Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Blog Transformation!


Since Braeden and I spend all our time together, I have decided to start a blog that illuminates the wonders of a little boy with Down syndrome growing up here at the end of the earth.  

I will do my best to post weekly instead of way too long.  I feel this new material is important, as one of my goals now is to advocate for him and others who are different.  We will have our own little adventures and savor the little things at the end of this beautiful peninsula.

If you want to come with us, click on this blog, Downs by the Bay.  No new material will be posted on this page, as far as I can predict.

Thanks for your patronage along the way!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Tricks, Returns and Events

Boy, this spring surely didn't want me to have to miss winter like I thought I did!  Nearly every time I had to drive to the big town, I drove through snow, freezing rain or slush.  But I didn't have to shovel, and I didn't get to go skiing.  And after being acclimated to an Arkansas spring, I really couldn't put on enough long underwear to stay warm.

So I stayed inside a lot.  I was just plain cold.  Shivering with the wind.  Deploring the precipitation.  Preferring to stand in front of my wood stove and think about the sunshine.  That experience, of feeling trapped in my house because of the weather conditions, made me understand a term that I never understood before.  

Cabin fever.   

Cabin fever does not mean you yearn to go to your cabin.  It doesn't mean you are sick while being in your cabin.  It means, that with every fiber of your being, you want to get the hell out of your dwelling and soak up some rays.

So thank you, crappy Keweenaw spring.  Now I get it.

But this whole week has been sunny!  It's funny because Brady P and I get out to throw rocks into the big lake each day it's tolerable.  And I know darn well that other places are 70 degrees in this sunny weather, but we are at 50.  Especially by that big lake.  Her Majesty, Lake Superior.  I don't mind.  I have jackets to wear.  And the rocks are usually warm, so I just lay in them gratefully.

Today I submerged my foot in the lake.  Usually, by this time, I would have dunked myself in her glory, but the air has never been so warm to make me wish I was cooler.  Today, however, I accidentally threw back a rock that I wanted to keep.  It wasn't too far out, so I just took off my shoe and sock, stood carefully with my shoed foot on a protruding rock and stepped in with my naked foot.  Sure it was chilly, but my motivation kept me warm.  Braeden thought it was pretty neat, too.  Not an exciting story, but a story.  Wink.

Guess who is back in the harbor?  The bell buoy.  It came back on the 3rd or 4th of May.  I looked for it one morning, to no avail, and by the afternoon, there it was!  What the heck, bell buoy!  How do you always sneak in on me?  After my 11 springs here, I have never once witnessed its return.  But I guess there are worse things in the world.

The Isle Royale Queen, however, I greet each time she returns for the season.  The captains now come off the boat and say, "You're always here for this trip, Amanda.  You're like a tradition now!"  Yes.  Yes, I am.  Because Isle Royale has such a big place in my heart, and the Queen is what gets me there.  So yeah, I like to greet her upon her return from the Portage Canal.

The Harbor Haus has reopened.  Jamsen's Fish Market and Bakery is open Friday through Monday.  Some of the gift shops open up -- at least on the weekends.  So we're getting back into business around here.  It's kind of nice to see some more activity around town.

And the biking and hiking trails are open!!!  Alleluia.  I got to go for my first trail ride a few days ago.  Man, that felt good.  And I am stoked for more rides to come!

Not much for blooming life yet, however.  I believe that the hepatica has been the only wildflower I've seen so far, but the arbutus are soon to follow.  No leaves on the trees, but some of the buds got brave and popped.  The waterfalls are still pretty rockin', and lake levels are high.  Still no bugs -- for the most part.

There are some events coming up.  I hope you can read through the glare, as I took pictures of the posters already hanging on the general store's door.  Keeps it authentic, right?

Please note that the Zik is actually July 1st.

Well, maybe we will see you up here for one of these!  Take it easy.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017


Guess what!  1,100 miles and thirty less degrees later, Braeden and I are home!  Back to the Yoop.  The Keweenaw.  Da Harbor.  Our little house on the rock.  Ahhhh.

On the drive home, I expected to see more snow.  Now, I try not to have expectations in general, but we drove during the first week of April, so some snow was not out of the question.  I didn't see much.  The areas with the most substantial amounts of snow at that time were Twin Lakes, Calumet and Lake Medora.  I think Lake Medora still has the biggest piles.  They seem to have the longest winters.  And that lake is still frozen!

