Sunday, December 20, 2009

A New Old Tradition



Every so often I get an urge to watch a really good movie. Oddly enough, this desire rarely drives me toward the nearest cine-plex. The first place that I always look is: The Redford Theater in Detroit. Many, and I would guess, most Detroiters have never heard of the Redford theater. They don't advertise that I know of, but rather build their business by word of mouth. Somehow or other, my parents have known about it since I
was a kid and took us there from time to time.

The theater originally opened in 1928 and when you walk into it today, you feel as though it were still that era. A group of dedicated volunteers have managed to preserve and restore the theater right down to the Japanese courtyard decor surrounding the front of the theater and starry sky ceiling. This group of volunteer also belongs to the Motor City Theatre Organ Society which is housed in the theater. As you may have guessed, the theater has an old, working organ. (That I will get into later.) While I am certain it has not maintained it's original ticket price, I would still say that the $4.00 admission that they charge is about the cheapest movie in town!

The other part of the Redford Theater that I love is that it only shows old movies. In fact, as you will see, they are dedicated to giving you an old movie experience. I think that as a kid, I was oblivious to the fact that most people hadn't gone to the theater to see Laurel and Hardy in "Sons of the Desert" (my favorite!) "You wax eater!!!"

While I realize that you can turn your television to Turner Classic Movies at any given time to catch much of the Redford Theater lineup, there is really something different about seeing these movies on the big screen with an audience. The first time that I took Mick to the RT, we went to see "Blazing Saddles." It was very different to hear a room full of strangers cracking up at the humor that Mel Brooks was doling. Only at the Redford Theater
will you get a balcony full of college students cheering at the mere mention of Gene Kelly during an introduction of "Singing in the Rain". (They always do an introduction.)

The theater also has an intermission with all of the movies, just as an old theater would have. They have a 50/50 raffle during the intermission. I won it when I went over the summer to see Mary Poppins. I walked away with $68, so factoring in the cost of the tickets and concession stand for all of the movies that I have gone to, I would say that I have made about a $55 profit going to the Redford this year.

This brings me to a new tradition for my family... "A Chistmas Story" at the Redford. I have always loved this movie. Actually, I love any movie which allows my parents to reminisce about their childhood. The Woody Allen movie "Radio Days" is a great example of this. The little known, but brilliant "Avalon" is another. "A Christmas Story," always seems to extract
the exclamations from my parents such as "Oh my goodness! Do you remember those snow suits?" "Look Matt! Look at the stove that she's using in the kitchen!" More than anything though, it conjures up a good laughing spell from my Dad which is an unforgettable thing.

"A Christmas Story" is shown every year at the RT because it is quite popular with their audiences. We went as a family once a couple of years ago, and sure en
ough, I began to get the itch to go again. I randomly put something on Facebook and quickly found out that my sister had gotten the same itch and had been planning to go. My brother Mike jumped on board. Everyone (in Detroit) was able to go except for my parents, who already had tickets to the symphony. Sorry Mom and Dad! It is a tradition now, so we will plan better next year!

It was so much fun to hear everyone laugh as the Dad pronounces "Fra-gee-lay. Must be Italian!" The audience cheered as Ralphie takes a stand against Scott Farkis the bully. "Yellow eyes! Yellow eyes! So help me God, he had yellow eyes!" The theater even threw in an additional raffle for a leg lamp!

So let me take you on a tour! (But bear with me. While these photos were supposed to be in an order that made some sense, Blogger does not seem to want to let me shift them around.) Get ready for some nostalgia:

This is looking at the overall scene from the balcony. Unfortunately with my camera, there is no good way to catch the starry sky, but there are twinkling stars above this already fantastic scene.
Some of the evenings participants: Mike with his girls, Madeline and Natalie
Check out the Santa Bears behind the tree. I totally had the 1986 bear!

Mick, my nephew Vinnie and my brother in law, Steve.

Here is an example of some of the detail above the lights that was preserved in the middle lobby. I am taking this from the stairway that leads to the balcony:


The theater is always decked out for Christmas:

This was as close as I got to the organ.
I believe that it is original, and yes, there is an organist playing as you walk into the theater and during intermission. Usually the tunes relate to the movie that you are going to watch and in this case he was playing Christmas music. See how the organ is up on the stage? As the movie is beginning, the organ sinks slowly begins to sink until it is below.

At Christmas, they have an elaborate train set at the front. Wow. Whatever happened to train sets? I kind of want one.

Detail of some of the decor to the left of the stage:

Before every movie the curtains open and the National Anthem is played on the organ. I like to imagine that they have been doing this since World War II. (Who knows? Perhaps they have.)

This is a view of the middle lobby with the snack bar. What? I didn't mention the snack bar? $1.50 popcorn with real butter!!! Other inexpensive classics may be found such as Vernors ginger ale and Chuckles. (When Mick ordered Chuckles this time, the volunteer behind the counter responded "Chuckles! Ho Ho Ho!"
You can also see the other staircase going up to the balcony
Before most of the movies, they will usually show a "short" of some kind. Most of the time it is a Bugs Bunny cartoon, but in this case, we were treated to a silent Laurel and Hardy film that I had never seen before (accompanied by the organ of course.)


Here is a detail above one of the staircases. I am afraid that my flash made it appear a bit gaudier.


