Observations and Musings from the Hill
A D.C. trip in search of Christmas spirit
Story and photos by Charles Chandler
Pack it up, it is time for a road trip. After living in huge cities and working for the Airlines for a combined fifty plus years my designated travel companion and I must frequently return to the hive. We like big cities and busy airports and the hustle and bustle in small bites. I have found that it is often gratifying to disregard the world that is portrayed in the popular and social media and on the Hallmark channel and go somewhere and have a look around.
This weekend trip was to Washington DC to find that elusive Christmas spirit. The thought was with the current political proceedings it could be an interesting time to visit the “Hill.” Also, seeing the National Christmas Tree and attending some kind of event in the National Cathedral would surely bring on a little holiday merriment.
After a short flight from our beautiful and recently renovated Gerald R Ford Airport in Grand Rapids we made an acceptable short field landing, just skimming the Potomac before screeching to a halt. We deplaned into the drizzle at the old, yellow, cluttered Reagan National Airport, got into waiting buses and after a long ride we were offloaded into what appeared to be the boiler room and left to find our way through an underground labyrinth to baggage claim. A short ride to our hotel to check-in and dump the bags and we were off to see the Wizard.
Our plan was to visit the Library of Congress Christmas Tree on Saturday, then go across the street to Capital, stop in at the visitor center and make reservations for a tour on Monday. From there we would venture out into the Mall to visit the Capitol Christmas tree. This year it is a 60-foot Blue Spruce harvested in the Carson National Forest in New Mexico. The decorations were designed and made by school children and being from New Mexico there was an abundance of lovely dream catchers, effigy figures, sun symbols, and flying saucers. With “a few look, isn’t that one cute” and the obligatory photos it was off to see the National Christmas Tree.
The hike from the Capitol to the White House feels like it gets longer every time I make it. On the way down Pennsylvania Ave, we were passed by fleets of fire trucks, police cars, and emergency vehicles. When we finally reached the Ellipse the entrance to the National Christmas Tree was closed. Frustration and disappointment, there had been some sort of event at the tree and the Police had it blocked off and offered no explanation as to when it would be open. According to one UBER driver last year some guy tried to climb the tree in the nude and pulled a bunch of the wires down, so who knows what just happened. My traveling partner is goal-oriented and no explanation for the closure of the National Christmas Tree was sufficient. Take it from me full disclosure is often not sufficient.
By this time, it was dark and we were tired and hungry so it was off to Legal Sea Food for an incredible dinner. Fresh east coast seafood is incomparable. We did return the next day and were able to see the National Tree and the 50 smaller State trees. Sorry to say but I was a bit underwhelmed, the National tree, and our smaller Michigan state tree, and associated decorations were kind of cheesy. It could have been the bright sunlight or maybe the mood of the City?
On Sunday it was on to the Church Houses. The first was The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. We are not of the faith but wanted to visit this awesome Shrine, between Masses and see the art, architecture, and decorations. It is a great place of worship and cannot be described, only visited. “It is truly the embodiment of the people who are the fabric of the Catholic faith and a mosaic of our great nation.”
Saint John Paul II, the first pope to visit the National Shrine, perhaps best expressed its essence:
“This Shrine speaks to us with the voice of all America, with the voice of all the sons and daughters of America, who have come here from various countries…. When they came, they brought with them in their hearts the same love for the Mother of God that was characteristic of their ancestors and of themselves in their native lands. These people, speaking different languages, coming from different backgrounds of history and traditions in their own countries, came together around the heart of a Mother they all had in common.” https://www.nationalshrine.org/
In the evening it was the National Cathedral for an event filled with light, storytelling, dance, great music and the magic of Christmas. This Cathedral is a “house of prayer for all people, conceived by our founders to serve as a great church for national purposes. Washington National Cathedral holds a unique place at the intersection of sacred and civic life. As the Cathedral of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, we strive to serve God and our neighbors as agents of reconciliation, a trusted voice of moral leadership and sacred space where the country gathers during moments of national significance.”
The Church leaders are advocates for Veteran's rights and support, LGBTQ rights and support, Race in America, advocates against gun violence and interfaith dialog. https://cathedral.org/
On Monday it was off to visit the big house. I am happy to report that the Temple of Freedom still stands. The money changers haven’t sold it. The Statue of Freedom still stands atop the dome and faces east. She is impressive indeed and the massive block of granite and beautiful columns of marble are still stacked and holding her up. They will certainly still be standing long after this current little fracas is over with. Our Capital and our government building are resplendent and I strongly recommend that every American make several pilgrimages to Washington DC. It is after all the seats of OUR government. We own the place; we are the landlords and the people that work there are our tenants and employees and should be looking out for our best interest. Lest we forget, we must give them directions, performance reviews and if they do not perform to the required standards set out in the Constitution then they must be frequently evicted.
The tour of our Capitol is a history lesson presented in stone and art. The rotunda and Capitol Dome are incomparable. As we enjoyed the art and architecture, we also enjoyed another favorite big city pastime. People Watching. Our tour group was a typical composition of international tourists, mostly rich Asian with a smattering of young Americans. We were the only couple of that certain age in our group.
I would like to quietly mention that our government and Washington DC are inhabited and managed by “minorities” and or very young adults. Often both. The staff whizzing around us doing our government's business looked like teen agers. So do all the airline pilots and police. All the service folks, guides, guards, security agents, UBER drivers, wait staff in the restaurants, and hotels, ticket agents and so on are minorities and or young adults. For many English is not their first language. I found it interesting that our Capitol tour guide was a cheeky young Britt. He at one point unapologetically reminded us that the reason the British burned down our first Capitol during the War of 1812 was that we had foolishly invaded Canada. And that young Nations and teenagers often make bad choices.”
While we are on this subject of demographics and choices. I was very courteous to these young Washingtonians. Maybe a little self-serving, because according to the Brookings Institute and Census data “racial minorities are projected to account for all of the nation’s youthful population growth over the next 42 years.” Minorities will be the source of all of the growth in the nation’s youth and working-age population, most of the growth in its voters, and much of the growth in its consumers and tax base as far into the future as we can see. Hence, the more rapidly growing, the largely white senior population will be increasingly dependent on their contributions to the economy and to government programs such as Medicare and Social Security. This suggests the necessity for continued investments in the nation’s diverse youth and young adults as the population continues to age.”
Ok, Boomers we probably need to rethink our immigration policy and really, really support STEM and vocational education funding. I would like to further suggest that these minorities will be populating our military and other service organization like the police and fire departments.
