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Creating The 50th Anniversary Book For The Academic Games Leagues Of America

For the past 5 weeks, I, and a few other hands and eyes have been creating a 50th Anniversary book for the Academic Games Leagues Of America.  The book is finally published.  There were stories upon stories to remember. Unfortunately, a great number of these and the photos were never dusted off and taken out of old shoe boxes, many never making it to me to put into this book.  I’m sure if everyone contributed I could have made a book 1,000 pages full!  This book is created with the history of the program and the love of the games in mind.  I hope you will enjoy!

There are many steps in a project this large.  The scanning of old photos, some so brown that we didn’t know if they would print.  There may be some photos that are pixilated, but we felt they were important to the story, the book to be added anyway.  A lot of editing, The finding of names, places and did I say editing?  Composing not only for my creative self, but with my clients wishes in mind. Fortunately, there were no major changes and we were able to send the book to the publisher with a tiny bit of breathing room.

If you would like to take a glimpse of the first 15 pages of THE BOOK, you can click here:

So come on, all you Dopest Nerds and your Dopest Parents – buy a book!  I know the cost is a bit high, but remember the book is nearly 100 pages, 12 inches by 12 inches and is packed full of the history of AGLOA with stories, timelines and many photos.  The high quality of the book is definitely worth the price. There will never be another one like it.

I am very excited to read comments on this project.  Please let me know what you think!  : – )

Our family trip to the Galapagos

When my father-in-law asked the family where we would like to go on a trip together, we were not expecting his suggestion. We thought maybe Europe or New Zealand, but not these set of islands. This place has always seemed so far away, yet it’s still in our eastern time zone.  It has been a dream of mine to photograph since I was a little girl, mostly because it contains a large number of animals, mammals, reptiles and birds that only live on their secluded islands.  Have you guessed it yet?  For me, as a kid, National Geographic had the most memorable photographs from this place. The place I had only dreamed of going to and now I have been, The Galapagos Islands.

Our trip was booked as family adventure.  The 11 days were spent sleeping on a semi-private yacht, with 3 other families. There were boys galore for our 12 year old son to hang out with and my 5 year old niece didn’t seem to mind that she was the only girl, as she did everything that the boys did.  The other parents were wonderful and we felt lucky to be sharing our time with this group.

Each morning we would wake up at a different island.  After breakfast we would head out on a small boat called a panga. Basically a dingy or raft, large enough for 12 people.  Since there were 20 people on the yacht, we had two pangas.  Half of the group would start out on a 1 to 2 hour hike of that days island and the other group would snorkel in the beautiful blue-green water with a variety of fish, penguins, seal lions, sea turtles and even sharks.  Before returning to the yacht on the panga the groups would switch so everyone could partake in the adventures.

After lunch we would have a two to three hour break to lounge on the upper deck of the yacht, watch a movie (the kids favorite thing to do), read a book, jump off the boat,  kayak or take a siesta.  Then mid afternoon we would follow the morning schedule on a different part of the island or discover a new island.

The sites varied from lava rocks, to dry aired land with cactus.  Some islands had large volcanos, one was low and filled with water.  One morning we woke up with our boat inside of a water filled volcano!  It was breathtaking!

Our yacht, called The Letty, through EcoVentura.
The crew was great and the other families were great.
Five boys and one little girl; my niece…what a fun time!
This is the Galapagos airport.
The tower in the middle of a field and only one plane on the tarmac,
waiting for it’s guests to climb the stairs outside.

Three Weeks In Chicago

Chicago in January?  I know, what was I thinking when I said yes to this?  Because of medical issues, I accepted a plea to help family while their anchor person, my brother-in-law was going to be on the east cost for three weeks.  I adore my little preK niece and my sister-in-law, so as soon as I knew my guys would be able to fend for themselves for this long, I headed for Hyde Park.

The temps were pretty cold when I first arrived, but now the snow has melted and we walk to the store with less layers, but the snow angels are a little muddy.

I’ve had a wonderful time with the girls.  We’ve tried many recipies in their GF (gluten free) cookbook, including granola…that was yummy!  I have to admit that my GF cake was the biggest photo fail ever!  Although we’ve found calling it a chocolaty dessert has brought it into a whole new light! I’ve enjoyed the kitty photo shoots and bring on the sparkle glue whenever we have a piece of paper out!  I’ve loved doing all the girl stuff with my niece.