To the right of the stage


What photos did I not take? The entrance or the main lobby! Fortunately, you may find some on the Redford Theater website: http://redfordtheatre.com/index.htm
While you are there, you may just want to check out their Calendar of Events for the movie schedule. I will see you there!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Digs- Christmas Edition

Welcome Avid Reader, to the
McCulloch Family Christmas Home Tour!
Yes, Mick and I now have the ultimate Christmas gift... a roof over our heads. Several of you have been asking for photos, so here they are!
As I write this, I am imagining the reactions that people will have based on where they know me from. The Detroit crowd will surely think..." Wow! This is a lot bigger than her last place!" The Springfield crowd might think: "Whoa! Their house they just sold was twice that size!" Well, you are all correct. We have landed right in the middle, which I think is pretty good for a non-profit employee and a student. We really love this little place, and we are happy to share it with you. (Too bad I can't funnel you some celebratory Christmas cookies via the internet.)
This is the entry way to the condo. Cute, no? They look like little Snow White cottages to me. One thing that I love is that no two buildings are the same and that the landscaping is quite fabulous. The building across the street is forest green with yellow trim. The one next to ours is beige with orange trim. I enjoy the variety because it doesn't make it seem like a "condo" (By the way, some of these photos were taken this summer. It is just kind of icky out right now, so I pulled from the archives. Plus, all of my recent shots were taken at night.)





Let us start with the main floor: First up is our living room. I never thought that I would go for yellow walls. In fact, I had very specific plans to paint the one wall a bright orange, but there is just something very homey about the yellow. Oh, and I am just a little more than lazy in this particular area. Next up? Curtains!




Here is another shot from the living room looking upstairs:




And our dining area, which is open to the living room. I really wish that we had brought my old light fixture, because this chinese lantern has got to go!





Here is a shot of our kitchen:
And another. I don't know why, but I went a little ga-ga over the little pantry off of the kitchen. These were built in the 40's and this just seems so appropriate for that time period. I also really dig the retro gas stove and like to pretend that it is from the 40's as well, but the reality is that it is probably from the 60's.


This door leads to the most treasured part of the home: our basement! We went without one in Springfield and I am going to cherish having one more than you can imagine. Unfortunately, it is so jam packed with moving boxes that you can't even walk through it yet, so I will not be posting a photo.
I am excited to say, however, that I will have my own sewing area down there. Oh yeah!!! I also enjoy this door, because conveniently, there was a cat door waiting for us despite the fact that the previous owner did not have a cat. I did measure the cat door during our inspection and measured Murphy as well. I concluded that there was no way that he would fit through it, but wouldn't you know that the crafty fella figured out a way to manuever his girth! Nothing comes between Murphy and his food dish in the basement!




Moving upstairs: This is our office. We decided to treat ourselves to a new desk and bookcase and we are so glad that we did given the amount of time that Mick spends in there and the fact that I work from home at least once a week now.



This was my grandfathers desk:
Our bedroom was the one room that I actually bothered to paint. It was formerly a peachy pink color and I just couldn't imagine myself relaxing in that space. Again, I imagine the difference between Springfield and Detroit... Detroit: Oh that wall behind the bed is really different! Springfield: Really Carrie? The grid again?
Well, I couldn't help it. We've never had a headboard and our bed needed something behind it. It is a Chicklet orginal.

Here is our deck. Well... our deck with the previous owners furniture. We didn't bring ours from Springfield as we anticipated living in an apartment. Have any that you want to get rid of?



The condos are all situated around areas of green space. Ours is one of the smaller spaces, and yet it is still a good size. Looking to the right from our deck:

Looking to the left from our deck:



Condo fun facts:
1.The buildings are arranged so that no two windows line up. You will never look out of your window and directly into someone else's.
2.These were built to house World War II veterans
3.Our condo accepts and encourages guests!!!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

If Patience Is a Virtue, Then I Am One Virtuous Chicklet

Before I get to the topic of this post, I first want to thank everyone for their continued prayers, phone calls and support. My Dad is doing fantastically well. After the two heart attacks that he had in 1995 he was just worn out and it took a very long time for him to recover. We were expecting worse than that given his medical history this year. Within a day or two you would not have believed that my Dad had just been in the hospital at all! He has much more energy than he had before the heart attack. In fact, he looks better than I have seen him look all year! The only theory that we can come up with is that perhaps due to the stents that they put in that he has more oxygen than he has had in a long time. In any case, we are so grateful!

While my Dad is doing great, Vinnie could use a few prayers right now. He is in the hospital yet again with a virus. Not only did he have to miss Halloween in his neighborhood, but his doctor said that he was not even well enough to go on the trick or treat outing in the hospital. (And of course where did they gather all of the kids? Right outside of his window where he could see them!) He was understandably upset. Anyway, if you could keep those prayers coming, we sure would appreciate it. A week without visiting the hospital sure would be a treat for my family.

Now on to the main event: Condo Craziness!
Yes, 4 months later, we are still waiting on this to happen and living with my parents in the meantime. I think that one thing that we have believed all along is that once we were at the point that we were ready to close, we would just do it. We knew right off the bat that we weren't going to have a ton of say in when it would happen as we were instructed that they would assign us the closing time. Naturally, we assumed that when it came time to close, that they would be ready to go (given that they were dictating the timeline). How silly of us.

Keep in mind that the closing has been delayed from week to week or month to month, but here is what happened this week alone: We are told that we are required to close on Saturday, October, 24th. We don't believe them at first, but finally Friday night, we allow ourselves to get excited as we have not heard anything to the contrary. I get up on Saturday morning in a great mood! My great mood is ruined the second that Mick checks his e-mail only to discover that we have been delayed until Monday. (I have a migraine Saturday and Sunday). Monday we are delayed until Tuesday at 11 am. On Tuesday we are walking in to the closing at 10:45 and Mick's cell phone rings. Yep. Delayed again. We talk to the CEO who declares that he can close us that day at 4:00. At 2:00 we receive a call delaying us until Wednesday morning. At 6:00 we get a call delaying us until Saturday, October 31st. Saturday, we get a call delaying us until Monday at 6pm.
So, that is where we are now. Do I think that we will actually close tomorrow? Um. No. I won't allow myself to get excited until we put our last signature on the documents.

