Monthly Archives: May 2014

A Story for Ducky: Chapter Two (or: How the Blog Got Its Name)

Yes, the title is for a second chapter. Yes, there is a first. But, this was the difficult one so I had to get it down before I chickened out…

Once upon a time there was a beautiful princess bear and her handsome bear prince. But, the princess bear was sad. You see: They lived in a far away land. Far and away from all of their loved ones. This land was warm and sunny and surrounded by water, but they were alone. The kingdom was enormous and, to see family bears, it was two-days travel north with a good horse and plenty of rations. They didn’t have enough horsepower or enough rations to make the journey very often. Consequently, the princess bear saw her family only once or twice each year. A family she loved dearly. And so, she was sad.
The handsome bear prince was frustrated. Not at the princess, no. He was upset that he couldn’t make his princess happy by himself. He tried everything he could to make her happy on his own. And, while she loved him dearly for all his efforts, they failed. One by one. The princess remained sad and alone.
Until one day. The bear prince understood that his princess suffered from loneliness. He had done his best to satisfy her need for company, but his duties called him away for much of the time. After thoughtful and serious contemplation, they decided to call on the stork and ask for a bear cub. They had wanted a family of their own for awhile and it seemed as good a time as any to begin one.
They called the stork. But he didn’t answer. And didn’t answer. And didn’t answer some more. The princess bear’s spirits had been lifted at the thoughts of a cub joining her. Every time they called the stork and he ignored their call; the princess felt her temporary happiness crumbling slowly away. Like a sandcastle left to dry. In that warm, sunny, far away land.
The bear prince knew he had to do something. He decided that as much as he loved his warm, sunny paradise, it debilitated his wife with sadness. With great personal sacrifice, he decided to move them back to the part of the kingdom where her family reigned. It was cold and snowy and sometimes miserable there, but he knew that he could never be truly happy if he could not share that happiness with his love.
In the spring, they made their journey north. As they packed up their belongings and said good-bye to the few friends they had made, the stork finally returned their call. The princess bear couldn’t believe her luck. Yes, it had taken frustrating years of disappointment and loneliness, but she was returning to her family… and bringing with her an incredible surprise.
All through summer, the bears celebrated. They celebrated their homecoming. They celebrated the summer season. Most of all, they celebrated the impending arrival of their bear cub. The princess’ father, the good King Walrus, christened the cub: Bop. The entire bearpack anxiously awaited Bop’s arrival as he was due in the coming winter.
But, during the fall, things began to change. Things always change in the fall. The princess bear always loved autumn and it’s colorful, bountiful majesty. But, the princess, too, began to change. She felt strangely and did not understand why.
On a beautiful day in the fall, the stork called the bear princess and told her he had made a mistake. Her round stomach plummeted, thinking that the stork was going to tell her that she was no longer getting her cub. But, Bop was coming, the stork explained. He had gotten the timing wrong though. It was a mistake. A huge, regrettable, but imminent mistake. The princess did not understand right away and she held onto her hope. She thought that if she could just hold on long enough, Bop would come at the right time and she would love him forever. She was right about that: she would love him forever.
The bearpack surrounded the prince and princess and showered them with love and hope. The bear prince and his princess had never experienced real loss. They were incredibly innocent to real pain. They were able to stay incredibly hopeful until the end.
Because Bop came. It was still fall, not winter. It was too early. The prince and the princess and her mother, the bear queen, joined together to say goodbye. They said goodbye to their tiny, baby bear cub. A boy. They said goodbye to the wonderfully-imagined lives that they had planned for their family. They said goodbye to their unfettered experience. They were no longer free from pain. They grieved immeasurably and exhaustingly and eternally.
The princess bear bedded down for winter early. Her heart broken, she just wanted to sleep. She wanted to hibernate away her pain. She just wanted to roar. She wanted to scream away her pain. She had a lifetime of plans for her Bop. She was suddenly a mother bear without her cub. Their meeting was so brief. She did not get enough time.
And so the bearpack surrounded them once again. They showered them with more love and hope and even their own feelings of regret and sadness. They held the bears and fed the bears and comforted the grieving prince and princess.
After some time, the prince and princess bear began to feel better. The other bears had given them so much love and compassion and laughter, it was hard not to feel better. Slowly, very, very slowly, the bear prince and his princess began to laugh with them too. And slowly, very, very, slowly the hurt began to hurt less and less.
Because the princess bear discovered she was never really alone. Even when she was far away to the south, she always had her bears. Her bear prince. Her sister bears. Her brother bears. Her mother bear and King Walrus. Her aunt bears and uncle bears and cousin bears and friend bears. Her whole bear family. Because there is a kind of love that never fades, never tires, ignores distance and time. This kind of love can pull souls from shadows and ignite sparks of joy and laughter. And, the bear princess knew this. True that she was loved like this, but also she was loving like this. Her love transcended time and space and found its way over land and water and through the clouds all the way to heaven. For time eternal. To her Bop.

