Coming Full Circle 1/3/16

Thank you, Stephen Blair Kopacki, for the amazing header photograph!

In April of 2009 I wrote the first post to Bree’s Mackinac Island blog.  I began it on a whim and as a chance to satisfy a life-long desire to write.  I’d always heard the easiest thing to write on was something you were passionate about, and Mackinac Island sure fit that requirement!

Over the past almost-seven years, that first blog morphed into four other blogs: Bree’s Lake Blackshear Blog (when we were off the island at our home in south Georgia), the VERY short-lived Dog-Eared Page Blog (about the dogs of Mackinac Island), Bree’s Connecting the Dots Blog (the transition from Mackinac Island and Georgia to our new home in Florida), and recently Bree’s To Be Clay Blog (about living in Florida).  To those five blogs I’ve posted a total of 1,227 stories.  That’s pretty much one story every two days – for approximately the last 2,340 days.  To those five blogs, and over that same time period, readers took time out of their busy schedules to post 20,124 comments.

Our sweet little cottage at Lake Blackshear in the Spring.

Bree’s Lake Blackshear Blog:  Our sweet little cottage at Lake Blackshear in the Spring.

The Dog-Eared Page: Maddie and Bear playing with Buddy, an island friend.

The Dog-Eared Page: Maddie and Bear playing with Buddy, an island friend.

Connecting the Dots - this mound of dirt eventually became part of the foundation for our new home in Sunset Inlet.

Connecting the Dots:  This mound of dirt eventually became part of the foundation for our new home in Sunset Inlet.

To Be Clay: The good life in Beverly Beach!

To Be Clay: The good life in Beverly Beach!

So – where am I going with all this.

As I do every year about this time, I’ve taken the last few weeks to think about how I can continue to write something interesting – or whether I want to continue writing at all.  And every year I come back to two truths.  I love to write, and I love my readers.

This year I’ve had to dig a little deeper though.  With age and with some health issues, I find the need to focus on the things I love to write about most. And – surprise! – that is still that tiny island sitting in the Straits of Mackinac.  In studying the comments, the statistics, and the overall feed-back on all my blogs, I know – without a shadow of a doubt – that same tiny island is also what you most want to READ about.

My latest blog – To Be Clay – has an average of 400 readers for each post.  Most of you are Mackinac Island fans who have followed me almost since that first island blog in 2009.  You’ve been my loyal “core” family, and I love you with all my heart.  You’ve continued to read whether I’ve been in Georgia on the lake or in Florida across from the Atlantic Ocean.  You are the reason I’ve continued to write for this long.

But – when I traveled to Mackinac in December to write for Original Murdick’s Fudge – my reader average jumped to almost 1200 a day.  That number continued throughout my stay there.

What that tells me is that ultimately “Mackinac Island” is what you want to hear about – what you want to see photographed, what you want to learn more about.  Just as when I first starting going to Mackinac and would search everywhere for news about the island, I know there is a group out there right this minute doing the same thing. I know there are those who already love the island – and harbor a dream of maybe one day living there.  You are constantly soaking up every single fact you can find about how to make that happen.  I want to help with that.

So – as of right now – there will only be one place I’ll be writing.  Bree’s Mackinac Island Blog – the first and the most loved – will be where you’ll find the Hortons.  This will be the last post to To Be Clay.

The content won’t really change.  I’ll be sharing our lives here in Florida, sharing photographs and news from Mackinac when we aren’t there, and – good Lord willing – taking y’all with us in July when we travel north for three months on our favorite island.

And hopefully, in between all that, there may be some visits to other places!

And hopefully, in between all that, there may be some visits to other places!

I hope those of you who only follow the To Be Clay blog will click here: http://bree1972.wordpress.com and then hit the “follow” button – so you’ll continue to be connected when there’s a new post!

Instead of going back to the future, we’re going forward to the past. Bree’s Mackinac Island Blog is where it all began.  I’ve got stories to tell, photographs to share, people to meet. It makes me feel both excited – and quietly content – to come full circle.

Woo Hoo – we’re off!

St. Anne's by Tom Chambers.

St. Anne’s by Tom Chambers.

 

Mackinac Island Christmas Bazaar Trip – Post 2

I love the Atlanta airport – AS LONG AS I can fly INTO there and not have to go through security. Waiting in Atlanta now for my 10:58 flight to Detroit. It’s a two hour flight, and I only have 50 minutes in Detroit to catch my flight to Pellston. That makes me very nervous!!!

So I’m just hanging out – people watching, grabbing a pack of crackers and a Sprite for brunch, and hoping my checked bag gets to Pellston at the same time I do. My only carry-ons are my purse and my laptop, so I’m going to be in big trouble if my bag is late arriving. All my winter stuff is in that bag!!