"So, why is this happening?" you ask. Well, I am sure that you are able to determine on your own that to achieve this level of frustration that there are going to be a large number of idiots involved. But to be fair, the situation would be difficult for anyone to manage. Long story, short: These are co-ops that are converting into condos. We cannot move in until they are condos (because that is what we are financing it as), but the conversion is actually what has been delayed over and over again. This week, there are 422 units closing, so it is understandable that there are going to be errors. But really? Moving us 6 times in one week? How on Earth is this acceptable?

The one saving grace comes in the form of a co-worker of mine. She already lives in the complex and has for 10 years, but has to go through the entire conversion process as well. After they moved her several times, she finally did close last Wednesday. There is hope!

The funny thing is that you must be thinking that what we have been waiting for is a fancy, large and grandiose condo. It isn't. We love this complex. The location is just amazing, the grounds are beautiful and the condos themselves are so charming! (Honestly, they look like Snow White's cottage!) The truth is that they are also smallish and older (which if you know me at all, you know that I consider old an asset.). They are not fancy, they are not large, but they are perfect for us.

This condo is just what we need. It is not too big, it is not too small, but it is just where we want it, and just how we want it. After all of the frustration that we have experienced, we were reminded of this when our sellers real estate attorney took pity on us and gave us the code to the lock box so that we could go visit yesterday. It was really what we needed and it reminded us of what will come with patience.

So cross your fingers and say a prayer that this happens tomorrow. It is what we need and more importantly, what I am sure that my parents need right now. As an added incentive, there is likely to be a celebratory gathering at the new place once this is all over. While I am not much of a drinker, at this point it is also likely that this party will include large quantities of alcohol.

UPDATE: Vinnie got to come home from the hospital! Hooray! He told my sister that he was actually a little sad to be leaving and that she must be too since it "is kind of like a little vacation for her" Uh... right, kid. (Though it is very thoughtful of him to consider that she doesn't have to cook, clean, etc. while they are in the hospital.)

Condo: Delayed again. No surprise.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Will it ever end?

Yesterday Mick and I went out to dinner with his folks and came home to find my Mother encouraging my Dad to go to the Emergency Room. He was having a hard time breathing and while he thought that it could be related to allergies, it was quite apparent that it was not. Given the fact that he has been in the ICU 3 times with lung complications (etc.), we naturally assumed that this was a lung related issue as well. Imagine our surprise when the doctor told us that my Dad had a heart attack.

He is currently in the hospital awaiting a course of action. The doctor has already ruled out the possibility of heart surgery because given the health issues that my Dad already has, it would be too risky. (Imagine not being healthy enough for a life saving surgery!) They are trying to determine if it would even be too risky to do a heart catherization (that would find out the extent of any blockage.) A catherization is not very risky for the average patient, but unfortunately my Dad is not your average patient. By the way, my Dads cholesterol and blood pressure are absolutely perfect, so whatever has caused this is out of the ordinary. (True to form.)

Given that my Dad has a team of specialists at the hospital, my parents made the very wise decision to request that they all consult with eachother before making any firm decisions. That means that we will wait until Monday before knowing much of anything.

I have to do wish tomorrow morning in Kalamazoo, 2 1/2 hours away. (I have to go because it is a shopping spree and unfortunately I have the gift cards to make it happen here in Detroit.) I hope that tomorrow goes quickly because I think that we could all use some answers.

P.S. Prayers please!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Arts...

A Space Odyssey as performed by a high school band.




Thank you List of the Day.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

It's time to Face the Facts

I have a very wise friend by the name of Steve Kirks. Recently, Steve did what many Facebook addicts consider the unthinkable... He cancelled his account. According to Steve's blog: "I realized that the constant exposure to other’s lives through social network sites left me feeling empty. I had subcontracted human contact to Facebook and Twitter, allowing to maintain the illusion of ‘keeping in touch’ without touching anything." Doesn't Steve have an elquoent way of phrasing his thoughts?

Lately, I have begun to feel the same way. Currently, I have 136 "friends" on
Facebook. (Down a bit since I recently cleaned out the people that I haven't spoken to in ages. Refreshing!) I put the word "friends" in quotation marks not because I don't think of them capable of being my friend, but because I don't believe that Facebook alone could ever really allow us to be what that word implies.

Am I glad to have reconnected with people from my past? Definitely! So glad in fact that I would like to pick up the phone and actually connect. Here is the problem: People don't seem to be able to tear themselves away from Facebook (or texting for that matter.) It seems that more and more people are becoming almost uncomfortable with anything past a superficial level.

I want to hear my friends voices, laughter and tears, read their creative and complete thoughts on their blogs, and occasionally shoot an e-mail if necessary. It makes me wonder...If I were to give up
Facebook and texting, would my 136 friends disappear? If I opt for more meaningful connections, am I essentially giving up all connections? Can I win against technology? (Yikes! Do I sound like Carrie Bradshaw here? Not intended!)

How about you give me a call and we will discuss it...

(comments are good too though!)

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Frankenfood

Just when you think that you know everything about your spouse, they can completely surprise you. Take for instance, the recent revelation that Mick has never been to a Michigan staple: Frankenmuth.

Most Michiganders have been taken, willingly or unwillingly, to Frankenmuth at least once in their life. It is known as "Michigan's Little Bavaria" and boasts a German heritage, chicken dinners and a lot of souvenirs. It also features the Cheese Haus and Bronners, the worlds largest CHRISTmas store. (they really put an emphasis on the CHRIST!)

Mick and I are probably not going to be able to take a real vacation in the next 4 years, which is an easy trade-off for what Mick is going to accomplish. (Go Mick Go!) However, we have been feeling a little cramped and thought that a night away might be just the thing. So, the first weekend in August, we decided to go! At first we wanted to go to one of our favorite vacation spots: Niagara on the Lake. Unfortunately, our passports, birth certs, etc. are in the POD, which made Canada a no-no. I had just been up-North for the WAM so we decided to look for alternatives to that idea. Introducing Mick to the cheesiness that is Frankenmuth was just too tempting. To build the excitement, I began to speak in a German accent to Mick. "Ve go to ze Frankenmoot ya?"