Then, while coasting down the hill from the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge, I saw her.  She was dazzling in her blue gown.  Lake Superior in all her glory for the first time in three months.  I got all choked up, of course.  I mean, don't you?

Once I got to the blinking light, I shot down to the nearest beach, put the van into park, and jumped out to the shore.  I swished my hands in the icy water and smacked it onto my face.  Oh, it felt so good.  Right down to my soul.  There really is no substitute for Her Majesty, Lake Superior.  I was giddy, grateful and relieved all at once.

I got back the day before my birthday, and I only had one birthday wish (besides being back home).  That was to go for a bike ride.  Luckily, Annele was still with us, so she could watch my little man.

I had conquered some hills there in the Ozarks, and I wanted to see how it translated to the Keweenaw.  Well, the actual bike trails were too snowy and wet to ride, so I opted for the snowmobile trails.  Not any better, but at least I wouldn't get in trouble if I rode those!

Arkansas must have built up some strength in me because that hill up Manganese Road was like cake.  I wasn't even breathing hard!  I just gunned it through the hard-packed snow areas, and enjoyed the ease of the pavement.  I'd say proportions were half and half.  Probably less snow by now.  I hope to take Brady P up for a ride there today, so we will see.

Then up Trail 134 was a bit more difficult because of the mud, but I went as far as I could before I would have to push my bike.  That is not fun, so I just found somewhere else to go.

It was slow and wet, yet it was amazing.

That's how I know that I have a new love for mountain biking.  In fact, I am taking an instructor certification program through the International Mountain Bicycling Association this June, so I can teach other people how to mountain bike effectively and lead group rides.  Woohoo!  I am stoked.

Other than that, my return was anti-climactic, yet peaceful.  I'm sure you always feel a sense of peace when you get here, but it was different this time.  It was like my whole life is peaceful -- not just the fact that I'm here.  But that fact totally helps because I don't have to drive through traffic-laden towns.  Or go past tall buildings.  And it is still quiet.  Spring is  so lovely here.

I am still working on my memoir.  I have finished the first draft, actually!  There's still a lot to add and edit, but it is coming along!  It can only go as fast as a couple nap times a week. 

Well, I am looking forward to the best summer ever, but I'll let spring roll along first.  I hope you are well.  Maybe I'll see you up this way!  Take care.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Rural Arkansas Tour

It seems like they are having quite the winter up in da Keweenaw.  Man, it's really weird to say "they" when talking about the Keweenaw.  And the U.P.  It is my home, but here I am soaking up the sunshine in Arkansas.

This is the first winter I have cheated (it sure feels like cheating) in my whole life.  And the people down here say that this hasn't really even been winter either!  It's only mid-February, but buds are forming on the trees, the grass is greening up, and new shoots are coming out of the ground.  I am getting a suntan too.  I can't lie, though.  I like it.

Here's a little tour of some of my favorite natural beauties in my current place of residence near Kingston.  Remember, I am not a photographer.  The lighting is bad and things aren't focused well, but I am using an old iphone.  Like an iphone 4S that isn't even connected to a tower.  Haha.  I am still a yooper at heart!

Anyway, here we go!

Some landscape shots.

A pan of the Ozarks and a beef cattle field

A fifteen foot high rock pyramid
(Photo does no justice)

The Kings River at a low crossing

Some cool boulders -- perfect for a picnic or sunset

My favorite tree

Brady P. overlooking the valley

That little boy.  He is eating a granola bar, so pardon the messy face.  Aaron took that picture, that's why it looks so good.  Plus, well, Braeden makes everything look better.

How about some fauna?

Aaron and Brady P. calling the cows

Horses at sunset

Not pictured are the turkey vultures that consistently circle the skies.  Or the lovely birds of prey that sit in the trees after a rain.  Or the deer that scamper out of site when our family crests the hills in the side-by-side.

That's kind of the jist, really.  This area is rural, hilly and quiet.  I would come back here next winter for sure...  Don't judge!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Howdy from Arkansas!

How y'all doin?

Haha.  I learned that in Arkansas.

But really, how are you?  I sure hope all is well.

All is well here.  I can't say I have felt deprived of one single snowflake while I bask in the sunshine wearing a t-shirt.  It's pretty chilly now, but one lady said that this sure is unusual weather for now, so we should enjoy it.  Enjoy it we do.

The only picture I took so far that doesn't have Braeden's extraordinary cuteness in it is this one.  It's the view from the back porch of the old B & B that we are staying at.  I thoroughly enjoy staring out the window.  We're in the Ozarks!

