Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Hampy Holidays!

Written by on December 24, 2012 No Comments

For all pet lovers out there, hampy holidays!

Pumpkin the hamster and our Happy Holidays train.

Enjoy yourself and eat lots and lots.

Pumpkin after stuffing her cheeks with pumpkin seeds.

 And don’t worry about the little things, like how good you might or might not look.

Scrinch letting it all hang out.

Enjoy your family.

Peanut and Flip.

And your friends.

Peanut and Scrinch.

And look forward to 2013 with the enthusiasm of a hampster.



Profound Thoughts on Turning 50

Written by on December 07, 2012 2 Comments

After 50 years on this planet, I had hoped to have some really profound things to share with friends, family and people younger than me. You can see for yourself how this panned out:

*If dogs are man’s best friend, Dusty is Mark’s best friend and not me.  Hm.

Mark's best friend.

*If people greeted each other like dogs greet people, we’d generally be a happier lot.

*Hamsters are not good spokesmen for exercise:  they can run 8 miles a night on their wheels  but only live for 6-24 month, while I might go 2 miles on my elliptical machine every other day and have lived 50 years.

Two hamsters trying to use the same wheel in spite of having their own.

*If I did “the weasel war dance” every time I got excited about something, I would be committed to a mental institution.

Smiggles in the midst of a "weasel war dance."

*If I had the temperament of my cat, Purrkins, people would say I’m rude.

Purrkins snubbing me.

*Men should not be allowed to wake up in the wee hours of the morning and start playing with their blankets to create static electricity under their covers while going, “How cool is that?”

*Maturity is over-rated.

Hm, not sure what to say about this one.

*Having 4 adult stepkids at one’s birthday party makes for a very good time. 

My four awesome stepkids.

*You can never take too many photos.

Holly with my Dad and me the last time we went shooting together.

*It is possible for a sibling to send a list of “50 Things I Love About You” a year in advance.  (Thanks, Aby!)

The present I got from my sister last year.

*The previous bullet also shows that family can always be counted on even if some family members cannot count.

*Siblings can make up the rules as they go along.  (Below is the “wrap-it-yourself” birthday card and paper my brother sent shortly after I received an unwrapped present in the mail).

The wrap-it-yourself instructions from my brother.

Clearly, this isn’t profound.  And clearly, I’m one of the luckiest people on the planet.

Happiness is a Wedding

Written by on September 03, 2012 5 Comments

For those of you keeping track of the wins and losses lately, my losses (which included one pet hamster, one pet bird, one father and my female dog) greatly outnumbered the wins lately.  This weekend, though, was a win.  And a big one.

See, once upon a time I married a guy with four kids and the oldest turned 31 on Saturday AND got married.   This is the bride with her three siblings, all of whom happen to be my stepkids.

My four stepkids.

This particular wedding was outside on a Lake Michigan beach.  Getting there was just part of the fun.  Sweating while wearing a dress–one Mark said reminded him of a pillbug–was also part of the fun.

About to wander down the nifty stairs to the beach.

The setting for the wedding looked something like this.

Wedding on Lake Michigan complete with flags that reminded me of Survivor.

The guys in the wedding were these guys. 

Minister, groom, groomsmen and guy in charge of music.

The ladies chosen for the event were these. 

The colorful bridesmaids.

The decorations over the wooden thingy were blessings written during one of the bridal showers.

Colorful good wishes, similar to the prayer flags Willi saw in Nepal many years ago.

The father of the bride (whose side role is that of my husband), looked something like this. 

Mark demonstrating that not only were shoes optional, so was common sense.

I got to pose with a guy that looked a lot like a celebrity but was really my handsome stepson. 

With Arthur.

Now, I know by now you’ve all noticed that I have a dress on.  I also had a necklace on.  AND I had a pair of schnazzy sandals with like polished rock-type things on them.  Those three things–dress, necklace and schnazzy sandals, hadn’t come together since, well, nobody could remember when.   But nobody could remember when they saw a nifty scene like this one, either. 

The kids in Lake Michigan.

Like most weddings, the bride and groom said their vows, got blessed, there was this reading by a friend and a poem read by my stepson (which he wrote).  And after all the mush and tears, the event was over.  Ten minutes later, it rained for exactly five minutes.  Then there were more pictures.  Back at the Ronora Lodge (near Water Vliet which is near nothing), we took even more pictures.

