Thanks to a creative group of high school planners, a bunch of game teammates and a resilient captain, our second Relay for Life turned out to be the laughter lap. Green-shirted teen-aged volunteers flitted all over Menomonee Falls High School, undaunted by threatening storms. They wisely voted to move the event indoors and never missed […]
Category Archives: Family
We enjoyed a rare opportunity to see the oldest and the youngest Kostelnik granddaughters perform Friday in Chicago in separate shows that shared twin themes of sweet laughter and sassy fun.
My eight-year old niece Erin capped off her summer theatre camp experience by playing the Abominable Snowman in the cutest production of Frozen we’ve seen. (And Disney set that bar pretty high, no?)
With a hand-painted backdrop, homemade costumes and a cast of seven girls of varying tooth gap degrees, the show featured choreographed dances and dramatic prose. Mostly, said the Emerald City Theatre Director, they worked on teamwork.
The 45-minute set featured a lively contemporary musical debate – Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter, a jolly romp through Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, a Shakespearean dissection of text messaging, among many other nerdy riffs.
The whip smart comedy is the perfect kickoff to a summer weekend. Nerd Alert runs on Friday evenings through July. With $6 tickets and available “Atomic Wedgie” drinks, we think it’s the bargain of the summer.
Until my brother in-law Dennis came to visit, we thought of the Oconto River as a recreational vehicle, transporting us via kayak, canoe, or inner tube from drop in point to cabin on frothy summer waves.
It formed a scenic, babbling backdrop to the view from our front porch swing.
Then Dennis arrived with his green lures and earthworms, license and reels, and we learned our charming river could be an excellent food source as well.
Dennis is a fisherman, the kind of guy who can land a small mouth bass, clean, filet, pan fry and serve it faster than you can say, “Hey, Mr. Grumpy Gills.”
He once fished an entire weekend with a wire hook embedded in his lower lip.
“It was a brand new hook so I knew it was clean,” he said. “It hurt a lot, but I got six beautiful trout that weekend, including the biggest Steelhead I’ve ever caught.”
This weekend, he and his son, our nephew Ryan, taught us a little something about how to eat food so fresh it melts in your mouth, and so delicious you want to chew anyway.
I took notes, but there’s no way we’ll be able to recreate that meal.
Norman McLean wrote in A River Runs Through It, “If our father had had his way, nobody who did not know how to fish would be allowed to disgrace a fish by catching him.”
Ryan and Dennis, two very skilled fishermen, honored their catch.
We’re grateful for every bite our family fishermen provided us, and for every moment they spent with us.
We’re big on wishes in this house — falling stars, birthday candles, eye lashes, four-leaf clovers, dandelion seeds.
We wish on just about anything.
Our post-Thanksgiving turkey tussles have become legendary.
Last night I found a wishbone tucked away in the cabinet above our stove. At first it grossed me out and I quickly calculated the last time I’d cooked a bird.
I’ll be honest, it had been a few weeks.
I turned to toss it, and then I paused.
Life’s too short, man. You have to wish upon every opportunity you have.
Hoard your wishes if you’d like.
Share them with a friend.
But, for the love of all things magical and free, never waste an opportunity to wish.
Step outside on a sticky sweet s’more summer night and wish upon the evening star.
Wish you may. Wish you might. Have the wish you wish tonight.
Wishes equal hope and God knows we need that in this world.
Wishes transcend the ages and best of all they’re free.
Throw a penny in a wishing well.
Close your eyes, think about what you want most in this world, and wish.
The rules are simple, the stakes high.
You can’t tell what you’ve wished for until it comes true. That’s the one real challenge of the gifted wisher.
Wishes can transform an ordinary Wednesday.
So, here’s your task: find a stray eyelash, or a dandelion gone to seed, or the first star you see.
Make a wish.
And then, the important part, believe.
We hope all your wishes come true.
This gallery contains 14 photos.
My friend Jack gave me some good insight on life as we sat on the front porch of our cabin, watching the rain. “I’ve just been sitting here thinking that everything in life has a purpose,” he said, as he swung slowly back and forth on the creaky porch swing. “That’s true,” I said. “What […]
My brother in-law Keith never intended to play basketball when he and his cousin Priscilla attended Pompano Beach High School.
“It was my mother’s wish that I attend Pompano Beach High School,” Keith said. “It was not mine.”
Obediently, the 14-year old agreed to help Priscilla in her efforts to integrate the high school, but only to spend the required hours there.
So, he refused to take the bus to and from school, and, though he had planned to play basketball with his friends at Blanche Ely High School, he did not go out for the team at Pompano Beach.
Then, Pompano Coach Tucker Morris saw him playing in gym class and drove to Keith’s house to talk him into joining the team.
The rest, in matters of civil rights and points on the scoreboard, is history.
Keith, the first black student to play sports at Pompano Beach High School, joined the team as a 15-year old sophomore, and became a team leader. The 5-9 guard earned the Most Valuable Player award, the team rebounding award and remains the fourth highest scorer in the school’s history.
Following high school, he attended Biscayne College on a basketball scholarship. He was the first black athlete to attend that school as well.
“Keith withstood a lot of pressure being the first Negro player here,” said Coach Morris in a 1971 newspaper article. “He never once lost his composure and came through with flying colors, both as a player and a person. He’s an outstanding young man.”
The coach and the reluctant sports hero formed a bond during those years. Asked if anyone ever called him the N-word during high school, Keith said, “Once.”
“The coach found out about it and put a stop to it,” he said.
The coach also found out that Keith had been hitchhiking to school and put a stop to that as well. During his senior year, Keith rode to and from school with the team manager.
In 2013, school boosters planned a lunch in Coach Morris’ honor. Asked who he’d like most to attend, the 87-year old coach said, “Keith Finley.”
