Day 73: Back in the 618

After church, we packed the van and headed south for a trip to the 618.

Looking forward to seeing some of my extended family on Monday, we spent the evening hanging out at my dad's house and entertaining the kids with a box full of old Fisher Price toys.

See that helicopter there? I got that in 1981.

We'll see how alert I can pretend to be tomorrow after staying up way too late watching the Cubs' miraculous come-from-behind win. [Totally worth it.]

As always, it's great to be back home.

Day 72: The Homestretch Begins

This is what we in the Summer of Tim business call "the homestretch" as I face the last week of my break.

This is also the stage of the summer where I start scrambling to accomplish all of the things I've put off for the past ten weeks.

So I won't ramble on about the yard work I did today. I won't waste your time talking about the multiple hours I spent scanning and filing piles of papers that have accumulated on my desk. I certainly won't reflect on the Cubs who should have edged out the Mariners in a pitchers duel but melted down in the final innings.

Instead, I'd suggest you check out Left Lane Cruiser. A friend recently turned me on to them and they're pretty great.

Day 71: A Very Random Friday

Amy and I were sorting through some old books and I came across a picture book from when I was a kid called My Little Pictionary.

The story goes that before I was old enough to read, I was looking at this book and pointed out a picture of a woman's bathing suit. Mistaking it for a golf bag, I referred to it as a "golf thing" and hilarity ensued.

For years.

It's nice to know that some stories never die.

. . .

A set of Public Enemy action figures is set to be released soon.

As awesome as these are, I can't bring myself to drop sixty bucks on four small toys.

. . .

Without a doubt, Jose Canseco has one of the strangest Twitter accounts I know of.

Hug 4 U 2, Jose.

. . .

New Todd Snider single released today.

New album out this fall.

. . .

I bought a handful of CDs at Goodwill today for a buck. I will not confirm nor deny that one of those CDs was Nelson's After the Rain.

Day 70: Overdue Junk Shopping

After not doing so throughout almost all of July, I hit up my favorite junk stores today. I swear this is like a drug for me and I was going through withdrawal.

. . .

At my first stop, I picked up four bags of WWE wrestling figures at three bucks per bag -- between 40 and 50 figures for twelve dollars. With every intention to sell these off, I won't have a problem making an easy profit here.

I also bought a pretty cool Coca-Cola advertisement puzzle for fifty cents. I've always enjoyed working on puzzles but now that I'm forty, I can openly admit that. Old people do puzzles, right?

Buying puzzles at thrift stores is always a crap shoot as there's a 50/50 chance that there'll be pieces missing. Opening this box up, I found that the last person to complete the puzzle had taken it apart in chunks which made it super easy for me to see if it was complete.

Much to my surprise, all 1000 pieces were accounted for.

Big shout out to Curtis Williams for buying this puzzle in 1983.

. . .

Next up was a stop at the non-profit book outlet where everything's a quarter.

I'm a sucker for comic books -- not traditional Superman type stuff but comics like what my grandmother always called the funny papers. When I was a kid, I had a minor obsession with the "morning funnies" and a dream to become a cartoonist myself someday.

While that obviously never panned out, I continue to buy these books when I see them for cheap -- and twenty-five cents is cheap.

And how about those two French Peanuts books? A pretty fun addition to the collection even though the only word I can understand on the cover is "Peanuts."

Little Golden Books always come home with me, too ... and then what appears to be a pretty quick and interesting take on the Amistad slave revolt. But what about Future Forward? This isn't really the kind of book I tend to buy unless it's a title that I have a distinct recollection of from my own childhood. I'd never heard of this title but the book caught my eye for some reason.

"The VCR Kelly and Scott Forrest use for time travel is becoming unreliable...But if the VCR won't go back in time, will it go forward?"

The story of a time-traveling VCR? Twenty-five cents? Sold!

. . .

Off to Disc Replay where I had a few dollars in store credit that I wanted to burn before the end of the summer. After using my credit, Pee-Wee on Broadway and Barnstorming cost me 37 cents.


. . .

My last stop was at another thrift store that happened to be on my way home where I was excited to find a Paw Patrol playset for Mason. It goes without saying that he was all sorts of wound up when I got it home.

I always make a quick glance at the books in this place when I'm there but have never found anything worth while.

Until today.

As I continue to piece together my collection of Hardy Boys Casefiles books, I will occasionally find one or two that I don't have but today I found thirteen!

The best Casefiles haul I've come up with since March which, strangely enough, was also a stack of thirteen titles.

Still looking forward to the day that I find book #73 -- Bad Rap.

Just looking at the cover, I have so many questions...

Day 69: Bob, Gordon, and Luis

I spent a majority of today staring at my laptop and catching up on a summer's worth of emails from parents and students.