Tomorrow is my last day here in the windy city, but it feels like I just got here yesterday. It’s been wonderful, talking with a writer every day, listening to her thought process.  I think it’s helped me somewhat to clear my head for writing, photography and editing..  I miss my guys, and kitties, but I was thinking today, if I find that the Christmas tree is still up, dishes have not been done for 3 weeks and the kitty litter hasn’t been changed, I’m coming back here a.s.a.p.!  🙂

Christmas and the New Year – 2015

I haven’t been feeling well these past few years, so things seem to go slower and at times, not get finished. This year our Christmas tree was so late that it hardly beat Santa!  That can’t happen again, I told myself.  My parents would always have the tree up after Thanksgiving, so we had a month of lights, watering the tree, presents, chocolates, baking and that special magic that always filled the air in December. Only as a kid I don’t ever remember not having snow.

Along with being late, I think our tree was chosen as a Charlie Brown mercy tree!  It was small, which allowed us to put it up on a table this year.  That was nice, as our condo can be quite crowded at times, but it also had another little imperfection, a slight lean.  Did I say slight?  I meant to say, isosceles triangle type lean!  It was fine when one looked at it head on, but from the side it looked like King Kong had sat on the top of it, causing it to lean further and further down, coming only partially back up when the gorilla finally touched the ground!

I love cooking, baking, shopping, wrapping presents and having family and friends over to rekindle the love that I always felt as a kid.  Even though there was only the three of us, mom, dad and myself, we made so many beautiful memories, including many others that we loved. I truly love sharing those traditions with my own family now that my parents are both gone.

The fun continued the next three days with a trip to my in-laws and visiting with my husbands family.  I love watching the cousins play! Reminds me of the hundreds of cousins that I used to play with, especually during the holidays.
Then I smile, but there’s still no snow.

San Francisco in November – 2014

As I was listening to Sheryl Crow on Pandora, her words, The Change, Will Do You Good, seeped into my brain like a tiny woman on my shoulder, telling me to do it, just do it.  So I decided yes, let’s do it!

First, even though airports are notoriously the place you want to stay away from during the holidays, we booked our flights for the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, returning the Monday after…hoping this would take some of the anxiety off the to and from.

Our hotel is one that my in-laws knew of, being close to relatives in Palo Alto, CA. We were intrigued by the name, Hotel California and the fact that they housed 2 cats.  The thought of running into a cat in the small, old-fashioned, California style hotel, made us smile with glee just thinking about it.

Our flights were great and the weather was a wonderful sunny 72* when we landed.  As we towed our luggage up the stairs to the second story of the building, I found myself noticing the clean, but old patterns of the carpeting and singing the Eagles song, true to the name of the place.  This happened a few times as I walked these small, yet comfortable, like grandma’s old house, halls.

There was a small kitchen, similar to one that you might find in an old cabin up north for hunters. It was packed with dishes, silverware and the essentials in the fridge, milk, juice, butter, bread and a different yummy treat in a woven basket on the table each morning, along with some fruit. We bought some yogart, cereal and berries at a nearby story, labeled them and housed them in the refrigerator for the week.  If there wasn’t a name on it, it was free for anyone to partake of.

We were not disappointed with the cats, although one seemed very shy or had other rooms that it preferred.  Every morning we had a visitor come to our door, which we would realize because of the little “mew” outside of our door.  We let the tiger cat in and he soaked up all the love that we wanted to give.  It was glorious for both the humans and the feline.

Our days were packed with hiking, family lunches, dinners, sightseeing, walking the campus at Stanford, driving down the coast and of course, much photo taking. I love visiting this family each year for Thanksgiving.  It reminds me of when I was a kid and we would have around 20 people around our normally small dining room table which would be stretched out during this time for all to sit down. This year was especially nice because of  the warm weather. I have to admit, the change did me good.

Fall Folliage 2014

In the fall of 2013 I went on a most satisfying photography trip with my dear friend Alexis C.  We traveled from Ann Arbor to Mackinaw Island, where we then traveled across the Mackinaw Bridge to explore much of the eastern area of the U.P., then back down the north western side of lower Michigan.  It was so much fun that Alexis and I decided to jump in the car and do another trip this year.

Our trip this year was crunched into a short weekend, but as usual, it was awesome!  We left on Friday, much later than we had hoped, but we arrived at our destination, Interlochen, MI. where her parents have another home where we stayed.  Here are a few of the photos that I took while exploring during our up north weekend 2014.



Before driving back to Ann Arbor, we took the back roads to the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes.  I just love the drive in the park.  I remember taking this route many times with my parents when I was younger.  By the time we were leaving it was starting to rain and getting dark.  Our signal to head home.



AGLOA Project

I’m beginning to prepare a special book for the Academic Games 50th anniversary.  This huge celebration will be in Orlando, Florida, April 2015.  To have this book out before next year’s nationals at the end of April, I’m taking all memorable, new and especially old now.