The first challenge was determining where to stay for the night. We settled on the traditional Bavarian Inn. This lovely establishment is where you would typically stay if you had a car full of kids and wanted to occupy them for a weekend. It has 5 pools, an arcade and a putt-putt course. We wanted to stay there because if you are going to do Frankenmuth, you should probably do it right. My favorite part of the inn were 3 special television channnels featuring a Terry Bradshaw special about the Inn, a German music program that was filmed there, and a cheese-making channel.
This is the outside of the inn:










Every room at the inn is dedicated to a local family that lives in Frankenmuth. Below, we see what is clearly a recent photo of the Claremunt family. See Wendy there with the large blond hair? She is the pride of the family as she was in the Frankenmuth beauty queen court in the 80's!






Below is the view from the balcony of our room. Pretty, no?













There are several kitchsy little shops and tourist traps in Frankenmuth, but we fell in love with this one in particular. Unfortunately it was closed by the time we found it. While I may be fawning over the fact that it has 50 kinds of cheese, this establishments real claim to fame is that it hosts Michigan's Largest Meat Display. Well, as you can imagine, that got me rather excited!




















Now on to the main event: The "World Famous Chicken Dinners!" If you are going to have a chicken dinner, you really have two options: The Bavarian Inn Restaurant, or Zhenders. I have been told to avoid
Freeway Fritz by all means. Bavarian Inn and Zhenders are directly across the street from one another and are owned by the same family. Being that we were staying at the Bavarian Inn, we decided to have dinner at Zhenders.


Zhenders atmosphere is a little brighter than BI and strives for an all- American theme. They also had a vegetarian menu which was a bonus for me. I got tortellini Alfredo which was actually quite delicious and Mick got the "family style" chicken dinner for himself. The waitress assured him that he would be receiving all of the sides even though he was the only one eating the chicken dinner. Sides included: Bread and preserves, stuffing, potatoes and gravy, buttered noodles (my favorite), green beans, pickles and dessert. Mick is pictured below with some of his dinner as well as his favorit part of the dinner: His own personal bowl of gravy.





















This photo shows my reaction to the smorgasboard and the personal bowl of gravy:



















After dinner, you just want to move. We made it as far as across the street where we promptly fell onto a bench just in time to watch the glockenspiel tell the story of the Pied Piper. I suppose that I had forgotten what a sick little story that is! That jerk lured all of the children from a town away with the exception of the blind kid and the "crippled" kid. How un-PC!


The next morning, we were going to head to Bronners, but we found out that Vinnie was in the hospital again. Amy told us that he was sleeping, so we decided that we would stop for breakfast and then drive to see him instead. He hadn't slept all night, so we had time before we should be there. I knew just the place: Tony's


If you are a trucker that has driven through Michigan, or a hunter on your way up North, or merely a fat-ass that enjoys a good side of bacon, then Tony's is for you. (Pardon my use of the term "fat-ass" This is not in my normal vocabulary, but as you will see, the term seems quite appropriate in this instance.) Tony's is also great for the outlet mall shopper that really wants to fuel up before hitting Birch Run Outlets directly across the street.


Tony's is quite literally known for large quantities of food. They do not boast quality, they boast quantity. And it is always packed! I decided to take Mick there, but did not tell him what the restaurant was known for. Little did he know that his side of bacon would consist of over a pound of bacon.


Here we see my half-order of french toast. Yes, that is a half order. 6 slices of Texas toast with homemade strawberry sauce. I must say that it was actually quite good!









I think that the way that we feel about Frankenmuth is really best summed up by this fantastic promotional photo:



As for Vinnie, they discovered that his poor levels and fever were due to the Parvo virus. He is out of the hospital and feeling great. When we showed up at the hospital, Uncle Mickey was the star as Vinnie grabbed him and they played video games for a couple of hours:




All in all, it was a great weekend. If we can sum it up in one word, it would be:
Food!
p.s. Thanks to Nhung for lending us her camera cord!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

PODsitively crazy!

Okay, so you may have noticed that I have been slacking on the entries a bit. My, you are observant! (And correct!)

Here is the deal: My life is in a POD. You know...those nifty moving/ storage systems that allow you to cram all of your stuff into a cube and choose a date and location for their delivery? Well, unfortunately my poor dear husband packed everything we own into one of them thinking that we would snatch a house and move in quickly somewhere. We have snatched up a condo, but it will not be available to move in to until September 1st - 14th. (We don't know the exact date yet.)

The POD contains things such as important legal documents, my cookbooks, and much of my wardrobe. It also contains: our camera cord. I have been hesitant to post anything on here without visual aids, because I would certainly hate to bore you, but I am afraid that we are all going to have to use our imaginations here. That cord is packed away and it isn't coming back for a long, long time. (Oh dear, I miss my cookbooks!)

So, yes, this post will be mostly about work, but that has been my life lately:

WAM!
No, silly! Not the 80's group! The Make A Wish- "Wish A Mile" bike ride!

I first got to witness part of this last year when I happened to be in town the day that my brother in law, Steve pedaled his way across the finish line. I knew that it was 300 miles over the course of 3 days. The ride starts in Traverse City (top of the mitten) and runs all the way down to Chelsea (near Ann Arbor) While I cannot comprehend what it feels like to bike that, I knew that it was a big deal and I was incredibly proud of him. Steve had witnessed Vinnie receiving his wish and decided to give back.

This year, Steve decided that not only would he participate again, but that he would raise enough money to grant one full wish for another child. ($8,000. Yes, it costs that much!) He also decided that he would train harder and make both that and the fundraising a year-round effort.

I of course, now work for Make A Wish and teamed up with my co-worker Angie to volunteer to host a break stop every day. Amy and the kids followed along the tour driving from city to city and waiting for Steve to pedal in every day.