This is not new news. We are a Nation of Immigrants after all. I noticed that the statues in the Capitol visitors center honoring our great Americans were mostly women, African Americans, Native Americans, and immigrants. As you look around the Capitol and at our other great buildings you will notice that they too were designed, engineered and built by “others.” So, what is all this divisive fuss about? Our Social scientists report that we are trending toward tribalism- a code word for partisanship. We have begun to look at our politics like our sporting events. Our side wins or loses and we feel good or bad. Probably not a good approach to running a great and complex country like ours.
I walked out to the backyard of the Capitol and there wasn’t a football field marked off with 10-yard lines and goalposts on either end. No bleachers on the left side for the Democrats or on the right side for the Republicans. I also looked down that Mall toward all the moments and war memorials honoring our founders and fallen heroes. I don’t recall seeing their party affiliation carved in stone. Just their name and the day they gave their lives for our country.
While being a little preachy, if we Michiganders recall when we had that little divisive impeachment dust-up with President Richard Nixon it was our own Gerald Ford that was chosen to calm the waters and right the ship of state. To restate a little history about this remarkable man of that important moment in our history, he had been the first Vice President chosen under the terms of the Twenty-fifth Amendment and, in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal, and was succeeding the first President ever to resign. Ford was confronted with almost insuperable tasks. There were the challenges of mastering inflation, reviving a depressed economy, solving chronic energy shortages, and trying to ensure world peace.
Ford’s reputation for integrity and openness had made him popular during his 25 years in Congress. From 1965 to 1973, he was House Minority Leader. Ford described his philosophy as "a moderate in domestic affairs, an internationalist in foreign affairs, and a conservative in fiscal policy. Ford was known to his colleagues in the House as a "Congressman's Congressman.” When I looked at his Statue in the Rotunda, I wished he was here now to handle the mess that was going on down the halls in the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Wishful thinking perhaps because as our young British guide stated to our tour group, “your America is a country of many nationalities and various ethnic groups, all with different cultural practices and spiritual and philosophical beliefs. You are governed by laws that change frequently and you argue and reargue about everything. These Congressmen and Women and the Supreme Court Judges that are around here today are all arguing over some rule of law.”
Thanks for the lecture young Mr Brit.
All trips must come to an end. It was with mixed feelings as we headed back to the dingy old maze that is Regan Airport. We really didn’t have that great moment where you get that warm, light, gleeful holiday spirit. We finally found the chaotic departure lounge for our flight down to Grand Rapids. We settled in for a few minutes of people watching, coffee drinking and me asking my travel partner “could you understand that last PA announcement.” In a few minutes the folks going to Michigan started to show up. You could tell them by their heavy long coats worn over sweaters and hoodies. Young men in sensible shoes, wearing watch hats and Carhart jackets. As Johnny Cash said, “These Are My People.”
After a bit this lovely little Mom, blond, blue eyes, probably about five feet, two inches tall, maybe 100 pounds arrived. She was followed by two little girls who were perfect images of Mom, maybe five and seven years old. The third about a year old was in one of those chest carriers. All were loaded with little packs, carry-on bags and baby gear. To round out the entourage was what appeared to be an Asian Au Pair. All were well dressed and well behaved. What a brave little Mom to be wrangling three small children and an Au Pair through this Christmas traffic. Soon in broken English someone announced our flight and we were headed outside into the drizzle, loaded on these huge buses and taken to our airplane. You know the drill, find your seat, stow your bags, buckle up and go through the departure briefing. Then we waited and waited a bit more. Next, we received the dreaded announcement from the Captain, we were on a maintenance delay. Wait some more then, more bad news, deplane. Repeat the process in reverse.
On the bus trip back to old grimy, I was standing and hanging on the strap and facing toward the back of the bus. In a moment I heard some noise and someone touched my shoulder and there was a small tug on my jacket. I turned and looked straight into the face of a little Christmas Angel. Huge Michigan sky blue eyes, tousled blond hair, our eyes locked for a moment while she held onto my jacket with a tiny hand. Then her face lit up like we were long lost pals and she smiled this huge smile exposing not one but two perfect little white baby teeth. She was hanging over the shoulder of her little five-foot-two Mom working the crowd. O my goodness, what now?
I summoned my traveling partner, and she joined in. Miss blue eyes talked to us in her delightful one-year-old language for a few minutes, and then her Mom turned to see who she had captured. We were scanned and found to be harmless doting grandparent types. After offloading, a brief wait and a gate change we were on a functioning airplane on our way to Grand Rapids. Miss blue eyes was two rows in front of us and soon she popped up looking for her adoring fans. A game of peek a boo began. We would hear her call and then we would take turns shamelessly playing this endless game all the way down to Grand Rapids. She and her lovely little family disappeared into the night, hopefully on their way to a peaceful Christmas Holiday.
On the way up to Newaygo County with the Celtic Woman CD playing a rendition of Silent Night I was thinking wasn’t it a baby born on a cold starlight night like this one that began this Christmas whatever you think it is. I guess that Christmas spirit is where you find it or when it tugs on your shoulder looking for a little game of peek a boo.
You know if Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell would play a game of Peek a Boo with an adorable one year old maybe they wouldn’t be so grumpy.
More Christmas Tales
Photos by Lil DeLaat
For the past couple of years we have asked folks from around the community to send in their Christmas memories.We received some great new ones this year and also really liked the ones that came to us last year as well so we decided to blend the two together because even if you might have read them before it is, after all, Christmas and most people have seen It’s A Wonderful Life and/or A Christmas Story multiple times so…
Some are short, some are long, some are in between but we love these stories and hope they will touch a bit of the Christmas spirit in your heart.
You’ll find a bevy of them here and more offerings on our Feature Page
Christmas Tree Adventures
By Megan Wirts
A few years ago my husband, Jeremy, and I decided that we needed a real Christmas tree. Ok, I decided that we needed a real Christmas tree and the small people and I campaigned for it for a few weeks. We won.
It wasn’t just about the tree, it was about the experience. My husband and children had never experienced going out and cutting down their own Christmas tree and I was convinced that they needed this experience in order to live full lives. The only time my husband ever had a real tree as a child was when a friend of his family came for a visit and noticed that there was no tree in the house. He told Jeremy and his family that he would be back in a few minutes and returned with a freshly chopped down real Christmas tree. The details about where he found said tree and if it was totally legal were never discussed, my husband and his siblings were just happy to have a tree that year.
When I was growing up we had a real tree a few times, but then my mom got a fancy schmancy fake tree and that was the end of ever having a real Christmas tree. I’m not bashing on fancy shmancy fake Christmas trees or even non fancy fake Christmas trees. I have had fake trees and I have liked them just fine. They are easy to put up, you don’t have to water them, you don’t have needles all over your house and you can get them pre lit to avoid having to deal with tangled webs of Christmas lights. I see the appeal. I totally get it, but there is just something about having a real tree in the house that I just love. Plus, I wanted the experience.