Won’t have time to post in Detroit, so the next time you hear from me will be sometime after 3:05 touchdown in Pellston, where friends Jill and Sue will be waiting. Then we’ll decide if we can make the 4:00 ferry!!

WooHoo! Even more excited!

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Testing One, Two, Three

Hi all!  Just checking out how the WordPress app works. Would love to be able to post little notes to the blog from my phone during my Christmas Bazaar visit – without having to go back to the room and open the laptop. If this works, it would be more like a Facebook post – but everyone signed up as a follower would receive it. And there would be several posts per day!

Please comment if you received this post with just a “yes” in the comment section. 

Thanks! 

(Bobby Lee photo of Christmas trees arriving on the island yesterday. )

 

For Gracie

Very few of you who will read this know Gracie Irish, and I have to admit I don’t know her either – at least I’ve never met her face to face.  But, as a mother, I know Gracie as if she was my own child.

Shimmering on the surface of every parent’s heart is a fear so terrible we can scarcely speak of it.  It can come at us like some horrible monster at any moment of the day, but usually raises its ugly head as we prepare for sleep.  We close our eyes and think back over the wonderful day we’ve just spent with our family and then, unbidden, we think about the family next door, or across town, or on Facebook, who we’ve learned has a child diagnosed with that worst or the worst monsters – cancer.  And then we think . . .  what if it was my child?

Is there anything as a parent we can imagine worse than a monster that wants to take our child from us? Is there anything else that can strip us of all our insulation and take us down to raw emotion more than a monster that doesn’t take into account age, sex, race, income, or religious beliefs?  Cancer doesn’t care.  It’s an equal opportunity monster.  It. Just. Doesn’t. Care.

Ted and I have known the Benser family on Mackinac Island for years.  You’ve heard of them through this blog.  They own several businesses on Mackinac, including Original Murdick’s Fudge.  Mr. B (as we lovingly call him) is the family patriarch.  Bobby, Leslie, Heidi, and Amy are his children.  Gracie is Amy’s daughter.

Today Gracie is a beautiful, healthy and active 14-year-old.  She’s a Freshman in high school and plays on the Junior Varsity Golf Team at Stoney Creek High School in Rochester, MI.  She is taking classes in Theatre and loves to cook.  When she comes to Mackinac to visit family in the summer she rides horses (another love) and swims off the dock at the marina.  You would never know – looking at her now – that as a 4-year-old Gracie was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.

Gracie today.

Gracie today.

When Gracie’s parents got the devastating news they were urged to take her immediately to the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, and she was airlifted there later that same day.  One of Amy’s most vivid memories of that day is being told she couldn’t accompany her daughter on the helicopter.  She was crying and remembers one of the flight crew coming to sit beside her and saying, “You’re taking Gracie to a great place.  My son was treated at Mott’s, and today he’s a successful college student.”  That was the glimmer of hope Amy held on to through the months ahead.

Gracie’s leukemia was intensely treated for 2 1/2 years at C.S. Mott, and the summer of 2008 was a good one, including being back on Mackinac, having fun with her whole family.  Then, during that winter break, she began to complain of leg pain.  Her parents immediately returned her to C.S. Mott where tests revealed Gracie had a benign tumor that was a rare complication of her leukemia.  Several attempts were made to surgically remove the mass, but it always returned.

Dr. Valerie Castle, Chair of the Department of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases at C.S. Mott, was determined to aggressively fight Gracie’s tumor.  Dr. Castle invited her colleagues to weigh in on a solution, and Gracie was given an experimental drug as part of a clinical trial.  C.S. Mott is one of only a few leading children’s hospitals to have access to clinical trials. At the very first follow-up after the drug was given, they learned the tumor was shrinking – and it did not come back.

The Benser family now has a passion to support further research into treatments for patients who relapse or experience complications from leukemia.  They established Gracie’s Fund for Pediatric Leukemia Research at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital several years ago.  Since then, they have hosted fund-raisers and donated proceeds of fudge sales at various times of the year.  The Mackinac Island community has supported their efforts from the very beginning.

There are remarkable treatment options available now for children who are diagnosed with leukemia, but for children who relapse or suffer complications – like Gracie – resources are very limited.  We need to help fund more research.

During the week of Sept. 21-27 Original Murdick’s Fudge will match dollar for dollar all donations to Gracie’s Fund.  You don’t have to know Gracie to give, and you don’t have to buy fudge – but Original Murdick’s Fudge does want you to join their team – Team Gracie!  You can click on the link below to give $1, $10, or whatever your heart whispers for you to do.  Every dollar will make a difference, and Original Murdick’s Fudge will match it.  No limits. To donate, click the link highlighted below and then click on the gray box entitled “Support Original Murdick’s Fudge – Team Gracie”:  http://umhealth.me/teamgracie-omf

Employees at Original Murdick's Fudge on Mackinac Island wear Block Out Cancer t-shirts.

