The Up North Experience

People who live in the great state of Michigan actually argue over what it means to be up north. Most particularly, where up north actually begins. To some, it begins after travelers cross the beautiful Mackinac Bridge and begin to explore St. Ignace, Escanaba, and all points in the Upper Peninsula.

To many, up north means the beautiful region of Houghton and Higgins Lake. The fishing at Houghton Lake is unsurpassed. The beautiful blue water of Higgins Lake is known around the world. But still, there are many who say this very popular area is not truly up north.

Oddly enough, there are many who live in the southern areas of Michigan who consider the middle “thumb” region of the state to be up north. There are small lake areas south of where we live in the lower thumb that are favorite destinations of those seeking to go up north.

Up north is a state of mind. It involves a million different experiences all inspiring their own memories, each with a special feeling folks try to recreate by returning up north, wherever that may be. And that is the beautiful thing about going up north. You can have it wherever you are. Up north is yours to enjoy, whether it is in Kalamazoo, Muskegon, Otter Lake, Bay City, Mio, East Tawas, Clare, Gaylord, Ossineke, East Jordan, Brutus, Onaway, Rudyard, Brimley, Eckerman, or Au Train.

My wife has captured a little bit of up north with her Up North Flannels. A few years ago, while we enjoyed a trip to visit family in Tennessee, she purchased a flannel shirt that had been re-purposed and re-tagged. An idea was born. Why not do the same thing in our area and call the shirts Up North Flannels? She began by designing her own label, then started searching for used plaid flannel shirts.

Over the last three years her hobby has continued. Although two shops where she had a display of shirts have closed, she has two other stores specializing in home decor that also sell Up North Flannels.

We visit community thrift and other stores that sell used items. My wife has become very good at hunting and knows just where to find the shirts. Sometimes she finds just one or two, sometimes a bag full. We bring the shirts home where she washes and irons them. She then uses the iron to place her special Up North label. I get to help by sewing the label to the shirt. We have quite a production line going and we make a good team.

We recently have had great fun participating in a local Farmer’s Market. Our tent is surrounded by those who actually farm the items they sell but they have graciously allowed us to join them. Last week we decided to include home made cinnamon rolls which my wife named “Dale’s Delicious Delectable 3D” cinnamon rolls.

An Up North state of mind is a lot like A Coffee State of Mind. I don’t have to be enjoying a cup of coffee to have that state of mind. I can think about a delicious cup of steaming hot coffee and have the mind to enjoy the thought. I can think about the wonderful experience of being up north without actually being there and enjoy the state of mind all the same.

We all need to find that kind of thinking. Whether it’s enjoying traveling, spending time with family and friends, taking a walk, or listening to birds singing, our thoughts can take us there. If we stop for a moment and purposely think about the things we enjoy, we return to that state of mind.

It’s definitely time for more coffee. Literal coffee, not thought coffee.

Breakfast Sandwich for Dinner

My lovely wife has discovered how to make amazing breakfast sandwiches that we enjoy any time. Actually, our son first made them for us and she watched very carefully. They are delicious!

A sausage patty, English muffin, fried egg and a slice of your favorite cheese make the magic happen.

There are sausage patties that taste great but stay around all day. I like them but not all day. The ones my wife uses are frozen, a dozen in a package. We keep them in the freezer and just use two at a time.

The patties only take about three minutes per side, so while my wife is frying them, I toast the English muffins. They don’t require butter, but if you want to use butter, go for it!

When the English muffins pop from the toaster, we put a slice of cheese on them. When the egg is fried to perfection, we add the sausage patty and the egg.

Combine the sandwich with some fruit and a big mug of your favorite coffee and you have a breakfast sandwich that is delicious at any time. Maybe even late at night while you’re binge-watching your favorite series.

Grateful! Discovery Prompts Day 30!

Well, I’ve reached the end of the Discover Prompts provided by WordPress. They do this every April, but since I wasn’t blogging like a fiend in April, I started using the prompts thirty days ago. So, does that mean I have nothing else to write about because no one is giving me a topic? Oh, no, my friends. I have sooo much to expound upon in literary prose that I will keep busy for a very long time.