Touched and somewhat surprised by the coach’s request, Keith agreed to fly from Wisconsin to Florida for the occasion, though he had not seen the coach in more than 40 years.
A weather delay grounded Keith in Atlanta and he missed the lunch, but he did take the opportunity to visit Coach Morris in his home.
The two posed for a picture and talked well into the night. Coach Morris apologized for never coming to see Keith play in college, and showed him a scrapbook he’d kept of his years there.
“I told him about the scrapbook I had that my mother kept. So, on my second visit to see him I took him that scrapbook and a framed picture we had taken,” Keith said.
Two months after Keith’s visit, Coach Morris died.
Their story lives on in the carefully cropped pages of a scrapbook maintained by a proud mother and inspired by her history-making insistence.
With profound faith and a commitment to education that transcended generations, Walter James Finley came to the United States in 1897.
The Bahamian entrepreneur, farmer, and first black man in Broward County to own an automobile, planted fields and grew a dynasty.
Today, the close-knit third generation of Finleys, includes educators and engineers, business owners, athletes and one newly minted Hall of Fame member.
Like their patriarch’s, the Finley family’s rise involved determination, maternal discipline, pride, humor, perseverance, loyalty and love.
My brother in-law Keith Finley and his cousin Priscilla (Finley) Miller-Jones personify these attributes. In 1964, they became the first two students to integrate Pompano Beach High School.
Priscilla made the switch because she loves a challenge.
“I heard them say the school would remain lily white and I, the bold one, said, ‘Over my dead body,” she said.
Keith did it because his mother, the formidable Lucy Finley, told him he had to.
As the only two black students in a school population of 3,000, the two cousins negotiated occasionally hostile territory. In 1964, Broward County still had black only drinking fountains and black bathrooms, and many people weren’t anxious to see that change.
For two years, Keith hitchhiked to school, walking the final mile, because he refused to take the bus. Priscilla rode the bus, dodging gum wads and racial epithets.
“Priscilla would come home daily with gum stuck in her hair, and my mom would have to use kerosene to get it out,” said Priscilla’s sister, Carolyn Miller Menendez.
A math teacher told Keith he could skip class as long as he passed the unit tests.
“I was young at the time and I thought it was great that I didn’t have to go to class. Later, I realized he just didn’t want me in his class,” Keith said. “He didn’t know that I had an excellent math teacher in junior high, Mr. Humphries, so I passed those tests.”
Keith was only 14 and Priscilla 15 that first year, but they stuck it out.
“The one thing is, we had each other,” Priscilla said.
The following school year, 25 black students attended Pompano Beach High, and, by their senior year, more than 100.
“Guess what? I opened the door for my brother, Quan L. Miller,” Priscilla, who had 15 brothers and 2 sisters, all single births from the same two parents. “He ran cross country and track at that school and was vice president of his class.”
Today, Walter James Finley’s grandchildren continue to do him proud. Priscilla, who graduated from the University of Cincinnati, runs a very successful family U-Haul business.
Keith, about whom I’ll be writing more on Monday, earned a master’s in education and recently retired as a high school administrator. Their cousin Dr. Eric Williams, serves as Assistant Vice Provost and Chief Diversity Officer at the University of Wisconsin. Another cousin, Edith Spivey, a legendary coach, was just inducted into the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame.
An unexpected guest added a postscript to the Finley story during a recent visit to Priscilla’s business.
“He said he wanted to apologize for the way he treated me in high school,” she said. “He said he didn’t know any better at the time. I was astonished. I said, ‘You are forgiven.”
This gallery contains 16 photos.
As is her style, my sister in-law Melissa celebrated her 40th birthday with grace, gusto and ten pounds of green beans. Melissa’s Racing to 40, a Kentucky Derby themed birthday bash, included everything Churchill Downs has to offer — mint juleps, crazy hats, and sweet three-year olds — and plenty that it doesn’t — a […]
This gallery contains 13 photos.
I spent the morning of my 51st birthday wearing camouflage and hunkered down on the edge of a cornfield. Holding my heavy camera still, eyes trained on the distant stalks, I tried very hard not to laugh at the shrill screech of my husband’s turkey call. From the top of my messy hair, stuffed carelessly […]
We’ve noticed that the sweetest candy and the shiniest shoes are called Mary Janes.
And, though both have been around much longer than our beloved Outlaw Mary Jane, we think the three Mary Janes share a number of attributes including eternal style, reliability, grace, comfort and kindness.
Today, we’re chewing a little sweet candy, and kicking up our patent leather flats to celebrate the birthday of our favorite Mary Jane.
It won’t be her most memorable birthday, not by a long shot.
That honor might belong to her third birthday, sweetly noted by her mother in an intimidatingly well-kept baby book. That year, she “Made a trip to radio station KYW, said her name over the radio. After the first time, she went to the end of the line, to repeat same again.”
The story confirms the lifelong paradox of Mary Jane, an introverted ham.
Her most memorable birthday might have been her 80th, when the family gathered in Naperville for a champagne toast and party.
It might have been the years her husband Vince took her to Arlington Racetrack to bet on lucky No. 8 and steal a couple of hours away from their growing family.
Or the years her mother decorated the dining room table with blue and white streamers, flowers and a store bought cake from Widens Bakery. Those were good birthdays too.
By far, though, Mary Jane’s best birthday happened in 1957, when she gave birth to her daughter Donna, the second of Vince and Mary Jane’s nine children.
In honor of that birthday, we’d like to take a moment to say Happy Birthday Grandma Mary Jane! and Happy birthday Donna, too!
We hope both of you celebrate all weekend long to kick off one of your best years yet.