Employees at Original Murdick’s Fudge on Mackinac Island wear Block Out Cancer t-shirts.

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If this blog has popped up on your Facebook newsfeed page, I’m asking you to share it, and ask your friends to share it also.  This is a fantastic way to do a good deed and help give scientists the funds they need for this research.  And yes, your donation is tax-deductible.

Gracie says, “Thank you!”

For more information on the “Block Out Cancer” campaign, click here:  http://www.originalmurdicksfudge.com/block-out-cancer-awareness

Silver Birches – What Will It Be To You?

Even though I’m well into my “golden” years, I’m still a hopeless romantic.  I still read romance novels, and my playlist is filled with every love song recorded from the 50’s through the present (well, maybe not all, but most).  A wood burning fire practically makes me swoon, and two white Adirondack chairs facing a sunset will bring tears to my eyes.  Candlelight.  Fresh flowers.  Fine linens. Vintage quilts.

Hopeless.  Romantic.

When we toured Silver Birches recently with owner and friend Liz Ware, I found myself thinking about what the property would mean to those who stayed there.  Even before the renovation began, when that old lodge was practically falling down into itself, to me it was romantic.  And I know, once it has been restored, it’s going to be my idea of ultimate romanticism. Maybe part of it is the sense of being away.  Away from town, yes.  But also away to a simpler time.  Just  . . . away.

Back in March the huge task of taking the roof and second and third stories off the lodge began. The top two floors were just too structurally unsound to be used.

Back in March the huge task of taking the roof and second and third stories off the lodge began.  Engineers determined those floors were structurally unsound.

Since March work has been constant, and now the second and third floors have been reconstructed to match the original building.

Since March work has been constant, and now the second and third floors have been reconstructed to match the original building.

The first floor remains unchanged except these orginal logs have been cleaned and protected against the elements.

The first floor remains unchanged except the orginal logs have been cleaned and protected against the elements.

Inside that first floor, the building looks just as it did the first time I was inside - almost 2 years ago, except the fireplace has been removed. In its place will stand either two or three fireplaces, each facing into a different room.

Inside the first floor, the building looks just as it did the first time I was inside – almost 2 years ago – except the fireplace has been removed. In its place will stand either two or three fireplaces, each facing into a different room.

The second and third floors will have a total of four suites and four rooms - all with private baths.

The main lodge will have six suites and two lake view rooms, enabling two 2-bedroom suites.

The views will be phenomenal.

The views will be breathtaking!

Both the first and second floors will have balconies - just as the original structure did.

The first floor will have a wrap-around porch, and the second floor will have a balcony – just as the original structure did.  All the windows on the first floor will be original to the lodge.

The sweet little cabin to one side of the lodge will offer a 2-bedroom, 1 1/2 bath space for one family.

This sweet little cabin will offer a 2-bedroom, 1 1/2 bath space for one family . . .

And the cabin to the left of the lodge will accommodate four separate rental spaces.

. . . and the cabin to the left of the lodge will accommodate four separate rental spaces.

This little shack may have been a storage shed of some sort originally, but when Silver Birches opens, it will take on a completely different atmosphere. It will be moved into a wooded area next to the lodge and house a wine cellar. It will also be a space that will accompandate one couple for dining on very special occasions.

This little shack may have been a storage shed of some sort originally, but when Silver Birches opens, it will take on a completely different atmosphere. It will be moved into a wooded area next to the lodge and house a wine cellar. And it  will also be a space that will accommodate one couple for dining on very special occasions.  Liz’s son has named it Jack’s Shack, and that name will most probably remain.

While all this is going on, Liz has been using some of the back acreage to grow vegetables . . .

While all this is going on, Liz has been using some of the back acreage to grow vegetables . . .

. . . and flowers!

. . . and flowers!

This post has barely scratched the surface of what’s going on at Silver Birches.  I haven’t even mentioned the new swimming pool, the landscaping, or any of the dozens of other plans that are in the works.

Silver Birches will open in 2017.

Silver Birches is poised to become the most luxurious small resort in the Midwest. Each visitor may arrive with a preconceived notion of what the resort will bring to their spirit.  But I think they will leave having found so much more than they could have ever conceived.

What will Silver Birches be for you?