Mark's son, nephew, brother and well, Mark.

I hadn’t seen my brother and sister since our Dad’s funeral in August, so it was nice to be with them for a  happy occasion.  Mom said she wanted a photo with the three of us, so here `tis.

Lloyd, Mom, Aby with, well, me.

My stepmom, Norma, also came to spend time with us. 

Norma kicking back before the reception.

At the reception, Mark gave a nifty little speech that made some people laugh, others cry, and everyone hungry. 

Mark being happy and mushy at the same time.

Mark offered a blessing focused on taking care of critters.  

A glimpse of Mark's audience at the reception.

Then we got to eat.  It was all vegetarian and very, very yummy.   Here’s one lucky participant who got to eat and eat and eat.  (Not really).

My sister with a 10-pound plate of food (not really).

And finally, after the bride got her dance out of the way and a few other traditional dances happened, the rest of us got to join in for some fun.
Lloyd’s wife, Susan, with me, Aby and well, Lloyd.
All in all, it was a perfect wedding.  The weather was great, the people friendly, mushy, and fun, and the food yummy.  Thanks Willi and Brian for such a great time.  Best wishes for a happy, full life together.

Farewell to the Special Fuzzy Friend That Picked Me

Written by on August 29, 2012 5 Comments

Back 13 years ago, my criteria for picking out a pal for our male dog, Dusty, was pretty simple–I wanted a female, bijon friese-lhasa apso mix, and she had to lick me to indicate she licked me.  This is the puppy that picked me. 

Little Dipper on the way home from the pet store 13 years ago.


 Little Dipper and our first puppy, Dusty, got along from the get-go.


Dusty and Little Dipper, 1999.


And Little Dipper was also my pal.  She figured out right away that if she wiggled just so, I’d take her for a walk.  It worked every day, including Tuesday, the day she died. 

Little Dipper flying across the snow.

Outside, Dipper liked immersing herself in the snow.

Little Dipper in the snow.

She also loved to swim.

Little Dipper in Lake Michigan.

And she liked to play on the beach.

Little Dipper at the beach.

If she got cold after swimming, I was always there to get her warmed up and just be with her.

Me and Little Dipper on Lake Michigan during a "pups vacation."

Little Dipper was also my traveling pal.  Every time I picked up my car keys, she was at my heels, ready to go.  One of our regular jaunts together was to McDonalds on weekend mornings when I ordered one sausage biscuit and one sausage patty for the dogs.  Little Dipper became a bit of a celebrity at the drive-thru.

Little Dipper getting her bits of McDonald's sausage, 2008.

At home, she liked belly rubs, which she trained Mark to do by simply flipping upside down on the couch.  And she liked to snuggle amongst the pillows and blankets.

Little Dipper's eyes peeking out from beneath the blankets.

She also loved to soak in the sun.

Little Dipper in the sun.

She also had a way of letting me know when she didn’t like something.

Little Dipper didn't really like this outfit.

Some say that Little Dipper was spoiled.

Little Dipper finding another comfy place.

But the fact is, Little Dipper simply wiggled her way into the heart of everyone who saw her.   

My pal.

Last night, a stroke led to her quick departure.  The hole she left in my heart is huge.  I will miss my walking pal, my traveling pal, my McDonald’s pal, and the little puppy that first licked my face to tell me she was the one for me.  May she run across the heavens and may belly rubs be waiting for her afterwards.

Eulogy for my 76-year-young father

Written by on August 16, 2012 2 Comments

Alden Lloyd Peterson, herein known as “Pete,” was born on July 22, 1936, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was the son of Alden William Peterson and Janet Todd Chalmers and was the second of three sons. His brother, Thomas, beat him to this world by 2 years, and his brother, Roy, followed 5 years after Pete.

Pete had a pretty enviable childhood and was raised in a time in the south when hired help was a privilege of the privileged. He was given his first gun—a Marlin .22—as a boy and he and his brother, Thomas, used to spend their days shooting cans and having match fights, which—for those who’ve not had match fights–is where you take one of those long kitchen matches, light it and throw it at the other guy. After one particular match fight, Pete slid down a concrete wall and the leftover matches in his front pocket caught on fire. Thomas pointed out the river below and Pete jumped in to put the fire out. On their way home, their mother happened by in their car and when she picked them up she said something about smelling burnt matches. Pete and Thomas both just shook their heads and shrugged.

