Saturday, January 31, 2009

Baby Maya

We were invited to Amy's Mom's house for dinner, and the Washington family came down from L.A, bringing (of course) the baby!

We started the day in an excellent way - Tom took us to have dim sum for breakfast - another first for us. It's a little like Chinese tapas, or small plates - kind of individual dumplings and wontons filled with all good things - shrimp, pork, chicken, beef and you name it. It's a very enjoyable way to go out for breakfast!

Being in Joyce's home is another unique experience - she's such a good hostess, and her home is so inviting - you feel like one of the family. Well, actually we are family in a shirt-tail kind of a way - great-aunt and uncle of her son-in-law - is that close enough? The baby is adorable, and very entertaining - we all got a chance to hold her and cootchy-coo at her a little bit - she's a happy baby! The food was magnificent - a real feast - we had nine people at the table, and enough food for two desserts!

The Washington Family:

Talking to Sharon on the phone while holding her grandchild - is that really fair?

Me with Amy's dad, Richard, the grill chef for the day.

Tom and Babycakes

Grandma Joyce and Maya Grace

Friday, January 30, 2009

San Diego Days

After the big Bar Mitzvah weekend, Dick and I had 3 days at Tom's to entertain ourselves while Tom was at work. We mostly did geocaching, driving around, resting, and playing WoW. Wednesday noon we met Tom at Val's house {Darkdru) to meet her baby, Connor. He is a perfectly beautiful bouncing baby boy, one year old, a real sweetie and a total charmer.

Thursday we went to Sea World. It's an amazing place. We went to all of the shows - sea lion, Shamu, and dolphin. My favorite was Shamu, just because the animals are so big and beautiful - it seems like it would be quite an undertaking to try to teach them tricks - but they were spectacular. The other two shows were great as well - similar tricks that look just as difficult to train.

The plantings at Sea World are so colorful -try seeing this in a Michigan winter!

There is also a fascinating walk-through aquarium, where the sharks and fishes swim all around you and over your head.

Who knew that walruses were this big?!?

It was incredible watching the polar bears at feeding time.

On Friday, Sniders came down to see Tom and his house, and to go whale watching with us. We were incredibly lucky - the weather was perfect, we saw a multitude of dolphins very near the ship, and we saw two gray whales breaching and diving several times. It was a most successful three hour cruise :)
Ready, set, here we go!

These dolphins were very close - it was quite exciting to see so many of them jumping together.

Here is the tail of the gray whale as he dives under the water. I promise you there's a whale tail in there somewhere :)

We are intently whale watching.

Whale watching afterglow at Joe's Crab Shack.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Bar Mitzvah of the West

We had a simply glorious weekend sharing the joy of Adam's Bar Mitzvah with both sides of his family. There were 5 major events associated with this ceremony - it's really a lot like planning a wedding, I think.

Friday night we went to services at the synagogue, where Adam participated by doing two readings. Saturday morning was the Bar Mitzvah itself, followed by lunch at Il Fornaio. In the evening we went to Kim's for sandwiches and conversation, and on Sunday we were back at Kim's for brunch. What a terrific weekend. It was a first for us - but now we're looking forward to Jake's Bar Mitzvah in a couple of years.

Dick, Bill, Eric and Ethan waiting for the service to begin.

Reiko and Hunter - Hunter was running a temp. and not feeling very well, but he was a trooper.

The Man of the Hour, Adam Henry Reines. His best friend (John from Manistee) is behind him, and farther back is Michael and some Reines uncles and a cousin.

Adam is conducting the Bar Mitzvah service. It lasted about an hour and a half.

Adam reading from the Torah, in the Hebrew alphabet.

It's a Reines family affair - Grandma, uncles, and cousin.

After the service, he gets a bouncy chair ride down the aisle of the synagogue!

Jacob loves his cousin Emily - well, everybody does!

Kim and Mike, the proud parents - they say that Adam didn't need any prodding or motivating to do this - he was self-motivated the whole way along. He worked very hard and did a superb job! It was impressive.

Mike's sister Sarah is a Rabbi.

Tammy and Ethan - the children were very well behaved through the whole thing!

Adam is kick-starting the luncheon by having a ceremonial sip of wine - he hated it!

Reiko's car - well, she is Jet's mama, and her husband flies jets, so - of course she's Jetmama :)

I'm ringing the doorbell at Kim's house for brunch on Sunday.