 

 

The Mackinac Marine Rescue Boat – An Added Resource in Island Safety 9/13/2015

When Mackinac Marine Rescue announced there’d be an “Open Boat” last Thursday so folks could tour the new emergency rescue boat, I knew I’d be one of the first in line!  The boat, with its shiny aluminum cabin and fire engine red bumpers, has been a real tourist draw at the marina this summer.  Everyone has been talking about it, and Ted and I have passed it dozens of times on our walks back and forth to town.

I knew the boat was going to be used for water rescues and fire-fighting, but I wasn’t aware it would also be used to transport medical emergencies from the island when the ferries weren’t running (after hours), or if for some reason an evacuation helicopter was unable to fly.  Since the boat arrived in May it has been used several times to take folks with injuries or medical issues from Mackinac to ambulances waiting on the mainland.  Patients are first stabilized at the Mackinac Island Medical Center, which has a doctor on duty year-round. Knowing this additional resource is available adds to the peace of mind of island residents, as well as the thousands of visitors who come to the island throughout the year.

The boat can operate with a crew three. If medical issues are involved in a launch, at least one EMT would also be on board.

The emergency boat can operate with a crew of two (minimum crew on a search and rescue is three), and if medical issues are involved in a launch, at least one EMT would also be on board.

One of the boat's primary functions is to fight fires - whether on another boat or on a strip of land near the water. This "fire cannon" puts out 500 gallons of water a minute and is so powerful . . .

One of the boat’s primary functions is to fight fires – whether on another boat or on land near the water. Water can be drawn from the lake and shot about 140 feet.  The boat can also be used to supply water to a fire truck on land. Mackinac Marine Rescue Team members Allen Burt (inside) and Dominic Redman answer questions, and Redman stands by the”fire cannon”, which puts out 500 gallons of water a minute and is so powerful . . .

 

. . . it is operated from inside the boat by robotics. The cannon is so powerful it could be used to physically turn the boat around in the water if it was aimed at a solid structure.

. . . it is operated from inside the boat by robotics.

The vessel's control center includes radar, thermal imaging cameras, a Global Positioning System (GPS), and an Automatic Identification System (AIS) used to track marine traffic.

The vessel’s control center includes radar, thermal imaging cameras, a Global Positioning System (GPS), and an Automatic Identification System (AIS) used to track marine traffic.

The boat is 31 feet long and is powered by two 300-horsepower engines. It cannot run in ice because the hull is made of aluminum, but it can handle up to eight feet seas tih sustained winds up to 30 mph. Crusing speed is about 30 knots; top speed is 41 knots. It takes the boat between 10-15 minutes for the trip from Mackinac Island to St. Ignace.

The boat is 31 feet long and is powered by two 300-horsepower engines. It cannot run in ice because the hull is made of aluminum, but it can handle up to eight feet seas with sustained winds up to 30 mph. Cruising speed is about 30 knots; top speed is 41 knots. It takes the boat between 10-15 minutes for the trip from Mackinac Island to St. Ignace, and the emergency vessel will be used throughout Mackinac County in medical, fire, and other emergency situations.

The boat's bow is powered by hydraulics and can be dropped up and down to land on a beach. The crew has already come ashore from the boat at Mackinac Island, St. Ignace, and Round Island. Plans to land at St. Helena Island and some of the Les Cheneaux islands are in the works.

The boat’s bow is powered by hydraulics and can be dropped up and down to land on a beach. The crew has already gone ashore from the boat at Mackinac Island, St. Ignace, and Round Island. Plans to land at St. Helena Island and some of the Les Cheneaux islands are in the works.  Mackinac Marine Rescue Team members Dominic Redman and Ken Hardy answer visitors’ questions about the emergency boat.

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The heated cabin has two benches and can accommodate seated passengers or medical patients on backboards or stokes baskets.

The boat’s price tag was close to $500,000 – most of which was covered by a Port Security grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, with the rest coming mainly from Mackinac County and the City of Mackinac Island.

Training exercises and operations are on-going, and trained members of the Mackinac Marine Rescue Team and EMT’s  serve on an on-call rotation to man the boat whenever and wherever it is needed.  The U.S. Coast Guard often trains with the vessel out on the water.

The emergency boat was a visible presence during the recent Labor Day Bridge Walk and can be used for homeland security and counterterrorism missions.

For most of us the Mackinac Marine Rescue boat will just be a really cool addition to the Mackinac Island marina.  But for some, for whatever reason, this boat could one day save your life or the life of a loved one.  I sure am glad it’s available and that Mackinac Marine Rescue has added this resource to its arsenal of weapons to insure the safely of those who live and visit here.

Note:  Information for this post provided by interview with Emergency Medical Technician Rick Linn.  Additional information taken from article written by Stephanie Fortino in The Town Crier from her interview with Mackinac Island Assistant Fire Chief Sam Barnwell.