View from the back porch

Yes, in the Ozarks just south of Kingston.  Kingston is a tiny town, perhaps the size of Copper Harbor.  I haven't spent much time there yet, but they do have a quaint little downtown square that looks interesting.  Once a week, Annele and I make the 50-mile journey to Fayetteville to do all our grocery shopping for the boys.  She is the cook, so she needs to stock up because these ten trail-workers eat as much as 30 normal people.  Ha!

In that way, it's kind of like being back in the Keweenaw.  Travel an hour from our quiet little nature scene to the big town.  But Fayetteville has a sign that says 73,000-some people live there.  That's enough to get us out of there before rush hour traffic.  We made that mistake once, and podunk Amanda doesn't enjoy the stress of that!

Aaron and his crew seem to be enjoying their time building down here.  They surely enjoy the mild temperatures.  The land they are working on is quite majestic.  The Kings River runs through the valley.  Rocky bluffs extend high above the valleys.  The rock formations jut out in unique designs.  There is a really fat, old tree that I want to get a picture of for you.  Horses and beef cattle roam their spacious pens.  I hope to do a post on the project area.  It would be a nice office for a trail builder or a writer!

Brady P. likes it here.  He enjoys taking walks without being bundled to the gills with snowflakes pelting his face.  He loves to see dad and the guys when they come home.  He loves to eat Cheerios and throw them on the floor.  He loves to do puzzles.  He is a little too good at them -- I have to get him puzzles for a three year old because he does the other ones too fast!  What a guy.

So it's a good thing we like it because we plan to be here through March.  I miss all my harbor friends and watching the lakes freeze, but this is where I am now, so I'll make the most of it!  Spring will probably arrive here before we leave, so that will be a welcome sensation.

Well, just wanted to check in.  Y'all take care now, ya hear!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Love Note

Hello.  How about a love note?

It has been two months since your eyes feasted upon my words.  Two months since I have tickled the keys for your pleasure.  Has your heart grown fonder?  Or has it turned away, feeling neglected and hurt?

My love for you has not dwindled.  It is always there, whether I reach out or not.  May this unconditional love set you free from expectations.  Free from feeling fault.  It's not you.  It's me.

Well, that was kind of corny, but I like to spice it up, you know?

As I look out my window or walk through the woods, I see the green and brown of the ground.  Yes, green and brown.  Maybe some red and gray, but you get the drift.  No snow yet.

I hear there's a storm a-coming, so perhaps things will look a little brighter soon.  Until then, I'll just enjoy the days where I can push a stroller on the damp pavement with ease.

Maybe we will have snow for Winter Wonderfest this weekend.  That event is Saturday, December 10th in the Grant Township (Copper Harbor) park and community building.  It starts at 10 am with crafts and a bake sale.  Santa comes with presents at 4 pm and the park lights up at 6 pm.  Who knows what will follow after that? 

Snow or not, it is always a fun time.  Maybe I will see you there.

Then guess where I am going after Christmas.  Arkansas.  Yup, going to try it for a month with Aaron and the Rock Solid crew.  They are building trail in the middle of the Ozarks.  It sounds like a beautiful spot.  We'll see how long Brady P. and I last; it will be an adventure.  I'll take pictures for you!

My memoir is coming along very well, thanks for asking.  And yes, that's still why you've been neglected.  Brady P. only takes one nap a day, and I want to get that baby ready to be published.  I'll let you know when it's ready.  Probably a few months yet.  But, boy, I am addicted to it right now.

That's kind of it.  The bell buoy is gone.  The garden is pulled.  The house and yard are ready for winter.  Brady P. and I are just enjoying each day together.  Good thing he likes me!

So, I'll probably catch you down south next time.  Remember you are in my thoughts.  Be well.



Saturday, October 8, 2016

A "Fall" Adventure

Well, the Switch-keeper just flipped it to fall.  It turned to fall two nights ago.  Three days ago Brady P. and I were out in t-shirts.  Now we have to wear winter coats and hats!  Happy fall!

So you might be thinking, "Well, that's great, Amanda.  Why didn't you tell me sooner?  I mean, where was your nice Color Report that you did the last few years?"

I've been busy, sorry.  And actually, that's why I took the time to write today.  To a) tell you that the leaves are AWESOME if they didn't all blow off already.  And tell you that the fungus is amazing too.  Dozens of species up here for you shroom lovers.

And b) I wanted to tell you what I have been writing in my spare time.  Usually I don't like to leak things too far in advance just in case something tragic happens, and I don't finish.  But I am really excited about it.