Adam and his friends and cousins are learning how to play blackjack - part of becoming a man!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Such a Day

This morning it was 22 below zero in Grayling, but we were in the banana belt at only 5 below. At least it was a sunshiny day - the sun on the snow really made the world sparkly.

We spent the major part of the morning in front of the TV watching the spectacular events in D.C. I'm ashamed to admit that one of the things I enjoy the most is seeing all of the political celebrities as they enter the platform - especially the ex-presidents and vice-presidents and their wives, but also the supreme court justices and well-known senators.

Obama's speech was especially fulfilling to me for four main reasons...he does not equate power with aggression; he extends America's hand of friendship to other nations, religions, and factions, He appears ready to shoulder responsibility for what happens next, and he exudes a pleasing combination of humility and confidence. In addition to the effective inaugural address, the highlights of the ceremony for me were Aretha Franklin (loved her outfit) and the very clever and meaningful benediction! It was a wonderful way to end the most invigorating inauguration in years. Here's the end of the benediction (my favorite part):
With your hands of power and your heart of love, help us then, now, Lord, to work for that day when nations shall not lift up sword against nation, when tanks will be beaten into tractors, when every man and every woman shall sit under his or her own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid, when justice will roll down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream.

Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get in back, when brown can stick around ... when yellow will be mellow ... when the red man can get ahead, man; and when white will embrace what is right. That all those who do justice and love mercy say Amen.

Closer to home, we had the best possible news this afternoon from Dino, Dick's cardiologist. His message to Dick was that everything is stable, looks good, and he doesn't have to come back! Well, maybe in a couple of years. Now, that's a really good feeling! So since we had such good news, we used our Olive Garden gift card from Tony and Sharron and had a marvelous meal. Thanks Tony and Sharron!

I came home feeling very mellow - the afterglow of such a day. Now I'm ready to sit under my fig tree and watch the Inaugural Balls.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


Since we got back from Florida, we have mostly just been hibernating! The air is so cold and the snow is so deep - not really any incentive to be outside. The snow on our deck is six inches above the level of the benches, and the benches have 18 inches on top of them. In the two weeks that we've been home, I've left the house four times. Dick's been out a little more than that, and he's been snowblowing until he's blue in the face - well actually, red in the face.

Hibernation is a great time to play World of Warcraft - we're leveling up like you wouldn't believe! I'm now level 77, and Dick just dinged level 72 this morning. Dylan would be so proud,

We're getting ready to fly to California - here I go again, trying to figure out what the weather will be like and what to take. I always stress out a few days before we have to leave...we'll only be gone for two weeks, so it's really not that tough. Adam's Bar Mitzvah is one week from today - he has been working really hard on it, practicing every day. I know he'll do well. I'm so glad we'll be able to be there! In a couple of years, it will be Jake's turn.

It's a two hour drive from Tom's to Corona del Mar, so we're driving down on Friday.
We're staying Friday and Saturday nights with Bill and Jan in their rented townhouse. Service on Friday, Bar Mitzvah on Saturday, brunch at Kim's on Sunday and then we'll go back to Tom's.

It's going to be fun and interesting to spend some time with Tom - he knows all of the cool places in San Diego, Last time we were out there we went whale watching, and I'd really like to do that again. We're also expecting to see Kevin, Amy and baby Maya, and to meet Amy's family.

Deer have been camping out in our yard - they dig a hole in the snow and then curl up in it for the night. They're nibbling on the pine trees - they have to rear up on their hind legs to reach anything. I don't think I want to come back as a deer.

We have another winter storm warning today - the snow is relentless - it's been falling since before daylight this morning. The roads are still in bad condition - icy, slippery and treacherous. Wayne County always did a much better job of clearing the roads. The salt trucks would be going up and down Haggerty Road at 5 a.m. I guess that Grand Traverse County doesn't have the funds to salt or sand the roads. They just drop a little sand at intersections, curves and hills. It's frustrating when you know that with a little salt application, the roads would be clear. Not doing that allows a lot of dangerous conditions to continue day after day. Another reason to hibernate.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Round Robin 2009

Every year a big brown envelope arrives, filled with pictures and letters from 10 members of my high school potluck club, the SLGs. After reading all of the latest news and admiring pictures of all the grandchildren, I try to put a year of my life down in a letter. Looking through 400 or so photos, I always pick 4 or 5 of my favorites to send along in the big brown envelope. Here is my letter for 2009 ************************

January 7, 2009

Hi Everybody,

The Robin arrived while we were spending a few weeks in Florida, near our kids. Now I'm back home, sitting by a blazing fire and watching the snow fall on our three foot drifts.  Quite a contrast from sitting by the pool in sunny Florida!  As usual, I enjoyed reading all of the news, and especially looking at the pictures of the grandkids.   This time I especially enjoyed the old pictures - such good memories we all have!  It's truly hard to believe that those pictures are now 50-60 years old!  Yikes.