I'll spare you that excitement.

Instead, let's remember Bob, Luis, and Gordon -- all of who are parting ways with Sesame Street after 45 years on the show.

Day 68: Nothing exciting.

Today included yard work, a septic tank repair, and some time spent preparing for the new school year.

Nothing exciting.

So here's this instead:

Day 67: Grass-Fed Beef and God's Voice

Over the years, my wife has taught me a lot about healthy eating. While I still have a weakness when it comes to junk food and carbs, Amy's example at least makes me try to drink plenty of water and eat an occasional vegetable. One other example is, as often as possible, we buy grass-fed meat in order to cut down on as much of the store-bought additives as we can.

This is the background to a very interesting Monday morning.

. . .

After researching various grass-fed cattle ranches within a reasonable driving distance, Amy recently placed an order with a gentleman located about two hours away and I set out this morning to pick up our purchase. I was expecting a few hours there, about ten minutes to pick up the meat, and a few hours home. Leaving at about 7:15, I figured I'd be back home by 11:30 -- noon at the latest.

I called Amy a little after 11:00 and told her I was just leaving.

. . .

Our meat order was to be picked up at the cattle rancher's home. After ninety minutes of interstate driving, the last portion of my trip took me to a two-lane highway, then to a rural road, then to an unpaved gravel road winding through a field. Finally, I sat in my car at the bottom of a hill -- looking at an unmarked mailbox on my right and a long winding lane to my left which headed upward toward an unviewable destination. This wasn't a road -- it didn't really even look like a driveway -- but my GPS was telling me I had arrived.

I called the rancher to be sure I was in the right spot. If this wasn't it, I didn't want to climb this crater-filled drive only to find myself face to face with a guy telling me I have a "purdy mouth."

On the other end of the phone came the rancher assuring me I was in the correct location and inviting me up the hill.

After a few turns and avoiding some holes that made me wish I still had my old Jeep and not a Honda CRV, the property came into view -- a beautiful farm house looking out over acres of land.

. . .

I rang the doorbell and was invited inside the rancher's home where he appeared to be finishing a text message on his phone. I considered pulling out my checkbook to have payment ready for him and to take up as little of his time as necessary -- but before I could even reach toward my pocket, he finished his message.

After some casual chit-chat about his business, the rancher mentioned a news piece that was done about his business which can be found on his website. I don't recall the exact progression of our conversation from there, but he subtly made mention of having an "amazing Christian testimony." For the sake of polite conversation, I asked if that was included on his website as well.

The rancher said it was not ... but in the same moment, turned quickly towards me and asked with a smile, "Are you a believer?"

"Yes, sir. I am," came my reply -- not entirely sure where this was headed.

"Do you want to hear the story? Do you have time?" he asked, clearly excited to have this door open even a crack.

While I'm not the world's biggest fan of small talk, I also believe that everyone has a story to tell and deserves a chance to be heard. I often remember a line from Max Ehrmann's Desiderata:
Listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.
Don't get me wrong. Based on our few minutes of conversation up to this point, the rancher was certainly not dull nor was he ignorant. He was charismatic and quite intelligent.

Either way, did I have time to hear his story? Sure. I had a few minutes.

"Of course," I said.

With that, he invited me to join him at his kitchen table which was scattered with receipts and papers -- clearly where he'd been working earlier in the morning.

. . .

For over an hour, he talked and I listened.

I listened as he poured his heart out through multiple stories of having heard God's audible voice and experiencing moments of perfect peace. Some of his story took place when he was a teenager and other parts took place last month.

You may think I spent this time glancing at the clock or concerned for the well-being of my purdy mouth...but that wasn't the case.

I was fascinated. I was inspired. The hair on my arms stood up multiple times as he shared his story.

At times he laughed. At times his eyes filled with tears. A few times his hands trembled with emotion as he spoke.

This guy was not off his rocker.

I have a pretty accurate bullshit detector and he was no kook. He was a man with a passion for God who clearly bursts with excitement at the opportunity to share his story with anyone willing to hear it.

. . .

About the time I expected to be on the final stretch of my drive home, we headed outside to load my coolers. I paid the rancher and thanked him for sharing his story with me.

Winding down the lane back to the main roads, I wasn't quite sure what I'd just experienced.

I was pretty sure it was more than just buying some grass-fed beef.

. . .

Do I think the rancher has heard God's voice?

I do.

People experience God's presence in different ways. Although I've never had such an experience where I've heard God audibly speak to me, I've experienced His presence in my own individual ways at various times throughout my life.

The rancher said to me that someone once asked him why he has these experiences and they do not.

He and I agreed that it's because he allows himself to have these experiences.

That may seem over-simplified, but I think it's true.

It's hard to hear if you don't listen.

. . .