The final prompt is grateful. There are so many things for which to be grateful, it is not difficult to begin. It will actually be difficult to end. Just when I think I’ve exhausted the list, more thoughts arise. So, here goes.

I’m thankful to have a neck. If it weren’t for my neck, my head would be attached directly to my shoulders, making it very difficult to turn when someone calls my name. Obviously, I could turn my whole body around, which I would have to do if I didn’t have a neck, but then I might trip over something that was previously in front of me but is now behind me.

I’m thankful my name is not Sigmund. I have never liked the name Dale, but I dislike the name Sigmund even more. I would have grown up being called Sig, (no one would have ever called me Mund), and that would have been very annoying. I have been called all kinds of things, many of which can’t be listed here. But I would prefer being called Dork, or almost anything else to being called Sigmund.

I’m grateful for knees. Stick figures illustrate how important it is to have knees. We should all be thankful. If it weren’t for knees, our walking would be stilted. Falling would be particularly dangerous and landing on our faces would be more frequent.

I’m thankful for tortilla chips. They are the perfect snack when I want something but I don’t know what. Chocolate? No. Milk? No. Spaghetti? No. Egg Plant? No. Tortilla chips are the go-to every time I just need something to chew. Crunchy.

I’m grateful for doorknobs. I’ve have been locked out of the house, by my own doing, and getting back into the house would be far more difficult if there were no doorknobs.

I’m grateful for paint stir sticks. When I forget to have paint stirred at the store, I have to mix it myself. I would have to use my hand if there were no stir sticks. I take so many things for granted, it’s good to remind myself about all the things I am grateful for.

I’m grate for toothbrush handles. If it weren’t for the handles, I would have to hold the bristles between my fingers. It would be so much more tedious to brush my teeth without a toothbrush handle.

I’m grateful for spoons. I do occasionally eat ice cream with a fork if I’m eating it right out of the carton. My wife prefers that I not do this, but when she’s not around, she doesn’t know. I get our ice cream at night when we’re watching our new Netflix or Amazon Prime series, so she doesn’t see the little fork marks in the ice cream. Ice cream inevitably melts as you’re eating it. So eating it with a fork would be difficult. It would also be hard to put a bite of ice cream in your mouth and take it out while smoothing the top, like everyone does, with a fork. I’m grateful ice cream is the only food we put into our mouths and then take it out.

I’m grateful for plastic milk bottles. Drinking out of a carton with the triangle opening at the top is difficult. Most often the milk pours out the sides and runs down my cheeks and onto my shirt. Drinking out of a plastic milk bottle is much easier. Not that I actually do that anymore.

I’m grateful for toast and frosted mini-wheats. One piece of toast and about ten frosted mini-wheats with a cup of hot tea is an incredible snack late at night while we’re watching TV. Of course I have to give at least one to Maggie as she loves mini-wheats. I usually take out a few extra to share because I’m not will to have less than ten. I try to chew them quietly. They can be noisy if I’m not careful.

Extension cords deserve more gratitude. If it weren’t for extension cords, our walls would be far more crowded with things that have to be plugged in. All of our furniture would have to be the height that anything electric placed on top would have a cord long enough to reach the plug. Electric items would have to take turns because there probably wouldn’t be enough wall plugs for everything.

I’m grateful for radio stations. When I’m turning the dial on the radio trying to find something to listen to, its gratifying to hear plenty of choices vying for attention before I finally decide to listen to Pandora.

I’m definitely grateful for bubble wrap. The joy of sitting and popping the bubbles in bubble wrap is hard to beat.

I’m grateful my childhood dentist was wrong. He said I wouldn’t have any teeth by the time I was sixty. I’m way over sixty and I still have my own teeth. Most of them have been repaired, capped, crowned, drilled, filled, ground and polished, but they’re mine and I’m proud to have them.

