Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Now You See It, Now You Don't

I may live in the country, but my hometown and that of my birth is Port Huron, which is about 25 miles from our house. I grew up in Port Huron, attending school, college, church, spending time with family and friends, even met my husband (though he was not from there) in Port Huron. I've always had a soft spot for the town, even though it's not on America's Greatest Towns of All Time list...and as far back as I can remember, I've been intrigued by its history.

Lately, there are some things going on in town that have really gotten my attention, and sent my mind in a million directions. Every time I drive through Port Huron, I notice another building or house that has just been demolished. There is a very large project in the works, that has to do with the Bluewater Bridge (which serves as the border crossing into Canada at Sarnia, ONT.) It's been planned for many years, but just recently, they've taken over several properties all the way around the current bridge complex, moved out the previous owners, and they're pulling down the buildings. One of them was a church that I enjoyed attending youth group in, Blue Water Free Methodist. My good friend and her entire family are very active there. It's been there for as long as I can remember---not sure of it's original year but it was before 1900 I'm sure. My baby shower was held there....Kris' wedding was there...we had good ole' fashioned dulcimer jams there on some Friday nights over the years.

It's now a field.

The building that once housed a weekly publication, The Shopper, which was owned and operated by the daily newspaper company, is gone. What once was Kinney Shoes (and then several other businesses, lastly a Mattress Warehouse), is gone. Houses I've walked by as a child near the elementary school I attended, gone. Gas stations, gone. Car dealership, gone. A doctor's office our family went to, gone as well. I know they are far from being finished, and I know the government finds it necessary to enlarge the bridge complex, but it's still disturbing to me.

It has changed the landscape of the town that I've known my whole life, forever. It will never be the same. It's strange to take the same driving routes that I've been taking since I got my license, because it doesn't even feel like the same road anymore. And I keep thinking about how backwards this feels to me, compared to what the first Port Huron citizens were experiencing 150 years ago...The building of a city.

Back in those days, the main street was dirt, and that was it---ONE main street that led in and out of the town. It started with one school, a few churches, one jailhouse. It was the beginning of something new, something miraculous. Can you imagine the excitement people felt when THEY would travel in from the outskirts of town each time, to see ANOTHER new building going up? To hear that the children had outgrown a school, and ANOTHER school was being built? To know that the neighborhoods were filling up so quickly that they needed ANOTHER corner grocery? So much hope, so much promise. And it still is today---don't misunderstand me. Port Huron is a bustling city of 45,000 people and full of major businesses. It's not going anywhere, it's just changing ... the old is coming down and the new is building up....I just feel sad that so much of the old had to be pulled down to make way for new.

It's not like this in many other countries. They build something strong, and they continue to repurpose the building, and use it. It's rare to take down a building. So much goes in to making it in the first place. But in America, if it's in the way, tear it down. Don't like it? Tear it down. And put up another 10 cardboard houses in its place. Or another parking lot to house the dozens of cars Americans own and drive. More, more, more. New, new, new.

I'm not against the expanding bridge complex. Afterall, the border to Canada is part of what puts Port Huron on the world map. I just tend to miss the old days, the old ways, the old buildings....the old stories...what made the town what it is today. I hope there will always be parts of town that I can return to, and feel home again. Places that are left, untouched.

Now, to contradict myself, I must mention one little part of history that may have affected early citizens in a negative way. There are many rivers that run in and out of Port Huron, and one of them cuts through the original downtown area. To expand the downtown, a bridge was built over the river and the dirt that was cleared on either side of the bridge area, had to go somewhere. Do you know what they did? They filled the entire downtown area with dirt---and completely covered up the first floors of all the buildings on main street, forever. Most people don't realize it, but when we walk into a store downtown, we are actually walking into what used to be the 2nd floor. I worked in one of the shops when I was in college, and I was able to go down to the basement and see for myself, the original first floor entrance which was covered up from the outside to block the dirt, but from the inside, the fancy doors and window arches were still visible. The other interesting thing, is that there are tunnels downtown, that lead from one store to the other, all the way through the area! It must've been VERY strange, when that kind of construction was affecting the town.

Another thing that might have been disturbing, is when they had to move the city cemetery in 1850. Yes, I said MOVE the cemetery. They needed the space for expansion, so they literally dug up each grave, took the gravestone, and moved it a few miles north east to a new cemetery. That must've been a very depressing kind of operation. There is an intriguing story about something that happened in the cemetery. A woman had been buried in a very find coffin with a glass cover, which created an air tight seal. Her husband was present when her grave was dug up. He lifted the top, and there was his wife just as wehen she had been laid in the coffin. Overcome with emotion, he lifted the glass cover, and before his eyes, she crumbled to dust. (I've also read that the earliest coffins which were made of plain wood, were too disintegrated to in the area which had been the old cemetery, whenever a basement for a house was dug, bones would often be found.