Oh, the experience! The wagon rides, horse drawn carriages, roasted chestnuts, cocoa and maybe even a Santa sighting. You know, the stuff Hallmark movies are made of. I wanted that perfect happy family moment, with the perfect happy family photo in front the the perfect happy tree that we picked out together. Guess what? Perfect doesn’t exist. Perfect is unattainable and is a lie that social media will have you believe exists. Sure, there are wagon rides, but it’s usually so cold that the air makes your face turn to ice and tears sting your eyes and you just repeat to yourself, “I wanted this, I wanted this, I wanted this”, while trying to remember what it was like to feel your fingertips.
Then you have to find the tree (that you ALL agree on) and cut it down. The first year that we got our real tree, Jeremy vowed to never get one again because cutting it down was not as easy as it looked, especially when using an old dull saw. That first year, I was newly disabled and the small people were much too small to help. It took him so long to get that tree down that we were all certain the entire Christmas season would pass us by before we even left the tree farm. The second year, we were more prepared with a better saw (that belonged to my great grandfather and was freshly sharpened) and promises of the children actually helping. Luckily for Jeremy, our boy has a great affinity for cutting things down and using sharp dangerous objects. It has attributed to the growing amounts of grey hair on the top of my head, but I have to believe that these skills will be of use to him in the future and I can always dye my hair.
This year, we made the long trek to the Christmas tree farm. By long trek, I mean a few hundred feet. We literally live across the street from the tree farm. Which is another reason we really must have a real tree. I mean, they are right there. I can see them from my bedroom window. I felt like they were taunting me all those years we had that fake tree. All those beautiful evergreens just sitting there looking all Christmasy and beautiful, smelling of pine and fresh snow. I needed one in my house dang it! So, anyway, this year we got to the tree farm and decided to forgo the wagon ride (thank goodness!) and drove to where the Fraser Firs were located. (Fraser Firs are by far the superior tree of all Christmas trees. They have the softest needles and they smell so freaking good!) To make it even more of a perfect Hallmark moment we brought along our dog, Bosco, thinking it would be so much fun for him. It was, until he slipped out of his collar and he almost got hit by a tractor. Actually, it was probably fun for him for that brief moment of freedom, but it absolutely was not fun for me and that meant poor Bosco was going to have to wait out the tree finding adventure in the car, where he barked like a crazed maniac at anyone that walked by.
We did find our tree and we did get that family photo that I wanted and nobody really cried this time. At least not until we got home. When we arrived home with the giant 10 foot tall and 5 foot wide tree that takes up more than half of my living room, I did shed a few tears. Not out of frustration, anger or sadness, they were tears of joy and relief. Joy filled my eyes from seeing my perfectly imperfect family be happy together and relief spilled over because that stupidly huge tree mostly fit in the house.
Our tree finding adventures may not always go smoothly or be perfect Hallmark moments and the tears shed are not always tears of joy, but it’s something we do together and it’s always memorable. We also always end up with a beautiful Christmas tree to fill our home with that delicious pine smell and lots and lots of needles by the end of the holiday season.
Christmas with a Bang
By Charles Chandler
Louisiana, my birth state is a strange, small, boot shaped affair that should be an icon for cultural diversity. This trend toward diversity began around 2000 BC, when some Mayan traders from the Yucatan in Mexico, paddled across the Gulf, up the Mississippi River and took a left at Bayou Marcon. In a few miles they found some high ground, built some big mounds and develop a far-flung successful trading business that lasted for about 1000 years.
After a bit the French, Spanish, Caribbeans, Creoles, Arcadians, African Americans, British Americans, Germans, Italians, and Mexicans started to drop by. Everyone and everything so to speak went into the Gumbo Pot. Now each Parish, city or village in this small sub-tropical state has a different ethnicity with an associated food and holiday tradition.
In the British American populated piney woods of Winn Parish where I grew up, it was all about Christmas. Residents assuredly agree that "everybody celebrates Christmas but in Louisiana, Christmas is a colorful, diverse and unique celebration." In our part of the Gumbo Pot the secular center of our Christmas holiday was the BIG BANG. Fireworks, loud, colorful and by the bunches. Fireworks may be a national event for Independence Day, but people in Louisiana sell, buy and ignite more fireworks over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays than on July 4th. According to one local Louisiana fire popper vendor “we sell about two-and-a-half times as many fireworks over the Christmas holidays as we do for the Fourth of July.”
As children, our Christmas presents included the practical pairs of socks, and replacement underwear and blue jeans. The big-ticket items for those packs of smelly feral little boys were ammunition for their official Red Rider Daisy BB Guns, a little fishing tackle and strings of Black Cat firecrackers. If our parents had a good year, maybe some prized roman candles, sparklers, buzz bombs, and small rockets. When we reached the age of responsibility, probably around ten, we got the good stuff, cherry bombs, and silver salutes (now illegal). We terrorized the countryside with these mini mortar shells. Half of my generation probably has tinnitus from these small but powerful brain-jarring concussion grenades. We loved these fireworks and I truly owe my very existence to a lady finger the smallest of this collection of pyrotechnics.
As the story goes, my beloved little blue-eyed always smiling Welsh Grandfather, Edward Lewis was fatally smitten by the beauty of my English Grandmother Essie Moore. During that long-ago Christmas holiday, Edward had come calling on Essie at her parents’ home in Jackson Parish. He had driven up in his smart little buggy pulled by the family horse, Prince.
The Moore family were by country farm standards well off in more ways than one. They had a large farm, nice home, good stock and four daughters. On this day there were several young swains visiting the older Moore girls. It was a warm evening and the group was out on the veranda enjoying holiday pastries and beverages. A good time was being had by all until someone broke out the firecrackers. In this case, the poppers were lady fingers, they are about a half inch long and smaller than a pencil. It was acceptable for the women of the day to light them off if they were wearing their gloves, hence the name lady fingers. These lady fingers would produce a petite pop and if held too long would result in nothing more than a bruised finger.
At one point in the party Edward bragged that these little lady fingers were so harmless that he could hold one in his teeth and light it. We will never know what Ed was thinking, maybe he wanted to impress Essie or separate himself from the pack of other suitors, but we do know what he did next.
The crowd called his bluff and he put one of the small lady fingers in his jaw, clamped down and someone stuck a match to the fuse. The short-term results of his stunt were that he was instantly knocked out. He was carried into the house and the local doctor was called. The Doctor arrived in his Tin Lizzy and examined Edward the Brave. Country Doc said that his molar was loose and he probably had a slight concussion and proclaimed him to be a young fool. The long-term results of the explosive event were that Essie married Edward and I became their first and certainly most favored grandson.
And as long as our family gathered at Papa and Mamma Lewis’s home for Christmas Dinner and gifts were exchanged this story was retold. When one of the grandkids would invariably open a package containing a treasure trove of firecrackers that would be our cue to start begging Mama Lewis to tell us about the time Papa Lewis put a firecracker in his mouth and blew his head off.
