Tuesday, October 14, 2014


Confession: My whole life I have felt like I wouldn't end up HERE, living just a few miles from where I spent most of my childhood. I always, always thought I would give in to my wanderlust and go someplace else to live. Even though I married my high school sweetheart, I still did not see myself settling down in the Metro Detroit area. But of course life doesn't always unfold the way we think it will, and marriage and children do tend to complicate things. I'm not the only person I need to think about anymore, so what is best for our family as a whole has to be the top priority.

My mom and I moved far away, to Arizona, when I was a kid. There were aspects that were difficult, but looking back I see that time of my life as a positive experience. True, I missed my family back in Michigan tremendously, and I imagine it was even harder for my mom to be away from her parents, siblings, and the neighborhood and friends she had known all her life. But it was an adventure. We had to meet new people, depend on the kindness of strangers, and adjust to a new climate.

Besides our big move to Arizona, we never stayed put for very long, and year after year I was the new kid at school. This taught me how to make friends and acclimate to new environments. It wasn't always easy, but the way I grew up made me the person I am today. As an adult, I can appreciate that. But as a kid I didn't always see the positive side of things. I was mad jealous of my friends who had known each other since kindergarten. I wanted roots.

Now that I'm a mom, I feel torn. There is still a really big part of me that doesn't want to be here, in southeast Michigan. There are times that I hate it, just literally hate it. I know, in retrospect, that going all the way across the country to live was an integral part of my childhood that I wouldn't change if I could. I know, also, that moving frequently taught me a resilience that I would not have otherwise learned. I know that if we moved (and families move every day, to other cities, states, and even countries...) my kids would be okay. They might be angry at first but they'd get over it and they'd adjust, and probably someday they'd be able to look back and realize it was a good thing.

My wanderlust and my yearning for roots are at war in my heart and mind. Where I live is not a horrible place, not at all. I just struggle to be happy and satisfied with where I am.

A couple weeks ago I went for a long walk to the library, which is over three miles each way. On the way back I had a thought. I had recently spent some time with my great aunt and uncle (my grandfather's brother), and my uncle had treated my mom and me to stories from his childhood. He talked about his grandparents' farm, the streets where his aunts and uncles lived, and the plot of family land his father used as a huge garden, coming in from the city on weekends to care for it. These things he was telling us about, they were all in the city where I now live.

As I walked, I let it sink in. For generations, dating back into the 1800s, my family has lived right here in the city that I call home. I was walking where my great-great grandparents once had a farm, where my grandpa came to visit as a child, and where my grandmother grew up. I walked past the place where her school once stood, and the church where my grandparents were married. I thought about what the area might have looked like back then, with fewer houses and dirt roads. I wondered if any of the houses I was looking at were around back then.

I realized that the roots that I've always wanted are right here, in the ground on which I walk and drive all the time.

When my great-great grandfather's widowed father decided to move his family across the ocean in the mid-1800s, from Switzerland to the United States, for some reason he chose to settle HERE. Maybe he already had family in the area, maybe he knew someone else, I'll probably never know.

Decades later, in the late 1920s, my grandmother's Canadian father decided to move his family from Detroit to HERE. Again, I'll probably never know his reasons. But somehow the stars aligned for his daughter to meet the grandson of a local farmer, for them to fall in love, get married, and have a family together. And now, here I am, raising my family where the seed of theirs was first planted.

My great-uncle had also mentioned that there was a cemetery not far from me where many of our ancestors have been laid to rest. I have lived here for over five years and never before had thought about my ancestors being in this cemetery, which I have driven past countless times. On my walk home from the library, I decided to stop and have a look.

I walked through the small cemetery, studying each tombstone, and marveling as the wheels turned and clicked in my mind. The origins of the names of many local streets were suddenly apparent, and I thought about how these families must have once lived where street signs now stand, bearing their names.

Reverently, I walked up and down each row, and again and again I saw names that I knew belonged to my long-deceased family members. I took pictures of their tombstones and wished I had photographs to match to each name. I thought about my grandmother's beloved hobby of genealogy, which had always interested me as well, but now I felt a sudden deeper connection, and a renewed desire to learn more about my family's history.

It's strange how things happen sometimes, how something minor, like deciding to take a long walk, can really change your perspective.

The tomb of my great-great grandparents.

