30 June 2014

2014 MICHIGAN Frankfort - Family Ties

One year ago almost to the day, Mike and I were visiting Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan, to enjoy Engineers Day--a one day annual event where you can walk across two of the Soo Locks, visit the St. Mary's River electric generator plant, and do other fun things. That day we spent time with Mike's cousins Chris and Don.

At that time Don suggested holding a family reunion, as we had not had one in several years. We decided to go for it. So Mike, Don, Chris, and I have been planning and prepping for about six months. This past weekend was the family gathering.

The event was held in the American Legion Hall in Frankfort, Michigan (one way is 195 miles and about 4 hours driving time), in the northwest corner of the lower peninsula. This is where most of the oldest generation lived, grew up, and went to school in. Two of them still live there. Another two are close by. Only one was not able to attend from that generation.

It took a lot of research to get in touch with family members. We contacted about 75 people, got responses from 65, and headcount at the party was about 50.
We had four folks 82 years or above (at right Mike's mom at 93 was the oldest). The youngest was age 2. We had people from Texas, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan. We had a minister, several college professors and educators, retirees, students, housewives, and a Greyhound bus driver.

On the way up Mike, his sister, and I picked up most of the groceries in Cadillac. The car was packed to the brim and we passengers had food stacked under our feet and on our laps. Not the safest hour-and-a-half of driving, but we made it.

While folks gathered, we served appetizers, including some terrific smoked fish provided by cousin Don. Next relatives scarfed up a huge feast of steaks, chicken tenders, hot dogs, burgers, grilled onions, numerous salads, baked beans, mac'n'cheese, and more. Thank goodness Mike's sister tackled the grill with all the meat and onions because I was lost there. Dessert was birthday cake and ice cream to honor Emily (Chris and Don's cutsie granddaughter). So those that are keeping track, can see why I gained poundage last week!

We had only seven kids under 12, but Chris had them all set up with colored markers and drawing paper, jump ropes, bubbles, etc. They were happily entertained all afternoon.

We also had a "genealogy" table. Mike's mom's generation had ten children, so we had an area marked with each of their names. Relatives brought old and new photos and put them under the appropriate ancestor name, so we could see the descendants of each matriarch / patriarch. This was a huge hit!

Family stories were flying, some quite exaggerated, but that's typical under these circumstances. Lots of laugh and a few tears. What a wonderful day was had by all. It ended much too quickly.

Thanks everyone for helping or just being there to join in the fun.

26 June 2014

2014 - Brother Goes Bushy to Bald

My youngest brother Kevin has tons of thick, silver, curly locks on his head. (and man, am I jealous.) Kevin is not only a handsome dude, but also a loving, caring, great-hearted kind of guy.

One of his youngest son's buddies discovered he has cancer. For a long time Kevin has been a big supporter of this teen and his family while Mitchell fights the fight.

Recently at a cancer awareness event in their hometown, Kevin was a huge part of Team Unstoppable, raising money for cancer research in honor of Mitchell.

The event included fund-raising tents for each team (selling food and doo-dads), games, and educational displays. There were also dozens of luminary candle bags lighting walkways to honor survivors or remember cancer losses.

Part of the live entertainment today was The Kinetic Affect, made up of duo Gabriel Giron and Kirk Latimer. They use personal experiences to create live spoken word poetry. As Gabe lived through horrific cancer trauma himself, their performance today was particularly powerful and touching.  

But back to my brother Kevin. Some time ago he committed to shaving off his head of precious silvery locks, if he could raise at least $3,000 toward the cause. Well, today was the head-shaving day. One thing...he was about $400 shy of the three grand. Kev was going to go ahead anyway, but the Master of Ceremonies put out the word and raised the last $400 (plus more) to reach Kevin's goal. Yahoo!

So Kev and about six others had their heads shaved. Besides Kevin there was his work colleague Corby and a long lost friend Steve that came all the way from Ann Arbor to join the cause. (These two played high school football together!!) Here are some photos from the event.

 Mitchell takes the first swipe at shearing Kevin's curls.
 A local barber-ette takes over.

Almost gone. OMG, is that me? Feels so bare.

