Great Water

 

My ancestors came to Michigan as victims of a con artist who sold them “rich Michigan farmland” that turned out to be little more than pine trees and beach sand.  Despite that shaky start, I am proud to be a true Michigander, born and raised in this fabulous place, and I want to share a few lesser-known facts about our state with all of you.

First, the word Michigan means “great water.” That’s sort of a given, considering the fact that we are surrounded by lakes. Every child in this state learns around third grade how to remember the names of all five Great Lakes: HOMES. Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior.  Lake Champlain was a Great Lake for brief time in 1998, but we Michiganders were quick to stifle that. I’m sure Lake Champlain is a great lake, but it’s not a Great Lake. 

I’d also like to point out that Michigan truly is shaped like a mitten. Some folks argue that Wisconsin is the mitten-shaped state, but those folks are just wrong. Plain and simple. Unless your mittened hand has been mangled in a random wood-chipper incident, that is.

Any questions?

Those of us from Michigan never need a map to show anyone what part of the state we live in. We simply hold up a hand and point.

hand

Okay, sure, we’ve got that whole mutant-shark-dolphin thing going on up there in the U.P. but that’s a different subject.

And that brings me to another point. Here in Michigan, we don’t waste our time saying “Upper Peninsula.” We call it the U.P. Actually, those who live up there tend to call it “da U.P.” but I digress. Those hardy souls who live up there are called “Yoopers.” Not to be confused with the game they play called Euchre, which I believe was something our ancestors had to learn as a requirement for statehood.

Because the two parts of our state are joined by the Mackinac Bridge, Yoopers have been known to refer to those of us who live south of the bridge as “Trolls.” You know, as in “living under a bridge.”

By the way, tourists who visit Mackinac Island are known as “Fudgies” because Mackinac Island Fudge is a treat that should never be missed. Ever. Doesn’t matter if you buy it from Ryba’s or Murdick’s; just buy it. Buy a lot of it. And eat it quickly.

It’s that good.

And speaking of all things Mackinac, please don’t ever come to our fine state and pronounce it MackinACK. Oh, heavens no! It is pronounced MackinAW. MackinAW Island, MackinAW Bridge, MackinAW City.

(Just an aside here: What is wrong with people who pronounce our neighboring state as IlliNOIZE OR IlliNOICE? It’s IlliNOY, people. Hearing it pronounced that way grates on my nerves as much as hearing people saying they get books at the liBERRY.)

Another thing you should know before visiting our fine state is that we treat almost every minor illness with copious amounts of Vernor’s Ginger Ale.  Upset tummy? Vernor’s will fix it. Fever? Vernor’s will make it go away. Bad day at work? Vernor’s with a shot of whiskey will give you a whole new perspective. For a serious attitude adjustment, one can always try a delightful Vernor’s concoction known as a Naughty Gnome, but I wouldn’t recommend drinking more than one of these unless you are a 300-lb fullback with the constitution of a freight train.

We don’t drink soda here in Michigan. It’s called pop. And we often buy it at a “party store,” which is basically what everyone else in the world refers to as a “convenience store.”

When we drive, we have to learn to avoid deer, potholes, and the dreaded Michigan Left. Nearly everyone I know has managed to hit at least one deer in their lifetime. And the potholes are often the size of a small Volkswagon. There’s a pothole on my street right now that’s bigger than the kitchen in my apartment. As far as the Michigan Left is concerned, well, it’s sort of a convoluted go-straight-then-left-to-go-right kind of thing that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

And now that some genius city planners have tried to add those ridiculous roundabout things in the middle of roads for no apparent reason, I’m scared to death that I’m going to segue from a Michigan Left into a roundabout and end up spending eternity on some endless Moebius Strip circling the same series of potholes for all time.

That’s a big part of why I don’t drive much any more.

Michiganders also like to add a random “s” to end of words, making them possessive when it makes no sense to do so. Out of state visitors shop at Meijer and Kroger, but we go to Meijer’s and Kroger’s.

Most of all, we talk fast. Really fast. We like to cram as many words as we can into as few syllables as possible. In high school debate class, I once gave a twelve-minute speech in three minutes and twenty-two seconds. No one even blinked.

Probably because they didn’t have time.