Keeping The Memories Alive
By Julie Burrell
Big fat snowflakes shining bright in the headlights of my Dad’s El Camino… Practicing Christmas songs for hours before family showed up, promising to sing for them all, only to chicken out every single year…pumpkin pie with burnt crust… Granny’s famous potato salad… sledding in the dark with my brothers…Christmas brunch at my grandma’s…snowball fights with my cousins…20 people stuffed into my Granny’s living room opening presents as I pretended to be Santa… These memories of my childhood holidays have turned into Elf on the Shelf…sneaking presents upstairs after the kids go to bed…matching Christmas pajamas for my babies…Drinks with the in-laws on Christmas Eve… Christmas Brunch at my Moms…. Christmas Day at my in-laws…. Savoring the wonder on the faces of my children as they see the tree after Santa came…and a tiny bit of relaxation with my amazingly perfect family of 4.
There’s no place I’d rather be, and no people I’d rather spend the holidays with.
As life evolves and gets busier by the day, it can be so easy to forget the original traditions and those who pass on. For the benefit of our children, tell the stories, keep the traditions, and don’t stop visiting the grandmas, grannys, mimis, and nanas.
By MJ Swendrowski
Let me start by admitting right off the “bat” that Halloween is my favorite holiday. Give me all things spooky, all of the time (like the stuffed crow which I still have on my desk at work in protest of the witching season being complete for thr year). With that being said, there is something wonderfully magical about the days that fall between Thanksgiving and the New Year. The lights, the music, the movies—all classic staples of my childhood. The holiday season always brings with it a deluge of memories, and with this season being my first without all of my grandparents, I am especially grateful for these recollections.
Traditions run deep in my family, and I often have a difficult time with swallowing change. The Christmases of my entire childhood followed the same schedule: Christmas Eve with my mom’s side of the family, Christmas morning with my parents, and Christmas Day with my dad’s side of the family. Always the same food (lasagna on Christmas Eve, kielbasa and homemade cheesecake on Christmas day), and, for the most part, the same locations. You could always count on my Grandpa Little to wear his infamous Garfield Christmas sweatshirt on Christmas Eve (Garfield in a stocking cap holding lumps of coal saying “There must be some mistake.” Classic grandfather sweater.) My Grandma Little would inevitably give one of us extra plastic bags or another random household gift. On Christmas Day my Grandma Della was always the peacekeeper, and prevented our family from falling apart over an argument over whatever Trivial Pursuit we happened to be playing.
On February 9, 2013, we lost my Grandma Della. There was not a lot of time to prepare for it, and with me living in Florida, it was even more difficult to cope with. The first Christmas without her was strange—it felt like the traditions would never be the same. Instead, our family rallied, and while we still argue over trivia, we now also participate in a family game of BINGO—Grandma’s favorite.
Kielbasa is still served, and my aunt has exceeded expectations at making the famous cheesecake.
On February 8, 2014, we lost my Grandma Little—almost exactly a year apart from my other grandmother. Traditions had already begun changing on that side of the family—with my cousin’s family growing, it was too hard to meet in any of our houses on Christmas Eve, so we had already moved the date and location. We didn’t get plastic bags or boxes of tea that year, but we still had lasagna (her original recipe), and my grandpa still wore his Garfield sweatshirt.
Finally, on August 8, 2018, we lost my Grandpa Little, four years and six months after his sweetheart. This coming Christmas will be the strangest yet, without his re-telling (and re-telling and re-telling) of stories, and the smell of black coffee. We will still have lasagna, though, and I will be wearing that Garfield sweatshirt with a huge smile on my face.
A shift in tradition can be hard during the holiday season, but that’s not necessarily bad (or sad) as this story implies. The change my family has endured has also allowed growth for new traditions, some of which aren’t limited to the holiday season. Changes will always keep coming, but each year we find ways to embrace them and create new memories while treasuring the old ones more and more.
The Million Dollar Man
By Mark Mathis
Clear memories are best formed in times of trauma. Christmas is no exception.
I’ve got lots of great memories of hanging out on Grandma and Grandpa’s farm, playing in the snow with my family, and church services. They all pale in comparison to one unwanted Six Million Dollar Man doll.
The 52 year old me recognizes that Christmas is a time for family, food, and faith. The 8 year old me wasn’t quite on board with all that stuff just yet.
We always ended up traveling to the farm owned by my mom’s parents for Christmas. It was one of those iconic story book farms. Barns for horses, barns for cows, barns for lots of chickens, and a barn for anything else you could think of. I loved the smell of both the machine shop and tobacco being chewed by all the farming uncles. If it was the summer we’d sit on the back porch and listen to Ernie Harwell and the Tigers. If it was winter we’d play on the snow piles around all the barns.
But this was Christmas, I was 8 years old, and the farm meant something else entirely. It was a time for getting. It meant getting some awesome food and three kinds of pie. It meant getting to play with all my cousins. It meant getting a money sized envelope from Grandpa. That little envelope had a little window that old Abe Lincoln himself would stare out from. And it also meant getting a special present from Grandma.
My brother Chris, who would have been five at the time, got his present first. It came in a long box and was wrapped really nice. Not as nice as my mom wraps them, but wrapped nice none-the-less. Chris lives in the moment, so he tore the paper off like he was a T-Rex opening a package of meat. The box contained a brand new Mattel VertiBird.
You probably don’t understand how cool this really was, so let me explain from the perspective of an 8 year old in 1975. It was WAY cool, in a way that no way should a five year old be entrusted with such a fine piece of machinery. This was a styrofoam boat, which contained an attack helicopter. The copter actually flew, and was available for any mission an 8 year old could think of.
Sure, the VertiBird was tethered to the boat. However, it could fly around and pick up weights and broken down cars. I imagined this was exactly like the Coast Guard. Come to think of it the Coast Guard probably used these to train all their new people.
After seeing what a killer present my Grandmother bestowed upon a 5 year old that broke everything he touched, my excitement was overwhelming. What could possibly be in the well wrapped box that just got placed in my lap? Remote control car? Rock-Em Sock-Em Robots? A gun? After all, I was a responsible eight year old.
I peeled back that green paper covered in Santas. Inside was something from the Six Million Dollar Man. I liked the show. Who could resist a tale of a guy that got into a huge military accident and was rebuilt with robot parts? Six million dollars bought a bionic eye, a really powerful arm, and a guy that could run so fast it almost looked like the film got sped up a few times.
So in the box there probably was going to be a bionic eye I would have to swap out for my own eye. I wouldn’t do it now, but at 8 years old I was ready to give up an eye to get that superpower. So I flipped open the lid. Inside was a Steve Austin, the six million dollar man, doll.