"It's amazing how reluctant or even terrified we are of accepting how peaceful life can be -- while seeming to spend all of our time seeking for it to be so. Every one of us embodies the Sacred One." -- Bo Lozoff (Deep and Simple)

Day 66: Suit Shopping

Amy and I will be going to a wedding in a few weeks -- a "black tie optional" affair.

That means formal.

That means I need to buy a suit.

In my job as a high school counselor, I don't have the need to own a nice suit. At my fanciest, you might catch me in a shirt and tie, but mostly my corduroys and untucked button down shirts have served me well all these years. But duty has called and it's time for me to bite the bullet and play grown-up by purchasing my first suit since my early college days.

Remembering the last suit I owned -- somewhere around 1994 -- it was hideous.

And so was my hair.

The last time I wore it was at a celebration for my grandparents' anniversary. That's me in the back with the goatee and the purple suit. Or is it burgundy?

Either way, I looked like a magician.

Twenty-two years later, I walked through the doors of our local Men's Warehouse where my measurements were taken and before long I stood looking at some guy in the mirror who looked like he would've been a lot more comfortable wearing the shorts and flip-flops he wore into the store.

I debated on breaking into Jim Carey's dance from Dumb & Dumber while Amy checked out her stunning husband in the mirror...but I didn't. The suit I was wearing at the time had apparently taken hold of my sense of humor and would not allow me to tap into the idiot portion of my brain.

As we paid, Amy attempted to be sly by asking if my measurements would be stored in their system but I knew what she was doing. She seems to be under the impression that corduroys are not dress pants and is bound and determined to rid our closet of my small corduroy mountain. Reading between the lines, I expect to be receiving a pair of dress pants from her at every birthday and Christmas for the next five years.

I asked the guy helping us if Men's Warehouse sells corduroys.

They do not.

I debated on asking if they'd consider doing alterations of the pairs I own that are currently too small for me or have fringed cuffs. Again, there must have been something in the store affecting my idiot mode because I decided that I was already teetering on that line between funny and obnoxious to my wife.

So stay tuned. The Summer of Tim may be winding down, but it'll wind down in style.

Day 65: More Sun, More Swimming

After a week on the road with much of that time spent in the sun and in the water, you'd think we'd had enough.


Amy's aunt and uncle were in town today and we spent all day swimming across the street.

All day.

ALL day.

Good night.

Day 64: Back to Reality

So long, Michigan.

Six or seven hours later, we're home safe and sound.

We're tired.

We had fun.

We got on each others nerves a little bit.

But most important of all, we were together.

Underneath that layer of stress and exhaustion that comes with a family vacation are memories we'll have for years. I've been reminded this week of how happy it makes me to see my family happy.

As I look back at the time we spent enjoying the beach, picking flowers, sipping wine, and watching sunsets, it's clear that the most important part of a "family vacation" is not necessarily "vacation."

Day 63: Flower Garden, Bug Zoo, Wine

Today was our last full day here in Michigan as we head home tomorrow to begin that dreaded countdown to reality.

Initially, our plan was to visit nearby Sleeping Bear Dunes before the heat of the day took over but the clouds gathering outside and the approaching severe thunderstorm warning suggested we consider a back-up plan.

Knowing we had about thirty minutes before the rain was to start, we drove about a mile up the road to a "self-service flower garden" where the kids picked from dozens of beautiful flowers to create their own bouquet.


. . .

For lunch, we thought we'd check out the Old Mission Tavern which we'd driven by a few times throughout the week. Expecting simple bar food, we were surprised to find that the Tavern was a little more upscale than its name implies.

The food and service were both fantastic but the clientele wasn't exactly tavern-esque. While there was the table of a dozen or so women and girls who I'm guessing have experienced opinions on things like pearl necklaces and sailboats, let's not forget the other tables of retirees dressed a little nicer than I was in my flip-flops and baseball cap. I felt like I was eating lunch in the dining area at the Dirty Dancing resort. The only thing missing was a waiter named Robbie offering us a copy of The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand.

[How's that for a deep Dirty Dancing reference?]

. . .

With the rain still falling (but winding down), we headed to Williamsburg, Michigan's G.T. Butterfly House & Bug Zoo. Our kids love nature and we knew this would be a big hit with them.

And we were right.

We started by walking among an impressive number of butterflies and moths as the kids pointed out their favorites.

Then we headed inside for the bug zoo where the giant roaches made the hair on my arms stand up and the tarantulas made Amy find something else to look at on the other side of the room.


Charlotte was braver than we were as she got an up close and personal look at the tarantula.

. . .

With the sun out by late afternoon, it was time for the kids to indulge us in some grown-up fun at another winery. This time Amy chose the Bowers Harbor Vineyard.

A glass of wine for mom and dad. Raspberry juice for the kiddos.