I’m grateful for taste, smells, food, drinks, coffee, mochas, water, tea, jokes, tears, yawns, sneezes, kleenex, napkins, egg cartons, Tupperware, refrigerators, ice cream, bread, butter, jam, cheese, frying pans, cinnamon rolls, deep-fried pieces of cinnamon rolls with powdered sugar icing on them, extra powdered sugar icing, sidewalks, tires, trees, flowers, ants, bees, (not wasps), wood, grass, lawnmowers, birds, squirrels, dogs, movies, music, Netflix, computers, iPads, tin cans and string, sticks, dirt, stones, asphalt, highways, dirt roads, pathways, wooden docks, donuts, candy, M&Ms, almonds, Oreos, chocolate chips, Oatmeal, Cocoa-Puffs, gum, turn signals, stop signs, “Signs” the movie, instruments, those who play instruments, teachers, doctors, nurses, neighbors, friends, police officers, store owners, gas stations, jobs, paychecks, careers, laughter, hunger, thirst, fishing poles, bobbers, empty fields, tractors, hay, tomatoes, lettuce, bacon, pepper, avocado, plastic, rubber, glass, blankets, t-shirts, dishwashers, clothes dryers, two-by-fours, nails, glasses, suspenders, pants, hats, and pancakes.

It’s impossible to list all we are grateful for. When we try, it is a powerful reminder.

There is nothing for which I am
more grateful than our family.



Dale Parsons

Discover Prompts Day 24: Elixir, the Magic Potion

It really is a wonder we survived our childhood. There were all kinds of home remedies we were subjected to. From “Lucy’s Juice” to sweet nitre, I don’t know how we made it.

When we were kids, there was a bottle of “Sweet Nitre” in the back of the fridge. It was always there, like a skeleton in the closet or a ghost in the attic. If we ever said we were ill, or if anyone had a fever, it was time to take sweet nitre. My dad was the one who came up with it, I am certain he was forced to drink it when he was a kid. Why else would he make us drink it?

Sweet nitre was not sweet. It tasted like a mixture of cow urine and cat poop. I’ve never tasted either one, but I’m convinced both were in the bottle of sweet nitre. It was never my mom who served it to us. Always my dad. It was the magic vomit potion. Moments after drinking it we were in the bathroom (if we made it) throwing up everything we ate since the week before. I am certain the reason we were vomiting was that the potion was toxic. Even our little bodies knew better than to keep it inside. I looked up sweet nitre several years ago, and it had a warning in big letters saying it should never be taken internally as it was POISON. How are we still here?

Another great thing we did was eat Vicks VapoRub. Yes. I said eat Vicks VapoRub. If we had a sore throat, my dad, yes, him again, put a big gob of Vicks on his finger and made us eat it. “Just hold it in your mouth and let it go down your throat slowly” he said. Ughhhh!!

My dad’s mother was the queen of all remedies. Her term for anything medicinal (whether it was homemade or not) was “lickdob.” “Put some lickdob on it” she said. Whatever it was. Sliver? Lickdob. Flu? Lickdob. Hungry? Lickdob. Tired? Lickdob. We had to be careful because some of her lickdob was nasty.

While I was in college I worked with a professor building houses during a summer. I fell and cut my leg and it became infected. I spent a few days in the hospital with blood poisoning. When I spoke to my grandmother she told me I should have put a beet poultice on it. I thought, “You can eat the beet poultice. If this happens again I’m going back to the hospital!” No, I didn’t say it out loud.

One time when our triplet sons were sick, my aunt and grandma were going to apply some “Lucy’s Juice.” Lucy was my grandmother’s sister. She made an elixir with turpentine, kerosine, Vicks, and couple other things I can’t remember. Luckily, we found out about it and said, “No way!!”

I know home remedies have been around for generations. Elixirs of all kinds people swear by. I just swear at them instead of by them. No thanks.

The lake is a wonderful elixir that doesn’t require me to swallow anything. Listening to the water lap the shore on a calm day is magical.

A favorite of ours is finding sea glass, or beach glass. We have found some amazing treasures. Some pieces have clearly been in the water for decades. My wife recently found an intact pop bottle from 1963.

Coffee is my go-to elixir every day of every week. All day. Coffee smells wonderful, tastes amazing, and brightens my mood, without fail. A mocha, on the other hand is like heaven with a cherry on top. Love it!