Mind you, in 1975 it was’t an action figure — I had never heard of such a thing. It was a doll. Sure, this doll had a bionic grip, a magic eye you could look through, and skin you could peel back to see his robot parts. He even had an engine that he could pick up to prove his six million dollar strength to any naysayers.
So as we got to playing with our new loot, my brother began flying Coast Guard training missions. I looked through the super special bionic eye on my new doll with just a tad bit of jealousy as he went about saving the world.
Steve Austin had one mission the rest of that Christmas. That was to convince my no-good brother that this doll was so much cooler than his VertiBird boat. With great vigor I demonstrated the eye and lifting capacity of my robot/human action play toy. Repeatedly. And then I started all over again. If you know our family you’ll know the hallmark of any Mathis is salesmanship and relentlessness. I used both those skills for the entire day. By late in the day, I might have even offered to toss in my new five dollar bill to sweeten the deal.
Despite a mountain of effort, my five year old brother could not be convinced that trading a piece of official Coast Guard equipment for a doll was a wise move. We played with our respective toys for the months that followed, although I snuck in plenty of copter missions when he wasn’t looking.
Eventually, both toys wound up in the dustbin of our toy history. I see they have both been resurrected on Ebay for a few hundred dollars. However, my doll has been reborn as an action figure.
A special thanks to my parents, who have spent the last 44 years teaching me the TRUE meaning of Christmas. You can give me a doll these days and I don’t mind a bit.
The Annual Argument
By Carmen Faulkner
As the holidays arrive on scene, so must the decorations. For my family this means my parent’s three-story brick building in downtown Newaygo must be transformed into a Christmas Wonderland rivaled only by Santa’s Workshop or a New York Macy’s. There are miles of lights to be unpacked, vines of holly to be hung, a field of poinsettias to nurture.
Most importantly, though, there are a series of hanging decorations in the 14-foot windows that look out over the street. Each of them, four per window, are 12-36 inches long and should hang at varying heights from the ceiling. Why we never record their order or proper hanging length is both a mystery and modern-day tragedy. Without that oversight, though, there would be no Annual Argument, and, perhaps, no story to tell at all.
Several weeks before Christmas we gather, my parents, my partner and I, in the closed down shop on a Sunday. As the light fades, we make a platter of cheese and crackers and open a bottle of wine. We sit, eyeing the empty walls with both anticipation and dread for the hours ahead, and try to summon the Christmas spirit.
Between bites, we begin pulling out the lights. We stand on high ladders, wrapping strands of white around the duct work until the ceiling is aglow. We pull down Fall decorations, replacing them with their winter counterparts. The artwork above the bar is swapped for a snowed in river scene, of spruce tips breathed white with snow. We line the hall with Christmas Trees, wrapping them in tinsel and colorful garland. We unbox ornaments, old and new, and place them patiently among the branches.
Finally, it is time. Out from their summer hiding places come the giant window decorations. We take turns at holiday-Tetris, attempting to decide in which order to hang them.
There are rules. You cannot place two of the same decorations next to each other. Nor can you do two of similar size, or of similar color. …But they can’t be alternating colors either. We grow irritated with one another, each of us preferring our own arrangement: Red then gold, tall then short, short again, gold again, then green. We agree, finally.
We tie string to their ends and examine the ceiling to ensure hooks still live in the wood to which we will fasten our decorations. But it is not so simple as placement. We require my Dad, for reasons unknown, to stand atop the ladders, balancing our giant ornaments, while we decide on the length he should cut their strings.
“How about this?” He questions, 13 feet up, stretching to the ceiling, glitter falling around his face, clinging to his sweater. “Too low.” My Mom responds. He pulls it up higher. “Too high,” she says.
“There, there, there!” She yells as he loops the string. “That one is perfect.” (It is also at the exact same height it was to begin with).
They seem to be in casual agreement at first… but the music has mysteriously quieted and our small talk diminishes. There’s an electricity at the back of my neck and my baby hairs stand on end. My partner and I sit down, grinning, mentally beckoning the show that has already been set in motion.
Up goes the second ornament. “Scott, it can’t be at the same height as the last one,” she says, voice flattening.
“Great,” he responds with a dry sarcasm, letting out the line. She sits silently, hawk-eyed as he ties it in its final resting place. Then up goes the third. Her face reddens, and I can see her doing mental backflips; the length at which the ornaments hang is of utmost importance. She must make him understand.
“It has to be longer. That looks ridiculous.” A venomous retort. I can see her nails digging into her palms. She is readying herself for battle.
“Rob, it’s fine!” His voice crescendos over us as he looks to the ceiling, glitter infiltrating his lashes, poisoning his disposition.
“No, it is not fine! You can’t see what it looks like from up there. They can’t be the same height like that!”
“Rob, they aren’t the same height, they are totally different heights!”
“Yes, BUT, they are different SIZES and therefore end at the same place.”
“Just tell me what you want!” He bellows, frustrated but offering no alternatives.
…. She is unsure. Lower or higher? Every other? Every third? “What do you guys think?” She turns and looks at us.
“Rob, tell me RIGHT NOW or I’m getting down from here!” He’s straining over the ladder, force buckling his knees in a show of drama, begging for mercy from a sympathetic Father Christmas, that he be released from this cruel insanity.
"Just hold on a second!”
My partner and I sit rigid in our chairs, desperately suppressing laughter, but the creases in our mouths betray us. I quickly google ‘Christmas Decorating Height Suggestions’ and am heartbroken to discover our plight is but a lone island in a sea of Christmas misery. There is no ‘How-To’ Tutorial for this.
I take too long to respond, and Dad scoffs at me, raises the ornament, ties without regard. But now Mom is angry. “It just looks wrong,” she says, turning to ice or stone. We are on decoration 3 of 8, and the Annual Argument always heats up after 3.
As the night drags on in a cacophony of Grinch-like rhetoric, the disagreement over the length at which the decorations should hang grows in passion. My Dad’s concerns get more far-fetched. Maybe the ladder will collapse. The wall speakers are in the way and THIS JUST WON’T WORK. One of the hooks has mysteriously vanished into a thin and vicious air.
My Moms unhappiness with the order grows too. They are too long. They are too short. The colors are wrong. “Why do we even do this?!” She yells, to an unrelenting crowd.
When the last ornament is hung, my Dad jumps off the ladder and heaves it through the doorway out of sight, determined for that to be the last of it. My Mom retreats to the kitchen, banging things, furious that it doesn’t look ‘just right.’
By now the cheese is gone, the wine is gone. My partner and my cheeks burn with ache, our eyes are crusted with the dried tears we try to hide. I am certain I could record this conversation, and next year it would be IDENTICAL. It is identical to last years. It would be identical to the argument ten years prior.