[Note to self: I think Amy could have done this all week. Wine tour. Good idea for future anniversary or birthday.]

. . .

Leaving the winery, we drove past a roadside fruit stand where something immediately caught my eye.

Look closely. You'll see it.

Yeah. There it is.

. . .

We wanted to give the kids one more shot at the beach before we headed home so before dinner we headed back to the Mission Point Lighthouse. The beach below the lighthouse is more of a "look at the water" type place than it is a "play in the sand" sort. Still...there was sand, rocks, and water.

That's all we needed.

Thumbs up. Thumbs sideways. Not sure what Mason's got going here.

We're hitting the road early in the morning. But let's not think about that right now.

Day 62: Lighthouse, Petoskey Stones, Sunset

We started the day just north on the peninsula at the Mission Point Lighthouse. To some tourists, a significant historic location. To our kids, a place to climb up a tall tower.

Okay, I totally wanted to climb up inside the lighthouse, too.

I think the kids were a little bit surprised that this lighthouse looked more like a schoolhouse with a tower on top than it did the traditional style of lighthouse they've seen in books.

Still, it made for a pretty remarkable view over the water.

Outside the lighthouse was a cabin once inhabited by the Mary and Joseph Hessler family. The kids ignored my suggestion that if Mary and Joseph lived there Jesus must have, too. I upped the ante and tried to convince them that Jesus' last name was Hessler but nobody was interested in my awesome dad humor.

Charlotte was especially interested in the cabin as she's recently shown an interest in the Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House on the Prairie books. More on that in a bit.

We "hiked" through the woods on the way back to the car -- maybe 100 yards total. Clearly that was 100 yards too many for Mason.

. . .

We decided to give downtown Traverse City another run and started with lunch at the Mackinaw Brewing Company. As always, my food looked pretty awesome...

...and Amy's once again looked like plant poop.

I suppose that joke won't be as funny when she outlives me by forty years.

. . .

A quick walk down the block brought us to Kilwins -- a place full of "chocolates, fudge, and ice cream."

Suddenly the kids weren't so full from lunch.

Anna threw us a curve ball and chose a caramel apple over ice cream.

. . .

I guess one of the big souvenirs to take away from this area is a Petoskey stone -- a certain kind of rock found just north of here in Petoskey (and the state stone of Michigan). I'd never heard of these things before this trip but apparently they're a big deal.

The kids have been talking all week about wanting to find a Petoskey stone -- especially Charlotte. When we found ourselves in a downtown Traverse toy store, she was pretty thrilled to find a bowl full of polished Petoskeys for sale. There was no doubt this was the souvenir she'd been looking for and I guess we assumed that the other two kids would follow her lead.

Not so much.

Charlotte got her Petoskey stone. Anna came out with a small princess Playmobil set. Mason opted for the pen with a rubber hand on top. Nothing says "Michigan vacation" like Playmobil and a hand pen.

I had a feeling they'd eventually regret this decision.

. . .

Leaving downtown, I was surprised that even on vacation, country music legends continue to follow me around. A few weeks ago, Amy and I followed Tom T. Hall through Champaign.

Leaving the parking lot today, we had clearly been followed by Johnny Cash.

Or maybe not. I suppose that could be "Jenny Cash."

. . .

Heading back to the house, we remembered a roadside stand selling Petoskey stones so we thought we'd check it out.

This was my kind of vacation shopping! Nothing fancy. Just a single table along the highway with no one around. In case anyone thought of just walking off with their inventory, the handpainted plywood signs hit you in your conscience as soon as you step out of your car:
I would bet you three Petoskey stones and a high five that there wasn't a camera anywhere within a mile of where we stood -- but that's not the point. The signs simply established the true charm of this stand.

As expected, Anna and Mason came around and decided that they did indeed want a Petoskey stone to take home with them. Amy found one for herself, as well. We dropped our money in the box on the table and headed out with souvenirs a little more appropriate for our trip than a Playmobil toy.

. . .

Back at the house, the kids spent some time playing in the front yard where Amy found them hiding under a cluster of evergreen trees. Amy asked what they were doing and I couldn't have been happier to learn that they were "playing Little House on the Prairie."

. . .

Throughout this entire trip, there has been one thing Anna has mentioned multiple times that she wants to do while we're on vacation.

She wants to watch the sun set.

This was clearly not the kind of request any parent could deny their kid -- especially considering the number of other priorities she could have had. So tonight we drove down the peninsula a bit to the "scenic turnabout" we'd passed by several times this week. We got there just in time to let the kids climb on top of the van and take in the final ten minutes of a beautiful Michigan sunset.

. . .

We're having a great time on vacation but we're all definitely getting a little tired (and maybe a little grumpy) from being on the road.

Heading home soon...