We’re pretty tough here in Michigan. We have to be. We’ve got mosquitoes and deer flies and these horrible little biting things that no one has ever really seen. Hence their name: Noseeums. Original settlers in the area even had to worry about Malaria. We have bats and snakes and all sorts of slimy, nasty things to worry about. It’s not unusual to see a five foot long blue racer, and unfortunately even less unusual to see me wet myself when one slithers across my foot.

In this part of the state, we’ve got storms that gather strength as they roar across Lake Michigan. In the winter, they can dump snow on us by the foot, and in the summer, the thunderstorms can be pretty impressive. I grew up with a “tornado bag” packed and ready to grab on my way to the basement, just in case.

When I was married and lived in a house with a Michigan half-cellar, I refused to go into the basement when the tornado sirens went off. Those places are half-cellar, half-evil, and 100% horrific. I told my ex-husband and children that I’d rather go up with the house and hang out with Dorothy and Toto than go down there.

To give you an idea of just how powerful a Michigan storm can get, let me tell you about my niece, who lived in Seoul, South Korea, for three years. One morning, she woke up to discover that a storm had knocked out the power. She battled the raging wind and rain to get to work, only to find her stunned co-workers gaping at her in astonishment. “We can’t believe you made it to work in a typhoon!” they said.

“That was nothing,” my niece told them. “I grew up with Michigan thunderstorms.”

So if I haven’t scared you away, and if you’re feeling adventurous, please come visit my lovely state sometime. We’ve got Hell and Paradise, Iron Mountain and Motown, water as far as the eye can see. If you can’t find something to like in Michigan, it can only be because you’re not looking hard enough.

 

 

 

Oy , what a week!

coffee2

If we were having coffee, I think this might be one of those days when the coffee needs a shot of something stronger than Coffee-Mate. At this point, however, I’m not sure if that “something stronger” should be whiskey or antibiotics.

Yeah, it’s been a weird week.

My son, my ex-husband and I keep passing around what appears to be a case of the plague. We don’t even live in the same house anymore, but the three of us can’t seem to kick whatever this is. On any given day, at least one of us is either coughing up a lung or throwing up our insides.

On those few days when I’ve been somewhat healthy, I’ve had to deal with a dead car battery. Finally had to give in and buy a new battery, and I have a sneaking suspicion that the battery ended up costing me more than the car is worth at this point.

Seriously, it’s a sad statement on my life when the most expensive thing I own is a new battery for a 2001 Kia Spectra with 200,000 miles on it.

It’s an even sadder statement on my life to realize that I had started to feel a bit envious of the old battery because it was getting jumped so often.

One of my co-workers asked me why I don’t just buy a new car. After all, she reasoned, I must be raking in the big bucks with my books, right? I just stared at her with my jaw on the floor as she raved about the millions of dollars she heard that authors make. She wondered what I do with tens of thousands I make every month. I tried to explain to her that it’s really not like that, but she assumed I was being modest.

I finally told her I spent it all on a villa in Italy. “Please don’t tell anyone,” I whispered. “I don’t want the IRS to find out.”

Hey, it wasn’t a total lie. I had dinner at a nice Italian restaurant a while ago.

Okay, it was a Fazoli’s drive-thru ten years ago, but it still counts.

On one of my dead-battery days, my downstairs neighbor was kind enough to take me to the school to pick up my boy for a doctor’s appointment. That particular neighbor’s vehicle isn’t much better than mine, and the passenger door doesn’t open from the inside. He had to run around and open my door for me so I could get out at the school, which evidently caught the attention of the school secretary.

“Who was that who drove you here?” she wondered. I told her he was my neighbor, and she raised her eyebrows at me. “Is he a nice guy?”

Folks, I am possibly one of the world’s most oblivious human beings. “Sure, he’s nice,” I told her.

“He’s a real gentleman, isn’t he? Any man that opens the car door for you is a keeper!” she winked at me.

Swear to God, I still didn’t get what she was trying to say.

So, here I am on a Saturday morning, drinking room-temperature Vernor’s and wrapped up in every quilt and afghan I can find. I’ve got the barf bowl, the Netflix remote, and a box of tissue within easy reach, and I don’t plan on going anywhere except down the hall to the bathroom when absolutely necessary.

Which is apparently every four and a half minutes.

But the high point of weirdness in my life this week is the steady flow of phone calls and messages I’ve been getting all morning from friends wanting to know more about my hot new boyfriend that I am about to run away with to my secret villa in Italy.