Yes, Port Huron, like any old city, is full of history and very interesting little tidbits. Time marches on. Things change, the thumbprint has changed several times. Hopefully, those of us who know the old stories of the little port town will continue to pass them on, and folks will always be able to remember and hear about the old days. Good ole' Port Huron.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


I was talking to my brother yesterday on the phone after I dropped off the kids to school. He lives in NY. We came upon the subject of my van...the awesome minivan that I drag all over the country to pick up my antique stuff...the van that hauled my refrigerator...the van that should say "Michigan Picker" on the side of it or have a license plate that reads "Prim Junker" or something. Anyway, I glanced down at my mileage and noticed I had turned 97,000 miles.

Yikes. It's only a 2006.

Do you know what that means? That means that all my Craigslist adventures have cost me...(are you sitting down...?) a whopping 35,000 miles a YEAR since I bought my van!! Now, I have to throw in that I drive my kids to school and back every day--and that is 20 miles there, 20 miles back, and the pick up is the same, so you have to allow me part of that mileage for the kids. But yikes!! I think I need to get a prize for having put the most miles on a vehicle without being a door to door salesman! As scary as it is, though, (and the fact that I still owe a ton of dough on the sucker)...I won't be giving up my adventures because of high mileage. Sorry, Charlie.

Today after dropping kids off, I popped in a CD I found in a box that I hadn't heard in ages, by No Strings Attached (one of my all-time favorite dulcimer string bands.) Turned it up as loud as it would go, and hit the country roads to come back home. Normally, fast music makes me drive faster, but I was so intently soaking in the surroundings as I went that I kept it at a steady pace. The leaves are changing and it's glorious. The sun was hitting the tips of the trees which are already shades of red and orange. I just love Fall. There is something about listening to fabulous acoustic old-time music and being able to take in the beauty of nature. Made me want to dance or fly or sing. Next time I go out driving, I need to take my camera and try to get a few shots of the changing leaves.

In other world news, I have the dining room (er, keeping room) about finished as far as decorating goes. It looks nothing like it did two weeks ago and I love it. The living room is coming along too, but I STILL haven't finished painting the doors on the new TV wall. I also visited my doctor for my 6 weeks-past-surgery check up, and guess what? All bans are lifted! That means, I'm completely healed up and you know what THAT means...I CAN CARRY MY OWN JUNK now! I don't have to wait around for someone with muscle to come around and carry my antiques and primitives found on CL for me! I came home and immediately hauled some boxes from one room to the other, just because I could. Now, there is still an overflowing basket of clean laundry at the bottom of the stairs, but I got to really liking other people in the house hauling laundry for me, so I think I'll just leave it there and save my muscle for other things that are more fun.

Remember the lady that had the table that I bought...that had the dry sink I went back for...that had the gameboards I went back for ...and the crocks...and and and? Well she had her estate sale, and her son emailed me to let me know about a few things that were leftover. Guess where my mom and I are off to tomorrow? Yep. You guessed it. Mom wants a wrought iron floor lamp they still have for sale. I don't plan on buying anything. (ha). After we're done there, I'm thinking of hitting a couple of other shops out that way, since we're already driving an hour and twenty. Might as well take advantage of the area. I'm already looking forward to sharing my long lost CDs of happy driving music with my mom for a road trip. ;-)

My nephew called yesterday from Portland, ME. Maine is one of my favorite places to be in the whole world. Every summer growing up, my parents took us in the summer to ME. I fell in love with the history and the winding roads and the salty air ...and the lobster. Speaking of which, my nephew just happens to be what I've dubbed a "wharf master" out there...He buys 1000s of pounds of lobster off the boats daily, and packs em up and ships em out. And he gets to eat them, too, that lucky duck. Half the week now, he's even going out on lobster boats and working. All I can think of is trying to find a way out to ME for a weekend or something. I know I can't afford to take all the family for a major trip, HOWEVER, I keep getting emails advertising really cheap flights now and then, so maybe a little three day trip to ME wouldn't be so hard to do. Hmmm. My birthday is coming up. Perhaps I can let the world know that what I'd like to have is three days in Maine. Maybe my parents could watch the kids over a weekend....Hmmmm. (Of course, if I take a plane, that means less hauling room if I buy any primitives. I guess there is always UPS...or car rentals...!!) If anything, I need to eat a lobster soon. Just hearing about it made my mouth water!

