Ernest Porter in 1932
I was sitting at my desk at work yesterday, trying to get back into it after a week of vacation, when I read the email - my grandfather had passed away on Sunday night. So, I thought I would write him this letter.

Dear Grandpa,
In your 90 years, I only knew you three and only met you once (that I remember). Due to family politics, pride, and some half truths, we didn't know each other while I was growing up.  It's a story that makes good fiction but bad reality.

So much wasted time.

But, part of what saddens me now is the wasted time since I met you three years ago.  Ella and I flew out to Arizona so you could meet your granddaughter and great granddaughter.  I heard you were ill and something inside of me knew we should go.   I'm glad we did.

But then, we only communicated once a year - at Christmas - to send flowers or a small gift.

I knew pictures of Ella would brighten your day.  I knew a phone call now and then would make you smile.

But, I didn't do it, and I'm sorry.

I'm also sorry I didn't know more about you. The real you, not stories about you. And, I'm sorry you didn't know more about me too.  I think maybe we both weren't sure how to proceed.

Before you, I had only known one other grandparent and he died when I was 14.  Finding you was surreal. I found you and then didn't know what to do or how to feel.

Kind of like today. I've cried. I've dealt with this pit in my stomach all day while conducting business as usual. Part of me doesn't understand it. I mean, I hardly knew you. 

I guess that doesn't matter.  It doesn't matter, because you were my grandpa, and we were family. I suppose those bonds don't require much more than knowing that sometimes.

So, good-bye Grandpa Ernie. I hope meeting us impacted you as much as meeting you impacted us.

Love, your granddaughter.
I was either 7 or 8 when I saw the world premiere of the movie Somewhere in Time at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.  My dad was often at the Grand Hotel for work and saw the movie being filmed.  I was on the island often as a kid, and the movie was a big deal to my family.

So, while on vacation this last week, I thought I'd let Ella in on the deal.  We planned a day on Mackinac Island and I told her about the movie.  We watched it the day before and she loved it. It was so rewarding to see her appreciate the film and its location.

Ella has been to Mackinac Island, but she was only 2 or 3 and has no memory of it.  This time, she was loving every minute, from the ferry ride...
to the 'Somewhere in Time' experience.

We saw the shop where Christopher Reeve's character purchased coins and Ella jumped up and down with excitement.
As we walked up the hill toward the Grand Hotel, Ella was in awe. I used to spend many Wednesdays on the island when my dad was there for work in the summer.  I'd just wander around and explore.  I had forgotton how 'grand' the Grand was...until I saw Ella's eyes when she saw it.
We toured the hotel and saw the Somewhere in time memorabilia.
Totally worth the $15 to tour the Grand...just for the joy in my kid's face.
We went everywhere we were allowed to go...even up near the top.  We looked for Jane Seymour's character's room (117) and it wasn't there.  This comes up at least once a day...even one week later.
What a blast...seeing your own past through your child's eyes. 
And now, we have another Somewhere in Time fan in the family.
I have to be honest. I'm not always a big fan of the town I live in.  I often feel like an outsider here, and I have heard many other 'transplants' say the same thing.  It's a hard community to break into.

The negatives are that it's a very homogenous community.  There is little diversity in culture, religious beliefs, skin color, political beliefs and workplace gender. 

However, there are some good things.  We have beautiful beaches on Lake Michigan just a few miles from our house, lots of hiking and biking trails, and it's generally safe. The town has a couple very wealthy benefactors and they are generous.  Our sidewalks are heated in the winter and we have a bustling downtown.

Greg and I ventured downtown when Ella was at her grandparents' and we had a blast.  It gave me hope for this little sheltered town. 

It just so happened that it was sidewalk sales days, so the main street was closed off and people were starting to fill the streets.

We stopped at the running store...
Checked out some street performers (they perform every Thursday).
And just enjoyed the stroll....

When we arrived, everything was just getting started.  We headed into one of our favorite places (a LEED Certified hotel & bistro) for a drink and appetizers.
By the time we were done the streets were so crowded and my arms heavy with bags (we started a little early holiday shopping) I couldn't get my camera out.

I loved the energy, though.  People hanging out together and enjoying summer in our quaint little downtown.  Sometimes, I kinda like it here. 
So, here we are...end of the summer.  We've had the school rats for weeks and are preparing to say good-bye to them.  They need to be back today to get ready for the new kids' orientation.

Have I fallen in love with them?   Not really.

Will I miss them?  A little.
There they are, all snuggly and cute (Maya on the bottom, Layla on top).  They really are snuggly little creatures, and they are also very entertaining.  Whether it's swinging around in the t-shirt hammock, climbing the walls of the cage or reaching their little arms out for snacks, they definitely have personality. 

Way more personality than the guinea pig!  

But, they aren't as lovable as the guinea pig, who adores Ella and squeaks when she walks by!

Still, they became part of our family for the summer and I'll miss their cute little faces (not their scaly tales though - ewww!!!). 

I'm not too worried that I'll miss them too much.  We do have a few other pets and....there's always Christmas Break! 

Bon Voyage Layla and Maya!
Going to the town you grew up in is a strange experience, especially when you haven't lived there for 26 years.

When I visit my dad, there are always multiple trips to the town where I was born and spent the first 12 years of my life.  The first time I went back, it was uncomfortable. I couldn't peg it, but it depressed me. 

Now, since we go there a few times a year, I'm finding comfort in it. 

It's still strange to see the house I grew up in:
But, by far, the strongest feeling about being back in Northeastern Michigan is the memory of my grandpa.  Everytime I visit, I try to go to the cemetery.
It happens every time, that, when I step out of the car, I get a lump in my throat and want to cry.  I immediately miss him. 