My life is very much the same as always - we stay busy with volunteering, travel, Vital Step gym, day trips, and hobbies- reading, geocaching, scrapbooking, and computer games.  In fact we keep in touch with our entire family on the computer game called World of Warcraft - we can talk and type over the internet for as long as we want and it's free.  Sometimes all seven of us are logged in at the same time, and it's very satisfying to "see" everybody every day.

One of the major highlights of our year was a Princess cruise of the Baltic last May.  We went with friends from Belleville, and it was a spectacular experience!  Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Estonia, Poland and Norway - whew - all in ten days.  There are so many places we would like to re-visit - especially the Hermitage in St. Petersburg - we could spend a week looking through those rooms of  famous and astonishing works of art.

 In June, we took a whirlwind tour out west to add the western States to our geocaching total.   This is the trip that caused us to miss the 55th class reunion.  There just weren't enough weeks in the year this year for us to do everything that we wanted to do.

We had another terrific northern Michigan summer.  We had house guests  (all family)  from  late June until Labor Day Weekend.  The kids were here for the Cherry Festival - we all enjoyed the Blue Angels,  the midway, and the Big Parade.  We took a day trip to Beaver Island - a first for all of us. It was a glorious summer - the weather was great, we all went to our grand-nephew’s wedding and Dick’s annual family reunion (GenFest).

Since we are trying to find a cache in every State, in early September we took another whirlwind road trip to New England.  Even though we went before the fall colors were out, it is a very beautiful part of the country, and we relished the mountain scenery. New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine - well, you get the idea :)   We have sixteen States left to visit, including Alaska and Hawaii.  We've been there, but we have to go back to find a cache.  What a shame!

We stayed in Ann Arbor again this year - this time for the month of October.  It was extremely enjoyable in every way except for the miserable football season.  But we enjoyed just being in Ann Arbor, re-connecting with old friends, adventuring  around the area looking for geocaches, discovering new places and  going out to eat with area family and friends.   The only downside was that I was rear-ended in our little Subaru while we were there.  The car was totaled, but I was fine - the only damage I suffered was severe bruising from the seatbelt.  My body looked like I was wearing a deep purple sash! That little Subaru really protected me. Now we're driving a 2007 Toyota Rav4, and we're satisfied with it.

We headed for Florida for the holidays - rented a house for a month just ten minutes away from our kids.  Thanksgiving, Dylan's birthday, Christmas and New Year's - we were there for all of it, and have decided that Florida is a very pleasant place to be! Of course, as many of you can testify, we’re not the first to reach that conclusion.

Our Florida kids, Laurie and Chip, are still flying with American Airlines - now there’s an industry with all kinds of problems - labor, fuel, and on and on. They are both based in Miami and living in Palm City. Tom is in San Diego - he’s a senior scientist with Cymer Corp. He’s single - says he doesn’t want to marry and have kids - where did we go wrong?? He’s had several lovely girlfriends over the years - right now he’s been dating a girl half his age for the past year or so.

Dylan, our one and only grandchild, is still the smartest, best child in the Western world! He is now eleven and in the fifth grade. School is not his favorite activity - he’s good at everything except spelling. Spelling is a real bugaboo for him. He loves computer games, biking, hiking, tennis, and chocolate cake J.

Freda - I checked my addresses, and everything is correct. Can’t explain why your email bounced! You must be so proud of your very accomplished pooch - but I know that it takes a lot of time and effort on your part, so congratulations to both of you.

Junie - Didn’t like hearing about Jerry’s Chronic Kidney Disease, but it’s good that he’s seeing a nephrologist. My doctor told me that sometimes CKD can be caused by a medication that the patient is taking that becomes toxic to the kidneys…but then I guess a
nephrologist would think of that! (Blush)

Mary - So nice to know that Charlie is comfortable and productive in his surroundings, even though he has such dramatic memory loss - his situation should be a comfort to you.
I’m so glad that you have found happiness again, and still are watching out for Charlie. I think it’s unusually sweet, miraculous and wonderful.