Well, I'm off to run errands, and enjoy this chilly day. It's only 45 degrees. Isn't that grand? **sigh** I even have a fuzzy sweater on today....Funny what things can bring a smile to my face.

May you have a wonderful, comfy-cozy afternoon!

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Well, the school year and Fall Welcoming was going so well! Or so I thought....The night before last, we picked the kids up from their first day of school (and they were just bubbling with details of new friends, old friends, teachers, lockers, you name it!) .. but Jillian was a little off, she had a headache, and she fell asleep within five minutes of being in the van. I chalked it up to the first long day without a nap (she always had a half hour nap in Kindergarten after lunch, and in first grade, it's all business!) Well, she slept the whole way home and then Daddy carried her to the couch, and she slept for another few hours! Wow. Well, I had another Craigslist adventure to go off to take care of with my mom, so Daddy stayed with the kids at home. (I'll fill you in on the CL adventure in a moment, stay tuned!) When I got back into town to my mom's house to drop her off, Daddy called me to announce that Jillian threw up---all over the bathroom and that it was EVERYWHERE. He was not amused, and was trying to figure out how to clean it all up, while she was in the background just WEEPING because she knew she wouldn't be able to go to school the next day!! Oh my poor girl. She's caught the flu on the first day of school??? UGH!! There went the first quiet week. And of course I had visions of the flu going through the whole house and as I drove home, I made a mental list of which cleaning products I was low on, thanked God that I cleaned the house as well as I did, and wondered how I would manage being up all night with one kid and still manage to get the other two to school on time, with a half hour commute.

By the time I got home, Jillian was begging for freezepops and felt oh so much better. She was, in fact, almost dancing around the room, and she had not gotten sick again. I started to wonder if the vomiting was more from the headache, which may be from the excitement and overstimulation of the day, and not from the flu. She's not one to get migraines, at least never before, but she does suffer from severe growing pains, especially during the night, when she's got growth spurts, mostly centralized in her legs,--which her father and I both suffered from as a child, as did our other two kids (though less severe) again, it could also be a growing thing. (yes, I do over-analyze, sorry!) So, I tried to keep her motion at a minimum, and got her to eat freezepops while she watched the Little Mermaid two times in a row--her current favorite movie, one of which we didn't have but I scored during my Craigslist run and found it for sale in the seller's garage! Phew! Talk about timing. Anyway, I got the boys to bed and Dad went off to bed (he had to rest up for his 5am fishing venture---don't ask.) I sat up with Jillian until the movie finished and finally got her to go to bed. I slept with one ear open fully expecting a night full of, well, YOU know...but thank God, she never got sick again. I lost sleep anyway, just worrying, but I managed to get the boys to school on time and took her along in her jammies. She was soooo bummed about missing school, but if there was one slight chance that it was a flu bug, I wasn't going to chance her getting sick in school or her passing it on to her new classmates. So I spent the morning yesterday, a complete vegetable. Managed to get through the day without a hitch, but looked forward to bedtime more than ever!

OK on to the Craigslist adventure report!! Two weeks ago (or so), I sold off my dining room set which was too big for the dining room in this house, much to Husband's chagrin--he loved it, I guess. Oh well, Moving ON! I needed more primitives in there...and the reproduction set was too new. I found a circa 1800 Farmhouse table on Craigslist about an hour away, and negotiated a good price, and my mom and I went to get it. Well, did I ever hit a honey hole! I was walked into the finished basement and I noticed that there wasn't just the table, but there were crocks sitting around and a lonely old bench or I HAD to ask..."Excuse me, are those crocks for sale?" Well, turns out I was talking to the son of the woman who was selling----are you sitting down---nearly ALL of her lifelong primitives collection because she was moving to a condo!!! I'm like, um, OK ... I'll take those two crocks and that bench....and my mind was racing! Nothing was really "priced" but he and his mom happily gave me a number on whatever I asked about. Thank God I was able to find a little extra $$ in the car....though I was kicking myself for not having won the lotto before this CL run. I even asked to take pics of her displays because they were so beautiful. She was flattered. They told me they were planning on having an estate sale in two weeks (actually, it begins in forty minutes from now!) I left there with my table, some crocks, and two magnificent benches....OH and four old gameboards. I'm so stoked about this story that I don't even remember if I blogged about it or not, so if you're reading this and it's old news, i guess you can skip over my ranting!! I know I posted it on the CS forum for sure...**sigh**! I think I remember someone saying that short term memory is the first thing folks lose? mom and I were just falling apart all the way home, drooling on all the things we left behind, and I was just shaking. She had WONDERFUL prices--I mean SERIOUSLY low prices compared to shops. OH I just remembered, I got a firkin, too! So I kept chewing on the thought of this really old dry sink she had for sale. I just bought that mustard dry sink...but truthfully, the one this woman had was the style I'd been searching for for years. I knew I had work to do at home: Start Selling and Raise Money to Go Back!! And that's exactly what I did. I sold the mustard dry sink, and I sold two other cupboards which were in front of my kitchen slider door, which was more than enough to buy the dry sink. I was so excited! I emailed the son and told him to hold it for me, and that this past Tues, I'd come back to pick it up.