He was the only grandparent i knew growing up, and he was wonderful to my brother and me. He lived two blocks away, and I'd ride my bike to his house daily in the summer.  Whenever I'd arrive, I knew there would be a Klondike bar waiting for me. Every single time.

If we were going for dinner, something else would be waiting for both me and my brother.  We'd each get a small glass filled with Olympia beer! We thought that was so cool.

I feel him strongly when I'm 'home.'  I think that's why it was so hard to visit before.  But now, it's part of what draws me there.  Feeling close to him is a good thing, even though I miss him terribly.
My Grandpa's House
Part of the sadness for me is that he died when I was 14 years old.  He never met Greg and he never met Ella. He would have loved them both.
It also makes me wonder what Ella's experience will be.  As of now, she has seven grandparents! I had one.  I know she doesn't really understand my emotions on these 'home' trips, but she sees me going through them.

I hope she makes peace with her home as I have when she's an adult. There are a lot of good things there.
You may recall a little competition we set up early in the summer.  It had to do with tomato growning.  You see, I am no  gardener, but I wasn't crazy about Greg's attitude toward the Topsy Turvy without even giving it a try.

So, we went to the Farmers' Market and bought two nearly identical tomato plants.  He planted his in the dirt, and I planted mine in the Topsy Turvy.

Let me just take a moment to explain what a great gardener Greg is.  I think it comes from two main areas:  Patience and Genes.  The man is the most patient person I've ever met.  Sometimes, it drives me a little nuts (this is why I am not a good gardener!). He plants, he tends, he weeds, and in a few months, he harvests.

It's also in his genes though.  His grandma Dot had the biggest personal garden I had ever seen.  She had a cellar full of preserved food and a kitchen full of fresh veggies whenever we'd visit.  His dad also has a killer vegetable garden. We visited last weekend and have been feasting on beautiful tomatoes, peppers and squash ever since!

So, you now see what I was up against. 

Oh, ok. Here are the results~

Ha! My poor little tomato plant DIED within 2 weeks of planting it. I watered the thing like crazy, but it dried out so fast.  I know the Topsy Turvy has worked for some people, but I've also heard stories similar to mine.

Bottom line is, I'm not too shocked by these results.  I mean, Greg is a great gardener.  I am a little worried that every plant I try to keep alive eventually dies, but that does give me a good excuse to stay out of the garden!

Don't get me wrong. I love gardens. I love what comes from gardens.  I just don't like gardening.  Never have.

I guess it's not a bad deal for either one of us.  He gardens and I cook.  That's fair, isn't it??
Today, Ella and I are heading up north to visit my dad.  We have travelled a lot together.  It started when she was 8 weeks old and I made my first long-distance trip with her.  We drove from Minneapolis to Marquette, Michigan, and she was perfect.  She's always been a great traveller, albeit a talkative one.  Those days are starting to fade away.

Even at home, I'll look over at her to say something and see this:
She's either working on something, playing a game or listening to music.

When we used to take road trips, I knew her routine - she'd talk for about a half hour, then sleep for an hour and a half, then we'd take a break, then it would start all over. 

These days, I turn around to say, "Buckle up!" only to see her already buckled and navigating the menu of a dvd.  She looks up and smiles and I smile back. Then I pause. 

I'm glad she's into her own stuff and that she can entertain herself.  It's tough for an only child to entertain herself on car trips.  Heck, I don't know what I would have done without the constant torture of my big brother or the "Whoever-stays-quiet-the-longest-gets-a-prize-at-the-next-stop" game.  I still remember getting a pair of kitty shoelaces because of that game....in South Dakota, or Colorado, or Arizona. 

Sometimes, I just look back at her while I'm driving and she's gazing out the window. I grab her foot and give it a sqeeze...we exchange smiles again...just to know we're still connected-even in silence. 

And, we are. 

As soon as we stop, she starts talking again. And when it's time to get moving again, she hops in the car without one complaint. 

As i turn my head to back out of wherever we are, she smiles again.  And so do I.    
I've never liked spiders. They have always creeped me out.  I'm not sure if it came from my big brother forcing me to watch horror flicks or it just came naturally.  Either way, I just don't like them.

However, something has changed in the past month.  I'm getting uberconscious about everything...the chemicals I put in my body, the chemicals I put on my skin, the treatment of animals in food production farms, spiders trapped in our house....

I know the reason: I'm educating myself.  It's so easy to hear a little tidbit on something and say to yourself, "I don't even want to know..."  But lately, I've challenged myself on those 'easy' thoughts. 

I've decided to really look at what makes me uncomfortable and why.  Then, I tackle it outright so it doesn't hang over me.  I knew for a few months that my make-up contained cancer-causing ingredients.  It just took that long to actually admit to myself how silly it was to continue doing something I knew was bad for me.

And then, I made the change and feel SO MUCH LIGHTER.  It's like all this stuff I used to deny goes away once I acknowlege it and address it.  I feel so much better now that I've made these changes, which includes conscious eating....which leads to humane treatment of all animals.

So, I found this guy in our kitchen the other day:
Instead of yelling, "GREEEEEGGGGGGGG! There's a spider in here - kill it!!" I took a piece of paper and a cup and escorted him (her?) outside. 

And I felt good...and light.  That's what doing the right thing will do for you.  The guilt, the lies, the denial of knowledge...it's freeing.  And this guy didn't mind it either.

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    My name is Kristen Porter ~ I am a corporate attorney by day, and a writer/artist/renaissance-woman wanna-be by night. 

    This is my blog...my summary of life and attempt to capture small moments forever while appreciating their impermanence.  Those small moments are what make life so wonderful!

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