And that is what I mean when I say grinandbearpack. It is an expression of incredible gratitude to my family. When I faced the toughest of times, it was the bearpack that brought me back to life.

This story is for Ducky, so that she might one day understand just how much she means to me. This story is for Bop, so that he might know that he is always and forever remembered and loved. This story is for Beer Bear, so that he might see: he is the only person in the world with whom I could have done it, survived. This story is for my bearpack, so that they might know just how grateful I am. Ducky. Bop. Beer Bear. The bearpack. Laughter. Words. They are the loves of my life.

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Beer Bear, Bop, and I

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Rave: Standale Memorial Day Parade

Memorial Day! The unofficial beginning of summer! And, there’s nothing like a Michigan summer. Michiganders approach summer with incomparable zeal; after our winter(s), it’s a justified course of action.

Michigan loves water. Double the peninsula, double the fun. In fact, in my family, if you aren’t in the water on/by Memorial Day, it’s grounds for familial abandonment. It doesn’t matter if the water is cold. Get. In. It. Many Michiganders flocked to the Great Lakes’ shores to celebrate. We opted to avoid the inevitable mayhem and traffic and stuck around Grand Rapids.

Beer Bear and I hauled the Duck to the local beach at Millennium Park for some sun, sand, and swimming fun. Millennium Park is one of the Kent County parks and offers a small beach area with concessions, boat rentals, and a splash pad. The park is peppered with trails and boardwalks that interconnect with our local trail network. I recently discovered a union of trails that link throughout our area. I’m definitely looking forward to exploring them! One of the trailheads is right near our home! Check out the trail map here.

Last year, our Duck could not handle the sand. She hated it. Haaaaaaaated it. She seems to have gotten past that aversion…

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We had a great time and I highly recommend Millennium Park as a great, local day for the family. We have been there many times and it has never been very busy. A definite bonus when trying to wrangle an energetic toddler!

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We continued our summer celebrations with backyard games, barbecuing, bonfiring, and beer.

It was great.

While we enjoy the long-weekend as a commencement of the summer festivities, we cannot forget the reason we observe the holiday.

To that end, we went to our Standale/Walker Memorial Day Parade. And, it was fabulous! First, it was within easy walking-distance of our home. Second, it began at a completely-reasonable noon, meaning we could sleep in and enjoy a leisurely morning. We had missed it in previous years, as we had gone camping for the weekend. I’m so glad we were able to attend.

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The parade began with a flyover. I’m constantly awestruck by the talent and bravery of pilots. Their technical abilities aside, they flaunt their bravery not only in the face of an enemy but also in opposition to the preeminent force of gravity. In general, I think soldiering is a special calling. Additionally, I think piloting takes instinct and abandon. Many, many thanks to our gals and guys in the skies!

The floats rode by shortly after the flyover. Veterans from several wars were represented. Active duty personnel were on hand. Junior Marines and Junior ROTC members walked. Walker is home to an army reserve base; so family members and the community at large really turned up en masse. It was a spectacular show of appreciation and overwhelming patriotic pride.

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As a parent, Memorial Day is an incredibly important lesson in gratitude. As every veteran’s float passed, we reinforced the idea that we needed to thank them. I’m not sure how much comprehension she is really capable of, but we did get Duckers to quack some “thank-yous” as soldiers rolled by.

My only complaint, and it can be applied universally to these parades, is the politics. Ugh. I hate the inappropriate piggy-backing of an election year. Candidates posing for photo ops with men and women in uniform. It just seems so disingenuous.

It is with great appreciation that we thank the brave men and women who have and do keep our land free.

We thank the men and women who have given their lives in order to gain and uphold the freedoms of this great nation. These fallen heroes deserve enormous and sincerest thanks for their sacrifices for our protections.

We thank the men and women who continue to serve in order to maintain our liberty. An enviable courage exists in every man and every woman who dons the uniform of red, white, and blue.

We thank the mother, fathers, husbands, wives, children, brothers, sisters, friends who await homecomings with pride and worry. Those who live difficult and unconventional lives in order to support our freedoms vicariously.

We thank the many loved ones who have been left in grief to return home with only folded-flags.