At this point, I don’t have the energy to correct anyone. I think I’ll just tell them all to pack their bags and meet me at the airport.

As soon as I’m done in the bathroom.

 

 

 

 

Carrots, Anyone?

It started in line at the grocery store.  And since I live in a very small town with only one grocery store, it quickly escalated into one of those uncomfortably memorable moments in life.

I was waiting for the cashier to finish ringing up a six-pack of Vernors when I heard it from behind me – that unmistakable sound that any mother can identify at any distance: Gag, splatter, and a pitiful little cough.

I didn’t need to turn around to confirm that my son had just defiled the checkout lane at Wagoner’s Grocery Store.  But as usual with me, there is so much more to the story than just the tale of a seven year-old vomiting in public.

You see, I had just interviewed for a job at that store a few days earlier.  My job at the school is about to end for the summer, and I am in a full-out state of panic because I can’t find employment anywhere.  The government says I am not disabled, but I am having one hell of a time finding anyone who will hire a forty-nine year old former hairdresser with a twenty-pound lifting restriction. Every job, even basic cashiering, requires a certain amount of lifting.

So I’m not disabled, but I’m not physically able to get a job. Go figure.

The manager at the grocery store was very honest with me. She liked me and thought I’d be a valuable addition to the team, but . . . what if a customer had a 25-lb bag of dog food or some other heavy item that had to be lifted back into their cart? I told her that I understand, and I really do understand; nobody can afford to hire an employee who can’t do every aspect of the job.  I assured her that I would still continue to shop at the store and there would be no hard feelings. After all, it’s a small town.

Remember that.

When the school called to tell me that my boy was feeling sick and needed to be picked up, I really didn’t think he was all that sick. He said his tummy felt bubbly, but there was no fever. He certainly didn’t look sick, but I’ve learned over the years that a bubbly tummy should never be ignored. I’ve also learned that the best treatment for a bubbly tummy is a few sips of room-temperature Vernors.

vernors

Okay, for all of you unfortunate souls who have never experienced the joy that is Vernors, let me explain. Vernors is the best ginger ale in the known universe. Don’t argue with me that you know of something better; Vernors is simply the best. It just is. Any Michigander will agree.  And any Michigander will also tell you that Vernors has medicinal uses during flu season. Whether it’s the carbonation or the ginger or just the firm belief that it really works, Vernors always seems to do the trick.

vernors2

But my boy is only seven; he was not old enough to leave at home or in the car while I ran into the store for his Vernors. I took him in with me, grabbed a six pack for him and a Diet Coke for me, and headed for the register.

Where the new cashier was being trained for the position I had so desperately wanted. She is the mother of one of my daughter’s friends, and I was so happy to see that she got the job. She has more kids than I do, and I know for a fact that she is one hell of a hard worker with a reputation for being a fantastic employee. I can’t think of anyone in the world who deserves the job more than she does.

In fact, I was in the process of opening my mouth to congratulate her when Young Faithful blew behind me.

I grabbed the child as he let fly with a second stream of partially-digested carrots. I started apologizing profusely and asking for a mop while simultaneously trying to swipe my debit card. And like any good mother, I was also desperately fighting the urge to join the Puke Party. I mean, let’s be honest here. When it comes to parenting, I am not one to gently rub the puker’s back while murmuring words of comfort. No, I am more of a “If you’re gonna hurl, hurl that way” kind of mommy.

I have to say that the grocery store staff reacted admirably. They cleaned up the mess and told me they hoped my little boy felt better soon, and they have asked about him every time I have gone into the store since then. Everything about that store has just gained about 100 more points on my personal rating scale for a business. They are all such nice people, so professional and caring toward every customer, even the ones who decorate the floor with a slightly used lunch.

On the other hand, I am now the woman who let her sick child blow chunks all over the woman who got the job I wanted.

I have just officially forfeited all rights to ever again say anything to anyone about being a good sport.  About being gracious. About accepting defeat with honor and dignity.

And I may never eat another carrot.

This is a Finish The Sentence Friday post: “It started in line at the grocery store . . . ” hosted by Kristi from Finding Ninee, Nicki from Redboots, and Dawn M Skorczewski.  Please take a few minutes to check out what some of the other bloggers did with this sentence!