The best, surest, always available, never ending elixir is family.

Family with coffee? Oh, man. Now it’s getting dangerous.

Discover Prompts Day 17: Social Distancing. Wait, What?

Who comes up with this stuff? Social distancing? For people like me who are socially distant, nothing has changed. Except, of course for the mask that no two people agree on for more than forty-seven seconds.

I’m ok with social distancing, if it means staying away from crowds of people. I’m really not doing anything different than I was before. The real difference is we quit watching the news. I’m social distancing myself from everybody who does the news. Now that, I can get excited about.

I have a t-shirt with an inscription, “It’s way too peopley outside.” Yep. It is way too peopley outside, not just during all this craziness, (not that I’m one of those who believe the virus isn’t real, it’s real alright), but always. Staying away from people has not been difficult at all. It was hard, however, to follow the rules and stay away from our family for the first month. Not doing it anymore.

This is why I always got into so much trouble when I was a pastor. There were people everywhere! No one ever told me being a pastor was about being with people. Constantly.

I honestly envy pastors I have met who just cannot get enough of being around their people. I heard one pastor say, “If I could just preach and visit my people, I’d be the happiest man in the world.” I was dumbfounded. A retired pastor said, “I miss the burden of the people.” I thought he was crazy. The burden of the people? What does that even mean? Another pastor friend said, “The toughest thing for me to do on my day off is stay away from the church.” I thought, I’ve heard it all, now. This guy is out of his mind. The last place anyone ever found me on my day off was near the church. In fact, they couldn’t find me at all!

I hated visiting, and that’s where I fell on my face. People demanded it. Oh, I didn’t mind going to the hospitals, or doing funerals and weddings. Those were short term, in and out. At least the hospitals and weddings were. Funerals were a lot tougher. I have no idea how many funerals and weddings I officiated. And besides officiating, the ones where I played the piano. Add a whole bunch more. Do I miss it? You have to be kidding. If anyone had told me many years ago it would all involve endless people, I probably wouldn’t have done it. It’s a good thing they didn’t tell me, I guess.

People tell me I was a good preacher, and I appreciate it (I retired from ministry in 2004 after thirty-one years. After I retired I was asked to fill in for several months at a couple of churches. Now that was better! I didn’t have to do anything but preach. Preaching was always easy. If I could preach and head out the back door when I was done, that was like heaven. Finally, I reached the point where I don’t even fill in anymore, and I don’t miss it. Too many people.

Social distancing isn’t difficult at all for introverts. I’m ok when there are people around who I love and trust. I’ve never been a party planner. If I absolutely have to go, ok, I can make it through the night. The love of my life can talk to anyone, anytime, for any reason. I love her for it. Maybe if she could have been the pastor (the word pastor actually means shepherd) and I could have been the preacher, I could have lasted longer. No, she was a middle school teacher for many years. One of the great ones.

Someone gave me a book entitled, “Pastors – They Smell Like Sheep”. Uhh, nope. I never read it. In fact, I think I gave it away. I wasn’t interested in smelling like sheep.

My wife’s mother told her family that during the Great Depression, her family didn’t notice anything different. They raised their own food on the farm. They didn’t have anything of value except their land. They lived as they always had. It’s sort of like that now. For those who don’t live on being around others constantly, social distance is nothing new.

I wonder how much money some advertising agency has made by coming up with the phrase “social distancing”. Wait. I’m not supposed to think or say things like that. Social distancing is the new reality. Or so they tell us. If we’re listening, that is.

My coffee is cold. Time to nuke it again.

Discover Prompt Day 16: Slow Down!

It’s really a struggle to stop and take a breather with all of the demands and screaming voices coming from every direction. Sometimes we have to slow down just to maintain sanity, or at least try.

I have always found the lakeshore to be very calming. With the rolling of the waves and constantly changing reach of water on the sand it’s easy to be taken in. It’s the same mesmerizing sense that takes over when I’m watching a campfire.