Tuesday, my mom and I drove back down there, another hour and twenty, and when we went in the house, everything had been brought out for the estate sale and most things were priced. We about fell over!!! Game on!! I bought several old baskets, the dry sink, more crocks, several butter paddles, and a little bench...My mom bought two crock lamps with gorgeous paper punched shades, a small bench, and a gameboard. We packed the car and it took all the willpower we had to get IN the car and not go back for more! We literally got to the end of the subdivision and my mom couldn't help it. She had to go back for the Parcheesi gameboard. We turned around the pulled back in the driveway, and I jumped out of the car---"We're BACK! We missed you so much we had to come back!" The son and his wife cracked up. I bought the gameboard and we left. Well the whole way home, Mom and I chatted about the prices and how we'll never see that kind of quality primitives again let alone at those prices! It was crazy! We had already made two round trips, I'm not even going to attempt to add up the miles.

After I dropped her off and came home, she called, and we blurted out at the same time---"We need to go back and get all the rest of the gameboards!" The woman had an entire wall full. My mom couldn't believe the transformation her family room was taking, just from the new crock lamps and bench and basket! It went from ho-hum to prim-love in five minutes! So I immediately emailed the son AGAIN and negotiated a price for ALL of the gameboards as a lot and also told him I wanted the skinny brown crock jug lamp that I stupidly didn't buy when I was last there.

SOOOO, after being a vegetable all day with Jillian bouncing off the walls, we left to get the boys from school, dropped one off with Grandpa, picked up my mom, and left to drive the hour and twenty AGAIN...third time! This time I knew the route all the way to their house like the back of my hand. This time, we made sure we went room to room to room to be sure we bought all we wanted. I'm in debt now. So much for groceries next week! ;-) THIS time, we left with at least 15 gameboards, another little bench, a jug lamp, a quilt for Mom's family room wall, more baskets, a rolling pin, a masher, two more sifters for my ever growing collection and some other little kitchen gadgets. Unreal. We were just mesmerized! While driving home, we STILL wished we had had the $$ to just literally buy everything she had for sale and call it a day. Oh well, what's done is done. We seriously have to enjoy the loot we hauled and move on. But do you know what? My mom called me last night while I was on the way home, and told me how upset she was that she didn't buy one more old bench and the wrought iron prim floor lamp. AUGH!!! I'm like, 'OK Mom, what time are we leaving in the morning to go back??" "NO, NO NO, we can't go back. We're done. Three rounds is enough!" So we're done. I guess we're done...what time is it? Oh drat. The estate sale is about to begin, and I have to forever live with the vision of other folks buying all that stuff we didn't buy. Can you imagine---I did not buy 15 other crocks? I did not buy three other benches? I mean, I know I'm pressed for space and money but holy cow. I need therapy just to sooth my psyche for leaving that stuff behind!! I did promise to send them pics of all of her wonderful primitives once they're worked into my home decor. (And, p.s., I did tell the son to email me if there was ANYTHING left after the sale....hehe!)

So, today, all three kids are in school and I have major work to do. I have to "find" the dining room which is now literally a giant pile of antiques and primitives. I have to finish painting the living room TV wall and I have a little cupboard that needs paint in the dining room. Not sure how much I'll get done, but that's the list!! I'm seriously sitting here with goosebumps just thinking about everything that transpired these past two weeks....and I am so, so thankful to have been allowed to cherish these old primitive treasures from that woman's lifelong collection. I will love love love them as long as they are in my care.