I recently finished this year’s book, which can be ordered through  49th AGLOA NATIONALS in Knoxville, TN   for all participants.  This book is over 60 pages of captured fun, laughter, disappointments and celebrations over the 4 days.  I loved creating their zen lifestyle book!

Have a ZEN filled day!

2014 Soccer

Looking forward to spring soccer!  It will be great to be outside again to see the boys battle it out.

While getting revved up for this summers FIFA WORLD CUP in Brazil, take a drive down to Detroit and have some real fun!  The Detroit City Football Club is a fantastic watch for adults and kids alike.  Do note, that there is a true fan side and a family side.  It will be in your best interest to choose accordingly. They have a great stadium at Cass Tech with easy parking, if you don’t arrive too late.  You may even see some of your favorite footballers from area Universities playing! Fun for everyone!

The DCFC home schedule is for 2014 can be found on their website:

A look at their new roster additions:

 This is the family side…(just kidding). 

Detroit City FC is a minor league soccer team that plays in the National Premier Soccer League’s Midwest Great Lakes Conference. Founded in 2012, Detroit City FC has established itself as one of the most talked about soccer teams in North America and the grassroots embodiment of a resurgent city.

The Rainbow Bridge

When the sun rises, we have no idea what’s in store for us that day.  It could be a typical get your son out of bed and to school (hopefully) on time kind of day, or it could be a day that’s filled with fun and adventure.  Or it could be one of those days that you just want to stay in bed.  Recently I had a couple of the latter days happen.  We unexpectedly lost one of our dear pets, then 3 weeks later, we lost another one.  Both our dog and our older cat were found to have cancer.  Our cat, Tabitha, was 15 and losing lots of weight over a couple of months.  She gave us a few weeks to realize we had to let her go, as everthing the vets tried to do to help her was not helping her. But our equally beloved dog Blu – we had no idea he was ill and within a matter of hours one night, we had to say goodbye.>
For those of us who truly love our furry family members, you will understand why I found myself pulling the covers over my head and just hoping I had had a bad dream.  Letting my hand out from under the covers and laying it beside the bed, hoping to feel that wet nose touch it one more time.  I am still devastated by this loss and now having had to say goodbye to our cat, I feel like I’m crumbling inside.  I know it will take time, but my heart misses them both so much.

A couple of weeks ago I began writing about Blu.  For pet lovers, I share this with you, as you will understand.

                                                                    ODE TO BLU  Waking up in the morning with you was like having a soft alarm go off, one that nuzzled me with a wet nose at 6:30a.m., every day break.  Still lying in bed, I would open my eyes and say, “Good morning Blu,“ as you peered sweetly into mine in hopes that I would quickly rise to begin our day together.  I would touch your velvety head and ears, as many times I would hope for a few more minutes to wake up, so you would kindly go back to your soft pillow at the end of my bed and wait patiently for my feet to slowly come out from under the blankets.

Once up, you would dash down the stairs. I would hear thud, thud, thud, your legs inevitably missing one or two of the steps as you anticipated the outside door opening and your first smell of the fresh morning air hitting your face.  Okay, you just needed to go to the potty, but I could tell you loved the ritual too. Then of course,                                                                                                  you would come bounding back inside to find your food dish with heart meds                                                                                                          waiting for you to devour.

I don’t know, maybe hoping that some of the cat food will finally today be yours, or maybe it’s just how we danced.  Your large body always lying in the doorway between the kitchen and dining room, many times I would trip while trying not to step on you.  You lay there, trusting that I would not. 

When I would finally head out the door to take Zach to school, your eyes would look so wantingly to hear the words “Do you wanna come”?  I would usually wait until the afternoon to take you when it wasn’t so cold outside, but you never stopped giving me that look.  I would tell you I’ll return soon and you would give me a “woof” as I locked the door behind me. 

I’ll never forget the day you came home with us.  You jumped into our car as if to say, “Let’s go on this new adventure!”  You looked back at your old family with a sad look, then you began a new life with us.  Being adopted, I felt we are kindred spirits, but your story was much different than mine.  You were 5 years old when we brought you home, the same age as our son Zach.  You flawlessly slipped into your role as “our” dog.
You instantly became a part of our family with so much love and enthusiasm!

We were told that your name came from your once puppy blue eyes.  We loved your name because WE are Michigan Wolverine fans and we would say, “Let’s Go Blu” all of the time!  More fun came when we adopted a little gray kitten a few years later and named her Maizie (Maize and Blu).

You came with many toys; balls, bones, leashes and such, but
your favorite was the bad cuz ball.  We had never heard of this, but the devilish (blue, red, green or orange) ball (a ball with feet and little horns) was your favorite.  You wouldn’t even pick up another kind of ball – silly boy!  So whenever you would lose a ball in the woods, we knew that we had to replace it with a bad or good cuz ball.  Otherwise it was a waste of our money.  I remember one time you played fetch in the rain for 4 hours when we had workers at my dad’s house.  They would throw the ball every time they went by you and you just kept bringing it back to whomever would throw it again!  You were so tired that night, but loved every minute of that day.