Pete was moved around a bit when he was a kid, with homes in Alabama, Ohio and Illinois as his father changed jobs. He took to sales early on, selling eggs produced by the family chickens. The first gun he purchased for himself was after graduating from third grade. Pete commented that back then, nobody noticed a young boy walking home with a Winchester .22 rifle. He was also given a gun by Dr. Lloyd Nolan, a respected physician in Alabama, which is where Pete’s middle name came from.

Pete graduated from a high school in Illinois that had an indoor shooting and archery range. Shortly after he graduated, he enlisted in the Navy to take advantage of the GI bill. He loved his time in the Navy, in part because he felt he belonged and because he could travel the world. He became a second class petty officer as a radar man/seaman.

Dad with a shirt Mark bought him.

After three years in the Navy, Pete became a Michigan State University Spartan, and anyone who knows Pete knows what a Spartan fan he was.

Spartan flag waving; Navy emblem on the door.

After he graduated from MSU, he got a job with International Harvester and married his first wife, Suzi. They had three children to whom he passed on important terms—like oogie dust being the stuff at the bottom of a cereal box, and that one is supposed to call “ooga booga” before throwing a spear at one’s opponent. He also shared the concept of a “good buddy fee,” which Aby recently used when offering to share her room—at Pete’s house—for the typical good buddy fee of 25 cents. Pete spent many an hour with the kids making up stories. Aby remembers Pete’s stories of the Sod Monster, Parachute Bugs and how corn flakes were made. His military background also came in handy over the years, too. Amy remembers many an evening trying to study for school when the door would open, Pete would smack his mouth, launch a tennis ball into the room, shut the door and go “BANG!” imitating a hand grenade.

 The family also went on numerous camping trips. Lloyd recalls the whitewater rafting trip to Pennsylvania where Dad’s Navy background was sure to have come in handy as the captain of the raft. The guides stood on rocks below the rapids and signaled paddlers to paddle left or right or, when things were about to go awry, to hang on. Unfortunately, Pete confused left with right, Aby with Amy and the family bounced off more than a few rocks. After a few rapids, the guides saw the Peterson raft coming and just gave the signal to just hang on.

Pete had an affinity for the color green early on, as documented in one of his baby books. Most of his cars were green, including his first, which was a three-tone 1957 Buick convertible. Most of his other cars were green, including an awful lime green IH Scout with green shag carpeting inside, including on the ceiling.  

Green granite.

 Pete married Norma in 1992 and added one stepdaughter, Tracey.  Over the years, Pete’s family grew to include 11 grandchildren which he loved dearly.  Norma and Pete recently celebrated their 20th anniversary. They went on 4 cruises together and enjoyed other travels as well. Norma has been a constant burst of sunshine and energy and was absolutely amazing in caring for Pete.

Dad and his wife, Norma.

After being forced into retirement from International Harvester, Pete worked at Al and Bob’s Sports and Silver Bullet Arms, jobs that he loved because he got to interact with guns and people that love guns.  He got back into skeet shooting, met some great friends whom he competed with and against. And he got into hunting, which Pete defined as “spending quality time in the woods with my gun.” Pete was such a gentle guy that he couldn’t shoot anything. And apparently animals know this, because two stray cats befriended Pete and they say it wasn’t at all hard to do.

One of the most inspiring things about Pete was his upbeat, positive attitude during his illnesses.  As some of you know, Pete’s lung collapsed in 2008—in fact 5 times before it was permanently fixed—and it wasn’t until a year later—in 2009–that the family learned that the reason for his collapsed lung was because he had mesothelioma. Because many people die within 6-12 moths of being diagnosed with meso, we all thought we had little time left with Pete. After getting over the initial shock, Pete sought treatment. Over the course of the next three and a half years, Pete went through radiation treatment and chemotherapy. He was in and out of the hospital enough to warrant a wing to be named after him. And yet what Amy, Aby and Lloyd found to be absolutely inspiring was that Pete was the one that never seemed down, always maintained a good sense of humor, always found a way to be playful even in the hospital. While receiving chemo once, he noted that he was the “oldest fella getting chemo” and that put things in perspective for him.

