead as were our parents, pets, friends…

 

I learned then what it was like to be vulnerable. Over the many ensuing years, I hadn’t forgotten how frightening that feeling was, but it wasn’t top of mind. That was until driving into work on September 11, 2001. All of the sudden, the fact that we are all targets was shoved in our faces once again.

Iconic Photo from World Trade Center
(from web)

However, there was some good to come out of the aftermath of the devastation and destruction. For a few precious weeks and months, we Americans were drawn together more than we had been any time since, probably, Pearl Harbor. We were all a little kinder – a little quieter. We listened to each other. We supported each other. We accepted our differences and worked together to get through our shared sorrow.

 

Somewhere in the past eleven years, we’ve lost a lot of that unity. No, we will never all agree on politics, religion, a myriad of other tenants we all hold personally dear. We don’t have to. We are AMERICANS! We are free to think and speak as we believe.

 

We should NEVER FORGET, however, that we must cherish our freedoms, our countrymen, and our nation. The moment we let go of those ideals, the terrorists in those planes win. Like the heroic men and women on Flight 93 who died to keep the third plane from attacking us all, we must be vigilant of those who would destroy us – whether they come from outside or within.

 

We must NEVER FORGET that WE are the United States of America. If one of us is attacked, we all are attacked.

 

WE must NEVER FORGET that WE are America.

God Bless America, and God Bless Us All!

 

 

 

 

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Looking forward to “seeing” you here on Colmel’s Blog!

WIDMSV – The Kipling House

If you’re reading this in email or on Facebook, click on the title! It will take you directly to the blog (an easier viewing page.) If you’re already in my blog, WELCOME! (One more hint: If you click on any of the photos in the blog, they should open up in a browser window so you can get a better look!)

 

WIDMSV? What I Did on My Summer Vacation!

This is the last of the posts on our Summer Vacation. It seems, somehow, appropriate as we’ve just passed Labor Day, schools are open, and football has kicked off. This is also the only post that completely focuses on one place – The Kipling House.

http://www.kiplinghouse.com/ 

Why would I do a whole post on one, particular Bed and Breakfast? Because it’s a great place to stay and an even better story!

 

First off, let me tell you where The Kipling House is located. It’s in Gladstone, Michigan. Gladstone? Like the old, English Prime Minister? Yep! Exactly! The town is named after the former Prime Minister. It’s very near to Escanaba, Michigan but it’s also closer to Seney National Wildlife Refuge (a place we’d hoped to be able to bird, but with the terrible fires this year we decided to delay). There really is much more history to the area of Kipling and Gladstone. I encourage you to go to the website and read the history – especially if Michigan history and/or trains are of interest to you.

Old image of The Kipling House
from their website

 

The Kipling House was built in the late 1800s, and has had many functions over the ensuing years. Now, it’s a comfortable, classy, bed and breakfast run by some of the nicest, most welcoming innkeepers you could ever meet.

Meghan & Bob
(from their website)

Meghan and Robert Micheau are a young couple who had a dream. The dream was to raise their family in the Escanaba/Gladstone area where Robert grew up and where Robert’s family still lives. Meghan is from the Hartland, Michigan area.

 

Meghan went to school in Hartland, Michigan and then went on to Oakland Community College (OCC). At first, she thought she would become a nurse; however, she found nursing just wasn’t what she wanted to do. OCC offered courses in culinary arts, so she gave that a try. Sure enough, Meghan found her passion (so much so that she was baking and decorating all kinds of pastries and using her parents as “testers.”) While she knew she didn’t want to work in the restaurant business (and I can certainly understand her feelings having been in that industry, myself, for several years), she felt that perhaps a bed and breakfast where her ‘calling.’

 

While visiting Robert’s parents (prior to their marriage), Robert and Meghan went for a bike ride. During their ride, Robert (oh, so casually) asked Meghan if she thought she could live in the area. Without missing a beat, she glibly replied that maybe so if he bought her the beautiful bed and breakfast they were passing. It just so happens, that this was The Kipling House.