Kevin and Corby in the aftermath.

 Kevin and his high school buddy, Steve.

Kevin and wife Stevie hugging at the end.
She still loves him even though he's BALD!! Yay!

We know it will grow back, but for Kevin this was a biggie anyway.
I'm so proud of you, bro, and love you very much.
And you are still looking great in my eyes.

PS - I grabbed some of those silvery curls from the ground to have as a keepsake.

25 June 2014

MICHIGAN Lansing - Lowdown on Lansing

In early spring my bro Bob let us know the touring version of The Book of Mormon was playing at Michigan State University's Wharton Center. We held our breath til the day we could buy tickets, punched the computer button one second after purchasing opened, and got four front row balcony seats--two for them and two for us. Tickets were $100 each but way better than the $350 each price we saw on Broadway in NYC last year.

A few months later June 11th finally rolled around. We drove up to Lansing, a 75 mile and 1-1/2 hour journey. There we checked into the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center, a bit dated but clean and comfortable. We had a lovely corner room with windows on two sides overlooking the MSU campus.

We were supposed to meet my brother and his wife Lo at Hop Cat Brewery in the "action" district about 10 blocks way. It was hot, but we enjoyed a lovely stroll along the campus grounds. As it turned out Bob was delayed due to unexpected events at work, so the three of us downed beers and appetizers. Bob joined us two beers later, enjoying his own pint and the leftover appi's.

Hop Cat Lansing has a different vibe than Hop Cat Grand Rapids, where we have visited before. GR is in an old, but updated building with a smallish bar and restaurant. Lots of wood and beams and weathered construction. Lansing Hop Cat is much newer with lots of steel and industrial touches. Both interesting in their own way.   www.hopcat.com

Next we went to Dublin Square, an Irish pub. This place is beautifully appointed with new construction that looks old, dark wood, Celtic decor, fireplace, warm and welcoming. Our nephew, Kendall, joined us there. Mike and Bob ordered Irish whiskeys and we all had a taste. Not my style!  www.dublinsquare.net

Last stop before the play was Beggar's Banquet for dinner. This was kind of a sentimental stop. Years ago when my younger brother Kevin was about 14, we took him on a trip up north to Frankfort, MI. Our mom gave us $50 to feed him (big eater) on the long weekend. We stopped at BB and spent the whole $50 in one meal. Not to worry. We didn't starve the rest of the weekend because eating Up North was pretty cheap some 40 years ago.

Prices had gone up, of course, but atmosphere was essentially the same. Food got mixed reviews at our table. The place did not seem as great as we remembered, but there must be something to it having thrived for 40+ years.   www.beggars banquet.com

Lo bowed out on the play because we only had four tickets. As we zipped over to the theatre, Bob gave us a little tour as he had graduated from MSU and knows his way around. We found a convenient parking spot, entered the theatre, and waited in anticipation til the curtain rose. This Broadway play was written by the creators of South Park--Trey Parker, Matt Stone and Robert Lopez. That tells you something right there.

This religious satire musical is the winner of nine Tony awards including Best Musical in 2011. The play got mixed reviews in our group. The three guys LOVED it and I mostly loved (in lower case) it. The story is insightful and hilarious (but a little raunchy and too far-out-ish for me). That is typical, however, of these creative genius creators. Read more at:

The next morning Mike and I took a stroll through the campus grounds. We saw the MSU Stadium, the famous Sparty statue, and the W. J. Beal Botanical Garden. This garden was established in 1873, shortly after the MSU Agricultural College was established.

This outdoor laboratory was created for the study and appreciation of plants. It is laid out in separate areas of the main collection, endangered species, forest, landscape, wetlands, plant families, useful plants, and non-flowering plants. There is a live growing sample of more than 2,000 different plants, each with a sign stating the name and a little about it. We spent about an hour perusing. It was totally fascinating. Avid gardeners would LOVE (in caps) it.
For more info: www.cpa.msu.edu/beal/

That ended our Lansing and MSU trip this time around, but we are inspired to return. Go Green! (Sorry, other brother Kevin who is a U of Michigan fan.)