Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Tragedy hits close to home

Please forgive my presumptuousness but I'm going to take a moment out of recording our journey to talk about someone else for a change.  

Susan's cousin Pam Mulder and her family once had a home in the Coffey neighborhood of Santa Rosa, California but no longer. In point of fact they lost everything but thankfully evacuated to a shelter in time.

Can you imagine starting life from scratch? 

Another family member set up a gofundme site which you can access right here to make a donation. If you can help please do so. 


Be well, be safe and remember, life is short!

Friday, October 06, 2017

Late summer in West Michigan

Well summer is gone, autumn is here and I've been remiss in posting updates from Grand Rapids. Not much to say, I suppose, and then again. . .

We've had a couple of lovely elderly aunts pass away and a favorite uncle taken seriously ill. Such is the cycle of life and it bears repeating: Life is short.

On an upbeat note Susie continues to bake out of Patricia's Chocolate in Grand Haven and she's developing a small client base as a result.

As for me, well I've finished the 3rd edition of a Guide to the Art in Paris Cemeteries: Père-Lachaise. I'm now up to nearly 2,000 works of art identified and  hope to add even more when we return to Paris next spring.

That's right sports fans, we're starting to pull together a plan for a return to France for my 70th birthday. What we know so far is we'll spend a couple of nights in Lille (again) with family and a few days in Amsterdam with Richard and Pauline and probably the rest of the time in Paris. Anyway, I hope to post more about the details of the trip as they take shape. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, we had a few keenly enjoyable outings in West Michigan, beginning with Bernice's 90th birthday bash at Clear Lake in early August. All her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren were there as well as quite a few extended family members and friends. It was, she declared, the best birthday she's ever had. And she never lies.

Bernice (center) with her siblings Helen (left, Betsey and Frank

with her great-grandchildren and Betsey

Ben leading the singalong

Helen, Bernice and her son Dick

granddaughter Melissa

Susan, Frank and granddaughter Christina

with her grandchildren
One day Susana and I walked over to see the Dahlia Show at Meijer Gardens.

We also drove out to Lake Michigan one afternoon and spent a gorgeous hour or so strolling the beach at Hoffmaster State Park near Muskegon.

Scott's dad gordon Galloway

There was also a trip -- again back to Lake Michigan -- for a mini Van Halsema family gathering at their cottage "Overview" on Lake Michigan. Lots of memories of carefree days for kids now well into the cares of adulthood.

Susie and Mary
And then to close out the summer a small group gathered for a wonderful Labor Day at Clear Lake.

Jen and her Aunt Bernice


Sunday, August 27, 2017

Adam Roberts' latest guide to the curiosities of Paris

I’ve been following Adam Roberts and his Invisible Paris blog for some years now and have never been disappointed. His research is exhaustive, his style engaging with stories that always broaden, deepen and enlighten my grasp of that most incredible bit of geography we call Paris, France.

And twice I’ve taken him up on his challenge to see if he could shed light onto a mystery (a sculpture in a sidewalk near Boulevard Saint-Germain and a large sculpture in Père-Lachaise Cemetery that disappeared years ago) and sure enough he did!

So, when I first heard that he was planning on publishing a collection of his insights into the city I was thrilled.

After several months I received my copy and can say straightaway that, like his blog, the book does not disappoint either. His writing is breezy but by no means slight, his narrative is thorough and each chapter is pleasure to read.

The book is broken into two sections, the longer of the the two is devoted to a history of Paris and is spot on. But for me it’s the second portion that focuses on “The City today” that reminds me so much of why I have always enjoyed the Invisible Paris blog. I especially liked his essays on the “The City of Immigration, “The New Belly of Paris,” “Paris by Night” and “Passages through Time” (the latter makes me want to revisit them again with his book in hand now). These are glimpses into a Paris that fascinate and enlighten at the same time, glimpses that you probably won’t find in any other “guide” to the city.

Interspersed throughout are one-page sidebars of curiosities that would only come from the pen of the Invisible Paris author, such as “The City that Lost its Head” (about the suburb of Saint Denis) and “The Writing on the Wall” (1971 graffiti paying homage to the Commune of 1871).

While this is by no means your typical guidebook (no hours or admittance fee information is provided) he does have a fine list at the back of the book of some of the more important stops for any traveler as well as a few suggestions for lodging, bars, cafes, shops, entertainment and restaurants.

I have to say that it is also a fine armchair guide for anyone who dreams of going to Paris for the first time or for the old hand who longs to return.

Oh, and the book fits nicely into a jacket pocket so having it handy is a snap.

If you'd like to learn more visit your local bookstore or go to (nope I don't get a penny for the link thank you very much).

Thanks, Adam.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Two celebrations in Grand Rapids

OK, so technically we were in the greater Rockford or Comstock Park area but still just a 10-minute drive north of home.

The festivities involved getting together with various members of Susan's family at Clear Lake for lots of good food (think grilling chicken and pork), plenty of good drink but mostly just to be together to share stories of family news and recollections of absent loved ones.

First up was celebrating the Fourth of July, Independence Day. Susan and Bernice and I drove to Raybrook to pick up Aunt Fran and the four of us soon found ourselves sitting on the terrace overlooking Clear Lake.

It was a gorgeous day at the lake, perfect for losing oneself in the quiet of the trees and water.

l-r: Karen Hyde, Jennifer Galloway, Aunt Fran Van Halsema, Bernice Vandenberg

Susie and Laurie Ten Have-Chapman

Karen Hyde

Gordon Galloway, Scott's dad

Our second celebration was unplanned but closer to home as it were and arranged at the last minute by Susan's cousin Jennifer: celebrating the life of Susan's Aunt Frances Jean Vander May Van Halsema who passed into the next life on July 14.

All five of Fran's daughters were here to be with her at the end (or the beginning if you prefer).  Four of them along with several grandchildren and cousins gathered at the Cottage on Clear Lake yesterday afternoon along with Fran's sisters-in-law Bernice VandenBerg and Betsy DeKorne.

The food was delicious, the memories of times past recalled with great affection and plenty of smiles to wipe away the darkness of the hour.

ready for the grill!

Jim DeKorne


Alicia and her mom Pam


Bernice and Greta
Earlier that same day, while I was out enjoying a beautiful afternoon looking for the graves of men from Ottawa County who had served in the 3rd Michigan Infantry, I came across this poignant and timely epitaph on the tomb of Wilhelmine and Frederick Bartels in McNitt Cemetery.

wife of Frederick Bartels
died January 17, 1898
75 years, 4 months 19 days

Dear Mother, in earth’s
Thorny paths,
How long thy feet have
To find at last this
Peaceful rest,
Safe in the arms of God.

Frederick Bartels
died March 6, 1899

74 years 11 months 10 days

Dear Father, with a
Reverent Hand
This to thy memory given,
While one by one thy
Household band
God reunites in Heaven