Between the Navy, the 5 luxury cruises he went on, and the 1.7 million miles he drove, he touched every continent and saw a lot of the world. He also had a great driving record considering the driving he did—in those 1.7 million miles he hit one deer, one turkey, one porcupine and got rear-ended twice . . . at the same intersection.

But it also behind the wheel that some people saw a different side of Pete. The supporting friend or family member next to you that had the misfortune of driving in the Grand Rapids area was likely called a “bonehead” or a “weenie” for failing to use their turn signal, or for stopping too soon, or for pulling in front of Pete and slowing down. Indeed, Pete had little patience for the bad driver.

I searched for boneheads on the way to the cemetery.

Pete’s mischievousness is something we all admired about him. While he won his first shooting competition at the age of 11, it was 50 years later that he won his next tournament and he was all about finding the competitive edge. During one of his last tournaments, he pointed out to one of the top competitors that the weather the next day was forecasted to be rainy and cold. The competitor asked why Pete was pointing this out, and Pete said, “Well, if you wimp out, I increase my odds of winning the competition tomorrow.” The year 2008 was his best year, and Pete was proud of all the medals and trophies he won while shooting over the years.

 Pete was so competitive he took on anyone at any time. When Willi, one of Pete’s grandkids, first played Pete in croquet, she was shocked when Pete took her ball and smacked it 20 yards out of play. She said “Grandpas shouldn’t do that!” and he replied with an evil snicker. Pete would bet anyone a quarter on just about anything, from whether the straw wrapper he was blowing across the table would hit his opponent in the eye, to who The Bachelor would give the final rose to during the final rose ceremony.

Dad after beating the grandkids at croquet.

When it comes to role models, Pete was a good one. He worked until he could no longer. He maintained a good sense of humor even when the chips were down. He was patriotic and proud of being a Navy veteran. And he considered himself blessed to have enjoyed the life he had.

Navy emblem on the casket.

The family would like to thank the men that worked at Al and Bob’s Sport and Silver Bullet Arms, for your friendship, for supporting him during his illness, and for keeping his job open at Silver Bullet Arms. These fine gentlemen visited him, donated blood and made green bracelets to show support.

Green bracelets left by the fine gentleman at Silver Bullet Arms.

The family would also like to thank all the friends and family members that helped out over the years, especially the years since Pete’s lung first collapsed in 2008. Everything you did made his time here better and, in the final months, made Norma’s life better as well.

Family in attendance at the funeral.

Time is all we’re given. We would do well to live our lives and spend our time like Pete did. Pete made the best of the time he had; and he made the times with all the people in this room the best he could.

Pete would have liked this to have ended on a high note, so as you drive home tonight, don’t be a bonehead. 

Lead by his nephews police officer Lt. Ryan Peterson and Army Major Scott Peterson, and surrounded by the color guard and family and friends.


Military comrade leading the grave-side service.


Military salute.


American flag presented to Dad's wife, Norma.

We will miss you, Dad.

Dad's offspring saluting (and poorly) in his sailor hats.



How to Keep Dogs Cool in the Heat

Written by on July 22, 2012 No Comments

I’ve seen a few boneheads recently–people walking their dogs in the heat of the day; people walking their dogs on black pavement; people leaving their dogs in the car while they run into the store.  So for the boneheads out there, here are some tips for keeping your dogs healthy and happy during the heat waves.

1.  Leave your dog at home when you go to the store.  If you want to find out why, sit in your own car for 10 minutes with the window cracked a couple inches when it’s 93 degrees outside.  You’ll soon discover that it’s way too hot to keep dogs in a car even with the window cracked for even a few minutes.

Leaving Dusty while I run to the store.

2.  If you don’t have air conditioning, keep some fans going.  Also, if you can afford to, get one of those kiddy pools.  You don’t have to bring it inside like we did a few years back; your dog will like it outside, too.

Dusty in a small pool inside the house. Circa 2001.

3.  Get your fuzzy dogs de-fuzzied.

Dusty a day after getting trimmed. He really was happier than he looks here.