God bless you all. ‘Merica.
With immeasurable love and gratitude, The Bear Pack

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Rave: Grand Rapids Public Museum

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I get it. Another long while. Oops. Soooooo sowwwwwwwy.

One of my favorite destinations here in Grand Rapids is the Public Museum. It is absolutely fabulous and has so much to offer for all ages. It may be my favorite spot for a fun family adventure.

The museum features three floors of remarkable exhibits. (They even offer treasure hunts at the front desk as a special challenge to seasoned visitors). The collection is very wide and very varied and somewhat arranged alphabetically. “A is for Automobiles. F is for Fossil. Q is for Quilt.” And so on. While the pure plethora of artifacts and articles and animals and all else is actually somewhat daunting, this arrangement does help to quell any overwhelming sensory undertaking.

Especially appealing to me, is an underlying focus on local and regional history and information. The entrance leads to the first exhibit: “A for Automobiles.” First, there is a small car for kids to climb on. This immediately introduces the family-friendly atmosphere that suffuses the entire museum. The walls are absolutely papered with interesting factoids, pictures, etc. There is an early car model on display. The automotive showcase really centers on Detroit’s (and Michigan’s) unique positions in the origin and evolution of the car. Again, this Michi-centro focus is peppered throughout the exhibits.

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That’s a Duck driving. Meltdown #1: Wrassling her out of the car. And I do mean “wrassling.”

Further long the first floor, there are more alphabetized collections including electricity, fossils, and hats, to name a few. Each display is carefully collected and thoughtfully positioned. Informative bubbles are throughout. One can also find (in addition to articles, artifacts, and blurbs) hands-on experiments and audio-visual experiences. They definitely heighten the interactive element… which is great for keeping little hands and little minds entertained.

The first floor also has a replicated “Old Town Grand Rapids” complete with shops, a railroad station, and a working printing press. This walk-thru represents a genuine street segment of late-19th century Grand Rapids. Another highlight for the kiddos: feed a quarter into the slot and enjoy a concert from the restored pianola. Meltdown #2: Escaping the allure of vintage lights, sounds, and a high-wheeler bicycle.

The ground floor also includes a beautifully-restored carousel overlooking the river. Join the family for a ride and appreciate the one-of-a-kind views of our fine cityscape. Meltdown #3: Leaving the carousel. BLARGH.

Up to the second floor, where the alphabetized collection continues. “M is for Musical Instruments.” Just FYI. Meltdown #4: Only being able to play with designated devices.

This floor also contains the entrance to the Roger Chaffee Planetarium. (Recently renovated and reopened)! Explore the stars at one of the daily shows. Even if you miss a designated show time, you will have fun checking out the related homage to space and astronaut exploration.

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Another unique exhibit on this floor is the furniture showcase. Grand Rapids was built on the furniture industry. A working steam engine and lathe illustrate our technological history. It’s another nice highlight of local tradition. There is also a special exhibit of Civil War memorabilia with a special focus on Michigan’s role in the war. Meltdown #5: Anything with real historical value. This might have been Beer Bear’s meltdown…

Currently, the second floor also features an amazing Lego exhibit. Landmark skyscrapers and other architectural wonders are replicated with use of these common building blocks. Yet another necessary stop for little ones as they too can delve into creative building with an assortment of available Lego fun. Meltdown #6: Legos.

The third and final floor. (For all intents and purposes anyway. There is a fourth but it is mostly administrative). This floor is the temporary home to the large-scale traveling exhibits. Last year, they showed a Titanic exhibit. On our last visit(s), we explored Dinosaurs Unearthed; complete with life size animatronics. (And, it was awesome. Totally. Friggin’. Awesome). We are waiting with bated breath for the next special show: Pirates! Arrrrr!

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Meltdown #7: Dinosaurs.

“Z is for Zoology” here. Wander through a taxidermy showcase, several replica habitats, life-size dioramas, and even a treehouse and puppet theater for the kidlets. Meltdowns #8, 9, and 10: The treehouse is too tall. The puppet theater is being used. And, drawers of bugs. In that order. Local flora and fauna are on display as you explore native wildlife sights, sounds, and textures. This animal-centered area blends seamlessly with Anishinabek: an exhibit highlighting the local Native American history.

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Bears. Duh.

There is soooooo much here to see. I’ve barely scratched the surface. Each visit, I find something new. It’s really appealing as a family visit site. Duckers has plenty to see and do- mitigating the likelihood of a complete nuclear meltdown. Even Beer Bear enjoys a trip there… and he is not a “museum” kind-of-guy. Not. At. All. See Meltdown #5.

Have a look-see at the museum’s website and DEFINITELY plan a visit when you are in the area!

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