P.S. Are you into genealogy? If so, what do you think are the best websites out there? There are so many, and it's hard to say if paying membership fees is worth it or not.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Dickey's Barbecue Pit - Ferndale, MI: Review and Coupons

Last week, I had the privilege of attending a blogger dinner at Dickey's Barbecue Pit in Ferndale, MI. I'd like to thank the friendly staff for a nice evening with wonderful service.


Although it's been a few years since I've turned vegetarian, I must admit my mouth still waters at the scent of a barbecue. As soon as I walked in the door of Dickey's Barbecue Pit, located at 23123 Woodward Ave. in Ferndale, MI, I was inundated with the scrumptious smells of beef brisket and ribs. Mmmmmm! 

At Dickey's, customers order and pay at the counter, get whatever items are ready immediately, and the rest is delivered to the table. A popular place to stop after work, Dickey's strives for fast service, and as far as I could see they are successful in that area. They have a nice menu with good size portions and reasonable prices.

But...what does a vegetarian eat at a barbecue restaurant? Turns out there are plenty of meat-free side dishes available at Dickey's. I decided to try the Fried Onion Tanglers, Mac & Cheese, and (a first for me) Fried Okra. I also got a roll with my order.The Mac & Cheese and Onion Tanglers were really good, and the Fried Okra was okay, but I think it may be an acquired taste. I'd be willing to give it another chance. I hear the Jalapeno Beans are a good choice as well.

Beverages are self-serve, like a fast food restaurant, and include one of my favorite splurges: sweet tea. I LOVE sweet tea. I think the batch that night wasn't mixed properly or something because it was more like sugar water than tea (it even looked like water), but I'm hopeful that was just a fluke.

For dessert I tried the pecan pie, which was pretty good, with a big dollop of soft serve vanilla ice cream. Soft serve ice cream is complimentary for all dine-in customers, and it's dairy free, which is great for those with dairy allergies or sensitivities.

Families will be glad to know that kids eat free on Sundays! Nothing beats free, but if you can't make it in on a Sunday, the kids meals are well priced at $5.50 and include a beverage. Another option is a Family Pack, available to serve 3-4, 4-6, or 6-8.

Dickey's has a laid back atmosphere and super friendly staff. I only wish it was located closer to me because I am getting tired of rotating between pizza and Chinese! I love that Dickey's offers a quick barbecue option, way better than fast food and something a little different. You can even place your order ahead of time online. I hate talking on the phone so I love this option!

I have good news for you - COUPONS! I know we all love to save money!

1st choice: Text 25328 with the message DICKEYS934 to receive a text message coupon for a FREE fountain drink in a big yellow cup (which you can keep!) with purchase.
2nd choice: Print out coupons below
3rd choice: Bring up MichiGal on your phone and show this page to the cashier

**Coupons expire November 15. **

Are you already a fan of Dickey's Barbecue Pit? If so, leave a comment and share your favorite menu item!

Read what other local bloggers have to say about Dickey's!

Simplify Health Living
Yes/No Films
Blogging is a Trip
Mom Among Chaos 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Win Halloween Tickets to Crossroads Village & Huckleberry Railroad

Now that it's officially October, the leaves are falling, the air is getting crisp, and it's time to start thinking about Halloween! There are so many great Halloween activities to choose from in the Metro Detroit area and beyond, but for family-friendly fun you just can't beat Crossroads Village and Huckleberry Railroad in Flint.

If you want to read more about Halloween at Crossroads Village and Huckleberry Railroad, head over to Daily Leisure to see what it's all about.

Here's your chance to win a family 4 pack of tickets to Halloween at Crossroads Village and Huckleberry Railroad! Please note, the tickets are for Saturday, October 18 with a 5:00 p.m. train ride. The date and time cannot be changed, so please only enter if you are available.

 Crossroad Village

Monday, September 29, 2014

Family Ties: 10 Years Later

For 10 years, I’ve been struggling to find a place in my father’s family, and the truth has been slowly dawning: it’s been such an impossible effort because there is no place for me. I can’t continue to hurt myself like this, trying to carve a place out of nothing. It is too painful. 

Confession: I do a fair job of hiding it, but I am actually a deeply sensitive person.

My paternal grandfather passed away a few days ago, a man who was not a grandfather to me in anything more than the biological sense. While his children and (legitimate) grandchildren mourn his loss, I mourn the lack of loss. Having lost an actual grandfather, on January 4, 1997, one whom I loved very much and who was there for me from the day I was born, I cannot really say which loss is worse.

Is it better (or worse) to have loved and lost, or to have never loved at all?