Let me paint a picture of the WAM experience: WAM is quite literally, a traveling city. It is amazing, and I have never seen anything quite like it. There are over 750 riders that need to be cared for over a 72 hour period and everything must be provided for them.

First, riders show up to the Chelsea fairgrounds, where they will eventually finish the race. Riders are given jersey's for the three days, and volunteers are given t-shirts. Everyone also receives a bracelet with the name of a wish child that they will be riding for, or keeping in mind as they volunteer.

The riders park their cars and there are 6 HUGE semi's waiting to carry the luggage and bikes. (Keep in mind that riders like my brother in law that have family going along don't even utilize this.) There are shuttle buses, after shuttle buses that they board and they are driven to Traverse City. Volunteers like me are given vans with all of our supplies in them and we drive separately.

Once there, volunteers decorate their vans and riders set up campsites or mattresses in a school gym, and we eat dinner. Lights out at 10:00. There is another semi available titled "Rubber Duckies" which is actually a really nice shower truck. (Hooray for no community showers!)

I am brushing over a lot of it, but let me tell you that there are some amazing people that do WAM every year. I think that my two favorites are the gentleman that does WAM on a unicycle, and the most inspirational rider of all: Kevin.

I am not sure of his condition, but Kevin only has the use of one arm and one leg. In order to bike, he has to create a sort of rocking motion with his body... and he does... for the entire 300 miles. Let me tell you, it makes someone like me, with four working limbs feel pretty lazy when you see Kevin take on some of the steepest hills I have ever seen. Go Kevin!

So now to the saga of Steve, Amy Erin and Vinnie:
Day One: Steve starts out great. All of a sudden, his spoke breaks and his gears stop working properly. He finishes anyway, but quickly hands over his bike to one of the "bike doctors" that travel along with the WAM.

Amy, noticing that Vinnie is looking a little pale, takes him to the hospital in Big Rapids, where it is quickly determined that he needs a blood transfusion asap. Unfortunately, in Northern Michigan, asap means that you have to wait for the blood to be shipped up to you. In this case, Vinnie had to wait for the blood to come from Grand Rapids, meaning that his transfusion would last until about 2 am. He is understandibly upset because he had plans to go with Erin and all of his WAM friends into the pool back at the hotel. He had even gotten a new watergun for the occasion. The hospital was also ill-equipped to deal with this type of situation. Poor kid! Fortunately, our Uncle Dale and Aunt Kitty were there to keep him entertained.

Later that evening, the bike doctor confirms that Steve's bike is toast. There is a crack in the frame and despite his training for the entire year, Steve cannot go on.

Day Two:
Vinnie's levels go up, but not enough. His doctor back at home determines that he needs to drive back so that he can receive another transfusion and so that his regular doctors can keep an eye on him. Vinnie does the most self-less thing and tells Steve to go to the "Wammy" awards that evening. We knew that Steve and his team were really looking forward to it and Vin thought that he should go. With a lot of tears in their eyes, Amy and Vinnie head back to the hospital in Detroit while Steve stays on.

The Wammy awards do turn out to be something incredibly special and we all got to see a three year old little girl named Amanda receive her wish to meet Elmo. If you haven't seen the video, I highly recommend it: www.wishmich.org/amanda
We also found out that the bike ride had raised $1.5 million! Not too shabby!

Our CEO knew that Vinnie was watching the awards from his hospital room and gave Vinnie a shoutout, which was pretty cool. Steve won an award for raising so much money, and his team: Team Nicholas, won the top fundraising award for a small team. When they went up to accept the award, the team captain (Nicholas' Dad) told everyone how much they loved Vinnie and that they were riding for him. More tears!

Last Day:
Everyone is in a great mood on the last day. The break stop that Angie and I ran, was quite frankly, the best. It also turned into a bit of a dance party. (Or...was I the only one dancing???) Anyway, it was great.

At the end of the day, we pulled into the celebration at the end known as "Heroes Hurrah" This is where the finish line was, and Steve borrowed a bike to ride the last two miles with his team. Riders and Volunteers alike are ushered into the "Wish Barn" where that aforementioned child that you are keeping in mind, is waiting for you to give you a medal!

My wish child was named Alexandra and she was adorable! I went to shake her hand and she pushed it aside to give me a great big hug. While we were waiting in line to go on stage, she gave us more hugs and couldn't stop bouncing around because she was so excited to be there! It was awesome!

Heroes Hurrah also included a kids area, and more importantly, FOOD! Everyone, and I mean everyone is invited to eat at Heroes Hurrah and the food is EXCELLENT! It is all donated by Carraba's (like Zio's to you Springfieldians) and it was the best thing that I could have tasted after the 3 days.

So that is WAM. It was so well-organized and the mere logistics of it will leave you awe-struck!

As for Vinnie, it has been determined that whatever is causing his levels to drop is viral in nature. He has been in the hospital one more time, but is home for now. We are hoping that it stays that way.

Next up in this month in review:

-Mick and I go to Frankenmuth
- Something very funny happens that I cannot put on this blog (Consider it an incentive to call me. Definitely worth it.)
- The condo saga

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Day With Squirrels

A fellow squirrely girl presented me with the idea of writing a Dr. Suess- like book about squirrels. This was after we learned that according to yahoo: "Squirrels have paws with razor sharp claws." Her concern was that the term "razor sharp" might be a little harsh. I maintain that a term such as this is completely acceptable as long as the children's story has a good moral.

I demonstrate this in my original, and completely child appropriate story:


A Day With Squirrels…
By Carrie McCulloch

Alfred Squirrel lost his tail while fighting the war
He came home to America and opened a store
He married Ms Hazel and purchased a tree
They had 2 children: Bobby and wee Emma Lee

Life was so grand, it was truly the best
On the weekends they’d read books, eat nuts and rest.
Every evening would bring kisses and big hugs goodnight.
Mr. and Mrs. would snuggle. (They never did fight.)