June, Nan, Debby and Sandy N. - you figured out way before I did that Florida is an excellent place to spend some time during the winter. We have only gone for a month each year, but even that is so pleasant and rewarding. You are a bunch of smart cookies!

Margo - It sounds as though you have bounced back from double hip replacement in grand style - what a trooper! I don’t envy you those procedures, but I’ll bet you feel terrific now, right?

Donna - I love the way you talk about your “support” groups of friends. It really is important to stay connected and it sounds like you are super-connected with some really great people. Hooray for you.

Sandy M. - did you get your deck stained? Were your hands brown for a month afterwards? If you’re like me, you got more on yourself than on the deck.

Debby - Fifty-seven years ago, on February 2, 1952, Dick and I had our first date. I went to the dance with you, and Hermie Cox went with Dick. During the dance, Hermie asked if he could take you home from the dance. You said, "Well, I came with Nancy..." and Hermie said, "Well I came with Dick so let's all go together." So that's what we did. We had burgers and fries at what is now Round's, and they took us home. And that was the first date for Dick and me, and I think it was the last date for you and Herm!

Nola -It seems that our families are all affected in one way or another by the economic slow down.  I'm really sympathetic for people who have lost their positions - it's a bad time to look for a job.  Our daughter Jana had her position eliminated and is now at loose ends.  She got a good severance package, but she is single and worries about the future, as we are all worrying for her. She lives in Washington, D.C., right in the District. I’m hoping she can get a job with the Obama Administration. I’m wishing for the best outcomes for all of our SLG kids who are in the same  boat. Good luck to you and yours - don’t lie awake nights - it doesn’t help at all!

Betty - I know you didn’t have time to write much - you had quite an influx of friends and family! Maybe we can hear all about it next time, even with pictures!

Nan - Now we know why Florida is so attractive to so many Michiganders! I know you’re having a great time down there right this minute, while Dick is out snow-blowing the driveway! That climate down there is one of life’s major pleasures.

Dick and I are in fairly good health.  We have creaky joints and crampy muscles, but we're still using our original knees and hips :)   It's wonderful that medical people can fix up almost any problem these days.  My brother has had double hip replacement, as have other friends of ours.  I sincerely hope that all of you are aging as comfortably as possible.  Our doctor keeps telling us that we have gray hair disease - which means that we're not getting any younger!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

From Toasty to Frosty in Three Days

After three days of super intensive driving, we have finally arrived at home sweet home. It was a memorable trip for several reasons.

We left on Jan. 2, and it seems that every Florida visitor from the Eastern Seaboard also left on Jan. 2. The entire State of Georgia was totally clogged all along northbound I-95. I mean totally clogged. There were long periods of time when we were at a complete standstill, followed by being able to move for a while at 25-35 mph. We saw license plates from every eastern State and Province, with the exception of Connecticut and New Brunswick. If they were there we didn't see them.

We left Laurie's house at 9 a.m., and planned to spend 8 hours on the road, stopping in Columbia, SC. The reality was that we spent 11 hours on the road - way too long for rational humans. It was a stressful, tiring day.

Saturday morning we were back on the road by 8 a.m. We had awakened to dense fog advisories. For a while it wasn't too bad, but in the mountains, the fog was very dense indeed. At times visibility was severely limited. I was relieved to see that there were fewer eighteen-wheelers sharing this leg of the trip with us. Mountain driving, rain and fog were enough to deal with. Even with all of that nasty weather going on, it's clear to me that North Carolina is the prettiest state that we drove through. The mountains and valleys, rock outcroppings, and broad vistas were beautiful - even though the sun never came out. We got to our motel in Monroe, Ohio around 5 p.m.

This morning, Sunday, Jan. 4, we woke up to dire predictions of sleet and freezing rain in Michigan. We wanted an early start, and were back in the saddle at 6:30 a.m. Driving north through Ohio, it was just rainy and overcast. As soon as we could, we tuned in WJR and WWJ in Detroit. They were all talking about freezing rain in the area. Part of I-75 near Birch Run had been closed because of icy conditions. Drivers were reporting multiple spin-outs on US 23 at Brighton and also near Dundee. And so on, and so on. Fortunately, by the time we got there, the roads were not too bad - we saw salt trucks, traffic was light, and temps were above freezing. It was unnerving to see 4 ambulances flashing past on eastbound I-94 as we were heading west.
The rest of the trip was blessedly uneventful, and we are thankful to be home.