Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Meet Marla: Introducing Our New Dog!
It's Marla! She's a little camera shy.

Just last month, we had to say a tearful, heart-wrenching good bye to our long time family dog, Cleo. It was hard, so very hard. Chris and I decided to give ourselves a good year or so before we started thinking about a new dog for our family. However...we also both felt strongly that we would not go looking for a dog, but rather let the right dog find us. After all, that's what happened with our previous pets and they all turned out to be pretty awesome.

So, about that. Chris was at work one day in a client's home and met their dog, Marla. Marla  really took to him, and soon he found out that his clients were not planning on keeping her. They had fairly recently adopted her (about 4-5 months ago) and she wasn't getting along very well with their other dog. Chris texted me a picture, with a half-joking comment about the dog wanting to come home with him.


I showed the picture of the dog, a redbone coonhound, to Connor, who immediately said, "that's the kind of dog I want!" You see, he had just finished reading Where the Red Fern Grows. Guess who stars in Where the Red Fern Grows? Two redbone coonhounds, that's who. (If you haven't read it, you should!)

Haha. That's a really strange coincidence, Connor, too bad we're not getting a dog until next year.

But Chris kept in contact with Marla's family. They seriously were not keeping her. She needed a home. After a lot of back and forth, they told him that she could stay the night at our house so we could see how we all got along.

Haha. As soon as I agreed to this "sleepover" I was done for. Once Marla came into our home, there was no way we were letting her go. Last week Chris signed the adoption papers. We are doggy parents once again!

A little about Marla. She's approximately 4 years old, although no one is really certain. She was rescued from a pet hoarder's home, where she was kept in a cage for (an estimated) two years. After that she went into a foster home before being adopted by her previous family. She's been through a lot, but despite her crazy past she is remarkably well-behaved.

From the start I loved the idea of a fully-trained adult dog. Puppies are super cute and sweet, but I could do without the chewing and the potty training. Cleo was the best, most gentle dog, but we all agreed that we wanted our next pooch to be more energetic and playful. Marla is most definitely full of energy. Her breed needs a lot of exercise and activity, and we are finding 2-3 walks a day, a couple of car rides, and a daily dose of rambunctious tug-of-war is keeping her marginally entertained.

Being a coonhound, Marla has quite a nose on her. Because of her remarkable sense of smell, she can sometimes lose touch of everything else as she tries following a scent. She must always be leashed, and it will be quite awhile before Lucy and Mathilda are strong enough to walk her. We were happy that she'd have our decent sized yard to run around and play, but the first day she was with us we discovered that she is quite adept at climbing fences. She also likes to bolt out the front door. In a week, she's escaped four times. Until we can get a privacy fence, she's going to have to be restrained to a tether while she's outside.

We've only ever had puppies before, so bringing a full-size adult dog into our family has been a different experience. Marla has been great, but we're still in the adjustment period. She was allowed to go on furniture in her last home, but that's not the case here, so we're working on breaking that habit. Her running away might be as much to do with being in a new home as it is to do with her breed. She pulls a lot while we're walking her, and she doesn't always listen to us (again, part of this is likely connected to her breed - they are known for losing touch with everything except the scent they're following). But all things considered, I really can't believe how good she is. She doesn't jump, she doesn't bark too much, and most importantly, she is friendly and sweet with everyone.

The kids are thrilled to have a new canine companion. Bethany and Connor have been walking her most days, and everyone is giving her lots of attention and affection as she adjusts to her new home. They are particularly excited that most nights she sleeps upstairs with them, something that Cleo would never do. I can't imagine how confusing this must be for Marla, but I am impressed with her flexibility and resilience. I know this isn't what I had planned, but sometimes the unexpected turns out to be just the thing you didn't know you needed until you had it.

Welcome, Marla. Already you are deeply rooted in our hearts, and we look forward to many fun and happy years with you!

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.