Then one day in August while having their tea.
There was suddenly a shadow, something strange did they see!
A lumberjack lumbering toward their lovely abode.
An axe in his hand. He would chop down a load!

His eyes met Alfreds, and they glared at the other.
Surely he would not hurt wee Emma’s mother!
Lumberjack lumbered right up to their home.
Raised his axe high and kicked over their gnome.

With a choppity chop and a HACK and a WHACK
It soon became clear, they were under attack!
The tree fell to the ground, Alfred onto his head.
And Oh! The humanity! His family was dead!

He raised his head and yelled to the squirrel in the sky:
“Why did you take my family? Why squirrel? Why?”
How could he go on? How could he live his life?
Was it even worth living without kids and his wife?

He looked to the lumberjack who was chopping away.
His squirrel heart hardened. No pity today!
Revenge! Revenge! It must be sought now!
The only question was when? And furthermore, How?

The sorrowful squirrel looked down at his razor sharp claws.
And knew right then they could serve a great cause.
He marched up to the lumberjack who had left his home smashed.
And by the time Alfred left that lumberjack’s throat had been slashed.

The blood spilled here. The blood spilled there.
It was even on Alfred but he did not care.
The big meanie deserved it. This wasn’t a pity.
Without guys like this around, it was a much safer city!

Victory! Joy! And what a relief!
This was surely the thing to help him with grief!
Now off to the pub for a lovely nut ale.
Blood has been shed, and he must share the tale.

Walking to town with a little squirrel swagger
He was grateful for claws. His personal dagger.
Ahead in the road he did see quite a sight.
A mother and 2 children who were clearly in plight.

With tear stained eyes they told their story
Of their lumberjack father killed in a scene, quite gory!
Their daddy had just gone out to do some chopping
The family was starving and had to go shopping.

This was not the result for which he had longed!
He just wanted to kill because he felt he was wronged!
Alfred never gave thought to the life he had ended.
He just thought of himself and his pride he defended.

The guilt! The sadness! It was all too much!
Alfred began weeping, and crying and such.
He thought eye for an eye was justified and correct.
But from this belief he would now surely deflect.

Alfred felt emptiness from a lost family and victim.
He realized that life was not all about him.
His family truly did not deserve to die.
But to pretend their killer was not valued was truly a lie.

Alfred fled the small town to live all alone.
Hoping that soon his sins he could atone.
Everyday he prayed for the family with whose life he had messed.
Alfred died all alone up in a sad little nest.

Lessons can be learned from our good friend the squirrel
These lessons should be remembered by each young boy and girl.
Go to sleep young one and don’t you forget
Revenge on your enemies only causes regret

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A True Artist...


I love that I was lucky enough to be born into a group of interesting people. Every member of my family has a talent that is unique to them and that makes them quite fun to know. (I am still trying to hone a talent.)

Nhung joined our family in January and it became apparent immediately that she is the harbors many talents. She is funny, smart, and an excellent cook! It didn't take long for us to discover one of her greatest skills, though: Photography! I just wanted to share some great Nhung shots with all of you (click on the photos to get the full effect):
Let's start with everyone's favorite Subjects:

Maisie




Murphy (who by the way, has abandoned me to go sleep in Joe and Nhung's bed every night. What-ev cat! )

Vinnie and Steve (She has quite a knack for catching people at the perfect moment)


Erin




Madeline (playing with a magic wand)



Natalie

Welcome to the family Nhung! We are happy to have you, and your talent!
On a side note: Mick, After seeing these, I agree. We should have splurged for a fancier camera!

Monday, June 22, 2009

"Looking for Empty Boxes"

This was a phrase that my co-worker from the Detroit News used to use frequently. On any given day, you could ask her how she was doing and she was likely to reply " I am looking for empty boxes." What does this mean you ask? Typically it meant that she was frustrated with work and expecting to be fired. In other words, she would be living in a cardboard box relatively soon. This same co-worker also later introduced me to her trademark "Don't screw me file" in which she would keep mementos, e-mails etc. that would highlight the great job she really did do at work. She was a mixture of funny and paranoid, but who could blame her? I've lost count of how many layoffs the Detroit News and Free Press has had at this point.

Lately, I feel as though I am going to start looking for a nice refrigerator box myself. Not because of my job mind you, but the fact that I can't seem to find a place that I would like to move into. First, there is the buy vs. rent debate. Mick is more comfortable with renting, whereas I am having a hard time accepting this as a possibility after owning our own home. I really enjoyed taking a piece of property and making it our own. There is something very satisfying about looking around your space and knowing that it is the way it is because you made it that way! It was ours from chimney top to driveway.

The prices in Detroit are phenomenal right now because of the, lets face it, terrible economy. (I will refrain from scolding those of you that drive foreign cars.) This presents an opportunity as well as a problem. There is real estate for the picking, but what if we were to find ourselves in the position of having lost income? The thing about Michigan is that whether or not you work for the auto industry... you work for the auto industry. My brother Mike was laid off as soon as I got here, serving as a bit of a warning. (Mike literally has the best work ethic of anyone I know. I am 100% convinced that the paper cannot and will not survive without him. They are fools.) I am going to be cautiously optimistic. I have had the month to observe my new workplace and I take a lot of comfort in the fact that Make A Wish seems to be managed fantastically. That is a very grateful me talking!

The worst part is that I have found a condo that I would love to buy. It is tiny, has two bedrooms and includes a basement. We don't need any more than that. It is little, affordable, and the layout would still provide us with the opportunity to separate the house in a harmonious way. Upper floor = quiet (bedroom & office- Mick's domain! ) Middle = louder (living room & kitchen) Lower floor= loudest (sewing & laundry). Plus the landscaping there is really pretty! http://web.mac.com/ksluice/iWeb/TheVillage/Welcome.html This is one of those moments where I really have to tell myself to rule with my head and not by what I want. Normally I am really good at letting logic rule, but darn it! I drove through and thought that it was too cute! Logic says "Rent!" We would want to move in 4 years anyway because our financial situation will probably be very different then, and if anything should happen, you can always get out of a rental situation. I think that's what we need to do. Yes, I have just convinced myself while typing this post.