It takes about 20 minutes of silence for them to come around. We vacuum. We pack away the boxes, carrying leftover decor back to storage. We turn on music. We open another bottle of wine. We sit, finally, at the table staring at one another, my parents feigning indifference, us feigning enthusiasm. “It all looks beautiful! Better than last year!”
The minutes tick by, and before long we crack. The glow of lights bounce off the red and cream brick. Jazz does a jig through the air. We sigh first, then giggle. Soon we are all laughing, in this room lit alive by Christmas. My parents steal glances at each other and grab hands. All is not forgiven, they still blame one another for a sub-par job, but there is a twinkle in their eyes and we all agree: we will meet here again next year for the Annual Argument… Though arguably, next year, Ornament #3 should be just a touch lower.
Guest Column: The Year in Review
By Sen. Jon Bumstead, 34th Senate District
We are nearing the end of my first term representing you in the Michigan Senate and it has been an incredibly rewarding experience. I remain thankful that you placed your trust in me to represent you in our state Capitol.
As we prepare to take some time away from our busy lives to settle down and enjoy time with our loved ones, I wanted to share with you an update on some of the work my colleagues and I have been doing in Lansing.
One of the most important aspects of my job is keeping in touch with the residents of the 34th District. I have hosted 53 office hours meetings in every corner of the district since January, and I will continue that pace moving into the new year. These meetings are open to the public and do not require an appointment. I’ve always enjoyed talking to folks about what’s going on in Lansing and I look forward to hearing from you in 2020.
Early on during my career in the House, Michigan was facing some tough times. For years the Legislature worked to balance the budget and approve measures to improve Michigan’s economy, stimulate job growth, reduce burdensome regulations and reduce tax burdens.
I am proud of the work the Legislature has completed this year to continue our state’s comeback and make Michigan stronger and more competitive. The most notable accomplishment was a reform to the state’s costly auto insurance laws, which takes effect next July. This was the most important issue for members as we began the new Legislature. It was the first bill introduced, and Senate Bill 1 would receive much of my colleagues’ and my attention until it was signed into law in June.
It was a tremendous example of rolling up our sleeves and finding a bipartisan solution to try to put some money back into the pockets of hardworking Michiganders. The changes also caused the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association to reduce their per-vehicle assessment for the period of July 2, 2020 through June 30, 2021 to $100 from $220, creating additional savings for drivers across the state.
Many insurance companies have already contacted clients alerting them of the upcoming changes, and I recommend you speak with your insurance carrier as we near the effective date so you can consider what kind of coverage and savings are best for you and your family.
Another one of my legislative highlights is a pair of bills that would expand educational opportunities for Michigan students. I introduced Senate Bills 600 and 601 because I believe they will provide more flexibility to our local school districts when setting graduation requirements. This will give more students opportunities that will allow them to be successful after high school.
We are finally starting to recognize that a four-year degree is not the best route for every student. Some are more interested in trade schools or other opportunities that allow them to build things, weld, run a computer numerical control machine, or perform many other jobs working with their hands. The ability to build and fix things is becoming a lost art, and Michigan has many employers begging for qualified applicants. I believe these changes to Michigan’s graduation requirements will help solve that problem.
The Legislature has also approved new laws to curb package theft and allow counselors to continue practicing in their profession. I also sponsored one of two bills to help combat robocalls, and I supported funding for an expansion to the Golden Township Park at Silver Lake Sand Dunes and a $3 million effort to make improvements along Sherman Boulevard in Muskegon Heights. When it reaches the Legislature, I will also support the recently announced development at the former site of the Muskegon Mall in downtown Muskegon.
I voted to increase road funding and for record education funding — much of which was vetoed or shifted by the governor. I also voted to restore $573.5 million of vetoed or shifted funding to keep schools afloat and crucial state programs functioning.
This is only a small snapshot of what 2019 brought us. Unfortunately, much of what was accomplished was clouded by difficult budget negotiations, and I can only hope we put that behind us as we move into the new year.
It has truly been an honor serving you in the state Senate, and I want to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Sen. Jon Bumstead, R-Newaygo, represents the 34th state Senate District, which includes Muskegon, Newaygo and Oceana counties.
Random Bits…Mama Tried
By Tim McGrath
“…And no one could change my mind, but mama tried…” from Mama Tried by Merle Haggard
My brother and I were fortunate to have grown up in a house without a massive list of rules and regulations. The Golden Rule was sufficient for most occasions, so I guess mom (rule maker and enforcer) figured we’d sort it all out and, in the end, would probably turn out OK. Which, by all accounts both of us did. And, yet, there were a couple things that required our attention.
There may have been a few more, but these items formed the canon of respectability in our house. And, for the most part, were faithfully followed.
Except the bit about motorcycles.
As a six-year-old I fell in love with motorcycle hats. This was in the time before helmets became the norm, and all the guys riding cycles wore motorcycle hats. Sleek, black, with the shiny black patent leather brim, silver chain and winged wheel insignia. Cocked at a jaunty angle, they gave the rider a rakish, daring look. But, whenever I’d spot one at the Atlantic Mills department store and give it a try, I was reminded those were only worn by hoods, and I was not getting one, so put it back.
Same thing applied when I came breathlessly crashing through the back door one summer afternoon. Neighbor Gary had just gotten a Bonanza five horsepower mini-bike. We’d spent the last couple hours roaring round the field behind our houses, and I was hopeful mom would see the need for one as clearly as I did. Nope, no dice. One more childhood dream now officially ruined.
A few years later, though, when mom wasn’t looking, Cheryl and I did get a shiny black motorcycle. In fact, we got two: one for her, and one for me. It wasn’t really a planned thing, mind you, it just sort of happened.
“Hey, wouldn’t it be a hoot for all of us to get motorcycles and tour the country?” Marv the mastermind commented one evening as he regaled us with the adventures he’d had on bikes back when, and how he thought we were all ready for a little action, too.
“Yeah, sure, let’s do it!” all chirped in. Yet, in the back of my mind, a little bell tinkled its warning. The thought of throwing my leg over the saddle of a powerful machine like that and tooling down the highway scared the willies out of me. I’d seen those driver’s education films of motorcycles crashing into cars, deer, horses, trees, or skidding down the road, its rider bouncing along after it. And, watching Evel Knievel flopping around in slow motion on the ground after a failed world record jump attempt confirmed motorcycles and me weren’t a good combination. I was hopeful this was one of those Happy Hour group-think things that, once exposed to the light of day and reasonable thinking, would be laughed off as another “Yeah, right!” moment. My, oh my, how things had changed since childhood.
That is, until Marv showed up at the front door a couple weeks later donning a motorcycle helmet and leather jacket.