After all, the love of primitives is more than just a hobby and a collection. It's a journey of responsibility....these precious pieces are part of history, they have been shared by many unknown hands...used in several homes...contributed to the care of many a family. Each piece is part of a long, sweet trail of history, must of which we will never know....but cherish, we will.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

September Arrives

Here in our part of Michigan, it is the first day of school for the kids. I hear people say, "Where did the summer go??" however, my summer was long and I yearned for Fall to arrive. The children had lots of friends to play with over the summer; we enjoyed the dulcimer festival in July; watched tractors go off to farm fests around the community...Summer was a full one. Not to mention my surgery back in August...I am just past five weeks of recovery and looking forward to my check up next week, where I will hopefully hear the doctor say that the recovery went fine and I can resume normal activity. (I think I hit my limit yesterday--not only was I overwhelmed with trying to get all the kids' school supplies prepared but the fact that I have had limited activity due to the surgery, has driven me beyond insane! I've never looked forward to being able to carry baskets of laundry or be able to haul my vacuum up and down the stairs in all my domestic life!)

This year, we have a first grader, a seventh grader, and a ninth grader. WE HAVE A KID IN HIGH SCHOOL!! Now THAT blows me away. I was more distraught over this realization than the day he entered Kindergarten! Our youngest could barely sit still in the van on the way to school ...She couldn't wait to get there. The older two? Could care less. Miraculously our 9th grader jumped out of bed this morning ... (he's the dead sleeper)... but the 7th grader lagged. And complained. And cried. And tried to refuse to go all together. Thankfully, my cheerfulness (though some moments were fake) and my soulful prayers to God worked on this 12 year old bugger, though--by the time we pulled in the parking lot, he was smiling.

I love new school supplies. The smell of newly sharpened pencils and the crisp, clean paper....Boxes of crayons that have never been opened....It reminds me of my own school days and sometimes I wish I could go back. I loved school...(though Middle school was not my favorite, .. Elementary and high school were wonderful.) It is so much fun for me to have a child still loving school! Jillian happily walked in and right to her 1st grade hallway, no nerves at all. I was more interested in seeing who of her Kindergarten classmates would be in her new class than she was, and I also was more thankful to see some familiar faces in line with her, too! When I walked her into her class, and watched her get her name tag from her new teacher, I eyed the room and found a table with girls that had a few empty seats. She sat down happily with her new playdough and I watched as an old friend looked nervously around. I called her over to sit with Jillian. Her name is Olivia, and this year is a BIG first for her--she is separated from her other two triplet siblings! Last year, all three girls were in Jillian's class. This year, each of the triplets have a different teacher. I so wanted to help make her feel included. Two other girls at Jillian's table weren't familiar, and I learned their names and introduced them to eachother and to Jillian and Olivia. The one was very nervous and shy. Her mother had already left the classroom, and even though my own daughter was eagerly pounding her playdough and very sure of herself, I still felt the need to try to make Madison feel more comfortable. I talked to her about her pretty name, and asked if she knew the other girls at the table, which she did not. Before I left, I whispered to Jillian to remember Madison at play time and to try to make her feel welcome.

It was a strange drive home, leaving my three babies at school. Babies. So funny to think I used to haul them all around in carseats and change diapers and walk the floors at night with them when they wouldn't sleep, and here they are, less and less dependent by the moment, it seems. I'm proud of each and every one of them and I can't wait to hear how their first day went.

After I got home, I couldn't help myself. I cleared three rooms of toys and clutter and started cleaning! It's not even 10am and I have the entire first floor of the house finished. The dishwasher is whirring and everything smells so fresh and clean. And there is quiet. Peace and quiet. I can even hear the clock ticking and the chimes singing outside the window. No blaring TV, no loud shooting war games on the Spongebob and his annoying chatter...It's wonderful. Yes, September has arrived and I am thankful for it.

I still have painting to do, in the living room on the new wall which hides the TV and all its stuff. I might get to that today, or I might enjoy the rest of my free time by reading or catching up on emails. My dining room is completely upside down since I sold the furniture in there and there are boxes and crates full of all the stuff I cleaned out of the china cabinet. We have another table, an 1800s farmhouse table and benches, which are wonderful, in the center of the room, but the stepback cupboard that I hauled home still needs some mending before I can bring it in and fill it up. This week I will also make time to bring in the boxes of Fall decor from the barn, and begin to adorn the house. I meant to get to that last week, but time got away from me!

I have had so many adventures, from antiquing with my Kentucky friend to chasing down more Craigslist ads, that I need to write about...but for now, I'll sign off ... sit back...and enjoy the quiet. I hope you have a very enjoyable, new September day.