The problem with renting in a college town is that what is available is typically not what my 30 year old self would like to live in. Parties going on in the middle of the week? I don't really miss them. Or, perhaps it is more accurate to say that I just don't want to live next to them. (I mean, I'll go! I'll just leave by 8:00 for bed.)

There are a ton of apartment complexes everywhere, but quite frankly, they depress me.
I think that complexes are void of personality (can we say white walls?), and feature such amenities as sand volleyball courts and pools. You will never catch me in anything that remotely resembles a bathing suit and despite the fact that my maiden name is Carrie Walsh, I have never played volleyball without injuring myself. (That was a reference to Kerry Walsh, the olympic beach volleyball player.)

I looked at a townhouse a couple of weeks ago that I shot down because it was ugly and had no dishwasher. Horrors! I also fear that I would be forced to keep the vertical blinds by the condo association. I don't have anything against them. They just weren't in the best of shape and IKEA has such very cute and inexpensive curtains. What the rental condo did have was a layout that was what I was looking for. Goodness gracious! It even had a basement! I may call on it again. I just have to hope that it has not been rented in the meantime.

Well, send some good wishes our way. It is fairly certain that I am going to miss my July 1st deadline and we are going to have to figure something out for all of our stuff. I cannot keep mooching off of my very generous parents. (The poor dears have put up with an array of crap from me including a generally poor, stressed out demeanor and a quite a bit of messiness on my part. Sorry Mom and Dad!) After all, if I don't get it together, I am going to have to start looking for empty boxes!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Look out Sunday... here I come!!!

Oh my. What a month. Well, since I last posted, a few small things have happened. No big deal. Just a few slight inconveniences. This won't be an overly clever entry, but hey, we have a lot to catch up on!
The weekend before we moved, we wound up having a very last minute gathering of sorts. I had planned on packing, cleaning and finishing a few sewing projects that weekend, but the opportunity to spend some last minute quality time with friends proved to be too tempting. Instead my weekend was filled with baking, entertaining and...oh yes...an open house crammed in there somewhere. I wouldn't trade a minute though.

The next couple of days were spent getting ready for our departure and on the 20th I had my last day at the American Cancer Society. It was tough at best. I won't go into it too much. Let's just say there will be a mourning period and I am going to miss everyone so much! Later that night we had dinner with our friends Tammy, Steve and Eric at Patton Alley Pub. Another gut wrenching goodbye to good, good friends.

That evening we had also received an offer on our house! The next morning, our real estate agent Michael came over and helped us to write our counter-offer. We were supposed to leave that morning and drive through to Michigan in one day, but this delayed our travels so we wound up turning it into a two day trip. So, we packed up our car on Thursday, complete with two unhappy, sedated, yet vocal cats and began the journey.

We wound up stopping not too far from Chicago for the night and had to wrestle with Maisie to get her from out behind the disgusting hotel bed in the morning. On our way to my parents we received a call that our counter offer had been accepted! Whew!

So, we arrived Friday afternoon to find not only my parents, but my sister and my niece Erin "cuddlebug" were there. What a nice homecoming! We had plans with Mick's family that night so we met at his parents house for dinner. Brian, Pat, Allison and our new niece Leah also came. We were exhausted, but I will do just about anything for some Leah time, so that was okay. Have I mentioned lately how cute Leah is???? I'm just saying...


Anyway, Saturday we got up and started to run errands. Why you ask? Because Mick was getting on a plane to go to Paris that afternoon! That's why! That was another sad day. I was excited that he would get to experience a month in France and so sad because I would miss him. I was also a tiny bit jealous.
After Mick left, I didn't sleep very well, which if you know me at all, you know that is a fairly common occurence. I spent the next couple of days running errands in preparation for my first day of work at Make A Wish including spending a bit too much on clothing. (Much of my clothing had the Relay For Life logo on it.)
Tuesday I started at MAW. I was extremely tired, but fortunately the one thing that kept me going was the promise of a restful weekend...and the fact that Merry the woman training me is hilarious. I am quite excited that I get to work with her. (I will save the rest of MAW for a future post.)
Unfortunately, my dreams of a restful weekend were quickly dashed. I wound up working Friday night and all day Saturday, finally got to hang out with a friend (Sarah) and then got up early on Sunday for Leah's baptism. I am dragging but working with Wish Kids, volunteers and hanging with Sarah and Leah made it all worth it.
Sunday night I thought that I would go to bed early and get a lot of sleep in. Murphy had other plans and kept me up by pawing at my face for much of the night. When I tossed him out of the room, he cried outside of the door. Give me a break, cat!
So, it is Tuesday. I have managed to have a relatively relaxing evening, though I admit that I am hardly thinking straight. This Friday I have Erins recital, and the Edison street sale starting Saturday morning. I plan to sleep in on Sunday and I am telling you that no one can stop me. Don't even try to call before noon. Look out Sunday... here I come!!!

Monday, May 4, 2009

I have been to the Emerald City of the Ozarks...

If you don't mind my bragging for a moment, I must say that my parents raised my siblings and I to appreciate the finer things in life. We delight in a good meal, appreciate the arts in all forms, and even dabble in them ourselves (in various ways.) There is, however, one seemingly less sophisticated pleasure that we savor... amusement parks.

Most self-respecting adults would probably not brag that they were a bit of a roller coaster junkie. Nor would they boast that they had been to Disney World over a dozen times. I apparently am missing that sense of shame and embarrassment because one of the first things that people are likely to learn about me, is that I LOVE roller coasters and amusement parks. (Disney in particular).