“Where’s your bike?” he laughed. And, with a flourish of his hand, pointed to his new bike with wife, Kathy, happily planted on the back. “Well, what do you think? We all said we were going to get them, so I thought I’d be the first. You do remember what we said a while back, right?”
Fast forward several months: cycles purchased, gear bought, motorcycle safety class taken and passed, lots of short practice rides around the area. Now, the big ride at hand.
The plan was for our group of three couples to ride north, cross The Bridge, wander west through the UP and Wisconsin discovering cheese curds, Poutine, Leinenkugel’s beer, and really tasty brats. When we hit Duluth, turn right and head up the North Shore winding up at the Canadian border. Turn around, repeat, arrive home in one piece.
So, in spite of my quaking knees, and mom’s wagging finger warning me not to do it, I pulled on my big boy pants and in my manliest inside voice exclaimed: “Can’t tell me…”, hopped in the saddle and got ready to ride. Visions of the bikers in the motorcycle hats of my childhood bolstered my courage.
It was a beautifully bright, sunny June morning as we took off: the six of us on four big road bikes rumbling through the West Michigan countryside happy as clams. The wet-my-pants jitters I would get at the beginning of a big ride melted away as the panoramic views unfolded around us, and the rich smells of roadside wildflowers and overly ripe roadkill only added to the adventure of the ride. Honestly, these are the things that are best appreciated from the seat of a motorcycle.
Ha, Ha, I thought to myself. This is the life, nothing to worry about here….
Somewhere on US131 near Big Rapids our group got split up: the two hotshot bikers in the lead, and about a quarter mile behind came Cheryl and I on our bikes. We were cruising along with traffic when, in the next instant, Cheryl frantically motioned for me to hit the shoulder. In that tiny moment, I glanced in my rearview mirror to see the blue oval Ford emblem on the hood of a car barreling down on us. The front bumper whistled by my bike, missing me by less than a foot. As we swooped over and pulled off and stopped on the shoulder, the car roared on, swerving from lane to lane, disappearing over the crest of the hill.
Taking a breath and pants check, we pulled back out into traffic determined to catch the lead bikes, who by now were out of sight. Cresting the hill, there, unbelievably, were one of the other bikes pulled over on the shoulder with the Ford death machine pulled in behind. We coasted in behind the car, got off and ran up to the group. After hugs and the “oh my gosh, you’re alive; Praise the Lord!” had been exchanged, I wandered back to the car. Opening the door and sitting in the passenger seat of the vehicle that moments earlier had very nearly created orphans of our two kids, I spotted a large open bottle of painkillers next to a Monster Gulp cup filled with booze and ice. A drunk driver.
Steve, on the other lead bike, pulled in behind us. He had gone back around to see if we had been hit by the drunk who was now lying incoherent and sobbing in the grass of the shoulder. “Boy, am I glad to see you two. I thought for sure she’d run you both right over, especially when you didn’t show up. Man, oh, man, I can’t believe it. I watched the whole thing in my mirror.”
The police arrived shortly thereafter, gathering our information and arresting the driver.
“Your guardian angels were watching out for you today; have a nice day.” the officer commented before sending us on our way. Oh, we will, we will: it’s already been quite nice, thank you.
In spite of the excitement at the outset, the rest of that trip was simply wonderful. So many interesting things we saw and experienced, curious and welcoming people we crossed paths with. And, we arrived home in one piece.
Our group rode together for about ten years. We travelled a large swath of this beautiful country, experiencing life on the road for weeks at a time. We got to see and do things that are best done on the seat of a motorcycle. But, as is too often the case when motorcycling, we also had more close calls. Deer, slips off the road onto the shoulder, and way too many distracted drivers, cell phones in hand. Thankfully, we always made it home shiny side up….
And, yes, mom did find out. One day after the beans had been spilled, the air cleared, and the dust settled, she looked at me, wagged her finger and simply asked: “When do I get a ride?”
Flying Bear Books: A Mind Boggling Response
A letter from the owners
Pretty much everyone here knows that the winter months are slow ones for our merchants, and Flying Bear Books in Newaygo is no exception. As we were heading into winter, it looked like we didn’t have enough in reserve to make it through to spring, and we announced that we were closing the store.
The community’s response has been mind boggling. Not only have hundreds of people told us how unhappy they were that the store was closing, but people got together and gave us enough solid help that it looks like we can make it to spring when sales always pick up! So we will be here and open through the winter and for the foreseeable future!
Special thanks go to Gabe Schillman of Studio 37 in Newaygo for his generous and persistent support, to Nan Pokerwinski for her brain storms and footwork to make things happen and to Sally Wagoner for getting people together to figure out what to do. We also want to thank our landlord for working with us as we worked through the past two months. None of you gave up hope and we are deeply grateful!!
Despite the 40% off sale, we still have over 20,000 great books available at excellent prices. We will continue the 40% off sale until 12/25 with thanks to Newaygo County for your support and kindness.
John and Marsha Reeves
By Kathy Sather
We know that small, locally owned businesses serve as economic engines on which communities can succeed and thrive. They account for 65 percent of all new jobs and nearly 50 percent of all employees nationwide.
I hope you will join me in urging lawmakers to invest in one of our own economic engines – Family Health Care with centers located in Baldwin, Cadillac, Grant, McBain and Cadillac. Here in Michigan, community health centers employ more than 6,000 people of all education and ability levels, generating more than $1.3 billion in economic activity.
As the President and CEO of Family Health Care, I am proud of the personalized approach we take to provide quality, affordable health care. We are a community institution, welcoming and providing care for all our neighbors, regardless of who they are, where they come from, or their ability to pay. We make sure our grandparents can afford their prescriptions; we provide dad with cancer screenings; we provide mom with the best prenatal care; and, we nurture their newborn’s development at every check-up.
At Family Health Care, we proudly care for nearly 26,000 community members right here in West Michigan. We provide our patients with not only medical care but also dental care, behavioral health, pharmacy, radiology, laboratory and vision services to ensure they can navigate the complicated landscape of health care. Our staff consistently go beyond the medical chart to ensure that families have access to essential resources and a warm, comforting space.
Today, community health centers across the country are facing an uncertain future. Even though we comprise the largest primary care network in the country, solidifying the backbone of the health care safety net, Congress has yet to pass our long-term funding. As a result, health centers are forced to operate on short-term funding patches, making it difficult for us to provide consistent services, plan for the future, and recruit and retain our best employees. Small businesses cannot survive without stability in funding. We can only continue to provide quality health care for people in our community if Congress acts – and acts now.
This holiday season; please consider supporting businesses like mine in other ways. Call or email your member of Congress and remind them how integral health centers are in our community. Remember: community health centers are local businesses that are keeping us healthy.
President & CEO
Family Health Care
Cannabis in the Cloud
Marijuana making a mark in WC
By Charles Chandler
How can cities like White Cloud compete for regional and national business?