4.  Walk you dog first thing in the morning or last thing at night when it’s coolest.  Not only is the air cooler, the pavement is also.  If you’ve never felt the heat on pavement, put your hand on some parking lot black top next time it’s over 80 degrees in the middle of the day to feel what’s it’s like on your pal’s fuzzy feet.

5. In Michigan lately, some evenings are still over 85 degrees an hour before sun down.  Consider dumping some water on your dog’s back to cool her off for the short jaunt.

Dumping a wee bit of water on Little Dipper before our evening walk.

6.  Keep the walks shorter than usual.  Even a cooled dog doesn’t stay cool for long.

7.  Keep plenty of fresh water in your dog’s bowl.  My two little dogs are going through two bowls of water a day lately. 

8.  If you can, take your dog to a clean body of water to cool off.  Dusty and Dipper used to love a wee dip in Lake Michigan.

Little Dipper and Dusty in Lake Michigan.

 9.  Even if your dogs are used to sleeping in your bed, it’s best to keep them cool at night in the summer.  In our case, Dusty’s ability to make the whole bed move when he was panting sent him off the bed and onto the bathroom floor.  We all slept better as a result.
10.  Finally, if you do let your dog hang out outside, don’t leave them out for very long.  Dipper would stay out for hours if we let her, but she’s 13 and a half now and it’s better for her to be inside.  Also, keep your eyes out for ticks–I brought one into the house recently from my backyard.  It’s possible your dogs may pick one up, too.

Little Dipper hanging in the sun for a bit.

10 Things I’m Grateful for

Written by on July 08, 2012 No Comments

Okay, it’s not Thanksgiving–wherein I’m always grateful for family and food–and it’s not Memorial Day or Veteran’s Day–wherein I’m grateful for the members of the US military past and present–and it’s not July 4–wherein I’m grateful for our Forefathers, independence, the right to vote and bear arms and all of our other liberties.  But a couple of things happened lately that made me realize that I’d taken a few other things for granted lately, too.

1.  Parents.  With my Dad in and out of the hospital lately, I have become even more grateful for having parents.  Two of them, in fact.  My mom is 76.  My Dad will turn 76 in two weeks.  Poor buggers have been parenting me for almost 50 years and it’s still a work in progress.  Just today, Mom witnessed me say hello to two passing dogs instead of the two people walking the dogs.  She apologized to the dog owners and said I’d been raised better than that.

2.  A job.  My program recently advertised an entry level position to manage grants and in response, we had 216 applicants.  I don’t know how many people applied for the job I got with the state in 1986 but I know the job market wasn’t nearly as tough as it is now.  I can also share, though, that about 150 of the people that applied for this entry level job recently didn’t follow directions and were handily eliminated from consideration.

3.  Annual leave and sick leave.  I got to use my sick leave to see my Dad in the hospital.  I get to use my annual leave to go fishing the next three days.

4.  Air conditioning in my car.  It wasn’t until my fairly new, young secretary said that she was thrilled to borrow her father’s car on Friday that I realized I hadn’t appreciated having air conditioning in my car lately.   My first car didn’t have air conditioning, or my second, I recall, so I well remember being in her shoes.  Well, not literally.  She has bigger feet than me.

5.  Air conditioning in my home.  Imagine having 11 hamsters, two dogs, a cat and a ferret without air conditioning.  I couldn’t either.

6.  Nice thunderstorms.  Lucky for us, the recent storms trimmed our trees a bit but didn’t down  power lines.  So thankfully, the electricity kept on going.  Which kept the air conditioning going.  Which made all the pets happy.

7.  Cooler weather.  Every furry creature that’s come to our deck to get sunflower seeds the last couple of weeks has been sprawling itself out on the deck to try to cool off.

Fox squirrel eating and chilling at the same time.

Even a duck came to our deck to cool off in the water.   We’re all happy with cooler weather.

The deck duck coming in for some water and sunflower seeds.

8.  Vinyl siding.  I’m grateful for the siding I have, but note in the photo below the tiny bits of blue foam.  Apparently, there’s a place on the underside of my house that the red “‘spaz” squirrels discovered is in need of being covered in vinyl or aluminum.

Blue insulation bits a squirrel made from the underside of my house.