Now before you write me off as a no-class thrill seeker, let me explain where this fascination comes from. On my old blog, my sister once left a comment that very accurately described our Mothers introduction of Disney to us. She wrote: "mom never sat next to us during a Disney movie commenting on the cute and fuzzy bunnies, but instead said things like, “look how they drew the reflections on the water. That’s amazing!" It is so true, and that attitude extends to the Disney parks as well.

Disney parks are the full immersion experience of an idea. What I mean by this is that Disney not only creates an idea, but designs an environment that will evoke a desired reaction by a visitor. I love the concept that a company can be so committed to a story that it wishes to tell, that it will stretch the boundaries of creativity and technology to make that story a reality. The Disney experience is about more than just rides. That being said... I love a great ride too!!!

My non-Disney park experiences revolved around two other parks. The first was Boblo island. This was a smallish park on...you guessed it... an island. When I was a young child the Boblo boat (similar to the Branson Bell for you Springfieldians), would take us to the island. I LOVED the Boblo boat because there was dancing. I don't think that I ever danced, but lets face it, a major draw of theme parks and that boat is people watching!

Once the boat pulled up to the island, my family would go have a picnic of cold fried chicken and sides and we would then hit the rides. They were tame by comparison to today's rides, but fun nonetheless. I have many fond memories of that time and if I should ever hear the 80's song "Electric Avenue," I am instantly transported there.

My other non-Disney park is Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio. After Boblo closed when I was in grade school, this became the "it" park to go to. The draw of Cedar Point (or "America's Roller Coast") is that for a long time, they had the worlds tallest and fastest roller coaster called the Magnum. It was huge, a smooth ride, and a lot of fun. Other parks built taller coasters, so CP decided to build the Millennium Force. I don't know if MF is still the tallest and fastest, but I really hope that it is. When it opened, I remember that there was discussion in the media that this coaster could be pushing the line for major injuries and head trauma. (not a joke.) I haven't ridden that one. While Cedar Point has the thrills, it is lacking a real theme. It is all show and no creativity (but is still fun.)

This very lengthy introduction leads me to the real purpose of this blog post. As I mentioned, I have no shame about my love of amusement parks and so it is only natural that I had mentioned my desire to go to Silver Dollar City, our local amusement park in Branson, to my friends at work. When I put in my 4 week notice, my friends sprung into action and planned a day for our group at SDC. They know me too well, and I was grateful that a group of classy and chic women would indulge my childish obsession. (Though I think that they were excited too.) Thanks ladies!

So, last Saturday we ventured out to SDC. To be honest, I was expecting another Cedar Point. By that I mean rides, but nothing particularly special. I was pleasantly surprised! SDC chose to adhere to a classic Ozark hillbilly theme, and they did it very well. The park is actually quite pretty and is dotted with mature trees, hills, and free standing, themed buildings. The hillbilly workers were slightly disturbing, but they helped to create the atmosphere. All good.


We started with a fun and kicky little coaster called Thunderation. It gave you the option of riding backwards or forwards. Allison and I chose a cart that faced forward and I have to admit that it was a little weird to be looking at someone face to face during the ride. (And I prayed that they would not experience motion sickness, if you know what I mean.)
Next, we headed to the kiddie area so that Finnley could hit the rides. The park definitely tried to replicate some Disney rides. I saw teacups, a ride with pirate ships that looked oddly like those found on the Peter Pan ride, and of course this "flying elephant ride": (can anyone say Dumbo?)
Here is Jessica Bertholdi and Finn. I wish that you could see his face!
The oddest ride, well... downright perplexing was called "Fire in the Hole." This was the original Silver Dollar City coaster and Ashley insisted that we ride it. I knew that it was supposed to feature the Baldknobbers who according to the brochure had "set the town on fire!" When I think of the Baldknobbers I think of the oafs in the Baldknobber Country Jamboree (see photo from previous post.) I was expecting a storyline where the toothless guy has some kind of lighthearted mishap that causes a ride full of hilarity. While waiting in line, they even have a live Dalmatian for you to pet. (Thereby reinforcing my lighthearted hunch.)






Here is Eastan with the Dalmatian at Fire in the Hole!



The ride started out careening through dark hallways and a town indeed on fire. Imagine my surprise when the culprit turned out to be nothing like the toothless hillbilly, but a bunch of guys that looked like this instead:
Upon exiting the ride, I immediately asked: "Um, you guys, did I just witness some secret meeting? Was that a KKK themed coaster? What WAS that????"
(This is the part where they laughed at me.)
It turns out that the Baldknobbers were actually a vigilante group in the Ozark mountains in the late 1800's. The area was quite lawless at that time and so the Baldknobbers were formed to bring peace and justice to the Ozarks. That sounds like a lovely thought, but they were actually quite violent. According to legendsofamerica.com "They would hang or beat a man to death for assault, disturbing the peace or destroying property." It also mentions that if anyone spoke against them, they might turn up beaten to death in the woods. And then there are those masks...
So after Fire in the Hole, I am haunted by two questions:
If they were such an awful group, A) Why is there a Baldknobber Jamboree show? and B) Why are they the subject of a roller coaster at Silver Dollar City?
The rest of the day was great! We rode another coaster called the Powder Keg that is pressurized so that it starts at 60 mph. FUN! We also looked at other things that SDC has to offer such as glassblowing,candy making, a candle shop, etc.
The best part of the day though was spending time with my friends. Some of the Squirrely Girls went: Carla, Allison, Ashley and Jessica Blake and then we also had two additions: Katie Towns (the Audrey Hepburn of the ACS) and Jessica Bertholdi who I actually replaced, but is a really cool girl and I am so glad that she came too! We were also joined by Eastan (Ashley's son) and Finnley (Bertholdi's son).
Since living in Springfield, I have been so lucky to have met a group of smart, talented, FUNNY, and caring women. Silver Dollar City was entertaining, but the fact is that when you have great friends, you can have just as much fun sitting around and staring at each other. Thank you so much girls! It was a fun day at the park, but for me, it was so much more than that! I will miss you all like crazy! -Carrie-