Good question, and most residents will quickly tell you that we need to attract new businesses and residents to our City.
Yet that can be a challenge according to one former White Cloud business owner.
“The State of Michigan has set the bar low for developing 501(c)(3) enterprises. Some of these entities can operate like a business, yet, they have different oversight, operating rules and don’t have to pay taxes. Given this advantage starting and successfully operating private and family-owned businesses in small municipalities like White Cloud is daunting. Considering that many of these municipalities have high taxes, restrictive zoning and a population with limited disposable income.”
These challenges are often magnified when you have a demographic with reflective nostalgia who only want to talk about the good ole days and see change as something to be feared or resisted. Common themes heard in many public meetings and hearings follow; ‘you can do whatever you want as long as it doesn’t cost me anything, not in my neighborhood and it must not affect my comfort zone.’
Given these inherent barriers and limitations, how do the Chambers of Commerce, City Officials, and entrepreneurs go about starting and supporting new business in these small municipalities? They market their assets, take advantage of new opportunities, face up to opposition and take risks to become a business-friendly community.
White Cloud does have marketable assets and strengths. The obvious is location, location, location. The City rest at the corners of M 37 and M 20. It also has abundant recreational assets and opportunities with trails, the White River, local parks, and nearby Huron-Manistee Forest. Its biggest asset is land with. large tracts of both Brownfield and undeveloped areas.
The new opportunity is the Michigan Marijuana Business. The voters in the State of Michigan, Newaygo County and the City of White Cloud approved the production and sale of medical and recreational marijuana. White Cloud’s Legislative body, City Manager and the Planning Commission took that voter approval and drove a stake in the ground. They discussed the risk, listen to the opposition speak, and sought counsel from experts and the City Attorney. After deliberation, they assumed the risk and hung out the shingle, believing the marijuana business to be a niche market where the City could compete.
City Manager Lora Kalkofen assumed sales and marketing and met with potential marijuana businessmen. The City Planning Commission, composed of Mayor Jamie Denslow, members, Charles Twing, Keith Payne, Lori Shears, Becci Kolenda, and Manager Kalkofen, did the heavy lifting. They ensured that City codes and ordinances were developed to align with the State of Michigan PA 281 of 2016, the Medical Marijuana Facilities Licensing Act, MCLA 333.27101, et seq., and IL 1 of 2018 the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act, MCLA 333.27951, et seq. Additional, they conducted reviews with the city’s attorney , posted public notices, held public hearings and presented the documents to the City Council for review and final approval. White Cloud now has the option to allow the licensing, and permitting of marijuana Growers of any class, Processors, Retailers, Secure Transporters, Safety Compliance Facilities, and Micro Businesses to operate within the City Limits.
“We get calls almost daily about opportunities to open a Marijuana business in White Cloud,”Kalkofen stated.
She suggested that while the early focus has been on the Medical Marijuana business she expects that future growth in White Cloud will be Recreational Marijuana production and retail sales.
All businesses will meet State and City codes and ordinances, particularly the 500-foot setback limits from schools and churches. Mayor Denslow will seat a seven-member Marijuana Board to provide oversight of the licensing and permitting functions.
White Cloud has one successful Medical Marijuana business on M 37. All the lots in the Washington Street Industrial Park have been sold to a potential marijuana business. The ground has been broken for two grow facilities with construction to begin as weather permits. Construction of the large NWM Organic Farms, LLC Marijuana Grow facility located at 183 N. Webster in White Cloud is well underway. That company is solely owned by Mr. Rick Ziehl and operations are expected to begin in the spring of 2020.
On December 1st, it became legal to sell recreational marijuana in the State and a limited number of retail shops opened their doors for business. Marijuana and Hemp production is a new business for the State, County and the City and how it will shake out is anyone’s guess. Let’s hope that market economics determine the outcome of this venture and not the bureaucrats and politicians.
Hats off to the White Cloud voters, the legislative body, the City staff, and the Planning Commission and other supporters for facing the opposition, taking risks and allowing City to attract these much-needed new businesses.
This is one time you did not snooze and hopefully won’t lose.
Mr. Chandler is a regular contributor to our pages, a White Cloud City Council Member and a rather avid fisherman.
An N3 Editorial
"So you watch yourself about complaining.
What you're supposed to do
when you don't like a thing is change it.
If you can't change it,
change the way you think about it.”-Maya Angelou
Maya always seemed to be able to capture deep concepts into her wonderful weaving of words.
So what is it about change that unsettles us? Not all change of course. Anything altered out of our own doing or desire generally suits us better but when the unexpected, unprepared for, unknown and unwanted arrive we resist, reject, and refuse to consider any level of acceptance.
We get it. Change is tough. Don’t believe us? Here’s an experiment.
For the next week when you wake up in the morning and it becomes time to get dressed? Think about what leg you always start with when putting on pants.
Then put in the opposite leg first.
Small change right? Easy?
Well, chances are you’ll find it’s awkward as hell and soon you’ll return to the familiar way of hitching up the leggings.
Recently Newaygo City Council member Eric Johnson shared his thoughts about the alteration in the downtown traffic lanes along with some other projected changes in the near future.
He noted the several meetings that have been held over the past couple of years involving increasing the town's ‘walkability’.
Numbers at these meetings weren’t bad for such gatherings however they were mostly attended by the same folks and none of the crowds came close to the amount of people in attendance at the average freshman basketball game.
And now it looks like downtown travel will change. There will likely be voices who bemoan such moves claiming to not have heard anything about the initiative and even sometimes feeling betrayed by those making the changes.
This seems to happen a lot and interestingly enough even in these days of instantaneous interaction, prolific local social media, and the ever grinding rumor mill (see fireworks store) some folks just don’t seem to get the memos. Others who did indeed hear of the doings may not take the time necessary to attend the meetings. Thus the city’s attempts at inclusiveness while admirable don’t always generate the dialogue desired.
Other towns in our fair county have been experiencing change as well. The County Seat of White Cloud is looking at the possibility of a Hope Network housing initiative that has drawn some pushback from the townsfolk and the burg is bracing for the burgeoning cannabis businesses beginning to blossom in the city limits. Fremont recently completed their bypass, an effort that met with some ongoing resistance, and they are dealing with a change at the top of their police department while Hesperia would like to make some changes but they can’t field a team (quorum) to do so.
Don’t like what’s happening? Go to the next meeting. Try to bring along an open mind and be prepared to listen. The city seems to be trying to gain input from the citizenry which is a commendable effort so take the offering and get engaged.
Try to remember that change, while not always comfortable, is surely inevitable.
And should the decisions made and the initiatives put forth end up not working out?
They can always be changed, right?
“I put a dollar in one of those change machines but nothing changed.”- George Carlin
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