9.  Having a good sense of humor and being able to stretch the truth a wee bit.  The former is needed just about every day; the latter will come in handy if the next three days of fishing are bad.

10.  Toads.  I had to have 10 things to be grateful for and I saw this little fella last night.  I fed him a bug before we parted ways.

Toad on my downspout.

Giveaways for the Last Days of My Book Tour

Written by on April 27, 2012 7 Comments

Saturday April 28th is the last day of my virtual book tour and to celebrate, I am offering some giveaways.

Starting Thursday, April 26 at this site: all you have to do is read the article and leave a comment to be entered to win a paperback copy of my book . . .

. . . AND a necklace.

Necklaces being given away.

On the last day of my book tour, Saturday, April 28, you’ll have a chance to win one of five (5) copies of the paperback version of my book at Joy V. Smith’s site  After reading the interview that Joy is posting, come back to my site and comment that you’re following my blog, liked me on Facebook at and can’t wait to read either my book about being a stepmom OR my next book (about animals), and you’ll be entered to win!  This giveaway will run through May 15.  Good luck!


Day 18 of My Book Tour Brings Another Great Review

Written by on April 25, 2012 No Comments

Check out the latest review of my book at This one featured a great promo of my book and included all 70 of the tips.  Thank you, Ellemillia!

The Last Stepkid Graduates; Mark’s Honey-Don’t List

Written by on April 22, 2012 No Comments

Yesterday, after nearly sweating to death in the Alma College gymnasium while crushed between my mother and a few thousand other people, I snuck down to an empty chair to capture Kid #4 getting ready to accept her college diploma.

The last of my stepkids to graduate from college.

Yesterday was also Mark’s last official act as professor at Alma College. 

Mark with all four of the kids.

Afterwards, Mark paused for a moment to say good-bye to his professor pal, Mel, who was instrumental in getting us to New Zealand three times.

Mark with Mel Nyman.

And so, as of today, Mark is officially retired and has become one of the masses of people with too much time on their hands.  Worried about what he might do with himself, I came up with a Honey-Don’t List.  So, please, Honey:

 1.  Don’t go to a pet store unsupervised.  We have 12 hamsters, two dogs, a cat and a ferret. We don’t need any more critters.  

Little Buddha, one of our 12 hamsters.

 2.  Don’t buy a Zorb ball so that you can roll around inside a ball like your hamsters.  We went zorbing once in New Zealand and that was hamster-like enough.

Amy and Mark zorbing like hamsters. New Zealand, 2008.


Scrinch in her hamster ball.

3.  Don’t take up jogging.  Your “new” knee is not up for that.  Walking, biking, and swimming are much better.

 4.  Don’t lift items more than 20 pounds.  You’re a retired guy now and we’ve been lucky not to have “blown out” anything thus far.  So leave the lifting of the 40 pound kitty litter bags, and 50 pound sunflower and 50 pounds corn bags to me . . . until I blow something.

 5.  Don’t think you have to use every Kohl’s coupon that comes in the mail.  Thirty percent off zero is better than thirty percent off more clothes that sometimes look an awful like ones you already have.

 6.  Don’t spend more than an hour on E-Bay shopping because, well, you know.  Now, if you want to sell things, spend all the time you want.

 7.  Don’t spend more than an hour online looking at fishing tackle.  You’re already worth $17K in fishing tackle and I value you just the way you are. 

Just one of many. Okay, lots. Okay, hundreds.

8. Don’t watch Top Gear thinking that a car they feature will be in your future.  Not that I, too, wouldn’t love a Maserati, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Bentley or McLaren, but I’m sure it’s worth selling everything we own to have one.  Remember that nice Jag you had once…for 15 years…in the garage…that never ran.

Me in Mark's Jag the day it went bye-bye.

9.  Don’t enter sweepstakes.  You saw what happened to my mom–new, unlisted phone number, calling the cops, getting more and more mail to enter more and more sweepstakes.  Let’s not have that happen to us.  You’re already a winner to me.

 10.  Don’t spend any more than one hour sunbathing naked in the backyard. I know you’re feeling all young and free now that you’re retired, but there are parts of you that might burn easily and I’d rather you not attract people to our yard.

 This should give you plenty not to do . . . which is what retirement is all about.