 

Fast forward a short while and, as if ordained, The Kipling House came up for sale. The owners actually let Robert and Meghan run the Inn for a year prior to selling it to them so they could see what was involved in being innkeepers. The Micheaus did all the work and paid all the bills from the income of the inn. Sure enough, they were naturals, and the inn came under new ownership.

 

That brings us up to 2010. Here is a young couple running their inn – coming up to the Memorial Day holiday – with a very pregnant Meghan. As frequently happens, as soon as the inn filled to capacity, the baby made it known that it was time for him to enter the world. I can only imagine the scenario with Meghan in labor, Robert worrying about his wife, his baby on the way, AND an inn full of guests. Thank heavens, both mothers were there to help.

 

Apparently, the transition was pretty seamless and Meghan and Robert were able to bring home their beautiful, healthy, baby boy and miss very little time from their inn-keeping duties.

The Kipling House today

When we visited in July, The Kipling House was a warm, inviting place that felt as though we were staying with friends. We staying in the “Governor’s Room.” It was a pleasant, large room with adjoining bath.

The Governor’s Room

 

Governor’s Room Bath

The Kipling Cottage is a great place for couples! The downstairs is a sitting room with small kitchenette, while the loft is the sleeping area. It’s separate from the main house and would work for a small family, also. One might want to have a few provisions in the kitchenette for dinner or lunch, but you would never want to miss out on Meghan’s amazing breakfasts or desserts. Oh! Did I mention that Meghan makes dessert and puts on the table in the foyer for everyone who would like some after dinner? We were lucky enough to get rhubarb pie! They grow the rhubarb right in the back yard.

I must make mention of the gazebo! The minute I saw it, with the gardens and fountain around it, I knew it would be a fabulous place for a wedding. Anyone considering nuptuals?

The Kipling House Gazebo

Now, let me tell you about breakfast! The first day, we had pfannenkuchen which is a light, Scandinavian-style pancake with loads of butter, a lovely fruit salad, home-made (naturally) scones and bacon. There was enough food to prepare for a day of birding and then some. The second day, we had a slice of tremendous quiche, fruit, sausage and cinnamon rolls. Everything was delicious! The guests are able to name what time they would like their breakfast, so sometimes you sit – family style – with other guests. That’s a great way to meet new people and share stories. It’s so wonderful that a couple with such talent find their niche.

Meghan Micheau
(hostess extraordinaire)

One last little nicety that I must mention is afternoon snacks! After spending the day birding on the Stonington Peninsula, imagine our pleasure to walk into the foyer at The Kipling House to find a basket full of snack treats and cold, bottled water. Perfect! Such a nice touch, and one that is rare to find.

 

Finally, I have to tell you that I fell completely in love while visiting The Kipling House. I fell in love with a two-year-old, adorable boy named Bobby! This young chap has a bright smile and the sunniest, friendliest disposition one could hope for. Bobby, it seems, was born to be around guests just like his parents. He’s gregarious (which is remarkable for any child of two) and well-behaved. When I asked him if I could take his photo, he grinned up at me and said, “Yes!”

 

Once I took the first photo, he said, “Take another!” I happily obliged.

 

Then he chimed up, ”Take another!”

 

I think he would have happily sat there and posed for me all day. Sadly, though, it was time for us to take our leave. At that stage, I could have happily packed Bobby up in the car with us and brought him back over the bridge. I just don’t think his parents would have let us, though.

 

So, my friends, if you are ever planning to visit the Escanaba area, you really must stay at The Kipling House. Let me be very clear, here. I am not receiving any kind of remuneration or benefit for recommending the inn. I just love to share excellent places and activities with you. I know that we’ll be back when we plan to spend a few days birding in Seney. Besides, I just can’t wait to see that little boy again!

 

Up Next: “A Public Service”

 

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Looking forward to “seeing” you here on Colmel’s Blog!