It was so wonderful having you at my office that first year you came home with us and now that I’ve been working at home, I’ve treasured having you here all of the time.  I think you felt the same, letting me know you were there checking on me, but most importantly, you would alert me if anyone was outside, like the mailman.  I had to laugh when the mailman said he thought you were a mean dog by the sound of your bark…ha ha…far from it, just a great protector!

You were so smart Blu. You didn’t respond to the word “speak” when you came to us, almost like you wanted to resist it, so I taught you the word “woof” and you began to let out a little woof here and there – and if I kept asking, it will become a big WOOF!  Within this last year you started to howl, which always made me howl!  It was so funny to hear you do this, but it was almost like you were embarrassed to let it out and if I dared laugh, you look so sad, that I had to hold in my laughter even more!  Oh, I love you Bluie!

You always loved going for a walk and all it would take was grabbing the leash and you are bouncing around the house!  You were usually so good about staying with me in the yard, but there were a few unscheduled trips through the woods, down to the river and somehow you always come out the other side in the parking lot of the Denny’s restaurant!  It was so frustrating, because I would always worry that you would be picked up by someone and taken home with them.  The best thing I ever bought was your dog tag with my phone number on it.  Thanks to the many wonderful people who used that number to let me know that they found you.  I’ll never forget the time I got a call at 3a.m. when I was in Hawaii, when you decided to go on an adventure just before your doggie caretaker was to leave for her work!  Thankfully we all connected and you were found, again at Denny’s!    

The secret to keeping your attention – treats!  You LOVED your treats!  Sit, laydown, stay, woof, shake, give me a
kiss…you would do anything for a treat!

One of the smartest things you ever did was to humbly let the cats rule the house.  Even though you were 8 times larger than they were, you would let them pass by, use your big pillow (little cat on a BIG pillow, so funny to see with you laying on the
floor next to the pillow).  You seemed to have this respect for them, even when they would whack at your tail whenever you would walk by.  You were such a good boy.
Sometimes you were such a lab too.  Like getting water all over the floor in the dining room, kitchen and sometimes all the way into the living room after you took a drink!  We may have commented, but never did we complain.

“Do you wanna go for a ride?” or just picking up your leash would get you sooooo excited! The way you would hop into the back seat of the van and look out the back window at the cars. It was so sweet and I know you made a lot of people smile when they saw you.  Woof, woof! You would say to anyone passing by the car.

I loved it when you would put your chin on my foot or leg, so you could be closer, as if to say, “Can I come on the sofa with you?”  Oh those sad eyes, how you could make them work for you, just like a little girl looking up at her daddy!  Whenever we would leave the house, the sofa became yours and we would see you slowly getting down as we turned the key and opened the door upon our return.
You allowed so many little ones who had never been around a dog to feel comfortable around you and many fell in love with you.  Thank you for being so gentle with them.
When the snow fell you would run and jump and dive into the fluffy stuff, coming up with it on your nose. I loved watching you play outside. You had this fun gallup, like a colt running for the first time in the spring, then pouncing on your ball, like a kitten with a ball of yarn.  
You certainly caught Eric off guard, opening up his heart to love you like he never thought possible for a dog.  Your kisses, just for him and that last one…just for him.  He was a man who grew up with felines, but you dear Blu, YOU melted his heart.
I miss you so much Blu. You came to us through another loving family, one that was so gracious to share your life after 5 years, with us. You trusted us to take care of you, but really, you took care of us.  Your love was so unconditional and your spirit still swallows us up as we feel the tears flowing down our cheeks whenever we think of you. 
There were a few difficult times over the years, watching you fall to the ground in mid run when chasing your ball, just to find out that you had a leaky heart valve. Or having your leg wrapped up because you tore a ligament. And what was up with the bad habit of going to the bathroom in the basement if the door was left open? You were normally so good about letting us know that you needed to go out…still a mystery.  We got through all the tough times…except this one.
As I walk through the woods now, remembering the first time we were on this path, then 5 year old Zach holding you on leash, you both so full of life.  I took this photo of you two in the woods, with winter surrounding us, happiness exuding from your
bodies; new buddies with hundreds of adventures to come.  You will always be in our hearts dear Blu.  And now that you are joined by our dear beloved cat Tabitha, we picture you both playing at the rainbow bridge, with plenty of treats, cuz balls and sofas with sunshine to lay on! 
XOXOXOXOXO, Janice, Eric, Zach &; Maizie
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