Music has always been a source of comfort. I have an Earl Klugh station on the music app I use that I love. Earl Klugh is an incredible jazz guitarist I have enjoyed for over forty years. Sometimes songs cycle through I don’t care for, but I have “liked” enough of Klugh’s songs that they frequently return. His fingers expertly dancing on nylon strings creates a magical sound with a calming effect much like the sound of waves rolling on the shore.

I like having my station playing when I’m working on my life-long hobby of model railroading. You would think a hobby like that would be relaxing, and it is, mostly, but sometimes its frustrating. Having music playing is helpful except when I stop what I’m working on and just listen. Sometimes the work is slow and tedious but the rewards are incredible. Listening to jazz guitar helps me maintain a slow pace and resist the urge to rush.

Another kind of music that helps us tremendously, especially when we need to slow down, is worship music. We love Elevation Worship and Hillsong United. (This is not a sales pitch! We have no connection to either one. We just enjoy their music). Amazing, encouraging, inspiring, calming, reassuring.

Our miniature golden-doodle, constantly at our side, is a great source of comfort. She can nap at any time, in any situation, no matter what is happening around us. We try to follow her example.

With every sunset I’m reminded that trouble won’t last forever. Hope is renewed with every sunrise. Time for more coffee.

Discover Prompts Day 12: Feeling Light

One of the suggestions for writing about this Discover Prompt is recalling a time of feeling completely carefree and light. I gave that quite a bit of thought and I really can’t remember the last time I felt completely carefree.

We’re talking about a feeling. Feelings come and go. Who knows how many different feelings we have throughout the day? Feelings are affected by all kinds of things like appetite, weather, people, relationships, finances, caffeine, medications, hammers hitting fingers, entertainment, music, movies, conversations, news, social media, clouds, bills, illness, impressions, perspective, thoughts, possessions, lack of possessions, social conditions, religion, non-religion, education, emotions, bad coffee, good coffee, alcohol, smells, traffic, mechanical problems, temperature, rain, no rain, allergies, colds, flu, disappointments, expectations, hopes, dreams, plans, accomplishments, endings, beginnings, new surroundings, old surroundings, new jobs, old jobs, days off, weekends, Monday mornings, Friday nights, alarm clocks, time clocks, chimes, children, no children, parents, missing parents, driving, walking, thinking, purchasing, losing, acquiring, choosing, clean houses, dirty houses, embarrassment, gloating, plants, blossoms, leaves falling, leaves appearing, snowflakes, rain, water, having a boat, not have a boat, snow storms, snow days, lightning, thunder, ice, stubbing toes, getting lost, lights on, lights off, darkness, fire flies, wasps, mosquitoes, fish, dogs, cats, guinea pigs, ants in the house, spiders, centipedes, chocolate, lack of chocolate, politics, oil changes, car washes, flat tires, motor homes, travel trailers, flying, landing, waiting on a tarmac, trips being canceled, getting fired, getting hired, layoffs, hirebacks, recalls, refunds, overcharges, cold food, cold coffee, cold tea, restaurants closed, pizza, bad pizza, Tweets, posts, stats, likes, dislikes, memes, non-memes, misunderstandings, understanding, Instagrams, Snap-Chats, comprehending, confusing, concealing, revealing, knowing, not knowing, finding, dogs barking, dogs licking, cat tongues, cats purring, water boiling, cold water, clean clothes, body odor, dirty fingernails, and living.

To be totally carefree, one would either have to be an infant, which is not really being carefree but to be unaware of cares, or not be living.

Feeling light, whatever that means, evidently is something different. Someone said that seeking happiness as a goal is a mistake. If feeling light is feeling happy, than great. But happiness comes and goes from one moment to the next, depending on what’s happening around you. Being generally satisfied could be equated with happiness, and if it is, you’ll probably say you are mostly happy, if you are satisfied.

If you are consumed with dissatisfaction, can’t get enough, no matter what you have it’s not enough, then you probably feel like happiness is always just beyond your reach. There is nothing wrong with reaching, striving, working, growing, improving, but not with the price of never feeling a sense of accomplishment where you are right now.

What I am striving for right now, is more coffee.

