It’s a new day and a new look for The Dreaded Thomas Family Christmas Page. After fifteen years I no longer own the twinwillowsfarm.com webpage. I also let my old blog, The Sheepish Scribe go dormant. And, in keeping with the times, I’ve moved everything here at PeggThomas.com. These are just a few of the many changes Michael and I have traveled through this past year.
Jeff finished his move to Sturgis, MI. The last of his belongings, including Cash, went south after New Year’s Day. It wasn’t the best weather to travel in, much less pull a horse trailer through, but they made it.
While Jeff was starting his career job, Michael was losing his. He was laid off from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services with a month’s notice. His job was still there, but someone higher up the food chain lost their job and bumped him out of his. It was devastating.
We tried to keep things as normal as possible, including a visit with Jeff to watch him coach his 8th grade basketball team in January. He’s a good coach and enjoys working with the kids, but it does put a crimp in his roping schedule.
Michael’s final day at work was February 14th. Yeah. Happy Valentine’s Day from the State of Michigan. We were fine, financially, but it was still worrisome. After a couple of weeks, he was offered a position in Traverse City doing exactly the same job he did here. Of course, he jumped on it! Janet and Marsha (sister and adopted sister) had moved to Lake Ann (near Traverse City) a few months prior. They offered him a place to stay while he worked during the week while I stayed home to sell the farm.
March came in cold and snowy, but at least Michael had a job. Murphy and I got the house ready to put on the market. We also sold the sheep. That was difficult. But I logistically, we wouldn’t have been able to move them with us. It was a sad day when we watched them driven away.
April brought a bit of a thaw, so Michael and I – and Murphy – took a day trip up to the Soo. It was still pretty cold! The river above the locks was still clogged with ice, although the Edwin H. Gott had no problem moving through it. The river down at our favorite spot, Mission Point, was pretty much open. Just some floating ice here and there. A sure sign of spring.
May brought fishing! I caught a handsome small-mouth bass and turned it into that beautiful dinner complete with hushpuppies. We didn’t get fishing as often as we’d like this year, but it was a casualty of living across the state from each other all week.
Jeff discovered a fun place to visit in Shipshewana. It’s a little theater where a lot of old-time country music stars give concerts. We went down in May and saw a few of them, including Jimmy Fortune from the Statler Brothers. Yes … he really is that short! We also saw Bobbie Bare, TG Shepherd, and LeRoy Van Dyke.
May also brought … the mold. We’d lived in this house for more than 14 years and never saw a sign of mold before. We had to take the house back off the market and get rid of it.
Michael had only the weekend to work on it, so it took a few weeks. First was tearing up the old flooring and sub-floor in the laundry room, which is on the bottom level of our tri-level house. Once he did, he found this square sump pump hole. We’ve no idea what mental midget thought it would be a good idea to put a sub-floor over this open hole. *sigh* But now it’s all filled in and a brand new floor is in place. At this point, we decided maybe we’d jumped the gun on selling the house. Maybe the Lord was slowing us down. Janet and Marsha were willing to put Michael up for a longer period of time (or should that read: put up with Michael?). At about that same time, rumors expanded about more State of Michigan changes at DHHS. The last thing we wanted to do was sell the farm and then have Michael moved again. So we decided to give it some time to play out.
June means hay season. With the sheep gone and just Old Trooper to pasture, we asked a neighbor if he’d like to hay off our horse pasture. He did and I snuck some photos from the back porch. What a pretty sight to watch!
We did our annual trip to the Soo for Engineer’s Day. The weather was fantastic and we saw many of our favorite freighters. Jeff joined us for part of the weekend, but he had to cut it short because he was in a friend’s wedding on that Saturday. Michael and I took the “Boatnerd Dinner Cruise” and it was fun. We got stuck in the MacArthur Lock! Our tour boat had to back out of the lock because the upbound gate malfunctioned. A word to the wise … tour boats don’t back up very well! But the tour boat guys were great and they extended our trip by an extra 45 minutes to make up for it.
We celebrated the 4th of July with Greg, Sandy, Adam, Diana, Nathan, Andrew, and Danny (my brother, sister-in-law, and niece’s family). It was a fun time and the little guys didn’t mind the noise at all. We also heard Three Men and a Tenor, one of my favorite vocal groups.
We did a full week of camping in July at Algonac State Park on the St. Clair River. It was HOT that week! We laughed when we bought the new camper and it came standard with an air conditioner. We didn’t think we’d ever use it. We did that week. Jeff joined us for the whole week.
August was a quick day trip to Mackinaw City to visit the Rendezvous there. There’s a fellow who has a booth there and sells handmade wooden utensils that I love. We’ll go back next year so I can purchase a couple more. And have lunch at Scalawags, of course!
I hummed and hawed about canning any of the garden produce this year, still uncertain if we’d be moving or not, but finally decided I couldn’t just let it go to waste. So I canned a few things, but not as much as I might have if we’d been certain we were staying.
September we camped another full week at Brimley State Park, our favorite campground. We relaxed, watched boats, and generally rested up before Michael’s surgery. About this same time, we learned that a supervisor in the Alpena office had given a retirement date of January 31. A chance for Michael to come back home!
But before we could get too excited about that, Michael needed surgery on this right thumb. He has degenerative joint disease and every so often he needs a joint repaired. This one was a major surgery. His thumb joint had deteriorated to total bone-on-bone. They basically removed his thumb joint, took part of a tendon out of his forearm, and then used that tendon to reconstruct how his thumb will operate. It worked! But it took longer than we thought it would. He’s still in physical therapy and just now starting to build strength back. The doctor says he’ll have 85% or so of his original strength.
We took another day trip to Mackinaw City while Michael was convalescing. We had sat by the bridge in the park, had lunch at Scalawag’s, then on the way home we stopped at Ocqueoc Falls and took a walk in the woods. We saw a group of bald eagles, which was really cool, and even made it back to the car just minutes before the skies opened up and drenched us.
November brought another great-nephew! This is Samuel and he’s a keeper.
Life has its circles. While we welcomed Samuel, we said goodbye to Dad. He lost his battle with Alzheimer’s on November 16th. Jeff called me around 8:00am to tell me he’d shot his deer and while I was talking to him, my brother texted me that Dad had died.
He died at almost the same time Jeff shot his deer … with the gun Dad had given him. A deer with a perfect 8-point rack, the nicest Jeff has ever shot. I think Dad ran that buck past him on his way to heaven.
Here is the deer, along with Michael’s deer taken the evening before. Both 8-points, both now at the taxidermist’s. Look for these big boys to be on the wall and decorated with Santa hats in next year’s post! Way to go, guys!
It’s been a wild year with a lot of changes and a lot of unknowns. At this point, we’re not sure when – or even if – Michael will get moved back over to this office. The possible retirement here is uncertain. There is a possible job opening in the Tawas office. His position in Traverse City is a secure position. We’ll reevaluate in January if we should put the house back on the market, or if we should sit tight and wait. Prayers appreciated as we make this decision!
We wish you all a Very Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year in 2016!