I am writing a memoir.

Oh, geez.  Now you are probably thinking, "A memoir?  But you are like 12 years old!"

Yes, I say to you.  A memoir.  You don't have to be old to write one.  You just need a mighty experience that you want to share with the world because you believe it's worthwhile.  And it helps if you actually like writing... and you don't mind sharing your personal details with whomever reads it... or risking people getting mad at you because you wrote something that offended them.

Yeah.  I can do all that.

Besides, I am about 80% finished with the first draft.  "What?!?"  You sound surprised.  Well, why do you think you didn't get a color report?  I got stuff to type before I forget it all, man!  And don't get too excited yet.  The first draft is like the framework of a building.

I am really stoked about this story.  Can I tell you what it's about?  I know, I made you read this far, so I may as well.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, my little boy and I had a rough first year of his life.  I mean, medical stuff that I never, ever fathomed happening to anyone's child, happened to my little boy.  He survived open-heart surgery, urethra surgery and several emergency room visits.  That's the jist of the hard part.

He was also, unbeknownst to us until after his birth, born with Down syndrome.  Now, if I would have visited a gypsy with a crystal ball ten years ago, and she told me, "Amanda, you will be kissing and hugging and loving the snot out of a person with Down syndrome in a few years," I would have said patooey.

I know, right?  I was a jerk.  

So it is more than perfect that he came into my life.  I have never been sad about it, by the way.  It is part of this journey of life.  My community, my family and I are all better because of that precious little boy.

I know.  Tears.  Well, through my wit, rawness and charm, that's what my next book is about.  How hardship and stress and the unexpected can turn out to enrich our lives beyond what we ever thought possible.  Going with the flow, and being grateful for each new lesson.  I mean, why else are we here?

It doesn't have a title yet, but you can be sure that I have a whole list of them written down, and sometimes possible titles come into my head and keep me up at night until I write them down.  I also don't know when it will be ready.  How can I predict that?  Just give me time, and hope nothing tragic happens... even though it's part of the journey.  Wink.

Anyway, you've been so patient while I spew about my personal life.  Here are some pictures from the U.P.  Luckily, I went to the Michigan Outdoor Writers Association (MOWA) conference in September, so I took my camera on some cool adventures... mostly waterfalls!

The conference was based in Bergland, Michigan surrounding Lake Gogebic.  I was excited to explore this territory just over one hundred miles from my own house.  The following pictures were taken in the Black River Parkway Falls area just north of Bessemer.  So worth a trip.  I mean, there were 5 cool falls within less than eight miles of each other.  My friend and I didn't realize that the North Country Trail connected them all, so we drove to each one separately.

The first was Great Conglomerate Falls.  We saw so many mushrooms along the way, we were like little kids!

Great Conglomerate Falls

Way cool red mushrooms

Then we drove to the next spot where we could walk to two falls: Gorge and Potawatomi.  These were awesome as well, with their own set of mushrooms.

Gorge Falls

Potawatomi Falls

A little yellow guy between the rails of the overlook

Haha.  I really need to get a mushroom book.  "Little yellow guy?"  That wouldn't pass in my wildflower world.

Past these were Sandstone Falls and Rainbow Falls.  Both awesome as well.  Rainbow was too big to capture on my camera to do it justice, so you will have to take my word for it.  We lucked out, though because it rained in the evenings, so the falls were much more voluminous than they would be during a dry spell.  Falls in the fall?  I highly recommend it.

Sign before Rainbow Falls
I love the warning on it

The next day two friends and I visited O kun-de-kun Falls.  It was totally worth the mile hike, but let me tell you that you might want to wait until someone redoes that trail because it was a muddy slip-and-slide.  If you are agile and don't mind the mud, go for it.  That one is just off of Highway 45 between Bruce Crossing and Watersmeet.

And there are so many other falls in that area that I just didn't have time to get to them all.  If you ever need a waterfall fix, check it out.  Any area visitor center should have a map of all these falls and more.

Can I brag about one thing?  I entered an article into the MOWA craft awards, and it won first place in the "Best Feature" category.  It was about the "Becoming an Outdoors Woman" event held each winter in Big Bay, Michigan.  If you are a woman, I recommend attending it.  If you want to read it, the link is here.

Wow.  You made it all the way to the bottom of this post.  Thanks for your eyeball endurance.  Not many people will read this many paragraphs in a row these days.  Kudos to you.

Now I better see what else I can get done while my little boy naps.