You Can Make Delicious Biscuits

There is a trick to making great biscuits. The care you give the dough makes all the difference in the world. Handle it roughly, you’ll be disappointed. Gentleness will be rewarded the flakiness and great taste.

The ingredients are few and simple:

2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda (only if you use buttermilk)
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons shortening
3/4 cup buttermilk (or plain milk, but leave out the baking soda)

Mix all of the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Using a pastry fork or a regular fork, mix the shortening into the dry ingredients until crumbly.

Add the milk all at once. Mix together. Make sure all the dry ingredients are mixed into the dough. The dough will be sticky.

Put the dough on a floured surface. Sprinkle some extra flour over the top of the dough.

GENTLY kneed the dough, adding just a little extra flour. Fold the dough two or three times, and that’s all. (The more you handle it, the tougher the biscuits will be.)

You can either pat the dough out using your hands, or use a floured rolling pin. The dough should be about 1/2 inch thick.

Use a biscuit cutter, placing the biscuits on a non-greased cookie sheet. (If you don’t have a biscuit cutter, you can drop spoonfuls of dough on the pan, but do this before kneeding or adding extra flour).

Bake the biscuits in a 425 degree oven for 12-15 minutes.

The recipe can be doubled, tripled, whatever you need!

If you add some sugar, the biscuits are more like shortcake. Delicious!

Of course, biscuits are best with coffee!

How to Brew the Best Cup of Coffee

If you enjoy coffee as much as I do, then coffee is on your mind throughout the day. Finishing one cup just means the pleasure of looking forward to the next has begun.

Enjoying coffee to the fullest requires care in choosing the perfect mug. Don’t just grab something from the cupboard. Think. The handle, weight, lip, and appearance of the mug are all very important.

Are you most comfortable using the same mug every day, or do you prefer variety? I could live with two or three rather than a cupboard full.

The most important factor in choosing a mug is the thought and feeling it inspires. Do you prefer a message on your mug, or do you like blank space? Your mug should not contribute to the pressures of the day. It should comfort and calm. My first mug of choice is tall, with a pleasing weight and handle. The inscription is, “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are grey.” My second choice is my tall mug that simply says, “Papa”.

However you choose to brew your coffee, it should provide you with a steaming, flavorful, cup that tastes great from the first sip to the last.

This antique Pyrex percolator works perfectly on our gas stove. The brewing coffee fills the kitchen with an incredible aroma.

For a six-cup pot, fill it to the line with fresh cold water. Add the stem and basket. Place a round paper filter in the bottom of the basket. Use three heaping teaspoons of ground coffee, maybe a little more, or less, depending on your choice of strength. Place the cover on the basket, and the top on the pot. You’re ready for heat. Put the pot on a medium flame, and wait for the magic to begin.

The beautiful thing about our Pyrex percolator is watching the coffee drip through the basket and slowly turning the clear water to brown. Once the perk is constant, the flame should be turned down to low, not simmer, because the perking will almost stop completely. The coffee should be allowed to perk for five minutes and then removed from the heat. Delicious!

A perfectly brewed, delicious pot of coffee.

Do you enjoy your coffee black, or do you use cream and sugar, or just cream, or just sugar? Do you really doctor it with flavored cream? If so, what is your favorite? We used cream and sugar for many years, but now prefer black.

Are you okay with coffee that isn’t hot? When my coffee begins to lose it’s edge, I nuke it. I know, I know. To some people, nuking coffee destroys it. I don’t believe so. I prefer sipping hot, hot coffee. Nothing tepid.

When I do have the pleasure of going to Starbucks, I usually order a Grande Mocha, Extra-hot. I used to request 190 degrees. One time the server said, “And here’s your insanely hot mocha.” What can I say? I like it hot.

The Keurig coffee maker is an easy and fast way to a good cup of coffee. It does provide aroma, but not as much as a percolator on the stove.

For coffee to be enjoyed fully, thought needs to be given to the brewing process. A clean coffee pot, or automatic coffee maker, is very important.

Coffee is a partner in life. If it is given time, is appreciated, and thoughtfully enjoyed, the pleasure returned will be amazing.

Oh wow, my cup is cold.