I gather that this largely unknown grandfather of mine was a pretty special guy, one who valued family and was a man of great love and integrity. I don’t know any of the stories. They are not a part of my history. On a handful of occasions, I witnessed a kind and gentle soul. That’s all I have, and yet really it has nothing to do with me. 

In the scope of this family, I belong nowhere, and that is a pretty unusual feeling, an untethered sort of sensation.

Being around them is difficult, although they are mostly polite when they happen to notice me. I see their bond, it is nearly a tangible thing. They laugh and joke and, despite the miles that separate them most of the time, when they are together they present a unified front of intimacy. They seem to exude the message: our family is a huge, loving unit. That might be true, but it is a sentiment that certainly does not include me.

I can’t really blame them. They don’t know what to do with me, this outsider, this interloper. They acknowledge my existence, but they do so hesitantly. Not rudely, but in a way that makes it clear, intentionally or not, that I am not a member of this particular club and no provisions will be made. 

What they might not realize, is that I am the vulnerable party. They, with their shared love and tight bonds, have the collective power to hurt me very much. I am not strong enough to force myself in, at the risk of further rejection.

It’s a sink or swim situation, and in this case I’m just going to have to sink. I made the initial effort, to find them, to connect. I tried, tried, tried…but now I’m done. Perhaps they expected more effort from me, but why should I have to bear the continuous strain of the Herculean effort of simply trying to fit in, to be a part of what should be my own family? The answer is, I shouldn’t, and I no longer will. The more likely scenario is that they have no expectations of me, simply because they do not think of me nor consider me at all.

When I was growing up and didn’t know my father, didn’t know who he was or anything about him, I constantly wondered two things: what he was like, and why he didn’t want me. These questions were an integral part of my childhood, I lived and breathed them right up until I was 30 years old and finally had the opportunity to discover the answers. It was a certain kind of background pain, a shame that was always there. The questions extended to the rest of the family, I was aware that at least some of them knew about me. But they seemed to have made the mutual decision to do what was easiest, which was to quietly agree that I didn’t exist.

I thought meeting my father and getting my answers would change everything, and it did. Just not necessarily in the way I thought it would. Turns out, that pain and shame of my childhood have been replaced with a different kind of pain, and a different kind of shame.

Now I feel the pain of exclusion, made sharper by knowing what I’m being excluded from. I feel the shame of being unwanted, but I now know the faces of those who don’t want me. I think, honestly, that it’s harder now. In some ways my imagination was more forgiving. 

I can see now, in hindsight, that probably it was better that I didn’t know as a child what I know now. Because no matter what, I was always destined to be an outsider in this family. Even if my father had claimed me from the start, I would have, at best, been a peripheral member of his family. As an adult I am better able to handle the disappointment and heartache that inevitably comes with this particular territory.

I can’t really say I regret doing what I’ve done: finding my father, meeting my father, maintaining a relationship with my father. I am glad to know him. I also wish things were different, but wishing doesn’t make it so. Action won’t make it so either, unfortunately. Nothing can erase the past. What I think is that this is simply the hand I’ve been dealt, what I must accept and constantly forgive, day after day. There is no going around it, the only way is to go through it, which is what I’ve been trying to do for nearly 10 years. 

It is a solitary journey, and not a smooth or easy one. I will continue on, but while keeping self-preservation at the forefront. No more trying to turn apples into oranges. No more looking for what isn't there.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Saying Goodbye to My Dog

Playing dress-up

Back to school time has been off to a rocky start. In the middle of the second week of school, our dog, Cleo (who was almost 14 years old), started acting strangely. Very quickly Chris and I realized this was it. The timing, of course, was horrible, but sickness and death don't seem to pay much attention to things like that.

By that first night, I was carrying Cleo outside to use the bathroom. I could barely get her to eat a few bites of one of her favorite people foods (American cheese). The next day was Lucy's birthday, and I prayed that Cleo would make it through the day because, well, that would be no way to celebrate an 8th birthday.

She made it and even seemed a little better by bedtime on Lucy's birthday. But then during the night she took a turn for the worse. By the time I was driving my kids to school Friday morning, I knew I couldn't let my sweet girl suffer any longer.

Cleo was elderly, especially for a lab mix, and she had been having a progressively more difficult time getting around for awhile, along with other signs of aging, like a sporadic appetite and loss of hearing. We knew she didn't have long, but I always hoped that she would simply die peacefully at home when her time came. Unfortunately that wasn't going to happen. We had to make the heart-wrenching decision to end her suffering

I wanted to get it over with before the kids came home from school because I didn't want to prolong the dog's misery, and I didn't want my kids to know the torture of watching me drive off to have our beloved pet put down. This was a hard call, but I think I did the right thing. The kids knew she wasn't doing well and we had already talked to them and let them know she wouldn't be with us much longer.

Cleo was our family dog, but she was really my dog. She was extremely anxious when I wasn't around and was really attached to me. Because of this I knew that I had to be the one to take her. Chris was at work, and he had to work all weekend. This couldn't wait. So I called a local vet a couple of my friends had used for the same wretched purpose, and crying uncontrollably, made the appointment.

My brother-in-law was in town for the weekend from Florida, and he so graciously offered to go with me. He cried with me and hugged me and stayed with me the whole time. This was not a fun thing to volunteer for, and I will always be thankful to him for being with me on that horrible day.

I chose to stay in the room because I figured it was the least I could do for a dog who had been part of our family for so long. I know this isn't the right choice for everyone, and I'm not knocking anyone's decision, but as I said Cleo was really attached to me. She would have been much more distressed if I hadn't been with her.

The vet gave Cleo a sedative first with some pain meds in it, and almost instantly she was completely calm and at ease. No more trembling and panting and drooling. She just peacefully put her head down on the table while I stroked her and sweet talked her (Even though she could no longer hear, I always talked to her. I think she knew.). I wished I would have had a sedative to give her at home before we came in, or something to make her more comfortable.

I had a few minutes while the sedative took effect to say goodbye to Cleo. Then the vet came back in and gave her the lethal injection. He had to shave a bit of her leg, but by that time Cleo was totally out of it. I truly don't think she felt a thing. After that it was very quick. The vet told me to take my time saying goodbye. Rob (my bil) left me to have a moment alone. The hardest part was leaving her in there, laying on the exam table.

We took Cleo from her mother at 9 weeks old, and she cried and broke my heart. Then I got to be her other mother for almost 14 years, and saying goodbye to her broke my heart all over again.

This is the first time we haven't had a pet since 1997. Our house feels empty, but nonetheless Chris and I have made the decision to hold off on getting another dog until after next summer. I want, no, need, a break. A part of me would love to run right out and get a puppy, but I know that for my sanity's sake I need to wait.

I know this is an unpleasant topic, and most people probably do not want to read about my experience losing my dog, but maybe it will help someone. I also know that every situation and every family is different, but these are my tips for getting through the ordeal of having a pet put down.
  • Be honest with your kids without being too detailed. 
  • Consider staying with your pet until the end. I know it sounds awful, but I actually think I would feel a lot worse if I hadn't stayed. I got to see that Cleo was peaceful when she passed, and to feel that I was a slight comfort to her in her final moments.
  • If you have other pets or plan on getting another, you might want to consider not going to your regular vet for the procedure. I think it would be so hard to have to be in the same exam room again and again where my dog passed away. Ask around. I got a recommendation from my friend and my cousin (both went to the same place) and I am glad I went with their suggestion.
  • Don't go alone if you can help it.
  • If someone is with you, ask them to go in before you to tell the staff you've arrived and to find out exactly where you'll be going. My brother-in-law did this for me and I'm glad I didn't have to sit in a waiting room with my dog.
  • Once in the room, remove your pet's collar if you'd like to keep it.
The office I went to was awesome and I appreciate how they did things, but I doubt all veterinary offices operate the same. They got us into an exam room immediately, without having to wait. They explained everything to me very clearly, letting me know what to expect. They had me fill out paperwork and pay before hand, so I didn't have to deal with it afterward. They were patient and gave me all the time I needed to say goodbye. All of this helped tremendously. In case your vet is different, I suggest:
  • Ask to fill out all paperwork and settle the bill before anything gets started.
  • Ask questions about the procedure and what to expect.
  • Make sure your pet is being given a sedative first (maybe this is standard, I don't know). This will relieve your pet's anxiety and help with pain.
  • Don't let anyone rush you. Take your time saying goodbye, and make your wishes clear. If you'd like a moment alone with your pet and it isn't offered, speak up.
Having my dog put to sleep was one of the most difficult things I've ever done. I didn't think I could do it until I did. We were blessed to have her for so long, to trip over in the middle of the night, to pick up trash she had strewn around the kitchen while we were sleeping (not too often), and to watch our children climb all over her from the time they could crawl, poking her eyes and nose, pulling her tail and paws, without ever anything more than a lick in return. You were a good dog, Cleo, and we will miss you.